Category: Glimpses of Faith (Page 1 of 30)

A Note from Pastor Carla

Recently, we hosted a viewing of the PBS Point of View documentary called, On the Divide.  It shows the individual and collective tensions around reproductive freedom in the border town of McAllen, Texas.  You can still watch this documentary here https://www.pbs.org/pov/watch/onthedivide/video-on-the-divide/

Afterward, those gathered engaged in dialogue about the issues we face.  In the midst of this conversation, we discussed not just what to do, which we are all grappling with during these challenging days, but also HOW to BE as we engage.

When we are angry, when we feel helpless, when we grieve, it is tempting to look for blame rather than solutions, especially when answers seem few and we feel powerless to implement change.  The tendency can then be to fall victim to overwhelm that leads us to apathy on one extreme or to allow our outrage to boil over into violence, including verbal violence against individuals or groups.

Neither produce good, for us or the broken systems we seek to transform and heal or the justice we long for.

We in the group gathered that evening talked about looking for a third way, a middle path, in which we seek justice while remaining a people of peace and avoiding becoming unjust ourselves in the process.  It is not an easy line to find, in our actions or in our hearts.

The prophet Jeremiah is known as the lamenting prophet because he so grieved the state of injustice in the world and the seeming unwillingness of the people of God to repent and follow God’s way.  In chapter 6 verse 14, we read these words, “ They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”

Jeremiah was speaking of false prophets who pursue peace to such a degree that they ignore injustices.  A great and prophetic article about this tendency was written after torch-wielding white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, VA in August of 2017 by American Baptist minister, Rev. Dr. Karyn Carlo.  You can read this brief but powerful piece here https://medium.com/christian-citizen/crying-peace-peace-when-there-is-no-peace-ca7d4b3face9.

We who strive to follow the ways of peace and justice often wrestle between the two.  Carlo reminds us that to not take sides is to take sides; that to try to see both sides as good ignores the violence being perpetrated by some as others are being oppressed.  We are reminded, as well, of Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel’s, words from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1986:

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe…Action is the only remedy to indifference: the most insidious danger of all,”

As we individually and collectively seek solutions, as we look for answers to the multiple forms of injustice around us, let us fall neither to despair and inaction nor the verbal spewing that replaces true action.  Let us not look simply for persons to blame, but for bold words and wise actions that bring true justice and peace.  We need always be hard on systems but gentle with people.  Let us not simply trust God to work it all out, but ask God how we can be part of real progress.

Perhaps we consider becoming a Reproductive Freedom Congregation as a way of changing the conversation and providing an alternative Christian voice amidst the cacophony of vitriol in the media and on-line and our social gatherings.  I encourage members to learn more about this movement here https://justtx.org/rfc/ and prayerfully ask God if you are being called to participate in transformation by championing Faith Church’s participation.

In chapter 7 verses 5-7 of Jeremiah, the prophet speaks the following words from God: 

“For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave to your ancestors forever and ever.”

I have no clear answers for you about what exactly we should do, but I believe that we should do something before the next crisis and sound bites draw our attention elsewhere, leaving us having done nothing.  If this is not the cause we believe God is calling us to, since we cannot and should not try to do everything, that is fine, but let us do something. 

We do much at Faith Church to support our neighbors’ experiencing food and housing insecurity, to support our LGBTQ+ siblings, and more.  Caring for the environment, seeking justice for immigrants, responding to on-going violence against black and brown lives, supporting women’s reproductive health and freedom, working for peace for those in Ukraine and other war-torn parts of the world, protecting our children and other innocents from gun violence…

The list is long, the needs are many, and we cannot tend to them all, but let us prayerfully consider where God is leading us, calling us, equipping and inspiring us to stand in the gap and bind up the wounds of God’s people, including our own. 

As we seek both justice and peace, may God grant us the grace to trust but also to stand, to speak, to follow the example of our radical Savior, Jesus, wherever our God leads us next.

Peace, Carla 

Welcome New Members to Faith Church!

Our church family continues to grow!!

In June, we received 6 new members to Faith:
Rohn Armstrong
Sue Ashinhurst
Holly & Randy Rice
Janie Schwarck 
Melissa Wright

In July, we received 2:
Denise (Deno) Cooper
Diane Stubel (wife of Sue Ashinhurst)

Each of these are already jumping into the swing of things and pitching in to support the work and mission of Faith Church to bring peace, healing, and justice to all of God’s created. 

