Trinity Story

By Diane Holloway
Communications and Volunteer Coordinator
Trinity CenterDiane mug

Ending one career and beginning another presents challenges and opportunities, but sometimes change takes you where you are supposed to be. The ground beneath you may feel uncertain, as fear turns to excitement, but you force yourself to move forward.

I decided to volunteer one morning a week at Trinity Center after leaving the newspaper and while engaged in a new job in politics. Why Trinity? Mostly because it was way out of my comfort zone. Homeless people, especially people on the street who seemed to be operating in a totally different reality than my own, made me nervous. Who were these people? How did they wind up on the street? Can they be helped? Do they want to be helped?

The first day I walked into the center, questions that once demanded answers disappeared, and I found myself immersed in the loving acceptance of Trinity Center. I listened to the neighbors’ stories, I laughed when they laughed, I cried with some of them, I hugged anyone who would let me. I knew I was home.

As a full-time employee of Trinity Center now, it is my privilege to serve these remarkable people every day. They are hungry for more than breakfast and a clean pair of socks. They are hungry for companionship, for spiritual enrichment and to be treated with dignity. They long for a smile and a personal greeting. In return, they inspire me every day.

“Walking into Trinity Center is like walking into a big hug,” one smiling neighbor said. (Check out more inspiring words of wisdom from our “Pearls From the Street” page on the Trinity Center website. She was grateful for us, and we are forever grateful for her and all the neighbors who come to us struggling but hopeful, ready to give and receive blessings large and small.

I’m not a social worker; I’m just one person who cares. I provide small comforts and lots of love. It’s a privilege of service that I am thankful for every day.

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A Life-Changing Experience

This week’s guest writer is a tutor for the PAL (Parent Advocate for Literacy) program as offered through A Community for Education. ACE is one of the community programs St. David’s funded in 2012 in the form of a grant from Next-To-New. On September 8, we will announce this year’s grant recipients. Thank you to everyone who supports Next-To-New and the transformation it allows in our city.  

By Olga Núñez, ACE Parent Advocate for Literacy (PAL), 2010-2013

I first became involved with ACE: A Community for Education in 2009. I was working in a hotel when my daughter started Pre-Kindergarten at the Lucy Read Pre-K Demonstration School in north central Austin. At this point, I wanted to spend more time and be more involved in my daughter’s education. I heard about ACE’s First Teacher Parenting Workshop at Lucy Read, and I signed up for the class. I had the pleasure of meeting Carolina Guajardo, an ACE staff member who was the presenter of the First Teacher workshop. Every time I attended the class and when I visited my daughter’s classroom, I noticed that there was a young lady working with the children in small group activities. One day I asked Carolina what these people were doing in the classrooms. She shared all the information about the ACE PALs (Parent Advocate for Literacy) program and told me that they were looking for new people to join the program the following year. Joining the program meant that I would become a part-time AmeriCorps tutor for ACE and work with Pre-K students in small groups helping build their pre-reading skills. At that moment I thought, “Oh wow! This is the opportunity I have been looking for all these years!” It was amazing to see this opportunity as a chance to support children who were in Pre-K like my daughter.

Being a literacy tutor with ACE has been the most wonderful experience of my life. As an ACE PALs tutor I received excellent trainings that prepared me to deliver high quality lessons to our students and parents. For the last three years I was able to learn new skills in early literacy intervention; teaching the children letter recognition, letter sounds, and helping build other academic skills such as number, color, and shape recognition; and having conversations with the students with the purpose of building new vocabulary.

Also, I participated as a presenter of ACE’s First Teacher Parenting Workshop in 2011-2012 and ACE’s Play and Learn Family Literacy Workshop in 2012-2013. The PALs program allowed me to help parents in our community learn different skills and tools to support their children in school. This program not only helped me grow as a person, but it also helped me grow as a professional. ACE is a program that prepares tutors in a way that anyone can be a natural teacher. The program provided other professional development trainings that taught me new skills and helped me to be ready for new challenges in my life. With the training and experience I have working in schools, I’m no longer afraid to apply for other education jobs. I seek to find a position in the Austin Independent School District.

As an ACE AmeriCorps tutor, I earned an education award and have been able to use it at Austin Community College (ACC) to further my education. This year I registered at ACC and am working to earn my ParaEducator Certificate with a focus on special needs children and my Child Development Associate Certification so I can work as an assistant teacher this coming year. My ultimate goal is to become a bilingual teacher to help children in the Hispanic community learn crucial skills, like the alphabet, and graduate Pre-K reading and writing!

Thank you, ACE, for planting the seed in me about the things we can give and do for our community. Thank you, ACE, for the great opportunity you gave me in making a difference in every child’s life and getting things done for America!


