Our Valley churches invite us all to attend Diocesan Council 2019 in McAllen, Texas.
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.
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 Church Planting Initiative was created in 2016 by Bishop Reed, and the task force that formed looked at diocesan history, chances to increase vitality in this major initiative, and the road forward.
“We are now ready to choose a church planter,” said the Rev. Ripp Hardaway. “We want to get started as soon as we possibly can.”
The current recommendation for the first new church’s location is NorthWest San Antonio; the second being along the IH 35 N corridor; the third in South San Antonio. “We wanted the planter to also have a say in where he or she will work for us and plant a congregation,” said Hardaway.
“One of the greatest challenges in planting a church is how you pay for it,” said the Rev. David Read. “In the future, instead of spending money on land, we are going to let past sales of property fund the new land.
“A funding plan has already been established and put into place – an additional income line – that should support this initiative for five years,” he said.
There will be expansion in areas of support for the new church planter, including a paid coach, diocesan staff, prayer teams, and a team of fellow church planters .
Full audio here:
Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of Mexico, Bishop Francisco Moreno, brought greetings to Diocesan Council and told of the ministries in Northern Mexico and around the country.
The Rt. Rev. Benito Juarez-Martinez, Bishop of Southeastern Mexico, brought greetings to the diocese during his annual visit. He spoke of the natural disasters that affected Mexico during 2017, the earthquake in Central Mexico and Hurricane Katia. He also informed Council on the sustainability programs in the Diocese of Southeastern Mexico, and he offered his gratefulness for the partnership with our diocese.
The full audio version of the Report on Disaster Recovery is linked below:
Deacon Elaine Clements, diocesan disaster coordinator for the Diocese of Louisiana, reported to Diocesan Council on behalf of the Domestic Disaster Program of Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD). Clements has been working closely with our diocese after Hurricane Harvey devastated a number of our communities and churches.
In 2016, Bob Thompson and the Rev. Nancy Springer participated in one of ERD’s preparedness seminars on behalf of the Disaster Response Commission for the diocese even before Harvey was on the radar. “They has the opportunity to see the tools that ERD has created for both the pre and post sides of a disaster, including “how to” guides on post-disaster recovery by fellow Episcopalians, asset mapping, webinars on spiritual care, and how to organize disaster mission trips,” Clements said.
Hurricane Harvey came ashore on August 25. “Even as the storm moved on land, ERD was already organizing a response and fundraising. There are only a few days to raise a good number of funds for dioceses to use to meet their immediate needs,” she said.
On September 2, because of the “great leadership” of this diocese, ERD was able to make the first grant for emergency funding for the Diocese of West Texas. Less than a week later, Clements and Katie Mears with ERD were in San Antonio meeting with Bishop Reed about the next steps, and ERD was ready to give the funds needed to hire a Deputy for Disaster Recovery.
Jennifer Wickham was an “inspired suggestion,” and she accepted the position. “She’s a huge gift to your diocese, and I have enjoyed our relationships and working with her so closely,” said Clements.
Wickham continued with the Hurricane Harvey relief report, saying, “Harvey ramped up pretty fast, coming ashore as a Category 4, and the eye of the storm entered land across Port Aransas and Rockport. And then it sat across our diocese and the Diocese of Texas for several days.
“Most of the things that affected us were wind driven. We saw so much of fallen debris and damaged buildings. Forty-one counties were declared federal disaster areas, and 15 of those are in our diocese.
“Not all of our churches or people we know living in these counties were impacted, but these areas are full of people who were. What we are doing is reaching out to all and finding out their needs,” said Wickham.
The diocese is responding primarily to six areas, Aransas Pass, Corpus Christi, Port Aransas, Refugio, Rockport, and Victoria, and is also assisting the community of Berclair with which St. Philip’s, Beeville, works so closely.
“WE are still in recovery mode, and we will be there for the long haul,” said Wickham. Many material and monetary donations have come in from across the diocese and across the larger church.
Traci Maxwell is serving as the volunteer coordinator and is helping to organize groups from across the nation coming to help clean up and rebuild. “We are so grateful for all of the hands that have come.”
The diocese has received $600,000 in donations and grants. “We are in a good financial situation to help. “We’ve given emergency grants to individuals, funded different community services, and we’ve helped buy mobile homes for Homes for Displaced Marlins in Port Aransas.”
Conservative estimates are that unmet needs across TX surpass $1.4 billion – based on filed FEMA applications.
“Your bishops have leaned into the murkiness of this. They have chosen to continue to fork into the unknown, into this metaphorical Good Friday, and continue to reach and help all of these people affected and will see them through to Easter Sunday. It’s a lovely thing to enter into this discernment together and find who the church is supposed to be.”
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will visit the Harvey-affected areas on Wednesday, February 28. A Community Eucharist will be held at St. Peter’s, Rockport, at 1:00 p.m. and Bishop Curry will preach.
“We can all be so thankful to God for Jennifer, who said ‘yes’ with almost no hesitation. She knew better than I did what I was asking her to take on, and she stepped into all the destruction and has been an instrument of healing, and she continues to be,” said Bishop Reed.