At the start of convention on Friday, Bishop Benhase presented a short-term fundraising challenge in cooperation with our on-going Campaign for Congregational Development. The “Convention Challenge” called the attendees of the 194th convention to join together to support The Community of St. Joseph, a new ministry offering worship where the Savannah homeless live and gather. The request of a donation amount of $35 a person from all attendees was estimated to equal a goal of $10,000. The intention of the challenge is to show that even a small contribution made at a large level of participation can really make a difference for the Diocesan support growing ministries. By Saturday morning, $10,400 in gifts had been received through online giving and the offering at the Convention Eucharist.

The Community of St. Joseph, led by the Rev. Jamie Maury, aims to provide worship services by and for Savannah’s homeless persons living in the city, approximately 4,200. The ministry now offers worship at Emmaus House on the Third Friday of the month and every Sunday worship near Camp 2, an area identified with the assistance of Homeless persons interested in the Community of St. Joseph. This work is also coordinated with the city’s Homeless Authority.

You are welcome to join the worship on Third Friday morning’s at 8:45 a.m. in the courtyard of the Christ Church Savannah Parish House at the corner of Abercorn and Bryan Streets. The next service is this Friday, November 20, with Canon Frank Logue preaching.

Sundays, the liturgy will be at 9:30 a.m. at Old Louisville Road and Pritchard Street near Camp 2 (Four blocks west of Liberty & Martin Luther King Boulevard). Contact the Rev. Jamie Maury at (912) 659-8585 or

The Community of St. Joseph’s is a Signature Ministry of the Diocese of Georgia. This outreach effort is part of the 9 strategies put forward by the Campaign for Congregational Development. You can still donate to this new ministry online using the link created for the convention:


One significant change in the Diocese is going on behind the scenes as clergy who are coaches certified by the International Coach Federation (ICF) meet regularly with 39 persons for coaching session. In sports, we know that great coaches bring the best of the abilities out of an athlete. Likewise, many top professionals in a variety of industries have discovered the value of a trained coach, but religious groups have been reticent to consider this approach. The Diocese of Georgia placed a high value in these one on one coaching relationships as one of the strategies in the Campaign for Congregational Development. Now several years into the program, we are seeing the fruit of this approach.

“The peer coaching program serves as a helpful mirror to reflect on how to be a better, more effective leader,for clergy throughout the Diocese and allow for a more peer coaching relationships.” said the Rev. Dwayne Varas, Rector of St. Thomas, Thomasville. An experienced priest, Varas has enjoyed the benefit of a coach. He said, “Accountability is key, and taking the time for self-reflection enables me as a spiritual leader to apply lessons learned within my community.

The Very Rev. Billy, Rector of St. Alban’s, Augusta, is one of our certified coaches. He noted that, “We are an expansive Diocese, and as a priest, it can often times be isolating. The peer coaching relationships enable us to come together and seek insights and lesson learned from each other.”

Seeing the value to those served by the clergy who have a coach, he said, “This program benefits not only the priest, but their congregations as well. What does it mean for a community to have a confident and self-assured priest? I would argue a lot.”

The Rev. Ellen Richardson, Associate at St. Anne’s, Tifton, said, “Coaching is part of the larger gift the Bishop has given us. An opportunity for participants to examine their goals, strengths, weakness, and be held accountable by coaches for successes and development areas.”

Coaches are required of all seminary graduates as well as priests moving into the diocese for their first two years. We are finding that those clergy extend the relationships as they see the value in having a coach. The program is also available to clergy no matter how long they have served and to other lay leaders.

Coaches are able to take a more general idea like “I want to improve our Christian Education program” and assist the priest in breaking down this goal into manageable tasks and next steps and then holding the priest accountable for taking those steps. So whatever identified goal the priest sets will become action items with follow up. This process and its built in accountability is a benefit not just to the priest or deacon, but also to the congregation she or he serves.

Varas noted that his congregation also sees the value in him taking time to participate in the program and added, “I believe we need to begin to train more coaches to have a broader pool available for clergy throughout the Diocese and allow for a good peer coaching relationship.”

More information on the Peer Coaching Initiative is found by watching the video linked at the top of this article and at the diocesan website: Peer Coaching Web Page


The Augusta Wide Youth Program Starts a New Year

Augusta’s convocational youth program, Cornerstone, kicked off another year this past Sunday. Though there have been changes in youth leadership, the citywide youth ministry is still going strong and is unafraid to reinvent itself. Since the previous year, over half of the churches involved have had new youth workers come in. This year’s planning team had its work cut out for it, but has done an incredible job working together collaboratively and creatively to make the most of this important ministry.

