St. James' in Transition

Rector Search Committee Update
June 17, 2024

Throughout the month of May, the Diocese has continued to accept names for the position of Rector of St. James,’ and the Rector Search Committee has been in the initial period of discernment, reviewing resumes and learning about the candidates who have expressed interest in the position.  The time for receiving names has ended, and the committee is now moving to the Interviews Phase of the discernment process.  Please be assured that the Search Committee is meeting regularly and working diligently throughout this process and understand that the committee members must maintain the highest level of confidentiality throughout our discernment.

No information can be shared regarding the names or backgrounds of the candidates who come forward, as this is sensitive personal information that may impact their positions at other parishes and our search process.  For that reason, we are also unable to share the number of candidates that the committee is discerning with or any information as to where they are from.   Please respect this part of the process and continue to pray for the committee during this exciting next phase of our search for a new settled Rector.

Colleen and Marcia, Co-Chairs
Search Committee Members: Colleen Gannon and Marcia Watt, Co-Chairs, Bill Spalding, Doug Smith, Nancy Corl, Jeffrey Davis, Susanne Rynkiewicz, and Erik Samhammer

St. James' in Transition

The work begins to find the next permanent rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church.

St. James’ is in the process of transitioning to a permanent rector to lead this vibrant parish on its next journey in faith.  On this page, you will find information and links to other resources that can help you learn more about St. James’.  Should you wish to speak to anyone in person, feel free to contact the Parish Office at 315-685-7600 and we will be happy to connect you with our Vestry Wardens.  

While St. James’ is sad about saying goodbye to two of our family, we are excited about the hope and opportunities the Holy Spirit will provide us in the future.  St. James’ is a caring, welcoming and diverse family. And it will always be.  This church prides itself on continuing to learn from the word, clergy, visiting preachers, and each other.  As this church seeks new leadership, we are confident our core beliefs and mission will remain constant.  We may be in transition but always remain a strong congregation devoted to the word and example of Jesus Christ.
St. James’ offers an incredible opportunity for a special rector who we know God is preparing for their new journey with this church family.
If you would like to speak to someone regarding the permanent rector position, please contact Susanne Rynkiewicz at

Rector Search Committee Team Members

Colleen Gannon (Co-Chair) – Colleen and her family have been attending St. James’ since 2002.  Colleen is a past member of the Vestry from 2014-2020 and served as Warden from 2017-2020. Colleen has experience serving on the search committee that called Becky Coerper as Rector in 2010 and was a member of the Standing Tall for Generations Building Committee and active member of the Construction Committee overseeing the roof replacement and renovations of the Church.  She works as a mechanical engineer at Baxter in Skaneateles and typically attends the Sunday contemporary service

Marcia Watt (Co-Chair) – Marcia and her husband John have been attending St. James’ for 15 years. Marcia has previously served as Chair of the Stewardship Committee and the Standing Tall for Generations Building Committee, leading the Master Planning process that preceded renovations to the Church.  Marcia enjoys participating in the St. James’ Knitting Ministry and most recently has served on the Give to Grow Campaign Committee.  Marcia has a legal background and has been an active community volunteer and member of various not-for-profit Boards.  She attends both traditional and contemporary services at St James’.

Susanne Rynkiewicz – Susanne currently serves on Vestry and as Senior Warden. She has been a member of St. James’ for over 12 years. Susanne is a member of the Chancel Choir and has served for many years on the Church Finance Committee. She was also a member of the Standing Tall for Generations Planning Steering Committee. Professionally, Susanne has held many work titles over the last 17 years at the Ivystone Group in Exton PA (Remotely). She currently serves as Manager of Data Content & Systems Integrity. Susanne says that “the many roles held have taught me humility, patience, empathy, honesty, tact, organization, logic, creativity and strength. Combined with an open heart and ears turned towards the Lord, these are the skills and experiences I will continue to draw on as … a member of St. James’ leadership team.”

