While Diocesan Youth Programs continue with the usual calendar of events, not all youth events take place at the parish or diocesan levels. Some great work is underway in the six regions of the Diocese of Georgia known as convocations. This week, we highlight the work in Savannah and Albany. We will share convocation youth events in other convocations in a future issue of From the Field.

Savannah Convocation Youth Event (SCYE)
Adults working with youth in Savannah banded together to form SCYE, a once a month meeting that moves around the congregations of the convocation. Twelve parishes have hosted a SCYE meeting so far with 40-55 participants at a typical event. Each meeting is like a mini retreat at Honey Creek in terms of the formatting which includes music, games, dinner, more games, with a program.

Prior to this fall, the hosting parish was responsible for a 10-15 minute message.  The messages ranged from the lectionary’s Gospel to Jewish Passover to preventing and addressing bullying.  Now, youth are presenting the message and leading small group discussion.  Last month, youth that attended the Dominic Republic mission trip this summer gave a presentation and encouraged others to consider doing mission work in the future.

Another change is that youth now lead the games and this fall have become part of the planning team that is working on the program and making suggestions on music and worship. SCYE next meets this coming Sunday, September 27 at St. Thomas Isle of Hope from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Stay informed with the  SCYE Facebook Page.

Albany Convocation Youth Lock-in

The Albany Convocation will get together this weekend for a youth event-Doing Good in the Good Life City: a Mission-focused Lock-in for 6th – 12th graders. The Lock-In will meet at St. Paul’s at 212 N. Jefferson St. in Albany with a drop off at 1 pm on Saturday, September 26 and a pick up at 11:30am on Sunday. The registration fee is just $30 (Checks payable to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church with “Lock-in” and participant’s name in the memo line).

St. Paul’s, Albany and St. Anne’s, Tifton have been working together to plan this mission-focused event intended to help us prepare for Hometown Missions, a diocesan event that will take place at St. Paul’s April 22 – 24, 2016.

Participants can expect to have fun while building community; to learn about the importance of mission and outreach as these concepts are explained in scripture; and to participate in a mini-mission project at Second Harvest, a food bank here in Albany. For your
convenience, you may also register online using the following link:Online Registration. Those registering
online will need to pay at the door of the event.

St. Luke’s, Rincon, is one of the Diocese of Georgia Mission congregations currently growing due to the Diocese’s emphasis on congregational development. Exciting things are happening at St. Luke’s.

Growth in Children and Youth
One of the highlights of St. Luke’s ministry to children and youth is the Music and Arts camp held during the summer. Last year in 2014, there were approximately 40 participants. This past June in 2015, over 80 children and youth participated throughout the week. During the week, children chose from different art projects or sang and took lessons on a variety of instruments. Activities also included a shared time of worship, dance/gymnastics, and a low ropes course focusing on character development and musical and artistic shows.

Throughout the last year, a concerted focus was placed on recruiting and training acolytes, resulting in a core of 12 acolytes now serving regularly on a rotating schedule. The nursery and preschool formation program is strengthened from a year ago, with an emphasis on learning stories through play and artistic expression. On a typical week, 20-25 children and youth will participate in a church sponsored activity.

Worship and Prayer
Over the past six months, the average Sunday attendance is at 85, up from 75 a year ago. Worship at St. Luke’s is still characterized by an atmosphere of hospitality, friendliness, and openness. It is a common occurrence for babies in the congregation to make themselves known by singing, or event “preaching” along during the sermon. Part of the development of the congregation has been the establishment of a new chapter of the Daughters of the King, with seven charter members. The past year also saw seven people baptized and with that a renewed sense of mission and evangelism.

Renewed Sense of Outreach and Mission
Members at St. Luke’s have made it a priority to open their building for community groups to use throughout the week. St. Luke’s became the charter organization for a local Boy Scout troop, began hosting three more Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, as well as two Ala-Non meetings, and opened its doors as an emergency warming shelter for Effingham County during the winter months. During any given week, approximately 200 different people may come through the doors of the church separate from regular worship times.

Throughout all the activities and programs, there is a sense of excitement at how the Holy Spirit is moving and calling St. Luke’s to stretch and grow. Because of the support of the diocese, St. Luke’s has made strides in living into its mission of sharing faith through hearts that welcome and hands that serve.
Ranie Neislar has accepted a call as a Missioner for Columba House Augusta. As Missioner, Neislar will oversee the local ministry of Columba House Augusta’s outreach to college students and young adults in the Augusta area. She will work with Program Manager Rudy Reyes and the Columba House Augusta Advisory Board to build up the program to a full intentional community. Columba House is an Episcopal intentional community where young people can explore spirituality through dialogue, prayer, and service to our neighbors.


