A new pastor who is also a talented and accomplished musician has been appointed to lead the congregation of Vashon United Methodist Church.
Mark Wagner, age 36, presided over his first service at the church on Sunday, July 11, as the church re-opened for its first in-person worship service since March of 2020.
After the service, church members celebrated the re-opening milestone as well as the arrival of Wagner, his wife Kalle Marie Wagner and their seven-year-old daughter, Maria Rose, with an outdoor root beer float reception.
Eric Walker, who serves as church council president at the Methodist Church, said that Wagner’s enthusiasm for his new job on Vashon is evidenced in his energetic presence and broad smile, and also provided a quote from Wagner’s first greeting to the church from the pulpit.
“God is all things and in all things. God is the Christian, the Muslim, the atheist, the Black person, the white person, LGBTQIA+ individuals, people from everywhere with a variety of views and beliefs,” Wagner told the congregation. “There is beauty in diversity.”
The new young pastor has had two previous posts as a senior pastor, serving in churches in Utah and most recently, Ellensburg, Washington. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and also has received a doctorate degree from Boston University.
But in a twist that seems particularly appropriate for Vashon, Wagner has also spent more than a decade, prior to receiving his divinity degree, as an internationally touring singer and songwriter. Wagner has recorded seven albums in Nashville, Tennessee, and is still practicing his craft as a musician. Currently, he’s in the process of recording a new project in Nashville with the producer Parke Cottrell, of the band Colony House.
In a phone interview, Wagner spoke in the lilting twang of his native Tennessee, describing his decision to become a pastor as a door that had opened in his life.
“It really was divine inspiration,” he said. “it wasn’t something I was trying to do — these were opportunities that presented themselves to me. The more I leaned into that, the more I realized it was a good fit for me.”
Wagner said he was excited to arrive on Vashon, and he expressed gratitude to the church bishops who had appointed him to his new post, after identifying him as a good fit for Vashon.
While on Vashon, Wagner will split his time working for the church with another post in the Office of Innovation and Vitality of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church. He’ll also lead his congregation in a process of redefining its strategic vision of how best to serve the community long-term.
“We want to do this from a strong foundation of relationship and partnership,” he said. “The church here is excited to sign up for another 50-plus years of engaging and serving the Vashon community.”
Wagner expressed admiration for the church’s already strong work to help islanders in need, citing its partnerships with other churches, recovery groups and Vashon’s Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness.
For now, Wagner said that he is also eager to meet more islanders and even dip his toe into the island’s vibrant music scene. “Being out in the community is part of my vision for living here,” he said.
More information about Methodist Church, including links to recent worship and sermon videos, can be found at vashonmethodist.org. Church services are held at 10 a.m. on Sundays, and require mask-wearing by all members of the congregation, regardless of vaccination status. To listen to Wagner’s music, visit markwagnermusic.com.