This year Cornerstone 2.0 launched with a new theme based on Ephesians 2 and Christ’s triumph over our the dividing walls in our lives. Ministers worked together to create an atmosphere of fellowship, breaking bread and worship all within a liturgical framework that faithfully integrates the contemplative with the contemporary. The program is off to a great start and the leadership is excited about what God has in store for us as we move forward. The photos here show Students breaking down barriers by shooting pumpkins with a potato launcher through the brick wall.

A half dozen congregations take part in Cornerstone with roughly 10 adults and 30-50 students taking part. The group meets monthly from 5-6:30 pm. The next meeting will be on November 15th at St. Augustine’s, Augusta. The site changes each month as it rotates monthly among the congregations taking part.


Worship in a Homeless Camp

Regular Sunday worship is now underway for a new Diocese of Georgia ministry to homeless persons in Savannah. The Community of St. Joseph, led by the Rev. Jamie Maury, aim to provide worship services by and for Savannah’s homeless persons living in the city, approximately 4,200.
Maury has already started with some initial worship services in the courtyard at Christ Church Savannah (last Friday’s healing service is pictured at right). The ministry now offers worship at Emmaus House on the Third Friday of the month and every Sunday worship near Camp 2, an area identified with the assistance of Homeless persons interested in the Community of St. Joseph. This work is also coordinated with the city’s Homeless Authority.

Mary Meeks piloted this ministry in 2013 as an intern at Columba House Savannah. She worked to put together a Christmas Day Eucharist in a homeless camp under a bridge over President Street. Coordinating the Community Policing Officer and members of her home parish of St. Michael and All Angels, Savannah, the well-attended liturgy proved inspirational. With other worship opportunities since then, Bishop Benhase dreamed of what amounts to a Signature Ministry for Diocesan House. The diocesan staff successfully applied for a United Thank Offering Grant to fund church goods, supplies for the liturgy, compensation for a musician, and more.

Want to take part?

You are welcome to join the worship this Friday morning at 8:45 a.m. in the courtyard of the Christ Church Savannah Parish House at the corner of Abercorn and Bryan Streets. Sundays, the liturgy will be at 9:30 a.m. at Old Louisville Road and Pritchard Street near Camp 2 (Four blocks west of Liberty & Martin Luther King Boulevard).


Growth at Christ Church Cordele

The Episcopal Church in Cordele is enjoying significant growth. Building on the hard work of the congregation’s lay leadership and the Rev. Dr. Larry Williams, who the church called in 2014, the mission is growing numerically and spiritually.

More than 15 years ago, Bishop Louttit and Diocesan leaders chose to end all direct support to mission congregations. Some in Cordele recall it as a “sink or swim” moment. They decided to swim. More than a decade ago, the mission began Worship on the Water (WOW) each summer on the resort dock at the state park on Lake Blackshear.

Today Christ Church, Cordele, consists of 150 baptized persons. So far this year, the church celebrated six baptisms and on June 7, 8 adults were confirmed or received. The Operating Budget in 2014 was $95,260, and this year it is $143,792.

For years, Christ Church had two services in the summer beginning with Memorial Day and ending on Labor Day. Worship on the Water and the church in town services were conducted at the same time: 9 a.m.  A change was needed so the clergy could preside and preach at both. Having gone through a discernment process, the Vestry with the support of the congregation, made a decision to go to two services on Sunday, one at 9 a.m. and the other at 11 a.m. During the summer, the 9 a.m. is hosted on the water and the 11 a.m. in town. Since April 12, the average attendance for both stands at 90, up from 71 in 2013.

Christ Church member Robby Stripling said, “WOW and our outreach are probably the key ingredients to our success.” Further explaining the growth, he said, “Father Larry has brought new energy. Allowing for two services and having Larry preach at both has increased engagement at services and with the church.”

Christ Church has an excellent track record at connecting with the city of Cordele. First there was the Soup Kitchen, then came the Dennis J. Reddick Scholarship Memorial Golf Tournament, next Worship on the Water was born, then there was Relay for Life, the monthly Food Pantry, and their commitment to Episcopal Relief and Development.

Additionally in the past year, the mission added a formal Christian Education program for children and youth with 27 children on the rolls.

Williams said, “Growth can be messy. It is not all about the numbers.” He added, “Our goal is to balance our commitment to tasks with an equal commitment to relationships.” Stripling added, “I’m extremely proud of the church. We made a committed effort to grow and we have grown.”

Diocesan Council approved Christ Church Cordele for a grant from the Campaign for Congregational Development. Since giving to the Campaign has not yet permitted fully funding that grant, the Diocese has partnered with Christ Church by paying for the cost of insurance for the Vicar to enable the congregation to bring Williams on board. This relatively small amount of support from the Campaign has leveraged the strong foundation created by the lay leadership to foster further growth.


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.