Meeting Pastor Tony and Carol
By Tina Gilson, Crackerjack Reporter
Tuesday, January 15th found me in the church office interviewing Pastor Tony and Carol. We’ve already had numerous meetings and interactions and I was excited to dig into this assignment and really find out what makes our new pastor tick and how the move to Mesa has been so far for both of them.
Pastor Tony is originally from Fargo, North Dakota. Pastor Tony and Carol have 2 children: Kirstin and Kari. They have a grandson, Grayson, who is 8 years old.
Pastor Tony is an ENFP. If you are familiar with the Meyers Briggs Personality test, you know that means he’s an extrovert, has got a lot of energy and is easy to talk to and get along with. He is a self-proclaimed outdoor lover and enjoys camping and hiking. He has hiked the Grand Canyon Rim – to – rim a couple of times. He is looking forward to exploring the Arizona wilderness in his jeep.
Carol’s interests lie in stitching and she wants to get back into quilting. She hopes to get a group going again at SOH. She is also trained in the art of Hardanger (Norwegian embroidery) and has made stoles for her husband, as well as pillows and other items for her family.
She enjoys online reading. Especially finding organizational help articles. She calls herself a “hoarder” on Pinterest, with many, many pins on a variety of boards. Carol has a desire to study more about “Zen living”, living peacefully and seeing Buddhism as a peaceful way of life.
As we were talking, I could sense an easy, peaceful relationship between the two of them. Carol says, “We are blessed with unconditional love. We look at the stumbles in our lives as learning experiences. And maybe it helps you relate and help someone down the road.”
Pastor Tony considers himself a “life-long learner”. His first passion in ministry was youth and he attended every conference he could find. Youth ministry is changing and exciting. Two theologians, Marcus Borg and Jon Dominic Crossan, have really challenged his thinking - how God works through all of us regardless of who we are and what we believe. And he’s got the books to show his love of learning! Just step into his office and you’ll see the book shelves full! “And this is only a small part of my collection!”, says Pastor Tony.
Pastor Tony’s path to ministry was a long process. “I received little nudges from God through the course of my young life. “The struggles of my early life have really meshed well with the kind of pastor I am today”. He loves working with all age groups and has already formed a bond with the Seniors Rock gang. Carol has enjoyed meeting with “the Rockers” too.
Before he entered the ministry, he and Carol were living in Colorado Springs and owned a carpet cleaning business. And then God stepped in. Tony went to the National Youth Gathering in Atlanta with the youth group from his church in 1994. Carol calls it “the changing point in their lives”.
“He called me and said, “I think the speakers are talking directly to me. I know there are 30k people here but I think they are talking to me. What do you think if I become a youth pastor?”
“I responded with, what does that mean? Is there school for that? Yes. Maybe. We’ll see.”
“We had plans! We were going to work this business for a while, maybe Tony would go back to McDonalds and they would own a few McDonalds. Maybe Tony would teach some of the McDonalds classes.”
“We sold parts of the business and moved to the seminary town of Dubuque, Iowa from Colorado Springs.”
Pastor Tony had to finish his undergrad, so Tony and Carol both went back to school to get their degrees. Tony’s in Business Management and Carol’s in Computer Information Systems Management. They took night classes every Monday night while working about 80 hours per week. Kari was 2 months old at the time. Carol says, “It was the busiest, most hectic and rewarding time finishing our degrees. A few months later, Tony started seminary.”
Carol worked on campus and it was a nice little quiet, family-oriented area. The girls made friends, and you didn’t have to worry about what they were doing. They were in Dubuque for 4 years, during which time Tony also did his internship.
Pastor Tony’s first call was in Southern Illinois. This was a difficult time as they found themselves out of comfort zone culturally and Carol had a hard time finding a job. They had a desire to return out west. They were in Illinois for 3 years before they received a call to Redlands, California. From there, God brought them to Orange County California, where Pastor Tony was trained to be a redeveloper of churches. He learned how to deal with the struggle of the younger generations; with cost of living increasing, a multitude of opportunities for children to participate in extracurricular activities, saving for retirement, the Gen Y’ers and Millennials don’t necessarily have the ability to give of their time and resources like their elders did.
Pastor Tony is also an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) , certified through the International Coaching Federation. His services are free for church members and reasonable cost for those outside of the church. He is trained to help give people direction and help organize their lives.
Pastor Tony states that he is a very open, ELCA pastor! Which makes life very interesting in that he accepts all people regardless of their background, life choices, etc. He found this especially intriguing as he and Carol traveled to the Holy Land last year. He fell in love with the Palestinians as he learned their stories. Carol also spoke of the trip. “The experience of doing the Holy Land as a couple and as clergy offered opportunities for dinners for bishops and other high church experiences that would have never happened if Tony were not a Pastor.”
Pastor Tony looks forward to the opportunity to work with our LDS neighbors. A newer relationship over the past several months, this offers the opportunity to reach out in our community together.
I asked Pastor Tony what his vision of the future church is. He believes that younger families are looking for the connection of God, which maybe has been lost in the past couple of generations. We see younger people coming back to church. But the relationship is “different” not as traditional. They want to hear they are going to be ok and that God is beside them and that much will not be expected of them. They want to help, but time commitments are already large.
He sees the church becoming more of a church of outreach, and not just the four walls. “There is nothing you can do that can separate you from God’s love” is the message that we need to get out.
On the move to Spirit of Hope and Mesa, Arizona, Pastor Tony says, “I know there will be challenges and look forward to them.” He loves to do everything that a called and ordained pastor needs to do, loves to challenge people in their faith and give people a deeper understanding that Jesus in in our heart…that Jesus is working through you and other people regardless of what they believe. God is working through each individual to make this world better.
Carol’s comment is that it feels right. This is where God wants them to be. They are at peace at church and in their house.