The Rev. Randal Gardner has been a teacher, salesman and Episcopal priest. He has been married to Cathy, a nearly high-school sweetheart, for 36 years. They have two grown sons, and their third rescued dog. Rev. Gardner is about to mark his fifth year as the rector of St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.
Most of his career was in the Seattle area, apart from seminary in Berkeley, and a year of study and work at Oxford University. He has helped the church sort out its important priorities as the chairman of a task force on human sexuality; as a coordinator for Christian formation for students preparing to be ordained, as president of the nation’s largest independent hunger response program (Northwest Harvest in Washington State); and working with a local organization, Episcopal Community Services. He spends two weeks each summer teaching doctoral students how to evaluate their ministry goals as an adjunct faculty member for the Doctor of Ministry program at the Virginia Theological Seminary.
What brought you to La Jolla?
I was invited to come as the rector (senior pastor) for St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.
What makes this area special to you?
Between the ocean views and climate, this is a pretty wonderful spot on the Earth.
If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?
Traffic — more on the way to church, less in general. But there’s no such thing as magic, so it’s either a matter of improving the mindset or working hard to craft the changes.
Who or what inspires you?
I am most easily moved by stories of redemption, of people who are touched by grace and given hope in a time of trouble. Jesus Christ is the source of much of that inspiration, but it is the stories of the saints — Paul, Barnabas, Iulia de Beausobre (a Russian woman of the 20
century), Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela – that bring tears to my eyes.
If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who would you invite?
I would love a presidential dinner party — the Obamas, the Lincolns, the Eisenhowers, and the Jeffersons. I guess that means my wife and I would serve while those eight talked. I would include the wives in order to keep the conversations honest.
What you are reading?
I’ve had a hard time with reading over the past two years because of some vision troubles. But I pretty faithfully get through Time Magazine, a number of online newspapers, some journals that come to the church office and Smithsonian.
I’m currently reading Cahill’s “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” and Colmore’s “Meander: Wooing Ms. Maudie.” I’ve been working for a while through a very fine dissertation on preaching by Larry Hart. On my list to begin soon is “The Boy in the Moon” by Ian Brown.
What is your most-prized possession?
Not a possession, but my family. Of actual possessions, my car. It’s just wonderful to have options that the car makes available.
What do you do for fun?
Bicycle, cook … photography.
Describe your greatest accomplishment.
I think I keep growing emotionally and spiritually, and I do my best to remain committed and open to doing so. Anything else derives from that journey.
What is your philosophy of life?
From Jesus Christ: Seek and you will find, ask and it will be given to you, knock and the door will open.