We are on a journey to gather a new Episcopal Church community and build a church in Gilbert, Arizona. In my first post, I invited you to experience this journey with us. I thought as a first step I’d begin to share some of my personal and spiritual journey with you that has led me to this place.
I’m a middle-aged father of two grown children who have graced our lives and who’ve blessed us with two young grandchildren. I’ve been the husband of Yolanda, my faithful companion on this journey, for 30 years. I have roots in the Episcopal Church which go back to when I was baptized at two months old at the Episcopal Church in my hometown of Melbourne, Florida. At the age of 11, I had a powerful spiritual experience where I was certain I had encountered the living God. It changed my life. I spent my youth immersed in the life of the church.
When I graduated high school, I left home to attend a big state university. On my own for the first time, I discovered a large world out there filled with new and exciting things, and decided being a part of a church community wasn’t so important anymore. Pursuing a degree, developing a career, raising a family, and starting a business were my interests that informed my priorities in the years following. Except for two short stints when I returned to church to have my two children baptized (to keep my mother happy), I didn’t darken the door or warm the pews of a church for 16 years.
I had disconnected from God, but God never disconnected from me.
During this period, from time to time I would hear God’s still, small voice and feel His gentle stirrings in my soul inviting me back into relationship with Him. For a long time my response was, “Not now, maybe later.” But God was persistent, and at the age of 34 God succeeded in breaking through and renewing my heart. I returned to the church of my youth, with my family in tow, and never looked back.
When I was 42, God came calling again in a powerful way, pushing me forward towards a new role in the church as an ordained minister. I entered a period of testing this call and then moved my family to Texas so that I could attend seminary for my theological education. Following graduation, I accepted a position as an assistant at a church in Cave Creek, Arizona, then later as the Rector (think Senior Pastor) of another church in Mesa. Then last year, my leader and pastor, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, invited me to head-up the efforts to start a new church in the Town of Gilbert. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
And that’s brings us up to the present. I have officially been on this journey for a little more than a year. It has been tremendously challenging. There are times the experience is deeply satisfying, with moments filled with great joy and clarity of purpose. And there have been stretches when I’ve been disheartened, uncertain of the course ahead. But at the end of the day, I take solace in knowing that this church plant is in God’s hands, not mine.