Holy Trinity seeks replacement for retiring Rev. Palmer

Published 7:43 pm Thursday, August 9, 2018

A 10-member search committee at Church of the Holy Trinity is in the process of preparing to begin talking with candidates to replace the Rev. Beth Palmer, who retired as church rector July 31.

Ray Hume, search committee chairman, said he mailed packets Wednesday to individuals across Mississippi and to other states that included an invitation letter to “join the committee in discernment to determine if they are who the Holy Spirit is calling for us.”

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The packets also included a copy of the parish profile, a copy of the Office of Transition Ministry portfolio that the search committee assembled answering specific questions about the church and its different ministries and the congregation.

Unlike other religions, which may assign a new pastor when a pastor leaves the parish, the Episcopal Church allows the congregation to be involved in the selection of a new rector, and allows church members and others to nominate candidates for rector that are reviewed by a search committee.

“We announced a starting and ending date for taking nominations, and it was basically a one-month period,” Hume said. “Folks could be nominated in one of three ways: someone in our parish, or someone who is a friend of our parish could nominate someone by sending that info to me or putting it in a box we had at the back of the church.

“They could self-nominate — a priest in Mississippi or the United States could send an intent. The third thing, after we closed the nominations, they are sent to the bishop who then gave us two lists, one of people nominated by the church that he had blessed as OK to proceed with.”

The other list, Hume said, is compiled by the bishop and includes people who may or may not have been nominated by a parishioner “but he wanted to make sure they were included in the process.

“We put those two lists together and then our search committee sat down and considered which of those individuals we wanted to send out invitation letters to invite them into mutual discernment, understanding at this point we expressed an interest in all those individuals, but we have no way of knowing who of those individuals are also interested in us.”

Hume would not say how many nominations were received, citing the confidentiality of the search process, “But I would tell you it was double digits.”

Trying to avoid gap

In previous years, he said, the search for a new rector began after the previous rector left the church. This time, he said the search began while Palmer was still rector.

Waiting until the previous rector left before beginning the search, he said, usually meant the church was served by an interim rector who came for a year or so in the transition to the new rector.

“There are not that many folks who want to be interim rectors, and it does cause a gap, because everyone knows this is a temporary thing,” he said. “So the Bishop of Mississippi, Brian Seage, decided this past year to let a few parishes start the process of searching for a new rector while the current rector was still at the church.”

In the case of Church of the Holy Trinity, Hume said, Palmer announced her retirement to the parish at the church’s January meeting.

“It gave us a six-month head start, and I think the bishop just thought that was a better way to go, and it didn’t in any way diminish her tenure,” he said, adding Palmer helped the search committee in its efforts.

“We thought initially that we would keep her totally out of it for her own sake, but she was very helpful to us; not in locating individuals or candidates, but just in sharing with us things that we might want to consider, or things that we may or may not know about her job,” Hume said.

“It was hugely beneficial to have her still in her position while we began the process. If something came up, if we had a question, we knew we could text her or call her, and then there were things that just came up and she would text me, because at that point, she was very much a member of our parish.

“She was sometimes providing information as a priest, and other times just as a parishioner who loves their church as much as we do.”

Hume said the nominees who have received the packets have until Sept. 4 to respond either with their information or tell the committee they are not interested.

Interview candidates

When they learn who is interested, the committee members will set up telephone interviews with the candidates.

“We’ll ask them some questions and follow-up questions and then get together and discuss the candidates,” he said. “We’ll narrow the field and set up visits to see the candidate and see how they preach meet them face to face. Hopefully sometime near the end of this year or the first of next year, we’ll call someone to come meet with our vestry, which decides (who will be the next rector).

“We hope that between the letter and the portfolio and the profile, potential rector candidates will see how excited we are about our church, the incredible amount of ministries we have, and see all the things we have, and they will want to come see us.”

Until then, he said, the church will be served by supply priests who will say Sunday services at the church.

“We have priests booked through Christmas and over into next year, and then we’ll rejoice when we can get familiar with just one person again.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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