Before God called him to the pulpit, Reverend Mark Cowell was called to Kansas – by Kevin Costner.
The man who will be ordained this Saturday as the Sixth Bishop of The Episcopal Dioceses of Western Kansas grew up in New Jersey but fell in love with the Great Plains after watching “Dances With Wolves.”
The Best Picture of 1991 starring Kevin Costner opened a door to the west and Cowell never looked back, enrolling at Washburn University Law School. As a lawyer he worked as a prosecutor in Dodge City but also felt a call to the ministry and was finally ordained as a priest in June of 2004.
Saturday at Christ Cathedral in Salina, Rev. Cowell will be honored with the title of Bishop, but says his focus won’t change, “My job is still the same; to spread the word of God.”
Rev. Cowell added his background as a prosecutor or public defender meshes well with his mission as a member of the clergy, “People are going through high emotional times if you’re in jail or charged with a crime and a pastor helps people through some very high emotional times too. Burying someone you love, getting married, baptizing your children.”
The 53-year-old tells KSAL News that part of the challenge a lot of churches are facing today in America is declining numbers and aging congregations.
“My peers are not coming to church,” he said. Finding a way to speak the gospel into the lives of young people is also a top priority for the new Bishop. “I think we need to keep connecting with kids, treat them as people and their parents will come too.”
Rev. Cowell succeeds the Right Reverend Michael Milliken who has served the diocese for nearly seven years before retiring this fall. As Bishop, Cowell will lead the Episcopalians in the western counties of Kansas that stretch from I-135 to the the Colorado border.
Reverend Mark Cowell and his wife Julie live in Larned with their three children, Gabriel, Cathleen and Gyrffin.