Paying the Piper:  More Building News

When it rains, it pours—literally.  A few weeks ago I shared with you that St. Stephen’s was facing major issues with water intrusion in the education wing of the building and in our offices.  Thanks be to God, those issues have been addressed.  This week we have learned that the roof in the tower above the altar will need to be replaced; water is coming into the sanctuary.  In addition,  the air conditioner which cools the Gathering Area is shot.

 We are fortunate that the Vestry and School Board of Trustees have had the foresight to launch a capital campaign to address renovations and to build a new facility which will meet our needs.  However, we are now in a position where deferred maintenance issues are catching up with us.  It is time to pay the piper.

 The Vestry will be working to cover these expenses as we prepare to launch the public phase of the capital campaign this fall.  Know that the parish relies on your pledges and offerings to cover these expenses.   Please, keep current with your offerings and be as generous as you can be.  This will assist us in the summer cash flow slump.

 The good news is that Project Control will be coming to work with us as we prepare to call our architect in the new year.  This project management firm will work with us to hone our budget, program, and needs.  Not a minute too soon!

Block Party on the Horizon

Attention St. Stephen’s! We have some exciting news to share. One of the five strategic objectives of our Strategic Ministry Plan was a focus on Inviting, Welcoming, Connecting, and Reconnecting people to the life of our church. The church leadership and staff are developing ways to accomplish this goal, and today we share with you one of them.

After the 10:30 a.m. service on Sunday, September 8, 2019, we will host a Community Block Party for our neighborhood. This event will be a lot of fun and include live music, games, and food trucks for you and our neighbors to enjoy. The Block Party will serve as the culmination of this summer’s Go Church initiative, and we would love you to wear your Go Church t-shirt on that Sunday if you have one.

We inform you of this event now for two reasons:

First, we want you to put it on your calendar and plan to be there! A party is always more fun with more people around. Please make every effort to attend.

Second, we want you to invite guests to come with you. A party like this is an easy, fun, non-threatening way to invite someone to come to church. If you normally come to the 7:45 or 8:30 a.m. service, come back for the Block Party and bring along a friend, family member, neighbor, or coworker. If you normally worship during the 10:30 a.m. service, consider inviting a guest with you to worship and then stay for the Block Party. Doing this stretches our evangelistic muscles and helps us all be more inviting, welcoming, and connecting.

We think our Block Party is going to be a lot of fun and demonstrate to our neighbors and friends that St. Stephen’s cares for them and is a church they could belong to. We hope to see you and a friend there!

-Ryan Beaty, Missioner for Congregational Development

Water, Water Everywhere!

While Houston is down in rainfall one half of an inch so far this summer, St. Stephen’s has been feeling the effects of water in many corners of our facilities.  We have experienced leaks in the roof of the sanctuary, a pipe burst under the nursery, water intrusion in the Norwich room, and water leaks behind the stucco in the education wing of the building.  As you may know, St. Stephen’s retained its original property, a residence which was constructed in the 1920s.  This building became part of the education wing and was covered with stucco.  The limestone portion of the education building has settled over time and water is finding its way through the stone and mortar.

Fortunately, our Building and Grounds committee and our Maintenance Supervisor, Michael Hayward, have been working to address these issues, utilizing maintenance operating funds from both the Church and School.  These buildings need to sustain our ministries for the next 3 years as we move ahead with our building plans.  You will notice that the stucco has been repaired on the face of the education building along the garden entrance and the office interior walls have been repaired; drainage will also be addressed.  The Norwich Room is receiving new flooring and its limestone exterior is being sealed and tuck pointed repaired and a new drainage channel has been installed on the exterior.  The sanctuary roof was under warranty and it is being repaired.  All of these investments which total about $40K will enable us to continue to use our facilities in the near term.  They will not address remaining structural issues with the HVAC and wiring; these will need to be factored into decisions about the scope of the construction phase of our capital campaign.

Our strategic ministry goals call us to grow; to invite, welcome, connect, and reconnect; to close demographic gaps; and to collaborate with our School.  Accomplishing these goals requires us to me good stewards of our buildings as tools for ministry.  The chickens are coming home to roost; we can only patch for so long.

