5 Questions For ... Kevin Olds, rector at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church
WESTPORT — The Rev. Kevin Olds moved into the rectory at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Greenfield Hill after he was named the church’s new rector in February 2017. Olds, a Syracuse, N.Y.-area native, moved to Fairfield with his wife and two sons from Saugus, Mass., for Fairfield schools and to be closer to his wife’s family in Ridgefield.
Not your typical priest, Olds, 42, is a former computer programmer, roots for the Syracuse Orange and Vikings sports teams, and has a passion for home brewing. He even preaches in breweries: A service is planned at Craft Ales. The Fairfield Citizen sat down with Olds to discuss his journey to priesthood, the importance of slowing down in a busy world and the state of the church.
Q: How did you come to be a priest?
A: The short answer is God. I was a computer programer, in IT, for seven or eight years. Initially, I was with consulting companies and worked for different clients and traveled around the country. I had grown up in the church, but then walked away from the church.
I tried church again, volunteered and got more involved. And I had this moment where I realized what I was doing professionally wasn’t really helping anyone. I was helping other companies make more money, but my work at the church really helped and changed people’s lives. That started me on the journey. Some pastors helped me decide to go to seminary, and so I quit work in IT and went to seminary full-time, starting school on my 30th birthday.
Q: What are the most common issues you discuss with your parishioners?
A: A common thread I see running through a lot of the conversations I have with people is that people are just too busy. Everybody is over-scheduled. Between work and kids and third-space activities, it seems people don’t have a chance to just stop and breathe, be in the moment and experience what’s going on around them.
I think this is causing people to lose touch with a deeper understanding of what’s going on in the world. We’re so busy dealing with what I’ll call the “tyranny of the urgent,” that we’re missing the bigger picture and the part we play in that bigger picture. Some people would identify that as faith. Some would identify that as community. Either way, there’s a larger tapestry people have lost sight of. I think you can point to a lot of the things going wrong in the world right now as symptoms of that.
Q: Can you explain more of what you see going wrong in the world right now?
A: Think of our national discourse, how divisive and vitriolic it is. We’ve lost the ability to see that each of us has value. In the language of faith, I’d say each of us is beloved of God. God loves you and God loves me, but if I lose recognition that God loves you, then I don’t have to be particularly nice to you. I don’t have to work to make the world a better place for both of us, I just have to work to make it a better place for me, and that’s not good for the human family.
Q: What is the state of the church and religion today?
A: Let’s talk about the state of the church in America, because in some parts of the world the church is booming, but that’s not so in Europe or the U.S. Our traditional institutionalized churches have been shrinking for a while. It’s no different in the Episcopal Church than any other denomination. We’re all facing the same issue, and the issue is we’ve lost the culture’s attention. For a long time, especially after World War II, the church was woven into the fabric of society. The reality is we were the only game in town because nothing else happened on Sundays. People went to church and that was the main intersection where people met people.
Now there’s so many things going on. Sunday sports is one of the big ones, but other things as well. We don’t have people’s attention and haven’t put forth a compelling narrative to why we should have people’s attention. My argument is church can be a space where you can go to be spiritually fed, relationally fed and physically fed. Plus, we have coffee hour.
Q: How did St. Timothy’s become a gathering place for the first Representative Town Meeting district?
A: One of the things I’m trying to do is build community, and I think St. Tim’s can play a role in that. There isn’t a lot that draws the Greenfield Hill residents together in community, and I’m hopeful St. Tim’s can be a place for that. Hosting the district meetings is a first step. We’re living in a world where we have 5,000 virtual friends, but less and less face-to-face interactions. There are more people working from home. During the course of your day, if the main interaction you have with humanity is that you have CNBC on in the background, that’s not healthy. We need more place and opportunities were people can come and have experiences together that help them realize again the deeper need they have and what connects us as the human family.