Sunday Profile: Gary Meade
Meet Gary Meade -- a man who over the course of a decade has been welcomed by the Dyer County community for his work in ministry at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church as well as numerous non-profit organizations. It is unlikely that Gary has ever met a stranger in life, his greetings are always warm and his charisma is contagious, infecting all around him with positivity and sense of hope no matter the challenges faced. A true visionary, Gary looks at the world around him in terms of consideration, beauty, love and improvement, a perspective portrayed largely through his skill in photography.
It was in the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico during the year of 1961 that Gary made his grand debut into existence.
Son to Caroline Meade and Leon Hawn, Gary was raised solely by his mother until 1967, when she was remarried to Gary’s adopted father, Thomas Meade, who was then serving as a dentist in the United States Air Force. The two were reunited junior high school acquaintances. Gary says they dated for only nine days before they were married and spent nearly 50 years together until Thomas’ passing in the summer of 2016.
After the marriage, Gary’s family relocated to an air base in England, where they resided for roughly 3 years before returning home to Albuquerque.
As a child of only 5 years old, Gary recalled spending his birthday overseas in Japan, where his mother was studying history at a local college as well as a year where he resided in Washington. The time he spent in Japan and Washington coupled with his residence in England sparked a passion, marking the beginning of a lifetime spent traveling.
Gary says he spend much of his free time planning trips and excursions. In upcoming 2019 he plans to visit China and experience first hand the Trans-Mongolian Railway. Earlier this year, Gary embarked on yet another long-awaited adventure to the continent of Africa.
Upon graduating from high school, Gary attended Rice University where he majored in English.
“My college major was in English,” said Gary, “but if it would have been possible to do at Rice, I would have had a minor in drama. I did so much work in drama -- acting, directing and lighting.”
During his years as a young adult, fresh out of college, Gary dabbled in careers, not sure of which direction was truly his ‘calling’ in life.
In his early to mid-20s, Gary accepted a job working with students with special needs later leaving the job to pursue a desktop publishing business and later a job in marketing.
In his 30s, Gary pursued a law degree at the University of New Mexico; however, his dreams of practicing law were shortly thereafter extinguished by his desire to join the ministry.
“I was in my 30s and had never had anything that even slightly resembled a career,” said Gary. “So I went to law school and I actually got in. I spent 3 years in law school and only practiced for two. It was the best educational experience of my life. I loved law school, but I really didn’t like being a lawyer. There are two reasons that being a lawyer didn’t work out for me, part of it is related to the law and part of it is related to my sense of ‘call’. Back in high school, I had felt a calling to the ministry and the dean of the cathedral I was attending told me, ‘Oh, Gary, don’t worry yet. It’s too early to decide if you want to be a priest, but if God decided that he wants you, he’ll get you.’ So, I sort of put that aside and got away from the idea of serving the church. I even stopped going to church. But at law school … well, law school teaches you an adversarial system -- you are either the sword or you are the shield. You are either defending someone or on the ‘attack’.
“Where is the room for truth and justice in that? Well, as it turns out, there is room for justice in that, but very early on I was struck down by that and needed something with more moral center to it than what I was finding in law school. We live in the grey area and that’s what I needed to see. I found myself going back to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Albuquerque where I had went when I was a high school kid and I started going back.
“The church hadn’t really changed in any substantial way. I realized then how much I missed it. I would go to 8 a.m. service and sneak in and sneak out sort of anonymously. Before you knew it, I was assisting with services and on the vestry for the governing body of the cathedral. I was very involved and once again sensed my call to the ministry. I felt God was calling me to do something other than law.”
In 2001, Gary became an ordained minister and upon his return from seminary was offered a position at St. John’s. He served there for 5 years before requesting the bishop to relocate him to serve as interim rector for a nearby St. Mary’s Church. Gary said the dioceses was delighted in his interest and allowed him to fill the interim period.
“When the time was up and they had found someone to permanently fill the position, I had to start searching for my own parish, that’s when I heard about the opening at St. Mary’s in Dyersburg, among other places,” explained Gary. “When I toured the town, I recognized how gracious the people here in Dyersburg were, and the worship space just felt right. When I walked into the church for the first time I immediately had a sense of ‘this is a place where God is found, where God is known and God is revealed.”
In December of 2007, Gary made the move. Since then, he has dedicated his time and efforts to continuing to enhance the ministry, as well as promote the Christian faith through positive roles in the community including service to: United Way, Canterbury Place, the YMCA of Dyer County, Matthew 25:40, Habitat for Humanity, and Mission Blitz.
Gary also serves as a volunteer police chaplain, Matthew 25:40-Board of Directors member, Dyer County recycles member, former board member for United Way, board member for YMCA of Dyer County, Bishop and Council in dioceses of West Tennessee, president of the Standing Committee of the Dioceses and deputy to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
In addition, Gary has partnered with numerous local churches for community events.
“St. Mary’s may be a small church, but its impact in the Dyer County community is anything but small. We contribute to local organizations in a very substantial way. I want people to know that this is what the Episcopal Church is all about. We are not just people who gather on Sunday for our own Episcopal version of worship, we want to be out in the community and in the world. That’s what Christ calls us to do,” said Gary, “and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it all.”