Tag: heart of texas association

Heart of Texas Association News

    Our Heart of Texas Association Fall Meeting met on Zoom on Saturday morning, October 24th.  We had a good turnout with 13 of our churches represented.  Open Cathedral led our opening with a video worship on YouTube that included excellent music — with one of the musicians sharing from out of state, creative video segments, and a reflection by Ryan Hart.  We appreciate deeply their skilled, faithful, and uplifting work. 

    The meeting began with a time of recognition for Hope United on their tenth anniversary.  Their council president, Jim Robichaux, shared about their send off for Ron Trimmer as Ron and his family left for Missouri, the recent interim time with Kyle Walker leading worship, and the exciting news of a new designated pastor coming on board.  Jeremy Albers, Director of Slumber Falls Camp, shared with us that the camp is in difficult financial condition because all of the groups that were scheduled to come have canceled due to COVID-19, stopping the major revenue stream.  Slumber Falls was able to have our UCC summer camps last summer due to careful planning and hard work to keep people safe (no one got sick), but the revenue that is needed to support the camp is missing for now.  Jeremy is working quarter time, and major fundraising is needed.  We also recognized and lifted up our chaplains with great gratitude as they continue their life-giving work in this time of real risk.  Our attendees connected with a breakout time in small groups, and representatives from each of the churches present shared quite a bit about the life, challenges, and things to celebrate in their churches — always a rich time in these meetings.  Finally, we appreciated the excellent presentation that Campbell Lovett, our Interim Conference Minister, gave on the proposed Unified Conference level Fitness Review Committee and the work needed in the next few months to be able to make a decision on whether to join with the other South Central Conference Associations in forming this committee.

    An important decision at this meeting, made during our financial report time, was to donate $5000 of our dedicated youth funds to Slumber Falls Camp.  We did this both to show our financial support and because we had funds set aside to give scholarships to the National Youth Event last summer, which had to be cancelled as an in-person event.  Also, we are encouraging our churches to give as generously as possible to Slumber Falls.

    I also shared the news of my trip last week out to Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Mississippi to deliver 110 hygiene kits — 100 from Friends Congregational Church and 10 from Friedens Gay Hill — along with a check from Friedens.  The staff at Back Bay Mission welcomed me and received our gifts with joy, as the need among the homeless people they serve with these particular donations is greater than ever.  We are encouraging giving to Back Bay Mission along with Slumber Falls as an offering from our churches.

    We offer congratulations to Crystal Silva-McCormick and Church of the Savior.  Crystal has been their designated pastor since Mary Wilson retired last spring.  In this role, a designated pastor has a contract for a specified period of time, during which the pastor and the church can decide to make the call a permanent one as a settled pastor.  Church of the Savior recently voted to call Crystal as their settled pastor.  Our joy and prayers for a thriving ministry go with Crystal and Church of the Savior as they embark on this profound calling together.

Blessings in Christ, Liz Nash, Association Minister

Heart of Texas Association News

     The date of the Heart of Texas Association Fall Meeting has been moved to Saturday, October 24 at 10 am to noon (a shift from the original date of October 10) on Zoom.  The reason for the change in date is to allow us to prepare for a presentation on the proposed formation of a Conference level Fitness Review Committee.  The formation of this committee has been a project of the South Central Conference Board of Directors, and would be a joining of Associations (rather than a taking over by the Conference) in the work of ministerial fitness reviews.  I will explain a little more about what this means below.

     Our Association Executive Board will be putting the agenda together before the Fall Meeting, but we expect that we will have an emphasis on sharing from the churches about how we are doing our ministry during this time of enormous change, an opportunity to give toward needs generated by the pandemic, an update on what the work and needs of Slumber Falls are, and our normal financial/budget approvals and other brief reports.  The leadership of the Heart of Texas Association believes that it is perhaps more important than ever to share from our lives as churches in this time of change. 

