Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
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Islamorada church's new pastor to continue outreach

PLANTATION KEY -- After two-plus years of service to the St. James the Fisherman Episcopal Church, the Rev. Charles Cannon has moved to take a duty in a Fort Myers church.

Tom Graf, the church's new pastor and a Roman Catholic turned Episcopalean, plans to continue Cannon's practice of reaching out to residents in the Upper Keys.

On Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m., he will host a theology discussion at the Fish House Encore restaurant, where some attending will likely be imbibing. One usually doesn't put religion and alcohol in the same boat, but Graf is using the tool to reach out to prosepctive members.

"It's a format to come together," he said. He hopes to make the theology discussion a monthly event.

The church's once-a-month service outside the Caribbean Club has become very popular, according to Graf.

"It gives us an opportunity to reach the people who won't come inside the church," said Michelle Lane, parish administrator.

At the Plantation Key church, Graf will lead two Sunday services, a Monday children's service and a Wednesday night service. Graf's position is considered part-time, though Cannon had full-time status. Graf, who will remain a resident in Miami-Dade County, will continue to serve the Ocean Reef Club community as well. His other position is director of Chaplains for Heartland Hospice, which is based on the mainland.

Graf and his wife have three daughters, two of whom live in New York and New Jersey, while the other lives at their home in Miami. His previous positions included work with the homeless as head chaplain of a shelter in New Jersey. He also mentored younger chaplains while working in Jacksonville.

Though not teaching this semester, Graf has served as a professor of world religions in South Florida colleges.

"We have a walk-in ministry," Graf said, noting that St. James has some means to help the poor who need to speak with someone. He is also fluent in Spanish.

The issue of homelessness remains an important focus for Graf, which he says can be best addressed when local churches work together.

"There's a large percentage of families that are just one paycheck away," Graf said.

Cannon's last service was Christmas Eve and Graf took over on Christmas Day. The church is located at mile marker 87.5, bayside, and can be reached at 852-8468.


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