Tag: monthly (Page 2 of 17)

First Congregational Church of Houston Offers Invite to Sylvia Richards Memorial Lecture – October 16th

Submitted by Mary Harper

FCC Houston would like to invite local, area, and national UCC folks to the Inaugural Sylvia Richards Memorial lecture to be given by renowned speaker Dr. Jill Carroll at 4:00 pm CST on October 16, 2021.

She’ll discuss “The Faults in Our Stars (and Stripes): What 2020 Can Teach Us About Who We Are & Who We Might Become as a Nation.” Dr. Carroll is a recognized expert on issues of religious tolerance, American religion, and religion in public life.

Please join us for a stimulating talk, either in person at First Congregational Church of Houston, 10840 Beinhorn Rd, Houston, TX 77024 or livestream on YouTube. 

Tickets are available on Eventbrite. 
$20 (includes a reception and opportunity to meet Jill) 
$5 for livestream on YouTube

Eventbrite (in person)

Eventbrite (virtual via YouTube)

Church website pages (also found under the Get Involved tab on the home page):

Facebook Event: https://fb.me/e/Xndfb7ag

You’re Invited to Join the First Congregational Church of Houston at their October 8-10, 2021 Retreat at Slumber Falls

Houston Association Church, First Congregational Church is having their annual All Church Retreat at Slumber Falls the weekend of October 8-10th.

They would like to open this retreat to any and all SCC churches who would like to participate. If you have ever wanted to attend a retreat at Slumber Falls but your church couldn’t meet the minimum number requirement to reserve a facility….this is your opportunity!

If you have any questions about the retreat or would like to register, please contact Sue Earl at jearl18925@sbcglobal.net.

UCC Webinar – Movement Lessons: The First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit 30 Years Later – October 13th

Submitted by Rev. Brooks Berndt, UCC National Office

One of the best resources of the environmental justice movement today is its own history. Leading scholars in the field of environmental justice have described the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit as one of the most significant events in the movement’s history. It was an event hosted and organized by the UCC’s Commission for Racial Justice. In 1991, this summit literally re-defined the word “environment.”

No longer did the word refer to remote wilderness areas and pristine natural landscapes as was often the case for largely white environmental organizations. The environment became where one lived, worked, studied, played, and prayed. It became the water one drinks in one’s home. It became the air one breathes in one’s neighborhood. It became the safety of one’s workplace. The summit produced the landmark 17 Environmental Justice Principles that are still used as a source of moral guidance for environmental organizations to this day. The ripple effects of the summit continue to be felt today.

In this webinar, we will learn from three key participants in the summit: Charles Lee, Vernice Miller-Travis, and Richard Moore. Even if you can’t make the scheduled time of 1 pm ET on Wednesday, October 13th, still sign-up, and we will send you a recording. Register now!

Alpine Odyssey Tour of the Oberammergau Passion Play Begins September 5, 2022

Submitted by Rev. Jerry Carpenter, Retired SCC Clergy

Where will you be on September 5, 2022? You could be starting the journey of a lifetime as we travel to Germany to experience the once each decade presentation of the Oberammergau Passion Play presented by the villagers of Oberammergau, Germany. You may remember this tour was originally scheduled for September 2020 but had to be cancelled due to COVID-19.

I am leading a tour to Germany and Austria in 2022 through the tour organization Educational Opportunities. You can travel from your closest airport to connect with our tour group in New York and then travel on to Munich where we will all be together for a week to tour and see the Passion Play. 

The link below will take you to the brochure that describes the tour in full but if you would also like to receive a printed brochure that contains this information, please let me know and give me your mailing address and I will send one to you. I have led groups to Oberammergau in 2000 and 2010 and I am excited to lead this one in 2022.

Read More….

View Brochure

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

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