The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church met in Fort Worth February 26-28 at the American Airlines Training and Conference Center. Bishop Scott Mayer of Fort Worth and Bishop George Sumner of Dallas and members of their leadership teams were invited to have dinner with the Council and to make presentations about ministries in their respective dioceses. Unfortunately, Bishop Sumner was ill, but Canon Michael Gilton and his team carried on in his stead.
Bishop Mayer invited the Canon to the Ordinary, the Rev. Janet Waggoner, Ms. Corrie Cabes, youth minister and school chaplain at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Keller/Southlake; the Rev. Karen Calafat, rector of St. Luke’s in the Meadow, Fort Worth; and the Rev. Kevin Johnson, priest in charge at St. Alban’s, Theatre Arlington, to join him in telling the Council about ministry and outreach in our diocese.
The bishop presented the Council with a book mark that outlined a timeline of significant events in our diocese and a thumb drive on which was loaded statistics about the diocese as well as links to four videos about ministry in the diocese: “Ascension Sunday in Wise County,Texas” about the church plant in Decatur; “Thursday Lunch” (seen above) about the Thursday free lunch at St. Luke’s, Stephenville, for students at Tarleton State University; “Becoming the Arms of God,” the video shown at the 2015 Diocesan Convention; and “Going to Galilee,” the video about the Mission and Outreach Grants of the diocese and the ministries they are funding.
The bishop welcomed the Council to Fort Worth and opened by talking about the fact that, in his opinion, what is happening in the diocese is not simply a reorganization, and certainly not a resuscitation of an old body, but rather a resurrection, a body made newly alive. He talked about the keen focus on outreach and ministry that permeates each congregation of the diocese. He gave a very brief history and then introduced the other members of the group. Below are excerpts from their presentations.
An Oasis of Openness – the Rev. Kevin Johnson
I suppose we’ve all heard of the term attractive nuisance. Right?
For example, an attractive nuisance would be a backyard swimming pool with the gate open which attracts all the neighbor kids over to play.
A few years back when the Holy Spirit began to nudge me to move to a new place for ministry I began with the typical response – looking at churches and responsibilities the next size larger. Then this crazy little church that worshiped in a live theater in Arlington, Texas, popped up on my radar. I tried to ignore her for months. But, like that backyard swimming pool attractive nuisance she kept tempting me over to swim in her waters.
We have learned so much about being church by not being in a building. So, here I am serving the Episcopal Church in a little suburb just east of us, a little suburb that has about 400k people in it and only one Episcopal Church, which meets in a live theater.
Now, I don’t think I am making a surprise statement when I remind us that the prevailing social culture in the DFW metroplex is conservative, very conservative. The Episcopal Church in Arlington is an oasis of openness in the midst of a culture that in practice does not always welcome the stranger, the marginalized, the different. Let me tell you a little story….
Several Sundays ago a woman walked into the theater lobby (and it is a lobby, not a narthex). I’ll call this woman the “three strike woman” because she had three realities in her life that the surrounding culture see as failures.
– She was homeless. Strike one.
– She was gay. Strike two.
– She struggled with mental health issues. Strike three.
But, she needed church. She needed to connect with God and so despite the judgmental reception she had received from every church she’d attended in our area she walked into this attractive nuisance that meets in a theater.
After church I saw the three strike lady crying in the lobby. Curious, I went over. She caught my eye and said to me, “This is the first church I’ve ever been to where I heard that I was good enough for God how I am.”
…….. Good enough for God. How I am…… The reality of this attractive nuisance we call the Episcopal Church in Arlington is that it is crazily out of step with the prevailing culture. ….. And that, my friends, is both good and essential. Our culture needs a place, an oasis of openness, in which three strike folks can discover that they are good enough for God how they are. Will we ever be as big as the 1st Baptist Church in Arlington that owns a five story office tower? Probably not. But, that does not make the criticality of our presence any less important.
An attractive nuisance. An oasis of openness. The Episcopal Church in Arlington.
Resurrection People – Ms. Corrie Cabes
We are resurrection people at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church. In 2014, we started a sack lunch ministry and our main goal was to feed people in need. But, this ministry has become so much more. There’s a lot of love going into each lunch, with much thought going towards providing spiritual food as well as things like a sandwich, chips and fruit.
We’ve attached printed mandala prayer sheets to our lunch sacks, including a set of crayons in the bag. Recently, little felt hearts with printed messages like, “you are loved” or “you are my sunshine” were tucked into the lunches. These creative ideas are the brainchild of one woman who told me that she has been looking for a way to make a difference and serving in this ministry has absolutely renewed her faith. What’s unique about this sack lunch ministry is that young children, teens and adults get to work side-by-side, to be a part of something good, something joyful and we all become transformed into the body of Christ.
