The first woman to be ordained vicar of an Episcopalian parish in Utah said after the ceremony Friday that she was overwhelmed by the love she felt from the congregation.
The Rev. Barbara Joan Smith, 53, was ordained to the Sacred Order of Priests at the Church of St. Francis before a congregation of nearly 150, many of whom wore green in the tradition of St. Patrick's Day.At a reception afterward, she said she felt surrounded during the ceremony by the love and prayers of the community.
A native of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the Rev. Smith was a member of the Order of St. Anne religious community in Massachusetts. She was ordained an Episcopalian priest and moved to Moab March 1, less than three months after her first visit here.
"I have felt there was something drawing me, and I wanted to come to a small town and serve where there is a real need. And I waited, and finally I got the call," the Rev. Smith said.
"What attracted me was the people, above all else - their warmth, sense of mission and concept of total ministry. I felt that I would be coming to affirm what they had accomplished and by the grace of God, be able to expand on that."
The Rev. Smith said the "adventure" she envisions at this point in her spiritual development is that of "integration of the `vowed life' and the life of an ordained priest."
"For me, the vowed life (of celibacy) above all symbolizes availability for total service . . . a readiness to reach out to anyone who seeks my assistance."
The new vicar was presented to the Moab congregation by the Right Rev. George E. Bates, bishop of Utah, and joined in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and Communion, afterward blessing the gathering.
Bishop Bates presided over the evening ceremony in company with a number of other high-ranking clergy of the church from throughout Utah, including the Rev. Elizabeth Dalgleish, who was ordained a priest three years ago at the Church of St. Paul in Salt Lake City, and the Very Rev. William Maxwell, dean of St. Mark's Cathedral in Salt Lake.
Dean Maxwell, president of the diocese governing body, said he considers the Rev. Smith's ordination significant because she is the first woman called as vicar in a Utah parish.
"A lot of people were surprised because they assumed a rural parish would be a little backward and a little anxious about something like this," Dean Maxwell said. "They clearly have accepted Barbara."
The Rev. Dalgleish, 85, said she is no longer surprised when a woman is called to leadership by a congregation, as women enhance the ministry with their compassion and understanding.
Audrey McDougald, a member of the local selection committee, said the Rev. Smith was chosen because of her training and qualifications, in addition to being "a very spiritual lady with a lot of talents."
"I think she's going to put the Episcopal back in St. Francis," McDougald said.