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Nov 23, 2016 | Josie Edwards

St. Joseph’s Follows Their Bliss

[Diolog Magazine] St. Joseph's, energized by a need to payoff a loan, brought their community together, threw open the doors and ran with a new idea.

 We are a small congregation in a small town—Salado, Texas—population give or take, 2000. We are close-knit and loving, but for every strength, there is a vulnerability. Our small size means everyone has a role, and it means more work for everyone. Food organizers get so worn out at potlucks that we sometimes forget to put out napkins. The few doing everything have little time to organize anything.

Our chapel is cozy, but too small to hold all of the attendants for the funeral of a local businessman (too small on Easter and Christmas, for that matter). We didn’t even have the space to host a reception, and it’s not a good look for the Church to leave 91-year-old friends of the deceased with nowhere to sit.

So, when the property next door came up for sale, the vestry purchased it for a parish hall. I remember the day when our senior warden announced that we needed to raise the funds to pay off the $100,000 renovation loan. Our regular members had already given as much as they could, yet we rose to the challenge.

One young whippersnapper, K.D. Hill, proposed we host a 5K run as a fundraiser. She spearheaded the plan, researched a local race-timing company and imagined an Epiphany theme. With vestry approval at every step, K.D. wasted no time whipping our tired congregation into a race-hosting machine. Every willing church member had a new and exciting role. We were pushing our comfort zone.

We focused on our natural talents of giving. We created generous goody bags and refreshments. One of the blessings of living in a small Texas town is that everyone is willing to help his or her neighbor. The response of small businesses was humbling—even the lending bank, local hotels and restaurants became sponsors despite struggles that ongoing road construction had caused. And yes, even the road contractors became sponsors.

We purchased timing services, tents, refreshments, T-shirts and awards. We held pre-race pasta dinners. Church and community members lined the race course to cheer on runners, manned water and first aid stations, and helped with post-race refreshments (16:38 minutes for the first runners to arrive!).

The 3 Kings 3 Miler course winds through beautiful and historic Salado with a final uphill finish to challenge the best runners’ praying skills. Three costumed magi pose for photo ops, and awards include real crowns crafted by a local artist. The first year we had 85 runners’, the next 148, and this year 250, from all over Texas.

There is no nicer warming party for a new parish hall than to host hundreds of happy and flushed runners grazing on refreshments and sharing their race survival stories. Each year, we are exhausted and can’t talk about next year’s race for a good four months.

The fun of being together with our larger community is always filled with the warmth of the Holy Spirit. Our fledgling race hasn’t raised all of the money that we need, but it has shown us that, together, God is present and moves us to accomplish things we thought were unimaginable. It has made church an adventure and broken us out of our usual roles. And recently, there has always been plenty of napkins. We just needed to find our bliss.

Edwards is a member of St. Joseph’s, Salado.