We Have A New Priest!
by Kevin Murphy, Senior Warden
I had hoped to be able to announce the following news in church this past Sunday, but it wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that I received permission to tell you that Holy Trinity has called a new priest! But first, a little background:
As you’re all painfully aware, Holy Trinity has seen a lot of clergy turnover recently. Fr. Peter left suddenly and surprisingly last summer, after serving only two years. We hired Fr. Don as Interim Rector, but his term was cut short due to his tax situation… not to mention open-heart surgery! Meanwhile, Holy Trinity’s membership and financial support have declined during this pandemic. And potentially making our finances worse, in recent months I was hearing from Canon Val Ambrose that the diocese might decide to move its office from our property, to a smaller space, as many of their staff had grown accustomed to working from home during the last year and a half.
Finding a new “permanent” priest when you can offer full-time pay is difficult enough. But our current financial situation will require us to find a priest willing to accept part-time compensation, and that would likely make a search considerably more difficult. So when Fr. Don left suddenly, we thought we were in a tough spot.
If the pandemic has had a silver lining, it’s that it has forced us to think creatively and try new approaches to solving problems. Knowing our situation, and also knowing that Two Churches – Kentwood had a full-time priest (Fr. Mike Wernick) but was struggling to balance its budget, Val Ambrose approached Fr. Mike and asked him if he’d be interested in shepherding Two Churches and Holy Trinity. He was interested. So for the last couple of months Genia and I have worked through some of the details of how this arrangement might work, with Fr. Mike and the lay leadership of Two Churches. An agreement has been reached between Holy Trinity and Fr. Mike, which has been approved by Two Churches and our diocesan leadership. Here’s an outline of how this will work:
- Mike Wernick will be our Priest-in-Charge for a 3-year term (renewable) beginning on Sept 1. But he will be on vacation for the first 3 weeks (more on that later).
- Fr. Mike will work half-time at Holy Trinity, and half-time at Two Churches, and will officiate weekly Sunday worship services at both locations.
- Fr. Mike will reside in our Rectory which is currently being vacated by the Diocesan staff. During that 3-week “vacation”, he and his partner Joel will be moving in.
- Two Churches and Holy Trinity will split Fr. Mike’s cost 50/50. The rental value of the rectory we are providing will count toward our 50% share. The net cost to us will be similar to what Fr. Don was costing us… which was affordable.
Speaking on behalf of the Vestry, we are elated with this turn of events. God always seems to provide for our congregation, and this is a win/win/win for Holy Trinity and Two Churches (we get a wonderful spiritual leader and help with our tight budgets), and for Fr. Mike (who gets greater responsibility and a pay raise, plus a nicer place to live).
Fr. Mike’s first Sunday with us will be on September 26. Until that time, we have clergy scheduled every Sunday. Fr. David Ottsen (hasn’t he been fantastic?) will be here the next three Sundays, and Val Ambrose will officiate on September 19.
One major decision remains: service times. Both churches cannot continue to worship at 10:00. One will need to worship earlier (probably 9:00), and the other later (probably 11:00). We should have that figured out by this coming Sunday.
And thank you for your patience as we have worked to get our clergy situation figured out.