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Middle School Mission Camp

youth mission camp 2By Diana Dawson

Fifteen middle-schoolers spread out across downtown Austin Monday morning on a scavenger hunt designed to help them form camaraderie as they answered historical questions about their hometown. But some of the answers they found went much deeper than the date the first bell tolled at St. Mary’s Cathedral, or the identity of an African-American who survived the Alamo.

This was Middle School Mission Camp, a day camp that allowed our young teens to go out into the community to serve the elderly, the homeless, and the hungry. To launch that theme, we asked each camper to bring an extra lunch to give away on the street that morning to someone who might need it. The kids hit the streets in groups of three or four led by an adult.

The first girl in my group got only as far as the Omni Hotel when she spotted a man with a backpack leaning against the hotel planter. Eagerly she reached into her backpack, pulled out the extra sack lunch and said, “Here, sir, I have some extra snack today and thought you might like it.”

“God bless you, young lady,” the man said as he eagerly peered into the sack.  “But do you have food for yourself?”

Nearly an hour later, the boy in my group handed a tub of Cheerios and a granola bar to a man sitting at a bus stop on Congress Avenue near the Capitol. Once again the man said, “God bless you, son. You are a good person and I will enjoy this.”

The third teen squirmed a bit anxiously. “I’m a little shy about going up and talking to strangers,” she said. “I’m having a hard time doing this.”

“Don’t worry,” I assured her. “You’ll know when the moment is right.”

We walked into the square across from today’s Capitol, which held the foundation stones from the original Capitol that burned decades ago. A neighbor slept deeply on an iron bench, using a tennis shoe as his pillow. It hit everyone at once.

The St. David’s youth quietly set her sack lunch on the ground next to the sleeping man’s bench. She beamed, and her relief was palpable. “I’m hoping he’ll wake up,” she said, “and be happy to see what someone left for him.”

The right moment had come to learn that all of us – exuberant or shy – can help our neighbors and make the world a better place.


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Rohr Roar

By Peter Techmanski

Last summer I began a journey of transformation.  I learned a new defined-language surrounding the whole idea of transformation and resurrection – through four special presentations we produced as “An Evening with Fr. Richard Rohr.”

The first presentation introduced Franciscan Mysticism (Fr. Rohr is a Franciscan brother who lives in New Mexico) in the simple way St. Francis experienced it nearly 800 years ago: “Mysticism is when God’s presence becomes experiential for you—not intellectual, but experiential.” Nearly all attendees walked out of Bethell Hall with a renewed sense that they too could be “mystics,” experiencing God and not just thinking of God.  So we live our lives and that’s where we meet God.

In September, Fr. Rohr explained this approach to actual day-to-day living: “We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”  Surely, the experiential path of transformation was all of ours to have! He summarized that evening by reminding us that “This is just what it means to be a good human being.”  So we live our lives and transform our thoughts.

Before Thanksgiving, we again assembled for a special evening, and Fr. Rohr had this telling message for us as he moved us into a new language of transformation and resurrection: “To start with a ‘YES’ is a daily surrender—a daily abandonment.  Because the ego prefers to start with “No.” It defines itself by what it’s not. The soul defines itself BY WHAT IT IS – which is, that in fact, you and I are much more alike than we are different. And that’s a conversion.”  So we live our lives and transform our thoughts, daily.

What was so special about that November evening was that we re-learned about the anchor we have in Jesus. Not only is transformation and resurrection our difficult and lifelong human challenge, but it is in the divinity of Jesus Christ where the “yes” and “no” meet to give us hope. The challenge of our being human can be seen as opportunity and possibility as lived by Jesus. Fr. Rohr had this to remind us: “Jesus is the great reconciler of paradox. He is the icon of paradox. He is the image of paradox—human and divine, spiritual and yet material. I always say, ‘In a male body but with a very feminine soul.”

We met for a fourth and final time after Epiphany in the Historic Church to spend another evening with Richard Rohr (via his video telecast). And that evening he circled back to something he said earlier—about us all being a lot more alike than we are different. He gave us an image that night, of a diamond buried deep inside each of us. That diamond was immortal, in fact. It is our soul, our True Self. He told us: “This True Self – you don’t work up to it, you don’t create it, you don’t manufacture it, you don’t have a better one than anyone else – it’s all the same! You are all created in the Image and Likeness of God. As God’s Image you are objective; you have an equal identity to all others.”

Transformation happened that cold dark night last January. My visiting uncle sat alone in the back row of the darkened church, and he too watched and listened. He told me later that night that he felt something shift in that “room.”  Almost a sigh of release, or happiness, or something ascending – I’d say it was our Christian Joy, our Christian Hope, our loving wastefully just showing up and doing what it does best.

