As one of St. C’s longest standing parishioners, Thelma Rice has a unique perspective on the church. A lifelong Episcopalian, Thelma grew up in Medford attending Grace Episcopal Church. She was involved in church from a young age, starting in the choir and then teaching Sunday School. Perhaps most significantly, Thelma belonged to a high school ministry called YPF where she made many friends. When high school ended, they extended the ministry into a “young college age group called the Night Owls, because we met every Sunday night.” It was through this ministry that she met her husband. “My life was pretty centered around the church,” she says of her youth. Her experiences as a young woman involved in church life continued when she moved to Quincy at age 26 and began attending St. C’s with her husband. St. C’s, as Thelma remembers it, was a much larger church. “I came to St. C’s in 1953 and it was a brand new church structure, only three years old. There was a good cross section of people, with a huge Sunday School and three services on Sunday mornings.” Upon joining the congregation, Thelma immediately got involved, “I asked Father Green what I should join and he suggested St. Mary’s Guild. Shortly after I was asked to join Altar Guild, and considering it quite a privilege, I said yes right away.” Although she later involved herself in nearly every aspect of church life, these early commitments, both St. Mary’s Guild and Altar Guild, remained the most significant. St. Mary’s Guild provided a nice social atmosphere where she was able to “meet a lot of wonderful people and do a lot of interesting things.” Altar Guild on the other hand, was a more serious endeavor for Thelma. She remembers going to the Cathedral to take lessons and training to become a member. Of Altar Guild, she says “I was thrilled to have been asked since it was an honor. I felt like I was doing something directly for the Lord’s house.” She later became the Directress of the Altar Guild and served for many years.
Thelma spent her working years in the insurance industry, both in Braintree and Boston. Though she worked full time, she always prioritized the church. Besides St. Mary’s Guild and Altar Guild, Thelma served as treasurer on the Vestry, treasurer of a daycare program, a lay Eucharistic minister, a Thrift Shop volunteer, a lay reader and a chalice barer. On this count, she was a trailblazer serving as the first woman chalice barer at St. C’s and one of the first in the diocese.
When asked why she loves the Episcopal Church, like many Episcopalians, Thelma points to the beautiful liturgy as the center of her faith. Moreover she states that, “Everything that is necessary for a relationship with God or Jesus Christ is there in the Episcopal Church.”
In her time at St. C’s, Thelma has seen the church go through many rectors and many changes, both causes for celebration and mourning. “I like a formal service. I like everyone to wear vestments. I miss that. Everything is a bit more casual and I am old school, I like everything formal,” she says. While she misses the formality of the past, she likes the family atmosphere of church life here now. “I think everyone is more friendly, more open.”
Thelma has taken her spiritual development very seriously through the years. She credits the rectors of St. C's as playing a role in that. "We have had different priests and I’ve liked them all for one reason or another. They have all shown me something new or different." Additionally, she likes that she has never felt restricted in her involvement. "Whatever priest we’ve had has allowed a person to become involved to whatever degree they wanted to without squelching it. It’s always been wonderful that way." She says that for true development, "Just coming to church on Sundays isn’t enough; you need to delve deeper into things." She has done this through many Bible Studies through the years as well as additional courses at St. Paul's Cathedral.
After her nearly 60 years of devotion to St. C's, what advice does she offer to the church? "Don’t make it too casual. Keep the reverence there." Of the congregation's impact in her life, she credits many parishioners with mentoring her through the years. "People today do things a bit different than I do, but they’ve all been wonderful people. We have always had wonderful people at this church, it’s like a family. I’ve always loved it here.”