Neal Michell


I was born in Dallas, Texas, and grew up in Garland. For the first six years my family was unchurched. My father died when I was six, and my mother looked for strength and encouragement and found it in a new Episcopal church that had started in a doctor’s office about a mile from our house. We attended church and Sunday School but drifted away after several years.

At age eleven I gave my life to Christ in an intentional way in a neighborhood Bible club and began attending church with the family that led the Bible Club. In college, I was involved in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Also during college I began reading books by Tom Howard, John Stott, J.I. Packer, and C.S. Lewis. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my spiritual mentors were all four Anglicans. I had not at this time connected these Anglican influences with the Episcopal church of my childhood.

I began searching for a church that would meet my spiritual and intellectual needs. I found this in the church of my childhood and was confirmed at St. David’s in Austin.

Following college I attended law school and practiced law in Houston as a criminal defense lawyer. There I attended Church of the Redeemer and met my wife, Varita. Redeemer had profound, soul-stirring worship and was heavily involved in inner-city ministry. At Redeemer I caught a vision of strong lay ministry and worship that touches people’s soul in a deep way. Our first child, Natalie, was born in Houston.

After several years we moved to Del Rio, Texas, where I joined a law firm. During this time I sensed a call to ordained ministry. Although I thought that I had escaped this call which I had considered in college and dismissed, the “Hound of Heaven” caught up with me. I responded, and was sent by Diocese of West Texas to the School of Theology at the University of the South, where I was introduced to the more catholic side of the Church than I had experienced in West Texas. My spiritual life and reflective life deepened greatly while at Sewanee. Varita gave birth to our second child, John, while at Sewanee. John is very Texan and views his birth in Tennessee as an accident.

We returned to Texas and served two congregations: Holy Trinity in Carrizo Springs and St. Timothy’s in Cotulla. I was immediately responsible for two congregations, preaching weekly, leading Bible studies, two vestries, and learning to minister in small towns. This experience was invaluable. Holy Trinity grew under my leadership but declined after I left. I learned that as a priest I needed to form leaders, not just gather a crowd. Our daughter, Anna, was born at this time.

Next, we served St. Barnabas, Fredericksburg, Texas. Here I learned that congregations have histories and that I was simply a steward for that congregation. I began to understand congregational dynamics. This church also experienced growth under my leadership, but this time it was a much healthier growth — not centered so much in my personality as it was in building a congregation where lay leaders grew in prominence and responsibility. Whereas, at Holy Trinity, being a priest was about me and my abilities, at St. Barnabas it was much more about those I served and my serving them and developing leaders and letting leaders be leaders. In Fredericksburg God gave us our fourth child, Andrew.

Following our time in Fredericksburg we moved to Memphis, where we had the opportunity to plant a church. My interest in congregational development grew as I discovered the dynamics of the church changing as it grew. I discovered an ability to articulate the things I was learning in a way that others found helpful.

Following Memphis we returned to Texas, where in New Braunfels I put into practice more that I had been learning. Again the congregation grew; again it was healthy growth that was sustained after I left. Finally I was called to serve the Diocese of Dallas as Canon Missioner for Strategic Development and then as Canon to the Ordinary. I recently was asked to serve as the Acting Dean for St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas (www.episcopalcathedral.org). I am delighted to be in parish ministry again.

I have served the larger church in several ways, having attended seven General Conventions, three as a deputy, and have served on the World Mission Committee twice and the Committee on Structure once, and twice on the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church. I have led numerous workshops and conferences in over thirty dioceses in our church and in four foreign countries. I have written two books on congregational development, published by Church Publishing, and am currently working as a co-editor with the Rev. Winnie Varghese on a book on restructuring in the Episcopal Church for Church Publishing.

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