IMAGES BY WESLEY KIRK, INTERVIEW BY NAOMI WOOD
It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture in an increasingly polarized world. Yet, when you meet a man like Clint Wilson (a priest by trade and an optimist by choice) - refreshing doesn’t even begin to cut it. Religious or not, cynicism is a pervasive american pastime, so when we sat down in the Lord’s house with Father Clint Wilson of St. David's Episcopal Church in Denton, TX, we were enlightened to say the least. We had heard a lot about him from various community members. We won’t hold it as sin against him for gracing our lone star state only two years ago, because he got here as fast as he could. Wilson clears up some common misconceptions that folks might have about priestly duties, and fills us in on his thoughts about alcohol, community organizations, and hypothetical biblical boxing champs all in the interview below.
WDDI: How long have you been in Denton?
CLINT WILSON: I have been in Denton for nearly two years now.I last lived in Denver Colorado, and was working for a church in the city. Then a new opportunity came my way and I had to quickly decide whether a church in Maryland or Texas was going to be best for my wife and I . When I was scoping the place out, I met with a guy named Dave Sims, and he really gave me a vision for what Denton was, and could be. He told me “Denton is the place where smart kids come to drop out.” I think it's true because this town is so creative and everyone has their hands in multiple things. Denton was very inspirational and it made me want to be a better priest. I like the western feel of it, and how the architecture of the downtown square has integrity and isn’t plastic looking. I also love the DIY mentality which makes for a really different ethos than your average city. There is an interesting tension here because it’s a community mashup of maybe traditional southern values and artistic liberal progressiveness, yet it seems to work.
What community projects are you involved with?
Mentor Denton has been on my radar. We started a pilot program to see how churches can partner with mentor Denton, and what that would look like. I was also apart of the Denton Creatives Mixer to talk about a mentorship program for young kids to have access to music lessons. Music is a big part of our community and a few people have been working on getting that started with DISD and we call it the Denton Music Scholars Program. We are still working out the details but hope it picks up traction.
What do you think the biggest misconception is regarding religious work?
For me, religion is often so polarized and not reflective, which can create a blind acceptance or dismissal altogether. Part of the challenge is to redeem that narrative of reflection. The problem with religion is you can always find a really good example and a really bad example, so if you’re inclined to already reject religion, you can easily point to the bad example. I personally feel called to embody a sense of charity, and to listen well. I think a lot of people are asking right now, ‘is religion a force of good in the world?’ and that is a valid question to ask, especially when you see so many abuses in some circles. I hope that I can offer an alternative to that question, where we as a church fill a role in advocating for the common good in a non-manipulative way.
hat role do you think that church should play in a community?
The church should always be giving itself over to others sacrificially, and by that I mean instead of lasso’ing people in, and trying to manipulate them towards our vision, we come up under people and serve them as they need us. Our call is to foster a dialogue and to support people who are able to make rational, wise, and mature decisions for the sake of all. We all want the good life and we want it for our families, and we can have a social model of love and community that puts others before ourselves. Martin Luther King Jr used the term “the beloved community” and he applied it to racial reconciliation, yet he was an advocate for having a change of heart when the view was so polarized. Not looking out for our own interests, but for the interests of all should be the role of the church.
What does Clint Wilson do when the collar comes off?
Oh boy, well many may not know that we can be married, so yes I’m married because in the Episcopal church a priest can be married, which is awesome that they don’t require celibacy. I’m totally against that, but we’ll leave that conversation for another time. On just a day to day when I’m not wearing the collar, we’ve been enjoying the Harvest House lately, live music festivals, good beer, and bike riding. Denton sort of fits us, and we fit right in with what is going on here too. We also have a dog-child named Denver.
On that note, what is the story behind Episcopalians and their openness towards generally frowned up things such as alcohol?
There’s this running joke that we’re called “whiskey-palians” and I’m definitely not an advocate for abuse of alcohol, but in our tradition we celebrate alcohol just like we celebrate anything that is a gift from God. We think the stuff of life is good, and the position of the church is that all things created by God are inherently good, but not to make idols out of these things. We just do not reject “things” completely. The reason why things like beer were developed to begin with was to aid monks in fasting. It was bread-ish and water-ish and helped them survive during those times of fasting. We are Anglican and come from the Church of England, and we historically have enjoyed alcohol as a gift to be stewarded responsibly, which is to say, we’re less concerned with rules and regulations, but more with living a life of service to others.
Father Abraham or Moses?
Wait, are they jumping into a fighting ring or something?
I’m gonna go ahead and go with Moses because he stood up to the most powerful (at the time) empire in the world.
The Church of St. David of Wales is located at 623 Ector St. Denton, TX. You can also check out their website here.
This column as part of a new ongoing partnership with Wesley Kirk's People of Denton project. Check out People of Denton for more.