 I am excited to announce that the Vestry and School Board have approved the hiring of a Pre-Construction Project Manager  whose scope of services is composed of the following:

  • Review (i) the existing facilities on the campus, (ii) the recently completed master plan, (iii) cost estimates for the demolition, renovation and new construction contemplated in Phase 1 of the master plan, (iv) the draft capital campaign budget and (v) goals of the capital campaign.

  • Assist in the evaluation of various use of space options during the period prior to construction of a new building in Phase 1 and upon completion of construction.  Initial space use options have been prepared by a committee representing the church and school.  Concept pricing has been provided for these options by a consultant.

  • Assist in the completion of a capital campaign budget based upon a reasonable timeline for completion of Phase 1 of the master plan.

  • Assist in finalizing programming and planned areas of new construction and renovation based on documented church and school needs and project budget.

  • Assist in the creation of an RFP for architectural services, coordinate responses to questions from the architects and assist in the evaluation of proposals.

  • Provide communications to the church and school leadership.  Coordinate, lead, document and attend project status meetings.

  • The anticipated duration for this scope of work is approximately 3 months. 

The Vestry and Board of Trustees expect to be calling an architect to begin design and construction documents by the end of the year.  This is an important time in our common life and I am thrilled that we are taking these next steps, and none too soon!

REFLECTIONS ON "ASHES ON THE GO"

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"Ashes on the Go" was the most moving thing I have done in my 3+ years at St. Stephen's. For two hours in the afternoon, I watched as 80 people drove, walked, or pushed baby strollers into our parking lot to be blessed by Sarah or Lisa with the words “remember that we come from dust and to dust we will return.” Then I handed each a card with our services listed on it and said, “Just in case you are looking for a place for Easter or Lent.”

It was clear we were onto something special when people showed up early and kept coming. Their stories were different and yet the same. Almost everyone was from outside our current St. Stephen’s community. Each of them said that they had decided to come after seeing our purple "Ashes on the Go" yard signs and were grateful to find a place to receive ashes. They wanted to begin Lent in a way that honored their traditions, but the circumstances of their lives made it difficult – from being too busy or not ready emotionally to step inside a church. They were thankful that our clergy helped them connect to God and the church from the St. Stephen's sidewalk.

I saw:

  • Mothers getting themselves and their kids blessed as they carpooled between neighborhood schools and evening activities

  • Friends bringing friends who they thought needed a blessing

  • Individuals who became emotional at coming onto church grounds, one admitting they hadn’t been in a church in years

  • A neighborhood landscape crew that put down their tools to get blessed 

  • A mother pulling a wagon with her 18-month old son and tiny 2-week old child who stopped to receive a blessing on their afternoon walk 

  • A very ill person in hospital mask driven by her adult daughter

  • A young woman who fought back tears because she’d had a bad day and said that this was just what she needed 

  • People in expensive cars and beat-up clunkers

  • People of every age, race, and gender 

  • A man who told us he attended St. Stephen’s school in 1970 as a kindergartener 

  • Three parishioners who’d attended St Stephen’s decades ago and intimated they might come back. 

In the end we served 30 people in the morning and 80 people in the afternoon – 110 altogether. Each was grateful that we met them where they were with what they needed.

I hope everyone gets a chance to stand on our sidewalk and serve people where they are.

-Karen Soh, Director of Development

Children are a heritage from the Lord…

Throughout the latter half of 2018 and into 2019, formation leaders, staff, and clergy have been in an ongoing conversation about formation at St. Stephen’s with particular attention paid to youth and children’s formation. We are incredibly grateful for the patience and feedback of parents as we’ve taking the time this year to pray about, discuss, and consider formation for youth and children at St. Stephen’s. We are still praying and still discussing long term offerings to children, youth, and their families, but we have a formation plan for Lent and Easter.

During the season of Lent, we will gather for inter-generational formation focusing on Lenten themes and servant learning. Many parents who participated in the formation survey indicated a desire for their children and youth to have more opportunities to serve the Houston community. Our Lenten offerings will culminate in an inter-generational service opportunity both on campus and off campus through the help and leadership of our service committee.

