Southern Utah News Articles
Top Stories for October 14, 2009
New United Church pastor has a diverse background in religion and life experience
“Being a pastor would have been one of the furthest things from my mind as a youth,” admits Dave Bowles, the new pastor of the United Church of Kanab and Fredonia.
Born in Salt Lake, but spending most of his youth on the west coast in California and Washington, he was raised Mormon. His father’s family had come into Utah with the Willey Handcart Company of 1857. He served a mission to the Netherlands for the church, but became disillusioned shortly thereafter.
A highly-educated man with a B.A. in English and Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Utah, he loves literature and critical theory. His study of Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, served him well in his six years in the Army, including one year in the Utah National Guard and one year as an Arabic language interpreter in Desert Shield/Storm. For his work in the military, he received the Bronze Star.
Progression in life, Bowles received a Master of Divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary of the United Church of Christ.
Dave Bowles is married to Ruth de Jesus, who also served as pastor for the United Church from 2003-2004. Because of life circumstance, she is an Associate Dean at Gettysburg College and they must live thousands of miles apart. Pastor Dave is a full-time single parent of two – a little girl and boy.
“I became a first-time father at age 42, so it’s something I didn’t think would ever happen for much of my adult life. I love my children dearly, but my family begins with my wife and our lovely relationship,” said Bowles.
“Living apart is tough because we (usually) spend so much time together. Our marriage is very dynamic, and we possess tremendous communication skills, skills we’ve worked persistently to craft. We are so caring and understanding now, after only seven years of marriage, that it’s become easy really. I’ve always had a great deal of sympathy for single parents because I was reared by a single-mom, and now I know how difficult it is. I miss the support and help of another person.”
As for why he wanted to become a pastor, he said he sought to discover new ways of thinking about God, bolder ways of being a person of faith, and to develop a richer spiritual life. “I nearly went the route of New Testament Studies, which means further schooling, another advanced degree.”
“In the end however, my experiences in pastoral care convinced me I would rather work with people, especially those who grieve and experience loss in life, because it felt like God was calling me to be with these people,” said Bowles.
Southern Utah is appealing to Bowles, since he spent formative years of his life in California’s Mojave Desert. He likes barren, arid country! When studying at the U of U, he made frequent hiking, backpacking and camping trips to Utah south of I-70. “It seemed to capture my imagination, especially the canyon and slickrock hiking. I love the landscape. I don’t think it gets more beautiful than this anywhere on the planet. The only thing I miss is rain,” said Bowles.
As for where he is and what he’s doing now, Bowles loves the United Church. He knows everyone wants to see their church grow.
“Our church, because of where it is located, will only ever grow so much. I see my role here more as one of peace and reconciliation,” said Bowles. He hopes to strengthen the already incredible fellowship and sense of community the United Church has.
“It’s a very accepting and welcoming community, and I hope to contribute to its profound sense of hospitality,” said Bowles.
He also hopes to seek more ecumenism in the Kanab community. His desire is to nurture situations where there is more dialogue between divergent faith communities here, all of whom consider themselves Christian, and yet too often regard each other with suspicion and sometimes with a level of haughtiness or even dismissiveness.
“Our challenge in many ways resembles the same kind of challenge the predominant faith system here experiences everywhere else. Mormon missionaries quickly learn when they leave Utah and other western states that Mormonism is either largely irrelevant or is understood to be something Mormons themselves do not recognize,” said Bowles.
He adds that Mormons tend to be almost entirely ignorant of the nearly 2000 year old heritage out of which mainstream American Protestantism emerges.
Bowles said non-Mormons living in Mormon communities often resent their neighbors for their lack of engagement or else for a narrower political environment that often parallels the religious climate.
His vision is more understanding between the two faith communities. In many ways, Bowles is uniquely qualified to assist in an effort like this. He is well-educated in both religious cultures and has a solid foundation in how both communities understand themselves.