We concluded that evening with words from a friend of St. David’s Church, Charles LaFond.  They were our marching orders that night – as daily-living, transformed, resurrected, all-connected, love-centered human beings: “Treat each other as if the person to whom you are speaking is going through their own private hell and is on the verge of a private death and despair; for indeed, they may be going through just that. If you are so radically gentle, your power and effectiveness will be matched by your goodness, which is the only thing for which you will be remembered.”

Just like Jesus was remembered, all about transformation — living every day into resurrection.  Amen to that.


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Five Dollars to Attend Church

By Paula Starchefrom paula

In 1991 Abe and Deborah Delgado and their two children moved back to Austin, and I decided that my two sons and I would join them at St. David’s. Besides their friendship, I needed the protection of a larger church where I could blend in every Sunday. At the time just listening to scripture annoyed me, but my family had gone to mass every week, and I believed that it would benefit my sons, so we came. My husband and I made a deal. He took the boys to the grocery store on Saturday mornings, and I took them to church. I had Saturday mornings in a quiet house, and he had Sundays. I let my sons choose between attending Sunday school or the church service, then we stopped at Wendy’s or the cafeteria with the Delgado’s on the way home. For many years my sons chose Sunday school, so I crept into the end of the 9:00 service for communion then went on to adult education.

When they were in their early teens my older son Alex was invited to play guitar in what was later the Bethell service. Being the good mother I am, they got two musicians for the price of one! My younger son Chris began playing bass. One of his friends joined the group and played drums. We still went to Wendy’s after church and one day the manager came up to us and asked where was my third son, the drummer. When I explained, he told me that his father was a pastor and used to pay his children five dollars apiece to go to church every Sunday. I got a big kick out of that! Getting children to go to church through high school was something I understood only too well!I wondered what his father would think about the bass amp Chris and I shared the cost of with the understanding he would keep playing in the service. My share was $400, and I do believe amps are sold by the pound. We lugged that heavy thing up to the church every Sunday morning. Once when we were in the elevator one of the younger kids whispered to his friend “there is the bass player!” Chris and Alex received many adoring looks from the younger children. In the end they both lasted through the ceremony at church at the end of high school when those moving on to other schools are honored. We had made it! By the time my sons finished high school, the wonderful people of St. David’s and the liturgy had entered my heart. We have two fine sons and though no one could prove that coming to church, or half of church, or Sunday school played a role–you know what, I bet it did!

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Walking Alongside Others

By Amy Moehnke

A couple of weeks ago, as I was walking to pick up lunch from a downtown restaurant, I found myself crossing the street with a man who appeared to be homeless.  This is not an unusual occurrence, as you can imagine, but rather something that happens just about every time I walk anywhere downtown.  It doesn’t generally bother me, as it’s simply part and parcel of being in this part of the city.

This particular day, though, I was feeling less than generous, and so as the light changed, allowing us to cross the street, I hesitated, deciding to hang back rather than walk alongside the man.  About 3 seconds after making this decision, however, I remembered that I was in the middle of working on a sermon that centered around a text from the prophet Amos, whose entire project centered around the mandate to care for the  poorest and neediest within the community.  I was well into the sermon, and was indeed admonishing the St. David’s community to do what Amos said we should do, but here I was, unwilling to even walk beside a person who would definitely have fallen into Amos’ designated category.  Ashamed of my initial reaction, and convicted by the words I had written in the sermon, I changed my mind, and decided not to hang back. If I he asks me for money, I thought, I will give it to him and be on my way.

As we waited for the next light to change, I asked him how it was going, fully anticipating that he would then make his plea for financial assistance, but instead he simply started talking about the wonderful lunch he had just had at Caritas, and about the very nice staff of Trinity Center that helped him when he went there to pick up his mail.  I mentioned that I worked at St. David’s, and was glad to hear that he regularly had a good experience at Trinity Center, and for the next block and a half we traded stories about people we both knew from there.

Before I knew it we had reached the corner of 7th and Congress, and it was time for us to go our separate ways.  It had been a lovely conversation, making the walk go quicker and feel easier than it usually did when I walked that route by myself.  At no point did he ask me for anything, nor did he complain about his lot in life or blame any number of people for why he was in the position he was in.  We simply talked.

As he turned toward the bus stop, he shook my hand and said it had been nice talking with me.  I replied, honestly, that I was glad we had met, and that I hoped I would see him again around town.  He wished me well and told me to be careful crossing the street, and as I made my way toward the restaurant to get my lunch, I reflected on how the small decision to engage this person had made such a huge difference in my own life.

