Ministry & Worship Team
Mary Beth Abplanalp
Director of Youth Ministry
Mary Beth joined the staff at St. James’s in 2014. Mary Beth has always had a special place in her heart for young people and helping them find their identity in the Body of Christ. She started out teaching first and third grades before realizing her true calling to youth ministry. In 2011 she became the Children & Youth Minister at Christ Church Episcopal in Alexandria. Mary Beth graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a B.S. in psychology and an M.S. in elementary special education. She served for over a decade at Shrine Mont Camps of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, working as a counselor and camping director at St. George’s Camp and as the director the St. Elizabeth’s Camp for youth and young adults with disabilities. She has served on the Shrine Mont Board of Directors and is a consultant for Ministry Architects. In her free time, Mary Beth loves to make homemade pizza, go on road trips, and play in the yard. Her husband Chris is a registered nurse in the surgical ICU at a local hospital and an integral partner in youth ministry. They have two sons, Andrew and Benjamin, and a dog, Bella.
Mary Beth is responsible for our Junior Youth Group, Senior Youth Group, Youth Missions, and Confirmation.
Email Mary Beth | ext. 334
Interim Director of Children’s Ministries
We are thrilled to announce that Ashlee Ligon will serve as our interim director of children’s ministry effective immediately. She may be new to this role, but she is hardly new to St. James’s. Ashlee is a long-time parishioner and active lay leader. She and her husband, Grey, have two boys, William and Henry. Ashlee will be coordinating Sunday School, baptisms, and children’s ministry offerings on a part-time basis while we conduct a search for our next full-time director.
Email Ashlee | ext. 314
Dr. Mark Whitmire
Director of Music
Dr. Whitmire has been Director of Music at St. James’s Church since 1995. In addition to training the choristers of the Cherub Choir and Children’s Choir, he directs the Parish Choir which is made up of 25 parishioners and 10 professional singers. The Choir has sung in England, France and Italy, including Gloucester Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, Worcester Cathedral, St. Peter’s Basilica (Rome), St. Mark’s Basilica (Venice), and Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris). Dr. Whitmire attended Abilene Christian University (BMed), the University of Texas (MM), and the University of Maryland (DMA), where he was a student of James McDonald and George Shirley. He has received numerous grants and awards, including a scholarship for post-graduate studies at the Britten-Pears School in England (where he studied with Sir Peter Pears), and a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for research and writing on the music of Benjamin Britten. Dr. Whitmire served as Adjunct Professor of Music and Liturgy at Virginia Theological Seminary for 28 years, until his retirement in 2017.
Email Mark | ext. 323
Virginia Ewing Whitmire
Organist and Choirmaster
Virginia recently celebrated her 25th year as Organist and Choirmaster at St. James’s Church. In addition to playing for weekly services, she directs the West Gallery Choir that sings at the 9 am service and the Youth Choir, made up of young people grades 6 –12. She oversees the church’s 61-stop C. B. Fisk pipe organ and the Organ Recital Series. She has previously served churches in Texas, Maryland, and most recently was organist at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill, Alexandria, VA–the parish church of Virginia Theological Seminary. She studied organ with Dr. Bess Hieronymus at the University of Texas at San Antonio and Donald Sutherland, Professor of Organ at Peabody Conservatory, and piano with Dr. Ronald Rathbun at Abilene Christian University and Dr. Michael Guiltinan at UTSA.
Email Virginia | ext. 324
Executive Director – St. James’s Children’s Center
Diahann began as a teacher here at St. James’s and has never looked back. She believes in the importance of providing a high-quality Early Childhood Education program for children, regardless of their socioeconomic standing, race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or family dynamic. Before coming to the children’s center she was a teacher in her local school district for 5 years, and holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and an Early Childhood Teaching Certificate.
Diahann is committed to preparing young hearts and minds for life. She is honored to support the teachers and staff who actively provide our young learners with a high quality, supportive and nurturing environment filled with active learning opportunities.
Operations & Leadership Team
Director of Operations
Michael joined the church staff in 2019 after several years in the pews and in volunteer roles at St. James’s, including vestry and ministry service.
