The dog days of summer are upon us here in Austin, and that’s usually when worship attendance begins to dip. At UCC, however, longtimers and newcomers are continuing to show up every Sunday for our annual summer sermon series, “God at the Movies.” Twenty-six youth and 6 adults also showed up for our first in-person youth mission trip in 2 years, practicing eco-stewardship at the gulf coast. Thirty-seven children and 44 adults showed up for fun and faith in our first in-person Vacation Bible School in 2 years. This time last year, I have to admit I worried that people wouldn’t show up to church again after getting out of the habit during the lockdown, but you proved that I should “fear not.”
Truly, United Christian Church of Austin is a community of people who show up. When we were forced to worship online, you still showed up. When it came time to install your senior minister, you showed up. When we asked for your financial support to build a playground for our children, you showed up. When we asked for you to support women, refugees, and transgender youth, you showed up. Because of all the ways you’ve been showing up, our financial outlook remains strong, and we’re continuing to make improvements to our governance, ministries, and outreach. None of these things could have happened without you showing up with your gifts of time and money.
So thank you United Christian Church of Austin, for all the ways you show up for Christ and for each other.
Rev. Anna Kreisl
This week in our God at the Movies series, we are watching Soul. Soul isn’t just a movie about music, or about the afterlife. Soul is a look at how we find our calling, how we find what makes us “us.” Below are some of the top quotes from Soul. Which ones resonate with you? Which ones will you be thinking about as you join us for worship on Sunday?
Join us Sunday, online or in person, as Rev. Anna preaches on Soul. Of course, we’ve got two more Disney Sundays after that! Our movie for July 24th is Coco, and for our last Sunday of the month we’ll take a look at Moana. We hope to see you soon.
For those who weren’t able to be part of our worship service this past Sunday, here’s a recap of what some of our youth shared about their experience during our mission trip with Blue Theology.
On our first full day of service, we went down to the beach to clean up trash. Together we picked up around 100 pounds of trash. While we were saving the environment, we were also having fun and building friendships. Beach cleanups are a worthy cause to bring people together, to focus on the environment and to learn ways to protect it.
- Norah, 6th Grader
The church we went to makes something called “plarn.” Plarn is made by using used plastic grocery bags and cutting them into strips, then looping all of those together. They then use the long strips to crochet them all together into large sleeping mats for the homeless. These mats can be used for insulation in the winter, and to avoid the heat in the summer. It can take around 700 bags to make one of the mats. - Jackson, 7th grader
On Monday, we worked with Galveston Bay foundation to help restore some of the wetland shore lines. We planted sea grass using a dibbler, which is a wedge-like tool that you drive into the ground and wiggle back and forth to make a hole big enough to plant the sea grass. We worked in groups of three with one person as the dibbler, one that plants and one that holds the bunches of seagrass. By planting sea grass we hope to build back the ecosystem and help with erosion. We also moved a net along the bottom of the water and then picked it up quickly so we were able to see what lived in the water. There was mostly clear shrimp and minnows but we also saw a sea snot and a stingray which was apparently very rare.
We also went to the local biosphere which is a recycling plant. They told us that they sort and compact materials only to be shipped off somewhere else. I was a little disappointed to hear this but it tells us that recycling isn’t the best solution, we really need to focus on reusing and reducing the amount of waste we produce. – Morgan, Senior
On Wednesday, we participated in two activities, the first of which being service at a food bank in Texas City. Our work at the food bank was comprised of two jobs: packing lunches for kids in the area, and sorting produce into “keep” and “throw away.” Those of us packing lunches formed an assembly line, and completed a total of 741 meal kits. The group sorting through produce delicately parsed through moldy and decomposing vegetables to find the fresh food, eventually filling 3 pallets with edible produce. During this service, the members of this youth group worked in harmony, collectively helping each other serve others. This sense of community continued into our next activity: Prairie planting at Galveston Island State Park. At this site, we transferred different plants from a nursery to a piece of land in need of rejuvenation. The grasses we planted will provide lasting, positive effects on the environment, acting as erosion prevention and as an all natural carbon sink. Each member of the group worked just as hard as before to complete this task. I’d like to especially highlight the efforts of those of us on their first mission trip, who have never experienced this kind of service before due to COVID restrictions. Despite being new to service work at this level, they all sprung into action and worked as diligently as any experienced member of the youth group. - Gabriel, Junior
“A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more of you, and give you no reasons to fight, exclude, or reject anyone.”
― Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For and Believe
This past week 25 youth and 6 adults spent time in Texas City and Galveston learning about creation care and climate justice. We spent time cleaning the beach and sand dunes. Our youth cut up plastic bags to make balls of “plarn” for weaving mats to give to the homeless. Youth and adults waded into the marshy waters to plant sea grass in order to help restore the coastline. After a busy morning of packing produce and kids lunches at the Galveston County Food Bank, youth planted over 100 native grasses at Galveston Island State Park to help restore the eco-system and capture carbon from the atmosphere.
But that’s not all they did! In the mornings and evenings youth spent time doing meditative yoga, writing to their representatives, discussing where they saw the divine in things during the day, preparing and serving meals to one another, washing dishes, playing games, singing loudly to fun music, painting each other’s nails, engaging local kids at a neighborhood park, and just generally getting to know one another better.
While our mission trip was themed around eco-justice, the real theme was and always is present, seeing the Christ in one another and in all that surrounds us. The youth of this church certainly do that, and they constantly work to create an inclusive and welcoming space for all of their peers. One night when our youth were asked to share something that surprised them so far on the trip, someone shared that they were “surprised how little they’ve had to fight for respect and recognition” on the trip.
So, I hope you join us, in person or online, this Sunday to hear from our youth about the work they did on this mission trip. But beyond hearing about the work they did, I hope you also open your hearts and minds to live like them, and ‘see Christ in others, demand more of yourself, and have no reason to fight, exclude, or reject anyone.’
With an open heart and mind,
Director of Youth Ministries