The transformation in this story, of course, was my own, and I share it with you because I feel so grateful that I had this experience.  Through it, I was able to better reflect the generous, curious God I love rather than the self-centered, inwardly focused person I can often be.   May we all pray for such an encounter, and say yes when it occurs.

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We All Wonder

By Amanda Wischkaemperbillboard 2

We all wonderreads the billboard peeking into view among the treetops, I-35 brake lights, and a distant view of the downtown skyline. The traffic crawls on my commute, and I snap a quick picture.

Around 10 months ago, I wondered, in spite of myself. This is a story of transformation-in-progress.

In September— on a whim— I clicked a link in an Episcopal News Service e-newsletter. I’d been happily leading and growing Children’s Ministries at St. James by-the-Sea in La Jolla, California for more than five years, with no active desire to leave my lifelong church or hometown. Mark and I were deeply entrenched professionally and socially in our respective communities of music and theatre, in addition to our church family. We had busy, rich, fulfilling lives.

The Spirit had other ideas. I wondered. I clicked. I read aloud to my husband as I skimmed through the job description and St. David’s website. Something stirred in both us— an excitement, a kinship? —while still thinking, “This is crazy!” Fall and early winter were dizzying, with application materials, phone interviews, and hours of discussion amid the busy Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons.

On a mild night in early February, Mark and I found ourselves in Austin. After a full day of in-person meetings and interviews, Katie Wright dropped us off at our Town Lake motel. We were overwhelmed and near-speechless. All day we’d felt enveloped by Grace and the welcoming love of St. David’s. We walked in silence to Sandy’s for frozen custard, and brought it back to our room. We sat on the bed, trying to deconstruct every interaction and nuance of the day:  Did they like us? Did we like them? Was this what I was called to do? At a certain point, I fell asleep sitting up, ice cream in hand, utterly exhausted with the implications of this journey.

Over the next ten days, Mark was gung-ho. “Let’s do this. If they offer, I want to go.” I was terribly torn. Neither of us could think of a single reason not to go. But there were so many reasons to stay. Was I ready to leave everything behind for this new ministry/new church/new city/new everything? I truly did not know. I spent hours in discernment with family, friends, clergy, and alone. When I answered Katie’s call on Friday, February 15, I had no idea what I might answer, were I to receive an offer. Yet, the moment the offer was made, I was overwhelmed with calm and a peaceful—terrifying!—certainty. I mouthed to Mark, who was sitting nearby, “I want to go!” He mouthed back, “Are you sure??” I nodded. Resolutely. I had wondered, but the Holy Spirit knew exactly where I was going.

This is a story of transforming. Our lives at St. David’s are new and evolving. It has only been three months, and I sometimes look around and think, “What?! How did this happen!”

My husband and boss can both attest that I am a researcher, weighing all options. Why make a quick decision when I can look up reviews, comps, or consumer reports? It is not in my nature to go from the gut. But when the call came in, I knew. I was called. I accepted the job on the spot.

To put it another way: I took a leap of Faith.



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Spaces of Transformation

By Rebecca Hall

A few years ago, on one of those “holidays” when the kids are out of school but the parents still have to go to work, I brought one of my son’s classmates to St. David’s with us. Her mom worked downtown and had a meeting she just couldn’t skip. The girl looked around the foyer like she wasn’t quite sure about the place. “We’re in a church,” I said. “I work at a church.” It turns out that was this 8-year-old childs’s first time inside a church. So, we started the grand tour – the coffee shop for a juice, the day school and play-ground, the labyrinth to collect snails in the fountain, up to Sumners Hall for a cookie that Chef Ray was taking out of the oven, and finally to the Historic Sanctuary. It was here that time seemed to stop for this little girl. As we approached the big wooden doors, she was taken with the windows and the arches in the Narthex. We walked into the sanctuary and explored the pews and kneelers, then the organ, the choir loft and the pulpit, and finally all the stained glass windows. We reached the back of the church and lit a candle for her grandfather who had recently died. She didn’t want to leave the space. (Side note: At this point my own two boys, whom I have dragged to church almost every Sunday of their lives, were pretend sword fighting on the back stairs and reenacting that church scene from Zorro when the Law tries to shoot Antonio Banderas inside the confessional. Awesome.) We stayed for a long time in the church. She didn’t have a lot of questions. She just wanted to be there.

I was once an 8-year-old girl who had never been inside a church. And the first church I went into with my neighbors was just beautiful – one of the most photographed churches in New England, they say. These Stories of Transformation are about more than just individual lives or moments. They are, on a deeper level, about our collective vocation as members of St. David’s in downtown Austin. Who are we for each other and the world?  Part of our particular role in this corner of the city, with our history, is to just be a beautiful and holy space for people to experience God.

