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News & Stories
March 6, 2024

Celebrating 150 Years, Bishop Read Encourages a Return to Roots by Embracing Missional Spirit

The San Marcos Conference Center was filled with excitement, fellowship, and anticipation as the 120th Diocese of West Texas Council 2024 began on February 22, 2024. For two and a half days, a total of 835 diocesan clergy, delegates, alternates, guests, and exhibitors convened to worship, conduct business, listen to inspiring and educational presentations, attend workshops, Sip ‘n Shop at the exhibits, and enjoy time for conversation and engagement. Additionally, over 1,000 views from six countries were observed online!

The Rt. Rev. Dr. David G. Read, Bishop of West Texas convened Council, followed by a beautiful presentation of colors from the TMI Corp of Cadets and performance of the National Anthem, sung by Hunter Van Delden. Introductions by Bishop Read recognized the tireless, wonderful work of the Council Host Church, St. Luke’s San Antonio, led by the Rev. Irv Cutter, Rector and Co-Hosts Ana and David Cotton. Additionally, new clergy, seminarians, visiting bishops and retired Bishop Diocesans were acknowledged.

New Clergy: Rev. Matthew Bloss, Curate, St. John’s New Braunfels; Rev. Georges Jallouf, Rector, St. Bartholomew’s Corpus Christ; Rev. Curt Norman, Rector, St. Paul’s Brady; Rev. Stepheya George Stephen, Vicar, All Saints San Benito; Rev. Tim Swan, Curate, St. Stephen’s Wimberley

Seminarians: Rachel Joiner to be a Curate at St. Mark’s San Marcos and Tanner Ambs to be a Curate at St. Luke’s San Antonio

Visting Bishops: Rt. Rev. Barry Beisner, Provisional Bishop of Najavoland and Rt. Rev. Bishop Jonathan Folts, Bishop of South Dakota

Retired Bishops: Diocese of West Texas: Rt. Rev. Jim Folts, 8th Bishop, Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge, 9th Bishop, Assistant Bishop, Rt. Rev. Rayford High

As the meeting commenced, Bishop Read noted a significant milestone for the 120th Council, the celebration of the 150th birthday of the Diocese of West Texas.

A commemorative video highlighting milestones and celebrating the sesquicentennial was played during Council and is available for viewing and to share with congregations and on social media.

2024 THEME

Bishop Read introduced the Theme for 2024, “Lift High the Cross”, challenging clergy, and congregations to embrace new ways of addressing and solving challenges. A thought-provoking video, The Backwards Bicycle Brain, was viewed, underscoring Bishop’s message to think out of the box. Bishop Read then posed the theme questions for discussion and contemplation at Council and with congregations upon return from Council.

  • The cross symbolizes God’s Love for us, but it also symbolizes other facets of love. Which of these ways of thinking about the cross most resonates with you at this time and why?
    - Symbol of Sacrifice & Self-Giving
    - Symbol of Victory
    - Symbol of Hope
    - Symbol of Unity
    - Symbol of Christ’s Daily Presence with Us
    - Symbol of the Church
  • Where does your congregation need to learn to ride a new bicycle? What’s not working that needs to change? Where do you need to learn new tricks?
  • Change is inevitable and change is challenging. Scholars tell us that we don’t fear change, we fear loss. Are there changes happening in your church that are challenging for you? What do you not want to lose?
COUNCIL IN ACTION 2024

Council in Action recipient, Good Samaritan Community Services, provided an inside look at how the center is serving the needs of 3,500 individuals and 1,100 families in Central and South Texas through their Family Services and Teen Services Department. The outpouring of generosity from the diocese resulted in 978 clothing items and over $1,700 donated to Good Sam.

PRESENTATIONS

Over the course of Council, attendees were inspired, moved, and educated by presentations on Good Samaritan Community Services, TMI Episcopal, Small Church Ministry, Church Planting, Discipleship and Congregational Development, St. Peter’s Kerrville Intentional Community, Immigration and Refugee Ministries’ Plaza de Paz, the Episcopal Church Foundation, St. Philip’s Uvalde Web of Healing and Hope, Camps & Conferences, College and Adult Ministry, and World Missions. Additionally, clergy, delegates and guests had the opportunity to participate in two workshops, all of which had great attendance and were well received. Workshops included Beloved Community: Scared Ground and Racial Reconciliation, Creative Intergenerational Formation, It Can Happen – Motivations for Intergenerational Giving, “Success” in Small Churches, Taking the “Duh” Out of Discipleship – Reclaiming our Call, The Mental Health Crisis – Mental Health Support as a Ministry, and When the Church Leaves the Building.

