Archive for San Antonio

On to Temecula

Posted in Reflection with tags , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2017 by timtrue

Been intending to post this for a while now. The purpose of this blog is to chronicle my journey as a priest. And, well, the journey continues. I will be transitioning shortly from rector of St. Paul’s in Yuma, Arizona to Vicar of St. Thomas of Canterbury in Temecula, California. What follows is a compilation of three newsletter articles I recently wrote to introduce myself to the new congregation.

 

Deep in the Heart

With some work yet to do in Yuma and other scheduled obligations, it will be some time yet before I am at the helm in Temecula. In the meantime (the June and July newsletters), as a way to begin our relationship with each other, I’ll tell you my story. How’d I come to be Vicar of St. Thomas of Canterbury?

Growing up with an avocado orchard on the outskirts of Camarillo, California, my childhood was ideal in many ways. This was the day of no seatbelts or bike helmets, and even though video games were just coming into their own with companies such as Atari and microwaves and VCRs were all the rage, the pull of year-round spring-like weather and a couple acres was a strong enough lure to keep me outside most hours—when I wasn’t preoccupied, that is, with the obligatory homework and piano practicing. Scouts, soccer, the neighborhood gang (20-ish kids within a 3-year age span), and my dad’s unquenchable thirst for adventure rounded out these formative years. Family meant everything to me then.

Church, however, was not a part of these idyllic times. Not sure you could call us Trues atheists back then; God or no God, we just tried to figure out life on our own.

My parents’ divorce changed all that. I was in middle school. My older brother and I would remain with Dad, it was decided, while Mom pursued her new life.

Suddenly, family no longer meant everything to me. How could it? It was no longer together. My rock, my foundation, had been pulverized.

And thus began my search for new meaning, new hope, new salvation.

Occasional visits to campus Bible studies turned into regular visits turned into a ski-trip conversion experience turned into baptism and church membership. By now I was in college, trying to figure out what I should be when I grew up, involved in college Bible studies and ministry leadership and, during the summers, program work at a large Christian camp.

College is where I met Holly, my future bride. We studied music and sang in the university choir together. We both attended the same church. This running in the same circles continued for a year or so until I finally got the nerve to ask her out on a date, which turned into another date, and another, and so on, until we married, me fresh out of college, her with a year to go, on Sept. 11, 1993.

September 11th was our anniversary first, by the way.

Anyway, back in college, back when I was thinking about what I should be when I grew up, the idea of vocational, ordained ministry was a constant. I considered other options, sure. But this idea I couldn’t shake. So I prayed about it. A lot. And I talked with Holly about it. A lot.

No wonder, then, that my first real job was as Director of Youth Ministries at a Baptist church.

Now, remember, I hadn’t attend much church before college. The idea of vocational ministry in my mind mostly looked like parachurch Bible studies (think Young Life, if you know what that looks like) and summer camp. Youth ministry in a Baptist church confronted me with messy things I’d never thought about before, like a board of Christian education: a committee that was effectively my boss.

Long story short, three years there was long enough to convince me I wasn’t a Baptist. The strong, internal sense of call to ordained ministry remained, sure. But as for which denomination, tradition, or perspective, I was befuddled, perplexed, and nonplussed.

I retreated into working other jobs—teaching mostly, but also some engineering and music directing and accompanying. I had bills to pay, not to mention an increasing number of family members to support.

Some twelve years passed—and in that time we passed through some churches and denominations, from Baptist to Presbyterian to Episcopal—until we found ourselves with our four daughters settling into St. John’s, New Braunfels, in the Diocese of West Texas, drawn to the Episcopal Church by its sacramental theology and its appreciation of and respect for liturgy and music.

Only to hear the rector declare, shortly after Holly and I had been confirmed, “The vestry and I have decided to leave the Episcopal Church! Next Sunday will be my last.”

And I be like, “What? No way! You can’t do this! This is my spiritual home! I can’t even!” Etc.

So I wrote a deeply thought out and probably passionate letter to my bishop expressing my frustration and my long-time desire to be ordained, and wouldn’t it be especially helpful now!