Professional experience includes many years of executive leadership in mid-size and large businesses as CEO, COO, and CFO and professional practices in Executive Leadership Coaching and Mergers & Acquisitions. Michael holds a Masters of Business Administration degree from Emory University and a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwestern University with a double major in Economics and Economic Geography.
Life experience includes so much more – marriage to Gloria, a wonderful soulmate who is a stellar creator of peace and comfort; 4 great “children” and 6 great “grandkids;’ a place to escape to during COVID (and any other time we can manage it); the joy of being in God’s creation in many different environments; gardening; kayaking; learning; growing. Gratitude!
Michael has overall responsibility, on behalf of the Vestry and Rector, for the “business” operations of the church, comprising most functions not associated with Worship, Pastoral Care, Music or Programs, except for facilities and technology infrastructure support for those ministries. During 2020, a primary focus has been the Health Safety of our people during COVID-19.
Email Michael | ext. 317
Director of Communications
Jay is a former journalist, one-time cartoonist, occasional cyclist, and a long-time copywriter and creative director at ad agencies in New York City. He moved to Richmond in 2012, and he and his family quickly joined St. James’s. Since then, he’s been a LEM, a member of the communications advisory team, a student in EfM, a contributor to our stewardship marketing efforts and the lay leader of SelfStarters. He joined the St. James’s staff as director of communications in January 2021. He is responsible for overseeing—with the aid and wisdom of a terrific staff—everything from the eChimes and the website to our social media presence and banners outside the church.
Email Jay | ext. 344
Weezie joined St. James’s staff in April 2019, after being a front desk volunteer for six months prior. She lived out of state for several years and welcomed the opportunity to come home to be a part of a vibrant church. As Communications Coordinator, Weezie works on St. James’s eChimes and parish-wide digital communication, social media platforms and various communication campaigns. She is always taking photos of church gatherings and around the church. You could say Weezie is the church paparazzo.
Professionally, Weezie might be called a-jack-of-all-trades, roll-up-her-sleeves, and dive-right-in gal. She holds a B.A. in art history/studio art, completed a two-year program in commercial photography after college; worked for a non-profit art organization; worked as a freelance project coordinator and stylist for photo shoots and catalogs; was a catalog coordinator for a major furniture company; has been a school portrait photographer and even an on-site inventory specialist for a national company. The most unusual jobs Weezie’s had are as a Senate proofreader during the Virginia General Assembly and project manager/inventory control for Exumas – a privately owned Bahamas resort.
Email Weezie | ext. 312
Executive Assistant to the Clergy
Mary Brown joined the St. James’s staff in the fall of 2020 as the Executive Assistant to the Clergy. In her position, Mary directly supports The Reverend Dr. John McCard, works closely with our lay ministry, and assists in the planning and coordination of worship services and other priestly duties.
Mary recently moved to the Richmond area from St. Louis, Missouri, and has an extensive background in the not-for-profit sector, including in the areas of fundraising, engagement, and administrative coordination, among others. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Colorado College, and a J.D. from the Indiana University Mauer School of Law. The real loves of Mary’s life, however, are her wonderful husband and young son, as well as her two wild, but adorable young pups.
Email Mary | ext. 313
Donna C. Horizon joined St. James’s staff in the fall of 2020. Donna’s background includes teaching young children, program coordination, and office management. She holds two degrees – an AAS in Early Childhood Education and a BS in Human Services / Intergenerational Programming. As an entrepreneur, Donna has owned and operated a country store in upstate NY and had her own business as a wedding and portrait photographer. The real accomplishment of her life is having raised two daughters, ages 28 and 22, to become smart, compassionate and strong young women. As a former Navy spouse, Donna has been blessed to have lived and travelled all around the world. She has cultivated a sincere love for people and enjoys venturing out to learn more about others as well as the many new places surrounding her new home site – RVA.
Email Donna | ext. 325
Lois manages all day-to-day operations of the Development office at St. James’s. She has worked in a variety of non-profit settings, with focused expertise in database creation and maintenance, grants management and membership and major giving programs. She is very gratified to support the worship, outreach and fellowship that St. James’s doers bring to our world.
A native of Minneapolis and graduate of the University of Minnesota, she and her husband Syd recently relocated to Richmond. They have two grown daughters and love all things involving family time and being outdoors, particularly gardening, hiking and running in and around Richmond and Virginia.
Email Lois | ext. 365