2021 Christmas Message

from Bishop Russell Kendrick

The altar rail where we gather to receive communion is a mystical, miraculous and messy place. I still can feel the blush of embarrassment when on an Easter morning as a new chalice bearer I spilled more than a few drops of red wine down the front of someone dressed in their Easter Sunday best. Talk about a mess. And that is just one of many bloopers that I have witnessed at the altar rail. 


But I would also contend that the altar rail is a mystical place where heaven and earth meet and miracles occur. I have seen it. People reach out to receive the gift of bread and wine and are suddenly overcome by a mystical meeting with God. I am certain that I have witnessed more than a few tears of genuine revelation and shared in a few moments of real conversion. And such mystical miraculous moments can happen to the one giving the gift as much as to those who receive it. 


I remember one time when I was administering the bread and I approached a mother holding her newborn baby. As is my custom, I knelt down to offer God’s blessing to her baby. As I reached out my hand to make a cross over her child, the baby suddenly reached out and took hold of my finger. And she would not let go.  “Your baby has quite a grip on me.” We shared a hushed laugh. That baby would not let go of my finger. And if you will allow me a bit of sentimental honesty, I did not want her to let go. And that is when sentiment became sacred. For just an instant, there was a mystical meeting with God.  


"Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”


As we make our way once more to the Christmas manger, it too is a very mystical and messy place. Whether that manger was in a cave, tent or shed, it must have been messy. But in the midst of the mess, there was a miracle. A place where heaven and earth meet. And there too, we will approach a mother holding her newborn baby. A baby who is reaching out for us. 


At Christmas we celebrate not just the birth of a child, but what this child offers to each and to all.  “God so loved the world that God gave us this child.” This baby has come into the world to reach out to us, take hold of us and never let go.  


At Christmas, God makes the decision to share our human nature. God risks everything to live and die as one of us.  To take hold of us and in so doing to reconcile us with God.  God has reached out and taken hold of us, and God will not let us go. And if you have ever felt let go…if you have ever felt given up on…if you have ever walked in the land of deep darkness then you know in your soul how important it is…. to know that you are not alone.  


The grip of God’s love is strong and has got you. And given all in this world that tries to divide us, isolate us, polarize us, that is indeed good news of great joy.  


So, I invite you, in the name of the church, to make your way once more to the manger. Whether that manger is in Apalachicola, Eufaula, Coden, Monroeville, Pensacola or somewhere in between or beyond, lets us go with the shepherds to that mystical place where heaven and earth meet. Wherever you find yourself this Christmas, whether it be in church or watching a service online, whether kneeling at an altar rail or kneeling in your home take a moment to keep watch for God and give thanks for the gift of love given to us in the incarnation.


May the life born to us in this baby we know as Christ Jesus, fill you with praise and hope.


May the mystery and miracle of Christmas take hold of your life once again.  


And may the grip of God’s love embolden you to go forth and take hold of this world in the name of the love. 


A blessed Christmas to you.  

Welcome to the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast's
Go Forward Campaign!


In this video, the Go Forward Campaign cabinet members share a special litany for our diocese.


When challenges and needs arise, we rally together as families and congregations to meet them. That spirit is central to the future growth of our diocese. It's also the spirit of this campaign. 


Now more than ever, we see the need for grassroots efforts and the fellowship of shared goals. Thank you for your role in making this campaign a success as we go forward together. 


We invite you to join your prayers with ours.

As we Go Forward, we invite your participation. This is a unique opportunity to further strengthen our diocese and its programs and facilities for future generations. For more information, please contact Eleanor Reeves at eleanor@beckwithal.com.


Senior High (9th-12th Grade)    

June 5-9


LIT (rising 10th grade & up)  

June 9-11​


Session 1 (6th-8th Grade)

June 12-17


Session 2 (3rd-5th Grade)

June 19-24


Session 3 (7th-9th Grade)

​​June 26 - July 1

Session 4 (Special Ministries)

​July 5-8


Session 5 (4th-6th Grade)

July 10-15


Session 6 (5th-7th Grade)

​​July 17-22


Session 7 (3rd/4th Grade)

​July 24-28

Family Camp (1st Grade & up)

​July 29-31

Please email Rachel Gilliam at rachel@beckwithal.com with any questions

2022 Camp Dates Announced

Registration will open on December 1, 2021.


Please click below for more information on our dates, rates, and tiered pricing system



The Episcopal Church of the Central Gulf Coast is 62 worshiping communities located in southern Alabama and northwest Florida. We are small churches and large churches; we are contemporary and traditional.


We are 18,000 followers of Jesus.


When you come to an Episcopal church no matter how crazy the world has been, no matter how terrible your week has turned out, no matter what kind of mess you have made of it, you will hear a message of God's unending grace, and you will be invited to be fed with the bread of God's life. It's a great kind of Christian to be.


We are unabashedly inclusive; we welcome diversity and differences of opinions; 

we hold to worship that stretches back to the first day of the apostles; we make decisions centered on the Bible, but that are also enriched by what we have learned in history, and the gift of our own reasoning.  We don't shy away from issues that involve justice and peace; we are committed to furthering God's dream of a new creation of peace and unity.


Most of all, we are children of God, just like you.



Bishop Russell

The Right Reverend J. Russell Kendrick is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast

Bishop Russell was elected to be the fourth bishop of the Central Gulf Coast in February of 2015, and was ordained as bishop on July 25, 2015. 


A native of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Bishop Russell earned a Bachelor of Arts in architecture and marketing from Auburn University in 1984. Then in 1995, he received a Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary. At the time of his election, Bishop Russell was rector of St. Stephen's in Birmingham, Alabama since 2007. Russell is married to Robin, and they have two children, Aaron and Hannah.


When Bishop George M. Murray addressed the 1968 convention of the Diocese of Alabama, he described his vision of a new diocese which might be formed from counties in south Alabama and northwest Florida.  He made his address immediately following Bishop C. C. J. Carpenter's announcement of his plan to resign at year's end after a thirty-year episcopacy.  After his 15 years of assisting Bishop Carpenter in serving the more than 100 congregations in Alabama, Bishop Murray spoke of new possibilities.  One of them was a new diocese. 


His vision was as exciting as it was historic.  Since 1830, the Diocese of Alabama had covered the state.  The Diocese of Florida, formed eight years later, also covered the state (including congregations in Cuba for a few years) until 1888 when a new jurisdiction of South Florida was created.  From time to time, dividing the Diocese of Alabama had been considered, but never decisively.    


Throughout 1968 and 1969, Bishop Murray and Bishop Hamilton West of Florida worked with clergy and lay leaders in both areas.  In early 1970, the conventions of both dioceses agreed to the new diocese.  General Convention approved in the summer of the same year.  Bishop West, senior of the two  bishops, chose to remain where he was.  Bishop Murray then chose to lead the new diocese.


The Primary Convention of the new diocese met December 3-5, 1970, in Christ Church, Pensacola.  Bishop West preached from Exodus 14:15:  "The Lord said to Moses, 'Tell the people of Israel to go forward.' "At his invitation, Bishop Murray presided over the sessions that organized the diocese.  Before adopting canons, the convention adopted a motion "that the new diocese should be structured so as to allow freedom to explore new ideas and to not be hampered by traditional concepts of either of the existing dioceses."  With this as the standard, canons were adopted for a relatively simple structure open to possibilities for creative mission and ministry.  The convention named this new beginning the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. 

History of the Diocese