What’s Next for the Strandlunds?

As many of you have heard, Lucy and I are leaving St. John’s at the end of this month.  Many of the details of our move—where we’ll be living, what I’ll be doing for work, etc.—have been up in the air for a while.  Today I’m writing to give everyone an update.


Lucy will begin her seminary studies in August at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX.  Yes, this is where we went to seminary the first time!  Lucy and I finished our first round of degrees in May of 2015 right before coming to St. John’s.  Some of Lucy’s credits from her first degree will transfer, so even though her M.Div will still take a full three years, she will not be quite as overloaded on credit hours every semester as might otherwise be the case.  Southwest, its faculty, and our friends from seminary (some of whom still live near Austin) are very dear to us, and we’re excited to be returning!  Hopefully, some of the ‘transition to seminary’ bumps will be less bumpy since we’ll know to look for them.  Please keep Lucy in your prayers.  She starts orientation for new students on August 12th.


As for what I’ll be doing, the news is good: I got a job!  I am both excited and reasonably anxious to announce that I have accepted a call to serve as the next Vicar of St. Elizabeth Episcopal Church in Buda, TX.  Buda is a small but growing town about fifteen miles south of Austin in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.  The area around Austin is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, and Buda is no exception.  When you decide to visit, the physical address of my new church is 725 FM 967, Buda, TX 78610.  (For those not familiar with Texas, “FM” stands for “Farm to Market Road.”)  The postal address is PO Box 292, Buda, TX 78610.  You can find St. Elizabeth’s online at www.st-liz.org


Some of you may be wondering, “Did he say he was going to be the Vicar?  How delightfully British-sounding…but what does it mean?”  I will be the Vicar of St. Elizabeth’s rather than the Rector because St. Elizabeth’s is a mission of the diocese and does not yet have full parish status.  This means that St. Elizabeth’s receives some financial and pastoral support from the diocese.  Whereas a parish forms a search committee and calls a rector in consultation with the diocese, the Bishop appoints a vicar directly.  Whereas a parish has a Vestry, a mission has a Bishop’s Committee.  Functionally, however, the differences between a vicar and a rector, and the differences between a vestry and a bishop’s committee, are negligible.


While I’m nervous about the level of responsibility the position brings, I’m so, so excited about this post.  The people are warm and engaged; the parish is growing; strong lay leadership is in the community’s DNA; the bishop and diocesan staff are supportive; and I’m following a healthy, capable leader who only left because she got elected Bishop Suffragan of the diocese.  (Yes, big boots to fill )  My first Sunday at St. Elizabeth’s will be August 6th.  Please pray for me, too.


That’s a bit about where we’re headed.  Between now and August, we’re taking care of business, saying our goodbyes here in Montgomery and in Millbrook where Lucy works, seeing family and friends, and taking some R & R during July.  At the moment we’re purging our belongings back down to a size that will fit into a 400 square-foot seminary apartment.  We’ll head up to Cullman this weekend to see my family, then to North Carolina for a few days next week to see Lucy’s family.  I’m looking forward to our big parish picnic here at St. John’s on Sunday the 18th.  On June 22nd we’ll get to help St. John’s Young Adults’ Supper Club welcome their newest members, Jamie and Lauren Osborne, who’ve just moved to Montgomery from seminary in Sewanee, TN.  Our movers come the weekend of our last Sunday, June 25th, and we’ll drive to Texas some time that following week.  At some point before then, I hope to shake your hand and hug your neck.


Some of you have asked what’s in store for us after Lucy finishes her M.Div degree and, God willing and the people consenting, is ordained some time in 2020.  The honest answer is, “We don’t know.”  Usually seminarians return to their sponsoring diocese after graduating from seminary.  Lucy and I are an unusual case, however, since I’m also a priest.  It may be that we return to the Diocese of Alabama after Lucy’s three seminary years are up.  But we may also stay put in Texas a while, especially if my ministry with the folks of St. Elizabeth’s is going well.  Or, there could be some other path we’ve only just dreamt of.  When it’s time for that, those decisions will be made in consultation with Bishop Sloan here in Alabama and Bishop David Reed in the Diocese of West Texas.  In the meantime, we’ll continue to pray, continue to listen for the Spirit, continue to pay attention to what our lives and the life of the wider Church are telling us.  


Finally, thank you for letting me be one of your priests and preachers for a time.  I remember my very first Sunday not being sure what to expect and feeling generally intimidated and inadequate.  I preached that day, and not long into my sermon my deacon’s stole fell off.  Less than an hour into my work at St. John’s and I was already “liturgically naked” before everyone!  We had a good laugh about it, and I relaxed a little.  In thinking about my upcoming work at St. Elizabeth’s, I again feel intimidated and inadequate—but this time I go with the experience that those feelings will soon be joined by others: confidence, skill, humor, forgiveness, even kinship.  I expect that for many years I’ll be discerning all the ways I’ve grown during my time at St. John’s.  Right now, all I’m sure of is that God has been in the midst of our time together, and that I am not the same as I was two years ago.  You’ve taught me to hope from a depth I’ve not known before.  Whatever challenges and joys await Lucy and me in the future, I meet them now having received from you that gift, one for which I could never have asked.  I am grateful.


God speed you, friends.