St. Edward's pastor took roundabout path to ministry

MOUNT DORA — The Rev. Edward Bartle always knew he wanted to be a priest. It just took him a long time to become one — a very long time.

After 50-plus years and three careers, Bartle finally realized his boyhood dream last year, graduating from Nashotah House, an Episcopal seminary in Wisconsin.

"Like a lot of people, I made a lot of left-hand turns instead of right-hand turns," said the 66-year-old, who was installed as pastor of St. Edward's Episcopal Church on May2. Bartle had been interim pastor of the church, at 460 N. Grandview St., since November.

"I've always had a pastor's heart — this has been a lifelong calling," he said.

Bartle's wife, the Rev. Phyllis Bartle, is rector at St. Jude's Episcopal Church in Orange City, where the couple reside.

The St. Clair Shores, Mich., native spent three years in the military in the early 1960s before deciding on a career in law enforcement. Bartle decided on those career paths because of the lack of money to pay for higher education.

"Back then, I didn't have money for college, and neither did my family," said Bartle, who moved to Florida in 1968 and began working for the Apopka Police Department.

Eventually, he joined the Orange County Sheriff's Office. He stayed with the department until the mid-1980s, when he took a job in the private criminal-defense sector.

"I had a desire to put on a uniform and serve people," he said, "But I still always wanted to be a priest."

Through the years, Bartle earned a master's degree in criminal justice from Rollins College in Winter Park and taught at Florida Metropolitan University, becoming department chair before he retired two years ago.

No matter where his career path took him, though, Bartle said his desire to become a pastor never subsided despite his active involvement in his local parish, Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Apopka.

In 2000, Bartle said he had an epiphany.

"I knew it was time," he said. "It came to me in the middle of the night."

The father of seven attended the Institute of Christian Study and was ordained in the Vocational Diaconate in 2004. He served as deacon-in-charge at St. Jude's.

"It's kind of like having one foot in the church and one foot in the community," he explained. "I thought that would fill the need to be a priest, but it didn't."

It was only after graduating from Nashotah House a year ago that Bartle realized the priesthood was exactly where he belonged.

"It was and is a dream fulfilled."

Now that he has taken the helm at the 200-plus member St. Edward's, Bartle said he couldn't be happier. The congregation has embraced him and welcomed him with open hearts.

"I'm happy," he said. "The people here are so loving; it's a wonderful parish."

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