"I just felt a strong sense of call," Slocum said. "For me, this was the best way to engage my gifts and my abilities and what I have to offer. I still draw on my experiences in other ways."
It was Slocum's unique experiences, both as a lawyer and as an ordained priest, that made him an attractive candidate for Trinity Episcopal's rectorship.
Not only did Slocum serve as a judge advocate, but for two years he worked in Washington, D.C., with the JAG Corps Headquarters of the Air Force. In addition to going to seminary at Nashota House in Wisconsin, he has obtained a doctorate of ministry from Sewanee and a doctorate in systematic theology from Marquette University. Slocum also has written two books, edited eight others, and taught undergraduate theology classes.
This diverse background, both in the lay and clerical worlds, as well as in academic and professional environments, puts Slocum in a unique position to minister to the divergent needs of the congregation.
"He is someone who speaks to our needs spiritually and intellectually," said Barbara Smith, a congregant since 2003 who currently serves on the vestry.
Outreach and fellowship
Since Slocum's arrival in Danville, he has been actively pursuing programs that promote outreach and fellowship. The Eucharist is now offered at 10 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. on Wednesdays; a prayer service is held daily at 7 a.m.; a potluck is organized once a month; and Slocum personally teaches an adult Christian formation class, which is held between the Sunday services.
"He has invigorating programs and activities that create a lot more opportunities for people to be involved and active," said Ben Nelson, a member of the vestry and the head of community publicity.
Although Slocum officiates the sacraments and tends to the "spiritual jurisdiction" of Trinity Episcopal, his role as rector is not a one-man show, but instead a position that he practices in cooperation and communion with the congregation.
"We seek to do all these things together," Slocum said. " ... To grow in faith and in our experience of shared faith as we worship together, as we make more and more our own the meaning of our tradition, but also to discover it and to apply it in new ways and to reach out to new people."
The diversity of Trinity Epsicopal's congregation, which according to Slocum, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of his new position, demands the capacity to respect differences of opinion.
"The church is a diverse group of many different walks of life," said Buddy Edwards, Trinity Episcopal's senior warden. "We have old and young; people that are teachers, doctors and bankers; and men and women. You have to have a listening ability to make the church move to the next spot."
Although this breadth of perspective may at times lead to disagreements among congregants, Slocum maintains that as long as there is a common Eucharist around which Christians can gather, such differences will work themselves out in the long run.
"We need to make sure we keep the main thing the main thing," Slocum said, borrowing a quote from the theologian Albert Schweitzer. "The main thing is Christ's presence; the main thing is sharing God's love."
With Trinity Episcopal's attendance steadily rising from an average of 93 in 2006 to 106 in 2008, it seems that Slocum's ministry may indeed be reaching the wider community.
"He is in his mid 50s and yet he has hit the ground running," Smith said. "He might as well be in his 20s in terms of his activity."