On April 28, Middleburg’s Emmanuel Episcopal Church filled to celebrate the new ministry between the 176-year old parish and its newest rector, The Rev. Eugene LeCouteur. Warm sunshine and the dogwoods and flowers of Emmanuel’s grounds greeted worshipers from Middleburg and a busload of folks from Gene’s last parish, St. Stephen’s Episcopal, in Richmond.

Bishop Susan Ellyn Goff led the service that formally made Gene Emmanuel’s 25th rector. The Rev. Gary D. Jones, rector of St. Stephen’s, where Gene served for nine years, was the guest preacher.

In his sermon Fr. Jones stated, “Gene arrives here as one of the finest priests in the Episcopal Church today.” Continuing, he said, “Gene is a biblical scholar, a creative thinker, a man of deep prayer, and a man with a very big, very kind and very sensitive heart. He will make you proud and work hard to serve your community.”

Gene has extensive experience in the business world, including gourmet food retail management, guitar making, marketing research, and public policy research and analysis. But he found his passion in the study of his faith and in ministering to people in a parish setting. He loves teaching all ages. He started his work in the Episcopal Church 30 years ago working with 2-year-olds in Sunday School. One of his favorite ministries at his last parish was a Bible Study with folks, most of whom are age 70 or older.

He has also felt a particular passion for mission work—local, national and international. He has served in West Virginia, Honduras, and The Dominican Republic. He has also led pilgrimages to Italy, Ireland and South Africa.

“I am particularly excited to come to Emmanuel Church and Middleburg because of the small town setting and the rich history. What drew me to Emmanuel is the warmth of the congregation and the desire to do good in the community. As James wrote, ‘Faith without works is dead.’ The people of Emmanuel are not dead, nor close to it. This is a faith community alive with the Holy Spirit and looking to help all people as best they can.”

Gene noted the Emmanuel tradition of having the church open all day every day for prayer, meditation, or just rest.  “We invite all people to worship with us or use our church building for a private spiritual time. The Episcopal Church welcomes all people with their gifts, their flaws, their sorrows and their joys. Come because it is the Lord who invites you. We will gladly meet you here.”