INTRODUCTION “There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place…” So begins a favorite hymn of our rector, the Rev. J.D. Godwin, and it is a text that expresses the essence of the place we celebrate this year, a place that has existed for 50 years. As the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration looks back on its eventful history, both as the “Big Church on the Hill” and the earlier A-frame across Spring Valley Road on the banks of White Rock Creek, a unifying theme has been the spirit of the parishioners who conceived, brought into existence, and labored to build a community of God’s people. Woven through this spirit have been intertwining threads of love, laity, and liturgy. First, there is the love that has been expressed for each other, our fellow Christians, and the larger human family. Second, Transfiguration’s growth and development have been possible because of faithful, committed lay leaders and workers. While blessed by an unusual continuity in “rectorhood” – priests who inspired and imbued this parish with an Episcopal spirit – it has been the parishioners who have made that spirit a reality through their lived Christian experience in this place. Third, in keeping with our Anglican heritage, Transfiguration has valued and maintained a rich, diverse tradition of worship and celebration. The first half of Transfiguration’s life is described in the history produced for the 25-year anniversary of the parish. Written by Suzanne Speaker, Rebecca Clinton, and Linda Grona, it traces the origin, establishment, and development of our parish from a mission of the diocese through the initial planting of the parish in the A-frame to the Big Church on the Hill. This document supplements that account, focusing on the last 25 years. The decades of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s have been remarkable, not only for the changes and challenges to Transfiguration in Dallas but also for the transformation of the Episcopal Church and alterations in the larger American and Christian contexts. From its beginning in the mid-1950s in the ballroom of a local tennis club, Transfiguration has oscillated between internal and external focal points, depending on the situation and concerns of the parish. The first part of the 21st century has proved no different but, to use the prescient words of the Rev. James J. Niles, writing in an annual report from the mid1960s: “Thank God that the Church of the Transfiguration is a both/and parish.” Through examination of the recent history of the Fig through the lenses of love, laity, and liturgy, the spirit of this unique, blessed place emerges in ways both expected and surprising.
Celebrating 60 Years
THE FIRST 25 YEARS It began on September 16, 1956, in the ballroom of Preston Hills Tennis Club. Eleven families met with the Rev. Smythe Lindsay for worship as an unorganized mission of the Diocese of Dallas. (Participants in these first meetings would later confirm that they were, indeed, unorganized and impromptu – but earnest and faithful nonetheless.) With the blessing of the bishop of Dallas, the Right Rev. C. Avery Mason, the mission of the Transfiguration was born the next month. Various churches lent the little group the necessities and, where required, the early members improvised to ensure proper worship. The next several years saw the mission become a church. Land was purchased and built upon (across Spring Valley Road from the current location), first with a multipurpose education/chapel building and then, in 1961, with the dedication of the A-frame church. The Rev. James J. Niles, appointed as vicar in 1958, became the first rector of Transfiguration in 1959, when the diocese welcomed the congregation as a parish. Most of the adult communicants at the time signed the Articles of Conformity, which now hang in the narthex of our building. The early 1960s revealed a growing parish. The church into which they moved in 1962 was, in some ways, too small from its inception. “Environmental” problems plagued the parish from the beginning. If it wasn’t a swarm of bees or the occasional snake making its way up from the creek, it was the creek itself seeping over its banks and leaving a residue of mud and silt on the floors and sidewalks. Undeterred, the parish opened the Clothes Horse, a resale clothing store, in 1961; created a mission in the Frankford area in 1963 (the same year it sponsored its first Boy Scout Troop and opened the Episcopal School of Northwood); and hired a part-time professional organist/choirmaster the next year. From the start, then, Transfiguration focused on both internal development and external outreach. Christian love was expressed in multiple ways that strengthened the cohesiveness of the parish and welcomed new members and interested seekers. From a little over 300 communicants in 1959, the parish was serving over 300 families four years later. Parish records indicate more than 900 communicants on the roles in 1963. Additional clergy, both volunteer and paid, joined Father Niles to serve the burgeoning parish. School, scout troop, and mission all pointed to the parish’s concern to witness not just to themselves but also to the larger community. The parish could not have grown so quickly without the monumental participation of the lay members. Parish volunteers did most of the building renovation and maintenance. Laypeople handled the administrative and secretarial tasks involved in the day-to-day activities of the parish. The members defined the spirit of the place. If, as one of the
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
founders said in a video commemorating the 25-year anniversary, “cooperation and fun” were what made the parish, that coming together in fellowship occurred because of the belief and commitment of Transfiguration’s members. The spirit cannot move or speak if the people are unwilling to express it. Clearly, the Fig was spirit-filled from the start. The first major crisis in the life of the parish occurred in September 1964, when White Rock Creek washed over its boundaries and precipitated THE FLOOD (as many early parishioners referred to it). Ruined vestments, hymnals, and furniture; floors and walls damaged by water and mud; the church organ floating away toward the sea – it was a catastrophe for the parish, but also an opportunity. Two days after the flood, the vestry decided to move across the street, to relocate to higher ground. Five acres were purchased from the Embrey family, original parishioners, and planning began to rebuild in a new place. Over the next five years, several buildings were erected on our current Hillcrest home, culminating in the dedication of the present church on June 14, 1970. The way was not smooth, but the spirit of the parish was up to the task. Whether it was doubling the size of the original plot of land, continuing to minister to a growing parish and surrounding community, or ordering a pipe organ to equip the new edifice for liturgy at its most beautiful, Transfiguration surmounted the challenges and problems. As always, the people of Transfiguration understood the context in which their parish lived. Father Niles, in the 1966 annual report, says it well: “The parish faces a crisis in its life. The crisis we face is merely a reflection of the crisis confronting the whole of Christendom. Our situation is not unique, and cannot be understood apart from the life of the whole Christian community.” Again, in the words of one of the founding members, the church was going to grow despite the obstacles in its way. The early 1970s found Transfiguration in a new building sufficient for its liturgical needs but in difficult financial condition. The economic recession and social turmoil surrounding national and international situations affected the parish. (Perhaps coincidentally, copies of the parish’s annual reports for the years 1972 through 1975 could not be located for this history.) Membership leveled off, contributions declined, and deep staff cuts ensued. Through these lean years, the parish persevered. The chapel pipe organ was installed and dedicated, the needlepoint kneelers at the altar were completed and blessed, and Transfiguration became one of the parishes to use the Trial Liturgy in preparation for the new Book of Common Prayer. Looking outward, a difficult situation with the Episcopal School of Northwood was resolved by asking it to leave the parish property. It did, taking much of the educational materials with it, and leaving the newly formed The Parish Day School scrambling to open on time with adequate resources. Headmistress Mary Blair, her staff, and the parish Celebrating 60 Years
acted to ensure that this important mission to the Dallas community continued. Other milestones included the opening of the Vine and Branch Bookstore and, foreshadowing Transfiguration’s role in the next decade, women becoming increasingly prominent in leadership positions. In 1973, Deanie Winstel became the first woman elected to the vestry, and two years later, Sarah Kerner, then twelve years old, became the first female acolyte. The spirit was moving at Transfiguration. Economic uncertainties did not stop the enrichment and transformation of parish life, love, and liturgy. The pivotal event of this challenging period was the resignation of the only rector the parish had known. In failing health, Father Niles retired in September 1975. Again, the spirit was alive and active as the parish called the Rev. Terence C. Roper to become its second rector. Father Roper was installed in May 1976 and immediately took advantage of improving economic and social conditions to begin rectifying the financial situation. Within two years Transfiguration was back in the black, and Father Roper was able to change his rallying cry from “mortgage before ministry” to “ministry over mortgage” as the parish retired the debt on the parish hall. Transfiguration in the last few years of the decade was poised for change. Careful planning began for a significant addition to the church building. With over 500 families on the rolls, new and larger programs were needed to minister to the parish. Lay and clerical staff were expanded. The Big Fig softball team formed, proving that Baptists weren’t the only ones who could swing a bat. Saint Monica’s Guild was formed to support and develop opportunities for fun and fellowship for young women and their families, especially through regularly scheduled meetings (with child care) and the operation of Vacation Church School. Father Roper’s “Rector’s Report” for the January 1980 annual meeting provides insight into the state of the parish as it entered its 25th year of existence and 10th year in the Church on the Hill. He begins by noting an increasing “spirit of fellowship” resulting in ongoing space problems that would be addressed, but cautiously. He singles out the Parish Day School for its continuing success as it prepared for a handing over of the headmistress office from Mary Blair to Gloria Snyder. He mentions technological advances as easing administrative tasks and streamlining membership records and files. Sunday school attendance for both adults and children was rising, and he describes such educational participation as a harbinger of fruitful times ahead. In particular, he encourages the parish to welcome and value youthful membership and participation in the life of Transfiguration. Most importantly, Father Roper called the parish to be prepared for the years ahead: “Changing times bring us new opportunities, and we must be careful that we do not apply yesterday’s solutions to the problems of today. Let us be a people of
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
vision in the things we attempt for God and the spread of His Kingdom in this place…Ours is a living faith which changes men and women into the children of the living God, and we must take care that we never present it as something which belongs in a museum…We have a wonderful opportunity to step out over the temporal tribulations and seize upon the things of lasting value. We are called to minister to the people of our area, and I pray that we will respond to that vocation. We must be a people of vision.” He then calls on the parish to be open to leadings of the spirit: “In a parish as large as ours, we have to remain open to new ideas, and be prepared to make changes in our ways to meet the needs of the time. We must be prepared to change our priorities, and seize whatever opportunities the Holy Spirit offers.” Listen to the Lord, seek imaginative responses, let the new wine be poured into new wineskins: the spirit of this place, Transfiguration, was indeed present as the parish embarked on its second quarter-century of existence.
