Men's Breakfast Report, June 2011
The Men’s Breakfast Group met Saturday, June 11 with featured guest Robert Dohle, rector of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church. Robert is employed at Dow and acts as unpaid rector of the church. When Mike Gemignani was nearing retirement, Robert, a long time member of the church, realized that much of the budget was going to pay the pastor’s salary instead of doing the job of the church. He then decided to become an unpaid rector of the church. This meant that he had to go for a few years to a special seminar-type program established by the Episcopal Church for tentmaker pastors. The program was rigorous. Classes met for a full weekend each month with exams at the end of each session. Most of the work involved heavy outside reading and study. Eventually he got through the work and was ordained. He served for a short time with Mike before Mike’s retirement.
A few years ago, Saint Paul’s major service to the community was in setting up the Freeport Medical clinic. The medical clinic is now independent and the church has only minor involvement with the clinic as a destination for charitable donations. The church does collect food donations every Sunday for the food pantry as part of its service.
The church’s major service project is its Brazoria barbeque. Every year it sponsors the barbeque which raises about six thousand dollars. This money is all returned to the community through donations to various causes; none is kept for the church.
Robert believes that the spiritual services the church provides to the community and its members are a sufficient reason for the churches to receive community support by tax exemptions. He believes that church support of members could reduce the need for government support and programs.
Fifty years ago Freeport had many middle and upper class residents who made up the congregations of the churches. These people have largely moved to Lake Jackson leaving lower middle class people in Freeport. These people have not been joining the local churches. Saint Paul’s church has members from throughout the Brazosport area with few from Freeport itself. Freeport members are not as well off as members from Lake Jackson and do not support the budget as well. However, Robert believes that the church should get members from the local neighborhood. The church has a few Hispanic members, primarily from Nicaragua, and one black member.
As usual, the men had an interesting discussion and a good breakfast. The next meeting will be Saturday, July 9th with Jim Barnett, chairman of the Freeport Economic Development Commission, as featured guest.