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Rickard Leavitt Sawyer
An Autobiography

This information is excerpted from Dr. Sawyer's self-published
three-volume genealogy work The Leavitts of New England.

Rabbi AriMessianic Rabbi Dr. Rickard Leavitt Sawyer (1946- ), a.k.a. Ari Levitt or Ari benGavri’el haLevi, is a Messianic Jewish Theologian, a direct descendant (11 generations) of Deacon John Leavitt, Sr. (1608-1691), who was the first of the Leavitt family line to immigrate from England to the American Colonies, and among the earliest settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He is the compiler of this present volume, and the following information is derived from his personal experience.

Biographical Summary

In addition to a successful secular business management career spanning more than 40 years, Rabbi Dr. Rick Sawyer has served the Messianic Community in numerous leadership positions since 1961 including the offices of Rabbi, Pastor/Teacher, Teaching Elder, Associate Pastor, Youth Minister, Church Chairman/Administrator, Deacon, Christian Education Director, Sunday School Department Chairman, Resident Theologian, and Professor of Systematic Theology. Licensed as a Minister of the Gospel in 1988 and ordained to the Ministry in 1991, he has known Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ) as his Lord and Savior since 1953. He has been privileged to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in East Tennessee, in the Holy Lands, and in his native West Virginia.

After graduating from Parkersburg (West Virginia) High School (1963) and attending West Virginia University’s Parkersburg Center (1963-1964, now West Virginia University, Parkersburg), he served on active duty with the U.S. Navy as a Hospital Corpsman during the Viet Nam war. Upon receiving his separation from active duty, he remained in the San Francisco area where he married Barbara Gaye Hart (1949-2008), of Lafayette, a suburb of San Francisco, in 1967.

Rick, Bar, and AaronTheir only son, Aaron Paul (1973-), born in 1973 in Walnut Creek, California, is a graduate (B.A.) of Johnson Bible College, Knoxville, Tennessee, with a double major in Bible and Counseling. After serving in pastoral ministry for several years, he completed training as an Emergency Medical Technician, followed by additional training and national certification as an Advanced Paramedic. Aaron’s wife, Terri Lynn Blank (1973-), of Dayton, Ohio, completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Elementary Education at Johnson. The couple were married in Kettering, Ohio, on August 10, 1996, and have two children, Joshua Caleb, born in 2001, and Elizabeth Ruth, born in 2003.

Dr. Sawyer’s secular experience included management and supervision in a wide variety of industries and environments including law enforcement, commercial and industrial security, engineering research and development, data processing, contingency planning and disaster recovery, publishing, and business management consulting. He successfully managed staffs of more than 60 subordinates with annual budgets greater than six million dollars. From 1981 until his retirement in 2008 he provided consultation services to numerous churches, parachurch and civic organizations, and other (primarily) not-for-profit community service organizations, particularly in the areas of initial organization and incorporation, in the development of governing documents such as constitutions, bylaws, policies and procedures, in-house staff training, and in providing data processing and desktop publishing support services.

As a Christian educator and administrator, he served as Administrator, Cataloging Librarian, and ID Director of Grace School of Theology and Ministry (Pleasant Hill, California), as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Systematic Theology at Golden State School of Theology (Oakland, California), and as Professor of Systematic Theology and Comparative Religion, Instructor of English and Composition, and Assistant Dean of Directed Individualized Studies at Spring Valley Bible College and Seminary (Alameda, California). He conducted numerous graduate and post-graduate courses and seminars on church administration, Christian doctrine, comparative religion, and the cults, both in the classroom and in the local church.

He holds an Associate of Arts degree (with honors) in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, a Master of Business Administration in Organizational Management and Church Administration, a Master of Arts (summa cum laude) in Biblical Studies, a Master of Theology (summa cum laude) in Systematic Theology, a Doctor of Theology (summa cum laude) in Cults and Comparative Religion, and a Doctor of Ministry (summa cum laude) in Bible College Administration and Curriculum Development. He also completed four years of study toward a Doctor of Naturopathy degree, which he did not complete.

Dr. Sawyer has authored numerous briefs and papers on Christian doctrine and theology, church administration, world religions, the cults, and the occult, as well as a handbook of church administration which has been used successfully by several churches as a guide to reorganization for increased effectiveness and efficiency of ministry. Most of the teaching materials from his entire life, plus nearly 2000 pages of new material, are now available on this website.

Immediate Family

Rabbi Dr. Sawyer is the son of Rev. William Leavitt Sawyer (1917-1983), a.k.a. Gavri’el benLevi (1917-1983), and Madeline Irene Flinn (1924- ). He is the grandson of Chester Porter Sawyer (1881-1961) and Jane “Jennie” Leavitt Sawyer (1882-1944); Aaron Delbert Flinn (1895-1982) and Cynthia Ellen Toomey (1901-1992). He is the husband of Barbara Gaye Hart (1940-2008), the father of Aaron Paul Sawyer (1973- ), and grandfather of Joshua Caleb Sawyer (2001- ) and Elizabeth Ruth Sawyer (2003- ). He is the brother of David Toomey Sawyer (1950- ), Randall Martin Sawyer (1956- ), and Judith Louise Sawyer Bowser (1959- ).

