Welcome to our New Rector
His first religious path followed his parents’ practice as a member of a mega-Methodist church where 3,000 people worshiped. His Episcopal path began when he was 14-years-old and his father, then working as a computer consultant to the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, spied a notice for summer camp, and signed up his son. “If my Dad hadn’t done that, my life would be on a completely different path,” says David. Camper years turned into volunteer junior counselor years, and then when he was 20, into a summer counselor job. The job came along with his confirmation as an Episcopalian. This splendid event took place as the first evening activity for the whole camp during the last week of a session. The whole staff stood in as sponsors, his parents were in attendance, and a big dance followed. “It was fantastic,” effuses David.
College in Chicago and Boulder
He attended DePaul University in Chicago, completing two years of an acting conservatory program in 1997. Then he took a year off, spending it with his family in Indiana, waiting tables to raise money, and “re-centering.” Deciding to pursue more of a liberal arts education, he transferred to the University of Colorado at Boulder where he graduated in 2001 with a BFA in Theater Performance.
His faith was tested in Boulder when he attended an Episcopal church rocked by division when a lesbian youth director came out of the closet and was fired by the rector. Several staff members quit and many parishioners departed, including David. “I felt like my church had betrayed me,” David says, recalling his disillusionment at what he considered outdated conservatism. “I stopped going to church for two years until I got out to California.”
Acting, Youth Groups, and Faith
He moved to Los Angeles from Boulder in 2001 to pursue an acting career, transferring his work as a server and certified trainer for restaurant chain The Cheesecake Factory from Boulder to LA. The move cemented his identity as a big city lover. His parents and twin brother currently live kitty corner from one another in Columbus, Indiana. “My Mom and Dad and brother prefer smaller town living,” says David, “whereas I became a big city kid.”
And he loved acting. “What I loved about theater — in school, high school, college, and in Community Theater — was that I could fulfill and grow in my need for purpose, creativity, and community,” he says. “You do theater because you’re trying to transform the world with a message.” He loved working collaboratively with people in an artistic way that produced a whole greater than its parts. It was exhilarating to find creativity and community in a group effort for the greater good of the world.
But in Los Angeles another aspect of acting revealed itself. “I realized that the business of acting is about very different things,” he says. “After a year of laying the foundation of an acting career, waiting tables to pay the bills, I began to get disillusioned with giving my life to the business of acting.”
And his faith began to take center stage in his life, offering a better way to make the world a better place, and offering a compelling message of transformation. He attended All Saints Episcopal Church, Beverly Hills and volunteered for their youth program. He met his wife Heather there. At the time she was teaching yoga but then got a job at All Saints as an executive assistant/volunteer coordinator. They were married in 2006.
Good actors learn how to become good listeners, a skill crucial to being a good pastor. David was hired to be Youth Director at All Saints, Pasadena and from 2004 to 2008 led and directed programs for both junior high and senior high kids, developing curricula, hiring staff, managing 65 volunteers, and running a budget. Read about David’s call to become a priest in an upcoming issue of the Cow Hollow Church News.
In 2008 David and Heather enrolled together in Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA. Three years later both became ordained Episcopal priests. David started as Associate Rector at St. Cross, Hermosa Beach in 2011. At first he was responsible for formation and education, and then for overseeing liturgy and pastoral care. He also led a very successful stewardship campaign.
Stewardship and Advocacy in Florida
St. John’s Cathedral in Jacksonville Florida called him in 2015 to serve as Canon for Congregational Development. He honed his stewardship skills, working on the annual fund campaign, developing major gifts, and initiating a legacy society. In March of this year, he completed a Certificate in Fundraising Management from Indiana University’s Lily Family School of Philanthropy. He was also involved in creating adult formation programs and he oversaw all clergy staff and operations while the dean was on sabbatical.
At St. John’s, advocacy for the LGBTQ community became a pastoral cause for David. He changed an implicit welcome into an explicit one by encouraging and supporting the cathedral’s first LGBTQ group – and this in a diocese that is one of the few that does not offer marriage equality. He also advocated publicly for passage of Jacksonville’s human rights ordinance which passed in February of this year. “Jacksonville is the last major city to pass a human rights ordinance. I was able to participate in that and be a voice,” David says with pride. Then he puts his advocacy in perspective. “I once had somebody accuse me of LGBTQ issues being my agenda in Jacksonville,” he says. “I said no, my agenda is the kingdom of God manifest here on earth, and the good news of Jesus Christ being proclaimed. It just so happens that this is one avenue here that needs some attention.”
The move to Jacksonville for David and Heather was partly a test to see if they would prefer a more suburban-style pace, slower than what they experienced in Los Angeles. “I loved the energy, the creativity, the critical mass of people in Los Angeles. I loved the geography,” says David. “Sure there was traffic and things were expensive, but life was always delightful.” Jacksonville turned out not to be a good fit. “We are very fond of people we got to know, but our heart is in California,” he says. Heather, eager to return to work where moms of young children commonly hold jobs, is looking for a spot in our diocese where she can put her ordination as a priest to meaningful use. “As we discovered in Florida,” David relates, “Heather considers herself a better mom when she’s actually engaged in her vocation.”
In his spare time, David loves to be involved with Heather and their kids, Gabriella, six, and Jonathan, who will turn three on August 24. He also likes to read and to move. “I exercise not only for sanity, but also because it’s something I enjoy” he says, adding that he’s tried, “a dozen different iterations,” including running, swimming, or “whatever’s available.” He and Heather have both participated in “tough mudder” races, which are ten to twelve-mile obstacle courses. Enthusiastically drawn to people, David also loves spending time with friends, explaining, “I really am a relational person.”
