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March 19, 2014
Column #1,699
Terry Fullam Changed My Life
By Mike McManus

In 1972 my wife and I happened to hear Rev. Everett (Terry) Fullam preach his second sermon at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Darien, CT.

“I believe the Lord has led me to come here,” he announced. “That means God will act in our lives together. And where God acts, He changes people. Everyone here will be changed.”

At age 9, Terry began going blind. His mother urged him to memorize huge hunks of the Bible. She prayed for his recovery. Eventually his blind spells ceased. But his memory of Scripture made him a riveting teacher and preacher who always spoke without notes.

Terry entered the Eastman School of Music where he became a pianist and organist. But he switched to Gordon College and later earned a Masters at Harvard. He taught philosophy at Barrington College but was a music director at an Episcopal Church, where he fell in love with the worship service. He taught himself Greek, and asked the bishop to ordain him – which he did without attending seminary.

Terry never viewed himself as a local pastor. “I was afraid I’d fall flat on my face. I knew I was a teacher, but for me, counseling is draining. And I am no administrator – skills that are expected of a pastor.”

However, after teaching at St. Paul’s, the church invited him to be rector when his predecessor resigned. Terry opened up the Bible for all of us. He spoke simply, often saying, “Now turn to Leviticus. That’s to the left…Now look at Ephesians, to the right, past Corinthians. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know where the books of the Bible are.”

Our congregation quadrupled in a few years from 250 to 1,000, making it the fastest-growing Episcopal church in America. That attracted attention. St. Paul’s became a center of renewal. Twice a year several hundred people from across the country attended a semi-annual Parish Renewal Weekend. We hosted them in our homes.

How did my wife and I happen to attend his second service at St. Paul’s? My mother was in the hospital. Harriet visited her. While seated in the Waiting Room in Intensive Care, she saw a priest come in and meet with a woman whose husband was a patient.

" I moved into the hall to give them privacy. “I noticed what transpired between them. He was not patting her hand, nor comforting her in traditional ways. They were equally strong. They seemed to be drawing their strength from the same source.

“I thought, `I want to have what they have.’ When I came home I said, 'I think I have found our church.'” We had been church-shopping for a number of months."

Terry had a profound impact on us.

One Sunday he preached a sermon that changed my life. He asked, "What are YOU doing to serve the Lord? Don't tell me you are an usher. That's insignificant Christian service." (I was an usher, so that got my attention!) "What are you doing that takes your unique gifts and talents to serve the Lord?" he asked.

At the time I was writing and self-syndicating a newspaper column I called "The Northern Perspective" that examined the plight of the old industrial states from Maine to Minnesota. Each week I suggested an economic or political answer. It was fairly successful published by a number of major papers.

I did a mental inventory. What were my unique talents or gifts? I could report and write a column on a wide variety of topics. And I could get on the phone and sell it to editors. How could I use those talents to serve the Lord? I suddenly thought of all the religion pages of America's newspapers which were generally so boring they wouldn't inspire anyone even to go to church.

I thought "I could write a column that would put content on that page." That's how I happen to start writing my “Ethics & Religion” column in 1981. I continued writing "The Northern Perspective" for another decade until I got a contract to write my first book. "Marriage Savers: Helping Your Friends and Family Avoid Divorce." When I signed that contract and dropped "The Northern Perspective" - I felt like I was finally working full-time for the Lord.

Nor was I alone. Terry estimated that he inspired 40-50 people to enter ordained ministry – two of whom are bishops.

Terry died this week at age 83. We are forever grateful for his impact on our lives.
 

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