By Clint Confehr
NASHVILLE, TN — The rector at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church met with a couple of parishioners Palm Sunday for continued pastoral care of the congregation because he’s retiring.
“St Ann’s has a hopeful future,” the Rev. Rick Britton said in his letter to the congregation. “Nashville is growing and St. Ann’s is located in the thriving East Nashville neighborhood.”
Father Rick’s served St. Ann’s nearly nine years. He’s 66 in June. His last day at work is May 31. Britton ’s on vacation in June. Retirement starts June 30.
“The Holy Spirit will guide St. Ann’s, continuing to make it a viable and gifted church where the gospel is made known through its life, mission and, what I believe to be, the core values of inclusivity, hospitality and social justice,” Britton said.
While Farther Rick’s been rector, St. Ann’s accomplishments include:
• Establishment of The Episcopal School of Nashville;
• Involving more young members in liturgy, and recently, St. Ann’s first participant in a program for young members became the first licensed chalice bearer.
• Helping East Nashville Hope Exchange become a separate nonprofit group;
• Opposing “English only” legislation on Capitol Hill against another language in state documents;
• Reaching out to the Muslim community and providing relevant religious education programs; and,
• Acquisition of a digital organ, St. Ann’s first organ since the 1998 tornado.
The sanctuary was destroyed when Lisa Hunt was rector. The congregation rebuilt; couldn’t do everything but, Britton said, “They did enough. It’s tastefully done. We could worship and continue … It was hoped we could move into a new sanctuary … with a new organ … Last year, we were able to get a digital organ… It sounds like a pipe organ.”
April 9 was its first use at Sunday worship, he said.
Palm Sunday’s sermon was by Dr. Paul Prill, Lipscomb University’s Honors Program director. Raised Lutheran, the Acklen Avenue Church of Christ preacher sang in St. Ann’s Christmas choir and participated in 2016’s Pride Festival. Palm Sunday is confusing, Prill said. Palm fronds were placed on Jesus’ path. He’s greeted with “Hosanna,” save us. He wants life without persecution. He’s abandoned by fickle people who “know the right words but miss the point.”
Britton’s retirement announcement came before a spiritually rich season for reconciliation and renewal.
Deacon Charlie Burdeshaw says Britton “is very organized, easy to work with and very supportive.” Britton’s bachelor’s is in economics. Brother Thomas Lawrence Greer sees Britton “as an extension of the previous parish priest … As we see the greying of the wider church, we know that children … are our future. When finishing college, Britton talked with his priest “to understand what God wanted me to do.” He saw priesthood as a way to “use my total self, all my gifts.”
Now, Britton starts “a little discernment” to attain perception for spiritual direction and understanding of what God wants him to do. He can continue in the Diocese, performing supply and interim work, “but I’m going to hold off on that for a while. I’m going to settle into retirement … and then start thinking about what will be our next step.” He continues on committees for LGBTQ marriage and anti-racism.
Chalice bearer Mary Kantanie left another church for “the spirit of what church is supposed to be.” Acolyte Nathaniel Hudson joined “looking for a more inclusive church.” Burdeshaw says St. Ann’s has “all different segments” of Nashville.
Britton and wife Donna will have been married 32 years July 20. Soon, they’ll have more time together.