Cynthia Dale Pape had a long, varied life before beginning her ministry at St. C’s. Born in New Jersey, she grew up a cradle Episcopalian or “womb to tomb,” as she says. She remembers her experience of church as a child as being very formal, getting dressed up on Sunday and attending the Episcopal Church where her mother was organist. “God was a God of great power, but not of compassion and love, the God I know today,” she says of the Rite I services of her childhood. After leaving New Jersey, Cynthia lived in many places, including London, England, and worked in professions as varied as radio journalism and as a legislative assistant in the State House. During this time, Rev. Cynthia wandered spiritually, partaking in other spiritual disciplines and denominations. Yet even this wandering is a reason she loves the Episcopal Church today, saying “the Church has given me the room and the support to do that.” Why is it great to be an Episcopalian? “Because there is an established institution that has the most beautiful liturgy in the world. The Book of Common Prayer is a beautiful, beautiful book to read. The words are so carefully crafted. You can tell that manual for living and praying, was prayed over before it was written.” While every church has issues and disagreements, Rev. Cynthia believes “The Episcopal Church is a great place to have problems. There is room for different voices.”
While she is obviously devoted to the Episcopal Church, she claims that becoming a Deacon happened “by accident.” She got the call to be a Deacon when she was attending the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Boston. When the church experienced turmoil over some recent changes, Rev. Cynthia “developed an ear for listening and pastoral care.” It was through this experience that soon the congregation asked her to consider a vocation to the Diaconate. “What’s that?” she quipped. But ultimately, when the congregation explained it as a “the people’s pastor, one who sees to their needs and lives with them” she agreed to enter discernment. The process took many years and many hours of prayer, but Rev. Cynthia feels it was a great blessing.
Rev. Cynthia came to St. C’s in 2007 after a chance meeting with Father Hefling at a Safe Church training in Boston. She has spent nearly five years with this community, both in formation and as an ordained Deacon. For someone who said, “If you told me ten years ago that I’d be wearing a collar and in church every Sunday, I’d have said no I don’t think so,” she has served, lived, and grown with this community in extraordinary ways. Through the years there have been blessings and challenges, but Rev. Cynthia sees more blessings. She characterizes the parish as “spunky combination of being hip and traditional,” and a place that is “very much a family.” While Rev. Cynthia has surely helped this parish grow in faith, she also credits St. C’s with forming her faith as well, saying “My faith has changed greatly by being able to spend a long time in a congregation. They are my little family. I love them. I’ve had a ball with the women in the church, and the men too, but we’ve had some great girl twirls.” While at times the journey has been hard, Rev. Cynthia “wouldn’t change a thing now.” She thanks St. C’s for supporting her in her ministry, by their generosity in missions, by letting her be herself, and by allowing her to share their lives, “I will always, always compare future experiences to this church, this will be the benchmark.”
While there are many wonderful moments from her ministry at St. C’s, in particular, two memories stand out: “knowing Carla Histen and showing movies to the girls.” Rev. Cynthia remembers “giggling like little girls” with Carla over children’s books one Christmas and the opportunity to walk with her as she moved towards death. Of Carla, Rev. Cynthia says, “What lessons she taught me, a gracious way to die, she was not afraid and because of that I am not afraid, because of Carla Histen.” One of her other cherished memories is a little lighter, showing movies with the girls. She reminisces about the camaraderie and good times they had, “Talking about spirituality together, what it’s like for us to pray for one another, and discussing how we see God. I will miss my sisters.“
Now as Rev. Cynthia prepares for her last Sunday with St. C’s, she has just one last message of gratitude, “Thank you for helping me grow up in this ministry. Thank you for loving me when I was not lovable. Please, please, please don’t forget me because I cannot and will not forget you.” For the future, she offers this advice: “Keep doing what you have been doing, allowing people to come in and worship and allow people to be themselves. This is a great place of letting people be, yet watching out for them. “