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Faces on Faith: Truly blessed to live in such a beautiful place

By REV. BILL VAN OSS - | Oct 27, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Rev. William “Bill” Van Oss

“This is a beautiful place.” That was my first thought as my family and I crossed the Causeway and drove onto Sanibel Island six years ago. It was February, and we were on vacation. Our home in Duluth, Minnesota, was surrounded by a few feet of snow. The condo near the lighthouse where we were staying was surrounded by lush tropical foliage.

It was a wonderful week. We swam in the Gulf, walked miles on the beach and collected too many shells. We visited Bailey’s and marveled that they seemed to have everything. We ate at the Lighthouse Café and Cheeburger Cheeburger. We had a lovely dinner at The Mucky Duck. Sitting on the beach to watch the sunset afterward, we watched dolphins playing — feeding? — just a few yards from the shore. It was a transcendent moment when the sun touched the horizon. The beauty was breathtaking.

We visited the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum and CROW, where we met a rambunctious raccoon named Trooper. We had a guided tour of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, where we saw mangroves and elegant tropical birds and learned about the efforts of Darling and others to keep Sanibel from being overdeveloped and to preserve the natural surroundings.

We rode borrowed bikes many miles on the wonderful bike paths. One of these paths was just a few feet from a well-kept Episcopal church named Saint Michael & All Angels. We stopped, hoping it was open, to peek inside. It was. We sat in the peaceful quiet, looking at unique stained glass. I wondered what it would be like to serve this parish in this beautiful place.

Now I have the chance to find out. I am the new rector of Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church. I have learned in just a few weeks that the church isn’t just a well-kept building in a beautiful place, but a community of followers of Jesus engaged in ministries that spread God’s love in this community, throughout our diocese and across the world. I have met so many people who are actively living out their faith, reaching out in love to serve God and care for others. My wife and I have been warmly welcomed by the people of Saint Michael’s and others in the community. We are so thankful.

As I drive over the Causeway and onto the island these days, Psalm 16:6 comes to mind: “My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; indeed, I have a goodly heritage.” We are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful place. I feel so very blessed to serve such a wonderful parish. I look forward to getting to know the Sanibel community. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Amen.

The Rev. William “Bill” Van Oss is the rector at Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church.