On Sunday August 26, 2018, historic St. James’ Episcopal Church will say goodbye to the Rev. Drake Whitelaw, the rector there for the last six and half years. Her official retirement date is September 1, but the parish, friends and community are holding a retirement reception following the 10:30 am service on the 26th.
Drake attended Virginia Theological Seminary in the 1990’s and was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1998. She went on to serve at churches located in Washington D.C., Wilmington, N.C., and Montgomery, AL before being called to St. James’. Early in her clergy career she said her biggest issue was being taken seriously as a woman priest. It was her ability to relate to people, challenge the norms and walk in others shoes that warmed her congregations.
One of her fondest memories occurred during a Christmas Day service called “The Blessing of the Toys.” A young tot bringing his toy up to Drake to be blessed whispered to his mother, “Is it OK to meet Mrs. Santa Claus?” It is this opportunity to be involved in life events of her parishioners, both the joys and the pains, and to reveal God’s presence that she will miss the most.
In September, she will move to Montgomery where she still has a home. In her retirement she has plans to travel, visit grandchildren and friends and improve her golf game. Diocesan rules recommend her from remaining to be a member of St. James for a year to allow a new rector to become established. Members of the church vestry are appointing a search committee to find a new rector. This process can take from six months to over a year. Services and church life will continue under lay leadership of the wardens and vestry. The Bishop of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, the Rt. Rev. Russell Kendrick, has stated his intent to appoint an interim rector during the search process.
The congregation will miss Drake and her favorite service closing:
"Life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those
who travel with us. So, be quick to love and make haste to be kind!"