Dear Church Family,
I have a slight nerdy bent so when preparing for this article, I decided to google the word stewardship to get a definition. Here’s what I found:
People often use scripture verses to foster stewardship and encourage giving. “God loves a cheerful giver.” “Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly.” “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not man.”
My favorite verse about stewardship is from the Old Testament: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
That sounds more like the joy of taking care of something. Adam wasn’t put in the garden to earn a profit and rely on that profit to feed his kids, protect him from a drought or flood, prepare for retirement, and still use some of that profit to be generous to others. He was supposed to take care of the garden. Give it what it needed. Take what it provided.
How do we think of stewardship differently if we think of UCC as our garden? Do we think, “The children's ministry really needs a lot of water.” Or, “The apple tree should just give apples because that’s its job. We shouldn’t have to give it sunlight.” Of course not!
Imagine sitting in a peaceful, fragrant, colorful garden. Each plant was given what it needed in time, energy, and resources. And each provides joy, in its unique and perfect way.
Keeping a garden alive in Central Texas is not easy. (We tried it at UCC! We now have a Gaga Ball pit instead.)
But keeping the garden that is UCC blooming is possible. We give the garden what it needs in the form of money, time, energy, and care. We are rewarded with its beauty: children’s programs, paid utility bills, mission trips, community, and connection.
We don’t give because we are supposed to. We give because we are one of the required resources for the garden. And because we are each one of the beautiful flowers that bloom.
2023 Stewardship Team Lead
August 25, 2023
Small groups, youth group, children’s programming, birthday cards, prayer lists, spreadsheets and databases… What do all of these things have in common?
Answer: Relational Ministry.
“Relational Ministry” focuses on genuine, caring connections between people that help build a community that serves a higher purpose.
But how do we do that at UCC? Through spreadsheets and databases, of course! Or is it through small group discussions, VBS activities, middle school lock-ins, and high school camp-outs? Or is it Elder visits and phone calls with homebound members or simply a birthday card in the mail? Maybe it’s all of the above?
Over the last year, we’ve been firsthand witnesses to how strong Relational Ministry is at UCC. We’ve supported one another through the expected and unexpected highs and lows of life. Our prayer and care list is active and life-changing. We’ve seen people step into roles -- both as staff and church members -- that have allowed our community to continue to blossom and thrive. And we want to keep it going. Through multiple meetings this past year, lovingly dubbed “Membership Mania!!”, we cross-checked the various software programs that keep our addresses, prayer lists, and email lists, but there’s still work to do.
As we enter the new school year and kick off fall activities…as we look to Stewardship month in September…and as we look ahead to our time with Intentional Interim Minister Rev. Janet Maykus…we want to build on what we’ve been doing here at UCC and help it grow.
The staff and Council members are working hard to gather information, update Bylaws and handbooks, keep us organized, and plan amazing experiences and activities for all ages. In order to make sure we are reaching the correct people and offering the appropriate opportunities and connection points, you may be asked to confirm or update your household information. Please know that your household information will be handled in a secure manner and only used for appropriate church business. We may ask you for birthdays or allergies or if you want to be on the In-house Facebook page. We’ll ask if you want to join a small group and to pledge to our ministries in 2024.
In short, we’ll ask you to be in Relational Ministry with us!
Thank you for giving us information to fill out spreadsheets and databases, but more importantly, thank you for giving of your time, talents, and love in building up the relationships at this church for the greater mission of God in this world.
Pastor of Pastoral Care
Dearest Church Family,
As some of you know, I have been providing leadership support to our office staff during this year’s time of pastoral transition. What a gift it has been! There have been times of laughter and times of tears. We have shared both joyous certainty and the concerning unknown. I will always look back at this time as an opportunity to be a servant leader to a group of talented, artistic, knowledgeable, thoughtful, collaborative, and loving people.
When I shared the exciting news about our church’s Interim Senior Minister with Emily, Julie, Kelley, and Meghan, we discussed Rev. Janet’s outstanding qualifications. We talked about how her experience will serve our congregation, what kind of staff leader she seems to be, and how we will start preparing for her arrival. What a relief! We have an Interim on the way!
