Change Font Size:   A A A

Jan 25, 2016 | EDOT Staff

Discovery Retreat: First Participants Explore Discernment Process

Nearly 30 people participated in the Diocese of Texas’ first Discovery Retreat January 15-17 at Camp Allen. The retreat, one of several to be held in 2016, marks a change in the ordination process and broadens the availability for guided discernment to include those persons interested in either lay or ordained ministry. Recent changes in the process also include a move of discernment from the local congregation to a broader regional level.



“It is wonderful to see our dream of this event come to life,” said Bishop Suffragan Dena Harrison, Diocesan Executive for Ministry. “The retreat was rich with thinking, praying and conversation, allowing us to see how everyone’s gifts bring fruitfulness to our mission.”


Ten faculty members helped participants navigate a wide range of topics to better equip them to serve as ministers in the world and to help they further identify how best to use their giftedness, whether as lay or future ordained clergy.


“We reminded everyone that all baptized Christians are called to ministry and that ministry takes as many forms as there are people and needs in the world,” said the Rev. Wendy Huber, a member of the Task Force for the Commission on Ministry.



Using a model based on work by the Rev. Jane Patterson and the Rev. John Lewis, “River of Grace,” the group considered the apostle Paul’s work in relation to discernment. Lewis gave several plenaries to the group and through lectures, small group discussions, music and worship, leaders wove Scripture and scholarship together for the retreat.


Donna Brackett, a member of St. Martin’s, Houston, believes her call to the diaconate was reinforced after the weekend gathering. “My call to ministry has been a long process and I went to the Discovery Retreat to more or less discern that I am going in the direction that God is calling me,” she said. “I was not disappointed … [the weekend] was very personal for each of the people who were there.”



Participants met one on one with faculty members to discuss their personal discernment and next steps, including a wide variety of lay ministries; seminary-trained ordained ministry; seminary-trained lay chaplains and IONA-trained clergy and deacons as well as a new lay track for IONA, which will begin in the Fall of 2016. IONA is the Diocesan school for ministry, an alternative to full-time seminary, which meets monthly for three years. The school “without walls” meets at Camp Allen and has trained many deacons and bi-vocational priests.


Lynn Osgood was looking for clarity with the help of fellow pilgrims. A member of St. David’s, Austin, Osgood noted that discernment is personal and often “unlinear.” The weekend gave her a sense of discernment as “larger process instead of arriving at a single destination … a life skill.”


All participants came away from this first retreat with an expanded view of their own place in ministry, whether that was in their daily lives or as part of the larger ministry of the Church.


St. Paul’s, Kilgore member, Diane Buffington said: “we are to become a channel of grace and submission by reflecting and listening to the Holy Spirit, but that “does not mean sitting back and waiting for God to act. “It is clear that I have much work to do,” she said.


Participants came from Killeen, College Station, Austin, Houston and other parts of the Diocese. The next retreat, scheduled for May 13-15 at Camp Allen, opens registration on the Camp Allen website January 27 at


The Discovery Weekend Retreat is the first step for people considering ordained ministry in the Diocese of Texas, as well as those who feel called to lay ministry. The retreat is a requirement before a person’s rector assists them with the Regional Discernment Committee. This Committee process will be mandatory for ordained ministry and optional for all others. For more information on this step your parish leader may contact the Rev. Francene Young, chair of the Commission on Ministry, the diocesan group that considers applications for ordination. Contact Young at .


For more information on the Discovery Retreat #2 please contact the Rev. Wendy Huber at . If you have questions about the work of the Task Force or discernment generally please contact Young or Huber or the Rev. Victoria Mason, an additional member of the Task Force at .