A place to grow

What do faith and community mean to you?

Created date

November 22nd, 2019
Pastor Jamie Bruning (left) and intern Drew Southworth oversee pastoral ministries at Highland Springs, an interfaith community in North Dallas.

Pastor Jamie Bruning (left) and intern Drew Southworth oversee pastoral ministries at Highland Springs, an interfaith community in North Dallas.

As chair of the Interfaith Advisory Council at Highland Springs, Judith Barnes says opportunities for spiritual growth abound at the North Dallas Erickson Living-managed community.

“We come from different faith traditions, but this is a supportive, non-judgmental place to learn from each other,” says Judith, who also serves as the Jewish representative on the Council.

The Interfaith Advisory Council comprises nine residents from varying spiritual backgrounds who support and enhance the spiritual fabric of the community.

“Highland Springs is home to people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and religious affiliations, yet there’s a place for everyone,” says Pastoral Ministries Manager Jamie Bruning. “Whatever the spiritual needs of the person, we try to meet them.”

Opportunities for all

Pastoral Ministries at Highland Springs offers opportunities for worship, prayer, and study within different faith traditions, as well as pastoral care and counseling as needed.

A weekly interfaith service is held every Tuesday evening at Highland Springs, with visiting pastors from a variety of denominations serving as guest teachers.

Deacon Ed Putonti from St. Mark’s Catholic Church leads Catholic communion once a month at Highland Springs. 

Jewish community members celebrate Shabbat on the second Friday of every month, and Rabbi Howard Wolk visits Highland Springs monthly for Talk Torah, a discussion group open to residents of all spiritual backgrounds.

Learning from each other

“Talk Torah enriches everyone who attends,” says Carolyn Whelan, who moved to Highland Springs from Richardson in 2013. “I’ve learned a lot about Judaism through the monthly gatherings.”

Carolyn says the spiritual pursuits at Highland Springs allow her to explore her faith and what it means to live as a global citizen.

“I’m interested in all dimensions of faith and what it means to different people groups,” says Carolyn, who retired as an associate library director from the University of Texas at Dallas. “I signed up for a world religions class in college, and that’s when I realized there was an awful lot I didn’t know.”

At Highland Springs, Carolyn attends a variety of services: the Tuesday evening service, a book study led by Bruning, Talk Torah, and the monthly education series sponsored by the Interfaith Advisory Council. She also assists Bruning with weekly vespers at the community’s continuing care neighborhood.

“Living in community is better when you understand where another person is coming from and you’re able to learn from each other without judgment,” says Carolyn.

Pastoral ministries intern

Drew Southworth is the pastoral ministries intern at Highland Springs. It’s the first time the community has had such a role.

“I was persistent in wanting to come to Highland Springs,” says Southworth, a fourth-year student at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University campus in Fort Worth. “Brite Divinity requires a year of supervised ministry, and as soon as I learned of this opportunity, I knew this was where I wanted to be.”

Southworth says the diversity of spiritual offerings and the growth mindset of residents drew him to the North Dallas community.

“I’ve attended Bible studies at Highland Springs and listened as residents ask tough questions,” he says. “They’re active in their pursuit of knowledge and understanding.”

Southworth’s internship runs from September 2019 through May 2020. He plans to graduate in May 2021 and hopes to pursue a career as a chaplain.

In his role at Highland Springs, Southworth assists Bruning with all aspects of pastoral ministries. 

“I’ve learned that being present with people is important,” says Southworth. “There’s an inherent dignity in listening to their stories.”