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  • Writer's pictureDiocese of WNC

The Very Rev. Sarah Hurlbert to be installed as Dean of the Cathedral of All Souls

On Saturday, Feb. 11 the Very Rev. Sarah Hurlbert will be installed as the third dean of the Cathedral of All Souls, seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina.

Hurlbert and her wife, Dee, moved to North Carolina in 2022 after discerning the call to become Dean of the Cathedral.

“The process was really lovely just getting to know people. This place is so special because of the history of advocacy and being out ahead, on the front lines, shall we say, of leading the church into social relevancy while keeping the Gospel and our faith in Christ as the central tenant,” Hurlbert said.

The Rt. Rev. José A. McLoughlin, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, will preside over the installation service with Eucharist in celebration of Hurlbert’s installment.

“We are very happy to have Sarah installed as the dean of our Cathedral. Not only is her background relevant, but her passion for advocacy fits right in with our mission as a diocese,” McLoughlin said.

In serving as dean, the Rev. Hurlbert hopes to connect with people at the community level with initiatives like Tea with the Deacon, a gathering with Deacon Glenda McDowell that brings community members together to discuss important issues.

“Rather than starting with the executive level, this is about making relationships with people in our community and dealing with the problems that surround everybody. Forming those relationships is the beginning. Too often the white church comes and imposes itself with a colonialist approach, talking to the heads of things first. We want to talk to the people first,” Hurlbert said.

The Rev. Hurlbert also hopes to connect the mission of All Souls with the broader reach of the Diocese of Western North Carolina.

“This diocese has been the thin edge of the wedge that has pried open the old hinges of the church, and that is such a refreshing place to be. Equal rights for LGBTQ+ folks, including the sacrament of marriage have been important. From that, the inclusion of LGBTQ+ folks to be ordained was central, and this was a place that was friendly for ordained women. That work continues into racial and economic justice as well,” Hurlbert said.

The Cathedral of All Souls serves Asheville from Biltmore Village. Built around the same time as Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt commissioned the church to be built as a place of connection for all persons. All Souls was established in Nov. 1896.

“The Cathedral was founded on egalitarian principles to bring people of different classes, different races together to worship. Especially under the guidance and leadership of Mrs. Vanderbilt and her daughter, they truly focused this place to work toward economic support of the area. They wanted to be sure that young women and men were trained in skilled trades to build the community,” Hurlbert said.

The Rev. Hurlbert brings high qualifications to open the next chapter in the life of the Cathedral of All Souls. She received her Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary in 2004 and a B.A. in Fine Arts Theater Costuming from the University of Florida in 1992. Prior to seminary, Sarah worked in the wardrobe departments of several major Broadway musical theater productions in New York City.

Most recently, she served as the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Jackson, Michigan since 2017. She served as a campus minister at Michigan State University for ten years, and prior to that she was campus minister at Mary Washington College (2004–2007) and on staff at Trinity Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Hurlbert also participated in several diocesan leadership roles including, serving as Dean of the Lyster Deanery in the Diocese of Michigan, supervisor to both seminarians and curates, and as a member of the Diocesan Council and the Diocesan Budget Committee.

The installation of the Rev. Hurlbert will be 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11 at The Cathedral of All Souls, 9 Swan Street in Asheville. A reception will follow the service.


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