Father Shane to Leave St. Mary’s

Vestry says church no longer can afford rector

Father Shane Scott-Hamblen, who has been rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Cold Spring since 2002, will resign from his full-time duties on Sept. 1 after the vestry of the 178-year-old parish concluded it can no longer afford to pay a rector.

“The decision was difficult and without pleasure, but it was a necessary decision in order for the parish to continue,” the church said in a statement posted on its website.

Scott-Hamblen will continue to live in the church rectory and say Mass through at least Dec. 31, after which St. Mary’s will be served by temporary clergy supplied by the Episcopal Church. The hope is that Scott-Hamblen will have found employment elsewhere by year’s end, said Mark Forlow, St. Mary’s senior warden.

Father Shane Scott-Hamblen (File photo by Ross Corsair)

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Garrison is also using temporary “supply clergy” as it searches for a rector to succeed Frank Geer, who retired in May after nearly 31 years there.

Forlow called the decision to part with Scott-Hamblen a “purely financial issue,” saying “it’s just not viable at this point” to continue paying a full-time rector. The St. Mary’s vestry has asked for donations to pay the $10,000 due on Scott-Hamblen’s pension and $6,000 for his health insurance.

Scott-Hamblen warned in January 2013 and again in July 2017 that St. Mary’s faced a serious financial shortfall as its endowment dwindled, but by the end of last year it had raised more than $73,000 through contributions and fundraisers such as a patronal festival and basket raffles. He said last summer that the church planned to bring together a team of professionals to recommend a long-term solution to the chronic budget shortfalls.

The parish was founded in 1840 and its present building at Main and Chestnut Streets was constructed in 1868.

Forlow said he didn’t know offhand what percentage of the budget had been dedicated to the rector’s salary and benefits, but it’s “quite a bit.” However, once those costs are off St. Mary’s books, he said, the church will begin saving for future projects, including hiring a church administrator.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and its parish hall, as seen from Main Street across its great lawn (File photo)

In addition, there are longstanding maintenance issues and repairs that must be addressed with its facilities. Completing those projects will still require outside financial help, but “with the rector, they would be nearly impossible,” Forlow said.

Scott-Hamblen did not return a call seeking comment, but Forlow noted that the rector’s impact has reached far beyond St. Mary’s 75 members.

“It’s tough seeing him go,” Forlow said, “and it’s even tougher when you know what he’s done for the community.”

The church will remain open once the supply clergy — which could be one or several priests — take over. The temporary clergy will provide Mass on Sundays and officiate at baptisms and weddings, Forlow said, but will not live in the rectory or receive full-time pay or benefits.

“We will be able to keep the doors open, and we hope to provide community support that’s as close as possible” to what it has been in the past, he said.

5 thoughts on “Father Shane to Leave St. Mary’s

  1. This is a huge loss to the entire village. Cold Spring will be greatly diminished without Father Shane’s presence.

  2. This is really sad. What a marvelous man. He has done so much and is so kind. It seems absurd when one thinks of all the money that is stuffed in the pockets of those who exploit, lie and make constant wars for more money in their pockets.

  3. The village of Cold Spring and/or the Town of Philipstown really ought to consider renting from this church that the portion of the large lawn which is typically and has for a long time been used as a de facto public park and a public green space. That might cover some of these maintenance expenses which are throttling the budget. It might also forestall what many of us fear as inevitable — a subdivision and re-development of this church’s property.

  4. As clergy of another faith, I over years came to appreciate deeply Father Shane’s particular and exquisite gifts as a priest. I attended many services and functions at St. Mary’s, and the atmosphere of beauty, genuine prayer, and true community was rare — and brought forth each time by Fr. Shane’s spiritual depth.

    We are in difficult times in so many ways, and I can only hope that this great leader, minister, and counselor is simply being carried, through a mysterious process, to a new venue to continue his calling. There is a great deal of dead weight in religious communities; Shane, however, is the real thing. He helped me, and I know thousands of others, regenerate trust in this life as well as come to a more profound sense of the teachings of the church. And he creatively and concentratedly managed a church that lesser priests would have long ago regarded as financially too challenging, never sacrificing the essential dignity and core offerings of the space and community. It will be a very fortunate church that he serves next, and we have experienced a great and sad loss.

  5. It breaks my heart to see Father Shane go — he is such a great presence and spirit in Cold Spring. I hope some lucky parish is quick enough to snap him up! I was so fortunate to have him officiate at my wedding several years ago. I know that St. Mary’s struggle to survive long predates Father Shane’s arrival, and he spared no effort in trying to stave off its financial crisis. It seems a Pyrrhic victory for the church to have to give up the one human being who is central to its congregation and community in order to afford to stay afloat. The loss is ours in Cold Spring and at St. Mary’s.