Jessie Vedanti has a nose piercing, tattoos and a deep love for the natural world. And she is the new vicar at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Washougal.
“They were looking for a new expression of Church,” said Vedanti. “And I was a good fit.”
Her vision for her role at St. Anne’s involves connecting Jesus, the environment and people in need. She wants to offer new opportunities for worship and gently shake up the traditional role of the church. Vedanti wants to take worship outside the walls of the church and show people how to show God’s love in nature and the community. Nature walks and volunteering are just the beginning for her.
“Historically, there used to be just one service a week,” she explained, “but we realized that doesn’t work with everyone’s schedule. I want to offer a place that will include everyone. People want that.”
She will be the church’s full-time vicar, a new idea for St. Anne’s. She will live in Camas, something also not previously done. The Church hopes that this will help flourish a deep connection with the community, according to Vedanti. She has stated that her first priority for the next couple of months is to get to know the community.
Bishop Gregory Rickel, the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Olympia, ordained and installed Vedanti earlier this month. There was the ordination, rehearsal dinner and reception. Vedanti likened it to one big party, with solemn moments and good times.
“It was a celebration of a new start,” she said. “It was exciting and overwhelming. But more than that, I fully realized the burden of my ministry. I am committing the rest of my life to this work.”
Family and friends from Vedanti’s childhood and adulthood came to support her. Her new community and support system joined in. It was a meeting of her two worlds, mostly for the first time.
Her husband sewed her vestments for the ordination out of Pendleton wools. She truly wants to bring a local focus to her work and her life.
Vedanti was born in Philadelphia, but has moved many times. As a little girl, she felt her calling.
“I did an awful lot of exploring,” she said with a smile. “I explored different expressions of my spirituality. I was a part of a Pentecostal church for a couple years. I followed a Hindu guru. I volunteered as a Catholic worker. But after all that, this is where I’m meant to be.”
She attended Goddard College in Vermont for undergraduate studies and went to the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. Before moving to Camas, she lived in Tacoma.
Vedanti said it was St. Anne’s, the small local community, the natural beauty of the area and the proximity of Portland drew her to the Camas-Washougal area.