Twelve years ago the Rev. Charles Cornell arrived in Folsom to lead and to grow an Episcopal congregation.
What he learned at Trinity Episcopal Church helped to grow him in return.
“I learned how to administrate a staff here,” he said. “And I clarified my core principles and beliefs. I learned how to articulate here.”
A native to northern California’s Yuba-Sutter area, Father Charles came to Trinity Episcopal Church in November 1998 from Louisiana. He served parishes in New Orleans, where he was ordained, and in Bossier City near Shreveport.
On Jan. 28 the parish held a retirement dinner and Evensong service to thank him for his years of faithful shepherding. It was a bittersweet moment — a time of looking back as well as looking forward.
The arrival of Father Charles in 1998 marked the beginning of tremendous growth for one of Folsom’s oldest congregations, founded in 1856. During the 1980s and 1990s, Trinity Episcopal had a new pastor every three years on average.
“I was able to give the congregation stability and continuity,” Father Charles said. “Being there for 12 years was a real blessing. I got to see some of the children I baptized grow up. Babies I baptized grew up to become acolytes — and soon they were taller than me. I got to see some go to college. I will miss that. All those lives touched.”
Nationwide, Episcopal congregations tend to be on the elderly side but that is not the case at Trinity Episcopal. There, all age groups come together. Trinity Episcopal is now one of the Top 10 churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California, with more than 400 members.
“I’ve been able to relate to a wide demographic of age, including seniors,” he said. “Folsom has a healthy children’s ministry. The Summer Camp program of the church was a good way to keep your chops up with the teenagers.”
Father Charles is very proud of Trinity Episcopal’s involvement in the community.
“There are a lot bigger churches when it comes to support of the Twin Lakes Food Bank,” he said. “But we ‘wrastle above our weight class’ when it comes to our support of the food bank. That also applies to Angel Tree. Whenever they need ‘extra angels,’ they call us.”
Father Charles will relocate to the Butte County area, and plans to continue his ecumenical work in the faith communities of Northern California as well as interfaith dialogs at a national level.
“I seem to have the passion and patience for ecumenical and interfaith work,” he said. “It’s all about understanding our neighbors and praying together. I’m excited about taking things to a national level, and about the sharing of communion and ministry between Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians.”
The Rev. Michael Kerrick has been named interim priest as members of Trinity Episcopal begin the process of selecting a new full-time rector. The Rev. Patricia Kempster continues as associate priest.
What will Father Charles carry with him from Trinity Episcopal? A renewed and clarified faith.
“Here I was able to focus on my ministry in faith and I realized the three things that motivate me,” he said. “First, that God is merciful. Second, that God is good. He has blessed us with creation. And third, that we are called to respond to that mercy, forgiveness and blessing, because we all stand in need of forgiveness and grace. And we should be able to offer forgiveness and grace ourselves.”