To all God’s beloved in the Diocese of Missouri, grace and peace to you from your brother in the neighboring Diocese of Chicago. My name is George Smith. As far as I know, I have no direct relation to a bishop you know as Wayne. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago and have been an Episcopalian my whole life. Although I went to church with my family every Sunday, I wasn’t baptized until I was nine years old. My parents wanted me to be aware of the significance of baptism and remember it. I still do. My mother died when I was a freshman in high school. With this lifechanging event, questions about God and the meaning of life were intensely a part of my adolescence and journey to adulthood. Being part of a church community sustained me and centered me on the virtues of love, honesty, forgiveness, authenticity and integrity.
As a teenager and acolyte, the idea of becoming a priest crossed my mind. If the Holy Spirit was whispering in my ear, I wasn’t ready to listen. In college, I majored in Economics and spent a post-grad year in Finland where I worked on a farm and learned Finnish. The Finnish ideals of community and common good were deeply impressed on me.
Home from Finland, I worked as an analyst at an investment company in Chicago, earned an MBA from Northwestern and married Cecilia. I worked for several years at an industrial supply company and then for an internet grocery delivery company.
As Cecilia and I became parents (Lydia, Frances and Geo), going to church was a priority for us. It was during this time that I began to feel a call to ordained ministry. After a period of discernment, I enrolled at Seabury-Western Seminary in Evanston where a highlight was my clinical pastoral education in the emergency room at Mount Sinai, an inner-city Chicago hospital. This intense experience put seminary theology into incarnational reality. It also sparked my interest in learning Spanish. My first call after seminary was as a curate at Christ Church in Winnetka, Illinois, the Episcopal church of my childhood where I led the youth program, preached, and provided pastoral care. In 2005, I was called to be the rector of St. Mark’s in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, which had suffered a split in membership and faced financial challenges. Over the past thirteen years, St. Mark’s has been my home for ministry where there has been a turnaround in energy, membership, finances and outreach to the community. Among many projects, we have started a preschool, added a service in Spanish, incorporated art exhibits into the life of the church, and raised up leaders for the Diocese of Chicago and National Church.
What propels my ministry and desire to serve is The Good News which to me is the love of God, made known in Christ, for every man, woman and child, where no one is left behind or forgotten. A verse of Scripture that I return to again and again for inspiration and direction is, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2nd Corinthians 5:18) This ministry that Paul refers to is to me the daily work of opening doors and hearts. I feel a genuine joy in seeing the faces of everyone I meet, welcome, serve and pray with. While at St. Mark’s, I have been able to put this into practice every Sunday, every day, not only at St. Mark’s but through civic engagement in Glen Ellyn, in the Diocese of Chicago and in places like Nigromante, Mexico where St. Mark’s has had a sister church since 2006.
My hobbies include running outdoors in all seasons. I have completed 17 marathons and log about 20 miles a week when not in marathon training mode. Cecilia and I adopted a retired racing greyhound named Quinny who ran 120 races in Florida. Last year, we adopted a companion for Quinny named Bertie, who had never raced due to a mis-formed paw. We love these dogs who are gentle and offer continual unconditional love. I also enjoy swimming, hiking and gardening. I love learning languages and have been semi-fluent in French, Finnish, and now speak, read and preach in Spanish. I started playing the guitar a few years ago and enjoy leading preschool chapel with simple songs. With our children now out of the nest, my wife and I are adjusting to having all of us together only at holidays when we binge-watch Netflix series, play games, enjoy meals together and engage in intense conversations about what is happening in our lives, politics, and the wonder and meaning of life.