The Rev. Canon S. Abbott Bailey currently serves as Interim Canon tothe Ordinary for the Diocese of Virginia, after serving as Canonto the Ordinary for the Diocese of California from 2018 to April 2021.
She delights in supporting ministry vitality and community engagement in congregations. Abbott was the rector ofSt. Andrew's Church for 10 years and associate rector of St. Stephen's Church for two years, both in Richmond, VA. As rector at St. Andrew's, she was also chaplain and board member at St. Andrew's School and co-executive director of Grace-on-the-Hill, an Episcopal Service Corps program.
Before ordination, Abbott worked in several regional and statewide nonprofit organizations in community health care, health policy, and health philantlu·opy.
Originally from West Virginia, Abbott maintains a great love of the outdoors, enjoying wandering in the woods, swimming in lakes and rivers, playing tennis, and walks with her pups, Alice and Thunder.
March 15, 2021
The Rev.Deacon Al Prichard, Chair
Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia
Dear Deacon Prichard and Members of the SearchCommittee:
Joy is the mood of the believer! I came across this proclamation in a commentary on the Gospel according to Luke probably20 years ago, and it has remained present to me ever since. It is a reminder, an affirmation, and an encouragement that is grounded in my experience of God's unwavering love for God's people. As I reflected on this profile, it is what took hold and would not let me go. This Gospel-based joy saturates who you are, where you've been, and where you're going.
I see in this profile a people not mired by challenges, be they related to the pandemic, declining membership, church finances, or socio-economic circumstances, but who with courage continue to trust in God's promises, approaching them as invitations to deeper renewal in Christ. This tenacity resonates. One of my values in ministry has been to lead, support, and encourage congregations in doing things over and over that defy the numbers, that resist "playing small,"and instead hold fast to God, "whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine."
Your passion for your home in the heart of Appalachia and your delight in ministry as Episcopalians became forme, a child of both, an irresistible invitation to get caught up in the possibility of joining you in mission as your next bishop coadjutor. With a strong foundation in the face of many challenges you are stepping toward a future in which each congregation's unique way of being church is ever-more powerfully manifest from river to valley to forest as vast gifts for ministry are harnessed and unleashed among all. It is my prayer-filled hope that the irresistible invitation to discernment might continue. I would like to walk along side you as bishop embodying with faithful compassion the vows we make at baptism that all might truly see that joy is indeed the mood of the believer.
The Rev. Canon S. Abbott Bailey
Creative visioning and strategic leadership with strong planning and implementation skills Cultivating vitality in complex systems and orchestrating change with pastoral sensitivity Facilitating teams, groups, and individuals with diverse views into conversation and community Effective resource development and budget management
Interim Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of Virginia, Richmond, VA
May 2021 - Present
Supports congregational development by facilitating and coordinating Mutual Ministry Reviews; consulting with clergy and congregations on topics ranging from leadership development to safe church practices to conflict resolution; overseeing the Title IV process; and working with diocesan teams to embrace new opportunities for the Church. Serves as a member of the Leadership Team and liaises with various committees and bodies as the bishop's representative.
Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of California, San Francisco, CA
February 2018 - April 2021
Served as Working Group Head for Congregational Ministries, which included mission development, vocations, transitions, and multicultural and peace and justice ministries. Curated tools and resources, designed programs, and convened leadership to promote
congregational vitality for the nearly 25,000 Episcopalians in 78 missions, parishes, and
specialized ministries of the Bay Area.
Represented the bishop at diocesan, inter-faith, and other public services and gatherings, serving as secondary spokesperson. Supported Bishop in pastoral care of clergy and lay leadership. Provided administrative oversight for 25 mission congregations and specialized ministries, convened mission gatherings, and supported congregations with context specific tools and
Consulted with clergy and lay leadership in areas of crisis management, conflict resolution, Mutual Ministry Reviews, and vestry leadership.
Designed and convened Fresher Start in consultation with collaborative design team, and supported major diocesan events such as Diocesan Convention and Clergy Retreat.
Supported the work of the Bishop related to the Standing Committee and Executive Council; served as a liaison to the Chancellor; and administered the Title IV process.
Rector, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Richmond, VA
January 2008-January 2018
Oversaw all aspects of the parish's ministry, including liturgy and music, financial management, mission and outreach, stewardship, Christian formation, pastoral care, and welcome and evangelism. Supervised 5 part-time staff/contractual employees and cultivated strong lay leadership to carry out the ministries of the church.
o Chaplain and Board Member, St. Andrew's School (2008-2018): Directed the chapel program, supervised chapel assistant, and advised on various policy matters. As Board member, served on the Capital Campaign Leadership Cabinet (Community Advisor),
Finance Committee, Governance Committee, Physical Plant Task Force, and the Head of School Search Committee. St. Andrew's School is a private Episcopal elementary school for students from families with limited financial means (below 200% of poverty).
