St. James Episcopal Church in Florence, Italy, called The Reverend Richard Easterling to serve as its new priest-in-charge beginning November 1, 2020. As priest-in-charge, Fr. Richard will lead the church of around 200 members in all matters of worship and community involvement.
The parish welcomed Father Richard and his family to Florence on December 23.
Easterling holds degrees from Louisiana State University and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. He will assume the leadership of a church widely known for its historic links to both Florence and the birth of the Italian nation in the mid-eighteenth century.
He comes to St. James from New Orleans, Louisiana, where he served as Rector of St. George’s Church for six years. At St. George’s, his tenure was distinguished by profound preaching, reestablishing community, healing a parish in difficulty, creating financial sustainability, nurturing a diverse community, and a commitment to inter-religious relations in the greater New Orleans area. Richard’s husband David and their standard poodle Bear will accompany him in Florence.
In a statement from New Orleans after receiving the call, Easterling recognized the gifts and challenges present in St. James, saying, “I am deeply thankful for the work and ministry of Fr. Andrew Cooley as the Interim Rector of St. James. As with any transition in leadership, St. James is beginning a new chapter in its history, and we are blessed to be a part of it. A motto, if you will, of my ministry is Me oportet operari donec dies est (I must work while it is day), a combination of two different verses of John’s Gospel. A new morning has come to St. James, and we aim to hit the ground running. David and I are thrilled to come to a new parish that is ready to work with us and, together, to forge a happy, loving, and prosperous future.”
Senior Warden Haswell Beni said, “We are overjoyed that Fr. Richard Easterling accepted our call. It is a three-year commitment that comes with a full consensus of the search committee, composed of the vestry. We anticipate with joy the arrival of Richard and his family in person.” Added Junior Warden Nevin Brown, “Our search was anchored in prayer and deep reflection, and we are delighted that God led Fr. Easterling and St. James Church together during these most challenging times.”
Since their arrival, Fr. Easterling and his family have been delighted by the generous and warm reception from the St. James community. “The numerous letters and expressions of welcome we’ve received, and the gracious provisioning of the rectory (most notably our refrigerator and freezer) have been to us such a sign of joy and promise for our new life together. We are thrilled to be here and to call St. James our new parish family,” said Fr. Easterling.
St. James’s is a parish of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. Its Search Committee was co-chaired by Haswell Beni, Senior Warden, and Nevin Brown, Junior Warden, with robust support from the Convocation office. Following a lengthy and mutual discernment process that culminated in the full consensus of the eleven-member vestry, the call to Fr. Easterling was issued by the Convocation’s Bishop, The Right Reverend Mark Edington. “I am deeply thankful for the prayerful, open character of the discernment process put in place by the Vestry,” Bishop Edington said. “St. James’s lay leadership will be a strong partner for their new pastor, and I look forward to welcoming him to the Convocation.”
St. James was founded in 1853 and maintains a high public profile in Florence, Europe, and around the world. Its increasingly diverse congregation comes from everywhere, locally and globally and worships in a sanctuary of historical significance, welcoming seasonal and short-term members and pilgrims from many parts of the United States and elsewhere.
St. James supports many locally well-known outreach ministries including our food bank, thrift shop, and Children’s Lending Library. In addition, the parish is a committed supporter of AA and Al-Anon.
During pandemic restrictions, many of our religious services are available online on our YouTube channel and at www.stjames.it.