On Easter day we will gather as a parish community to feast and celebrate the Resurrection with good food and, of course, the annual Easter egg hunt. Then, throughout the season of Easter, we will break into smaller groups based on age. Young children and their families will walk the Way of Love for Families, and youth (grade 4-12) will walk the Way of Love for youth. In this way we will share a common theme but each offering will focus on the needs that arise in our lives at different developmental stages. The Way of Love comes out of our national church and will be familiar to some adults in our parish who participate in the Way of Love Advent offering.

We will share plans for formation beyond the Easter season later this spring. For now, we invite you to engage our Lenten offerings and Easter offerings and give us feedback on your experience and that of the children or youth in your life. We also invite parents to pray and consider whether you might be called to step into the role of formation leader for a season or time at St. Stephen’s.

In Peace,
Ryan Hawthorne

Strategic Ministry Plan Update

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At this year’s Annual Parish Meeting I had the privilege of sharing the steps taken thus far to implement St. Stephen’s Strategic Ministry Plan. Since then, we have continued to implement aspects of the plan as well as look to develop other ways to engage the direction and spirit of the Five Strategic Objectives: Organization, Demographic Gaps, Church and School Relations, Growth, and Invite/Welcome/Connect/Reconnect.

At the Vestry meeting in January, the organization team presented a plan to realign support, accountability, and oversight of church volunteer ministry teams from under the clergy and staff to also include the Vestry. The plan called for the creation of portfolios to be selected and assigned to each Vestry member bringing greater definition and responsibility in their role. This change places Vestry members as the point of contact for leaders of ministries which fall within their unique portfolios. Thus, it shares greater responsibility for the leadership of the church among lay leadership. This plan was approved.

The Vestry also conducted their annual retreat in early February, during which this plan was a major focus of work and discussion. Of that work, Sr. Warden Elizabeth McClintock reports, “As a result of a productive retreat, the Vestry has set a goal to become better liaisons with the ministries of St. Stephen's, working with the staff and clergy to offer more support to our ministry leaders. I see this as a step towards understanding how to encourage more involvement from our parishioners with our ministries.” 

We are in the process of working through the implementation of this plan. This means 2019 will be a time of tinkering and adjusting based on the needs of each unique ministry of the church to ensure the Vestry member or members who hold each portfolio are trained and equipped to be the support our lay ministry leaders need. We are also in the process of clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the Vestry, clergy, and staff to ensure that this change is for the benefit of the entire church. Over the next few months, we will be establishing communications between ministry leaders and the Vestry member that they will be working with in order to facilitate and clarify the relationships. We expect this process to take the whole of the year to finalize but believe it will be very worth the effort. Ministry leaders should expect introductions to their Vestry liaison in the coming weeks.

-  Ryan Beaty, Missioner for Congregational Development 

Suffer the Little Children: Making Room for All of Us

In the Gospels we learn of Jesus’ relationships with children. He regularly blessed, healed, encouraged, and worked with them. Whether it was inviting his disciples to see faith from their eyes or joining with them to feed 5000 people, Jesus recognized the gifts of children and their ministry.

Beginning on the first Sunday of Lent, St. Stephen’s will be experimenting with a new space and 8:30 a.m. offering for children in the context of the Eucharist. We will be removing some of the pews in the chapel area of the nave so that we can create a space for children to spread out quietly on a rug and engage with appropriate materials on their level. Adults can get on the floor too, if they choose! Additionally, we will be introducing a children’s sermon at the 8:30 Eucharist using adapted Godly Play materials. Instead of leaving the nave for a separate rite, as happens at 10:30 a.m., families will remain together.

Adults may overhear the children’s lesson and get more out of it than the sermon! This fact reflects the reality that many of us have holes in our biblical literacy and knowledge of our heritage.

These changes will mean that some of us may be moved from our usual spots. This dislocation may feel disruptive. I want to remind you of our common callings: to grow spiritually and numerically, to close demographic gaps, to invite, welcome and connect with others. This pilot is intended to further these goals.

