Photo: Installation of Class of 2016 Vestry Members Doug Evans, Jeremy Ayers, George Wiggington and Karen Garlick!
The vestry is the governing board within any Episcopal Church. In the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, it consists of the rector, two wardens, and a number of vestry members who, together with the wardens, are elected at the parish’s annual meeting. According to the Canons and Constitution of the Episcopal Church, the vestry manages the temporal affairs and property of the parish, which includes approving the parish budget.
Additionally, the vestry is committed to the spiritual life and growth of the congregation. Together with the rector, they have a responsibility to model the mission of the parish as they lead them in fulfilling that mission.
The vestry at St. Thomas’ Parish consists of the rector, two wardens, and nine vestry members. A secretary and a treasurer also serve.
Carol Coonrod, Senior Warden. Carol and her husband John moved to DuPont Circle in May 2012, after 27 years in New York City where they both were leaders with The Hunger Project, an international non-profit committed to ending hunger. After retiring in 2009, Carol became the volunteer coordinator for the food pantry at Crossroads Community Services in New York (housed in St. Bart’s Episcopal Church), a program which now serves some 100+ families each week, and she served on Crossroads’ Board of Directors. She heard about Samaritan Ministry one Sunday at St. Thomas’ and became an active volunteer, coordinating their three major annual events – the Next Step Breakfast, the summer Empowering the Homeless Campaign, and the Fall Gala. Born and raised in Michigan, Carol is drawn to lakes and woods, and volunteers each summer at a family camp in New Hampshire.
Dennis Hobb, Junior Warden. Dennis has been a member of St. Thomas’ parish since 2007. He has, and is currently, an usher at St. Thomas’, and for many years was the leader of the Altar Guild. Prior to being elected as Junior Warden, Dennis served on the vestry from 2014 to 2016. Dennis is the Executive Director of the McClendon Center, a behavioral health agency serving disadvantaged District residents. He is a transplant from Missouri, having moved to DC from Kansas City in 2000. Dennis has a partner, Gary, who lives in the Logan Circle neighborhood. Dennis has been a happy Capitol Hill resident since 2001, and shares his home with two cat companions, Sophia and Annie.
Jeremy Ayers, Class of 2017. “I have been a member of St. Thomas’ Parish since 2004, including leading the Inclusion Committee and the Children and Family Committee. I previously served on the Vestry of All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale. I’ve been fortunate to travel and live in several places in addition to Washington, including Florida, North Carolina, Spain, and Madaba, Jordan where I spent a Summer digging in the dirt for ancient pottery. I grew up on the Oklahoma-Texas border, a bi-state relationship that nurtured my lifelong love for Jesus, the Bible, and biscuits and gravy.”
Douglas Evans, Doug was raised in the Bible Belt by fierce God-fearing parents, coming-out was not as shocking as I would have thought. He says, “It all came very naturally for me—ah, this is my niche in life—at last! I went to the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and found out that I loved the big city (and the anonymity that it provided). One of our assignments at Moody was to visit three other denominations, and one of them was an Episcopal church in Chicago. I was instantly attracted to it, and as soon as I graduated from college, I made it my church home.” Years later Doug was transferred to the Washington, DC area, and was introduced to St. Paul’s K Street. Now that his tastes have changed a bit, he found St. Thomas Church, or maybe it found him. He says, “Here I found a genuine Christianity that reminds me that God loves all of us just as we are, and that includes me.”
Karen Garlick, Karen is a long-time resident of Washington, attending college and graduate school in the city and then, staying for a career in the city’s museum, library, and archives community. Her journey to St. Thomas did not begin with the intentional “church shopping” that bring many to a new place of worship, but rather with the spontaneous (and surprising) decision to walk into a5:00 Sunday service 2 ½ years ago, after decades of passing by the church on her way from here to there. It felt like home from the start. After several visits, Karen started going to the 11:00 service and experiencing that welcoming embrace that marks St Thomas as a wholly inclusive, vibrant, and nourishing faith community. She was confirmed last year, is a member of the choir, co-chaired the recent music director search team, and serves on the Inclusion Committee.
Karen has a daughter, Kay, who is a sophomore at Pomona College and a feline “fur-baby,” Felix.
Bob McDonald grew up in the Chicago area and moved to Washington in 1989. His professional career has been in ministry and behavioral healthcare management. For seven years he served as Director of Membership for Foundry United Methodist Church, where he was responsible for pastoral care, pre-marriage ministry, outreach, fundraising, and LGBT advocacy. In 2013 he became the founding Executive Director of the Foggy Bottom West End Village, a non-profit membership / volunteer organization that provides services, health programs, and social activities to help residents of the neighborhood live independently for the long term. Bob and his husband, David Insinga, have lived together in the Dupont neighborhood since 1993 and were married in the Episcopal Church in 2011. They started coming to St. Thomas’ Parish in 2012 and officially became members in January, 2014.
Kevin Montgomery grew up in Alabama and Mississippi and then went to college at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Afterwards, he did master’s work in theology with a focus on liturgy at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. He moved to DC to pursue a doctorate in liturgy at the Catholic University of America but after two years decided not to continue.He has worked as an administrative assistant in some parishes in the diocese, including St. Thomas’. Church has always been a big part of Kevin’s life, from growing up Methodist to joining the Episcopal Church in college. He started attending St. Thomas’ in 2007. He teaches Godly Play, chairs the Education and Formation Committee, and serves as a verger.
Stephen Schembs is a life-long Episcopalian, and the great-grandson of an Episcopal priest. His family moved frequently and the Episcopal Church was always instrumental in their lives. When Stephen was 10 they established roots on Mercer Island, a suburb of Seattle, where he was an active member of Emmanuel Episcopal Church; singing in the choir, servicing as an acolyte, teaching Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. Stephen was also active in the Diocese of Washington High School Youth Conference. A graduate of the University of Puget Sound, he began his career as a US Airways Flight Attendant in 1989 and transferred to Washington, DC in 1993. Stephen currently works for the Association of Flight Attendants — CWA, as the Government Affairs Director. He joined St. Thomas’ Parish in 1993 and has served as chalice bearer, lector, greeter and on the Stewardship Committee.
Ariel Vaagen and her husband Nate moved to Washington, DC in 2007 when Ariel started her career as a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State. They lived abroad in Bangladesh and London until 2012 when Ariel returned for a domestic assignment. Ariel and Nate have been regularly attending St. Thomas’ since 2013 and have enjoyed becoming active members, attending foyer dinner groups, going on church hikes, and volunteering on Sundays with Nate serving as a greeter and Ariel as a lay Eucharistic ministers. Ariel and Nate welcomed their daughter Etta into the world in 2013. She was baptized at St. Thomas’ and loves coming to church to see her friends on Sundays.
Ariel was born in Monterey, California and studied Biology at Stanford University. She later joined the Army where she studied Arabic and continued to pursue her interests in international policy and development while completing a Master’s degree at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. She is currently the Deputy Director in Public Affairs’ Office of International Media based in Washington, DC. Her favorite moments as a diplomat include talking with media on hot topics of the day, traveling with the Secretary of State to ten countries in twelve days, issuing a visa to a newly adopted child, and talking to London school children about her Civil Rights heroes.