The Rev. Carlye J. Hughes
Diocese of Fort Worth
The Rev. Carlye J. Hughes has served as rector of Trinity Episcopal, a program sized church in the continuing diocese of Fort Worth, TX, since 2012. She has guided Trinity to expand spiritual practices, promote strong relationships with neighborhood schools, increase outreach activity, repair infrastructure, and complete a successful capital campaign. Previously, she was rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Peekskill for five years, a small multi-ethnic parish in the Hudson Valley. Her first call was at St. James’ Church, a large parish on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Before ordination she was a corporate trainer. Her human resources and staff development experience inform her leadership in church administration.
Carlye says her chief role in the parish is to help others see the ways they are called to serve God and God’s people; then to support, encourage, and empower them to go and do what God created them to do. She devotes significant time to teaching about ministry and preparing leaders for ministry. She states that she began ordained ministry as people were drifting away from church. Her ministry has been shaped by asking the question: How do we serve our neighbor who is unlikely to enter this church?
Carlye is a Standing Committee member. As General Convention Deputy, she serves two task forces: 1) Task Force for the Study of Marriage and 2) Racial Justice and Reconciliation. In every call, she has been active with local and church boards and area activism. Her annual class, Christianity, Racism, and Racial Justice, has drawn participants from across Fort Worth.
Her spouse, David Smedley, is a 20-year student aid administrator. They enjoy baseball and Broadway musicals. Their cocker spaniel, Abbey, a beloved “church dog,” can be found most Thursdays on the Trinity campus.
Who is Jesus Christ to you and how is your life and ministry influenced and shaped by Christ?
Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world, is God’s answer to all that would separate us from God in all times and in all places. He is the center of my life.
All the goodness, love, compassion, and creativity I have known comes from Jesus. All wisdom, intuition, and courage are generated by Him. Like many people, I have experienced brokenness, disappointment, and my own failings. Despite my shortcomings, Jesus restores wholeness, redeems what was lost, and rescues all that has been destroyed. For me, Jesus is a living and lively healer, hero, teacher, and companion.
Jesus is the conduit to my relationship with God and God’s Spirit. As one who is merely human, I will never quite understand why my knowledge of Jesus led to such a profound embrace of the Triune and sole God of all creation. I only know that it is so, and further, I am certain that God’s gift of incarnation is personal, particular, and meant for each of us. I believe God knows and cares about every individual person. Each of us is beloved and important enough that God, through the presence of Jesus, has forever secured our relationship.
Knowing God’s boundless love has brought forth my own love of God and of God’s people. All through my life, from childhood to the present, the companionship of Jesus, the whispers of the Holy Spirit, and the discernment of the community have guided and encouraged me into ministry. It is most definitely the example of Christ’s ministry that has led me to serve in complex settings and blessed me with the gift of standing with communities sorting through difficult circumstances.
What criteria would you use for determining when and how a struggling congregation should be closed? And where might we find signs of resurrection (new life) there?
When one congregation struggles, all congregations struggle. We do not exist as separate islands of congregational life. Instead we live a common life drawn together by faith and Anglican tradition.
A starting point could be to enter an ongoing communal discernment about parish viability. As Episcopalians, significant decisions in our common life are made through study, discernment, and supported by the community’s prayers. Entry into the family of faith is marked by the congregation’s promise to support the faith of those about to be baptized. Even when things go terribly wrong, the community responds with needed assistance or convenes a judicatory process to examine wrong doing.
Our critical decisions are undergirded by careful and prayerful consideration among the faithful. The same approach could benefit struggling congregations. By living into our communal nature we have the opportunity to look at a number of questions:
- Why wait until a parish is struggling to talk about the decline our denomination is facing every year?
- If a group(s) gathered regularly to study the current state of congregations, would leadership of struggling parishes be empowered by the group’s support to make strategic decisions for the future?
- Could such groups develop suggestions for nurturing health, spurring growth, and ending ministry?
- If the community regularly discerns challenges and opportunities, would congregations take initiative to determine the best course of action?
The slow death of congregations across our denomination cries out for our attention. We may be tempted to look away from the evidence of decline, yet acknowledging the truth allows us to see/seek what God has next for us. Resurrection may begin when we look at tough circumstances and ask for God’s help to determine next steps. It takes courage to see the truth, a courage that God gives us and blesses with pathways to new life.
Based on the information you have learned about the Diocese of Newark, what challenges and excites you about your vision for the role of a bishop in the 21st century in this Diocese?
I am compelled and energized by a vision of the bishop as Chief Spiritual Officer of the diocese. I see the prospect of bringing focused attention to the relationships between Bishop, clergy, and lay leaders as a primary need as the diocese seeks to meet the pressing demands of ministry in an environment of rapid change.
The call for evangelism, entrepreneurial ministry, missional initiatives, sustainable congregations, strategic social justice agendas, and serving the church in the twenty-first century requires strong communities and inspired leadership. Communities of faith need to be led by well supported and faithful clergy and lay leaders. In this complex time period, I see a tremendous opportunity to give those charged with leading the church the support needed to thrive.
With a deep well of support all clergy, including the bishop, may generate ministries that flourish beyond congregations and into the larger community. As much as we are concerned about the challenge to our churches, the call to God’s people beyond the doors of the church remains the same. Jesus has always sent disciples into the world to those needing God’s love. His ministry to all people included teaching, supporting, sending, and encouraging disciples in their own ministries.
I look to Christ’s ministry to meet the challenge of these times. The vision the diocese seeks, the help for struggling congregations, the joys of thriving ministry, the courage to champion justice, and the desire to share the faith and tradition we love — all come from the very first ministry Jesus shared so long ago and continues to share today. This desire to serve those who lead is the center of my ministry and fuels my desire to serve in the Diocese of Newark at this time in the life of the diocese, our church, and the world.