Associate Rector, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Richmond, VA
January 2006-January 2008
Expanded small group ministry and leadership; coordinated parish workshops and retreats; managed all Sunday and weekday adult formation programs; supported young adult ministry, assisted with pastoral care, liturgical planning, and the administration of all sacramental rites.
(Between 2002 and 2005, attended seminary, served as transitional deacon and seminarian at St. Paul's-onthe-Green, Norwalk, CT, completed Mid-Atlantic Parish Internship at Christ Church, New Haven, CT and completed Clinical Pastoral Education at University of Virginia Hospital.)
Other Professional Experience
Executive Director, Medical Society of Virginia Foundation, Richmond, VA 2001-2002
Director of Programs, Arlington Health Foundation, Arlington, VA 1997-2000
Assistant Executive Director, The Millennium Society, Washington, DC 1996-1997
Grants Manager, Virginia Health Care Foundation, Richmond, VA 1993-1996
Administered all aspects of non-profit operations. Managed budgets up to $2.5 million and grant portfolios in excess of $6 million; developed and implemented strategic plans; and designed programs fund development plans, evaluation plans, and communications strategies.
Diocesan and Community Leadership (Selected)
Liturgical Commission, Diocese of California, 2020-2021
Board of Directors, Episcopal Service Corps (Metrics & Evaluation Committee), 2017-2018
Congregations Think Tank, Diocese of Virginia, 2015-2016
Standing Committee, Diocese of Virginia, 2010-2013
Retreat and workshop leadership (congregational, regional, and Diocesan levels), various topics in congregational renewal, vestry leadership, and contemplative ecology
Chair, Virginia Statewide Covering Kids and Families Advisory Committee, 2002
Commission on Lay Ministry, Diocese of Virginia, 2000-2002
Education & Certification
Missional Leadership Cohort for Episcopal Clergy (2019-2020), Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN
Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator, hased on the work ofBrene Brown (2015-2016)
Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats, The Shalem Institute (2015-2016)
Yale Divinity School, Master of Divinity (2006), Cum Laude, New Haven, CT
Berkeley Divinity School, Diploma in Anglican Studies (2006), New Haven, CT
Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Certificate in Liturgical Studies (2006), New Haven, CT
(Director's Prize, 2006; E. Stanley Seder Scholar, 2004-2005)
The George Washington Univ., Master of Puhlic Admin. (2000), Honors, Washington, DC
Eckerd College, Bachelor of Arts in International Business (1992), St. Petersburg, FL
1. Tell us the story of your spiritual journey as a disciple of Jesus Christ, and how and why isthe Holy Spirit calling you to lead us?
From my earliest memories as a child growing up between Bridgeport and Clarksburg, WV, I have been blessed with a lively relationship with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I was born and raised an Episcopalian at Christ Church and St. Barnabas Chapel where my faith was tended and nurtured through robust intergenerational relationships. Going to church on Sundays wasn't a question; it was a fact. Trust me, I tried. I often half-jokingly tell people that there were times in my early life as a young adult when I tried hard not to believe in God, and to this day I resonate with Jacob's wrestling a blessing from the Holy One at the break of dawn,
but it never occurred to me not to be an Episcopalian.
I have known the presence of God from moments like laying on the floor as a child praying with family friends, the Holy Spirit interceding through sighs too deep for words, to the moment as a young adult when the simple declaration that I go to church because I want to go to church resulted in a tectonic-sized shift in my being, cracking my heart open so wide that an almost unbearable amount of love poured in. I have experienced this from the joy-filled call to the priesthood born out of a longing to share the promise and possibility of new and abundant life in Christ to God's prompting to leave everything that I had known as home for a new corner of God's creation on the West Coast to take up diocesan ministry as Canon to the Ordinary (CTO). In laughter, tears, pain, struggle, joy, and hope, the Holy One is a constant companion, reminding me, with insistence at times, that I am beloved and I belong.
The basis of my faith is the abiding experience of my belonging in God and knowing unequivocally that this truth is meant for all people. It is the ground and source of my call to lead and serve.
