9220 Georgetown Pike
Great Falls, Virginia 22066
703-759-2082 fax: 703-759-0874

Rector Search at St. Francis Episcopal Church, Great Falls

Gracious God, you have blessed us with many fine servants.
As we explore further with those you have guided to us,
grant us open minds and listening hearts as we seek to fulfill your will at St. Francis.
In Christ's name we pray, Amen.


The Search Committee has nominated a candidate to serve as St. Francis' next rector, and has presented that individual to the vestry. Next steps are for the candidate to meet with the vestry and the Bishop. An announcement should be forthcoming in August. Please pray for the vestry, the candidate and candidate's family as mutual discernment continues.

Any questions or concerns should be directed to Search Committee Chair Craig Gralley(craigrg@cox.net).

Be prayerful, be present, participate.

Your St. Francis Search Committee

Process for New Rector Search

PHASE 1: Search Process Planning

Choose an Interim Rector and appoint the Search Committee (Vestry responsibility)
√  Commissioning of the Search Committee
√  Meet with the Diocesan Office of Transitional Ministry
√  Create sub committees to carry out specific tasksSearch
√  Committee meets regularly, and keeps Vestry and congregation apprised of their progress.

PHASE II: Self Discovery/Definition
√  Search Committee conducts a parish self-study which may take the form of a survey, questionnaire, focus groups, town hall meetings, adult forums or other events to ensure that we have adequate information from which to create a parish profile.
Search Committee interprets the data gathered in the self-study and creates the parish profile.

PHASE III: Profile Development

        Search Committee prepares draft of parish profile and presents the profile to the Vestry and
the Bishop's office for approval.
        Search Committee arranges for publication to the parish website.
Decision is made on the length of time that the position will be open to receive candidates.
The portfolio is submitted to the Transition Ministry Officer in the Diocese, and the position is listed on the Diocesan Office of Transitional Ministry Website,their newsletter, the Diocese website and the St. Francis website.

PHASE IV: Candidate Evaluation and Selection of Finalists

   As resumes and inquiries are received, they will be evaluated according to criteria established by the Search Committee, and based on our parish profile.

  √ As part of the discernment process, the Search Committee will request copies of sermons, telephone and Skype interviews, written response to questions and other information from interested candidates.
  √The Search Committee will prepare a list of candidates to be vetted by the Office of Transitional Ministry, and a decision will be made which candidates will be visited in person my members of the Search Committee.

  Names of the finalists will be submitted to the Diocese for formal background checks and a reference check by the Bishop. After this, the finalist(s) will be invited to visit St. Francis and meet with the entire Search Committee.

After the final candidate is chosen by the Search Committee, he or she will be notified, and the candidate is presented to the Vestry. The Vestry elects the new Rector, and notifies the Bishop. A letter of agreement is prepared by the Vestry, and the announcement will be made to the congregation.


Below you will find previous articles and announcements relative to the Rector Search at St. Francis Episcopal Church, Great Falls, Virginia.  See the main Rector Search page for the most up-to-date information.


Members of the St. Francis Search Committee were gratified by the level of parishioner support and participation in the parish survey, which is an important part of our search for a new rector. The Committee reviewed the data—including over 40 pages of narrative comments—and now offers you survey highlights (below).

Who took the survey? 185 Franciscans
Age: 70% over age 50, 30% up to and including age 50;
Gender: 61% female, 39% male;
Marital status: 74% married, 26% single/widowed/divorced;
Children at Home: 55% without, 45% with children at home;
Time at St. Francis: 68% 10+ years, 32% up to and including to 10 years

Top three activities most important to you:
• Worship, the Sermon, Fellowship
"The rector's most visible role is in the pulpit, this is where he/she makes the strongest impression. Being able to deliver a strong, meaningful, and memorable sermon is critical..."
"I've enjoyed wonderful music and fellowship at St. Francis; received comfort and support when I needed it and I've been helped and strengthened on my spiritual journey. St. Francis has enriched my life in many ways."