Relating to the People of St. Mary’s
David resonates with St. Mary’s, “It has a vibrancy of people and energy. It has a breadth from young children to seniors, people who’ve lived their life and have that witness and wisdom to share,” says David. “There are also opportunities for what I’ll call social engagement. There are opportunities for fellowship and a deeper knowledge of one another.”
Our Parish Profile struck a chord. “I remember seeing it online and saying, Heather; you’ve got to check this church out. We were hoping to come back to a vibrant, creative, urban environment. Look, we’re Californians and the fact that it was in California – and then to read the Parish Profile and to see the depth and commitment, the core values of our Episcopal worship — the dedication to making a difference outside of church walls. That claim of social engagement is a primary component of being transformed and in transforming others. So I almost couldn’t believe that it all came together. Honestly, I was like, I don’t now what’ll happen but I gotta put my name in the search.”
“I was particularly struck that this was a place that understood that they were part of something larger,” David says. “I meet Episcopal churches that want to be (for lack of a better phrase) spoon fed something, versus engaged and transformed through the living God.”
As he explains, “I grew up in Texas where it was okay to be an Episcopalian, love the liturgy, and, honestly, to have a couple beers on a Friday night, and love Jesus. And that’s not something I’ve discovered around the rest of the country. There is something that I cherish about the face of God as known in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So I am a bit of a Jesus guy. But that is a dynamic, intelligent and all-encompassing understanding — it’s an Episcopal understanding of Jesus, not a reduced understanding of Jesus.”
To be called to St Mary’s, he says, “Is a dream come true and a blessing,”
Being a Rector for the First Time
“I love it and I can’t wait for it. I’m looking for a collegial atmosphere, not a dictatorial atmosphere. The pace, the depth and the direction of any institution but particularly a church is guided by and set by the rector. So I am looking forward to being in that place where some of the creative control for the entire is part of what I get to do…. I feel ready certainly… I am excited about it because I feel that’s what God has been ultimately preparing me for.”
Music in Worship
“Growing up Methodist, I was a member of a mega-church where you have 3,000 people on a Sunday and a gigantic choir,” says David. But that kind of theater is not what attracts him. “Music is an aspect of creativity that allows us to enter into a transformative state of worship. Music transforms. I am excited to be a part of a place that has the capacity to do that at a caliber that is specific as an intention. I’m delighted to be coming to a congregation that recognizes the unique opportunity that music can offer in transforming people’s lives for the sake of Jesus Christ.”
Our Future Together
“We as a community need to take the time to allow the Holy Spirit to show us what we need to do next. I move very fast. I get very excited. From the energy and enthusiasm I feel from St, Mary’s, especially having been in turmoil for the last year and a half, there’s this sense of okay, great, we’ve got a new rector, let’s move forward. But the truth is that we must work to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, versus us getting ahead of the Holy Spirit – which is why I love Jesus using so many growing metaphors, because while there’s work for us to do in growing, God ultimately does the growing and it’s on God’s time,” says David, noting that he needs to slow down as well. “If we do that, I think there’s some real transformation ahead for us as individuals, us as a community, and for the community around St. Mary’s.”
Supporting David’s Arrival
“Begin praying about what God is going to reveal to us together,” asks David, “as individuals and also the community of St. Mary’s. And begin to think — what are the hopes for what we want to become? What are the things that might get in the way of that? Pray and talk to each other and talk about what you feel is being revealed to us through the Holy Spirit, but also what your hopes are in this new era that we will be creating together at St. Mary’s.” special edition of the Cow Hollow Church News coming soon.
Letter from David:
Dear Parishioners of St. Mary’s.
Greetings! Heather and I are overjoyed to join your church and community. We have deeply felt the Spirit’s presence leading us to partnership in ministry with you and the Diocese of California.
There is so much that excites me about St. Mary’s. First, I am incredibly impressed with your focus on nurturing people’s souls through your five core practices: weekly worship, daily prayer, continuous learning, joyful service, and generous living. It is simple, yet strategic and specific, offering a clear path and practice on how we may live into the fullness of God.
Second, your shared values, what matters most to you, are exactly what it means to be an Episcopal Church in the world today. To leave one out would compromise who we truly are. Our ancient and beautiful worship and music are a great gift to a frantic world. Fellowship, the opportunity to know and be known by each other and by God, reflects the core essence of God as Trinity. Caring for each other and growing deeper into the life of God through pastoral care and Christian formation, again, allow us to live into who God creates us to be. You also understand that it is not enough to stop there, but that the Holy Spirit longs to move us beyond our church walls to bring blessing and grace to people near and far in your abundant commitment to outreach and community involvement. Amen!
What excites me most is your desire to actually be a part of this expression of the Jesus Movement in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco. Through your commitment to lay leadership and volunteer involvement, you clearly express that you want to be a part of this transformation because you know it will transform you as well. Which is why you have called a rector who will not simply take care of you, but will also walk with you. You have expressed a desire for a “fellow traveler” in this wonderful journey of life who will challenge you to be all that you truly are, or as you aptly put it, to become your best selves. I can’t express to you what a privilege it will be to lead alongside and among you and I am looking forward to getting to know you all.
Heather and I, along with our daughter Gabriella and son Jonathan, look forward to being with you starting mid-August. Please pray for our transition and travel, and we will continue to pray for you as well. I cannot adequately express how excited I am to be your rector and for us to be co-workers together towards God’s abundant vision for Cow Hollow and beyond!
Grace and Peace,
Hear from David in his own words: