By Mary Anne Pikrone
Deacon Kevin McGrane recalls that during his first stint at St. John’s, “I would arrive at church after a heavy rain to get out a giant squeegee and push gallons of water out the front door of the Sanctuary due to all the holes in the roof.”
As deacon, his job was to do most anything to help the rector and support our feeding ministry. At no pay.
Since then, St. John’s has acquired a new roof, and Kevin is now on his second assignment with us. But he’s setting out in a different direction: He wants to become a priest.
Last Fall, he said, he felt things were wrapping up for him as deacon and he began to realize he’d developed a growing interest in community and development. “That’s what got my juices flowing… I thought good grief, I think I’m working into a priest!”
He talked to spiritual directors, then Bishop Wayne Smith, and has just completed a discernment process of meeting with a committee chosen from among our parishioners and a sponsoring priest. Next, he meets with the Diocesan Board of Examining Chaplains, which will determine what additional training he needs to take the General Ordination Exam.
The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri has been ordaining deacons for 25 years, and he would be the first permanent deacon to apply for ordination in the diocese, he said.
“My dream is to be able to engage in a rural ministry,” he explains. This aligns well with his current lifestyle: Kevin and wife Catherine live on a multi-acre homestead they've nicknamed "Windy Hill." Located in Franklin County, Windy Hill is 60 miles from St. John's.
“I live out here, I know the stresses and strains a lot of these folks have. I’d like people to start thinking about rural areas as America’s next ghetto.
“The federal and state governments seem to be giving up on them. That is one of the reasons they have become hotbeds of white supremacy—and they think that white supremacy is Christianity.”
Kevin says, “I want to go out, find people, understand them, love them and model for them a different way to love and follow Jesus. I’m going to be 'priest-as-evangelist.”
He feels mainline churches have lost members because they have stopped being relevant to our society. Today, he adds, 30 percent of Americans under age 40 self-identify as “Nones,” or those who do not belong to any church.
He has enjoyed the challenges of working at St. John’s, which he describes as young, kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants with not a tremendous amount of bureaucracy. He loves the vibe of the urban environment, but adds: “Rural — that’s where my heart is.”
Back in the city, St. John’s kitchen bears Kevin’s stamp: He got deals on our commercial stove and dishwasher, had nearly all the old metal cabinets torn out and replaced with stainless steel equipment, and even coated the floor with epoxy paint and sprinkles.
He can’t list everything he’s done for St. John’s over the years, but it’s still going on, he says.
Kevin can often be found in the “tree” office (the foyer to the Parish Hall), where he works on his phone, and often writes his sermons. He preaches regularly at St. John's Sunday services.
Kevin is active on social media and maintains a blog, The View from Windy Hill.
How Kevin Got Here
Birthplace: North St. Louis
Education; Jennings High School, 1970; UMSL 1978 with a bachelor of arets in English and American Literature.
Personal: Married Catherine Pilla in 1973; two daughters, one son; nine grandchildren. Irish, and don’t you forget it.
Business experience: Banker for Mercantile Bank, sales for GE Capital and IBM, then smaller recruiting firms, eventually running his own company.
Faith journey: Cradle Catholic, 10-year member of Opus Dei, intense Catholic lay spiritual organization. Left the church as a result of the pedophile scandal, attended Quaker meetings for a year, then joined Emmanuel Episcopal Church.
Deacon ministry: Took early retirement at age 61 to begin religious studies, ordained deacon in 2014. Concentrated on food ministry, which led him to St. John’s, where he served from 2013 to 2016, then a year at Church of the Good Shepherd in Town and Country, then returned here in the Fall of 2017.
Thoughts on being a Deacon: Wrote an essay, “The Deacon as Wise Fool,” for the Nov. 12, 2018 issue of The Anglican Theological View.
Mary Anne Pikrone is a parishioner at St. John's, where she serves on the Communications committee.
Various members of the St. John's congregation contribute to this blog. For editorial suggestions, contact Jeff McIntire-Strasburg at email@example.com