The dog days of summer are upon us here in Austin, and that’s usually when worship attendance begins to dip. At UCC, however, longtimers and newcomers are continuing to show up every Sunday for our annual summer sermon series, “God at the Movies.” Twenty-six youth and 6 adults also showed up for our first in-person youth mission trip in 2 years, practicing eco-stewardship at the gulf coast. Thirty-seven children and 44 adults showed up for fun and faith in our first in-person Vacation Bible School in 2 years. This time last year, I have to admit I worried that people wouldn’t show up to church again after getting out of the habit during the lockdown, but you proved that I should “fear not.”
Truly, United Christian Church of Austin is a community of people who show up. When we were forced to worship online, you still showed up. When it came time to install your senior minister, you showed up. When we asked for your financial support to build a playground for our children, you showed up. When we asked for you to support women, refugees, and transgender youth, you showed up. Because of all the ways you’ve been showing up, our financial outlook remains strong, and we’re continuing to make improvements to our governance, ministries, and outreach. None of these things could have happened without you showing up with your gifts of time and money.
So thank you United Christian Church of Austin, for all the ways you show up for Christ and for each other.
Rev. Anna Kreisl
This week in our God at the Movies series, we are watching Soul. Soul isn’t just a movie about music, or about the afterlife. Soul is a look at how we find our calling, how we find what makes us “us.” Below are some of the top quotes from Soul. Which ones resonate with you? Which ones will you be thinking about as you join us for worship on Sunday?
Join us Sunday, online or in person, as Rev. Anna preaches on Soul. Of course, we’ve got two more Disney Sundays after that! Our movie for July 24th is Coco, and for our last Sunday of the month we’ll take a look at Moana. We hope to see you soon.
For those who weren’t able to be part of our worship service this past Sunday, here’s a recap of what some of our youth shared about their experience during our mission trip with Blue Theology.
On our first full day of service, we went down to the beach to clean up trash. Together we picked up around 100 pounds of trash. While we were saving the environment, we were also having fun and building friendships. Beach cleanups are a worthy cause to bring people together, to focus on the environment and to learn ways to protect it.
- Norah, 6th Grader
The church we went to makes something called “plarn.” Plarn is made by using used plastic grocery bags and cutting them into strips, then looping all of those together. They then use the long strips to crochet them all together into large sleeping mats for the homeless. These mats can be used for insulation in the winter, and to avoid the heat in the summer. It can take around 700 bags to make one of the mats. - Jackson, 7th grader
On Monday, we worked with Galveston Bay foundation to help restore some of the wetland shore lines. We planted sea grass using a dibbler, which is a wedge-like tool that you drive into the ground and wiggle back and forth to make a hole big enough to plant the sea grass. We worked in groups of three with one person as the dibbler, one that plants and one that holds the bunches of seagrass. By planting sea grass we hope to build back the ecosystem and help with erosion. We also moved a net along the bottom of the water and then picked it up quickly so we were able to see what lived in the water. There was mostly clear shrimp and minnows but we also saw a sea snot and a stingray which was apparently very rare.
We also went to the local biosphere which is a recycling plant. They told us that they sort and compact materials only to be shipped off somewhere else. I was a little disappointed to hear this but it tells us that recycling isn’t the best solution, we really need to focus on reusing and reducing the amount of waste we produce. – Morgan, Senior
On Wednesday, we participated in two activities, the first of which being service at a food bank in Texas City. Our work at the food bank was comprised of two jobs: packing lunches for kids in the area, and sorting produce into “keep” and “throw away.” Those of us packing lunches formed an assembly line, and completed a total of 741 meal kits. The group sorting through produce delicately parsed through moldy and decomposing vegetables to find the fresh food, eventually filling 3 pallets with edible produce. During this service, the members of this youth group worked in harmony, collectively helping each other serve others. This sense of community continued into our next activity: Prairie planting at Galveston Island State Park. At this site, we transferred different plants from a nursery to a piece of land in need of rejuvenation. The grasses we planted will provide lasting, positive effects on the environment, acting as erosion prevention and as an all natural carbon sink. Each member of the group worked just as hard as before to complete this task. I’d like to especially highlight the efforts of those of us on their first mission trip, who have never experienced this kind of service before due to COVID restrictions. Despite being new to service work at this level, they all sprung into action and worked as diligently as any experienced member of the youth group. - Gabriel, Junior
“A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more of you, and give you no reasons to fight, exclude, or reject anyone.”
― Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For and Believe
This past week 25 youth and 6 adults spent time in Texas City and Galveston learning about creation care and climate justice. We spent time cleaning the beach and sand dunes. Our youth cut up plastic bags to make balls of “plarn” for weaving mats to give to the homeless. Youth and adults waded into the marshy waters to plant sea grass in order to help restore the coastline. After a busy morning of packing produce and kids lunches at the Galveston County Food Bank, youth planted over 100 native grasses at Galveston Island State Park to help restore the eco-system and capture carbon from the atmosphere.
But that’s not all they did! In the mornings and evenings youth spent time doing meditative yoga, writing to their representatives, discussing where they saw the divine in things during the day, preparing and serving meals to one another, washing dishes, playing games, singing loudly to fun music, painting each other’s nails, engaging local kids at a neighborhood park, and just generally getting to know one another better.
While our mission trip was themed around eco-justice, the real theme was and always is present, seeing the Christ in one another and in all that surrounds us. The youth of this church certainly do that, and they constantly work to create an inclusive and welcoming space for all of their peers. One night when our youth were asked to share something that surprised them so far on the trip, someone shared that they were “surprised how little they’ve had to fight for respect and recognition” on the trip.
So, I hope you join us, in person or online, this Sunday to hear from our youth about the work they did on this mission trip. But beyond hearing about the work they did, I hope you also open your hearts and minds to live like them, and ‘see Christ in others, demand more of yourself, and have no reason to fight, exclude, or reject anyone.’
With an open heart and mind,
Director of Youth Ministries
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 email@example.com 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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
Outdoor Worship at 8:30am on 1st Sundays of the Month
We are proudly affiliated with both the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
3500 West Parmer Lane, Austin TX 78727