Joan Smith takes over at St. Philips Episcopal Church

April 30, 2004|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

HARRODSBURG - The historic St. Philips Episcopal Church has a new leader.

The Rev. Joan Smith, who will celebrate the 22nd anniversary this year of her ordination as a priest, took over at St. Philips on Palm Sunday.

Smith came to Lexington in 1995 and has been serving as interim minister in the Lexington area.

"This is a good place to land," she said. "The people are dedicated and energetic. They love the church and they love Jesus. They take care of each other.

"I have prayed for a while to settle somewhere and get to know the people," said Smith. "I want to see the kids grow up and see how things grow over time." Smith said the church has been assisted by the diocese since it was built in 1861, and had never managed by itself until a couple of years ago.


"The Episcopal Diocese in Lexington made the church a full parish for the first time in history. Everybody was tickled about that," Smith said.

The 55-year-old Smith said St. Philips is her first church home, a home she already is familiar with since she and the staff from the Lexington Diocese came to Shakertown for meetings.

"This is a pretty country and a nice area," said Smith, who said the supply pastor called St. Philips Episcopal a church with a "sweet spirit."

Church has average of 71 in attendance

The church has 82 members and an average of 71 in attendance on Sunday.

"I hope to build up the Sunday school and attract more young people with children," said Smith. The church already has two active chapters of Daughters of the King, women and service groups.

"It has a solid governing group and the people have leaned to take care of each other and take care of the church," said Smith.

"It is a special gift to Harrodsburg," she said of the 143-year-old church. When the community calls on the church for assistance, the people really come through," she said. "I'm proud of what and who we are and what the church means to the community."

Smith has been involved in church work for a number of years. She knew at an early age she wanted to be involved in the church.

She thought about going into service for the church, until she met a woman in college who wanted to be an Episcopal priest in the 1970s before the church ordained women as priests.

"I thought about doing graduate work, but couldn't see myself in education."

A native of Beckley, W.Va., Smith is a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Va., and Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va. She was ordained as deacon then as priest.

She earned a bachelor's degree in political science and social work. She said that helped her put together counseling skills.

Executive director of crisis intervention ministry hotline

She was an executive director for CONTACT, a crisis intervention ministry hotline in West Virginia. She trained lay people had a counseling ministry in an ecumenical setting.

Throughout that time, she talked with an Episcopal church priest about going into the ministry and becoming a priest.

"Each time I said I did not believe I could do something, he would encourage me to try," said Smith. "He got me into public speaking as a lay leader when I said I couldn't talk in front of a crowd.

When I said I didn't think I could do the bread and wine sacrament, he put that on my schedule. Everything I said I couldn't do, the priest said do it."

After learning that she could do all the things she did not think she could, she went to graduate school, then got a counseling degree from the seminary. This took about 10 years to get sorted out, she said.

Although the Episcopal church did not allow women to be priests when she first became interested, Smith started work toward her church career in 1978.

"I think I made the right decision," she said. "I never really thought about what else I would do."

After spending six or seven years doing interim ministry, rotating from church to church, Smith is happy to settle down in one community. She wants to get to know the community then find something she can get involved in. She has served on mental health boards and literacy centers.

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