St. Andrew’s Parish

The Venerable Canon Frederick W. Rivers, Rector
8433 N 12th Street Phoenix, AZ 85020

The Ven. Canon Frederick W. Rivers, Rector

The Ven. Canon Frederick W. Rivers was born September 27, 1938 in Phoenix, Arizona. He went to elementary and high school in Phoenix. He attended church at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, virtually from birth, where his maternal grandfather was the priest and his grandmother taught the Sunday school. His grandfather was what today would be known as a “low” churchman, referred to as Mister. When his grandfather retired, young Fred, aged 11 went to the nearest church to his home which happened to be the cathedral of the diocese, (then a missionary district), where he was introduced to a much larger congregation with no appreciable change in churchmanship. It was here he was confirmed. At the beginning of his high school years, his mother found a new congregation at what was then the edge of Phoenix and the family became parishioners there. For the next 25 years he served as an acolyte, lay reader, head of acolyte training, sang in the choir and was active in the youth group.

When 18, the rector asked him to take services at a new mission being started in South Phoenix which he did until the parish hired a curate to take on that responsibility. During his years at Arizona State University, he lived in the former rectory and served on the staff as sexton of the parish. His long association with the clergy of this parish solidified his desire to answer the Lord’s calling which began at age 16. However, that was to be delayed.

He visited two Episcopal seminaries, one in Massachusetts and the other in California. It was the 60’s and neither place seemed to offer a place of formation for a serious priest. They were more like graduate schools for career-minded men in the “church business”.

As the Episcopal Church seemed to be moving away from what traditionally had “always been believed by everyone everywhere”, he felt that perhaps he had been mistaken that the church was his calling and in 1975 gave it up altogether. That decision, to his thinking, was only confirmed by the decisions of the 1976 General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

While putting himself through college, he worked as a waiter at the Camelback Inn for three years, was buyer and manager of two record stores. He then went on to work as territory manager for Capital Records, did a 4 year stint in the same capacity for MCA Records and a number of years as buyer and promotion manager for a number of independent record labels. Outside of work, he spent 12 very active years in the Phoenix Junior Chamber of Commerce holding various offices and in 1979 was Chairman of the Phoenix Rodeo of Rodeos, with a 14 member board and over a hundred volunteers.

In 1980,what Bishop Mark Holliday, of blessed memory, referred to as the “hound of heaven” came after Fred once again. As a result he went to see his old friend Father Paul Urbano, whose parish was the last to still use the Book of Common Prayer. Fr. Paul surveyed the list of books Fred had read over the years and set him on a course of “reading for orders”, which Father said would either “lead you to the priesthood or make you a well educated layman, which the church also needs”. Unfortunately, Fr. Urbano developed cancer and died within the year.

Fred unsuccessfully tried to acclimate himself to the new prayer book and the new rector of that parish, who was the corporate executive type, but to no avail. About that time, he noticed an advertisement in the newspaper for an “Anglican” church which was meeting in a classroom at a Seventh Day Adventist Church. He decided to check it out since the ad said they worshipped using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. For the next six months or so he went back and forth between this group and the parish he had previously attended, questioning whether he was being a “Pharisee” for seeking to worship in the historical Anglican way and not converting to the new theology which was part and parcel of the new prayer book. While attending service at the parish one Sunday, the bishop preached a sermon in which he proclaimed that no one would know anything about the 1928 Book of Common Prayer in 20 years, that it didn’t make any difference to God how you worshipped. On his way out, Fred shook the bishop’s hand and thanked him for making that clear. The bishop said “I’m glad that I could help, Fred”. From then on the Anglican congregation was his home.

He then told his priest, Fr. Sid Body, that he had been a postulant in the Episcopal Church and what sort of preparation was required to be ordained in this new jurisdiction. A study course was laid out and in March of 1983 he was ordained Deacon by Bishop Robert Harvey. He was ordained priest on March 24, 1984 by the Rt. Rev. H. Edwin Caudill, his former Episcopal bishop. The Rt. Rev. Joseph Harte, read the Gospel at his ordination.

Following the death of Fred’s wife in 1993 he subsequently married Sara Kay Atamian, a devout Anglican and classical pianist who is a blessed asset to his ministry. Their wedding was presided over by their then bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robin B. Connors.  Fred is blessed with a son, Fred III, and daughters Ann and Sarah.

Fr. River’s has been the rector of the Church of the Epiphany in Phoenix since 1984. He was made a Canon by the Rt. Rev. Mark G. Holliday and became the Archdeacon of the Diocese of the West under the Rt. Rev. James Stewart. He continues in that capacity at the invitation of the current bishop, The Rt. Rev. Daren K. Williams.

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