Tag: from the pastor (Page 1 of 2)

From the Pastor

Faithful Friends,

I am bouncing off the walls excited about returning to in-person worship this Sunday, November 7th!!!!  As long as numbers remain down, we will remain inside together, with masks and distance respected.  I cannot wait to see all of you who can join us in the sanctuary this coming Sunday as well as those who need to continue joining via Zoom.

As we continue to welcome guests into our space, we need to do some work!  Be watching your email for scheduled workdays SOON, most likely on a Saturday morning and another on an afternoon to organize, de-clutter, and spruce up our space.

Our world continues to struggle to recover from the pandemic, from political discord, from social problems we just can’t yet seem to figure out.  AND, people are being broken open to better understand the suffering of others, are deciding to live their lives more intentionally in nature and with loved ones rather than on the hamster wheel, and are awakening to the need for people of good will to stand up and speak out.

As a people of faith, we are finding our own way.  We are repenting of being far too silent far too long in this community out of fear of making ourselves a target for our more conservative neighbors and are becoming a more visible progressive presence.  We are discerning where God wants to lead us in the future. 

We are asking ourselves how and where we are willing to take up our own crosses to follow God into that future.  Discipleship is rewarding and full of joy, and also involves a willingness to let go of our places of comfort to share of ourselves in ever deeper and bolder ways.

We are on the precipice of something amazing happening in and through Faith Church.  Many of you feel and have commented on it.  It has already begun.  We don’t want to beg, borrow, and plead for people to contribute their time, energy, talents, and resources, we don’t want to beg people to come and join our church…we want to LET them.

This video from punk rocker, Amanda Palmer sheds a much different light on the idea of asking vs. allowing folks to participate.  I hope you’ll take a moment to watch it.

Then ask yourself, “Do I tell folks about Faith Church activities and invite them to participate?  If not, why not?  What feels uncomfortable or scary about that?” and send me your answers. 

At the end of the day, when we say we want to repent of our position as the best kept secret in town and do something different, we get to ask ourselves why our number one best chance of getting people in the doors—word of mouth marketing—is not happening

The research shows that when people believe their church makes their life better then they are more likely to tell others about it and allow them to have access to that goodness, too.  I know you love Faith Church.  I know how dear this family of faith, our history and traditions, our values for justice and service are to you.  So why are we not telling others?   

The better we understand what gets in our way of each and every one of us sharing what Faith Church means to us and inviting others to take part in our work and worship, to the table from which far too many have felt excluded far too long, the better our chance at doing something different. 

If churches do not open theirs doors wide and go out to find others who need and want community, the doors of the church do not remain open long, in our current era.  Church attendance was once assumed as part of the culture.  Since the late 2000s, organized religion has been in decline, except those faith communities that still claim evangelism as part of what it means to be a follower of Christ. 

There is a means of evangelism, sharing the Good News of God, that is not about conversion, coercion, or judgment but about sharing that there is a different way to understand God and follow Jesus that is about…

  1. using the minds God gave us to think for ourselves and reason together, wrestling with God for answers from a place of relationship rather than fear
  2. service of others, radical hospitality and inclusion, wasteful love and the pursuit of justice, and the kin-dom of community rather than kingdom and dominance

Whom do you know who may not have the warmth and acceptance of a family of faith like you have?  As we return to the sanctuary in-person, again, it is an excellent opportunity to offer the sanctuary of a different kind of God, a different kind of church, to your dog walker, hair dresser, co-worker, neighbor, best friend, or person sitting next to you at your kid’s games.

We are not begging, we are not coercing, we are not manipulating or judging or insulting.  We are letting folks know a place exists that may just let them feel comfortable coming back to church.  Tell ‘em your pastor will be in jeans and boots, and they’re welcome to do the same.  I’ll see you, and your friends, this Sunday!

