Category: Faith UCC News and Comments (Page 1 of 30)

A Note From Pastor Carla

Faithful Friends,

Life is rarely one thing.  We have success and failure.  We have hope and heartache.  We make progress and face setbacks.  We experience excitement and fatigue.  This week has been no exception.

On Sunday, we completed a process that began last March as Council and members began discussing needed repairs and updates of our facilities.  As always, you conducted yourselves with diligence, wisdom, passion, integrity, and compassion for one another. 

I was never more proud to be your pastor than I was during and after the Congregational Meeting that day to agree upon plans for what changes and repairs we would make and how we would finance them.  Folks were engaged and honest, patient in the face of a tedious process, open to one another’s concerns and hopes, and gentle with each other. 

Leadership was relieved to find consensus.  Members were grateful for consensus and a feeling of goodwill in our midst.  Visitors were impressed by the health we displayed, which can be hard for any group of people when making big decisions with many competing opinions and needs.  Thank you for being the Church with one another!

Gratitude, excitement, hope, and the joy and security of feeling part of something bigger carried many of us.

Tuesday and Wednesday found many struggling with the state of our state and country and the decisions made by some of our neighbors to elect leaders who do not always appear to consider the safety, dignity, and rights of all.  As we have processed our emotions and waited still to see what results will become clear in the weeks ahead, we have also grappled with how to respond and what we can do to help build more just world.

Anger, fear, grief, and exhaustion from what seems like a never-ending quest for a better world have weighed many down ever since.

These are moments when it can feel hard to know what to say to offer hope without false positivity, encourage just words and actions when speaking about some of our leaders and fellow citizens without pushing down understandable feelings of despair and frustration, and lead us to continue working for what we believe God wants for all of God’s children and our planet.

I do not wish to give you empty words and platitudes.  And, I do wish to ask us to take time to grieve, to rest, to vent, but to not give into any of it any longer than necessary.  Now is not the time for people of God to shrink back.  Now is not the time to cease in our labors.  Now is the time for we as Christians to be that much more intentional about following Jesus in service to justice and peace.  In time, we individually and collectively will become clear about what, exactly, we are called to do in response.

For now, we will continue to offer sanctuary to all who feel left out and alone.  We will continue to offer food and housing to those who do not have enough.  We will continue to work for equal access to rights and safety and equality and inclusion for all.

Each month, we serve the SOS Food Bank on the third Friday.  Over the holidays, we will again help house and feed our siblings in need through Family Promise for 2 weeks at Slumber Falls.  On November 20th, we will observe the Trans Day of Remembrance.  After worship that day we will hear from a representative of Just Texas about how we can become a Reproductive Freedom Congregation.  Through multiple events, we will continue to discuss and learn and deepen and grow in our own faith.  We will welcome new members and break bread together and support each other.

We will continue to be the Church to each other and our world.  And we will embody the hope and grace and faith in a brighter future of a true kin-dom that the people so desperately need to hear.  We will be faith.  We will be hope.  We will be God with skin on.

For now, however you find yourself feeling, whatever thoughts are rumbling through your head, I offer these words below of comfort and challenge shared with me by our own Donna Foster.  They are the words of Jeremy Rutledge shared on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 during a gathering of prayer, poetry, and music at Circular Congregational Church in Charleston, SC.  They are words that Jeremy scratched onto a pad earlier that day.  May we find meaning and hope in them, still.

Regardless, we will find meaning in our shared work and community and we will find hope in the God who sees a far bigger than we ever could and will never fail to lead us in building a brighter world, in our own hearts and for our neighbors.  I love you.  I am grateful for you.  May peace be with us, all.

Yours in seeking and service,

Pastor Carla


Dear sons and daughters
who wake
into the world
we have broken
so badly

we see you today
blinking out of bed
into this dark dawn
of hate speech
and bigotry
the irreligion
of our politics

and we say to you
as you climb
from the covers
that we are sorry
for what we have done
all we have allowed
to happen
around you.