What are our strengths and weaknesses?
• Strengths: Choir, Fellowship, and Grounds
• Weaknesses: Youth Activities Overall; Youth Service and Youth Social Activities
"We need to instill the ideals of service and fellowship among our youth and between youth and adults."

Social Justice...which response captures your view?
• 60% : St. Francis strikes the right balance; 28%: would support a social action ministry; 13%: Episcopal church is too progressive/should return to its traditional roots
"I like the balance between conservative or traditional Episcopalian culture, social tolerance, equality, and justice."

What areas are most important for leadership by the new rector?
• Most Important: Parish Spiritual life, Pastoral Care, Youth Activities
• Least Important: Ecumenical/Community Activities, Administration, Stewardship
"The rector should attend to the theological needs of the congregation and the vestry, to the secular needs."

I prefer a rector who:
• Is outgoing; regards the Bible as an interpretation of God's dealing with humanity; has a conversational / informal delivery
"We need an outgoing, charismatic, energetic, and gregarious rector who must be able to inspire parishioners to take on leadership roles and actively work to improve the quality of parish life."

If deemed legal the rector should perform same-sex marriage ceremonies for members of the parish:
Agree/Strongly Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree/Strongly Disagree
56 % 15% 28%

The rector should be permitted to perform blessings of same-sex unions for members of the parish:
Agree/Strongly Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree/Strongly Disagree
70% 14% 16%
"I don't get particularly worked up about the issue of same sex marriage. What WOULD get me worked up is if the new rector spent a great deal of time on issues like that and not on further development of the parish."

If St. Francis disappeared...what would you miss most?
Most frequent response to this open ended question-- Fellowship/Sense of Community: 84%
"I hope St. Francis continues to be a place where families of various political views can come together based on their mutual belief in a loving God and where they practice that love..."


August/September, 2014

The Time is at Hand...Fill Out the Survey...Stand up and be Counted!

What kind of church are we? What kind of church do we want to become? What abilities and roles should our new rector have and assume?

In our jubilee year there are no more important questions for our parish to answer. You can help us decide them by responding to the survey which will be available for two weeks, from Sunday, 7 September to Sunday, 21 September.
We ask that all who have a stake in the future of our parish, age 12 and older, take the survey—which requires about ½ hour to complete. We encourage you to complete it at one sitting, on-line at: www.stfrancisgreatfalls.org or if you would prefer, paper copies will be available and collected in the Narthex.

Here is a sampling of some questions, from which you will be asked to select from a range of possible responses:
• Are you satisfied with the current level of worship, spirituality, and fellowship at St. Francis?
• If deemed legal by the Commonwealth of Virginia, do you favor the rector to perform same sex marriage ceremonies for members of the parish?
• Should we have a new rector that makes decisions or seeks consensus?

These are important questions that reflect our current state and future hopes as a church. The answer to these questions, too, will give prospective rector applicants a good feel for whether they would be an appropriate match for our parish family.

Some have asked if Father Ben's departure on 7 September has an impact on our search process. As much as we will miss Father Ben, his departure does not have an impact insofar as our new rector, traditionally, will have an opportunity to select a permanent new Associate.

St. Francis is your church and all of us have an opportunity to direct its future. We need you to be part of this important program. Please stop by the bulletin board near the Parish Hall for updates and as always, we encourage you to share your thoughts and communications with the committee.


July, 2014

What qualities do you want in a Rector for St. Francis?

Your Search Committee is developing a variety of tools to help us to discern the goals, needs, and desires of our parish family. One key tool the Committee is creating now is an anonymous Parish Survey, which will be released after parishioners return from vacation in the Fall. While still in development, it likely will touch on a number of areas related to life at St. Francis: the kind of service you prefer—for example, formal or informal; how important certain aspects of worship are to you, like healing services, singing of liturgy and other activities; the level of importance you place on Christian Education, such as bible study and discussions of family life; and other topics.