And my bishop replied, asking me to meet with him for a one-to-one conversation.

To be continued . . .

 

Back to Cali

“Come in, Tim,” my bishop greeted me in the waiting area outside his office; “have a seat. I’m going to get my suffragan. Back in a minute.”

I’d only ever met him once before, when he confirmed me. So I didn’t yet know him or what he was like—his personality, his ministry point of focus, and so on. Turns out he was very intent on future generations. Youth and camping ministries were key for him. So was providing priests for the next generation.

A minute or two later he and David, his suffragan, joined me at the small meeting table in his office; and he began, “Tim, I took the liberty to share your letter with David here. Why don’t you tell both of us your story, especially how you came to sense a call to the ministry?”

And so I did, much as I did for you in last month’s newsletter. Until, “I mean,” I admitted, “the idea of going off to seminary and completing the education part of my priestly formation is a wonderful one, don’t get me wrong; but I’ve always been the main bread winner in our home. I can’t see how relocating a family of six for three years is even possible.”

“Thank you for this, Tim,” the bishop wrapped it up. “It is a very real concern. Let’s stay in touch.”

And that was that—for the time being anyway.

But a year later we revisited the conversation, this time with Holly joining. Baby #5 was about to join our family, so we decided to table the idea for one more year. And then, in early 2010, it was decided: we Trues would relocate to Sewanee, Tennessee for three years. Somehow, we were determined, it would work.

And somehow it did.

The three years in Sewanee were tremendous. It is the home of the University of the South, the only university still entirely owned by the Episcopal Church, which houses a liberal arts college and a seminary. We Trues jumped in with both feet, immersing ourselves in all we could.

The seminary community is just one facet of this diamond, a fairy-tale town perched atop the Cumberland Plateau. Our kids went to school and played sports locally. Holly worked odd jobs around campus, including Wedding Hostess of the beautiful All Saints’ Chapel. We dined regularly at university and town eateries. I taught two semesters of Latin to undergraduates; took elective courses through the college; learned the carillon and became Assistant University Carillonneur; and worked as an organist at local churches. Sewanee became a real home. (Indeed, our oldest daughter, who graduated from the University in 2016, had spent a full third of her life there by that time!) Perhaps more than anything else, my time at Sewanee taught me to see the Episcopal Church truly as a nation-wide organization.

Ordination to the diaconate came for me on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28, in 2012—back in Texas, over Christmas break. The Episcopal Church requires every priest to serve as a deacon for at least six months prior to priestly ordination. My bishop thought it would be a good idea to spend my last semester in seminary already ordained, to gain some working knowledge as I finished my time of focusing on the theoretical. A good idea, I agree, having experienced it! Priestly ordination followed on July 7, 2013.

Graduation took place in May and I began serving as a curate in mid-June at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio, one of the largest parishes of the Diocese of West Texas.

The position of curate is designed to get one’s feet wet, so to speak. Curacies generally last a couple of years, equipping new priests with tools to carry into future positions. With my previous life experience in religious education leadership, not to mention some twenty years of following the call into ordained ministry, I was eager for these two years to pass and get on with serving Christ as a rector already.

So, eighteen months into it, happy for my time in San Antonio and forever grateful to the Diocese of West Texas for confirming outwardly my longtime sense of internal call, I began looking westward, where I could still be a part of the nation-wide Episcopal Church and also be nearer to where my aging parents live and to the home of my own childhood. That new call soon materialized: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Yuma, Arizona, in the Diocese of San Diego.

Now, some two years hence, I can say that challenges and rewards at St. Paul’s have been many—some anticipated, others unlooked for. Working knowledge and the experience that comes with it are invaluable.

And so here I am, facing another move, ready to live into the new challenges and rewards that will come in Temecula, more prepared than ever before but knowing that we can never be fully prepared, looking forward to doing great things together for Christ in the Temecula Valley.

 

Formal Introduction

Dear People of St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church,

It is with much joy that I write to you, eager to enter your fellowship and navigate the waters of ministry with you into our future together.

