Gospel Presentation Speaks to the Heart

Former Baptist Deacon Finds Home in Episcopal Church

Anthony Chapple has served on St. David’s vestry for many years and had a major role in the Church’s 2018 General Convention planning committee, held last summer just a few blocks from St. David’s at the Austin Convention Center. Chapple also serves on the committee planning events around the new bishop suffragan election to be held in February.

How did a former Baptist deacon make his way to the Episcopal Church? Beautiful liturgy and a warm welcome.

Born in Galveston in 1959, Chapple grew up in Dickinson, a small community south of Houston, that was 60 percent white and 40 percent African-American. He attended the New Jerusalem Baptist Church where his grandmother, Ella Palmer, taught Sunday school. Her words of constant encouragement continue to resonate with Chapple today. “She always told me I could do anything,” Chapple said.

As a student at the University of Texas in Austin, Chapple joined University Baptist Church, where he later served as chair of the deacons’ ministry. Following graduation, he worked for the Texas Health Department and later as a senior vice president for medical economics at the Texas Medical Association. He met his husband, Dennis Driskell, during an introduction to choir class at the church.

Intrigued after hearing of the vitality friends experienced at St. David’s, Chapple and Driskell attended on Easter Sunday 2007, and were deeply touched by the liturgy.

“I didn’t know what to expect when we entered the sanctuary that morning,” he remembers. “It was transformative.” Chapple was especially touched by the reverence expressed for the Gospel.

“The Gospel was carried in and held high with the cross … and placed on the altar. At the [reading] it was carried into the middle of the room and read aloud. I felt a physical sensation that the words were intended for me … the intimacy of the Gospel being spoken within in the crowd (as Jesus often taught) took it to a whole new level for me. [It was] a glorious celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.”

“Something connected with us and we felt we had found a new home,” Chapple said. He was confirmed a year later.

Chapple credits a deepening faith to the instruction he received at St. David’s. Clergy and lay alike made him welcome. The Rev. Mary Vano, then associate in charge of new members, gave him both the space he needed to make the change and was present to answer any questions he had. He studied for confirmation with longtime lay leader George McGonigle who also helped to shape Chapple’s new experience of faith. “I learned so much from him,” Chapple said.

Chapple regularly leads Evening Prayer at St. David’s and believes the Church encourages openness. “The Episcopal Church has always understood people are in different places on their faith journeys,” he said, noting the young Muslim man who came to Evening Prayer and laid out his prayer rug to participate.

The encouragement he learned at his grandmother’s knee continues to guide Chapple, and through him, others deepen their faith and commitment to their faith community.

“I’ve never felt as spiritually grounded or as close to God as I do right now. St. David’s is what has done that for me. It is filled with wonderfully loving, service-oriented people of all kinds. We live out the call to affirm the dignity of every human being [and] that can be a tough one, but St. David’s is a body of Christians striving everyday to do just that and I am so blessed to be a part of it.”

As volunteer coordinator for General Convention, Chapple notes a high point in his church life. “General Convention introduced me to the diversity of the Episcopal Church,” he said. “We are part of a beautiful community.”

Bob Kinney and Carol E. Barnwell contributed to this article

Translate »