Of Mission and Ministry

Photo credit: Anglican Diocese of the South, June 2, 2019

This week, Christ Our King welcomes Deacon Owen Lyons, a recent seminary graduate who will be serving COK as he learns the ins and outs of leading a parish in the pilot year of our new clergy mentoring program. While his personal testimony is fascinating, the Lord’s leading of him to us is its own fascinating story, one only the Lord could orchestrate.
Born in California, Owen is the fourth of five siblings – two older brothers, an older sister, and a younger sister. Though growing up as a “PK” (preacher’s kid) is not particularly normal, his early childhood was otherwise as any other homeschool kid growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s in the United States, until one day when he was eight years old.
“My father had a call to either Hawaii or Honduras and we ended up in Honduras,” Owen shared with a bit of a sarcastic tone noting that Hawaii was seemingly a far more attractive option. “As children, we had no idea where [Honduras] was or what we were supposed to do.”
Honduras became his home. It was really all he remembered, far more than life in California. But, as he was preparing to enter high school, the family moved to Bolivia and his dad became a bishop. “I was mad my parents took me from my home, so I was rebellious,” he described. His rebellion was fueled by his high school experience.
Owen attended a Christian school where at least 70% of the students were expat, missionary kids and the rest were nationals.  The whole class had grown up together, making for a very difficult situation to enter as the “new kid.”
“The missionary kids treated me worse than the nationals. So, I looked for friends outside. Because I looked older, I could do things older people could do, like get into clubs,” he shared about his rebellion. “Most of my friends in Bolivia did not go to my Christian school so I surrounded myself with non-believers.”
But that wasn’t the worst of it. Though it was a Christian school, Owen explained that “more of the teachers hindered spiritual growth than encouraged it.” When asked about his own faith, though, he said, “That’s the thing, I never questioned it. I was practicing, there in church every Sunday because I didn’t have a choice. But I wasn’t living it. I would say my main issue was that most of the adults I came into contact with who were professing believers, were unhappy hypocrites.” Except one adult he knew, his junior and senior year Home Room teacher from Australia. He remembers thinking, “If I was going to be a Christian, I’d be more like that guy.”
The road to “being like that guy” began at the new year of his senior year of high school when Owen realized he needed to get his life together. “I realized I was not on a healthy path and two days after I graduated, my parents sent me back to the U.S. to keep me out of trouble.”
So, in August of 2004, after spending the summer with his grandparents in Baltimore, Owen – caravanning with his parents who were home on furlough – drove across the country to Comfort, Texas. There, he spent a year at His Hill, a ministry of Torch Bearers International, in a one-year survey of the Bible.
“I never really thought of myself as anything other than a Christian, but when you grow up with two really dynamic missionaries, you realize it was really their faith. His Hill in Comfort gave me the time to figure out who God was to me and figure out what the Bible actually says with a bunch of other people doing the same thing.”
It was that year when “everything clicked together,” he said. “When you study the Bible like that, you could really see Jesus in the Old Testament and you could see how the Old Testament affected how they lived in the New Testament. All the pieces made sense in a more logical way than they had. The faith became much more of my own and not just my parents’.”

Photo from Gafcon 2018

From there, he still ignored the call of the Lord and didn’t do much with his newly-refreshed faith atfirst. He ventured to college where he studied audio engineering. But the Lord kept pulling him back in. In 2010, his parents were visiting a friend who would later become not only bishop but archbishop, Foley Beach. Beach jumped on the opportunity to have Owen’s talent employed at his congregation and the newly-formed Anglican Diocese of the South. Two months after Beach’s consecration as the first bishop of the diocese, he pulled Owen and two other young men aside to implore them to consider ministry.
“I started trying to put him off but allowed myself to be subjected to discernment in 2012 or 2013. I had a lot of people, random people, asking if I was studying to be a priest or in the process. Then [the discernment team] said I was definitely called to be a deacon and if I was going to be a priest I should go to seminary. So, I thought, if I go to seminary, I can put off all of this. So, that’s what I did,” admitting his own stubbornness.
And it is, in fact, what he did.
After graduating from Trinity School for Ministry in May of 2017, Owen stayed at the seminary to continue working in communications. He had worked while a student and the school asked him to stay on. He promised them one year of full-time work in communications while he discerned his next steps.
In 2018, the Lord began to orchestrate his next steps that would lead him to us at COK. Owen was on

