After a 10-month search and 27 applicants from 20 states, the vestry at Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill has called a new rector. Her first Sunday will be Aug. 7.
The Rev. Canon Elizabeth Marie Melchionna (pronounced mel-SHO-NA), 36, is a native of Roanoke, Va., with degrees from Davidson College and Yale Divinity School.
She is married to Will Roberts and is expecting a baby in mid-September. They have a son in the sixth grade.
She will be at the church about six weeks before taking maternity leave and will return during Advent, according to the church.
“That the parish was open to calling a female rector, who also happened to be pregnant, communicated something,” Melchionna said. “Their willingness to go in that direction while remaining authentic to their roots showed that they were asking themselves what new ministry might be emerging for the parish and how to express it.”
Melchionna is currently Canon for Discipleship and Parish Life at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colo. She was associate rector and Davidson College Episcopal campus minister at St. Alban’s in Davidson from August 2009 through June 2013.
She speaks several languages, has traveled extensively, written numerous publications and is in demand for her preaching and presentation skills.
Plans are under way for welcoming gatherings during August for those attending all Sunday services. An installation ceremony is also planned shortly after her arrival and a celebration of the new ministry to be held after her return from maternity leave.
From the perspective of someone who has watched all kinds of churches operate over the years, this decision by Chapel of the Cross could, in some churches, foment either a coup or a schism!
The call of this talented young woman affirms the welcome reality of gifted women responding to God’s call and finding their place in all manner of leadership roles in the church. It is also indicative that our culture is well into regarding pregnancy as a perfectly normal process, not a “disabling condition,” so working women need not hang up their hats for nine months.
Women priests are nothing new in the Episcopal Church. (The church made ordination of women priests part of church law in 1976.) The two associate priests at Chapel of the Cross are women. However, this is the first time a woman has been appointed as a “Cardinal Rector” in the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. “Cardinal” is a term referring to a parish that is one of the diocese’s largest and most influential.
Walker Mabe, chief administrator of the 17-member staff at Chapel of the Cross, does not find the church’s call of a female rector surprising.
“It shows that the search committee and the vestry did not take the safe road and did not blink in making the decision when they found the right person. They wanted the best for the parish.”
A few years back, the Rev. Ginger Thomas, who was co-pastor with her husband the Rev. Roger Owens at Duke Memorial United Methodist in Durham, was pregnant during their first year at the church.
After folks got accustomed to the idea, the arrival of the baby was an exciting experience even for older church members who might harbor vestiges of a cultural notion that pregnant women should stay home and out of sight.
Take a look at 21st century “maternity clothes.” Body-hugging T-shirts. Wow!
Women’s Silent March
The Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham will holds a Community Luncheon Roundtable from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, July 28, in the Fellowship Hall of Shepherds House United Methodist Church, 107 N. Driver St., at the corner of East main Street in Durham. No RSVP is needed.
Come learn about the upcoming Women's Silent March for non-violence in Durham. Also help celebrate volunteer Mark Daughtridge's climb to top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in support of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham. It will be an important hour of sharing critical information about peacemaking in Durham. For more information contact Marcia Owen at 919-358-1113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congressman G.K. Butterfield will deliver the morning message when Covenant Presbyterian Church hosts its annual Men's Day on Sunday, July 31, at 10 a.m.
A graduate of N.C. Central University and the NCCU School of Law, Butterfield is in his seventh term as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving North Carolina’s First Congressional District. He is also the current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The theme of the service will be “Living in America as a Christian.” The theme, according to Covenant Pastor Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins, addresses the challenges facing Christians as they live and work in today's fast paced society. “ odern day Christians have so many voices seeking to tell them how to live in contemporary society rather than to show them the way,” he says. “God's way of living is a life of justice, faith and love."
Other highlights will include the naming of Covenant’s Man of Year, an annual tribute to a male church member who has given selflessly of his time and resources during the year.
The public is welcome to attend. For more information about Covenant's Men's Day service, visit www.cpcdurham.org or call the church at 919-682-1484. The church is located at 2620 Weaver St. in Durham.
A statue of Billy Graham, a Southern Baptist evangelist, is being moved from its downtown Nashville location to a retreat center in the mountains of North Carolina.
The new location, just a few miles from Graham’s home in Montreat, will be at the entrance to Ridgecrest Conference Center in Black Mountain, the sole Southern Baptist Convention conference center.
A debut date will be announced in the fall.
The move was prompted after the sale last year of the SBC’s 15-acre site in downtown Nashville.
I misidentified the location of two Baptist churches a couple of weeks ago. Yates Baptist is at 2819 Chapel Hill Road in Durham, and Mount Carmel is at 2016 Mount Carmel Church Road in Chapel Hill.