Rev. Daniel Haas resigns as pastor of St. John’s UCC

Today, March 18th, 2019 the Church Council of St. John’s United Church of Christ received the following letter:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I hereby give 90 days’ notice of my resignation as pastor of St. John’s United Church of Christ according to our call agreement. My last day will be Sunday, June 16, 2019.

Over the past five years I have attempted to work with the people of St. John’s to turn things around for this shrinking church. I am grateful for the opportunity to build profound pastoral relationships, start new and end old ministries. Going forward it is my assessment that St. John’s needs a person with a different skill set who can challenge you in different ways. This congregation deserves another chance to chart a new path into a new future and over the past five years we have laid some groundwork for that. I am not the leader you need in this season of church life. St. John’s still has a few years of financial viability left and you should make the best use of this window of opportunity.

The South Central Conference of the United Church of Christ will assist you with the search and call process. Please rely on our siblings in the Houston Association in this time of transition. I plan to stay local and pursue ministry in specialized settings.

May God bless you on this journey.

Rev. Daniel Haas

More Than We Can Imagine – One Great Hour of Sharing 2019

IMAGINATION
It may seem a weak word when compared with all the need that we see daily in the world. We hear the word “imagination” and we may think to ourselves “fantasy.” We hear the word “imagination” and we wonder if it is truly helpful in a world where some would say, “clear-eyed realism is what is needed to face the challenges before us.”

IMAGINATION
Yet far from being a light, weak, or un-real thing, imagination is actually one of the most powerful engines for change that human beings have! Long ago, the philosopher Aristotle said that “Thinking itself begins in wonder, begins in imagination,” and he was right. Imagination, particularly when it is fueled by a vision of God’s hopes for all humankind, can keep us energized to do the good that is possible.

IMAGINATION
The theme for the 2019 One Great Hour of Sharing Special Offering is “More than we can imagine!” The theme, based on Ephesians 3:20, reminds us that we are not alone in our imagining a better world for all of God’s children. For it is God’s imagination that fuels and empowers ours! You see, God imagines a world where:

  • No one is left to face the ravages of natural disaster alone – neighbor helps neighbor, stranger helps stranger – for we are the church together
  • Even if things will never quite be the same after a disaster, God can work through all events to bring new life, new hope, and even more resilience
  • Clean and abundant water and ample sanitation facilities are available to every person;
  • Work brings security from hunger and the land is treated with respect
  • Families displaced from their homes are able to build new lives
  • Women are no longer subject to discrimination and gender-based violence
And God also imagines Christians of many traditions, coming together to help make these things ever more a reality for more and more people! For you see, our imagination of what might be is founded and grounded in what God envisions and hopes for. We can help – through our gifts of treasure and talent, prayer, and presence to make this world ever more like the way God imagine it would be!

On Sunday, March 31, 2019, please, give generously to the One Great Hour of Sharing special offering, so that your imagination might indeed be ever more joined with God’s!

An Open Letter to the United Methodist Church

The United Church of Christ, an Open and Affirming Communion of the Body of Christ, practices a belief in both a still-speaking God and an extravagant welcome. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through the faithful renderings of our sacred texts, and standing in a long line of reformers who have come before us we proclaim with great fervor that no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome.

We hold in prayer those whose past wounds have been reopened by the recent debates of the governing body gathered in St. Louis. The Body of Christ has, throughout its long history, not always been kind and loving to those who live outside its established norms and conformities. We confess to our own history and complicity with racism, misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia. Our hope is that we can and will continue to struggle with our closed hearts and minds as we seek to live more fully into the vision of God’s shalom for all.

We hold in prayer the entire Body of Christ around the world. It is living through a time of division and separation as it struggles to wrestle with what have become irreconcilable differences. There are countless wounded on all sides of these divisions, and as a uniting communion called to find the common ground in support of a hoped for vision of unity within diversity we suffer alongside our United Methodist kindred who today feel the deep pain of a new brokenness.

Know that we stand ready to serve all who are in need of healing and all who seek simply to know the power of the risen Christ fully articulated in the expression of a love that knows no bounds.