Ancestors

Deacon John (Levett) Leavitt, Sr. is the direct ancestor (11 generations) of Rev. Dr. Rickard Leavitt Sawyer; here’s how:

 1. Rev. William Leavitt Sawyer (1917-1983) is his father.

 2. Jane “Jennie” (Leavitt) Sawyer (1882-1944) is the mother of Rev. William Leavitt Sawyer.

 3. Horace Cecil Leavitt (1849-1925) is the father of Jane (Leavitt) Sawyer.

 4. Joseph Leavitt (1816-1864) is the father of Horace Cecil Leavitt.

 5. Issacher Leavitt (1784-1833) is the father of Joseph Leavitt.

 6. Private Joseph “Quaker Joe” Leavitt, Sr. (1757-1839) is the father of Issacher Leavitt.

 7. Jacob Leavitt, Sr. (1732-1814) is the father of Private Joseph Leavitt, Sr.

 8. Solomon Leavitt (1709-1774) is the father of Jacob Leavitt, Sr.

 9. Ensign John Leavitt (1678-1749) is the father of Solomon Leavitt.

10. Israel Leavitt (1648-1696) is the father of John Leavitt.

12. Deacon John (Levett) Leavitt, Sr. (1608-1691) is the father of Israel Leavitt, and Sarah (Gilman) Leavitt (1622-1700) is his mother.

13. Percival Leavitt (Levett), Jr. (1580-1646) is the father of Deacon John Leavitt.

14. Percival Levett, Sr. (1552-1625) is the father of Percival Levett, Jr.

15. William Levitt (Levett) (1528-1569) is the father of Percival Levett, Sr.

16. Richard Levitt (1506-1567) is the father of William Levitt (Levett).

17. John “Coombs” Levett (Levitt) (1468-1526) is the father of Richard Levitt.

18. Baron William Levett V (1445-1501) is the father of John “Coombs” Levett (Levitt).

19. William Levett IV (1420-1511) is the father of Baron William Levett V.

20. William Levett III (1400-1449) is the father of William Levett IV.

21. William James Levett II (1370-1409) is the father of William Levett III.

22. William Levett I (1340-?) is the father of William James Levett II.

23. William John Levett (1316-?) is the father of William Levett I.

Early Years

When he was born on May 17, 1946, at Camden Clark Memorial Hospital, Parkersburg, Wood County, West Virginia, his parents resided on the 3365-acre family farm at what is now 3104 Lee Creek Road, Belleville, Wood County, West Virginia. Besides his parents, the other residents of that home included his mother’s brother, Dale Elwood Flinn (1932- ), his maternal grandparents, Aaron Delbert (1895-1982) and Cynthia Ellen (Toomey) Flinn (1901-1992), and Cynthia’s mother, America Ida Clementine (Toomey) Flinn (1870-1953). His mother’s elder brother, Toomey Delbert Flinn (1921-1983), had remained in Baltimore, Maryland, after the war, where he married Eleanor Costin (ca. 1922-1966).

When he was approximately six months old he and his parents moved to a post-WWII veteran’s housing community referred to “G.I. Village” in Vienna, Wood County, West Virginia. The residence address was initially 618 Neale Avenue, but was later changed to 818 25th Street. As a youngster, he was rather frail and was often confined to bed by rather vague and “mysterious” illnesses, during which time his mother would read to him for extended periods of time. By age four he could easily read the local newspaper, and before he started school he was a voracious reader and could add, subtract, and was well on the way to learning his multiplication tables.

He was enrolled in Neale Elementary/Junior High School in Vienna in September 1952. Because of his effective home schooling, he was totally bored with first grade and within three weeks was administered the standard scholastic achievement test, on which he scored median fourth grade achievement and registered an IQ of 167. The school administration and local board of education were inclined to start him directly into the fourth grade, but thanks to his mother’s strenuous objection, he was placed into the second grade instead.

When he was in the fourth grade he became ill with rheumatic fever and was hospitalized for nearly a month. After returning home he was bedridden for several months, but managed to stay current with his studies and at the end of the school year was promoted to the fifth grade.

In the second grade, he began taking piano lessons from a Mrs. Barnhart, who was the organist at Wayside Methodist Church in Vienna. In fourth grade, he began studying the trumpet with the school’s instrumental music teacher, George Dietz, who also directed the Parkersburg High School’s national championship Big Red Band.

During his elementary school years, he attempted to play Little League baseball, but after two years of warming the bench he came to the conclusion that he was not cut out to be an athlete and began to concentrate seriously on his music studies instead.

Upon completion of sixth grade he went to Jackson Junior High School, also in Vienna, where he continued trumpet lessons at school with the school’s instrumental music teacher, Mr. Kenner Lyons. He also began studying the trumpet privately with Mr. Walter Suchanic,[1] and was a member of the school choir. He also joined the choir at his church, First Christian Church in Parkersburg.[2]

Rick Sawyer Senior Picture
Rickard L. Sawyer
Senior Class Picture 1963
After two years at what is now Jackson Middle School, he transferred to Parkersburg High School for the 9th grade so he could play trumpet in the National Championship Big Red Band, which was then under the direction of Frank Schroeder, a verbally and physically abusive individual who actively promoted hazing and physical harassment of the younger band members. In addition to the band, he studied voice and harmony, and was a member of the Sophomore Choir. Near the end of his sophomore year, he was injured so badly by a physical hazing incident in the band that he was confined to bed for nearly a week. Additionally, after having several relapses of rheumatic fever he was told by his physician, Harry Leo Meyer, D.O., that his condition had so deteriorated that he should never run, and would probably never able to walk as much as a mile.[3] Accordingly, he took up the violin over the summer and joined the school orchestra under the direction of Mr. Frank M. Gelber (1913-1979), a Messianic Jew who was also the choir director at his church at the time. By the spring semester he auditioned for, and was accepted into, the West Virginia All-State Orchestra, which accomplishment he repeated in his senior year.

