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Christ Episcopal’s rector moving on to new church

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Nichols is relocating to Hopkinsville

By Sarah Bennett

“Where do you intervene? Where do you start?” asks Alice Nichols, outgoing rector at Elizabethtown’s Christ Episcopal Church. “I think the answer is everybody.”
With a reputation for being ecumenical, Nichols has spent much of her life reaching out to “everybody” through her career as a social worker in the mental health field and most recently as a rector.
After four years at Christ Episcopal Church, Nichols is relocating to Hopkinsville to serve at a church where she interned five years ago, she said.
“It wasn’t that I was looking necessarily to leave here at this point, because I guess there’s never a good time to leave,” Nichols said. “I’ve been telling people, ‘I’m not looking forward to leaving here. I’m looking forward to going there.’”
Originally from North Carolina, Nichols became a minister late in life. Though she was deeply involved in her church in Nashville, where she lived for more than 30 years, Nichols said she frequently offered excuses when people suggested she enter the ministry.
“I  knew it was the right thing for me to do, but I couldn’t quite see it happening,” she said. “Finally, when my daughter finished college, it was like, ‘Well, I guess I’ve run out of excuses.’”
After attending divinity school at Vanderbilt University, Nichols was ordained at the age of 59, she said. The church on Poplar Street was her first position as a rector. Today she knows the ministry is where she belongs.
“It doesn’t feel like a role,” she said. “It feels like I’m being myself.”
Sylvia Griendling is the executive director of CASA of the Heartland, a child advocacy organization that operates from the basement of Christ Episcopal Church and of which Nichols is a part.
Griendling describes Nichols as someone who “doesn’t compartmentalize life” and always looks for the best in people.
“Alice is always the same. It doesn’t matter where she is,” Griendling said. “She practices her life as she would instruct someone as a minister.”
Asked what she’s going to miss about Elizabethtown, Nichols mentions organizations and roles she’s assumed over the last four years, including with CASA, Heartland Interfaith and a group of Lutherans who recently started worshipping in communion at Christ Episcopal Church.
As chairwoman of the CASA board, Nichols started her position within the court-affiliated child advocacy organization not long after moving to Elizabethtown.
Griendling said Nichols has been a huge supporter of CASA from the beginning and has worked hard to ensure the organization continues to operate.
Started in 2010, Christ Episcopal Church became involved with Heartland Interfaith when members of the Islamic Center of Elizabethtown invited the congregation, Nichols said. With several Muslim and Christian members, the organization is devoted to reaching out and understanding different faiths.
“It’s fun to have a camaraderie with a larger group, to share things that are so important to us with other people,” she said.
While she will miss Christ Episcopal, Nichols said she looks forward to her duties at a new church, which is slightly larger.
With no renovation projects to oversee and a bigger staff available, Nichols said she looks forward to having more time to focus on spirituality and sermon writing.
She adds that she’s also looking forward to being closer to Nashville, where she’s already purchased season tickets for the symphony.
Joining the ministry late in life, Nichols admits that though the Hopkinsville church is only her second assignment, it could very well be her last as a head rector.
Eventually she will want to retire and spend more time with her daughter, Meg, and grandson, Luca, 2, who live in Wilmington, Del. She only is available to visit about once every two or three months.
“We’ve just started Skyping, and that’s been kind of fun. Now when he looks at the computer, he’ll say to his mother, ‘Geegee!”
Nichols’ last local service is at 10 a.m. today at Christ Episcopal Church at 206 W. Poplar St.
Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.

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