This February, 2 years into our interim journey and 1 year into the pandemic, I unexpectedly became your solo-pastor. This past Sunday, exactly 3 years after Rev. John’s departure, this church has a settled minister again.
We certainly went on a long and far-reaching journey together these past 3 years, and in the end, you chose a minister who was quite literally, close to home. Even so, I know God prescribed this wandering time for us to recall our history, to uncover who we are today, to dream big dreams, and most of all, to build a firm foundation for our next chapter. I am eternally grateful for the dedication and resilience that you have shown throughout this wandering time, and I can never express to you my gratitude for being entrusted with the honor of shepherding a community such as this.
So, my first week as your settled pastor, I would like to reiterate the promises I wrote to you almost one year ago (tweaked slightly for our new chapter together):
As your settled senior minister, I promise to do my very best, with God’s help...
Beloved, I will inevitably fail. Many of you have witnessed me fail already. So I pray in these years to come that we can continue to show each other the grace required to manifest God’s dream of a world of love and justice.
So the big day is finally here! We have been affectionately dubbing it the "Celebrate-All-The-Things Day," and we really do have so many different things we're celebrating Sunday.
At 9 AM, we will worship in our sanctuary or online, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the union of Trinity Congregational Church and Pecan Springs Christian Church to become United Christian Church of Austin. We will also be commissioning Meghan Dever as Youth Minister. Longtime member and friend Rev. David Owen will be bringing the message. Please note there will be no 11 AM service.
After our worship service, there will be a 30th anniversary slideshow to celebrate our history, followed by a congregational meeting. The congregational meeting will have several big voting items on which members may vote.
Finally, we'll adjourn outside for a picnic celebration, with bluegrass band Steel Betty and lawn games providing entertainment. If you didn't order food ahead of time through the church, please bring your own picnic along with your picnic blankets and lawn chairs to hang out and enjoy the fellowship, music, and burning of our mortgage! Yes, we've paid the big one off!
For so long friends, due to Covid, we missed celebrating anniversaries, weddings, birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations. This will be the day we finally come together to celebrate again how far we've come over the past 30 years of union, the past 3 years of transition, and the past 2 years of Covid. We have so much to be thankful for United Christian Church of Austin, so join us Sunday as we celebrate all the things!
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
At the risk of oversharing or being overly dramatic (please remember that I was for a brief time a drama major), I will tell you that this week has been filled with both “the best of times and the worst of times.” This week, along with the past few months have been, as Dickens once wrote in the quote above, “the season of light” and “the season of darkness, “the spring of hope,” and “the winter of despair.” Isn't it amazing that the human heart can both at once?
You, United Christian Church of Austin, along with my family, have been my light and my hope. As my lifelong dream of married life now officially comes to an end, my lifelong dream of shepherding a church of kind-hearted folk through their own joys and struggles of life may now be coming into being. As the Great Story of the Gospel teaches us, death does not have the last word. We can endure the endings in life because as people of faith, we know there is always rebirth, or as one of my favorite hymns sings,
“In the cold and snow of winter
there’s a spring that waits to be
unrevealed until its season
something God alone can see.”
This is the Eternal Story - the “circle of life” - witnessed in the Gospel, in my life, and in the stories you have told me about your own lives.
If I have learned anything over the past year, it is that God embraces us through the Body of Christ, through beloved community. I honestly don’t know how other people carry grief without a loving biological and church family. Even though human love can be impermanent, “the love of God is everlasting” -- it keeps finding its way to us, over and over again, through beloved community, through human kindness, through the abundance of Creation, and through the inspiration of the Word. God’s love is relentless like that. So thank you, the people of United Christian Church of Austin, for showing that relentless love to me these past months -- for being a channel of God’s grace and mercy to me and my family.
Now I pray that I might do the same for you over a long and fruitful pastorate. I pray that I might prove worthy of the faith our Search Committee and Executive Committee have placed in me by presenting me as your candidate for the settled pastorate. We have done such amazing work together this past year, hand-in-hand, despite a pandemic, despite transitions, and despite the challenges of our own personal lives, and so I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us. Like you, I have big dreams for us, and I have bright faith our future together will be blessed and beautiful.