A Note from Peter (May 2018)

 The Rev. Peter Gray

The Rev. Peter Gray

Late last month, Steve Iwanski shared with the EYC that his time as Nativity’s youth minister will come to a close in late October. In June, Steve will have served faithfully on the staff of Nativity for four years. During that time, he has built deep relationships, led mission trips, organized parish wide fellowship and Vacation Bible School, carried youth to Diocesan retreats, worshiped with us, helped our kids take leadership in worship, nurtured our older kids' spiritual growth, and played ceaselessly with the little ones in our WeeYC. He has done all this while perfectly balancing warmth, accessibility, and maturity. Steve's ministry among us has truly been a blessing.

When Steve began work as Nativity's youth minister, he was newly married, had just completed his time teaching at J.Z. George High School, and was a part-time bookseller at Turnrow. Four years later, Steve is the manager of Turnrow, the founder of the Greenwood Shakespeare Project, the incoming President of the Greenwood Little Theater, and Sarah and Steve's son Nate will be two in July. To everything there is a time and a season, Ecclesiastes reminds us, and Steve is entering a new season with different opportunities for ministry.

In June, Nativity will welcome the Rev. Phillip Parker, freshly-graduated from the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, as a part-time Priest Associate and Youth Minister at Nativity. Before seminary, Phillip lived in Southaven and worked as an outpatient therapist for youth and families in Tunica through the Region One Mental Health Center. Last summer, he served as the chaplain to the young adult staff at Camp Bratton-Green. The Executive Committee and I interviewed Phillip, and we are excited about his professional background and also his warmth, his kindness, and his commitment to nurturing the spiritual development of our kids.

Phillip and his wife Amanda are the parents of two children: Connor, who will be entering the 9th grade next year, and McKenzie, who will be in the 4th grade. Amanda will be working as a Special Education teacher in Marks, and the family will live in Sumner where Phillip will be the clergy-in-charge for Church of the Advent. This unique arrangement of sharing staff is not totally novel for us, since our churches already share a youth group! Three Sundays per month, Phillip will preach and celebrate in Sumner. One Sunday per month, he will be present at Nativity for both services and the Sunday School hour. This arrangement will allow him the opportunity to worship with our youth group and build relationships with adults and younger children on a regular basis. On those Sundays, lay leaders at Church of the Advent will lead Morning Prayer.

The overlap of Steve and Phillip's time this fall is purposeful. I hope that Steve's continuing presence will help our youth be at ease as they get to know Phillip and build relationships with him. In addition, I hope that Phillip will gain an appreciation of our existing youth programming by shadowing Steve for a bit before he begins designing his own Sunday evening programs.

As you can tell, I am grateful for the excellent ministry Steve has done these past many years, and I am excited about the opportunities that Phillip will bring upon his arrival. If you have questions, please be in touch! In the meantime, hold Steve, Phillip, and our youth in your prayers!

Peter+