GALVESTON — Since 1999, lay vicar Michael Jackson has served as executive director of Galveston’s St. Vincent’s House. He will officially retire on June 15, but two days ago he passed that position on to the Rev. Freda Marie Brown, who is new to the island, but not to the ministry.
St. Vincent’s is a social service agency and an outreach of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, which is headed up by Bishop Andrew Doyle. He offered praise for Jackson’s work.
“Michael has had a creative and powerful tenure at St. Vincent’s, bringing hope and help to the working poor of Galveston through some of the island’s most challenging times, weather-wise and economically,” Doyle said.
St. Vincent’s began in 1954 and was previously headed by the late Alfreda Batiste Houston.
“While I am sad about Michael’s retirement, I am excited to welcome our new director,” Doyle said. “I expect that Rev. Brown will continue our efforts and multiply our engagement in the health of Galveston. Our goal is to make the ministry a beacon for those in need. We are grateful to Michael for his dedication and the legacy of hope he helped to bring to so many in the name of the Episcopal Church.”
Brown brings a wide variety of experience and training to the island. Born in the 1960s in Mississippi’s Delta, she has trained and practiced as a chemist, a theologian and a chaplain.
“I was called to the ministry when I was 12,” Brown said. “So I feel like I’ve always been in ministry, though my first trade was very left-brained — a clinical chemist.”
Her parents taught her that compassion and love, drawn from God, were more powerful than the discrimination she saw many blacks enduring during her childhood in the Deep South.
“Think the way God thinks — that’s the way we were raised,” she said. “I came here to the island to meet Jesus — he’s among the poor, in need — those who represent all of us. God’s kingdom and system are what I’m here to serve with the gifts and talents he has given me. I intend to love on people and use these gifts for his glory.”
Although it carries the Episcopal name, St. Vincent’s will continue to be part of a broader, ecumenical effort to meet the spiritual and physical needs of the island’s poor.
“Christ’s arms are open for everybody and so are we,” she said. “Absolutely, we are all members of the body. I intend to meet with other leaders to see what we can do to let God’s power work through us. It’s not about just giving people things: They need also to know that they are important in God’s plan, where they fit in creation.”
As for Brown, though she has just arrived, she has already experienced a miracle of sorts — the traffic. Or rather, the lack thereof compared to the massive jams she left behind in Houston.
“Oh man, no traffic,” she said. “I was marveling as I was driving away from my house, meandering beside the seawall and actually saw one lady stop in the middle of the road — and nobody honked at her.”
About St. Vincent’s House
St. Vincent’s House is at 2817 Postoffice St. Among other services, it offers low-cost child care and pre-school programs, a free clinic, emergency assistance and referrals, a food pantry and other community outreach programs for the working poor of Galveston.
To reach St. Vincent’s, call 409-763-8521.