Summer is rapidly approaching! With it comes longer days, warmer temperatures, a break from routine for many, and sadly, an increase in food insecurity for many children that rely on school breakfast and/or lunch as their most consistent form of nutrition. One positive of the pandemic is that school systems have recognized this need, and have creatively found ways to help get meals to families that need it, continuing to swizzle and reinvent to meet the needs along the way.
Our church exists in a food desert. A food desert is an area where access to food supplements for those in need are non-existent. For many years, we have talked about ways to help address this need in our community. This year, the Social Justice Team and Council are working hard to put words into action. We have received donations to pay for a Little Food Pantry, and are currently planning to build this on May 15th (or May 22nd, weather dependent)! We will be working with local schools, communities, and other community resources to reach out to our neighbors to let them know of this resource. The pantry will be stocked with non-perishable food items, as well as toiletries and baby items. During the winter, we can add items such as gloves, scarves, and other cold-weather items. We hope that the community garden in the works for the church grounds may be able to provide fresh vegetables in the future, as well. A list of items that can be stocked in the pantry include:
- Canned vegetables
- Canned fruit
- Dry pasta
- Canned pasta
- Pasta sauce
- Bottled water
- Canned meats
- Body wash
- Femine hygiene products
- Baby wipes
- Baby diapers
Since the pantry will be open for all, it can be utilized or refilled by anyone in the congregation or community. We are so excited to see this mission project come to fruition!
Dear church family,
As we come to the end of another busy week, let us pause to catch our
breath, to remember the good and the bad, and the work yet to be done: in
the world, across our nation, amongst our church community, in our
families, and deep within our own hearts.
We can express gratitude for steps in a positive, healing direction for issues
of racial injustice while we continue to pray and to advocate for much more
progress to occur in our nation, our neighborhoods, even in our very own
The environment and issues surrounding it are more in our newsfeeds and
hopefully on our hearts and minds this week as we celebrate Earth Day. I
invite you, if you haven’t done so recently, to recommit to taking personal
steps to contribute to healing our planet and to become involved in
advocating for healing change at a larger level.
“Heart” is a word that seems to pop up repeatedly as I write today. Perhaps
that’s because I’ve been reading Christine Valters Paintner’s Earth: Our
Original Monastery, upon which our current sermon series is based. In this
book, Christine writes in depth about “cultivating wonder and gratitude
through intimacy with nature.” She discusses the interconnectedness of all
of Creation, but with an emphasis on us learning from, rather than
dominating or destroying, nature. With each page that I’ve read, my own
heart has felt recognized, comforted, included in that huge web of God’s
good Creation. And taking her advice and visiting my neighborhood park
with no agenda, no plan for what I was going to “accomplish” is one of the
most heart-healing things I’ve done in awhile.
So friends, please consider pausing, breathing, praying, and contemplating
in nature sometime soon. One way to do this is to join us in outdoor worship
on the 2nd and 4th Sundays at 8:30 am at the outdoor sanctuary. Your heart
might just be glad that you did!
Monday is usually my "sabbath day off," but this past fateful Monday, I decided to come up to church with the pups because Rob had an important zoom meeting, and my furbabies are known to be unwelcome contributors to Rob’s meetings.
As I was tidying up some blessing bag debris in the Fellowship Hall, Diane came in to tell me that there had been a phone call and an email over night about a semi truck crashing into the North side of the building.
"The North side of the building??" I asked. "But there's no road there. Certainly its a mistake."
Diane and Meghan went to go investigate while I continued tidying with the pups. Then Meghan popped her head back in, "You better come look at this."
I walked around to, yes, the North side of the building to find Meghan and Diane gazing up at a high hole clear through the building the size of an Xtra large pizza box (yes this is the first gauge of size that comes to mind for me).
Friends, I won't tell you what said in that moment because, as my mother would say, it's not a word that's befitting a "woman of the cloth."
