McGarry takes pulpit at St. Stephen’s

MIDDLEBURY — The Rev. Susan McGarry had been looking for a opportunity to move to Vermont after having spent more than three decades involved in the ministry and academics in the Midwest.
She has now found that opportunity at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in downtown Middlebury, where she officially began her duties in late August.
McGarry, 59, succeeds interim Pastor Merritt Greenwood, who served following the departure of the Rev. Terry Gleeson during the spring of 2011. Gleeson is now the minister of All Saints Episcopal Church, Palo Alto, Stanford, Silicon Valley, Calif.
McGarry becomes the 41st rector at St. Stephen’s, a church that was consecrated at its downtown Middlebury location back in 1827. She comes to St. Stephen’s from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she had served as rector of St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church since 1990.
McGarry was ordained a priest in 1979 after having received a doctorate in Hebrew Bible from the University of Michigan, a Master of Divinity from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., and a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Oberlin College in Ohio.
She previously served as chaplain at Oberlin College and as assistant chaplain for the Episcopal Student Foundation at the University of Michigan.
While McGarry has spent most of her adult life in the Midwest — and spent two years as a scholar in Jerusalem — she considers Vermont her home. Her dad continues to live at the family farm in Pittsford, and now she lives in Middlebury with her two adopted children, Lian, 11, from China, and Thomas, 5, from Vietnam. Both of her children will be attending Mary Hogan Elementary School.
As a fan of Vermont, McGarry had kept an eye out in recent years for leadership vacancies at Episcopal Churches in the Green Mountain State.
“I love it here,” she said. “We have been coming here all my life. My grandmother was from Castleton and my grandfather was from Rutland.”
She applied for the St. Stephen’s vacancy back in January. McGarry subsequently interviewed with church leaders, including a discernment team, and was thrilled when the church vestry decided to bring her on board.
“This is a wonderful congregation and a great opportunity,” McGarry said.
And she believes she will be a good match for the St. Stephen’s congregation. Church members, as part of their search for a new minister, went through a “discernment process” during which the congregation developed what it felt was an accurate description of its priorities and parish profile. It was also an opportunity for the church to state the strengths it would like to see in its new minister.
“(St. Stephen’s) has really committed itself to try to be a center of learning, and one of my interests is certainly to help myself and others expand their  horizons in all sorts of ways,” McGarry said. “That was a pretty nice fit, because that is one of my passions. It is also a church that has been, and continues to be, quite interested in outreach. They already have a dedicated set of ministries that are working with people who need the help that they are willing to give.”
The beauty of the St. Stephen’s building and its proximity to Middlebury College were additional magnets for McGarry.
“All of my career has been spent at some point in ministry at academic locations, either at Ann Arbor or at Oberlin,” she said. “You get the benefits and quality of smaller town life and so many of the benefits in terms of music, art and diversity (from the college).”
McGarry described her preaching style as starting with the text of the Bible and then applying that lesson to how people live their lives.
“I think each person’s job is to do as best they can to go out into the world and really be an image of the love of God,” McGarry said. “I try to support that as much as I can in my own life, flawed as I am and as we all are … We should also encourage it as individuals and also through what we are communicating as a church.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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