Bethesda’s Leadership

The Reverend Charles Wallace, Priest-in-charge

In August 2020, Bethesda Church welcomed the Reverend Charles Wallace. Charles came to Saratoga Springs after 17 years at Saint Thomas Choir School, New York. One of only three residential schools in the world exclusively for boy choristers, Saint Thomas originally appointed Charles as chaplain, but after a year asked him to become headmaster. In this role, as priest-educator, Charles served the choristers, the staff and their families both administratively and pastorally, responding to the complex concerns and needs of a boarding school where children and teachers live together in community.

Prior to moving to New York, Charles served as a member of the clergy of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, in the United Kingdom. He oversaw the liturgical life of the chapel, working closely with clergy colleagues and the music department staff in the planning and preparation of worship, from the regular daily services to state occasions for the Royal Family. He also worked on the teaching staff of St. George’s School, teaching in the French and Religious Studies departments.

Charles studied History and French as an undergraduate at King’s College of Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, before entering Trinity College at the University of Toronto in 1995. While at Trinity, Charles was assigned to a five-month parish placement at the Church of Saint John the Divine, Victoria, British Columbia. At the end of his internship, he was invited to join the clergy staff there. As a busy center-city parish, St. John’s provided a solid and comprehensive grounding at the beginning of life as an ordained person. On any given day, there were interactions with the business community, the elderly and homebound, young families, and the university community. Because the parish included both extremely affluent and poor underserved neighborhoods, St. John’s provided a very active and intentional ministry to the city’s homeless population.

In 2017, Charles took a six-month sabbatical from the Choir School, through his association with the Anglican Diocese in Europe (a diocese within the Church of England), working with parishes in transition. At St. Andrew’s Church, Tangier, Morocco, Charles sought to build bridges between the Christian churches and other social service organizations working with sub-Saharan refugees as well as the Missionary Sisters of Charity working with orphaned girls. In Marseille, he assisted at a center sponsored by the Lutheran Church that offers academic support, counseling and assistance to recent immigrants to France from the Middle East.

Charles’ experiences at St. John’s Victoria, St. George’s Chapel Windsor, and St. Thomas Choir School gave him considerable insight into the importance of establishing meaningful links between churches and the communities that they serve, and the level of collaboration required for institutions to be successful. He has worked to establlish a similar level of cooperation between Bethesda Church and the local organizations seeking to bring care and relief to those in need in Saratoga Springs.

The Vestry of Bethesda Church

Pursuant to the Canons of the Diocese of Albany and the Episcopal Church, as well as the parish bylaws, Vestry members are elected on a rotating basis. Three members are elected each year for three-year terms. Members are limited to serving no more than two full three year terms. Wardens are elected to two years terms, with a limit of three full terms. Elected Treasurer and Clerk also serve on Vestry.

The vestry is an integral part of strategic planning and goal setting for the mission of the parish. The vestry has fiduciary responsibility for budgeting to achieve these plans and goals and for taking care of the building and grounds. The group meets monthly to discuss the goals and programs of the church and to allocate the funds for outreach and ongoing church activities.

You can read minutes from recent vestry meetings here.

Current Members of the Vestry

The Reverend Charles Wallace was appointed Priest-in-charge of Bethesda Church in August 2020.

Sara Manny, Senior Warden, has a Masters in French and a degree in secondary education. She taught French to children and adults for 5 years before starting a family. Now she is a full time mom and able to volunteer at her children’s schools. She is also an active member of the church and the local YMCA.

Mark Claverie, Junior Warden

Karen Finkbeiner, Treasurer, grew up in Michigan, and has a degree in Accounting from Michigan Technological University. She lived in the Mid Hudson region for 35 years, working for IBM in Finance and Planning. In 2018 she retired from her role as IBM Finance Director of Transformation and moved to Saratoga Springs. She has attended Bethesda since moving to Saratoga.

Tim Holmes, Clerk as a youth went from a Community Church in New York City to St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Addis Ababa which presaged a lifelong interest in faith. He has had careers in philanthropy and economic development. Tim settled in Saratoga Springs 25 years ago and is married to Libby Smith-Holmes. His current interests include history and comparative religious learning. Tim believes in service and volunteers in the community.

David Harper has been a member of Bethesda since 1994. He and his wife Deborah were married at Bethesda in 1996. Their daughters Beth and Julie were also married at Bethesda. He and his wife and family made their summer home on board their sailboat Harper’s Ferry anchored in Willsboro Bay on Lake Champlain for many years. He values time spent hiking and camping in the Adirondacks with friends and family including his grandchildren.

David is a graduate of Cornell University and received his Juris Doctor from Albany Law School. Before law school, David served in the 3d Armored Division, in Gelnhausen, Germany and in the10th Special Forces Group, Bad Toelz, Germany. During and after law school, he also served in the 1-105th Infantry of the NY Army National Guard in Glens Falls, Schenectady & Amsterdam.

David served in the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office and as First Assistant District Attorney. He also served as Chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals for the City of Saratoga Springs. Over the years David provided many hours of pro bono work to individuals and organizations including the Universal Preservation Foundation to help them secure their building across the street from Bethesda.

Marcia MacDonald, a Lifelong Episcopalian, joined Bethesda after she and Jerry were married there in l988. Marcia has been a 25 year member of the Flower and Fruit Mission which supports Womens’ Health at Saratoga Hospital, and also volunteers for Hospice, Skidmore, and the Senior Center. She is the proud mother of three and grandmother of seven.

David MacVane

Holly Sofarelli

Margaret (Marge) Verrigni is a lifetime Saratoga native and has been a member of Bethesda for 60 years. In 1979, she married Jerry at Bethesda Church and soon after raised two children, Nicholas and Anna. During this time she worked at Bethesda as the Financial Secretary for 13 years. She then went on to work and retire from Saratoga Springs School District working as an office clerk for 25 years. While employed at the school district she sat on several committees that bettered the students and district. She is a devoted grandmother of 4 and enjoys spending her time painting, walking, and time with her family and friends.

Richard Wissler has been an attorney for more than 40 years having graduated from Columbia Law School in 1979. In those ensuing years, he has been an Assistant District Attorney in Nassau County on Long Island, a criminal defense trial lawyer, a Deputy Receiver of Taxes for the Town of Hempstead, NY, and Mayor of the Village of Freeport, NY. In 1998, he took a position as an attorney with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and engaged in environmental enforcement in the New York City Watershed. In 2001, he became an Administrative Law Judge for the Department, and in 2013, became its Director of Mediation. Rick retired in 2018. In 2006, he purchased a home in Saratoga Springs. Rick enjoys acting in local community theater, painting and drawing, and sailing. Rick believes that we are very fortunate here in Saratoga Springs to enjoy such a culturally rich and varied quality of life. But that secular tradition is undergirded by an equally vibrant and vital faith tradition. For well over a century Bethesda has been in the vanguard of that tradition, providing a respite of Christian hope, reflection, and growth for countless individuals on their respective journeys of faith. Rick is only too pleased to be an active contributor to that rich tradition as a member of the Vestry.