Tuckerton’s Church of the Holy Spirit gets some priests

MARRIED IN FAITH: Reverends Chip and Lisa Graves are the first-ever married couple to lead services at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church. (Photo by Rick Mellerup)

The Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Tuckerton has not one but two new priests, Reverends Chip and Lisa Graves.

The Holy Spirit has had female priests in the past since the Episcopal Church officially began ordaining women on January 1, 1977. But this is the first time the Holy Spirit has had a married couple lead services. .

In fact, only one will serve at the altar of the Holy Spirit each Sunday. As a cost-saving measure, Holy Spirit joined St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Waretown to sign a contract with the couple. They will alternate between churches each week. For example, Mother Lisa led the Palm Sunday service in Tuckerton while Father Chip did the same in Waretown; their roles were reversed on Easter Sunday.

But let’s get back to the idea of ​​ordaining women, which happens to be at the heart of this story.

Lisa’s first career was in advertising. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Stephen’s College in Columbia, Missouri, then worked as a copywriter and eventually creative director in San Francisco and Kansas City.

It was at KC that she met Chip. He had earned his MBA in international business from the American Graduate School of International Management (also known as the Thunderbird School of Global Management, as it is located in a disused United States Air Force base dating from the World War II in Phoenix). Chip then worked as a financial advisor at American Express before returning to join his family’s food distribution business.

So why did the couple decide to change careers along the way?

Blame it on the love and decision of the Episcopal Church to ordain women as well as its long tradition of allowing priests to marry.

“I had decided not to date anyone, but I met Chip,” said Lisa, who planned to focus on her career.

“Oh, yeah, it was instant,” Chip said.

They soon married and lived in a farming town, Chillicothe, Mo.

“We were very invested in the local Episcopal Church,” Lisa said. “I went to the diocesan congress as a lay delegate and saw a woman priest for the first time. It was in 1999, 2000.

This stimulated his interest in becoming a clergyman. At first she considered becoming a deacon (“you can keep your day job”), but as she discerned, she discovered that her calling was to the priesthood. And since spouses are also heavily involved in the long and demanding process of discernment, diocesan officials, noticing his interest, asked Chip to consider a call as well. “And he did,” Lisa said.

It comes from a man who had grown up Presbyterian, thanks to his Scottish heritage – “My mother was of the Campbell clan” – and Methodist – “because of all they did for the children”.

They then went to Episcopal Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, where Lisa earned her Masters of Divinity while Chip did the same and later earned a Doctor of Ministry degree.

They served churches in Roanoke, Va., where they both attended a “big, big church”, Chicago and suburban Crystal Lake, Huntington, W.Va., and Westchester County, NY, in White Plains and Yonkers to be exact. “We want to live everywhere,” Lisa joked.

Their time in West Virginia, from 2012 to 2019, was particularly difficult. “It’s a beautiful state,” Lisa said while Chip mentioned that it was a state that had a huge opioid problem during their time there. And their time in Westchester County was pretty stressful. Remember, Westchester County was one of the early centers of the COVID-19 pandemic. And life in the suburban towns was just too weird for the couple; a sense of community seemed to be missing.

So when they heard about openings in Tuckerton and Waretown, they decided to check it out. They immediately felt that sense of community they lacked.

“We loved it,” Chip said. “The rhythm, the community…the ocean.”

“People,” Lisa added.

“I want to be very involved in the community,” Chip said.

“We want to reach out to people,” Lisa said. “The Episcopal Church is a place of support.”

They bought a house in Manahawkin, halfway between their two parishes, but they didn’t close until after Easter, probably hoping and praying that someone wouldn’t make a higher offer. Between moving, scrambling to buy a house in a very hot market, living out of suitcases and starting their ministries in Tuckerton and Waretown during the busiest week of the Christian year, Holy Week, the couple were indeed busy . But they both said Holy Week was the perfect time to begin their journey to new churches, as weekday services and large crowds on Palm Sunday and Easter gave them the opportunity to greet more parishioners. than they normally would have encountered in a month of, uh, Sundays.

Incidentally, despite the mid-life career changes, many moves – which Lisa was familiar with, given that she had been an ‘army brat’ as a child – back to school , etc., the couple guided two daughters who live in the Northeast, Katarina and Isabelle, into adulthood. And they share their home with “a big furry rescue dog named Uno.”

One last thing. They both have a sense of humor. Chip said he was introduced to the “Jersey Salute,” the one-finger wave angry motorists like to throw on New Jersey roads.

Welcome to the Garden State.

—Rick Mellerup

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