Wyoming Church Loves Former Pastor Back to Health
In 2019, when Pastor Richard P. Cullen, 46, found out his wife was having an affair with another staff member, the lives of him and his family were instantly turned upside down.
The father still had all five of his children living at home when his wife left. His eldest daughter, who had just completed her junior year of high school, had gone to intern at a Teen Challenge facility when the news came to light. She immediately returned home to help care for her younger siblings.
Also affected were Cullen’s congregants, the people of Douglas First Assembly in Douglas, Wyoming.
“My previous wife was very well-loved by the congregation,” he says. “Everybody was shocked.”
The growing church was in the middle of purchasing a new facility when the affair was found out. Plans were halted so the community could deal with the fallout of this development.
Brian A. Rossignol, 38, who had been the church’s youth pastor years earlier, was attending the church as a regular congregant when these events took place. Upon hearing the news, Rossignol says his immediate reaction was “to make sure Pastor Rich was OK and to make sure his kids were OK.”
Rossignol adds that he and others were hopeful that the two would be able to stay together and heal.
Though the couple briefly stayed the subsequent divorce proceedings, Cullen’s then-wife eventually decided to go through with them.
“I just held them close,” Cullen says of his family. “Every morning, worship and the word kept me stable.”
The pastor realized that he and his family needed time and space to process their grief, so he made the difficult decision to step down from his position as the senior pastor at Douglas First Assembly.
“One of the things that really blessed me was having Brian near,” Cullen recalls. “He was just a real encouragement to me during that time.”
Rossignol had been the youth pastor of the Douglas church in 2010, before Cullen was the senior pastor. A year and a half later, when the then-lead pastor transitioned to a different church, Cullen took over.
Then, in 2014, Rossignol transitioned to a different pastoral job in another town. Years later, after a difficult ministry season, Rossignol felt drawn back to Douglas for a time of healing.
“Douglas was the only place I felt safe,” he explains. “I knew Pastor Rich, and he was a person I really trusted.”
Rossignol had originally planned on attending the church for a limited time before returning to pastoral ministry, but when word reached him about the affair, he knew he needed to stick around for support. On the very night that Cullen called to deliver the sad news, Rossignol had been planning to call the pastor to let him know that he was ready to transition back into ministry.
“When I saw Pastor Rich calling, I thought, ‘Alright, good, we’re going to have this conversation tonight because I’m kind of eager,’” he remembers. “It wasn’t in my mind that I might pastor the church until Pastor Rich later told me he was going to resign.”
When Rossignol was asked by the district presbyters whether he would be willing to lead the church, he says he just knew in his heart that “the answer was yes.”
“I wouldn’t say that I heard a distinct thing from God,” he says. “But I knew this was why we were here. This was why I had transitioned out of my previous position.”
After staying away from Douglas First for a time and attending other churches in the community to allow Rossignol time to establish his leadership within the congregation, Cullen eventually returned.
Rossignol knew that the church operated in a spirit of unity and were good at loving people back to health, just like Jesus, so he asked Cullen to stay with his church family.
“It was really at that point that I felt like my family began to heal,” he remembers.
Since then, Cullen has been volunteering with the church while working in an oil field during the week. His eldest daughter, who is now married and has a child, is planning on pursuing credentialing with the Assemblies of God.
His second-eldest daughter is also married, and she and her husband are active in their church’s worship team. His middle daughter is attending Trinity Bible College, and his two sons are still in school and very involved in the church’s youth group.
In the years since Rossignol became the senior pastor of the Douglas congregation, he’s gotten the opportunity to help head up a community outreach event with a service they and ten other local churches conduct in a nearby park.
“Pastor Rich really created the foundation for a lot of the unity that we had because he had connected with some of the churches and some of these pastors,” Rossignol says.
The unity, both within the community and within the church, for which Cullen laid the foundation has been the support God has used to carry him through his most difficult season and set him up for a return to ministry.
Cullen preached at the large community event last year and expressed his thanks to all the churches that had supported his family through their darkest days.
“I didn’t feel like I would ever preach again, to be honest,” he says. “At this point in my life, I really feel like God has brought me to a secure place.”
“God has been good,” Cullen adds. “I just appreciate all that he was able to accomplish in a very difficult time.”