The Rev. Norman MacLeod will retire as Rector of St. James Episcopal Church as of June 30. He will preach and celebrate Communion at the church for the last time on Sunday, June 25 at a 10 a.m. service.
The Rev. Mr. MacLeod arrived in Woodstock with his wife, Elizabeth C. Stevens, just days after Tropical Storm Irene devastated the region. “Witnessing Woodstock’s response to Irene was an amazing introduction to the strength and spirit of this community,” he noted.
The Episcopal priest’s tenure at the grey stone church on the west end of the town green included working with the parish leadership to spearhead a $1.5 million renovation project. Called the Building on Faith campaign, the project included the construction of wheelchair access facilities inside and out, a new heating system and correction of serious drainage issues. During the course of that work in 2014, he led Episcopal services on Sunday mornings at the Norman Williams Public Library.
“It has been inspiring to work with a series of fine lay leaders at St. James and I will never forget the many pastoral relationships I have enjoyed. Priests enter into the lives of people in a host of different situations, some joyous and some difficult. It has been a gift to serve in this unique role,” MacLeod said.
In addition to his immediate parish responsibilities, the priest became involved in community activities and in the life of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont. He has served on the Faulkner Fund Board, a local group which seeks to provide financial assistance to hard-pressed Woodstock residents, and is a member of the Ottauquechee Health Foundation. With members of other faith communities in the area, he helped organize efforts to support the work of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, based in Colchester and Rutland. He also served as president of the board of Woodstock’s Congo Village School Project.
His church work at the state level included service on the Commission on Ministry, a body tasked with evaluating candidates who seek ordination in the Episcopal Church, and as a member of an advisory group helping the Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, Bishop of Vermont, in his efforts
to raise funds to improve the diocesan camp and outdoor facilities at Rock Point, the Episcopal property on Lake Champlain. Rock Point is the last remaining undeveloped stretch on the lake in Burlington.
He placed a major focus on what he sees as the Christian responsibility to care for the Earth. MacLeod chaired the Earth Stewards Committee of the Episcopal Church in Vermont in 2014, while organizing a project with the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire called the Pilgrimage for Earth. This four-day event three years ago helped launch the Church of the Woods, an outdoor ministry in Canterbury, N.H., and served as a precursor to a New England-wide pilgrimage down the Connecticut River whose local events will be observed this weekend.
“I will miss the people of St. James and of Woodstock. It has been a great privilege to serve in such a beautiful and vibrant place. Getting to know folks in the wider community has been a great joy as well,” MacLeod said, “I will also miss walking around the village with Jack, our Australian Shepherd mix. He has a gift for making friends.”
With his departure, St. James Church will begin a process of discernment leading to the call of a new Rector. The parish will hire an interim priest later this year and plans to engage a new rector sometime next year. In the meantime, the Rev. Dr. Randall Balmer, a religion professor at Dartmouth, will preach and lead services at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. most Sundays this summer.
MacLeod was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island in 1990. He served parishes in Providence and Kingston, where he was also a chaplain at the University of Rhode Island. He was Rector of Christ Church, Guilford, Conn., from 1997 to 2008. He came to Woodstock after serving for three years as an interim priest at parishes in Keene, N.H. and Waterbury, Conn.
His wife, Elizabeth C. Stevens, an historian and editor, has been active in the Woodstock community volunteering at the Woodstock History Center, the Food Shelf, the King’s Daughters and the Norman Williams Public Library.
The couple will be moving to Newport, R.I., at the end of June.