Category: September 2021 (Page 1 of 2)

A Note From the Pastor,

Faithful Friends,

As we face more disasters and losses than we can process, in our world and our own hearts, it can be easy to lose hope.  Renewed turmoil in Afghanistan, more fires than we can count, hurricanes ripping roofs off our sister churches in Louisiana, floods, a tsunami of oppressive and unjust legislation imposed by our state leaders…

Oh, yeah…and a pandemic raging through a 4th surge that was entirely preventable if our conservative siblings in this country could care more for their neighbor than the rights some leaders are manipulating them into believing are under attack.  How are we to understand the political architects of this frenzy of selfish, dangerous, and cruel behavior that puts us all, especially our young, at risk, so desperate are they to whip up votes and maintain power? 

As I shared with you, recently, I took a pretty big dip after holding space with one too many traumatized clients in healthcare feeling overwhelmed and betrayed by their unvaccinated and unmasked leaders, neighbors, friends, and family.  I grew weary of patching them up just to send them back into the path of not-so-friendly fire—a virus is one thing; willful ignorance fueled by political greed and corruption is another. 

How long, oh Lord?  How long?

So, I’ve been sitting—on rocks next to streams, in mountains, in the desert, and in a rocking chair on the porch of a ranch in the Hill Country, alone and quiet.  I’ve been almost completely off social media and abstaining from media.  As my friend, Rose, often says, “I don’t have the level of sanity and serenity necessary for this situation”, and then she leaves until she does have what is needed to cope.

I reached my limit and had to have a break.  I’ll be taking more this fall, so I can continue doing good in the world rather than add to the dysfunction by doing nothing more than grousing and bitterly complaining, or debating and venting and ranting, or shaking my head in disgust and shutting down, or simply turning away out of overwhelm.  None of that is helpful, to others or to me.  In fact, it makes me part of the problem.

To be part of the solution, I need to find ways to make renewed sense of a world where people can willingly act in ways that harm and oppress others.  It does not compute for me and goes against how I believed, and still want to believe, the world to be. 

Part of the trauma we are experiencing is existential, in that our fundamental beliefs about and belief in people, and who we believe them to be, have been shaken.  “I’ve lost my faith in humanity, and don’t know how to get it back” is a phrase I’ve heard repeatedly, and finally uttered.

James Fowler in his “Stages of Faith” found that when our beliefs about the world are shattered by our experiences, we feel shipwrecked, floundering, with no solid place to stand because the foundational beliefs on which we rely to give us meaning and purpose, security and identity, have been challenged. 

We then do one of two things, according to Fowler; we more deeply entrench in our previous beliefs and find ways to harden and double-down in our smaller, more cut and dried, conservative views or we soften  and open up to see more grey areas, finding a new and less rigid belief on which to stand. 

I do not claim to have all the answers.  I will never assume to know what new ways of making meaning will speak to your heart.  For me, here is what I believe:

People are basically good…and can regularly be counted on to do what we feel we need to do to care for ourselves when afraid.  When we feel secure enough—within ourselves, our community, and something greater than ourselves—we can pause long enough to consider the impact of our actions on others and find a better way.  When we cannot find that safe space that lets us pause, we are capable of great evil.

I do not mean to be simplistic or reductionistic.  I do not intend to make excuses.  I simply need a solid place to stand that allows me to remember that evil is not the whole story, that no person is one thing, and that I am just as capable of inflicting harm as are others when I do not remember whose I am.

My friends, we are a resurrection people. 

We claim to believe in a God who hovered lovingly over the waters of chaos and transformed it into something life-giving and who stands in the midst of the storm with us, whispering answers to our questions that we will learn to hear, in time. 

We profess a God who knows our suffering, cares for it, and can work in and through and with us to bring about healing and a greater good out of even the most tragic of circumstances.  

We confess that we are not immune to human frailty and can be just as culpable, if only silently so, in acts of harm to our neighbors and this world.

We speak of a God who is still speaking, who has not yet told us the rest of the story, who has a bigger imagination than we do and who can find a way out of no way.

