Skip to comments.RI: Bishop Wolf to marry N.Y. businessman
Posted on 01/08/2007 5:02:05 PM PST by sionnsar
PROVIDENCE - The Right Rev. Geralyn Wolf, who next month marks her 11th anniversary as Rhode Island's Episcopal bishop, is getting married.
The bishop says that until she met her husband-to-be, Thomas Charles Bair Jr., at a visit last summer to St. John's Parish, in Newport, she assumed she would always remain single.
But that changed when Bair, who runs his own financial-services company in New Paltz, N.Y., and who had come to help the Newport parish with its stewardship campaign, saw her there and invited her out for lunch.
They ate at a barbeque restaurant near America's Cup Avenue.
"I thought he wanted to talk about the church, but he really wanted to get to know me," the bishop said.
Bair says: "When I heard the bishop addressing the congregation that morning, I just found her to be very loving and very interesting to listen to, so I was attracted."
It was the first of many encounters. Throughout the summer and fall, Bair made several weekend visits to Rhode Island, each time staying with the Rev. Norman Catir, the priest that Wolf had put in charge of St. John's parish after the abrupt departure of its former rector, the Rev. Jonathan Ostman, who sent in his resignation while on a mission trip last spring to Zimbabwe.
Years ago, Bair was on the vestry at the Church of the Transfiguration in New York City at the same time that Father Catir was rector there, and they have been friends ever since.
Bishop Wolf, who is 59, says that toward the end of August, "I began to feel I had met a very special man, and he felt he met a special woman."
It wasn't until the end of October that the two became increasingly certain that they wanted to marry, and they kept the news from close friends and family members until recently. A letter to diocesan clergy was mailed Friday.
"My family is rejoicing and shocked at the same time," the bishop said Thursday.
Although it is not common for a sitting Episcopal bishop to get married while heading a diocese, it is not unprecedented. Bishop Wolf noted that Bishop Carolyn Irish, the Episcopal bishop of Utah, married an old friend a few years ago. Bishop Wolf and her fiancé are planning to be wed at the Cathedral of St. John, Providence, on April 21, with the U.S. Episcopal Church's former presiding bishop, Frank Griswold, officiating.
To reserve the cathedral for that day without tipping their hand, Bair requested use of the cathedral for that date for the purpose of holding a retreat. Staff members in on the secret developed the practice of referring to Bair not as the bishop's fiancé, but as the "retreat director."
Bishop Wolf acknowledged that even she was surprised by how it all developed.
"I've never had any suitors. When I went out with him, I told him it was my first date in 11 or 12 years. Nothing before was serious. I had always assumed I would remain single."
She said one of the attributes she finds most attractive in her future husband is his faith.
"He is devoted to Christ and to the church. He is kind and thoughtful and fun to be with. And there's the added ingredient of love. I love this man."
The fact that the couple first met at St. John's in Newport may surprise many Rhode Island Episcopalians, given that the parish has long been known as one of the most conservative in the state. After the denomination decided to move ahead with the ordination of an openly gay man, the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, as the bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, the parish registered its displeasure by removing the name "Episcopal" from its sign, replacing the word with "Anglican."
Despite the church's stand, Bishop Wolf said she felt it important for her to visit the parish last July to review what had transpired before and after Father Ostman's departure and to assure members they were still a part of the diocese and had her support.
Bair was there that day to help the parish with its stewardship campaign, and according to the bishop, "He was very successful. They are better off than they were a year ago."
Bair is a member of his parish vestry in New Paltz.
The marriage will be the second for Bair, who divorced 10 years ago and has two sons, ages 15 and 19. Bishop Wolf said that because of the divorce, they will need to get permission to marry from the Episcopal bishop of New York. They have already spoken at length about their plans with Bishop Griswold, who now lives in Philadelphia, and with the U.S. Episcopal Church's new presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts-Schori.
Bishop Wolf said that by the time of the wedding, she and Bair will have received all the premarital counseling required by the church and "some more."
A native of Grafton, Mass., Bair grew up as a Roman Catholic, the fourth-eldest in a family of nine children. After his graduation from the University of Washington, in Seattle, and before entering the financial world with a job at Standard & Poor's, Bair worked in the theater in New York with the woman who is now the suffragan, or assistant, bishop of New York, Episcopal Bishop Cathy Roskam.
His son Tom, 19, is a sophomore at the State University of New York, Binghamton, and Chris, 15, attends Newburgh Free Academy, in Newburgh, N.Y.
Bishop Wolf said she hasn't picked out a wedding dress as yet but plans on wearing a white A-line gown rather than her usual Episcopal garb.
"I think that on this one day, being a bride is more important than being a bishop," she said.
After the wedding, Bair says he will relocate his business to Providence. They will make their home in the bishop's residence on the East Side.
"I just found her to be very loving and very interesting to listen to, so I was attracted." Thomas Charles Bair Jr. Bishop Wolf's husband-to-be
"I had always assumed I would remain single."
It's a sad commentary on the state of the Church, but when I first read the headline, I automatically assumed Bishop Wolf was a man.
For whatever else one might say and think about the situation --women bishops, divorce and re-marriage-- I agree. (Hadn't even thought about Mr. Bair's position, I confess...)
And: "I think that on this one day, being a bride is more important than being a bishop" -- so correct, and good for her for not politicizing the wedding...
Best wishes to them. They sound like a cheerful couple.
She's marrying a MAN???? Are they sure she's Episcopalian?
We need a pic of the bride-to-be..
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.