Running with Charlie

Our local paper did an article on The Preacher today.  I've copied and pasted it here but you can also see it here.

Pastor finds God's grace in midst of illness
Summey uses experience to help others

In his first 10 years as a pastor, Charlie Summey has often visited the sick and bedridden — always while enjoying excellent health himself.
In the past eight weeks, Summey says he’s “learning what it feels like to be on this side of the bed.”
Summey, 44, began feeling “a little off-balance” the week prior to Christmas and was promptly placed on a medication to control hypertension. But the problems persisted; brain cancer was diagnosed Dec. 30.
For Summey, who became pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church three years ago, the experience has raised the intensity of his personal relationship with God.
“I now approach life with a hunger to feel the embrace of God cradling every grain of sand that embodies my very being,” says Summey. “Before, I would often prefer to numb myself to God’s presence, thinking about what a rebel I could be at times.”
Summey became a Christian early in life. He grew up in a close-knit, Mayberry-like mill community in North Carolina where he knew everyone by name.
But it was not until he became a father that Summey says he fully understood the need for a relationship with his heavenly father. That led to a call to full-time ministry, one that Summey isn’t sure whether he would have heard in his younger days.
“If it was (an early calling), I was numb to it, determined to run from it and prove I could live another way and be happy,” says Summey, who earned an electronics engineering degree at Appalachian State University in 1991 at age 23.
Fifteen years later, in 2006, he graduated magna cum laude with a master’s in divinity from Erskine Theological Seminary. In between, wife Julie had given birth to two children — Rebecca, born in December 1995, and Charles Adam, born in November 1998 — and Summey had turned his back on the engineering career to enter the ministry.
He became a pastor in 2002 and came to Trinity in 2008. His ministry took a sudden turn in December, when the health issues struck.
Summey has been in physical therapy for the past month and began his first round of radiation treatments last week. He tries to keep the Trinity congregation updated about his condition with a blog he writes — quite candidly — on a regular basis.
“I’m willing to even answer raw, awkward questions and even permit people to cry with me and be real about this stuff,” says Summey. “I am in a place in my faith journey where I am at total peace with my aggressive disease.”
Summey, who describes his prognosis as “treatable, but ultimately terminal at some point,” even talks about the possibility of cancer cutting his life short. His says his battle “presents an opportunity, by God’s grace, to help someone else journey though this life experiencing God’s grace.
“God is longing to connect with us in meaningful, life-changing ways,” says Summey.
The connection has been apparent for the past month at Trinity, whose congregation on Augusta Road has responded to his illness with steady doses of encouragement.
“In my short 44 years of life, my family and I have discovered what it feels like to be cradled by the hands and feet of Jesus,” Summey says of the church’s reaction.
Summey was exposed to close relationships early in life. He says he was blessed to have grown up in the close-knit town of Gastonia, N.C.
“Everyone was shaped by knowing their neighbor on a first-name basis,” says Summey. “While everyone wanted to say they were from ‘prestigious’ Gastonia, we all knew we were a simple people.”
More important, says Summey, he was raised in a Christian home.
“I believe that my faith journey has it genesis in the nurturing and loving care of church-going parents who made sure that unless someone had a Sunday morning fever, they were going to church.
“Habit leads to discipline; discipline leads to life practice,” says Summey. “It was only through that journey that I was able to discern God’s calling, in God’s timing for me.”
For Summey, that history of close relationships and ability to sense God’s timing is more important than ever before.
The same is true of his creed, which he repeats often: “Live your life in hunger and passion pursuing holiness of heart, mind, body and soul.”

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