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 Retreat-Chapter 2016     1983 - 2016  Our 33nd Year


First taking of the Promise

Liz Schellingerhoudt, OA and Bill Parker, OA took the Promise during the Eucharist on Tuesday April 19. Each had completed a discernment process and that morning met with the Professed Members and were accepted as Novice Members of the Order.

The Promise 
To seek the presence of Jesus Christ in the people, things and circumstances of life 
through stability, obedience and conversion of life.

Election of a Presiding officer     

Michelle E. Heyne, OA was elected as the Presiding Officer of the Order during Chapter on April 21. She was installed at Mass that day. Michelle is the eighth Presiding Officer of the Order. She's the first lay person to be elcted to the position. A list of Presiding Officers.


Renewing the Promise

For the third year our retreat was at the  Community of Saint John the Baptist in Mendham, NJ.  We joined the sisters for Lauds, engaged in community building work in the mornings, and were in silence between Mass at noon and Evening Prayer. Three members renewed their Promise -- Michelle Heyne, Royster Hedgepeth, and Lowell Grisham. They first took the Promise in 2010, 2001, 1995. Three years later each took the Promise for a second time with a life long intention as a Professed Member. 

Saying the Office

We join the sisters in their chapel for Lauds each morning. We use the retreat house chapel for our own daily mass, Evening Prayer, and Compline.

The value of the Office is its objectivity. It is a means by which we pray with the whole church, uniting our prayer with that of millions of other Christians living and dead. This is true whether one is alone or in a group, for the Office is essentially a corporate act. It is objective too in that it does not depend on our feelings, but gives our prayer life a regularity and a disciplined framework.   -Kenneth Leech True Prayer


Other Chapter Business

Happily received a new Ascension Press book, "Practicing Prayer: A Handbook" by Lowell Grisham, OA. Decided that with eight Professed Members, and three in process, it was appropriate to consider having an Episcopal Companion (to fill the functions of Episcopal Visitor), to apply for canonical recognition, and to explore membership in NAECC (National Association of Episcopal Christian Communities). 


News from Members

From Lowell Grisham, OA

This year will mark 19 years serving as rector of St. Paul's, Fayetteville, AR. We are beginning a feasibility study about the possibility of launching a capital campaign to expand the church nave, chancel, and sanctuary. We also need to pay for an adjacent building we bought and are renovating as a Youth Center. We're working hard to create Magdalene Serenity House as a sanctuary of healing and recovery for women who have survived lives of childhood sexual abuse, addiction, trafficking and incarceration. That work comes out of our relationships with women in our local prison who are part of our weekly prison Eucharists and our Prison Story ministries. We're inspired by the work of Magdalene House – Thistle Farms in Nashville and Becca Stevens who has helped us get started.

This past year St. Paul's became a Jubilee Center of the Episcopal Church in recognition of our many outreach ministries, including Community Meals (Mon/Wed), a weekly respite program for families caring for loved ones at home living with dementia or Alzheimer's, 7hills Homeless Center, and the Community Clinic at St. Francis House, among others. And a non-Episcopalian seminary cited our youth program as among 41 exceptional programs in the US they studied for best practices.

I'm retiring as a Senior Deputy to the General Convention with this past Convention. I enjoyed being Vice-Chair of Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music. I served on the Joint Committee for the Nomination of the Presiding Bishop. I believe Michael Curry will be an outstanding Primate. I continue as a co-convener of the Chicago Consultation, and I'm particularly proud of The Elmina Statement we created at our consultation last year in Ghana I'm in my last year on the board of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, and I still write a regional newspaper column every three weeks about the intersection of religion and politics. A daily joy: each weekday I get my granddaughter ready and take her to school; this fall we'll walk together to kindergarten each morning. My two other grandchildren are now in Santa Barbara, CA. Kathy and I have passed our 40th anniversary and this year is my 20th with Order of Ascension. My booklet on prayer has now been published - Practicing Prayer: A Handbook.

Lowell was the 3rd Presiding Officer of the Order.


