The joy in the air was palpable, as Christ Episcopal Church launched the pastorate of Richard Ginnever as its new rector - culminating a two-year self-examination and nationwide search.
"In the Episcopal Church, each congregation chooses its own rector, in a deliberate process, with certain approvals from the bishop," search committee member Ann Barnes said. "First, a parish committee demographically representing the church meets to describe ourselves and to find out, 'What kind of rector are we looking for? What is important to us? What does our church want to become?'"
To a choir singing "Rejoice! Rejoice!" and to the sound of a trumpet, Christ Episcopal held its Celebration of a New Ministry service Sept. 8 at the Columbia church. The music began with Carolyn Ginnever, Richard's wife, playing cello in Bach's Sonata for Cello and Piano, and continued with triumphal hymns such as "Lead on, O King Eternal."
Accompanying the music were brilliant colors - golden brass of the cross, red of the rector's robe and those of the young participants, contrasting with the white vestments of the choirs and adult participants. The colors of the service stood in stark contrast to the bright white, modern sanctuary of New Brick, the church building that was first used eight yearsago, almost to the day of Ginnever's installation.
New Brick, companion to Old Brick, the small, century-old church building, was built under the guidance of Christ Episcopal Church's former rector, the Rev. Jim Shields, who retired in 1999 after serving the church for more than 20 years.
"We were told that the search process takes two years between the time when a long-term rector leaves and when a new rector starts," Barnes said. "The time frame was accurate."
By the search's end, the candidates list narrowed from 75 initial resumes to two finalists. The selection of Ginnever followed serious discussions within the search committee, Barnes said.
As the Celebration of a New Ministry proceeded, the Rt. Rev. Robert Iholff, bishop of the Maryland Diocese, asked, "What's new about the ministry of Richard Ginnever? He is not a neophyte rector, and a ministry has been going on at Christ Episcopal Church for 130 years."
What's new, Iholff explained, is the combination of Richard Ginnever, Christ Episcopal and the community. "We get comfortable with the familiar," Iholff said. "This is a celebration that says being comfortable is not what we're doing. We'll find new ways to celebrate living with each other. It was Jesus who said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'"
Ginnever has been a priest for 28 years, ministering most of his tenure on Long Island, N.Y. "I felt that God was calling me to the priesthood since junior high school," Ginnever said, "So, I went straight through college, then seminary. I graduated from seminary and began my priesthood at 23, the youngest age allowed."
He moved to Christ Episcopal from a large parish in Louisiana. "God had been telling me that I was being prepared to move on," he said. "It was evident, when I attended services here and spoke with the parishioners, that this is a congregation that is very different. I was particularly pleased with the church's commitment to outreach programs." Those programs are well known in the community, including Christ Church Link, a referral and information ministry known for gathering backpacks for needy children to take to school, and the Susanna Ministry, which aids women leaving prison.
As Iholff concluded, he called for the community's spiritual growth: "God is going to change Richard Ginnever, the members of this church and the wider community. All of us will make changes, and those who will change the most are those who will be willing to make sacrifices for each other."