As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we pause to give thanks for the good work of our congregation. We may feel the joyful anticipation of gathering with friends or family this week. We may also feel anxious or alone. We may not understand what is happening in the world, or even with our neighbors. Sometimes we struggle to feel grateful.
But this Thanksgiving, we choose gratitude. We are grateful for the work of our congregation and the caring love we share in relationship with each other. We choose to accept life as a gift from God, from the unfolding work of all creation. We choose to be grateful for the earth from which our food comes; for the water that sustains us; and for the air we breathe.
We choose to see our ancestors, those who came before us, and their stories, as a continuing gift of wisdom for us today. We choose to see our families and friends with new eyes, appreciating them for who they are, thankful for our homes whether humble or grand. We will be grateful for our neighbors and strive to love them as we love ourselves. We choose to see the whole planet as our shared commons, the stage of the future of humankind and creation.
God, this Thanksgiving, we do not give thanks. We choose it. These words, inspired by a Thanksgiving prayer by author Diana Butler Bass, ask us to strengthen our resolve and pledge to give thanks.
As we approach Advent and invite each of you to engage in the wonderful activities planned for our church, we recognize we are collectively the church and give thanks with courageous hearts. We all are guests at God’s hospitable table around which gifts are passed and received. Love rules this table and is inviting and accepting of any who seek it. We choose to open our eyes to see grace and the gifts of life everywhere and serve alongside each other in love. In this choosing, we will share gratitude in the world, in our lives, and in the life of our church.
Blessings to you this Thanksgiving holiday!
Your Church Family
Greetings Friends in Christ,
I’ve not had the chance to meet most of you yet, but I want to introduce myself and let you know that I hope to see you soon.
A bit about myself. I’ve been a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) all my life. I studied at TCU and Duke, was ordained in 1988, and I’ve served in various settings over the years. I will travel with you for the next 18 months as your interim.
During this time I will ask everyone three questions:
1. Who are we as a congregation?
2. Who are our neighbors?
3. What is God calling us to do/to be?
All of these questions are shaped by five areas that are reviewed during an interim period.
This dynamic reflection will help you as you develop your congregational profile and begin your search for a settled pastor.
You are a wonderful congregation. Thank you for allowing me to explore with you for a while.
Rev. Janet Maykus
Interim Senior Minister
Dear United Christian Church,
This Sunday we will recognize the beautiful Indigenous Mexican tradition of el Dia de Los Muertos, a tradition inscribed in UNESCO's Representative List of The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
You are invited to bring a photo of a loved one (or many loved ones) who has/have died. If you have a photo that you want to email to the office (firstname.lastname@example.org). we will print it and place it on the altar/ofrenda for you. If you bring your photo(s) on Sunday, you can place them before worship or when you come forward for communion. The ofrenda will stay in place until the All Saints Day service on November 5.
NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT...There may be some of you who would like to talk to me about the church, where it has been, where it's going, or just to visit. I have set aside Mondays for time to talk. If you'd like to meet at another time, just contact me (email@example.com) or call the office and we can arrange a time.
If you'd rather talk church in a group, fear not! I'm going to schedule some times in November when small groups can meet in person and others via Zoom. I will also visit the regularly-scheduled Small Groups in the next few weeks. I look forward to hearing from as many of you who want to talk about your concerns and dreams for this wonderful congregation.
In the meantime, don't forget Game Night and Trunk or Treat...let's have fun!
One of the things we see all the time, but might not always notice, is our logo. It's a delightful symbol of growth in Christ. A beautiful flourishing tree of life sprouts from a rainbow.
In staff meetings and at the recent Executive Committee meeting, it was discussed and agreed upon to freshen the look of the logo and bring it into some of our worship ideas for the next year. Our ideas reflect the Christian Calendar, valuing how the lectionary takes us on an annual trip from anticipating and celebrating the birth of Christ, and then through journey up to the cross and onwards from the resurrection. Through these conversations, we have made a few updates to the current logo.
As you can see, the center symbol and the colors of the rainbow have been updated. The rainbow serves a dual purpose. It hints at the diversity and affirmation of all the world, and the new version is composed of the liturgical colors of the church calendar: purple/blue, green, gold/white, and red. Within the tree of life and the colors of all the world is the symbol of Jesus who became the Christ: a cross.
We are excited to begin a new year where our refreshed colors will be reflected in slides, social media, the website, and church publications. These colors and symbols speak to us as we reflect on all of the meanings they have for us. As we lean on the truth of the cross, we rejoice in the resurrection and life that emerges from it.
What symbols are touch points for you? What helps you feel grounded in your faith? Are they visual cues or auditory or olfactory? Signs and symbols point us to things that may be just beyond our grasp to explain...without a lot of words...yet lead us in the directions we hope to journey.
