SPRING HILL — The new priest of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church plans to have an "ancient, yet modern" influence on his new congregation.
"A church tends to go the way the priest is, and I am very much traditional," said the Rev. Lance Wallace, who became the priest-in-charge at the Spring Hill church in January.
"People who should come to St. Andrew's are those who are looking for a church that follows the traditions of the ancient church and yet are looking for contemporary applications of God's word to their lives."
Wallace wants to nurture the church, the first he has been selected to lead, in several ways.
"I want to see the church not only grow in numbers and in giving but to have a greater impact in our community and be the light that Jesus wants us to be in this community," he said.
The goals Wallace has for his church at age 59 are not unlike the goals that he had when he chose to be a teacher in his late teens, helping people and inspiring them.
"When I was in college, I was toying with the idea of either becoming a full-time minister or becoming a teacher," he said. "I thought I could have a better influence if I became a teacher. So I did."
By the late 1980s, Wallace, who taught in middle school, high school, community college and worked as a technology administrator for the public schools, had a change of heart.
"I began to feel that I wasn't having the kind of influence and help that I'd hoped to be able to have," he said.
Married with children and living in Titusville, he began attending Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando in the evenings and weekends.
Reared as a Baptist in Illinois, Wallace became a Presbyterian in order to marry the Bible study he'd gained from the Baptists to the church history and theology embraced by the Presbyterians.
"The Baptists don't do anything with church history, so I was surprised to find out ancient churches were a lot different than what I had thought," Wallace said.
As he studied and read more, Wallace decided that what he really wanted to be was Anglican.
"I actually read my way into becoming an Episcopalian," he said. "When we were reading church history (at seminary), I realized that the Presbyterians start their church history at the Reformation and the Anglicans go all the way back to the first century.
"Since we don't have that here, I became Episcopal."
Wallace graduated from the Orlando seminary with an emphasis in Bible and theological studies. Several years later he attended and in 2004 graduated from Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Nashotah, Wis., with an emphasis on liturgy.
Following his ordination as an Episcopal priest in December 2010, he served as curate at Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota, where his duties included pastoral care of the homebound, officiating as the priest for the Saturday contemporary service, working with young professionals and overseeing the Mission and Outreach ministry.
When the Rev. Shanda Mahurin retired as St. Andrew's priest last May, the Diocese provided the church the names of eligible candidates. Wallace's name was among them. In December, the church offered him the position of priest-in-charge, and he came to Spring Hill with his wife, Diane.
In February, he was inducted as the new chaplain for the Order of St. Luke, an arm of the church that ministers to the sick by prayers and anointing.
Wallace wants to share his Bible knowledge with his new church and has added adult Bible studies to the church ministries.
"There's a great interest in studying the Scriptures," he said.
Along with Lenten classes that teach how Jesus transforms the Ten Commandments, there are weekly studies on the Book of James.
"For a lot of Presbyterians and Episcopalians, there's the 'I've always been a Christian and I'm going to church' (attitude), but as far as making it their own and having the paradigm of — What is a Christian? How do we think? How do we view the world? — that needs to be constantly sharpened," the priest said. "We tend to get dull. So that's why we need God's word to keep us sharp and keep us focused."
It appears that Wallace has found his niche.
"The Bible is alive, active," he said. "If I can just expose God's words to people so that they get it, there's that light that comes on in people's eyes. It's been exciting."