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St. Thomas welcomes Ledgerwood as interim rector

In the wake of former St. Thomas Episcopal Church rector Reid McCormick’s departure, one of Greenville’s most storied institutions is in search of new leadership.

But according to Rev. Dr. Mary Jayne Ledgerwood, the parish’s newly-appointed interim pastor, not all who wander are lost.

Dr. Ledgerwood will serve St. Thomas during its period of transitioning as the search continues for McCormick’s successor. That period could be months, or a year.

As a transition minister, it’s a challenging prospect to ingrain oneself in a community, knowing that the inevitable uprooting process must happen eventually.

Or, at least, it would be a challenging prospect if not for St. Thomas’s welcoming community, Ledgerwood said.

“It’s funny—I’ve only been here four Sundays this month, and I feel so personally welcomed, and also very much involved in this parish and the community,” Ledgerwood said.

Ledgerwood, who originally hails from the similar but ultimately larger Greenville, Miss., has spent 25 years serving the Washington, D.C. beltway area (including the dioceses of Virginia and Maryland), including a 15-year stint in the fulltime parish ministry.

But her experiences as a transition minister allow her to offer an outsider’s perspective despite her similar roots in small-town life.

“I’m privileged to be here as their pastor, but also to work with the vestry to keep communication open and to keep administrative tasks on point, and just to keep things running,” she said. “We’re prayerfully in discernment to find the person who is going to be the next shepherd of this flock.  It takes special prayer and discernment to be really open to God’s will, and not our agenda.

“My hope as the interim pastor is to help them relax, and see the joy of discernment and listening for God’s call and allowing the person who’s meant to be here manifest.”

June has been an eventful month for Ledgerwood and St. Thomas as a whole.

One of St. Thomas’s biggest and widest-reaching ministries—it’s food pantry—is currently underway.

Ledgerwood has connected with the Butler County Department of Human Resources as well as the Butler County Ministerial Association to discover how exactly St. Thomas might best serve the greater community of Greenville.

“We want to make sure that this collected food is getting into the hands of the people who need it, and in the most appropriate way,” she said.

“We’re a cog in the wheel, and all of that needs to work very nicely.  In addition to the good work of the parishioners, I’m trying to make sure that, for example, our contacts everywhere are up to date so that we know when and where to disseminate food.

“In other words, how we best serve the community and what’s going on instead of reinventing the wheel.”

St. Thomas will also take part in the annual Hayneville Pilgrimage that celebrates the life of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who is regarded as a saint according to the Episcopal text “Holy Women, Holy Men.” Daniels was a young seminarian who responded to Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to aid black citizens’ efforts to register to vote in Selma.  Daniels was killed when he took a shotgun blast in defense of 16-year-old Ruby Sales at the Cash Store in Hayneville.

A bus full of pilgrims traveling from Pensacola will stop at St. Thomas for a respite of fellowship and refreshments for an hour before heading home.

Ledgerwood is also involved in a number of smaller-scale but equally important ministries, including management of the parish’s prayer list and its Lay Eucharistic ministry, in which communion is offered to its homebound parishioners.

“At the end of the service before we pray our final post-communion prayer, we have a little box with a communion in it, and the lay Eucharistic minister comes up to the altar and I give it to them and we pray for them, the person who is homebound and our parish,” she said. “We pray to connect us in worship, and to ask God’s blessing in that.”

Ledgerwood reiterated that her ultimate goal during this period of transition was to set the minds of St. Thomas parishioners at ease.

“Summertime is a good time to relax into where we are, and just take some deep breaths,” she said. “Change like this is a big one when you’re in between rectors. 

“The whole point of discernment and prayerful work of the search committee and the congregation is to be open to the person being called to us by God.  When that happens, we’ll know it.  And in the meantime, I’m going to take care of them.  I’m here to take care of them, and to love them, be present with them and walk with them.”