Back by popular demand...we are so excited to be bringing you another God at the Movies sermon series next month! With multiple staff members with small children, a Disney focus has been a desire for awhile now...so we're going for it! Introducing "The Gospel According to Disney"!
Our schedule will be:
July 3: Wall-E
July 10: Encanto
July 17: Soul
July 24: Coco
July 31: Moana
Throughout the month, we'll discuss topics like climate justice, truth and forgiveness, finding your purpose, family and loss, and vocations. The first four (Wall-E, Encanto, Soul and Coco) are available for streaming through Disney+ and all five are available to Rent through YouTube. You do not have to watch the movies before the service, but it will aid in overall theme explanations.
We hope to bring the beautiful music into our services as well as the themes in our teaching. So pop your popcorn, watch what you can, and then "be our guest" this July at UCC!
June 08, 2022
Dear Family of the United Church of Christ,
The Council of Conference Ministers, the Officers of the United Church of Christ, and the UCC Open and Affirming Coalition join together in this pastoral letter addressing the attacks on people of transgender or nonbinary experience across the United States.
We greet you in the name of the God of compassion and justice.
As leaders in the United Church of Christ, we want every person of transgender or nonbinary binary experience to know this: you are beloved by God. No earthly power can separate you from God’s love. God created you perfectly: your gender identity or expression is God’s gift to you and the world.
Yet, across America, laws and executive orders are criminalizing the lifesaving treatment that transgender youth need to complete their journey to wholeness and, at the same time, are depriving parents of the right to make medical decisions for their children. These laws, enacted or proposed in states across the country, are part of a broader campaign to reverse basic rights for LGBTQ+ Americans. Alabama, Arkansas, and Arizona already ban medical care for trans youth. In Texas, the state government has defined gender-affirming care as “child abuse.” Fifteen states have banned participation by transgender youth in school sports. Six states have adopted “don’t say gay or trans” laws that have erased any mention of LGBTQ+ people from school life.
The harm done when governments seize control from parents of their freedom to provide care for their own children is obvious. Even more dangerous is the message states are sending to transgender and nonbinary youth: “Your lives don’t matter.” Suicide is an epidemic among LGBTQ+ youth and has been for years. When politicians stigmatize children and teenagers who simply wish to live their lives with integrity, the cost of mental suffering is egregious. The ripple effect of this stigma and discrimination reverberates throughout the whole community.
Jesus said: “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) The lives of trans and nonbinary people are precious. They are God’s beloved children, our siblings, created like all of us for a life free from hatred and recrimination. The church cannot be silent while our trans and nonbinary youth and their parents are subjected to abuse and exposed to public defamation.
And so we are not silent. To our transgender and nonbinary siblings: we offer you our encouragement, support, and love. We will remain at your side as long as others threaten your dignity and worth. We honor your courage and your faith. The world needs you not as others want you to be, but as you truly are.
To the congregations and ministry settings of the United Church of Christ: We ask you to surround persons of transgender or nonbinary experience and their families and loved ones with compassion and care. Do not be silent when this wave of persecution threatens human life. This is a time to love – not behind closed doors but out in the open, with word and action. Your visible witness demonstrates that all who struggle against defamation and hatred have a home in the United Church of Christ.
As Pride month begins in many states, we are reminded that “coming out” is a powerful moral force that transforms lives. This is true not only for LGBTQ+ people but also for churches. This is a time when congregations are called to come out to show the world that love is stronger than hate.
With every blessing,
The Council of Conference Ministers of the United Church of Christ Officers of the United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President
Rev. Dr. Traci D. Blackmon, Associate General Minister, Justice and Local Church Ministries
Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, Associate General Minister, Wider Church Ministries and Operations, Co-Executive for Global Ministries
Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ
Rev. Andrew Lang, Executive Director
If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/ https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/category/gender-identity/
So many things are happening right now and it’s a bit hard to contain all the joy in my heart, so I’ll share some of it here…
What a wonderful week it has been at UCC Camp! We had 37 kids participating throughout the week, and about 28 volunteers each day. Overall, we had 43 youth and adults volunteering as shepherds, station leaders, actors in our drama presentations, snack providers, and general helpers. We also had volunteers show up last week to help prepare all of the materials needed for this week. The main reason that our VBS week is such a positive and engaging experience for our children is because so many of you generously share your love and energy each day. You give joy and enthusiasm with your whole hearts and you help create a beautiful and meaningful week for these children.