It’s transformed me personally as well. I have to confess that I was struggling to find new ways to reach the children and teens in my parish and get them involved in something more powerful than a new iPhone. I was looking for something that would move them beyond themselves and give them an opportunity to realize who they might become in Christ. I thought this will be great…we will help people and raise awareness of those experiencing homelessness. I just didn’t know that it would actually help me and my parish become more faithful Christians in the process.
Now, I wake up thinking about the excitement, the creativity and new life right here in Keller, Texas. The people of St. Martin’s are dreaming up new, awesome ideas to expand our ministry, to reach out further. I see so much commitment and focus. We are alive, renewed in spirit and moving forward as part of The Episcopal Church.
4 Saints Food Pantry – the Rev. Karen Calafat
Serving St. Luke’s in the Meadow in Fort Worth the past year and a half has been an amazing adventure. It is an aging congregation who are incredibly open and eager to continue growing in their faith. They accept everyone who darkens the door, almost loving them away with their warm welcome. St. Luke’s is one of the few parishes able to keep their building, at least for now, after the church split.
They have a heart for growth in the community and reaching beyond the safe walls of the church. As a matter of fact, at our annual parish meeting, I asked everyone to write down 5 Dreams for St. Luke’s for 2016. About 70% of the dreams were about outreach in one form or another. We are positioned in a minority, under-served community where access to food banks is too far off the beaten path of the neighborhood. St. Luke’s, realizing the blessing of having a facility, began to dream about opening a food pantry. Knowing we did not have enough people power to do it alone, we reached out to the other parishes in our Deanery, some not having their own brick and mortar buildings, to see if there was interest in partnering together and managing the food pantry as a Deanery Mission. It has taken on a life of its own with at least two people from each parish making up the Board of Directors and lists of people wishing to volunteer once the food bank opens. We are in the development stage at this point, but plan to open 4 Saints Episcopal Food Pantry sometime this summer. (4 Saints – representing the saints’ names in the four parishes of the East Deanery.) Without these parishes joining together for this much needed mission, it would not be able to happen.
St. Luke’s was told about two years ago that they would only be able to keep their doors open about three more years at the rate they were going. Rather than giving up and rolling up the sidewalks, they are finding new life in feeding the hungry and allowing God to feed their souls. Most of the churches on the East Side of Fort Worth have closed or moved to another location. The parishioners believe there is a reason they are still present and are taking on our presiding bishop’s directive to be the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement right here where we are. We are daring to believe that God has a purpose for us and we are moving forward.
Our sexton said it well, “We can’t afford to go where we are going, but we are going anyway.” Thanks be to God for using us as Resurrection People on the East Side of Fort Worth.
Resurrection Life – the Rev. Canon Janet Waggoner
While we have been here together at our meetings today, the senior warden of the Episcopal Church of Wichita Falls, which is a merger of parts of three congregations, two of which were forced out of their buildings, sent a letter to her congregation that started with these words:
“I was contemplating the overwhelming nature of being a new senior warden . . . [here], and said to myself, “life begins at the end of my comfort zone and I am beyond that place so my life must be really taking off.”
Life, resurrection life, is taking off here in the Diocese of Fort Worth.
I hope that you’ve noticed the joy on the faces, spilling out in the words of the people from our diocese who have spoken to you this evening. And these are people who have made great sacrifices for the Gospel.
I’m going last, so I get to say things that, these folks haven’t said about themselves.
- Mother Calafat and Father Johnson left real, full-time well-paying jobs to serve growing congregations that want to keep growing, but which can only afford to pay them part-time. Around the time that Mother Calafat was making the decision quit her job and go half-time, she ran across these words: “God doesn’t care about your bank account when God gives you a dream . . . God cares about your faith.”
- Mrs. Cabes has served under the leadership of two rectors and an interim priest in a tumultuous four-year period of transition in a congregation which is now the fastest-growing congregation in the diocese, a congregation that has built a partnership with the local soccer club which has manifested in the soccer club wanting to raise funds to build a gymnasium on church property that would belong to the congregation.
Being an Episcopalian in the Diocese of Fort Worth is challenging and an incredible privilege. We are on the front lines. We get to experience resurrection first. We know the truth of the reality that the Episcopal Church is no longer the church of the establishment. We know that in the Diocese of Fort Worth and around the world, we have something to offer that is truly counter cultural, truly transformative . . . something that is nothing short of RESURRECTION.
Thank you for coming to Dallas-Fort Worth. We’re so glad to share our witness of the good things God is doing here. Our sharing continues on the bookmark and thumb drive you found at your places this evening. May the witness of the faithful here inspire and bless you.
Thank you from Executive Council
The Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe sent a letter of thanks.
Dear Bishop Mayer,
Thank you so much for joining us at the Executive Council meeting late last month. The presentations were excellent, and members of Council left with a renewed appreciation of the excellent work and ministry in your diocese.
Please convey our appreciation to all those who attended the Executive Council meeting. May God richly bless you and the diocese as we work together in manifesting the Good News in the world.
With every good wish,
The Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe
Secretary The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church
The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society