Author: Faith UCC (Page 1 of 16)

A Note from Pastor Carla

Faithful Friends,

            With each new year, we tend to look ahead with hope that we can leave behind things we deem mistakes or failure or that did not serve us well in the previous year and get a fresh start to do things differently.  We put pressure on ourselves to do and be better—to lose weight, exercise more, pay down debt, spend more time doing things we enjoy or with loved ones, and the list of “if only I was…I’d be happy” goes on and on.

            When we cannot accept ourselves as we are, I cannot help but wonder if we are somehow also judging God.  If the God who began a work in us will be faithful to complete it, then are we judging God’s handiwork when we deem ourselves as anything less than worthy?  We state we believe in a God who loves others exactly as they are, so why do we believe we are somehow the exception to that rule?

            As you’ve heard me share before, Don Miguel Ruiz writes in his book, The Voice of Knowledge, that the great “sin” of the Garden of Eden was not eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but it was accepting and swallowing the lie that we are separated from God and each other.  When we swallow that lie, it sprouts an entire belief system in us that we then base our lives upon and, what’s worse, we then share that lie with others.

            I appreciate Anne Lamott’s post that went viral in 2013 (see below) in which she speaks with her usual humor about the conditions that plague us all and the spiritual solutions of gentleness and self-compassion we can bring to ourselves.  It takes someone willing to state truth to us to break our cycles. 

            Unfortunately, the truth of God can be hard to find these days as many have either abandoned scripture or so twisted it that it is beyond recognizable as a comfort and guide for finding meaning, transformation, and hope.

            We who seek justice often do not want to be seen as “those” kinds of Christians, so we avoid associating ourselves with scripture.  Or we fear reading in scripture the very judgment that began being sold to us by the rise of fundamentalism in recent decades.  But when we leave the interpretation of scripture to those who warp its meaning out of fear, ignorance, and the need to control and judge, allowing them to frame scripture for our society…

            We.  Are. Complicit.

            I’ve been surprised at the number of congregants in the UCC who still believe in the concept of Original Sin—the idea that we were born into sin because Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden and are therefore inherently sinful and worthy of suffering.  This is not how we understand scripture, at all, but it has been handed down to us through a culture informed only by the fundamentalist and literal interpretation of scripture.

            There is another way!  That is why I am calling us to reclaim scripture, to improve our Biblical literacy, to repent of our Biblical ignorance and heal the fears that keep us from scripture.  The better we understand what the Bible really does, and does NOT, have to say about us and others, the more solidly we can stand up to offer an alternative Christian voice and debunk the myths that hold so many away from a loving God.

            We will be reading and studying Marcus Borg’s book, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time.  https://www.amazon.com/Reading-Bible-Again-First-Time/dp/0060609192/ref=asc_df_0060609192/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312695266310&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=521847706374220946&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9028022&hvtargid=pla-435126619389&psc=1  It does a beautiful job of helping folks better understand a historical-critical interpretation of scripture rather than the relatively new method of literalistic interpretation. 

            I’ll be recommending folks get a good study Bible, like the New Interpreters Study Bible in the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) with good notes and references https://www.amazon.com/New-Interpreters-Study-Bible-Apocrypha/dp/0687278325/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3F9KYFWLSHL0I&keywords=new+interpreters+study+bible+nrsv&qid=1641257436&s=books&sprefix=new+interpreters+study+bible+nrsv%2Cstripbooks%2C134&sr=1-2

            I’m asking folks to read the Lectionary passages for each week, which are the scriptures I usually preach from and our sister churches around the world often use to help us get through much of the Bible in 3-year cycle.  We’re in Year C right now and in the season of Epiphany. https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/lections.php?year=C&season=Epiphany

            If we resolve to do anything, may it be to heal the negative messages we have picked up from society, our backgrounds, and from the misinterpretations of scripture handed down to us in recent generations.  May it be to find more grace, more humor, more light and love and hope and goodness in ourselves and the world around us that is already there once we peel back the layers of yuck piled upon us day in and day out.

            Let us begin by finding a new relationship with God informed by a knowledgeable study of scripture that is a far different book than we have been led to believe.

            It is time, my friends, and we are worthy of taking our book back.  There’s a world out there that needs us to know and be able to articulate a far different narrative than the one being spoon fed to them through ignorant memes, half-truths, and judgment-laden cliches that only further-enslave rather than liberate.

            By the grace of God, may we find that new way and new message to help create a new world.  Amen.

Peace,
Pastor Carla


Anne Lamott

“About that diet you’re about to fail…”

We need to talk.

