Youth in Action Commissioning

Bursting through the Council doors to guitar and song, 170 young people and their sponsors paraded to the front to be commissioned to go out to three locations today to do service work. After staying over at Christ Chapel (formally St. Mark’s, San Marcos) last night, today the youth will spend the day working to benefit one of three agencies: the San Marcos Housing Authority, the Women’s Shelter, and the Greater San Marcos Youth Council. Projects will range from landscaping and grounds cleaning to building ramps and light construction/repairs.

In his commissioning, Bishop Reed explained to the young people that the entire Council has been working around the theme of “sowing the seeds” and said, “Your presence has made this Council that much more of a wonder and blessing. Thanks for doing the unnatural thing of getting up early to join us.” Reed then sent the youth out, telling them, “Go and have a lot of fun and go and be excellent for the Lord.”

Christian Education Under Construction

Cathy Villani, St. Thomas, San Antonio, and Ann Allen, St. Luke’s, San Antonio, have accepted the positions of co-chairs of the Department of Christian Education and Formation, following the retirement of full-time director, Lou Taylor. Cathy and Ann have been on the committee for a number of years, and are energetic to reinvent their roles voluntarily. At Council the ladies have set up a construction booth for Christian education, complete with building blocks and a sign stating “Under Construction.” This building project needs your help. In their report on Friday afternoon, Cathy and Ann told each congregation they need their help in building a newly successful department. They requested information from each congregation indicating what they need specifically, whether that be assistance with a children’s Sunday school program, baptismal and confirmation resources, recruitment and nurturing of volunteers, etc. The ladies also need to know your parish’s contact person for Christian education. Their hope is to build programs and relationships, strengthening our familial bonds.

Year-Round Stewardship Luncheon

The Rev. Lisa Mason, interim rector of St. David’s, San Antonio, presented the concept of year-round stewardship during a luncheon held Friday afternoon. While the word stewardship leads many to think of only money, stewardship is so much more. Mason introduced the concept by saying if you believe “all that I am and all that I do is with all that I have” and if you believe “that all I have is a gift from God,” than your entire life is stewardship. Stewardship lives in our relationships with families, friends, our circles of faith, our marriage, parenting, vocations, decisions, and outreach. God has blessed us abundantly and has entrusted us with his creation in the vast areas of our lives.

Working with Mason, a design team from the Diocese of West Texas, led by Nancy Stinson, has created an abundant resource for a year-round stewardship program on the diocesan website, Mason led the audience through a virtual tour of the stewardship pages on the website. The program that the diocese has adopted follows the church year that begins with the First Sunday of Advent. Each month’s theme is formed from scripture, and the season follows along with the liturgical calendar. Five categories for stewardship are given: spiritual growth, ministry spotlight, financial health, reaching out through volunteering, and caring for God’s creation, each offering ideas and activities for your congregation to practice stewardship.

Mason hopes the year-round stewardship program will yield a different way of thinking and begin a conversation in each congregation. She emphasized the development of a program cannot be put together by only clergy, only vestry, or only church staff. It is vital to springboard off the creativity of many parishioners to put it in a format that can be passed through each ministry. Stewardship encompasses all we do to take care of all God has given us.

Resolution 3-2011 Proposed Amendment to Canon 23

Council passed Resolution 3-2011 which amends the diocesan canon 23 because of the changes to Title IV (disciplinary) of the General Canons of the Episcopal Church, and the general canons are applicable to the Diocese of West Texas. The bishop created a disciplinary board comprised of lay persons and priests, and the bishop will appoint a church attorney to serve for the following calendar year. You may read the resolution on the Council Live page.

Diocesan Work in Honduras

St. Andrew’s, Seguin, Celebrates 25 Years in Honduras

St. Andrew’s in Seguin is celebrating 25 years of mission in Honduras in 2011. A few members of the congregation reminisced on the efforts, noting the journey has not always been easy but it has been exquisite. The incredible beauty and the constant gratitude of the Honduran people have been a joy to witness, showing the work of our gracious God, breaking down barriers of language and culture to unite us as one body. The majority of their work has taken place in Danli, Honduras, where missioners planted a church ten years ago. Now an edifice built houses the church downstairs and a vocational center for women upstairs. Bill Campaign, member of St. Andrew’s, said the past 25 years hold a lot of memories, projects, seeing the young growing up, helping school children, and treating thousands of animals. He emphasized the work has just begun, and medical, dental, and veterinarian teams will continue to go and grow.

Diocesan Water Mission

In December 2010 the 50th water well was drilled in Honduras, thanks to the diocesan Water Mission team and the people of Honduras. Director of Development for World Mission, Marthe Curry, presented Bishop Lloyd Allen of Honduras a silver pitcher engraved in honor of the “pure water well #50” and the Pure Water Ministry. Bishop Allen then addressed Council with gratitude for the mission in Honduras but with a challenge for the people of Honduras to rise up and walk away from dependency. The Diocese of Honduras is the fastest growing diocese in the Episcopal Church. Allen said while they are materially poor, they are spiritually rich. He is ready for the people of Honduras to lead their own missions and come evangelize in America. Please listen to his engaging and encouraging message on the Council Live page.

Camps and Conferences Report

The report on the diocesan Department of Camps and Conferences was delivered by Rob Watson, director. He began with the outstanding figures of attendance in 2010. A record number of campers, 1,200, attended Camp Capers; almost 800 campers and families enjoyed family camp at Mustang Island Conference Center, and 40 adults and youth journeyed to Duck Lake, Colorado. Seeds were planted, sowed, and nurtured in each place.

The generosity of the diocesan family contributed to the financial support of over 300 campers and families. Contributions in the amount of $105,000 were donated toward the scholarship funds for campers. Watson noted this shows us two things: we are blessed to live in such a loving diocese and the need for assistance is overwhelming. So many campers would not have the opportunity to go without your help. You can listen to the entire report on the Council Live page.

Bishop’s Address to the 107th Diocesan Council

In his annual address to the 107th gathering of Diocesan Council, the Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge focused on the broad and great works of the Diocese of West Texas, our accomplishments, and a few projects planned in our near future. Lillibridge incorporated the diocesan theme for the year, “A Sower Goes Out to Sow,” from the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, and encouraged the continuation of our missional church conversation and what it means to be a missional people.

The bishop assigned the book of Ephesians for each congregation to study in 2011. He thanked each congregation for its steadfastness during the financial hardships of the past few years and reinforced the importance of developing a year-round stewardship program.

Lillibridge encouraged each congregation to create a Lenten appeal to raise funds to help with a national effort to rebuild the cathedral in Haiti, which was completely destroyed by the earthquake in January 2010. The Episcopal Church is responding to Haiti’s need; Haiti is the largest diocese in the Church.

Lillibridge announced an ongoing conversation between the Commission on Ministry and the Standing Committee, looking more closely at our discernment process and how they might support an intentional congregational discernment. The Diocese of West Texas is also engaging in a program to form a three-year course of preparation for bi-vocational clergy, adapted to meet local needs. The DWTX is joining in on this effort with the Diocese of Texas’ IONA School, the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, and five other charter dioceses.

The bishop gave a report on the Department of Camps and Conferences, noting their recognition by the national Episcopal Camps and Conferences Center as a “thriving camp ministry.” He noted improvements that have been made to the Camp Capers campus and said the final plans for major renovation work will be presented at Council in 2012.

Turning to our theme for the year, Lillibridge reminded council of the “missional church” conversation we began in earnest last year. Reggie McNeal, who spoke at our Abide in Me II Conference last June, told us “the Church doesn’t have a mission, God’s mission has a church.” Lillibridge said Jesus is missional and in considering who Christ is and what Christ is calling us to do, being missional becomes life changing.

Lillibridge reiterated we have a lot ahead of us and he hopes we all share the passion for what God is growing in and through us. Lillibridge reflected on what we’re all about, stating, “I believe in the initiative of God. I come back to the knowledge that all of this is a result of God’s loving initiative.”

Read more detailed coverage of the Bishop’s Address in the upcoming March/April edition of The Church News, due in your mailbox in mid-March. You can also find the text and audio files of the bishop’s address on the Council Live page.

World Missions Report

Marthe Curry delivered a brief report on the status of World Missions in 2010. This past year brought abundant blessings to the department. The Department of World Missions supported 58 trips in 15 different countries. The amount of revenue that was raised and given was the most ever. The generous people of the diocese gave over $1.5 million dollars. Curry expressed her sincere gratefulness on behalf of the entire department.

Curry gave examples of where revenue comes from, including the Mother’s Day Offering, the World Mission Arts Festival, Pennies from Heaven, apportionment allocations and individual congregation contributions. These funds are allocated across the globe. Curry gave an example of the Isle of Hope daycare center in Belarus, Russia, which cares for and nurtures young children with physical and mental disabilities. The Pennies from Heaven fund supports an educational program for the children of clergy in the Nebbi Diocese of Uganda. These children graduate from the program and continue their education at a university. This is a monumental achievement, considering these children and students live in an area where running water is minimal. The Honduras vet team requested assistance from the Department of World Missions a couple years ago to build a birthing center for the women in a specific area of Honduras. In 2010, air conditioning was installed in this birthing center.

The efforts of the Department of World Missions are far-reaching. Curry asked those on the Council floor who have ever gone a mission trip, funded a mission trip, or prayed for a loved one on a mission trip to stand. As the entire floor rose, she acknowledged the presence and presented the group to the bishops, noting we are a missions diocese.