As you have heard so many times in recent months, our church doors may not be open, but the work of the church continues. I am so excited to have the opportunity to celebrate all of the amazing accomplishments of our congregation when we gather (virtually, of course) for our Annual Family Re-Union on Sunday, November 15.
Among the many accomplishments we will be highlighting will be the proposal for a trial restructuring of our council. As part of our interim strategic planning work, an ad hoc committee was formed in March of 2020 to review the current structures of our church leadership. As our church continues to grow and the demands on all our time continue to increase, it has become clear that the lay leadership structure that was outlined many years ago has now become cumbersome and often inefficient. We know that we have a lot of good and important work ahead as we move toward calling a new pastorate. We want to have effective structures in place to support that work.
The ad hoc committee reviewed our current structure and studied best practices for churches of our size. A report that included proposed revisions to our structure was presented to the council in April. Rev. Anna, Rev. Nikki, Vice Chair Milena Thompson and I reviewed that proposal and designed a new streamlined lay leadership structure based on the work of the structural review committee. The new structure which allows for a functional separation of governance and mission was brought before the full Council in September. After discussion and further streamlining to incorporate suggestions from other council members, the new structure was unanimously approved by the council and will go forward for a congregational vote.
I am proud of the work of the ad hoc structural review team, our council, and our pastors who continue to show courage and enthusiasm toward doing new things for the benefit of our congregation. It is our hope that this is a more sustainable division of labor that will prepare our congregation to navigate its upcoming duties of governance, ministry, and visioning and strategic planning without over-taxing its leaders and volunteers.
We are a congregational church, and that means that you all play an integral part in this, too. At our congregational meeting, the provisional structure will be presented for a vote. It is our intention to have a trial period of one year with the option to revise or continue in 2022. At that time, we should be working with our called, settled pastor(s), and together we can work to revise the bylaws as necessary to reflect structural changes.
On Monday, I shared a presentation with you to explain our process and proposal. On November 1, members of the council will be holding a Congregational Town Hall meeting during our virtual coffee hour to answer congregational questions about the new structure, budget considerations, and any other questions you would like to ask. Please join us at that time, and/or feel to contact me directly with any questions or concerns (email@example.com).
Thank you for your continued support of and participation in this congregation. It is an honor to serve and to Be the Church with you all!
In Peace and Joy,
Council Chair, 2020
As we approach the 2020 Election, we have been discussing the intersection of faith and politics in a nonpartisan way on Sundays. Last Sunday, I referenced that the United Church of Christ has a published a comprehensive toolbox online at ucc.org/ourfaithourvote, in which they encourage the following in our political dialogue:
What a world we are navigating! A global pandemic. An unprecedented presidential election only days away. A racial reckoning. These can be hard things to talk about, but they are conversations worth having.
Rev. Anna Kreisle Humble
Co-Bridge Pastor for Music and Worship
It is hard to believe that it has been 7 months since our world was turned upside down. Despite having to do and be church differently, we have accomplished so much. We plan on celebrating those accomplishments at our Annual Family Re-Union Sunday Nov 15th* at 10 am. (*Please note this is a change in date).
We will begin with a short worship service and then this virtual re-union will serve as our congregational meeting where in addition to celebrating, we will vote on our 2021 leadership and budget. More information on this exciting event plus an upcoming pre-townhall meeting (Nov 1) after church coming soon!
Between now and then, we hope that you seek out opportunities to participate in October's Holy Conversations focused on History. This week we are focusing on Question #2 (What is an example of a time you felt most connected to the UCC Community?) but there is still time to go back and answer Question # 1 or move on the Question #3. So call up your best church friend, talk with your partner and/or children, find ways to participate in dialogue. Tell your story and listen to other's stories. You can participate more than once! Don't forget to record themes from your conversations at uccaustin.org/holyconversations.
Our church profile for pastoral search will be richer and ring truer the more people participate. Plus it's a great way to strengthen relationships and foster community.
With you on the journey,
As people of faith, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). As members of a state, it is clear that our politics affects these neighbors whom Christ calls us to love.
Today however, the word “politics” has become a dirty and unsafe word. When we say the word “political,” what we actually mean to say is “partisan,” “divisive,” or strategies with ulterior motives. In reality, politics are nothing more than the means by which we organize our common life together, allocate our common resources, and work to find solutions to our common problems. Kaitlyn Scheiss writes in her book, the Liturgy of Politics, “The line between our political beliefs, moral beliefs, and our theological beliefs is blurry if not completely invented. None of our beliefs in these categories are content to stay in the boxes we’ve prescribed them.” Our theology, therefore, has political implications, and our politics has theological implications.
How do we form this body of political, moral, and theological belief? Most of us would like to think these beliefs come from our own sound logic, or from our “correct” reading of scripture. In reality, however, they are formed by our loves and loyalties - those things we have developed an affection for through our ritual practices and repeated devotion both in the sanctuary and in the world.
In our sermon series The Liturgy of Politics beginning this Sunday, we will look at faith and politics not in the usual way -- by picking hot-button issues and then searching for scripture passages to support our existing beliefs. Instead, we will come at it from the other direction; we will ask of ourselves, what are our loves and loyalties? What rituals and liturgies are forming us for public life? How is God calling us to love our neighbor in our political lives?
At the same time, we will begin our Holy Conversation on History this Sunday during our coffee hour breakout rooms. You will also have an opportunity to make your voice heard Tuesday (10/13, 10/27) and Wednesday (10/21) evenings at 7PM, or by finding a conversation partner and going to www.uccaustin.org/holyconversations. You will find all the information you need about Holy Conversations by following that link. Just like using your voice to vote in the upcoming election will guide the future of our nation, participating in Holy Conversation will guide the future of our congregation.
We also have a “Trek or Treat” in the works, we’re collecting for Bethany Food Pantry, and it’s our last official week of our fall pledge drive! Even though our building is quiet, the Church is abuzz with life!
Rev. Anna Kreisle Humble
Co-Bridge Pastor for Music and Worship
World Communion Sunday is this Sunday!
World Communion Sunday offers a distinctive opportunity to experience Holy Communion in the context of the global community of faith. The first Sunday of October has become a time when Christians in every culture break bread and pour the cup to remember and affirm Christ as the Head of the Church. On that day, we remember that we are part of the whole body of believers. Whether shared in a grand cathedral, a mud hut, outside on a hilltop, in a meetinghouse, or in a storefront, Christians celebrate the communion liturgy in as many ways as there are congregations.
As usual, we have found some creative ways to celebrate this global event despite worshiping in our own home islands. Our guest preacher will be Rev. Dr. Deenabandhu Manchala, Area Executive for Southern Asia for Global Ministries, a partnership between the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of of Christ).
We hope you will join us by baking (or purchasing) bread from a different country, updating your zoom background to the flag from your country of origin or ancestry (or just one you like), displaying items around your worship area that symbolizes global diversity, maybe even dress up?
Now more than ever we need to remember that we are all part of one body, the body of Christ.
With you on the Journey,
Rev. Nikki Stahl