On Sunday January 27th, 2013 Christ Church in Westerly welcomed the arrival of their new rector, The Rev. Christine Purcell. It was a momentous day for this parish founded in 1834. Christine is the very first female rector of the church, and the decision to call her was unanimous across the search and vestry committees. Her acceptance was announced in October, at the end of a two-year search.
While her official duties did not begin until this week, the Westerly community had an exciting opportunity to meet the Rev. Purcell when she and Bishop Knisely both visited on Sunday, November 18th. Her visit happened to fall during Bishop Knisely's Ordination weekend, and he had chosen Christ Church for his very first visitation as the 13th Bishop or Rhode Island. The Providence Journal has a wonderful photo gallery of the day.
Christine comes to Christ Church from the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania where she served God’s people in a number of settings. Most recently she served as the interim rector at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Shippensburg, PA and prior to that assignment, as the interim rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Altoona, PA. She also served as primary missioner for 3 years at the Greater Lycoming Episcopal Area Ministry which is composed of 3 small churches located in and around Williamsport, PA. Christine has served on many diocesan committees and was twice elected as a clergy deputy to General Convention in 2009 and 2012.
Former parishioners, lay leaders, and clergy have described Christine as “one of the warmest people you will ever meet”. She has described herself as a “people person” who is a passionate preacher and wants her sermons “to connect with real life”. Christine strives at “making Sunday good”. One of her goals for the liturgy “is that it ushers us into God’s presence by touching our aesthetic sensibilities, through its music, language, gesture and colors.
Christine grew up is Southern California and went on to Dartmouth College where she received an AB in History in 1978. She took a job working in finance for a Fortune 400 company and continued her education earning an MBA from the University of Connecticut in 1988.
The call to serve God led her to complete a certificate of Education Ministry from The University of the South in 1995. She continued her religious training by completing a Master of Divinity degree at The General Theological Seminary in 2004. Christine is currently enrolled in the Doctorate of Ministry in Biblical Preaching program at Luther Seminary. This three year program is tailored for working clergy and will allow her to do most of the required course work within her home parish. The congregation will be involved in the program as well by providing feedback to Christine on her sermons.
Christine and her husband Bob currently reside in Williamsport, PA and will be relocating to the Westerly area. Bob is a gastroenterologist in private practice. The couple have two grown children, a son in California and a daughter in the Washington, D.C. area.
For more information about Christ Church please visit www.christchurchwesterly.org