by Rick Stawarz
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of preaching at Church of the Cross, and you may have heard me say that several of our friends thought we were crazy for leaving the toasty south and moving to Minnesota. Why would anyone consciously choose to live in a place where it snows seven months of the year? The answer is a complex one that involves several key events which span over the past several years. Perhaps it would be fun to share the four hour version sometime, but for now, I’d like to take a moment to briefly introduce myself and share why we believe God has led us to serve in Minnesota.
I’m Rick Stawarz, my wife is Molly Jo, and our three kids are Maren (6), Lena (4), and Karis (crazy). When you meet my family, you’ll soon realize that I married up and my kids take after their mother.
Molly and I are midwesterners. She grew up in North Dakota, and I in Kansas. We met in college where we were good friends, but never dated. Well, I shouldn’t say never — it did eventually happen. She left the country for six months, and my dumb face finally realized I need her by my side. She returned, we dated, and were married within a year.
Around this time was also when I felt the Lord’s call to pastoral ministry, but it seemed good to not jump immediately into seminary after college. We lived in Chicago for a short season, and then moved to San Francisco to work with a small missions organization called InnerChange. They describe themselves as a Christian order among the poor, and their two teams in Frisco minister to the homeless of Golden Gate Park and Latino youth in the Mission District. We dabbled a bit in both.
Then, God made it clear it was time to begin seminary. We moved across the country yet again, and I enrolled at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, AL, primarily because one of my favorite professors from college, Dr. Lyle Dorsett, had moved down south to teach there. I’m very thankful for Beeson. It’s small. It only has about 180 students, but there are around 20 professors. All of whom have rich pastoral experience, and five are Anglican.
It was during this time I started an Apple device consulting company called Appinstructor. (I had previously been working Apple Retail.) Appinstructor strives to teach folks how to get the most of their technology. Through God’s grace, it quickly grew to serve over 250 homes across the state, and I had to bring on some additional employees to help with the load. God taught me a ton through this business, and maybe we can talk more about that sometime, too. But for now, I’ll just say that God showed me how providing an honest service to people can be a tremendous blessing to the Kingdom. It gives an opportunity to display a type of Christian character that doesn’t always come out through normal friendships. Work done well is extremely honoring to God.
We were in Birmingham for a total of six years. Things weren’t always easy. I was juggling school, a business, and family. There were emotional challenges, too. During our time in Birmingham, we had a miscarriage, and my mother almost died from a horrible brain injury while biking. These two things especially stretched us. Needless to say, I wouldn’t have made it through without the unwavering support of my wife and our solid church community. I thank God for that.
Following seminary, I had the opportunity to serve the people who had so often blessed us over the years by becoming the assistant pastor at Christ the King Anglican. It was a time when God confirmed my calling to pastoral ministry in powerful ways. When preaching my last sermon there, I remember looking into the congregation and seeing all my friends. These are people with whom we had cried, celebrated, and prayed. We broke bread together.
Over time, we felt the Lord tugging us closer to the midwest. We want our kids closer to their grandparents, the culture of the Minneapolis appeals to us, and we are extremely excited about the vision of the Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest. At first, we felt a bit guilty about the possibility of living here because it sounded so fun and like such a good fit for who we are. The more we prayed through the decision to move here, the more we believed God was welcoming us to join his work in Minneapolis. The guilt was replaced with joy. The hospitality of Church of the Cross and Church of the Redeemer has only confirmed this move.
I am currently a deacon, and my role is to serve as a Church Planting Resident. Over the next couple years, we will be discerning in community our desire to plant a church in the diocese. I look forward to learning more about God’s work in the Twin Cities, in the Anglican churches here, and in the lives of each of you. Please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to our family. We can’t wait to know you more, and serve God’s Kingdom alongside you.