As you all know I will be retiring on December 31st. I announced my retirement at the beginning of the year to give the church as much time as possible to hit the road running. There is much to be done and it is not too soon to start. It will require all hands on deck to prayerfully go through the various steps. The council will not be able to do it all by themselves so I pray you will prayerfully consider serving if the council asks you to help with the transition process. Faith UCC is a wonderful church and it serves a vital role in the South Central Conference and UCC; in this community and beyond and in your life as well as the lives of your fellow members. I have always said that Faith UCC punches above its weight when it comes to outreach, mission, and standing up for justice in this community and world. A transition, such as the church is facing, comes with many challenges and these challenges are being multiplied by the current pandemic, but with diligent effort and God’s help Faith UCC will come through this transition and be all the stronger for it.
Generally after a long pastorate, I’ve been here 15 years, a church will hire an interim minister(s). An interim minister is temporary and serves as a bridge between the past pastor and the new settled pastor. Whoever the interim is the general understanding is that they will not apply to be the settled pastor. During the interim period the congregation takes the opportunity to assess its history, mission and unique ministries and where it wants to go in the future. The interim minister and the congregation use the interim period to address issues that would significantly impact the next settled pastorate and the church. Often times interim ministers have had special training to help them help churches deal with this interim period and what needs to be done then.
Know that you will have my prayers during this transition time. It is, however, inappropriate for me to, as the UCC “A Pastoral Vacancy: Guidelines for the Departing Pastor and the Governing Board” puts it, “to engage in any conversations about the future roles of other staff members or to suggest interim names.” Rev. Campbell Lovett, the Consulting Conference Minister for the South Central Conference and Rev. Liz Nash, Heart of Texas Association Minister, will be available to help resource this transition time. Rev. Campbell has already been in consultation with Council President Mike Ziegler and the church council.
Dear Friends In Christ, Sometimes I think that the Apostle Paul was a Conference Minister! He traveled – a lot, spent time writing letters, prayed for his many congregations, thanked people for contributing to the “needs of the saints” and extending hospitality, and encouraged churches in their ministries in challenging times. I will follow his lead in this letter.
I’ll begin with words of thanks. Thank you for your ministry and leadership during this time of global pandemic. In the midst of increased isolation, people are seeking connection to a higher power and one another. Our South Central Conference (SCC) churches are responding to these needs and serving with grace, compassion and courage. Thank you for being a powerful presence of hope in your community. Thank you also for sharing donations with the wider church. Your offerings to Our Churches Wider Mission have helped make a difference in the life of many clergy and congregations in the SCC, and also across the United Church of Christ. Thank you!
As for prayers and encouragement, here are a few updates:
At every staff meeting, we pray for five different SCC churches and three National Setting staff members. We passionately feel that we are all in this together and so we spend time in prayer for each church, each authorized minister, and then ask God’s blessings upon the unique ministry and mission in each church community.
A number of our SCC churches are in seasons of pastoral transition. The Conference has established a Search and Call Team that is a resource to churches that are saying farewell to pastors and searching for new settled ministers. The conference has a variety of resources and focuses on shepherding each congregation through the search process.
The Conference has received a grant from the United Church Funds for establishing a series of clergy support seminars. In August, September and October, national leaders in clergy wellness, stewardship, visioning and online worship will be meeting online with our pastors to offer encouragement, support and new resources.
Slumber Falls Camp completed a modified camp season within the guidelines suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Camp Association. This was a very difficult decision to open the camp for these sessions, but our camp leaders felt the mental health of our young people would benefit from this opportunity to experience God’s presence in nature, spiritual exercises, and one another.
The Executive Committee of the Board has met to consider how to reduce budget expenses to match a forecasted decline in giving. We are also working hard to identify additional revenue streams, and we remain committed to supporting the UCC National Setting at the financial level approved in the 2020 Conference Budget.
I want to thank you for helping to make all of this possible with your donations to OCWM. I know that you have many financial challenges of your own in your congregation. Like Paul, I am thankful for your sharing of the gospel and for your partnership with other churches in the UCC. With your ongoing support we are sure that we can serve local churches more fully and more faithfully.