1980s • TRANSFIGURATION MATURES “As with any body that is vibrant, alive, and growing, dynamic changes constantly occur.” So wrote Father Godwin in the vicar’s report to the annual meeting in 1985. His words summarize the ten years following the celebration of Transfiguration’s 25th birthday. Increased lay involvement, an expanded role in larger parish activities, liturgical innovations, and a growing presence in Dallas were hallmarks of the Fig’s development in the 1980s. The event that brought all these aspects together was the ordination of Gwen Buehrens, the first woman priest in the Diocese of Dallas. During a time of rapid (for the parish) shifts in liturgy and community, Transfiguration continued to fulfill its mission to serve all of God’s people. Lay leadership became increasingly visible as the parish entered the 1980s. Membership numbers continued to rise, but clergy numbers remained stable. The parish needed ministers, and members responded. Established institutions, like the Clothes Horse, the Parish Day School, and the Women of the Church, expanded their roles and influence in the parish and the community. Myriad new organizations sprang up, all led by parishioners, covering a range of activities. The Episcopal Men’s Fellowship began meeting in 1986 to provide opportunities for social interaction among male parishioners. Foyer groups originated for social purposes too, coming out of informal gatherings of old and new members in the early 1980s. Father Roper and Jean Fekety (one of the founding members of the parish) helped create the Primetimers to serve the needs Celebrating 60 Years
of older parishioners. A Fine Arts Guild was established “to promote participation in diverse arts-related fields by parishioners and those outside the parish” [1984 annual report]. Groups such as these not only brought lay members together but also attracted new people to the parish through the various activities. Social occasions and events, although important for knitting together Christ’s body on earth, were not the only outlet for lay involvement. An Outreach Committee was formed in March 1984. Guided by the Rev. William Bryant, a large number of parishioners came together to coordinate and expand the ministry of the parish to the surrounding community. An increasing number of groups requested help from the parish. Members took seriously the statement formulated in early 1986: “The mission of the Church of the Transfiguration is the presentation of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit through worship, service, education, community life, and evangelism in such a way that others are led to believe in and follow him as Lord and Savior.” The spirit of the place was growing, and its voice was being heard. Social and economic issues in the nation and new challenges to the Episcopal Church, USA also evoked responses by Transfiguration. Saint Therese’s Guild was organized to address the unique wants and needs of women as they became an even more vital and significant part of the workforce. This was the first evening guild for women, offering an opportunity outside the workday for women in the parish to minister to each other. The mid-1980s was an unhappy time for many people in the northern areas of Dallas as major employers laid off workers, property values stagnated, and some parishioners moved as their jobs were transferred out of town. The parish responded with help for those in need and, while reducing expenses as pledges plateaued, continued to be a voice for the national Church at the local level. This was not always easy. Support for some of the positions laid out by General Conventions throughout the decade placed the parish in occasional opposition to fellow Episcopalians close to home. The Fig watched as its former mission parish, the Church of the Holy Communion, left the Diocese of Dallas because of disagreements over policy statements and personality clashes. Resolutions and working groups on the emerging crisis of AIDS put the Episcopal Church in the forefront of Christian denominations beginning to face this tragedy. Transfiguration’s response was in step with the larger Church – and in some ways more immediate, because the issue was a point of contention closer to home. This model of the Fig representing larger trends in the Church in Dallas extended into the liturgical realm as well. Howard Ross was made full-time organist/choirmaster/music ministries director in 1983. A Saturday evening Eucharist was begun in 1986. Both in the continuing use of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the introduction of The Hymnal
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
1982 (for which Father Godwin was one of the compilers), our parish pushed ahead even when other local parishes expressed reluctance to embrace the new ways of worship that incorporated old and new modes of liturgical expression. In April 1985, Father Roper commented on the Holy Week observances just completed. After noting the use of liturgical dance, palm processions, and solemn high liturgies accompanied by harp, brass, bell, and voices raised in song, he writes: “We are all different, and it is our conviction as Episcopalians that we are intended to be so, that God rejoices in the infinite variety in his creation…That great truth needs to be reflected in our worship of the God whose hand is to be found in it all.” This “infinite variety” would take on new meaning later in the year. Gwen L. Buehrens had joined the staff as a part-time deacon in 1983. As the parish came to know her, they grew to love and value her as part of the Transfiguration family. In early 1985, when Father Roper presented Deacon Buehrens to the vestry as a candidate for the priesthood, the vestry was unanimous in their support and signing of the “Endorsement for Ordination to the Priesthood.” This document was sent to the bishop of Dallas, the Right Rev. Donis Patterson, with the rest of Deacon Buehrens’s file, putting the parish on record in support of a woman priest in the Diocese of Dallas, which had no women priests. While many dioceses had ordained women to the priesthood by mid-decade, the Diocese of Dallas had not. The Right Rev. Donald Davies, bishop of the diocese between 1970 and 1982, opposed women’s ordination. When the diocese was split in 1982, he became bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth. Bishop Patterson, who was elected bishop of Dallas in 1983, was clear in his support of all eligible, qualified candidates for priesthood, regardless of their gender. Ordained women resided in the diocese, but they had not yet been licensed to preach and serve at the altar. Deacon Buehrens would be the first. As the ordination process moved forward, opposition appeared within both the parish and the diocese. The suffragan bishop, the Right Rev. Robert Terwilliger, expressed doubts about the validity of ordaining women and became a leader of the dissenting group. Despite almost ten years of women presiding over the Eucharist within the national Church, some faithful Episcopalians were distressed at what seemed to be the Church’s conforming to contemporary fads and diverging from received tradition. In a protest read at Mother Buehrens’s ordination service, these members argued that her becoming a priest “defied Scriptural admonitions and established traditions of the Church. … The Church is called to stand apart from the world as a sign of God’s kingdom, and not to be swept about by every wind of doctrine.” Although not shared by most of the people in the diocese or by any significant minority within the parish, these sentiments nonetheless were communicated throughout 1985. Issues of the parish newsletter, Fig Leaves, for that year show that the rector, Father Roper, provided comprehensive and careful communication as he kept the parish abreast of the Celebrating 60 Years
involved process that would culminate in the Buehrens ordination. While seeking to serve parishioners on all sides of the debate, the rector was clear about his own beliefs. As he writes in Fig Leaves for November 6, 1985: “I am convinced that Christianity does not permit an exclusively male ministry in any order. Neither previous custom in our own denomination, the restriction applied by other branches of the Church, nor the reticence and/or inability of those other branches to adjust their practice should stand in the way of the Episcopal Church correcting previous error in this matter. The ordination of women is not to my mind a venture in faith on the part of Episcopalians, it is the correcting of a major mistake that has existed for centuries.” He quotes Saint Paul in support, and then closes with these words: “Christ is equal in all, and all are equal in Christ, and I cannot exclude holy orders from the impact of that teaching. Nor is ordaining women something the Episcopal Church is doing in order to get into step with the women’s movement of our day; it is something the Episcopal Church is doing to get into step with the Gospel.” Father Roper expressed the sentiments of a significant majority of Transfiguration members. Gwen L. Buehrens was ordained to the priesthood at the Church of the Transfiguration on November 30, 1985. By all accounts, it was a marvelous, moving service. While protest was lodged against the ordination, it was received within the context of the service. The media event hoped for by several news organizations never materialized. The spirit of a parish alive to change and challenge, and open to the unique gifts of women as priests, was felt by many in attendance. Mother Buehrens put it best herself, in her report to the annual meeting for 1986: “I wish to thank the vestry and the parish for its wholehearted support of my application to the priesthood. After a somewhat stressful period in early autumn as the process fell into place, I appeared before first the Commission on Ministry and then the Standing Committee of the diocese. My application was approved on October 17. … Both Bishop Patterson and Father Roper provided strong, effective leadership during this time of transition in our changing diocese. … Thank you, also, to all those who participated in my ordination to the priesthood on November 30, the Feast of Saint Andrew. What a glorious celebration!” The success of the parish in navigating this course of ordination was evident in the relative ease and even eagerness with which women were accepted as priests in our parish. In fact, Barbara Kelton’s ordination in 1987 evoked few protests or sighs of displeasure. Once again, Transfiguration had led the Church into new ways of worshipping as a community and relating to the world around it.
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
1990s • A GROWING PEOPLE OF GOD “The mission of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration is to seek and to serve Christ in all persons. By our Anglican heritage and our community life, we strive to present Jesus Christ as Savior through worship, education, evangelism, pastoral care, and outreach. The mission of each member is to support this parish with time, talent, and money and be: • faithful in worship, • dedicated to the study of scripture and to a life of prayer, • open to the power of the Holy Spirit, and • active in spreading Christ’s love and reconciliation.” [Adopted by unanimous vestry resolution, January 18, 1993] The love so integral to the founding and maturation of Transfiguration, as expressed in this statement of mission, would be severely tried and tested in the decade ahead. The parish continued to grow, continued to expand its offerings of worship and lay activity, and continued to acknowledge the areas in which it fell short of Christ’s expectations for his people. Controversies that roiled the waters of General Convention and the larger Church were felt in Dallas and in the Fig. Increasing numbers of Christians, both Episcopalian and non-Episcopalian, joined the parish, and ministries expanded to meet their needs. Finally, the physical space that had served the parish for generations was recognized as inadequate to the growing membership, and new buildings were planned, completed, dedicated, and immediately put to use. In 1991, the bishop of the Diocese of Dallas called on all parishes to engage in a study of an issue that was causing uncertainty and discord at the local and national levels: human sexuality. Allyn Patrick, senior warden of the vestry in 1991, wrote in his report to the parish’s annual meeting: “We began the year studying a very sensitive topic: the role of human sexuality and how sexual orientation might affect the life and service of the Church. This study evoked passionate opinions on both sides of the issue and resulted in acrimonious debate among our parishioners, the effects of which are still being felt. As a matter of conscience, some of our parishioners have reduced or withheld their stewardship contribution, an act aimed at the leadership of our church but, in fact, one that will impact all of us as we look to Transfiguration to fulfill our spiritual needs.” Our parish was not alone in wrestling with this complex issue. In the summer of that year, General Convention had “affirmed that the teaching of the Church is that physical sexual expression is appropriate only within the lifelong, monogamous relationship of marriage Celebrating 60 Years
as defined in The Book of Common Prayer. The resolution upholds the sanctity of marriage while also acknowledging the gap between the Church’s teaching and the experience of some of its members and the inability of leaders to reach a definitive conclusion.” Once again, national debates were being reflected within the walls of local parishes. Matters came to a head at the election for the vestry and delegates/alternates to convention in October 1991. With three times the normal attendance (over 400 parishioners), an attempt to alter the spirit of Transfiguration by refusing to deal with the challenges of contemporary society was resoundingly defeated. Through the usual voting process, the parish chose lay leaders who reflected the desire of the majority in the parish to seek to understand the difficult matters involved; to accept that unanimity of opinion was unlikely; and to move forward in faith and fellowship, trusting in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In the history of the Church of the Transfiguration, this was the most severe test yet of its mission to love all of God’s people and to express that love in a manner imitative of Jesus Christ. The situation was exacerbated by other national and international events, in particular the first Gulf War. The Episcopal Church, USA did not support Operation Desert Storm. This response was not met with favor by some people in the local diocese and parish. Echoing Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning, Father Roper wrote in his annual report: “No, we cannot pray for God’s help in the destruction of Iraq. But we can pray for peace. Indeed, we must pray for that as Christians.” Not for the last time would Transfiguration be in accord with the sentiments of many Episcopalians nationwide yet suffer for its stance closer to home. Transfiguration continued to differ with many of its fellow diocesan parishes throughout the decade. This adherence to its own spirit of love did not slow its growth. Ministries old and new flourished as they adapted to new parishioners. As early as 1990, the rector noted that the membership rolls of the parish were not composed of “traditional” families: “Over one-third of our total membership falls into the singleadult/ head-of-household category. To put it bluntly, over one-third of our membership is ineligible to attend a function which assumes the traditional family structure as a basis for accepting the invitation.” It isn’t belonging to a certain type of family unit that makes a Christian acceptable to the Church: “It is baptism which makes each of us a member of the family of God, the Church. Transfiguration is not a collection of families but one family of God, of which all sorts and conditions of men, women, and children may be members” [Fig Leaves, November 21, 1990]. And those who came participated – almost 45 percent of confirmed members of Transfiguration attended church regularly, far above the national average of 25 percent.