Can we find it in ourselves to mean all of that, once again?  Can we build and deepen our faith muscles to be able to trust God further than we ever have before, not as an act of benign resignation but as a form of intentional hope that spurs us to act, and to act differently?

Now, more than ever, the world needs holders of hope, champions of justice who can speak truth to power and yet can do so in a way that brings about more healing rather than greater division.

So when my righteous indignation turns to self-righteousness, when my compassion for the oppressed leads me to lose my empathy for the oppressor who is just as much a victim of the unjust system that enslaves them both, when my sense of helplessness finally overwhelms me and leads me to lash out and commit assassinations of character and verbal violence, I pause.

I ask God for renewed vision, for greater healing, for the wisdom to know when and how and to what to respond and when to wait for God’s miracles to unfold in time as an act of faithfully holding space, not apathy. 

We cannot tend to all the needs around us; we’re not designed to be able to.  We do what God puts in front of us and gives us the energy and the resources to do something about.  We must not become so overwhelmed by the enormity of need that we do nothing, but we also will not succeed if we try to do everything. 

I’m finding my center, again.  I’ve grieved the loss of what I once believed and wanted to believe.  And I’ve been reminded, away from the click-bait of extreme voices that are more likely to get ratings, that there is still FAR more good in this world than evil; there are far more people who are vaccinated in this country than not; just as fear is ruling us at times, we are also finding our better selves as we seek new ways to connect and care and evolve.

My mentor regularly reminds me that emotional intelligence is about both/and, acknowledging that the seemingly bad is only part of the story and that there is also good in the world. 

Neuroscience tells us we change the chemistry in our brains and bodies when we practice gratitude, which slows our heartrate, eases anxiety, soothes depression, protects our bodies from damage, and literally opens our minds and ears to recognize greater and more adaptive possibilities that are present around us.

May we pause, may we open, may we listen to the voice of God who calls us to a faith that can not just weather the storm, but transform and be transformed by it.   

Practice gratitude.  Moderate how much angst from media you take in.  Seek voices of hope from people who are doing good in the world.  Do one small thing each day—write one letter, make one phone call, put up one sign, donate to one cause—to make a difference.

The story is not over.  God isn’t through with us, yet.  And thanks be to God, we know that the end of the story will always be greater love, renewed life, and restored peace.  May we live into and co-create that kin-dom, even now.

Pastor Carla

Welcome New Members to Faith Church!

Please welcome our newest members, who joined Faith Church in August! 

They are Izzy Mason, Lauren Pearce, Philip Graves, and (fiances–yay!!) Lindsey Graham and Rachelle Akpanumoh.  We’ll be adding photos and short bios for each of these in the coming days, so check back to get to know the newest members of our Faith Family and then reach out to welcome them!


Welcome Izzy!

Hi! I’m Izzy. I’ve lived in the New Braunfels area for around six years and am so excited to have finally found and joined Faith UCC and am excited to get to know everyone and get involved in the church. I am a portrait artist by trade. My studio is above the New Braunfels Art League (come visit me!) I’m vegan, bi, and passionate about animals and music. I’ve been married to my husband Lark for 10 years now and am a mom of two (6 and 9 years old). 


More coming soon!

Faith Church Pastoral Search Committee

Photo by Kathy Howie

We are grateful for the new Pastoral Search Committee that has already begun working with SCC Conference Minister, Rev. Phil Hodson, in discerning God’s future plans for Faith Church.  Please hold the members of this committee in your prayers and thank them for their gift of service (since it meant they got you out of having to do it 😊). 

PLEASE NOTE: The process is transparent, but the details are kept confidential until the time is appropriate.  A committee cannot work with constant input and pressure from others in the congregation.  They will be prohibited from discussing the details of their search even with their spouses. 

Please do not put them into the position of receiving unsolicited advice or pressure to disclose information.  If you have questions, please contact Pastor Carla or Council Chair, Sam Ward.  Information will be released by church leadership at the proper times.  Until then, many thanks to:

Nicolle Clark
Lindsey Graham
Ralph Ludwig
Lauren Pearce
Charlie Robinson
Mike Ziegler

For their willingness to serve and for the process they are undertaking, may God bless them and their journey.

