A New Call for Ellen Tillotson ‘83

Tillotson gown and hood GTS.jpg

The Rev. Ellen L. Tillotson, Class of 1983 and a member of our Board of Trustees, is the Interim Priest in Charge of Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, Darien, CT. She most recently served as Missional Priest at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bristol, CT.

Tillotson was the Rector of Trinity Torrington, CT from 1992 – 2011. She has also previously served at Trinity Church on the Green, New Haven and as a Supply Priest and Church Consultant for the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut.

A native of North Dakota, Tillotson earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Dakota before attending General. She received her Master of Sacred Theology from Yale Divinity School in 2014. Tillotson is married to the Rev. William Cavanaugh, Class of 1981 and a member of our Alumni Executive Committee.

Ordination Scheduled for Jim Robertson ‘12


The Rev. James Robertson, Class of 2012, will be ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania on June 15, 2019.

 Robertson had experienced a failed process toward ordination in the Diocese of Pennsylvania.  He was encouraged by colleagues to return to the diocese in which he had grown up, which was smaller, and where he would get more personal attention and mentoring as he discerned his next steps. In 2015, he was accepted into the process in the Diocese of West Missouri (Kansas City), after a "getting to know people and place" time. He was on staff at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral during that time beginning in 2014.

 In the Spring of 2018, Robertson and his husband Dean Ennis’s family obligations necessitated a move back east. Bishop Scanlon of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, together with the Commission on Ministry and Standing Committee, accepted Jim's candidacy for priesthood in order that he not have to begin the process over after their move. After arriving in the Diocese of Central PA, Robertson conducted extensive visitation throughout its 61 parishes.

Click here for the ordination invitation.

IN MEMORIAM: Jack Murray, former trustee


James K. "Jack" Murray, Jr., died February 15, 2019. He was a member of our Board of Trustees from 2011 until his death at age 83. Mr. Murray was a long-time member of St. John's Episcopal Parish in Tampa, Florida, led by the Rev. Charles "Chip" Connelly, Class of 2007.

Born June 3, 1935, Murray was a proud member of two large families of coal miners: the Murray family of Pocahontas, Virginia and the Kenyon family of Osage, West Virginia. Jack was born on June 3, 1935 in Elm Grove, West Virginia. His parents were James K. Murray and Edith Kenyon Murray.

Mr. Murray was the husband of Sandra High Murray. He was blessed with a wonderful wife. They were married on June 14, 1958 in Charleston, West Virginia and they visited Florida on their honeymoon and decided to stay in the Tampa Bay area.

He was the devoted father of Susan Murray, of Pinellas Park, FL, James K. "Jack" Murray Ill (Mary), Michael S. Murray (Allison) and Scott Lee (Erika), all of Tampa, Florida. And the proud grandfather of Sarah Ragsdale Shanklin (Billy) and Charlie Ragsdale of St. Petersburg, FL, Ashton Murray of New York, NY, Jack Murray IV, Kaitlin and Cody Murray of Tampa, FL, Jennifer Murray Kent (Tommy) of Burke, VA and Mike Murray, Jr. of New Zealand. Mr. Murray was the delighted great-grandfather of Delilah Shanklin, Jackson Lee, Adeline Lee, and Allison Kent.

During his long life, Mr. Murray had the joy of being in business with an outstanding group of partners and colleagues. And he was blessed with a wonderful group of friends.

Following the Murray family tradition, there was a private service for immediate family members only, led by the Rev. Charles "Chip" Connelly, and a later internment of the ashes at the Murray family cemetery in Charlottesville, Virginia.


IN MEMORIAM: Marge Christie, Former Trustee

A tribute from the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton


Marge Christie, General Seminary Trustee from 2001 – 2012 and 13-time deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Newark, died peacefully in her sleep, April 13, 2019 at the age of 90. Marge was part of that generation of women leaders in the church - which included women like Marge Burke, Pam Chinnis, and Sallee Buckley - who worked tirelessly for the ordination of women who, themselves, were not called to ordination but, rather to an empowered ministry of the laity.

Marge served tirelessly as a member of Executive Council, the Executive Council and UN Commission on the Status of Women, The Episcopal Church Women, was among one of the first members of the Episcopal Women's Caucus and founder of The Anglican Women's Empowerment. Deeply committed to diversity and inclusion, Marge was a founding member of The Oasis (DioNewark LGBTQ Ministry), the DioNewark Dismantling Racism Commission which successfully passed a diocesan resolution which mandated Anti-Racism Training as a requirement to election to any diocesan office, and the DioNewark Women's Commission which successfully passed a resolution requiring all diocesan worship services to use inclusive/expansive language.

Even more importantly, Marge was involved in the spiritual formation of many, many women to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopacy. At her last Diocesan Convention, she was elected first alternate for the Diocese of Newark beside her granddaughter, Caroline Christie, elected deputy at age 17. They had just spent two weeks together as roommates as part of an Anglican women’s delegation to the annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York.

She was a Giant of Justice. We who were privileged to stand on her shoulders will be forever and eternally grateful that she helped us reach for the stars and dare to bring glimpses of the Realm of God into the church.

Click here to read the tribute from the Diocese of Newark.

Click here to read the obituary at Episcopal News Service.

A New Call for Nathan Ritter ‘10


The Rev. Nathan Ritter, Class of 2010, has been named new Pastor and Priest-in-Charge at Calvary Episcopal Church, Flemington, NJ. He has previously served at Grace Church in Newark, St. Paul’s Westfield, and Saint Thomas Church in New York City.

