Monday, October 26, 2020
Just Call Him Jonah
The Rev. M. Jonah Kendall, the fourth Rector at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Sun Valley, held a meet-and-greet with Sun Valley residents like Fred and Gayle Bieker.
Tuesday, September 22, 2020


The Rev. Jonah Kendall was fly fishing the Big Wood River when he noticed what he calls “a working shepherd” lead his flock through a gate.

Naturally, he said, he recounted that moment in plenty of sermons about the Good Shepherd after returning to his home on the East Coast.

Now, the 46-year-old pastor is looking forward to encountering many more of those teachable moments as the new pastor of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Sun Valley.

Father Jonah has been gifted with whales given the similarity between his name and that of the Prophet Jonah who was sent to warn people of the calamities that would befall them if they did not heed God.

“I am sorry we won’t have the Trailing of the Sheep Festival this year,” he said, adding that he had looked forward to blessing the sheep in the festival parade down Ketchum’s Main Street. “But we will get back—of course, I’ve been saying that since the pandemic hit in March.”

Kendall officiated over his first service as the new rector of St. Thomas on Sunday at Festival Meadows on Sun Valley Road. Attendees brought their camp chairs and their backpacks, as well, since there was a Blessing of the Backpacks.

Kendall started meeting his new parishioners this week in informal coffees in the church courtyard. He will hold additional meet-and-greets at 10 a.m. today and Wednesday, Sept. 22-23 and Sept. 29-30.

“Just call me Jonah,” he told those who assembled in the courtyard Wednesday morning. “Father Jonah is okay, as well.”

Father Jonah, talking here with Bonnie Hovencamp, said he enjoys hiking, running and skiing—he’s hopeful his skiing will improve in Sun Valley since it doesn’t sport the blue ice of Stowe, Vt.

The Rev. M. Jonah Kendall and his family recently moved to Sun Valley from Durham, N.C., where he had served as priest for 12 years.

Scout, a seventh-grader at Hemingway School, was delighted to learn of the theatrical program at St. Thomas. She is also looking forward to running the trails around Sun Valley with her father. Six-year-old Beau, also at Hemingway, is head over heels in love with the mountains and the prospects of riding a horse.

Kendall’s wife Caty, who has a Master’s degree in the arts, is currently focused on getting the family settled in the newly remodeled pastor’s house in Elkhorn and managing COVID. A studio artist, teacher and yoga instructor who loves the outdoors, she will figure out ways to the contribute to the community in time, said Kendall.

The family spent one of its first nights in Sun Valley, watching Sun Valley Opera’s screening of “West Side Story” on the big screen on the Sun Valley Pavilion lawn.

Father Jonah said he worked a brief stint as a paralegal in New York City, quickly figuring out it wasn’t for him.

“I’ve never seen it before. It’s kind of heavy isn’t it?” he said.

The family has been pleasantly surprised by kids knocking on the door to see if they could play. In Durham, Kendall said, there is no in-person school.

“Here seems to be more open, there’s more to do due to the outdoors,” he said. “I’ve already noticed how convenient everything is. But I’ve also noticed you’ve got to watch the speed limit. It goes from 35 to 25 miles per hour all of a sudden.”

As the child of an Episcopal priest, Kendall is highly familiar with the story of the reluctant prophet Jonah who ended up in the belly of the whale. If you go to his office, he acknowledged, you’ll find whales that people have given him lining his desk.

At heart, Kendall said, he is a pastor who is focused on the role the church plays in its surroundings.

Growing up on a farm near New York City, he was shaped by the divorce of his parents when he was 10.  As his mother went to school to learn to be a nurse, the church became an anchor that helped everything together for him.

“That showed me how important the church is,” he said. “I also developed a rich prayer life then. I felt His presence, and that’s why I’m here.”

Kendall fell in love with Sun Valley when some college buddies invited him to accompany them on a trip West.

“I had never heard of Sun Valley, but it sounded good,” he said.

Kendall returned to New York and went on to receive a Master of Divinity from General Theological Seminary in New York City. He has served as curate at the Church of the Holy Trinity in New York City, as well as Rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Harrison, N.Y.

At. St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Durham  he has focused on helping others grow in the knowledge and love of God by assisting them to discover the gifts God has given them.

 When he received a sabbatical in 2018, he asked Father Ken Brannon, the former rector at St. Thomas, if there was a job at the church he could take on for a month while he shared the beauty of Sun Valley with his family.

It was a match made in heaven as Brannon readily appointed him guest pastor while Brannon attended a convention and took his own vacation for a few weeks.

He—and his family—were elated to be called by the church after Brannon left to serve in Dallas.

“In many ways, this is a dream come true,” he said. “The time I spent at St. Thomas two summers ago was an experience that deeply touched my family and me. The love and faith we encountered was palpable, leaving us longing to one day return again.”


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