Boettcher Scholar’s Ministry Driven by Gratitude

28 Aug Boettcher Scholar’s Ministry Driven by Gratitude

When Richard Leggett explored future careers in middle school, he was pointed to three options: chemist, applied mathematician and minister. However, the 1971 Boettcher Scholar from Colorado Springs had no doubts about which vocation he would chose: “I always knew that I was called to be a priest.”

Five decades later, Richard is living out his calling as the recently appointed vicar of Holy Trinity Cathedral, an Anglican parish in New Westminster, British Columbia. In his role, Richard serves the spiritual needs of an urban, blue-collar congregation in one of Canada’s most secular and progressive communities.

“My work is help answer how our faith community can live in the 21st century and translate the gospel into new ways,” Richard said. “How can we be leaven in the loaf of this downtown neighborhood?”

One of the ways Richard is answering this question is through a large-scale development on the cathedral’s property, which is in the heart of the New Westminster’s historic center. Richard is working closely with the neighborhood to guide the construction of a 30-story residential tower that includes 42 units of affordable housing, a community plaza, and new parish offices and meetings spaces with commercial-grade community kitchen. The goal is to “reinvent the spaces and the conversations where we engage our neighbors.”

About his challenging task of guiding the development, Richard joked “No one taught this type of work in theological studies.” However, Richard is thankful for the life experiences that prepared him to lead this creative undertaking.

After graduating from the University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree in French, German and secondary education, Richard took various jobs in retail and teaching foreign languages before being ordained in 1981 and serving in Denver for three years. In 1987, he received his master’s in liturgical studies from Notre Dame and moved to Vancouver with his wife, son and two cats for what he anticipated would be a three-year teaching position.

While at Vancouver School of Theology, Richard completed his doctorate and helped to develop the first accredited master’s in divinity program in North America for people serving in indigenous communities. This work opened doors for Richard to travel to other parts of the world to develop and teach “dynamic cultural translations” that resonated with laity and clergy in diverse cultures.

After 23 years teaching, Richard chose to return to congregational ministry as a rector at a church in Vancouver. Before accepting the appointment to Holy Trinity in 2018, he had also served as member of the staff of the Anglican Church of Canada and a national committee member.

Looking back on his path, Richard is amazed by the opportunities he has had to advance his own education and to faithfully and creatively engage with modern culture. He’s also never forgotten the gift of the Boettcher Scholarship, whose plaque he has displayed in every one of his offices for more than three decades.

“The Boettcher Scholarship was a tremendous gift of the generosity of the foundation and family. If not for the scholarship, I don’t know what we would have done. The scholarship was the foundation for my success as a graduate student and the springboard for my career.”

Richard noted that being a Boettcher Scholar impressed upon him a noblesse oblige, a responsibility to pay forward the gift he had received. The scholarship is also a reminder of the gratitude and joy he has found in following his vocation.

“Remember that all that you are, and all that you have, is a gift. Living in gratitude means we live and respond in ways that build up other people and ourselves. Joy stems from this – the deep-seated conviction that you are doing and being who you are called to be. This is your purpose.”

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