Our Bible stories this year were: Samuel and Eli, Jesus and the Children, Feeding the 5,000, The Widow’s Offering, and The Four Friends. We talked about the importance of loving ourselves, sharing what we can, and working together to help others and make a difference in our world. We all have something beautiful to contribute to the world – YOU matter. You are important and you are loved.
This Sunday is our VBS Celebration in Worship at 10 a.m. I hope you’ll all join us online or in-person as we share about our week through music, art, drama, and more music. Thank you for your prayers and support this past week. We’re looking forward to sharing about our joyous week with you!
Director of Children's Ministries
PRIDE is BACK
Be a Part of the PRIDE Team
We are thrilled that the in-person Austin PRIDE Festival is back on Saturday, August 20th. Pre-pandemic, our church sponsored a booth at the PRIDE Festival for a number of years. This is exactly the kind of event for which our new church structure was made! We want to form a team of enthusiastic volunteers to plan and recruit volunteers to staff whatever this team decides what to do. The Social Justice Team will pay for registration fees and giveaways. We have some decorations on hand. What we need are organizers, planners, and volunteers. And if Austin PRIDE in August is not what this team wants to do, happily many of our surrounding communities where many of our members live are having PRIDE festivals in June in which we could participate. Many of our members live in Round Rock and Pflugerville where some of the events are happening for the first time. What the team chooses to do is entirely up to YOU!
Not only that, we have experienced volunteers who have participated before who stand to support and give any advice needed. Our own Judge Stacy Hackenberg helped organize the first Taylor PRIDE Festival and Parade and probably has some good tips to pass along.
If the team decides to do one of the June festivals, they will have to hit the ground running, but it will be a rewarding experience. Contact Diane Baker, Social Justice Team lead at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the church at 512-218-8110 to get Diane’s phone number for a text or chat.
Our church has been open and affirming since 2007 and you can see our history at https://www.uccaustin.org/pride.html. We proudly state to the world that “We, the congregation of The United Christian Church, declare ourselves to be an open and affirming congregation, embracing diversity and affirming the dignity and worth of every person created in God’s image. We welcome into full membership and participation in the Body of Christ persons of every race, ethnic background, age, gender, gender expression/identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, social-economic background, marital status and faith background. We welcome all to share in the life, leadership, ministry, fellowship, worship, sacraments, responsibilities and blessings of participation in our congregation.” Come help us live out our pledge.
Social Justice Team Lead
A Prayer for Mother-Rage
I refuse to pray
for peace and consolation.
I refuse to fold my hands --
fold my fitted sheets
fold them up neat
just so --
Like a Precious-Moments Mother,
May I not even whisper
sweet prayers for comfort now.
(There is no comfort to be had
near the gaping hole left
by a child
by an empty desk
by an empty pink bed.)
let us pray
not with hands folded,
but clenched fists,
Let us pray as a lioness roars
and her cubs.
Let us pray
Pray every drop of it
dry from scared white boys
and their tail-tucked fathers.
And may it be transfused
into the branching veins
of all mothers rising --
igniting a locked-up maternal communion.
May it overturn laws and tables,
May it smash every idol and gun,
May it beat our swords into plowshares and chalkboards
chalkboards that erase
that would keep mothers kept --
keep us pregnant and heavy laden
with privilege’s child.
Let us pray,
(all the while marching):
Lord have mercy
on our children.
Christ have mercy
on our nation.
Lord have mercy on us.
As always, there are so many wonderful things to celebrate at UCC Austin. We are celebrating the end of the school year, especially for our graduates. We have new members, a full sanctuary with lots of children and VBS around the corner, a robust online worship, and new opportunities for community gatherings. There is a new playground in the works, and our recent property workday has our building looking refreshed for the spring and summer.
At the same time, your Executive Committee has been hard at work behind the scenes. We are working to update policies and best practices that are outdated or not yet created, focusing especially on financial, personnel, and safe church policies. We are also actively working to update our bylaws to better align with our new church staff and governance structure and to make some clarifications in sections that are vague. If you would like to be among the first to give feedback on the proposed changes, please contact Jon Kinder (email@example.com). We plan to have a full proposal ready for review before the November congregational meeting.
We are also happy to report that 19 people have joined our church in the last year, and we will have our next new/potential member gathering on June 4 and an opportunity to officially welcome new members on Pentecost Sunday, June 5.
At the end of April our finances, both giving and expenses, are tracking our approved 2022 budget very closely. We received over 80 pledges last year. Currently there are forty-three households contributing that did not pledge last year. Fourteen of these households are new to UCC. It’s exciting to see participation grow in all areas, including giving, in our church.
