Meet Our Pastor - Ethan McCardell
Ethan McCardell a brief introduction...
I was raised in the New Church. However, as with so many things that are there from the beginning, a strong religious faith was something that I took for granted in my teenage years. I had little personal relationship with it until I was much older. You could say that religion only became a serious force in my life when I needed rescuing … badly.
Most of my early life was set in a small upper class Midwestern town in USA. I had the typical early childhood experiences: I enjoyed school, spending time with my cousins, swimming, collecting baseball cards, and I had a few close friends. I was a normal kid. I was pretty happy.
However, ask anyone who knew me in my teenage years and they would tell you I had a lot of anger. After leaving a private elementary school and entering public junior high, life changed dramatically – and not for the better.
To provide you with a sense of context for the challenges I would face, I should tell you I was born with Cerebral Palsy (technically “brain paralysis” – a portion of dead brain tissue caused by a brain stroke in utero). This affected my gait, balance, muscle control, dexterity, coordination, spatial orientation, and more. I had a mild case to be sure, but it was still noticeable – especially in those earlier years.
I wore a leg brace until I was 12, and my walk was awkward. I had a “step/drag” kind of gait that caused me to fall often and lose my balance. Fortunately I never felt different in my younger years. Between the support of my church congregation, family, and friends, the focus was on my spirit rather than the limitations of my body. My self-image was largely positive. However, when I started junior high all that changed. For a kid with mild physical disabilities in public school, it can feel a bit like you’re a walking target.
On top of all the obvious things for kids to prey on, I had very little fashion sense. With unkempt hair and thick glasses, I had it coming. Kids would limp after me, imitating how I walked. One time a kid on the bus stuck a wad of industrial strength duct tape in my hair. I often got beat up after getting off the bus. My friends were few, and I began to hate the experience of being me. The first years of high school followed in much the same fashion. I was wounded and angry, afraid to connect with anyone because I thought they would hurt me.
After a series of painful events, my parents decided it would be better for me to be homeschooled. I had a one year bout at School of Mom and then was enrolled at the Academy of the New Church. I was resistant at first – dug in my heels and was (in the beginning) pretty bitter and unteachable. However, in my senior year I found a quality group of friends who helped me harness my good qualities. I began to develop an interest in my religion and started to feel like I might just be lovable.
The feeling didn’t last. At the end of senior year, I had to have surgery on my foot. It was followed by several months of recovery time. Despite all the growth I’d done, I found myself right back at the pity party. I felt like I was falling into a black hole. I felt suicidal (something I had already struggled with during those earlier years at the Academy I talked about).
In the midst of the darkness, when things had gotten really awful, I felt a knock on the door of my mind to “reach out”. What I ended up reaching for was this religion that I’d grown up with for most of my life. I began reading the Bible in greater depth for myself (particularly Genesis and Exodus) and, to my surprise, started getting really interested. I felt driven to understand the significance of the stories in my own life.
From there it seemed natural to move on to Swedenborg. I started reading about the history of the human race in their relationship to God. I found myself face to face with truths that resonated deep inside me; fundamental things like: there is a God, there is life after death, we are always free to choose – and every choice we make has eternal consequences… I remember tearing up at the recognition that this was healing me, and even more powerfully, that everyone needed to know these things about God. I realized that if we all came to value such truths, our lives would change; our world would change. We could experience and respond to Love. We wouldn’t have to hurt anymore, we wouldn’t feel so alone. In fact, life wouldn’t have to be so hard.
That was the beginning of choosing a new direction for my life. I am now a minister in this church; I’ve found the love of my life in my wife Jessica (after believing I would never be married!), and we have five children who constantly remind me that life is precious and God is Love.
And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.
Be of Good Cheer: Discovering the Redeeming Quality of Struggle Rev. Ethan McCardell
This book will help you understand God's amazing ability to be here and now, no matter what. God doesn't measure us by our past history. He looks at our present heart. This book will provide you with 21 days of thoughtful reflection on your life's journey as you prepare for the destiny for which you were created, eternal life in heaven. Be of Good Cheer: Discovering the Redeeming Quality of Struggle is a roadmap from a lifestyle of doubt and fear to experiencing all that God made you to be.