Harcourt Parish turns another page in its 187-year history when Rev. Helen Svoboda-Barber departs this month after her 10-year tenure as rector. Svoboda-Barber is leaving her post to become rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham, N.C. Her final service will be the morning of July 13 at the Church of the Holy Spirit on the Kenyon campus.
“It just seems like the right time for me, my family and the parish to move on,” said Svoboda-Barber, who also served as director of the College’s Board of Spiritual and Religious Life. “I have grown in a lot of wonderful ways this past decade, but I think the parish has grown all it can under my leadership. I dearly love the people here. It has been a great 10 years.”
Under her leadership, the parish expanded its community outreach with ministries to feed the hungry, care for the sick and shelter the homeless. New hospitality-themed programs serving the campus community provided housing for visiting parents and meals for student athletes on campus during spring break. The success of the annual Harcourt Parish Rummage Sale, which tripled revenues to more than $15,000 since Svoboda-Barber’s arrival, enabled the parish to award grants to area social service agencies.
“I’ve always thought of the parish as a catalyst for ministry,”’ Svoboda-Barber said. “The number of people in church on Sunday mornings doesn’t matter as much as what people do in their everyday lives, and I think we have done really well in finding ways to help the community.”
Although Kenyon is nonsectarian, the parish and its home church on campus are reminders of Kenyon’s Episcopal heritage. Bishop Philander Chase founded the parish in 1827, shortly after he established the college. A native of Kansas, Svoboda-Barber is the great-great-great granddaughter of Bishop Chase.
“She has been a creative and positive force in helping a small parish accomplish some pretty remarkable things,” said Susan Givens, a member of the vestry. “She always had her feet on the ground and never expected anything from her parishioners that she was not willing to do herself, whether it was sweating her way through the August rummage sale or fixing lunches for student athletes.
“We knew that someday she would move on, but we were surprised that it was so imminent. They (St. Luke’s Church) sought her.”
Her departure begins a transition process that – with the assistance of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio – will include the hiring of an interim rector and the formation of search committee from among the vestry to identify candidates for a permanent replacement, said senior warden Richard Hood.