Peace,
Pastor Carla

From the Pastor

Faithful Friends,

As we watch carefully the number of COVID cases in our county and consider the right time to reconvene in person for worship in the coming weeks, Faith Church remains busy in worship by Zoom, Christian Education, ministry, and preparation for our return to the sanctuary. Opportunities abound for service!!

Council, and members of the congregation, have been discerning areas for our focus in the coming months. We are working to improve our visibility in the community and move past our position as the Best Kept Secret in New Braunfels.

I am working with Conference Minister, Phil Hodson, to complete a grant application to the UCC that could bring us $10,000 to help us in 3 areas:

  • 1) improve signage on our property, help us install a flag pole to display more of our message of welcome and inclusion, and expand our social media and on-line presence
  • 2) increase our support of the local LGBTQ+ community by co-founding a PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapter in New Braunfels that could meet at our church, expand our support of Riverside Pride, and help offer transitional housing to youth and young adults in crisis
  • 3) and improve our ability to support Family Promise and other housing needs in our community, perhaps by making better use of our buildings and property.

New member, Lauren Pearce, is on the ball contacting sign companies to get information and quotes for our signage needs and installation of the flagpole. She and long-time member, Michelle Perry, are exploring steps and like-minded persons in the community to help start the PFLAG chapter. Please be in touch with me or one of these ladies to lend your support.

New member, Lindsey Graham, is helping me coordinate gathering volunteers in the congregation to help collect and post articles and memes that promote social justice issues Faith Church stands for on social media. She is also helping organize me to coordinate a regular schedule of Theology on Tap events outdoors, especially as the weather cools. Be watching for details and let us know how you would like to participate.

I am meeting with a group of people, including builders and designers and representatives from Family Promise, interested in starting a community coalition to begin a tiny home community, perhaps even on our grounds!

New Member, Pam Robinson, has graciously agreed to lend her years of experience teaching children to revitalize our Christian Education Program. We need someone to join her as Co-Coordinator and volunteers to join a roster of rotating teachers of our children and youth once we

return to in-person worship. Former Christian Ed co-coordinators of many years and long-time members, Karen Dietz and Jennifer Marlow, are providing wonderful wisdom and guidance, and we need others to join the effort. Please contact me or Pam pamr292@yahoo.com to let us know how you could help.

I will be leading a Bible Study of the book of Job during October. We have several who have already signed up and we likely will be scheduling this beginning Sunday the 10th at 6:30pm outdoors on the playground at the church and are exploring ways to also allow persons to join us by Zoom. Details are still forming, so be in touch with me and be watching your worship guide for more information.

Organization and Project Management are not my spiritual gifts! We are searching for an Administrative & Communications Assistant to work approximately 20 hours a week to help with daily tasks, preparation of worship, and social media outreach. We are seeking candidates outside the congregation, so if you know of someone, please send them to me to apply. In the mean time, if you have the gifts of organization and project management, please contact me to help herd all of these many things Faith is involved in so we do not lose our momentum of growth and renewal!

As church leadership and all these volunteers work to BE the church in our community, we covet your prayers. We seek God’s wisdom, discernment, guidance, and energy as we want to know where God is moving and leading and how we can be part of God’s work in our community. All the above are the most recent ways we believe God is calling us to grow and serve, and we need your prayers to not fall into overwhelm and to make the best use of our resources of time, finances, and energy to serve the church and our neighbors well.

Please also continue to pray for our Pastoral Search Committee as it puts together our church profile and considers the next evolution of leadership for Faith Church.

We know that the God who calls us will also sustain. Faith Church has a rich history of service, work for justice, and inclusion of all God’s children in New Braunfels and the world. Now, more than ever, as the city grows and so many are facing so many challenges, the community needs the unique Christian voice Faith Church provides, and we want to go out and find them.

As we do, we will continue to grow while also holding true to our heritage as a church that follows a Still-Speaking God. Together, through us, God can and will do even greater things.

