St. Mark’s Greer looks to reach beyond pulpit
Published: Monday, October 7, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 7, 2013 00:10
Reverend Hilary Greer’s dream of becoming a reverend came the moment she discovered that for people to be their best selves, they must be transformed inwardly through God.
Two years later, in Oct. 2011, Greer became the reverend of St. Mark’s Chapel in Storrs, an Episcopal chapel founded upon the principles of drawing closer to God through community and maintaining an international, interfaith focus. In fact, it was this devotion to community and community service that drove Greer’s decision to become a reverend.
While a student at Oberlin College, she volunteered at co-operatives and community development corporations in addition to working for the Sanctuary Movement, a program that used the church as a welcoming place for refugees who the government deemed otherwise unwelcome. Her love of community service coupled with her religious background (her father was a presbyterian minister) has landed Greer in a niche where she’s surrounded by what she said she loves most: a warm, caring community.
Greer said she has found a lively community in the academic environment at UConn, which she praises for its liveliness.
“I want to reach out more, to be more loving, and to connect with students on campus,” Greer said. “I want to provide help for staff and students and make them a central part of what we do.”
Greer has extended her desire to help others outside of St. Mark’s through the chapel’s volunteer programs at local soup kitchens, a homeless shelter and the Windham Area Interfaith Organization, a social service agency that supplies home furnishings and funds for utilities for those in need.
Yet Greer’s service does not stop there--as part of its interfaith emphasis, St. Mark’s is a part of the Anglican Communion, a global network of Christian faiths of all denominations that works together to coordinate international service projects.
Greer’s most notable international projects include REACH Rwanda to help the nation recover from the genocide and the Amahord Children’s Home in Uganda to provide living essentials and health services to orphans.
UConn students are very receptive of this international focus, as they comprise a large portion of the interns who volunteer for REACH Rwanda and the Amahord Children’s Home. Although Greer currently has only student interns for the projects right now, she is hoping to acquire several more if funds increase.
The significance of an international focus is also an integral part of Greer’s worship services, as she often incorporates prayers from foreign countries such as Kenya, Canada and India into her services. Perhaps this practice originated from her experiences in South India, where she studied religion at a seminary featuring disciples of all Christian denominations from around the world speaking more than 30 different languages. The myriad of languages spoken made prayers an eye-opening yet unifying experience, Greer said.
“When it was time to say a prayer in our mother tongue, there would be the same pauses. We all knew where we were in the prayer even though were were speaking different words,” Greer said.
An inclusive atmosphere pervades the services at St. Mark’s, as the services are kid (and occasionally) pet-friendly. Another core value of the Episcopal Church is its acceptance of the LGBTQ community which is demonstrated through St. Mark’s partnership with the Rainbow Center on campus.
“God has blessed and embraced people of all genders and sexualities,” Greer said.
Through the development of an inclusive, welcoming community and an open-minded perspective, Greer has created the kind of environment she envisioned when she first set her sights on becoming a reverend.
“I wanted to help other people come to a deeper relationship with God,” she said. “And our relationships with God is best lived out with relationships with each other.”