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Leesa James Lewis Assigned as New Curate for Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church

Leesa James Lewis Assigned as New Curate for Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church

by The Reverend Dr. Roman D. Roldan on May 17, 2023

TLDR: The demands were high and the curates few, but Saint Dunstan’s has been blessed once again to be a host site for one of the Diocesan 2023 Curates. Please read below for more.

It is with great joy that I announce Bishop Doyle’s appointment of Leesa James Lewis as our new Curate. This is a huge blessing to us because we had more churches requesting curates this year than we had curates available for placement. To be assigned a curate in 2023 can be taken as a sign of the confidence the Bishop has in our ability to train competent priests who are in love with Jesus and who are ready to lead in today’s complex church context. Now, let me share a few details of Leesa’s own biography and a few thoughts about transition.

Leesa grew up on the plains of Oklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plains. There, she met her husband, Bill, on a blind date at the University of Oklahoma. In August, the couple will celebrate 40 years of marriage. Bill has his own business in oil and gas land-management. They have 3 adult children. Their eldest daughter is a commercial salmon fisherwoman in Alaska, as well as a watercolor artist. Their middle daughter is an officer serving in the United States Coast Guard in the San Francisco Bay area. And their son is in Tyler finishing his bachelor’s degree in history and working in digital marketing.

The Rose City, Tyler, Texas has been the James’ home since 1997. After being a fully engaged partner in her husband’s company for many years, Leesa took a hiatus from ‘normal life’ as God called her to follow God’s calling into full time ministry. During the middle of a worldwide pandemic, she moved to Austin to earn a master’s degree in divinity.

Having guided 3 children into college, Leesa’s heart was moved to complete her own degree as well.  Art had long held her interest and when she found a university offering a degree in Fine Art, she said “Yes!” The beauty of art and the church have been intertwined just as it has been in her heart.  When she has any spare moment in her busy schedule, anyone can typically find Leesa buried in an obscure Art blog or pursuing a virtual tour of an art museum. On many Sunday mornings, we are sure to hear Leesa weave a Caravaggio painting into a sermon, detailing Jesus’ love for people and her own desire to do the same.

In terms of ministry experience, Leesa has led women’s ministries and has organized various retreats. She has also taught Sunday school for children, junior high, and high school students, in addition to young adults and young married couples. She has worked with Vacation Bible School leaders and has taught communication skills to young families. She has taught ESL, led an Apples of Gold ministry, worked with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Invite/Welcome/Connect, in addition to a slew of other ministries. She is the 2021 Seminary Consultation on Mission Grant Recipient (SCOM). The grant gave her the opportunity to create a parish profile and to design and lead three Art and Spirituality seminars at St. Alban’s Mission in Antigua, Guatemala, during the summer of 2022.

Now, there are a few things to know about how our curacy program will benefit Leesa’s formation in the next two years:

  1. Curacies are formation programs. What this means is that it will be our collective responsibility to make sure that Leesa receives the best, most practical, on-site training possible. We will have achieved our goal to equip Leesa for ministry if by the end of two years she is still in love with Jesus of Nazareth and has become a better person, preacher, teacher and minister as the result of her training here. In an age of attrition and polarization, when pastoring has become extremely complex and many pastors are choosing to abandon their ministries, it is our duty to ensure that Leesa is supported, loved, and enabled to thrive and grow in passion and wisdom. Saint Dunstan’s does this very well. We have trained a number of great rectors, parish priests, and missionaries now serving the Diocese and the national Church with distinction.
  2. Each Curate brings a set of skills and areas for growth that are unique to them. We will best support Leesa if we get to know her and her family over time and avoid comparing her to any other curates past or present. So, start planning to invite Leesa and her husband to dinner, porch wine, special events, and the like. Leesa and her husband will relocate to this area for the next two years and would appreciate being included in the full life of the church.
  3. I see every Curate as a Generalist. What this means is that I don’t pigeonhole them into youth ministry, or children’s ministry, or whatever position the church has been having a hard time filling. My Curates are involved in everything and their compensation is divided across all cost centers of the church. Having said this, there are areas for growth that I address throughout the program. If the Curate has 25 years of experience in management and administration, I will not assign them many tasks that have to do with this. If, on the other hand, they have never had the opportunity to do much Pastoral Care, then that will become one of the major goals for their program. Each Curate has a program Taylor-made for them. This program will include regular preaching, liturgy planning, prayer, and office meetings (staff, finance, vestry, etc.)
  4. Leesa will be ordained a Deacon before arriving to us on July 1. What this means is that she will not be able to celebrate the Holy Eucharist for at least six months. The joyful part of this is that we will get to plan another outstanding ordination. This was a highlight of our current curacy. I will involve the entire congregation in helping me plan this great event. More about this later.

Please keep Leesa in your prayers as she finishes seminary, graduates, becomes ordained a Deacon, and relocates to our area. We will plan a welcome reception for mid-July.

Blessings to all,

Fr. Roman+

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