Some months ago I received a phone call from Bishop Mathes, in which he asked if I’d be willing to put my name in the vicar search for St. Thomas’. “As I’ve gotten to know you,” he said, “I’ve come to believe you have the gifts and talents that most align with what St. Thomas’ wants and needs for a leader. Tim, I think you’re the man for the job; I think you’d be a great fit.” Of course, I said to put my name in the pool—this was the bishop calling, after all. I then began to do my homework. And as I did so, the question to frame my analysis was, what is it about me in particular the bishop sees? Here’s what I’ve assessed thus far.

Especially exciting to me is your music ministry. Music, especially in the Anglican choral tradition, has played no small role in my own spiritual journey. To work with accomplished musicians in order to craft effective liturgy is a thing I’ve longed for in recent years.

I’m also eager to establish and develop a strong working relationship with the day school, its board, director, staff, and families. Prior to ordination I was a career teacher in private parochial and independent schools, experience that should go a long way in a school/church relationship.

Along these lines is Christian formation. A lifelong learner myself, I look forward to strengthening the already strong Christian education program for all ages.

And as for the location! It’s no secret that Temecula is beautiful, nestled between the California coast and desert, a perfect opportunity to exercise hospitality.

Focal points of ministry for me are music and liturgy, preaching, teaching, and formation. I consider my leadership style to be flexible yet organized, collaborative, and innovative, willing to go in new directions when old ones tire out or fail. Maybe I’m more an artist than a scientist (more a Greek than a Roman), though I believe the two are not mutually exclusive. For fun I like to hang out with my family, cooking, eating, playing bridge, and walking our 12 year-old Labrador, Arwen; and, as I’m able, I like to hike, compose, write, and ride my motorcycle.

Put these together and it’s plain to see that, as the bishop stated, here is a great fit!

Please pray for me and my family in the months ahead. Moving from Yuma to Temecula will not be our only transition.

May God richly bless us in our life together,

Father Tim

Solo Gigglefest

Posted in Motorcycle with tags , , on September 21, 2013 by timtrue

bike from Em 1

I once heard Colorado described as a boom-bust state, with more bust than boom.  That’s pretty much what rainfall is like in San Antonio.  We can go long stretches with hundred-degree days and not a drop of precipitation.  Then boom!  Clouds roll in, lightning flashes, thunder rumbles, and the floodgates of heaven are opened.  At the very beginning of June, for example, we got nearly twelve inches of rain in a 24-hour period.

When this happens, streets flood.  Then parts of our beloved city–sports complexes, parks, and golf courses mainly–end up under water for a time.  That’s usually about the time national news airs a video of some thrill-seeker canoeing down Devine Road.

It doesn’t help that many streets in the city are little more than paved over drainage basins: creek beds, if you will.  Just a block and a half from my house, in fact, a major street ends up looking more like a river rafting paradise after fifteen solid minutes of downpour.

This background provides context, by the way, for my day yesterday.  It was one of those days where a good deal of rain fell.  Fortunately, unlike that day in early June, the rain did not fall constantly.  Rather, several strong downpours pommeled the city, each lasting an hour or so with stretches of rainfall-free times in between.  But the paved over creek beds that now serve as roads were flowing all day long.  And I was on my motorcycle.

I could go into the details about why I was on the bike.  They involve a flat tire and an emergency room visit.  But otherwise they’re not too exciting.  Suffice to say that I had no choice.  It was drive-the-motorcycle-to-work day for me or AWOL.  I chose the former.  I had some appointments to keep, after all.  Besides, I assured myself, I would wear my water-resistant coat and wrap my backpack in a waterproof cover.  How bad could it be?

Resigning myself that I would surely get wet, that I would surely ride through a downpour or two, I left for work at my typical time of 7:30am.  I took a back way, intentionally avoiding that creek-bed street a block and a half away.  It was slow going through residential areas mostly.  But other than having to skirt around a few puddles I managed to get to work dry.

Five minutes later a downpour began.

