Looking Back at Summer Youth Group

posted on, Aug 24, 2014

Thoughts from our Youth Minister … Mary Conkling cropped

It had been a long day.  Earlier that morning all the youth on the Houston Mission Trip had gathered early to pack and organize the van, before attending the 11 am service.  We made it to the north side of Houston  just in time for our 5 pm check-in at our housing site. Everyone quickly worked together and before long all the vehicles were unloaded, youth were setting up their bunks and beginning to get ready for the evening. Then there was orientation, dinner, and a guided prayer tour of the city.  It was suddenly after 9 pmand we had not even begun our devotional, let alone done compline. In an attempt to reinvigorate the youth, we planned to do Bible Study in McDonald’s and enjoy ice cream afterward.

Just outside the restaurant we were approached by a father and son looking for assistance, and the youth group bought that pair a meal. Just as our group began debriefing the day and talking about group goals and expectations, another patron at the restaurant approached one of our leaders. He explained that the three of them had seen what we had done for the father and son and would like to buy our food. We thanked them and accepted their generosity, but told them we had to first finish our Bible Study. Their group needed to leave, but on their way out they stopped at our tables and handed Andy Hines some money, a $100 bill.  We spent $12 dollars on ice cream and the youth elected to spend the remaining $88 on toys, games, art supplies, and balls for the day care we would volunteer with each afternoon.

As summer comes to an end and I reflect on all that the youth have done, (Service Camp, two mission trips, several day-long activities), it is easy to focus on the logistics of each event. Were there enough sponsors?  Did I spend my budget wisely?  Did I serve enough youth?  I recently re-read a talk one youth had written about prayer and what it means to him. In talking with him we began discussing what it was like when he stopped searching for what he described as a “big God moment,” but instead realized God had always been there, supporting him all along in every decision he had made. Yes, some may say thatSunday night at McDonald’s was a “lightning bolt” moment, but as I sat with our youth and listened to their reaction and discussion that night about what had just happened, I realized something. While that event might have been the first “God sighting” moment for some of our youth, they were all beginning to understand something we all need to remember– God is always there, supporting us and guiding us down the path that we are called to follow.

– Mary Oleson Conkling 


Some highlights of late …

posted on, Aug 24, 2014
NAMI Family-to-Family Program begins at St. Michael’s on
September 11
South Altar – beginning to become a reality
Recent Pics – more sightings of Flat Robby and Flat Janne!

What’s Going on?

posted on, Aug 23, 2014

read current ministry news

as well as general information about each area of ministry


CHILDREN’S MINISTRY  Summer Sunday School

Kick Off Sunday is Sept. 7
Sunday Night Youth Group, and more …
ADULT Classes and Groups  NAMI, Book Study, Newcomer Classes, DOK, Centering Prayer

VESTRY  Contacts, Capital Campaign

OUTREACH: serving our neighbors  Food Pantry, IHN

BORDER MINISTRY  Most recent information

PRAYERS, STEPHEN MINISTRY & RECOVERY Our Prayers, Stephen Ministry, Recovery and other Groups


Borrowed Thoughts – On Growing …

posted on, Aug 14, 2014

The following is by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on the insights of Origen (d. 254 A.D.) on prayer:

Growing in prayer is not simply acquiring a set of special spiritual skills that operate in one bit of your life. It is about growing into what St. Paul calls “the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). It is growing into the kind of humanity that Christ shows us. Growing in prayer, in other words, is growing in Christian humanity.

It seems that all Christian reflection, all theology worth the name, began as people realized that because of Jesus Christ they could talk to God in a different way. It was the new experience of Christian prayer that got people thinking, “If Jesus somehow makes it possible for us to talk to God in a new way, then surely there are things we ought to be saying and believing about Jesus.” And so the great exploratory business of theology began to unfold.

That newness of prayer is expressed most vividly by St. Paul in Romans 8 and Galatians 4. “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6). The new way we talk to God is as Father, and that is the work of the Spirit of Jesus. And of course it is the prayer recorded of Jesus himself, the night before his death (Mark14:36). So, for the Christian, to pray-before all else-is to let Jesus’ prayer happen in you. And the prayer that Jesus himself taught his disciples expresses this very clearly: “Our Father.” We begin by expressing the confidence that we stand where Jesus stands and can say what Jesus says.

Some kinds of instruction in prayer used to say at the beginning, “Put yourself in the presence of God.” But I often wonder whether it would be more helpful to say, “Put yourself in the place of Jesus.” It sounds appallingly ambitious, even presumptuous, but that is actually what the New Testament suggests we do. Jesus speaks to God for us, but we speak to God in him. You may say what you want-but he is speaking to the Father, gazing into the depths of the Father’s love. And as you understand Jesus better, as you grow up a little in your faith, then what you want to say gradually shifts a bit more into alignment with what he is always saying to the Father, in his eternal love for the eternal love out of which his own life streams forth.

