Andrew Book begins his mission as Courtland UMC’s new pastor

Published 11:25 am Saturday, June 28, 2014

Andrew H. Book is the new pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. -- STEPHEN H. COWLES | TIDEWATER NEWS

Andrew H. Book is the new pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. — STEPHEN H. COWLES | TIDEWATER NEWS

COURTLAND—Andrew H. Book went to college years ago with the intention of becoming a doctor, but by graduation he embraced the realization that he was being called to attend to spiritual matters instead. Ultimately, he became a pastor and this Sunday begins his time at Courtland United Methodist Church.

“I was studying microbiology and was going to go to medical school,” said Book, formerly of Portsmouth. “Then I began to desire to connect with people on an emotional level versus the body.”

A native of Atlanta, Ga., the 34-year-old grew up in a dual denomination household. His father is a Roman Catholic, and the family would alternate how they’d observe worship and religious holidays. That manifested itself further when Book’s brother became a Catholic priest for a time.

One of Book’s earliest recollections of personally feeling called is when he heard the hymn, “Here I am, Lord.”

“I was quite young, but had a deep sense of meaning,” he said.

Later as a teen he began to develop a skill for connecting with people through leading retreats in northern Virginia. That ability carried into young adulthood.

During undergraduate studies at the Wesley Foundation was really “the first place God was working on me,” said Book.

As part of a mentoring program, he would get together weekly with younger guys to talk about their lives.

“I began to see the value of pastoral ministry done well,” Book said about that time of developing one-on-one connections.

When he told his parents of his decision they were first confused, but soon became “all very supportive,” including his brother, who left the priesthood to start his own family.

After finishing at Wesley, Book went to seminary at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. That’s where he met Joy, the woman who would become his wife. She recently finished a hospital chaplaincy in Portsmouth, and is working on a counseling degree at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. They have two children, Anastasia, 5; and Isiah, 3.

After the seminary but before the children, the young couple found themselves in Mori, India.

That was “a whole different world,” Book remembers of the time. “I recognized that God meets us in our own culture. It’s neat how God uses scriptures and how faith is cultural.”

He recalled meeting an Indian family that was of a high level in the Hindu caste system, but had become Christian. However, to develop and maintain their new faith, they changed identities, including taking on new names.

A chance to live overseas one day would be welcome, Book said. But now, he’s willingly taken on the new assignment in Courtland. Before in Portsmouth the couple was leading two congregations, one in a traditional setting of a church, and other in people’s homes. Previous training and church leadership had taken place in Lunenburg County and northern Virginia.

“The James River District Superintendent Rob Cowell called and said there was a projected appointment and that it ‘Would be a good fit for you,’” he said about his arrival at Courtland UMC.

“Here we are.”