Neislar was born and raised in Athens, GA. She earned her Bachelors from the University of Georgia. She majored in History with a focus on the history of Christianity in the United States. Although her desire to deeply understand all sides of historical and social events was evident before college, Ranie’s historical training fed and honed her passion for social justice. Reflection on history prompted her to consider the ways in which religious life is shaped by culture. Such reflections drove Ranie to seek deeper understanding of the principles informing Christian belief and practice. They inspired a newfound passion for the study of theology. In the fall of 2011, Ranie enrolled in classes at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC to pursue this passion. Along the way to earning her M.Div, Ranie has engaged in youth ministry at her home parish of St. Augustine’s of Canterbury in Augusta. There she has had the opportunity to guide teenagers to more deeply consider the beliefs informing their faith, from understanding “neighbor” to caring for marginalized creation.


She is married to the ever patient, delightfully goofy John Hayes. When Ranie is not busy formenting revolution in Augusta, she enjoys jogging, tennis, reading theology (of course!), and debating the meaning of life with John on long walks with their two dogs.


Columba House Augusta is beginning its first year. This program is one of the strategies of the  Campaign for Congregational Development designed to foster youth and young adult leadership. Columba House Savannah is now in its third year.

Leadership Development Initiatives

In the past five years, four initiatives began in the Diocese to equip lay and ordained leaders with the additional tools and resources they need for ministry. Together, the Diocese of Georgia’s Peer Coaching, Church Development Institute (CDI), Conflict Management, and Emotional Intelligence (EQHR) workshops strengthen bonds across the Diocese while providing the highest level of training for our church leaders.

What is the impact of these programs?
You can see how these programs are making a positive impact on the Diocese through the many projects initiated by CDI teams. Between the eight sessions when CDI meets at Honey Creek during the two-year program, the participants have projects they complete as part of their experiential learning. The Very Rev. Denise Ronn is pictured at left leading a group exercise during CDI.

Recently, a CDI participant at St. Michael’s, Waynesboro, had the idea to invite Pat Terry, a noted contemporary Christian singer to the church to sing. They then invited roughly 80 people from the community to join parishioners for the limited seating concert. They served cake and refreshments as well as tea and coffee. Senior Warden Ashton Blunt said, “To say Pat Terry was a hit is an understatement. More than seventy community members attended, many visiting St. Michael’s for the first time for the event. “

Projects like this one are taking place regularly across the diocese as CDI teams are challenged to engage the congregation in improving or implementing ministries in their communities and to help the congregation grow numerically and spiritually. The team members then go back to CDI to reflect on the project following the model of “do-reflect-do.”

Beyond this, clergy report the effectiveness of peer coaching and the two five-day workshops in building their skills while creating a stronger bond among clergy. The Rev. Lonnie Lacey said, “I’ve noticed a palpable change in the level of relationship among our clergy. Priests and deacons come together and there is a sort of joy and a friendship there that seems renewed.” As a sense of isolation can be a significant stress for clergy, these connections are a benefit beyond lay and ordained leaders gaining additional tools for their ministries.

Progress to Date
These leadership initiatives are key strategies identified through the Campaign for Congregational Development. Participants have been lay and ordained persons from all six convocations in congregations large and small.
  • Our seven trained coaches are coaching 39 persons.
  • 62 lay and ordained leaders participated in CDI, with 55 graduated from the two-year training.
  • 40 persons completed the five day intensive conflict management workshop, with 11 of those graduating in the past year).
  • 38 persons completed the five-day EQHR workshop with 12 of those trained in the past year.

This summer, 75 volunteers from the three Episcopal congregations in Thomasville served more than 1700 hours with Camp Hope at the Oak Street Episcopal Mission. The Camp Hope program recruited sixty new volunteers as a part of making the ministry work. “The tremendous support of the community and donors allowed the camp to be one of transformation and discovery,” said Oak Street Mission Executive Director Keith Jenkins.

The camp’s director, Jenny Ladson said, “The goal was to teach these kids that no matter what, you’re never alone.” In reflecting on how well the camp met this objective, Ladson said, “Campers started out shy and afraid and by the end of the summer they had developed into listening participants of God’s Love.”

