Mary Dixon Hutcheson has been on the Christ Church staff since March 1992 and in June she will retire. She has served in Outreach & Mission the entire time and for the last 12 years has also worked in Pastoral Care.

Spend five minutes with Mary Dixon (not Mary, not Mary Hutcheson, it’s Mary Dixon) and you’ll know she loves her family, her dog, her church, and her dear friends. You’ll often notice her particular love of wearing orange and maroon as she roots for Virginia Tech. You might get to hear her break out in a show tune. You will absolutely know that she really loves sports. In fact, if she could play a position on a baseball team, she says, “it would be shortstop,” Shortstops have to be ready to field grounders, catch pop flies, turn double plays, receive relay throws, and make accurate throws to any base. In effect, with her ability to field people’s questions, issues, and concerns and then direct them to the appropriate place for help in outreach, mission, and pastoral care, Mary Dixon has been playing shortstop on the Christ Church team for 20 years.

Mary Dixon has seen a lot of change in her 20 years. At first, she worked part-time in Outreach & Mission and shared an office in the lower level of the Parish House – the old choir room – with former Music Director Ted Gustin. “I didn’t have a computer on my desk, so I didn’t have email,” she says. “If I had to say something to someone, I’d get up and go talk to them. It was like working in a busy little village with one stop light” – just like the town in Tidewater Virginia where she grew up (Perhaps you noticed a tiny hint of a Tidewater accent?)

While Mary Dixon functioned initially as part-time volunteer coordinator for Outreach & Mission – recruiting volunteers and helping with their training – she spent the majority of her time with the Lazarus Ministry. In those days, the Lazarus Ministry helped four or five people a week. There was a limited food closet in the basement of the Parish House in what is now space for Covenant Class, Contemplative Prayer, Al-Anon, and other meetings. “A volunteer would fill a bag of food for each Lazarus guest,” she explains, “but the guests didn’t get to choose their own food or fill their own bags.”

Today the Lazarus Ministry has a Client Choice Food Pantry where clients are able to select the foods they and their families need. Twenty-five Lazarus counselors work with 80 to 100 people each week and help them meet their basic needs. Dealing with this huge growth in numbers has been the biggest change Mary Dixon has seen in this ministry over the years. She says the hallmarks of the ministry always were and remain “genuine hospitality, caring, and respect for our guests.”

Twelve years ago when Mary Dixon moved to full time and added assistant to Pastoral Care to her job description, she jumped into computers and email. Today she uses them faithfully to keep track of all who seek care and counseling and to ensure each person is provided the pastoral care he or she needs. Mary Dixon does not consider herself an active pastoral counselor, but her concern for others and genuine desire to make sure each person receives care make her an integral part of the pastoral team.

She has seen the Christ Church village of 20 years ago become a city. But she says, “The essence of that small community, that family feeling of what Christ Church is about as a community that cares for one another, has not changed; it has not gotten lost in the growth.”

Mary Dixon adds that her 20 years here have been privilege-filled with blessings galore. “One of the greatest gifts was the opportunity to meet our Lazarus guests. I will also take fond memories of all the interesting people who came into Christ Church for one reason or another, including Archbishop Tutu and Jane Goodall.”

A parishioner since 1980, Mary Dixon is not retiring from her church. We’ll still see her and husband Jack (a former vestry member, Foundation trustee and longtime Sunday school teacher) in the balcony at Sunday services. But don’t look for them in July or August. They’ll be traveling to Saratoga, and then she’ll clean her basement and just kick back a little. She’ll hit the ground running in the fall looking for a part-time position.

If you need a great shortstop, give her a call.

by Linda Dienno