The Rev. Dave Rickert had a thriving 25-year career in architecture when he heard a calling.

That calling prompted him to leave architecture behind and at the age of 50, enter divinity school to embark on a journey to become an Episcopalian priest.

He became ordained in 2017 and now, as the rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Casa Grande, Rickert said he’s eager to expand the church’s outreach and become a uniting force in the community.

“I hope for St. Peter’s to be a place where we can address the challenges we all face with love and compassion,” Rickert said.

Rickert took the helm at St. Peter’s in January and said he’s already bringing his personal touch to the church and the community.

“One of the first things I did in the church was to allow the children to come up to the altar when we’re preparing the Eucharist so that they can see what’s going on,” he said. “They can’t see from their seats. Seeing what we’re doing helps them understand.”

Rickert is from Sacramento, California. He grew up on a cattle ranch and said stories of his pre-priest days often help him when he’s ministering to others.

“I work my experience in agriculture into a lot of my sermons as there are so many references to agriculture and farming in the Bible,” he said.

Stories of his construction days are also useful.

“I like to tell one story about how I was working on a ceiling in one building and we pulled down some old ceiling tiles and discovered that some beautiful architectural details had been covered up by the tiles. I think people are like that. They often can’t see their unlimited potential because it’s covered up,” he said.

St. Peter’s, he said is a welcoming church.

On the door, a sign reads: “Be Aware. St. Peter’s practices the inclusive Gospel of Jesus, Christ. This means that you may be gathering with tax collectors, thieves, adulterers, hypocrites, women as well as men, female and male priests, gays and lesbians, the disabled, the dying, Native Americans, Mexicans, Asians, Blacks and other minorities, bishops, bigots, heretics, agnostics, atheists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and strangers from foreign lands. The people Jesus loves.”

He said he understands when people are judgmental or unaccepting as it’s something with which he’s also struggled.

“We are a non-judgmental church and we embrace all,” he said. “But I admit, I’ve struggled with my Christianity and I’ve struggled to not judge others. For a while, I struggled with the transgender issue, but then, God put me in friendship with people who were in the process of changing their gender and I realized, it’s none of my business. My business is simply to love them and not judge. That’s also where our church is on the issue.”

Through St. Peter’s, he said, he hopes to address environmental concerns, prison ministry and reaching the marginalized people in society. He plans to expand outreach to local schools and grow the Laundry Love program in which various churches unite to wash and dry laundry for the homeless and poor.

In November, Rickert plans to attend a border summit to explore how churches can play a role in resolving the issues at the U.S.-Mexican border.

“The challenge is in loving everyone for who they are,” he said. “Loving people isn’t always easy. It can be challenging. But I would like to be a part of the restoration of our world and bringing people back together.”

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 704 E. McMurray Blvd., offers services on Sundays at 8 and 10 a.m. as well as a Wednesday morning prayer service at 9:30.