If you have particular concerns or needs, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone. Together, we are making a difference.
Hello! I want to give everyone a short update on a couple of very important items in the life of Faith Church. As you know, our Pastor Scott Martin will be retiring on the last day of December this year. We have several things to do before that time in order to have a smooth transition in our church life. The main projects we must undertake are convening an interim pastor search committee. Our thanks to the following people for agreeing to serve on the interim search committee: Beth Bizer; Kyle Kramm; Mikki Ward and Jenna Wendel. We will also need to form a pastoral search committee in the New Year to look for a settled pastor.
The church council has a lot of materials to help in the search process. We also have the help of Rev. Dr. Campbell Lovett, Consulting Conference Minister for the South Central Conference, United Church of Christ. Rev. Lovett has provided some specific materials that will help the committee greatly in the task at hand. In addition, he has offered to be a part of the committee’s meetings as a guide and support person. I am also committed to offer any support and assistance I can to help make the job run smoothly.
If you have any questions or want to help please contact me soon at email@example.com (see Church Directory for phone number).
Mike Ziegler reports that the following information was in the last SOS Board minutes, “We plan to start using the new building on September 8th. There will be a panic button for those in the new building who do not feel safe. Also, board members were reminded that we can always call 911 if we feel threatened.”There is also another number for the food bank, which will ring in both buildings. Once the move into the new building is complete, work will begin on the new storage building.
Sheila Angerer, Janet Sherman, Joe Ward and Pastor Scott worked at the SOS Food Bank on our August Friday. One of the families we helped that day were from Aransas Pass. They are here in New Braunfels because their house burned down. The husband worked landscaping and construction and lost all his tools. His wife is on oxygen and she lost her oxygen machine. They currently are living in a hotel room provided by Salvation Army. SOS was able to provide them with emergency food.
It’s not too late to stop by and sign the Habitat Studs! They are in the fellowship hall. Just stop by and sign them. If you don’t have the access code call the church office or the pastor’s cell phone.
These two studs will be built into the new Habitat house this fall. They represent a $400 donation towards this new house.
Texas Impact presented a webinar last Sunday, August 23rd. I attended four panel discussions via Zoom. Texas Impact is a trusted voice for faith and justice at the Texas Legislature. Faith in Democracy is in partnership with a team from Dallas faith organizations for this webinar. The speakers were from Hamilton Park United Methodist Church, Yaqueen Institute for Islamic Research & Faith Forward, Northern-Texas Northern Louisiana Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America And Faith Commons (representing the Jewish faith).
They each shared their experiences within their faith and the problems they are facing during COVID, racism and the political climate. The next presenters spoke about recruiting election workers. They stressed the need for volunteers to step up to help and explained the process which you would be required to do. This is a paid position. If anyone is feeling the spirit to volunteer for early voting or election day, please contact the Democratic Headquarters in New Braunfels, 830-620-5739.
The next panel discussed Vote By Mail. The Presbyterians, in Austin, conducted an extensive VBM strategy. They were successful and talked about the problems they incurred. This panel encouraged those who are eligible to send in your application for a ballot as soon as possible. And when you received your ballot, mail it as early as possible. If you have questions, once again call the Democratic Headquarters. Their message was to be expedient.
The final panel talked about the 2021 Legislative and gave a preview and how much different it is going to be due to the ongoing COVID. Texas Impact was even certain the legislation was equipped for a Zoom gathering. To be continued in January.
I joined another Zoom meeting with a representative from Congressman Lloyd Doggett. There were five in attendance and we discussed climate change/global warming. The topic discussed at length was a rail system from San Antonio to Austin to alleviate the congestion on I-35. The may or may not be any movement on this project.
It was a short Zoom meeting with sharing our thoughts about the topic and the election. I will make an effort to update anything from Texas Impact is involved with during the rest of this year and into 2021. There is a conference meeting Sunday and Monday, August 31st and September 1st. I plan to attend by Zoom.
