Letter From Jay Simmons
When Saint Patrick returned to minister amongst his former captors in Ireland, he wrote that it was the greatest privilege of his life. In no way am I comparing myself with that great saint, but I do think I proximately understand how he felt. No, I don’t feel like I’m returning to the land of barbarian heathens who hate me and want to kill me (at least I hope not!). But I am returning to the place of the darkest part of my story and it is such a privilege.
I grew up a preacher’s kid in Dallas, but when my Dad left the ministry under difficult circumstances, I ran quickly away from God. And it was during my time at UT in Austin where my rebellion reached its height and I was – in every real sense – captive to my dark sin. After college and a career in marketing and sales management, the “hound of heaven” laid hold of my rebellious life and changed it forever through the power of the Gospel. In short order I enrolled in classes at Covenant Theological Seminary, met my amazing wife, Jen, and together we planted a church in urban South City St. Louis during my final year of studies. And now, a decade later, we believe God has prepared us through this good work to come back to Austin and join in with the All Saints community to continue our work as agents of Gospel light.
Austin is glorious. I don’t need to tell you that. I love Austin and have called it “home” since I left in the early 90’s. But unlike many, I’m not very romantic about it. I have a huge burden for this city because I know its darkness first-hand. I know the allurement of its idols. And I know that beneath its healthy, hipster, artistic, eclectic, fast-paced, highly accomplished, driven, brilliant glory are human hearts that hurt and need the Gospel of grace. Human hearts that need honest answers to honest questions. That long to be known, accepted and loved. That hope for beauty. And that need to be a part of something that lasts.
Church planting is the best way to address these big human needs and desires because it brings big Gospel answers to them through the preaching of the Word, the sacraments, prayer and authentic community. Through our work at South City Church, we’ve seen what the Lord can and does do through a Gospel-saturated, mission-driven, Kingdom-minded gathering of His people. And so when Tim called to let me know that the All Saints session had chosen us to lead the church plant in north-central Austin*, we felt completely excited, humbled and yes…privileged…to return and join in with you all and the good Gospel work you are already doing.
Since this process began, Jen and I have felt a strong connection and mutual Kingdom vision with your excellent leadership and those of you we’ve had the privilege to meet. You have shown us such grace, warmth and encouragement and so we want to thank you for your part in making this new calling so clear to us. Jen and I as well as our girls (Story – 7 and Annie – 5) can’t wait to be there with you – our new church family – in January!
Grace and peace in Christ,
*pending the expected approval of the South Texas Presbytery and Southwest Church Planting Network of the PCA.