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
“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but the spirit of power, of courage and resolution, to meet difficulties and dangers; the spirit of love which will carry us through opposition.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Last Sunday, I encouraged you to not give up your fight, even in the midst of these discouraging times. When we decide to follow Jesus Christ, we make a commitment to live into Christ’s call to working for a more peaceful and just world for all; this means fighting for the oppressed and for the sanctity of Creation, even when we are weary. We are indeed weary.
On the surface, this fight may appear like mixing politics and religion. Preachers must always be mindful that we walk a fine line when we preach the Gospel, which has always been provocative. The Gospel of Jesus Christ even today remains scandalous because it upends principalities and powers, which are always political.
There is a difference, however,
between lovingly speaking up for the values of the Gospel as we have heard them,
and shouting into the divisive partisan politics of our days.
There is a difference between
“speaking the truth in love,”
and contorting scripture to support our existing political persuasions.
We must always go back to the scandalous Gospel of Jesus Christ as our starting point,
not to our own egos.
Just the other day, we received yet another piece of heartbreaking news: there will be no charge in the killing of Breona Taylor, and two more police officers have been killed. This tragic loss of three innocent lives, the global outcry of God’s people for the dignity of black and brown people, the widening political divisions in our country, and the void of peace and justice throughout our world brings us to our knees...
And on our knees in prayer, may we find the strength to make it one more day, to fight one more day for ourselves, for our children and families, for stewardship Creation, for the uplifting of the poor, for the sanctity of black lives, for gender equality, for the turning of swords into plowshares, for the healing of all that divides, and for a more just and peaceful world.
Rev. Anna Kreisle Humble
Finance & Stewardship Update
Nominating Committee Announced
As we near the end of the 3rd quarter, we have so much to celebrate.
In addition to these financial strengths as we move into the 4th quarter, a nominating committee charged with nominating leaders for 2021 has been formed. Members include:
Next year is THE YEAR to be in leadership as we will be continuing with our Holy Conversations resulting in setting the course for United Christian Church and then fully entering into the Pastoral Search process. So, please prayerfully consider if approached by the nominating committee.
“Jesus’ divine and human natures are in relationship; they are not boards glued together but are the two natures in relationship in one person. This makes the relationship of persons through Jesus the place of God’s presence. Relationships in ministry are so significant not for what they get us but because they become the concrete yet mysterious place where the divine and human come together.”
Andrew Root, The Relational Pastor [Downers Grove, IL InterVarsity Press, 2007] p. 161
As an assignment for grad school, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on this passage from Andrew Root’s, The Relational Pastor. When I stepped into this role in 2014, one of our seniors asked to meet with me. He had been an incredibly active part of the youth group, and was sad that his youth minister was leaving. But, he felt very called to make sure I knew as much as I could about the group, what he had gotten value from, and what he hoped for the future, beyond him graduating. Even though I had been volunteering with this group for awhile, his conversation and meeting with me really opened my eyes to how very relational this group was. This group felt called to care for one another, and in turn that made them feel called to care for the community and world around them.
I am well aware that I am changed and will continue to be changed and challenged by the youth I serve, and am in relationship with. This is such an incredible blessing, and it my responsibility and joy to recognize that and share it. As long as I recognize it, it opens me up to receive from them, and from God. It is not my job to “bring them to Christ” or tick off certain attendance requirements. It is my job to make sure each and every youth who comes to our church knows that they are loved, they are heard, they are seen, they are cared for. It is my job to love them as my neighbor, because this is how God loves us.
I tell you all of this not because I want you to hear my story, but because I want to hear yours. Where are you in relationship in this congregation? Is your relationship allowing God’s presence to transform not just you, but also the church? How might the mindset of being open to not just receiving, but giving, help you build your relationship with this church? As we continue in our stewardship month, I hope you are able to take some time to reflect on your relationship with United Christian Church. I hope you find yourself joyfully receiving and giving, and feeling the embrace of God’s love.
Meghan Trout, Youth Ministries Coordinator
"Sing to God a new song, for God has done marvelous things.
Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy." - Psalm 98
If going to church has taught us anything, it’s this: you really need to be okay with metaphors to get very far with the Bible. Floods clapping hands? Hills singing together for joy? These things are impossible. Of course, that doesn’t mean they aren’t true, or that they can’t happen.
That’s why I have such hope for this year’s stewardship campaign. So much is different now than it has been; so much has gone wrong. Some among us spent much of the year furloughed; some of us lost our jobs altogether. Some of us were lucky enough to keep our jobs, but are now fearful for the future, and working to save money in new ways. A successful stewardship campaign may seem impossible.
And yet, just a few months ago, our financial situation looked impossible, and then God provided through your generosity and creativity. Just a few months ago, I would have said that transitioning overnight to a completely online church was impossible, and yet, we made the leap of faith together. We are people who believe in beautiful impossibilities, who shape our lives around the happening of things that simply cannot happen.
Tomorrow, we will begin distributing pledge cards at our Kickoff Saturday from 11:30 – 1 PM at the church, where you can drive through and receive a Blessing Bag, filled with worship gifts to you from your church family. During the month of September, you may complete your pledge card online at uccaustin.org/pledge or by mail. We will celebrate your participation in God’s generosity Sunday, September 27th at 10 AM in worship online. Until then, we pray together in joy:
Holy One, for you the floods clap,
for you the hills sing.
You know my situation better than anyone.
Take my credits and debits,
ins and outs,
my pluses and minuses,
surpluses and lacks,
and show me how to use them
to join the great chorus of Creation. Amen
Rev. Anna Kreisle Humble
September is the time of year when we kick-off our new church program year. This usually involves two special Sundays.
1) Move up Sunday, where our children/youth move up to their new grades - sometimes involving room or ministry program changes.
2) Kick-Off Sunday, where we celebrate the dawning of the new program year usually with a fabulous food spread. Food is something that UCC has always been good at!
This year things look a little different but we are still really excited to mark the beginning of a new program year:
We may have to continue to do things differently, but what matters is we do them together! And I am thankful to be doing ministry with you.
Join us Saturday September 5 between 11:30 - 1 PM for a Drive-through Kick Off Parade and Blessing Bag pickup!
Here's what you won't want to miss:
See you there with your mask on!
Ready or not…
As this new school year kicks off without all the normal stuff, back-to-school activities look much different than any of us could have expected.
I am rushing around the house, trying to get everything set up for Charlie (6 ½) who is starting 1st grade, virtually, while attempting to corral our Annalise, our 2 ½ year old, who thinks she, too, is starting 1st grade. She pulls up her chair right next to Charlie as we practice some of the on-line activities that he and I both will need to learn very quickly. We are ordering school supplies on the HEB website, and having Amazon deliver tools and all kinds of things we “need” for this year. We are getting Charlie’s new chrome book set up, thanks to an amazingly thoughtful and generous family who knew we didn’t have one. He will become VERY knowledgeable in technology that we have, until now, not introduced in our house.
Meanwhile, we have hung up a curtain in our converted garage (we call it the studio) for Efrain, so that he can have some semblance of a private space where he will teach his art classes, virtually, for the next few weeks (hopefully longer).
And through it all, especially in these last few days, I keep hearing the phrase “ready or not…”
Ready or not, friends, we are starting school, on the computer, at home. Ready or not, Charlie, at 6 ½ will learn how to navigate technology that I don’t even understand.
Some families, in fact, are ready. Ours is not. Except, that it is. Sort of. I don’t know what on-line learning will look like for my family…but ready or not, we’ll find out, together.
I don’t know what next week, or next month will look like on the calendar…but ready or not, we’ll find out, together.
On these days when I’m feeling most “not ready,” God has a funny way of reminding me that I am…at least sort of…
We’ve got the log-in information for the first day of class. That’s something, right?
God is with my family and your family and with all of us as we navigate this new school year. And ready or not, God will be with us.
God is with the teachers, administrators and staff.
God is with the parents.
God is with the students.
Ready or not...we can do this - together.
Emily Jamison Guerrero