I know you are planning to start a diet on Thursday, January 1st, I used to start diets, too. I hated to mention this to my then-therapist. She would say cheerfully, ” Oh, that’s great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?”

I got rid of her sorry ass. No one talks to ME that way.

Well, okay, maybe it was ten years later, after she had helped lead me back home, to myself, to radical self-care, to friendship with my own heart, to a glade that had always existed deep inside me, to mostly healthy eating, but that I’d avoided all those years by achieving, dieting, binging, people-pleasing, and so on

Now when I decide to go on a diet, I say it to myself: “Great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?” Here is what’s true: diets make you fat. 95% of the time, we gain it back, plus 5 lbs.

I may have mentioned several hundred times that I have had the tiniest, tiniest struggle with food and body image for the last–well, life time. Hardly worth mentioning. It is a long story, having to do with childhood injuries to my sense of self, terrible anxiety, and the inability of my parents to nurture my soul: so starving and chastising myself cannot possibly heal this. I hate to say it, but only profound self-love will work, union with that scared breath-holding self, and not a diet that forbids apples, or avocado. Horribly, but as usual, only kindness and grace–spiritual WD-40–can save us.

Can you put the scale away for a week? Okay, then how about 4 days? I have been addicted to the scale, too, which is like needing Dick Cheney to weigh in every morning on my value as a human being. Can you put away your tight pants? Wear forgiving pants. The world is too hard as it is, without letting your pants have an opinion on how you are doing. I struggle with enough esteem issues without letting my jeans get in on the act, with random thoughts about my butt.

By the same token, it feels great to be healthy. Some of you need to be under a doctor’s care. None of you need to join Jenny Craig. It won’t work. You will lose tons of weight quickly, and gain it all back, plus five. Some of you need to get outside and walk for half an hour a day. I do love walking, so that is not a problem for me, but I have a serious problem with sugar: if I start eating it, I sometimes can’t stop. I don’t have an off switch, any more than I do with alcohol. Given a choice, I will eat Raisinets until the cows come home–and then those cows will be tense, and bitter, because I will have gotten lipstick on the straps of their feed bags.

But you crave what you eat, so if I go for 3 or 4 days with very little sugar, the craving is gone. That is not dieting. If you are allergic to peanuts, don’t eat peanuts. Have an apple! Have some avocado.

It’s really okay, though, to have (or pray for) an awakening around your body. It’s okay to stop hitting the snooze button, and to pay attention to what makes you feel great about yourself, one meal at a time. Unfortunately, it’s yet another inside job. If you are not okay with yourself at 185, you will not be okay at 150, or even 135. The self-respect and peace of mind you long for is not out there. It’s within. I hate that. I resent that more than I can say. But it’s true.

Maybe some of us can try to eat a bit less, and walk a bit more, and make sure to wear pants that do not hurt our thighs or our feelings. Drinking more water is the solution to all problems. Doing a three minute meditation every day will change your life. And naps are nice.

I’ll leave you with this: I’ve helped some of the sturdier women at my church get healthy, by suggesting they prepare each meal as if they had asked our beloved pastor to lunch or dinner. They wouldn’t say, “Here Pastor–let’s eat standing up in the kitchen. This tube of barbecue Pringles is all for you. i have my own.” And then stand there gobbling from their own tubular container. No, they’d get out pretty dishes, and arrange wonderful foods on the plates, and set one plate before Veronica at the table, a plate filled with love, pride and connection. That’s what we have longed for, our whole lives, and get to create, now, or on the 1st. Wow!

Join me in not staring a diet January 1st. And God bless you all real good, as my pastor always says.

2022 Pledge Campaign—For Everyone Born, a Place at the Table

            It is rare for a modern congregation to NOT have a pledge campaign to help plan for the coming year’s budget.  Faith Church is conducting our first ever drive to request folks’ pledged giving of resources of time, talents, and finances to help support the work of the church in the coming year.

            Many thanks to those who have already pledged.  If you have not done so, PLEASE go to https://www.faithuccnb.org/2022pledge/ or complete a form on the kiosk in the Narthex.  Pledges will be accepted through this Sunday, January 9th.  Council will use these to plan our Statement of Faith (otherwise known as a budget) to be voted on at our Annual Congregational Meeting after worship January 30th.

Annual Congregational Meeting January 30th after Worship

Please mark your calendars and plan to attend our annual congregational meeting where we will:

* discuss and vote on our Statement of Faith (AKA budget) for 2022

*discuss and vote on Church Council Members

*consider the potential plan to build a tiny home community on our property to support Family Promise’s New Lease On Life program

*hear an update from the Pastoral Search Committee

*discuss plans to update the signage and our outreach in the community in partial fulfilment of the $15,000 grant we were awarded by the UCC

*and more.

