Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire….So begins one of my favorite hymns. As I think back over the past four months, the one salient feature of that time was the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in our gatherings. Twelve of us, eight vestry members and four others representing different aspects of the parish membership commented on it. We all felt it.
Perhaps that experience was partly due to the different approach we used for the selection process. We began with a small number of preselected names, the result of Bishop Mary’s, Canon Reyes’ and Canon Nordwick’s efforts, using our parish profile and description of what we were looking for in a rector, to identify some people who they felt had the qualities we were seeking. Bishop Mary recommended and we concurred that we should call a priest-in-charge rather than a rector in order to bring a pastor to the parish as soon as possible.
Secondly, when we began evaluating the candidates, Bishop Mary taught us a technique for sharing our observations that was collaborative and which forestalled contention. By sharing our perceptions of the candidates’ positive qualities and challenging aspects, we came to a consensus that might not have resulted otherwise. In her role as guide, Bishop Mary became an integral part of the process, yet not affecting our decisions in any way.
As time passed we gained each other’s trust and respect for each person’s viewpoint. For some, who had had a very uncomfortable experience as vestry members just a year ago, it was a time of spiritual healing. We didn’t agree on everything or everybody, but I don’t believe anyone felt their opinions weren’t valued. It was a time of true collaboration and growing optimism.
Comparing the last two candidates, it became obvious what the group’s choice would be. In the end, after the vestry considered everyone’s viewpoints, we had to vote, because that is the legal requirement, but we felt good about the nature of the process and enthusiastic about our choice and the opportunities for the future. The vestry’s vote was unanimous.
Why did we pick Amber? At the parish workshop we held in July, we formulated a list of attributes we were looking for in a priest, qualities that Amber has. We feel that Amber has the pastoral skills to lead this parish through a healing process. Her sermons are well thought out and thought provoking and show that she is a good and learned teacher. From our conversations with Amber, we became aware of her deeply spiritual approach to life. Her answers to our questions indicated that she would lead in a collaborative manner, something important to us. And, the school liked her; they felt her warm, calm manner would draw the children to her. So, all in all, we think you will be enamored of Amber Sturgess, our new priest in charge.
So a little about her: A Texas gal, Amber received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in French from Texas Tech University in 1984 and 1989, respectively. She then went on to teach French at the university level for nine years. She decided to change the direction of her life and although not actively pursuing ordination, she obtained a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies, with a concentration in Biblical Studies and Language, from the Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. Ultimately, deciding to seek ordination, she obtained a certificate in Anglican Studies from Church Divinity School of the Pacific and also obtained a Certificate in Spiritual Direction while in the Berkeley area.
Her parish experience includes acting as an assisting priest at a very diverse parish in Oakland, St. Cuthbert’s, vicar of St. George’s in Antioch and most recently she has been interim rector of St. Stephen’s, San Luis Obispo.
This is an exciting time for Amber and for All Saints’ as we embark on a new path towards the future. It is really important for us to remember that even though we will now have a pastor to guide us and lead us, we must not think that we can just kick back and let her do all the work. If nothing else, I have learned in these past four months that the efforts of the parishioners are key to the life of the parish. Collaboration means all of us. Remember our three-legged stool of stewardship? Time, Talent and Treasure. We need to have a balance among all three. If we are stingy with one or the other, our stool is not going to be very stable. So, there it is…no rest for the weary. With our new leader at the helm, we will be invigorated and enthusiastic for the future of All Saints’. Amber will inspire us with her sermons, share with us her knowledge and guide us along The Way.
Amber will move into the rectory on 1 January, start work on the 8th and celebrate her first Eucharist with us on Epiphany, 10 January.
Welcome Amber Sturgess.
Claudia Ward, Senior Warden
All Saints’ Episcopal Church