The Rev. Judith Louise Rhodes, the first woman to become the spiritual leader of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fairfield, will be installed as rector at a parish service at 11 a.m. Saturday.

She will be the 15th rector to lead the 158-year-old parish, and succeeds the Rev. Dr. Bennett A. Brockman, who retired in October 2008. The Rt. Rev. James E. Curry, the Episcopal bishop suffragan of Connecticut, will preside at the installation service. St. Paul's, located at 661 Old Post Road, has about 1,000 parishioners.

A parish committee conducted a national search for a new rector. Rhodes assumed her new position Oct. 18. Rich Hagedus, who headed the search committee, said, "Judy is an exceptional person. In her, both the search committee and the St. Paul's vestry saw powerful spirituality, enormous energy, a deep well of creativity, a strong pastoral sense and superb administrative skills."

Rhodes comes to St. Paul's from St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Ardmore, Pa., outside of Philadelphia. She served as rector there from 2002 until her new position at St. Paul's. At St. Mary's, she was also the 15th rector and the parish's first female rector. Previously, she was priest in charge and, subsequently, rector of Emmanuel Church in West Roxbury, Mass.

Rhodes received her master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1991, and is pursuing her doctor of ministry through the Theological School at Drew University. She did undergraduate work at Regis College in Weston, Mass., from which she also received a master's degree in religious studies and special needs education. She was also certified in chaplaincy at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Rhodes lives in the St. Paul's rectory with her partner, Martha Hughes, a nurse practitioner. Rhodes is the mother of three grown children, Christopher of Boston; Meredith of Malden, Mass., and Andrew of Philadelphia. She also has three grandchildren.

Of her call to St. Paul's, she said, "It is a joy and privilege to be called as the 15th rector of St. Paul's Church in Fairfield, a parish that shares my passion for excellence in liturgy, music and spiritual formation for all ages, as well as a significant commitment to God's mission, both locally and globally. In so many ways, this has been a homecoming for me and for my partner, Martha, being New Englanders by birth and loving, as we do, the distinctive beauty of the Connecticut coast. We look forward to participating fully in the life of this wonderful community for many years to come."

St. Paul's is the site of the annual pancake breakfast on Memorial Day and the St. Nicholas Fair on the first Saturday of December. Its choir, under the leadership of Director of Music John Abdenour, has sung at Carnegie Hall, major New York City churches, and in many of the ancient cathedrals of England and Scotland. In the summer, the choir will travel to England to sing at cathedrals in Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester.

The parish also has an active youth program, led by Kristin Miles, and a Christian education program. St. Paul's program of outreach includes the annual Trinity in Motion walk, in which three Episcopal churches in Fairfield collaborate to raise funds for Haiti, where one of the largest Episcopal populations in the Western Hemisphere is located.