And then, as that news sinks in, we start to wonder. Is it okay to be both excited and nervous? Can we look forward to having healthy leadership stability in our church, but also regret losing the tapestry of diverse voices we’ve had over the past many months? Can we trust in the future and celebrate progress, at the same time that we are still feeling hurt by our collective past? Can we hold feelings that seem in conflict with each other?
We had a beautiful conversation in this week’s staff meeting. We acknowledged our complex feelings. We talked about the upcoming ministerial transition, the changes we are experiencing in our lives, and the dichotomy of our emotions. The start of a new school year is most certainly a time of significant transition and many mixed emotions. Sunday is our Blessing of the Backpacks, where we will recognize this momentous transition for all our students, educators, and school staff and administrators. We will share a collective blessing that they may be sustained and know that the love and care of this congregation surrounds them each school day.
This wonderful church gives us a place to celebrate, mourn, contemplate, and process feelings together. It’s a safe and loving space where others are ready to listen as we share our excitement and anxiousness and prayers in this journey forward with each other and with God.
Personnel Committee Chair
On your mark…get set…GO!
It’s August…activities are gearing up…we’re starting the school year and we’re hitting the ground running. :)
Thank you to all who wrote notes of encouragement and support to teachers after church last Sunday. As a former teacher (and spouse of a current one!), I can tell you we’re grateful for that support and love.
Thank you also to those who have already picked an apple from our School Supply Tree. There are more apples on the tree, so if you’d still like to pick one, they’ll be available again on this coming Sunday, August 6. These supplies are going to be delivered to Dessau Middle School, so please bring any donations by next Sunday, August 13. If you’d like to help with the School Supply Drive, but are unable to be in person, this newsletter has links to the lists included below. Several teachers have Amazon wish lists that they need help fulfilling.
And speaking of August 13, we have an opportunity to encourage and bless our students, teachers, and staff as they prepare for the upcoming school year. Starting a new school year is so exciting, but it can also be challenging and often brings up feelings of worry. We set aside this Sunday as a meaningful way to lift up those feelings to God, share them with our church family, and pray for blessings on a beautiful new year. We hope you’ll join us for this year's Blessing of the Backpacks Sunday. We’ll start our morning with Pastries on the Playground at 9 a.m. – a time of fellowship, snacks, and playtime! Our 10 a.m. Worship Service will include this time of celebration and blessing for our students, teachers, and staff. All are invited to bring a backpack, briefcase, school bag, laptop, etc. for a blessing. And following the service, we’ll bless all of the school supplies collected before they get delivered!
I’m looking forward to so many activities in August, but mostly, I’m looking forward to seeing all of you.
With love, always,
Emily Guerrero :)
July 28, 2023
Following last year’s successful school supply drive, we connected with a school social worker who lives in our neighborhood and works at Dessau Middle School, a Title 1 school about 20 minutes from our church. The school was incredibly grateful for our donations. As our plan to host a school supply drive approached this year, we decided to connect with DMS again. For this year’s drive, we are collecting items specified by faculty at the school, and sending the supplies over to the school along with the handcrafted cards we’ll create this Sunday after worship.
So, from now through August 12, stop by our School Supply Giving Tree in the Fellowship Hall to participate in this year's drive. Grab an apple (or many!) from the tree and shop for what's written on it. The last name of the teacher is on the back of the paper apple, so please bring back your donations with the apple taped to it for easiest sorting. Drive donations are due back on Sunday, August 13. If you’d like to participate but are not able to grab apples at this time, please contact the church office and we can send over some apples or connect you with an Amazon wishlist.
And this Sunday, July 30, stick around after church to design and decorate encouragement cards for the 90-member staff of the school: teachers, administrators, coaches, counselors, janitorial staff, everyone! One of the teachers at Dessau even requested “unlimited prayers” on her wishlist - a request we will prayerfully honor. School staffs work incredibly hard to provide safe, caring education for our students, and we are honored to send them back to school with school supplies, support cards, and a whole lot of love!
