The Greensboro, NC News-Record reports the journey to ordination from retail men’s clothing to becoming a candidate for ordination:
Kennedy, 41, had always considered himself a spiritual person — just not along the lines of ordained ministry. But the former proprietor of the popular O’Kennedy’s high-end clothing store in Greensboro is now an intern at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, preparing to give his first sermon in just a few weeks.
“You do have to have a sense that God is calling you to do this,” said the Rev. Vicki Smith, the rector at St. Thomas . “It might be Saul on the Road to Damascus (with a light from Heaven and the voice of God) or a gradual growing awareness. We all have had questions and doubts.”
“I’ve always been a man of the cloth,” deadpans Kennedy.
That’s because the Winston-Salem native, who has a knack for putting people at ease, has worked in retail since he was 16, including a clothing store in downtown Greensboro while a student at UNCG. “I loved selling people clothes — but that was almost secondary to building relationships with people,” Kennedy said of what would become an integral part of his spiritual formation. “I wore parachute pants so I can’t say I wasn’t a slave to fashion.”
Soon, he was working more and taking fewer classes. Eventually, when the owners sold the store 12 years later, he decided to go into business for himself. He still hadn’t earned a degree, but he loved what he was doing.
The job was, however, becoming less and less about the perfect business suit or party dress, but what these things often masked: hurting souls.
Early on as a student at UNCG, he made appointments with the ministers of three local churches: Catholic, Baptist, Episcopal.
“I was a musician, I was friendly, I’d be a great member of the choir … and oh, by the way, I told them, ‘I’m gay,’ ” he recalled.
“The Baptist was going to heal me — it was love the sinner, hate the sin. The Catholic priest said something I’ve since blocked out of my mind — but nobody was mean. The Episcopal priest looked at me with these sincere eyes and said, ‘Are you OK?’ That’s the first time someone had asked me, ‘Are you OK?’ I said yes. He said, ‘Good, do you have other questions?’ My being gay wasn’t an issue.”
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