St. James Episcopal Church has called The Reverend Richard Easterling to serve as its new priest-in-charge. As priest-in-charge, Fr. Richard will lead the church of around 200 members in all matters of worship and community involvement.
The Reverend Richard Easterling
Easterling holds degrees from Louisiana State University and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. He will assume the leadership of a church widely known for its historic links to both Florence and the birth of the Italian nation in the mid-eighteenth century. He comes to St. James from New Orleans, Louisiana, where he served as Rector of St. George’s Church for six years. At St. George’s, his tenure was distinguished by profound preaching, reestablishing community, healing a parish in difficulty, creating financial sustainability, nurturing a diverse community and a commitment to inter-religious relations in the greater New Orleans area. Richard’s husband David Wohlgemuth and their standard poodle, Bear, will accompany him in Florence.
In a statement from New Orleans, Easterling recognized the gifts and challenges present in St. James, saying, “I am deeply thankful for the work and ministry of Fr. Andrew Cooley as the Interim Rector of St. James. As with any transition in leadership, St. James is beginning a new chapter in its history, and we are blessed to be a part of it. A motto, if you will, of my ministry is Me oportet operari donec dies est (I must work while it is day), a combination of two different verses of John’s Gospel. A new morning has come to St. James, and we aim to hit the ground running. David and I are thrilled to come to a new parish that is ready to work with us and, together, to forge a happy, loving, and prosperous future.”
Senior warden Haswell Beni said, “We are overjoyed that Fr. Richard Easterling has accepted this call. It is a three-year commitment that comes with a full consensus of the search committee, composed of the vestry. We anticipate with joy the arrival of Richard and his family in person.” Junior warden Nevin Brown added, “Our search was anchored in prayer and deep reflection, and we are delighted that God led Fr. Easterling and St. James Church together during these most challenging times.”
St. James’s is a parish of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. Its search committee was co-chaired by Haswell Beni, senior warden, and Nevin Brown, junior warden, with robust support from the convocation office. Following a lengthy and mutual discernment process that culminated in the full consensus of the eleven-member vestry, the call to Fr. Easterling was issued by the Convocation’s Bishop, The Right Reverend Mark Edington.
“I am deeply thankful for the prayerful, open character of the discernment process put in place by the Vestry,” Bishop Edington said. “St. James’s lay leadership will be a strong partner for their new pastor, and I look forward to welcoming him to the Convocation.”
The parish hopes to welcome Father Richard and his family to Florence on December 23.
St. James was founded in 1853 and maintains a high public profile in Florence, Europe, and around the world. Its increasingly diverse congregation comes from everywhere, locally and globally and worships in a sanctuary of historical significance, welcoming seasonal and short-term members and pilgrims from many parts of the United States and elsewhere.
St. James supports many locally well-known outreach ministries including our food bank, thrift shop and Children’s Lending Library. In addition, the parish is a committed supporter of AA and Al-Anon.