St. Barnabas welcomes its first woman rector

The Reverend Karen Haig is now a historical figure.

She takes no credit for it.

Haig, a 30-year island resident, was called by St. Barnabas Episcopal Church as its first woman rector in its 71-year history. The eighth rector of St. Barnabas, she presided at her first service at the church this past Sunday, Dec. 3.

“The people of St. Barnabas made history by calling me. I’m not making history,” she said with a laugh.

Haig has spent the last seven years as associate rector at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Medina, and she bids with no sad farewell those long commutes to the Eastside that will now be consigned to memory.

Her journey to becoming a priest was not a speedy one, either.

Before she was ordained, she was a business management consultant at small businesses and nonprofits. Haig was also a cofounder, business manager and director of a nonprofit scientific institute that did climate change research.

She left that dream job to pursue a new dream job.

“It’s something that chooses you,” she explained.

“I came to the priesthood later in life and I had mentors who called that out of me.”

The path started on Bainbridge while she was a worshiper at Grace Episcopal Church. A priest who become a beloved friend, she recalled, “said to me, ‘You cry a lot in church.’ I said, ‘I know.’

“Is it OK?’ I said, ‘Yes, it’s OK.”

A few weeks later the priest told her he knew why she was crying, then offered, “Have you ever considered ordained ministry?”

“It was downhill on a skateboard from there,” Haig said.

Haig earned her Master of Divinity from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in 2010 and later became transitional deacon at St. Thomas. She was awarded the Millard Preaching Prize while a member of the Class of 2010, and also earned the Bishop’s Preaching Prize in 2016.

She is married to The Reverend Jim Friedrich, who is also an Episcopal priest, and Simon, her son, teaches history and social studies at Bainbridge High.

Haig hopes to build relationships both inside and outside the church.

There’s plans for small dinners and personal outreach where she’ll meet with every member of the parish.

“Another first priority for me is welcoming families with children. Along with Montessori-based Sunday programming that encourages children’s innate spirituality and offers the opportunity to experience God rather than learn about God, the new year will bring family potlucks, game nights, group outings and more.”

Haig arrives as rector at a time of turmoil for many on Bainbridge. She is now planning a “Quiet Christmas” service, for anyone in the community who is sad, grieving or in need of healing during the Christmas season.

It will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 21 at the church, and all are welcome to attend.

“One of the many things a church community offers is time set apart to turn inward, to practice gratitude, to find ourselves a part of something much bigger than ourselves.

“There is so much noise in our world,” she added. “The Bainbridge Island community has experienced such tragedy of late, and the opportunity to be steeped in beautiful liturgy (our church service) and music, to hear the good news of the expansive and inclusive love Jesus brought to our world, and being sent out into the world to do whatever we can to put more of that love out there, whether it’s by serving those in need or working to change the things that create those needs in the first place, is a strong antidote to the helplessness or hopelessness so easily fallen in to.”

St. Barnabas welcomes its first woman rector