Pastor Gary Cowan was born in Phoenix, Arizona on March 21, 1953. He was born again and grew up in the First Foursquare Church of Phoenix.
In pursuit of a musical career patterned after that of his idols The Beatles, Gary received his first electric guitar for his birthday in 1964 and hence began what became a lifetime passion – singing, playing guitar and songwriting.
Gary sensed the call of God upon his life at an early age and upon the death of his mother in January of 1970, he rededicated his life to Christ at the First Baptist Church of El Segundo, California, where he had been placed with his and aunt and uncle who were believers.
That same year, Pastor Gary began to write and perform original Christian folk / rock music which would become known in the Jesus Movement of the 70’s as “Jesus Music”. In his senior year of high school, he led Bible Studies and worship on the front lawn of El Segundo High School and formed the CCM group, “Phoenix Sonshine”, affectionately named after his hometown and his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the “Son” of God. He also appeared as a solo artist all over Southern California at dozens of Christian Coffee Houses that had sprung up.
Phoenix Sonshine performed continuously both nationally and internationally (Sweden, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico) and recorded two albums between the years 1971 and 1978. In addition to pursuing his lifelong passion of music, which God had begun to channel in the direction of Praise and Worship, Pastor Gary was growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus under the Bible Teaching of Pastor Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, California where he attended church from 1972 to 1977. During this time, Phoenix Sonshine was part of Maranatha! Music, which was Calvary’s record label and musical outreach of traveling Christian bands. Their second album, “The Exodus”, was released on the Maranatha! Label in 1976.
In 1977 Pastor Gary moved to Boulder, Colorado to assist Pastor Tom Stipe in planting Calvary Chapel of Boulder. In 1978, he answered God’s call to serve as the Assistant Pastor and Worship Leader for Calvary Chapel of Denver. The years 1982-83 found him at Calvary Chapel North Phoenix under Pastor Bob Claycamp ministering as the Worship Leader. In 1983 he and his wife Georgie, their young son Taylor, and his new baby sister Tara moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming where Pastor Gary was called to be Assistant Pastor and Worship Leader for the Open Bible Church. They lived in Cheyenne for two years before returning to Denver to regroup and seek God’s direction.
Through what could only be viewed as God’s Divine Plan and Purpose, Pastor Gary, his lovely wife, Georgie and their two children were called to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where in January of 1989, they began holding Sunday morning services in a small store front, marking the beginning of what is now known as Calvary Chapel East. In the fall of 1996, again by God’s divine hand of guidance, Calvary Christian Academy (grades K3-12) was inaugurated and is now in it’s 20th year of serving Albuquerque area students and their families.