And the only prayer
we can offer
is to rise with you
and speak in
a different voice
a surer cadence
to stand with
our backs up
against the prevailing wind

and say to you
Muslim child
that you are not banned
from our hearts
or our homes

say to you
gay child
that you are loved
and valued
for who you are

say to you
girl
that you are not an object
but a subject
your life, your body
belonging to no one else

say to you
child with diverse ability
that you are not a joke
but a joy to us

say to you
all children
mocked and put down
by the bullies and the brownshirts
of this and every age
that we won’t let them
take what is yours

but we will rise
take your hand
and walk together
until miles from here
years from now
we might sleep again
in peace.

~by Jeremy Rutledge

Upcoming Events & Announcements

Youth Missional Giving—Help support Faith Church Youth as they raise money to wipe out predatory and unjust medical debt for families in need in Texas.  They will be in the Narthex each Sunday through December 11th offering coffee, cocoa, and cider for donations.  Our current goal is $400 and we raised $85 our first Sunday.  For each dollar they raise, RIP Medical Debt can pay off approximately $100 in medical debt, meaning we can help pay off $4000 of medical bills for families before Christmas.  Go to https://ripmedicaldebt.org/campaign/texas/faith1957? to learn more about and give to our campaign.


Souper Supper Wednesdays—Occurring every other Wednesday through December 14th…Come for food, fellowship, and learning around various topics led by Pastor Carla and Lisa Newman.

We’ll gather and get our food from 6:00 – 6:15p then hold our discussion from 6:15 – 7:00p. One soup will be vegan and grain free. The other will be fully loaded. Bring sides or snacks to compliment the meal if you wish (but not required) and your own beverage.

Series Topics:

11/16 Crucial Conversations
11/30 Boundaries/passive aggression vs aggression, shame vs guilt
12/14 Blue Christmas—Worthiness, not alone, holiday blues, prepping to be around relatives—more of a simple service with communion

Please RSVP to Pastor Carla or Lisa Newman so we will know how much soup to make. Should this event be well-attended, we will consider adding a mid-week mini-worship service in the near future.

These sessions will be Zoomed but not recorded or broadcast on social media.  Use the regular Sunday worship zoom link to join us virtually at https://us04web.zoom.us/j/586745671?pwd=aG0wUnZTR3NIKzBXUXp1Vkh2KzJXQT09

Meeting ID: 586 745 671
Password: 008518


OTHER DATES TO REMEMBER:

NOVEMBER

Faith Church 2023 Stewardship Pledge Campaign coming in November

Thanksgiving Potluck after worship – Sunday, November 13th

Music team rehearsal – November 14th 7:15pm – All are welcome! 

Ecumenical Thanksgiving Worship at Peace Lutheran Church – November 17th 6:30pm

Shannon Schaffer from Just Texas speaking at FUC after workship – November 20th

Pastor Carla on Vacation November 23rd – 30th 

DECEMBER

Pastor Carla’s Installation Sunday December 11th 3:00pm

Children’s Christmas Pageant—Sunday Dec. 18th during worship

Caroling at Eden Hill—TENTATIVE DATE December 21st

Welcome New Members to Faith Church!

Our church family continues to grow!!!

This month, meet the Blankenship and Fox families!!!

These new members 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 other new members!

Please continue reading to learn a little about our new members and extend to them our most extravagant welcome!


Trey and Katherine Blankenship

Trey Blankenship is a native Texan that spent his formative years growing up in Austin. After completing his Bachelor’s in Hospitality Management at Texas Tech, he attended Culinary School at the CIA in Hyde Park, New York. Upon completion of the program, he moved to Napa Valley, California and began his career in the wine industry. Over the next 20 years we worked for some of the top wineries of the region.

In 2011 he met his future wife Katherine and oldest daughter Sofia. Their family continued to grow and in 2017, he brought his family (Katherine, Sofia (16), Kai (10) and Julianne (7)) to Texas via Lubbock where he completed his Master’s Degree in Hospitality Management. Trey and his family moved to New Braunfels in 2020. He enjoys gardening with his wife and taking advantage of all the outdoors activities the area offers with his wife and children.


Brian and Joan Fox

Brian and Joan Fox were married 45 years ago in a UCC in Norfolk, Va. and lived in Northern California for 40 years. They have 3 outstanding adult children- I know – how can they have adult children? A daughter in Austin, a daughter in Sacramento and a son currently on an aircraft carrier on the waters of Japan. They also have 2 wonderful granddaughters in Austin , hence, the move to Kyle, Texas. 