I credit my old neighbors and that New England church as significant to me on my spiritual journey, even though it was a brief moment in time. And St. David’s, even on a quiet Monday morning, is a space of transformation for people who are not expecting it.  So, amid all the hustle and bustle that is also very much part of who we are, let us be beautiful, let us be available, and let us just be.

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St. Peter at the Gate

peterBy Peter Hahn

Because I am the lead receptionist, David Boyd likes to call me our church’s “St. Peter at the Gate,” and I humbly accept the role as long as I don’t have to make determinations about personal salvation. But what passes before our desk is a “heavenly crowd” of parishioners, children campers, homeless neighbors, Rotarians, vendors, equipment support people, worshippers, out of town visitors, Holy Grounds patrons, garage customers, all the inhabitants of the J. J. Pickle Federal Building, our friends in the Omni and the Austin Centre, our beloved clergy and staff, people seeking a spiritual home, people asking directions or a recommendation for a good Tex-Mex restaurant, seekers of lost water bottles, our valued devotees of Thursday Public Lunch, our hospitality customers who choose Saint David’s for their events, deliverers from FedEx, UPS, 6th St. Printers, and USPS, students and teachers with the AISD GO project, musicians, artists and teachers with Art from the Streets, concert-goers, St. David’s Pre-School children and teachers, and the staff of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes. And that doesn’t even include our worshipful visitors at Christmas and Easter. Hardly the old colonial country church I grew up in back in New Jersey. The energy is at once exhilarating and exhausting.

From the desk I have observed the kindness of one to another, gratitude for help provided, sensitivity and attentiveness in lobby exchanges, and the joyous chaos when happy children leave for home with their parents. For many, St. David’s is home for worship, study, friendship, and service to God and his people. We are seekers of something that is at once personal and shared. Nowhere is this more evident than in our church’s entrance foyer where so much of the character of St. David’s is evident. Simply stated, all are welcome and people are so darn NICE to each other! No matter how I feel at the beginning of my day, after this huge dose of kind and considerate interaction, I always feel better at the end. On any given day, a homeless person will be given directions to find help, a parishioner will sign up for a Journey Group, a newcomer will be connected with our staff, and people are connected with each other in meaningful ways. In many cases their connection with God is renewed and strengthened.

So here is my challenge: If, until now, your busy life has kept you from visiting St. David’s during the week, make some time and come see for yourself. Thursday Public Lunch is a good time or for any of our weekday worship services. While Holy Grounds offers food, beverage, and gifts, from where I sit, there seems to be a lot of conversation spiced with laughter going on in there. Try volunteering at Trinity Center to experience true joy. Good with children? Help out with Vacation Bible School or Camp St. David’s some time. Or just bring your laptop and hang out in the lobby getting those pesky emails written. The WiFi is free. Then you’ll see what I see every day.

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A Letter of Gratitude


To Rev. Boyd and the entire family at St. David’s:

I will be moving from Austin this upcoming weekend, but I wanted to leave a
short note for you all in gratitude. I started attending St. David’s in 2011
shortly after the demise of my relationship with my partner. I had moved to
Austin from Florida with her and one year later, our relationship had dissolved
and I felt very alone. A few months later, I was laid off from my position at
work and was in the midst of looking for new employment, which ended up being a
year long journey. Needless to say, I felt very alone and was yearning for a
family and spiritual guidance.

I walked into St. Davids on a spring Sunday and immediately felt welcomed. I
remember my first day there, specifically the sermon. The story of Jesus
telling Peter to let go of his boat, and to trust in his faith and walk towards
Him. It’s strange, but that sermon…that message….I knew it was no mistake
that I was in the right place for God’s word to finally touch my heart. I was
struggling with forgiveness; forgiving my partner and forgiving myself. I was
struggling with letting go of things/ideas/practices which did not serve me.
St. David’s provided me with a safe home to journey through forgiveness and
God’s teaching. I can say that it has changed me forever, and I cannot thank
you and your community enough for fostering my own spiritual journey to God.

Ever since that spring day, I have been attending St. David’s regularly and
consider it my home here in Austin. I met one of my best friends during that
day and each Sunday I have been moved by God’s word and the stories of the
community that attends St. David’s.

I will miss many things leaving Austin. But I will miss St. David’s greatly. I
will definitely visit Austin again, and St. David’s will always be a priority
to visit as well. I humbly thank you for helping me find the missing piece of
my life and will forever be indebted to you and your parish.

With the Kindest of Regards,

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