Grace and peace to us all,
Pastor Carla

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

Suspending In-person Worship Due to COVID – Delta Variant Surge

August 13, 2021

The Church Council and I have talked and prayed and (honestly) cussed as we grappled with our very torn feelings about what to do regarding in-person worship in the light of the rapidly rising numbers of COVID during this Delta surge.

With this in mind, the Faith Church Council has decided to move to online/Zoom worship services until further notice. This decision is effective immediately and means that there will be no in-person service this Sunday (8/15/2021).   

None of us want to go back to Zoom-only, even just for a few weeks. It seems most to all of our folks, except our children under 12, are vaccinated. Everyone has been SO gracious about masking properly, giving distance, staying home if exposed, and self-selecting to worship with us via Zoom if they feel at risk–which has also served to keep the numbers in our sanctuary at a lower and safer number.

AND…

Though the risks of death and serious illness to those fully vaccinated are low, they still exist and already we are finding some having more long-term effects from this variant, even if vaccinated. I personally know over 3 dozen vaccinated persons who have had breakthrough infections with severe symptoms and at least 6 of those I know of had to be hospitalized.  

The Herald-Zeitung reported yesterday Comal County’s hospital usage hit an all-time high number of patients being cared for with COVID and I’ve heard from some of you that friends with other serious medical conditions are being turned away from hospitals because there is no more room to care for them.

The head of the ICU of one of our local hospitals shared that healthcare workers are breaking down and feeling betrayed now more than ever. I’m seeing the same in my students and clients in healthcare. The patients they are caring for and venting are MUCH younger than ever before and our children are being hit harder by this surge than any other, which impacts us all emotionally that much more. 

Most of our children and teachers are returning this week to classrooms where masks cannot be required, so numbers are expected to only go up significantly in the coming weeks.

We made the decision to return to in-person worship (along with continuing Zoom) June 27th when the number of daily cases remained under 20 per 100,000 people in Comal County for more than 14 days. As of this past Sunday, that number was 66 per 100,000 and that number is projected to climb to 121 by this Sunday and 135 by the following (8/22).  

You can see the numbers and forecast by state and county through the Mayo Clinic website here https://www.mayoclinic.org/coronavirus-covid-19/map/texas

Therefore, we have decided to resume Zoom-only services for a period of weeks as we watch the numbers and await cooler weather that will allow outdoor services until worshiping indoors again feels safer for us all.  We do not yet know what this means for those who rent our space, and will be making those decisions and discussing our thoughts with them in the coming days.

TO BE CLEAR, WE ARE NOT CLOSING!!! The church is not closed. WE ARE THE CHURCH (yes, I’m shout-talking, here!) and the Still-Speaking God has MUCH to say in and to and through us in the coming weeks.  

So please: 

Come to worship on Zoom and come on camera–we need each other and to see each others’ faces and hear each others’ voices.  

Continue to give as you are able–giving is up by about $13,000 compared to this time last year, but we’re still about $5,000 below budget. Rather than pinching pennies, skimping on our needs, and being distracted by anxiety about our financial health and sustainability, I’d rather spend our time serving and finding new ways to meet the needs of our community.

Keep inviting your friends, even those out of state–now more than ever people need community and want one that matches their beliefs and lives but cannot find that in their community. We can be that place for them.

Engage in our social media–share posts, share recordings of our services, send me items you think would work well to be shared on our Faith Facebook page. Visitors are finding us on-line and through our website. The bigger our presence there, the easier it is for them to find us.

Prepare to participate in discussions with our Pastoral Search Committee about the future of Faith Church and where God is calling us.

Prepare to participate in a Zoom study on the book of Job later in September. 

Prepare to participate in an on-line watch party of a movie with a spiritual theme and then to discuss it afterward (it’s called Reel Faith and is tremendously fun!).

Reach out and ask myself and Council questions as you have them and if you hear others with questions or concerns, please send them to us directly so we can be clear and communicate openly with one another.

