MONTPELIER — Christ Church Rev. Paul Habersang has been selected to be the executive director of Rock Point in Burlington.
News of the appointment came last week from the board of directors at Rock Point, noting that Habersang will be the first person to serve in the newly created role. He will begin work Oct. 1.
“Paul’s appointment marks an important milestone in the history of Rock Point Commons,” said David McKay, Rock Point board member. “On behalf of the Rock Point Board, I can say that we are confident that Paul has the unique gifts — skills, experience, and ingenuity — to lead Rock Point Commons into the future.”
Rock Point has served as a center of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, and about 10,000 people visit it each year, the release said.
Habersang’s final Sunday services at Christ Church on State Street in Montpelier will be Oct. 27, after which, supply clergy will hold weekly Eucharist until an interim pastor is selected, the release said.
Habersang’s appointment also comes at a time of transition for the Episcopal Church in Vermont. After 18 years’ service, the 10th Bishop of Vermont, the Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, will retire as bishop diocesan later this month. It will follow the consecration on Saturday of the state’s first African American bishop, the Rev. Dr. Shannon MacVean-Brown, in a ceremony at the Ira Allen Chapel at the University of Vermont. She will also be the first African American woman to serve as a bishop diocesan in New England.
“Essentially, we’ll be starting together on the same day,” Habersang noted, adding he would advise the new bishop and help her get settled.
For Habersang, and others connected with the church, his new appointment is a bittersweet moment after his eight years, almost to the day, leading the congregation.
“We’ve navigated a lot of significant challenges in these eight years,” Habersang said. “I do feet bittersweet but I’m really proud of who they are and what they’ve done.
“I’ve made some really wonderful friends and connections there and I love Christ Church. They have enriched me by being who they are,” he added.
Habersang said he felt Christ Church would endure and thrive after his departure.
“The Christ Church leadership is incredibly strong and organic leadership has sprung up, and I feel that this is a good time for them to weather this transition and weather it strong,” Habersang said.
Among notable achievements, Habersang led “Hearts on Fire: Forging the Future of Christ Episcopal Church,” a $1.5 million capital campaign for major structural repairs to the 150-year-old Gothic church. The campaign reached the halfway mark this summer, allowing for repointing of the church’s crumbling bell tower, among other repairs.
Habersang said his new appointment followed several years of a capital campaign to improve the facilities and trails at Rock Point, build a sustainable future, and attract visitors and supporters of the Episcopal Church in Vermont.
“Rock Point is an incredible piece of property in Burlington,” Habersang said. “It’s 130 acres and it’s the last piece of undeveloped lakefront in Burlington.”
Habersang said Rock Point leadership decided to conserve more than 30 acres, to preserve the natural beauty of the area, and hoped to build partnerships with the community to maintain the property. The property also serves as a conference center and is available for group meetings, retreats and weddings. There are also hiking and climbing trails and a children’s camp on the site.
“This was a really wise move, because it shows that the Episcopal Church in Vermont has a real dedication to maintaining the preservation of this undeveloped shoreline,” Habersang said. “It’s open to the public, for people to hike the trails and to share that beauty.”
Habersang has a background in sales and marketing positions at General Electric, Schneider Electric and Morris Controls, and ministerial positions at Hartford Hospital and parishes in the Episcopal Diocese in Connecticut.
“In my experience, a lot of this can be achieved with good communications and good relationships,” Habersang said. “I suspect that’s one of the primary hopes of this position, is that together, the team, collaboratively, we can build relationships and promote Rock Point as the sanctuary it is in downtown Burlington.”
Sarah Hofmann, senior church warden at Christ Church, thanked Habersang for his service.
“Paul has been a wonderful priest to our community for the last eight years. He has worked in partnership with us in ways that have made us stronger as a faith community and an integral part of social action in Montpelier,” Hofmann said. “We will really miss him but have the consolation of knowing he is not far.
“We feel prepared for the transition to come and look forward to welcoming a new priest in the coming months and keeping in touch with Paul as he assists the diocese,” she added.