He previously preached at churches in Mystic, Conn., and Holiday, on Florida's west coast. He served as a youth pastor and taught art to adult residents of a psychiatric hospital, too.
The decision to become a pastor and forgo a career in art was not an easy one, admits Willard. After a seven-year career as a tactical signal officer in the Army, he was conflicted between a desire to lead a church and pursue a career as an artist.
Once, while on leave from West Point, he purchased $40 worth of art supplies and made some money one afternoon as a sidewalk artist.
"I had a blast — it was amazing and fun," he said. But the call to be a minister eventually won out.
"It was a tough decision," said Willard, who is divorced. "I always felt a tug towards the ministry, but I loved the arts, too."
The Massachusetts native is also adept at Biblical storytelling, a talent he acquired while earning a divinity degree at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in the late 1980s. A member of the Network of Biblical Storytellers International, Willard enjoys traveling to different areas for festivals and gatherings.
His church has even sponsored and planned several Evenings of Sacred Storytelling in which Willard joins two others, a rabbi and an imam, on stage.
"There's just something about telling a Bible story and bringing it to life," Willard said.