St. Timothy Episcopal Church

Willy Crespo, prison priest

Fr. Wilfred Crespo: “What concerns me most is that people really pay attention to their lives and that they’re open to the vicissitudes of being human.”
  • Fr. Wilfred Crespo: “What concerns me most is that people really pay attention to their lives and that they’re open to the vicissitudes of being human.”

St. Timothy's Episcopal Church

10125 Azuaga Street, Rancho Penasquitos

Membership: 97

Pastor: Father Wilfredo (“Willy”) Crespo

Age: 60

Born: New York City

Formation: New York Theological Seminary, NY; New York University, NY; University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ; Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL

Years Ordained: 18

San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?

Father Willy Crespo: I start thinking about the sermon on Thursday with a couple hours of reading. I start writing down Friday night some thoughts for about an hour, and then Saturday afternoon I spend another hour piecing it together and getting a plot in my mind…. I have the sermon in my mind and talking to the folks as I walk up and down the aisles. It’s no more than 15 to 17 minutes; I worked as a chaplain in the prisons [in New York and California for about 38 years] and learned that if you talk for longer than 15 minutes your crowd will fall asleep.

SDR: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?

FC: Life and God are here right now. There’s an immediacy to the moment, the concrete reality from which we’re never taken, and there’s a meeting between people in which the reality of life and healing occur.

SDR: What’s your main concern as a member of the clergy?

FC: What concerns me most is that people really pay attention to their lives and that they’re open to the vicissitudes of being human, but more than put a filter or barrier through which to interpret it, to allow that experience to teach them. So, it requires faith and openness to the moment.

SDR: Why did you become a priest in the first place?

FC: When I was a kid, I remember some character in a movie as a priest walking down the long range of a prison block. He heard the door lock behind him and this character is walking down and I’m seeing his interaction with the prisoners. I thought, That’s what I want to be. So, I went into prison ministry. But then I also became a priest because I want to point to things and want people to try out different ways to live out their lives. I want to give people permission rather than restrict them in finding themselves and finding God.

SDR: Where’s the strangest place you’ve found God?

FC: I found Him in prison. The brokenness and resiliency, the promise and vulnerability, the rage and tenderness; all those polarities I found there, but the main thing I found there is hope, a way of reflecting society through the eyes of the inmates.

SDR: What is the mission of your church?

FC: ‘To restore people to unity with God and each other in Jesus Christ.’ Community, dialogue, collaboration, diversity-working and holding the tension of diversity and giving it direction and allowing it to give you direction.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

FC: Tradition teaches that there’s a hell and heaven, but in the overall scheme of things, it’s a learning process to continue developing and moving forward. So I don’t talk about what will happen to you if you die tomorrow — it puts undue pressure on people. It’s really manipulative and skews what people are dealing with right now. God is not in tomorrow but the moment — that’s why He is incarnational.

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Comments

"God is not in tomorrow but the moment." "I want to give people permission rather than restrict them." What a neat representation of the Episcopal Church. Thanks, Father Crespo!

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