Co-Warden Eileen still vividly remembers the day five years ago when she first walked into St. C’s. “It was January 14th, 2007, exactly one week after my mom passed away,” says Eileen, “there was a whole life altering process that I was going through and St. C’s was the first church I came to.” When Eileen walked in that first Sunday, she knew no one. Impressed by the big “All are Welcome Here” banner outside, she was met with the same spirit inside. There is one story that really made her stay, as she tells it: “I walked in on my first Sunday and was greeted by Bill Messmer, and to be greeted by Bill is an experience in itself. I sat behind two ladies and I remember them talking about Fred and how Fred wasn’t in church this week. They were looking around and were concerned he wasn’t there. Now, I didn’t know who Fred was, but during the announcements Father David said, ‘in case you were wondering, this is where Fred is today.’ And that gave me chills. I wanted to be a member of a community that would miss me. We are a community that notices when each other aren’t there, its part of the core of St. C’s.” Eileen had never been a member of an Episcopal church before joining St. C’s. Growing up in Philadelphia and then southeastern New York, she was raised Roman Catholic. She remembers attending Catholic school and joining the choir, not because she could sing but because “all the girls had to be in the choir.” After training as a teacher in college, Eileen joined the Peace Corps where she served in Thailand for two years. When she returned to the states she had a variety of jobs before becoming a tour guide. This was the beginning of a 25 year career in the travel industry where she now works in meeting planning. She credits this flexible schedule with allowing her to become more active in all aspects of church life.
After her first Sunday, Eileen got involved in the church very quickly. She claims her leadership in the church happened because “I was around.” For example, “Father David just announced one Sunday that they were cleaning the church and it never occurred to me it was an Altar Guild thing. I just thought, oh I should be there.” So she showed up to help clean the church and accidently fell into Altar Guild.” Then she was asked to be a counter, and after a year as a member, asked to join the Vestry. Since then, she has run both the Spring Fair and Christmas Fair, participated in Bible Study, become a regular volunteer at the Thrift Shop, and now serves as Co-Warden. Of her various leadership roles though, Eileen finds an unexpected one particularly significant: scheduling readers and counters on Sundays. She says, “Oddly enough, I love scheduling. I love bringing organization to what at one time I thought was total chaos. I love the days when I sit down and think about who does what, when, where and how. I think if I bring any gift to the church, that's it: the ability to organize and schedule. I like to think there is a niceness about it, that people are where they are supposed to be and have someone to turn to when they can’t be there.” Through her leadership roles, Eileen cites many mentors, but in particular she mentions parishioner Helen Shalit. Of Helen she states, “I so love her quiet respectful attitude, and yet at the same time there is a fierceness underneath that is very strong and I love that. If I want to be anyone when I get older, it’s Helen. She takes it all in a graceful way.”
These strong friendships and her deep respect for the community has kept Eileen coming to St. C’s, even though she does not consider herself Episcopalian. “I don’t believe in labels, but I’m here at St. C’s because of the community,” says Eileen. “There are folks here who not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. It’s amazing to me being around people who connect faith with action, knowing they sincerely believe what they talk about.”
So what advice would she offer to newcomers like she once was? “Don’t be afraid to get involved. I find that I’ve made solid, wonderful friendships that I wouldn’t have made without being part of activities here. Step outside your box. This is a wonderful community of people.”