Ritter, who was born in St. Louis, graduated from Truman State University with a B.A. in classical languages and a minor in religious studies. From there, he moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where he earned a master’s degree from the Yale Divinity School. While at Yale, he focused on the Old Testament and Semitic languages and studied Aramaic, (Syriac), Ethiopic, Hebrew, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Sumerian and Greek. During his time in New Haven, he also met his future wife, Jessica, and officially became an Episcopalian when he was confirmed at Christ Church.

From there, Ritter entered the graduate program in Assyriology at the University of Michigan to study the languages and cultures of ancient Iraq and Syria. In Ann Arbor, he was active at Canterbury House, the Episcopal Student Center at the University of Michigan. In Michigan, Ritter also went to St. Gregory’s Abbey, an Episcopal monastery in Three Rivers. While serving on a discernment committee for another student, he discerned a call to the priesthood.

The Ritters moved to Jersey City in 2007, where Jess was ordained in the Lutheran Church; she serves as pastor of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jersey City.

Teaching with Rowan in the Room

Teaching with Rowan in the Room

Almost 12 years ago I purchased a copy of Rowan Williams’s On Christian Theology. I can still remember reading the chapter ‘Between the Cherubim,’ in which Williams compares the empty tomb in John’s Gospel with the empty mercy seat in the temple. Something about these two images of God’s presence in the face of divine absence deeply resonated with me.

Taking Another Look at Children in the Bible: An Interview with the Rev. Dr. Julie Faith Parker

Taking Another Look at Children in the Bible:  An Interview with the Rev. Dr. Julie Faith Parker

Many of my hopes are being realized now. When I began work on this topic during my doctoral studies (in the early 2000’s), there were very few published books that engaged the topic of children in the Bible. Slowly resources began to emerge, but over the past ten years publications have proliferated at an unprecedented rate.

“We Are Saints!” Developing Children’s Spirituality

“We Are Saints!”  Developing Children’s Spirituality

The Sunday following All Saints was an occasion for a special lesson in a parish where I was recently serving in Manhattan. The reading for that day was John 11:32-44, the story of Jesus raising Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus from the dead. The older children read the passage out loud while the younger children listened. I had questions about how that passage related to the lesson on saints that I had prepared that day, but kept silent about them.

Bringing Sanity to Theology: A Student Reflection on Rowan Williams & Paddock Lectures

Bringing Sanity to Theology:  A Student Reflection on Rowan Williams & Paddock Lectures

Studying theology is one of the great joys and challenges of being in seminary. When will I have the time to engage the great theologians again at this level? Once I’m in a parish (good Lord willing), how will I be able to carve out the time to read Tanner, Coakley, Farrer, and…Williams? And, if I do find the time, how will I struggle through difficult concepts and challenging ideas without sitting in a classroom with my peers and faculty? With these thoughts in mind, I was hugely comforted when Rowan Williams stated during the Paddock Lectures on February 11th that Thomas Merton, Karl Barth, and Austin Farrer helped keep him sane during his early years of learning theology.

An Update from the TryTank

An Update from the TryTank

The joint venture between General and VTS, the TryTank*, is now off the ground. What a better time to present an update on some of the work. (*As a reminder, the TryTank is an experimental lab for church growth and innovation.)

By the Numbers

As of the end of the first quarter, the TryTank has 16 experiments in different stages: 4 are in active mode, meaning that they are operating and we are gathering data to gauge the success or failure of the individual experiment; the remaining 12 experiments are in the development phase to launch at different times. We anticipate that those experiments will go live in April (3 of them), May (5), June (1), September (2), and one in January of 2020. With all of the announced experiments, we anticipate working with some 180 congregations across the country. You can see the full list of experiments on our website (www.TryTank.org), and you can see where we are on any of them each week by subscribing to our newsletter on the same site. Every Monday you'll get an insider's view of our work.

Two FAQs

As the director of the TryTank, people will often ask me the same questions: how can my church participate in an experiment? and what is the hardest part of an experiment? Let's look at both.

Let's begin with the latter: what has been the hardest part. It has not been, as perhaps my nightmares told me, that we'd have active opposition to our ideas. On the contrary, people have been very welcoming of a new "R&D Department" for the church. True, our sphere of influence is small. Those who get our newsletter now are the "early adaptors." They probably have already been doing experiments on their own and are excited by our work.

What actually has been hard is finding experiment partners. Not every experiment is the right fit for every location. But even when some show interest, typically only those churches with multiple clergy members have been able to sign up to participate. Church diversity is essential in this work. We are committed to trying every experiment in at least two settings so that we can see the differences that the context have on the outcome. And we want the experiments to be relevant to small and more resourced churches.

This leads right into the "how can we participate question." That's easy, just do the contemporary equivalent of raising your hand, sign up. For each experiment, we always announce in the newsletter that we are looking for partners. When we are looking for many, we'll open up a simple online registration form. When we are looking for just a couple, all we ask is that the person hit "reply" and announce their interest. It's that simple.

How you can help

Our wisdom as a TryTank only grows by the more people and congregations who are involved, follow our work, and provide honest feedback. This means we need you to join our efforts. Get our newsletter. Follow the experiments. When the newsletter poses a question you know something about, hit reply and chime in. Share it with others and get them to sign up as well.

So, will you join us in this work? 

The Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija is the Director of the TryTank, an Experimental Lab for church growth and innovation