And more importantly, do not despair, but join us in seeking God’s face about where God can work through this circumstance to bring the most good, the most healing, and use us to spread the Good News of God’s hope amongst ourselves and to those around us.

Peace be with us all,
Pastor Carla

From the Pastor,

Faithful Friends,

We have so much for which to be grateful! 

Our congregation is growing with 4 new amazing members committed to joining us August 8th and others in discussion with me about doing so in the near future.

We’ve added to our tech team, thanks to Philip Graves, and Joe, Mikki, and Sam Ward have worked hard to set us up so well for hybrid (in-person and Zoom-casted) services, with written instructions for each part of that process, that others will be apprenticed to also join that team in the weeks to come (we could use a few more volunteers!).

Our Pastoral Care Team continues to reach out beautifully with cards, notes, and calls to our faith family, as do many of you, so that I regularly hear what incredible warmth, welcome, and hospitality our congregation provides.

We have scheduled another Outdoor Hymn Sing August 8th to sing to our hearts’ content (with a bit more distance provided between us due to the Delta variant crowding our local hospitals) as Slim Bawb and Jordon once again lead us in some good old fashioned music (11:15am-12:00pm after an abbreviated service).

We had a great response to our request for nominations to our Pastoral Search Committee and will be announcing those names, soon.  They will be meeting with the help of our new Conference Minister, Rev. Phil Hodson.

And…the world continues to struggle in ways too numerous to mention.  As of this writing, over 4.2 million people have died of COVID, with a new surge in cases and deaths as our country and community grapples with coming to agreement about how to protect ourselves and each other.   

More than 2,100 children separated from their family at the border still have not been reunited with their families, voter rights remain under attack, and the bodies and lives and rights of many of us and our siblings are, as well.

We may find ourselves lamenting along with the psalmist, “How long, oh, Lord?  How long?” as we face these struggles, along with others that hit much closer to home. 

We wonder what we can do.  And I still believe the most powerful and radical thing we can do is to pray, to so build our connection with and trust in and security with God that we can hear clearly what God would call each of us and our church to do and be in response. 

As we bring our best selves to each and every interaction, conversation, decision, and Facebook or Instagram post, we can put greater health and justice and peace into our midst.  We can invite God into the circumstances of our world and lives and seek God’s face, where God is moving in the midst of the seemingly worst and most hopeless of circumstances, asking God to empower us to be God’s hands and feet and voice in all we do. 

So, I invite you to join me as we lift up our hearts to God, and sing along with me this month the prayer of the Psalmist from Psalm 130, captured so beautifully by Ruth Duck and Robert J. Batastini in the following hymn (NCH 554). 

  1. Out of the depths, O God, we call to you.
    Wounds of the past remain, affecting all we do.
    Facing our lives, we need your love so much.
    Here in this community, heal us by your touch.

  2. Out of the depths of fear, O God, we speak.
    Breaking the silences, the searing truth we seek.
    Safe among friends, our grief and rage we share.
    Here in this community, hold us in your care.

  3. God of the loving heart, we praise your name.
    Dance through our lives and loves; anoint with Spirit flame.
    Your light illumines each familiar face.
    Here in this community, meet us with your grace.

    The tune can be found here https://youtu.be/EJ8Yexp0Iz8

As we sing this Psalm, let us do so as a prayer, asking God to fill our hearts and lead us and others to solutions while comforting us all every step of the journey.

Peace to us all,
Pastor Carla

From the Pastor,

Faithful Family,

It has been a BUSY and BEAUTIFUL month of activity at Faith! Please see the Note of Thanks in this newsletter and take a moment to reach out and add your appreciation to one another for all you have each done, and are doing, to BE the life and ministry of Faith Church!

Our first Hybrid Worship Service, June 27th, was a great day of celebration with 48 present in person and another 18 with us on Zoom. We know even more watch the recordings of our services after the fact.

We had many, many guests visiting us and trust we will be a place of excitement, welcome, and inclusion helping them to all feel swept up into our Faith Family, extending the love of God to them in whatever ways we can!