The summer of 1962, between his junior and senior years of high school, he spent working on the maintenance staff at Camp Kootaga, the local Boy Scout camp.[4] The work consisted of relatively strenuous manual labor from shortly after dawn until late in the evening. By the end of the summer, Dr. Myer pronounced him healthy and hardy, and apparently free of any heart impediments, and he has continued in excellent health since that time.

On May 22, 1963, the evening before high school graduation, his mother’s birthday, and five days after his 17th birthday, he enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve. For his first post-high-school employment he worked as a part-time fry cook and sometimes “car hop” at Jimbo’s Drive-In Restaurant in Parkersburg from September to December while attending the Parkersburg Center of West Virginia University. In December, 1963, he started work as a medical/surgical orderly at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Parkersburg, where he worked until August, 1964, when he went to Naval Hospital Corps School in Great Lakes, Illinois.

After completing Hospital Corps School and being promoted to Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (E4), he returned to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he worked as a Physical Therapy Technician until he was deployed for active military service in May 1965.

Military Service

US Naval Hospital guam
US Naval Hospital Guam, Mariana Islands

He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve from May 22, 1963, to May 21, 1969, achieving the rank of Hospital Corpsman First Class (E6). He served two years of active duty at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Agaña, Guam, from April 1965 to May 1967, where he had the following responsibilities:

Hospital Corpsman Third Class (E4), promoted to Second Class (E5)
Performed the following simultaneous responsibilities at the only neuropsychiatric facility in the entire Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a geographical area of the Pacific Ocean nearly the size of the Continental United States:

◊ Senior Hospital Corpsman, Neuropsychiatric Service

◊ Staff Assistant to the Clinical Psychologist

◊ Senior Technician, Electroencephalographic Laboratory

◊ Senior Technician, Psychiatric Clinic

◊ Performed additional duties as Emergency Room Supervisor, Out-patient Department Supervisor, Electrocardiograph Technician, Surgical Technician, X-ray Technician, Ambulance Driver and/or Attendant, and Base Security Petty Officer

◊ Taught classes in Neuropsychiatric Nursing, Emergency Medicine, Medical Records, Hospital Administration, Electrocardiography, Electroencephalography, and Military Requirements

While stationed at the Naval Hospital, he also held the following non-military positions:

• National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Neurological Disease and Blindness Research Center

Technical Consultant in Electroencephalography
Participated in some of the government’s earliest research into Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and related neuromuscular disorders

• Guam Memorial Hospital, Government of Guam, Agaña, Guam

Technical Consultant in Neuropsychiatric Technique and Electroencephalography
Consulted to the Government of Guam for the design, construction, and startup of the first civilian neuropsychiatric facility and electroencephalographic laboratory in the Trust Territories of the Mariana Islands

• Department of Social Services, Government of Guam

Technical Consultant in Psychology
Participated in the development of the first psychological testing materials specific to the ethnic requirements of the Pacific Islands

As a reservist, he was stationed at the following duty stations:

Rick Sawyer at Naval Reserve Facility• Naval Reserve Electronics Division 5-7, Parkersburg, West Virginia (May to July 1963), Seaman Recruit (E1)

• Naval Recruit Training Command, Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois (July 1963), Seaman Recruit (E1)

• COMFIVE Afloat/Ashore E1/E2 School, Naval Receiving Station, Norfolk, Virginia (August 1963), Seaman Recruit (E1)

• Naval Reserve Electronics Division 5-7, Parkersburg, West Virginia (August 1963 to May 1964), Seaman Apprentice (E2)

• Naval Reserve Surface Division 5-16(s), Parkersburg, West Virginia (May to July 1964), Hospitalman (E3)

• U. S. Naval Hospital Corps “A” School, Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois (August to December 1964), Hospitalman (E3)

• Naval Reserve Surface Division 5-16(s), Parkersburg, West Virginia (December 1964 to April, 1965), Hospital Corpsman Third Class (E4)

• Naval Reserve Surface Division 12-16, Concord, California (May to October 1967), Hospital Corpsman First Class (E6)

• Naval Reserve Surface Division 5-16(s), Parkersburg, West Virginia (October 1967 to May 1968), Hospital Corpsman First Class (E6)

• Naval Reserve Surface Division 12-16, Naval Weapons Station, Concord, California (May 1968 to May 1969), Hospital Corpsman First Class (E6)

Secular Career

A few weeks before being released from active duty in May 1967, he was having a conversation with his friend Anthony “Tony” Brignolio, who asked about his plans when he got home. He told Tony that he had a job interview scheduled with a doctor in the San Francisco Bay Area the week after he was to be released. Tony said that he was going home that week to get married, and invited Rick to stay at his home until he found out the result of the interview.

