Summertime and the Living is. . . Busy!
“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him…so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-7)
Dear Friends in Christ,
As we enter the long, green season of the days after Pentecost, my hope for all of us is that we find times of rest and refreshment; moments of amazing grace and grateful wonder; a little cool breeze and lots of rain. May our summer be a time of turning again to our Lord who says, “Come to me, all who are weary, and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
Around the Diocese this spring, our churches continued to shake loose of the effects of COVID. Every congregation Bishop High and I have visited for the past several months has shown signs of renewed life—joy in being together, increased attendance and participation, more baptisms and confirmations, and ministries in and through the church restarting. The Spirit is moving, and our churches are responding. Even as we hope for lighter loads and a slower pace this summer, fellow members of the diocesan family will be fully engaged in a variety of ministries, and planning and preparing for upcoming events.
Following is a brief overview of some of these. There is much more information still to come, and I ask for your prayers AND your participation.
The compassionate and rapid response to the May 24 mass murder of 19 elementary school students and two of their teachers in Uvalde has been strong and generous from congregations and individuals throughout West Texas and beyond. The diocesan-wide offering of May 29 has brought in more than $67,000 to date, which has been delivered to St. Philip’s Church, Uvalde, to provide direct assistance to those in need. We continue to receive donations daily and will continue to welcome financial support for Uvalde. This generosity is a tangible reminder to the people of Uvalde that they are remembered and loved.
Patti and I spent part of a day recently with the Rev. Mike Marsh, rector, and his wife, Cyndy, to discuss both current and anticipated needs and our Church’s ministry to the suffering. With them, we visited the heart-breaking memorial at Robb Elementary. They and the parish are carrying a heavy burden of grief as they continue to minister to people throughout their town. It’s clear that our support for our brothers and sisters must be sustained for the long haul. As longer-term needs become known, we will continue to gather resources and people to serve the members of that traumatized town (and especially its children). We will continue communicating about needs and opportunities as we learn of them.
WE WILL CONTINUE…AND HOW!
Friday and Saturday, September 16-17, the whole Diocese is invited to gather at the San Marcos Convention Center for We Will Continue . . . And How! - a Festival of worship, fellowship, music, encouragement, and inspiration, as we celebrate being together as a diocesan family again…finally!...in person. I have so much hope and confidence in the ways our Lord can use We Will Continue to shake the dust and rust off of us that I’m not even worried about going head-to-head with Friday night football.
OUR starting lineup includes the Rev. Becca Stevens of Thistle Farms as our preacher, keynote speaker and a workshop leader; Grammy-nominated Nashville singer-songwriter (and child of St. James’, Del Rio) Radney Foster; a Festival Eucharist and eight excellent workshops. Lots more details coming your way soon, but look forward to joining together for a little revival in September.
ELECTION OF A BISHOP COADJUTOR
Nobody is working harder this summer than the diocesan Standing Committee, as it prepares for the election of a Bishop Coadjutor on February 18 at our annual Council in Corpus Christi. The six members have canonical responsibility for bishops’ elections, and they have met at least six times since early May to organize the process by which nominations may be received and considered, and to plan for clear and regular communication throughout the Diocese about the election process.
They have enlisted the help of the Executive Board as “partners in discernment” to gather information and write an updated story of the Diocese akin to a “Parish Profile” used when a church is searching for a new rector. While I haven’t set the exact date of my retirement, it will likely be in late summer or early fall of 2023. The Standing Committee has asked, and I’ve agreed, to serve at least 90 days as diocesan, alongside my successor.
As the Diocese of West Texas looks toward its 150th Anniversary in 2024, I’m confident that the Spirit is not only guiding us in the election of our next Bishop but also is leading us further along the Way of Jesus and toward the Kingdom.
I ask that all of our churches begin regularly using the prayer for the election of a bishop offered by our Standing Committee. Pray also for the members of the Committee, who carry great responsibility to lead us in this process. President is the Rev. Ben Nelson (TMI), and members are: Dr. Liz Manning (Holy Spirit, Dripping Springs); Mrs. Nancy Beauchamp (Good Shepherd, Corpus Christi); Mr. Richard Mosty (St. Peter’s, Kerrville); the Rev. Scott Brown (TMI); and the Rev. Matt Wise (St. Mark’s, San Antonio).
All three of our diocesan camps are operating at pre-pandemic levels, and reports of happy campers of all ages are common once again. In this, the 75th Anniversary of Camp Capers, we are witnessing continued growth and flourishing not only there, but at our Family Camps at the Mustang Island Conference Center and in our various camps for all ages at Duncan Park in Colorado. I haven’t made it to Colorado (yet!), but at Camp Capers and Mustang Island, I’ve seen the Good News of Jesus shared through our diocesan theme, “Encourage one another and build each other up,” in many creative, playful ways.
Also, the new lodges at Mustang Island, which will allow us to host up to 60 more people at Family Camps, will be open within a couple of weeks and the beautiful new open-air chapel will be completed by late summer. It will be my honor to officiate at the dedication of these new facilities in the fall and to enjoy all the fun of the 75th Anniversary Celebration at Capers, October 7-9. All are welcome!
July 8-11, the West Texas Deputation and I will participate in The Episcopal Church’s 80th General Convention in Baltimore. The Convention, delayed a year by COVID has been shortened by more than half out of ongoing COVID concerns. In-person Committee hearings, the Exhibit Hall, and banquets have been eliminated. Worship services have been pared down and all but one Alternate Deputy in each order have been dropped. We are told we will be doing “essential business” only, including electing people to various positions and adopting a budget, but “essential” hasn’t been defined and there are more than 300 resolutions still in committee.
Please pray for your Deputies that they may receive an extra measure of the Spirit’s strength and wisdom. Our clergy attending are: Carrie Guerra (St. Francis, SA); Ripp Hardaway (St. John’s, New Braunfels); Ben Nelson (TMI); David Read (St. Helena’s, Boerne); and (alternate) David Chalk (St. Francis, Canyon Lake). Lay Deputies are: Wheless Baker (St. John’s, Sonora); Mary Hayden Manning (St. David’s, San Antonio); Curt Mowen (St. Luke’s, San Antonio); Jennifer Wickham (All Saints’, Corpus Christi); and (alternate) Liz Manning (Holy Spirit, Dripping Springs). I ask that the churches of the Diocese also pray for our Church, using one or more of the prayers on pages 816-818 of the Prayer Book.
AND MEANWHILE, BACK IN YOUR CHURCH & COMMUNITY…
“Encourage one another and build each other up, as indeed you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
The anxious question most of us have been wondering about since the pandemic began—“Will people come back?”—is being answered with a big “YES!” In most places, our parishioners are returning, some more slowly than others, AND many people are coming for the first time. Be ready to welcome them, get to know them, make room for them, and give them a share in meaningful ministries alongside you. Keep your eyes and ears, your hearts and minds, open. Jesus Christ is among us, calling us to walk with him in love.
May the Peace of our Lord abide with us now and forever.
Love in Christ,
Bishop of West Texas