Fr. Joe Hubbard

 The Rt. Rev. Dr.  Jonathan H. Folts, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota, along with the wardens of St. Matthew’s and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Churches in Rapid City, are pleased to announce that they have called the Rev. Joseph L. Hubbard Jr. as the rector for their new Covenant Partnership.

“St. Andrew’s, St. Matthew’s, and I could not be more happy that the Holy Spirit has led us to this new relationship and the calling of Fr. Joe as their new priest,” Bishop Jonathan said. “These two churches invested a great deal of their heart and time, and put a lot of thought into who God is inviting them to be. This was clearly seen in the video  that was put together. Then the Holy Spirit ensured that Fr. Joe received the fruits of their labor and accepted the call to be their next servant-leader.”

The Covenant Partnership is a new concept that the Diocese of South Dakota is introducing, asking two congregations to work together with one priest while retaining their individual histories, practices, and traditions.

“Previously, many dioceses ‘yoked’ congregations together whenever they could not afford to pay for a full-time priest,” according to the Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley, Canon to the Ordinary. “And sometimes, that yoking left one congregation — usually the larger one, with more money — in charge, while the other congregation was treated as an afterthought.

“A Covenant Partnership is based on the covenants God has made with us, and we have made with God, including our Baptismal Covenant,” she said. “We are asking the partners to treat this relationship more like a marriage, where they have vowed in front of God to walk together, and work together toward the common goal of living and spreading the Gospel. They don’t have to agree on everything, or even do everything together. But they do have to respect each other, and care for each other, through sickness and health. It’s a new concept, and allows smaller churches to have a full-time priest who specializes in respecting each congregation and their needs and histories.”

“I am humbled and honored to accept the invitation to join St. Matthew’s and St. Andrew’s on a sacred journey as they commit themselves to a covenant relationship,” said Fr. Joe, who served for two years as vicar of St. Christopher’s Mission, Bluff, Utah, and Priest-in-Charge and Ministry Developer of the Utah Region of the Episcopal Church on Navajoland, and has experience working with both Native and non-Native congregations.

“This unique relationship between these two distinct and diverse communities of faith has tremendous potential to model a new approach to Christian discipleship. Together, we can show how the Gospel of Jesus might be made known and made new through mutual listening, mutual learning, and mutual transformation,” he said. “It will be a great gift to join them in weaving our stories together into a new, shared narrative rooted in the reconciling love of Jesus.”

Prior to his ordination to the priesthood, Fr. Joe was a lawyer in Montgomery, Ala., specializing in civil, insurance, and business litigation, as well as civil rights litigation. He also served in the Alabama House of Representatives for four years, including as the Minority Whip.

“On behalf of the Parish of St. Andrew’s, I am very pleased to welcome Fr. Joseph Hubbard as Rector into our Covenant Partnership with the people of St. Matthew’s,” said Shelli Vallis, Senior Warden of the Vestry at St. Andrew’s, a non-Native congregation. “We are excited to share in Christ’s ministry together, and look forward to getting to know Fr. Joe, his wife, Canon Ashley Hubbard, and their children, Hill, Hannah and Hattie.”

Gregg Trask, Senior Warden of the Bishop’s Committee at St. Matthew’s, a Native congregation, said, “I am pleased that we called Fr. Joe, because I really think he’s going to be a good fit. The Covenant Partnership is new to all of us, and I look forward to seeing how this will work out.”

Bishop Jonathan added, “I am truly looking forward to seeing where the Holy Spirit takes Fr. Joe, St. Andrew’s, and St. Matthew’s as they begin this new relationship together. This is a new chapter in the ministry story of both congregations and hopefully, this chapter will consist of many, many pages of the adventures they will take together in God’s mission, especially in Rapid City.”

Canon Lauren stressed that because “this Covenant Partnership is a new idea, we all realize that it will take some time to figure out how to make things work well. But these two congregations have been working toward this since last Fall, and are doing a great job of combining on projects and events. Our hope is that they continue to grow into this relationship and become a model for the rest of the greater Church.”

The Diocese set up a Covenant Partnership last Spring between Christ Episcopal Church, Yankton, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Vermillion, calling the then-rector of Christ Church to serve as Rector of the Covenant Partnership, which they are calling the Episcopal Community of Southeast South Dakota. Christ Church and St. Paul’s are two of the oldest congregations in the Dakota. That partnership also brought together a non-Native and a Native congregation.

“I have been moved by the many ways these communities have already been sowing the seeds of covenant through their shared ministry amongst the people of Rapid City,” Fr. Joe said. “Their collaboration during COVID to provide pastoral care to those in need across our region shows that, together, as a Covenant Partnership, we might more powerfully proclaim God’s dream for God’s people in our corner of South Dakota.

“As a community of communities, we represent a spectrum of experiences, histories, languages, traditions, and commitments,” he added. “We are many and, gathered in the center of this sacred circle, we are one.”

Fr. Joe is married to Ashley Hubbard, the Diocesan Canon for Formation; they have three children. He will begin his new ministry on Aug. 14, with his first service at St. Matthew’s scheduled for Aug. 20.