Clarifying Identity and Organizing Ministry

Ministry opportunities abound here at St. Stephen’s. Our campus is alive 7 days a week. Our cup runneth over.
We have long realized that space on campus is at a premium and that we yearn to accommodate the many communities who claim the corner of W. Alabama and Woodhead as home. This reality necessitated a comprehensive campus master plan that was completed in 2016 with a beautiful vision of what the next 20 years may behold. But the challenge of space allocation and efficiency on a bustling site is not our only obstacle ahead.

As I wondered about the plethora of ministry offerings here at St. Stephen’s, an image came to mind – a swelling balloon that will inevitably burst. Of course, this demonstrates that we have no shortage of ideas and passions! As a community that places a high value on individuality, we are sensitive to supporting anyone with a particular itch to serve. The burgeoning result is that our staff is stretched thin, how ministry is organized and implemented is unclear, and our identity has come into question. It is difficult to be all things to all people. There must be a way to combine radical hospitality and inclusion with structure and organization. We are undoubtedly a motley crew of progressive Christian people, striving to serve God and one another with an eye towards justice and reconciliation. But how does this impulse get clarified and embodied as we continue to grow and thrive?  

Over the past few months, with funding from the Episcopal Health Foundation and consultation from the Kaleidoscope Institution, our Strategic Planning Team has embarked on a journey of discovery. The team has hosted three congregational events for parishioners – one to take a look at where we have been since the 1970s, one to assess the current makeup of ministry today, and last Sunday to wonder about our call to serve in the future. We have filled out surveys, studied the Bible together, examined demographic and trend data provided by the Diocese, and brainstormed in various groups to explore and discern with intention. The team is now collating your input to make recommendations to our Vestry. Continue to keep our Strategic Planning Team in your prayers. We are truly thankful to all who have participated, in particular the faithful team that has guided the process.

Many of us were fascinated to learn what is ahead for Houston and the Montrose. Looking outward to an area where 95% of our parishioners dwell, we see that ethnic diversity is prevalent, along with a 75% increase in growth over the next 10 years in the youngest generation ‘Z’. Within one square mile of our campus, school-aged children and 34-54 year-olds will both double in the next 5 years. We will continue to see a good diversity of family households and singles in our neighborhood.

This is good news! We are ripe to serve the needs of those who will soon call Montrose home. During my time as the Director of Spiritual Life at our day school, I have witnessed profound spiritual growth. Our children and faculty lean into wonder and yearn for meaningful conversation. Rooted in our Episcopal tradition, we have gathered faithfully for Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist. A Spiritual Life Committee has met throughout the year to contemplate spirituality on campus beyond weekly chapel. The ministry of our day school will continue to be a blessing as we posture for demographic shifts.

Our stretched balloon is a sign of many faithful pilgrims. Keep us in your prayers as we continue to discern the shape and scope of our call to serve.

The Reverend Brandon Peete, Associate Rector and Director of Spiritual Life