The Rev. Mark Sholander didn't initially set out to become a man of the cloth. Actually, said his wife Cindi, "Mark's a second-career priest. He was formerly vice president of the American Arbitration Association."
But he left that profession, followed his heart — and soul — and was ordained in 2000. In January, he became the rector of Christ the Redeemer church in Centreville, and last Sunday morning was his official installation.
THE RIGHT Rev. Martyn Minns, missionary bishop of CANA, performed the ceremony, telling Sholander he was brought there to be that church's pastor, priest and teacher. Said Minns: "You've been selected to care for the people of this congregation, to love and serve Christ's people and to nourish and protect them in this life and the life to come."
Sholander also has another role; he's the person leading the formerly Episcopal congregants in their new journey as Anglicans.
Last December, Christ the Redeemer church voted unanimously to break away from the Episcopal Church and become part of CANA (the Convocation for Anglicans in North America).
"The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the Anglican Communion, or church, worldwide," explained Karen Rummel, Christ the Redeemer's director of communications. And Christ the Redeemer, along with 16 other churches in Virginia and 40 total in the U.S., broke away because of arguments of Biblical authority.
"Anglicans believe that the Bible is the Word of God, that Jesus is the son of God and that Jesus died and was resurrected," said Rummel. "The Episcopals changed; we didn't."
In September 2006, the former rector of Christ the Redeemer, the Rev. Thomas Herrick, moved to Pittsburgh to work for the Anglican Communion. And that created the opening for Sholander to move here from central Florida with his family and become Christ the Redeemer's new rector.
The church meets Sundays at 10:15 a.m. in the cafeteria of Centreville Elementary, and about 110 of its 150 members attend each week. And they filled the room, June 24, for Sholander's installation.
MINNS WAS RECTOR of Truro Episcopal in Fairfax for 16 years, and it, too, became Anglican. Sunday, he asked God to "strengthen and sustain Mark with Your love and understanding." And when Minns asked the congregants if they'd support Sholander in this ministry, they answered resoundly in unison, "We will."
"I've been looking forward to this," said Minns. "Christ the Redeemer has always been a special church to me. You were the first, mission [church] we sent out from Truro, 13 years ago. [And now], it wasn't the way we planned it, but I'm so grateful we got to this place today. I'm delighted to be here with you. This is a wonderful, new beginning of a new phase in your lives."
"This congregation has gone through challenges and fire, but we've made it through," he continued. "It surprises me how much controversy we've caused, simply by trying to remain faithful to the Anglican Church. I do believe in the Lord, His faithfulness and his love for all people, and that Jesus is the son of God."
Minns then asked the crowd, "If someone asked, 'Who are you?' how would you answer? If we want to be Jesus' disciple, we must be willing to let Him define us, and not the other way around. We're a disciple of Jesus before all else [and before all other labels we'd place on ourselves]. We don't choose Jesus; He chooses us."
However, Minns stressed that "it's not simply a Sunday-morning thing. It's how we live our whole lives, and we're called on to make more disciples and spread our faith. Each one, make one."
Next, several members of the congregation presented Sholander with various items — including a Bible, drops of water, and bread and wine — as part of his formal installation. Then the new rector prayed to God, promising, "To You and Your service, I devote myself, body and soul and spirit. Make me the instrument of salvation to the people you've entrusted into my care."
THEN MINNS introduced Sholander and his family, and everyone stood and applauded them. Now living in Fair Lakes, Mark and Cindi Sholander have three, grown children — daughter Thea and sons Sam and Josh. Also present were Thea's husband, Lucas Ramirez, and his parents, Elvira and Eduardo Ramirez of Philadelphia.
Thea just began her Masters program in social work at Savannah State; Sam is a junior at Mercer University in Macon, Ga.; and Joshua and Lucas are both in ministry at the same church on St. Simon's Island, Ga. Joshua is a music minister and Lucas is a youth minister.
And their occupations explain why Sholander wasn't formally installed until now. "Since both of them work on Sundays, scheduling was quite a challenge," he said.
As for his own career switch, Sholander said, "In the late '90s, I felt the Lord had a call on my life. So I met with my bishop and priest and discussed it." Then came the five-year process of ordination; Sholander did two years' local, parish work, plus three years in seminary. But becoming an Anglican was something he just had to do.
"I'd been struggling for quite awhile with the direction of the Episcopal Church and the decisions that were being made," he explained. "But I was in a 'safe' diocese in central Florida. My bishop, John Howe, was orthodox and had been the rector of Truro church before Martyn Minns."
So, said Sholander, "The revisionism that was going on nationally wasn't in my parish. But last year, the national church elected as its presiding bishop someone who does not hold to the traditional faith. For example, she believes Jesus is a way to the Father, not the way — which is not the traditional, historic belief — and I couldn't go there."
BUT SINCE she was the presiding bishop, Sholander had to swear his allegiance to her. So in December 2006, he left the Episcopal Church. He looked around for a new position, knew people who attended Christ the Redeemer and learned of the potential opening there.
He's been its rector for five months now and describes its members as dynamic and engaged. Said Sholander: "They've been more than welcoming, so it's been really terrific."
His wife is also pleased to be part of Christ the Redeemer. "I love it," she said. "[The congregants] are alive in the Lord and mature in Christ, and I'm excited to be here in this next part of their journey. It's a privilege to be here, and I know there are big things ahead for this church."