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Clarksville woman rises to Episcopal priesthood

South Boston News
Newly ordained Episcopal Priest Hilary Brandt Camblos chats with her mentor The Rev. Doug Geddes. / December 26, 2012
A procession of Episcopal priests paced in front of a wisp of a girl dressed in a flowing alb — who, with her youthful looks and small stature, might have been mistaken for an acolyte on any other day.

Not this Saturday more than a week ago in Abington, however. There, Hilary Brandt Camblos, a Clarksville native, completed her path to the priesthood with the Liturgy of Ordination, proclaiming her vows with a voice that rang loud and clear throughout the sanctuary: “I am willing and ready” to serve the Lord and the church.

Camblos was ordained in the company of family and friends at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Abingdon, where she is priest for the congregation. She also becomes something of an anomaly in the Episcopal ranks, albeit a positive one.

According to statistics gleaned from the Church Pension Fund, in the past six years ordinations to the priesthood have fallen by 31 percent, and those who are ordained are often older — coming to the priesthood after leaving a first or second career. Camblos also bucks the trend among southern provinces that ordain 33 percent more male clergy than female clergy.

Few people who knew Camblos growing up are surprised by her decision to become a priest. Doug Geddes, a retired priest who once ministered to the congregation at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Clarksville, was one who saw the decision as a natural one. “She was my first acolyte. Even then I knew there was something in her, a calling,” he said.

After years of study and discernment — the period when candidates search within and discover whether the ministry is right for them — Camblos was poised to become a teacher, a leader of worship and a pastor and spiritual guide. The Dec. 15 ordination service was time for those who guided her along her journey to the priesthood and her congregation to celebrate and give thanks for her ministry.

Assuring the congregants that Camblos did not take lightly her calling, The Reverend Scott Russell — her priest while she attended Virginia Tech — shared the story of the moment Camblos accepted her calling: “In college, and after, she had her Jonah moments, it was just not in the belly of a whale, but in France,” Russell said, referring to the location where Camblos, then on break, called him to let him know that she was ready to begin the discernment process.

In the Bible story, Jonah was swallowed by a whale while fleeing from God. After three days inside the whale, Jonah repented. He was ultimately saved by God, and became one of his prophets.

Camblos’ path took her to Yale University Divinity School, then back home to Virginia, albeit several hours west of her Clarksville home.

Now that she is ordained, and Camblos has been blessed by The Right Reverend F. Neff Powell, Bishop of Southwestern Virginia, her mentors The Reverend Scott Russell and The Reverend Doug Geddes, Retired, and other priests and deacons from the diocese, she is blessed with the gifts of leadership, discernment and virtue. For these qualities, she thanked everyone for their trust and faith, especially her family and friends in Clarksville. Camblos said, “I would not be here today but for the people in Clarksville.”

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