January 17, 2024

Rev. George Rambow Begins his Ministry At Princeton’s All Saints’ Episcopal Church

By Donald Gilpin

The Rev. George F. Rambow

The Rev. George F. Rambow is the new rector of the All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Princeton. A native of Houston, Texas, Rambow replaces the Rev. Hugh E. Brown, who retired last year after 15 years as All Saints’ rector.

Rambow, who arrived in early December from Mississippi with his wife Emily and two daughters, is not a stranger to Princeton or to All Saints’. He received his M.Div. (2014) and Ph.D. (2019) degrees at Princeton Theological Seminary, and he and his family were previously members of the All Saints’ parish from 2015-19. In Mississippi Rambow served as assistant priest at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Starkville and as lecturer at Mississippi State University.

He explained what brought him back to All Saints’. “It’s very simple,” he said in a phone conversation earlier this month. “It’s the wonderful people of All Saints’. It’s a wonderful church, a wonderful community, with warm and welcoming people, thoughtful people, curious people, joyful people. It’s the people who brought us back. It feels like I’ve come home.”

Rambow described how, more than a dozen years ago, from the moment they started attending All Saints’, they felt welcomed. “We felt like the people really love each other here and are sincerely interested in getting to know the folks who walk through the door,” he added.

Rambow received his bachelor’s degree in music, with a concentration in jazz guitar performance, from the University of North Texas. “When I started college, I was an atheist,” he wrote in an introductory letter to the All Saints’ parish. “By the time I graduated in 2001, God had changed my life and drawn me to vocational ministry.”

From 2002 through 2006 he was music director of a non-denominational church in Denton, Texas, where he met his wife-to-be. They married in 2006, and the following year moved to La Plata, Argentina, where they served as missionaries for four years and where their older daughter was born. 

“I knew by the time we got to Princeton in 2010 that I wanted to join a church that was part of a larger community of churches,” said Rambow. “By the time I reached the end of my M.Div. program in 2014, I felt that the Episcopal Church was where I belonged.”  During his years as an M.Div. student he maintained his interest in music, working a part-time job as music director for a Presbyterian Church in Lawrenceville.

Rambow, who began preaching and presiding over the services at All Saints’ last month on Christmas Eve, is the fourth rector of All Saints’, which was founded in 1960. He shared some of his thoughts on the future of the parish. “I hope to maintain, sustain, nurture, and grow that sense of joyful, curious, loving, hospitable community,” he said. “It’s something that needs to be preserved and nurtured and I want to see that offered to the broader community.”

He reflected on the role of the church in the current environment. “I think my mission as an Episcopalian, as a priest, is to encourage the community to be a beacon of hope, meaning, and reconciliation, especially in our polarized and uncertain time,” he said. “I want to foster a place where everybody feels welcome and where we can put aside things that tend to push us apart and unite in the fact that we are all created in the image of God.”

He continued, “Whatever your political thoughts may be, whatever differences you may have, those can be secondary behind the primary fact that we are, in Christian tradition, children of God. Amplifying that and finding hope in these uncertain times, that’s my mission both towards the parish here, the community of All Saints’, and also the broader community. Bringing reconciliation and unity is a big goal, something that no human can accomplish.”

Pointing out how his experience in Latin America and his comfort in multi-cultural settings might influence his work at All Saints’, Rambow noted the possibility of offering services in Spanish in the future. “We would definitely welcome more diversity here,” he said. “My time in Argentina allowed me to become fluent in Spanish and there is a growing Spanish-speaking population here. That’s something that’s on the horizon and might take off in a year or two.”

He also talked about how his affinity for music and the arts might provide enrichment for the All Saints’ parish. “The music ministry is a very important part of All Saints’ ministry,” he said, mentioning the prospect of a jazz Mardi Gras event on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday in February, and a jazz concert and picnic in the spring. “Whatever we can do to bring people together with music is something we want.”

Rambow described how as a college student he was very serious about jazz guitar, “and that’s actually part of my spiritual journey,” he said. He experienced a “life-changing conversion experience,” but continued to play the guitar and served as music director of a church in Texas before “my interests pulled me into theology and I haven’t had as much time to play jazz.”

He added, “Whether or not I play, I am definitely a big advocate of art and music, and I think that’s important for community building and it’s an act of worship, a spiritual thing.”

Among the cherished traditions at All Saints’, Rambow highlighted the 7 a.m. Tuesday men’s Bible study group, “a delightful group of guys with conversation that is always fun and inspiring, playful, but also serious”; and the adult forum on Sundays between church services, “a thought-provoking and challenging time when we ask hard theological questions and bring in speakers from the community — always fun and enlightening.”

He noted that a women’s Bible study group is getting started, and he has a few other ideas. “We want to see more community-oriented events like jazz on the lawn and concerts inside the sanctuary, maybe even art installations, offering more opportunities for artists to display their work.  And other sorts of community events, the kind of things that bring families out and give neighbors a chance to get together and get to know one another better.”

Rambow emphasized again how happy he and his family are to be back in Princeton. “And especially at All Saints’ with the wonderful, warm, welcoming group of people,” he said. “We aim to be that beacon of hope and meaning and reconciliation. We want to see people come together and find unity.”