Parish welcomes interim rector
Though new to Aspen’s Christ Episcopal Church, Father Gene Todd is a veteran “of the cloth,” having been in the ministry in several Rocky Mountain communities for more than 30 years.
Father Todd, the church’s interim rector as of April 18, replaced Father Bob Babb, who left the church in late January after 20 years of service to become rector of a Longview, Texas congregation.
For Todd, this interim rectorship is his fourth interim appointment in Colorado (he served in Sedalia, Breckenridge and Cherry Hills Village) since he retired as the permanent rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Cheyenne, Wyo. Todd retired early from the so-called “Pioneer Church of Wyoming” or “Church of the Governors,” he said, because after 27 years “it was time for me to leave.”
The former nickname for St. Mark’s refers to its being the first church of any denomination in Wyoming (1878); the latter refers to the several Wyoming governors who belonged to the parish.
“I buried four governors and five first ladies,” Todd said of the distinction.
Todd will remain with Aspen’s Christ Episcopal Church until the congregation’s search committee finds a suitable replacement, which is expected to take about a year and a half, he said.
“It takes quite a while,” Todd said. “After all, Father Babb was here for 20 years, and it takes time to find a candidate who’s a good fit.”
As interim rector, Todd said his primary role will be to sustain the parish’s vitality.
“I’m not the one to initiate great changes in the church, because I’m not going to be here to follow through with them,” he said. “I’m here to let everyone know that everything’s going to be fine, and that we will find a good rector in our search, and that the congregation will continue to thrive.”
Born the son of a real-life cowboy on a cattle ranch in northern Wyoming, Todd was one of seven kids. He was the only one among his siblings to leave the Wyoming ranching lifestyle. “I’m the prodigal son,” he joked.
But despite following his calling, Todd has remained true to his roots. A published author and an American history aficionado and professor, Todd has met with success in each arena, both of which seem to resonate his own experiences in the West.
Todd published the critically acclaimed “Tales and Irreverencies of a Country Parson” in 1997. And as an indication of the book’s off-beat candor, at least when coming from an Episcopalian minister, Todd wrote in a recent parish bulletin: “Let me say up front: Don’t read this book unless you have an open mind, a forgiving spirit and an abiding sense of humor.
“The book has done very, very well, and I’m surprised by that,” he said. “It’s categorized as an autobiography and it is that, but it wasn’t the intent of the book. It’s like stretching a clothesline across the back yard and pinning to it stories of people – incredible people, ordinary people – whom I’ve come into contact with. They’re hilarious stories and sad and uplifting, stories about people with faith, and those without. It’s about folks of all kinds.”
Following both services this Sunday, Todd will be available to sign copies of the book. Copies are available through the church office.
While in Cheyenne at St. Mark’s, Todd taught several history courses – History of the American West, Wyoming History, and the Western Migration, and others – at a local community college affiliated with the University of Wyoming.
“I’ve always been interested in Western mountain towns and their stories,” he said.
Todd hopes to continue teaching history at the college level following his interim service here, and in the meantime, he will teach an Anglican Studies Seminar at the church, beginning June 20.
The 12-week overall review of the Anglican phenomena will examine the origins of Christianity, trace its development and explore the historical impacts people and events have had on Christianity of today.
“There’s been a lot of interest in it, and that’s great. I enjoy teaching and I think I’m good at it,” he said. “My approach to it is that it’s a story. I don’t deal with dates, or generals or presidents so much as I deal with ordinary people, and what it would have been like to live like them, when they lived.”
As for being in Aspen, Todd said he and his wife, Rosemary, are pleased.
“It’s a great place to be – love the people, just fascinating people, love mountain towns – but I don’t ski, don’t fish, don’t read a note, so theoretically I’ve got no business here. It seems everybody here does those sorts of things,” he said. “But I like good restaurants, so I guess it’s a good fit in that sense.”
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