That, in a nutshell, is prayer-letting Jesus pray in you and beginning that lengthy and often very tough process by which our selfish thoughts and ideals and hopes are gradually aligned with his eternal action, just as, in his own earthly life, his human fears and hopes and desires and emotions are put into the context of his love for the Father, woven into his eternal relation with the Father-even in that moment of supreme pain and mental agony that he endures the night before his death.

– The Rev. Robby Vickery


St. Michael’s Ministry for the “Border Crisis”

posted on, Aug 9, 2014
Thoughts from the Associate Rector…

The current ‘border crisis’ has touched the hearts and minds of many. No matter what our political beliefs are, as Christians we do not want to see anyone suffer and we want to live into our baptismal covenant promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” (Book of Common Prayer p. 305).

While we must work for both immediate and long-term political solutions, we also know that a cup of cold water is the minimum requirement for biblical hospitality: love of the stranger. Jesus says that whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones [of all ages] will not fail to receive their reward (Matt 10:42). Hospitality is a Christian virtue. “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for some have entertained angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:2).

What are we called to do? What can we do?

  1. Pray without ceasing.
  2. Demand that elected and government officials take action.
  3. Give money and gift cards.  The Rio Grande Valley Food Bank has asked that supplies be halted for the time being but is accepting money and gift cards as resources that can quickly be shifted as needs arise with various local groups. The Diocese of West Texas needs our support as does our own local food banks and other programs.
  4. If you work in the legal, medical, or social services fields, please keep in touch with your local professional chapters to learn how your particular skills are needed.
  5. Keep informed about the rapid developments along the border. Here’s a current New York Times article about some of the challenges and benefits of the new detention centers.

Our September mission trip has been cancelled. The opportunity for service has changed as almost all refugees are being sent to a detention facility in Karnes City TX and as a result Sacred Heart which was assisting about 200 people daily is now seeing less than 20 folks daily. It is not yet clear how we may best respond to the needs in Karnes City and other detention centers.

Let me know if you want to receive Border Ministry e-mails and information as it becomes available.

– The Rev. Janne Alrø Osborne

Why are we Considering a South Campus?

posted on, Jul 31, 2014

At the last meeting of those exploring the possibility of a south campus for St. Michael’s a person shared that they had become part of a small group in their south Austin neighborhood.  The group was led by a very congenial person from a large bible church.  The group had wonderful discussions and included folks from all sorts of religious backgrounds.  However, it became clear that the bible church’s vision did not include women in leadership and did not include homosexuals at all.  The person shared how she wished there was a church near that offered fuller participation for women and homosexuals.  A south campus for St. Michael’s could be such a church!

There are many churches in the south MoPac area. There are not many churches there delivering the prophetic call to ministry and justice which Janne proclaimed in her sermon this past Sunday.  We can be such a church, and in developing the south campus we can nurture the west (current) campus to be more inviting too.

We have 11 families committed to the South Altar Launch Team (SALT; Mt. 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth”).  We need more for this spirit-transforming adventure.  If you are interested in learning more about what is involved in being SALT of the earth and of south Austin, contact me.

– The Rev. Robby Vickery


Two thoughts from the Senior Warden…

posted on, Jul 24, 2014

Final Discernment of a South Altar - Are You Called?

St. Michael’s is in the final stage of our discernment of whether we are being called to have a satellite site for services in South Austin.  A South Altar Launch Team (SALT) has been meeting and is seeking enough committed members to go forward.  SALT is a unique opportunity for sharing fellowship and working closely with other faithful on the logistics of bringing a South altar into reality.  We are coming up on a deadline at the end of this month to seek financial support for this effort from the Diocese over the next three years.

If you feel personally called to be a part of this invitational effort, now is the time to become involved in SALT.  Please immediately let Robby or Ron Olson know.

Capital Campaign Update – Celebrate Our Success

On behalf of the Finance Commission and the Vestry, it is my pleasure to report great news on the Capital Campaign. We are currently in the second year of our three-year Campaign. Due to the sharing of treasure by our parish, we have been able to make payments of $255,000 in mortgage curtailments to date from the Campaign. This has reduced our current primary mortgage balance to $117,000. We are now $20,000 away (we received $5,000 in June) from our next benchmark for an additional $50,000 curtailment payment, which will bring our mortgage balance down to $67,000.  We have been able to do this while maintaining money in reserves for our Campaign tithe to El Buen and St. James, a year’s worth of mortgage payments, and $50,000 for unexpected major maintenance.  Thank you to all who have pledged and contributed to this Campaign.  We are truly blessed – celebrate!

