Reverend Hummell: The Light of Grace Church



 Reverend Hummell grew up as a Roman Catholic. He was unsure what he wanted to pursue as a child, yet was always passionate about faith and human connection. He majored in a Psychology and Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Revere
nd Hummell went on to graduate school and earned his MSW masters in social work. He began work in acute care in hospitals in Arizona. There, he was met with all kinds of trauma and individuals. Reverend Hummell recalled a specific event in which he was chased with a bat by a pimp. He described, “The scariest day at work was when security called and asked me to lock myself into my office. There had been a woman I had counseled that had been stabbed and beaten many times by a horrible pimp. After counseling, she had decided to leave her work as a prostitute and use my advice to go to California and stay with her mother. The pimp had unfortunately found this out and was now in the hospital running around with a bat, presumably looking for me or her.” Reverend Hummell was very fond of his work in counseling as he was able to make sure these individuals found safety after the hospital. He predominantly worked in intervention with children or adults who had been abused. A doctor there asked him to go on to work in a hospice, where he provided aid to those who had six or fewer months to live. Throughout his career in counseling settings, he continued to consider priesthood as he greatly enjoyed the relief and care he was able to provide to the people. In fact, during the process of counseling hospice patients, they would frequently ask Rev. Hummell to hear their confessions. Because he was not a priest at the time, he said that he could hear their confession, but, could not sacramentally absolve them like a priest would be able to do. “People asking me to hear their confessions is what really what connected me to my calling as a priest because of the sacramental side and the honor of being with people at the most pivotal times in their lives such as baptisms, weddings, funerals. It’s an honor to walk into those spaces and shepherd people through those important times.”

Reverend Hummell began dating his current, who was Episcopalian, around this time and soon was received into the Episcopal Church. He decided not to become a Roman Catholic priest as he is gay and wanted to maintain his personal life, both of which would not be allowed if he had joined the priesthood in this denomination. Rev. Hummell went on to attend Yale Divinity School in the early 2000s. At this time, he wasn’t really allowed yet to be out as gay and still be ordained. In fact, the Bishop warned him about protests and backlash that may come. The Bishop was aware that he was gay as in his application process for ordination. When the application asked “marital status”, he had put “domestic partnership”, and when it asked for the name of spouse, he had put “Mr. Peter Christensen,” making it clear that he was not with a woman. In his ordination service in Hartford where he was joined by nine others being ordained, there was a reserved section of the service in which people were allowed to object to any of them joining the priesthood. Six priests came up to the podium and objected to Reverend Hummell becoming a priest. When one is ordained, they must sign something in which they agree that everything in the scripture is true and valid. Due to this, every one of these priests claimed that homosexuality is a sin, and therefore Hummell should not be allowed to be a priest. Thankfully, the Bishop did not object and moved forward to the service. Thus, Reverend Hummell was the first openly gay individual to be ordained as a transitional Deacon in Connecticut. The year was 2003. History was made. “I was very nervous at the time, but once I was ordained, I was glad that God moved the Episcopal Church forward into being more accepting of all people who feel called to the Priesthood.”

One year later, Hummell was ordained as a priest in New York and faced no objections to him doing so. He began work in New York City, where he received a grant to help those affected by 9/11. He also was was a priest at The Cathedral of St. John The Divine on Amsterdam Avenue, where he began doing social work again to aid families, as well as ministering as a priest in the Cathedral. From 2012-2014, his husband was the CEO of NYU Abu Dhabi. Hummell helped to create the spiritual life center at NYU Abu Dhabi and continued counseling there. He also helped establish the first open LGBTQ club, which was very stealth in the way it was operated due to the location in Abu Dhabi. As being gay is illegal in Abu Dhabi, Reverend Hummell aimed to create space where those who identified as LGBTQ could feel safe. Hummell also worked with the Church to bring the first Synagogue to Abu Dhabi, even though it, unfortunately, wasn’t able to happen. In 2015, he began his work as a Chaplain at Grace Church. 

Reverend Hummell is now the primary chaplain at The Grace Church School and is usually working at churches on the weekend. He also works as a pastoral counselor at The Grace Church School, where he continues to use his tools as a pastor to advise others in morality and difficult decisions in their lives.“My work as a Chaplain definitely helps me to see the spiritual side of students, and gives me great hope for them as future leaders.” In many ways, Reverend Hummell’s life has come full circle. “When alumni return and ask me to bring them to the church, I am always inspired by their desire to be encompassed by the beauty of the stained glass windows and the quietness in the sacred space. Moments like this are what bring me back to the reason why I am a chaplain here at Grace. The church remains as an anchor for the community in many ways, and I’m honored to be at the center of it.”

Photos by Nicholas Russell ‘21

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