Hanging on the walls of the Rev. Craig Goodwin’s office are beautiful photographs of the natural world.
Like a small art gallery, his workspace is painted with breathtaking views of local wildlife and classic Spokane scenes taken from unique angles.
To know just how early to set the alarm to get the perfect picture of the sun rising over the Spokane River, you would have to ask the photographer: Goodwin.
The lead pastor of Millwood Community Presbyterian Church enjoys finding the intersections of faith and nature. He is hoping to do a little more of that search during his six month sabbatical.
After 14 years, Goodwin has decided to step down from his position at the Spokane Valley church, called by God to pursue a different path.
“God always draws you to the things that need attention,” he says. “We’ll find out just what that is.”
At 49 years old, Goodwin is not retiring–just taking time to focus on something new. Since becoming an ordained minister in his 20s, Goodwin has never had a “normal” job.
“I have been in the middle of church life for the last 30 years,” he says. “I think the congregation is in a healthy place for me to leave and create my own healthy place.”
In 2013, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, undergoing five months of chemotherapy and 45 days of radiation at Sacred Heart Medical Center. During his treatment, Goodwin focused on his photography–even holding a show of his photos at the hospital.
“He never took a day off,” says Christy Heston, Millwood’s administrator. “Even during his treatment, he was rarely gone from the church.”
Although the cancer is now in remission, his struggle has been influential in his decision to leave the church. Goodwin wants to focus on his photography and see his daughter off to college over the next six months.
After that, he doesn’t know what he’s going to do.
“I just needed a break,” he says. “I don’t know where I’ll go next, but I’ll have my camera.”
Over the years, Goodwin’s photography has been used by the U.S. Tourism Board and National Park Service, Fuller Theological Seminary, the University of Zurich in Switzerland and more. His work has even been recognized by National Geographic.
At the church, Goodwin helped develop the Millwood Community Center, which holds outreach events like the Star Club–a free, nonreligious after-school program for elementary schoolers. Wanting to make the community healthier, he also helped organize events like the Millwood Farmers’ Market, the mobile food bank and free cooking classes.
“My goal was to make sure the church was outwardly focused,” he said. “I wanted to help the community, and I feel like the congregation has been successful at that. We’ve done great work together.”
Reactions to his decision to step down ranged from anxious and surprised to kind and understanding–both by the congregation and his wife and two daughters.
“I wasn’t too surprised, but I’m happy for him to focus on his future and his emotional and spiritual health,” Heston said. “This decision is best for the health of the church also. We all are just excited to see where God takes him next.”
As for the Millwood Community Presbyterian Church, Goodwin won’t be coming back anytime soon. He says it is encouraged that outgoing Presbyterian pastors stay out of the church for at least a year.
“The last thing a new pastor wants to see is the old pastor sitting in the front row,” he says.
Since his announcement, the church has been searching for an interim pastor. The congregation will conduct a mission study, focusing on God’s new purpose for the church. Once a new mission is established, a deciding committee will be formed and a new pastor will be nominated.
Sheryl Kinder-Pyle, the ExecutivePresbyter, will preach on May 20 to share the pastoral candidates and speak on the process going forward.
“I want the congregation to think ‘Craig was good, but this new guy is great,’” Goodwin says. “The community has always been really supportive of me and my family. So in this future of unknowns, I am not worried.”
RGoodwin’s last sermon is this Sunday, followed with a farewell celebration at the Millwood Community Center.
He doesn’t know what to do for his first Sunday off. But as long as he’s surrounded by family and has a camera in hand, he says he’ll be just fine.
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