Our hope is that this space will be an outward and visible sign of St. Stephen’s willingness to embrace the presence of children in our midst and to grow into the full stature of Christ together.

-Lisa

A Message from the Rector

Throughout the month of January, St. Stephen’s is offering an opportunity to examine migration through the lens of faith. From Abraham to Miriam, from Joshua to Isaiah, from Jesus to Paul, the faithful in the our tradition have been migrants or received strangers into the community. It is a mark of our faith. Yet, in the time of government shutdowns, this issue has been politicized in a polarized way.

Care for the stranger is not optional for us as Christians. What that care looks like varies in place and time. Many members of our congregation are engaged in this work as educators, lawyers, social workers, and advocates. What can we learn from their experience?

On Sunday mornings this month (except on January 20 when we will include this theme in our dinner church worship at 5 pm), we will meet at 9:30 am in the Havens Center for an inter-generational experience exploring this topic. We will practice listening, play, and respectful dialogue as we learn from one another on this topic which impacts us all.

I invite you to join me there.

Lisa

A Christmas Message

As Episcopalians Christmas is a critical feast for us theologically.More than many streams of Christianity, Anglicans (what we are called worldwide) emphasize the central importance of God coming among us in the person of Jesus.This doctrine is called the Incarnation.We believe that creation is good, so much so that God chose to enter it as a human person to experience life as we do.Fully human and fully divine, Jesus shows us what it is like to be a fully integrated human being in God’s image.

There is no experience of suffering that was foreign to Jesus. This includes political displacement as a refugee. While on Christmas night we rightly celebrate his birth, we note he was relegated to the stable because an Empire demanded a census to determine who was a citizen.Rather than going home to Nazareth, the newborn baby set out, carried by his family, to a foreign country hundreds of miles away to seek shelter.This, to avoid the fearful anxiety of an ruler bent on killing him.

God in Jesus experienced the travail of the dispossessed and dislocated.As we gather to celebrate the holy birth, we also reflect on the ways God continues to come among us in those we don’t expect to be bearers of the Light.The Incarnation demands that we seek God in our flesh too. -The Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector

Sunday Formation Begins Sept. 16

As Christians, we are always being formed intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually throughout our lives. We are not finished being formed until our death. That is why the parish offers formation in various forms for adults as well as children and youth. 

The fall schedule for Sunday Adult Formation begins this Sunday, September 16. There are two offerings which will start at 9:30 a.m. Faithful Families is for that Faithful Families is for children, youth, and adults who are helping to raise them. This intergenerational offering will be held in the Bentley Room, upstairs from the office wing. 

The other offering will be a series of forums which will culminate in a new class focusing on introductory spiritual disciplines. All begin at 9:30 a.m. and conclude by 10:20. Here is the line up with locations: 

 September 16-23: Make a Joyful Noise: An Experience of Choir; Nave 

This is a two session Open House to experience the ministry of the choir and to consider participation in this group as part of your spiritual practice and as an approach to the Holy   

September 23: St. Stephn’s Vision: Strategic Ministry; Havens Center 

St. Stephen’s spent last year in discernment of our call as a parish. Now the Vestry would like to share the fruit of that effort and the ways this plan will shape our community. 

September 30: Faith in Action; Havens Center 

The Service Ministry Team of the parish will lead us in a process to uncover what is most important to each of us as citizens as we approach the election season and the next session of the legislature. This offering will be informed by our work with The Metropolitan Organization. 

October 7: Animals of Blessing; Pecore Hall 

In observance of St. Francis Day, we will gather with our pets to celebrate all the ways our pets and the animals of creation enhance our knowledge and love of God and each other. Joining with the families from our School we will invite our pets to church as we share stories, activities, and treats. 

October 15-November 25: The Way of Love; Havens Center 

What is a spiritual life and what are practices which create and nourish it? Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has created this introduction to a rule of life inviting us to turn, learn, pray, worship, bless, go and rest. The Kadosh team will facilitate this course. You can learn more at https://www.episcopalchurch.org/explore-way-love