PIQUA — When talking with John and Stacey Scott, co-pastors of True Vine Church in Piqua, the word “faith” will weave in and out of the conversation like an unbreakable thread that has held their lives together during their 23-year journey as husband and wife, as well as their walk with God.
It was an enormous leap — more of a catapult, actually — of faith that led the Scotts, who met in the Air Force while stationed in Las Vegas, to Miami County in 1999.
“I was called to preach in 1997,” said John, a native of Gary, Ind. “And it was almost like a supernatural thing that told me to leave the military, go to Ohio and start a church.”
While she was “excited” that John had found his place in the ministry — “he always had a gift for communication,” she said — Stacey wasn’t so sure about her husband’s hunch that they and their children should relocate.
“I said, ‘You’re crazy,’” she recalled, laughing. “Leaving the military, packing up four kids and moving to Ohio with nowhere to live, I was not excited about that idea. It took a full year for it to happen, for me to take a leap of faith.”
The family — John and Stacey along with sons Jerell, Chris and Ashanti, and daughter Kailyn — settled in Troy, depending on relatives for temporary lodging as they became acclimated to small-town life — a bit of a culture shock coming from Vegas to rural Ohio, especially for the children.
Ultimately, the Scotts found an apartment and employment, and adjusted to their new life. They founded True Vine in 2008, and John left his post office job in Dayton to go full-time in the ministry in 2010.
Though he grew up in the church — his father was a deacon and his mother the church secretary — John admits he has not always walked a religious path.
“I saw all the politics and nonsense and backstabbing that went on in churches and after many years, I was just done with all of that,” he said.
What led him back to the faith was rediscovering himself during a soul-searching period, an existential crisis in which “something was off, something was missing,” he said. “I’m a ‘purpose’ guy. I wanted to know, ‘Why am I here?’”
While still living in Vegas, John took a return trip to Gary for a funeral, where he had a revelation.
“I’d spent so many years trying not to be ‘the church boy,’ but I realized, ‘This is who you are,’” he said.
He suggested to Stacey that they go to church, so they began attending services at a church just outside the Air Force base.
“It gave me a whole different view about church being a community; it really clicked for me,” John said. “The Bible started making more sense to me. I learned God was not like I thought — He doesn’t disqualify anyone.”
Confessing that he’d had “little to do with white people besides my wife,” John found himself the lone black face at Saturday morning prayer meetings. “It was just me and these old, white dudes,” he said with a chuckle. “But I found acceptance, they genuinely loved me. I saw that there could be a connection among people that’s greater than race, gender and sexuality.”
This is one of many reasons why True Vine — where attendance has grown from 12 people in a living room to 110-120 in a church building — opens its doors to all comers.
“If we can’t transcend barriers — black/white, poor/rich, educated/non-educated, Republican/Democrat — what’s the point?” John asked rhetorically.
“It’s so important to show people that God truly is love; that he doesn’t disqualify them for any reason. We have single moms, people who have done hard time in prison … it’s through love, encouragement, support — not judgment — that draws them closer to God,” Stacey said.
Whereas some churches eschew putting women in ministerial roles, John views his wife as an equal in the pulpit.
“I didn’t want her to be in the background unless she wanted to be,” he said.
Stacey added, “When a church or ministry only has one flow, that is, only a man who preaches and teaches, there are viewpoints people don’t get exposed to. I feel strongly about female equality and racial equality. To not be exposed to different viewpoints causes a deficiency … and people feel like they don’t have a voice.”
John joked, “I call us the Dynamic Duo. I’m Batman and she’s Robin.”
Lest anyone mistake her for a mere sidekick, Stacey quickly shot back, “I’m Robin because I look better in tights!”
Outside the doors of True Vine, the Scotts’ numerous endeavors include partnering with Piqua Compassion Network to help residents end the cycle of generational poverty, hosting the Piqua United Community Picnic, participating in the Salvation Army’s Summer Feeding Program, and doing speaking engagements.
In addition, John will be the keynote speaker at the 16th annual Doug Smith Memorial Banquet sponsored by Promoting Recognition of Diversity (PROD), which will take place at 6 p.m. June 1, in the Yuri Willcox Commons at Piqua High School.
The Scotts believe firmly in not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. They’ve seen their share of hard times and moments of lagging faith, particularly seven years ago, when they lost their son Jerell to suicide at age 23.
“It was a difficult time of questioning,” John said. “But I came out of it with an even stronger faith. It allows me to be able to talk to people about their own tragedies.”
Experiencing such a life-shattering loss and the aftermath also allows the couple to bring such issues as depression, therapy and mental health into the light, rather than sweeping them under the rug, Stacey noted.
“Sometimes life is ugly and dirty, it’s not fair, and it can blindside you,” she said. “But if you have a family of faith to encourage and support you, that’s what it’s all about.
“We’re here to do life with people, not just a 30-minute sermon.”
Reach Belinda M. Paschal at (937) 451-3341