We joyfully celebrated Rev. Anna Kreisle being selected as our settled Sr. Minister, and great strides have been made to find outstanding new team members to support UCC. Since last October we have welcomed Ethan Roberts as Audio Visual Technician, Paula Snyder as Bookkeeper, Kelley DeCleene as Church Administrator, and Jose Hernandez as Facility/Groundskeeper. We are now actively seeking talent for our Accompanists ongoing and substitute opportunities, and we will soon begin searching for our new Director of Music to be on board in time for our fall programs.
Our recent Workday at the church was a big success. We were able to get most of the high priority items completed (or close to complete). The property committee would like to make the congregation aware of two new links on our website. The first link is a form that allows any congregant to let us know about maintenance issues. Our Maintenance Request form (uccaustin.org/ticket) allows you to identify the issue and provide a picture of the problem. The property committee also encourages congregants to sign up for a lawn mowing day. The lawn schedule can be found at uccaustin.org/lawn. We’re not looking for a long term commitment (unless that’s what you want) - we just need people to volunteer one or two times during the year. Mowing our own lawn saves our church $700 every month.
In closing, friends, United Christian Church is thriving. Your continued commitment to work with and within our church community to spread the Good News is evident in every area of our life together. Thank you!
~ UCC Church Council Executive Committee
From Pastor Meghan, Director of Youth Ministries
This Sunday, May 15th, we will take time to hear from and celebrate our 2022 graduates. We have eight high school seniors this year, possibly the largest graduating class to date for our church. While personally, I am sad to see them all go, I am also so glad to share with you this group of faithful youth who have worked hard to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world.
Please join us in person or online Sunday morning to help us celebrate our seniors, and please continue to hold them in prayer as they prepare for the next steps in their journey.
From Emily, Director of Children's Ministries
Please join us on Sunday after the worship service for the Playground presentation. For almost two years, Logan DeCleene has led the Playground Committee in planning and designing a play space for the children of United Christian Church. Last fall, we were able to have the border fence installed and the area is now ready to have a beautiful playground built, but we need your support. We need YOUR help to get this project finished! Come and hear about the important work this committee has done to envision a playground that our children will be able to enjoy for years (and years) to come. Slides, caves, climbers…and monkey bars, here we come!!! Help us make this beautiful playground happen for our children!
Friday, May 6, 2022
Last time I counted, we had 17 teachers and staff affliated with our congregation. And there are even more retired educators amongst us. The last two years of pandemic, poor funding, and political strife have taken a toll on educators to the point that over half are seriously thinking of finding a different profession. Yet, a new NPR poll shows that most parents feel their children are in good hands in the schools their children attend. To see the results of this poll go to https://www.npr.org/2022/04/29/1094782769/parent-poll-school-culture-wars. So, we asked our teachers what we could do to support them. Surprisingly, an immediate need is copy paper. Are you shocked? I know I was. Budget cuts have left our teachers buying their own copy paper to provide their students with the tools they need to be successful. Please take a ream of copy paper to your child’s teacher or bring one to church - the cost for one ream is about $7.50 and can be purchased at your local grocery or office supply store or online. If you bring copy paper to church, we will make sure it gets to a teacher. If you want to go further in supporting our educators, letter writing, voting on May 7th, going to school board meetings, and joining groups who support our schools could make all the difference to combat the very small group of loud voices who have agendas to hurt public education. In Round Rock ISD, one such support group is Access Education RRISD, but there are PTAs and parents groups in all our school districts where you could make a difference. If you want to find our more about being an advocate, talk to Rebecca Molis who has been attending and speaking at board meetings all this year. This should matter to everyone because we all pay school taxes in one way or another and an educated citizenry is vital to our democracy.
Blood supplies are low all over our area due to a lull is giving blood and an increased need for blood during the pandemic. All who can are encouraged to give blood in our informal blood drive at any blood bank during the weekend of May 14-15. Leslie Guerrero Collins and I have signed up at We Are Blood on May 15th at 1:00 pm, and they had many openings on that day that need to be filled. Take pictures and post it on our In-House Facebook group.
People need places to sleep and one of the biggest purchases needed to furnish apartments for refugees are for new mattresses and frames. Through May 15th, we are taking donations to purchase two twin beds (three would be even better) for Refugee Services of Texas. As of last week, we were more than half way to our goal of collecting $500. We take credit cards and any of our other means of donating. Make sure you put Twin Beds in the memo line of your donation.
