On June 20, 2021, The Very Reverend Marcus Kaiser, Sr. will tackle the twin roles of Dean of the Cathedral, as effectively as the duties of a parish Rector at St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral on Thomasville Road. (Photo: Will Henry Lawrence/St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral)

Next Sunday, June 20, in a dramatic and solemn late afternoon service, the Institution of a new Rector and Dean of St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral on Thomasville Road will happen.

With all the pomp and circumstance for which the Anglican Church is understood, The Very Reverend Marcus Kaiser, Sr. will tackle the twin roles of Dean of the Cathedral, as effectively as the duties of a parish Rector.

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Presiding over the ceremony will be: The Most Reverend Foley Beach, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America; Bishop of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese, the Right Reverend, Neil LeBhar; and the interim Dean of St. Peter’s for the last two years, Archbishop Emeritus, the Most Reverend Robert Duncan. With acolytes and clergy in red vestments, soaring music, including a trumpeting brass ensemble, the cathedral will begin a new chapter in its life.

In 2005, when a small nucleus of believers split away from St. John’s Episcopal Church, they fashioned a vision of a grand cathedral. Through donations and determination, a 30,000-square-foot Gothic edifice rose up along busy Thomasville Road.

Consecrated in 2018, St. Peter’s is now impossible to miss with its 24 spires, five Celtic crosses, soaring stained glass panels and a triumphant bell tower that demonstrated the commitment of the cathedral’s parishioners.

But there would be trouble ahead for the leadership of the church.

The then-Rector of St. Peter’s, Eric Dudley, was accused of sexual misconduct with young men. He ultimately resigned his position, and was defrocked by the Anglican Church in 2019. Retired Archbishop Bob Duncan has filled the role on an interim basis ever since. 

Wishing to be called, “Father Marcus,” the soon-to-be invested Dean, Marcus Kaiser, who has actually been serving St. Peters as Rector since November, says he is cognizant of the trials through which St. Peter’s has come.

“Is the church healed?” Kaiser responds to a question. “Nobody is ever truly healed. It was difficult, but honestly, COVID has been a bigger challenge.” Kaiser admits that the removal of the former Rector from the parish affected the numbers of congregants for a time. “But attendance is clearly up now, and we will indeed continue to heal.”

Now, following the two-year search for just the right priest, Kaiser is looking forward to introducing himself to the community.

He was born in mid-Florida, a Roman Catholic, though he says the church and faith were never a big part of his early life. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy and the Naval Nuclear engineering program, for the next 8 years, Kaiser would serve aboard the USS Fitzgerald and the USS Enterprise, lead up to 120 sailors as a Surface Warfare Officer, and among other assignments, sit on the Command Staff of the Nuclear Power Training Unit in Charleston, S.C.

But God had come calling. And though Kaiser’s wife, Kimberly, was raised in the Pentecostal Church, and he was a fallen-away Roman Catholic, together they found that the Anglican Church was the home for which they had been searching.

Two years after leaving the Navy, Kaiser would graduate with a Master of Divinity degree from Nashotah House Theological Seminary, having heard a clear calling to serve as an Anglican priest.

As he had done in the military, Kaiser rose quickly in the church. “I believe there is a correlation between leadership in the Navy and serving as the rector of a church or parish,” he said.

Kaiser has been rector at three churches in both Sumter, and Eutawville, S.C. “Working well with your staff, listening to what the people with whom you work, and whom you serve is how good leadership is developed. And you’d better be listening to God too.”

Kaiser is funny and friendly, and as the father of four sons, 18, 16, 9, and 8, doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously.

“I think that for now, getting through the COVID period is the greatest challenge for everyone. I’ve buried people with the illness in South Carolina. People remain frightened. In some ways, the pandemic has caused a kind of diaspora of churchgoers,” Kaiser said.

He cites people who have decided to stay home, separated from one another, and “watch church” online. “It’s kind of turned us clergy into “televangelists from a broadcast agency,” he jokes. But he looks forward to a time parishioners can feel the “beauty of holiness” that is present within a physical church.

As to his vision for the next period in St. Peter’s life, Kaiser says, “I can’t be the only guy with a “vision.” That is why I will do a lot of listening. This is a big cathedral, but we must make sure we’re serving outside its walls as well… both here, and abroad.”

Kaiser has been involved in several missions to Honduras, Kenya, and Myanmar. But he does have a goal he would like to institute before Christmas.

“I want to establish prayer teams that reach out to those whose lives may feel long and hard. We’re a big church, but it is for naught, if we are not prayerful together,” Kaiser said.

Special service

Marina Brown can be contacted at:

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