The doctor was Jack B. Drori, M.D, F.A.C.P, and Rick was successful in the interview. The position was only half time as an Electroencephalograph Technician[5] in his office in Walnut Creek, California, so Rick took an additional full-time position as a senior medical/surgical orderly at John Muir Memorial Hospital, just a few blocks from Dr. Drori’s office.

Since he was staying temporarily at Tony’s house, he was invited to attend the wedding. The maid of honor, Barbara Hart, was the sister of the bride, Margaret “Peggy” Hart. The chemistry between Rick and Barbara was intense and immediate, and lasted just as strong until her untimely death in 2008. Barbara turned 18 years old on June 5, graduated from Acalanes High School in Lafayette the following day, and the couple were officially engaged within just a few weeks.

Rick had applied to, and been provisionally accepted to, the Physician’s Assistant program at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. For final acceptance into the September class, Rick would be required to attend an interview in Durham. Since he could not raise the money for a ticket to fly from San Francisco for the interview, Duke withdrew their offer the first week in August. In anticipation of the move to Durham, Rick had resigned from both his positions, so he and Barbara decided to move to West Virginia to seek their fortune there.

Rick and Barb WeddingThey were married on August 24, 1967, by the Rev. Alfred Seccumb, pastor of Walnut Creek’s Trinity Episcopal Church, where Barbara was a member. The wedding took place in the back-yard garden of a friend’s home in Pleasant Hill, and was attended by a handful of family and very close friends. They moved to Parkersburg, West Virginia, the following week.

Upon arrival in Parkersburg in September, Rick was immediately accepted into the Surgical Technician training program at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Based on his training and experience as a Navy Hospital Corpsman, the hospital administration waived their normal requirement for applicants to have a Practical Nurse license to enter the program. Because his military experience had included a significant amount of time in the operating room, within a week after classes began he had successfully challenged and passed the final examination for the didactic portion of program, and had begun the practical aspect of the program and was working full time in the operating room. In January 1968, because none of the Licensed Practical Nurses in the class had able to successfully challenge the final examination, they filed a “discrimination” petition with the hospital administration to have Rick removed from the program, and the administration folded. As an excuse, the hospital claimed that he was “medically disqualified” for employment at the hospital because a pre-employment back x-ray four months earlier had revealed a mild lateral scoliosis.[6] In an attempt to be reinstated into the program, Rick contacted the state board of nursing licensing and petitioned to be allowed to challenge the L.P.N. examination. His request was categorically declined until he went through the entire two-year L.P.N. training program, which was considerably less extensive than the training that he had received at the Naval Hospital Corps School.

His uncle, Dale Flinn, offered him part-time employment as a photographer and dark room technician, but could not afford to offer him full-time employment. He obtained interim additional employment as a medical/surgical orderly at Selby General Hospital in Marietta, Ohio, but it only paid one dollar an hour, significantly less than a living wage in 1968. Because St. Joseph’s Hospital had recorded the reason for his termination as “medically disqualified,” he was not able to find meaningful employment in the region, so the couple decided to return to central California.

Fortunately, both Dr. Drori and John Muir Hospital agreed to re-hire him, and he worked both places from April to October, 1968, at which time he decided to try his hand as an insurance agent. He was employed by the Prudential Insurance Company as a District Agent from October 1968 until March 1969, by which time it had become painfully obvious that he was totally unskilled as a salesman.

He obtained a position as a Security Officer with Mt. Diablo Patrol and Detective Service in March 1969, and was quickly promoted to Sergeant (Field Supervisor) and then to Lieutenant and Assistant Manager. When three consecutive paychecks in September were returned due to insufficient funds, it became apparent that it was time to move on.

He was hired as manager by Sno-White Restaurant in Walnut Creek, where he remained from March 1969 until the restaurant went out of business in November 1970. His wife Barbara was the assistant manager of the restaurant, and when it closed she opened shop as a seamstress, working out the home, which she continued until her death in 2008.

Sgt Sawyer
Sergeant R.L. Sawyer
Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department,
Martinez, California

Rick then worked as manager of Lynn’s Rheem Drive-In, Rheem Valley, California, from November 1970 until September 1972.

In 1969 he joined the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff/Coroner, where for the next seven years he would serve the community without compensation for over 40 hours a week in the Communications, Detention, Investigation, Juvenile, and Patrol Divisions. In 1975 he was promoted to Reserve Patrol Sergeant in which capacity he served until 1977.

In September of 1971 he enrolled in the Administration of Justice program at Diablo Valley College and graduated with an Associate of Arts degree (with honors), third in the class of 1973.

Captain Rick
Capt. R. L. Sawyer, General Manager
Summit Investigations & Bonanza Patrol Service
Walnut Creek, California

In September of 1972 he went to work for Summit Investigations/Bonanza Patrol as a Security Consultant, Private Investigator, and Security Officer. He was quickly promoted to Sergeant, then Lieutenant, and then to Captain and General Manager of the Patrol Division.

