The Rev. Bill Dunn, vicar of St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Beaumont, is hosting a community fundraiser at the historic site on Friday, June 1, 2012. "Dragon Tails: Puss 'n Boots Pays a Visit" is a children's play that the entire family can enjoy.

Vicar goes from politics to priesthood

BY DIANE A. RHODES

The Press Enterprise
22 May 2012

The Rev. Bill Dunn has been the vicar of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Beaumont for nearly two years and is always looking for ways to bring something fresh to the nearly century-old building.

"This is a community hub. Obviously, it's a house of worship but it is also a community place with groups holding their regular meetings here," he said.

St. Stephen's opened its doors to parishioners in 1915. Its fellowship hall was added in 1932 and will be brimming with music and laughter next month when cast members from A Repertory Theatre will hold a community fundraiser there.

Although the parish has a raised stage, Dunn said he hasn't seen anything of a theater nature held in the space before and is looking forward to it.

"Dragon Tails: Puss 'n Boots Pays a Visit" is a light-hearted, family-friendly, one-act musical comedy written and directed by Mary Kay Switzer, of Banning.

"Father Bill has a great sense of humor and is very supportive of the arts," Switzer said. "And he tries to make the world a better place."

Dunn has always loved to write and speak, and his current role as vicar gives him opportunities to do both. After many years working as a newspaper reporter and then in government for the state of Texas, Dunn became a deacon in 1998 and was ordained as a priest in 1999.

"It's not unusual for Episcopalians to transition into this (role)," said Dunn, of Cherry Valley. "Some decide as a kid but more often most tend to be out in the world for a time."

He was already married with two children when he started to attend seminary.

"My wife always reminds me that I was a daddy before I became a father," said Dunn, 54.

In 1982, he was hired as deputy press secretary for Texas Attorney General Mark White, who was running for governor. That led to 15 years working for the state department.

"After being around the political realm I learned that where two or more are gathered, there are politics," Dunn said. "I do love the process. I would never endorse a candidate from the pulpit but I do encourage people to get involved and remember we are all working toward the same end -- to have a better community where people are taking care of each other."

Michael Owen is a regular parishioner at St. Stephen's and will serve as narrator for "Dragon Tails."

"Bill engages everyone, regardless of race or age," said Owen, of Banning. "No matter how sensitive or controversial a question you may ask of him, he always answers it in a way that doesn't have you wishing you had never asked the question in the first place."

The play has one performance at 7 p.m. Friday, June 1. It is free but donations, canned goods and other nonperishable food items will be collected at the door and distributed to H.E.L.P.

"It's a win-win-win that a group has a venue for its play, food is collected for the pantry and we are using our facility the way we feel it ought to be used," Dunn said.

The church is at 225 E. Eighth St. in Beaumont. For more information, call 951-845-1358.