     One of the most difficult, detailed, and time consuming tasks of our Committee on Ministry is a fitness review.  This work happens when a complaint regarding the fitness for ministry of one of our ministers is raised in a substantial way.  There is currently a thorough and demanding process for raising, investigating, and considering these types of complaints that the Association Committee on Ministry uses, as outlined in the United Church of Christ Manual on Ministry and supporting documents.  Since fitness reviews do not occur often, Committee members must be trained to understand and to work with this process when one does happen. Additionally, the Committee often needs to do quite a bit of follow up work after a fitness review occurs.  Normally, our Committee on Ministry has a full load of work for its meetings  working with our Members in Discernment and ministers before the major addition of fitness review work. An ongoing committee, composed of members elected from all of the Associations in the Conference, could do the demanding work of fitness reviews with members who are trained and experienced in this work.  That proposed ongoing committee, as well as a process to be able to join it, will be what will be presented at our Fall Meeting.  We would not vote on joining this committee until the Spring of 2021.  However, it is important for us to hear what is being proposed, to understand what we would be voting on, and to share feedback about it at this time.

    We will be sending out the Fall Meeting Zoom link, the agenda and instructions to all of our churches, to our ministers, and to as many people on our email list as we can once we are closer to the meeting date.  It is my hope and prayer that this meeting will be uplifting, informative, and a time of bonding and mutual support in our faith as we continue to do the work Christ calls all of us to do.  I hope many of you will join us.

Blessings in Christ, Liz Nash, Association Minister

Heart of Texas Association News

    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.

Blessings in Christ,

Liz Nash, Association Minister

Heart of Texas Association News

     Jewel Johnson, our brother in Christ and Pastor Emeritus of St. Peter’s Church of Coupland, died Thursday, July 2nd.  He served St. Peter’s for 17 years, starting in 1955 for four years and returning in 1968. In this Association, he also served as pastor of St. John’s UCC in Burton, St. John’s in Richland, and Trinity United Church of Niederwald.  Beyond the Heart of Texas, Jewel pastored churches in Dallas, Illinois, and Nebraska.  He and his wife, Mary, who passed away in 2016, lived a rich life of service and commitment. Jewel was a committed peace and justice activist, a beloved pastor, a joyous singer, and a devoted husband and father.  He has given all of us a marvelous example of Christian ministry and faithfulness. We give thanks for Jewel and for the rich and full life he lived as we commend him to God’s eternal love and life. 

     This month, we say farewell to our brother in Christ, Ron Trimmer, and his sons Ben and Aaron.  Ron has accepted a call to Lake Ozark Christian Church in Lake Ozark, Missouri.  He has served as the founding pastor of Hope United in Georgetown for the past 10 years and served at Friedens Church of Washington for several years before that.  He and Jan married in Washington, and they moved together with the boys to Georgetown with the shared commitment to the work of starting Hope United. We are grateful, too, for all he has given to the wider church and community.  He has been the chair of the Brazos Association Committee on Ministry, has served for a number of years as the chair of the South Central Conference New and Renewing Churches Committee, and has connected in many ways in the Georgetown community. Ron is a good friend to many of us. We send the Trimmer family off with love and prayers as they go to serve at Lake Ozark and to be closer to Ron’s family in the St. Louis area.

     Our prayers are with the churches in the Heart of Texas Association who are in transition at this most challenging time.  These include Hope United, United Christian in Austin, Evangelical UCC in Lyons, and Weimar UCC.  We have others that have had pastoral changes this spring since the pandemic began, including Bethany Congregational in San Antonio and Church of the Savior in Cedar Park.  I know all of you are working to find the path God is calling you to follow, and we pray that the ministries of all of our churches will continue to be full and faithful.