We understand that it is with great sadness and a good deal of grief that many will have been left to feel unwelcome in a spiritual home that gave you hope, sustenance, and nurturance. Many of us have felt the sting of that same rejection – and know full well the grief that attaches to it.

We hold the entire United Methodist Church in prayer as it seeks to heal and to express its faith in light of their understandings of scripture and the gospel.

In solidarity with all who call on Jesus, we remain humbly servants of the gospel in search of a more full articulation of love,

Faithfully,

The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer 
General Minister and President

The Rev. Traci Blackmon
Associate General Minister of Justice and Local Church Ministries

The Rev. James Moos Associate
General Minister of Global Engagement and Operations

Andrew Lang
Executive Director Open and Affirming Coalition of United Church of Christ

Bible Study Series: Aging in a meaningful way

The United Church of Christ, in terms of age of congregants, is now the “oldest” mainline denomination in the United States and today’s older adults deserve—and expect—more than the traditional church fare of potlucks and slide shows. The curriculum “Age-Friendly Congregations”, produced by the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, helps churches strengthen ministry to their older members while benefiting the entire congregation.

Over the next three months, the Rev. Daniel Haas will offer a series of thoughtful Bible studies. Author the Rev. Beth Long-Higgins uses chapters from Ephesians, Ruth, and Romans to introduce readers to the experience of aging in the 21st century. The intent, she says, is “to stimulate conversations in congregations about aging – both the challenges and opportunities that members face as they live longer, and the opportunities for ministry with those who are aging in the wider community.”

“Faith formation is a lifelong process,” says the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, co-editor of the resource and one of its authors. “This curriculum takes seriously the belief that persons of all ages and stages of life experience and crave spiritual, emotional and intellectual growth. Ministry to people of diverse ages requires an openness to new attitudes and insights about aging. Please join Rev. Daniel Haas during Celebration of Joy on March 3, April 7, and May 5.

Perfect Imperfection

Setting up in the sanctuary for services is serious business. The flowers need to sit just right, showing their “good side”. The liquid fuel candles need to be filled and the tapers adjusted to the proper length. The brass pieces need to be shined. The paraments with the proper liturgical color hung, table clothes and antependia to match. It takes a dedicated and experienced group of people to make sure everything is just right. And that is truly important because visual distractions would divert attention from the Word of God that is proclaimed here. When for example the altar’s antependium is crooked -depending on your personality – you will inadvertently want to jump up and correct it or feel uncomfortable having to look at it for an hour. Others may feel disrespected because the church did not carefully prepare for their gracious visit.

Look at the image above. It is blatantly obvious how the antependium is not perfectly centered. Here is the good news: It’s okay to not be perfect. As a matter of fact that is what the message of the church is all about. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead he showed himself. And what did the disciples see: The wounds still in his hands! Even Jesus did not overcome death without imperfection. If that was good enough for God Almighty, maybe our little imperfections are perfect enough in God’s eye as well. And if they are good enough in God’s eye, shouldn’t they be good enough for us? So while all our diligence in life is important – be it at work, school, home, or church – perfection is not the goal. There will always be scars left – even after resurrection.

Happy Valentine’s Day


“Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die. “, are Romeo’s romantic last words after he poisoned himself. Romeo thought his beloved Juliet was dead and he could not imagine living on without her. Shortly after Juliet enters the stage and is equally dismayed. She tries to lick some poison of Romeo’s lips but it wasn’t enough to kill her. So she stabs herself with his dagger. What a deadly passion! William Shakespeare knew that love can be brutal. He was part of a long and proud tradition that understands that passion leads to the cross, that dedication can get you killed.