Please help us welcome them all and be watching this space in coming newsletters for more information about each of them!

Other Announcements

Information Session on Building/Roof Repairs after worship THIS SUNDAY, July 17th immediately after worship

Theology On Tap at Villa at Gruene THIS SUNDAY, July 17th, at 4:00pm

Special Guest in Worship August 7th–Mary Blaumfuss, VP for Advancement at Eden Seminary

Early Registration Deadline for The Journey 3-Day Spiritual Renewal Retreat–August 15th 

Fall Children’s Church Kick-Off and Blessing of the Backpacks August 21st during worship

The Journey Spiritual Renewal Retreat September 29th-October 2nd

Treasurer’s Report – July 2022

From the Treasurer:

The June Balance Sheet and Income vs. Expense reports are filed in the church office if you would like to view them or you can view them online.

June 2022 offerings are reported below:

General Fund Offerings June 2022
$10,010.71

Our Church’s Wider Mission Contribution (2.5%)
$250.26

SFC Contribution (1.5%)
$150.16

Eden Hill Contribution (.75%)
$75.08

Back Bay Contribution (.75%)
$75.08

CUE Contribution (.5%)
$50.05

Designated Offerings June 2022
Strengthen the Church
$50.00

Riverside Pride
$626.61

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Michelle Perry
Treasurer

Heart of Texas Association News

Newsletter readers can follow Heart of Texas Association News by opening their newsletter in a web browser and selecting the “follow” button on the right side of the newsletter.

The most recent newsletter can be found at https://www.smore.com/93xsz.

Below is a list of upcoming conference and wider church events, please read through the HoT newsletter at the link above and feel free to join.

Conference & Wider Church Events

Wednesday, July 6

  • 11:00 am OWL Taking Flight: Amazing Amaze
  • 12:00 pm Wartime Threat: Increased Fossil Fuel Production at Home

Thursday, July 7

Wednesday, July 20

  • 1:00 pm Witness with the World’s Workers UCC.org

Thursday, July 21

  • 2:30 pm Our Faith our Vote 2022: Faithful Engagement in a Time of Increased Voter Suppression UCC.org

Tuesday, July 26

  • 7:00 pm How to Recognize and Deal with Church Bullies Register

Wednesday, July 27

Thursday, July 28

  • 1:00 pm How Broad Based Community Organizing Might Transform the Church Register
  • 2:30 pm A Conversation with Franklinton Center at Brick’s Rev. Elly Mendez Angulo UCC.org

Special Invitation to Join The Journey

Journey # 17 Sept 29 – Oct 2

On behalf of North Texas Journey, Rev. Nikki Stahl and Cathy Hansen (Friends Congregational Church Church – College Station) would like to extend a warm invitation for all Heart of Association members to join us on Journey #17 taking place Thursday, September 29th – Sunday, October 2nd.

The Journey actually started in the Brazos Association (prior to Brazos & South Texas Association merger to Heart of Texas Association), before moving to North Texas. Every Journey since then has included pilgrims and/or team leads from our Association. This year Cathy will be serving as Lay Leader and Nikki will be serving as Spiritual Leader. The hope is to have a good participation from the Heart of Texas Association.

What is the Journey?

The Journey is a three-day spiritual renewal experience based on the Cursillo tradition. The Journey is intended to strength the local church through the development of Christian disciples and leaders. It is designed for active church members and leaders who want to rekindle their faith or renew their vision!

You can find out more information here or contact Cathy and/or Nikki!

2022 UCC Southern Regional Women’s Retreat (Oct 14-16)

2022 UCC Southern Regional Retreat
October 14-16, 2022
Camp Weed & Cerveny Conference Center – Live Oak, Florida

Greetings to the UCC Women of the Florida, South Central, Southeast, and Southern Conferences!!

Have you ever attended one of the Southern Regional UCC Women’s Retreats?  If you have, I expect you will be coming to Camp Weed and Cerveny Conference Center in Live Oak, Florida October 14-16, 2022.  You value the inspiration, camaraderie, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones, learning new skills, and listening to God in a natural setting.