Our Heart of Texas Association Fall Meeting is still on for Saturday, October 10, 2020. We had planned to hold it at Hope United in Georgetown in celebration of its 10th anniversary, but as all of us know, the COVID situation has sent all of us in directions we could not have imagined several months ago. Many of our churches are not meeting in person yet, including Hope United. Hope is also in transition, as it is in the interim and pastoral search process. The plan now for our Fall Meeting is to meet via Zoom. Our Association Board will be planning that gathering over the next month, and we will send each of our churches and ministers information and a link to the meeting as soon as that planning happens. I think we can all look forward to the opportunity to share our churches’ experiences, commitments, and journeys together as we gather — always an uplifting and vitally important part of our meetings. Perhaps even more important than ever in this time will be your stories of how our churches are continuing to minister and how we are each dealing with the challenge that the COVID pandemic is presenting. We will look forward to the time when we can meet in person once again but are grateful, in the meantime, that we have the opportunity to gather easily from home online.
I am also grateful for the many ways I am aware of that our churches and pastors are adapting their ministries and even growing them in new ways over this time. Some of our churches are meeting outdoors (seated outside or by driving up and staying in cars); some are meeting in person but spread out to keep each other safer; and some, particularly those in areas with high COVID case numbers, are meeting online in various ways. Many have found that the process of learning to meet online has led to new and very creative worship formats. Some have also found that our online platforms have brought distant members and friends to worship with us as well as allowing very broad participation in discussion and study since people do not have to drive. Our pastors have met via Zoom several times to continue our “Jam and Bread” gatherings, the last time being to say farewell to Ron Trimmer as he prepared to move to Lake Ozark, Missouri. Ministers who otherwise would have had to drive a long distance have been able to gather easily with colleagues. The youth of United Christian and others who joined them were able to have a virtual mission trip this summer after the muti-church mission trip they have been part of was cancelled. A host of people have worked hard to make all of this happen. I thank God for all of you.
On Sunday, September 17th, Lee Zillman, pastor of Redeemer UCC in Marion (in the Zuehl community) will retire. Lee has served Redeemer for the past 11 years, and in ministry and in Christian ministry for forty three years. I hope to give news of the celebration in a future newsletter. At this time, I ask for prayers of thanksgiving and support for Lee and Sharon, and prayers for the ongoing service in ministry of the whole Redeemer community as they embark on this interim time.
Our lives make imprints. I have a good friend that I meet with every couple of weeks for coffee. We have known each other a long time. It’s wonderful to be together to discuss our work, our mutual intellectual interests and family. Right now, of course, with the ongoing quarantine, there are no opportunities to meet. Instead there is the occasional E-Mail or telephone call, but it is not the same as seeing the person in real time.
As I have noted before, more and more of our time is being devoted to digital space. We do our work online, maybe go to church online, meet with chat groups online, or go to a happy hour online. Many of us are noticing different interiors of rooms. Maybe we are getting some ideas for home decorating or renovating by observing the living spaces of others. Then there is the altered perception of having a conversation digitally with people in unexpected places. I have had people talk to me from their cars, their bathroom, sitting against a headboard talking to me while sitting up in their bed. Depending upon the conversation and the depth of material , the experience can feel disconcerting. You can feel like a voyeur, that somehow you are not in the right place, that this may not be what you need to see.
Where is the comfort of having someone else in the same room sharing time with you ? The pleasure of another’s company can get obliterated in the pursuit of making as many digital contacts as possible. All of the Emojis that one can use will not necessary replace the connection of a handshake or the warmth of a smile in real time. This pandemic has forced people to get very creative. New opportunities for contact over the internet are emerging all of the time. Churches are also experimenting with new offerings including the digital coffee, tea and conversation hour.
Former Secretary Of State Madeleine Albright has noted in her book: “Hell And Other Destinations: “ We all, in our own way, search for fulfillment, happiness, or a general sense of well-being. Many-by far the majority-are too busy coping with life’s complications to allocate to this quest more than a series of passing thoughts; We measure our serenity in coffee spoons. Perhaps we hope to find time in the future to sit on a mountaintop or recline beneath a banyan tree and figure everything out. “ ( P. 318 )
For now, I will settle for being able again to see people, those I love , friends and family who are important to me, in person and in real time. It’s important to be in the room and know it again as if t were the first time.