Among the many little towns scattered throughout St. Mary’s County, Maryland, Valley Lee is nestled where one of Herring Creek’s many fingers meets a hill dotted with poplar trees. Once a junction for transporting the tobacco that came up from the mills, below, and headed down to an inlet port on the Potomac, this village has been home to St. George’s Church since 1638. Later in that century, it became the seat of William & Mary Parish — the walls and foundation of the simple, whitewashed church dates to that period — but locals sometimes call it ‘Poplar Hill.’ It’s never been the official name but ecclesiastical pronouncements square off with local tradition around here that has a bit more weight. Don’t feel badly if you don’t know where St. Mary’s County, Maryland is or, for that matter, how you’d find Valley Lee.
That’s okay. While we might appear unassuming and quiet, we’re in the middle of fascinating and fast growth. Just down river from Washington, DC — where the Potomac meets the Chesapeake — the Patuxent River Naval Air Station (‘Pax River’ we call it) set up shop in the early days of World War II, and we’ve grown like gangbusters ever since. It’s a fascinating place to go about serving Christ and growing his body, the church. I have a great seat at the table. Not only do I serve St. George’s, I also serve a ‘brand new’ church that was planted in a ‘brand new’ community, a city on the map which didn’t even exist before ‘Pax River’ moved in — Church of the Ascension, Lexington Park, a vital hub of mission and ministry in a critical area in our community. In Valley Lee and Lexington Park, and throughout our county, we’ve got families who trace their lineage back to the 17th century, and newcomers like me. There are folks who remember the hard-scrabble life of tobacco farming, and others who regularly escape the hustle of Washington, DC and get away down here to their weekend place. Serving as rector of multiple parishes was actually the norm down here, decades ago, and we’re dusting off those older models in order to re-engage one big audacious goal — to bring this whole community into deeper relationship with Christ through the work and ministry of the Episcopal Church. There are challenges, for sure, yet under even the most nagging challenge is a set of profound opportunities. Add to that, at the end of the day, there’s a wide rectory porch with several comfortable rocking chairs, and I’d love to show you my blissful vantage point. Sometimes I’ve got a myopic view of small-town county life. Sometimes it’s a whole lot of running back and forth. Most of the time, though, I’m blessed to witness, firsthand, the movement of God and the emerging patterns of life and the church — Jesus’ good news and our shifting, dynamic world; the imprint of history and what, if anything, the mission of Christ has to do with us.
I’m glad you’ve visited. Let’s talk.