PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston March 2022

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O n a bright Sunday in October, dozens of Round Top-area residents and their beloved furry friends — including Elvira, the Round Top Smoke House mascot — gathered in front of picturesque Haw Creek Chapel in Henkel Square to have their animals blessed by the Reverend William Miller. The Black Cat Choir performed, and Father Bill — as many call him — obtained his personal ecclesiastical trifecta of animals, the arts, and nature. And so, Saint Cecilia's, a new creative spiritual community affiliated with the Episcopal Church, was born. Miller is not your typical priest — his email is kahunapadre. He founded four jazz music festivals, opened live-music venue Padre's in Marfa in 2009, and is the author of The Gospel According to Sam, The Beer Drinker's Guide to God, and The Last Howlelujah. Indeed, what makes a service at St. Cecilia's so compelling is how the unexpected is seamlessly woven in — be it a Eudora Welty quote in a sermon or a Van Morrison song at the close. We caught up with Miller on his way back from officiating a wedding in New Orleans. "That's one of the unique things about my ministry," he says. "I really don't distinguish between sacred and secular — there are so many spiritual lessons — although some of them, you have to dig a little deeper for." Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians, and the Haw Creek church celebrates the creative gifts of all musicians and artists. New Orleans native Joey McGee is the current guest musician, performing acoustically each Sunday in his soulful country- blues-rock style. Miller also taps into his wide, diverse network for special guest preachers. Thanks to Miller's engaging and all-welcoming demeanor, the Sunday-morning service in this 1872 white clapboard church has been a packed house ever since. "It's a place where magic happens," Miller says describing Round Top, and citing nearby Festival Hill and the creative and artistic folks who've set up shop in the small town. If the name rings familiar, Miller has roots in Houston, where he was ordained at St. John the Divine and served as youth minister from 1986 to 1991. He continued his ministry in Austin, then back in Houston, then on to Hawaii, and to Covington, Louisiana, where he met his wife, Sandy. The couple went on one of their first dates in Round Top in 2019, when Miller was officiating a wedding at Haw Creek chapel and have now made it their home, christened Howlelujah Hall. Drop in to Saint Cecilia's for traditional Communion Sunday service and coffee on the porch after, and come as you are. Stay tuned for special services, workshops, and a concert and literary series. Service every Sunday, 10:45 am, at Saint Cecilia's at Haw Creek Chapel, 103 Henkel Circle, Round Top, By Anne Lee Philips. Photography Jack Thompson. HOLY HAW CREEK REVIVAL ALL IMAGES COURTESY THE ARTISTS AND WEST CHELSEA CONTEMPORARY The Reverend Bill Miller and his wife, Sandy, at Haw Creek Chapel, Round Top Window to God. The Reverend Bill at Haw Creek Chapel 136

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