From Susan Latimer, OA

This past year we renovated a cry room into an aesthetically pleasing chapel, where our new Evening Prayer teams lead Evening Prayer Monday throughThursday evenings.  This enhancement of the prayer and the lay leadership of the parish has energized our communal life.  In Lent we worked with Michelle Heyne’s book, “In Your Holy Spirit, Traditional Spiritual Practices in Today’s Christian Life”, with a focus on forming/changing a Rule of Life.  This Lenten Series served as a refresher on Anglican Spiritual practices for some, as well as confirmation preparation for five adults coming to us from other traditions, for which this was new material.  Two of these new folks are now members of our Evening Prayer teams, having received the necessary training. 

This June I will accompany our second J2A group on Pilgrimage to the Black Hills of South Dakota. This culmination of the 4 year Spiritual Formation program for youth, the Journey to Adulthood, is meant to be a life-changing rite of passage for the youth.  I found that the last pilgrimage was powerful and life-changing for the adults as well!

Also this June, the parish will offer its 4th Fine Arts Summer Camp to 40 local elementary school children.  The camp is free of charge to low-income families.   Wide parish  participation ( in the kitchen, as shepherds for small groups of children, etc. )  in this creative and fun event gives us a chance to offer a high quality, creative, week-long arts experience to children who otherwise would not receive it.  Each child experiences four full hours a day: one each of  music, drama, dance, and art. 

The parish hosted an experiential Lenten retreat led by The Rev. Elizabeth Rechter, Executive Director of Stillpoint,  on Bio-spiritual Focusing, a technique developed by two Jesuit priests, Ed McMahon, Ph.D. and Peter Campbell, Ph.D.  We followed up with a book study and bio-spiritual focusing group – using the book “Rediscovering the Lost Body Connection within Christian Spirituality.”

I have been drawn deeper and deeper into the contemplative, mystical, and wisdom traditions of Christianity.  In November I attended a Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault and May of 2016 brings another retreat with a focus on Teilhard de Chardin.  I bring these experiences back to the parish through Centering Prayer groups, retreats, and book studies.  We now have an ongoing Wisdom group that meets monthly for Centering Prayer, Lectio, and Movement/Gesture Prayer.   

In short, this has been a year of deepening my own prayer life and that of the parish.  The Spirit is flowing in and through us.  I am deeply grateful. 

Susan is Rector of St. Catherine of Alexandria Episcopal Church in Temple Terrace, Florida,  



From Michelle Heyne, OA

The last year has had a lot going on, including a number of things I'm particularly excited about.  I led the Diocese of Georgia's Conflict Lab in April, and was pleased to see the continued integration in that diocese of so much important development work on many different fronts.

Bob Gallagher and I published a new article in the OD Practitioner that explored a long-term OD contract and the subsequent internalization of OD processes and methods with a Jersey City non-profit.  I found it very powerful to see first-hand the contribution this work can make.
My secular work continued to expand in 2015, with my partners and me experiencing more clients attracted to a whole-system-improvement approach to consulting, rather than a wish simply to react to the latest crisis.


Of course, the big event of my year was being elected Presiding Officer of the Order.  As the first layperson to serve in this role, I feel pretty nervous. I also confess to a secret thrill at FINALLY being not only able, but actually expected, to tell the clergy how to handle the liturgy. At least for five days of the year when we are gathered in retreat.


I look forward to continuing to deepen the Order's Benedictine grounding.


I'm also hopeful that my own passion for building Christian proficiency in the laity (and thereby building up the lay apostolate), will foster new initiatives.  
I'm particularly interested in re-focusing efforts around Christian service away from church-sponsored projects, and toward the realities of service in daily life.  Toward the systems we each actually work and live in, and the ways each of us can better engage difficult, complex questions, while taking individual responsible for exercising influence effectively.


Michelle is the eighth Presiding Officer of the Order.




