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Husband-wife team to lead Massena and Malone Episcopal churches

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MASSENA - A husband and wife team have made the move from Wisconsin to Northern New York to take over as the rectors at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Massena and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Malone.

The Revs. Elizabeth and Tom Papazoglakis arrived this week and said they are looking foward to their first services at their new churches.

The Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis is the new rector for St. John’s, while the Rev. Mr. Papazoglakis is the new rector at St. Mark’s - though they’ll be swapping on occasion.

“We’re functioning as a clergy team,” the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis said.

“I’m her assistant here. She’s my assistant there,” the Rev. Mr. Papazoglakis said, noting they’ll switch pulpits at times. “We both have a variety of experiences in our background.” The Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis, a native of Louisiana who was ordained in 2010, said she officially begins at St. John’s on March 17, just in time for Holy Week and Easter. Her husband was ordained in 2002. They have three children and three grandchildren.

“I felt called by God,” she said. “That’s what starts the ball rolling.” Prior to arriving in Massena, she was assigned to Trinity Episcopal Church in Wauwatosa, Wisc. Her husband was assigned to St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church in Pewaukee.

In a letter of introduction to St. John’s parishioners, the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis noted, “Prior to coming to Massena I was blessed to have served in several parishes in the southeastern part of Wisconsin and am now excited to serve as the next rector of this historic parish. Father Tom and I enjoy working as a team and will assist one another in the on-going ministry of serving these two parishes.”

They said the priests and the church get to choose if they’re a good fit for each other, and that was the case in Massena and Malone. They came to visit in Massena and, the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis said that, when they left, “it felt like we left family.”

“God’s will brought us here,” the Rev. Mr. Papazoglakis said.

“We were attracted to the Diocese of Albany,” the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis said.

Sonya Boyce, chair of the St. John’s Search Committee, said they were very happy to have brought the Papazoglakis family to the north country.

“They were sent to us by God. Mother Elizabeth is especially warm and gracious and generous and definitely wants to meet and care for people. They’re a team,” she said.

As they settle in to their new roles, one of their goals is to meet and get to know their church members. The Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis said she’ll be looking on this Sunday as the Rev. Chuck Smith leads St. John’s for the last time before she officially begins.

“Our first goal is to know everybody. We want to know the story of the people,” the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis said.

They also want to work collaboratively with other clergy that comprise the Greater Massena Ministerial Association, the Rev. Mr. Papazoglakis said.

At the same time, they welcome others who want to join their church community.

“We would like to find people who don’t know Jesus Christ and don’t know the love of Jesus Christ. These are tough times with the economy. People are hurting for a variety of reasons. We just want to bring people in and let them know the love of Christ and share God’s house with other people to help them understand they’re not alone,” the Rev. Mr. Papazoglakis said.

St. John’s will hold a Wednesday evening healing service on March 20, and they invite “anyone and everyone” to attend. It’s a communion service with special prayers for those who are ill or in special need. The service will be followed by a light reception and hospitality.

“People come forward and receive anointing,” the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis said.

She also extended an invitation to join them for other services that will be offered during Lent, Holy Week and Easter. Palm Sunday services will be held on March 24, followed by the special services of Tenebrae on March 26 and Maundy Thursday on March 28. The service of Good Friday followed on March 29, with an Easter Vigil on March 30 and Easter services on March 31.

“This is a very special time of worship and community as we get our first chance to meet one another,” she said.

“No matter what denomination, they’re welcome,” the Rev. Mr. Papazoglakis said.

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