RADFORD – It has been almost two years since full-time clergy has led Grace Episcopal Church in Radford, but that changed recently with the arrival of Curate William Yagel.
Church members say his leadership has had immediate positive effects.
“William arrived with an enthusiasm and joy which has been contagious,” said Tim Walker, Grace Episcopal Church Vestry Senior Warden. “This enthusiasm has invigorated our parish. As a recently graduated seminarian, William brings an up-to-date academic perspective. As a person, he brings fresh ideas that are reinforced by an outgoing personality, an open heart, and a passion for pastoral care.”
Lee Slusher, who has been a member of Grace Episcopal for more than 45 years, agrees.
“William brings boundless energy and a zest for his ministry that we haven’t seen in quite some time,” said Slusher. “This enthusiasm draws people to him. With an easy smile and amiable personality, he is such a good fit for a congregation that has longed for a strong faith leader.
“His sermons challenge our faith as he makes strong Biblical connections to our daily lives as Christians,” she continued. “William ‘walks the talk’ about God’s love for all people in a world that seems to have lost its way. Grace Church is thrilled to have William, his wife Eve, and their children with us.”
Yagel, 47, and his family moved to Radford from Alexandira, Va., where he earned a Master of
Divinity Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) over the past three years. For the 13 years prior, he and his family lived on a small farm in Tye River, Va., in Nelson County. Yagel, 47, was a builder by trade, but says he was called to ministry through a “series of opportunities and moments in [his] life where [he] considered a call to the priesthood until finally [he] couldn’t refuse it anymore.”
Yagel’s official title at Grace is curate rather than rector, meaning he is here continuing his time of “education and formation.” Generally, a curate serves as an assistant to a priest in a
parish, but Yagel is the only ordained person serving at Grace. Yagel was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church in June, “and the Lord willing, people consenting, I will be ordained a priest in six months or so,” he said. All priests must serve as deacons for a time before ordination to the priesthood.
“I am fortunate to have a wealth of colleagues to provide help and advice in my work here,” said Yagel. “But even more importantly, the community of Grace is one of hospitality and thoughtfulness. As challenges have come up, the people of Grace have been generous with their time and talents.
“Grace is a close and faithful community that is eager to be God’s mission in this community,” Yagel continued. “They are a resilient community that is excited about moving forward in ministry and mission. The excitement at Grace is palpable, and I am overjoyed to be
Yagel and his wife, Eve, have three children, Frannie, Will, and Henry, “of whom I am annoyingly proud and about whom I will always talk too long,” he said.
Frannie, 25, lives in Richmond and has just earned her Masters in criminal justice from the VCU Wilder School for Public Policy. Yagel said “she is passionate about making change accessible for those who have been affected by the criminal justice system.”
Will, 19, is a rising sophomore at the VCU School of the Arts where he is majoring in jazz guitar. Yagel says Will “is a gifted musician, and I hope he will play a gig or two locally for folks to hear him.”
Henry, 17, will be a senior at Radford High School this year who, Yagel says, “is also a gifted musician and artist who is working to figure out his next adventure.” Yagel calls his wife “a naturalist at heart constantly teaching all of us about the world around us.
“ I am so proud of all of them, and so grateful that they have been supportive of this move to Radford,” he said.
Yagel says he is awed by the natural beauty and friendliness of his new home.
“Radford and the New River Valley are beautiful,” he said. “The network of trails and parks is excellent, and we can’t wait to explore more. We also hope to make it up to Claytor Lake in the next couple of weeks to see what that is all about. Also, the people of Radford couldn’t be more
welcoming. It seems I meet a new neighbor every time I walk our dogs, and the pride folks have
in this City is evident every time.”
Yagel says he is excited about the future possibility for his Church.
“I hope we can continue to be a voice and force for God’s mission in Radford and beyond,” he said. “I can’t wait for the specific programs and ministries that will emerge in the years ahead. My prayer is that we continue our effort to be a welcoming and inclusive spiritual home for all who seek to serve Christ in each other and in this community. I hope to learn from them how to be a better person and a better priest in the years ahead.”
Slusher says she thinks Yagel will be a force for growth for Grace Episcopal Church.
“William immersed himself into the Radford community very quickly,” she said. “He has instant recall for names. I truly believe he will help Grace grow and become a shining example of God’s love having no boundaries. He’s a keeper.”
Grace is located at 210 Fourth Street in Radford. The church has in-person services each Sunday at 10:30 a.m., which can also be viewed on YouTube.