By Peggy Nankivell
The Reverend Geoff Chapman came to St. Matthew’s Anglican Church as its new rector in late April. His first service was a live broadcast from the church, an unusual start for an incoming parish priest yet a way to reach his congregation while churches remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
St. Matthew’s has offered virtual services since mid-March with the participation of our interim rector Canon Jim Beall and honorary clergy Father Kevin Flynn and Canon Allen Box.
“I am really excited about coming to St. Matthew’s,” said Chapman. “It feels like a call, a really good fit.” He is looking forward to meeting parishioners and community neighbours – virtually at first and then in person.
He is also delighted to return to the Glebe where he lived for several years when he was a bachelor serving at a church in Gloucester. “It’s fascinating to be a visible parish within a community,” he said of St. Matthew’s. “The role and future of our church will build on the love for our community – not like being in a walled temple.
“Our doors may be closed, but the church – not the building, but the community who live and worship here – is always open to our neighbours in the Glebe,” he said.
The pandemic will oblige him to meet congregants in a different way than during coffee hour and church meetings. Social distancing means being creative in the use of social-media options. He plans to establish office hours and will encourage one-on-one meetings through Zoom conferencing as well as by phone.
In the immediate future, Chapman will continue to provide virtual services with live music (he has an excellent tenor voice), and he is interested in offering simple evensong services online. When the church reopens, he will investigate continuing to offer virtual services for those who cannot physically attend each week. Not only can such services reach those who are ill or frail, they could also be enjoyed by those who travel, he said.
Chapman grew up as “a clergy kid” because his father John Chapman was an Anglican priest and now the soon-to-retire Bishop of Ottawa.
Throughout his life, our new rector has been passionate about church and music. Initially he wished for a career as a classical musician and was drawn to the traditions of sacred music. When studying music at the University of Western Ontario (French horn performance), he realized he wanted to explore music with God to guide him. He wasn’t sure which path this would take. “God gives us the compass heading but not a map,” he said.
Chapman completed a Master in Divinity at the University of the South in Tennessee followed by a Master of Arts in Religion (Ethics) at the Yale Divinity School. He considered pursuing a doctorate in religious studies with the goal of teaching theology. “At Yale I loved being surrounded by some of the smartest people in the discipline, but while I love the idea of spending a life in the academy, God was calling me to be a parish priest,” he said. “I continue to love my vocation and responding to people seeking God through Jesus Christ.”
His training at the University of the South emphasized formal liturgical studies and a deep knowledge of scripture. And his background in classical music will fit well with the Anglican choral tradition that is so valued at St. Matthew’s.
Ordained a deacon by the Anglican Diocese of Montreal in 2008 and a priest in 2009, he served as assistant curate for the parish of Verdun before becoming the rector of Saint George’s Anglican Church in Chateauguay, Quebec. He was Incumbent of Epiphany Anglican Church in Gloucester for eight years.
When St. Matthew’s parishioners can meet again in person, a reception will be held to welcome Chapman, his wife Sarah and their infant son to the parish.
Please visit stmatthewsottawa.ca if you are interested in receiving advisories about virtual services and other online program such as meditation and Bible studies.
Peggy Nankivell is a long-time St. Matthew’s parishioner and a regular contributor to the Glebe Report.