Several months ago, I was invited to enter a confidential process to discern a call to be the Bishop Diocesan of the Diocese of Newark, in New Jersey. I have been raised up for election to this ministry, along with three others. I am sharing this news with you now because I want you to hear it from me, as it is shared with the people of the Diocese of Newark this morning, and I need to ask for your prayers. I am committed to my ministry here and excited by it, and I feel I must be faithful to what may be God's calling. Whatever happens, I know we will all be serving God with faithfulness.
Episcopal Diocese of Texas 2018 Council was held in Waco February 15-17. St. Stephen's delegation was Carvel Glenn, James Ozga, Gary Patterson, Laura Thewalt and Rev. Lisa Hunt.
Thursday's highlights included the opening Eucharist at First Baptist Waco with the Rt. Rev. Jane Alexander, Bishop of Edmonton preaching. Following the worship service we celebrated 40 years of women's ordination in the Diocese of Texas with a video presentation as well as several women clergy of the diocese sharing their experiences in ministry. St. Stephen's represented by wearing t-shirts with Helen's photo on them.
Friday began the business of council starting with bible study and plenary sessions which included speakers from Project Curate (kyo͝oˈrāt) Matthew, Secunda and Brandi sharing authentically how they are working on social justice and racial reconciliation in the fifth ward of Houston, encouraging the attendees of council to look for way to practice the same in our own communities and neighborhoods.
Saturday elections for Standing Committee, Executive Board and other bodies were held. Also, a presentation about the search and call process for the next Bishop Suffragan of the West region featuring artwork by committee member and St. Stephen's own Carvel Glenn. Also on Saturday, Council took up the approval of the Diocesan budget where our Rector, Rev. Lisa Hunt spoke about the culture shift in the Diocese to being a well-resourced Diocese as it relates to the compensation of the top-paid Diocesan staff against the backdrop of all clergy compensation. The amendment Council voted on was to cap the highest paid Diocesan staff at 5% with the difference being reallocated to Rural and Hispanic ministries. There was a vote by tellers and the margin of defeat of the resolution was 75 votes, illustrating the issue resonated with many at Council. The Bishop's address largely focussed on the matter of vocations in the future of the Diocese.
The Diocese of Texas Council report is also on the EDOT website.
Laura M. Thewalt
I have been a member of St. Stephen’s since 2000. I am married to Michael Hawes, and we have three children, Robert, John, and Elizabeth. This is my second time serving a term on the Vestry, and I also sing in the choir. In the past, when the Havens Center was more of a standalone entity, I served on its board and helped raise money for the afterschool program there.
2018 will be a busy year at St. Stephen’s. We are carrying through the first phase of our capital campaign, finishing plans for new buildings and other changes to the campus, reconfiguring our day school, and adapting to the changes in the makeup of our surrounding neighborhood.
I am confident that we can maintain the values and the community we cherish together. Our internal changes ought to be a reflection of our commitment to our beliefs and our commitment to service to God and to others. As we live in our beliefs and our communion with one another, our eyes must not be focused only on what we have been and where we were in the past, but also on evolving our community and our relationships with one another, with our school, and with the community that surrounds us in a sustainable way for the long term. Reading the history posted on our church website—which is itself history now, as it cuts off in 1999—I am reminded of how far we have come from our beginnings, and yet how closely we have held the same values and spirit for 90 years now.
I am blessed to have been entrusted with the chance to help our parish manage this round of change. I look forward to the journey.
I am pleased to announce that I have called two new staff members to assist St. Stephen’s in our parish ministry. At our Annual Parish Meeting, the Vestry and I shared with you the new strategic plan for our future. In order to achieve those goals, the Vestry and I have worked together to create a staff configuration which we hope will support us in realizing our shared vision.
Each year, the Christian Church observes the season of Lent, which invites us into an inward reflection on our habits and actions and what we should amend or change in our lives. The season of Lent lasts six weeks and prepares us for the jubilation of Easter. Many people observe Lent by fasting from something that may have become a distraction in their life or by fasting or abstaining from luxuries, such as heavy or sweet foods containing butter, lard, cream, or sugar, and for some others, meat. Since Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday, people began to use the Tuesday before Lent as a way of getting rid of all the luxurious ingredients in the cupboards.
It has been eighteen months since I first arrived at St. Stephen’s as a newly-minted deacon and this parish’s next Curate. Now, a priest for just over a year, it is already time for me to go out of another door, onto another road.
I know where I’m headed in geographical terms--to the south loop, to Grace Episcopal Church--but there’s still no knowing where in this adventure of faith and ministry I might really be swept off to. As St. Paul put it, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
While I am thrilled (and a bit terrified) to be stepping out into this next iteration of my calling as priest, I have also been more than a little sad this week. I’ve been sad, because these kinds of new opportunities and steppings-out inevitably involve goodbyes, like the one we will be saying to each other on Sunday. I will miss being a priest among you, doing daily life with you in Christian community, and learning from such passionate and wise colleagues and parishioners as you all are.
