After five years of service in one of the most diverse communities in Chicago, The Rev. Sarah K. Fisher of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 621 W. Belmont in Boystown, will be leaving her pulpit.
Pastor to many LGBT parishioners and advocate of its surrounding neighborhood, Fisher has been called to ministry in Georgia, where she was born. Fisher studied in New York City at General Theological Seminary where she earned her M.Div. She first stepped into the pulpit of St. Peter’s in 2007, becoming rector in 2009.
Fisher’s devotion to the dignity of her flock, no matter their self-identities, has brought her parish outside of its stone facade, into the streets — even marching in pride parades. Under her guidance, St. Peter’s has also sponsored many fellowships and outreach to not only LGBT persons, but also youth, young adults, elderly, the hungry and homeless in the neighborhood. On June 4, 2011, she performed the parish’s first same-sex union.
Catherine Thomson, parishioner and chairwoman of the Peace and Justice Committee of the diocese spoke of the relevance of the parish to its neighborhood.
“Her openness to letting people build their own space in a safe space — in all ministries, from arts to feeding programs to Biblical study to social justice initiatives — has fostered many leaders who will carry the church to its next chapter,” Thomson said. “That would not have happened without the encouragement, intelligence and humanity she brought to the position of rector.”
In June, the parish celebrated its 125th year. Parishioner Jacob W. Trimble helps maintain the history of the parish. He says, under Fisher, the church facilities were improved and its aging sound system replaced. Most dramatic was when she replaced the original 117-year-old doors with exact replicas.
“In her tenure at St. Peter’s, Rev. Sarah managed to reinvigorate many parish ministries, including stewardship, which saw an increase of 41 percent in financial giving,” Trimble notes.
Parishioners expect the committee in charge of choosing a successor will keep in mind the unique make-up of the Lake View East and Boystown neighborhoods when picking its new rector. In the Episcopal system, a parish committee called a vestry elects its new priest. Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, bishop of Chicago, will make the final approval.
Considered a “welcoming church” by St. Peter’s parishioners, the national church has recently gotten closer to recognizing marriage equality. On July 10, delegates to the Episcopal Church convention voted 171-50 to create an official ritual for same-sex unions. At 2 million strong, it became the largest Christian denomination in the United States to adopt such a ceremony. The liturgy is called, “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant.”
St. Peter’s will be celebrating a special send-off Eucharist for Fisher on Sunday, Aug. 5 at 10 a.m. A party with food, drink, and opportunities for sharing stories will follow it.