The five-week summer camp promoted social, emotional, spiritual, and physical growth while focusing on core values of faith, honesty, and integrity. Twenty-one campers took part in the program which operated weekdays from 8 am-4 pm. Each day started with Morning Prayer and included both creative play (art, dance, cooking, and more) as well as time to stay up on reading, writing, and math. A community partner loaned enough laptops to the program that all the campers were given the opportunity to participate in the online program, “Get Georgia Reading.”

Twice a week swimming lessons were also integral to the program. Jenkins said, “All of our campers started the program as non-swimmers, some even fearful of the water. By the end of the camp everyone would go underwater and some even swam the horizontal length of the pool. The sense of accomplishment and pride was almost tangible!”

For Anne Scott Turner, a teen who volunteered with Camp Hope, the experience proved transformative. She wrote of the experience, “I am now sure that helping children is what I want to do for the rest of my life. It’s important that children have continuous support, encouragement, and mentoring; that’s something I can offer”

About the Oak Street Mission
The Oak Street Mission is a ministry of the three Episcopal churches in Thomasville-All Saints, Good Shepherd, and St. Thomas. A result of the Campaign from Congregational Development’s emphasis on creating Signature Ministries, the mission was founded as the Episcopal Development Agency of Thomasville (EDAT). The Oak Street Mission continues to foster the development of the Oak Street Community surrounding Good Shepherd Church.

Bulletin Insert
As a part of the now weekly bulletin inserts offered by the Diocese, the Oak Street Mission’s Camp Hope is featured this week. Congregations that can’t insert this into their bulletins are encouraged to make the inserts available in the church with other literature or post it on a prominent bulletin board to share good news from across the Diocese. Select either Bulletin Insert Word File or Bulletin Insert PDF file to download.


This week three Columba House Residents, Gabriella Caballero, Emmy Baird, and Mark Mizelle begin their year of service (August to June). Columba House is an Episcopal intentional community where young people can explore spirituality through dialogue, prayer, and service to our neighbors.

Caballero is a returning Columba House Resident. Caballero graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a BS in Communication with a focus on Journalism and Electronic Media. Her freshman year, she was invited to film a service and dinner at Tyson House, the Episcopal-Lutheran campus ministry at UT. This experience led her to return to Tyson House, where she would become an Episcopalian and an active student leader. Last year, she interned with St. George’s, Savannah. She taken on a leadership role as a member of the Vocare Steering Committee for Vocare in Georgia that serves both the Diocese of Georgia and the Diocese of Atlanta. (Pictured above are Columba House Missioners Guillermo Arboleda and Kelly Steele with Gabriella as the three visited a Diocese of Tennessee ministry while en route to the General Convention this summer)

Baird is from Satellite Beach in sunny Florida. She studied biology at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida before moving to Savannah to pursue her real dream of studying Fashion. Emmy is currently a senior at Savannah College of Art and Design studying Fashion Design. She loves to paint and go to the beach. Emmy was a camp counselor for 6 years, a lifeguard, and avid camp guitar player.

Mizelle is a Savannah native and new to the welcoming “Body of Christ” known as the Episcopal Church. He currently holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Kennesaw State University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Armstrong State University. Mark is starting his 2nd year at the STEM Academy @ Bartlett where he teaches Geographic Information Systems. It was during a visit to St. Paul’s, Savannah in October 2014 (and through God’s unending grace) that Mark decided to become “Protestant, yet Catholic” and joined the very church where his father was raised. Mark is an avid runner and feels called to work closely with young minds in the local community. He hopes to deepen/enhance his faith by “living in community” with others who feel called to serve God and his children.

The current residents are part-time Fellows who work or study full-time, live in intentional community at Columba House, and engage the young adult community in Savannah.

Columba House Savannah is now in its third year. This intentional community is one of the strategies of the Campaign for Congregational Development designed to foster youth and young adult leadership. A location for Columba House Augusta has been secured and interviews are underway for a missioner for that house, which will begin serving as a hub for young adult ministry in that city.


Campaign Updates for Convention

The following videos reporting on our initial successful ministries being funding by the Campaign for Congregational Development were created for the special session of the 192nd Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia:


Council Approves Three Campaign Grant Requests

At its meetings on March 22 and 23, 2013, Diocesan Council voted to approve three grant requests to be funded by the Campaign for Congregational Development. Two of the three were for congregation redevelopment; a third was to add a new component to an already existing signature outreach ministry that will strengthen the ministry’s ties to church life. St. Luke’s Rincon and Christ Church Cordele each requested Campaign funds to allow them to move from mission to parish status and to hire a full-time priest and a full-time youth minister. In addition, St. Andrew’s, Darien requested Campaign funding to help with hiring a youth minister to enhance the already existing Community Cares Cafe ministry. Diocesan Council approved the funds for Rincon to be disbursed over a three and a half year period; the grants for Cordele and Darien were approved and will be funded as new gifts are made to the Campaign.