A full agenda and meeting materials will be made available ahead of time for members to peruse and consider.  We will need a quorum to be able to be official. 

Our visitors and those who are part of our Faith family but who have not yet joined may have voice but cannot vote at this meeting (so if ya wanna vote…hint, hint, HINT!!)  I hope to see you all there.

Peace,
Pastor Carla  

Council Positions Open for 2022-2023

We have 4 council positions open for our next 2-year cycle.  Council typically meets the second Tuesday of each month from 7:00-8:30pm.  We are in need of a strong working Council with persons engaged in the day-to-day organization and function of the church—from building and grounds to managing rentals to preparing the worship space and planning our worship.

Eventually, we will have committees to perform such functions and the Council will be able to be purely about the business decisions of the church, but we are not to that size just yet.  For now, we must have a working Council of folks pitching in on a weekly basis in some aspect of the work of Faith Church. 

For too long, the church has relied on the same people to hold positions for years at a time until they are burned out.  We have enough new members to come bring new energy AND also need those who have the institutional memory of the church history to bring to bear on our decisions and we move into God’s future.

If you are ready for an adventure, want to come help make this church possible for those who need a safe place to find connection to God and spiritual community, and want to help keep your pastor and co-congregants from burning out, come join us. 

The more hands on-deck, the less the weight of the load that will fall on any one person.

To nominate yourself or someone else, contact Pastor Carla before our Annual Congregational Meeting on January 30th after worship.  Nomination does not guarantee a spot on the Council and each person will be voted on separately (for instance, couples do not come to council as one unit). 

This is not a popularity contest, but a prayerful exercise in determining where we have persons who have time, energy, and gifts and can take up the tasks of what it means to BE church each and every day of the year.

I hope you will consider carefully if you feel called to serve in such a way.  How much is this church worth to you, and what are you willing to do to help make it possible?

Peace,
Carla

Education for Kids, Youth, and Adults

Nursery Attendants NEEDED!!!  When visitors come and we do not have programming available for their youngest kids, they do not feel welcome and will not continue coming back and we lose the chance to serve their family for good.  Churches do not grow if families do not feel welcome and return.  If you would be willing to serve one week, please sign up on the kiosk in the Narthex or contact Christian Education Co-Coordinators, Pam Robinson (pamr292@yahoo.com)and Chrissy Gossett (jgossett@satx.rr.com), for more information.  Thank you, in advance, for helping serve the littlest members of our Faith family.

Children’s Church Thank You’s!!! Special thanks to the Winter teachers Jan, Joe, Lauren, Michelle, Nicolle, Carol, Janet, Karen, Julia, Jennifer, Kathy, Chrissy, Pam.  The next round of signups will be in February for Spring session.

Adult Sunday School!!!  In the coming weeks, Rev. Bill and Florence Burns will be starting our 9:15am to 10:15am class for adults.  Classes will cover books related to issues of social justice, scriptural topics, and other items of interest.  Be watching the worship announcements and your email for more information.

Theology on Tap!!! The next Theology on Tap will be January 30th at 4:00pm at Off Rhodes Craft Beer Station just down Common Street from the church.  Be watching worship announcements for emails with more information.

Our On-Going COVID Stewardship

          As both Omicron and the winter/holiday surge are now in full-swing, please know church leadership continues to monitor and discuss our safety plans amongst our church family and with our Association, Conference, and National Church leadership.

            We seek to balance safety with the realities of living with a virus that continues to mutate and develop in ways that we cannot control given the multitudes who continue to refuse to vaccinate and mask.  It is a hard situation to navigate, but I can assure you we continue to do so faithfully.

            Our congregation is doing an outstanding job of vaxxing, boosting, masking, distancing, staying home when feeling even slightly under the weather, and staying home if safety deems it important for their own family health needs which helps to keep our numbers down in the sanctuary.

            Our use of filters in both buildings that match the CDC recommendation for MERV rating capable of filtering out the virus gives us an added level of comfort.

            While the transmissibility of Omicron appears to be higher, it’s virulence (severity of illness it causes) appears to be less than that of both the Delta and Alpha variants, according to the latest research reports. That means it seems to come into communities fast but also leaves very quickly and is causing less serious illness and fewer hospitalizations than what we’ve seen in previous surges.

            Some were speculating this surge would peek around January 9th nationally.  What is important to note is that the numbers for smaller areas like Comal County tend to lag behind our neighbors by about 2-6 weeks.  When numbers get high in Austin and San Antonio, for example, folks escape to the Hill Country to play and enjoy our rivers and cities, but then bring cases to us.