In April of 1974 he was recruited to MBAssociates (MBA) in San Ramon, California, as an Electronics Technician in the Electronics Prototype Laboratory. MBA was a government-contract “think tank” and while there Rick was involved in a number of very fascinating projects including the first prototype of the remote manipulator arm for the space shuttle and the stereo vision system for the bomb disposal and battlefield robots currently in use. He was soon promoted to Supervisor of the Electronics Prototype Laboratory, and in April 1975 became a Lead Technical Writer/Editor. In January of 1976 he became Manager of the Technical Publications Department, and in October 1977 was promoted to Manager of the Configuration Management and Technical Data Group. During his tenure at MBA he authored, co-authored, and/or edited over 30 Mil-Spec and Best Commercial Practice technical manuals, and managed numerous government documentation contracts for research and development and military aircraft defense systems projects.

In April of 1979 he was recruited to the GPLSI (General-Purpose Large Scale Integration) Division of Fairchild Industries in San Jose, California, as a Methods and Procedures Analyst and was promoted in May 1980 to Senior Methods and Procedures Analyst/Senior Business and Systems Analyst. There he was responsible for evaluating the daily operation and work flow of every department in the division, providing recommendations to senior management for productivity improvements and possible information systems integration. He would then develop and document the manual operating procedures for the department and design the forms and computer interfaces for the division-wide manufacturing and inventory control systems.

In March of 1982 he was recruited to Central Banking Systems, a mid-sized bank of 135 branches, with offices in Concord and Oakland, California, as the Operations Project Manager and Assistant Operations Manager, where he played a major role in the design and construction of a state-of-the-art, access-controlled data processing system. In December of 1983 he assumed responsibilities as Data Center Security Manager of the new facility, in which capacity he served until January 1986.

In January of 1986 he was recruited as Director of Corporate Information Security at the Hibernia Bank of San Francisco. There he was responsible for the protection of all the bank’s information assets in the corporate headquarters, data processing center, and all of the branches. He led the bank to two consecutive perfect security audits by the FDIC, a rarity in the industry and the first in the history of the Hibernia Bank. He was also responsible for directing, documenting, and annually testing the corporation’s contingency, disaster recovery, and business continuation plans.

In October of 1988 he was recruited by Hibernia’s First Executive Vice President to join him in moving to First Nationwide Bank, then the tenth largest banking system in the United States, as director of Data Security. Following the catastrophic 1989 “World Series” Loma Priata earthquake, the bank decided to move their corporate data processing (DP) center from Daly City, the epicenter of that earthquake, to a more secure location in Folsom, just north of Sacramento and outside the major earthquake zone, where he was to design and implement, and then manage the access control and alarm systems for a state-of-the-art, earthquake-proof data processing center.[7] When the new DP center was complete, he was assigned to be the Manager of Data Center Security, responsible for the physical and logical security of the bank’s information processing center and systems.

With all the instability of the newly-deregulated banking industry during that decade, banks were being born, dying, and merging at an alarming rate, and First Nationwide was purchased by the Ford Motor Company, who came in and removed all middle- and upper-level managers, replacing them with Ford personnel in June 1991.

For the next six or eight months Rick worked on several consulting projects, but was unable to find any permanent, or even semi-permanent productive employment prospects, so the couple decided to return East and try their luck there.

They first went to Knoxville, Tennessee, where Rick’s brother David lived with his wife Jan and two children, Adam and Tiffany. There he found work as a Desk-Top Publishing Specialist at a Kinko’s Copy Center from June 1993 to June 1994.

They then moved to Parkersburg, West Virginia, where Barbara again set up shop as a seamstress and together they opened Abundant Life Herb Shop, a Natural Health practice in which they provided natural health information and consultation in the following modalities: Western and Chinese herbology, nutrition, iridology, body work and relaxation techniques, applied kinesiology, electromagnetic therapy, Biblical and pastoral counseling. Rick became a Certified Natural Health Professional, and he and Barbara both completed hundreds of hours of training and certification in numerous natural health modalities. They operated the practice together until Barbara’s death in 2008.

Between 1994 and 2004, Rick supplemented their income from the Natural Health Practice by working as a service dispatcher for a local computer service, then as a Customer Service Representative and Technical Support Representative for two local Internet Service Providers. This was in addition to providing freelance desk-top publishing services and occasional business consulting services and website design.

From May 2004 to May 2008 he worked for TRX (nobody seems to know what TRX actually stood for) and Tata Business Support Services in a call center providing customer support for Expedia.com in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and Reno, Ohio. He retired from active employment in June of 2008, and Barbara passed away on December 13, 2008.

Education

Primary and Secondary Schools

Parkersburg High School

• Parkersburg (W.Va.) High School, Class of 1963 (last freshman class to attend PHS)

• Jackson Jr. High, Vienna, W.Va. (first class to attend Jackson)

• Neale Elementry and Jr. High, Vienna, W.Va. (last class to attend Neale as a Junior High)

Undergraduate Studies

• University of Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills, California. Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Business Administration

• Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, California. Associate of Arts (A.A.) in Administration of Justice-Peace Officer, with honors; graduated third in the class.

