Oak Street Mission has recently begun to restructure the management of its organization by returning to a totally volunteer-run organization while the board begins a search for a new After School Coordinator and eventually, a new Executive Director.

Alston Watt, Chair of the Board of Oak Street Mission, shared her thoughts on this transition: “When we realized that we were going to return to a volunteer-run program, it made us step back and reflect on our core values, goals, and aspirations.”

The team at Oak Street, which consists of parishioners from three Thomasville churches, met together in December with the Very Rev. Denise Ronn, co-coordinator of the Church Leadership Development Programs. They used this meeting to reassess the core values of the program, set some goals, clearly define the roles of the board, and revitalize the volunteers in the wake of this new transition. “Denise’s work with our group- she just pulled us all together beautifully. The goals we set are feeding and watering [not only the Oak Street Mission but also] our own three churches and teaching us to be a part of the hope of this neighborhood.,” says Alston.

Ronn used methods taught in CDI to assist the board in examining the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, define its mission and purpose, establish some priorities, and revitalize and unify the board members.

Core Values of Afternoons at Oak Street

  • Afternoons at Oak Street will always reflect in every way respect for the dignity and worth of all involved, children from the neighborhood, volunteers of all ages, employees
  • Afternoons at Oak Street will always encourage children in the neighborhood to exercise their talents to the maximum and to keep all opportunities for their future open
  • Afternoons at Oak Street will always be a program that inspires confidence and resiliency
  • Afternoons at Oak Street will always strive to foster in the children of the neighborhood a lifelong faith in the love, mercy and faithfulness of God
  • Afternoons at Oak Street will strive to help the children in the neighborhood to grow socially, emotionally, spiritually and academically.

Goals for Afternoons at Oak Street

  • Provide a safe, welcoming, loving environment within which the core values can be fostered
  • Empower youth and adults from the Episcopal Church and other churches to be effective volunteers who understand and further the core values of the program
  • Secure regular volunteer support from each of the Episcopal Churches
  • Develop productive relationships with the children’s parents and caregivers so that they can reinforce the life lessons that the program is trying to teach
  • Communicate frequently and effectively the goals, successes and challenges with the neighbors, the three Episcopal Churches and potential future supporters

Oak Street also plans to develop more stable funding by applying for 501c3 status in the first quarter of the year. This would be a major step for the organization that would provide future opportunities to apply for grants and other types of outside funding.

By the third quarter of the year, Oak Street will hire a full or part time Executive Director. This person will be the face of the organization in the Oak Street Community and help communicate the needs of its people to the leadership of the mission. Watt said, “We have a better understanding of our needs in an executive director than we did two years ago.”

She added, “This neighborhood needs a lot of love and care. We always understood that in our heads but now we understand it in our hearts. All three churches are really committed to this work and mission.”

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.


Training through the Church Development Institute (CDI) helped King of Peace, Kingsland, discover its identity and impact on the community. Last year, the Rev. Al Crumpton and a group of King of Peace parishioners joined together to complete the CDI Program. They found the tools, planning models, and language so helpful that they incorporated it into their vestry retreat, and eventually their church life to help identity goals and strategies to which have led to both numeric growth and greater depth with exisiting members.

“I feel like we continue to use the CDI methods especially in our vestry meetings. They are good for providing us with a road map. Everybody has input and has ways to engage These models give us a way for everyone to be heard in an engaging way. It gives us a good way to operate as we are looking to conduct the business of the church,” says Al Crumpton. He adds that CDI helped the vestry to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, which provides the team with a more thoughtful approach to planning for the church.

Crumpton was called to serve as rector at King of Peace in 2013. The church received parish status in 2010, months before the first rector’s departure. In the interim period, it was challenging to find its identity within the new status. However, the training received in CDI helped change that.

Creating Pathways Into the Church

CDI encourages congregations to identify those on the periphery of the church, who are named as only “vicariously” connected to the congregation and to identify pathways for those persons to be encouraged into the life of the church.

“The model that helped us establish our own identity was the Shape of the Parish Model. How is King of Peace recognized in the community outside of the church? If you asked someone from King of Peace about who we are, they would most likely identify us with the day school (families come to this campus 5 days a week) and with the Boy Scouts (families are on our campus several nights a week).”

After recognizing these vicarious communities, Crumpton invited the Rev. Walter Hobgood, Director of Leadership Ministries for the Diocese of Georgia, to lead a session at the church to create long-term goals. Now the parish uses these goals to guide their annual meetings and vestry meetings to ensure that their conversation stays focused. Hobgood also helped them create a vision statement for the church, “To bring God’s children into communion with Christ.”

Crumpton notes, “It’s a work in progress. I don’t want anyone to think we have gobs of people attending church just because we’ve identified these communities and created a vision statement. Yet, we are strategically thinking about how to engage these people because we feel like they are already a part of our family. For instance, we had a low country boil last week (pictured above) and we intentionally invited all of our scouts and had a great turn out! The point is, even if these people are only coming to our facility for the day school or scouts, they’re still coming.Growth and depth is a better way to describe our change. We have seen an increase in numbers, but we’ve also seen more depth as far as commitment of parishioners-People feel like they’re in a family when they come here.”

About CDI
The Church Development Institute is one element of the leadership training brought to the Diocese of Georgia through the Campaign for Congregational Development. CDI’s aim is to equip leaders to facilitate a process of transformation, and to build up the capacities and skills of leaders through self awareness of one’s personal impact on others and the organization. CDI provides an increased knowledge of theories, methods and processes as a way to assess and understand the behavior and development of the congregation; and to give a safe learning environment where one can practice skills in facilitation, feedback, listening and presenting.