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
The next few years saw the establishment of Neighborhood Fig Groups, reorganization of the Women of the Church to better serve the growing number of women of all ages and circumstances within the parish, and the creation of an AIDS Support Group. A Parish Nursing Program, the first in the diocese, appeared mid-decade. The Fine Arts Guild resurrected itself as the Fig Theatre Company in 1999, establishing another outlet for the creative talents of parishioners and attracting new members to the parish. Saint Monica’s Guild expanded its offerings as more families (of all descriptions) and children joined the parish. A new Contemplative Prayer group; a re-energized Episcopal Men’s Fellowship; new ministries to older members, members who were divorced, and members who found it difficult to attend church and receive the Eucharist regularly – these are a few of the many examples of the burgeoning activity and energy found within the parish. Opportunities for reaching out to people outside the parish increased at a similar rate. The Crossroads Project paired Transfiguration with the Christian Chapel CME Church in an attempt to reduce the racial and economic barriers that so often separate Christians. The parish, both as an institution and as represented by parishioners, took on a larger role supporting the Austin Street Centre. Spearheaded by the Episcopal Men’s Fellowship, Transfiguration began helping build homes with Habitat for Humanity in Dallas. In conjunction with the Thanksgiving Interfaith Alliance churches, the parish took the lead in building an entire house, a project near and dear to Father Roper’s heart. While controversy might sometimes swirl around the institutional Church, the people of Transfiguration continued their ministry of love in accord with their own spirit and that of those who had preceded them. A growing parish needs room to flourish. Space concerns had dogged the Fig ever since it built the A-frame building on the south side of Spring Valley Road and immediately began planning for expansion. A similar dilemma arose in the 1990s. The Parish Day School and the parish itself were prospering, but they operated in cramped quarters. Limited physical space limited what both institutions could do. Mindful of the pains associated with the building of the Big Church, leaders both lay and clerical were cautious in planning. But plan they did, for the need was great. The situation was eased somewhat by what Allyn Patrick describes in the 1991 annual meeting report: “1991 … saw the retirement in April of the church mortgage, giving us some needed flexibility in our budget. A building feasibility committee and a building design committee were formed to coordinate with The Parish Day School plans to develop portions of the campus to accommodate growing parish and school needs.” The Parish Day School experienced record enrollments throughout the first years of the decade. In 1994, the school added a gymnasium with classroom space, naming it in honor of Headmistress Gloria Snyder. The year 1994 also inaugurated the “Fulfill the Vision” campaign to create much-needed space for the daily activities and Sunday worship of the parish. With an annual budget Celebrating 60 Years
in seven figures, the time had come to add to the original church structure to allow the growing numbers of members and guests to better experience the spirit of the place. Plans called for complementing the space already present and enhancing its liturgical function and impact. New space was envisioned to house ever-growing ministries and programs. Although we were a corporate parish in size, our hope was to keep the spirit of a smaller parish by easing crowding and inconvenience. Lay leaders took charge of architectural planning, fund-raising, and implementing alterations to the original blueprints. Ground was broken in 1996, with an expected completion date the following year. Although conceived as a whole, the project was made up of various parts. A bell tower, not in the original plans, was funded by a cellular phone company; The bells were a gift by the Ayres family. A new tradition was established that a bride and groom process outside to ring the bells following their wedding ceremony. A columbarium became a key part of a courtyard garden. The master plan envisioned a double-winged addition at first, but budgetary constraints led to a scaling back of the original plan. Having paid off one mortgage a few years earlier, parish leadership, both lay and clergy, were reluctant to assume too large a debt. Within the final structure, three areas were delineated. The Gathering Space was to be just that – a space in which the parish could meet before and after services, out of the elements, and without having to trek down the hill. A key ingredient of the space, however, made it more than a social area. The inclusion of a labyrinth was a vital part of the plan. Its significance is noted in the parish pamphlet from 1997 describing the art within Transfiguration: “Begin your journey of faith through the medium of liturgical art in the Gathering Space outside the nave of the church. Notice the design worked in the terrazzo floor. It is a reproduction of a labyrinth, the original of which is in the great nave of the cathedral in Chartres, France. The labyrinth is the outward and visible form for an inward and spiritual exercise which may be experienced by people of all ages… Our labyrinth provides a superb meditation aid for our people and those who come from far and wide to make this spiritual journey.” Crucial to this particular space, and to the new building in general, was this flexibility of use. Whether hosting a group from a local Methodist church that came to walk the labyrinth or as the site of an impromptu youth concert after Sunday Mass, the Gathering Space served the needs and spirit of God’s people in this place. Transfiguration lacked a central meeting space for activities other than worship. Social, educational, and youth events, on Sunday and during the rest of the week, were hampered by inadequate facilities. After services on the weekends, parishioners scattered all over the campus or simply left church without having had the opportunity to greet each other.
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
Community growth required room for physical growth. To quote from the “Fulfill the Vision” campaign pamphlet: “The Great Hall provides a flexible area designed to meet the changing needs of our parish. Most Sundays, it will be used as four rooms dedicated to adult classes. With a single hall and three additional rooms flanking one side, the Great Hall will meet the needs of our popular Adult Education programs. With the movable walls open, the Great Hall will accommodate receptions, parish dinners, and meetings.” With many of these activities moved up to a space connected to the nave and sanctuary, youth activities finally would have dedicated areas on campus. Teenagers would no longer “feel that the youth of this church are moved around like old furniture,” in the words of a young Fig member quoted in the pamphlet. Churches are not, at heart, the buildings that house the people – but a large, well-designed space often allows a church to truly be the Church. The Child Care Center, adjacent to the Great Hall, was the final ingredient. With growing numbers of young families visiting and becoming active at Transfiguration, the nursery and preschool areas were often the first points of contact for prospective parishioners. Consolidating the care and education of the Fig’s youngest members increased and centralized the programs the parish staff were able to offer. As the “Fulfill the Vision” pamphlet reads, “All age groups will be brought under one roof, still separated by age, but now only steps away from the worship service. Concerned parents may check on their children without leaving the building.” Transfiguration had been a corporate parish for many years. It was time to upgrade the facilities on campus to reflect this reality. The spirit of the place would continue to operate, less hampered by inadequate room to create and move. On time and not too far over budget, the dedication of the Parish Center and consecration of the Church occurred on February 8, 1997. With the Right Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas, on hand, Transfiguration was transformed into a place beautifully equipped “to seek and serve Christ in all persons.” Father Roper wrote about the significance in the March 1997 Fig Leaves: “[W]e have been granted a wonderful opportunity in these new buildings to bring many to Christ. Our new buildings are welcoming structures which lead people from the secular to the sacred in a quite marvelous way. If the old Transfiguration was a touch forbidding, the new Transfiguration is all warmth and welcome, holiness and mystery. What a setting for bringing souls to Christ!” The renovation was effective in many ways, especially in that it created a sense of wholeness. Worshippers coming to the church who had never known it before the additions could not tell what was new and what was old – so longtime parishioners eagerly shared what the community had done and still wanted to do. Celebrating 60 Years
The decade ended with a variety of challenges facing Transfiguration. The mortgage on the new building proved to be a more significant drag on the parish’s finances than expected. Staff hirings were put on hold, and steps were taken to reduce the burden. These ranged from special stewardship requests to the establishment of Saint Martha’s Guild and Bake Table, one of the more delicious ways for parishioners to decrease the debt while increasing their waistlines. New liturgical opportunities were offered (including 1998’s Kirking of the Tartan, a first for the diocese). Clergy came and went, but no change was as momentous as Father Roper’s announcement that he was leaving Transfiguration. An entire generation of Fig folk had grown up with Father Roper as rector; for some, the idea of a Church of the Transfiguration without him was hard to imagine. The parish said farewell to their beloved leader in February 1999, and as the new millennium approached, Transfiguration was marked by uncertainty about its future. Certainly the parish would survive this transition, as it had survived previous times of change and tumult. Committed lay leadership, a rich and varied worship tradition, and the spirit of Christian love permeating the parish guaranteed its survival. But what the parish would look like as it entered the 21st century, and who would appear as its spiritual leader, remained open questions.