Attendees were blessed to hear guest speakers share the how the cross is being lifted through their work:

  • The Very Rev. Dr. Cynthia Kittridge, Dean and President, Seminary of the Southwest
  • Rt. Rev. Barry Beisner, Provisional Bishop of Najavoland
  • Rt. Rev. Jonathon Folts, Bishop of South Dakota
  • Canon J. Davey Gerhard, Executive Director of The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS)
  • Tamara Plummer, Program Manager, Episcopal Relief & Development
BISHOP’S ADDRESS

Bishop Read’s address captivated the room. Looking back at the roots and origin of the diocese beginning in 1874 as the Missionary District of Western Texas, Bishop Read detailed the struggles of the early Bishops, clergy, and congregations as they worked to establish churches in an area vast and wide, stating,

“The Missionary District of Western Texas was larger than any state east of the Mississippi River.”

In this territory, there were 10 Episcopal Parishes, 5 Missions Stations and 427 Communicants. Bishop Read detailed that how despite the struggles and through a missional spirit and faith and fervent prayer, the diocese was shaped. Calling on us to mark our sesquicentennial by “giving thanks to God for the saints who came before us,” he also encouraged congregations to “Look back and tell our history, for when we do, we will find the Holy Spirit has been moving and shaping and calling us through the years.”

Transitioning to the present, Bishop Read addressed the aftermath of the COVID pandemic and the discourse that currently exists in our culture, likening it to the environment not so different in the diocese’s early day and sharing, “We are and must more deeply become a multi-cultural movement of missional people, following Jesus into neighborhoods near and far.” Clergy and congregations were implored to have the mindset of missionaries!

To help facilitate creative approaches, attendees were given a book, Surprise the World! and urged to experiment with different ways to “Lift High the Cross.” Bishop Read shared that one of his former Senior Wardens used to say, “Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes,” and encouraged clergy and congregations to try new and innovative ways to worship and build relationships with our neighbors.

A special moment occurred as Bishop Read noted the upcoming retirement of Marthe Curry, World Missions Director, recognizing the tremendous impact of Marthe’s work and her missional spirit in bringing God’s love to communities around the world.

Bishop Read’s address concluded with his giving thanks for prayers, words of support, the work being done in churches and communities and by asking all to “Lift High the Cross. The Love of Christ Proclaim. Till All the World, Adore His Sacred Name.”

EUCHARIST

The Holy Spirit was ever present during Council Eucharist held Friday evening. The liturgy was beautifully recited in English and Spanish, and the talented St. Luke’s choir moved worshipers with their magnificent vocals. Bishop Read began his sermon by sharing a heartwarming story of a 10-year-old girl’s first experience as an acolyte and her wobbly walk down the aisle while lifting high the cross. As Bishop Read segued into a discussion surrounding the current culture, he revealed both positive and sobering statistics from a survey of the American population. The positive news is 84% of respondents, both religious and non-religious, believe Jesus was an important spiritual figure worth listening to; however, the unfavorable news is 45-50% of non-Christians associated Christians and the church with hypocrisy, arrogance, and judgmental attitudes. With this news, Bishop Read reiterated from his earlier address that we must build relationships and go into our communities to invite others to church, and we must do so with grace and loving actions, caring for others as Christ cares for us. Stating “Go, show the world there is another way, the way of The Cross,” Bishop Read concluded by offering that we on some days will have boldness, strength, and certainty but on other days, as we try new approaches, we too may be like that 10-year-old acolyte, feeling brand new as we “Lift High the Cross.”

The Eucharistic offering was designated for the Immigration and Refugee Ministries and received close to $9,000, a beautiful response to helping those served by this ministry.

COUNCIL CLOSING

Council closed with Bishop Read asking “What will you do differently because you came to Council?” Re-stating, “Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes,” he reminded attendees of the need for change and experimentation, asking “What can you try to “Lift High the Cross” in your community?” Highlighting initiatives and resources that were shared during Council, he encouraged creativity and collaboration in worship, study, discipleship, and outreach. Bishop Read concluded giving thanks for the love, support and prayers received during Council.

RESOURCES

Council recordings, presentation slides and election results can be found on the Diocese of West Texas Website:

Council 2024 on Vimeo

Direct Links to Videos and slides:

Bishop Read’s Council 2024 Address

Eucharist and Sermon

Bishop Read’s Closing Comments

Day 1 (Feb 22) Council recording and presentation slides

Day 2 (Feb. 23) Council recording and presentation slides

Day 3 (Feb. 24) Council recording and presentation slides

Video:

150th Commemorative Video

Welcoming the Stranger: Immigration and Refugee Ministries

St. Philip’s Uvalde Ministry in Partnership with the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas

Blog:

Election Results

Prayers of the People from the Committee on the Bishop’s Address (English and Spanish)

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