I was born May 19, 1945, the eldest of eleven children, eight of whom survived. I was raised in The Roman Catholic Church, attending twelve years of Catholic grade school and high school. However, I turned away from The Lord, not so much out of unbelief but wrong belief. Linda, my first wife, and I met in 1964 and were married in 1965. We are profoundly blessed with four sons, three wonderful daughters-in-law, and nine grandchildren and one great grandchild.
I served in the United States Air Force from 1965-1970. In 1971 Linda and I became deeply aware of our need for God. We were led to the little Episcopal mission of St. Luke’s, Bath, Ohio where we both received Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and were baptized in The Holy Spirit. Our lives were forever changed in every way.
In 1975 I enrolled in the University of Akron. In four years I earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management and a Masters of Business Administration. I was then employed by a Fortune 500 firm, reporting to the Chairman of the Board, serving much like an internal business consultant throughout the corporation.
In 1981 Linda was the first to acknowledge my call to ordained ministry, a call I did not want to hear, as it did not fit in with my aspirations for my life. The Lord gently reminded me that it was not “my” life, that I had given it to Him. Therefore, in August 1982 our family packed itself into a U Haul and went to Alexandria, Virginia where I attended Virginia Theological Seminary, graduating in 1985.
I served as Vicar of St. Andrew’s, Washington Court House, Ohio and Assistant to the Rector of Christ Church, Xenia, Ohio 1985-1987. I was Rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Winchester, Kentucky 1987-1991. Linda and I were invited to interview at St. Matthew’s in January 1992 and accepted the call to serve as the second Rector of this parish in July of that year. Our first day was August 1, 1992. Since that time a great deal has happened here, a lot of new ministries, reforming the Vestry and the Foundation to better serve the parish, a great deal of outreach – more than we can outline here. We have faced our challenges as well, yet our Lord used even these to purify and mature us as His children, His Body, calling us closer to Him and to one another.
In 2009, my wife Linda was diagnosed with Leukemia along with MDS and Acute Myleofibrosis. She bravely went through all the nightmarish treatments. However, the Lord took her Home to Him on April 8. 2010, most certainly the darkest, saddest day of my life. Linda and I had been married for nearly 45 years.
However, God is so very good. About 2 years later He brought a wonderful woman into my life, Annie Strayer. We dated for over a year and a half and, by the Grace and Blessing of God, were married September 28, 2013. Even in the darkest of times, God’s love carries us and blesses us in ways we never expect, and I praise Him every day of my life.
Annie and I consider it our privilege and honor to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in this parish, with these people. The wonderful people of St. Matthew’s have become our family in a very deep and profound way. This is, indeed, a unique and blessed parish, anointed by God the Holy Spirit, centered on Christ Jesus, founded on His Word. His love is tangible here in this place, among His people. We are determined to stand fast on His Word, focused on His Truth, serving Him, loving one another, and reaching out to the broken world around us with His love and Good News. I praise God daily for His gift of allowing Annie and me to be a part of these Spirit-filled children of God.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Joseph Keblesh, Jr
Rector, St. Matthew’s (1992 – )