If you have never been to our retreats, you are in for a treat!  We are meeting in the same beautiful northern Florida setting on a small lake where we met in 2013.  It has a lovely chapel looking out on the water, nice two-bed rooms with private baths, an inspiring outdoor patio area with rocking chairs overlooking the lake, a large dining room with great food, and trails through the woods.  A perfect spot to retreat from our everyday lives. 

Our keynote speaker will be the Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, Associate General Minister, Wider Church Ministries and Co-Executive for Global Ministries.  She is a dynamic speaker and a friend to all.  Her rich experiences and leadership qualities are most impressive, and she has been a part of the Florida Conference over the years. 

The retreat will begin on Friday with dinner and go through Sunday morning breakfast and closing worship.  Your registration fee includes two nights lodging, and meals Friday dinner through Sunday breakfast. 

With the reality of COVID and many health concerns, our retreat last October was held virtually.  We have high hopes of meeting in person this year but continue to be cautious.  The Early Bird Registration, due by June 15, includes a $20 discount off the Final Registration, due by September 1.  Registration for a double room is $175 for Early Bird and $195 for Final.  Additional prices are on the registration form and in the information document.

For more information about the retreat, please click here.  You will find on-line and paper registration forms, an information document, a resource list for “Who’s at the Table” (Racial Injustice & Racial Inequalities), directions for knitting or crocheting boobies (service project), list of items for hygiene kits for Church World Service (service project) and flyer to post to promote the retreat.

 We hope to see you in October as we share a weekend of inspiration, fellowship and friendship.

Southern Regional Planning Team
Clarice Mitchell, Southeast Conference
Betty Griffin, Southern Conference
Jasmine Quinerly, South Central Conference
Leslie Etheredge, Associate Conference Minister, FL Conference, UCC
Barb Coons, Registrar, Southwest Region
Dyanne Edds, Co-Chair, St. Petersburg
Bunny Gruntler, Co-Chair, Miami
Vonshelle Beneby, St. Johns Region
Ginny Sommerville, Gold Coast Region
Marty Synott, Central West Coast Region
Rhea Taie-Tehrani, Miami-Dade Region

You may also contact Registrar Barb Coons at 239-549-8283 or fluccwregistrar@gmail.com


Click here for a flyer for the event or see below!

SCC News and e-News

Catch up with news from around the South Central Conference!

Please see the most recent eNews weekly update below!

You can also follow this link directly to their newsletter if it is not displaying correctly below: https://conta.cc/3RB2d3M


SCC e-News
eNews weekly update
July 14, 2022 | Issue 28
Clergy Café
On Summer Hiatus

Retired Clergy Zoom Gathering
On Summer Hiatus Will Return August 25th

Ordination of Shelby Nowland
Saturday, July 30th

Open Arms Back-To-School Bash
Saturday, July 30th
Just Peace in a Southern Context Event
August 27, 2022 (10:00am – 4:00pm EST)

North Texas Association Fall Meeting
October 22, 2022 @ 10:00am
(First Congregational – Ft. Worth)

2022 Southern Regional Women’s Retreat
October 14-16, 2022 (Live Oak, FL)
Conference Minister Connections
Schedule Rev. Hodson to Preach
Phil will bring the message, host a Q&A discussion with your congregation after worship, and meet with your leadership.
Conference Minister 1:1 Chats
Schedule a conversation via Zoom with Rev. Hodson at a time that fits your life. Phil looks forward to chatting with you!
We will take a summer vacation from weekly Clergy Cafe gatherings — stay tuned to eNews for the resumption of this important weekly gathering soon!
News from Around the Conference
You’re Invited to the Ordination Service
for
Shelby Nowland
Open Arms UCC in Conroe Invites you to Their Back-To-School Bash
Saturday, July 30th
You’re invited to join the Florida Conference “Just Peace in a Southern Context” Virtual Event
Click anywhere on the above flyer for additional information or to register for this event.
2022 UCC Southern Regional Women’s Retreat
October 14-16-2022
Greetings to the UCC Women of the Florida, South Central, Southeast, and Southern Conferences!!
Have you ever attended one of the Southern Regional UCC Women’s Retreats? If you have, I expect you will be coming to Camp Weed and Cerveny Conference Center in Live Oak, Florida October 14-16, 2022. You value the inspiration, camaraderie, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones, learning new skills, and listening to God in a natural setting.
 
