Spent December 3-5 in retreat with the Region 4 (Nebraska, Central States, Ark-Ok, @NT-NLSynod , SWTexas, and host Gulf Coast) synod bishops. We do this annually to connect with each other and learn from our contexts. This year we have spent the time in Houston and particularly in the west side of Houston. Here we encounter a number of historical and current demographic trends and realities that challenge our ministries and provide opportunities.
In the morning I took a jog through the area just west of downtown. This is an interesting historical context in that it is home to wealthy developments, the Houston federal reserve bank, the montrose neighborhood known for being welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community, and also the historic Houston Freedman’s Neighborhood (an area in which freed slaves built a community in the early 1900s including J Vance Lewis who in 1904 was one of the first black Texans admitted to the Texas Bar).
We spent the morning and early afternoon at Kindred. Formerly Grace Lutheran, Montrose in 2015 it closed and was reopened as a new ministry. Kindred draws on the context of the community by emphasizing food (they do dinner church), welcome to those historically marginalized by church and society, and a deep commitment to their Houston neighborhood. Their Pastor Ashley Dellagiacoma is a Houston native and Texas Lutheran University and Luther Seminary grad.
She was called to this redevelopment and has seen it thrive through connections to community and intentionality in welcome. It was a joy to listen to her tell the story of their development as well as see the multitude of ministries taking place in this space. While we chose not to rise early enough for the bread baking we did enjoy the fruits of their labors. Bread baking, a compliment to the organic farmers market they host each Wednesday, has become a hallmark of Kindred.
After morning time on Thursday together I head home and candidacy retreat weekend. Grateful for the support Briarwood Retreat Center/Briarwood Leadership Center received through the Briarwood Giving Tuesday Winter Carnival. Over $31,000 was raised on #givingtuesday leads to a strong matching fund gift from #Thrivent to support our leadership and community engagement initiatives.