Brian loves to camp, take great photographs, and bike. He has participated in 2 coast to coast bike rides for “Ride for Hope”, raising funds to help children affected by AIDS in Sub – Saharan Africa. He is retired after 33 years in sales with Procter and Gamble Joan enjoys reading, sewing, and creating art with her granddaughters. She loves to write and visit friends and family around the country. She is a retired LPN and paralegal, working in Blood Banking,Skilled Nursing, Long Term and Memory Care, and as an advocate for Medicare beneficiaries. She went on The Journey earlier in the year, and encourages anyone who has the opportunity to go. It will change your life. 

Together, the Foxes have served in Children’s Ministry in 2 churches, and individually Brian has served as an usher, deacon and church photographer. Joan has served in Women’s ministry, choir, and as a deacon. 

The Foxes live in Kyle, and found Faith Church online during the pandemic shutdown. Joan joined a book study, and met several members of the church, and she knew she had found their new church home without even stepping foot in the door. 

 “We are so excited and thankful to become members of Faith Church. Here we have found a warmth and love that greets you at the door and wraps you in loving arms. We look forward to being a part of such a great, welcoming church where the mission is to live out Jesus’ commandment to love”


Announcement of Capital and General Fund Campaign

Dear Faith Family,

As you have probably heard, we are beginning the process of making repairs and improvements to our church buildings, including new durable standing seam metal roofs, repairing and painting the eaves, new flooring and more comfortable seating in the sanctuary, making the chancel more accessible, and various repairs of sheetrock and water damage.

Our church Finance Committee is also engaged in the process of formulating our 2023 Statement of Faith (our church budget) and need to know what tithes and offerings to expect from our membership in order to be good stewards of our spending. 

With that in mind, we have decided to begin 1) a Capital Campaign to raise $30,000 to go toward our repairs by March 1st and 2) a Stewardship Campaign to learn what General Funds we can expect to come in 2023 to ensure the fiscal health of the church for the exciting year ahead.

We ask that you prayerfully consider what contributions you are willing to commit to care for our buildings through the Capital Campaign and what tithes of funds, time, and talents you are able to provide in 2023 to support our General Fund and on-going ministries.  

Forms to make your Capital Campaign Pledge and to make your Pledge to the Stewardship Campaign for 2023 will be made available on Realm and also printed out and available at the church. Please see below links and a QR code so that you can easily contribute to the continual adventures of work and service that lie ahead for us as we continue to grow and be a beacon of light and hope and a safe refuge for all at Faith Church!

Sincerely,
Philip Graves, Vice Moderator Church council.

Building Fund Pledge Link:
https://onrealm.org/FaithUnitedChur/AddPledge/buildingfund

Annual Pledge Link:
https://onrealm.org/FaithUnitedChur/AddPledge/pledges

Give Now QR code:

Reproductive Freedom Congregations

Shannon Schaffer from Just Texas sent in this article. She will be with us on 11/20 to speak to us for 30 minutes after worship.


While we continue to feel the devastating impact of abortion bans in Texas, it is crucial that we support each other and our communities at this time. We must work to create a world where everyone is free to make the best decisions that lead to a flourishing life for themselves, their families, and their futures. Compassion and love are values that extend to supporting and uplifting those who need access to abortion. Access to abortion allows us to live healthy, dignified, and abundant lives. Through our work on the ground alongside congregations across Texas, we are helping change the narrative surrounding abortion in faith communities.

At Just Texas, we are dedicated to creating a future where all Texans are free to control our own bodies. Too often, congregations are silent around reproductive health issues, especially abortion. This silence can make people reluctant to share their experiences or reach out for support. Just Texas believes that all people have faith stories and reproductive health stories and that being able to share these stories within our sacred spaces free from stigma and shame allows everyone to be seen, heard, and loved as their whole selves. The Reproductive Freedom Congregation initiative is a first step in bringing these issues out of the shadows and moving towards change.