If you have never been to our retreats, you are in for a treat! We are meeting in the same beautiful northern Florida setting on a small lake where we met in 2013. It has a lovely chapel looking out on the water, nice two-bed rooms with private baths, an inspiring outdoor patio area with rocking chairs overlooking the lake, a large dining room with great food, and trails through the woods. A perfect spot to retreat from our everyday lives. 

Key Church Leaders Update Request
As part of our ongoing effort to increase communication and share resources across the Conference, we’re inviting all congregations to update their key church leaders’ information annually.

Please take just a few minutes to share with us your leadership team information so that we can make sure everyone is “in the know” about what’s happening across the Conference.

So far, we have only received five responses. This information is extremely important. Please take a few moments to complete this form. It assists the Conference office in updating the UCC National Data Hub Church Staff tab and keeping the SCC Directory current. Thank you!!
Conference Resources
Bookkeeping Services Now Available
Quality bookkeeping services that are built around the needs of your local church. The Conference now has this resource available to you!

Learn more about what we can offer your congregation!

Resources from Our Covenant Partners
A LOW-COST LOAN FROM THE CORNERSTONE FUND IS JUST A CLICK AWAY!
Sometimes you need to ask the difficult question. Deep down inside, you may already know the answer. But it’s not until you actually take the time to assess and realistically address the situation that you decide to act on the solution. While this scenario applies to a variety of issues in life, the topic at hand is the condition of your church property.

Is your congregation considering making improvements on your building to expand ministry or increase revenue? Is it finally addressing deferred maintenance items that worsen every year? Are you ready to reduce your building’s carbon footprint and save money on utilities in the process? Can you enhance digital capabilities to maintain and grow your online community?

If any of these questions apply to you, then now is a good time to talk with the Cornerstone Fund about low-cost loan options that will directly improve your facility and potentially strengthen your congregation.
MESA Zoom Training
What was behind the shift from Licensure to Lay Ministerial Standing in the 2018 Manual on Ministry? How are Committees on Ministry implementing these changes? What is the impact on congregations and those serving them? Join Rev. Elizabeth Dilley for a time of education and conversation.

Tuesday, July 19 3:30-5:00pm ET
Stewardship Webinars
Our friends in the Wisconsin Conference have created a series of online stewardship courses to help congregations consider these concerns, and we encourage you to check them out! Each opportunity has a unique registration button so that you can select those most relevant to your local church. These are offered at no cost, and we hope you’ll be able to participate!

New Materials Available for Stewardship
“From Bread and Cup to Faith and Giving” makes the connection between our experience of God and our generosity as disciples. It includes practical tools such as logos, commitment cards, bulletin inserts, and letters. The materials also provide resources for preaching about stewardship throughout the year. Campaign guidance and calendars help leaders make the best use of these robust materials for their specific content and size.
Your Gift Matters
You can make a difference as a
Friend of the Conference!

Pastor’s Note / Pride

Faith Church, UCC Hosts New Braunfels First Interfaith Pride Worship Service

24 choir members, 20 clergy from 17 faith communities, over 140 attendees, and an indescribable evening we are still all unpacking!  The response to New Braunfels first Interfaith Pride Worship Service, hosted by Faith Church, UCC has been overwhelming.

It began as a dream last year during New Braunfels Pride Festival, its second such event.  I’d participated in worship services during Pride month for years and wondered if New Braunfels was ready to support such an event. 

Then, a group of approximately 20 Christians organized and took the time to make signs, leave their home, drive to Landa Park, find our festival, and spent hours making sure the 900 LGBTQ+ persons and our allies attending heard about a God who condemns us to hell. 

For our congregation to remain silent in the face of such bigotry, hate, and misuse and misrepresentation of God and God’s words would have made us complicit, quietly agreeing with their words and actions even if only in the eyes of the public. 

What did the Lord require of us?  To offer an alternative Christian voice to says just as loudly and clearly, “You ARE loved, worthy, and welcome.”  So, with the permission and support of the Faith Church Council and the Riverside Pride Board who hosts New Braunfels Pride, I began speaking with local faith leaders.  After quick agreement from the local Unitarian Universalists and Unity Church, the going became a bit more difficult.