2000s • BACK TO THE FUTURE Calling a new rector for the first time in 25 years provided our parish with a chance to take stock of what it had been and what it hoped to be. With almost 2,000 communicants in good standing, annually more than 35,000 attendees at weekend worship, and an Altar Guild that prepared the church for almost 400 services annually, Transfiguration had become a large community. New leadership required an evaluation of how the parish saw itself and what it hoped for in a new rector. With the inspired leadership of the vestry, parish profile committee, and rector search committee, the parish chose a new leader who turned out to be not so new. The parish called the Rev. J.D. Godwin to become its third rector. Since Father Godwin had been on staff since 1982, he was not an unknown quantity. When his acceptance of the call to become rector was announced to the parish, the response was overwhelmingly positive. The parish concurred with the vestry that the priest best suited to lead Transfiguration was a priest already doing so. Father Godwin was installed as rector on October 6, 2000, in a marvelous ceremony marked by liturgical flourishes and Anglican pomp combined with a true sense of mission and moment. Tears of joy and love flowed at the moment Father Godwin stood in front of the parish as our rector and the parish realized that the spirit of the place was confirmed by the experience. The new rector was both a known and an unknown quantity: we had
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
come to appreciate and respect him as vicar, but what changes would occur now that he was rector? The early years of the decade were years of change. Staff additions and subtractions, both lay and clerical, resulted in a new leadership. Several longtime staff members retired after 30 or more years of service, resulting in a certain loss of institutional history. Lois Waller retired after 33 years as bookkeeper and business manager. Howard Ross retired after 39 years as organist/choirmaster. New people coming on staff re-energized and stimulated the parish. New members of the parish office helped update and modernize parish activities. An online newsletter was created, and the Transfiguration website, in existence since the late 1990s, was renovated and made more user-friendly. Increasingly, visitors told of first discovering the Fig on the Internet; lay leadership took advantage of this shift. After a yearlong search process, Joel Martinson was hired in 2005 as organist/choirmaster. The choirs, which had been leaders in the growth and expansion of the liturgies of the parish, broke new ground in tapping into the talents of musically gifted parishioners. The organization Transfigured Nights was formed to bring a fine-arts touch to Sunday Compline services. Performances by parish choirs were supplemented by concerts given by professional groups both within and outside the parish. As in earlier eras, a time of transition became a time to focus on both internal parishional development and outreach. New wine seemed to demand new wineskins, and the parish responded. During the winter holidays in 2000, the youth choir, Jubilate Deo, toured for the first time. That same year, the Senior EYC traveled to a work camp in preparation for a pilgrimage to England, which was accomplished in 2004. Adult Sunday school was reorganized, including the addition of Disciples Bible courses. In the 2001 annual report, the Gay and Lesbian Ministry group appeared with its institution of a Maundy Thursday soup supper for the parish. The next year saw the debut of a Music, Art, and Drama Camp for children and teens dreamed up and organized by laity. Transfiguration was critical to the formation of Dallas Area Interfaith, a group that took seriously the baptismal vows to work for justice and peace in human society. The Rev. Joy Daley came on staff as a deacon in 2001 and was ordained to the priesthood the following year. She led a group of parishioners on our first mission trip to Honduras in 2003. A Future Ministries Commission delivered a report that assessed the strengths and weaknesses of Transfiguration, mapped out a plan for expansion of the physical space, and targeted needed new areas of service. neXtgen was organized to serve the needs of young professionals in the parish. Christian Zen meditation appeared on the parish campus as parishioners explored varied modes of spiritual development and enrichment. Reaching out to those beyond the parish boundaries remained a priority. Transfiguration youth hosted annual Halloween dances open to all parishes in the diocese, to bring the teenagers in the diocese together. The Labyrinth Project continued to feature programs Celebrating 60 Years
aimed at all persons in the Dallas area interested in the labyrinth in the Gathering Space. Parishioners continued to support the building of houses for Habitat for Humanity. The Interfaith Environmental Alliance was formed to address ecological issues that concerned believers in many different communities. A partnership was formed with Voice of Hope to provide support and services to people living in southwest Dallas. One of Father Godwin’s first actions as rector was to establish an Outreach Fund to support these and other projects. Throughout the recession that plagued our area in these years, Transfiguration’s financial support remained notably consistent. A major component of outreach continued to be the Parish Day School. The Future Ministries Commission report outlined the ongoing importance of the school, saying that it was crucial for Transfiguration to “maintain and foster the strong connection between the school and the church” and to “recognize the significance of the church being the founding parish and the school’s role as a means of outreach and evangelism.” This took on added importance in 2002 when the Parish Day School opened a middle and upper school campus on Midway Road. Cooperation between parish and school resulted in a smooth transition from the Parish Day School, located only on the Hillcrest campus, to the Parish Episcopal School, spread across two campuses and further extending its influence throughout the Metroplex.
AND BEYOND? Transfiguration arrives at its Jubilee Year celebration secure in its identity as a place with a spirit to serve all of Christ’s people. How that service will play out, and what the local diocesan environment and the events of the past several years in the larger Church will mean for its future, remain unclear. In the rector’s report to the 2003 annual meeting, Father Godwin identified one of the keys to the current controversies: “When Jesus’s word and example of inclusion is faithfully practiced by a parish, it inevitably means that there will be wide-ranging opinions, thoughts, and responses to equally wide-ranging issues and needs.” The spirit of the Fig, historically, has been one of widening God’s mercy, recognizing that people of good faith can and may disagree about many things. What united Transfiguration in the past, and what will continue to provide a sense of community, is that we worship together. Liturgy binds us in ways that doctrine or politics cannot. We are who we are because God has made us that way. Be it cooperating on a mission trip, seeking the sense of the Church in diocesan meetings, or coming together to inaugurate a building campaign to finally fulfill the vision of the master plan from the early 1990s, the people of Transfiguration know it is a “good work that they have begun.”
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
In conclusion, the words of two of our priests, one former and one current, seem appropriate. In 2003, the Rev. Barb Sajna submitted her curacy report to the annual meeting. Mother Sajna quoted a parishioner who said, “I hope the people here at the Fig realize what a gem of a parish they have – this is what the Church should be but, sadly, so often isn’t.” Mother Sajna herself went on to say, “Whether you say Transfiguration is a gem, or that it’s alive and well, or vibrant or unique – it’s the reality of the place.” In a sermon in August 2002, Mother Daley reflected on the history of Transfiguration as related to her through written and oral accounts. She emphasized the faith it took for that handful of families to start the community that became our parish today. Her text came from Matthew 16:13-20, the Gospel account of Peter recognizing Christ’s true nature: “Peter was outspoken, and impulsive. He didn’t always do the right thing, and yet God held out the keys of the kingdom to him. This is related not to what Peter did, but to what he knew through God’s revelation. He knew Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This is where the 11 families began in 1956. They didn’t have all the answers, the numbers, or the resources they needed to be the church they were called to be. There were many obstacles in their way. But look at all that has come to be, by beginning with and keeping Christ as the foundation. The past is essential to the identity of this community. There should be pride in the fact that limitation and difficulty have never been reasons to quit, settle down, or rest. … Let us remember who we are, but always be open to who we are called to become. Amen.” As Transfiguration enters its next 50 years, may we face the trials and challenges with such a faith as Peter’s, firm in our belief that the spirit of this place is, indeed, the spirit of God. - Written by Mike Dodge, 2006
Celebrating 60 Years
THE NEXT DECADE: 2006 TO 2016 Reverent, holy, inspirational, and beautiful worship is the cornerstone of parish life. This has been a constant in our life together as a parish family. In addition to our priests and deacon, the lay volunteer ministers—acolytes, the altar guild, Eucharistic Visitors, lectors, ministers of ceremony, sound technicians, and ushers—all work conscientiously and devotedly to ensure a meaningful worship experience, while Eucharistic Visitors carry communion to the homebound and ill to keep them connected to the worship and the parish. Our worship strengthens us for our service in and to the world.
“Eternal God…Send us now into the world in peace, And grant us strength and courage To love and serve you With gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”—The Book of Common Prayer
2006-2012: THE THIRD RECTOR During 2006, the parish celebrated its 50th Year Jubilee Anniversary. The Rev. J.D. Godwin, our rector since 2000, and the vestry and lay committees organized multiple events to honor this time in the church’s history. Parishioners joined together to build a Habitat for Humanity house, the 1980s Fig softball teams (once a popular athletic and evangelism group) celebrated with a reunion game at the Parish Episcopal School Midway campus field and a potluck supper in Roper Hall, talented parishioners displayed their creations at an art exhibition, St. Hilda’s Guild donated four Gospel illuminations, a Jubilee cookbook was compiled, parishioner Mike Dodge wrote a 50-year history, and the parish had its first Christmas ornament to sell, inspired by the triptych. The rector and vestry presented an ambitious capital campaign to fulfill the 1994 dreams of expansion: to build the South Building with classrooms for adult and children’s education, clergy and staff offices, a second reception/parlor room, and choir rehearsal space and performance hall – most importantly, all connected to the church. The campaign included building a new organ to replace what had been intended as a temporary organ and establishing an Outreach Endowment Fund.
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
On September 13, an exceptional and historic moment in the life of the parish occurred. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa spoke to a standing-room-only congregation with overflow seating available in Roper Hall with a video connection. His words resonated with the audience: “None of us comes fully formed into the world. I need you so I can be me—we were made for togetherness. God says, ‘That is I why I made you different.’ A solitary human is a contradiction in terms. You can’t be fully human all on your lonesome. We are each God’s gift to one another. There is no way we can repudiate one another. All belong in this family. There is no outsider.” On Sunday, September 16, after an early-morning thunderstorm with scattered power outages, 1,000 parishioners and parish friends gathered for Choral Eucharist at the Eisemann Center in Richardson, with ten clergy and former clergy participating in “One Great Festival of Faith.” “Each step throughout these 50 years was marked with hope and rededication to mission and ministry. The steps before us today are exciting and energizing as we seek to serve Christ in all persons, to be one family…the holy people of God who exclude no one, where everyone has a place at the table, everyone is welcome.”—Father J.D. Godwin at the 50th Anniversary Eucharist Planning for and constructing the South Building continued for several years. On the Feast of Pentecost in 2007, the groundbreaking ceremony was celebrated. The next year, the choir gallery was closed for significant remodeling to support the weight of the new organ. Responding to an acoustician’s report, the church sanctuary also had changes to allow for better sound. On January 18, 2009, the South Building was dedicated, and clergy, staff, Sunday school classes, and the choir immediately moved in. Like the 1996 Roper Hall, parlor, nursery, and gathering-space addition, the new building changed the parish. The South Building provides more flexibility for ministries and events and connects more spaces and people to the church itself, keeping more of us—including visitors—together on top of the hill. Yet with all these benefits, there was a $2.5 million debt. In July 2009, a large semitrailer arrived, and more than 150 volunteers helped unload the organ sections, wearing ODD (Organ Delivery Day) T-shirts. For the next few months, assembly and voicing of the organ continued. On April 18, 2010, the Opus 17 organ from Richards, Fowkes & Co. was dedicated with a day of music. Internationally acclaimed organist James David Christie performed at both an afternoon and an evening concert including works for the organ by Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Böhm, Charles Tournemire, and our own Joel Martinson, director of music and organist. The congregation joined in jubilantly singing “O Praise Ye the Lord,” and in Transfiguration tradition, a grand reception was held after the evening performance. In May, a symposium titled “How Hymnody Shapes People of Faith, Conscience, and Action” Celebrating 60 Years
featured three nationally known hymn poets who had been commissioned by the parish or by parishioners. Carl P. Daw Jr., Dolores Dufner, and John Thorburg led a Saturday seminar, and on Sunday afternoon, as part of Transfigured Nights, a Festival of Song with the choir, the Imperial Brass, and our new organ performed these writers’ hymns. In 2008, Building B was renamed the Niles Building in honor of the parish’s first rector, the Rev. James Niles, with its spaces repurposed for storage, Boy Scouts, and other meetings such as AA. The financial downturn in 2008 had an impact on giving, yet the parish, inspired by the Rev. Joy Daley’s sermon in 2010, supported the campaign “Say Yes” to pay down the debt on the new building. This campaign raised an impressive $1.6 million. In 2012, one of Father Godwin’s dreams for the parish was realized. At the entrance to the nave, the wood-paneled walls were removed, and 12 Apostles Windows were commissioned to open up the entrance and emphasize that we are entering a sacred space. Each saint holds something or someone significant to Transfiguration. For example, St. Thomas holds a model of the Happy Homes School in South Africa, which the parish has generously supported for many years.
