Among the many little towns in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, Valley Lee is at the tip of one of many fingers of Herring Creek’s, where the water meets a hill dotted with poplar trees. Once a junction for transporting tobacco, this village has been home to St. George’s Church since 1638. Later that century, it became the center of one of the colony’s original parishes but locals sometimes call it ‘Poplar Hill.’ 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. We appear unassuming and quiet, but we know we’ve got a lot of things going for us and, to boot, we’re experiencing profound and fascinating growth. Down river from Washington, DC, the Patuxent River Naval Air Station (‘Pax River’) was established in the early days of World War II, and we’ve grown like gangbusters ever since.
All this growth led our diocese the create a new congregation for a new community. Planted not that long ago, I also serve 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, there are 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 DC to their weekend place down here.
As for me, I get to work with two congregations who are excitedly dusting off some older, more timeless models of mission and ministry, passionately re-committing ourselves to pastor and serve our whole community. Actually, serving multiple parishes was the norm not long ago, and we believe that that model is key to bringing this whole community into deeper relationship with Christ through the work and ministry of the Episcopal Church. Add to that, at the end of the day, there’s a wide rectory porch with several comfortable rocking chairs. Sometimes I’ve got a myopic view of small-town country life. Other times I’m blessed to behold, firsthand, the movement of God and the emerging patterns of His Body, the church.
I’m glad you’ve visited.