WARNER ROBINS -- The Rev. Scott Petersen said laughter drew him to All Saints' Episcopal Church.
The laughter of the leadership is what attracted me, said Petersen, who has been serving the 60-plus-year-old Warner Robins congregation since February.
With the vestry, the elder board, with all the people I interviewed with there was a lot of laughter, he said. I took that as a good sign that All Saints had a group of people that would be fun to work and do ministry with.
Petersen said as a new rector its a priority to get to know the people of All Saints and let them get to know him. But he said this discovery period extends beyond getting to know one another. He said its a time when the church is rediscovering its purpose as well as a time to help others outside the church discover All Saints.
Im looking at how I can help members minister in the community, and were all looking at how we can help others discover what weve found here at All Saints, Petersen said. There are many wonderful ministries here that people have developed and worked with for years, and Im not here to take them over. Im here to support people in what theyve been faithfully doing.
But Petersen said he did come with a challenge for church leaders. He told them if they truly wanted to reach out and to grow as they said they did, then theyd have to commit to taking an evangelism course with him.
Heres a group of Episcopalians learning about evangelism -- willingly, Petersen said. The course is eight weeks and is about sharing in an integral way. Its not focused on knocking on doors but on loving people and listening to them. It pushed our comfort zones but empowers us to better share our faith. The fact they took that step is evidence of a desire to move forward and evidence that they get it -- get that it will take all of us working together to see what we desire to see take place.
Petersen said more in the church will be taking the class.
What if 50 percent of our church takes the course and puts it into practice? It will have a great effect on the church and for the gospel. I think its an exciting time to be part of All Saints. Not because Im here, its actually the excitement already among the people that drew me.
Originally from Akton, Mass., Petersen said in his interview he was asked if he would be willing to pull for the Georgia Bulldogs.
I said I couldnt give up the Celtics or Red Sox, but that yes, I could grow to love Georgia football, he said. Id love to get involved in some pick-up soccer here, too. Im a runner and plan to do the Boston Marathon next year. I did it 20 years ago as a college senior. There are some fearful things happening in our world today, but that shouldnt limit us. It will be an exciting run.
Petersen has an undergraduate degree in religious studies and psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Masters of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria. He said his wife, Rosmira, who is from Venezuela, just completed a degree in horticulture and landscape design and is seeking work in that field. They have two children.
To be honest, a lot of my education and formation came through 12-step (programs), he said. I couldnt do what I do now without that. Ive been sober for 17 years, but in my early college years there was a problem.
Petersen said he thinks of himself as a spiritual misfit who has had diverse influences in his Christian life. He said he attended an array of churches and denominations earlier in life and that before being called to full-time ministry spent a year at Covenant House in Florida working with street kids, taught Bible in a Roman Catholic school and had a business career. He said when initially called to ministry, he sought confirmation from others that it was just a crazy idea but instead found support and people saying that it was probably what he was intended to do.
He has served churches in North Carolina and Florida.
Among the range of many ministries at All Saints, Petersen said the church has had an ongoing food program for years that is one of the U.S. Postal Services food drive recipients. He said it is open 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The mission of All Saints is to love and serve the Lord by ministering to people, teaching the holy Scriptures, preaching the Gospel and celebrating the sacraments, Petersen said. If I could say anything to our community, it would just be to come and see. Come meet us and experience worship. Come and come back again a few times to get to know us and see what God is doing at All Saints.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.