Ron Olson, Senior Warden

Give the Morning to the Lord

posted on, Jul 18, 2014


The picture is of the building where I attended the longest church service of my life.  Just a few minutes before I took this picture it had been jammed with over 150 people, even filling the center aisle.  There were over 40 people standing outside looking in through the windows.  Between 9:00 am and 1:20 pm (yes, that’s 4.3 hours) we:

  • Dedicated the church building
  • Heard the Rev. Tom Day of League City, Texas preach a sermon that was translated sentence by sentence into Chichewa
  • Confirmed 10 people
  • Married one couple
  • Commissioned four 20-somethings as diocesan youth ministry officers
  • Heard the bishop teach
  • Had eucharist
  • Presented gifts to the bishop, including a 50-pound bag of milled maize (corn) and a LIVE goat.  I would love to see the reaction if we gave our next visiting bishop a live goat.

Two things stand out from the service:

  • The earnestness of the people.  They were worshiping because they expected God to make a difference in their lives.
  • The singing by the people.  There were no musical instruments to accompany the congregation, just a cheap sound system, but they sang out with enthusiasm and joy.

Lord, grant that we at St. Michael’s may worship with such faith and sing with such joy as our brothers and sisters at St. Cyprian’s Anglican Church, Chilimba Parish, Namadzi, Malawi.  Amen.

– The Rev. Robby Vickery


The Vision Thing

posted on, Jul 10, 2014

I keep reading about the importance of clear vision. So, what is St. Michael’s vision?  We talk about being:

An ever widening, ever deepening circle of reconciliation in Christ.

I like the concepts of widening, deepening, and reconciliation, but these could/should apply to most churches. What is our vision of what God is calling us to at St. Michaels specifically?  I would say,

We strive, imperfectly, to be a family that knows the risen Lord Jesus and makes him known through the Eucharistic mystery of his Body and Blood, proclamation of the Word that takes the bible seriously but not always literally, and actions that witness to the love, mercy, and justice of his coming kingdom.

This explains why all four services on Sunday offer Holy Communion. This is why we have posters with a picture of Jesus, saying, “He died to take away your sins, not your mind.” This is why we tithe on our capital giving to outreach projects.  This is why we are always making announcements about ways to serve this or that helping project.

What is your vision for St. Michael’s Church, and even more importantly, how do you fit into your vision for the church?  Indeed, what we participate in says a lot about our vision of the church and what we expect from church.  Most of us need to expect much more from God and God’s church.  This is why our former diocesan bishop the Rt. Rev. Claude Payne spoke over and over about having “Miraculous Expectation” as he strove to transform our vision of the church.

– The Rev. Robby Vickery


Border Crisis Ministry

posted on, Jul 10, 2014

Read story from Episcopal News Service – contact the Rev. Janne Alro Osborne for additional information about opportunities to get involved

Brothers and Sisters in Malawi

posted on, Jul 3, 2014

I missed y’all here at St. Michael’s, but it was a good two weeks in our Companion Diocese of Southern Malawi.  I met lots of good people who are faithfully doing lots of good things for our Lord Jesus and his coming kingdom with VERY LITTLE resources.

Our second day there we went to St. Andrews where there is a school and feeding program.  The feeding program is for the school children, the elderly, and those who are HIV+, irrespective of whether they are Christian, Muslim or animist.  (The best estimate is that 15-20% of the population of Malawi is HIV+.  It is hard to get good data because of the stigma associated with being such.)  The picture here is of lunch at the school.  The young children are eating maize (corn) porridge.  The elderly and the HIV+ also received a cup of very sweet tea.  Maize is the staple of the diet.

On our third day we bounced down a pot-hole filled dirt road for over an hour to visit a church that was way out in the boondocks.  The church has 350 worshiping at it on Sundays (St. Michaels has 300), so they are building a new, larger worship space, but construction halted with it 80% completed because of lack of qualified workers.  The same with a new house for the priest.  It is 80% completed, but work has halted.  There is also an 8-bed hospital that is 70% completed but work is halted because the organization funding it ran out of money for the project.  The new well the diocese put in brings up water that is too salty to use even to scour pots, let alone drink, so villagers have to walk another mile to a good well.  I try to imagine what life would be like if Debbie and I had to carry all the water we use every day in a bucket from a mile away.  The women are very skilled at carrying large tubs of water on their heads.

Keep our Malawian brothers and sisters in your prayers.  You’ll hear more about this in a sermon soon.  It is good to be back with you.  

– The Rev. Robby Vickery