Music “Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; Serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song.”—Psalm 100:1 The beauty of our music, both instrumental and vocal, has always been considered a primary component of our worship. The congregation enjoys singing from The Hymnal 1982 (Father Godwin served on the commission that created it) and Wonder, Love and Praise. There are several choirs: the adult Transfiguration choir, the Canticle and Holy Family choirs for younger children, the Youth Choir, the Men’s Schola Cantorum that sings for special services such as Tenebrae during Holy Week, and the Bella Musica handbell choir. As the vocal choir grew, additional staffing was needed. In 2011, Glenn Stroh became the first assistant organist. Transfigured Nights and Art Music Mondays offer varied programs of music by local and national professionals, and these events are also opportunities to reach out to the larger community. The choir produced its first CD, Tune Me O Lord, in 2009. In 2012, the choir began to plan for its first tour, to England, the following year. To reduce each choir member’s costs for the trip, a Gala Concert and Auction was held, and the choir recorded a second CD, Love Came Down at Christmas. On this inaugural trip in July 2013, the group sang at
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
Canterbury Cathedral, Bristol Cathedral, St. Mary Redcliffe (Bristol), Wells Cathedral, and St. George’s Hanover Square in London—home of the Richards, Fowkes & Co. organ Opus 18, the next organ they built after ours. Also in 2013, because of the generosity of individual parishioners and the Endowment Fund, Joel Martinson, our director of music, directed the commission from an English foundry of six new bells for the bell tower to complement the nine original ones. The bells can now play ten times the number of hymns as before.
Children’s Ministries Gaye Lynn Huddleston served as director of children’s ministries for nine and a half years, retiring in 2014 to move to Kansas, where her husband, the Rev. Kevin Huddleston, had been called as rector. Gaye Lynn continued long-standing programs, such as the annual Gift of Bibles for Third Graders established in 1992 and Vacation Bible School, and began new programs—Godly Play as a choice for Sunday School; First Informed Communion; Breakfast Club; Advent Festival; the iParent class for parents of younger children; and use of the meeting space in the South Building as a gathering area for all the younger students to sing, learn more about their faith together, and build community.
Youth Ministries Stephen Kidd was a dynamic youth leader from 2002 to 2007 who introduced Journey to Adulthood and Rite 13. He left Transfiguration to attend Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, was ordained a deacon, and then was ordained a priest in Little Rock, Arkansas, with many church friends attending. One of his successors was Jeb Honeyman, who added a program specifically for juniors and seniors. Jeb realized that Building C—now the Youth Center—needed to be remodeled and modernized to be a much more suitable home for our teenagers. Jeb and the youth convinced the Endowment Fund and individual parishioners of the great need, and they stepped forward to pay for these major changes. Service projects (with local agencies and to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and to Appalachia), the garage sale/rummage sale, and Pilgrimages to England and Scotland became part of the youth experience.
Formation Education for adults includes clergy and laity as teachers, and there are a variety of times for classes—Sunday morning classes and weekday days and evenings. The Rev. Virginia Holleman directed Christian education programs until her retirement in 2011, and the parish then welcomed the Rev. Amy Heller to this position. Mother Amy had served at Celebrating 60 Years
Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church and then at Parish Episcopal School. Her husband, Dr. Roy Heller, SMU Perkins School of Theology professor of the Old Testament, began to teach adult classes as a volunteer.
Outreach In the fall of 2009, actor Louis Gossett Jr. entertained and inspired at the inaugural Vision Forum program, “Eradicating Racism.” Ten ministries that the parish supports, such as St. Philip’s School and Community Center in South Dallas, were recognized at the event. The Vision Forum’s mission was to bring noted speakers to the church and the broader community to talk about important social issues. Over the next few years, the Vision Forum presented a panel discussion after the Fig Theatre production of Doubt; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham on the history of religion in America; and the Rev. Dorothy Budd and daughter Peyton Budd on their book Tested, about wrongly accused and sentenced men. Several of the vindicated men accompanied the Budds and told their stories. (Deacon Dorothy was at Transfiguration in 2002 for her diocesan discernment process.) In October 2011, the church hosted a NOH8 event where 840 people, including Transfiguration members, were photographed for the organization’s website. NOH8, a national nonprofit, raises money for marriage equality awareness, and its name comes from Proposition 8 in California that banned same-sex marriage. The group literally put a face on those affected by discrimination. (Two more NOH8 events were held at the church, in 2014 and 2015.) The weekend event was part of the Vision Forum that presented former Massachusetts Chief Justice Margaret Marshall—sister of parishioner Bridget de Bruyn, who was the first woman senior warden at Transfiguration (1989) and the inspiration for our support of the Happy Homes School in South Africa. Judge Marshall, like her sister a “cradle Anglican/Episcopalian” and born in South Africa, wrote the landmark judicial decision that the Massachusetts Constitution cannot deny citizens the right to same-sex marriage. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. Mission trips to Holy Trinity Church in La Ceiba, Honduras, occurred for several years, with the church outreach budget helping with some expenses but with individual missionaries contributing most of the cost. Projects included general healthcare and eye care and building classrooms for the school. Daily Morning Prayer and Compline were part of each day’s activities. In 2008, the Outreach Committee supported 15 agencies. A more effective way to distribute money was developed, through a Grant Request process. The committee spent time in a discernment process, reading and discussing how to be more effective. In 2011, eight agencies were awarded larger grants. The church began a partnership with a neighborhood school, Spring Valley Elementary, with school-supply
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
ingatherings and support for teachers and reading programs.
In 2012, the parish joined with families at Parish Episcopal School to build another Habitat for Humanity house in honor of Father Godwin’s 40 years as a priest. The agencies we support or have supported in these ten years, with money and volunteers, include Austin Street Center, CASA, Cathedral Gardens, Genesis Women’s Shelter, Happy Homes in South Africa, the Honduras Mission Trip, North Dallas Shared Ministries, Our Friends Place, St. Philip’s School and Community Center, St. Simon’s After School Care, The Gathering, and Voice of Hope. During Advent, buying family gifts for the Salvation Army Angel Tree has become a parish tradition. The parish also supports Episcopal Relief and Development.
Pastoral Care In 2009, the Rev. Liz O’Donnell, a retired deacon from Maine, was welcomed to the clergy staff, with pastoral care as her special area plus the recruitment and training of Eucharistic Visitors and Stephen Ministers. Pastoral care is about listening, showing compassion, giving comfort, and assuring those cared for of God’s love and grace. Deacon Liz said, “Many times, I am ministered to by these loving and faithful Christians who have much to teach us from their vast storehouse of life experience.” Eucharistic Visitors carry the sacraments from the Sunday service to those unable to attend because of illness and health concerns. Stephen Ministers offer compassionate, individual care to parishioners through the “sacred art of listening.” Stephen Ministers complete 50 hours of training to cultivate their listening skills and nurture their empathy so they can be sources of comfort for those experiencing grief, struggles, stress, and illness. More than 12,000 Christian congregations benefit from this nondenominational ministry. Transfiguration has 11 Stephen Ministers.
The Parish Episcopal School In May 2007, Parish Episcopal School celebrated its first graduating class with a ceremony in the school’s Midway campus gymnasium. Two years later, Transfiguration parishioner Gloria Hoffman Snyder retired after serving as head of Parish Day School and then Parish Episcopal School for 29 years. With her inspiring leadership, the school grew from a preschool-and-early-elementary school to a preschool-through-12th-grade school on two campuses. Multiple events were held to honor her transforming leadership of the school: The school’s football stadium was renamed the Gloria H. Snyder Stadium, the board of trustees hosted an elegant reception in her honor, and the church honored her ministry with a reception in Roper Hall. After a national search, Dave Monaco became the third Celebrating 60 Years
head of the school. He had been a teacher and administrator at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, North Carolina, for 16 years. He describes the school as a “joyful and inclusive place where students are happy and engaged in learning, leading, and serving.” Parish Episcopal School provides an educational environment that is learner-centered; values-rich; proudly steeped in our Episcopal identity; service-oriented; and bold and fearless when considering new possibilities.