            One of the numbers I watch most closely, along with my medical colleagues at the national level, is this site from the Mayo Clinic.  https://www.mayoclinic.org/coronavirus-covid-19/map/texas  At this time, Comal County has approximately 37 cases per 100,000, below the trend in Texas and well below what most of the rest of the country is seeing right now.

            We will continue to watch this number in the coming days and weeks, trust our Faith family to make decisions that feel right to them, follow what we know from the latest science and collective wisdom, and communicate if a decision needs to be made based on numbers to resume Zoom-only services for a period of time.

            One thing we will ask is that all who attend be mindful to use surgical masks that are well-fitted, with no gaps, or KN95 masks.  If you are using a cloth mask, please make certain it has a filter layer in addition to the two fabric layers and is also well-fitted.

            We ask your prayers as we work to be good stewards of one another’s safety each day as we all seek solutions and wisdom in living with so many variables that are rapidly changing.

Peace,
Pastor Carla

Heart of Texas Association News

Happy New Year!

I pray that your Advent and Christmas Time was/is meaningful for you and your congregations. There were/are so many beautiful activities happening across the Heart of Texas Association in your local congregations and settings. It was/is beautiful to behold each setting celebrating the incarnation of the divine in sometimes unique, sometimes familiar ways.

As the new year begins, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of an Association Minister. According to the job description one of the main focuses is to support local congregations via lay leaders, local clergy, and local clergy’s families. In an effort to live into these expectations, I’m looking for ways to connect one-on-one and in groups in addition to visiting your local congregations. Additionally, is the call to foster connections between the 20 wonderful churches of the Heart of Texas Association and create ties to the South Central Conference and beyond. Following are some efforts to live into these efforts:

Clergy

  • First Tuesday of every month from 9:30 am – 11:30 am on zoom (for now). We can adjust time and place as we continue to move out of COVID. Part of this time will be fellowship and sharing, and the rest of the time we will creatively engage in the Marks of Ministry as we all strive to be healthy, well-rounded, growing clergy, regardless of our settings. Begins January 4th. 
  • Added bonus: the weekly Conference Cafe (Wednesday from 9:30 – 10:30) has been a wonderful way to connect with clergy all over the South Central Conference. Although not strictly Heart of Texas Association, a good number of HOTA clergy are regularly attending. We have a lot of fun wondering and stretching our theological understanding on such topics as what is a soul?, what does incarnation really mean?, and so on.

Lay Leaders

  • First Wednesday of every month from 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm on zoom. We will gather for a time of fellowship, sharing and dip our toes into educational pieces important for lay leaders. Begins January 5th. I could use your help in updating contacts (name & email) for your 2022 Lay Leaders. Click here for form or email me at revnikkistahl@gmail.com.

These are both come and go so feel free to attend as you are able, for as long as you are able, even if it is to just pop on and say hello! Separate invites will be sent out to each group.    

Annual Meeting Planning 
There is still time for both lay and clergy to jump in and help with 2022 Annual Meeting. Our next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 6th at 12 pm. Email me for the zoom invite. 

Invite me to Worship with You
So far I’ve been able to visit Bethany (San Antonio), Open Cathedral (Leander), Hope United (Georgetown), Trinity Church of Austin, Friends Congregational (College Station), Faith UCC (Bryan) and Faith UCC (New Braunfels). I have planned visits for St. John’s UCC (Burton), Touchstone UCC (Boerne), St. Peter’s UCC (Coupland), Redeemer UCC (Zuehl), and St. Paul’s UCC (Corpus Christi). If you aren’t on this list, let’s plan a date! 

Schedule a One-on-One
I’m available for safe in-person visits, zoom or a good-ole fashion phone call.

FB and Instagram
Information and cross-posting of your events and information happening here! Take a moment every once in a while to see what others in the Association are doing and/or share your good news! 

Heart of Texas Association FB Page https://www.facebook.com/HOTA.UCC
Heart of Texas Association Instagram https://www.instagram.com/heartoftexasassociation/
Rev. Nikki Stahl, Association Minister FB Page https://www.facebook.com/togetherwithyouonthejourney/ 
Rev. Nikki Stahl, Association Minister Instagram https://www.instagram.com/rev.nikkistahl/

I pray that some or all of these ways help you feel a little less out there on your own and connected to the wider church. If topics or needs arise, remember I’m here to be with you on the journey.

