Our Valley churches invite us all to attend Diocesan Council 2019 in McAllen, Texas Thursday Feb. 21 – Saturday Feb. 23, 2019.
Sam Carter Gilliam, performed a “story portrait” of the Samaritan Woman at the Well on Saturday, February 24. Many of us know the woman well, or at least we think we do. Her story has been told many times, but through Sam’s dramatic portrayal, we heard her tell it, where, beneath the surface and in the spaces between the lines, secrets live. The presentation opens with Marthe Curry reading the story from the Gospel of John.
Richard Mosty presents the current status of the Episcopal Church Foundation as well as the important role it can play for a congregation’s financial resources.
The Rev. Dr. John Lewis said the IONA Collaborative is “an exciting, innovative program that offers an alternative to people training for ordination in the episcopal Church.”
As theological education changes, as well as the changing economics of education, a variety of new forms of receiving education are emerging. The IONA School for Ministry formed in the Diocese of Texas, educating bi-vocational clergy who met at Camp Allen one weekend a month, for ten months a year, with additional remote curriculum.
The curriculum includes 250 hours of teachings that other dioceses can now access locally. The Diocese of West Texas became one of the seven founding dioceses of the IONA Collaborative, so seminarians needing this type of theological education – at the local level – could access the material from home.
The IONA Collaborative has an “extensive depth and breadth” of curriculum, said Lewis, all approved for training in the Episcopal Church. “We currently have 150 students in 24 dioceses around the country.” In the spring 2018, the IONA Collaborative will have accredited CPE training (Clinical Pastoral Education), and will soon have training for lay chaplains.
“The IONA Collaborative will make an incredible impact on theological education and the spread of the Gospel in the 21st century,” said Lewis.
Hear Lewis’ report here:
Dean of the Diocese of West Texas IONA Collaborative, the Rev. John Badders, said the program began in our diocese last September with six students. “It is a three-year program, and we meet together one weekend a month in San Antonio.”
At the monthly gatherings, students hear from engaging mentors during nine to ten hours of class time per day. They participate in liturgical time together, participating in orders of service and preaching. During the weeks they complete the online teachings and course work remotely.
“It’s been my joy to walk with these students the past few months. They are a wonderful group of people,” said Badders.
The current students are: John Blackburn from St. Philip’s, Uvalde; Mikel Brightman from St. David’s, San Antonio; Dexter Lesieur from St. Matthias, Devine; Karen Morris from St. Stephen’s, Wimberley; Arnoldo Ramiro from St. James, Del Rio; and Betsy Stephenson from St. Luke’s, Cypress Mill.
Hear Badders’ introduction of the seminarians here:
The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Th.D., dean and president of Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, brought greetings to Diocesan Council.
Welcome in with a loud celebration and a standing ovation, members of Grace Church, San Antonio, walked around the floor of Diocesan Council and made their way to the front, as they were welcomed as the newest parish in the Diocese of West Texas. What began in the Rev. Jay and Jamie George’s living room in 2009 – a dream of a new kind of Episcopal church with their family of 5 – grew to 20 people, to 40, and continued to grow. Grace Church, which became a mission of the diocese in 2011, now has over 220 members and an average Sunday attendance of 97. Over 85 percent of its members are under that age of 55. “You planted this church, with your prayers and support, and we are most grateful. Thank you, thank you,” said Jay George.
See gallery of photos here.
Full audio below:
Listen to Bishop Suffragan Jennifer Brooke-Davidson’s report to Diocesan Council below:
“We cover a lot of ground, don’t we? We are 86 churches who are ambassadors of God’s love and mercy to all the people who inhabit the 66,000 square miles that are the Diocese of West Texas,” said the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson during the Bishop Suffragan’s report to Diocesan Council on Saturday, February 24.
This year, she said, “we will get refocused on the mission of God through the study of Scripture,” referencing Bishop Reed’s asking of the diocese to read the Bible in its entirety in 2018.
We will “bring more workers into the harvest through the work of existing congregations and through the creation of new congregations; and engage new ways of engaging a rapidly changing culture with the eternal message of God’s love and saving mercy, to offer a vision of wholeness, health, and peace.”
But challenges exist, said Brooke-Davidson. “Insider church challenges – what are we going to do about the fact that many of our congregations just can’t afford a full-time seminary-trained priest and that some of them are not young and married with adorable small children?
“Let me tell you about St. Luke’s, San Saba,” said Brooke-Davidson. And she told of pastor Bill Grusendorf, a bi-vocational priest since 1974, a community-oriented guy in a small town. Since becoming Vicar of St. Luke’s, the church has added a parish hall, a library, and a restroom, and Grusendorf has purchased two computers to help local kids who cannot afford one complete their school homework.
St. Luke’s has a vesting room full of instruments – trombones, French horns, clarinets, all for a kid’s band that performs on the Fourth of July and at Christmas. And when the church isn’t helping on the computers or with the kid’s band, volunteers are at the children’s playroom they furnished at the local courthouse after they noticed how many kids were hanging around waiting for their parents to get out of court.
“Don’t worry about getting a young priest. An old one works just fine if he or she is still on fire for the Gospel,” said Brooke-Davidson.
What about churches without even a part-time priest? “Well, there’s St. Matthias, in Devine,” she said, “and they haven’t had more than a supply priest in years.” But they do have the Lesieurs, “folks with energy, and they love the Lord.”
St. Matthias is now involved in eight community projects through the town’s Ministerial Alliance; they were one of the first churches to drop off a car load of supplies for hurricane relief; and with no organist, they “sing up a storm” each Sunday with Synthia, a recorded hymn software, and a used karaoke machine.
“When there’s a will, there’s a way. When there’s no will, not much helps. It’s all in the attitude,” said Brooke-Davidson.
Moving to Congregational Development, she reported on the new support for churches rolling out this year.
First, an assessment process from a company named Holy Cow! to adapt and adopt new strategies on areas of focus. Second, a multi-faceted approach to church growth in vitality and impact including: basic training in lay ministry; a sequenced leadership development program called the College for Congregational Development (developed in the Diocese of Olympia). Also, an on-site analysis of the demographic context of each congregation; and a web-based platform called Basecamp to capture information, connect churches with communication technologies (webinars, virtual meetings), and document sharing.
The Basecamp platform is already set up and contains resources for any congregation using “The Story” this year as the year-long Bible study. Find it under Spiritual Formation on the diocesan website: www.dwtx.org.
“I am looking forward to a year of close collaboration with Bishop Reed and with you as we follow Jesus together as the church in the worlds that are South Texas,” said Brooke-Davidson.
The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson, bishop suffragan, commissioned the “missioners,” all the youth gathered at Diocesan Council for the ninth year of Youth in Action. The youth began their weekend at St. Mark’s, San Marcos, on Friday, February 23, and were sent out with prayers and blessings on Saturday to assist two Head Start daycare programs in San Marcos.
They will be working mostly outdoors, cleaning up playgrounds, tree trimming, raking, and fixing up sand boxes for the children. They will also build five “free little libraries” to be installed around each campus.