Reproductive Freedom Congregations in the Just Texas initiative publicly affirm three principles:

· We trust and respect women and people who can become pregnant.

· We promise that people who attend our congregation will be free from stigma, shame or judgment for their reproductive decisions, including abortion.

· We believe access to comprehensive and affordable reproductive health services, including abortion, is a moral and social good.

To declare yourself as a Reproductive Freedom Congregation with Just Texas, your congregation must do four things:

1. Have public conversations about what it means to be a Reproductive Freedom Congregation, discussing the principles and the congregation’s values.

2. Pledge to make the sacred space safe and accepting for everyone.

3. Determine the level of engagement that best matches the congregation’s values.

4. Formally vote to adopt the principles.

There are currently 25+ congregations across the state who’ve made this commitment. Just Texas: Faith Voices for Justice brings together progressive people of faith and faith leaders from diverse religious traditions to speak publicly and politically in support of reproductive freedom, including the right to abortion, and LGBTQIA+ equality for all Texans. Just Texas is a program of the Texas Freedom Network. See the Reproductive Freedom Congregations Initiative website for more at https://justtx.org/rfc/.

Heart of Texas Association Fall Meeting

The Heart of Texas Association’s Executive Committee invites all authorized ministers and congregations to our Fall Association Meeting on November 12th at Weimar United Church of Christ at 10 am.

The agenda is still being developed but plan on at least the following and if you have other items please send to the HOTA Moderator, Carl Schwartz-King.

  • Ministerial Standings in the Manual on Ministry
  • State of Associations in the Conferences
  • Ecclesiastical Council

There will be a virtual option but we strongly encourage those who can attend to attend onsite!

Living Generously

Have you ever heard the story about the time Fred Rogers–“Mr. Rogers” — spoke at a National Press Club luncheon? I read about it in a sermon by Thomas Long years ago and searched for it recently to share with you. I think it could be helpful as we prepare to share a Christmas Fund appeal with our churches.

Here’s Thomas Long recounting the story:

“When Fred Rogers stood up to speak, he said that he knew the room was filled with many of the best reporters in the nation, men and women who had achieved much. Rogers then took out a pocket watch and announced that he was going to keep two minutes of silence, and he invited everybody in the room to remember people in their past—parents, teachers, coaches, friends, and others—who had made it possible for them to accomplish so much. And then Mister Rogers stood there, looked at his watch and saying nothing.

“The room grew quiet, and as the seconds ticked away and before Fred Rogers tucked away his watch, one could hear all around the room people sniffling as they were moved by the memories of those who had made sacrifices on their behalf and who had given them many gifts.” (Thomas G. Long, Testimony: Talking Ourselves into Being Christian, p. 110).

Mr. Rogers call to remember was a gift to everyone in attendance. The tears shed were of gratitude for the memories. We often focus only on the good our generosity will accomplish out in the world. Our gifts truly make a difference. But these gifts also have an impact on us; to make a gift touches our heart too.

What do you think about inviting the folks in the pew to remember the pastors, choir directors, other lay church workers, and their families who meant so much to them over the years? I propose that a simple invitation to remember the church leaders who taught, mentored, inspired, and loved us during our toughest times, our formative years, and our seasons of celebration may be the best invitation to giving to the Christmas Fund.

I believe that fundraising is an opportunity to draw closer to people in a truly heartfelt way. When you invite folks to give, you are inviting them into a deeper relationship with you and the mission of your church. How we spend our money is probably the best evidence of where our hearts are, of what we value the most. Whenever you make a fundraising appeal for a worthy cause, you are helping make great things happen. You are also allowing folks to feel the impact of their own generosity and gratitude.

We can do this when promoting the Christmas Fund, the next special mission offering in the UCC. Donations to the Christmas Fund provide hope from the church through financial relief to pastors, lay workers, and their families.  Begin your promotion by giving people the space to remember their spiritual mentors can be a simple and effective way to ask for support. A minute or two of grateful silence to recall the church leaders whose abundant love helped us get here this Sunday morning may be the best appeal to the Christmas Fund we can make.

