Category Archives: Luncheons

Episcopal Migration Ministries – Bishop’s Luncheon presentation

The Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, served as the keynote speaker during the Bishop’s Luncheon on Friday, February 23. He said, “This is an interesting time to be a director of a national resettlement ministry.” Stevenson continued with sharing facts and statistics about refugees, some personal stories, and the heart of why he is involved in such a ministry.

With an image of Mary cradling baby Jesus while riding on a donkey with Joseph at her side, referencing Matthew 2:13-16, when the holy family fled to escape King Herod’s order to murder all newborn males, Stevenson said, “We, as Christians, have a rich heritage in ministry among refugees.”

The Episcopal Church has been involved in refugee resettlement ministry since 1938, and in 1988, Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) was formed. Today, there are nine agencies who resettle refugees in the United States; the Episcopal Church is one. Six of the nine are faith based.

Through the work of the nine agencies, just under 85,000 refugees were resettled in 2016 and just under 54,000 in 2017.

As a partner, the U.S. government grants EMM wide access to resettlement work. Stevenson has direct contact with the Department of State, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the White House. In April 2017, he spoke at the United Nations. He later received a response that stated his content and presence invited the spirit of God into the room and into the matter.

Stevenson said a “refugee” is “an individual who has been forced to flee their country in order to escape persecution, war, or violence and has received a designation by the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency). There are 22.5 legally declared and documented refugees world wide, and over half of that number are children.

“If you count those forcefully displaced in their own countries, the number grows to 65.6 million people, or one in every 114,” said Stevenson. “Every minute, 20+ are displaced, or 28,000 per day.”

“We are in this work because it is moral, Godly, Jesus Movement work, and because refugees are the most vulnerable people on the planet,” he said.

When a refugee flees, he as three options: repatriation – to go back to his home (though not forcefully); integration or first asylum in the receiving country (through all manners of obstacles); or resettlement to a third country. Less than one percent resettle in a third country.

If a refugee resettles to the United States, he or she goes through the most complicated screening process with five federal agencies. “Refugees are in dire need of the help we can give them and there is no harder way to enter the U.S. than through the Refugee Admittance Program,” said Stevenson.

“Refugees are not a threat. They are people – women, men, fathers, mother, and children – who want to live out their lives peacefully.”

In the fiscal year (Sept. 30-Oct. 1) of 2016, 5,762 persons were resettled through EMM and 4,090 were in the fiscal year of 2017. The affiliate network of the other eight American agencies are “so vital, as they help refugees to understand and access their new home with assistance in housing, English as a Second Language, community involvement, and others,” he said.

Across our nation and across the Episcopal Church, Stevenson is seeing a thirst for knowledge about refugees. About the truth of refugee resettlement. He is finding groups of people who want to welcome refugees and help them become Americans.

“Keep spreading the message about these hard-working individuals,” he said. In 2016, 84 percent of refugees enrolled in a matching grant program in the U.S. attained self sufficiency in 180 days.

“This ministry has lit a fire,” Stevenson said, as he introduced two flagship programs of EMM about to launch that will enable more involvement – Partners in Welcome and Journey to Hope.

The Episcopal Church does not entirely fund EMM. The majority of the funds needed for the ministry’s work and staff salaries comes from federal contracts. Prayerful support of EMM is needed and welcome, and you can learn more at

“Every single dollar granted by the government is used as it’s intended or it is sent back. To continue our work, we need the financial assistance of others,” said Stevenson.

“How we do what we do is made important by why we do it. It is a calling from God – the moral, right, best thing to do.”

Honored Women’s Luncheon

The Commission for Women’s Ministries hosted the “Honored Women’s Luncheon” before Diocesan Council began on Thursday, February 22. Women who were voted by their church as the “honored woman” were recognized and given a yellow rose and a beautiful power blue framed embroidered canvas naming their distinction.

Linda Howard Hillin, the Honored Woman from St. Francis by the Lake, Canyon Lake, was chose to represent the group of honored women at the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) Triennial Gathering, which meets this summer in Austin, Texas, in conjunction with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Shirley Davis, Honored Woman from St. Philips, San Antonio (Photo by John Gaskins)

Patty Brooke, Spiritual Director and retreat leader from St. David’s, San Antonio, was the keynote speaker, and said, “Women have always been here, building  up the church, mostly behind the scenes, and women are involved all over the diocese and across our whole denomination.

“The Honored Women today responded to a call to ministry just as Mary did the Angel Gabriel, and their gifts have been humble and sacrificial. We, as women, answer with a joyful ‘Yes!’ that glorifies Jesus.”

Brooke said some callings lead to vocations, and we are all called to be disciples, to be vessels of grace. “We are charged as a community of women to do the very work that belongs to Jesus and called by our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to be part of the Jesus Movement,” said Brooke.

She invited all the women present to spend time with God, to listen and respond to his call, to “touch, taste, and smell your way to the holy.

“When we take the first step – it is the first of many to come – and it is a joyful yes,” Brooke said.

You can read more about the process of choosing the Honored Women in the diocese here.

Read Patty Brooke’s keynote address here.

Read the poem “We are Women” that Brooke read at the luncheon here.

Inspiration for Christian Formation

Do you want to provide engaging and relevant Christian Formation for your congregation? Are you a volunteer or paid staff strapped for time, feeling lost or not knowing where to start? We know how you feel.

