First woman and youngest priest heads Western Springs church

Jane Michaels
jmichaels@pioneerlocal.com | @janemichaels22
April 14 11:23 a.m.

More on the new rector

Seminary: Yale Divinity School, graduating in 2011

Degree: Masters of Divinity with a Diploma in Anglican Studies from Berkeley Divinity School, associated with Yale

Honor: Mersick Prize for excellence in preaching

Ordained: Philadelphia in 2012

The Rev. Kate Spelman is the youngest priest and the first woman to serve as rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Western Springs. Just before turning 30, she became the seventh spiritual head of the 120-year-old parish of 300 families.

Q. Where did you serve previously?

A. My first assignment was three years at Christ Church in Philadelphia, an historic church four blocks from the Liberty Bell. They held the Continental Congress there. It’s a big tourist attraction as well as a lively congregation. It was a wonderful position, sort of a boot camp with all sorts of experiences.

Q. How did you end up in Western Springs?

A. I felt it was time for a change. This was the first place I applied to and the last place where I interviewed, including parishes in California, Philadelphia and Virginia. Almost from the first moment, I felt very much at home and at ease here. It felt right.

Q. What do you like about All Saints?

A. It’s very different from my other parish, which had 500 people and 185 coming on a Sunday in a huge worship space. This church here has a little over 100 parishioners, and 60 to 70 on a Sunday. But 100 people deeply committed to each other versus 500 people is more exciting to me. Everyone was been so wonderful. I love learning people’s stories.

Q. When did you decide to become a priest?

A. I was baptized as an Episcopalian. When I was about 7 or 8, I remember looking at our priest and thinking that I could do a better job. Laughter would be the appropriate response to that. I was a precocious and self-confident child. But I was always involved in church growing up in Pennsylvania in the youth program, as a chalice bearer and an acolyte.

Q. Did you continue to stay involved as a student at the University of Chicago?

A. Not at first. I didn’t take any religion classes. I majored in anthropology and started to read the Bible to become more educated. Then I couldn’t put it down, and that drew me back into reading Scripture and having a relationship with God. I felt like St. Paul on the road to Damascus, seeing things differently.

Q. What drew you to ministry?

A. I found a parish I could walk to, St. Paul & the Redeemer Church in Hyde Park, where I went for five years. I taught Sunday school and took communion to people in their homes. I thought about becoming a priest, but my timing was off. I graduated in 2006 and took a job in the admissions office. I got to travel a lot. But I thought about seminary again. I’ve always felt a strong call to be involved in the sacramental life of the church.

Q. What is your vision for All Saints?

A. I have a lot of learning and growing to do and this parish wants to do that, to walk the process of growth and learning. In Matthew’s account of the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead, Jesus tells the people,” Unbind him.” Jesus could have done it himself, but he asked the people to do it. In the same way, we will work together to unwrap what God has in store for us here. I can see that it will be exciting.

More on the new rector

Seminary: Yale Divinity School, graduating in 2011

Degree: Masters of Divinity with a Diploma in Anglican Studies from Berkeley Divinity School, associated with Yale

Honor: Mersick Prize for excellence in preaching

Ordained: Philadelphia in 2012

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