Author: Sam Ward (Page 1 of 6)

From the Paster – August 2020

We are all familiar with the apocalyptic image from the Bible of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, one of which is pestilence.  In the Bible the Apocalypse is the end of life as we have known it.  We get caught up in the gory devastation of apocalyptic imagery in the Bible: Armageddon,  blood red moon and other signs,  the Four Horsemen I mentioned, etc. but ultimately apocalyptic writings are about hope.

The word apocalypse means “to reveal” or “to unveil”.  In a recent Christian Century article Martha Tatarnic points out that “horrifying and beautiful truths are being revealed to us in these apocalyptic days of COVID 19”.  The systemic injustices around us that affect minority groups and economic polarization is on full display.  We have also seen all across this planet how human beings can work together and change radically in response to an emergency.  We have seen how this world on which we live is inextricably bound together.  The air I breathe becomes the air you breathe.  We can distribute wealth more justly.  We can find housing for the homeless.  We can change our entrenched routines when it is necessary to do so.  We have seen how our choices affect the whole planet’s ecosystems. 

Tantric concludes her article with these words, “We can choose to align our lives with the God of compassion and healing.  Or we can choose to keep trying to cobble together the teetering house of cards that is this claim that we can operate outside the bonds of relationship.  We can choose, but the truth that one of these paths leads nowhere but to death is now impossible to ignore.”  What will this crisis reveal about the human race?  What choice will we make?  What choice will each of us make?

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Scott

Wednesday Evening Conversations:

Please join us Wednesday evening for an open and honest discussion about:

The Bible contradicts itself…Fact-checking the Bible
August 26, 2020 at 7pm

David and Goliath

The Bible contradicts itself: Case in point 
“Fact-Checking the Bible” is a TED talk video with television writer, David Ellis Dickman, who was at one time hired to write questions for a TV game show for adults about the Bible, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy. His comments range from serious to the ridiculous. And he says, himself, we can’t blame him for being a conservative Christian or having conservative Christian viewpoints.
In this hilarious talk, Dickerson shares his experience writing wholesome Bible trivia for the Emmy-winning TV show “American Bible Challenge,” a show that split its contestants into teams who answer questions that draw from the Old and New Testaments. Writing these questions was, to say the least, challenging.


Preview the video at TED TALK at:
https://youtu.be/7MnCjpw7iBI
and
I Samuel 17:50 and II Samuel 21:19  “Who Really Killed Goliath?”
Link to Microsoft Word version

If you would like to join our Wednesday Evening Conversations, please share your name and email with us so that we can send you a link to the ZOOM meeting.

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Heart of Texas Association News – July 2020

As many of you know, our Association sets aside money in our scholarship fund each year to award as scholarships to our seminary students. Also, we are able to award some of the Greg Felder Memorial Scholarship money in this effort. The current awards are going to Betty McDaniel at Chicago Theological Seminary; Rene Slataper at Lexington Theological Seminary who is transferring to Chicago Theological Seminary beginning this fall; and Brooke Dooley at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth on the TCU campus All are earning their Master of Divinity degree and are Members in Discernment in the Heart of Texas Association. Both Betty and Rene are in the online programs at their schools, programs that allow them to work in their home cities and area churches while pursuing seminary degrees. The students apply for these scholarships through our Association scholarship committee. Our Association website, http://hotaucc.org/, has a page to congratulate them that also tells how to inquire about scholarship applications.

Our South Central Conference Annual Meeting was held online for the first time on Saturday morning, June 13th. While it was a loss not to gather face to face in a more extended time together in friendship and worship, the meeting was done in an excellent way that reflected the hard work of Board President Nikki Stahl and several others who helped put it together. There was uplifting music and outstanding worship in the recorded video offered by Houston Association churches; video reports including an opportunity to hear from our new Consulting Conference Minister Campbell Lovett; screen sharing that helped us with minutes, financial reports, understanding bylaw changes that were voted on and adopted, and the slate of nominations; a lovely tribute to Rev. Dr. Alice Graham, the outstanding Executive Director of Back Bay Mission who is retiring at the end of the year; a tribute of gratitude to Jim Blume, our long-time SCC attorney who has given us so much over the years and has now retired: a well-crafted agenda that helped us move along in a timely way that also allowed for discussion; and a time for video break-out rooms that allowed small groups of us to gather and talk. As many of us are finding out, there are new opportunities to be creative and connect that many of us will very likely use in the future as we go back to worship in person. Many thanks to our Conference leadership for this meeting.