As we have all heard this week, the Supreme Court seems to be ready to put an end to abortion rights. We wouldn’t think to dictate to you how to feel about this, but no matter how you feel, it is definitely the time to make your thoughts known to your elected representatives. Post cards, letters, emails need to go out immediately. Voting for representatives who support your views is imperative. We have a primary runoff coming up which will be your first chance to express your voice. May 13 is the last day to apply to vote by mail. Early voting runs from May 16-20 and the election is May 24th. The next chance you will have to make a difference is in the November 5th midterm elections. To find out the important deadlines for voting in this election go to https://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/important-election-dates.shtml. Non-partisan information for elections can be found at vote411.org. I can help you register to vote or update your voter information.
The death penalty came into focus with the recent case of Melissa Lucio. We were asked to participate in a letter writing campaign, but her case has recently been sent back to the court where she was prosecuted - same DA and same judge - so the disposition of her case is in question right now. This is not the end of her situation and to find out more information, go to https://innocenceproject.org/melissa-lucio-9-facts-innocent-woman-facing-execution/. Again, you can voice your opinion about the death penalty or this case by writing letters, speaking up, and voting. You may think that you are just one small voice, but the many individuals who wrote letters and spoke out made a difference in this case.
There never seems to be an end to the need for justice in this world and it can seem overwhelming at times. One letter, one postcard, one vote, one bed, one pint of blood, one ream of copy paper can make all the difference. Your voice is important. Let us join together as members of UCC to make a difference.
Social Justice Team Lead
April 22, 2022
Dear Church Family,
During this year’s Lenten series, Holy Week, Easter Sunday, and the resumption of church traditions (including various children’s activities and congregational singing), I have been struck most by the number of different children and adults participating in our worship services. It has been especially meaningful after 2 years of the pandemic, to see so many people—new and familiar— leading prayer, playing instruments, reading the call to worship, waving palm branches, and more.
This Eastertide also marks 10 years since I had my first opportunity to read scripture before a church congregation—making this season even more special to me. Ten years ago, I was in high school, and though I had attended church nearly every week of my life, I had yet to see anyone other than a man or teenage boy address the congregation from the podium on a Sunday morning. The Sunday I served as the scripture reader for the first time, I was the first female that church had ever allowed to walk up to the podium and address the congregation. Ever since, serving as liturgist has remained one of my favorite ways to connect with my church family during worship.
These past several weeks, I’ve been reminded again and again of how inviting everyone in the church to be involved in all the elements of worship makes for a much richer and fuller shared worship experience. And after two years of anticipation, this Easter Sunday, the church felt more vibrant than it has felt in a long time. I could feel the joyful energy even as I watched online.
I am so grateful to this family—for how it welcomes all to participate and for the array of people that have volunteered to plan, lead, and participate in worship during the buildup to Eastertide (whether from the stage, the pews, from home). Family, thank you for helping to make worship such a beautiful experience each and every Sunday!
UCC Executive Committee Recording Secretary/Historian
April 14, 2022
There has been a thought rolling around my mind the past week or so: "I have nothing left to say about Easter. We covered the resurrection of Christ last Easter, the Easter before that, and the Easter before that... What could I possibly say that hasn't been heard a million times before?"
I shared this thought with my clergy group last week and one of my friends joked, "I think this is finally the Sunday for a 15-minute 'Litany of Silence' in place of the sermon! I'm just going to tell people to 'sit and ponder the wonder of resurrection for 15 minutes' and then call it." We all laughed.
But truly, how could a sermon ever encapsulate the wonder of the resurrection anyway? Shouldn't we just stand at the tomb in awe? Human language attempts to point toward the Divine, but it can only approximate in metaphors; it will forever miss the mark. After all, the Holy is, by its very definition, "the Ineffable One;" God's name in the Hebrew Scriptures (YHWH) is a word that cannot even be pronounced! It can only be described as "the sound of breathing."
And in our Christian tradition, we believe that the characteristic action of the Ineffable One is something akin to loving/forgiving/saving/resurrecting -- all at the same time! It's something as fresh as white Easter lilies and as resounding as a chorus of trumpets. It's something that illuminates your life like a sunrise and joyfully surprises like a duckling breaking forth from her egg. It's something that warms the heart like the softest baby bunny and transforms you like a caterpillar transforms to a butterfly. Most of all, this grace is something that happens again and again and again, just like the return of Spring.
And so yes, beloved, my humble words could never adequately proclaim the Resurrected One, but these things point in its direction.