See you soon,
The UCC Social Justice Team
We are really looking forward to the time together after church two Sundays from now - July 30. While some Sundays have education opportunities, business meetings, or property workdays, we like to reserve any time that there's a 5th Sunday in a month for something we call the “5th Sunday Social Justice Project” - a way we can show love to and achieve justice for those in our community. The team especially strives to find activities that all ages can do together.
The Social Justice Team was already planning to do a school supply drive at the beginning of August, so as we looked at July 30, we began to brainstorm ways that we could connect with this project. Someone remarked that while teachers receive gifts and messages for winter holidays and teacher appreciation in the spring, it would be really nice to send them back to school with messages of support and encouragement to begin the school year!
So that’s just what we’re doing. Sunday, July 30, after church, we’ll pull out the tables and paper, markers, stamps, stickers, and more to create lots of beautiful support cards to go along with the school supplies! We’ll have some wording suggestions and all of the crafting supplies to get your creative juices flowing. We’re going for heartfelt rather than fancy, but please feel free to get as creative with your words, scripting, designs, decorations as you’d like! Making the cards will also be a great project for parents and kids to work on together.
Crafting not your thing? We will also have some period products and snack items from previous social justice projects that need to be sorted and bagged so they can be easily put in our Little Free Pantry. No matter which project (or projects!) you choose to help with, in just one Sunday afternoon you are going to be making an impact in the lives of others in our community.
Please mark your calendars to help out after church on Sunday, July 30, and keep an eye out for further information about the school supply drive that will run from July 30 - August 13. We are excited to share God’s love and some UCC spirit through these projects.
~ The UCC Staff and UCC Social Justice Team
This devotion is adapted from the daily devotion book that was provided to our team on the Mission Trip with the Appalachia Service Project. The prayers and questions provided led to a lot of wonderful reflection and inspiration for our team and beyond. We hope this one inspires you today:
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. -Romans 15:4
As followers of Christ, we are a people of story. We are part of the ongoing story of God's saving love for God's people. As this verse from Romans reminds us, all of God's stories in scripture encourage us in hope.
Our faith is grounded in the stories we read in Scripture, our stories of service and the stories that have been passed on to us. As faithful people interacting with stories of other people each day in multiple dimensions, we have choices. We can choose to use stories to divide, disempower, and entrench, or we can use them to exercise vulnerability and humility and to expand our understanding of common ground we share through God's love. May we be strong in hope as we share in God's story.
How is your story being told this week? How are you living into God's story? What are you learning about your story?
July 7, 2023
This time last week, 20 of our youth, along with 8 adult leaders, were on our final day of service in Appalachia, Virginia. We spent a week at four different worksites, doing everything from ripping up subfloor to installing new siding on a house. For some of us, this was the first time we had used a hammer, and for others this was our umpteenth time using power tools. New skills were acquired, friendships were made or deepened, lessons were learned, songs were sung, meals were consumed, games were played, very little sleep was had, and much joy was shared. To put it lightly, this mission trip was a great one.
On Sunday, we invite you to join us in worship and learn more about the work we did and the ways in which we learned to “Love Strong.” Each of our work crews will present a small sermonette about their worksite and how their week went. You will get to hear about how we learned to serve others through our talents and gifts, and how we can be a part of God’s ongoing story of love and serving our neighbor. Our hope is that you can pray on the messages you hear on Sunday, consider your own gifts and strengths, and how you can share those gifts with others.
Pastor of Pastoral Care and Youth Ministries
I’d like to start this message with a snippet of the sermon on Sunday, given by Clark Thompson.
“We often harbor the illusion that we can fix all of our problems ourselves. We in the modern West are especially enamored of this illusion. We created the myth of the rugged individual who is totally self-sufficient and solves all challenges by simply pulling himself up by the bootstraps. Such individualism comes at a cost. It is one of many factors that have brought revolutionary, though ultimately negative, change to our society. The 20th century bore witness to the weakening of Americans’ sense of community, the fracturing of the American family, and an incremental rejection of God and church that continues to this day.”
“The weakening of Americans’ sense of community.” Do you feel it? I do.