Faith Fundraiser and Outreach December and February!

In the coming weeks, be watching for details about an exciting fund- and visibility-raiser for Faith Church. New member, Philip Graves, is an ultra-runner, meaning he does very long runs and has multiple 50-mile races under his belt…or laces!

He plans to do a 24-hour training race in December and then do a 100-mile run along the Lone Star Hiking Trail in February. To provide emotional support to him, make the process more fun, and to help the congregation, Philip has offered for us to use his races as a run-a-thon to raise funds for the church.

Folks will be invited to pledge an amount per mile that Philip runs, with all proceeds going to Faith Church. Council has approved this and we will get more formal details to you in next months Glimpses of Faith newsletter.

Til then, start a mayonnaise jar to collect change to put toward your pledge, consider where on social media and in print and local news you could help publicize this fundraiser, and keep Philip in your prayers for wise and injury-free training for these two big events.

Heart of Texas Association News

    You are invited to come to the Heart of Texas Association Fall Meeting on Saturday, October 23rd, hosted by the Austin cluster of churches. Because of the evolving COVID situation in Austin, we do not know yet whether we will be meeting online only or at one of our churches in a hybrid format.  The time we start will depend on whether we are meeting in person.  We will let all of our churches know the plans as soon as a decision is made.  Bear with us in this unusual time!  We would love to be together in person but we need to make a determination about whether it will be safe for those who come into the Austin area.

    Our sister in Christ, Billie Watts, co-pastor of Touchstone Community Church, is retiring from active ministry.  Her last Sunday at Touchstone, with a farewell liturgy and with Billie’s vibrant preaching, is on August 28th.  Billie committed to the intensive ministry work of starting Touchstone with Kerry Kirtley before retiring, and Billie is now stepping back to well deserved time with her family.  Our heartfelt blessings go with her as she transitions into this new phase of life, along with our gratitude for the work she has done.  Kerry will continue as the pastor of Touchstone, and we continue to offer prayers of support for the community and ministry there.

    Amy Grogan, an ordained minister with the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, is completing the process of gaining standing in the United Church of Christ as an Ordained Ministerial Partner to share her ministry gifts with Touchstone.  Amy moved to the Boerne area with her husband for family reasons after living for several years in Belgium.  She completed her Master of Divinity at Phillips Theological Seminary in a hybrid program, and has served in online ministry with the Disciples.  Like Amy, people living abroad often are in areas where there is little Protestant presence and where few people are part of a church, so her work online has been part of the outreach to others like her and to people who live in places where they would have to travel far to find a church where they feel at home.  She has been very active in the Touchstone Community, and will be helping as a volunteer in several ministry areas.  Our relatively simple process for welcoming ministers from the Disciples reflects the close relationship between the UCC and the Disciples. We welcome Amy to the Heart of Texas Association. 

    Our Committee on Ministry also has accepted Brittany Hicks as Member in Discernment. Brittany is a member of Open Cathedral in Leander and a student at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  She served our country in the US Navy for a number of years.  We welcome Brittany to our discernment process and look forward to walking with her on her ministry journey.

    For those who wish to spend a week of service in the marvelous, lifegiving work of Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, MS, I invite you to a work camp there with others from the South Central Conference (if the COVID situation is safe enough for work camps to happen), November 7th to 13th.   Our group will need to conform to the COVID safety measures there.  Please be in touch with me if you are interested: lizknash@gmail.com.  Back Bay Mission is our treasured UCC related outreach to the poorest in Biloxi, with a work camp program of repairing homes, building, and work at Back Bay Mission itself that brings groups in from many places across the country. People of all skill levels are welcome. Come see why we go!

Blessings in Christ,
Liz Nash, Association Minister

HOT Association Minister Search and Call

Greetings friends in faith,

The Heart of Texas Association of The United Church of Christ formally announces its Search and Call for a new Association Minister. The position is an average of 15 hours per week. Each prospective candidate should ensure their United Church of Christ online profile has been updated. Candidates may access the profile section of the UCC.org website here: Create an account and log in here.

