Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
Kingwood, Texas
 
 
Parish Handbook - History

A HISTORY OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

On March 12, 1962, at 7:30 p.m., a celebration of Holy Communion was held in the home of Mrs. Ethel M. Penn on Old Humble Road in Humble, Texas. Nine persons attended this first church service of what was to become the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. Two months later, on May 7, 1962, at another celebration of Holy Communion, twenty-one people signed a petition for mission status to be taken to the Bishop. At the 114th Council of the Diocese of Texas, held on February 8-9, 1963, the delegates voted to accept the petition and Good Shepherd officially became a mission church.

Regular Sunday services began in 1962 and continued at other churches, halls, and homes. Even without a church building, an altar guild was started, Episcopal Church Women was formed and confirmation classes began. The energetic spirit that moved this early group showed itself in a June 1962 letter from John Humenay, the first church warden, to Bishop Hines concerning the birth of the new Church of the Good Shepherd. Humenay wrote: "I hope and ask God in my prayers to give me strength and knowledge to help Him build His house in Humble."

By 1966, the mission had 32 communicants and was meeting in a mobile home provided by the diocese, located on property donated by Mrs. Penn, three acres on Old Atascocita Road. The following year on February 5, 1967, ground was broken for the first permanent church, which was to include a worship center and educational wing. On October 22, 1967, at 5:00 p.m., the completed church, at 702 Atascocita Rd., Humble, was dedicated. This building, although much enlarged and remodeled, is now the home of Berean Baptist Church and School.

After years of struggle, the church now settled into a more stable existence for a time. Outreach programs for the sick and needy were a regular part of the church's agenda; there was a wonderful organist, Mr. E. L. Garlick who played regularly for Sunday services; ECW conducted an annual rummage sale and many other services for the church; a congregational picnic was held in early June; and a thriving Sunday school program was begun. In 1968, with 36 families, at least 100 parishioners, and an annual budget of approximately $9000 (compared to 25 parishioners and a budget of $1000 in 1962), the mission had grown substantially, both spiritually and physically. On July 1, 1969, the Rev. Thomas C. Woods was appointed minister-in-charge. The same year a rectory was purchased at 1111 Master's Way, Forest Cove, Texas, for $29,500, where the Rev. Woods and his family resided.

In 1970, financial problems were beginning to affect the church. At this time, Humble and Forest Cove were the population areas being served by Good Shepherd. When the church was initially built, future population growth was estimated to be greatest in an area central to Humble. With the Friendswood development of Kingwood in the planning stages, however, many in the congregation felt that relocating north might make the most sense. Some division in the church developed, between those "north of the river" and those who lived south of it in Humble, as to the future direction of Good Shepherd.

Finally, in January of 1973, the move was made from Humble to Kingwood with the first service in Kingwood held in the Kingwood Community Room on February 25, 1973. Approximately half of the families remained members of Good Shepherd after the move; the other half dispersed to various churches in Humble and Spring. The Rev. Woods left, and the Rev. Joseph Johnson became priest-in-charge of Good Shepherd, Kingwood and St. Mark's, Cleveland on March 1, 1973.

The Diocese of Texas bought the present four-acre site on Woodland Hills Dr. in Kingwood from the Friendswood Development Company on September 8, 1973, with the goal of a permanent worship facility to be built on the site. In 1974, studies were made and a building fund drive was held, funded initially by the sale of some of the Atascocita Road property. The move and the prospect of a new building fueled the growth of the church and were reflected in the 1974 budget. It grew to $17,933, up $7,000 from the previous year.

Ground was broken in June 1975 for the first phase of the new building – an 8500 sq. ft. structure containing a 250-seat sanctuary (expandable with folding doors to seat 200 more), classrooms, nursery, kitchen and office space.  The mission began to meet at Foster Elementary School and continued there until the building was completed. The first service in the permanent location of Good Shepherd, Kingwood, was held at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 1, 1976. The dedication, with the Rt. Rev. J. Milton Richardson present, occurred the following month on September 26, 1976, at 10:00 a.m. Within the space of nine years, the small mission of The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd had accomplished the major task of building not one, but two church facilities. In relocating to the young and growing community of Kingwood, the church had found a place to put down permanent roots. It grew with the community, from 72 families in 1973, to 199 families in 1976.

