Answering the call
May 28, 2013
By Joe Grove
New St. Michael’s rector happily tackles job
The Rev. Katherine Sedwick, along with the congregation of St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, recently celebrated her beginning as rector.
Sedwick said it is exciting to be a part of a congregation poised to take the next step forward, to do what they are going to do and to figure out how they are going to do it well as a community. She said membership in the church numbers about 200 and “they had such a strong, healthy time under the former rector.”
In an Episcopal church, a new pastor is called by the vestry. Vestry Senior Warden Tina Butt, Ed.D., a former assistant superintendent of the Issaquah School District, said after they had interviewed the top three applicants for the position, “Katherine was unanimous. She is warm, caring and wise. She is much loved by parishes where she has been. She is a good administrator. She has a clear vision for where our church can be going, and she has a real love for the Northwest and wants to help us get more involved in the Issaquah community.”
Her service has included being associate rector at Trinity Parish Church in downtown Seattle and seven years as rector at St. Luke’s in Southwest Minneapolis. Her move to Issaquah is a bit of a homecoming. She and her husband Michael had lived on the Eastside (Bellevue and Redmond) for 20 years before going to Minneapolis.
Butt said the vestry posted their church mission statement, “Bringing faith to life in the heart of Issaquah” on the denomination’s national website, along with five activities envisioned to support it, for applicants to respond to. From 10 applicants, they narrowed the field to three, following Skype interviews, and sent vestry members to interview the three in person. When those doing the interviewing compared their outcomes, Sedwick was the unanimous pick, Butt said.
Sedwick said the Episcopal history comes out of the Church of England.
“I think we are proud of our heritage,” she said. “Who we are comes from who we’ve been. We are from a tradition that understands we are part of a three-legged stool of scripture, tradition and reason, and our history is in that tradition part. Scripture is equally strong, if not more so, and the reason is that we are expected to think for ourselves and make our decisions on that as well.
“One of our sayings is that how we pray is what we are. We are not a confession faith, where you sign a document saying this is what I believe,” she added. “We say a creed every week, so we are a gathered group of people who have common beliefs, but if you were to ask 10 different Episcopalians what the creed means, you would get slightly different answers. Our prayer book is as close to a statement of identity as you will get in the Episcopal Church.”
When asked about the modern trend of “contemporary” church services, Sedwick said, “I think we are very contemporary in that the prayers we pray are about what is going on today, the way we welcome new people, the way we baptize.
“If you look at our worship space, it is very newly remodeled, but adding guitars and drums doesn’t make anything contemporary,” she added. “There are a lot of us who enjoyed coming of age in the time of Vatican II with the folk masses and love beads and all of that, but we have to keep moving forward.
“You will find in our worship Taizé music, which comes from the Burgundy region of France. It is very contemporary. Taizé is a nondenominational monastic order and the music is created so that everyone can sing it.”
The music is a way of praying as well as singing.
“It is very contemporary, but it is not going to be the pull-down the screen with all the electronics stuff going on,” she said.
Sedwick said she had a sense of a call to serve God as a teenager.
“It is very personal,” she said when asked to explain the call. “I had an experience of being in a chapel at a youth service, and I had a sense of God’s presence, and I don’t know how to describe it, other than it was stronger than anything else around me, and I was in a room full of teenagers all singing and being silly. I heard somewhere inside of me, ‘I gave my life for you, give yours to me,’ and it scared me. I promptly ignored it for a long time.”
She said, however, that everything else she did seemed like “settling” for something less.
She was a young mother when she returned to school to prepare educationally for ordained ministry. She has found the work exciting and said she can count on one hand the days she has pulled up to work and wished she wasn’t there.
“I don’t find any part of the job that I don’t like. I’m excited by getting to know individuals, but also the community, and see where God is calling them and helping them remove the barriers to that call, helping them find their path,” she said. “I like change. I think of it as an opportunity for growth, and walking with someone through change is exciting to me, very joyful, though it is not always easy.”
She said St. Michaels has an 8 a.m. Sunday service with the old Elizabethan language, “and it is beautiful. It is quiet. There is no music to it.”
It is followed by a 10:30 a.m. service with more contemporary language.
“The music is beautiful and joyful, with lots of children and families,” she said.
What advice does she have for a young woman wanting to go into the clergy?
“Make sure it is what you love to do,” she said. “There is a lot of lay ministry. If you find yourself unhappy doing lay ministry, you are probably not going to be happy doing ordained ministry.”