Whenever you fundraise, consider how a treasured memory can lead people to be overwhelmed with joy

Yours in faith,
Rev. Paul Ramsey
Pension Boards UCC

PS: You can learn more about the Christmas Fund at www.Christmasfund.org.

2023 SCC Annual Meeting

The SCC Annual Meeting will be held May 19-20, 2023!

We will gather together at Cathedral of Hope UCC in Dallas.

See Invite Here! … also below.

Stay tuned for further information regarding hotel reservations and meeting registration.


2023 SOUTH CENTRAL CONFERENCE
ANNUAL MEETING
DALLAS, TEXAS

THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
OF
SOUTH CENTRAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
CORDIALLY INVITES
PASTORS, LAITY AND GUESTS
TO THE
2023 ANNUAL CONFERENCE MEETING

DATE: FRIDAY, MAY 19 & SATURDAY, MAY 20,2023
HOST: CATHERAL OF HOPE, DALLAS ,TEXAS

KEYNOTE SPEAKER: PHILLIP GULLEY

PLANNING COMMITTEE: REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE NORTH TEXAS, NEW ORLEANS, HEART OF TEXAS, AND HOUSTON ASSOCIATIONS.

January 2023 All Clergy Retreat

The 2023 Clergy Retreat will be held on the Friday of Annual Meeting, May 19th.

This will be a Clergy Development Session for Active and Retired SCC Clergy with Author and Pastor Philip Gully presenting.

Stay tuned for more details!

A Note From Pastor Carla

I’ve been asked to share the transcript of my sermon from October 9th based on 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c.

Thank you for being a church that demonstrates to ALL that there is a God in New Braunfels!!


No person is one thing. 

The one you discount or roll your eyes at will then humble and surprise you by saying or doing something profound and deep and beautiful. 

The one you respect and adore will say or do something equally surprising but in the opposite direction and let you down, disappointing or even hurting you. 

No person is one thing. At our best, we are all wonderful. At our worst, we all have the capacity to really blow it in unimaginable ways. 

It’s messy living in this world with others, and with ourselves. 

Especially now when we are all more than a little crispy, living with the lingering and as yet unresolved trauma and grief of a world torn apart by the pandemic, violence, and the perversion of politics and religion to harm and divide rather than heal and unite. 

Naaman was called a “great man” and did great things to protect and serve his country. And he suffered with his own afflictions of body (leprosy) and spirit (pride and a fragile sense of self).

And in his service to HIS country, had decimated the country and lives of others, including the young girl from Israel whom he had captured and enslaved. 

If you’ll notice, we were not given her name. She was female. She was a held captive. She was made to serve her captors who had destroyed her country and likely killed her family, friends, and neighbors. 

She had EVERY reason to hate Naaman and wish him ill, to relish in his pain and delight in his suffering from leprosy. 

But she had the love of God in her to see the suffering of another human. Perhaps she even had the wisdom to see that if Naaman found healing, and even found it in the God of Israel, then maybe, just maybe, it would help bring peace between and for the two countries. 

Sure enough, when all was said and done, Naaman had the humility and change of heart to say, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.”

Each country had their own culture and beliefs and their own gods and religions. The nation of Aram was no different. 

Everyone thought their gods were better and most often despised the beliefs and practices and gods of others. 

After being born and raised in Northeast Texas and doing my education and living and working there my whole life, I finally got to my Mecca, my Holy Land, my safe space of Austin. 

I joked that I had paid my dues living east of what’s known as the Pine Cone Curtain of Interstate 45 and once I finally got to the relative safety of more liberal and accepting Austin, that I would be drug out of that town kicking and screaming. 

And so I lived there, where I felt mostly included and accepted, for 17 years. It was a breath of fresh air and gave me much healing. 

My neurochemistry always felt on high alert in Northeast Texas as a gay female in such a patriarchal, misogynistic, and homophobic culture where crude comments and jokes and sneers and even threats were common. 

When I left Austin to go back east for work or to visit family or friends, I would spend the whole drive back to Austin holding my breath and saying to myself, “It’s not a mirage. Austin is real. You’ll be back with your people again, soon.”

I joked that I would go straight to Whole Foods and hug the first person with tattoos and dreads smelling of patchouli, or biracial couple, or drag queen that I saw and say, “My people! I’m back with my people!”

