God has been very faithful through the last 20+ years!
1999 : stirrings
In the late 1990’s, Thomas & Amy Cogdell were being stirred by the Holy Spirit. While both were falling in love with God anew, and enjoying prayer and worship as never before, there were also unique aspects of this stirring for each of them.
For Amy, her heart was unexpectedly confronted with the pain of God’s heart regarding the division of the body of Christ - particularly the Catholic / Protestant division. She was not looking for this pain - she was a happy member of Hope Chapel, a non-denominational church in Austin, Texas. But when it came, she welcomed it as an intimate gift from God, for Him to share the pain of His heart with her. She began to visit the local hispanic Catholic church that was just down the street. By 1999, she was - as a Protestant - attending morning prayer, daily mass, and weekend services regularly, and serving as a youth director in the Catholic church! She was meeting God, and God was drawing her heart into the Catholic church. Thomas was somewhat mystified by this, but trusted her ability to hear and follow God’s voice. Here is a picture of Amy with her beloved Catholic youth group:
Meanwhile, on February 14, 1999, Thomas Cogdell was walking in East Austin, near the Holly Street Power Plant. Suddenly, he heard the Holy Spirit whisper the phrase “Power Plant of Prayer” into his heart. What could this mean? Thomas went home and drew this picture in his journal:
A few months later, he happened to be in Kansas City, at a conference hosted by Metro Christian Fellowship, when Mike Bickle interrupted the conference to announce that they were starting a 24-hour house of prayer. The date was May 7, 1999. We prayed for the first team, gave them the key, and they went out to do the first prayer session of what became the International House of Prayer (IHOP KC). When Thomas saw this, he thought - this is the same vision as the “power plant of prayer”!
1999 - 2003 : Austin House of Prayer - Beginnings
Thomas began working towards establishing a 24/7 prayer room in Austin. The only model he had was what was happening in Kansas City. He found some others who were pursuing the same vision. They established two different sets of prayer times - one during the day each Thursday, and one night watch on Friday night & Saturday morning. This was the beginning of AHOP - Austin House of Prayer.
In the year 2000, Amy & Thomas went to Switzerland to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. It was in a beautiful, ancient church in the small village of Romainmoitre, that they heard the Lord open the door for Amy to officially become Catholic. (It was on the same trip that they received the vision for Wittenberg 2017.)
Amy joined the Roman Catholic church in 2001. Thomas fully supported this, understanding that God was asking them to live out reconciliation in the context of a Protestant/Catholic marriage. Amy’s decision to enter the Catholic Church was also blessed by Dan Davis, the founder of Hope Chapel; by Fr. Larry Mattingly, Amy’s Catholic priest; and by Amy’s and Thomas’ parents (all from Protestant backgrounds).
2003 - 2012 : Austin House of Prayer - A New Direction
Amy & Thomas were walking on parallel paths. He was working hard to build up AHOP. Her heart was being drawn into liturgy, silence, and contemplative prayer. She supported Thomas’ efforts with Austin House of Prayer, but did not find life for herself in the Harp & Bowl Prayer Model or the intense effort required to establish a 24/7 prayer room. The tension created a crisis in 2003. Thomas came to his senses, realizing that he was damaging Amy by trying to force her to participate in a ministry that was not what God had called her to. He repented, and together they asked - “What next?” They were willing to set aside the vision of AHOP to preserve their marriage and their calling to reconciliation.
Instead, they heard from the Lord that AHOP was a vision from Him, and should not be ended — but that it had to change. If the core calling of Amy & Thomas’ marriage was reconciliation, then reconciliation had to be at the heart of AHOP. This snippet of an AHOP planning document from early 2004 reflects their thought processes at the time (and it’s interesting to note the seeds of the current Christ the Reconciler ministry in it):
Shortly thereafter, Thomas received the vision for bottled water as the “economic engine” of the house of prayer - and Cielo was started. Austin House of Prayer, Inc. was formally incorporated as a Texas non-profit in August 2004. AHOP rented a small building at the corner of MLK & Chicon, which had both a prayer room and a small warehouse for Cielo.