Once your online profile has been completed on the United Church of Christ website, you may forward a copy of your profile to me at carl@uccaustin.org, and I will distribute it to the Search and Call Committee. If you are outside the United Church of Christ, you may submit your information directly to Conference Minister, Rev. Phil Hodson at sccm@sccucc.org.

The application deadline for this position will be Thursday, September 16, 2021. The job description and other pertinent information will be posted to the Heart of Texas Association website at: http://hotaucc.org.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ . . . (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Peace and Blessings,
Pastor Carl

Carl Schwartz-King
Moderator, Heart of Texas Association
The United Church of Christ
carl@uccaustin.org

2021 Southern Regional Women’s Retreat

The Planning Committee for the 2021 UCC Southern Regional Women’s Retreat has been hard at work. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee postponed the in-person retreat originally planned for October 2021 to October 2022. A virtual afternoon retreat was added to the schedule for this October. The Committee would like to invite you to participate in a 

Virtual Retreat on ZOOM
October 2, 2021 – 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

We will have a chance to fellowship and worship with old and new friends from all parts of the Southern Region (area from Texas to Virginia). Our guest speaker/presenter for both retreats will be Rev. Dr. Georgia A. Thompson, UCC Associate General Minister of Wider Church Ministries and Co-Executive for Global Ministries.You are encouraged to watch at home or any location you select, by yourself or with a group of fellow UCC Women. The cost is $15.00 for mailed registration or $16.00 online registration. For a flyer, mail-in registration form or to register online, click here.

The Space Between

Submitted by Rev. Phil Hodson, Conference Minister

Your anchor passage at annual meeting 2021 came from Mark’s gospel. It referenced the storm over the lake and Jesus’ rebuke of the storm. At annual meeting reflections were offered on how God is with us in the midst of the storm and the power of faith in uncertain circumstances.

But there’s something else here, buried in the text. After Jesus rebukes the storm, all becomes quiet and still. In the stillness, in the quiet, the disciples reflect on who Jesus is and his significance in their lives. Today I write you in that strange quiet, almost surreal in-between space. A space where we are just beginning to understand the damage caused by Hurricane Ida in New Orleans. A space that has yet to be found for many as rain continues to shower across Louisiana, Mississippi, and makes its way north and east. A space where we can take stock of the reality of climate change in our world. A space where we can give thanks for lives spared. A space where we are going to remain, prayerfully together, for a little bit. I’ve heard from many already who want to spring into action, but we’re in a place where we don’t have enough information yet. We know there has been damage to several of our churches, and so we pray for them, knowing that we will respond with our bodies in working prayer to help rebuild and repair when the time comes. As we sit together in this space for a little while there is one other thing we can do: get ready. Pray up and ask God if we have the capacity to step in and help with rebuilding physically when the time comes. Pray up and then share our gifts so that the resources will be available to our churches and the wider communities when the time comes. 

We are a denomination built on being in covenant with one another. Being there for one another. And we, in the South Central Conference, will be. For today, we pray. And we prepare for the next faithful steps when the time is right. Each of us can give, as we are able, to lay the groundwork for recovery by responding to the Special Appeal issued this week by the national setting. I encourage us to do so. Let’s get ready, the action will spring forth in God’s good time.

Blessings,

Rev. Phil Hodson
Conference Minister
South Central Conference, 
United Church of Christ
3610 River Road
New Braunfels, TX 78132
T: (830) 625-2212 x 4 C: (765) 532-3429

UCC H.O.P.E. Newsletter

Submitted by Carol Fouke-Mpoyo, Editor

The United Church of Christ Global H.O.P.E. team invites you to read the September 2021 E-News.

Here are a few highlights from this issue:

  • Welcome message
  • Global H.O.P.E. staff
  • Hurricane Ida
  • Global H.O.P.E. funds appeals
  • Grants from H.O.P.E.

Click here to view the entire e-news.

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