Lifelong Calling Leads to First Presbyterian-Independence
By Mark Matlock
For a young-looking man of 47, the Rev. Dave Carlson has experienced some twists and bumps on his life’s path. There have been career changes: from newspaper reporter to public relations to consultant to, finally, the ministry. There has been a personal crisis: he was widowed in his 30s.
It was during his first marriage that he began to sense God’s call to vocational ministry. His wife was Catholic and Carlson “was going to the Catholic Church in support of the relationship really,” he says. “I’d go on Sundays and listen to the priest. I realized I was getting something out of it. I was hearing God talk to me through the homilies, or sermons.”
Carlson had attended Presbyterian churches as a youngster in Ohio and always maintained a strong connection to his faith and religious roots. After his first wife died of leukemia, Carlson began to look for his own faith community and that search led him back to the Presbyterian Church. “Someone invited me to attend worship with them at their church, and it was a Presbyterian Church,” Carlson said. “I fell in love with it. It really led to a strong sense that God had been calling me to work and contribute in my life through the church.”
It was at that church, Covenant Presbyterian in Columbus , OH , that Carlson jumped feet first into church life, being elected an elder, serving as a youth leader, chairing the Ad Hoc Communication Committee, and serving on committees for Mission and Visioning, Nurture and Outreach, and Christian Education
These experiences would prove invaluable as he joined the pastoral staff of a 1,500-member church in Greenville , SC , responsible for Congregational Care, New Members, Mission Outreach, and preaching and worship planning. Prior to this, Carlson gained extensive experience in administration, communication, and staffing in his first career as a manager in the newspaper and public relations industries. It was as Marketing and Development Manager at Lifeline of Ohio, an organ and tissue transplant coordinating agency, that his vocational pursuits began to turn toward ministry. “I was running their community education program and serving on the management team there,” says Carlson. “We had brought in some management consultants, (and) they started talking about integrity and authenticity and working with each other in a certain ethical and moral manner that I recognized as having Christian roots.”
His interest piqued, Carlson researched the subject further. “I started exploring how organizations and corporations interweave spiritual or Christian teachings into their management styles,” he says. “I started to feel like this was fertile ground for some really powerful learning, some really powerful concepts that are starting to be used in corporations but have been around for eons through spirituality and religions.”
As exciting as this was to Carlson, he perceived a disconnection between what was being taught and its history. “I also saw that if you disconnect it in that fashion, you only provide a certain amount of what’s available to people through a religious experience. Much of that is what can support them and move them forward when things are going well,” he said. “But you miss that part that comes in alongside people when things aren’t going so well or that true sense of family and care and concern and compassion that a corporation starts to back away from a little bit. Words like love and faith don’t translate to the bottom line as well as other concepts.”
Feeling pulled toward trying to get people connected to that type of life approach, Carlson left Lifeline of Ohio with the idea of starting his own consulting agency that would provide workshops and seminars on spirituality in the workplace. For a time, he worked for an organization doing just that, but he also felt a strong pull toward working through the church.
“Being able to come alongside people at important junctures in their life and provide that touchstone to those things that are important to them, their sense of belonging, their sense of community, their sense of spirituality seems to be a strong calling for me,” Carlson says. Carlson’s favorite part of being a minister is “interacting with individuals and groups who are engaged in God’s work and the work of the church, or receiving care that the church expresses. I think we are called to receive as well as give.”
Carlson earned his Master of Divinity degree at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he met his current wife, Yuri Ito, who at that time was a professional flutist living in New York City and active at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan . Prior to his Princeton training, Carlson earned his undergraduate degree in Journalism from Ohio University, Athens, OH, and a master’s degree in Marketing and Communication from Franklin University, Columbus, OH .
Carlson’s wife, Yuri, was born in Tokyo , Japan , and moved with her family to Houston, TX, before they settled in Buffalo, NY. Yuri earned her undergraduate degree in Asian studies at Stanford University before enrolling at Yale University School of Music, where she earned a Master in Music in flute. Relocating to Manhattan, she became active at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, where she chaired the 30-somethings singles group and Bowery Mission outreach committees and served as a Stephen Leader. She worked as the Assistant to the Director at The Frick Collection, a museum with a renowned collection of works by painters such as Vermeer, Rembrandt, Van Dyck and El Greco and others, as well as decorative objects.
Winner of the Artists International Young Artists competition, Yuri was presented in her solo debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. She has performed on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Series in Chicago, and has given solo recitals in Boston, Paris and Italy among other locations. As a freelancer, she has recorded on the Koch International and Newport Classics labels. Yuri has maintained a teaching studio, instructing flute students of various ages and aspirations, and continues to perform both as a recitalist and freelancer.
Yuri grew up in an independent Baptist church, and both she and her sister, Mana, are clergy spouses, Mana being married to an Anglican priest in metropolitan Los Angeles .
© Greenville News, used with permission, (a 2010 posting)