A Brief Overview of the Diocese
The Diocese of Nevada is generally defined by the state lines, and is predominantly high desert terrain 2000-5000 feet in elevation with very dry climate. Summers are generally hot, winters (with the exception of the Las Vegas Valley) present snowy driving conditions.
The Diocese is dominated by two metropolitan areas: Las Vegas and Reno. The largest number of Nevada Episcopalians are in the Las Vegas valley, served by 10 parishes surrounding the largest casino industry in the country.
Most congregations in the Diocese of Nevada are referred to as “parishes” without the distinction as to which are self supporting. Congregations elect vestries for their governance, under the direction of the Bishop.
Both Las Vegas and Reno airports are in the center of town. The Diocesan office faces the street in an office park a short 10 minute drive from the airport. All the Las Vegas Valley churches are within 30 minute drive of the Diocesan office. Serving the bedroom communities of the Valley (Henderson and Boulder City) are three parishes and one new congregation (Epiphany) in an office park just inside the Henderson border.
The four Reno/Sparks churches are a 15 minute drive from one another. One is a newly planted congregation (St. Catherine of Siena) meeting in a Roman Catholic High School chapel.
The State Capital (Carson City) is 40 minutes South of the Reno metropolitan area and is served by a single congregation. The remainder of the Diocese’s 37 congregations are generally in small towns spread across the State, with considerable desert or mountain drives between them. Mining and ranching have been important in the history of these towns.
Nevada has been a leader in the development of TOTAL (“Shared” or “Mutual”) MINISTRY. The clergy in Nevada include men and women with a great diversity of talents, skills and backgrounds. Most of the ordained clergy serve on a volunteer basis, while retired or engaged in secular employment. The Diocese participates in the Living Stones Partnership. About 42 members of the clergy have received their training through individualized programs designed by our Commission on Ministry. Nineteen of them are Vocational/Perpetual Deacons. Two of our "Perpetual Deacons" are seminary trained. Many Diocesan clergy have secular occupations. Less than 20 of the active Nevada clergy have been trained in traditional three-year residential seminary programs. All are encouraged and expected to pursue lifelong learning as they continue their spiritual journeys with the congregations they serve.
Nevada is blessed with a growing number of clergy as a result of the continuing interest in discernment within our parishes, the identified needs for leadership, the growth of our State in the largest metropolitan areas, the retirement of clergy who come to Nevada from states around the country, on-line seminary courses and the intentional efforts by the diocese to foster education for all the baptised. We recently had a system of regional vicars which has been discontinued. We now have developed four "Mission Districts," one of which is just this year served by a "Missioner Priest." These districts attempt to meet three times a year -- with varying success and VERY sketchy attendance.
The Frontier District is the northeast quadrant of the State of Nevada. Seven congregations are part of this area and are located in Elko, Winnemucca, Wells, Austin, Eureka, Ely and Pioche. Historically, these communities were vital, dynamic centers of mining in the last century. Each congregation was established more than a century ago. Most have historic, original buildings which are well maintained. Nevertheless, with the exception of Elko and Ely, these communities have seen the effects of dramatic demographic transitions and decline in the last 50 years. Yet each congregation continues to do the work God has given them to do to the best of their ability. Total (or Mutual) Ministry, including the calling, formation, and licensing or ordination of ministry teams, has been central to the mission strategy of the Frontier District.
The Central Mission District: Historic parishes serve native congregations in Nixon and Wadsworth. The District also includes Fallon, Lovelock, Tonopah, Virginia City, Yerrington and an unorganized group of Episcopalians in Hawthorne. Despite the distances, warm friendships exist among people in these parishes, who have a long history of faithfulness to the work of our diocese.
The Northwest Mission District is centered around the Reno/Sparks/Carson City metropolitan area. There is an increased sharing of ideas and resources among the member congregations. Both a Youth/Young Adult leader and a Children's Ministry leader were employed by the three Reno/Sparks congregations to integrate and grow that ministry within all three Churches, through a single youth group, college (Young Adult) ministry and sharing of curriculum resources.
The Southern Mission District has developed an excellent means of communication among its parishes. The most recent district meeting discussed their common ministry concerns, which include youth, stewardship, educational training opportunities, outreach, advertising and regional confirmations. A bulletin board of web announcements is being maintained and members are encouraged to post items of interest.
The Lake Tahoe Sierra Mountain recreation area is served by two congregations in the Nevada Diocese and one in the Diocese of Northern California. One of Nevada’s Tahoe parishes is situated at the Diocesan “Galilee Camp & Conference Center.” The Northern California congregation is located on the opposite side of the lake at Camp Noel Porter.
One parish in the South (Bullhead City, Arizona) is in the bedroom community for Laughlin, Nevada, separated by a time zone and the Colorado River at Davis Dam. Laughlin is a recreation/gaming oasis, a 30 minute drive from Needles, California in the Diocese of Los Angeles and a two hour drive through the desert from Las Vegas. Geographic distance and the size of our State (110,561 sq.mi.) has a major impact on our Diocese. Congregations in the Frontier District shop further East in Salt Lake City, a three hour drive.
Both North and South have FRESH START groups for clergy and those involved find them very helpful. The four trained Diocesan facilitators seek to strengthen the relationships among Episcopal clergy, congregations, and dioceses during critical periods of transition in clergy leadership.
Another program operating in the Diocese is START UP, START OVER, a basic development of theory and skills for congregations in decline or seeking a new direction, those which have hit a growth plateau and need new energy, or are thriving and ready for their next step.
Outreach ministries of our people include a wide ranging assortment: from a robust feeding of homeless people in Las Vegas to a medical clinic in Kenya. Some of the best organized efforts have been ”spin-offs” into private 501c3 corporations, securing funds from a variety of both government and private sources.