• Berean School of the Bible, Springfield, Missouri

• Johnson Bible College, Knoxville, Tennessee

• College of Guam (now University of Guam), Mangilao, Guam

• West Virginia University at Parkersburg

Graduate and Postgraduate Studies

• Trinity College of Natural Health, Warsaw, Indiana. Doctor of Naturopathy (N.D.) (terminated program after four years without completing)

• Golden State School of Theology, Oakland, California. Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) in Bible College Administration and Curriculum Development (summa cum laude; valedictorian)

• Spring Valley Bible College and Seminary, Alameda, California. Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) in Cults and Comparative Religion (summa cum laude; valedictorian)

• Spring Valley Bible College and Seminary, Alameda, California. Master of Theology (Th.M.) in Systematic Theology (summa cum laude; valedictorian)

• Bay Cities Bible Institute, Berkeley (now in Oakland, California. Master of Arts (M.A.) in Biblical Studies (summa cum laude)

• University of Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills, California. Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) in Organizational Management with an emphasis in Church Administration

Technical Schools

• National Association of Certified Natural Health Professionals, Winona Lake, Indiana

• DeVry Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois. Electronics.

• Contra Costa County Reserve Peace Officer Academy, Martinez, California.

• Electronics Training Lab, Emeryville, California

• St. Joseph’s Hospital Medical Center, Parkersburg, West Virginia. Surgical Technician School

• Hewlett-Packard/Sanborn Service School. Advanced EKG Technician School

• United States Navy Service Schools

◊ Hospital Corpsman “A” School

◊ Neuropsychiatric Technician

◊ Electroencephalograph Technician

◊ Electrocardiograph Technician

Honors

• Graduated summa cum laude and valedictorian from Th.M., Th.D., and D.Min. programs

• Maintained a consistent 4.0+ grade point average in all upper division, graduate, and postgraduate studies

• Graduated with honors third in the class from A.A. program with a 3.96 earned GPA

• Declined nomination for inclusion in Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities, 1972 & 1973

• Recruited to the faculty of Spring Valley Bible College and Seminary while still a graduate theology student

Ministry

Rav Ari ben LeviAs the son of the pastor, he began teaching “little kids” Sunday school at the age of 10. His first congregational leadership position was at his home church, First Christian Church, Parkersburg, West Virginia, in 1961 when he was appointed as a Junior Deacon at the age of 15.

When he was first stationed at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Agaña, Guam, in May, 1965, he was concerned that the on-base chapel was not providing any ministry to the sons and daughters of the service men and women who attended there. After expressing his concern to the base Chaplain, he was appointed to serve as the chapel’s Youth Pastor, a position he continued for the two years that he was stationed there. While in that position he attended the College of Guam and enrolled in Bible courses by correspondence from Johnson Bible College (now Johnson University), in Kimberlin Heights, Tennessee, just outside Knoxville.

Following his return to the United States after being released from active military service, he attended congregations of several different denominations, and held numerous lay-leaderships in those fellowships.

While serving as a Deacon, Adult Bible Teacher, and Junior High Minister at Bethel Temple Assembly of God in Walnut Creek, California, he was taking Bible courses by correspondence from Berean School of the Bible, Springfield, Missouri, and was also enrolled in an external program from University of Beverly Hills, California, earning a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) in Organizational Management and Church Administration in 1980. Because of his demonstrated ability as a Bible teacher, he was encouraged by the pastoral staff to pursue more formal in-class training locally. He enrolled in the Master of Arts in Bible program at Bay Cities Bible Institute in September, 1981, and completed with an earned grade point average of 4.0, having received his lowest single mark of a B+ on only one single exam.

Having completed all the requirements for a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies, plus most of the courses for a Master's degree in Systematic Theology at Bay Cities, and because of his demonstrated ability as a teacher and his M.B.A. in Church Administration, he was recruited by the administration of Spring Valley Spring Valley Bible College and Seminary in Alameda, California, in June, 1983, to serve on their faculty and staff, where he would also complete his graduate and post-graduate theological studies. He served that school as Professor of Theology and Comparative Religion (June 1983 to June 1985), Instructor of English Grammar and Composition (June 1983 to June 1985), Assistant Dean of Directed Individualized Studies (June 1983 to June 1984), Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs (April 1984 to June 1984), and Vice President for Academic Affairs (June 1984 to June 1985).

While serving at Spring Valley, he completed his Master of Theology (Th.M.) in Systematic Theology in 1984, his Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) in Cults and Comparative Religion in 1984, and his Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) in Bible College Administration and Curriculum Development in 1985, graduating summa cum laude and valedictorian from all three programs.

In March of 1983 he was called to serve as Associate Pastor of Martinez Christian Fellowship in Martinez, California, a severely struggling independent congregation with only about 20 members. Unable to revive the failing fellowship, the congregation dissolved in September of that year, when he was called to serve as a Teaching Elder and Associate Pastor of Foothills Community Church in Moraga, California. In January, 1987, the members of that small congregation voted to merge with another small fellowship in the same community.

He was immediately recruited to become a member of Grace Bible Church in Pleasant Hill, California, to assist in the creation by that church of the Grace School of Theology and Ministry. He served the church from January 1987 to January 1990 as Chairman of the Adult Sunday School Department, Consultant to the Christian Education Department, and Computer Systems Administrator. He was licensed as a Minister of the Gospel on March 24, 1988. He served Grace School from January 1987 to June 1989 as School Administrator, Cataloging Librarian, and Director of Information Technology. As School Administrator, he led the team that incorporated the school as a non-profit educational institution and obtained preliminary accreditation. He was also directly instrumental in the development of the school’s initial curriculum.

