May 14, 2020

Dearly Beloved,

First and foremost, you are deeply missed by your church family. We think of you and pray for you daily and look forward to the day when we are back in our church house together again. This is a difficult time for all of us, but we thank God for you -- that we have each other in trying times such as these -- even if it is through a phone call, a computer screen, or a silent prayer lifted alone to God.

When navigating uncharted waters, the answers are never black or white. As our state takes its first steps towards reopening, we are eager to praise God together again in our church home, yet we also feel a deep obligation -- informed by Holy Scripture -- to protect the most vulnerable. Your Church Staff and Council have been carefully reviewing all the science and guidelines recently published, specifically those geared towards houses of worship. After much prayer and consideration, we are in agreement that we cannot return to 3500 W. Parmer Lane -- not yet -- because our difficult work of justice in the face of Covid-19 is not yet done. 

As said last Sunday, right now, our call to justice for the vulnerable, justice for communities of color, justice for our front-line workers, justice for our elders, ironically looks like staying home. Love looks like covering our mouths with a mask. We know some of you cannot stay home; you’re needed in the world, or you need to go out to earn a living. We understand, yet God’s Holy House should be the very last place in Creation where harm is spread through lack of the utmost care and concern. Going forward, therefore, we will return to our church house in carefully planned phases, with our online presence continuing indefinitely to honor our deeply-held value of inclusivity. Meanwhile, we promise to continue to update you as the situation continues to evolve.

We want to acknowledge that many of you, like us, are feeling quarantine fatigue. Depression, anxiety, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and grief are all on the rise as we all struggle with more than two months of isolation. So we pray that you to take comfort in three things right now: 

  1. You are not alone; your church family is huddled around you. Your pastors and elders are standing by to listen to you, pray for you, support you, and direct you to any useful resources.
  2. You are not alone; God goes along beside you. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Have no fear.. because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; God will not fail you or forsake you.”
  3. You are not alone; Christ lies within you. You are saving untold lives by staying home, participating in Christ’s saving power. And some day, we all will look back on this time and remember that we as a congregation -- we literally helped save each other’s lives by worshipping at home in this way. We will remember that this is the time that it really hit home -- United Christian Church was never was a building. That was the time when we really learned how to “be the church.”

Peace be with you,

Andrea Larson, Council Chair, councilchair@uccaustin.org
Rev. Nikki Stahl, Executive Minister, nikki@uccaustin.org
Rev. Anna Humble, Minister of Music (Acting Interim Minister of Worship), anna@uccaustin.org

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