CHANGE: THE THIRD RECTOR RETIRES In December 2012, the parish honored Father Godwin with a festive celebration in honor of his 40 years as a priest and his 30 years at Transfiguration. The choir sang madrigals; then his former senior wardens, the church’s clergy and staff, Parish Episcopal School representatives, and the children came forward to present symbols and gifts in thanksgiving for his ministry. One of the many joyful moments at the reception was everyone singing one of his favorite hymns, “We the Lord’s People.” With affection and humor, the congregation shared our appreciation of the rector’s ministry. Known as an expert in the liturgy, Father Godwin helped the Altar Guild understand why their actions mattered as they prepared for services. An anecdote told at the celebration was that he was known as “Father Meticulous” in recognition of his love of the beauty of our worship. Another significant anniversary was celebrated: Parish Episcopal School celebrated its 40th anniversary with a series of events, including a reception to announce the naming of the chapel at the Midway campus the Godwin Chapel in honor of the rector. In March 2013, Father Godwin announced his resignation as rector and his decision to move to Seattle, Washington. The vestry honored Father Godwin by naming the new organ the Jerry D. Godwin Organ. The vestry called an interim rector, the Rev. Fred Barber, from the Diocese of Fort Worth. Father Fred praised the “courage and positive spirit of the congregation as it faced the future with confidence and trust.” The vestry initiated another effort to clear the debt from the 2006 campaign as a “welcome to the future rector.” The vestry commissioned the search committee, chaired by Robin Caldwell, which took its responsibilities thoughtfully and prayerfully. The process was 18 months of dedicated and professional work. Consultant Lynn Schmissrauter came to Dallas several times and offered advice and guidance via conference calls. What Father Fred had noticed was true was confirmed in the Search process: The parish was strong and looked forward to new opportunities—we were not afraid of the future. December 6-8, 2013: A mammoth ice and snow storm closed parts of the city. The parking lot of the church was covered with ice, and there was no power. For the first time since our
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
move to the top of the hill, Sunday services were canceled and our church was dark.
Father Merriman In 2013, the Rev. Michael Merriman, who had begun his career in youth ministry, became the interim youth minister. Father Merriman, although retired, had joined the staff on a part-time basis in 2004. Youth and teaching are two of his favorite areas of ministry. In 2009, he and wife Cherrie helped lead the first Youth Pilgrimage, which followed the history of the Episcopal Church in the United States. This included visits to Jamestown, Williamsburg, Washington DC, New York, and Boston, with a silent retreat at the monastery of St. John the Evangelist. Two more Pilgrimages followed in 2011 and 2013, both to Scotland to trace the roots of the Episcopal Church. Both concluded with a deeply moving time and silent retreat on the island of Iona, where Christians have prayed since the sixth century. “The experience of sharing in these Pilgrimages, of joining with our youth in travel, reflection, and praying in places hallowed by centuries of Christian pilgrimage, is counted by Cherrie and me as among the highlights of our years serving the church,” said Father Merriman. He is the author of The Rite Light: Reflections on the Sunday Readings and Seasons of the Church Year and The People’s Work. He is a recognized scholar, and passages from his work are in each Sunday bulletin, providing context for the scripture readings. He also leads The Way formation classes for adults who are new to the Episcopal Church. During the summer, Michael and Cherrie often host Friday-night movie nights. Excellent movies are shown in the Youth Center, with parishioners bringing their own food and beverages and with discussion after the screenings. The Merrimans share their love of great films, and a new circle of friendship is created.
The Role of the Laity “When I came to Transfiguration to be your rector in 1976, the parish had sunk into serious financial straits, and all resources had to be focused on the all-consuming burden of debt that shrouded the parish. There were no funds for anything except debts, and the parish suffered accordingly. Without money, there can be no programs, and without programs, there will be no growth. The equation is distressingly simple. Just holding it all together was difficult. Two organizations carried us through. The Women of the Church kept us on the mark with regard to our mission and ministries appropriate to a parish of this size, and the Music Department under Howard Ross kept the worship of Almighty God alive and vital during those very difficult times. I credit both organizations with the Celebrating 60 Years
survival of Transfiguration in 1976 and the remaining years of that decade.”—From the Holy Cross Day Evensong sermon, September 15, 2013, given by the retired second rector, the Rev. Terence C. Roper, on the dedication of the parish’s original pipe organ in memory of Howard E. Ross, first director of music
The parish has a long history of active lay organizations—the choir, St. Hilda’s Guild with the Clothes Horse and the Kay Andrews Bookstore, the Episcopal Men’s Fellowship, and many, many others—that are significant in the life of the church. Some ministries have flourished, some have evolved, some have completed their ministry—but each has provided opportunities for good works, fellowship, and spiritual growth. Worship and action are key to a fuller Christian life. The following are just a few examples of lay ministry: The Endowment Fund, which has three components—the Main Fund, the Outreach Fund, and the Joanna Elizabeth Pierce and Justin Ford Pierce Fund for Youth Ministries—has grown significantly over the years to more than $1.3 million in 2016. The Outreach Fund was established during the 2006 Capital Campaign, and the Youth Fund was created as a bequest from the estate of Jeff Pierce. The Endowment Fund, with a board of seven trustees who are parishioners, has helped with the renovation of the Youth Center, provided scholarships for summer youth trips, bought one of the six new bells for the bell tower, provided funds for the Happy Homes project in South Africa, and agreed to match vestry contributions to eliminate the remaining debt on the South Building. The fund also published “Decisions: Not Just Between God and Me: A Life Planning Aid for Christians and Their Families.” The Legacy Society recognizes and honors parishioners and friends of the church who have named the church as a beneficiary in their wills and estate plans. The Flower Guild, founded in 2010, is an excellent example and model of laity in action. The founders knew there were “willing hands who could come together to create from their hearts to show their love for this church and for God.” When the church’s official florist repurposed his business to no longer design for churches on a weekly basis, and after trial designs with other commercial florists did not meet the parish’s expectations, David Diggs and Carolyn Lewis stepped forward and became the creative minds behind this ministry. They agree that it is the team that makes it work—new ideas and new volunteers are welcomed. Arrangements are always different; that freshness keeps everyone engaged and appreciative. The group creates the arrangements and cleans up the previous week’s flowers every week for the services and also creates for special events and receptions. Small arrangements are made and delivered by Eucharistic Visitors to parishioners who are sick or unable to attend church services. Flower-arranging classes are offered twice a year, for the joy of designing and sharing fellowship, and this becomes a source of new members for the guild.
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
“This is the Lord’s house, home of all his people, school for the faithful, refuge for the sinner, rest for the pilgrim, haven for the weary; all find a welcome.”—Hymn 51 The church is intentional in its being friendly, inclusive, and welcoming to visitors and new members, and Ellen Dingwall has served since 2001 as the full-time evangelism staff person (beginning in 1996 as part-time). Ellen remembers walking through the doors of Transfiguration on a cold January morning in 1990 when the church stood isolated atop the hill with only the tiny narthex separating the nave from the frigid outdoors. At the end of the service, people were encouraged to walk down the hill for coffee and an adult class, but few seemed eager to make that effort. She also remembers not meeting many people and talking with Father Godwin about how to solve that problem: He gave her the opportunity to help find the solution. Ellen said, “I am still passionate about offering a radical welcome to the strangers among us—because at some point, each of us has been that stranger.” Ellen, with her new title of Minister of Congregational Life and Outreach, and her team of 60 volunteers welcome people on Sunday mornings, host newcomer brunches, contact new people, and encourage greater involvement by parishioners in the life of the church by connecting people to their passions: outreach, liturgy, education, fellowship, music. At a visitors’ welcoming desk placed at the front entrance to the church and Roper Hall, these volunteers and Ellen greet people and offer information. There are numerous and varied opportunities for people to be involved in the life of the parish and in their own quests for a greater understanding of God’s grace and presence in our lives.
The Lay Staff As the church has grown, some staff positions have changed. Specific skills are needed in our computer-and-data-driven environment. Kirby Purjet, the business administrator, moved to Tennessee, and Bill Grona, a longtime parishioner and the part-time facilities manager since 2011, retired. In 2014, key additions to the church staff were made. With 20 years of experience as a church business administrator, Chris Thomas became chief administrative officer; he was recently admitted to Postulancy for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Fort Worth. Bracken Reece became Director of Facilities, responsible for the maintenance and care of the entire church and school complex. Seven major buildings range in age from the 1960s to 2008, and the total size is a remarkable 113,000 square feet. Bracken and three sextons work together to keep up with the daily duties that are required, and there is “always something happening that needs Facility support,” whether it is setting up tables and chairs, redoing a storage space for the Flower Guild, painting rooms, or supervising the helicopter delivery of an air conditioning unit. The lease agreement between the church and the school creates a unique situation for maintenance and budgeting, yet the two entities work well together. Celebrating 60 Years
THE SEARCH FOR THE FOURTH RECTOR The search process was well-planned, and to be effective, it took time to accomplish its goal: selecting the right rector. For the first step, in fall 2013, the search committee created a parish-wide online survey that was sent to every member. The committee hosted a series of Holy Conversations at various times to get more input on what the parish wanted in its next rector. After studying these results, the parish profile committee wrote an online document sent to all prospective candidates. The profile encompassed our history, our programs, our challenges, our dreams for the future, and the qualities we wanted in our next rector. In the months before Easter 2014, rector candidates received the profile and returned applications; the search committee began its discernment process with video conferencecall interviews. In early summer, final candidates and their spouses came to Dallas to see the church and its large campus and to experience the city. Search committee members also visited each final candidateâ€™s home parish. In August 2014, the search committee and the vestry made a unanimous decision to call the Rev. Casey Shobe to be the fourth rector of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration. Father Casey grew up in Temple, Texas, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, and after one year at the University of Texas School of Law, he chose to attend Virginia Theological Seminary and become an Episcopal priest. After serving for two years at Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, where he directed young adult ministry and communications, in 2008 he was called to be the rector of St. Peterâ€™s By-the-Sea in Narragansett, Rhode Island, where he served for six years. In October, the parish joyfully welcomed Father Casey, wife Melody (also an Episcopal priest from Virginia Theological Seminary), and their two young daughters, Isabel and Adelaide, to their new parish. The Celebration of New Ministry had glorious worship and music, followed with a grand party and reception in Roper Hall. This was also a time of leaving: the Rev. Amy Heller became senior chaplain at the Episcopal School of Dallas, the Rev. Joy Daley became rector of St. Thomas the Apostle (Dallas), and Gaye Lynn Huddleston moved with her family to Mission, Kansas, when her husband accepted the call to be a rector there.
