John Thomas Comes to Emmanuel Episcopal
In mid-July, Rev. John Thomas preached his final sermon for Christ Church, the colonial Northern Neck landmark that’s included in the historic parish he served. On August 4th, he’ll preach at Emmanuel Episcopal Church for the first time. In between, he’ll be moving to rural central Virginia and getting to know his new home.
He’s not exactly a stranger to the general area, Thomas said. “We have pretty continuous ties to Charlottesville in my family.” His father played football at U.Va., his grandfather was in the first law school class, and his brother Ed graduated from there, along with “pretty much every male in my family.” He broke with tradition and went to Sewanee, but always felt as though this area was in his future.
Like most people in the Crozet area, he sees change coming: “It’s a small, historically rural area that’s about to become not so rural,” he said. “And there’s no question that Emmanuel will grow.” Thomas said he has no illusion about how or how quickly this will happen: “There’s a lot I need to learn about the community first.” He sees his role as helping church members ask themselves some important questions about who they are and where they’re going.
Thomas reflected on the nature of the Episcopal Church, which blends a formal liturgy-based structure with a strong recent tradition of championing issues of social justice. “I believe our work in the area of civil rights, the treatment of immigrants and the rights of the gay community has been correct,” he said. “I don’t intend to take any political stance, but, like my colleagues, I do intend to take a moral stance. There are those who don’t like our inclusive ideas, and I’m okay with that.” He’s familiar with the church’s outreach efforts for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, both of which meet at Emmanuel.
Thomas suspects that part of the church’s growth will be from those who have not had a religious affiliation in their past. “We want to be on the side of inclusion and welcome,” he said. “We are not the judge. Instead, we will figure it out together.”
He’s not a fan of the minister-centered model of church administration. “It’s not about me, but the collective community.” He’s had plenty of teaching as well as ministerial experience, and was a headmaster at two different schools, with all the outreach, raising funds, administrative detail and building maintenance that entails. He and his wife, Janice, have bought a home in Nellysford, where about a third of the members of the church’s congregation live; and he’s anxious to get started on this phase of his ministry.
“We’re dropping into the river,” he said, “and it’s moving.”
Tim Worley Will Guide New Monacan Trail Cooperative
Last month, Rev. Tim Worley exchanged his part-time job as pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church for the full-time leadership of the new “Monacan Trail Cooperative,” a coalition of three rural churches with small but loyal followings. Besides Trinity, the new cooperative will include Batesville and Mt. Olivet churches.
His path to this new position created during the summer has not been without some twists and turns, Rev. Worley said. He describes himself as a “recovering engineer” who worked in manufacturing for 22 years. With the decline of local manufacturing, Worley went into business for himself, opening an independent shipping center in Ruckersville. He remained active in his church and was a lay speaker. He also volunteered his engineering skills to operate the audiovisual equipment every Sunday. “That’s when God hit me with a brick,” he recalled. What he heard from the balcony in the minister’s sermon was an unmistakable call to the ministry.
“It took a while to get it together,” he said. “It’s been a wild ride.” Worley attended seminary at Eastern Mennonite and at Wesley in Washington, D.C. He believed his calling to be very specific: to serve smaller churches that don’t always get the same attention as larger ones, and he began his ministry at Trinity several years ago.
“We see a fear in these smaller congregations that they might be closed,” he said. “I want to make it very clear that the United Methodist Church does not ‘close’ churches. The only way a church can be closed is if the congregation requests it.”
Forming the cooperative took many meetings and a great deal of discussion among the churches, Worley said, and there will continue to be many meetings, both of individual churches and combined committees. One of the greatest challenges was the timing of the services, and Sundays will be a bit of a marathon. Luckily, he said, there’s strong leadership in all of the churches. People look out for each other and can also assume responsibility for part of the service.
On Sundays he’ll start out at 9:45 a.m. at Mt. Olivet, leave after the sermon and preach at Trinity at 10:45. By 11:30, he’ll be in Batesville for his final sermon.
Anyone can find him at other times as well: he’s been appearing at the Crossroads Store on second and fourth Thursdays at 9 a.m. for “coffee with the pastor.” “Everyone comes,” he said, “even those who don’t go to one of the churches.”
Worley sees his role as a servant of his congregations. “I don’t say, ‘This is my vision;’ I say, ‘What is your vision?’”
Churches Sponsor North Garden Community Day
North Garden is blessed with an abundance of churches, and their ministers meet regularly to support each other and collaborate on issues important to the community. The churches have a consortium, the North Garden Area Christian Community (NGACC), which is the local body sponsoring the upcoming North Garden Community Day. Scheduled for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. August 17, the free event will feature music, food, games, and a bounce house. It’s at Cutright’s Lake, at the junction of Route 29 South and Red Hill School Road, and all are welcome.
New Music Directors at Crozet Methodist
Two accomplished musicians have assumed leadership roles at Crozet United Methodist. Christina Wyant is the director of worship and arts for the traditional service. An Albemarle County native, she lives in Crozet. Wyant received her bachelor and master’s degrees in opera and music performance from Converse College, Mannes School for Music at The New School, and also studied with Renatta Scotto for several years. She’s worked in operas in Italy and with Operafestival di Roma, the New York Oratorio society, New York Lyric Opera, and Mannes Opera at Carnegie Hall. She specializes in early sacred music as well as new works by American composers.
Gary Bibens is the new director of worship and arts for contemporary worship. He grew up in Connecticut, and moved to the Shenandoah Valley in the fall of 2010. Gary has been interested in music as long as he can remember, beginning with piano lessons at five, and participated in choral, barbershop, and community musical groups throughout his middle and high school years. Gary traveled throughout the United States and Europe with “Up With People” as a pianist and musical director for a number of years following high school. In 2011, he returned to college and earned a degree in music and music education from Mary Baldwin University. Gary has been the choir director at St. James UMC in Churchville since 2012 and currently lives in Waynesboro.