Another major event in the life of Good Shepherd took place in February 1978, when the 129th Diocesan Council of Texas voted to approve Good Shepherd’s request that it move from mission to full parish status. This meant that the church was on its own, financially. Later that year Father Johnson left for a calling to St. Paul's, Navasota, Texas, and on April 1, 1979, the Rev. Richard Elwood, from Palmer Church in Houston, accepted the call to become the new rector. Some divisions that had opened up in the church over the preceding few years were healed and unified under Father Elwood's leadership and Good Shepherd began to grow substantially.

In 1978, there were 189 families listed on the parish rolls and this increased to 346 families by 1984. Pledge income and the annual budget increased accordingly, the most dramatic being between 1979 and 1980 when pledges went up 70% - from 91 families giving $65,534 to 148 families giving $113,465. Also during that time, the church rectory in Forest Cove and the remaining Atascocita land were sold.

More room was desperately needed for the 200 children enrolled in the Sunday school classes in October 1980. Every available space was used as a classroom, including the kitchen storage closet. For a while, rooms were rented in the Kingwood Middle School with students walking from the church to the school and back. A proposal to buy and use three temporary buildings was approved by the Church Corporation and by Friendswood Development, as a short-term measure.  The “temporary” buildings were still very much in evidence until construction began on the Mission Center in 2000.

During the summer of 1982, a capital funds drive was held for a new Christian education building. The drive ended on August 1, 1982, as we celebrated both the sixth anniversary of the church building on Woodland Hills Drive and the raising of over $30,000 cash toward the new building. Plans were approved to go ahead with Phase II of the building plan and one year later in August 1983, the Christian education building was completed. That winter, the Good Shepherd School began its operations in the new facility.

Father Elwood left Good Shepherd to become rector of St. Mark's, Beaumont on October 1, 1984. The Rev. Bob Redmon served as priest-in-charge until May 12, 1985, when the Rev. Stephen R. Whitfield became the third rector of Good Shepherd. Through Father Whitfield's dynamic leadership, the Church of the Good Shepherd continued to grow and expand its activities. One hundred sixty families had pledged $180,000 in 1985. Two years later, in 1987, the pledge amount had increased to $210,000 and the church anticipated having pledges to meet a 1989 budget of $325,000. There were three worship services every Sunday, classroom and activity space was always at a premium, and the church building had been reconfigured several times for maximum efficiency.

By the time of Good Shepherd’s 25th anniversary in 1987, it had grown to over 350 families. A long-range planning committee was formed and later concluded that the space needs included a larger sanctuary and additional classroom and office space. A capital funds drive was launched in 1988 to raise money to build to meet these needs. Over $600,000 was pledged toward the $1,500,000 cost of the new facility. The construction was completed and the new facilities dedicated in November 1990.

Good Shepherd's budget grew to an estimated $700,000 for 1998, with $630,000 to be provided by 279 pledges, and now approaches $800,000. The sanctuary debt continued to decline by approximately $100,000 annually.

On June 15, 1988, the Rev. James J. Young became Good Shepherd’s first assistant rector, and in May 1990, Richard Rhoads joined the staff as the organist and choirmaster. In September 1990 he became the first full-time, paid music director. The Rev. Young left to teach at a private school in Oklahoma in August 1991, and was followed by the Rev. Lacy Largent who, in turn, was followed by the Rev. Joell Szachara, who left in March 1999. The Rev. Whitfield was called to be chaplain at the University of Texas in August 1992, and in August 1993, the Rev. Dennis G. Fotinos become Good Shepherd’s fourth rector.

The Good Shepherd staff has had to grow to serve the expanding size and complexity of the church. In 1996, the office space was remodeled to accommodate the staff which by late 1997 included the rector, an assistant rector, office manager, financial bookkeeper, parish secretary, director of music ministries, director of Christian education, and the part-time positions of lay ministry coordinator and care giving director. This was in addition to the administrative and teaching staff of Good Shepherd School.

Through all its personnel changes, Good Shepherd’s congregation has remained strong and committed. The church's growth has continued, moving from 400 families in 1991 to around 500 families in 2009.

Some of Good Shepherd’s strength through the years has come from its many outreach programs. These have included FamilyTime, the Career Resource Center, St. James House (a nursing home in Baytown), the 3-H Service Center in Bordersville, and the Houston Area Women's Center. It has made its facilities available for various community and religious groups such as garden clubs, AAUW, Temple Beth Torah, and scouting. In the early 1980's, Focus on Hunger was the major outreach program of Good Shepherd, which the church supported through a walkathon and several food drives each year to stock the Bordersville Food Pantry. In 1991, Good Shepherd became a covenant sponsor of Humble Area Assistance Ministries (HAAM) and now supports its work both with financial assistance and with volunteers.