Bill Spalding – Bill serves on the Vestry and as a Warden. Bill was born and raised in Skaneateles, and after a 10-year sojourn in Cortland where he met his wife, Molly, he moved back home. Bill’s grandparents and parents were St James’ members, and Bill was christened and confirmed here. Bill and Molly have 3 children who were all baptized in the lake here at St. James’. Bill’s business, Upstate Temperature Control, is based in Skaneateles and provides service for HVAC Control systems for larger commercial buildings throughout Upstate NY. Bill is excited to give back to his community and the parish through service on the Vestry and this committee.

Nancy Corl – Nancy has been a member of St. James’ for about 15 years, since her husband, Jim, retired as rector of Christ Church in Manlius. Nancy and Jim first met as students at Syracuse University through the Episcopal Student Fellowship on campus. Nancy graduated from the SU School of Nursing and has worked as a registered nurse and later as a nurse practitioner after getting an MSN from Binghamton University. Before her retirement, she worked largely with the medically underserved. At St. James’, Nancy is on the Vestry and serves as one of our parish nurses. She has also volunteered at the Rescue Mission and St. John’s Soup Kitchen in Auburn. As part of a clergy household, Nancy brings a unique perspective to the search committee, having had experience in various churches, large and small, rural and suburban, throughout the Central NY Diocese. Nancy says “I know about the sense of call that ministers receive on their journeys, and I am excited to take part in this effort, and to remain open to God’s call to us, as we seek our next Rector at St. James’.”

Doug Smith-My name is Doug Smith, and I was born in Syracuse, brought up in Skaneateles, and attended local schools. I graduated from the University of Miami in 1969 That same year, I married my childhood sweetheart, Beverley Fairs, here at St. James’.  Shortly after, I joined the US Army Reserves and spent the next 6 months at Fort Polk in Louisiana. Upon my return, we lived in Auburn where Bev was teaching and I commuted to Syracuse daily for various sales jobs for several years until ultimately starting our own business, Hiawatha Kitchens in 1974. We raised two children in Auburn, and finally moved back to Skaneateles in 1995. However we had never left St. James’. My business career additionally included sales jobs in industry, real estate and remodeling. I have served as a member of the Vestry four previous times including twice as warden. I have also taught Sunday School, served as an usher, hosted numerous gatherings, volunteered for capital campaigns and workdays and sing in the choir a the 9:00 AM worship service. I look forward to serving St. James’ again as Warden and as a member of the Rector Search Committee feeling optimistic about the future. I feel my extensive business background will offer a unique perspective to decisions which will have to be made during the next few months as we deal with transition and its impact. My faith in God and his plan for each of us is the foundation of my optimism.

Erik Samhammer – Erik first joined St. James’ as a member of the worship band in 2009.  He and his wife Liz were married at St. James’ in 2012, and their two sons (John, age 10 and Nathan, age 8) were both baptized here and participate in children’s ministry programs.  Erik says that “it is an honor to be asked to serve in this capacity, and I am looking forward to hearing from the congregation about the things they are most looking for in the next rector of our parish.” 

Jeffrey Davis– Jeff is an attorney practicing law at Bousquet Holstein PLLC in Syracuse. Jeff and his wife, Cate, have lived in Skaneateles for over 30 years. All three of their daughters were married at St. James’. Jeff has been worshiping at St. James’ for approximately 12 years. He is a past member of the Vestry and served as a Warden for two years. Jeff also served as a member of the Standing Tall for Generations Campaign Committee and is currently President of the St. James’ Foundation.

Rector Search Committee Update

A message to the Parish from Colleen Gannon and Marcia Watt, Co-Chairs

We are honored to have been asked by the Vestry to Co-Chair the Rector Search Committee and to be engaged in the important work of selecting our next Rector. The search committee is committed to engaging in a thorough, thoughtful and prayerful process of discerning our next Rector.

In November, the committee met with Canon Tom Ferguson, our Diocesan Transition Minister, to review the Diocesan Guidelines for conducting the search for our new Rector and to gain a clear understanding of the committee’s role in this process. The committee’s work is divided into three phases:

PHASE 1: Data gathering and assessment of the parish to develop a comprehensive “Parish Profile” that clearly communicates who we are as a parish, our various styles of worship, our ministries and mission, and the characteristics and skills that we seek in our next rector;

PHASE 2: Development and planning for the search process; and

PHASE 3: Discernment through evaluation and assessment of the candidates.