And then, an amazing and progressive little church I knew and loved in an equally conservative town as the ones I came from, called me to come serve for a time as an interim pastor and to consider staying longer. 

New Braunfels is a beautiful city with its own rich culture and heritage. The rivers and landscape appeal to my love of the outdoors. The quality of the music and incredible food and festivals cannot be denied. 

And then there’s you. I already knew and loved this church, having preached here over the years when Pastor Scott was away. I knew many of you from being in the same conference and then association of the UCC. 

I knew and loved your passion for justice, your legacy of service to those without enough food or shelter, your intentional making of space for those who felt safe in no other house of worship or for immigrants seeking to make their way as a stranger in a strange land, your creativity, your love of the outdoors and photography, environmental justice, and all forms of activism at the local and national levels for decades.  

As we worked to learn to serve together, I came to love you even more. And that love increases all the time. 

And. With the politics of this town, with the sneers and jokes and comments and fear that comes from being different here, with the founders of the Trump train and others STILL spreading untruths and riling up division and angst against the freedoms and rights and safety of others…it has been a struggle for me to let go of my safe space in Austin and embrace this town with so many who do not embrace me, or anyone different.

Please hear me. I do NOT mean to disparage this town that many of you have been born and raised in and raise families in and have served in and have amazing memories of and people and schools and neighbors whom you adore!!!

We have our own Aram and Israel conflicts here. “Keep Austin Weird” the bumper stickers and t-shirts say. “Keep New Braunfels Normal” say others. 

Some would hear, before I moved here this past spring, that I was from Austin, and say longingly, “Ohhhhh, Austin!!!” and others would say with raised eyebrow and grimace, “Oh, Austin!”

But as I’ve worked with the big-hearted people of the homeless coalition and folks from Connections Individual and Family Services and the Comal County Crisis Center and Serve Spot and Family Promise and the SOS Food bank and the McKenna Foundation and Riverside Pride and met Mayor Rusty and members of City Council and other city leaders and folks from the MLK Association and the IDEA Forum and members of other more progressive faith communities like St John’s and Unity and New Braunfels UU, and even purplish ones like Peace Lutheran and New Braunfels Presbyterian and saw their thirst for making room for everyone in this town, and I could not help but be impressed and fall in love with them as siblings also seeking peace and justice in an area where it can often feel impossible. 

And Father Rip from St. John’s Episcopal and Pastor Jake from Peace Lutheran say, “Let’s start getting together as progressive pastors and talk about ways we can work more together and bring others who are ready to work with us along”

And Ripp says, “Our people were so moved by what y’all at Faith did with the Interfaith Pride Worship Service that we want to host it next year”. 

And Jake reaches out to invite us to their Ecumenical Thanksgiving Worship Service this year (November 17th) and to talk about getting us into the rotation with other purplish congregations to host one year soon even though they know how very blue we are in our beliefs. 

And city leaders speak with deep and tremendous respect for our congregation for even considering possibly using our property to help families living with housing insecurity and say they wish other churches in the area would follow suit. 

And I see you donning your new bright blue Faith Church t-shirts and showing up to represent at the City-Wide Worship Service, and the SOS Food Bank, and Pride Events, and speak Thursday night at a Texas Gun Sense event, and write articles in the paper about environmental faithfulness, and loving on our church grounds and property and finances and tech to make sure others can access a loving word of God even from their homes and states away, and loving on our children and youth and teaching them that faith means following Jesus in working for economic justice by paying off incredibly unjust and predatory medical debt, and providing music and other leadership for worship to make folks feel welcome and lifted up and loved, and showing up at the Habitat Restore and Habitat Home Build working alongside others to serve and be an alternative Christian voice in so many ways. 

And I see the ways that this church is helping to be a connector of people in peace and a unifier for justice and I have even more hope and feel even safer in this town. 

I’ve been told that the local Ministerial Alliance would not be a great place for me as a female pastor, especially not a gay one with a fo-hawk and biker boots. And my presence makes even many of the more evangelical and fundamentalist clergy at the Serve Spot ministers prayer breakfasts hold their breaths. 