One of the priorities in the Campaign for Congregational Development is to set up three intentional communities around the Diocese. In November of 2012, the Diocesan Council approved a portion of the Campaign funds be used to establish the first of these communities. This summer the Diocese is launching the first of these intentional communities in Savannah. Columba House, which is located directly across from St. Paul’s, Savannah, will be a community of four young adults sharing a house and a common rule of life. They will follow monastic disciplines as a house, living out in a daily rhythm of morning and evening prayer and a common meal. The residents will spend a portion of each week working in the Savannah parishes, a portion of each week in spiritual development, and a portion of each week in “relational evangelism”. Once trained in the art of relational evangelism- how to begin the initial conversations about their faith with others- these young adults will spend time in places where young adults gather, building authentic relationships with other young adults, and inviting them into the Episcopal Church.

Columba House will be a great opportunity for those young adults interested in spending a year in ministry. The program will enable the interns to be apart of a community of service and will provide them with an opportunity to develop their leadership skills, discern their baptismal vocation, and deepen their spiritual life while sharing their spiritual journey with others.

Columba House is seeking young adults, who are college graduates with an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for the gospel and the Episcopal Church. The program year will begin in mid-July 2013 and end in mid-June 2014 with an opportunity to continue their internship for a second year. The Diocese will provide housing as well as a grocery and travel allowance.

Columba House is now accepting applications for the program year beginning July of 2013.

For more information and ways to get involved, please visit www.columbahouse.org.


2012 Year-End Campaign Summary

The Campaign of Congregational Development was officially announced at the Diocesan Convention in February of 2012. Since then, we have worked to educate the Diocese, raise awareness of the Campaign’s needs, and establish the Campaign infrastructure. The Bishop has discussed the Campaign’s goals with almost every vestry, and has met with many clergy and lay leaders across the Diocese at Campaign focused events.  Videos, printed materials, and general information is on the Campaign website and readily available for those who wish to know more. A dedicated group of volunteers from across the Diocese who lead the Campaign, are identifying potential Campaign supporters, helping to assess their interests, and beginning to  facilitate introductions to the Bishop. Our Convocation Deans have established Mission Development Teams to assist with the grant application process. Steadily, Campaign awareness is increasing around the Diocese and we are creating enthusiasm around the opportunities the Campaign presents to grow each congregation’s mission. It is a very exciting time to be a part of the Diocese of Georgia!

To date, campaign gifts total over $1.2M. Transformational work is already happening with a portion of these funds. Specifically, they have enabled us to initiate a peer-coaching program that provides our clergy with a readily available, on-going support system. Interested clergy have completed two of the three training requirements with the third and final session taking place in 2013. At that point, we hope to have approximately ten trained, certified, in-house, peer coaches. These coaches will be available to help clergy, as well as lay leaders, energize their sense of vision, develop goals, and remain accountable for those goals. This will help leaders have a clearer sense of direction and be stronger, more stable leaders.

Last May, we graduated our first class from the Church Development Institute (CDI), a two-year leadership training program for clergy and lay leaders. In CDI, leaders receive in-depth training on how church systems work, how to be effective parish leaders, and how  to increase parish participation in God’s mission. Campaign funds have helped train and certify three local CDI trainers. We anticipate in about three years that almost half of the clergy and many lay leaders will have learned effective leadership skills through CDI.

And lastly, at its November meeting, Diocesan Council approved funds to create the first young adult intentional community in the Diocese. In July of 2013, four young adults will begin a two-year internship at “Columba House” in Savannah. They will live in community in a house owned by St. Paul’s, Savannah, be trained in relational evangelism, and serve through local congregations to bring other young adults into the Episcopal Church. Council was very enthusiastic about this ministry and we hope to establish more of these young adult communities around the Diocese.

Over the next year, Bishop Benhase is  encouraging each congregation in the Diocese to dream about how their own congregation can become involved in the Campaign mission objectives. This is intended to be a “bottom-up” process- the hope is for mission to percolate locally.  We anticipate 2013 will be an extremely active year in the life of the Campaign.  We look forward to hearing ideas from your parish and to sharing the great news with you as the Spirit leads us!