Helping a mainline congregation to rebound from COVID-19 — putting virtual fannies in the pews while maintaining an historic campus — should be no problem for the next rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown.
The Rev. Anne Thatcher has worked for peace in the Middle East, advocated for human rights in El Salvador, and led rappelling trips in the wilds of Wisconsin.
On Nov. 23, 2020, she will become the 18th rector in the 187-year history of St. Peter’s, church leaders announced Monday in a Zoom session introducing “Reverend Anne” to the congregation.
“We’re in for an exciting new beginning,” Co-Warden Nerissa Boccino told more than 100 parishioners online.
“I cannot wait to begin our walk with one another,” Thatcher said via a pre-recorded video.
Video: The Rev. Anne Thatcher says hello to St. Peter’s:
“Whether it is a wedding, a death, a birthday, a job loss, a new puppy or a medical emergency, I will be with you,” said Thatcher, 46, who is single and brings her Irish doodle, Laszlo, with her from St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a larger parish in Philadelphia, where she served as associate rector for the last five years.
She succeeds the Rev. Janet Broderick, who left in June 2019 after more than a decade to lead a congregation in Beverly Hills, CA. The Rev. Robert Trache has been serving as interim rector for St. Peter’s 600 members.
Thatcher, who grew up in Oregon and Colorado, hails from a family steeped in faith. Her great-grandfather from Wales was an Anglican priest, and her uncle was an Episcopal priest.
She holds an undergraduate degree in Anthropology from Whitman College, a masters in education from Western Washington University, a graduate certificate in Leadership and Camp Ministry from Wheaton College (IL), a diploma in Anglican Studies from the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and a masters from the Yale Divinity School.
Trained to work with traumatized communities, she has been a wilderness trip leader and a ropes course facilitator who is a trustee of the Philadelphia Outward Bound School.
She also is keenly interested in the power of mediation. Recently she joined a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation to Israel/Palestine. And she attended a human rights training with Cristosal in El Salvador.
The minister is fluent in Spanish, sings in a neighborhood band, and enjoys hiking, road cycling, yoga and social dance.
Vestry members said Thatcher excels at recruitment, and has been intimately involved with St. Martin issues pertaining to maintenance of church buildings — both key concerns at St. Peter’s.
Bounded by South Street, Miller Road and Maple Avenue, the campus includes a cemetery, rectory, great hall and parish house, in addition to a Gothic-style church with a 119-step tower topped by a 49-bell carillon.
Maintaining this magnificent structure — designed by architects who built the old Penn Station and Columbia University– has become a greater concern since a court battle shut down historic preservation grants from Morris County in 2018.
To help supplement the parish endowment, St. Peter’s rents an annex to a fitness studio. Community outreach programs include an after-school program and hosting an Hispanic congregation, which worships in the church.
Thatcher’s first service in Morristown is scheduled for Nov. 29.