Charles W. Gilchrist, the former Montgomery County executive who gave up politics four years ago to enter the Episcopal priesthood in Washington, is making another career move, this time to go to work as the executive director of an inner-city shelter and rehabilitation program in Chicago.

Gilchrist, who served two terms as county executive from 1978 to 1986, will go to work April 1 for the Cathedral Shelter of Chicago, an Episcopal social service agency that provides food and clothing to the poor and a residential treatment program and halfway house for recovering addicts.

"It's the kind of ministry he wants to do," said the Rev. Vienna Cobb Anderson, rector of St. Margaret's Church on Connecticut Avenue NW, where Gilchrist has worked since June 1989 as deacon and assistant pastor. He has spent much of his time there working with homeless people in the Hispanic community and helping immigrants apply for work permits or citizenship.

Gilchrist could not be reached for comment.

Since his ordination Feb. 3, Gilchrist, 53, has helped with a church breakfast program, worked to raise $1 million for a Bethesda mental health center and preached occasionally.

"We're looking for a replacement, but you can't replace him," Anderson said. "He feels the call to work with the disenfranchised and in a direct services ministry." His new job also will involve handling finances and fund-raising, she said. "So it's putting all these skills to work."

The Cathedral Shelter was started in 1915 to house the unemployed. In the 1950s, it shifted to halfway house and residential treatment programs. Gilchrist will preside over a staff of 15 and an annual budget of $650,000.

"We're very excited that Charlie Gilchrist is coming here," said Mark Ballard, the shelter's director of finance and administration. "The president of the board was joking that after the interview, he took him down to the Chicago River and found he could indeed walk on water, so he is indeed the right man."