New pastor at St. James leaves Seattle life behind for warmer climes


Gardner is the new rector at La Jolla’s St. James by the Sea Episcopal Church. He gave his first sermon earlier this month and will be welcomed with an official celebration Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. at the church.

St. James’ search for a new rector lasted more than 15 months. Gardner was selected from a field of 28 candidates across the country. The church’s calling committee eventually narrowed the search to five and paid visits to those priests in their home parishes. The field was further trimmed to three finalists who came to La Jolla to visit the church and go through final interviews.

Gardner came to visit in May and was greeted by rain that reminded him of home, he said. However, he was quick to note that Seattle is one of the driest places in the country during the summer.

“This has been home for most of my life,” Gardner said. “It is hard to leave, but my wife and I are excited about the possibility of adventure and are looking forward to finding out about a new place. We felt like it was time to leave home.”

Gardner served for the past 10 years as rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Mercer Island. Both he and wife Cathy studied at the University of Washington, though Gardner ended up graduating from Seattle Pacific University. Gardner said the appeal of La Jolla made it easier to pull up their deep roots in the Pacific Northwest.

“We love the oceanfront,” he said. “My wife and I always talked about finding a place near the beach someday.”

The Gardners found the people of La Jolla to be as appealing as the scenery during their brief visit.

“The combination of the scenery with people who have lots of interest in the world and are pretty sophisticated people with a high investment in education and learning, they are all things that we’re excited about,” Gardner said.

The city of San Diego beyond La Jolla also offered a familiar feeling to the Gardners.

“It sort of reminds me of what Seattle was like before we had our great big boom,” he said. “Even though it’s a big city, there is still a sort of small-town feel that we like very much.”

Another draw for Gardner was the church’s plans for the next few years, which include expanding its role as an educational center for the entire Episcopal church.

“I love being involved with education and youth ministry,” he said.

The Gardners have two sons. Eldest son Chris begins his senior year at Santa Clara University this fall with a major in computer science. He has also taken an interest in mathematics and is considering graduate school, with UCSD emerging as a possible destination. Younger son Michael just completed his first year as a music major at Central Washington University.

Cathy Gardner graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in fine arts and still pursues artistic dreams, working mostly with metal. She works as a design supervisor for Costco’s Home Stores. Gardner said he shares his wife’s interest in art and looks forward to seeing the galleries and museums in La Jolla and throughout San Diego.

“We love artistic exploration,” he said.

Gardner’s own creative outlet comes in the form of photography. He said he mainly shoots still life and nature photographs.

“Some people have the nerve to take a picture of someone without their permission, but I just don’t,” he said. “I just enjoy capturing nature on film.”

He called himself an avid reader and said he recently enjoyed a book titled “Why Geography Matters.”

“It was a real eye-opener about the issues facing our country, global politics and climate change,” he said.

He also loves to garden and said that while he had a handle on gardening in the Pacific Northwest, he looks forward to the challenge of adapting to Southern California.

The official welcoming celebration for Randal Gardner is open to everyone and will be held Oct. 7 at 5 p.m.

“It should be a good balance of a ceremony that has lots of mystery without getting fussy about it,” Gardner said.

St. James by the Sea Episcopal Church is at 743 Prospect St. Call (858) 459-3421 for more information.