[St. Michael’s Church] The West Coast came east on Sunday, May 3, when the Rev. Katharine (Kate) G. Flexer, was installed as the 11th rector of St. Michael’s Church at Amsterdam Avenue and West 99th Street in New York City. Flexer is the first woman rector in the Manhattan church’s 208-year history.
The Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche, bishop of the Diocese of New York, presided, and the Rt. Rev. Bavi E. (Nedi) Rivera, provisional bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Oregon, preached. During the sermon, Rivera reminisced about how, when she was rector of St. Aidan’s Church in San Francisco, California, she had hired Flexer as a youth minister fresh from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Flexer, in her own remarks, said that Rivera continues to be her mentor.
Flexer was presented with symbolic gifts from St. Michael’s ministries, including the Saturday Kitchen and Pilgrim Resource Center, which serves more than 200 meals each week; the Sunday school classes, with more than 60 children; the Trinity Place Shelter volunteers, who provide food for a 10-bed transitional shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth at the neighboring Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan; and St. Michael’s Cemetery, 88 acres in Astoria, Queens. The music ministry commissioned a hymn as a gift, “How Large the Promise,” by composer Bill Heigen, which was sung during the service.
After concluding the induction, Dietsche said to the congregation, “Greet your new rector.” Flexer received a prolonged standing ovation. She then introduced her family: husband Jim Hinch, an editor at Guideposts magazine; and children Frances, 8, and Benjamin, 5, who all joined her on the chancel steps, to another standing ovation.
Flexer brings bicoastal experience to her new role. She is a native of the Seattle, Washington, area and a former associate rector at St. Michael’s. Since 2011 she has served as rector of The Episcopal Church in Almaden, a neighborhood of San Jose, California. On the Saturday before the installation, Flexer, Hinch and the children, all of whom are outdoor enthusiasts, led a group of 24 parishioners (and a dog) on a family hike to Breakneck Ridge in Hudson Highlands State Park, an hour north of the city.