Trinity Episcopal's New Rector Focusing on His Parish Duties


(Sunday, November 11, 2007 4:08 PM EST)

Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville has had a long line of rectors since its first in 1849, and one more recently joined the ranks.

Rev. Robert Banse, a graduate of Georgetown University and the Virginia Theological Seminary, assumed responsibilities as the parish's rector in late August, and celebrated his official “institution” to the position in late October.

A priest for a little more than 20 years, Banse most recently served as interim priest at St. Stephen's in Wilkinsburg, Pa. He has also been rector for St. Paul's in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., and served in parishes in Wilmington, N.C.; Boise, Idaho; and Honolulu, Hawaii.

Immediately before coming to Upperville, Banse had been working towards his Ph.D. at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. But in the middle of it all, he felt a calling to lead a parish.

“As much as I love academics, I was first and foremost a parish priest,” Banse said in a recent interview. “Being a priest, you get to be with people in some of the most important moments of their lives . . . The privilege of being with people is one of the greatest I can imagine.”

Although Banse is putting school aside for now, he plans on incorporating the subject of his studies (the interface between faith, organized religion, ecology and environment) into his leadership of the parish.

“Churches are trying to figure out what their responsibility is as stewards of creation and the environment,” Banse said. “The church needs to be more pro-active.”

Other areas he will focus on will be expanding and enhancing the parish's Christian education and outreach programs.

“I want the congregation to understand the meaning of Christian faith and life,” he said.

He also wants to promote stewardship in caring for the church buildings and grounds among the approximately 380 parish members, and ultimately wants to spread the message that, “to whom much has been given, much is required.”

Banse was chosen by Trinity's search committee out of a pool of more than 100 candidates, and it seems like the position is a good fit so far.

“The search committee was looking for someone with the ability to teach, to give meaningful sermons, to be a peaceful person who has the ability to bring healing to the community,” he said. “I feel I have the ability to teach, I'm good at listening and hearing what's going on and helping develop a new vision.”

And even though the transition of moving to a new place, starting a new job and having his wife Janie start full-time work as a second-grade teacher at The Hill School has been stressful at times, Banse said that every day he feels “more and more at home.”

In the Episcopal tradition, priests are required to retire at age 72, so Banse, who is 50, has a good amount of time before his service is over. And as of right now, it looks like Trinity Church is where he wants to spend those years.

“I have no intention of moving on,” he said. “I plan on being here for a while.”

Rev. Robert Banse is settling in to his duties at Trinity Episcopal Church.

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