No one , that is , except Leifur
herself , who at 46 was a wife , mother of teen-agers and dedicated church volunteer.
I was not raised in a tradition that women did anything but teach a Sunday school class she
On Tuesday , Leifur
will be inducted officially as the new rector of St. John's Episcopal Church
in Warrington , making her
the first female rector of an Episcopal church
is only the second female rector in all of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast
, which covers Southeast Alabama and Northwest Florida.A week before her induction , Leifur is putting together her office at St. John's , where she has been leading services since July 8
A candle burns slowly on a tall writing table , while soothing instrumental fills the room.
Leifur sips from a coffee cup that reads God Is Not A Boy's Name..Her
black clerical blouse and pants and starched white collar are accessorized with smart black pumps , silver bracelets , a sterling cross hanging at her
waist and a casually tailored tiger-striped jacket.
If someone needs to use an honorific , Leifur
First , being called Pastor spares her
the daily snickers that inevitably would accompany being called Mother Teresa..
It's more descriptive of what we do , and it's neither male nor female..
Women have been ordained in the Episcopal Church
for 25 years , says Bishop Philip Duncan of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast
, and female rectors are becoming more common across the country.He
is particularly excited about Leifur's arrival at St. John's.
...Although Leifur thinks in terms of being a priest , rather than being a female priest , she knows that her femininity informs everything from her vestments to her sermons to her theology
has church members bring in scraps of sentimental fabric , which will be sewn together to make part of her
vestments.Yeo is bringing a bit of the veil her
mother wore when she
was married at St. John's and that Yeo wore at her
own wedding at St. John's.
Yeo says Leifur
also has The Look - that silent form of communication mothers and grandmothers use at dinner tables around the world.
I was ecstatic , says Duane Leifur
, 69.We knew that she
was cut out to do this , and we thought God was calling her
.It took her
a while before she
About two years later , after much counseling with her
parish priest and with her
church spiritual adviser and appearances before the commission on ministry , she
golden retriever , Abigail , moved to Atlanta , where she
attended Candler School of Theology at Emory University
That's where the men in my family went to become doctors , she
says with a laugh.
...After graduating from seminary six years ago , Leifur served as resident chaplain at Baptist Hospital and then as curate at St. Monica's Church in Cantonment
.Most recently , she
was vicar of Immanuel Episcopal Church
in Bay Minette , Ala. , where her
husband is staying until the couple can sell their home there.
The parishioners at St. John's have welcomed her
warmly , she
says.One of the church's 250 parishioners gives her
use of a house in Pensacola , where she
stays Sunday through Thursday , before returning to Bay Minette for weekend reunions with Duane
dog , Abigail.St. John's Episcopal Church
, nestled under swaying pines in an Old Warrington neighborhood , has been without a full-time rector for eight months.
After the Rev. Mark Wilson left the church just before Christmas , members filled out surveys to compile a profile of what they valued in a new minister , and a search committee formed.
Yeo says that spirituality and approachability were two of the church's top priorities , and she
fits both qualifications.
is looking forward to helping St. John's achieve its goals of growing in membership , developing a stronger youth program and building additional facilities.While facing challenges associated with being a woman in the Episcopal priesthood , Leifur is grateful to the first wave of women who paved the way some 20 years ago - women such as her friend , the Rev. Camille Hegg , rector of Church of the Redeemer in Mobile
I admire those women , and thank God they were strong enough to do what they did , she
Attitudes have improved even in the six years since she
Duane Leifur recalls one of the first conferences the couple attended in the diocese.
They gave me a pink nametag , he
says.I wouldn't wear it..
Today , the nametags of spouses are less gender specific , he