In 1991 he moved to Pollack Pines, California, where he joined Camino Community Church in Camino, California, in January of that year. He received his formal ordination to the ministry on October 5, 1991. His Ordination Council consisted of the Pastors and Elders of Camino Church (a member of the Conservative Baptist Association, plus pastors and elders from churches in that area representing the Southern Baptist Association, General Baptist Association, Assemblies of God, and several Independent congregations. Until September of 1992, he continued to serve Camino Church as an Assistant Pastor and Church Chairman/Administrator, and provided pulpit supply to numerous churches in the area. That September the church members “hired” a new pastor with questionable credentials and background and an even more questionable doctrinal position, but he was a friend of the layman who was the original founder and chief contributor to the congregation. This led the Rev. Dr. Sawyer to resign from the fellowship.

In early 1993 he and his wife moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where they became members of Ridgeview Baptist Church, where he taught adult Bible classes, served on the Church Council, and provided pulpit supply to area churches.

In 1996 they moved back to Parkersburg, West Virginia, where he was called to serve as Associate Pastor/Teacher of First Christian Fellowship. In late 1996 the leading contributor to that congregation led a rebellion against the pastoral staff and succeeded in convincing the members to affiliate with an extremely liberal denomination, which brought about the mass resignation of the entire three-man pastoral staff.

Thoroughly disgusted with the secular politics that had led to the spiritual demise of Camino Church, First Christian Fellowship, and many others congregations, Dr. Sawyer determined to establish a fellowship that would hopefully not be subject to secularism. With two families from the failed First Christian Fellowship he founded Family Bible Church on February 1, 1997, to be led solely by the Elders, with congregants having voice but no vote. The Constitution of that congregation reads, in part:

We believe that, according to Scripture, Yeshua HaMashiach intends His Miqra to be not a democracy, but a Theocracy under His Personal Headship through the Elders that He has commissioned to lead His people. Membership in this congregation, therefore, does not provide for participation in any form of democratic process, nor does it afford members with any property, contract, or civil rights based on any principles of democratic government. All internal affairs of this congregation are ecclesiastical matters and shall be determined exclusively by the congregation’s own rules and procedures as established and interpreted by the Elders.
We also believe that wise leadership needs and listens to wise counsel (Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). We understand, however, that wise counsel is to be found only in the Scriptures. Any person who regularly participates in the ministries and activities of this congregation is encouraged to regularly share his/her insights from Scripture with the Elders of this congregation.[8]

Since shortly after completion of his seminary years, Dr. Sawyer had gradually become ever-increasingly concerned that what he was learning from his personal study of the Sacred Text under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit did not agree with what he had been taught in Bible college and seminary, or what he had heard taught from the pulpits from his earliest years. He was specifically concerned with four major issues.

First, in his experience, the churches had become little more than “salvation stations,” in which nearly every sermon was a call to personal salvation, but in which there was almost no consideration given to true repentance, personal discipleship, responsibility to live in obedience to Scripture, or the teaching of what the Scriptures call “sound doctrine,” but that the people would “not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 4:3).

Second, the message of Yeshua (Jesus) and his Apostles could clearly be summarized in nine words: “Repent [turn from your sinful lifestyle and return to God and His Torah] for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” The message of the Church no longer echoes that message, but has rather become, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, be baptized for the forgiveness of all of your sins (past, present, and future), and you will be taken up out of the Wrath that is to come, and you will avoid going to hell, but spend eternity in heaven as a disembodied spirit. And for that you have absolutely no responsibility or obligation because God’s Law has been nailed to the cross of Christ.”

Third, he felt that the Dispensational Theology that he had been taught and heard preached for his entire life was based not on the idea of a God Who was eternally unchangeable as taught in the Scriptures, but rather on a God Who arbitrarily changed His rules of conduct and means of salvation from time to time.

Fourth, he felt that the Supersession (Replacement) Theology that is almost universally accepted by Christianity in all its forms, is an abomination. This position holds that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who clearly says in the Bible that He hates divorce, has divorced His Bride Israel and married a second Bride, the Church. It also holds that God has revoked His irrevocable eternal covenants that He made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, “and their descendants forever,” and transferred them to the Church, which is the recipient of all of the blessings of covenant, but subject to absolutely none of the responsibilities thereof.

He began to believe that the Church has completely forgotten that all 66 books of the “Old Testament” and “New Testament” of the Bible were written by Jews, living in a Jewish land (except for the few written from exile), about the God of the Jews and the King of the Jews, and their relationship to the Jewish people, and that they were written to an almost exclusively Jewish audience. In fact, of the entire canon of Scripture only three letters were written to non-Jewish recipients: the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were apparently written to a man with a Greek name, Theophilus; Mark’s Gospel was written to a Roman audience. All the assemblies in the Diaspora to whom Apostolic letters were written were perhaps predominantly ethnically non-Jewish, but all were followers of a Torah-observant Jewish movement known as The Way. How, then, is it possible that the Church has totally removed itself from everything Jewish and now interprets the Scriptures from a totally Greek, or Western, and totally-non-Jewish mindset?