But then one pulls me aside and says, “I believe more like you and the people of Faith Church do, but my congregation doesn’t. Let’s grab coffee and talk about how I can slowly bring them along.”

And another says, “Can we have lunch some time and talk about ways I can disagree with homosexuality as God’s plan but not do harm to people in the process?” 

Oh, you bet, brother, we can talk about that!!

And a social Justice class from St. John’s reaches out to ask me to speak to their class about what we believe about issues of social Justice and why to help stretch them further past their comfort zones. 

And I see Yesenia on stage as a openly gay woman who is like a local Ellen Degeneres with people who adore her and her musical gifts and get to wrap their heads around, “How can I hate this lesbian who brings me so much joy” and who creates safe space at her gigs because folks who are different go there knowing that no one will mess with them because she will see if from on stage and with a nod to management would make sure nothing bad happens. And folks are joyful and dancing and meld together   united by a common love for her music and spirit and even just for a little while forget to feel weird dancing next to a lesbian o gay couple dancing together next to them. And she says, “Baby, we’re doing it. We’re helping bring people together.”

And then I go to the rapidly growing Libbie Ladies Happy Hour where women and even now men will come and they will get choked up and say, “I THOUGHT I WAS ALONE!!!! I HAD GIVEN UP HOPE. LOOK AT ALL THESE PEOPLE who believe like I do about inclusion and equal rights and equal access and caring for each other and our planet!! I’M NOT ALONE!”

And then the organizer, Terri Truitt, whom many know as Lulu, drags me around to introduce me LOUDLY as the pastor of Faith Church and tells them all about us and they are stunned—after they get past their moment of panic that a pastor is there—and then they are impressed to know that there is a prophetic church in Israel…and they want to know more. 

Then Friday night at that event a woman reaches across the potatoe skins and margaritas at a table at the Hideaway and grabs my hand desperately and with tears coming down her face says, “You and your people at Faith give me hope. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!” And she places her hands together in a sign of deep respect and says, “Namaste”. 

And that means, “The divine in me sees the divine in you.”

No person is one thing. 

Not a pastor who preaches that homosexuality is a sin. 

Not a group of women who detest and fear churches because of the ways they have perverted Christianity and sought to impose a warped version of it into laws that strip them and their daughters and their granddaughters of their rights and safety.  

Not a highly imperfect redheaded pastor who can say too much too strongly despite my best intentions and can often be not my best self.

Nor the local family who are selling lies and fear and “Biden is the Wurst” W. U. R. S. T. t-shirts to pay for their legal fees for running the Biden campaign bus off the road near the exit to our church. 

No person is one thing. 

No town is one thing. Even as I’ve wrestled with my own fears of often feeling like I’ve stepped back in time about 30 years, back behind the Pine Cone Curtain of Northeast Texas that was SUCH an oppressive place for me, I’ve thought often, “I don’t want to be like Jonah getting swallowed by a big fish or sitting grumpily under a withered gourd tree refusing God’s command to him to go to Ninevah, the city of HIS oppressors because he knows if he tells them of God’s love they will turn toward God and change and he doesn’t want the ones who have killed his family and his people and his country to be saved. 

And I’ve thought of this story. And I’ve thought of all the unnamed servant girls I’ve met seeking to bring about change so no one in this town feels alone or feels left out. 

And I’ve thought of you, who have chosen to put down roots here and to, like God told Jeremiah, “seek the welfare of this city”. 

How can I not fall even MORE in love with you for that?

Because of the grace and faithfulness and compassion of a kidnapped, enslaved, unnamed servant girl who dared to be an evangelist—one who bring the Good News of a God of healing—Naaman says, “Now I KNOW that there is a God in Israel”.

Because of our faithfulness to answer God’s call, because of our compassion even for those who consider themselves our enemies, even for those whose beliefs and votes and actions seek to oppress and enslave us and others, we can be, we ARE, the evangelists who will spread love and connection and justice and peace and HEALING…

And cause people to say, “Now we KNOW that there is a God in New Braunfels.”

In and through us, led by God’s UNFAILING grace and wasteful love poured out on EVERYONE in this city, and then the world…God grant that it may be so. 

AMEN 

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