The new rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church began his ministry in Rome on Aug. 19. Herring said he, his wife Keri and their three children, 8-year-old Amelia, 6-year-old Madeline and 4-year-old Lucas, are happy to be welcomed into the Rome community.
“We’re really excited to be here and really excited to join the St. Peter’s family,” Herring said. “It’s a beautiful church with wonderful people and we’re particularly excited about being in Rome, at a place where people care about their town and have a lot invested in their town. That’s very appealing.”
The son of an Episcopal clergyman, Herring grew up in New Jersey where his father served several parishes both in urban and rural areas.
“I grew up in New Jersey, roughly half an hour south and west of New York City, which was a very suburban upbringing,” Herring said. “Right before I started high school, I moved to northwest New Jersey, and that was a very rural setting, so much so that, one summer, I actually worked on a farm and picked crops. Like corn and tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe and what not.”
Herring said he didn’t always plan to minister. During his years at Washington College in Maryland, he majored in political science with the intention to become a lawyer.
“I thought I was going to go to law school, eventually,” Herring said. “When I moved to Atlanta, I still thought I was going to go to law school, and after about a year, I realized I did not want to be a lawyer. I got into recruiting and sales, and I did that up until I went to seminary.”
Herring said it was through feeling the call from God and careful consideration that entered into the priesthood.
“At some point I knew I was not doing whatever I was called to be doing and that I would not truly be happy with my vocation,” he said. “Over time, it became clear I was being called to go into the priesthood. My wife and I discussed it and decided to pray about it and think about it. When we were both clear at some point that yes, this was a legitimate call, I got into the discernment process.”
Herring graduated from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., with a master’s of divinity. He was ordained in 2008 and became an associate rector at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta. He served that position for more than four years, working in the areas of youth, young adults and street ministry, before moving to Rome.
“When people out on the streets came knocking on the doors, that was me,” he said. “It was interesting. We were right in the heart of Atlanta, you got all kinds of people. A lot of homeless and working poor.”
Herring said when he ministers, he keeps in mind that those who seek his guidance are coming from vastly different backgrounds.
“Each person is different and each person has a story,” he said. “The idea, really, is to hear each person’s story. I don’t go about working with each person the same exact way. But I think it’s important to hear the story, at least, particularly when you’re dealing with homeless and the working poor, you’re dealing with a lot of people who are ignored. And just by listening to their stories, you’re giving something more than they may have gotten all day.”
Herring said he found joy in working with youth and young adults as well. “I’ve worked with youth for a long time,” Herring said. “It’s a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction working with youth and young adults.”
But Herring said it wasn’t necessarily a huge leap, going from working with youth and street ministry to becoming rector at St. Peter’s. “The gospel doesn’t change,” he said, “but ultimately — whether you’re dealing with homeless, or you’re dealing with youth or you’re dealing with young adults or you’re dealing with parents — ultimately, you’re dealing with people who have a story and who are struggling to be faithful and who want to learn. That doesn’t ever change.”
When asked if he had a personal philosophy, Herring’s eyes lit up with a warm recollection.
“I read a book when I was in junior high school,” he said. “An autobiography by Gale Sayers, who was a running back for the Chicago Bears. He said that God is first, my family is second and I am third. That’s something that’s always stuck with me. It’s ultimately not about me, it’s about God. Whatever I can do to help people on their way, that’s where the satisfaction comes from.”