At the meeting, we elected new representatives for our Association, and we continue to have others serving on our behalf. We elected Bainie Wild from St. John’s UCC, Burton, to the South Central Conference Board of Directors and Rev. Jenny Russell from Touchstone Community Church, Boerne, to the Nominating Committee. Carl Brown from Trinity Church of Austin continues to serve on the SCC Board of Directors; Rev. Nikki Stahl from United Christian, Austin, continues as President of the SCC Board; Rev. Peter Bauer from Faith UCC, New Braunfels, and Andrew Roblyer from Friends Congregational UCC, College Station continue as General Synod delegates; Josh Mata from United Christian, Phillip Gullen from Friends Congregational, and Jerry Carpenter, retired pastor of Weimar UCC, continue as General Synod alternate delegates; and Cindy Miller from St. John’s UCC, Burton continues on the Nominating Committee.  As the chair of the SCC Nominating Committee, I also thank Rev. Trent Williams and Rev. Peter Bauer for their SCC Board service as they finish their terms as representative and secretary.

Blessings in Christ, Liz Nash, Association Minister

Faith UCC to Participate in Habitat for Humanity Stud-A-Thon

We currently have $385 in our Habitat Fund. We will be participating in the next Habitat Stud-a-thon that begins July 7th. We will be sponsoring two studs which are $200 a piece. Habitat hopes to raise $25,000 for this new home. Gary, pictured to the left, will be the new homeowner. Gary dreams of the day when he can move his family out of the 27 foot long RV they currently live in. He dreams of moving into a home with enough room for his children to grow. As he works on his sweat equity hours and continues his journey through our Home Program, Habitat is gearing up to break ground on his home build by fundraising for the building supplies needed to begin construction on his home. Gary, says, : “What I hope that our Habitat home will offer over our current home is comfort, security, and a place that I can actually call mine. That we can call home.” 

Kathy Leber will paint the studs UCC red and black, once we get them. They will be placed in the fellowship hall and you will be invited to come by and sign them or write your best wishes on them.  We will let you know when the studs are in the fellowship hall. If you wish to donate to our Habitat fund simply send a check to the church and write Habitat on the memo line.

From the Pastor – July 2020

We have been hearing a lot about history as confederate statues are being torn down or moved off of public squares to storage lockers and perhaps museums in the future. The great Southern author William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead, it is not even past.” Another Southerner, Martin Luther King once said, “We are not makers of history.  We are made by history.”  

Every single human being is shaped by history. The history of their families and the history of everywhere they have ever lived. The roots of history that shape us goes far beyond our memories and remembrance and are lost in the mists of time.  The Bible talks about the sins of the present generation affecting generations seven generations from now! I trust that this is also true of the good things each generation does. 

This is one reason so much of the Bible, especially the Hebrew Scriptures that Christians call the Old Testament, is history. Now let it be said that the older history is the more likely it will be mythologized. Often it is scrubbed clean of any negative connotations. The heroes and heroines are made more heroic and come to be seen as paragons of the values a nation or people prioritize. They sometimes come to be more than they ever were in life.

I was reading an article about how white Christians were often complicit in Jim Crow laws and segregation.  MLK correctly observed, “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” This was true in the 1960’s and long before that. Sadly it is still mostly true today, some 60 years after MLK made the observation. It is hard to overcome history. It is hard to learn the lessons of history because we don’t look at the whole historical record. We tend to pick and chose what history we remember. 

We need to learn from history, not a sanitized version of history but history as near to how it happened as we can get. This will mean listening to the voices of the oppressed, to the weak, to those who all too often are ignored or run over by history.  Archbishop Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, once said, “History will not tell us then what to do, but will at least start us on the road to action of a different and more self-aware kind, action that is moral in a way it can’t be if we have no points of reference beyond what we have come to take for granted.” 

Grace and Peace, Pastor Scott

Cream Puffs

Ingredients:
1 Cup water
1/2 Cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 Cup flour


Put water and butter in pan, heat until water boils. Pour flour and salt into hot mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir and cook over low flame until mixture forms softball. Remove from fire, cool, add unbeaten eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each egg is added. Drop by teaspoon full, for small puffs or tablespoon for large puffs, on greased baking sheet. Fill with custard filling or whipped cream. After puffs are baked at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, sprinkle with powdered sugar or drizzle with melted chocolate. I also like filling mine with ice cream or fresh strawberries and whipping cream.

South Central Conference Annual Meeting

The South Central Conference will be holding its annual meeting on Saturday, June 13th.   Originally it was going to be held in Houston but because of the covid 19 virus it was decided to hold it via zoom.  The deadline to register was this past Friday, June 5, unless they extend it.

Along with the usual voting on nominees for conference positions, voting on the budge, etc. a vote will be held on by law amendments. 

