The Reverend Hester Mathes came to Holy Communion nearly four years ago to minister to a community that was already very personal to her.
She graduated from St. Mary’s Episcopal School, has longtime friends and professional relationships throughout the diocese and region, and grew up in the parish that birthed Holy Communion. In a word her connections in and through this parish are immense. And it turns out, her heart for the ministry is too.
In February, she was promoted to senior associate rector, and is now in charge of outreach, youth and children, recreation and hospitality, plus the staff that lead all these ministries.
“Many people have asked if I want to be a rector someday. While I do not rule it out, I think the more important question is to consider where I am able to do ministry to my fullest. Holy Communion is that place and you are the people who are allowing me to use every ounce of my gifts and talents and passions for ministry.
“Moving into a senior associate role allows me to keep growing and serving in a way that is exciting and challenging in a community I love dearly.
No other parish in the diocese has a senior associate rector. At Holy Communion, the need for a clear second-in-command reflects the size of the parish.
“We are a large and complex system with so many major initiatives going on at once,” said Sandy. “While I work with the Vestry with issues of budget sustainability and our building project, Hester will work with our programming and all the things we offer to the congregation and community. She will be my partner in leadership of the church.”
When she first arrived, she remembers what felt like the steep learning curve of growing into liturgical leadership as an ordained minister.
“CHC has given me the freedom to develop my own liturgical style in a way that honors both tradition and individual expression of theology. I am immensely grateful that CHC values diversity of style among its clergy, and I could not ask for a better team to serve alongside.”
In her role has head of outreach, Hester connected this congregation to movements and issues in the city on top of the ongoing partnerships with traditional ministry partners. Through her, the parish has relationships with Bring It Food Hub, Memphis Women in Film, Team Read, Just City and Camp Able.
Last summer, she coordinated the congregation’s personally guided tour of the Dixon Galley and Gardens with docent and parishioner Dr. Phil McMillion.
On a larger scale, she has built remarkable ecumenical bonds in the community. With her connections to a Lutheran minister, whom she met last summer as clergy in a wedding in which both were officiants, Church of the Holy Communion hosted the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation with a worship service that included four Evangelical Lutheran Church of America congregations in Memphis.
The service included Holy Eucharist with Bishop Don Johnson and the ranking head of the ELCA congregations in Memphis.
“The Reverend Hester Mathes contributes greatly to the rich ecumenical life of Memphis, and we are blessed by her service, dedication and joyful spirit,” said the Reverend Monica Weber of Epiphany Lutheran. “May God bless her in her new role as senior associate rector.”
Hester was key to Holy Communion also hosting the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service in 2016 and is a member of the leadership team from three faiths that annually plans it.
Her promotion comes as the church is preparing to call a new curate or associate rector. Two candidates will visit in March.
“The new priest will not have personnel oversight,” Sandy said. “This person will be selected specifically for gifts and charisms with pastoral care. The new priest will be a specialist in pastoral care. Hester will be a generalist over a large, sweeping section of our ministry.”
In a climate where people are stressed and overscheduled in their everyday lives, Hester hopes to work against the national trend of doing more in programming.
“Instead, I would like to nurture a culture of growing deeper in relationship with ourselves, our neighbors and most importantly, with God.
“Faith in action takes hard work, and formation and programming give us the tools to do that important work. A meaningful faith journey also takes commitment, and my vision is to cultivate the desire to commit even more deeply and more intensely to living into and spreading the Good News even in the times we feel most separated from God.”