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New rectors now serving St. Andrews By-the-Sea

Special to Gannett
The Revs. Jo and Jim Popham are new rectors at St. Andrews By-the-Sea Episcopal Church.

DESTIN – St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea announces that the Reverend James J. Popham and the Reverend Jo P. Popham have accepted the call to serve as rectors, effective Nov. 1, 2020.

They succeed the Rev. Joseph Hagberg, who served as interim rector at St. Andrew’s from 2018 until Oct. 31, 2020. The Reverends Popham come to St. Andrew’s from Lake Charles, Louisiana, where they were serving as priests-in-charge at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd.

Each of them previously has served in the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. Jo served as rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Brewton, Alabama, and Jim served as traveling vicar to three churches in the Florida Panhandle, St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in Pensacola, Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Crestview, and St. Agatha’s Episcopal Church in DeFuniak Springs.

They previously have served at churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida and the Diocese of Calgary in the Anglican Church of Canada. They both are graduates of the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Prior to entering seminary, Jim and Jo handled copyright royalty litigation in the Washington, D.C. office of the Motion Picture Association of America. Jo also worked in the Washington Law Office of Westinghouse Broadcasting and CBS, and Jim worked for the National Association of Broadcasters and the Association of Local Television Stations. They also worked together in the practice of law in New Orleans, representing radio and televisions station clients before the Federal Communications Commission. In addition to their seminary degrees, the Pophams hold degrees from Louisiana Tech and Tulane University.

Jo and Jim first became acquainted with St. Andrew’s in 1986 when they honeymooned in Destin.

“We often vacationed in Destin and always attended St. Andrew’s, observing its ebb and flow over the years," Jo said. "We know Destin has changed a lot, but it still has that feeling of familiarity. And, of course, St. Andrew’s always has had a special place in our hearts.”

After enduring a battering from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, they were wary of another call to a Gulf coast church. 

“After a time of prayer and discernment with St. Andrew’s search committee, we were convinced our gifts and experience will enable us to assist St. Andrew’s ably," Jim said. "In our world of accelerating cultural change and growing indifference to organized religion, assisting churches in finding their role in making Christ’s message of love, compassion, peace, justice, and mercy accessible and appealing is always a challenge. But every church has its gifts to bring to God’s vision and work in the world, and we are eager to work with the congregation at St. Andrew’s to support its ministries.”

Jim and Jo also were heavily involved in the leadership and work of the church before entering seminary, serving in various lay ministries. They acquired an island on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where they lived and conducted spiritual retreats. Participation in the Education for Ministry (EFM) program, the Diocesan School for Ministry in West Virginia, and classes at Trinity School for Ministry contributed to their spiritual formation.

Jo and Jim live in Destin and boast a combined family of five adult children, Stacy, Sara, Troy, Matt, and Phil, and three grandchildren, Max, Dylan, and Zoe, scattered from Los Angeles and New Orleans to Washington, D.C. and Boston and Spain. They are aided and abetted in their ministry by two rescue dogs, Barnum and Bailey, who continue to reassure Jo and Jim that Scottish Terriers are smarter than they are.

St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea is a dynamic Episcopal Church, intentionally diverse, sustained

by sacramental worship, serving the community since 1928 in Christ’s name both within

and without its walls.

The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion, which boasts 80 million members in 160 countries. The head of the Anglican Communion is the Archbishop of Canterbury. Michael Curry is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. In his words, “Being a Christian is not essentially about joining a church or being a nice person, but about following in the footsteps of Jesus, taking his teachings seriously, letting his Spirit take the lead in our lives, and in so doing helping to change the world from our nightmare into God’s dream.”