The Conference is not collecting Back Bay Mission Hygiene kits this year.  If you wish to make a donation to their Hygiene Kit fund please use this link:
https://thebackbaymission.org/give/#give-now

If you wish to donate to the South Central Conference, please use this link: https://sccucc.org/donate/

Heart of Texas Association News – June 2020

We held our first all online Heart of Texas Association meeting on Saturday, May 16th.  It was, of course, with regret that we had to change to this format instead of gathering at Weimar UCC.  However, we rejoice that we had 51 attendees representing 17 churches.  While we have had more people attend an Association meeting, we had the highest number of churches ever represented, and we voted with joy to welcome Friedens United in Gay Hill back into our Association. Each church gave a short report about their life and activities, which is always a vital and great part of our meeting. I appreciate your efforts to join together at this time to continue our reach across churches for ministry in Christ’s name.  We have all learned a great deal very quickly about being the church in cyberspace during the pandemic.

At our spring meeting, we had Ecclesiastical Councils for Kerry Kirtley and Arlene Turner, approving both for ordination.  Kerry and Arlene have both come to the UCC from the United Methodist Church.  Kerry was welcomed to the UCC by Bethany Congregational in San Antonio.  She is a pastor, along with Billie Watts, of the vibrant new congregation Touchstone Community Church, in Boerne.   Arlene was welcomed to the UCC by United Christian Church, where she has had many opportunities to serve in ministry during the church’s interim period.  We look forward to Kerry’s ordination to her call at Touchstone when that can happen, and we offer our encouragement and support to Arlene as she starts her search for a call to ministry. 

At our meeting, we also extended a call until Labor Day to gather supplies for Back Bay Mission hygiene kits or to send in donations to our Association to allow us to buy supplies in bulk for these kits.  In early September, we will find a way to pick up any kits our churches have assembled, to buy the supplies most needed using monetary donations, and to transport these out to Biloxi to Back Bay Mission for the homeless folks they serve.  If you have kits to be picked up, contact Liz Nash at lizknash@gmail.com or Linda Coats at linda_coats@msn.com.  If you wish to donate money, send it to our Association treasurer, Joe Ward, with an indication that the gift is for Back Bay hygiene kits.  To find out the supply list for the kits and where to send money, go to our website at http://hotaucc.org/index.html and click on “Report on the Spring Meeting” and “Back Bay Mission Hygiene Kit Info.”  You will also see Glen Schoeneberg’s extra verse for the song “Pass It On” that he and Dottie sang for us during worship, a gentle and fun reminder about how to pass on God’s love in this pandemic.

Finally, I want to share a word of caution with you.  I recently have encountered several “phishing” attempts via email and text — many more than usual.  As you may know, “phishing” refers to attempts to commit fraud by impersonating a friend, company, or organization in order to obtain personal information such as your credit card number or to get you to send money or gift cards. These attempts have mainly come as emails or texts that look like legitimate contacts from our pastors, often with church information on them. Others ask you to click on a link.  If you receive a message that appears to be from a minister but you aren’t absolutely sure, check the email address or phone number, and also check in a different way with the person who appears to have sent it.  Do not click on a link and do not send gift cards, money, etc. if those are requested.  Many people are working for the good of all during this time but, sadly, some are not.

Blessings in Christ, Liz Nash, Association Minister

Reopening Task Force Formed

The Church Council has formed a Reopening Task Force to identify schedules and conditions to begin worshipping in the sanctuary and scheduling groups meeting in our facilities. The Task Force will identify policies and practices for reopening. They will make recommendations to the Church Council. The Reopening schedule and guidelines will be well communicated to the congregation. Our thanks to the following three persons who agreed to serve on this Task Force: Jim Gossett; Judith James and Mary Owen. The first meeting is Tuesday, June 16th. 

Family Promise Update

If it were not for the COVID-19 virus we would soon be hosting Family Promise families but that is not to be this year but the work of Family Promise still goes on. Currently  two families are being housed at the Family Promise Day Center itself. On a recent zoom call Family Promise said they have tentatively set September 1st as the date they will start hosting families in churches once again, although this could change if there is  strong second wave of COVID-19. 

Since we will not be hosting families at the church or at the camp this summer the Faith Church council will be voting to donate funds from our Family Promise fund to Family Promise.  The amount will be determined at the June Council meeting on June 9th. 

We are also encouraging Faith Church members to consider making a donation to Family Promise directly. This would in lieu of providing gift cards, or food for the families we would normally be hosting. You can donate to Family Promise through the church  or go directly to the Family Promise website and donate there.  Here is the link:   https://www.fpgnb.org/. The later will get your donation to them quicker. You can also use the above link to sign up for the Family Promise Newsletter.  Simply go to the very bottom of the web page and sign up.

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