The Rev. William Shiflet Jr. has been an integral part of St. John's Episcopal Church for the past 17 years, doing a little bit of everything in helping the Ellicott City church grow and become a greater part of the community.
That's why church members aren't sure how they'll function after Shiflet, the rector, retires from St. John's after Sunday's 10 a.m. service. The 58-year-old Shiflet plans to slow down a bit and spend more time being a grandfather.
"I don't think they know what they're going to miss about him yet," said the Rev. Doris Johnson, the church's associate rector. "He's been the glue that's held the place together. He's kept up with the daily issues, just making certain that worship happens every week."
The congregation has tripled in size since Shiflet took over in 1987 to about 2,200 members.
An interim rector will be named to serve for about 18 to 24 months.
"It's time for me [to go]," said Shiflet, who announced in May of last year that he would step down. "With the evolution and growth of the parish, we've done some great things, but it's time for new leadership."
St. John's, which opened in 1822, underwent three major building programs during Shiflet's tenure. There was a historic renovation of the church, a renovation of the parish life and youth center, and recently added space for a ministry/education center that's enabled the parish day school to expand and prepare for more growth.
Shiflet helped establish a relationship between St. John's and a poor community in Jamaica, to which medical teams travel annually. St. John's sends doctors, dentists and lay people to help the community. In addition, St. John's built St. Mary's Anglican Church in Port Maria, Jamaica, a project that was finished last year.
Shiflet said about 10 people from that community will attend his final service Sunday.
"We [want to] make the community stronger," Shiflet said. "It's all to do God's work. It's not for self-gratification. That's part of why I'm leaving. I think it's time for another person to form the vision of what God is calling this community [to do] next."
Paula Matuskey came to the church about the same time as Shiflet. She served as senior warden for four years and said his ability to plan for the future proved crucial for the church's growth.
"I think that he came into the parish at a time when it really needed to look in a future kind of direction," Matuskey said. "He was very forward thinking."
Shiflet, who came to St. John's from Connecticut, isn't sure what he'll do next. Part-time work is likely, along with teaching a course at the Virginia Theological Seminary next spring.
Shiflet said he is very proud of how the church grew under his watch.
"It's a more faithful community ... in its faithful response to God, each other and the world around us," he said.
Said junior warden Jerry Anderson: "[Shiflet] helped grow St. John's into a wonderful community of caring. It's been quite a journey with Bill. We'll really miss him."