Next ride came at a little after 9am, a three-mile trek to a Bible Study at a parishioner’s home.  Again, resigning myself that I’d probably get wet, I grabbed my helmet and coat and headed out the church doors.  That downpour mentioned in the last paragraph had ended not ten minutes earlier.

This time I didn’t have the luxury of taking residential streets the whole way, but rather had to journey down Broadway, one of San Antonio’s busiest streets.  It wasn’t so much a paved creek bed as other streets, though, but it still collected a few large and deep puddles in choice locations.  Two or three of these I would have to pass, I knew, maybe through but possibly around, if they were still small enough.  But with my luck a neighboring car or pickup or SUV should no doubt drive through one or more of these large and deep puddles right as I was alongside, thereby soaking me head to foot.  As likely as not anyway, I said to myself.

Well, again I arrived mostly dry.  I couldn’t avoid riding through a small puddle or three on the way over, but my bike was made to handle this kind of stuff after all; and my boots were water resistant too, meaning the spray that reached effectively amounted to nothing.

Writing this now I wonder how it must have looked to those older parishioners inside as I approached their gathering to offer a prayer of blessing.  Black motorcycle boots, black pants, black water-resistant coat unzipped to reveal my black clergy shirt and collar: “We’re so glad you have a motorcycle,” one of them smiled; another said carelessly, “As you pulled up I thought, what are the cops doing here?”

Anyway, no sooner had I sat down to visit a little, cup of coffee in hand, when another downpour hit.

Thirty minutes later it stopped.  The prayer was done and the visit seemed as good a place as any to finish.  So I left.  And I made it back to the office similarly as I’d made it to the Bible Study: insufficiently wet.  Except this time a puddle or two had managed to spray my entire boots and then some, meaning the bottoms of my pants and my socks were a little wet too.

One of these puddles, by the way, I rode through at about 40 mph.  I anticipated the spray enough ahead of time to lift my feet up to about hand level as I did so.  This is where I think my socks got wet.  But the thing I remember most clearly is that a pickup truck driving towards me flashed his high beams on and off at me a couple of times, as if he were laughing at me.

One more daytrip awaited.  Sure enough another downpour came and went in the interim, the biggest of the day so far.  The ride to my destination, a class I’m auditing at a local university, posited several more puddles in my path.  But now I was confident.  My bike was built for this stuff.  And I’d learned how to avoid spray, more or less, by lifting my feet.  And I was giving my core a workout.  It was a win-win, really.

As I pulled into the university parking lot rain began to fall from the sky.  This was the first time I’d been caught outside in it all day, by the way.  And, benignly, the floodgates waited to open until I was inside.

Still, I showed up to class wetter than I’d been all day so far.  Though I was a lot drier than the few students who’d arrived after I had!

The present downpour lasted the full hour of class.  And by the looks of it, it was the worst of the day.

Still, somehow, the rain stopped before I got back on the bike.  I left the university and headed for home–for at last a car was available for me, if I would bring one of the kids home from school.  Sure thing!

But now the roads were at their worst yet.  Puddles now appeared where they hadn’t yet and the low water crossing on Devine Road in fact had water crossing it.  No problem.  My bike was made for this kind of stuff.

So, having gained valuable experience on my earlier rides, I now navigated the windy, wet, creek-bed streets confidently, meaning at the posted speed limit, maybe even a little over.  And what of the puddles?  I could just lift my feet and fly through them, no slowing necessary while I worked my core.  Downpours, schnownpours!

That was my attitude anyway until I passed through one water body that was really more like a small lake than a puddle.  I saw it coming; I lifted my feet with a smile on my face; I entered the mere.  Dang, I thought as I watched my handlebars dip, this thing’s at least a foot deep!

I didn’t crash, nothing like that, fortunately.  But as my handlebars dipped something else happened too: a wall of water rose in front of me, up and over my footpegs, up and over my raised feet, up and over my hands, up and over my windshield, and up and over my head.  I was positively drenched!

A pickup driving towards me flashed his high beams two or three times.  But he didn’t need to.  I was already giggling like a little boy.