Dinner during Gafcon 2018

his way to GAFCON 2018 in Jerusalem to serve on the communications team with, among others, COK’s Rachel Thebeau who works for the province. While Rachel and Owen previously knew each other through Andrew Thebeau, brother of Rachel and seminary classmate of Owen’s, they became friends at Gafcon. One night, Owen and Rachel were set to meet up with other conference staff at a reception but ended up at a random dinner with the Fr. Chuck, Sandy, and two other clergy from the province. It was a memorable dinner for all and Fr. Chuck’s first opportunity to get to know Owen.
Just prior to the conference, Owen received word from the Lord: “The Lord told me ‘you know exactly what I want you to do, so just do it.’” So, he agreed that after Gafcon he would stop putting off all of the things he had been, primarily ordination. “Normally, I am stubborn enough to get all the way to the gates of Damascus and He strikes me blind, but this time, thankfully, He was very gracious and that did not need to happen,” he said with laughter and gratitude.
And this was the beginning of COK’s entry into the story. Owen returned and told the seminary he would give them through the school year. In November, he told them it would be his final year and he would be moving on in May, but he did not know yet to what. And, at that time, he also went into a holding pattern with his ordination process.
Throughout all of this time, the Thebeaus had numerous family conversations about a need in the province for training of recent seminary graduates. In the Anglican Church in North America, there are few positions for newly ordained clergy that do not throw them directly to the wolves of leading a small parish as a rector or starting a congregation as a church planter. Opportunities for recent seminary graduates to receive training on all of the practical bits of running a parish that seminary doesn’t teach you are definitely needed.
In February, the Christ Our King Think Tank met for the first time. Surprisingly late in the conversation, one member (not a Thebeau) asked about such a need and offered a 12-month internship as a ministry idea. What Fr. Chuck had not been sure about for months, was suddenly embraced and prioritized by the entire Think Tank. The Lord moved fast, verifying the idea.
Just two days later, Rachel had a texting conversation with Owen that started regarding the coming provincial Assembly at which Owen would be helping the communications team again. The conversation led to some catching up including Owen’s options for when he would be done at the seminary. It was a natural conversation that revealed, while he had two secular job options, he still did not have a ministry placement.
“I was out and about as the conversation carried on, but when I got home, I ran to my dad and told him Owen is available,” says Rachel. “I knew his gifting could be a huge boost for COK. He also knows enough to help build an apprenticeship-type program while still having a lot to learn from COK and our clergy. And, I had had conversations with him previously about the huge need, and his own interest, in this kind of program.”
The next week, Fr. Chuck reached out to Owen casually via email to gain his insight on such a program. “I got an email from Fr. Chuck on a Thursday. It was a really nice email of about 300 words saying he appreciated our dinner at Gafcon the previous year and asking if I would be willing to share my thoughts on what a program like this would look like.”
Owen responded with about a 1200-word response of six things he would want to see in this kind of program. Little did he know, his description was exactly what Fr. Chuck had been thinking.
So, the next day, Owen received a call from a random Texas number. “Normally, I would just let it go to voicemail, but I thought, ‘hmm, I’ll just answer it.’” It was Fr. Chuck calling to thank him for his response and wondering if he would be interested.
“He said, ‘I really like your ideas. We don’t have this budgeted, but do you want to be a guinea pig if we can find the money,’” Owen described of his conversation with Fr. Chuck. “I was pretty much speechless. I’m not good at being caught off guard on the phone – Fr. Chuck can tell you, it’s really awkward,” he said laughing.
Not two weeks later Owen was no longer in a holding pattern concerning ordination. Though no one in the diocesan office related to the ordination process had heard of his conversation with COK, he received word that he would be ordained in June and was given the steps he needed to complete beforehand. In the meantime, COK would work to find the money.
At their March meeting, the Vestry reflected on the passage that the Lord “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or imagine” and prayed into that. They prayed that the Lord would provide in ways we could not imagine. The next day, Fr. Chuck received word of very significant donations that would provide the final amount needed to fund the first year of our new clergy training program.
The Lord has masterfully crafted testimonies in the lives of Deacon Owen and the congregation of COK to bring us to this time of ministry together. May He use this year for His glory and to help COK and Deacon Owen take the Gospel to New Braunfels, to Texas, and to the world. Amen.
Read previous COK testimonies here: