COLUMBIA — With her lyrical Irish accent, the Rev. Paula Robinson dismissed members of Calvary Episcopal Church on Wednesday night with a blessing. While this was one of many times she has dismissed this congregation, this was the first in her official role as rector.
More than 130 people gathered Wednesday at Calvary for a worship service called the Celebration of New Ministry whereby Robinson was officially instated as the church’s first female rector. Robinson, a native of Ireland who has for several years served as a priest in the U.S., has been acting as rector at Calvary since March.
The Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith, bishop of Missouri, presided over the ceremony, and several priests from the diocese were present.
The celebration featured a special introit composed for the occasion by parishioner Eileen Porter Veerhusen. The church’s choirs, both children and adults, as well as hand bell ensemble were also part of the service.
During the service, Robinson accepted the trust and responsibility of rector, and the congregation pledged to support and uphold her in ministry. Through litany the congregation prayed for her ministry, encouragement in the Holy Spirit and adornment of her family with Christian virtues.
In an induction, representatives from the congregation presented her with symbols of ministry, including a Bible, water, stole and keys to the church.
The Rev. Daniell Hamby, a rector in Yardley, Pa., spoke to the parishioners, encouraging them to engage with their new rector to act as a community as “God’s agents of hope and reconciliation in a world that so desperately needs them.”
Though her role became official Wednesday night, Robinson has been serving at Calvary for several months and is getting acquainted with Columbia and learning about how the church can minister to the community.
She speaks highly of the "universally kind and welcoming" people and the high quality “condensed cultural life” she has found upon moving to Columbia.
She plans for Calvary to play a larger role in resonating with people as a part of the downtown community. Part of this idea is for the church to parallel what is happening in the community and to make people feel more comfortable in the church community. For instance, the church will hold a jazz Mass to coincide with the Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival, which will take place next weekend.
Robinson also plans for the downtown church to respond more actively to the needs of people in the city. She describes how needs are “more apparent and pressing than before” and how the church must streamline its response to react more quickly.