St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Washougal appoints new pastor

Annie Calhoun made a significant transition in her life in 2008 when she decided to leave her long career in textbook publishing to become a pastor. She made another one earlier this year when she decided to leave her lifelong home in Southern California to embark on a new adventure in the Pacific Northwest.

Calhoun is the new pastor of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Washougal, replacing Kathleen Patton, who retired in 2021.

“I’ve wanted to move here for 30 years, but it just never worked out,” she said. “And so finally the commitments ended, things opened up and I’m here.”

Calhoun comes to Washougal from Orange, California, where she has served as a youth pastor and associate rector at Trinity Episcopal Church since 2010.

“I knew my job (there) would eventually end,” she said. “I wanted to move here to be closer to my family — my brother has been here for 30 years, my sister has been here for 25 years, and my daughter has lived in the Seattle area for 10 years. I spoke to the Seattle Episcopal Church office, the headquarters for this area, and began looking at several churches. In the end I applied to three churches, and I thought this one seemed the best for me, and they liked me.

At Trinity, Calhoun preached, designed and organized Bible study sessions for youth, implemented stewardship programs, conducted outreach efforts, and conducted administrative activities, among other things.

“Annie has a heart for outreach, which is evident in her work with local outreach programs and ecumenical events,” according to St. Anne’s website. “She works to build individuals in a congregation and help them discover their gifts and strengths.”

Calhoun worked in sales and management for several textbook publishing companies, taught yachting at the University of California-Irvine, and ran a summer boat camp for the city of Newport Beach, California, for more than 25 years before joining the ministry.

She received a Master of Divinity degree from the Claremont, California School of Theology and an Episcopal studies degree from the Episcopal Theology School in Claremont, California in 2013, and was ordained a deacon in 2014 and a priest in 2015.

“I didn’t have the chance to do it (when I was younger),” she said. “I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, and they still don’t plan to ordain women. I went to Catholic school, and in the 1960’s and early 1970’s they would take the boys into one room to pray for a religious vocation – to become a priest – and they would take the girls into another room to pray for a religious vocation , who would become a sister – a nun. And then it was either you became a teacher or a health worker. I knew then, at age 7, that my thought was, “I’m in the wrong room.” I wanted to become a priest. And I kept thinking about it until I was in my early twenties, and then I realized, ‘Yeah, this isn’t going to happen.’”

But her life changed in 2001 when she discovered the Episcopal Church, which she says is “very familiar to the Roman Catholic Church in liturgy or worship, but much more progressive in its political and social justice focus.”

“Women are ordained. It’s very inclusive, not only accepting people of every stripe, but including and dedicating,” she added. “Everyone is welcomed into the community and raised in the community, and (everyone) can be ordained if it is a calling. The things I ran into about the Catholic Church were not part of the Episcopal Church.”

And when she saw a woman leading a service for the first time, she began to think about the possibilities of fulfilling her childhood dream.

“I knew there were women priests, but the first time I saw one come down the aisle with all those colorful clothes and all the church material, it was really moving,” she said. “I knew I had found my church, and it wasn’t long after that that I started thinking, ‘I wonder if that’s something I could pursue?’ And I did after all these years.”

Calhoun, who gave her first sermon at St. Anne’s on Sunday, October 2, is adjusting to her new role and has been encouraged by attendance, which has recently increased.

“They haven’t had a (full-time) priest here (for a year), so it was very difficult for them to feel like they were going in a certain direction,” she said. “They felt like they were very much in a holding pattern. And two years before that it was all COVID.

“In the summer there were maybe only 15 people in attendance, and now we’re almost between 40 and a little over 50 every Sunday. Knowing there’s one person there, and she’s going to stick around, people feel like, ‘Okay, we’ll be back.’ It just might seem like what you’d expect.

Outside of church, Calhoun enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking with Buddy, her 4-year-old Golden Retriever, up and down nearby trails, and kayaking on Vancouver Lake

“I’m from Southern California, so everything (here) is completely different,” she said. “I lived between Disneyland and Newport Beach, so it was just city, city, city, city. And the beach is beautiful. But this is so green. This whole area is just ideal. It’s the opposite of where I used to live. It really is a beautiful city, with lots of places to walk, trees, lakes and rivers. And it certainly has a village feel.”

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