From Tom Hampson
Tom Hampson is a Candidate for the Diaconate and a third year student at the School for Deacons in Berkeley. This fall he begins his Ministry Field Placement in Stockton at St. John the Evangelist and St. Anne’s.
When my wife, Hennie, and I first started attending St. Paul’s in Modesto about four years ago, some of our friends would ask, “Didn’t they close?” The public perception seemed to be that due to the “Disturbance,” St. Paul’s had simply disappeared.
No one is saying that now. St. Paul’s, like the Diocese as a whole, has shown remarkable resilience. Thanks to Fr. Nick’s pastoral leadership and the committed engagement of our congregation, St. Paul’s Modesto is growing and establishing a new identity, noted for our hospitality, energy and commitment to justice.
One element in that emergence has been our collaboration with Faith in the Valley (FIV). Like the Cathedral, we’ve welcomed the Stanislaus Chapter of FIV to share office space with us. The partnership has included many initiatives in support of undocumented people in our community, including:
- Hosting candidate forums
- Hosting training sessions for parishioners and others to become part of the Valley Watch Network that provides various sorts of assistance to undocumented families facing detention
- Helping to establish a legal defense fund for undocumented people.
Our collaboration with Faith in the Valley has enabled us to be more effective in our efforts to “strive for justice and peace among all people” as our Baptismal Covenant says. It’s also helped us to link with other communities of faith in the area.
Another important component of our new vitality comes from the time spent last year with Rev. Dr. Eric Law. Over a three-month period, Eric led us through three day-long sessions of prayer, sharing, reflection and planning. Some important healing took place as parishioners were invited to share their history and struggles during the last few tumultuous years. It’s been a rocky, painful time. And as we identified the many and varied ministries taking place through St. Paul’s, participants gained a greater appreciation for the breadth of St. Paul’s engagement with our surrounding community. Finally, teams developed follow-up plans. Some still are in the process of completion, but the three sessions definitely helped to fuel a new momentum among the congregation.
The story of St. Paul’s, like other congregations in our Diocese, is a resurrection story. The steadfast and courageous efforts of folks to hold fast during the dark days is beginning to yield a rich harvest of new life, creative ministry, and exciting collaborations. Thanks be to God!