Clergy were hesitant to agree, uncertain what to expect.  I assured them we were going to be FOR love and inclusion, NOT against anyone.  They expressed concern their congregation would not easily allow them to participate, “I have a VERY purple congregation; we don’t want to alienate those who oppose”.  Others struggled with the Interfaith nature of the event, “How can you call it worship if you’re not all worshiping the same thing?”

Slowly, I found more persons who wanted to participate and believed in the vision of an evening where ALL kids of Creation would feel safe and welcome and find healing together.  So, we formed a planning committee of queer and allied clergy and lay persons from the area. 

Seven clergy from Faith agreed to vest and process.  My girlfriend, who is the Choral Director at New Braunfels UU, started forming the choir.  The Seguine PFLAG group volunteered to provide food for a reception after the service.  UCC clergy and congregants came from San Antonio and Boerne to participate as readers and choir members.  Fliers and save the date post cards were donated and spread everywhere.

The local Episcopalians, some Presbyterians, and a Lutheran Deacon came on board.  One of my best friends who is a Rabbi and Cantor from Austin agreed to come.  A Pagan spiritualist leader joined us.  A queer pastor from Seguin headed up the decorations.  Our tech team and other members faithfully offered to manage the moving parts.

As the 20 clergy processed, one after another, in silence into the sanctuary the crowd was already stunned at this living and breathing testament to God’s inclusive love and acceptance.  Into the silence, 20 faith leaders lined up on the chancel, faced the congregation, and sang a chorus of blessing acapella over them, again and again, as many now openly wept, “You are the heart, you are the hands, you are the voice of Spirit on earth. And who you are, and all you do, is a blessing to the world.”

Then the first words of the service were spoken by a white, hetero-presenting, cis male, Episcopalian clergy who led the opening liturgy of repentance and apology spoken by the gathered clergy…

Fr. Ripp:         In the name of faith leaders who have been complicit in the silencing of LGBTQ+ people and their allies by not speaking out on your behalf…
Clergy:            we are sorry.
Fr. Ripp:         In the name of communities of faith that have often stood by while violent language has fueled homophobia, exclusion and disrespect…
Clergy:            we are sorry.

This opening liturgy went on for many more stanzas and ended with the clergy and congregation singing the song of blessing together.  Then there was more.  Much more.  A candle-lighting ceremony, music that invited reflection, worship, and celebration, and more hugs and tears and laughter than we could count.  Hearts were moved, inspired, healed, and changed.

A pre-teen who has been anti-church was drug there by her mother but was mesmerized by the service.  She took photos and texted one of Rabbi Marie, wearing a rainbow yarmulka, to her best friend in Florida who just came out and is facing rejection from her family and faith.  After the service, several were standing nearby as the two girls FaceTimed together in tears and the best friend said, “You mean there are people who worship like me who think I’m ok?!?!?”

Everyone participating discussed how joyful and filling the event was for them.  Clergy said it was invigorating and humbling.  The white, hetero-presenting, cis male, Episcopalian clergy said his members who attended were deeply impacted, and so was he.  They offered to host the event at their church next year!

At Pride Fest two days later, dozens of persons pulled me aside to tell me their story and how much the evening meant to them.  Long-time members of Faith Church described how healing it was, in ways they did not even realize they needed.

Faith Church made the brave decision to become an Open and Affirming Congregation in January of 2009.  It can be easy to make a statement and believe our work is done.  But Faith Church knows that being truly Open and Affirming is a dynamic and active process of on-going work, ever-evolving learning, and deepening advocacy. 

This year, we took another step forward as leaders of transformation and change in our city and as agents of clear and gently loud proclaimers of a God who loves and accepts us all.  In the process, we find that we, too, are being transformed in ways we will be unpacking for some time to come.

For your hearts, for your passion, for your faithful courage and advocacy…thank you, my friends.  I’m excited to see what God does with all of this, next!

Peace,
Pastor Carla
❤️🧡💛💚💙💜🖤🤎🏳️‍🌈

Welcome New Members to Faith Church!

Faith Church continues to grow!!

This past Sunday we received as new members:
Rohn Armstrong
Sue Ashinhurst
Holly and Randy Rice
Melissa Wright

Janie Schwark joined as an Associate Member. She will maintain her connection to her church in Iowa but will also be a full member of Faith Church with all the same rights and responsibilities.

We are grateful to have them all!!

Please join me in welcoming them and be watching for more information about them in the July Newsletter.


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