Local churches swap pastors for a day

Pastor Ginny Wilder is the rector of St. Anne's Episcopal Church.

Local churches swap pastors for a day
July 25
03:10 2019

St. Anne’s Episcopal Church and St. Stephens Episcopal Church performed a pulpit swap last week, to connect their congregations.  

Pastor Ginny Wilder of St. Anne’s and Father Hector Sintim of St. Stephens switched places and led a service at the other’s church. As two of the smaller Episcopal churches in the area, both parties felt it was a good idea to bring their respective congregations closer to one another.

“Earlier in the year, probably around February, Rev. Sintim came over here to visit and we were talking about how our churches could assist one another or do something together in ministry,” said Wilder. “This was a particular reach across the highway system and the downtown area, from one small parish to another small parish.”

“He (Sintim) threw out a couple of ideas, some of them are future thinking, but the pulpit swap was low hanging fruit that we could do right off the bat.”

Wilder said she jumped at the opportunity, because she loves to meet new communities. Her sermon centered on how people wrapped themselves up in things that take away from the most important thing, which is to be in the presence of God.

Hearing a different voice in the pulpit, Wilder hopes the congregation of St. Stephens heard or experienced something during the worship service that is a part of the work and mission that God has put within them to do.

“I hope that I can reveal God in a way that maybe they haven’t experienced yet,” she said.  “We couldn’t be any more different from one another, Rev. Sintim and I, so I am hoping that even though we are very different, that all the people who come to St. Anne’s and St. Stephens today will be fed in some way. That is what our job is on Sundays, is to feed.”

Wilder has been the pastor of St. Anne’s for nearly two years. She grew up in the Episcopal church and felt the call to the ministry at an early age.  

“I felt the call to the ministry at an early age, at the age of four,” she continued. “In my denomination, that was around the same time the general convention had said women could be clergy, so I think I was picking up on something in the atmosphere about women in ordination.

“I had a pretty strong calling experience at the age of four, but I kind of just always knew it was there, but never really nurtured it to the degree that this is what I am called to do. I left the church for a while, like a lot of folks do. I butted up against some of the old politics of the church,” she went on to say. “I am an openly gay woman who is married to another woman and the church wasn’t okay with sexuality in the 90s and early 2000s and because of that, I did not feel welcomed or wanted, so I left for a while, but I always prayed and had a relationship with God. I just wasn’t in relationship with the institution of organized religion.”

In her early 30s everything was pointing Wilder back to the church, she said. She came back to the church and said she needed to be healed and forgiven. She soon began the discernment process for holy orders, which is what the Episcopal church calls making your way through the priesthood journey.

Her being openly gay was never an issue as she progressed through her journey, she said.  

“My bishop never brought it up as an issue and the discernment committee I was a part of didn’t bring it up as an issue, but that is not true of all dioceses in the Episcopal church across the country,” she said. “There are some that struggle with reconciling discernment for holy order, the job and vocation of the priesthood, and human sexuality. I was just blessed not to be in a diocese that found that to be one of the sticking points.”

Wilder said she does not look at herself as a trailblazer, but rather thanks those who came before her and opened doors for those like her.

“I find myself reaping the benefits of those who really gave up everything,” she said. “My walk has been pretty easy, comparatively speaking. I find in the world in which I live in that it is easier for me to say both I am gay and a Christian, inside worship in church, but out in the real world, sometimes it’s hard to say I am both gay and Christian and be accepted by those who feel like that can’t be reconciled.”

Wilder said in the past, there were times when both congregations have had shared ministries. The goal is for both to learn from one another and become closer.

The congregation of St. Anne’s has grown nearly 40% in the last two years. The question now is how they adapt from being a smaller church to a medium sized one.  Wilder feels the best way to accomplish that is to reach out to other congregations.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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