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
THE NEW RECTOR ARRIVES With the arrival of Father Casey, the church’s history continues and a new chapter begins. To help with his transition, Deanie Winstel agreed to continue as executive assistant for a short time, but in February 2015, she retired after serving on the staff for 29 years. She and husband Jack had been part of the transformation of the parish—they helped salvage church items after the flood of 1964, she had served as president of the Women of the Church and on the vestry, had sung for many years in the choir, and she and Jack raised a son and two daughters who were also involved in parish life. The new executive assistant is longtime choir soprano and former French teacher and librarian Megan Mazur. Outreach opportunities have continued to grow, with careful consideration about what can be accomplished. In the Niles Building, a food distribution center was established to help local families, especially those with connections to Spring Valley Elementary School. During Vacation Bible School, the children brought specific foods each day for the North Texas Food Bank. Later in the summer, school supplies were collected for Spring Valley Elementary School. Money was donated to Gateway of Grace, which serves refugees, with parishioners stepping forward to volunteer; Easter and Christmas offerings were given to outreach agencies. Having excellent Christian Formation is a priority. As a way to introduce himself to the parish, Father Casey led a series of Sunday classes in Roper Hall to explore the lives of saints such as Bach, Frances Perkins, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Clergy and laity led classes on the Bible and book studies, on Sundays and during the week. During Lent, there was a special series on Wednesday evenings, with soup suppers provided by different parish groups before the programs. In summer 2015, the Rev. Erin Jean Warde was called to be Associate Rector for Christian Formation. Mother Erin, raised as a Southern Baptist in Alabama and told that women cannot be ordained ministers, graduated from the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin in 2012 and was a priest at St. Paul’s in Waco before coming to Transfiguration. She said, “Transfiguration is a voice of inclusion, and it has values that I hold very dear: love, justice, education, reverence, worship, playfulness, and joy.” She would like to incorporate social media and podcasting so that classes, lectures, and events can reach outside the walls of Transfiguration. An Adult Formation Committee has been formed to assist her leadership and stewardship of the many gifts for formation within the parish. St. Catherine’s Fund has been established to bring outside speakers to the church. In addition to classes taught by laity and clergy, we have had outstanding guest speakers. Dr. Gary Anderson, Professor of Catholic Theology at Notre Dame, discussed his book Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition. Dr. Lauren Winner, priest and Assistant Professor of Christian Spiritualty at Duke Divinity School, spoke about her book Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting Celebrating 60 Years
God. Becca Stephens, an Episcopal priest nationally known for her work with abused women and the founder of Thistle Farms, came for three days. An evening presentation in the church about her life story and her ministry was open to the public, followed by the sale of Thistle Farm products (sales of these products, which are made by survivors of prostitution, addiction, and trafficking, funds this ministry). An afternoon of tea and meditation practices in the Gathering Space was based on her book The Way of Tea and Justice: Rescuing the World’s Favorite Beverage From Its Violent Past. Last, there was a session in Roper Hall on the history of healing oils and how their use can be of therapeutic benefit to our bodies and our spirits. Joining the roster of excellent speakers, the Rev. Melody Shobe taught a series of classes, “To Hell and Back With the Rector’s Wife,” to explore more than Hollywood and Hallmark-card images of death and the afterlife, using scripture and other sacred writings. There have been changes. There are now five Eucharistic services offered weekly— Wednesday evening, Thursday noon, Saturday at 5:30 p.m., and Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. There is a Gospel procession to the center of the church, symbolic of taking the Word to the people. There are intentional pauses between prayers and readings of scripture to provide time for quiet reflection. During Lent, Rite I has been used. Every parish organization is asked to begin and close with prayer. At the beginning of each vestry meeting, there is prayer and Scripture study, and each vestry meeting ends with Compline. At the Feast of the Epiphany, a huge bonfire is lit on the church parking lot, with parishioners bringing fresh greenery. This Burning of the Greens symbolizes the Light who came into the world, whom the darkness of the world could not overcome. The tradition of foot-washing on Maundy Thursday has continued, but now those participating are washing each other’s feet. Lay ministry too is as important as ever. The Daughters of the King is an Episcopal order for women, founded in 1885. The Diocese of Dallas had chapters, but not Transfiguration. The mission of the order is daily prayer, service, and evangelism. In summer 2015, a new member of the parish who had been a member of the Daughters of the King in Amarillo organized a group of 30 women who went through the three-month discernment process. The Mary and Martha chapter was established, with the Rev. Erin Jean Warde as the chaplain. The now 32 members of the church’s chapter were installed at a Sunday service in September 2015, with the congregation joining in singing the order’s hymn, “Lift High the Cross.” The women have supported the Lenten soup suppers, helped organize the Christian education rooms, and prayed for those in need. “I joined the Daughters of the King to strengthen my prayer life, and the past year has brought me much more than I sought. Our chapter’s sense of community within this large parish is amazing, drawing us closer as we pray, talk, work, and learn together. When I put on my Daughters of the King cross and center myself with quiet and stillness, I draw closer to God’s love and grace.”—A parishioner
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
Colin Hills, who was the interim director, became the full-time director of youth ministries in January 2015. Colin grew up at Transfiguration, serving on the Youth Council, attending Crossover and Sunday school and going on every mission trip that he could. He went on the parish’s first Pilgrimage (2009) to New England, which was led by Jeb Honeyman and Father Merriman and which visited the monastery that has been so important to Father Casey. Colin strongly believes that the youth are more than the future of the church: “The youth are the church here and now. Youth ministry goes beyond formation. It is empowering youth to ‘pay it forward’ and bring Christ’s love into the world.” The J2A and Rite 13 programs have been retired, and a newer curriculum has been implemented for high school and middle school. Ten youth went on the July 2015 Pilgrimage to Scotland with three chaperones, including Colin and Father Casey, who had been rector for nine months. A Pilgrimage is not a vacation, and it is not an achievement: “It is a journey on which we take special care to focus inward in our hearts and outward to God,” explained Colin. On the second day on Iona, the youth were each given packets of letters that members of the vestry, clergy, and family had written—private words of faith, memories, and confidence. A significant moment for Colin: “Looking at my 500 photos of the trip, I saw a photo of two youth pilgrims. They are kneeling in prayer at the altar in the Iona Abbey, after they had read their letters. My mother commented, ‘See, they pray—even when you don’t tell them to.’ Seeing that photo gave me the evidence of the thing youth ministers live for yet may not get to see—the moment when all the pointing to Christ pays off and Jesus takes over.” Cindy Hauser was recently (August 2016) named the new director of children’s ministry. She had been a Godly Play teacher and then became the Children’s Chapel director to enhance that worship experience. After serving as interim director for four months and strongly supporting a successful Vacation Bible School, Cindy was called to the permanent position. Godly Play classes will continue, and the curriculum “Living the Good News” will be an alternative choice (a sign of the times: “Living the Good News” is available online, not as a printed document). With her dedication to children and the church, Cindy will maintain our high level of Christian Formation. Rebecca Gingles is the new Director of Communications. She graduated from SMU with a BA in Creative Writing and has a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Perkins School of Theology. In this technology-centered culture, the church must have a greater online presence. Rebecca’s responsibilities include managing the website, creating a new website, and producing the weekly email that keeps parishioners up to date on activities and services. She edits the quarterly magazine Illumine, available online and mailed to parishioners, which replaces Crossroads. She also consults with different groups, such as Stewardship, to create effective and memorable materials.
Celebrating 60 Years
Father Roper In 2011, former rector the Rev. Terence C. Roper celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood with a Sunday Eucharist and elegant reception at Transfiguration. Although living in Philadelphia, Father Roper wanted this celebration to be at his former parish where he had served for 23 years, and Roper Hall was the perfect site for this joyous celebration. In 2014, Father Roper decided to return to Dallas permanently. He has been honored as Rector Emeritus, and he often preaches, celebrates the Eucharist, and leads the children’s chapel services.
WITH OUR GREAT SPACES COME OPPORTUNITIES The MacMaster Library is named in honor of founding member of the parish and 1962 senior warden Andrew MacMaster. In the 1980s, parishioners Kay Andrews and Mary Jane Groene worked to build a strong collection of books on theology, biblical interpretation, spiritual inspiration and devotions, and Christian history, and children’s books. The books are cataloged by the Dewey decimal system, and new books are added. The catalog of books will be on the new church website. The library has had several locations. It moved from the old Building C (now the Youth Center) to Conference Room 1 in Roper Hall in 2009. In 2015, it moved into the original parlor, adjacent to the nave and gathering space, which was remodeled with new lighting and shelving. Father Casey wanted to open up Conference Room 1, and he knew the new library location with windows to the Memorial Garden would create a warm, inviting, reflective atmosphere, perfect for the library and small meetings. In March 2016, the church offered the use of the Niles Building to the members of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Faith, a small and growing congregation of Bhutanese refugees. The building is also used for the Food Distribution Center. Early in the morning on Sunday, January 17, 2016, a fire broke out in Building E, used by Parish Episcopal School. There were no injuries, but the fire-suppression sprinkler system caused great damage. There is a strong and positive relationship with Parish Episcopal School nurtured by Father Roper, Father Godwin, and now Father Casey, and the church encouraged the school to relocate from damaged lower school classrooms to church rooms including Sunday school classrooms and the Youth Center. Teachers and students had a positive transition to their temporary spaces and remained there until the end of the school year in May. In May, Parish Episcopal School celebrated a milestone in its history—its tenth high school graduation. The success of the school under the visionary leadership of Gloria Snyder and now Dave Monaco has been extraordinary. At the graduation, one of the speakers was a “lifer”—one of the 27 graduates (there were 90 graduates in all) who had been at Parish
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
Episcopal School for 12 years, beginning at the church campus for lower school and daily chapel and moving to the Midway campus. As he had done with student government speeches, Dylan Reilly (Vanderbilt 2020) rapped his message to the graduation audience at the Meyerson Symphony Center: “We’ve got actors and debaters, and musicians and ball players—we’ve got artists, we’ve got authors, scientists and global scholars—through the years, we have grown close, making of our time the most—every day we accomplished more, and learned what this class stands for: wisdom, honor, service—lead—uniting the community.” “We remember those 46 members of the pioneer class of 2007 and the all-hands-on-deck necessity and tremendous excitement for everyone because it was a first. We are a decade older, and the accomplishments have been so significant. Parish is an established leader in the independent school community, and we continue to look ahead while honoring our past.”—Gloria Snyder, Head of School 1980-2009 In September, the school held a groundbreaking ceremony at the Midway campus for the new gymnasium and arts facility, the MAC. This Multipurpose Activity Center, part of a master plan to include a Phase II Performing Arts Center, is scheduled to open in August 2017.