In some ways, it’s because we ARE self-sufficient. During The Freeze in 2021, our neighbors had a group text where one set of neighbors offered to let others use their pool water to flush their toilet, and someone else said if anyone needed anything from the store to let her know because she might have what was needed. And while I was so appreciative of the concept, turns out, we didn’t actually end up needing each other. We all got on just fine. I sometimes think about that and wish I could go back and take someone up on their offer. Not because I NEEDED it. But just to feel connected.
In other ways, of course, we DO have need, but we also don’t want to feel like a burden. Or we don’t feel safe enough to be vulnerable. Or we’re not sure who would even care enough about us to help. And so we make do. But we feel the lack. The lack of support. The lack of community.
As we think about generosity here at UCC, I want us to think beyond just giving money. Money is a part of it, of course, but it’s not the only need and it’s not the only solution.
Some of us need someone to listen. Or to take us to the airport. Or to watch our kids for a couple of hours so we can go to a doctor appointment. Or to fix that stupid door that doesn’t close right. Or to invite us over for Thanksgiving so we don’t spend the holiday alone. Or to ask us about how that visit with our mom went because they know the relationship is troubled.
We like to be thought of as generous people, as people with excess. But in real community, we are both. Relationships, community, connection - that’s how we get our own needs met and meet the needs of others. Let’s be generous with our money, yes. But let’s also be generous with (and to) ourselves.
Over the next week, try to think of a non-monetary way in which you can be generous with someone; and then think of a need you might have, one that can be met within community.
In community with you,
Stewardship Team Lead
“The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food.” -Dean Ornish
“So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” - Gen. 2: 3
It’s almost July. And here we are, breathing and busy. So maybe it’s time we take a moment to reflect.... In June, we celebrated Vacation Bible School – each day welcoming 40 children and 22 volunteers as we shared stories of building the kin-dom of God together. We have 20 Youth and 8 adults who are returning this weekend from a transformational week on their mission trip in Wise County, Virginia. We have wrapped up a very busy year of Small Groups, New Member Classes, Discussion Groups, building a playground, Youth Groups, Book Clubs, Christmas Pageants, Easter Egg Hunts, Second Sunday Socials, Social Justice projects…
In Worship&Wonder, we tell the story of Creation using Godly Play. The story tells us that after each day of creation, God looked at that day and said, “It is good.” God creates day and night, land and plants, creatures of the air and water, and creatures with two legs, four legs, and more to live on the land. And then on the seventh day, God made a special day to rest – because after all the work of creation, God was tired! And so God asks us, too, to take a day to rest – each week. A day to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. A day to reflect, refresh, and refill our buckets. God says that when we rest, "It is good."
Now, rest can look different for each family and for each person. Some rest by going camping, and some rest by staying at home and watching movies. Some rest by taking a walk, or going swimming, and some rest by napping. For some, rest looks like activity, and for others, rest looks like quiet time. In whatever way you find rest, God asks us to make it intentional – truly acknowledging our busy day-to-day tasks and taking a moment (a day, if we can) to honor that time by resting. God asks us to take Sabbath time.
This summer, our church is taking some Sabbath time. July is the seventh month of the year, so it is fitting that in the seventh month we take some time to rest ourselves. Worship will continue each Sunday at 10 am. but our activity level may decrease a little. We will have a couple special events, including the Adult Discussion Group meeting on the 1st and 3rd Sundays, our Sip-N-Sing evening of hymn-singing and fellowship on July 11, and the 5th Sunday Social Justice Project. But our church staff is making time for travel and family, and so office hours will look a bit different during the month. Thank you to all of the amazing volunteers who made this year and this last month of VBS, Pride, and Mission Trip possible...you deserve a rest!
Our hope is that you and your family will be able to find a way to rest. Find time to remember the Sabbath. Make intentional moments of refreshment and relaxation. Breathe. The work of building the kin-dom of God can be difficult and exhausting. But when we take time to honor the Sabbath by resting our bodies and minds, we are ensuring that we have renewed energy to begin again the work of sharing God’s love in the world. Breathe, dear family of faith, and rest.
With love, always,