Bishop Curry has approved the Vestry’s request to call the Rev. Robert Davenport, Interim Rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Southern Pines, NC, to be our Interim Rector.
The Vestry met on Tuesday, September 8, in a four-hour meeting to consider three candidates nominated by Canon to the Ordinary Michael Hunn on behalf of Bishop Curry. Our process was deliberate, thoughtful, and prayerful, assessing the strengths of each of the three candidates and measuring them against what we believe the parish needs as we move into this period of transition. We discussed each of the three candidates in depth, avoiding comparisons among the candidates, but rather seeking to assess their individual strengths as matched against the perceived needs of the parish.
After extensive prayer and discussion, the strong consensus of the Vestry emerged that Robert Davenport was our choice. He is a native of Virginia, the son of a priest, as is his wife, Lizzie, also the daughter of a priest. (The Vestry met both Robert and Lizzie, and it is safe to say that we fell in love with both of them.) Robert has considerable experience as a full-time Rector, most recently at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Norfolk, VA (2004-2013).
Most recently, he has been the Interim Rector of Emmanuel Church in Southern Pines and has been a healing presence in a church that was in difficulty. While we believe we are a very healthy and vibrant parish, we also know that the Chapel of the Cross will experience a sense of loss and anxiety when Stephen departs after a thirty-year tenure. We see Robert as a pastor who will love the people, love and lead our talented staff, and help lead us into our future.
He will begin to inject a modest amount of change into the life of the parish, to ready us for the more significant change of a new Rector. At Southern Pines, he constantly said to that congregation, “My job is to help you get ready for a new Rector.” They had just completed a renovation of the church’s nave and chancel, and he said, “Let’s not bolt anything down so that everything is movable for the new Rector.” I think that is a good metaphor for his concept of interim leadership.
He was described by his references as a great teacher with an amazing aptitude for history and Scriptural context. He has an informal, down-to-earth style of communication, which we witnessed when he preached during a Eucharist with the Vestry.
“A relational person,” is how one staff member at Emmanuel in Southern Pines described him, pointing out the “amazing amount of time that Robert spent with me and with the staff as a whole.”
Robert is deeply committed to global mission, and his eyes lit up when we described our sister-church relationship with St. Paul AME. He is deeply involved with a medical mission in Malawi (where coincidentally UNC has a major medical presence).
With Robert’s appointment we have now completed the first step in the process of transition to a new Rector. One of the happy by-products of this important work is the effect it has had on the Vestry itself. We have spent countless hours together interviewing candidates and in closeted discussion among ourselves. We have really bonded together as a group. You have elected a very strong Vestry made up of thoughtful, prayerful, committed people. It is a privilege to serve with them.