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New rector arrives at Christ & Holy Trinity

Published 2:27 pm, Thursday, December 5, 2013
  • The Rev. Whitney Edwards has been appointed rector of Christ & Holy Trinity Church in Westport. Westport CT. December 2013. Photo: Contributed Photo / Westport News
    The Rev. Whitney Edwards has been appointed rector of Christ & Holy Trinity Church in Westport. Westport CT. December 2013. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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A Yale Divinity School graduate with a diverse background has been named rector of Christ & Holy Trinity Church, succeeding the Rev. John Branson, who retired last year.

The Rev. Whitney Edwards assumed her new duties as chief cleric of the downtown church on Monday, arriving from her previous post as associate rector of an Episcopal church in Portland, Ore.

She has done missionary work in poor communities in the U.S. and abroad, according to a news release announcing her appointment, and before her ordination in 2007 had been a prison chaplain in Virginia and taught Christianity and Buddhism at schools in India.

Branson retired in June 2012 after leading the parish for more than 21 years.

Married and the mother of a 19-month-old daughter, Edwards was raised near the ocean in Virginia, and is happy to be on the water in Westport.

"Westport is such a beautiful place, and being surrounded by water is home to me," she said in the release." I grew up in Virginia on Chesapeake Bay, and as a child I knew the moon's phases, the tides, when the crabs were hungry, and where the fish were schooling."

Noting Christ & Holy Trinity's location downtown and the activity there, she said, " I am honored to serve in such a special place."

Edwards comes to Westport from St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Portland, where she had been associate rector since 2011.

While there, she was responsible for newcomers and family ministry and grew Sunday family-service attendance threefold in one year.

Previously, she had been associate rector at St. James Episcopal Church in Richmond, Va., from 2007 to 2011. There, she managed education, outreach and mission in a large parish.

Her missionary work there included annual trips to Haiti, Sudan, Honduras, New Orleans, Appalachia and Alaska.

She also chaired WomanKind, an international women's spirituality conference.

Edwards graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1998 with majors in anthropology and religious studies. Having studied Tibetan language in college, she went to India after graduation to translate religious documents brought there by refugees from Chinese-occupied Tibet.

Living in the Tibetan-Buddhist region of Ladakh, she joined the faculty of the Mahabodhi School, where she taught Christianity and Buddhism in the middle and upper schools and served as house mother to boarding students.

Returning to the United States in 2000, Edwards served for four years as a chaplain in prisons throughout Virginia. She developed courses in anger management, parenting and addiction recovery and trained churches in post-release offender support.

Eventually, she oversaw ministry in all of Virginia's state and regional correctional facilities.

She is married to Chris Edwards, a choral conductor who is an accomplished mandolin, guitar and banjo player and devotee of blues-guitar music. Their daughter's name is Emmeline.

They will reside at the church rectory on North Avenue.

"Most of us draw a distinct line marking those whom we will serve, forgive, or love from those whom we simply will not," she said. "I have not found any place better suited to confront such prejudices than a prison. I met people stripped of the pretenses and habits which often distracted them from knowing who they really are."

She decided to attend divinity school and seek ordination as an Episcopal priest "because I had an itch that couldn't be scratched any other way," she said.

At Yale Divinity School, Edwards won the Preaching Excellence Award and a study grant at St. George's College in Jerusalem and was a student trustee on the divinity school board. Her seminarian internship was served at a school and prison in Panama.

She is married to Chris Edwards, a choral conductor who is an accomplished mandolin, guitar and banjo player and devotee of blues-guitar music. Their daughter's name is Emmeline.

They will reside at the church rectory on North Avenue.