My name is Tim Valadez, and this is my wife Theresa and our son Alexander. The stewardship committee has asked me to speak about what St. Mark’s means to me.
In 1979, my parents moved to the town that I would eventually call my hometown. I was 6 years old and starting first grade. My parents were raised devout Christians, and so our family joined a church in town, the First Baptist Church of Port Lavaca, Texas. Of all the people I call my friends today, the ones I’ve known the longest were the ones I met and grew up with in that church. I was baptized in that church. The pastor was the commencement speaker at our high school graduation. While I may not agree with all of the positions the modern Southern Baptist Convention holds today, I know that it was an integral part of my spiritual journey and helped form the man I am today.
In 1996, I graduated college and entered Active Duty service in the Army as a second lieutenant. Part of being in the military is moving to a new duty location every three or four years. My career has led me across the country and around the world. Texas, Kentucky, Germany, DC, Korea, and Virginia and deployments to Bosnia, Iraq twice, and the southern Philippines. With each duty station, and yes, with each deployment, there comes a search for a new church or chapel home. Sometimes, it’s easy, other times, it’s harder. On one occasion, I visited several churches before finding the right fit. Some were Baptist, in other places, the post chapel service was best for me. In some churches, I joined the choir. In others, I found it more difficult to fit in. Some were so big that it felt as though only a few people knew my name. Some sang simple choruses on overhead projectors, not my personal preferred form of musical worship. In Korea, I struggled to find anywhere that felt right. It was not easy.
In 2007, a few weeks after moving to Washington DC, I went to a church a few blocks away from my apartment -- The Church of the Ascension and St. Agnes at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 12th St. Northwest. I had never gone to an Episcopal church before, but I instantly fell in love with the beauty of the liturgy and the music. I also enjoyed the diversity of the congregation, and that all were welcome. The rector was a former atheist, and the curate was a former Baptist like myself. I attended confirmation classes there, and was confirmed an Episcopalian there as well.
In 2011, I met Theresa, and as we started dating, I learned that going to church was important to her as well. She had come to Catholicism as an adult. We tried a few churches and eventually became regulars at St. Paul’s Parish on K Street, the church we would eventually be married in 2014. She was received as an Episcopalian there as well.
In 2013, while in Hawaii on a temporary duty assignment, I found St. Mark’s. I’m lucky – in not every city have I found a church home on my first attempt. After getting married and being reassigned to Fort Shafter, we transferred our membership here. While here at St. Mark’s, we became pregnant and welcomed our son, Alexander. He was baptized here at the Easter Vigil in 2016. I pray that his spiritual formation will form a part of the man he is to become.
I hope I am not too bold to say that of all the churches I have called home; St. Mark’s has been the best for me. Some churches have a warm and welcoming congregation; others have beauty in worship, and others do the hard work of outreach in the community. Not all churches out there do all three, and none I’ve been to do all three as well as we do.
It’s easy sometimes to take for granted the security of having a church home, the community that comes with it, the joy of worship, and all the people and things behind the scenes that make it all possible. But as someone with much experience in looking, please know that we have something special here.
Tim, Theresa, and Alexander Valadez