Peace and Light,Nikki


Rev. Nikki Stahl
Heart of Texas Association Minister
cell: 512-751-3557
revnikkstahl@gmail.com
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HOT Virtual Church Leaders Gathering Wednesday, January 5th 7:00 pm

Link to FB Event

Join Zoom Meeting
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Meeting ID: 512 751 3557
Passcode: Godislove

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Meeting ID: 512 751 3557
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Rev. Nikki Stahl
Heart of Texas Association Minister
cell: 512-751-3557
revnikkstahl@gmail.comFacebook

Founding Member, JoAnn Brown, Passed December 21, 2021

We were saddened to learn of the death of founding member of Faith Church, Joann Brown. 

I had the privilege of meeting her a couple of times and enjoyed her humor, intellect, delightfully brutal honesty! 

Our pastoral care team has been sending her cards and notes and Shirley Manning has been faithfully calling Joann to remind her of our love and prayers for her. 

Please keep Joann’s family and loved ones in your prayers during this time as we give thanks to God for the gift she was to so many.

Well done, good and faithful servant. Your work in this life is complete. Enter into the joy and rest in peace of your God.


Follow this link to find her obituary: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/new-braunfels-tx/joann-brown-10497027

Visitation will be held at Zoeller Funeral Home in New Braunfels, Texas from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Monday, January 3, 2022. The funeral service will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 4, 2022 at Zoeller Funeral Home, followed by burial at Guadalupe Memorial Park. After conclusion, the family would like friends to gather back at Zoeller Funeral Home for refreshments and reminiscing over a life well lived.

From the Pastor

This past Sunday we had what we believe to be a record-attendance of 71 people attending our service via Zoom and in-person, with many more watching the recorded service once posted on social media and our website!

Things are happening at Faith, and folks can feel it. They are looking for a church home, a faith family where they can be accepted as they are, worship in a way that honors their values of justice and inclusion, and be of service to the world.

As we have more and more visitors, please make a special effort to ensure no one leaves our worship space without a warm handshake or hug. We are a warm and welcoming bunch, but it can be easy with the numbers of visitors we are having to miss someone, so let’s be a bit more brave and not risk anyone falling through the cracks!

Members of Faith have helped launch the inaugural PFLAG (parents and friends of lesbians and gays) chapter in New Braunfels and are working with the national PFLAG offices to get this chapter formalized and organized!  Be watching for details and ways you can participate and learn more at http://pflag.org

We continue to feed our community that remains in need of food support through the SOS Food Bank the third Friday of each month from 1-4pm. We provide on-going support to Riverside Pride and our presence there is incredibly welcomed and noticed. 

We continue to work with a growing coalition of people to possibly place a tiny home community on our property to support Family Promise’s New Lease On Life Program. I’m meeting with the head of Family Promise, one of their former board members, and our insurance provider to explore more about next steps later this week.

We are reaching out and expanding our reach through social media and will need persons to sign up to help curate articles, so be watching for details on that aspect of our ministry. If you are on Twitter, follow us @FaithUCCNB and like and re-tweet what we post. Like us on Facebook @FaithUCCNewBraunfels and like and share articles we post so others can also find us. It is an easy and even fun way to engage our world and let others know what we believe and that we even exist!

We have a new praise and worship group affectionately known as Faithful Praise!  We meet at 9:30am on Sunday mornings to work on the music for the service. If you would like to join us, contact me for the music ahead of time and join us for rehearsal! We are also looking for a music minister, so please help spread the word (guitarist and/or pianist with strong vocals and leadership skills needed for up to 20 hours a week at a competitive salary!).

Last but not least, we were awarded a $15,000 grant through the UCC to help with signage and to help fund our social media outreach (since almost all of our visitors are finding us on-line!!).  If you have expertise and/or interest in signage, PLEASE reach out to pastor Carla to volunteer to help with this endeavor to increase our visibility to let others know who we are, where we are, and what we believe.

As we grow, as we consider our future together, please keep me, our leadership and our Pastoral Search Committee in your prayers.  We need God’s direction and inspiration every step of the way for this to be more than just a flash in the pan.

We want to deepen and grow in ways that will serve us, love on others, and honor and serve God and only God can help us do so in the healthiest and most sustainable ways.

Along those lines, we will still be needing at least 4 (or more!) new council members to join us for 2022-2023. If you would like to nominate yourself or another, please reach out to Moderator Sam Ward or me and we will vote on nominees at our annual congregational meeting at the end of January.

For your prayers, for your excitement, for your faithfulness to following an alternative path to sharing God’s radical message of a different kind of hope in a dark and challenging world, I thank you, and ask God to provide blessing on your amazing heads.

Peace, my friends.
Pastor Carla

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