By PAULA NEELY
Special to the H-P
Immanuel Episcopal Church will celebrate the ministry of their new priest, the Rev. Anne Lane Witt, at a special service Saturday, Oct. 12, at 10 a.m. in the historic landmark church, at 3263 Old Church Road, in Mechanicsville.
The Rt. Rev. Susan Goff, suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, will officiate. Goff served as rector of Immanuel from 1986 to 1994 and helped launch The Cherub School for pre-schoolers, which is still a major outreach ministry of the church.
Members of the community are invited to attend the service and the reception afterwards.
Before Witt became Immanuel’s priest in charge a few months ago, she served as an associate rector at Grace Church in Kilmarnock. She received a master of divinity degree from the General Theological Seminary in New York City and was ordained in 2010.
At Grace Church, Witt provided pastoral care, taught confirmation classes and oversaw Godly Play, a children’s Christian education program that uses the Montessori Method of teaching. She also led book and movie theology groups, in addition to other priestly duties.
“I feel called to help people build connections with church and the rest of their lives. I enjoy helping people see religion through different lenses, like movies and books, where you take nonreligious topics and discuss them as persons of faith. Connecting faith and the secular world helps you live more fully into the gospel,” she said.
Under Witt’s direction, Immanuel is now offering Godly Play for children of all ages on the first and third Sundays of each month at 10:30 a.m. Depending on interest, she hopes to offer book and movie theology groups soon.
A native Richmonder and cradle Episcopalian, Witt attended church at St. Stephen’s and St. James’s. She graduated from St. Catherine’s School and earned a B.A. degree in art history from the University of Virginia. While at UVA, she completed an internship at Walt Disney World and received a “ducktorate” in human resource management.
Prior to becoming a priest, Witt worked in several management and customer service positions for about 10 years. She was a customs compliance specialist for Circuit City Stores in Richmond, a retail manager and mortgage claims representative.
During seminary, Witt interned at St. James the Less in Ashland, and at St. Ignatius of Antioch in New York City. She also served as a chaplain intern at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. In addition, she co-directed St. Martin’s Clothing Closet, a volunteer ministry of the seminary that served hungry, homeless and impoverished people in partnership with the Holy Apostles’ Soup Kitchen – the largest in New York City.
Witt was attracted to Immanuel because of its healthy history, strong lay leadership and size – about 200 members. “It’s large enough not to be insular, but small enough that you can really get to know people. It’s a place where we can all work together, serve and grow in a variety of ways. We can all learn from one another.”
The origins of Immanuel Church date to the late 18th century, when a frame church structure was shared with several other local congregations. The present gothic-style brick church was constructed in 1853, largely due to the efforts of George Washington Bassett, grandnephew of Martha Custis Washington. The building is a Virginia Historical Landmark and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The church property served as a Union Army headquarters during the Civil War. Immanuel also has connections to actress Katharine Hepburn, whose grandfather, Sewell Hepburn, was rector of the church from 1881 to 1904.
Visitors are welcome at worship services on Sundays at 9 and 11 a.m. Refreshments are served after the last service. Immanuel is located at 3263 Old Church Road, in eastern Hanover County. From Mechanicsville, go east on 360 and turn right on 606 (Old Church Road) at West Store. Immanuel Church will be about 1.5 miles on the right. For more information, visit www.immanueloc.org or call (804) 779-3454.