This week is Valentine’s day and usually this day is celebrated with flowers and chocolates. I am a really big fan of chocolate covered strawberries – very festive, very sweet, very loving. But amidst all that sweetness, the bitterness of the day usually gets overlooked. Valentine’s Day is named after St. Valentine. Not much is known about his life and ministry but he is known for his passion. Valentine was a Christian martyr of the 3rd century. The Roman Empire cracked down on the early Christian church and killed great numbers of them. Valentine passionately refused to give up his faith and was consequently beheaded. Romeo died for Juliet, Juliet died for Romeo, Valentine died for Jesus, Jesus died for all of us. So much death, so much love, so much passion. The symbols for February 14th are neither dagger, nor poison, nor cross nor an ax to chop off heads. But amidst all the romantic sugary sweetness, St. Valentine’s raises inconvenient questions like: What are you passionate about? What are you willing to die for?

Run and Give for Helping Hands


February is Helping Hands month at St. John’s. For many years we have supported our local food bank. This past weekend we had a great kickoff event for this month’s food drive. Scouting for Food collected 10,233 pounds of food for Rosenberg-Richmond Helping Hands. 333 pounds came from our own pack and troop 309!
Our Souper Bowl of Caring Dinner and Auction brought in $3,644 to financially support Help Hands.
But the love doesn’t stop there. Next Saturday you are all invited to the first ever Helping Hands Fun Run at Seabourne Creek Park. Come and run against hunger in our community!

Baking is living

Jesus is called the bread of life. You may have heard that before. But do you know what implies: Baking is living! On Sunday, St. John’s UCC will once again host a fundraiser for the Souper Bowl of Caring. Basically it is a month-long push to support our local food pantry. We do that by sharing a meal of soup and auctioning off all kinds of fun things. It all starts with a worship service that also includes holy communion. Bread and wine symbolize Jesus Christ, the bread of life. This year we are going to take it a step further: We are going to make bread during our worship service! The kids will knead the dough and toss it onto griddles. In effect we will create a bread that is pretty similar to what Jesus actually ate at the last supper with his disciples.

The act of preparing bread is a profoundly worship-like experience. At first you gather, like the congregation does. You gather your ingredients and equipment. You are getting ready. Then you start preparing your mind – you literally meditate on what you are about to make, what it is going to look like, what it is going to smell and taste like. You craft your recipe like you ponder scripture. Then comes the time for mindfulness. That’s when your hands hit the dough. You are in the middle of a creative mess. The phone can ring all it wants, you can’t answer right now because you are literally stuck to the project at hand. You are forced to be present to the dough, with body, mind, and spirit once the kneading has commenced. A church service tends to last longer than the 22 minutes an average person can focus on an average TV episode. Baking is the same way. It forces you to practice patience. Your dough has to rise. Can you handle it when you can’t do anything? All your effort does not make a difference, the yeast does as it will. Isn’t that what makes faith so hard – to surrender control? And once the bread finally comes out of the oven you get to share it. Eating alone doesn’t taste nearly as good as sharing does. The virtue of altruism comes into play here, the giving. That is what we are trying to inspire through the Souper Bowl of Caring: A profound spirituality that leads to an extravagant generosity. Enjoy.

SFC 2019 Work Camp Volunteers Needed

This past year, groups have led retreats, campers enjoyed the summer programming, and visitors continually commented on the beauty of Slumber Falls Camp. One of my first remarks after thanking them for their kind words is to tell them that this is a ministry that love has built. Each year volunteers give of their time, energies, and skills to shape the facilities and programs offered here. Without volunteers, this camp would not be what it is today.
In the past two years, we have collated comments from groups, researched other facilities, and formulated a strategic plan on keeping Slumber Falls Camp in good working order with amenities to enhance our groups’ programming. Work Camp is one of the events that has the most impact in the year, and it sets the stage for what our guests will experience.
This year, we have a long list of potential projects ranging from dead tree removal, bunk bed construction, camp store updating and inventorying, painting projects, tree trimming and flower bed construction and maintenance, observatory maintenance, cleaning and building updates to highlight just a few. If you or your church has noticed a project that you would like to take on, we would love to chat with you to talk logistics. If you are skilled in a particular area, let’s talk about possible projects!
The cost for this event is only $15 to help cover some of the food expenses. Registration is open online or you may click on the registration link below.
Please join us for this special event that means so much to us and we hope to all of you!
Rev. Jeremy Albers,
Director of Outdoor Ministry