The Saratoga Sun -

Settling into St. James

Recently confirmed priest answers 'call from Heaven'


September 12, 2018

Keith McLendon

Reverend Karen Buckingham takes time for a photo during St. James' Blessing of the Animals Aug. 26

Despite trying to avoid the call to service, Rev. Karen Buckingham has been settling in to her role as Reverend of the St. James Episcopal Church in Encampment for about a year now.

Buckingham and her family moved to Rawlins in 1972 when her husband, who worked for the highway department, was transferred there from Burgess Junction, Wyo.

While in Rawlins, Buckingham, who is originally from California, went to work for the local school district as a school nurse-a position she held for 28 years.

When she retired in 2002 Buckingham thought she was going to "be home learning how to quilt" when she received a "discerning call" to move on with ministry.

When asked about the discerning call, Buckingham described it as a "call from Heaven" or a "nudge that I kept trying to ignore." Buckingham added that she received several "nudges" and kept saying to herself, "Not me. Not me."

Eventually she relented to the call.

Buckingham described the process of becoming a priest saying, "In Wyoming they have a formation of priests that are discerned from within their own congregations because it is very difficult in these little areas to hire a full-time priest to come in without the costs of insurance and all that. We're a non-stipendiary. Those of us who are in this formation process don't receive wages." She continued, "I began that process and it took eight years, nine years to get through it. I did some online study all with the recommendations from the Diocese of Wyoming. We had so many areas we had to cover; service, teaching, pastoral care and all those kinds of things. At the end of that time I was ordained to be a transitional deacon."

After that six month transitional period Buckingham was ordained a priest and stayed at her church, St. Thomas Church in Rawlins.

Buckingham stayed at St. Thomas for around seven years and then she and her husband decided it was time to make a change.

Because she knew several parishioners at the church in Encampment she decided to begin attending church there.

While there she noted that the church didn't have a permanent priest and had only had limited communion.

Eventually she asked if she could start functioning as a priest for the congregation and began to fill that position in September of 2017.

Recently the Bishop stopped by St. James for his annual visit and while there confirmed Buckingham as the gathering's leader.

While the Buckinghams are still settled in their Rawlins home, her and her husband make the trip to Encampment on Sunday mornings with the understanding that she occasionally might not be able make the trip due to weather or poor road conditions. So far she has encountered little trouble saying "it is not difficult at all."

Buckingham seems content with her current situation and the Reverend says she really believes the Holy Spirit led her to this point.


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