Going from strength to strength in the life of perfect service

This is the story of Fr. Rick Schark, and how the experience of grieving the most profound of personal losses started him on a spiritual journey, a new spiritual home in the Episcopal Church, and eventually to ministry to a parish divided. Written by Susan Ager of the Detroit Free Press, it describes how Schark is known as the peacemaker priest in his small town Michigan parish.

Everyone else met his story with words, pointless words, like “God needed more flowers in heaven.”

Instead, Kristi Guzik said, “Wow, what a blow.” Then she listened.

“It broke my heart,” she says now, “but I didn’t run out the door.”

They talked for hours, every day for weeks, at his home, where his lost family’s photos graced his mantel. At McDonald’s. At the beach. At the diner where she poured his coffee.

Three months later, Rick Schark took Kristi as his wife, and she took him as her husband, a soulmate she never thought she’d find. He was 42. She was 24.

They married in Oscoda, in an Episcopal church he found while shopping for a place to plant his seedling spirituality.

His dead wife’s family couldn’t understand. They said, “It’s only been two years.” He answered: “No, it’s been 750 days and nights.”

Since they married a decade ago, Rick and Kristi have been apart for only two nights. When he felt a call to the ministry, she followed him to a seminary in Ontario.

Finally, two years ago, she followed him to a troubled church in Lexington, a small resort town on Lake Huron.

It is his first posting. He is 51.

Everyone in the congregation knows his story, and considers his experience a rare gift. He has lived one second at a time through a long, dark night of the soul and emerged, led by the mystery of God to this place.

“I remember wishing,” he says, “that I could meet somebody who had lost as much I did. I wanted to know they survived.

“I want to be that person now for someone else.”

Read the rest.

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