Seven and a half months ago, Dustin Sedlak would have said his marriage to his long-time friend, Caitlin, was his personal highlight to date.
“She picked me out as a husband before I knew I was going to be a pastor,” the 32-year old said.
As he sat in his new office at the Kirk of the Keys Presbyterian Church in Marathon, surrounded by stacks of unpacked boxes of files, Sedlak is proud to say both his proudest personal and professional moments have been realized at nearly the same time.
The congregation officially welcomed Sedlak as the new head pastor during the weekend of the church’s milestone 50th anniversary celebration.
Now that a professional goal has been realized, Dustin and Caitlin also decided to coordinate the infant dedication of their seven-month-old son, Caleb, in front of their new congregation.
“We just thought instead of baptizing our son when he’s really too young to remember to occasion, we would wait and have an infant dedication here at Kirk of the Keys.”
The Alabama native attended Florida State University and obtained an undergraduate degree from Florida Atlantic University. Graduate studies took him to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.
In what he now calls a strategic move by his future in-laws, Caitlin scheduled a trip to California to see her brother at Camp Pendleton.
“They’re a military family, so I think they had this whole plan of how they were going to get me,” he laughed.
Sedlak showed the young Sarasota native the sights and sounds of the west coast, and shortly thereafter, they were wed. They only recently celebrated a three-year wedding anniversary but have been friends for the past twelve years.
Just out of graduate school, the couple moved to Inverness where Sedlak accepted an associate pastor position coordinating the contemporary music program.
“I was like Jimmy Buffet with a back up band in church. I was living the dream!”
Still, it wasn’t the Keys.
Sedlak first visited the Keys on a family vacation during his junior year of high school. Ever since his first trip to paradise, he’s been itching to return.
“When I was out in California, Caitlin told me I could seek God’s work anywhere as long as it was in the state of Florida.”
A few years ago, the young couple came to Marathon for Sedlak to preside over a wedding at Hawk’s Cay. By happenstance, they met Jim Kennedy after a Sunday morning service. Kennedy asked Caitlin what she did for a living, and when she told him she was a teacher, he immediately tried to convince her to relocate to the Keys, explaining there was a great need for new teachers in his community. When he shook hands with Sedlak and the young pastor confessed his profession, Kennedy only half-jokingly offered up his job.
An 18-month search following Kennedy’s retirement eventually led the church steering committee back to Sedlak.
“They told me during my interview that the church wanted to establish a presence in the community again,” Sedlak explained.
His father was Catholic and his mother was Southern Baptist. When he was a youngster, Sedlak’s parents decided the Presbyterian Church would be a great “neutral” place to grow their children spiritually.
He confesses that even into his early 20s, Sedlak still took issue with the traditions and rituals of the Presbyterian faith.
“I couldn’t connect and they just didn’t make sense to me,” he explained.
So, when he spoke to the Elders of the church in his interview for the job, Sedlak expressed a desire to create services geared towards younger families.
“Part of what Christianity is about is leaving a legacy for future generations. I’m looking forward to developing some more contemporary services to put in place here.”
He said the greatest part of his job is his constant involvement in the lives of his parishioners. If someone is having surgery at 7 am and they’ve requested that he is there, he must go. If another is sent to the hospital in the middle of the night after being in a car accident, he will meet them there.
“Caitlin thought since I was a pastor, I was only going to work one day a week. This is an all-encompassing job,” he explained.
With little more than a few months in his new home, Sedlak has already determined his favorite local fish sandwich.
“That lobster reuben at Keys Fisheries is awesome, but Caitlin makes a pretty tasty fried snapper sandwich.”
And the best part of being a local?
“Never having to leave!” he proudly proclaimed.
For some time, the couple with Florida roots had pondered what it would be like to raise a little Conch.
Now, their dream is coming true.
Marathon’s Kick of the Keys is located at 8877 Overseas Hwy. Call (305) 743-4256 for more information.