We have two of these long-time visitors, Lauren and Izzy, who will be officially joining us as a members in the next few weeks as soon as we can get that scheduled in our services!! Be watching next month’s newsletter for more information about each of them, and make a point to reach out and welcome them and their loved ones into our family.

As we await the time when it is felt to be safer to sing indoors together, we will continue working to have a once-a-month outdoor Hymn Sing (with even more shade!!) after an abbreviated indoor worship service so we can blast out singing joyfully to our heart’s content. It’s also a great way to get the attention of and minister to folks waiting in line for tacos next door!

We continue to seek other ways to make our presence known in this community that needs and wants a place to live out faith through service, justice for everyone, and inclusion of all. Again and again, we hear visitors say, “I’ve been in this community for years and no idea you were here” or “How did we never know that a progressive church like Faith existed?!” It’s time to stop being the best-kept secret in town.

If you feel called to participate in a protest or speak up on behalf of some issue, let’s organize it on our property. If you have a letter to the editor about an issue of advocacy or activism you wish to write, make yourself known as a part of Faith Church.

If you have posts to share on social media that speak to the values we hold as a church, please send them to me. Let’s get creative and make our voices heard so that others can find this place that has so much meaning and so many gifts for us.

Finally, we are in the process of re-forming our Pastoral Search Committee and ask for your prayers and participation. The process of discernment during the transition of ministers is crucial to examining where Faith has been in the past, what’s currently working, what no longer serves, and where God is calling Faith to go next. That process will include asking each of you for your input into these questions. It is time to dream, to vision, and seek God’s direction and energy.

The information we collect will also help us to apply for Renewing Church Grants from the UCC this coming September that could provide a significant boost to our coming ministry! I once served on the UCC National Committee that awarded New and Renewing Church Grants and, I can assure you, even halfway decent applications stand a great chance of funding with lifetime grants (not loans, but grants that are given and do not have to be paid back!) available up to $100,000.

To find out more about this process, what’s involved, and what’s possible for us, go to https://www.ucc.org/what-we-do/justice-local-church-ministries/local-church/mesa-ministerial-excellence-support-and-authorization/ministers/ministers_local-church-leaders-2/grow-your-church/.

My friends, I need all of us partnering together to determine the future leadership, ministry, and direction of Faith Church. It cannot be upon your Designated Term Pastor, alone, to drive and direct this process.

We also cannot make the assumption that I will be remaining past the end of our contract in December, as these other steps of discernment about Faith’s past, current life, and future ministry must first occur. Only then can the conversation even begin regarding the skills, qualities, and qualifications Faith needs in whomever God will call next as your settled pastor.

As we engage in this process, together, Faith Church will only mature, deepen, become more unified and an even more powerful witness to God’s radical and wasteful love in our world. Each of you is an important part of Faith’s leadership.

No longer can today’s churches be run by a pastor who does it all, or even a small group of people who do everything. That model quickly becomes toxic to everyone involved. As each of you determines which of your gifts God is calling you to use to bolster the life of Faith Church, a rich, healthy, diverse tapestry will be woven that will prove so strong that nothing will be able to break it.

May God bless us as we walk this exciting journey of discovery and possibility together. I covet your prayers, as you have mine.

Peace,
Pastor Carla

From the Pastor,

What it Means to be Open and Affirming

Years ago I was asked to preach at an Open and Affirming church and the lectionary happened to be a portion of the epistles dedicated to unity and maturity within the body of Christ.  It was during yet another period of time in which there was much angst about political officials and the decisions they were making.

I spoke of the church’s long history of being open and rightful pride in itself on being affirming and accepting of all persons.  Then I asked, “Do we really mean it?”  I was greeted with confused looks, because of COURSE the church meant it.  It welcomed those whom society most often rejected and deemed unworthy.