From Scott Benhase, OA

Scott is now in the seventh year of his episcopate in the Diocese of Georgia. He loves this ministry especially his visiting and working with congregations to develop strategies for forming new disciples and transforming their surrounding communities. He will be on sabbatical this summer (2016). He sees that as akin to “half time” where he can get “off the field” and rest/regroup for what will be an exciting “second half.” Kelly, his wife, continues teaching English, Spanish, and coordinating the media center at the Bethesda Academy for Boys in Savannah (founded in 1740 by the Reverend George Whitefield). John, their oldest, is a chef in Atlanta. Charley, their younger son, lives in Washington DC and runs a personal services business with a friend from high school. Mary Grace, their youngest, lives and works in Hong Kong working with displaced domestic workers.

Scott is the Tenth Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia and was the 2nd and 6th Presiding Officer of the Order.


From Robert Gallagher, OA


I'm now part of a three person spiritual friendship group. We gather from time to time to explore each person's spiritual practice and discipline. At the Sunday Eucharist we are all seated near one another. As I've gotten older, and spent more time in the pew, I've come to understand why so many people like having "my pew" each Sunday. As a vicar I'd often make attempts to get people to move where they sat from time to time. I imagined that the change would be good for them and the parish (another example of clergy - me - missing the point!). In recent years I've experienced the sense of grounding and comfort there is in being in "my pew." It's an expression of Benedictine stability. At the Peace I reach across pews to shake hands with Henry and Helen; I turn around to greet the five young women; Michelle and I exchange hugs; and I have the pleasure of a mutual blessing with the whole Stahlecker family in the pew just in front of me. Just being in the presence of these people week by week has been to know holiness.   


I participated in a small way in the Order's initiative on saying a public Office. Saint Paul's, Seattle has a long tradition of saying Evening Prayer. Some years ago it was an every evening practice. In more recent years the practice drifted until Evening Prayer was being said Tuesday through Thursday with evensong on Saturday; summers were without a public office. For the past couple of years I was on all the mid week teams. As I heard others on the teams talk it became apparent to me that they desired both to continue through the summer and to include Monday and Friday in the schedule. Last spring I passed on that information to the then priest-in-charge. She agreed to have it continue through the summer. When the new rector arrived I let her know about a readiness to do Evening Prayer Monday through Saturday. She agreed to that and later joined one of the teams herself. My role was simply listening and informally facilitating communication.


I'm settling more and more into the reality of being a retired priest. At St. Paul's I am part of the teams saying the Office and have agreed to fill in if a priest associate can't celebrate at a mid week mass as scheduled. Otherwise I am simply part of the Eucharistic community. I am maintaining one active consulting parish contract. My focus has turned increasingly to writing. Along with Michelle Heyne and two others I recently facilitated a survey-feedback and writing process with a one time non profit client, WomenRising of Jersey City. The resulting article was recently published in the Organization Development Practitioner -- "Quality & Empowerment: Organization Development at WomenRising, 1992-2016." Earlier in 2015 Michelle and I wrote another article for the OD Practitioner -- "Understanding from Within: Working with Religious Systems."  I am also writing occasional entries for the Blog "Means of Grace, Hope of Glory" and am reengaging two larger projects -- one on the relationship between parish revitalization and the Eucharist and the other on making effective interventions in parishes.
This was my last retreat/chapter as the Order's Presiding Officer. It's been a rich experience. I'm grateful to the Professed Members for allowing me to serve and I'm glad to be letting go of the position.
Bob was the 1st and 7th Presiding Officer of the Order.



From David Andrews, OA

The past year has been one of the most rewarding years that I have experienced in almost twenty five years of ordained ministry.  I continue to love the parish where I have served the last six plus years.  The Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew continues to stretch and nudge me in my role as Rector.  In the past year I have trained a number of folks in saying the Daily Office either in the parish or at home and since the fall we have been offering noonday prayer four days a week( Tuesday- Friday) and evening prayer three days a week (Tuesday-Thursday).  The parish continues to serve the Wilmington community in many ways.  Friendship House, a local not for profit social service provider, uses our kitchen and auditorium every Sunday morning to serve breakfast to  over 150 homeless men, women and children.  During the cold winter months, Friendship House provides a warm and safe place for the homeless as they wait for the shelters to open in the evening. 

