Fr. Tim’s Bittersweet Departure

by | Jun 7, 2024

Above: The Rev. Tim Rich delivers the invocation at the closing ceremonies for the 2022 Memorial Day Parade, an act he performed for many town festivities during his 12 years at St. Luke’s.

‘I love being part of an intentional community because this is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to living into our faith … and that’s been realized beyond my wildest dreams.’

One of the things that attracted the Rev. Tim Rich to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church 12 years ago was its location right in the middle of downtown East Greenwich. 

“What I love about the setting of St. Luke’s is that it is situated in the heart of a vibrant, wider community,” the rector said in a recent interview. “Even though we’re in a neighborhood, we’re two blocks off of Main Street and that … inspires, challenges and invites us to not be a club.”

That sense of opening up the church – a gorgeous pile of old stone and windows on Peirce Street – to the wider community has been at the core of Rich’s ministry in East Greenwich, which will come to an end Sunday, June 16. 

It is not the departure he’d imagined, but rather a chance to support his wife, Diane Rich, just as she supported him when they left New Hampshire in 2012 for him to take this job. As Tim explained in his letter to the congregation announcing his departure, Diane had given up a dream job to follow him, now he will repay that loyalty. They are moving to Los Angeles in July and Diane – who is leaving as head of school at Rocky Hill Country Day – will take over as head of St. James’ Episcopal School. 

Looking back over his years at St. Luke’s, Rich said it’s been a joy to be part of a parish again. He’d served as “Canon to the Ordinary” (aka right-hand person) to New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson before his move to St. Luke’s and the return to parish work was by design. 

Fr. Tim offers a children’s sermon during an outdoor service at Academy Field in 2023. Photo courtesy of St. Luke’s

“I love making church,” he said. “I love being part of an intentional community because I think this is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to living into our faith. Those were my thoughts when I decided I wanted to be in a parish as opposed to a diocesan position. And that’s been realized beyond my wildest dreams. This place has been all those things – a joyful place, an intentional community, and a place that puts its worship and faith into practice all the time.”

Asked what he was proud of during his time at St. Luke’s, Rich pushed back a bit. 

“Well, there’s plenty that I’m proud of, but just to be clear, the pronoun is ‘we.’ Long before I came, there were people here who had a heart for feeding ministries – we have expanded upon that. Long before I came, there was a sense of welcome and inclusion. We have lived more fully into that. Long before I came, we were a campus open to all kinds of groups from 12-step groups to secular groups. It means so much to me that some of the people who attend those groups are also people who have felt invited and then welcomed into attending the Sunday hour as well.”

The one area he said has been “significantly amplified” over the past 12 years was ongoing adult faith formation. One of those ways has been virtually. As many churches have found, Covid brought great hardship but also a way to reach people online that just did not exist before. 

Covid was “a great example that tested St. Luke’s in terms of creativity, of caring for others, in terms of faith.”

One result: St. Luke’s online is now reaching people from across the country and faith formation sessions are open to those who otherwise would not have been able to participate. 

Rich has also loved the partnership with other faith communities. 

“The Interfaith Clergy Association has been such a dear colleague group for me. And we’ve also shared efforts and enterprises and outreach ministries. But then there are – and this is incredibly gratifying – places like Tio Mateo and Ross there who has supported our feeding ministries. And I love that Susan at The Green Door donates every time we have a major auction.” He also mentioned Shannon from The Nook, Lois at Zuzu’s, and Joanne from The Greenwich Hotel, who has partnered with St. Luke’s on some outreach efforts. 

What will he miss? The list is long. 

“First of all, the people, both of the congregation and the people on the street – David who rides his bike on Main Street and greets me – and everyone in between. I’m going to miss the choirs and the music. I’m going to miss watching our kids grow older and grow up. 

And how do you not miss Rhode Island? I’m going to miss going to the beach and going to Vanda’s for dinner,” he said. “And, without a doubt, I’m going to miss the ministry team here. They are amazing…. They brought out the best in me and I think together we’ve done some really wonderful things.”

Fr. Tim and Diane Rich. Photo courtesy of St. Luke’s

The departure is bittersweet for another reason. 

“Every congregation and institution has struggled to return to pre-Covid levels. Here at St. Luke’s by almost every metric, we have. It breaks my heart not to be able to ride that wave longer,” he said. 

He doesn’t have a new job he’s going to in Los Angeles – at least not yet. His immediate job will be “supporting and cheering on my wife, who’s got a large and wonderful job she’s starting out there.”

He added, “I think this is my time to pray and to wait and to trust that God’s not going to bring Diane to the promised land and leave me starving in the wilderness.”

Author’s note: I am a member of St. Luke’s. 

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Marie Hennedy
Marie Hennedy
June 8, 2024 12:19 pm

Thanks I’m sure largely to the spirit of Father Tim Rich and his empathic wife Diane, I’ve been privileged to tell friends for the last six years, “I’m sure there’s a judgmental Episcopalian, but I’ve yet to find one at St. Luke’s.” Sheer love is contagious.


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