“Let me ask a different way…If (name of much-distrusted political figure) walked through those front doors right now to join our service, would we welcome him with as much compassion and grace as we do others?”  Yeah, that went over well!  And, it made us all think as we asked that question honestly of one another. 

Faith Church voted to become Open and Affirming to LGBTQ+ persons in January of 2009.  This month, we will be sponsors of the Riverside Pride event in Landa Park.  You called an openly gay pastor, for goodness sake! 

But we still get to ask ourselves, in the spirit of maturity and depth of character and continued growth, “When we say we are Open and Affirming, do we really mean it, in all ways?” 

Whom would we not wholeheartedly welcome?  Who could walk through our doors whose presence would make us flinch and do anything other than greet them with an unreserved, genuine welcome?  What are the limits of our readiness to put feet to our faith when we say, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here”?  Where do we stop short when reaching out to let folks know about one of the best-kept secrets in New Braunfels? 

Recent visitors, long-time residents of the area, commented they had been to our church for events put on by other groups at our facilities on multiple occasions…and had absolutely NO clue we were a progressive community of faith. 

That is on us, and it is up to us to change that!  In a community such as ours, it would not be hard for an open-minded, welcoming church with an alternative Christian voice of inclusion and justice over judgment and inequality to stand out in the crowd. 

It is time to get incredibly creative about not keeping this church to ourselves, but instead to reach out in vocal, obvious, even risky ways to let people know that we are here.

Since I began serving as your pastor, I’ve often thought of the Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears a Who and the Who’s as they shout to be heard and to save their community, “We are here!” 

Theodor Seuss Geisel held strong anti-Japanese sentiments during and after WWII, but changed his views substantially and began to work hard to relay the message the Japanese people should be treated equally and fairly, an unpopular message in the height of post-WWII hate and distrust of the nation of Japan and it’s people. 

Geisel came to value, in particular, the Japanese concept of the importance of the individual, which was a new idea for him.  It can be seen clearly in Horton’s words, “A person is a person, no matter how small.” 

As Horton works to save Whoville, he is constrained by other jungle animals who do not believe Whoville exists, to the point that his hands (limbs?) are literally tied and he cannot convince the other animals on his own.  So he asks the Mayor of Whoville to get the residents to all make noise so they can be heard and known by the other animals and therefore, be saves from doom. 

All do so, singing and shouting and playing instruments as loudly as they can to prove their existence and save their world, but no one hears them.  As the Mayor searches the community, he finds one small Who not making noise but, instead, quietly playing with a yoyo.  At the Mayor’s urging, little Jojo utters one loud word that is enough to finally let their collective voice be heard, proving their existence and saving their community.

Where can you make your voice be as part of Faith Church?  Whom can you invite to worship?  What neighborhood newsletter article or letter to the editor or social media post can you write or share with your own circles?  What cause is near and dear to your heart that you can engage in on behalf of Faith? 

What word can you utter and to what unreached communities to let others know, “We are here”?  There are folks hungry to know that a place like Faith exists; that there is a place where they can be Christian and practice radical hospitality and that the two are not mutually exclusive.

Research shows we need to hear about something 5 to 7 times before it becomes enough a part of our frame of reference that we express any interest or curiosity about it—“What’s the name of that church, again?”

No matter how small you may feel your voice to be, my dear Jojos, yours may be just the final word that let’s others hear our collective message of God’s wasteful grace and unqualified love.  So let’s find ways to speak, for the sake of our church and the sake of those to need to know that we are Faith and the are, most definitely, here!

You can participate by joining us at the Blessing of the Hands June 7th, New Braunfels Pride June 26th, welcoming our new members, responding to our Survey about in-person worship, and helping ready the church for our return to the sanctuary later this month! 

All of us, together, will let the surrounding community and our world know that We ARE here!

Peace,
Carla

Updates from the Pastor

Faithful Friends,

As usual there is much going on at Faith Church and many ways to serve and be served.  We are also reminded as we are active in our outward faith of service and the pursuit of justice, to take quiet time apart to tend to our inward faith and rejuice our minds and bodies. 

