The new rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, 227 Sherman St., said his faith grew as he taught world religion and humanities courses for the past two years nearly 6,000 miles away in Iraq.
Lecturing to diverse classrooms, predominantly Muslim students, at the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani, the Very Rev. Richard Laribee said his students questions led him to dig deep in his Bible readings and consider more carefully how he presented his faith. He said he found success, both in the classroom and in previous jobs, by being humble and speaking openly and honestly about his beliefs.
I walked away from the Middle East a lot more in love with Jesus, the Rev. Mr. Laribee said.
First contacted about the local opening this spring by regional church officials in Syracuse, the Rev. Mr. Laribee said he was impressed by the reach of the church and its resources in the region.
The Camden native also liked the idea of living close to his family.
Jane G. Gendron, co-chairwoman of the churchs search committee, said the Rev. Mr. Laribees wide range of experience made him a competitive candidate for the role.
He was our first pick, Mrs. Gendron said. Were thrilled that he agreed to come to the north country.
The Rev. Mr. Laribee replaces the Very Rev. Clarke French, who left the church in early 2011. The churchs interim rector was the Rev. H. Alan Smith.
Taking the job Sept. 4, the Rev. Mr. Laribee said he planned to spend about the next six months formulating his goals for the church and its outreach efforts. However, he said, the churchs approximately 400 congregants should expect to interact with the Bible in a way that would make them think and grow in their faith.
Human beings theyre meant to grow, he Laribee said. If youre not growing, youre not alive.
The Rev. Mr. Laribee, whose first sermon in Watertown was given Sept. 9, raved about the warm welcome he and his wife have received since their arrival. The church has held several meet-and-greet events over the last week.
I dont think Ive ever felt as welcome as I do with this group, he said.
The Rev. Mr. Laribee, who holds a doctorate of ministry degree in congregational development from Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif., also has led congregations in Kansas, Texas and California, along with New Hartford and Briarcliff Manor. He has been married to his wife, Jeanne, for 38 years, and they have three daughters, ages 34, 30 and 28.
In his personal time, the Rev. Mr. Laribee loves to be in the outdoors, listing some of his hobbies as scuba diving, sailing, backpacking and photography. He also has been firing up his motorcycle. He said hes already done some riding on his 1,100-cc Honda Shadow bike in the Adirondacks, and said the area provided some of the best roads hes ever traveled on.
The Rev. Mr. Laribee will take part in a special open house with community leaders from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday. A special celebration marking his arrival is scheduled for Oct. 17.