Blessings in Christ,  Liz Nash, Association Minister

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

Heart of Texas Association News – May 2020

As announced earlier, the Heart of Texas Association will be meeting via Zoom on Saturday morning, May 16th.  Sign-in begins at 10 am, the meeting begins at 10:30, and we intend to be done at noon or a little after.  We will have some extra security in place with a way to sign up to attend through a website link in order to prevent “Zoom bombing” harassment.  You will need to sign up to attend in advance so we have the list of people coming, and then you will get the meeting Zoom link.  (Sounds complicated but it is easy.)  If you do not know how to use Zoom, please email me (lizknash@gmail.com) before the meeting date so we can help you know what to do or have a friend walk you through it.  As primary agenda items, we will be having the Ecclesiastical Councils of Kerry Kirtley and Arlene Turner whose ordination papers are already available on our Association website, http://hotaucc.org/.  We believe it will be more important than ever to for our churches to speak about their lives together in this challenging time as we share ideas and lift one another up.  We will be posting all of the documents for the meeting, including the agenda, financial report, past minutes, and any other written reports on the Associaton website, and we ask that you download those and read through them before the meeting. (It is harder to read them during the meeting while you are on Zoom.)

The South Central Conference Annual meeting will happen online on Saturday, June 13th in order to do the business of the Conference.  The SCC will be sending out information on how this will work.  Major items on the agenda will include voting on bylaw changes (posted on our Association website); meeting our new Consulting Conference Minister, Rev. Dr. Campbell Lovett; elections; budget approval; and perhaps more that I am not presently aware of. Campbell Lovett has already been working with many of us with his wise and caring counsel, helping bring resources on applying for CARES Act money and fundraising to our churches, as well as beginning to be a pastor to us, in this difficult time.

Our Committee on Ministry met by Zoom for the first time during March.  The Committee interviewed Kerry Kirtley and Arlene Turner, recommending them for ordination and, as it turns out, giving them a good rehearsal for their online Ecclesiastical Councils. The Committee also voted to license Brett Hart, who is a member of St. Peter’s Coupland and is serving as their minister while Martin Garrison is on sabbatical. Brett has come to the UCC with about 30 years of ministry experience and a similar amount of experience as a high school science teacher. He left his last church position to begin the Serene Disciple Project at the home he shares with his wife at Egret Isle Farm near Coupland.  The Serene Disciple project continues, and you can learn about this unique ministry at https://egretislefarm.com/about-us/.  We welcome Brett!

As I close, I lift up our churches, ministers, and all who are working in creative and challenging ways to do ministry now.  Let’s continue to pray for each other and support each other. I also lift up a giving opportunity. The Christmas Fund, run by the Pension Boards of the United Church of Christ, is now responding to many requests for emergency help for pastors and church staff.  If you would like to know more or donate, go to https://www.pbucc.org/index.php/art-ma-landing/opportunities-for-giving.

Blessings in Christ, Liz Nash, Association Minister

Heart of Texas Association News – Apr 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our Heart of Texas Association Spring Meeting has now been moved from April 4 to Saturday, May, 16th. We anticipate that the meeting will be a Zoom video conference instead of a face to face gathering. Because we will not have people driving long distances to meet, we will start signing in at 10 am and begin at 10:30. We will be finishing by lunchtime. Our thinking is that, by that time, many of us will be more familiar and comfortable with meeting electronically. It is possible that, by then, smaller groups may be able to gather at some churches to be together for the meeting, although of course that is something we cannot predict. As we get close to the meeting time, we will be sending out instructions for using Zoom. We are looking at some easy to use tutoring videos for those who are not experienced, and we will be offering an early chance to login to be sure everyone has a chance to learn how to use it. We anticipate having either one or two Ecclesiastical Councils, and we feel the sharing time among our churches will be more important than ever.

The United Church of Christ National Youth Event registrations for this coming summer have been suspended indefinitely. I have read on the Southern New England Conference website that the event is being postponed until 2022, but I have not received verification of that yet. We certainly will send out more news as we have it. Many of our youth were planning to go, and we want to support you in attending this outstanding event when it can happen safely.

At this time, Darrin Holub is scheduled to be installed as the Pastor of St John’s UCC in Burton on Sunday morning, April 19th. That installation is on hold at this time. We will be announcing whether this will happen on schedule or whether it will be postponed. We look forward to joining with St. John’s and Darrin to celebrate his ministry with them with joy when they are able to hold this service.

