US priest returns to sing in her childhood cathedral

Tuesday August 26th 2008

The Very Rev Penelope Bridges, who hails from Belfast, will sing at St Anne's Cathedral on September 14.An American Dean who grew up in Belfast will return to her roots to sing at the Choral Eucharist and Evensong in St Anne’s Cathedral on September 14.

The Very Rev Penelope Bridges is rector of St Francis Episcopal Church in Great Falls, Virginia, and is Dean of Region Five of the Diocese of Virginia.

Penny grew up in Belfast, the youngest daughter of Gibby and Joan Fitzgibbon, and her father served as a lay reader at the Cathedral. She was baptised in the Cathedral in 1958 and attended services and Sunday School until the early death of her parents in the 1970s when she moved to Wells Cathedral School in England.

Penny was a choral exhibitioner to Clare College, Cambridge, and a computer programmer in England and the US before answering the call to be ordained in the Episcopal Church of the United States. She gained a divinity degree, summa cum lauda, from Yale Divinity School in 1997 and served as assistant rector at Grace Church, Alexandria, Virginia until 2003 when she was called to serve St Francis.

She is currently on a four month sabbatical leave from St Francis and the theme of her sabbatical is ‘Singing the Lord’s Song in Communities of Faith.’

Penny said of her forthcoming visit to St Anne’s. “I spent the first 13 years of my life sitting in the front seats envying the boy trebles because they were allowed to sing in the choir and I wasn’t. It would be a great gift to be able to sing in the Cathedral as a priest.”

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