Rector of church leaving for Virginia

Published July 27, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - The Rev. Chris Thompson, rector of St. Thomas' Episcopal Church on Snell Isle, is leaving the congregation he has led for almost 10 years.

An emotional Thompson told his congregation Sunday that he will become rector of Eastern Shore Chapel Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach, Va.

Priscilla Jaffee, chair of Eastern Shore's selection committee, said the church chose Thompson from a pool of 40 candidates.

"It was a 14-month process, and Chris' talents and qualifications most closely matched ours and what we're hoping to do in the future," she said by telephone Tuesday.

"We are thrilled to have him and Mary Jo join us," Jaffee said, referring to Thompson's wife.

"I think the reason they are calling me is that I have an ability to help build churches both physically and spiritually, that I do well in strategic planning and that I can help in stewardship," said Thompson, 52.

A priest for 26 years, he said he is pleased with his accomplishments at St. Thomas'.

"We've done a lot of building," he said of the church's extensive expansion and renovation program.

"What I'm most excited about in my tenure here at St. Thomas' is the sense of vitality of the congregation. This is a very alive group of all ages of people that know what the purpose of St. Thomas' is all about and will carry that far into the future," he said.

"I told them in my letter that God already has a person picked out. You just have to find them."

According to its Web site, Eastern Shore Chapel has been in continual service for more than three centuries. About 15 minutes from Norfolk, Va., the church has a budget of about $900,000, Jaffee said. Thompson, whose last Sunday will be Sept. 11, will head a three-person clergy staff.

Times staff writer Mary Jane Park contributed to this report.