The Art of Ministry

Recognizing his unique combination of pastoral skills, excellent preaching ability, and artistic talent, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Chesterfield has recently called the Reverend Earnest Graham III to serve as priest. Rev. Graham will be installed as only the second rector of St. Matthew’s on Wednesday evening, Sept. 21, 2011, at 7 p.m.  His tenure follows that of the Rev. Martha Jenkins, who retired from St. Matthew’s in June 2010.  

“One of the great joys of ministry is getting to know people and witnessing the extraordinary things God has done and is doing in their lives,” said Graham. “As a relatively new Episcopal church (the newest in the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia), St. Matthews offers the experience of exploring the ways that God is calling on us to serve the community of Chesterfield and share God’s love. It is a chance to be creative in ministry in a creative cycle of the church’s life.”

A native of Wyoming, Graham brings a wide range of experience in ministry to the church, having served in all sizes of churches and a variety of locations and types of ministry. At the heart of each was a vibrant sense of Christian community and members sharing their gifts with each other and the world – characteristics he sees in St. Matthews.  Graham is married and has one child. His wife, Shirley, is also an Episcopal priest, serving as rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Williamsburg.

The journey led him to Virginia Theological Seminary where he studied, worked, and prayed in preparation for ordained ministry. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 2001. Upon graduation and ordination, Graham served at Christ Church in Alexandria, Va. as a clergy resident in the Foundations for Spiritual Leadership program, sponsored by the Lily Endowment. The program, modeled on medical residencies, offered a wide range of experience in ministry along with intentional time for study and reflection.  Graham served as Assistant Rector at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Great Falls, Va., with special oversight of children and youth programs, outreach and missions, and pastoral care.  Most recently he served as interim rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Suffolk, Va.

Growing up in the wide open spaces of Wyoming, Graham could often be found with a sketchbook in hand, drawing anything and everything. He studied art and has worked as a graphic artist and illustrator. At the same time, he became active in the Episcopal Church, and was drawn toward the larger story of God’s grace. The experience of genuine community and care in his life, and soon he was on a new path, seeking God’s will for his life.

Graham feels art captures the essence of life, and communicates it a multitude of levels. He also said it is fun. “Art is akin to meditation. Creating art slows me down to look at the world and appreciate the amazing aspects of life in all its forms,” he said. “It leads me to look deeper and understand human nature. Sharing artwork with others reminds me that a gift is not fully realized until it is given and received by another.”

Graham combines his passion for art and story-telling with his love of scripture and theological education by translating books of the bible into the visual language of comic books.  He has collaborated with his wife in making a comic translation of the books of Jonah, Esther and Amos, titled “The Unlikely Chosen,” which was published in 2008 by Seabury Press.

Graham continues to bring the bible to life by making bible comics, including the Parables of Jesus, the epistle of James, and portions of the Psalms. Samples of his artwork are available at www.earnestillustrations.com.

The public is invited to St. Matthews Episcopal Church, 11915 Beach Rd. in Chesterfield, in celebration of a new ministry as the congregation prayerfully and joyfully marks the beginning of a new phase in the life of this vibrant parish. The Reverend Canon Ed Tracy will officiate.  For more information, please call St. Matthew’s office at 790-1211.

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