SMS Board Names Interim Executive Director

The Rev. John Runkle, Interim Executive Director

St. Mary’s Sewanee has announced that it has accepted the resignation of the Rev. Dr. Andy Anderson as executive director of St. Mary’s Sewanee: The Ayres Retreat Center for Spiritual Development, effective April 30, 2019. In his place, the Board has hired former executive director the Rev. John Runkle to serve in a half-time interim capacity until a search for a new permanent replacement is completed.

Runkle previously served St. Mary’s Sewanee from 2013 to 2017, when he departed to resume his architectural practice. Now he also serves as the Vicar of St. James Episcopal Church in Sewanee and will continue in that capacity. Runkle has extensive experience in church and nonprofit management, which includes service at the Washington National Cathedral and consulting with the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

Anderson joined St. Mary’s Sewanee as executive director in September, 2017. He had previously served as a parish priest and rector in the Episcopal Church for almost 24 years. During his tenure, Andy focused on helping St. Mary’s Sewanee raise much-needed capital funds to support its mission, raising its profile in the wider church and other constituency groups, and expanding its programming to attract a broader following. He and the staff also expanded program offerings, renewed attention to the buildings and grounds, and created new ways for the local community to regularly share the beauty, quiet, and rest of St. Mary’s Sewanee. 

“Thank you for entrusting me with the great privilege to serve at St. Mary’s Sewanee,” Anderson said about his departure. “I want to thank the Sewanee community for their encouragement. St. Mary’s Sewanee a bright future of service and commitment in offering people a place to know God’s love and presence in deep ways. I know it will continue to be a place for rest, renewal, and reconnection for countless people on the spiritual journey.”

St. Mary’s Sewanee’s board president Dale Grimes expressed the feelings of the board of trustees in thanking Anderson very much for his contributions over the last 18 months, and wishing him well as he moves into a new phase of ministry. He also stated, “We are indeed fortunate that our former executive director John Runkle resides on the Mountain and is willing to step in to provide continuity and leadership as we continue to build on the legacy and inspiration of our founder Bob Ayres.” He said a search for a permanent executive director will begin soon.

St. Mary’s Sewanee: The Ayres Center for Spiritual Development is dedicated to providing spiritual hospitality to persons of diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds, in a place of natural beauty, simplicity, silence, tranquility and warm spiritual rest through retreats, renewal and learning. For the last 30 years, St. Mary’s Sewanee has welcomed individuals and groups from across the United States and around the world to a place to rest, renew and reconnect.