In approximately 2000 Dr. Sawyer became aware of the Messianic Jewish Restoration Movement, or Messianic Judaism, as it is more commonly known.[9] He soon discovered that the teaching of this movement directly address all his major concerns with the established Christian Church, and is in all essential form and teaching the closest movement to the faith and practice of the original followers of the Messiah that currently exists. He very quickly became a staunch adherent of the Messianic Jewish form of faith and practice and adopted the shem kodesh (religious name, literally holy name) Ari ben-Levi. Accordingly, the name of Family Bible Church was changed to Congregation B’nei HaMelech (Children of the King), and the theological position was modified to confirm to that of Messianic Judaism. After the dissolution of the congregation, the ministry remained active and the name was changed to Family Bible Messianic Ministries.

With the death of his wife Barbara in December 2008, Dr. Sawyer retired from active ministry, but continues his teaching on the Internet through his website, FamilyBible.org, and is active in the teaching ministry of the Messianic congregation he now attends.

Later Life

After Barbara’s death in 2008, Rick focused all his attention on Family Bible Messianic Ministries and community service.

Rick in CERT UniformFrom 2010 to 2014 he served as the Deputy Director, Communications Officer, and Administrative Officer for the Wood County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), an all-volunteer program that educates private citizens about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

Derecho Radar ImageHe obtained his amateur radio license (KD8NKS, WV8DOC) in April 2010 and joined Wood County Emergency Communications, an all-volunteer non-profit organization, created to provide back-up and overload communications to all Public Safety agencies in Wood County, West Virginia and the surrounding counties in West Virginia and Ohio. When the June 2015 derecho knocked out all power and phone service in the region for more than a week, the members of Wood County Emergency Communications used batteries, generators, and solar power to keep their radios on the air and were thus able to provide emergency communications for residents of the area. In 2015 he became a Trustee for that organization.

From 2014 to 2015 he served as a volunteer with the local chapter of the American Red Cross as the Government Operations Liaison for the 16-county Northwest West Virginia Region, but left the Red Cross when he felt that the local efforts to provide effective disaster relief were being hampered rather than helped by unnecessary state and national bureaucracy within the organization.

Beginning in 2010, as a volunteer emergency responder, he completed hundreds of hours of training in numerous aspects of disaster preparedness and response, the National Incident Management System, and the federally-mandated Incident Command System.



[1] Who had a quite lovely young daughter named Nancy, by whom he was quite smitten.

[2] First Christian Church was originally founded by his great uncle, Peter Sellers (1831-1899) , who was one of the earliest missionaries of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement to what was then western Virginia (West Virginia since 1863).

[3] This condition earned him a permanent exemption from the school’s physical education program, much to his joy!

[4] He joined the Cub Scouts as soon as he was old enough to do so, and remained active in the Scouting program until he left for active military service in 1965, at which time he was serving as an Assistant Scoutmaster. He achieved the rank of Life Scout and was “tapped” (inducted) into the Order of the Arrow (the National Honor Society of the Boy Scouts of America) in 1961.

[5] Rick was a Registered Electroencephalograph Technician and member of the American Society of Electroencephalograph Technicians.

[6] William Brundage, M.D., Chief of Staff at the hospital, was also a Commander in the Naval Reserve and Medical Officer at Rick’s reserve unit. He wrote a letter to the hospital administrator challenging the termination and noted that “mild lateral scoliosis is normal in over 20% of the population.” The hospital ignored his letter.

[7] Rick and Barbara moved with First Nationwide Bank from the San Francisco  East Bay to Pollock Pines in El Dorado County, California, less than a mile from the El Dorado National Forest and within 45 miles of Lake Tahoe.

[8] The fellowship’s entire constitution, including an extensive doctrinal statement, can be accessed on the Internet at http://FamilyBible.org/about/beliefs/constitution.html.

[9] Modern Messianic Judaism  is the fulfillment of that which was spoken of by the ancient Prophets: a Restoration Movement of Jewish people who believe that Yeshua of Natzeret (Jesus of Nazareth) is the promised Messiah of Israel, and the Savior of the world. He is the One Whom the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures told us was to come. Messianic Jews  have not stopped being Jewish to become “Gentile Christians.” On the contrary, our personal relationship with Messiah Yeshua makes us even more truly Jewish in our identity and life-style.

Messianic Judaism  is actually almost 2,000 years old, dating back to the time of Messiah Yeshua. Yeshua was born into a Jewish home. He was raised in a Jewish family. His parents were Jewish, His brothers and sisters were Jewish. All His uncles, aunts, and cousins were Jewish. He grew up to become a Jewish rabbi who taught Jewish people in a Jewish land—Israel—about the God of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya`akov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: the Jewish patriarchs). Yeshua’s Shliachim (Apostles or Emissaries) were all Jewish. The writers of the Apostolic Writings (a.k.a. B’rit Chadasha, Renewed Covenant Scriptures, or erroneously-called “New Testament”) were all Jewish, and for a long time (nearly 300 years) “The Faith” was almost exclusively Jewish. There were tens, or perhaps hundreds, of thousands of Jewish people who believed that Yeshua was the Messiah in the first century following His resurrection (see Acts 2:37-42, 4:4, 21:20), and every single one of them died still a Jew.

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