Charles Sydnor became assistant rector November 1, 1973 and then rector 1976 and served until May 1, 2003. His years were a continuation of a number of trends begun during the Faulkner year. St. George’s continued to look outward into the social and economic problems within Fredericksburg
Major Events include
- Funds for the first Hospice
“I had read of the beginnings of Hospice in England in 1967 and the writings of Elizabeth Kubler/Ross on the stages of grief and shared some of these ideas in sermons. In 1979 most people had not heard the word Hospice and did not know what it meant. But Anne Nere of this congregation called me late one August evening in 1979 and said I know you have been talking about Hospice and the Sub Area Health Advisory Council has a meeting tonight on Hospice, would you go with me? There we learned of the considerable need and that no funds were available.” Charles promoted the Venture In Ministry program and raised $22,000 at the same time a major renovation was underway. Another $18,000 came in for seed money and by 1981 they had hired the first director
- Under Sydnor, the church bought the property that became Hope House, a home for women and children.
He writes about the beginnings “On a cold February morning when our little Brotherhood of St. Andrew Chapter met at 7 A. M., we found a homeless man trying to play the piano in Faulkner Hall but still a little drunk. He had spent the night in the entrance foyer which was there before remodeling. We listened to Roger’s story of being a Vietnam Vet who had lost his way and stories about others on the street…Fritz Leedy, a realtor, member of St. George’s and the Brotherhood, took leadership and divided us into three teams to research the scope of the problem, how other communities were responding, and sources for funding. After hearing from the research, we formed a Board, incorporated as Rappahannock Refuge, and gained 501 C3, non-profit status. I then proposed to our vestry that we buy the building and sponsor a home for local homeless people providing them up to a 60 day stay, counseling services to address the issues that rendered them homeless, and full time paid supervision. I proposed we buy the property with money we had from the sale of the former rectory. To my surprise and delight they agreed to the $86,000 price though no one had seen anything but a picture of the house. I think the Spirit was much with us that night. Volunteers from our parish refurbished the building and many local builders donated their services. We got funding from each of the judicatories of Planning District 16, and also United Way. Fritz persuaded the Board of Realtors to put a new home up for raffle and raised $50,000. We opened to a full house of 14 residents on Jan. 5, 1987, which was just about two years from when we first met Roger. We adopted the name Hope House for we felt we were giving homeless persons in despair renewed hope.
- It helped start Building Bridges, which brings black and white worshippers together.
“I served with Dr. George Van Sant and others on the Fredericksburg Area Community Relations Council (FACRO)as we continued to seek racial justice. We did things like writing area banks asking why there were no minority persons in management and then publishing an article on their replies in the FLS. Some bankers didn’t like us very much, but minorities began to have management positions. We challenged the School Board and Superintendent on why more minorities were not in teaching positions; when they responded they did not have many minority persons applying, we suggested they go recruit at black colleges and thing began to change.
- The homeless shelter was another St. George’s project.
Charles provided the story. “ Hope House stayed full and as we turned away persons we realized not only our need to expand, but the need for alternatives, as homeless single persons were not always a good mix with the families and children of Hope House. My Associate, The Rev. Judy Fleming, led the effort to get area churches taking turns setting up cots in church basements and providing supper and breakfast. Ed Jones was one of many volunteers to provide all night supervision and I remember conversations we had recognizing that the majority of homeless people were not, to out surprise, addicts or mentally ill, but working people who just couldn’t make ends meet. Our devoted parishioner Thurman Brisben’s passion for justice for the poor was the fuel that fired the whole effort. Her dedication was inspiring and contagious. She was fond of saying that as long as we had enough to eat and someone else did not, something was wrong and we needed to fix it. A Homeless Shelter Board was formed and for awhile vacant Maury School became the shelter. This was a thoroughly ecumenical effort and we were blessed when Barbara Gear of the Fredericksburg United Methodist Church joined with her zeal and energy. The search for a permanent year round site began and many more choruses of “not in my back yard,” were heard before Hunter Greenlaw, a developer, agreed to a short term lease of his property on Essex Street until he was ready to redevelop the area. Forty churches provided volunteers and in December of 1992 the house that love built, as Barbara Gear called it, was opened and was named in memory of Thurman as the Thurman Brisben Homeless Shelter.
- The Commission System
Through all of this Church growth provided strains in the system. The church changed not only in size but also in style. In 1989, commissions became led by lay leaders and not by Vestry and then five separate committees led by Vestry members to diversify and strengthen management. This basic structure has continued to this day.
- Financial Scandal
This did not prevent a financial scandal in 1993. Problems surfaced in 1992 with the church short of cash and bills not being paid promptly. After a long struggle, an investigation found the Treasurer using church funds for personal uses which amounted to $76,273.52. It was repaid by the treasurer’s parents after the Treasurer was forced to admit guilt during a church service. This was a low point in Charles years.
- Major renovation in 1980, Aim 2000 and the beginning of the Renewing for Ministry at the end of his time at St. George’s