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Hughes enjoyed time as interim leader at Christ Church Fox Chapel

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
The Rev. Connie Hughes, Assistant Rector at the Christ Church in Fox Chapel.

The Rev. Connie Hughes likened her time as Pastor-in-Charge at Christ Church Fox Chapel to running a marathon.

She was promoted last April from part-time deacon to interim leader of the Anglican church along Squaw Run Road East after its rector, Tom Phillips, moved out of state.

“It hasn't always been easy but it's been a tremendous experience,” said Hughes, a resident of Sewickley. “I went quickly into a more than full-time position and all its challenges while navigating for a new rector.”

A deacon for four years, Hughes was abruptly catapulted into the role when Phillips resigned early for family reasons. In the nine months it took to solidify a choice for a new rector — Alex Shuttleworth will officially be named to the post at the end of the month — Hughes said her charge was to “continue to be the church, to worship and minister.

“It's what you have to do while you're waiting,” she said.

As her time in charge winds down, excitement for the next chapter heats up — for both herself and the church.

“I believe that Alex is the man to lead us into new times,” she said.

Hughes, a native of Pittsburgh's Edgewood neighborhood, plans to slow her pace and divvy her energy between preaching and playing with her grandchildren, seven of whom live next door to her Civil War-era Victorian home.

“I also like fiber arts like rug hooking,” she said. “Maybe I'll even get a bit of exercise in too.”

Pastoring actually came as a second career to Hughes, who earned her bachelor's degree in Education at Skidmore College. She taught middle school English and history and then earned a masters in counseling from Duquesne University before working the past 14 years to help people through trauma, addiction or depression.

“I used to have private practice and then started working within the churches,” she said.

A stint helping homeless people at the Washington City Mission made her hungry to learn more about the mission of the Bible.

“I realized I didn't understand the doctrine. There was a stirring in me to know more,” she said.

She got her feet wet with a course about the New Testament from the Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge. Hughes said she came alive with those studies.

“The professors there were humble, dedicated and full of enthusiasm,” she said. “Their person and their beliefs were integrated and I wanted more of that.”

Hughes earned a master of divinity in 2010 and was hired shortly after graduation by Christ Church Fox Chapel.

Congregation member Connie Guggenheimer said she appreciates the effort Hughes' has shown to the church.

“It's a multi-faceted kind of job, from ministry to sermons to administrative duties,” Guggenheimer said. “She has performed admirably and always been available for people.”

Hughes said her time in leadership has proved a rich experience.

For the most part, her duties of day-to-day business were assisted by the help of “wonderful deacons.”

Responsibility for weekly services and community outreach can be tiring, but the spiritual side is inspiring, she said.

“I had never baptized a baby, married a couple or buried someone. In the last year, I've had them all,” she said.

“The basic learning of each ceremony and the attention to detail, it's exciting. When you get to be the one looking into the eyes of a newly married couple or weeping with a family, it's electric.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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