As we do, we are then able to give from the abundance of what we have and our connection with God rather than draining ourselves, which serves no one well.  We are no good to others when we are not good to ourselves and when we do love ourselves enough to tend to our own needs, we have so much more to give! 

Our Pastoral Care Team continues to reach out to our family when in need and to visitors who join our services.  Please let us know as needs arise. 

We will be accepting new members in our congregation at the May 16th Worship Service and hope you will attend and join in sharing vows of covenant promise with them as the newest members of our family.

Our members are active with KIVA Microloans, Texas Impact, the Refugee Network, SOS Food Bank, Theology on Tap gatherings, Social Gatherings, and so very much more. 

This month we will celebrate Mother’s Day, Pentecost, graduations, college admissions, championship playoffs, work promotions, successful healthcare outcomes, and Scout accomplishments.  We will also sit with those waiting for answers that cannot come quickly enough for the struggles of their hearts, minds, and bodies or concerns for those they love.  God, in your mercy, hear our prayers!  

A few other events and updates of note:

New Braunfels Pride is coming June 26th from 11a-5p at Landa Park.  Mark your calendars and plan to participate in whatever way feels safe to you and your family.  If you would like to become a sponsor of this event, please contact the organizers through FB @RiversidePrideTX or their website at https://www.riversidepridetx.org  Faith has been a long-time supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, dignity, and inclusion and we will continue to support the growing New Braunfels Pride community in whatever ways we can!

Slumber Falls Summer Camp Registration is now open!!  Our denomination’s camp is just down River Road and is for children, youth and adults.  Most of our Faith Church family have been to camp or served as counselors at Slumber Falls and have generations of fond memories of connection with God and each other while there.  Please share this information with those you know and consider camp for the young ones in your life.  https://slumberfalls.org/

We will be gathering persons to help with our Music Minister Search and also resume meetings of our Settled Pastor Search Committee in the next few weeks.  Please pray that God helps us discern exactly what Faith Church needs in both positions and lead us to just the right fit for where God wants to take Faith Church in the next chapter of our lives together.

You will be hearing more about the non-profit, Serve Spot, in the weeks to come as Faith Church combines efforts with this local group that partners area churches with community needs.  I’ve met with Kim Francis, their executive director, and she is assisting in connecting us with others to help market and provide blessers for the Blessing of the Hands June 7th.  More to come in the weekly worship guide announcements and next months Glimpses of Faith.  For now, you can learn more at https://servespot.org/ where you can see their amazing promo video!

The Faith Church COVID Committee continues to meet to plan what resuming in-person in-doors worship will look like in terms of timing and process.  We want to be good stewards of our people’s spiritual and emotional needs and also their safety, especially with so many elders and children in our midst.  As the number of those vaccinated continues to grow, as more of our children are able to get the protection of the vaccine, and as numbers of cases continue to decline, we are itching to resume our in-person connection. 

We ask for your prayers for God’s guidance as we undertake this delicate task.  We know some are ready to begin now.  Others are much more hesitant.  We know there are strong feelings and much fear and impatience that can arise.  But we will do as we have always done as Faith Church and face this as an opportunity for us to pull together and find a common path that serves all our needs AND get us back together as quickly as possible in the weeks to come. 

We want to make as certain as possible that once we return to worship together we will be able to continue gathering and not need to go back to virtual worship only.  We will, however, continue to broadcast our services via Zoom and/or social media in what is being called hybrid worship, and covet your prayers and even financial support for our preparation to have a strong tech team of more than 2 or 3 to take on this challenging task.

WHEW!! There is a lot going on.  Please pray for me, Pastor Janet, and for your elected leaders on the Faith Church Council that we be given strength and endurance, wisdom and clarity, and know clearly exactly what God most wants us to do and when and how to do it to make Faith Church a strong, healthy, vibrant witness of God’s inclusive love and justice in our community and our world.  As you do, please know that daily I pray for each of you.

