Good Shepherd Brings the Love to Our Saviour

03.07.18 | Homepage | by Kimberly Durnan

Good Shepherd Brings the Love to Our Saviour

    Church of the Good Shepherd in Dallas is sharing its love and resources, to give Our Saviour Episcopal Church in Dallas a boost in attendance and morale.

    Our Saviour, which is in Pleasant Grove, has an average Sunday attendance of about 20, and has not had a permanent priest in several years. The church has been hiring supply priests or would worship with morning prayer, but have remained steadfast in mission. The church is a mainstay in the neighborhood and is known for its enormous garden that parishioners use as an outreach to feed the hungry in the community. The garden produces vegetables, fruit, herbs and has a chicken coop for fresh eggs. 

    The Rev. Dr. Matthew Burdette, who is a curate at Good Shepherd, said he is working with Our Saviour to help the parish thrive once again in attendance and self-sufficiency. For starters, he is preaching at the church every Sunday. He said it’s important to be a source of stability at the church.  “The decline will not be reversed without clergy presence,” Burdette said.

    A longer-term plan calls for Good Shepherd to help the church start a school: “We are exploring the idea of opening an Episcopal School that would give underperforming children and low-income families a chance to flourish,” Burdette said. “This would allow Our Saviour to be a bi-vocational church.”

    The school would likely start with 5th graders, because that’s a crucial age group to support when academic remediation is needed, Burdette said. “We want to give those students a second chance.” In fact, a central theme of the project is a “Second Chance to Thrive,” because the church is getting a second chance and the academically struggling students will get a second chance.

    However, the garden will remain an important part of the church and used as a learning tool for the school, and a source of food for the students’ families.

    Good Shepherd has long had a relationship with Our Saviour, bringing youth to help in the garden. “This is a fitting partnership,” Burdette said. “Good Shepherd is excited. They want to come here to worship with us, help with the condition of the building and assist in the garden.”

    Father Michael Mills, the rector of Good Shepherd in Dallas, says that his parish feels called to this work. “God continues to bless Good Shepherd with energy and means for mission, and this partnership is one way that we can be a blessing to a sister church and, through them, the whole neighborhood,” he said. “This is an exciting idea, a new way of being the Episcopal church among the poor.”

    Becky Smith, who is a longtime lay leader at Our Saviour, said parishioners are excited about the school as another mission outreach to the neighborhood. “There is a need for a church in this area. And we haven’t had a vicar in years, so that will be nice for us,” she said. 

    Even with Good Shepherd’s help, the church’s financial future remains unclear. “The school is what makes the church viable,” Mills said. “There is a significant difference between the cost of the school and what families can pay in tuition. We haven’t figured out the whole plan, but we believe God has called us to this work, so we are trying to respond in faith.”

    That response includes meetings with people in other parishes. “We are trying to build a network of friends who believe in the project and who can come alongside us to answer some of these questions,” Burdette said. “It’s not insurmountable.”

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