By John Burton
RED BANK – The Rev. John Mason Lock, who took over as Trinity Episcopal Church’s priest-in-charge in the fall, may be young but don’t hold that against him, he said.
“It cuts both ways. I have limited experience,” the 31-year-old said. But, “I think on the asset side, I bring a lot of energy.”
Lock moved here with his wife Bonnie and their three young children, Hannah, Isaiah and Catherine, in August and became spiritual leader at the 65 W. Front St. church.
Lock was born and raised in Albuquerque, N.M., where he was brought up in the Episcopal Church. He was an English major at the University of Delaware.
“I’ve always been interested in the life of the mind,” Lock said.
The tall, slim, bearded priest, who wears little gold-framed antique glasses and has a soft-spoken demeanor, looks like a graduate student or liberal arts professor – with the exception of his clerical collar.
It is that attraction to a “life of the mind,” a contemplative life, that in part led Lock to the ministry. He has enjoyed the study of Scripture and especially his role as an educator, conducting Bible studies here and at his previous assignment, he said.
“Teaching these things and seeing people connect with it, maybe for the first time outside of a church, is a tremendous privilege,” he said.
When he was younger, he had some experience in ministry-type settings, working in a church-based summer camp and then leading a Bible study group during college when he undertook a serious study of the work.
“I saw I might be drawn to this,” he realized.
Traditionally, Episcopal clergy have a career in the outside world and then go into the ministry as a sort of second act. “I had that paradigm in my mind,” he said.
But a mentor told Lock, if he felt this was his path, he should pursue it. “It wasn’t a ‘road to Damascus’ moment,” he said, meaning he didn’t experience a sudden spiritual epiphany. “It was something that developed gradually, as I was growing as a young man.
“As a person of the cloth I don’t feel I chose the ministry,” he said. “The ministry chose me.
“I think this is what I was called and created for,” he said.
Lock went to Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge Pa., outside of Pittsburgh, and was ordained 6½ years ago. His first assignment was at All Souls Church in Oklahoma City, where he served as a curate. It was there he concentrated on liturgical and educational duties.
When he was interviewed for the position at the Red Bank church, the head of the search committee told Lock the church was looking for someone with fire in his belly.
That may not be him, he conceded. “I’m more the slow and steady guy, but I do get excited and have a passion.”
He believes an even keel will benefit him as the spiritual leader of the approximately 200 congregants at the 175-year-old church, offering guidance, conducting services, offering communion, he said.
“Dealing with people, serving them, bringing the word of Jesus to them and into their lives,” is his role – and a joy, he said.
“From that point it can be sobering as you minister someone sick in the hospital,” he said. “But there’s joy too, comforting them, seeing their faith, being there for them.
“There are so many things that are a tremendous privilege of the priesthood,” he noted.