In 2006, AHOP moved down the road to the corner of Real Street and Alexander Avenue. Together with wonderful partners (including Doxology, CS Lewis Hall, Regina Mater, and Imagine Art, among others), the Seabrook Center was established, with the AHOP prayer room right in the middle of all the school / church / art / water business activity.
During this time, AHOP had a faithful set of staff members who raised their own support to serve the body of Christ in the city by helping to establish 24/7 prayer. Key staff members through the years included Felipe Adams, Michael & Joelene Michel, and Matt & Moriah LaCour.
Our belief during this season was that it was God, not AHOP, who was building 24/7 prayer in Austin. So we found it a joy to partner with and serve others who were laboring in the same vineyard, including Trey Kent (Unceasing Prayer Initiative), Justin Christopher (Campus Renewal Ministries, UT Rez Week House of Prayer, CHOP), Steve Hawthorne (Global Day of Prayer), David & Bethany Martin (HOTHOP), Gregg Barnes (BURN Austin), and many other wonderful leaders. In some cases, we were able to be a bridge connecting these leaders and initiatives to the Catholic church, and vice versa.
2012 - 2017 : Christ the Reconciler - Foundations
2012 was a year of testing. We had a desire to purchase property, and also had what we thought was a “good strategy” of joining with Imagine Art to purchase a unique piece of land on Springdale Road. However, a good strategy doesn’t necessarily mean it is God’s way! God was gracious to put up a clear “stop sign” to the plan. When it became clear in October 2012 that the Wittenberg 2017 initiative was going to move forward, we put aside all ideas of purchasing property.
God has a sense of humor! As soon as we laid down the dream of purchasing land … we purchased land! Even more unexpected, the property was in Elgin! The Holy Spirit led Amy to 16 acres of land, with a large (unfinished) house on it, which was purchased in 2013. This became Christ the Reconciler.
In August 2014, we completed the finish out of the house and moved in - the Cogdell family, AHOP, and Cielo all fit! We began to have regular retreats and welcome visitors from around Texas, the US, and even from overseas. Later in 2014, we officially changed the name of the ministry from Austin House of Prayer to Christ the Reconciler. As you can see, the seeds for this change went all the way back to 2004, but it took ten years to walk it out carefully in the Lord’s time.
Additionally, the years 2012 - 2017 were a time of intense involvement in the Wittenberg 2017 initiative for Thomas & Amy and the rest of the community. We knew that we had to give ourselves wholeheartedly to that amazing project, and hold off on further developments of the Christ the Reconciler community. We had a plan … we needed to wait on the Lord’s timing to move forward.
2018 : Year of Rest
After the culmination of Wittenberg 2017 in November 2017, it was clear that Amy & Thomas needed a sabbatical year - a year of rest. But it was not a passive rest. Instead, it was a year of active resting, of listening and discerning the voice of the Lord regarding the future. We heard clearly from the Lord this question: “What would it mean for a community to live out John 17?” We explored this question through a series of circle-preaching retreats on John 13 - 17, listening to each other and to the Lord together regarding His thoughts and plans for Christ the Reconciler.
2019 : Christ the Reconciler - Living out John 17
The year 2019 marks the beginning of a new season! We are saying yes - with some trepidation - to the high calling to strive towards living out John 17 as a community of Catholics & Protestants … and perhaps in the future those from other ecclesial communities in the body of Christ.
The first concrete step has been to develop the Statement of Personal Devotion to Live Out John 17. We plan in future years to introduce a Community Commitment, and (once we have onsite housing) a Residential Rule.
How faithful God has been through the years and decades. We walk in immaturity, partial revelation, and sinfulness. He loves us with faithfulness and patient tenderness. There is no one like our God!