St. Nicholas Church Plant Announces Restaurant & Bar in Downtown Bulverde as New Sanctuary Space
by Emily V. Kittrell, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
St. Nicholas Episcopal Church recently announced the purchase of Front Porch Bar & Grill in Bulverde by the Episcopal Corporation in West Texas, for use as the church plant's new worship facility and home base for its growing ministry.
St. Nicholas celebrated its first public worship service on Sunday, December 8th, 2019 in Spring Branch, Texas, just four months before the United States entered lock down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While navigating the transition to online-only worship alongside other Episcopal congregations, followed by outdoor and hybrid services during later phases, the Rev. Beth Wyndham, St. Nicholas Church Planter, also learned that the current facility St. Nicholas leased for worship had been sold to a new owner with different plans for the community fitness center. Beth began searching for new lease opportunities in their community immediately. After initial conversations with the owner of Front Porch Bar & Grill about leasing the space, the owner shared they were near retirement, and asked if St. Nicholas might be interested in buying the property instead. Open to the possibility, it quickly became clear that,“[this] was a place that [St. Nicholas] could worship and do ministry in the community now, and also a place that could grow for 15- to 20-years with very little work needed to do so,” shared Wyndham.
Utilizing the space for worship, however, would require a special use permit for religious purposes from the Bulverde Planning and Zoning Commission and approval from the Bulverde City Council. Beth shared that members of the community presented remarkable testimony on behalf of the church during the Council’s decision-making process. A neighboring business owner shared with City Council that if the permit request had arisen in prior years, she would have opposed a church operating in downtown Bulverde. She articulated to the council that COVID-19 changed her perspective, she had spent time with Beth and Jeremy, and believed her city would benefit from this church community interested in caring for others.
The special use permit was granted by the Bulverde City Council, and the Episcopal Church Corporation in West Texas successfully closed on purchasing the property for use as the St. Nicholas Church Plant on Thursday, July 15, 2021. Beth received the keys to their new location on Saturday, July 17.
Throughout this process, Wyndham invited groups of people from St. Nicholas to begin sharing their desires for the new sanctuary space, opinions on how to best utilize the former Bar & Grill, and hopes for their congregation’s future. From these conversations, Beth developed and shared her vision for the space, involving diocesan leadership and members of the diocesan Development Committee to consider “all those questions that we need to ask of ourselves to be good stewards.”
In addition to its long-term sustainability and function, the space aligns well with community members’ visions for an approachable sanctuary with a comfortable place to gather outside. The former restaurant features a commercial kitchen, a large outdoor space with a lawn, and garage-style doors that open to connect the indoor and outdoor spaces, a feature Beth mentioned is, “future pandemic friendly” and so comfortable that “you just don’t want to leave.” She shared gratitude for a space that “can be used immediately for good in the community” and would not require future reconfiguration.
Moving forward, Beth and her leadership team will ready the new space to welcome their members and ministries in three phases.
First, they will prepare the worship space with the goal to hold the first service in September 2021. Community workdays are planned so members can begin to feel ownership of the building and help prepare it for use as a sanctuary. Twenty-seven people showed up for the first workday on Saturday, July 24th, in what Beth describes as a “loaves and fishes moment” where the group accomplished in a single day what she anticipated would take a month. The group included friends from a neighboring congregation and brought great hope for the future of ecumenical relationships in the community. After their Sunday Worship service the next day, members caravanned to the new space to celebrate the work accomplished over the weekend and inscribe prayers and scripture verses on the walls.
In the second phase, St. Nick’s will focus on the children’s chapel and Sunday school area. Phase Three will include restoring the office areas.
In her announcement to the St. Nick’s community, Beth stated, “When you think about it, restaurants are very clear what they are about – nourishing people with good food and good memories. Churches are like that, too. We gather to be nourished by Jesus – his word, his life, his spirit. As we gather we make unforgettable connections and memories. This nourishment is so effective, we are sent out to share the strength, inspiration, and love we have been blessed with in our time together.”
She continued, “So many people have played a part in this process, and we are abundantly thankful for our Bishops, the Episcopal Church Corporation, diocesan staff and committees, our Bulverde Village neighbors, city employees, Planning and Zoning commissioners and City Council members. I am also grateful for the congregants of St. Nicholas. Their resilience during COVID-19, their love and care for one another, and their willingness to dream big as they share the love of Jesus is a blessing in my life that sustains and inspires.”
The Church Planting Initiative was launched in 2016 by the Rt. Rev. David Reed, establishing a task force that then called the Rev. Beth Wyndham as the diocesan Church Planter in 2018. Beth was commissioned at the 115th Diocesan Council in February 2019, and St. Nicholas held its first public service later that year.
St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, Bulverde currently gathers for Worship on Sundays at 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. at 4800 US HWY 281, Spring Branch, TX 78070. All are welcome. For more information on St. Nicholas Hill Country, visit www.stnickshillcountry.org, and stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @stnickshillcountry. If you would like to connect an individual or family to St. Nick’s, you may provide them with the Rev. Beth Wyndham’s cellphone number, (214) 213-0739.