Last May, St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Holdenville faced a harsh reality. Could they reverse
decline, and more than that grow in vitality? St. Paul's did just that, becoming the fastest-
growing congregation per capita in our Diocese, growing from one member to nine in less than a
year. They started with one small courageous step out of their comfort zone by applying for
experimental grants through the Diocesan Vitality Granting program. They did not give up on St. Paul’s or Holdenville. More than that, God had not given up on St. Paul’s or Holdenville!
They discerned their mission in Holdenville. They studied Holy Scripture; they grew in faith, and
they did several experiments within their community, ranging from a Native American cultural
dinner and Christmas pageant to a county-wide community book club. Some failed, and some
were a success; through it all, they gained vital knowledge that encouraged them to step out of
their comfort zone.
When asked what they learned from the experimental grants, Rev. Kathrin Radach shared, "The
grants allowed us to establish cross-cultural relationships that have proven invaluable as we build
a more vibrant community at St. Paul's. We have dreamed of reaching out to the Wewoka
community, especially the Native American population and the area's youth."
With some experience, they were ready to take a leap of faith and apply for a medium-sized
vitality grant of $2,000. Given their track record, this grant was quickly approved. They offered a
series of 6 workshops in partnership with the Seminole Nation Boys & Girls Club, focused on
urban agriculture in Oklahoma. Each summer, the Seminole Nation Boys & Girls Club enrolls
roughly 130 youth ages 12-18, primarily Native American, representing many different tribes.
The community of Holdenville, like many of our towns in Oklahoma, has a high rate of poverty
and is a food desert. Many of the youth have little knowledge of how to obtain nourishing meals,
grow food, or even prepare it. They also hoped to host a field trip to Durbinshire Farms, a local
goat farm, owned by one of the new members of St. Paul's. Check out Durbinshire Farms by
visiting this link: https://www.durbinshire.com/
The hope was to bring them into contact with a large group of youth in their community. Pastor
Radach shared, "Such cross-cultural engagements are always a blessing. The people of St. Paul's
have had little contact with this group. This seemed to be a God-given opportunity that dropped
into our laps."
In June, St. Paul's was awarded the medium-sized grant, and off they went! Their workshops
included butter and biscuit making, homemade ice cream, origami, card making, portrait
drawing, pizza making, sun catchers, and even goat petting!
Not only was this effort popular with the youth, St. Paul's was honored this past week as the
Volunteer of the Year by the Seminole Nation Boys & Girls Club. Deacon Cyntha Gilks-Ayres, Deacon at St. Paul’s shared how this was made possible, "Pastor Radach attended a Chamber of
Commerce meeting and heard about the Boys & Girls Club and their need for volunteers. The
congregation at St. Paul's is eager to have an opportunity to interact with the youth in some
capacity. This opened a new door for us. Pastor Radach was instrumental in setting us up for a visit with the Boys & Girls Club Director at the location in Wewoka. Angie Durbin was also willing to share her talents from her Durbinshire Farm for environmental sustainability.”
This honor came after St. Paul’s, Holdenville, in March was recognized as organization of the
year by the Holdenville Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.
Ready to take a leap of faith for a more vital future? God’s mission is all around us. God is always active in our neighborhoods. St. Paul’s, Holdenville, joined in God’s Mission. You can too, in your congregation and in your community. Experiment with us today! Visit this link: https://www.epiok.org/grants to learn more. We believe there is a path to vitality for every one of our congregations, and we are committed to supporting the ministry of our congregations through various vitality initiatives from the Diocese. The Vitality Granting program is such an initiative.
In addition, beginning in October and November, we will be offering vitality training, called Faithful Innovation, in for our congregations. Faithful Innovation is a simple, structured process of learning new ways to discern God's mission in our lives, our congregations and our communities. It is not a program, but rather a set of practices that can use to nurture vitality throughout your congregations. Look for more on this training next week!
924 N. Robinson I Oklahoma City, OK 73102
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