Historic St. George’s Episcopal Church inaugurates new priest

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CITY OF NEWBURGH – Having endured the entire pandemic so far without a priest, St. George’s Episcopal Church in Newburgh is once again welcoming one of its own to lead the congregation.

On October 4, Reverend Mary Barber, 54, began her first priestly work in the church she has been affiliated with for 20 years and where she and his wife, Alleyne Fraser, raised their two children.

“It’s really awesome,” Barber said in an interview in his office in St. George’s on Oct. 19. “There are so many things to be able to serve this community that were so important in my training and also to be able to work and serve in the community where I live.

Barber is the part-time priest of St. George’s at 105 Grand St. in Newburgh and of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 161 Mansion St. in Poughkeepsie.

The Rt. The Rev. Andy Dietsche, Bishop of New York, has appointed Barber to lead the churches.

“I believe Mary will be a high priest in St. George’s and St. Paul’s and I was happy to ordain her,” he said Thursday in a phone call with the Times Herald-Record.

Paul Brothe, director of the parish sacristy of St. George’s, compared Barber’s appointment to a “homecoming.”

“I think that every time a new priest arrives, there is always a certain trepidation about knowing this person and making the parish known to that person, and we have this luxury that she knows about it. already a lot on the parish, “said Brothe Thursday. during a telephone interview.

Before becoming its priest, Barber was active in the St. George congregation.

Reverend Mary Barber recently took a photo at St. George's Episcopal Church in Newburgh.  Barber is the part-time priest of St. George's at 105 Grand St. in Newburgh and of St. Paul's Episcopal Church at 161 Mansion St. in Poughkeepsie.

She was part of her vestry as a director, which basically means she held a leadership position in the group that functions as a board of directors, Brothe said.

Barber also ran a fundraising campaign with the building committee to renovate the historic building’s steeple and roof, Brothe said, and work began in late September.

The church was built by its worshipers in 1819 via “stone bees,” in principle similar to quilt bees, city historian Mary McTamaney said.

Back then, church members would gather for services in tents at the church site, then roam the area looking for stones, come back and work on the building, McTamaney said.

Church survives uncertain times

Church member Mary Elin Korchinsky said that in January 2020, the congregation was “stunned” when her then rector gave her two-week notice.

Two weeks after the priest left, the pandemic prompted the congregation to close their building and live stream their services, which they still use today in a hybrid format.

During this interim leadership, the church was headed by a temporary priest, and some of its lay members learned to lead the congregation in prayer.

St. George's Episcopal Church in the town of Newburgh was built in 1819 by its devotees.

Members have also managed to keep their long-standing pantry open during the pandemic. Since it was dangerous to congregate inside, the pantry was functioning in the courtyard, despite the snow and the freezing weather.

“Here is a parish that has been deeply shaken (by the pandemic), which has still managed to watch over the community and try to serve others as we order in our mission statement,” Korchinsky said.

Change path

Barber is a trained psychiatrist and was Clinical Director of Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg before changing career paths and embarking on a three-year journey to the seminary.

“I didn’t quit the job so much that I got a call from God, and it took a few years to figure out what was going on,” Barber said. “And in some ways it seemed very illogical, weird, and scary, but it was something that lingered in many threads of my life.”

At the mental hospital, Barber said, she was trained in the role of a spiritual leader and a pastor.

“They were going through very difficult and trying times,” she said. “A few patients have died. A staff member died in the hospital on the job. And the budget issues had been going on for some time.”

At that time, her administrative skills were not as necessary as her spiritual leadership abilities, she said.

Outside of her professional life, she said her spirituality was growing. She became more involved in St. George’s as a layman and began attending additional church services in other communities, such as the King of Kings Lutheran Church in New Windsor.

When the New Windsor church pianist retired, Barber stepped in. She continued to play the piano for this congregation during the seminary school holidays.

Next month, she will also be involved in the annual Thanksgiving Service of the Greater Newburgh Interfaith Council.

“The relationships that I’ve had for a long time, I feel like the circle has come full circle now,” Barber said. “With a different role, but the same job.”

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