In March the Episcopal Urban Caucus came to Wilmington for their annual assembly and I was chair of the local committee that planned the event.  Though attendance at the Caucus was small I believe that participants came away with a sense of the good ministry that is happening in the city of Wilmington and how the local Episcopal Churches are engaged in that ministry.

This spring construction begins on the new pipe organ that will be installed in the sanctuary this fall.  The entire project will be completed( we hope) by the middle of November 2016.  Throughout 2017 there will be organ concerts to highlight the new organ and will be a way to invite the Wilmington community into the parish to listen to wonderful music and get a sense of all that occurs in the parish.

On a personal note, in January I was accepted into the Living School.  The Living School is a three year program through the Center for Contemplation and Action in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I begin the program in late August of this year.  In September I will celebrate my twenty-fifth anniversary as an ordained Episcopal Priest and we are planning an evensong to celebrate the occasion.  Emily continues to enjoy retirement and she has the flexibility to travel to Maine to visit her parents.  Her dad just turned ninety and her mom is 94.  We look forward to spending time with them in August. 

I look forward to coming year as I continue to use and practice the skills and knowledge I have learned at CDI and as a member of the Order of the Ascension.

From Jeremy Bond, OA 

Life hasn’t changed much this past year. I just feel older. My body slows down constantly, now that I've turned seventy seven.  August first will mark a dozen years of retirement and mid June marks eleven years of life here near the California coast.  Not much has changed this past year. In our parish church of St. Barnabas, Arroyo Grande I sing in the choir, work an afternoon a week in the thrift shop, help serve the once a month senior lunch  and on rare occasions lead Sunday worship. Out in the community I continue to toot my  trombone in the San Luis Obispo County Band, serve on our condominium complex’s board  and enjoy morning coffee with friends. Kathy and I enjoy our fifty two years and several months of marriage and remain healthy in body, mind and spirit.  I follow a daily prayer discipline as well as weekly worship.  After missing last year’s gathering, I look forward to restoring friendships with other OA members this spring.  



From Royster Hedgepeth, OA 

For the past year I have enjoyed finding a more effective balance between consulting and a more relaxed personal schedule.  One of the high points of my consulting work is a capital development program Kathryn and I are currently running for Christ Episcopal Church in Ponte Vedra, FL.  The program will support Christ Church’s action plans and their strategic goals of strengthening and energizing discipleship, increasing their evangelism efforts and growing into their life as an active, innovative 21st Century Episcopal congregation.

St. Paul’s Episcopal in Wilmington continues to grow and thrive and membership is now approaching 180 ASA (from a low of about 70 four years ago).  Wonderful worship, strong adult education, extraordinary music, the growth of the Wilmington Boys Choir, and energetic in-reach and outreach continue to fuel the sense of wonder and the Holy in our community.  As part of the Education Committee, I enjoy helping to plan and implement the Sunday adult education program and our “Second Wednesday” current issues forums. 

In November, I led a discussion on 21st Century segregation, motivated in part by the work our congregation is doing with two neighborhood schools where nearly 100% of the kids are eligible for food assistance.  I am also leading a task force on being an inviting church as we develop neighborhood communications avenues and community marketing to invite our neighbors into the life of the church.  St Paul’s is blessed with several recognized artists and even more skilled crafts people in the congregation.  They are putting together an art show for the fall that we will also use to bring the community event to the church.  I am also participating in the Community of Hope’s Pastoral Caregiver’s Course, a Benedictine-oriented program to develop more well prepared caregivers for our congregation.

Locally, I am still involved with Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard and Forward Motion Dance Company.  I have also joined the Development Committee of the Coastal Carolina Land Trust.  I continue to enjoy cooking and entertaining, working on stained glass and playing a bit of bridge and golf.  Kathryn and I are looking forward to traveling a bit more – exploring North Carolina in the year ahead, and spending time with our children, their spouses and our grandsons, ages 4, 11, 12 and one to arrive in April.