Peace,
Pastor Carla

From The Pastor – April 2021

Faithful Friends,

This season of Lent, I’ve asked us to take on gratitude as a new spiritual discipline, rather than sacrifice even more than we have already this year. 

Gratitude journals remain available in the Narthex of the church for adults (solid color books) and children (the smiley-faced ones) to use to write down each day things for which they are grateful.  Suggestions for gratitude exercises are also provided.

We do have so much to be grateful for—vaccines are rolling out in greater numbers, we survived SNOVID 2021, our committees are organizing greater work and mission of our congregation, our financial giving is growing, and new members are joining!

There also remain struggles in our lives and our world that hurt our hearts, fuel our anger, leave us questioning where God and goodness are, and have us reeling to know how to even begin to respond.   

In this month’s Glimpses of Faith Newsletter, you’ll read of the death of our former conference minister and friend to many, our current interim conference minister’s prophetic call to action in the face of yet another mass murder in our nation, opportunities to serve our faith family and our community, the chance to help teach our children how to engage in mission to support our world, and much more.

Joys and sorrows are interwoven, and yet we as a people of God look for the good not in a glory to come but in what is available to us in the gifts God gives each moment, even during the hardest of times. 

As followers of that radical advocate of justice and love, Jesus, we seek to BE the good by the ways we show up as co-creators of equality, peace, and extravagant welcome to all God’s children and each part of God’s creation. For what are you grateful?  In what ways do you feel called to BE God’s church in the world?  Where can you be the good you wish to see?  How can we follow Jesus in bringing change by changing ourselves, first, by loving and accepting ourselves and letting go of the fear that drives us to be less than our best selves?  Let us begin, right now, to live out our hope for a brighter future as people of God’s resurrection.

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7.

Peace,

Pastor Carla

From the Pastor – December 2020

Since I announced my retirement last spring this year has been a year of “lasts” both for me and Faith UCC and to compound the inevitable feeling of nostalgia that comes with this we have all had to deal with the Covid 19 pandemic and all the dislocation that comes with that.  After 15 years at Faith UCC and 39 years as a UCC minister I’ve conducted my last Palm/Passion Sunday and Easter service; led my last confirmation class; and I’m entering my last Advent/Christmas    season as an unretired pastor. 

     The good news is that with all these “lasts” come the possibilities of new beginnings and a new chapter opens in my life and in the life of Faith UCC.  It is not always easy to move into new possibilities.  There is always the temptation to look backward to what was instead of forward to what could be.  It is scary to leave the familiar behind and enter an unrealized future.  It often takes patience, perseverance, deep thinking and reflection to imagine a new future.  It often means trying something new and being open to new possibilities. It often means building new relationships and strengthening old ones.  Community has been important in the past and it will continue to be important as a new future unfolds, maybe even more important.  It often means extra effort and work beyond what we have been doing.  It often means relying on God’s grace, power, and presence to a degree we may not have for a very long time.

    I’m struck this Advent/ Christmas season that Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christ-child, Emmanuel, God with us, who comes as a baby.  Not only did the Christ child have to gestate 9 months in Mary’s womb before entering the world but the world had to wait 30 years before that baby grew into an adult and began his ministry.  Even then, after the resurrection and ascension, we Christians await the second coming.  We Christians are always awaiting the coming future God has in store, even while we celebrate God’s presence with us now.  This requires much patience, perseverance and prayer.

       I ran across this quote on patience that I will close with.  “Patience is not the ability to wait. Patience is to be calm no matter what happens, constantly take action to turn it to positive growth opportunities, and have faith to believe that it will all work out in the end while you are waiting.”   ― Roy T. Bennett

       I pray that God will grant us all the gift of active patience and the peace that passes understanding that comes with trusting in God, no matter what the future may hold. 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!      Pastor Scott

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