A key question included in all of the forms of communication we develop, either anonymously—through the Parish Survey and private phone or e-mail communications—or publicly, via focus groups and adult forums—is: "What qualities or attributes do you want in a new Rector?" Do you want an effective administrator—who can keep the church running efficiently? A Rector who specializes in pastoral care? Would you prefer a Priest who is a persuasive speaker and can motivate parishioners?; or perhaps someone who is a good listener? The person we select likely will have overlapping skills, but it's unlikely that he or she will have all of the qualities and attributes listed above. It is not too early to start thinking about the most important attributes you want in the next Rector at St. Francis.

 In the coming months you will have many opportunities to tell us what you think. But now is the time to give prayerful consideration to the kind of Rector you want to lead us into the future. We always enjoy hearing your thoughts and you may contact us as noted below.  Be prayerful, present, and participate.


June, 2014

You are encouraged to share any thoughts you may have regarding the search process and qualities you would like to see in a new rector with members of the Search Committee.Registered parishioners who are logged on can access individual contact information for all committee members here.

We are fortunate that the Episcopal Church allows the congregation needing a new rector to direct and conduct its own search. In other denominations this is not the case — usually the Bishop chooses a new pastor. While our search is being conducted we are blessed to have experienced and dedicated clergy available to lead us in worship and continue our strong tradition of fellowship and pastoral care. The team of Lyndon Shakespeare and Ben Shelton -- with assistance from Bill Myers, Bob Becker, and Claire Wimbush -- will allow us the time to choose our next rector thoughtfully.

Most searches take about 18 months. This time frame will permit us to find the best possible candidate and give candidates an opportunity to know us. Your involvement is critical. Please be an active participant in the upcoming survey, town hall meetings, and other opportunities to voice your opinion. We ask that you pray for St. Francis, for our new rector –wherever s/he may be – and for us as we proceed with our work. Please feel free to contact any of us with questions or concerns. We look forward to working with you over the next several months.


Christmastide, 2013

Dear people of St. Francis,

Many of you know about my plans to take some study leave in 2014 and start a Doctor of Ministry degree at Virginia Seminary. You have been most supportive and encouraging of these plans. Well, as someone once said, make plans and God laughs. Just before Christmas, I accepted a call to serve as Dean of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in San Diego, California. Like all such search processes, this one took many months, and I did not know until a week before Christmas whether I would be the one called to that position. I believe God is calling me to this new opportunity, and I am both excited beyond words and sad beyond measure.

St. Paul's is a large and lively church in the city center. It has a wonderful music and arts program and is involved in outreach to people in the immediate area and to children of prisoners detained in a prison over the Mexico border, about 30 miles away. The Dean works closely with the Bishop of San Diego in city ministry and diocesan leadership. It is a small diocese, with only about 45 congregations. Most of you are probably aware of San Diego's reputation for perfect weather; it is also the home of a large naval base and a significant campus of the University of California. That's the exciting part.

The sad part, of course, is the part that means leaving you, the people I have loved and served for nearly eleven years. You have supported me through some of the most difficult times of my life, and you have taught me innumerable lessons about leadership and ministry. Together we have walked through a challenging time in the life of the church, and St. Francis has stayed strong and healthy. I am deeply grateful for our shared ministry and it is very hard to say goodbye.

On the advice of the Bishop's office, my last Sunday with you will be February 2, which happens to be the 16th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I will not be taking sabbatical leave or starting the D Min degree in January, so we will have a full month in which to celebrate the completion of our ministry together.

I'm sure you have many questions about what happens to St. Francis next. I want to assure you that the Diocesan transition team will guide you every step of the way, and I know your vestry will step up to lead you through the interim period. Father Ben will still be here, as will Bill Myers and Claire Wimbush, so you will not be lacking pastoral guidance, and an interim Rector will be appointed in due course.

Christmas is a time when we celebrate the near presence of God in our lives, the incarnate God who enters deeply into our world and stays with us no matter what. As we all enter a time of change and new beginnings, we can draw strength from the presence of Emmanuel, the one who has come to us as Savior and friend. No matter how far we go from one another, we are always united through Christ as members of Christ's body. St. Francis will always hold a special place in my heart, and I will always be grateful for the years we have spent together.

Your sister in Christ,

Penelope M. Bridges


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