The committee is meeting regularly (usually twice a month) to carry out this important work. As we begin the Phase I period of self-study, we will be gathering historic and current data as well as reflecting on our future ministry goals and mission. Receiving input from the parish is vitally important to this task and to the development of our Parish Profile.

Please watch for opportunities to provide input to the search committee in the beginning of the New Year. In the meantime, during this Advent period of waiting and preparation, please keep our Rector Search Committee in your prayers as we begin this important work on behalf of St. James’.

Colleen and Marcia, Co-Chairs

Rector Search Committee Members
Parish Representatives:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Colleen Gannon, Co-Chair                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Marcia Watt, Co-Chair                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Jeffrey Davis                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Erik Samhammer

Vestry Representatives:
Nancy Corl
Susan Rynkiewicz (Senior Warden)
Bill Spalding (Warden)

RSC Update 12/20/23 – Phase 1: Self-Study and Parish Profile

The first task of the Rector Search Committee (“RSC”) is to engage in a period of self-study, during which we gather historic and current data and reflect on the future ministry goals and mission of St. James’.  Input from the parish is vitally important to this task.  The information gathered will be used to create a “Parish Profile” to be used in the search for our next Rector.  It is essential that this Profile clearly communicates:

  • who we are as a parish;
  • our various styles of worship;
  • our ministries and mission; and
  • the characteristics and skills that we seek in our next rector.

The RSC will be providing multiple opportunities to provide input during this time, including:

  • “Office Hours” in the Parish Hall – RSC members will host coffee hour and be available in between services to listen to parishioners who wish to share their experiences at St. James’ and the characteristics they feel are vital in a new settled rector.  These “Office Hours” will be held on Sunday, January 14 and Sunday, January 28 AFTER EACH Worship Service in the parish hall.
  • “Office Hours” to be held via Zoom – RSC members will provide this opportunity for our “seasonal” residents and online worshippers to share their input – Date and time TBD.
  • Parish Survey – This Survey is being developed and will be similar to the parish-wide survey used in our search in 2010 that resulted in the calling of Becky Coerper.  The RSC anticipates sending this out to all members of St James’ in January 2024.

Watch for updates to this Transition page and the Weekly newsletter for more information on these opportunities to provide input to the Search Committee.

Father Joe T. Mitchell joined St. James’ September 1, 2023 as Interim Rector. He has begun preaching, listening and introducing new worship and programming along with administrative choices. The St. James’ Staff also have transitioned with the addition of Justin Oei as Organist/Choirmaster and Mo Allyn as Interim Children’s Ministry Team Leader and as of September 25, Nicole Bova will take over as Parish Administrator.  Michael Larkin has taken an amazing opportunity in the Syracuse City School District.  He will remain as Director of Contemporary Music & Technology. 

Father Joe has begun his work of preaching, listening and introducing new liturgy styles, worship services, and programming. Over the course of his time here at St. James’, he will help the congregation get a solid feel for who we are and where we want to go, to determine the right candidates for permanent rector.

The Rectory
The bulk of the work has been completed at the rectory. Father Joe and Kristen Mitchell are settling in.  Construction for the major repair to fix the structure over the garage will begin soon.  It is a blessing that this was discovered before additional damage could occur.

The Search for a New Settled Rector
What happens next in our search of a settled Rector?
The Vestry has chosen a search committee and will be sharing more communications in the upcoming weeks. 

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to Susanne Rynkiewicz or Bill Spalding, St. James’ Wardens.