EPICENTER ON THE PARKWAY was launched by Christ Church, Las Vegas eight years ago and continues to be housed by the parish, providing daily supplies of food for the homeless and under-supported families, local bus passes and clothing to assist wage earners manage until their first paycheck. Support comes from the Valley parishes, individuals, HUD grants and supermarket surplus food donations collected by volunteers. There is also a hot meal served by parishioners once a week in the parish hall.
“Lend A Hand,” located in St. Christopher's Center, Boulder City helps the elderly and chronically ill remain in their homes. Volunteers provide help with errands, shopping, driving to medical appointments or by providing companion services. The board of Trustees includes persons from various community churches and organizations.
KIDS' KLUB is an after school children’s program initiated by St.Paul’s parish in Sparks. It is now independent but remains housed in the parish building and provides activities in a caring atmosphere. With help from Kids’ Cafe (a program of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada), the program also provides the only balanced daily hot meal for many neighborhood children.
The Diocese strongly supports one of the country’s most successful state government lobbying efforts for systemic change. RAIN (Religious Alliance in Nevada) plans to add this year a second person to the full time professional lobbyist who works on behalf of the organization’s constituent members: Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic churches in Nevada.
Another, now independent effort supported by the Diocese and some member parishes is INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT MISSIONS (IDM) which has provided clean water, sanitation and funds to build a medical clinic in the Kenyan Diocese of Machakos. IDM was initiated by St. Paul’s parish, Sparks, in partnership with the Grace Community Church in Reno.
Some of the students at UKIA Girl’s Secondary School in Kenya are supported by members of St. Timothy’s, Henderson. A third Kenya project, St. Nicholas Children's Community Center, is providing a home environment for children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. All Saints, Las Vegas operates an Episcopal pre-school program for its community. Five parishes in the diocese house homeless families as part of the Interfaith Hospitality Network (Family Promise). Members of other parishes which don’t have suitable overnight facilities support the program, bringing hot meals and visiting.
There is a considerable Spanish speaking population related to the tourism and casino industries. The Diocese is actively working on addressing this opportunity for ministry, although at the moment the Liturgy is only celebrated occasionally in Spanish at St. Jude’s Ranch. There is an (East) African Christian Fellowship that meets at Christ Church, Las Vegas, a Northern Filipino congregation worshipping at St. Luke’s, Las Vegas and a Southern Filipino congregation at All Saints, Las Vegas.
Prison ministries in Nevada are among our more strongly supported mission efforts. Episcopal priests and deacons make regular visits in the State’s prisons and there is one prison conregaton (St. Nicholas Mission). Two of our priests are employed full-time by the State Department of Corrections. Kairos week-ends are conducted several times a year in the Prisons, and two half-way houses for newly released prisoners in Las Vegas and Reno are supported by Diocesan lay members and clergy.
DOMESTIC MISSIONARY PARTNERSHIP (DMP) granted the Diocese three allocations for new ministry which enabled a new Church plant in South Reno (St. Catherine of Siena) with the proviso that it launch a mission effort to the Hispanic community. Holy Child Filipino Ministries in Las Vegas received the second grant and "Circles of Support" in Carson City received the third. This latter ministry is designed to transition indigent men & women back into the workforce. Shared experiences of connection and empowerment from the 2006 September DMP gathering can be found by selecting the link to the "Small Membership Churchs" blog, and scolling the page to Stories of Vitality from the Domestic Missionary Partnership.
Our Diocese now has it's own DIVERSITY TRAINING TEAM. Workshops are scheduled to help all of us become more aware of our impact on others and the sometimes unconscious prejudice that exists in our lives.
The SAFE CHURCH program is fully operational in this Diocese, with workshops being regularly scheduled.
The Diocese has provided particularly strong ecumenical leadership in Reno through the efforts of Trinity Church. Episcopalians participate with Lutherans and Methodists in the small, vital ELM conregation in Stead, North of Reno. Grace-St. Francis is an Episcopal/Methodist congregation in Lovelock.Nevada. Conversations are in process seeking new ways to work cooperatively in Bullhead City, Arizona and Laughlin.
RELATED INSTITUTIONS & ORGANIZATIONS
For 40 years St. Jude’s Ranch for Children (Boulder City) has provided shelter and healing for abused, abandoned and neglected children. Children are placed at St. Jude’s Ranch through the Clark County Department of Family Services. They live in homes on the campus with full-time Family Teachers who teach them life skills to start new lives with new chances, new choices and new hope. The Ranch was founded by an Episcopal priest, and until the last couple of years, an Episcopal priest served as CEO.
The Campus Christian Association (Reno) and Campus Interfaith Ministry (Las Vegas) are ecumenical college programs at the University of Nevada to which the Diocese makes a financial contribution. Better coordination could be developed between the Diocese and these programs. Canterbury of Reno is a new program that has been organized from the three Reno/Sparks parishes to relate to the Reno campus of the University.
Neither the Diocese nor any of its parishes have any formal affiliation with Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace, but some Episcopalians participate. One parish has an organized environmental stewardship group (Ecopalians). Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) has active local coordinators. An active chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians(UBE) meets at Christ Church, Las Vegas. There are several chapters of Daughters of the King(DoK) and two chapters of the Order of St. Luke. Episcopal Churchwomen (ECW) is alive and well here, with regular participation in the United Thank Offering (UTO).
The Episcopal Church’s Western Seminary, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and the affiliated Berkeley Graduate Theological Union are 3.5 hours drive (1 hour flight) from the Northern part of the Diocese, and 11 of the congregations in Nevada support the Seminary financially. Local clergy training has been arranged through a partnership with CDSP where a seminary professor who teaches a Nevada targeted on-line course spends a weekend in the Diocese mentoring students.