The church and our worship services are full of signs and symbols. Take some time this week to look around to find them in your lives and in our church.
With you on the journey,
Rev. Janet, the staff, and Executive Committee
Thank you for inviting me to travel with you for a while on your journey. You are a congregation dear to my heart. I first worshiped with you many years ago when you were located on Cameron Road, and I’ve popped in over the years for a visit now and then. To be your Interim Minister is an honor.
A bit about me: I was born into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), but I’ve worked within many denominational settings…Seventh Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian USA, United Church of Christ...and I’ve served in community based non-profit organizations. Although I’ve moved a bit, Austin has been my home base for the past thirty-two years (I’m one of those who’ve never quite gotten over the loss of Liberty Lunch!). I’m the mother to three grown sons, Austin, who lives in Austin, Ben who lives in Indianapolis, and Nico who lives in Kalispell, Montana. I have a giant fluff ball of a Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenees mix named Pearl. And, I perform as Ma Gothic with my partner Tom Booker. Once boxes are unpacked and I have my feet grounded at work, we will re-launch our monthly show, Texas Gothic.
Please let me know if you want to meet with me. I am available to meet with you Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. There are certain standing meetings I’ll need to work around, but I can make time for you in the mornings or in the afternoons. If you’d like me to come to you, I can do that as well. I look forward to getting to know you and to hearing your hopes and dreams for United Christian.
You are a wonderful congregation, and I’m so happy to be here.
October is here and we are ready to start celebrating, y’all! Bring on the pumpkin spice, cooler temps (Hello, highs in the 80's!), and fall colors (I know, Texas is either brown or green, but let’s pretend we have seasons here, ok?).
Part of this time of Fabulous Fall is Halloween, and UCC has been hosting a Halloween event for a number of years now, which has brought neighbors and friends together for an evening of celebration, fellowship, fun activities, and, well, let’s face it…candy!
Trunk or Treat is a favorite tradition that UCC Austin has hosted a few times over the years. It started with a humble pumpkin patch first, and as all truly great ideas are formed, someone said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if we did a Trunk or Treat here?” Over the years it has looked many different ways. We have had pumpkin decorating, costume parades, story time in the patch, games, and more. In 2020, the event was off-site – families had an opportunity to drive around town and visit the homes of church members. That was how we adapted during that first year of COVID, and we called it "TREK or Treat!" But no matter how the event has looked, it has become a beloved event where we enjoy getting together with our neighbors and our church family, building connections, and just having fun!
This year, on the last Sunday in October, we will once again have an opportunity to ignite our creative spirits, tap into our fun sides, and present an evening of Halloween celebration!
On October 29th, from 5-7 p.m. at the church, we will host a TRUNK OR TREAT event! Join us with your trunk decorated, donate candy, dress in costume and come for some treats...or just come as you are! Families from the neighborhood are welcome to come trick-or-treat among the cars in a protected area of the parking lot. There are so many ways to participate and we hope you’ll make this an annual tradition for your family, too!
With love, always,
As we head into the fall and into a new month, we want to take a moment to recognize that more change is coming. We are beginning a new sermon series, looking at the church as universal. We'll start with World Communion Sunday on Oct. 1 and end with Día de los Muertos on Oct. 29. We are starting our Outdoor Worship back up this Sunday and soon we will reintroduce passing the plates in our indoor services. We are beginning our month-long participation in the Bethany Food Drive. And we are preparing to welcome our Interim Senior Minister, Rev. Janet Maykus, in two weeks!
We are so grateful for the many ways this church continues to be a companion to one another through all of life’s changes. May we continue to travel together, sharing God’s love for all, with all.
–Your UCC Staff
A Prayer “For Summer’s Ending”
From Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Grace and Chaos of Daily Life
Thank you for all the ways you’ve companioned me this summer.
You’ve traveled with me as I made road trips to visit scattered, special family, waited at airport gates thick with frustrating delays, buckled kids in the car for an adventure at the zoo, driven across town to eat crisp cold salads with a dear friend, folded clothes and packed the suitcase another time.
You’ve traveled with me, Jesus, as I’ve sat in medical waiting rooms, as I’ve kissed loved ones goodbye while holding back tears, as I’ve lingered by the window with a cup of coffee, overcome with too many thoughts to name…
You’ve made your presence known through tracked-in sand on the kitchen floor and the smell of fresh strawberries dumped on the counter.
I’ve heard your voice in the joyful shrieks of children in sprinklers and the creak of the porch swing as dusk settled. You’ve held me through weeks that were stressful and weeks that evaporated in elation… weeks when I was complacent and selfish and weeks I was sacrificial and servant-hearted… weeks when I was honest and integrated and weeks I didn’t even recognize the person in the mirror….
You never failed to remind me how you loved me and still had good for me to do.
Sometimes I caught your message…
How I thank you, traveling and strengthening One, for going with me through these summer months… for offering reassurance as I enter the fall and all its change.
