As I talked with the new rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Fincastle earlier this month, I found that the Rev. Willis Logan and I connected on many levels – even when two generations apart.
When his father and other relatives had business connections in Salem, the family was active in the parish where I have worshiped for the past 29 years. We’re both familiar with the Charlottesville area though he’s just come from serving as the associate at a church in the city in which I was born and where I once had my closest relatives—though long before his time.
In addition, we both have long enjoyed history and have deep roots in both Virginia and our denomination. Though we did not know each other in the 1990s, we were worshiping in the same congregation.
So it was delightfully easy to become side-tracked in the Ministry Center as we chatted on a wet afternoon.
Logan, who began officially in March 19 at St. Mark’s, although he accepted the call late last year, was born in Salem 38 years ago, but he spent his early years in the Springwood area of Botetourt. He was taken to the Fincastle church before his family’s business interests brought them back to Salem in 1983.
The rector is a son of George and Harmon Logan, long-time Salem residents, who plan to return to the area from Albemarle County where they have been living in retirement for the past decade. Their family grew up in the East Hill neighborhood with Willis attending Salem schools.
At Salem High, he recalls, “I was in (then-principal) John Hall’s office several times for cutting up. Then I’d see him at church. It was kind of embarrassing.”
Logan, who said he loved history, moved on to Middlebury College in Vermont where he recalled a life-changing experience. Unlike many of that age, he had stayed with the church and had some contact with college religious life. But, he recalls, “Something was missing. Maybe it was finding my real identity. I was acting like a party guy. One day I was overcome by the feeling that Jesus loved me, that we are all His children…that maybe He had a different place for me.”
The experience, he remembers now, made church activity far more meaningful, but after his graduation as a history major he and a Salem friend, Gray King, moved to the Northern Virginia town of Warrenton to try to rejuvenate a family business which was failing in a downturn in the economy 17 years ago.
The two young men moved the business to Charlottesville where it prospered. Meanwhile, Willis had re-connected with Ashley who was by now attending medical school at the University of Virginia. In 2004 they were married at The Homestead hotel by the minister of their childhoods, the Rev. Dr. Bob Copenhaver who now lives at The Glebe and remains active in a retirement-age ministry.
The couple became active in Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville where Willis had increasing contact with its rector, the Rev. Paul Walker. In 2008 while attending a leadership conference at Georgetown University, the idea took shape of his becoming ordained.
He enrolled in the Anglican Studies program at Duke University’s divinity school. Meanwhile, as Ashley’s future as a pediatrician was also coming to fruition, their children, daughter Nev, son George and finally Fred were born.
Having been sponsored for seminary by their Charlottesville parish, Willis remained there for two years to gain practical experience as an associate to the senior minister. With Ashley joining the Old Southwest practice of Physicians to Children, the couple bought a home in South Roanoke. Now daughter Nev is 8, George is six and “Freddie Bob” is three.
St. Mark’s new rector is still working out the days he’ll be keeping his office hours; he hopes to visit all the households in the historic church soon. History, church and family have all come together.