Tag: congregation

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/.

Pastor’s Letter to the Congregation (01/24/2021)

Faith-ful Friends,                                                               January 24, 2021

Grace and peace to you in the name of all that is truth and light and life and love, and in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

I am excited to have begun life and ministry with you after receiving your call to serve as your Designated Term Pastor effective January 1st.  I appreciate your trust in me, your gracious welcome, your participation in worship and service leadership as we seek to revitalize our outreach, and your patience and support with my learning curve as I get to know each of you and the systems and needs of Faith Church.

As I reviewed the reports for today’s meeting, one word was constant—challenge.  Certainly, our world has seen unprecedented struggle that has impacted us all in many ways.  Families, businesses, and non-profit organizations, including faith communities, across the world have sought ways to survive.  I understand the struggles of Faith Church in 2020 came on top of other challenges that were present in 2019.

Many of you know that my most recent ministry has been in teaching professional (doctors, nurses, counselors, lawyers, leaders, etc.) and family caregivers about the emotional competencies of showing up well for ourselves so we can show up well for others in a healthy and helpful way. 

Understandably, since last March, the presentation I have been asked to provide most is titled, “More Than Survival: Thriving Through Challenging Times”.  It takes the last 3 decades of my studies, research, and experience to describe practical ways we can each build greater emotional intelligence and practice the resilience that allows us to grow during and after potentially traumatic events. 

          One of the key factors of resilience is this: the stories we choose to tell ourselves about our circumstances can either make or break us.  We can tell stories of helplessness—fear, anxiety, scarcity, and threat—or stories of optimism—hope, community, creative action, and opportunity.

          Language is important as it impacts the direction our stories take.  Therefore, I invite us to take as our word and focus this year not “challenge” but “opportunity”.  For example, I am asking the congregation to call what is commonly termed the budget a Statement of Faith, instead. 

As a people of God, we are a people of resurrection, but we know that first requires a letting go of what once was to embrace the new life that God seeks to bring us to.  We have a unique opportunity to follow God’s guidance in:

*re-envisioning a congregation without walls as we make use of social media and invite our young to help us there

*re-imagining our Christian Education not in months or a year from now, but even now in a virtual and even socially-distanced outdoor world

*finding creative ways to make use of our outdoor space at Faith Church to draw people together and equip them to engage in justice for all of God’s creation

*letting new residents in our community, the 2nd fastest growing city in the U.S., know there is a progressive church with an alternative Christian voice available in New Braunfels

*reaching, through outdoor gatherings in our community, those who might not otherwise walk through the doors of a church

*supporting those isolated from others, including our elders, those sick, our children, parents struggling to work remotely while caring for loved ones, and more

* harkening back to the true origins of Sunday School as a means of serving the local community with education that helped folks in their daily lives

*expanding our understanding of what inclusive and diverse community means as we look to margins perhaps never before considered at Faith

*being a place of refuge and healing for those who never knew the word “family” could be a good thing

*offering a word of hope to a traumatized, divided, and anxious world

*continuing to feed, nurture, equip, and inspire our members to bring their best selves to the world around them and to engage in leadership of Faith Church, no matter what their gifts, talents, age, or ability

There are many things we are powerless to change in our present circumstances, but we are not helpless to take action on our own behalf. 

Every one of us, empowered and equipped by the Spirit of God that exists within each of us, can take part in the opportunity we have to embrace the new things our Still-Speaking God wants to do in our midst, as we find creative ways to thrive and to BE the Church in this coming year.

          What opportunities do you feel God calling you to in this year of innovation and growth?  As we put our hands to the plow and do not turn back, we will face this year of opportunity with faith in God, ourselves, and each other, knowing we do not come to this task alone. 

God is already in our future and waits patiently to meet us there.  I am excited to see where the journey together leads us in 2021, and it is an honor to face each step with you.

Blessings on each of your heads.

Pastor Carla

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