The Rev. Paula Van Arsdale Woods, 47, has accepted a call to become rector of St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Reston, the first woman in either the Washington area or the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to become head of a parish.
St. Anne's vestry, the governing body of the 200-member parish, selected Woods after a year-long search that involved screening or interviewing more than 45 candidates, according to Stewart R. Macdonald, chairman of the vestry's search committee.
Ordained in 1978 after having been graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary, Woods served first as a curate at St. Aidan's Church in Alexandria and for the past year has been interim vicar of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Triangle, Va., adjacent to the Quantico Marine Base.
After lengthy and emotional controversy, the Episcopal Church voted in 1977 to ordain women to the priesthood. While church officials say approximately 300 women have been ordained nationwide, most are serving as assistants or in institutional ministries, with only about 50 in charge of congregations.
Woods will leave the Triangle congregation Dec. 6 and assume her new responsibilities Jan. 10. She will celebrate a special Christmas eucharist at St. Anne's on Dec. 13 at 6 p.m.
She and her husband, Army Col. James R. Woods, have three children and live in Springfield. They will move to Reston.