I am also grateful. Unspeakably grateful. I am grateful for the friendships we have formed over coffee, gathering for (more than a few!) meetings, marching in a parade, serving in Costa Rica, hanging out at Camp Allen, and worshiping together. I am grateful for so many opportunities to learn with you - about privilege, and systemic injustice, and intersectionality, and speaking truth to power, and Christian witness in the political process. I am grateful that you welcomed me into this community, accepted me as I am, and helped me grow as a faithful person and priest among you.
I knew in July of 2016 that the road was leading to St. Stephen’s, but I didn’t really know the marvels of being swept off to this storied place, among this beautiful people, and transformed with you for the next journey ahead. I am amazed, and a little sad, and mostly grateful.
The Bible is full of examples of folks trying different ways to discover what God wants of them. These prayers of discernment take many forms including drawing lots, casting dice, and birds alighting. In the Episcopal Church, one of our discernment tools is voting.
Given our Church's origin in the time of the American Revolution, it is little wonder that the crafters of our canon law would use voting as a means to determine the sensus fidelium, the mind of the faithful. We believe that the mind of the faithful, grounded in prayers, will reveal the mind of Christ over time.
This Sunday at noon in the Church, St. Stephen's will gather to hear an accounting of its leaders of the vision of the parish and its resources. Confirmed Communicants in Good Standing will vote to determine our leaders. 'Confirmed or received' means that parishioners have made the commitment to the Episcopal Church. 'Good standing' means that they pray, work, and give for the spread of God's reign. All are urged to attend the meeting. The franchise is canonically reserved to those who have chosen to formally commit.
These are exciting days for our church and we need the sensus fidelium to move forward. We need you.
The Reverend Lisa Hunt
The Reverend Scott Painter will be leaving St. Stephen's to become the vicar of Grace Church, Houston. Scott's last Sunday with us will be on February 4. We want to celebrate his new call and to thank him for our ministry among us.
We will be hosting a lunch in his honor on February 4 at noon in Pecore Hall. In addition, as is our custom, we are collecting funds for a thank you gift. In Episcopal parlance, this is known as a 'purse.' You are invited to contribute online by bank draft or credit card here Or you may make a check payable to St. Stephen's and designate it for the purse. You may also give cash, but please put it in an envelope and mark it purse.
We are grateful to Scott for sharing so richly of himself and his gifts. We are blessed to have had him among. us.
The Reverend Lisa Hunt
This Saturday, January 20, at 10 a.m. I will join women, girls, men, and boys for the Houston Women's March as it begins on Sabine St. and I hope you will come with me.
I am marching to demonstrate my faith that Christ is revealed in every human being, especially those who are most marginalized and powerless in our society. Each of us deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. This includes my undocumented neighbors.
I am marching because I believe that the kingdom, the power, and the glory belong to God. God is first. America, though I love her, is not.
I am marching because I know that the only way that our elected officials will embrace the common good, above consumerism and military hegemony, is by citizens who vote demanding a different set of values.
I marching because we will be encouraging others to register to vote and to put their franchise where their hearts are in the next election. This is not a partisan movement; it is about civic engagement. This land is our land...including our First Nation brothers and sisters, those who were brought to this country against their wills, and those who are longing for full citizenship.
I will be in Pecore Hall on Saturday making a sign/poster to carry and then will carpool from the Church to the March. I hope to see you too. RSVP form and itinerary is below.
The Reverend Lisa Hunt
Dear St. Stephen’s Family,
When Bishop Doyle placed me with St. Stephen’s as your curate in 2016, I could not imagine how much I would come to love this church community and admire the breadth and depth of your ministry to one another, and throughout Houston and Texas. I have learned so very much from you; and my family and I have been embraced, cared for, and deeply enriched as a part of this parish.
When I began my ministry among you, first as a newly ordained deacon, we understood that the curacy program was a short-term assignment, where I could grow into the ordained ministry while supporting Lisa and all of you in your life together. What I did not anticipate was that my next call might come earlier than expected.
I am writing today to share with you that I have accepted the call to serve as Vicar of Grace Episcopal Church, Houston, and I will begin my work with the good folks of Grace at the beginning Lent. February 4 will be my final Sunday in worship with you.
I will remain forever grateful that I began my vocation as a priest with you at St. Stephen’s. Please know that I carry with me knowledge, understanding, and values that have been formed during my time as your curate. Although our season of serving together on a daily and weekly basis will soon come to a close, be assured we remain family--as Christians, as Episcopalians, and as Houstonians—striving for justice and peace in our world, respecting the dignity of every human being.
With deep affection,
The Reverend Scott Painter