Dear Christ Church,
It is with gospel joy that I am writing to tell you of Fr. Peter’s call to plant our next church, in Northeast Austin. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “there is a season for every activity under the heavens. . . a time to plant and a time to uproot.” Fr. Peter and Shannon Coelho, with baby Lucy, joined our community almost four years ago, had another child (Emmett), was ordained as a priest and has served in pastoral ministry among us with great skill and sensitivity ever since.
Church planting is part of our past and future. We planted a church in Georgetown three years ago. During Deep Roots, New Season we communicated plans to plant more churches in the years to come, with one by next January. After prayer and discernment with each other and their community, Fr. Peter and Shannon have heard the Lord calling them to this new assignment.
I will mourn this change, at a personal level, because of my deep respect and affection for Fr. Peter as a colleague, brother and friend. Peter is a delight to work with and have on our staff team. I will miss both who he is as a man of God and what he does as a priest in our parish. But I also rejoice with him and Shannon as they step into this exciting next step in their life, and I’m very glad that the Lord is not leading them to another city or country!
Peter and I will both be speaking about this in worship on Sunday, and you can learn more in our FAQ here. I will also be talking about the church plant as part of our Deep Roots, New Season update meeting this Sunday at 3:30pm at Medina St.
I began by describing this as a moment of “gospel joy.” Jesus said that the least are the greatest, the first are last, and that crucifixion would precede his resurrection. The author of Hebrews tells us that it was for the joy set before him, that Jesus endured the cross. Kingdom greatness, life and joy, in other words, come through perseverance, sacrifice and service. Gospel joy is not a cheap and easy joy; it is a costly and profound delight in the goodness of God who is building his church and advancing his kingdom to set people free. One of the collects of Morning Prayer in the BCP begins, “Oh God . . . whose service is perfect freedom . . ..” To send out a church plant and planter from among our own is an act of joyful service to our King, and therefore a participation in Christ’s freedom.
With gratitude for the Coelhos’ deep roots among us, and with gospel joy for their new season,
Dear Christ Church,
For the past three and half years Christ Church has been our home and family here in Austin. We have been welcomed and embraced so well, and have so richly enjoyed our life here. I was ordained at Christ Church, our children were baptized here (Emmett was born during our time here), and we have grown so much into whom God has made us to be during our time here. Both Shannon and I have commented about how we have been surprised by the healing that has taken place in our lives through worshipping, serving, and living in community at Christ Church. We thank God for making a way for us to come here and serve these past years. We love this community, thank you for being a part of that.
What’s more, we remain very excited about the future and vision of Christ Church, especially as it transitions to the Medina property and leans into local mission, and work in the realm of faith and vocation. We believe God is going to work powerfully through Christ Church in the season ahead.
Our love for Christ Church and excitement for her future have made these past few months difficult as we have, through conversation, prayer, fasting, and in community discerned a sense of call to lead Christ Church’s plant in Northeast Austin. It is not without cost and uncertainty about the future, but we have become convinced that this is where Jesus, our captain and commander, is leading us, and we long to be where He would have us, and to receive all that He has for us. We are excited to follow in obedience, knowing that He is so very good and faithful to His promises.
I am excited to remain in Austin, where existing relationships can continue and grow, and where we can continue to participate in God’s renewal of all things in this city. I am excited about the possibilities of serving the communities of Mueller (where we live), Windsor Park, University Hills and others in Northeast Austin. Even in this time of transition I have already begun to dream of another vibrant Anglican church, proclaiming the goodness of God, embodying His Gospel, and inviting others into His way.
I look forward to continuing on at Christ Church in the coming months, and to speaking with you all more about what Christ Church has meant to me and sharing more about what the Lord seems to be birthing in us. Please be praying for myself, Shannon, Lucy and Emmett in this time, as well as for this new church-in-formation. Pray for our protection, for vision, for others to join us, for conversions to Christ, and for the expansion of His kingdom through this work. It is our desire that this new endeavor would be soaked in prayer!
We are excited and humbled to be able to lend our hand to this work in Austin, in partnership with Christ Church, and look forward to celebrating God’s goodness with you in the coming weeks, month, and years.
Joyfully in Christ,