Church News

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

Changes in People and Places

There are several changes that have occurred in St. Stephen’s staffing over the summer and in the use of our space. 

The position of parish administrative assistant has been eliminated.  A new joint position with the School, Main Campus Administrator, has been created.  Sylvia Swain has been moved to this new role.  The duties of the Main Campus Administrator will include hospitality to all who enter our campus, maintaining security, controlling the facilities calendar, managing our outside users, and coordinating the work of our volunteer office angels.  The duties of this role will be performed from the front desk so that there is always a person stationed to greet people and to answer the phones.  So if you have questions about booking a room for a class or meeting, calendaring your wedding or funeral, getting certified for Safeguarding God’s Children or People, getting a key or access code, ordering supplies, prices for space rental for meetings of outside groups, contact Sylvia Swain.

A new workroom has been created on the first floor to allow staff and faculty a central location to get their mail, make copies, and execute projects.  The office angels will also use this space.  Office supplies will also be maintained here. 

The Sexton position has also changed.  The Church and School have contracted with Educlean to clean our campus.  This has allowed the sexton position to become focused on maintenance of the campus, in conjunction with our Maintenance Supervisor.  John Veillon will continue to help with the set up of events and on Sunday mornings, but the bulk of his duties will be on maintenance and not cleaning. If you have questions or concerns about items that need to be fixed or cleaned, contact Juan Rodriguez, our Campus Maintenance Supervisor.  He communicates directly with the custodial services company.  John Veillon is the member of our staff who is responsible for weekend set up and take down, making coffee, and ensuring contact with first responders.

Bob Hymson, our former Director of Business and Operations, left in July for a position in Austin.  The School is in the process of searching for a new person.  The Church receives support from this role, but the position is funded by the School.  This person is a resource to the Church’s finance committee and handles issues of human resources, budget, cash flow, and insurance for the Church.

Toni Morales, St. Stephen’s Church and School’s Director of Communications, will be leaving her position next week to move to India.  Toni has done excellent work expanding the reach of St. Stephen’s in both print and online.  We will miss her.  Interviews for a new director are ongoing and an offer will be issued soon.   Contact the Director of Communications when you would like to include an announcement in the bulletin or our online newsletter, have a prayer request, want to post something on our St. Stephen’s Facebook page, or want to share a photograph or story idea.

Ryan Hawthorne, the Youth Missioner and Interim Director of Spiritual Life, will be moving offices to the first floor.  This move will afford her more access to Church youth and students. Contact Ryan when you want to volunteer to work with children or youth, have ideas for Christian Formation for adults, have questions about the format of Safeguarding God’s Children or People, ask her questions about our School, or  offer to share your skills with our afterschool program in our Makerspace.

- The Reverend Lisa Hunt

My Hair is Falling Out and Other Ways of Dealing with Change

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I was recently in an Uber going to the airport and engaged my driver, a tech person who had been laid off recently, in a conversation about his work and plans.  He extolled the wonders of disruption as a value, an unmitigated good.  It was also the case that his personal life had been filled with disruptive change.

Is disruption an unmitigated good?  Is the upset of order usually creative or is it just destructive?  What makes the difference?

My most profound recent experience of change was engaging in the bishop election in Newark. What struck me as I was going through it and in its aftermath was my physical response to the emotional and spiritual change that was in the offing.  My hair started falling out.  Not big clumps, but lots of individual strands over the months.  My hair dresser noticed it and commented; I got tests because I thought my thyroid might be out of whack.  But as time went on, I realized my coming baldness (that’s what I feared), was connected to my anxiety about change…even though elements of the prospect were exciting.

In the Bible, there is an ambivalence about change.  For example, in Exodus we are told that God considered wiping out the children of Israel because of their faithlessness and grumbling, but Moses pleaded with God and the Holy One had a change of mind.  In much of the Bible there is an insistence that God does not change.  Similarly, there is exhortation for human beings to repent, which is to change from evil and to choose good, but there is also commandment to stay steadfast—to not change.

There are many changes in our culture and at St. Stephen’s right now.  We are embarking on the next stage of our capital campaign.  We are saying good bye to staff we have valued and loved:  Bob Hymson our Director of Operations and Finance, has taken a position in Austin; Toni Morales-Awobokun, our Director of Communication and Growth will be moving to India and leaving us in mid-September.  We are rethinking our Christian Formation offerings and space.  We are beginning to implement the Strategic Plan and reorganizing our ministries to support it.  People are leaving St. Stephen’s and new folks are joining.  It is a lot!

While our collective hair may not be falling out, it is true that some or many of will not experience these disruptions good.  Some of them will not be, but we won’t know until we have time to live into the changes and weigh their effects.  Others of us thrive on adventure and experimentation.  The Gospel metric that is most important is do the changes bear fruit? 

So as we head into the fall and a new year of learning, let’s watch for the buds of fruit and for the hair balls.  May we bear with one another in love in the bonds of peace.

- The Reverend Lisa Hunt

David and Goliath Speak to Us Now

David and Goliath Speak to Us Now

As we are grappling with the human cost of our country’s policies on immigration and the treatment of children in this system, I have felt such a mixture of emotions.  Outrage, disgust, concern, compassion, fear, conviction, pride have all flooded my mind, consciousness and heart this week.  I have become increasingly aware of how strong and fragile our moral compasses are as a nation and as Christians in the face of difficult economic, legal, political, and ethical challenges.

They’ll Know We are Christians by Our Love - Celebrating Pride

They’ll Know We are Christians by Our Love - Celebrating Pride

One of my favorite songs students sing in chapel at our day school is, They’ll Know We are Christians by Our Love. I love to hear our students sing out, “we will work with each other, we will work side by side. And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

The Rev. Lisa Hunt Remains Rector

Dear St. Stephen’s Community,

I am writing to inform you that I am staying in Houston as rector of St. Stephen’s! The clergy and lay leaders of the Diocese of Newark have elected another Reverend to be the next Bishop Diocesan. While I am honored to have been considered for this ministry, I know that the Holy Spirit is at work and that the right call has been made for us all.

I am thrilled to be continuing my exciting ministry among you. We have much to accomplish together and I am anticipating with joy our work to make our dreams become reality.

While this election process provided me an important outlet to reflect on the meaning of my call, my husband Bruce and I are sure that this decision is God’s will for us now.

 The Reverend Lisa Hunt

The Reverend Lisa Hunt

 

I am one of four nominees for the Bishop Diocesan of Newark

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.

Senior Warden Introduction

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.

Sincerely,

Susan Hawes

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Welcome Our New Staff Hires

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.

Amazed, Sad, Grateful - A message from Scott Painter

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
— Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

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.

With love,

Scott+

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