Sunday, April 17, 2016

Who Am We? Chris Wells

Chris is a semi-retired Clinical Neuroscientist and Medical Software Engineer.

But his mind is still fully employed. Our conversation was wide-ranging, fun, and left me trying to remember which words to look up at home.

His faith journey started at his grandmother’s side. He described her as a nineteenth century Episcopalian who enlisted him as her church escort from the time he was five.

In his 20s, Chris studied Bushido (meaning the Warrior Way) Buddhism and embraced the concept of the Spiritual Warrior.

A move back to Los Angeles later in life, led to a crossroads. While escorting a friend’s schizophrenic son to and from treatment at UCLA, Chris devoured journals about clinical mental health. He was invited to join a NIMH research team.

Then one Saturday night before Palm Sunday, Chris’ deceased grandmother told him in a dream it was time for him to get back to church. Chris asked, “Which one?” She didn’t have an opinion as long as it was Episcopalian.

Chris’ first visit to St. Alban’s, Westwood was almost his last. (Ask him to tell you about it.) He stayed, and Chris says he turned away from military thinking, returned to Mother Church, and got involved in outreach to the homeless mentally ill, which he continued at St. Augustine-by-the-Sea in Santa Monica and here at St. Paul’s.

Two main themes emerged in our conversation. He said he’s “on a life quest to integrate science and religion” and like St. Augustine “to heal the division” between faith and reason.

The second theme, his ministry, is to reach out with discernment, which he also calls “spiritual security.” Chris views the church’s invitation and the security of our campus as forming a balanced outreach. His discernment process is based on relationships, his past experience, and principles from Listening Hearts.

Every Saturday evening, Chris bikes through Balboa Park and speaks with the homeless people he meets and befriends. (Also ask him about Patrol Partners.) He strives to listen with depth and to offer welcome to those with open hearts, calm to those with unquiet minds, and discernment and referral to those with troubled hearts.

I forgot which words to look up in the dictionary, but I did remember to reread Mark 5. Chris deepened my understanding of both the story and his vision by reminding me of the last three verses in the chapter.

While we talked, Jesus’ words came to mind:
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves:
so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16
When I wrote that to Chris, he replied it was his mission statement to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

 St. Paul’s member, Cindy Schuricht, would love to talk with you. Please let her know if you would like to be interviewed for the Who Am We? series.   Click here to read  how Who Am We? got started. Cindy has a member of St. Pauls’ for about ten years. She reviews children’s books in her blog

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