Glad not to Be a Construction Worker in South Texas

Posted in Reflection with tags , , , , on August 23, 2013 by timtrue
English: Texas Hill Country, Route 187 heading...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The Texas Hill Country is somewhat legendary among motorcyclists.  That is why I welcomed the opportunity to ride my moto for a little over an hour today to meet a friend for lunch.  I planned a route from San Antonio north and east to San Marcos, gracing Canyon Lake with my V-twin presence, up and over a delightful ridge called Devil’s Backbone by locals (on Purgatory Road no less), then east on an almost traffic-free Hugo Road—smack dab, in other words, through the heart of the Hill Country.  All went very well during this the first leg of my journey.  The outside temperature was a delightful eighty degrees, just perfect for traveling on two wheels at sixty mph with a mesh jacket so the air flows right through.

The trouble began when I met my friend.  He had suggested throwing eighteen holes of disc golf before eating lunch, an activity I was entirely amenable to—in theory at least.  So I found the course, I found my friend, and I parked my moto, shedding my outer protective layer (helmet, gloves, mesh, and boots).  By now the temperature had climbed to something like eighty-five.  I was sweating noticeably.

I’m of Scandinavian descent.  I’ve never been to the fatherland—I hope to visit someday—but that’s beside the point.  Rather, I’d like to think that this, my genetics, is why I don’t do well with heat.  Never have.  Never will.  Just a fact of life, I suppose.  This not-doing-well-with-heat usually manifests itself in the form of migraines.  And that’s what began to happen now, on hole five.  Headache.  Strong one.

Fortunately I came prepared.  My twenty-four ounce aluminum water bottle was still mostly full and I had a small bottle of Advil in my possession.  Two pills went into my mouth, followed by a generous mouthful of water and a swallow.  I was good for another thirteen holes, surely.  Sweat be damned.

By the time we finished—with a score of twelve over par for me, not too bad for a first attempt—the outside temperature was ninety-two.  The headache seemed to be more or less under control.  But by now I was soundly drenched.  I may as well have jumped into a swimming pool.  I’d emptied my twenty-four ounce aluminum water bottle too, by the way, back at hole fifteen.

“The Tap Room for lunch?” my friend asked.

“Sure,” I answered, wiping my brow with my sleeve.  “Meet you there in a few.”

Ninety-two isn’t that bad in Arizona or southern California.  And sometimes it’s downright pleasant in south Texas, especially when water is involved—swimming pool, ocean, river, whatever.  But today’s
particular ninety-two was accompanied by a high percentage of humidity, making for a heat index of something like ten degrees warmer still, meaning it actually felt like 102 by now.  The short ride then from the disc golf course to the restaurant was not enjoyable, mesh jacket or no.  Not to mention the Advil wasn’t really doing too good of a job: now the headache was on the less side of being under control.

English: Hays County Courthouse at San Marcos,...

Hays County Courthouse at San Marcos, Texas.  You can barely see the Tap Room in the background on the far right.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia.)

So after tooling around downtown for a while looking for the place—traffic lights stay red a very long time in downtown San Marcos, incidentally, especially when you’re sweating profusely and your head is throbbing—my moto’s cooling fan running nonstop, feeling quite overheated myself, I found my destination and a place to park.  Then I entered the blissful sanctuary of a restaurant with the air conditioning set at about sixty-six.  But not before I’d caught sight of a wretch of a man, miserable, sweaty, dirty, apparently dizzy, and fair-skinned, a construction worker moving slowly behind a fence with a sign on it reading “hard hat area.”

“I bet I look something like that guy right now,” I muttered.  Then,

“Ahhhh,” I groaned audibly as I threw down my outer layer and sat at a table across from my friend.  I carelessly interlocked my fingers and rested my hands at the back of my head, necessarily raising my arms in the process.  And there I sat, taking it all in, perhaps offending the people in the next booth over but nevertheless content to sit that way for ages if need be, as long as it took to diminish the flow of sweat and ache of head.

“Hi y’all,” a table server said to my left with a friendly smile.  “Are you aware of today’s free pint special?  Just order a burger and a side and the pint’s on us.”