From Gawain de Leeuw, OA   

I am celebrating my 15th year at St. Bartholomew’s Church in White Plains and entering my 20th year as a priest. St. Barts recently finished it's 100th anniversary year in 2016.

I am nearly finished writing The Body of Christ in a Market Economy: an Anglican Inquiry. It’s seeks to show how Jesus’ atoning grace may shape our purpose in institutional life and outline how this might frame a Christian practice in the market. I’m also thinking about how to develop relational skills in congregations through a habit of intentional conversations. In addition, as an Indian-American, I have been reading Martin Thorton’s book English Spirituality alongside post-colonial writers, considering how lifting up Benedictine Spirituality might address the spritual anxieties in a world after empire.  

I continue to serve on the Clergy Advisory Board of Planned Parenthood, as president of Westchester United, a community organizing initiative, and on the strategic planning advisory committee for the Diocese of New York. 




Novice Members

Liz Schellingerhoudt, OA

I serve as priest-in-charge at St. Clare’s Episcopal Church in Blairsville, Georgia, where I have served for the past year. Deep in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest and North Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains, Blairsville is a beautiful, rural mountain town that is undergoing lots of change, and the makeup of our parish is indicative of that change. The communicants of St. Clare's come from all over the country - the majority live in Blairsville full time, but many are seasonal, just attending in summers. Parish members come to St. Clare's with a variety of worship experiences, and many are not steeped in the Anglican tradition. This past year, we have explored our Anglican roots with Adult formation classes, using prayers from the Daily Office in meetings, and experimenting with Morning Prayer during Lent. We also added an Easter Vigil to our services this year.

My husband, Kees, and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last September. Our daughter Annelies is a student at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, and our son Whitner attends St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. My mother, who will be 88 this May, lives with us.  

Our parish is blessed with beautiful gardens that were designed and planted by parishioners. With so much beauty, it is hard to miss God’s presence in daily life, and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve at St. Clare’s at this time in my life. I appreciate the support of the Order in the form of resources and deep conversations with one another about how to support healthy parish life for this amazing community of God’s people.


From Bill Parker, OA

I was thrilled to be welcomed into discernment with Order of the Ascension at this year's retreat. It was great to reconnect with friends I hadn't seen in a while, and to meet the other members of the order. It was nice as well to enter with Liz - great to have more than just me in this new class!

I look forward to engaging with the Order and with congregational development here at St. Andrew's in Louisville. I mentioned at the retreat that it feels as though things Benedictine are stirring at this parish, and I am excited about seeing where it goes.
Meanwile, I returned back to Louisville just in time for the Derby fever here. This town celebrates and parties for two weeks prior to the race, and there are many things to do. It is a fun time and routine responsibilities fall to the wayside for awhile. Afterall, the garden weeds will still be there after Derby!


With a grateful heart 



From Bryan Carr, COA

After a two-hear hiatus, found myself deeply missing the work of an educator, and sought out a new position at a private school. I'm currently working with young people between the ages of 5 and 15, doing many things, from helping to coach chess to tromping around woods on field trips to helping with homework. I also do occasional substituting with infants and toddlers at the preschool program -- a new skill-set. 

I continue hard at work (no, really) on my own book, and from time to time you can read a draft excerpt on my blog. I am also in the last stages (I hope) of editing a book of essays in memoriam for one of my past teachers. 

Since serving on the parish's search committee, which called the new rector of St Paul's (now in the last half of her first year), I have gratefully returned to my "main" parish ministry: singing in the choir. The way music, prayer, and theology intersect and shape each other in practice keeps deepening for me.




Our retreat at CSJB in 1989


Pictures from the 2014 retreat at CSJB

Pictures from the 2015 Retreat at CSJB

Pictures from the 2016 Retreat at CSJB