St. James' Liturgical Style

St. James’ enjoys 4 intentionally different weekly worship services. Sunday at 7:30 is Rite I Eucharist with a little bit of organ music. This congregation is small but so warm and loving of one another. Sunday at 9:00 is Rite II Eucharist with organ and choir, mostly traditional hymnody but willing to branch out to include gospel and some more contemporary songs. This service has some formal ritual, but is still very down-to-earth in feel. Sunday at 10:45 is Rite II or III Eucharist with a band (guitar, piano, drums, harmonica). This liturgy uses resources from other traditions (Lutheran and Celtic for instance). Four months of the summer, this late morning service moves outdoors beside the lake in a public park. This is the most casual of the services, but all are somewhat informal. Though Wednesday evening at 6 PM is spoken Evening Prayer with a brief homily. All but the Sunday service at 7:30 are regularly live-streamed. The worship staff is committed to creativity and excellence and spends significant time planning for Christmas, Easter, and Holy Week to offer services that are accessible, engaging, and transcendent.

New Leadership Teams

Leadership team for Wednesday Evening Prayer: Sharon Arliss, Nancy Graham, Marie Hughes, Carol Murphy

Leadership team for Centering Prayer: Pam Stewart: point person, Cindy Bright, Dan Fisher, Terry Major, Mary McGrath  

Leadership team for Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission: Debra Rose Brillati and Meg Osborne: co-chairs; Corinne Buterbaugh: secretary; Carolyn Legg: office liaison.

Secretary for the Memorials: Judy Bettis

              Children’s Ministry


St. James’ is committed to meeting families where they are instead of offering the “traditional” Sunday school programs. In 2023, the Year of the Child was created with the formation of a children’s commission. This commission has been researching and developing more new programming for all ages.  Story-time, free play, interactive Sunday School with music & movement, and non-pressure middle & high school youth events such as movie night will begin in the fall.  Kid’s communion learning series and a confirmation program will also be offered as there is interest.  This ministry is a mix of volunteers and paid staff.  All people who work with children must complete the Episcopal Safe Church Online Training modules.  Exciting times are ahead and we encourage you to stay tuned by visiting this website.  Below is a link to see some of our children’s activities and resources for parents.


St. James’ stewardship is year-round with many opportunities for generosity: annual pledges, online donations, reminders of specific needs communicated online, commitment to stewardship of the environment, and support of other agencies working in the community, particularly through the proceeds of St. James’ Thrift Shop.

Caring for Our Worshipping Community

St. James’ has an active Stephen Ministry, several trained spiritual directors, prayer ministry offered at weekly worship in person and online, parish nurses available for consult, and a prayer chain available for acute needs. Weekly opportunities for spiritual nurture include: 3 Centering Prayer gatherings, and a lectionary study, We also engage in book discussions, classes, lectures, and presentations. Many of these activities are offered in a hybrid format so that those who cannot attend in person can participate virtually.

Preparing for the Future

St. James’ actively looks for ways to bring Jesus to as many people as possible. A unique “gift” of the pandemic is that we have invested heavily in technology and staffing to support online worship, programming, and youth education. St. James’ is committed to offering worship and music in multiple styles to reach the widest array of needs and preferences.

Incorporating Others in Ministry

Our Director of Congregational Life is tasked with communication, cultivating volunteer engagement, and creating an environment that invites, trains and supports lay ministry, and encourages many to exercise and grow in leadership. A form of “show and tell” has been a very effective way of inviting others into ministry in the form of “sermon dialogues” throughout the year. This is an interview style of sermon whereby different ministries are highlighted and people are not only informed but invited and encouraged to get involved. Frequent recognition of the gifts and interests of different individuals brings attention to various ministries. St. James' is blessed to offer a wide variety of serving opportunities. These are available on this website as well as on the Get Involved Ministry Guide.

Wider church Involvement

St. James’ clergy and lay people are involved at the Diocesan level as representatives on the Commission on Ministry, on the Diocesan Foundation Board, as delegates to Convention, and as participants in events and programming offered by the Diocese. St. James’ clergy are active in the Skaneateles Ecumenical Clergy Association, and Regional Clericus. In the wider community St. James’ has volunteers with Merriman Circle (Rescue Mission transitional housing), InterFaith Works, Samaritan Center, Ss.Peter and John Soup Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, Laker Limo drivers, and the NAACP, as well as supporting a YASC volunteer in Sri Lanka.