An hour or so later that heavenly lunch came to an end.  I was still sweating slightly, but it was mostly under control.  And the headache was mostly gone.  So I put on my outer layer and high-tailed it home.

It was ninety-seven when I pulled into my driveway.  I wish I could say the effects of lunch were still upon me.  But nothing doing.  The steady stream of sweat was back as drenchingly as ever.  My headache was worse than ever too.  And I’m sure the pint hadn’t helped.  Three more Advil went into my mouth, followed by a large glass of ice water.  I then resolved, legendary or not, not to ride my moto through the Hill Country again until the weather cooled, or at least until the heat index wasn’t so high.

Later today, at the dinner table, some four hours after taking the three more Advil, I asked the kids how their days were.  The conversation was full of the wonderful daily adventures that kids always seem to have at the start of another school year.  Then it was my turn.  “How was your day, Dad?”

“Well,” I said reflectively, still sweating slightly from the day’s overheating, and with just the slightest twinge of a lingering headache, “let’s just say I’m glad I’m not a construction worker in south Texas.  We’d probably need move to Seattle or something.  By the way, I hear there’s great motorcycling in the northern Cascades.”

The Blog Begins

Posted in Rationale with tags , , , , , , on June 20, 2013 by timtrue

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For years I’ve lurked in the shadows of cyberspace.  I’ve watched as a friend decides to follow a recent fad, becomes quite passionate about it, persuades me to jump on the band wagon too because, don’t you know, everyone is doing it, it’s the new printing press and you don’t want to be left behind after all, do you?  Only then, too often, and often quite soon, the zeal fades, the fad fizzles, and the friend is left with another username and password for the archives of the mind.  And cyberspace is that much more cluttered.

So has gone my rationale for putting off a blog.  “It won’t last,” I’d tell myself, “your interest in it will go out like a neglected birthday candle.  No one’s gonna be reading blogs in a couple of years.  Just watch.  You’ll see.”  Or I’d discourage myself with thoughts of maintenance.  Who wants to take the time to keep up with a blog, checking it every day, corresponding with followers, and so on?  So I pushed the thought of starting one aside.  Again.  And again.

Then I went off to seminary, to become a master of divinity.  Now the academic load was rigorous, certainly too busy and full for someone to start and maintain a blog, especially when that someone has five kids to keep fed, clothed, driven to and from soccer practice, and otherwise happy.

Yet all through these years the fad didn’t fizzle.  Blogs continued to flourish, all over cyberspace.

So now it is my turn.  I’m beginning a blog.

But it’s not because I’m finally getting with the program or jumping on the band wagon or participating in any other cliché of preference.  Instead, for one thing, I like to write.  Anyone who knows me knows that I have written for regular publications–informal newsletters and the like–for years.  Some know too that I have written a book and three-quarters with another mapped out in my head, a ghost story in fact.

For another, the time is right.  Having just graduated from seminary as a master of divinity (whatever that means), and having more recently begun a job as a curate with an Episcopal parish in San Antonio, I am at a real turning point in life.  I will be ordained as an Episcopal priest on July 7.

This blog will serve a real purpose then: a journal to map out my pilgrimage as a priest.

To round out this inaugural post, then, I offer a few comments on blog choices.  First, my title, vivens in sacerdotium, is Latin for “living into the priesthood.”  I chose this title because it suggests that the priesthood is a calling, a true vocation, not what I do but who I am.  The “living” part of the title is a present active participle, suggesting that my calling is an ongoing thing, that I can and should be ever increasing and growing in my calling as a priest.

The Latin hopefully conveys that there’s a lot more to me than whatever your stereotypical understanding of a collared man of the cloth is.  I taught Latin for a number of years prior to becoming a priest–and may even continue teaching it if an opportunity presents itself.  That, and my many other deep interests–in music, philosophy, family, education, and motorcycles, to name but a few–all shape who I am as I live into my vocation.

Finally, the blog’s color scheme is the same as my motorcycle’s: I couldn’t pass this format up.

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