I read in your words the call for a new kind of missionary bishop, like predecessors before. One who will listen to, walk alongside, be with the Episcopalians of WV as we discern a new the unique way of being Episcopalian and sharing the Gospel invitation in the mountains that we call home. The wisdom of the place would be our guide as we listen for the vision that God has set before us, a vision that calls us to follow the Risen One toward a life of deepest belonging, together, in the heart of God.
I have sensed these mountains calling me home in recent years and have pondered these things in my heart. When the profile was shared with me and I watched the video, I sensed a stirring as deep as the stones of those mountains sit in my bones and I knew I was to explore discerning with you as you seek your next bishop coadjutor.
2. What does Servant Leadership look like, particularly for a bishop?
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others."
This passage from Philippians (2:3-4) has informed my leadership for many years, and its
influence can be detected in something I wrote a few years ago:
"Every day I will fall deeply in love with God and the world again. I will stand with God in holding the space in which life can thrive in the way that has been given me to do. I will tend my place in the world, whether large or small. I will 'let it rip'!"
I would see my role as bishop as one of joining with God in tending the love-soaked space of the Diocese. In the way of servant leadership, this type of tending is first and foremost grounded in love. It means making hard choices and having honest conversations. It means cultivating a high degree of trust, collaboration, accountability, and transparency. It means holding clear boundaries with compassion, while giving room for the creative movement of the Holy Spirit. It means continually assessing our readiness for all that's being made new in God. It means unleashing the wisdom that emerges out of a local culture and community while being alert to the patterns, connections, and wisdom that emerge out of the bird's eye view. It means holding these in conversation and, as necessary, tension.
This is the type of leadership I have sought to bring in my ministry thus far. I have strived to live the faith I preach by establishing a more team-based approach in our diocesan staff Working Group, facilitating collaborative design and problem-solving on governance boards and teams, companioning congregations through mergers or closures, connecting mission congregations with ministry tools, or cultivating partnerships to expand capacity and leverage congregational resources. I believe staff would say that I have high expectations while being patient and fair. Many clergy would say I listen deeply. Congregations would say that I am present and responsive. While people don't always like what I have to say, they trust it is done with thoughtfulness and love.
I am not someone who tries to show up with all the answers, instead allowing vision to take shape in co-creative partnership around a culture of shared leadership. Having not lived in WV for 30 years now, I am keenly aware how important such a posture of listening would be were I to return as bishop coadjutor. I would be coming home not as one who knows or brings the answers, but as one who belongs to and among and with this place and this people. This is how I would seek to serve with joy as bishop in the Diocese of WV, following "him who came, not to be served, but to serve."
3. We know and understand the Spirit is always working with us, moving us more closely to unity with God and with each other. What can the bishop do to assist with this process and to build community in both individual parishes and within the diocese?
As our catechism reminds us, the ministry of a bishop is, in part, "to act in Christ's name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up of the Church." I have come to believe that our ability to thrive across the Episcopal Church is directly related to our commitment and capacity to enter more deeply into the long journey toward reconciliation, inviting Christ's presence into all that threatens to divide us. Following the Presiding Bishop's lead, we are being called back to our roots as the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement, a movement that is meant to give way to a new kind of community shaped in the blessing of the Spirit. This is our work both internally as a church and as our witness to the world. As a tangible symbol of unity, it is the role of the bishop to preach, teach, and especially model this unifying vision of Christ crucified and risen.
Throughout my ministry, I have participated in this Spirit-led movement by pointing to the Gospel-rooted values we proclaim and the ways our common life both reflects and falls short of those values so that we might continually wrestle with how best to put those values into practice. When serving as the rector of diverse congregation (politically, theologically, socio-economically), this involved reminding us of our commitment, in the midst of our broadly held ideologies, to be a place of welcome and belonging of all people. Over the years, this meant congregational meetings and deep listening exercises on a variety of topics, substantive
small group work, one-to-one conversations, and parish-wide bible study and teaching.
I continued this type of ministry as Canon to the Ordinary in California. In a diocese committed to social justice, I have called on us to match our advocacy work outside the church walls with an acknowledgment of the ways the long-existent fractures in our social fabric,
particularly around issues of race, are manifest among us. We have become increasingly intentional strategically, systemically, and relationally so that our external witness more closely matches our internal reality.
As your bishop, I would journey further along this path, walking with you as we live into the mystery of what it is to be the Body of Christ. God always goes to where the people are; a bishop does as well to follow, modeling what it is to be in relationship with each other and our communities. As a diocese, I believe this means discovering new understandings of what it is to be each other's keeper and to support each other in the struggles that afflict each other's communities. It means sharing resources, entering into creative problem-solving, and engaging in joint worship, prayer, study, and learning. In our faith, it is Jesus who stands in the chasms of our common life and invites us to join him there. As your bishop, if so called, I would pray to lead the way in this courageous, faith-filled following.
