St. Mark’s pastor promoted to Bishop

Rev. Phil LaBelle was elected Bishop for the Olympia Diocese

Above: On Saturday, Rev. LaBelle of Southborough was elected by a northwestern diocese to be their new Bishop. (headshot image from the bishop search website)

A Southborough Episcopal Priest has been elected Bishop for western Washington. After 13 years serving at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Rev. Philip LaBelle will be relocating for his new post this summer.

The Episcopal News Service wrote:

The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia elected the Rev. Philip N. LaBelle as its next bishop during a May 18 special electing convention at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington. . . 

Pending consents, LaBelle will be consecrated and installed as the ninth bishop of Olympia on Sept. 14. He will succeed Bishop Greg Rickel, who resigned on Dec. 31, 2022.

LaBelle was one of four nominees. According to EPN:

LaBelle was elected on the fourth ballot with 91 clergy votes and 119 lay votes (76 clergy votes and 113 lay votes were needed). Clergy and lay delegates representing the nearly 100 worshiping communities across the Diocese of Olympia, which stretches south from Canada to Oregon and west from the foothills of the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

You can read the full story here.

On the Olympia Bishop search website, it highlights:

During his time in the Diocese of Massachusetts, Phil has co-led the Mission Strategy Committee, served on Executive Committee and Diocesan Council, and directed the Fresh Start program. He co-founded Southborough Neighbors for Peace with Dr. Safdar Medina in their small town. The organization has hosted peace vigils, began a community-wide Iftar dinner during Ramadan, established an interfaith Thanksgiving service, and sponsored other bridge-building events. Additionally, Phil served on the core team of Central Mass. Connections in Faith, an organization centered on fostering relationships and learning about other religious faiths through quarterly gatherings.

In June, Phil will receive his Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Seminary focused on Christian Spirituality. His thesis work explores the theology and practice of zimzum and how to make space in our overly busy lives for God, others, and the natural world. . .

Over his nearly 20 years of ordained ministry, he has co-led more than a dozen mission trips for youth and adults.

You can read more, plus find more detail on the election and search process here.

I followed up with LaBelle for more details and his next steps. He explained that he will become the “Episcopal Diocesan Bishop for 98 congregations in the area of Western Washington from the border of Canada to Oregon, and from the Pacific Ocean to the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.”

As for his plans for moving, that will be in stages this summer. Since both of his children are starting college this fall, the family plans to “launch them from here” before he fully relocates.

(Olivia graduates from Algonquin next month and will be a student athlete at Williams in their Track & Field program. Noah will start his freshman year at Princeton, having just completed a bridge year in Senegal through their international program.)

The rector isn’t the only member of his family that has played an active role at St. Mark’s. The Youth Director will be moving with him, since she is also his wife, Melissa LaBelle.

She answered my questions about how his new job will be changing her life. She explained that she will be handing over the reins of the part-time youth director position to Nick Tolan. They will co-lead the 2024 mission trip to Cleveland together in late July. After that, he will fully take over the role.

That is only one of her jobs impacted by the big move. Melissa LaBelle had been on the tenure-track at Bridgewater State University as a full time Assistant Professor of Secondary Education and Educational Leadership (SEEL). She now plans to continue working for BSU over the next school year, but only part-time, virtually teaching 1-2 classes per semester for the SEEL department. She noted, “I have loved teaching at Bridgewater and am happy to be able to do that — albeit in a limited capacity — this coming year.”

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Kathy Cook
30 days ago

Both my husband John and I wish Father Phil and his family the best although he will definitely be missed. It is hard to believe that he has been here thirteen years. They have truly flown past. He has given his all to St. Mark’s and this town and is a very good human being.

Lisa Braccio
30 days ago

Congratulations Father Phil, it has been a pleasure being involved in projects together and I greatly appreciate the impact you have had in Southborough inside and outside your Congregation. Best wishes on your next venture.

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