The congregation of St. Mary’s–Fleeton is represented by fifty-one entries in the church directory as published on August 5, 2019. The great majority of the entries are families, but there are as well twenty-one individual listings – many of them also with families.
Though relatively small in number, the parish of St. Mary’s stands out in diversity of makeup: from age difference (toddlers to
super-seniors) to the range of years of attendance in St. Mary’s church (newborn to succeeding generations of founding families). The many descendants of St. Mary’s people, though not regular attendees (possibly on holidays and vacations), are numerous and spread throughout the world.
Our congregation comes from all walks of life: associates of trades, businesses, and professions to those whose sustenance has been hard-won from the land and sea. Many are now retired from their productive backgrounds and careers; but ‘retired’ hardly defines our group. Skills and energies are devoted to widely varying activities throughout the community, sharing knowledge, expertise, and experience with current generations for the betterment of all. There are no better examples of effective volunteerism than St. Mary’s Thrift Shop and the Reedville Fishermen's Museum. St. Mary’s people give of themselves now and historically. Church activities, the free clinic, reading partners, Meals-on-Wheels, pick an organization or charity utilizing volunteer work and you will find St. Mary’s people involved. It doesn’t take much in the way of study of Reedville and its past to appreciate that since its inception the local community, of necessity, has been caring, giving, and sharing; and, those originals have been steadily joined by all who have chosen the church and the community as home.
The congregation hails from far and wide; from the Northern Neck, across the country and across the seas. For some of the
‘Born-heres,’ St. Mary’s and surrounding area is and has always been home; for others with historical and family ties it has been a return to roots. For the ‘Come-heres,’ some at St. Mary’s have a strong connection with things Episcopalian and an attraction for all that the Northern Neck and this community have to offer. For others, the quiet freedom and lifestyle is an attraction. The surrounding waters, of course, are considerable inducements. There are people who, after multiple stops elsewhere, chose to retire in the area and St. Mary’s became the church of choice.
"Why St. Mary’s" is an obvious question, and the most often heard answer is ‘her people;' maturity, varying opinions, friends new and old, shared value systems, fond hearts, happy faces and voices, and caring are some attributes. Openness and welcoming friendliness is the characterization of the congregation. We are from Hawaii, Connecticut, Oregon, Missouri, Pennsylvania, California, New York, Washington, D.C., or Canada, England, Germany, or Fleeton. St. Mary’s people exhibit gracious acceptance as their trademark. Comfortable is an oft-used descriptive word – and it fits. The congregation sings with exuberance – well and often, from both the Hymnal and LEVAS.
St. Mary’s people are instilled with feeling for things Episcopal: ritual, ceremony, and common prayer. Though the majority are of mature age, they remember well, and have a longing for a youthful orientation in church activities; the joy of holiday pageantry, Sunday school, and Summer Bible school.
As much as comfort is a conditioned response of the congregation, there is an abiding desire for new and different group activities such as potluck suppers, Bible study, group discussions, guest lectures, and continuing education. Despite, or probably because of, individual success on the part of many in past and present careers, group identity is sought after; individual attribution is not. People want to promote St. Mary’s and all that it stands for – the common, the Episcopal, and the Christian good.