Minister’s congregation stretches from preschoolers to drone pilots

The Rev. Michael Engfer occupies two distinct ministries.

In November, he was named deacon in charge of All Saints Episcopal Church, a growing multicultural congregation at 4201 W. Washington Ave.

He also is stationed at Nellis Air Force Base as deputy wing chaplain for the 926th Wing Air Force Reserve unit. Among the people he serves are drone pilots, a new type of service with unique challenges.

“I wear one hat on base, and one hat at church,” he said.

“He is a deeply committed Christian,” said Bishop Dan Edwards, the Episcopal bishop for Nevada. “He truly loves the people (at All Saints), and they feel his enthusiasm for them. All Saints also has a strong contingency of military folks and veterans.”

There are some exciting changes underway at All Saints Episcopal Church these days, with new services and activities for people of all ages.

“Things are going beautifully at All Saints,” Edwards said.

“The church has gone through some difficult times since they went through a clergy transition about 20 years ago,” he noted. “They stumbled a bit, then it just took some time to heal. But now it is truly a church for the 21st century.”

The church began a Latino ministry about 10 years ago. “It took a while for the interracial congregation to begin working together, but now they do, and it is our largest congregation in Nevada,” Edwards said.

During his six months at All Saints, Engfer has seen continued growth in the congregation. “We average 450 people on a Sunday,” he said. “We have two Latino services that average about 325 and our main service sees about 125.

“Our church is more multicultural than most in the valley,” he added, “and my goal is to move that forward and to continue our growth for members of all ages. I let everyone from the age of 2 to 102, know that God loves them. And together we find new ways to keep reminding ourselves of that.”

One way he accomplishes that goal is at the Day School at All Saints. With a licensed kindergarten and preschool there are 65 students. Open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. it also helps working parents by providing child care before and after school.

“Rev. Engfer loves working with the children,” said Aberdeen Goodwin, director of the Day School. “And the children absolutely love him.

“Sometimes he wears his collar and sometimes he comes dressed in his Air Force uniform. The children think he’s Captain America. They love going to chapel with him. They are laughing and praying, there is just a lot of excitement.”

His vision is improving and growing the school, she said. “And he’s doing that with passion and encouragement.”

His part-time duty at the base fits in well with his full-time service at All Saints. “With the Episcopal church we believe all faiths have value and importance, which is reflected in the military,” he said. “Being pluralistic is a necessity on the base.”

In the military, Engfer serves as a spiritual and religious leader as well as a counselor. “I see everything from marriage issues, parenting problems, addictions and a lot of struggles with finances. And I work with people prior to and coming home from deployment,” he said.

While overseas, “the mindset is all about survival and the mission. At home it is very different,” Engfer noted.

“Coming out of deployment you lose your filter for importance,” he said. “The problems at home can seem ‘petty.’ That is the mindset that brings so many back to be redeployed. There’s a comfortableness to that which is impossible to explain.”

Engfer was deployed himself to Landstuhl, Germany, a regional medical center. While there he worked in the psych ward and with doctors and nurses in pre-op. He also greeted new troops as they arrived.

Following his 3½-month deployment he returned to his duties back home. He continues counseling and helping airmen. One group that has a very difficult role, he said, are the drone pilots.

“They have such a challenging job,” Engfer said. “They do a mission from here in the States, where people are killed overseas, then they have to go home to their families that same day when the mission is over, and kiss their wives. They have no time to process what is happening.

“It’s my job to encourage them and to help them to process what has happened.”

Engfer also has a passion for another area of service he performs both in the church and on the base, to marry couples from every walk of life.

Marriage is important to him. He and his wife, Kate, have four children, and he believes any couple that loves each other deserves that same happiness.

“In the Episcopal church there are no restrictions on who can marry, as long as they love one another,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they are same-sex couples or undocumented immigrants. I’ll even marry atheists.”

It may sound like his work life is full, but there’s still more. “In my spare time I perform weddings at The Cosmopolitan hotel,” he said. “Usually only two or three a week.”

But the favorite part of his day is going home and “loving up my family.”

The one thing that pulls all of the facets of his busy life together is the message of God. “His love is for everyone.”

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