Come to the Christian Formation Luncheon to be inspired. Learn the importance of digital communication and walk away with best practices and tips on how to do so. Come get resources and share ideas for Christian Formation across the lifespan, children, youth, and adults. We are here to be your guide!

The Christian Formation Luncheon will be held on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 11:15 a.m. The cost is $25, and you can mark your attendance during your Council registration. The luncheon will be held in San Marcos River Room, also at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in San Marcos.

Council Luncheons

Because all good things come with food, you have two opportunities to enjoy a delicious lunch in the presence of ministry before Diocesan Council begins on Thursday, February 22. Both the Commission for Women’s Ministry and the Department of Christian Education will host gatherings beginning at 11:15 a.m.

The Commission for Women’s Ministries (C4WM) invites all to attend their “Most Honored Woman” luncheon to celebrate the women nominated by their home churches as a “most honored woman.” See the brochure for full details.

If you are among the nominated “honored women,” the meal is free of charge. For visitors, the cost is $25, and you can mark your attendance during your Council registration. The luncheon will be held in Veramendi Salons C&D at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in San Marcos.

Join us in celebrating the women chosen by their church as someone who exemplifies the ‘Joy of Christ” in all they do!

The Christian Education Department will once again host their popular “working” lunch, on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 11:15 a.m.

Priests, staff, and volunteers of Adult, Children, Youth and Family Ministries are invited to come meet, share and learn over lunch with passionate Christian Educators in the diocesan family.

This year the focus is on Formation Across the Lifespan with an emphasis on Adult Formation. Adults are the primary educators of youth and children, so let’s ensure they have the tools to teach and model what it means to be a disciple of Christ. New and exciting online resources for all ages will also be shared.

The cost is $25, and you can mark your attendance during your Council registration. The luncheon will be held in San Marcos River Room, also at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in San Marcos.

The Bishops’ Luncheon on Friday, February 23, will welcome guest speaker The Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM). The luncheon will be held at 12:00 p.m. in Veramendi Salons A-E. The luncheon is included with clergy, clergy spouses, alternates, and delegates’ registration, or is available for $30 per ticket for visitors.

As director of EMM, Stevenson leads a dedicated team in executing a national program of refugee resettlement and related ministries in partnership with the U.S. government, affiliated local resettlement programs, and a developing network of communities and ecumenical organizations across the country.  Learn more on the Speaker page.

Find more on the luncheons and the annual Clergy Spouses Breakfast here, and come to Council ready to feast!

Women’s Ministries Luncheon on Thursday

Let’s Talk. Over Lunch.

women-holding-hands-blue-backgroundAs the roles of women change in society, so do the ministries they do and the ministries they serve. Join a luncheon conversation just before Council opens on Thursday, February 23, on the many ways in which women’s ministries can serve God, the church, and each other.  Go home with ideas and support for your local women’s ministry, however you define that.

Luncheon is 11:30 a.m., in the Rotunda of the AmericanBank Center, cost of $25 per person. Add it to your Council registration. Hosted by the diocesan Commission for Women’s Ministries  (C4WM) and the diocesan Daughters of the King.  The luncheon will close with our Council “Call to Prayer.” For more info:

Kathy Dittman Inspires at CFA Luncheon

Before the official start of Diocesan Council 2016, the Christian Faith in Action (CFA) luncheon welcomed Dr. Kathy Dittman, a small animal doctor and member of St. Alban’s, Harlingen, as the keynote speaker. Dittman is an advocate for and devoted supporter of Prevent Child Abuse Texas (PCAT) and a participant in the organization’s Walk to Action each year.

The CFA Department encompasses the Restorative Justice, Recovery, Habitat for Humanity, and Environmental Stewardship ministries, as well as Good Samaritan Community Services (GSCS). On behalf of the advocacy for children, Dr. Jill Oettinger, CEO of GSCS, introduced Dittman to the gathering.

Dittman shared her family’s journey, which turned tragic in November 1998, when their two-year-old daughter, Maggie, was killed by her hired caregiver while Dittman and her husband, Mark, were at work. The cause of death was Shaken Baby Syndrome, and the Dittmans removed Maggie, who was braindead, from life support three days after her abuse.

What followed was a journey of anger and rage but one that led them to multiple agencies and even to the Texas State Capitol in Austin lobbying for efforts to prevent child abuse. One law that was successfully passed was for training for all licensed childcare workers in the state of Texas on Shaken Baby Syndrome.

In their continued journey of loss and grief, Dittman and her family attended a conference of Prevent Child Abuse Texas and joined in their efforts to fight child abuse in all forms for all Texas children. Part of PCAT’s efforts include the annual Walk to Action, which from 2008 to 2013 evolved into a 20-mile one-day walk through San Antonio, ending at the Alamo.

With the Dittman’s involvement at St. Alban’s, Harlingen, and the support of then rector Bishop David Reed, Team DWTX was formed and has consisted of 20+ walkers over the years. As a team, over $45,000 has been raised for PCAT.

In 2015, PCAT changed the format of the Walk to Action in an effort to draw more participation. Last November, the Walk was a 5K through the San Antonio Zoo with children and strollers most welcome. The Walks will now be held in several Texas locations, including the kick-off on April 2, 2016, in Harlingen.

All are invited to join in support of the Dittman’s journey and the amazing efforts to prevent child abuse across our state. Walks to Action will also be held in Corpus Christi and San Antonio this year. Learn more and join Team DWTX at