Got a letter from David Hoster, rector of St. George's Episcopal Church in Austin, announcing his retirement in May after 20 years of serving “the little church that could.”
David's been at St. George's just a little longer than Jerry and I have been building Down Home Ranch, and that's no coincidence, because St. George's birthed the Ranch just as surely as I birthed Kelly Page Horton.
Our family was “unchurched,” as they say, when Kelly was a toddler. Jerry and I were juggling and struggling, caring for a small child with a big disability, teenagers, two careers, and ailing, aging mothers.
St. George's was in our neighborhood, and gave us a meeting room for ADS-UP (Austin Down Syndrome Union of Parents), so we got to know a few of the parishioners.
My mom needed to move to Austin to be closer to us, and we learned St. George's had just completed St. George's Court, affordable housing for elderly of modest means. Mom became one of the first residents.
There were other meetings and functions we found ourselves attending at St. George's, but it still didn't occur to us to attend services. We weren't the churchgoing sort. In fact, Jerry was more the prosyletizing atheist sort.
Then one day I met a man with his little boy in a neighborhood park where I'd taken Kelly to play. We got to talking and I learned he went to St. George's. I told him how much our family appreciated St. George's ministries, and he grinned and said we really needed to come some Sunday, but he didn't push it.
A few months later Jerry returned from a conference in Washington, D.C. The following Sunday morning I was lying on the bed in a pretty deep funk, exhausted from the week's travails, and he said out of nowhere, “Let's go to St. George's this morning and try it out.”
I flopped over on my back and stared to make sure a stranger hadn't wandered into my bedroom. Why not? I thought, beats lying on the bed in a funk.
We walked through the doors with Kelly in tow, and the greeter was the man from the park. He smiled in recognition, opened his arms wide as if he'd seen us just the day before, and gave me and Kelly a big bear hug.
“Welcome to St. George's!” Our life was about to change, big time.