4. What do you think the role of our church should be in our times?
Over the span of the last year, we've seen the challenges facing the church become more acute and pressing as we've experienced seismic shifts in our liturgy and common life. We are wrestling with potent questions about God and about the ways our lives as individuals and as a church are writing theology, consciously or unconsciously, right now. In all of this, I trust that the Holy Spirit is up to something, moving through us precisely as we are now. We must reach deep into the well of our tradition while reimagining what it means to be the Episcopal Church in each community and culture in ways that are faithful and compelling.
Regardless of whether our mission field is digital, outside our front door, where we work or go to school, gather in community, or all of the above (definitely all of the above), much remains the same in terms of where we are as a church overall. In every age, Christians must do the work of interpreting and translating the Gospel. In every age, Christians must ask "Why Christian?" Episcopalians must ask, "Why Episcopalian?" and be attentive to, sometimes wrestle with, and generously share how our story is caught up in God's story, a story that continues to unfold within us and around us each and every day. We need to reignite our theological imaginations around how we experience, talk about, and participate in God's engagement in the world.
I have written a lot about belonging in these essays and perhaps that is because I believe this is one of the most important messages of the church in our time. In a world that tells us over and over again who is in and who is out, God calls us deeper into the communion of a new kind of community, a community not according to the world's design, but according to God's design. I believe our role as a Church and as Christians is to allow our lives to become an open invitation to such community, an open invitation to the Gospel full of love, compassion, hope, and promise.
This message is one that points to God's eternal movement toward us. We are not alone no matter how isolated we might be or feel at times. Jesus' story shows us that any and all boundaries that might be used to separate people from the love of God have been ruptured once and for all. His, life, death and resurrection show us, over and over again, that to live in God is to live in proximity to the pain and suffering that surrounds us and assaults all God's beloved. With Jesus, we as the church are called to stand in solidarity with all the broken and beleaguered places and spaces of each other's lives and of the world, reminding us all that we are never alone, that we are beloved, and that we belong, deeply and unequivocally, in God. That is the role of the church in our times.
5. Tell us about your relationship with God and your personal spiritual life. What in your own spiritual practice feeds your life with God and Christ's Church?
One of my favorite chants that I sing as part of my regular devotions goes like this: "You can't stop the Spirit, she goes on and on, she is like a mountain, old and strong." Since my earliest years, I have known myself to be held by God as surely as I was held by the mountains I call home growing up. I have come to realize over the years that an important spiritual practice for me is to deeply root in places, to sink into the landscape and let it love me, to take seriously the wisdom of the incarnation through relationship, connection, and communion with all that lives and moves and has its being in a place.
Shortly after moving to the West coast (after having lived my entire life on the East Coast), I found myself struggling to settle in despite loving the work I was doing and beginning to make friends. I realized that my body did not yet know how to be at home in this landscape and that I needed to better connect with this most vital of spiritual practices for me. I needed to enter more fully into reciprocal and intentional relationship with not just the people, but the built and natural environment.
Jumping in, I took a local workshop on animal tracks and signs. I started making my way through 111 Places in San Francisco That You Must Not Miss, and I became a regular at a neighborhood restaurant. I joked with a taxi driver that the hills of San Francisco reminded me of my home in WV, and I found, over time, that the new landscape here was also old and strong.
In addition to rooting myself in place, my devotions consist of various forms morning prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, to the St. Helena Breviary, to Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community. I chant the psalms and may spend some time in contemplative prayer and/or read and meditate on Scripture. Each year, I choose a different book(s) of the bible to read, slowly and with intention, accompanied by a commentary. Currently, I am reading 1 Peter and the official commentary resource for the Lambeth Conference edited by the Rev. Jennifer Strawbridge. These ground me in the ancient, communal, and traditional prayer practices of the
In recent years, I have found myself drawn back to basics, engaging that question, "Why Episcopalian," or more broadly, "Why Christian?" as a spiritual practice. Because I need the practice myself, I invite others to muddle through it with me using a variety of approaches whenever I lead vestry retreats, adult forums, or open a meeting with a time of prayer or
My desire is that we might all know what it is to bless and be blessed. This is the foundation of our work together, mostly simply. As bishop coadjutor, this would be my desire for the Diocese of West Virginia and its people; to bless, and to be blessed.