Some may think that the Rev. Scott Russell is an Episcopal priest because his father is a retired minister.
But Father Russell never wanted to be a minister. And his father was a Methodist, not Episcopal, minister.
“When you look at it from that angle, it is a bit unusual,” he said.
Raised in the Methodist church in the Baltimore area, Father Russell wanted to be a teacher. Following in the footsteps of both of his parents, he attended Asbury University, which he described as a “conservative" school.
“I felt like I had spiritual itchy feet and started exploring other religions. I read a lot about Thomas Merton and felt a more liturgical church was what I was looking for,” he said.
One Sunday, he attended an Episcopal church.
“I left like I came home when I walked in the door,” he said.
After graduating from college, he began teaching high school in Kentucky, a role he enjoyed so much that he decided to pursue a master’s degree in religion to teach at the college level. He moved to Ambridge, where he studied at Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry.
“When I was studying there, people kept asking me, ‘Why aren’t you going to be ordained?’” he said.
When he learned about a job opening for a chaplain at Virginia Tech University, the pieces fell together.
“That got me interested in serving in ministry in education,” he said.
Father Russell was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 2002 and moved to Virginia Tech to serve as a chaplain for 10 years. He also was an associate rector at Christ Church in Blacksburg while serving at the university.
The experience at Virginia Tech was exactly what he had wanted, even though he was there during the horrific campus shootings in April 2007.
“It was such a difficult time. Here we were in the middle of nowhere and suddenly the whole world is knocking on our door while we were grieving,” he said.
Father Russell said he wasn’t looking for a new job, but friends of his in Pittsburgh encouraged him to at least look at the position at St. Brendan’s Episcopal Church in Franklin Park.
“They told me that it was a very progressive, wonderful church and I should consider it. When I went on their website, I got excited about what I saw,” he said.
In addition to the welcoming environment at St. Brendan’s, Father Russell liked the church's commitment to education and outreach.
It was Father Russell’s open communication style and energy that caught the attention of the search committee, said Jim Gray, chairman of the committee.
“He is incredibly energetic and personable, that is obvious right away. But we also liked how he just faced every question head on and open,” he said.
Mr. Gray said that Father Russell’s personality will help in the recruiting of church members for roles within the congregation.
“If we need someone to lead a committee ... he wouldn’t have any problem asking them to do so,” he said.
Father Russell, 45, is living in Ohio Township and looking forward to his new role.
“After 10 years in campus ministry, I felt it was time to explore a different kind of ministry. I’m excited to be here,” he said.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.