Interview: Reverend William Carl Thomas

How long have you been living in Charleston, and why did you decide to settle in this city?
I was called to serve at Saint Matthews in June, 2003. My wife Edna and I arrived in late August and I began my ministry on September 1, 2003. A calling such as mine was based on mutual discernment by the members of Saint Matthews and myself as a reflection of God’s movement in our lives. My decision to come to Charleston was the outcome of much prayer on all our parts.

How do you find the general vibe of Charleston?
Charleston is a hopeful area of West Virginia. Many of the talented people that live and work in Charleston could choose to live wherever a high-speed internet connection is found. The beauty of the mountains, the movement of the rivers, and ease of companionship draws and keeps people in Charleston.

Which season is Charleston at its best?
The four seasons found in Charleston are the rhythm of life. Winter is still beauty that challenges yet calms. Spring dawns in many greens with the invitation to move freely. Summer is exuberant laughter released by festivals and gatherings. Fall is balance found when choosing between sandals and shoes. One season cannot be better than another when one is fortunate to move to the beat of the best a four-season lifestyle has to offer.

What do you think is Charleston’s biggest attraction?
A people who invest in their community with their time, talent, and treasure is Charleston’s biggest attraction. A strong commitment to building social capital is evident from the spirit of volunteerism to a willingness to share the wealth. A few examples are the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, Covenant House, Manna Meal, HOPE CDC, The Religious Coalition for Community Renewal, The Charleston Light Opera Guild, The Kanawha Players, and the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences. All these and more combine to make Charleston a vibrant and vital city.

How would you describe Charleston to someone who hasn’t been here before?
Imagine a place where people take listening seriously. Such a place cares to learn your name and your needs. This means this place called Charleston is dedicated to the hard work of making everyday a little better for everyone. All the human realities that exist elsewhere are found in Charleston. A willing spirit to deal with those realities makes Charleston a place where love and hope are found.

What are your top 5 dining places in Charleston?
The Tidewater Grill (especially on my birthday!); Joe Fazio’s (a first choice when no one wants to cook and wants to be fed well); Panera Bread (you can find me there on Friday mornings), Capitol Roasters on Summers Street (great for conversation, coffee, and meetings); First Watch (where you hope the sermon was short enough to get you a table after church – no cracks about who controls his own destiny on Sunday!)

What are Charleston’s attractions that every tourist must visit?
Enter the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences and you’ll swear that you are visiting a city much larger than Charleston. Any performance of the Charleston Light Opera Guild or the Kanawha Players or the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra or the West Virginia Power baseball team or _______: there’s always something interesting in Charleston happening no matter when you visit.

What are the absolute must-try’s for every visitor in Charleston?
Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream on Capitol Street should not be missed. The committee that recruited me to Charleston knew the value of Ellen’s! And, oddly enough, visit the efficient and hospitable Division of Motor Vehicles office in the Kanawha City part of Charleston. This is, bar none, the best run and friendliest DMV in the United States! Oh, and check out the preacher at Saint Matthews on Sundays at either 8:00 AM or 10:30 AM.

What are the cheap thrills that you can enjoy in Charleston?
The Kanawha County Library main location at the corner of Quarrier and Capitol Streets is a well run “cheap thrill.” The West Virginia Power baseball team and West Virginia Power Park offer great spring and summer entertainment to which the word “cheap” should be replaced with inexpensive. A quick review of the ongoing Charleston cultural events will find music in coffee houses and bookstores as well as live theatre almost any night of the week.

Reverend William Carl ThomasA native of Chappaqua, New York, The Reverend William Carl Thomas, prior to ordination as an Episcopal Priest over nineteen years ago, was in the broadcasting industry where his last secular position was General Manager of a radio station. “Father Bill” has served parishes in Sayville, New York; Warren, Rhode Island; and Tuscaloosa, Alabama and was a chaplain in the United States Army Reserve from 1990 to 1996. He is currently writing his Doctor of Ministry Thesis manuscript on leadership identity in a pastoral setting. In Charleston he serves on the boards of the Religious Coalition for Community Renewal and the Buckskin Council, BSA. Listen to him preach at www.matthew1893.org and learn more about him at www.deepchurch.net.