The Very Rev. Dr. Hilary B. Smith
The Very Rev. Dr. Hilary B. Smith / Photo credit: M. L. Harris.
I’m so thrilled to be one of your nominees to be the next Bishop of Vermont. Thank you for taking the time to learn about me. I look forward to learning about you.
I’ve lived in Virginia most of my life but there was a five-year period when I lived in Jay, Vermont. We would wait for the small school bus to pick us up at the bottom of our road in minus 20-degree weather. I had on my snowmobile boots, cords, snow pants, sweater, parka, gloves, facemask, ski goggles, and a hat. We were hardcore at the age of eight. In addition to attending the Jay School, I also spent one year, the seventh grade, at Derby Junior High School. I left Vermont when I was 13 but Vermont never left me. Being in discernment with you has invited me to remember those meaningful and formative years in my early life. I finished Junior High and High School in Albemarle County outside of Charlottesville, VA. I attended college at the University of Richmond where I majored in history and was formed as a leader. I went to the University of Virginia to do a Ph.D. in history so that I could teach and mentor young adults. One year into that degree, I received a Rotary Fellowship and went to the University of Leicester in England where I did an M.A. in English Local History.
My family was not religious and we never went to church when I was growing up. Through my study of history, God reached out to me. While studying in England, I starting wondering why people still go to church when they don’t have to go. The people of the 16th and 17th centuries who I studied had to go. I felt a nudge to check it out. I went to church with a friend and had an experience of God that was so intense and loving that my life changed. While kneeling at the altar rail thinking about how much I did not belong there, the priest put his hand on my head and blessed me, and I felt the love of God pour into me and heard in my mind God say, “You do belong here.” In the moment, it was as if the world changed from black and white to one of color. In the days following that experience I wanted to go up to everyone and say, “Do you know how much God loves you?”
I went back to Charlottesville and to UVA to finish my Ph.D. and was baptized at the age of 24. A year after that I was sitting in church and heard God say in my mind, “You are supposed to be preaching.” I was not expecting that and did not share that experience with anyone for a year. Through prayer and talking with my church mentors and then in formal discernment, I came to realize that God was calling me to ordained ministry. From the start, sharing my faith and inviting others to explore what faith might mean for them has been my passion. I served as the rector of a small church in a rural area of Virginia for nine and a half years. For the last six years, I have been the rector of an urban church in Richmond, VA. In addition to the joy I have in working with the people in my church and celebrating our shared ministry, I also get a lot of energy from the work I do in the diocese, in helping to form and mentor those in the ordination process and the newly ordained, serving as a spiritual director to many, and leading my region as a dean.
I feel called to the Episcopal Church in Vermont and to be your bishop so that together we can explore new ways of being the Church in our time while being grounded in our traditions. The themes of community and belonging run through my life. Together we can help others know the love of God that we have known. I’m passionate about justice for all, and I share your focus on racial reconciliation, creation care, immigration, LGBTQ inclusion, and much more. I believe Vermont is the place God is calling me to so that we can bring out the best in each other to the glory of God and the benefit of all people.
When I was living in Vermont with my Mom, my Dad was living in Miami, FL where he met my Cuban-born stepmother, Zita. I’m part Costa Rican and both my Dad and Zita are native Spanish speakers. While I don’t speak Spanish, I love the culture and spending time in New Mexico where my Dad and Zita have lived for the last 17 years. Their daughter, my sister Miranda is doing a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies at Northwestern University. I’m also part Jewish; my grandfather on my Dad’s side was Jewish as was his whole family, my extended family. I grew up with a lot of diversity. When I came out as gay to my Dad and stepmother, Zita said, “What an exciting thing for our family!”
I enjoy indoor cycling – Spin Class, science-fiction, animals, especially dogs, walking, healthy eating, coffee shops, music of all sorts, silence, and conversation. If you would like to see the videos I make entitled, “Inspiration from Spin Class,” you can find them here, https://tinyurl.com/y5f6yacx After going to Spin Class for a few months, I started to sense that God might be encouraging me to connect with people through the ideas coming to me in the class. I love doing these videos that help me and others make connections between exercise, spirituality, and daily life.
I am excited to learn more about your lives, your hopes, and your dreams. What a joy it will be for me to meet you and talk with you during our four Walkabout events in late April. I look forward to seeing you soon.
Wishing you God’s Peace and Joy,