I hold out my gratitude for what was and my quiet hopes for what’s to come.
Genesis 46:4 * Deuteronomy 31:8 * Psalm 139:7–10 *
“Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?…
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.”
—Psalm 139:7, 9–10
Greetings Social Justice Team Members!
This Sunday, we look forward to adding some members to our Social Justice Team. How exciting to have our friends fully commit themselves to becoming a part of our UCC family! How so, you ask? You may not realize that all new and current members, and even all our guests, are part of our Social Justice Team! We all have a place on the Social Justice Team and we try to practice social justice from our youngest children to our most senior members.
In fact, you are invited to participate in one of our favorite and most fun social justice events - The Period Party - after church this Sunday. This project will benefit Hope Medical Clinic, and possibly Out Youth, Casa Marianella, Safe Alliance, and some of our school partners. Hope Medical Clinic is a new recipient for our products and they offer free primary, compassionate, and high-quality healthcare to resettled refugees, immigrants and other underserved people. We will also be making a donation to Flo Code, our long time partner in this project. Flo Code has changed their operations since COVID, and they now supply unopened packages of period products to their partners which they can purchase with our donation. Many thanks to Katherine Griffin-Erickson for making this happen.
It is not too late to purchase period products! And Dads, it’s not too late to introduce your sons to the feminine hygiene aisle of the grocery store. Bring anything you purchase on Sunday.
And did you see the pictures of the youth from last Sunday making dog and cat toys for Williamson County Animal Shelter? Our youth have such a heart for helping - making lives better for people and animals. They did hard work in Appalachia this summer and will continue to do the hard work soon at Bethany Food Pantry by assembling, decorating, and filling Thanksgiving boxes for their clients.
We are so excited and thankful that on October 1st, GECKO (God Encourages Caring Kindness and Outreach) will be starting for our 4th and 5th graders. Our older elementary students will meet once a month to practice what they have learned in our Children’s Ministry with a monthly service project. Thank you especially to Tracy Brown and our adult volunteers for heading up this effort.
One of the improvements that came out of our legislature this season was that period products and baby care items, including diapers, are no longer being taxed at the cash register. If you want to continue to vote for people who reflect values like this, I will be available for the next three Sundays in Fellowship Hall to assist anyone who needs to register to vote, change their address, or change the name on their voter registration. The deadline for registering before the November Constitutional Election is October 10th. I am now able to assist those in both Travis and Williamson County. I also have mail in registrations for those who live in other counties.
Watch for upcoming collections of canned goods for the Bethany Thanksgiving boxes and a special Advent project.
With you in service and justice,
Social Justice Team Lead
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
As someone who’s been thinking a lot about generosity lately, it seemed to me that there was a glaring omission on the Spirit’s list of fruits. Really? Generosity didn’t make the cut?
I really wanted to know why generosity wasn't on the list, so I asked a resource I've come to appreciate in my research: ChatGPT. ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot that uses natural language processing to create humanlike conversational dialogue. And it gave a surprisingly good answer. Let’s see what it said.
While generosity isn’t explicitly listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit in this passage, it can be understood as closely related to several of the qualities mentioned.
As we seek to cultivate fruits of the Spirit in our lives, we may well find that acts of generosity naturally align with these virtues, reflecting the teaching and example of Jesus in our relationships with others.
Join with us in seeking and sharing,
Stewardship Team Lead
In case you don’t know me, or we haven’t met (yet!), I am the Worship Music Leader for UCC. I have the privilege of selecting the music to accompany each service, directing the UCC Choir, and I am a happy member of the UCC Bell Choir.
As you probably have gathered by now, September’s theme is “Cultivating Generosity,” and this coming Sunday the 10th, I hope you will join us, either in-person or online, for our 10AM worship service. It will be full of music and love and stories of how your generosity has already benefited some of our staff and volunteers, specifically by sending them to programs where they can learn and enrich their lives and service to UCC.
The generosity of this congregation continually floors me, between the time and work of our volunteers...to the care for one another...to the monetary donations! I am blessed to be part of this family of believers, and I hope y’all feel the same about me.
In purely UCC-Music-News, World Communion Sunday is coming up on October 1, and the Pop-Up Choir is beginning rehearsals THIS Sunday at 12:30 (or whenever you can make it after the Second Sunday Social). Please let me know if you’re interested, and I can send you the music to practice!
I am also looking forward to restarting the once-a-month early services in our beautiful outdoor chapel, and possibly holding more Sip-N-Sings, once the weather cools a bit. More to come on that in the near future…
If we haven’t already met, I look forward to meeting each of you. If you have any questions, concerns, constructive criticism, or just want to say hi, please reach out to me in person at church, via email, or on Facebook. I value all opinions and hymn requests from each of you.
Peace be with you,