To find out more online visit: campaign.georgiaepiscopal.org or email the Rev. Walter Hobgood at wphobg@gmail.com


Training through the Church Development Institute (CDI) paved the way for a smooth transition of clergy leadership at St. John and St. Mark’s, Albany. As a previous graduate of CDI, the Rev. Bill Stewart knew well the benefits of the training. When Bishop Benhase brought the program to the Diocese of Georgia, Stewart gathered a team from his Albany congregation to participate. The group consisted of himself and three other parishioners for the 2-year course.

Elaine Theirse is one of the graduates from the first group at St. John and St. Mark’s. Elaine recalls, “Attending CDI made me more aware of other churches in our Diocese.” She adds that she learned from the examples of other congregation in combination with discussions and brainstorming sessions with lay leaders from other churches.

CDI enabled St. John and St Mark’s to branch outside of the church building to connect to its community. The new activities, such as block parties hosted for their neighbors, began as a CDI project. The result was a shift to stronger lay leadership in the church and enhanced engagement with the surrounding community.

After Stewart retired, the church took the unusual step of calling Lay Pastoral Leader Johnny Tuttle, a recent seminary graduate who was 18 months away from ordination to the priesthood. The shift to stronger lay leadership proved an immediate positive. Since his ordination as a deacon, Tuttle looks back on the church at the time he was called, “I think that during the time that the church had between clergy-they were able to put into action some of the CDI leadership roles.” He adds, “We have people that have gone through CDI training and many active participants in Cursillo, both serving as a spiritually maturing process for the lay folks. I think that I’ve been spoiled coming here, because I’ve come in and there are so many people here that are willing to jump on a task and help with outreach ministry.” (Pictured above are Deacon Jonathan and Nicki Tuttle with their son Elijah at St. John and St. Mark’s.)

This shift allowed Tuttle to take on the roles of preacher, teacher, and pastor without the church placing all their hopes on him as the single agent of change. He noted, “They seem to recognize that I am clergy and I’m here to do things, but that I’m also human and I have a family and I can’t do everything. This congregation is so willing to jump on community service projects. It’s encouraging to see that happen on a regular basis — to the point that I’m usually showing up and trying to find the best ways to keep things moving rather than barking orders from the front.”

Elaine emphasizes, “Most of the ministries are member driven-we actually come up with the ideas ourselves and it not only helps the community but helps our church grow as well.”

Tuttle concludes, “There’s a tendency for parishes to be very clergy dependent. I think that’s something that CDI challenges and moves beyond. I don’t expect that I won’t have to suggest changes or recruit new leaders, but I have no doubt that there are always going to be people in this congregation that are willing to step into leadership roles.”

The Church Development Institute is one element of the leadership training brought to the Diocese of Georgia through the Campaign for Congregational Development. CDI’s aim is to equip leaders to facilitate a process of transformation, and to build up the capacities and skills of leaders through self awareness of one’s personal impact on others and the organization. CDI provides an increased knowledge of theories, methods and processes as a way to assess and understand the behavior and development of the congregation; and to give a safe learning environment where one can practice skills in facilitation, feedback, listening and presenting.

To find out more online visit: campaign.georgiaepiscopal.org or email the Rev. Walter Hobgood at wphobg@gmail.com


Church Development institute (CDI) began its 6th cycle of instruction with a meeting held at Honey Creek last weekend. CDI is a two year program spread out over eight weekends for lay and ordained leaders in the diocese to enhance their leadership skills and gain a better understanding of how to promote numeric and spiritual growth within their churches. On Friday evening, returning CDI participants shared their year-long project reports with the first time CDI participants. As members of our Diocesan Community shared the successes of their experiences within their own congregations, a language trend became apparent.

So we asked: How does the common framework and language used at CDI affect the diocese on a congregational level?

“When it comes to language, CDI proposes a “framework” for looking at the obvious in a different manner.” Fr. Larry Williams, Christ Church, Cordele 

Church Development institute provides its participants with tools of awareness to understand all components of the parish. By offering a common language to use in defining the parish, its many moving parts, and how it functions, participants are given room to communicate more effectively about how to address issues of growth within their congregations.

“We walked into the first meeting with no idea what to expect. It has given us a language, it has given us ideas that we had never thought about, and, most importantly, it has given us the tools and framework to solve problems before they even begin.” -Terri Degenhardt, St. Michael’s, Waynesboro

Participants spend most of their first year of CDI training learning to understand how individuals in a group all use different techniques to approach and address a problem from their own perspective. By learning how to identify and name these differences in any individual, CDI participants can return home to their congregation with a greater sense of “Group Awareness.”

“The biggest thing has been understanding how groups of people function in accomplishing a task. It’s been helpful in terms of working with the vestry as a senior warden- how we facilitate approaching problems and projects as a vestry.” Alan Peaslee, St. Anne’s Tifton 

CDI also provides four core frameworks to its participants: The Renewal- Apostolate Cycle; the Christian Life Model; The Benedictine Promise, and the Shape of the Parish. These frameworks are offered so leaders can see more clearly what is happening in the deeper and more hidden places of parish life and act to improve that life. The frameworks are models. We use them to do analysis, explore relationships, and as a starting place in solving problems, developing capacities, and shaping the future life of the organization.

“I’m in a position where I have a responsibility to care for the parish as a whole. CDI has helped me understand the components of the parish and given me a broader awareness of the church.”- Alan Peaslee


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 jamie.maury@gmail.com.

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:http://tiny.cc/8e635x.


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.