Special service to be held at St. Luke’s for departing rector

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 23, 2013

One of the Episcopal Church’s more unusual services will take place Sunday when the rector of St. Luke’s in Salisbury will resign his position and leave the parish in an Episcopal service formally called “A Service for the Ending of a Pastoral Relationship and Leave-Taking from a Congregation.”
The occasion is the final service at St. Luke’s for the Rev. Whayne Hougland, Jr., who has served as rector of the parish for the past 8 ½ years. Hougland has been named bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan and will be consecrated as its ninth bishop on Sept. 28.
Hougland, a native of Kentucky, has led St. Luke’s through one of its most progressive periods and leaves now with the parish’s blessings mixed with personal sadness.
St. Luke’s Sunday service, which is open to the public, takes place at 10:30 a.m. and will be led by Hougland, assisted by the Rev. Canon Beth Ely of Charlotte, who serves as a deputy to the bishop of North Carolina. She will preach at the service. Members of the parish staff and leaders in the parish will participate in the service’s required sections. Included will be Dr. Phillip Burgess, organist and choirmaster; John Setliff, senior warden; and Joe Trainer, who works with the parish youth.
As part of Father Hougland’s leave-taking he will divest himself of several items that define his leadership role at St. Luke’s. After he publicly states that he is “leaving this charge” and that his tenure as rector “ends this day,” he will present his letter of resignation to the senior warden, along with the keys to the parish, the altar service book, the parish register and other symbols of his office and position at St. Luke’s.
Following this ceremony, Hougland will lead the congregation in the celebration of  the Holy Eucharist, the principal element in the Episcopal worship regimen.
When the service concludes, everyone attending will be invited to a reception in the parish hall, hosted by the St. Luke’s Parish Life Committee.
From this point on, leadership at St. Luke’s will be in the hands of the vestry, a layman’s group elected by the congregation. They are already in the process of searching for an interim priest to head the parish for the next year while the search process for a new rector is conducted. Assisting in the search will be representatives from the Office of the Bishop of North Carolina.
Bishop-Elect Hougland will go on to lead the Western Michigan diocese of 8,000 members in 58 parishes, from his offices in Kalamazoo. Hougland’s consecration will take place in the Van Noord Arena on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids. The chief consecrator will be the Presiding Bishop and Prelate of the Episcopal Church Katharine Jefferts Schori. The Right Rev. Michael Curry, bishop of North Carolina, will preach.
Hougland and his wife, Dana, will remain in Salisbury for a few days in early August, preparing for the move to their new home in Grand Rapids.