MANATEE -- If his talents had been different, the Rev. Charlie Shook would have been a slugger for a Major League Baseball team.
Shook, however, said God choose to give him the ability to reach people as a preacher rather than the knack to hit curveballs.
"I didn't have the quick reflexes to get out of the way," said Shook, an avid boyhood sandlot baseball player growing up in Frederick, Md. and a lifelong Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Senators fan who started preaching in 1993 at Longboat Island Chapel, 6200 Gulf of Mexico Drive. He was named pastor emeritus in 2010.
Shook will never go into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., but he will receive a special lifetime achievement award following the 10 a.m. service Sunday.
During a dedication and unveiling ceremony, Fellowship Hall will be renamed the Rev. Charles "Charlie" Shook Fellowship Hall.
"I have known Rev. Shook since he first came to the chapel," said church member Christine Rose Kennedy said. "He has graced the chapel with his unique sermons and has been an inspiration to me."
"Pastor Shook is a remarkable preacher," said Sue Reese, a church trustee and volunteer. "He is a magnet. When he would do adult Bible classes, they would be full. He gives a lot of per
sonal experiences and covers all ranges of emotions when giving a sermon."
Shook said the honor is about the best he has ever received.
"It absolutely blows my mind," Shook said. "I am so grateful. It will take me a while to get used to it."
The church portrait of Shook in his robes, now hanging on a wall in a church hallway, will be moved to the renamed Fellowship Hall, Reese said.
Shook was obsessed with baseball while growing up.
"I was 100 percent baseball as a lad," Shook said. "I had baseball posters on my bedroom walls and I played early morning to late at night.
"In those days the Washington Senators were the nearest home team, but I also picked the Tigers and Reds and collected baseball cards, which I wish I had now," added Shook, who was born in 1928.
"I was a great fan of Ted Williams who to me was one of the all-time greats," Shook continued. "My arm was my strong suit. But along came the curveball."
Shook also played quarterback on his high school football team and played a bit of basketball but decided to be a teacher and enrolled in Western Maryland College where he graduated in four years.
Teaching didn't work out, however, leading Shook to Westminster Seminary in Westminster, Md., when he was 23.
"I had one year of junior high level teaching and I was about as green as you could be," Shook said. "The farmboys would give me a look that said: 'I dare you to teach me anything.' I found it exhausting trying to gain their interest and maintain discipline."
After seminary, Shook took a job as a chaplain in Washington D.C.'s St. Elizabeth Hospital, a mental institution. It changed his life, he said.
"It was a powerful experience working with the mind and heart," Shook said. "It taught me as a pastor you can't get by with everyday theology. You have to wrestle with some people on their level in the midst of all their life's battles. I also battled my own depression from it."
St. Elizabeth shaped Shook as a pastor unafraid to share his own fears, frustrations, triumphs, depression and, most importantly, humanness. Soon after, he joined the faculty of the Boston University School of Theology.
"I got into the psychology of religion and that translated into a Ph.d. and a staff position," Shook said.
When he wasn't granted tenure after six years at BU, it was a wakeup call, he said. Shook decided to serve local churches and, through a contact with a friend, became pastor of a Methodist church in Dayton, Ohio ,for six years followed by stints at Methodist churches in Toledo (eight years) and Cincinnati (four years).
He moved to the Sarasota-Bradenton area in 1993 with Trinity Methodist Church, Bradenton. Shook said the church took exception to the fact he and his lady friend, Lois Finley, were not legally married.
He then found his way to the nondenominational Longboat Island Chapel where the Rev. Jim Marsh "took us in with open arms."
"We've been here every since," said Shook who has been with Finley 27 years. They married in 2003.
Shook credits Longboat Chapel Pastor Vincent Carrol for the honor.
"I think it was all his idea," Shook said with a laugh.
Shook calls himself "a Christian agnostic."
"I came across the phrase and it means you believe in Christ, but you don't necessarily accept all of the Bible," Shook said. "All it means is that you accept questioning, searching and struggling and have respect for the views of others."
He believes in an afterlife, he said.
"Absolutely," he said. "There is so much mystery. I have room for mystery in my faith. There is a lot more to life than we know. I believe that when I die, I will be filled with wonder and surprise. I don't dread that at all. I think of it as a new beginning."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.