When Father Jeremy Froyen interviewed for the pastor position at St. John Episcopal Church in Flossmoor, he left with a decision: if the job was offered, he’d accept.
Froyen said he and his husband “really fell in love with the place after our visit.” The feeling was mutual. Froyen accepted the appointment and arrived in Flossmoor Oct. 1. Now his task is to learn about the parishioners and help them find a direction for their church.
“The people have a genuine love for St. John’s and this community, which really sold it, and I realize there’s a hunger here to be more. I can’t really describe it much more than that, but they have taken on a sense of ownership more so than in previous years, and I think there’s a sense here now that there’s a lot that we can do to impact our community,” Froyen said.
Raised Southern Baptist, Froyen moved to the Episcopal Church and did three years of seminary training, including a two-year internship in Washington, D.C. St. John’s will be his second church.
He was a Florida resident for more about 30 years, growing up in the West Palm Beach area and eventually living in the Ft. Lauderdale area. After he earned a bachelor’s degree in history, he trained as a paramedic and firefighter, a career he had for 14 years until he suffered a head injury.
Froyen tried to stay in the profession. He was given a dispatch job and then worked as a hospital emergency room paramedic but neither job satisfied him. He turned to consulting work helping cities and counties do emergency management, disaster preparedness and recovery and learning how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) operates.
Ironically, he was serving at a church near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, when in February 2018 the school was the site of a mass shooting. A student in a youth group he worked with was killed, and he tried to counsel and care for those who were traumatized by the tragedy.
Seminary training didn’t prepare him for that kind of trauma, and neither did his paramedic work. When Froyen left Florida in September, one student at his church hadn’t yet gone back to school.
“To live with the kids and their parents afterwards, I was unprepared for that. As a paramedic you’re in the thick of it, but you get to the hospital and don’t deal with it afterward,” he explained.