St. Martin’s names its new leader

The Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields has named the director of a Princeton-area social services agency as its new rector.

The Rev. W. Jarrett Kerbel, 44,  executive director of the Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton, will take over as spiritual leader of the Chestnut Hill church on Feb. 6.

“I’m excited, thrilled, overjoyed,” Kerbel said. “I grew to love this church during the (interviewing) process.”

The 14-month search process ended with a vote last week by the vestry, the church’s lay governing council.  The reasons for choosing Kerbel will be laid out to the congregation at a meeting Wednesday night at the church, which sits next door the Philadelphia Cricket Club.

“With Jarrett we get the whole package,” said Barbara Dundon, who headed St. Martin’s “discernment committee,” which conducted a national search.  “He’s good in every one of the key areas we were looking for, preaching, liturgy, outreach, stewardship. And he offers some things we weren’t looking for, but got really excited when he talked about them.  He stressed how the church should look outward to the community, should open its doors wider.”

Kerbel will succeed the Rev. Robert Tate, who stepped down as rector last year after 14 years at St. Martin’s.  Tate is now a church consultant.  The Rev. Lou Temme served as interim rector for the last year.

Kerbel was one of three finalists who visited the church for in-depth interviews this fall.

He said he thought St. Martin’s could prove itself a real asset to the nearby community.

“St. Martin’s kind of knows itself. It has incredible gifts to share,” he said. “It’s the kind of church confident enough to welcome people at any stage of their journey.’

Dundon said the discernment committee was impressed with how Kerbel led the Crisis Ministry during a time of recession, coping with high demand and low resources.

Kerbel said he was proud that he helped the agency focus on what it did best, positioning it to become the “gateway” agency for homelessness services in Mercer County, and increasing its sense of welcome to the people it serves.

But his heart, he said, has always been in parish ministry. He was previously rector and assistant rector at churches in Illinois.

His wife, the Rev. Alison Boden, is chaplain at Princeton University.  He said his goal is for the family to move to church housing on Willow Grove Avenue, but he said ruefully, “With the market the way it is, our house here is probably worth less than we paid for it. So we have to work that out.”

Other staff changes are occurring at the historic church. The church’s longtime associate rector, the Rev. Beth Hixon, recently left to take a similar post with the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr.  Episcopal Church rules require an associate rector to submit a resignation whenever the rector who hired him or her decides to leave.

And music director Ken Lovett has announced he will leave the post in 2011.

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