November 2021
Joy and Gratitude

A Pandemic Church Plant Inspires Joy

The story of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in the Texas Hill County shouldn’t exist – except that God is good and God’s people are faithful.

Affectionately known as St. Nick’s, this community of faith began public worship just two months before lockdown in March of 2020. The Reverend Beth Wyndham, her husband Jeremy and joy-filled members of the launch team were committed to building an Episcopal presence in Bulverde regardless of the ability to be together in person. Instead of giving up, they built solid, Christ-centered relationships and have grown in spite of adversity.

In this vlog, Being Joyful, Beth and Jeremy reflect on the joys of the past 18 months as St. Nick’s went from worshipping in a yoga studio, to figuring out online worship, to purchasing a restaurant building in the heart of downtown, to becoming a vital community partner in Bulverde. All of this, because they had faith that God would see them through, and so they listened to the Holy Spirit as they danced and wove their way through the unknown.

Part I: A church centered on joy

Before they could begin, they needed a name. Beth tells how they came to name this new faith community St. Nicholas and why that name fit their vision.

What place does joy hold in your congregation’s life and ministry?

Part II: Change of plans

As the world went into lockdown, St. Nick’s had to “question what we’re doing and what is church and who do we understand ourselves to be.” Hear Rev. Beth’s reflection, beginning at 47 seconds into the vlog.

During the pandemic, how did you and your congregation re-evaluate what it means to be church?

Part III: Discover community

Now that the people of St. Nick’s are vaccinated and able to meet their neighbors, they work diligently to participate in community events and to invite others to their own events. “Sometimes,” Beth says, “we get so busy with our churches that we forget there is a world to meet.” Beginning at 1 minute, 53 seconds, she and Jeremy show images from the free craft tent at the town’s Musik in the Park, as well as how they engaged the community at their first annual Animal Blessing.

How has your community been present beyond your doors? Are there more ways you can authentically engage with local events and ministries? How are you spreading joy in your neighborhood?

Part IV: Using social media for good

By approaching the lockdown with an open mind about ministry, St. Nick’s saw the move to social media and online church as a blessing of the Holy Spirit. Instead of waiting years to begin effective online ministry, the pandemic forced their hand. Early on, Beth and Jeremy decided that they would engage in online ministry and not just online presence. What’s the difference? They describe their efforts and their thinking beginning at 5 minutes, 35 seconds.

How is your community ministering through online offerings?

Part V: Pets and nature in worship?

One plan St. Nick’s launch team never considered was to offer an outdoor, pet-friendly worship on Sunday mornings. Then, in order to address the safety and health of their parishioners and to offer an in-person worship opportunity during the pandemic, they started an outdoor service that is now a vibrant and essential part of their Sunday morning worship experience. Listen, beginning at 7 minutes, 43 seconds.

Does your community of faith know how to change plans when the Holy Spirit whispers? Are there new ways of being and doing church that you hesitate to embrace because they don’t align with your plans?

Part VI: Leadership and the 99

Rooting its joy and gratitude in the story of the Lost Sheep, the community of St. Nick’s has been faithful to listening to how God is calling his church to exist in the Texas Hill Country. The launch team has built relationships and been empowered to lead in ways that they never imagined. Beginning at 9 minutes, 8 seconds, Beth and Jeremy speak on how their leadership has changed in light of all they have learned.

Looking for a way to encourage your church leadership to reflect on their joy and gratitude as a community? Offer this video, or at least this final section of the vlog, as a devotional before your next Vestry or Bishop’s Committee meeting. Invite your leadership to see where the Holy Spirit has been calling your community of faith.

The Reverend Beth Wyndham is the founding pastor at St. Nicholas Hill Country Episcopal Church in Spring Branch, Texas. Prior to this she was the Associate Rector at St. Thomas in San Antonio. She is married to Jeremy Wyndham and has a great love for silly looking pets, writing, reading, painting and creating children’s books.


This article is part of the November 2021 Vestry Papers issue on Joy and Gratitude