THE DIOCESE AND BEYOND In 2008, the Rev. Paul Lambert was elected bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Dallas; he had served at Transfiguration early in his ministry, then was the rector at St. James in Texarkana, and then canon at the cathedral. He became interim bishop when the Rt. Rev. James Stanton announced his retirement in 2014. Bishop Lambert was supportive of the parish and our search process; he met with each final candidate, and he emphasized the need to become debt-free for a new rector. In 2013, the Diocese of Dallas voted at its annual fall convention to resume paying a “worthy share in the program of the National Church.” Since 2005, only Transfiguration and a few other diocesan parishes had been paying the assessment, which we sent directly to The Episcopal Church. Parishioner, convention delegate, and parish treasurer Bob Button was key in gathering people from across to the diocese to support this change, with gradual annual increases in the giving to reach the 10 percent level as its goal. In November 2015, the Rt. Rev. George Sumner was consecrated seventh bishop of Dallas. Weeks before this celebration, he visited the church to meet with the vestry on a Saturday morning, returning to worship with us Sunday and to answer questions during the Adult Formation class time. Bishop Sumner has a Ph.D. in theology from Yale University, and his varied experiences in ministry include being a missionary in East Africa and the principal of Wycliffe College in Toronto, Canada. Celebrating 60 Years
On Saturday, May 14, 2016, Transfiguration hosted the celebration of the ministry of the Rt. Rev. Paul E. Lambert, retiring bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Dallas. Remembering his “wonderfully blessed years of ministry” here as a curate and a Fig softball player (1978-1981), he chose this parish to host his final service and reception. On November 18 and 19, 2016, Transfiguration and the Diocese of Dallas will host an international evangelism conference with special guest Presiding Bishop the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry. This event, sponsored by Forward Movement and the presiding bishop’s office, will have 400 people from all over the world to hear Bishop Curry preach and to attend 30 workshops and several plenary presentations. It is a great honor for us to host the wider church. Being part of Transfiguration became transformative for several men and women who became ordained as deacons or priests. Priests raised up or ordained here include the Revs. Bill Bryant, Stephen Kidd, Helen Betenbaugh, Kara Wischmeyer, Katie Wright, Barbara Kelton, Joy Daley, and Gwen Buehrens—the first woman ordained in the Diocese of Dallas (1985). Deacon Dorothy Budd had her diocesan discernment here, and Harold Snyder was a deacon in the early years of the church’s history. Chris Rodgers, former senior warden and former chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, is now a seminarian at Virginia Theological Seminary. Reflecting on his entering the process to seek ordination, Chris writes, “For my wife Jennifer and me, Transfiguration met and molded our known and unknown needs for a community that was traditional in its worship yet with a more inclusive view of the Church working in this world on behalf of Christ. The church graced me over the years with both the invitation and the challenge to serve. A T-shirt from the Rev. Stephen Kidd, then the youth minister, proclaimed: ‘The Fig is embracing and empowering,’ and this statement is true. What we discovered was radical Christ-like hospitality, not the ‘frozen chosen.’ No Timothy could ask for a better faith community to be sent from than the Fig.”
THE PRESENT: 2016 Summer can be a slower time for many parishes, but not for Transfiguration. On Sunday evening, June 5, the Episcopal Men’s Fellowship hosted its annual fish fry and silent and live auction. More than $23,000 was raised to benefit programs at the church and outreach initiatives. The next day, 100 children and 50 teenagers and adult volunteers came together for a week of Vacation Bible School, using the Parish Episcopal School gymnasium and classrooms in the Snyder building. Again, students and volunteers from St. Philip’s School and Community Center were invited guests as part of this week of Bible stories, art, games, science experiences, and music. The young Vacation Bible School students sang at the 9 a.m. Sunday service June 12, and
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
that evening, the choir sang the service of Evensong, with a preview of the music they would be singing on their second tour to England. There was a strong and fast-moving afternoon thunderstorm, and the power went out. Father Roper, the preacher, calmly continued with his sermon, keeping the Transfiguration tradition of faith and perseverance alive. The full and rich music program was enhanced with the arrival of part-time assistant organist and choir scholar Wilhelm Sollie. The magnificent organ and strong music program enable our church to develop church musicians. Wilhelm arrived from Norway to pursue studies at SMU, and he accompanied the choir on its ten-day tour in England. Earlier, the choir had two fundraisers—a fall gala, “Broadway to Bristol,” in Roper Hall and a spring “Tea and Tallis” concert in the sanctuary with tea served in Roper Hall during intermission. The choir was “in residence” singing the Sunday Eucharist and Morning Prayer and daily Evensong at Bristol Cathedral, and they sang recitals at Ely Cathedral and Wells Cathedral and Eucharist and Evensong at St. Mary Redcliffe in Bristol. “Singing in the very same choir stalls and spaces as other choristers have for many hundreds of years was awe-inspiring. …We spontaneously came together to sing within the wall of the ruins of the nearly 1,000-year-old Tintern Abbey in Wales. There is no ceiling, and yet the sound was as though we were singing in a cathedral. It was a stunning and mystical experience, one I will never forget. …I hope to have more opportunities to travel with our amazing choir, to deepen our bonds of friendship, to continue our quest for musical perfection, and to share all that we have gained from our experiences with our beloved family at Transfiguration.”—A choir member Father Casey has a strong commitment to meaningful outreach and quality educational programs. He serves on the board of Parish Episcopal School, and both his daughters attend its lower school. Father Casey completed the degree requirements and recently (spring 2016) received his doctor of ministry degree from the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee). His dissertation was an exploration of contemporary and alternative expressions of monasticism. In 2013, he became a member of the Fellowship of St. John, and each year he strives to attend a retreat at this community of monks, the Society of St. John the Evangelist, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (The late and beloved Bishop of Massachusetts the Rt. Rev. Thomas Shaw was a monk there. Our youth went on a retreat there in 2009.) There, Father Casey has time for prayer, study, and contemplative quiet. He plans to lead a Holy Land Pilgrimage in May 2017 and in 2018 a multigenerational trip to South Africa to visit sites associated with the anti-apartheid movement, explore the country’s beauty and its conservation efforts, and see the Happy Homes School that our parish has financially supported. “It is a remarkable thing to be part of a church that loves God and neighbors with such energy and enthusiasm as Transfiguration. I am grateful beyond measure to be a part of the work of this church—to build on its inspiring legacy and pursue a bold, compassionate Celebrating 60 Years
future. There are many days, even nearly two years after starting, that I pinch myself at the gift of serving here.”—Father Casey Shobe, Fourth Rector The story of Transfiguration’s 60 years is worth remembering as we gathered Sunday, September 18 for Evensong on Holy Cross Day to celebrate this anniversary, with music by our choir, a sermon by our third rector, Father Godwin, and a grand reception in Roper Hall. The church began as a mission in 1956 with 11 families who met at a local tennis club. With growth came the move to five acres on Spring Valley Road on the banks of White Rock Creek. In 1964, a massive flood did enough damage that the church bought the higher and safer nine acres at Spring Valley and Hillcrest and began building again. The beautiful, architecturally significant church atop the hill was built in 1972 at a cost that caused critical debt. A fire in 1986 in Building A—which served as the parish hall, choir space, and Parish Day School gym and is now the Youth Center—damaged the Clothes Horse, library, and white festival needlepoint frontal being created by a group of parishioners. All were re-created, including the frontal with a phoenix now in the design. The church weathered controversies over the ordination of women and human sexuality and orientation, and acknowledged and honored its mission statement: To seek and serve Christ in all persons. Now, in 2016, there are buildings and space we can enjoy and adapt to new opportunities. Most important, there are 800 families and 1,800 members, all of whom can join in worship and be strengthened to go out in the world and serve. There are always dreams and challenges. The national trend for mainline denominations is a slow and steady decline in membership. Stewardship campaigns each year must balance essentials with the desire for salary increases, new programs, and more outreach. But with Transfiguration’s history of perseverance and leadership and our witness to God’s transforming and immeasurable love, the future will be ours to create in response to God’s call. The parish is like a kaleidoscope—there are ever-changing colorful jewels, yet all are united in one. The gems of our parish—the sacraments, the congregation, the clergy, the lay staff, the music and arts, our education programs, our outreach, our physical spaces—will equip us for the years ahead.
The History of Church of the Transfiguration
A vision for each of us and for the parish:
To worship with joy and reverence To lead a life filled with prayer and study To nurture our children and youth To inspire future leaders To be conscientious stewards of our ministries and conservationists of the spaces on our campus To embody compassion in our neighborhoods and communities “To find ways to equip and strengthen our people for the hard and holy work of sacrificially following Jesus in a world that resists the kingdom he proclaimed.” —Father Casey Shobe “We want to be a compassionate community, one that makes a Jesus-like impact on the world. We want to help everyone who is connected with Transfiguration feel so deeply rooted and grounded in the love of Christ that they are ready and able to pour compassion on the wounds and brokenness of our world. We want to worship and learn and grow so much in and with Jesus that compassion simply spills out of our lives.”—Father Casey Shobe, Fourth Rector Written by Susan Fisk and Clare Lattimore, 2016 In memory of Nancy Perry
Celebrating 60 Years
OPPORTUNITIES FOR MINISTRY, SERVICE AND FELLOWSHIP Acolytes
Adult Christian Formation
Men’s Schola Cantorum
Austin Street Center
Ministers of Ceremony
Bella Musica (handbells)
North Dallas Shared Ministry
Budget and Finance Committee
Parish Nurse Health Ministry
Children and Family Ministries
St. Elizabeth’s Guild
St. Hilda’s Guild (Clothes Horse and Kay Andrews Book Store)
St. Philip’s School and Community Center
Daughters of the King
Special Services Altar Guild
Spring Valley Elementary School
Episcopal Men’s Fellowship
Episcopal Relief and Development
Fig Theater Group
Transfiguration String Ensemble
Food Distribution Center
Foyer Dinner Groups
United Thank Offering
Funeral Reception Committee
Voice of Hope
Gay and Lesbian Fellowship
Happy Homes School
Holy Family Choir
Women’s Book Study
Jubilate Deo Choir
Young Adult Ministry
Lay Eucharistic Ministry
The History of Church of the Transfiguration