Gary Olsen, the Lead Pastor of Rolling Hills Community Church in Lago Vista, retired in February after many years of excellent ministry The new Lead Pastor, Matt Ritter, has served the church since 2017 as the Associate and Family Pastor. Our prayers are with Gary as he begins this new phase in his life, and with Matt, and Rolling Hills as they start a new time of ministry.

Mary Wilson, Pastor of Church of the Savior in Cedar Park, was scheduled to retire this month after seventeen and a half years in ministry there, with Palm Sunday as her farewell service. Crystal Silva McCormick has been called to ministry as their new minister. In light of the COVID-19 restrictions on gathering for worship, Mary has offered to extend her ministry for a few weeks. Our prayers are with Mary, Crystal, and Church of the Savior as they navigate this time of change together. We stand with them in celebrating Mary’s vibrant ministry there and in joyously welcoming Crystal as their new pastor.

Bethany Congregational in San Antonio is welcoming Jacqueline Moncrief as their new minister. Pastor Jacque will have an unusual start there as April begins, helping the church put together a service via internet to begin her ministry. Welcome, Pastor Jacque!

I am grateful for the hard work, caring, and substantial work our pastors and churches are doing to put together online worship services and to reach out to members and friends. We are in a challenging time, and our ministry with one another is perhaps more important now than ever.

Blessings in Christ,
Liz Nash, Association Minister

Heart of Texas Association News

    Our Heart of Texas Association Spring Meeting will be on Saturday, April 4th, at Weimar UCC.  Registration starts at 10:30 am with the meeting beginning at 11.  We will start with worship in the sanctuary and then move to lunch and our meeting in the Weimar church’s fellowship hall. We anticipate having people go through the lunch line right after worship, so we can eat and meet at the same time.   Our offering will go to donate to provide supplies to those living outdoors at the border in Matamoros awaiting asylum.  We will be accepting money and supplies (list of items needed to be distributed later) to be sent down on a trip that United Christian is making later this spring.  Those who wish to stay a bit after the meeting are welcome to help sort donated supplies. All paperwork (agendas, reports, and other paperwork we have handed out in the past) will be posted on the Heart of Texas Association website, http://hotaucc.org/, the week before the meeting. In order to save paper, we ask that people download these from the website, as we will have only a few copies.

      At our meeting, we anticipate discussion and a vote on whether to support the formation of a conference-wide fitness review committee.  A fitness review, in the United Church of Christ, is a serious and demanding process that takes place when the fitness of a minister for ministry is brought into question, usually due to a serious accusation.  At this time, fitness reviews are held at the Association level by our Committee on Ministry, which has the general task of oversight of ministers in the UCC.  When a fitness review occurs, Committee on Ministry members have to be trained in the process, members must recuse themselves if they are close to the person who is the subject of the review, a trained team must be sent to interview people close to the situation, and there are other demanding aspects of the process. During the time of the fitness review, the other tasks of the Committee on Ministry need to continue and, as in any situation where there is a problem of this sort, it is difficult to get work done.  Some other Conferences have moved fitness reviews to a Conference level committee, which allows a group to be “on call” with ongoing training and without other ministry oversight tasks to handle. At our Association Meeting, we will be deciding whether to support this initiative, and our meeting is scheduled in time to give our answer to the Conference Board at its April meeting as they prepare for a possible decision at the South Central Conference Annual Meeting in June.  In addition, we anticipate discussion on a few proposed changes to the Conference bylaws.

   We also anticipate having either one or two Ecclesiastical Councils, following ordination interviews for one or more candidates to be held at the Committee on Ministry’s meeting on Tuesday, March 31st.  I will be sending out the information on Ecclesiastical Councils to our churches and ministers as soon we can on March 31st, and we will be posting the relevant ordination papers on our website as soon as possible.

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      Finally,  on Sunday, February 16th, the Friends Congregational Church Choir sang the Requiem by John Rutter in Carnegie Hall in New York City as part of the Distinguished Concerts Orchestra and Singers Series.  I had the privilege of hearing this inspiring and beautiful concert, along with several folks from Friends.  Congratulations, Friends choir! 

Blessings in Christ, Liz Nash, Association Minister