All that is to say, if you haven't heard, there was a bit of an... incident at the church on Sunday night at around 11:04 PM. My best guess is that either a toddler or racoon driving a semi-truck hit our building, a tree, a sprinkler head, and a couple of light poles while trying to find an exit near our shed.
Here’s the good news: first of all, in no time at all Diane Baker was on the phone to insurance companies and roofers. Bryan Thornhill, Meghan Trout and Rebecca Molis came soon after sawing and patching up the hole for any weather. Emily and Jane assessed the damage, which in comparison to the flood, was far less traumatic. Our insurance company, with tips from our neighbors, is sleuthing down the driver of the truck. Your leadership is discussing shifting gears and rolling the inevitable roofing repair into the planned steeple repair project, hopefully now hitting two birds with one stone.
Most importantly, thanks to YOU and your incredible generosity, even during this past difficult year of transition and Covid-19, surprises like this one and the burst sprinkler pipe after the storm don’t send your finance committee into a panic. So remember that when you give to your church family, you’re not just giving to our planned expenses, you’re also giving to these unplanned expenses as well, making sure that our sanctuary is ship-shape and ready to welcome you home again hopefully very soon.
Speaking of welcoming you home, your “In-Person Coming-Together Team” is polishing up recommendations on how we might accomplish that in a way that is safe and inclusive for all in the months to come. So I pray that while they do this good work, you do your work too and get those vaccinations! Please contact the church if you need any help finding an appointment!
Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
In the Texas Hillcountry, springtime seems to last only an instant. The benefit of its brevity here, I think, is that from the moment we spot the first bluebonnet, I try to savor every all springtime has to offer before the oppressive heat of a Texas summer sets in.
This spring, however, I want to savor even more than usual, given all that we’ve been through the past year. We have been, like the Easter hymn sings, like buried grain. We have been holed away behind closed doors, hidden away from the sunlight. But now, as more and more of us taste the small freedoms that come with vaccination, we can step out of our front doors and enjoy all that God’s Creation has to offer.
This Eastertide we will explore in our worship both outdoors and online, “Earth as the Original Monastery,” guided by the book from Christine Valters Painter. Together we will revel in Creation as our original sanctuary, our original scriptures, our original sacrament, and more. Through our appreciation of Creation - or “forest therapy” as many are calling it today - comes a deeper faith in the Creator, and a call to care for all with which we have been entrusted.
In addition to worship, you will find opportunities to deepen your faith through an appreciation of God’s creation, such as hikes on your own or with church friends, eco-stewardship ideas from your Social Justice Team, outdoor prayer stations, and earth poetry for prayer and meditation posted on our social media platforms. Feast your eyes on the nature photography of our outdoor sanctuary from Logan DeCleene and the earthy media designs of Kelley DeCleene in our online worship.
So come join us in the garden this Eastertide, as we deepen our faith in God’s original sanctuary.
“All his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” - Luke 23:49
for Good Friday
let all stand still
Sun and moon
Let the ground
gape in stunned
Let it weep
as it receives
what it thinks
it will not
Let it groan
as it gathers
who was thought
By Jan Richardson, from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons
I hope you will join us in stillness tonight for our contemplative and creative Good Friday prayer stations for the whole family aired every 15-20 minutes on all our livestream platforms between 5 and 7:30 PM tonight. On Saturday, you’ll get another chance to move deeper into stillness as Arlene leads us in a 12 hour vigil using the wisdom and words of Julian of Norwich at the top of every hour, also on our live platforms.
And then…. (cue the trumpets) don your bunny ears, your fancy frocks, and your flowery hats because WOWEE DO WE NEED A PARTY OR WHAT?!?!! So let’s celebrate together that, despite all, Love Wins!
We hope to see you at 7 AM for our sunrise worship, 8:30 AM for our outdoor worship, 10 AM for our online worship. (Please remember to RSVP in advance for our outdoor services at uccaustin.org/outdoorworship.)
Love and blessings,
Outdoor Worship at 8:30am on 1st Sundays of the Month
We are proudly affiliated with both the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
3500 West Parmer Lane, Austin TX 78727