“There’s a saying at Saint. John’s that we have irreplaceable people, but they need to be replaced,” says Rob Culligan, Vice President for Institutional Advancement.
So, when Jim Triggs announced he was leaving his position as the Executive Director of The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition Program after 13 years of building the foundation and leading the program forward, many thought, “how are we going to possibly replace Jim Triggs?”
As Culligan reflected on this imponderable, he explained its resolution, “Well, along comes John Ross. And it really was a gift from on high, fully unexpected, but a true blessing.”
Welcoming John Ross
Rev. Dr. John Ross joins The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program as the new Executive Director starting November 1. Ross recently retired from ministry at Wayzata Community Church, in Wayzata, Minnesota. Ross has become quite familiar with Saint John’s over the past decade as a result of his exemplary pastoral leadership integrating The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition into liturgical and catechetical life.
Fr. Eric Hollas, OSB, one of the members of the search committee, observed, “John brings long and deep experience with The Saint John’s Bible. Best of all, he’s used the Heritage Edition in a pastoral setting, and he has seen firsthand its potential to touch the spiritual imagination of so many. He will be a terrific ambassador for the Heritage Edition.”
John Ross first experienced The Saint John’s Bible at a gallery presentation in Phoenix, Arizona, with Fr. Hollas and a group of about 40 church members from Wayzata Community Church (WCC), affectionately referred to as snowbirds. “My wife Sheila and I would go out and have a big dinner with the group every February. And we would typically plan some sort of a field trip as part of our visit,” shared Ross. “That year we saw actual folios from The Saint John’s Bible.” The presentation and Fr. Hollas’s knowledge of The Saint John’s Bible was such an incredible experience that it led the WCC to sign up for A Year withThe Saint John’s Bible.
But members’ interest didn’t stop there. A Heritage Edition was later donated to the church to honor Ross’s 10-year pastoral anniversary with the church. He describes this as “the single largest tribute to my 17-year ministry at Wayzata Community Church.” Little did he know at this time that his experiences using The Saint John’s Bible with his congregation would have such a profound impact to eventually lead him to his next professional pursuit as the new Executive Director of The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition Program.
Genuine Experience Shapes Understanding
For Ross, The Saint John’s Bible presents the opportunity to engage with scripture more deeply. “Scripture obviously has always been central to my ministry. Having a Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition on our campus just opened up a lot of doors for new ways to experience it.”
Ross says he has been guided by a quote he heard thirty years ago, “I heard and I forgot. I saw and I remembered. I experienced and I understood.”
“We hear the scripture reading, we forget it. Hearing something only gets you so far. When we see things, we might remember it. If you see The Saint John’s Bible, you remember it. But once you experience something, then you have a much better chance to actually understand it. This will shape the focus I bring in my new role, to give people a genuine experience of scripture for the purpose of understanding.”
Bringing People Back Together
The challenges of Covid made it impossible for people to fully engage with a masterpiece like The Saint John’s Bible. Moving forward, Ross hopes to ignite the spiritual imagination of people around the world. “The Saint John’s Bible is the perfect way to bring people back together in relationship with one another and with the Word of God,” says Ross.
“In a time when the world has become so polarized and so divisive, and we’re all looking for things that will bring us back together, The Saint John’s Bible crosses over religious traditions,” Culligan explains. “The Word of God was never intended to be owned or possessed by one religious tradition—it’s for the world. And so is The Saint John’s Bible. John understands that.
“He’s going to be able to reach out to new denominations and backgrounds, and that just really helps fundamentally with what we were trying to do with The Saint John’s Bible in the first place.”
John looks to increase frequency and depth of experiences with The Saint John’s Bible through renewed collaboration among the contributing organizations to bring forth new and creative ways for individuals and groups to experience The Saint John’s Bible around the globe.
Reflecting on Jim Triggs’s time as Executive Director, Ross notes that “Jim is a great man of integrity and faith and he was, in my experience, always careful not to make The Saint John’s Bible a commodity. This is one of the most remarkable combinations of the human spirit coming alongside the Holy Spirit to create something remarkable.” John intends to carry this perspective forward as the next Executive Director.
“John’s many gifts and talents as a minister, a preacher, an educator, and a community-builder will serve him well in this endeavor, sharing the illuminated Word of God with people from all faith traditions, far and wide,” concluded Culligan. “Clearly, this is a match made in heaven.”
Please join The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program in welcoming John Ross to our team. He is looking forward to meeting admirers of The Saint John’s Bible from all walks of life to bring people together, as it is intended. Be sure to sign up for The Scribe for future blog posts and updates.