Until it disbanded in 2007, Good Shepherd’s Episcopal Church Women (ECW) facilitated the parish’s involvement with many other charitable and outreach functions such as assistance to the Bordersville Day Care Center, assembly of sexual assault survivor kits for local hospitals, and support of FamilyTime and HAAM. ECW's Silent Auction/ Dinner/Dance, has raised ever-increasing amounts, over 50% of which goes went directly to those outreach projects.

Another outreach event is the outdoor Live Nativity scene that has been presented for the enjoyment of the community every Christmas since 1986. And on Good Friday, the Sunday school teachers present a series of vignettes, "A Journey through Jerusalem,” to which the community is also invited.

During the 1990's, Good Shepherd grew substantially in the variety of activities and ministries offered. In January 1990, the St. Agnes Chapter of Daughters of the King was installed with 17 charter members. An Usher/Hospitality Corps has been was revived and revised to welcome visitors on Sunday morning. A variety of social groups, including Empty Nesters, Married with Children, and Young Christian Adults, began regular functions. Sunday morning adult education offerings now include ongoing Inquirers and Discovery classes, and Bible studies and other varied offerings. In addition, the Disciples' Bible Study programs are regularly offered.  The 1996 and 2007 Faith Alive! weekends were well-attended and generated excitement and several more new activities, including a chapter of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, an AIDS ministry, a grief support group, and several other small groups.

Some of the most profound changes at Good Shepherd have had to do with the youth. A hugely successful Vacation Bible School has been offered since 1991. There is now a structured two-year process for youth confirmation. The acolyte program has been completely revamped by Verger and Acolyte Master Paul Brinsden. Under his direction, 84+ well-trained and enthusiastic young people now serve at the altar on a regular basis. The eagerly anticipated quarterly acolyte events train, educate and provide team-building opportunities and fun for them. The children in the congregation and in the community at large have also benefited by the Good Shepherd School, which added a kindergarten program in 1991, and by “Mother's Day Out” each Friday which serves approximately 100 children.

With the growth in church membership and ministries as well as the Good Shepherd School population, it was necessary to build a new Mission Center, which was completed in 2001 in time for start of school that fall. The Mission Center completion has greatly enhanced church youth programs, Christian education and small group meetings. Added administrative space was also provided for increased staff efficiency.

New outreach opportunities were also enabled. In January 2002, Good Shepherd became a host church for the Interfaith Hospitality Network of the Humble/Kingwood area and for several years hosted homeless families on a rotating basis with other member churches. In 2003 Good Shepherd began participating in the Feed My Lambs outreach program once a month, preparing and delivering lunch to residents of the government subsidized White Oak Apartments in Porter. Every year, Christmas is made brighter for many residents at St. James House, for many foster children living with financially strapped families, and for some area families through ECW’s Operation Santa. Good Shepherd volunteers serve Houston’s downtown homeless at Lord of the Streets Episcopal Church and at The Beacon, a Christ Church Cathedral ministry to the homeless.

The Reverend Stephen Whaley joined the Good Shepherd staff as assistant to the rector in July 2002 as a deacon and was ordained as a priest in December 2003. Father Stephen served Good Shepherd until July 2005. Deacon Robert Goolsby became the assistant to the rector in August 2005, was ordained as a priest on November 2, 2005, and served Good Shepherd until mid-2008.

In October 2005 Good Shepherd School began Pumpkin Patch focusing on pumpkin sales to the community. In 2006 the parish took over the Pumpkin Patch and began the annual Fall Festival with fun activities for area children and their families and generating funds for church ministries.

After serving the parish as rector for fourteen years, the Rev. Dennis Fotinos retired in January 2008. The Rev. Nicolas R. D. Dyke served as interim rector until the arrival of Good Shepherd’s fifth rector, the Rev. William T. Richter, Jr. on July 12, 2009.

Since its beginnings in 1962, The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd has been blessed with many challenges and opportunities as well as with the people and other resources with which to meet them. The parish looks forward to continuing its efforts to live into its mission statement:

With God’s help and gifts, we proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to our community
and invite all people into our loving fellowship.

 

(July 2009)