For Dr. E. Bevan Stanley, the newly appointed interim rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Bethany, his new position is somewhat of a homecoming. Not only is it a short drive from a previous interim position he held at Good Shepherd Church in Orange, it’s right up the road from where he and his wife, Alinda, raised their two daughters on Amity Road in Woodbridge for 25 years.
In fact, most of Stanley’s ministry has been a short drive from this most recent position in Bethany. Raised outside of Philadelphia, Stanley made his way to the state via Yale University. He and his wife stayed on in New Haven, opened a bookstore and became very active in their church. Through a series of events Stanley felt he was being called into the ministry and decided to enroll in the Yale Divinity School. After graduating, he served at a New Haven church and eventually spent 15 years in Hamden at St. Peters, which merged with Grace Church during his tenure.
Stanley started his appointment at Christ Redeemer on Oct. 3, making the short commute from his house in the Westville section of New Haven. He said he felt immediately at home.
“I love this place,” Stanley said. “I love being here, it’s a great community. I’ve been very thoroughly welcomed, and am impressed by how much prayer is done here.”
While the term “interim” sounds temporary, the position is actually quite a long-term commitment that can last anywhere from 18 months to two years, and part of Stanley’s job will be to make sure there is a smooth transition from the former rector, Peter Stebinger (who retired early this summer) to whomever is eventually chosen to lead the congregation.
“After a very long tenure such as Peter Stebinger’s [28 years],” Stanley said, “it’s helpful to have a significant period of time so people can adjust to the idea of someone new.”
According to Stanley, the search process can involve the entire congregation, which elects the search committee. This committee will gather information about the church history as well as its hopes and dreams, then create a picture of what kind of ordained leadership they want for their future. This will be collected into a profile, and then the gathering of potential candidate names begins. Once these are winnowed down to the last two or three, it’s up to the parish vestry, along with the bishop, to make the final choice.
“I feel very blessed being here,” Stanley said, “and excited about helping everyone through the process.”
The interim position, however, is much more than guiding the church towards finding new leadership.
“My job is to manage the parish,” Stanley said, “and handle pastoral care, preach, visit hospitals – all the tasks of the parish. I also have developmental tasks such as helping to come to terms with the past, raising up and developing a new lay ministry, renewing relationships with the diocese and getting the parishioners ready to receive a new rector.”
Until then, for Stanley, it’s business as usual at Christ Episcopal.
“I am really delighted to be here,” he said, “and looking forward to working with this group of people.”