For years the Congregational Church of Austin, University Christian Church, and University Baptist Church have cooperated on shared ministries, including our combined youth program, Labyrinth, and Micah 6. On Sunday morning representatives from all three churches met in our Fellowship Hall to consider this question: What are the opportunities for greater shared ministry? The answers spanned a wide range:
- Plan social gatherings for our members to get to know each other.
- Hold combined worship services during the summer.
- Help Micah 6 expand into new areas of ministry.
- Schedule regular meetings for conversations among the three congregations, and create a joint committee to advance the ideas generated in those conversations.
- Support Austin Interfaith in working through our political systems to promote justice within our community.
- Collaborate with UT faculty and students to develop projects addressing systemic injustice, thereby furthering our commitment to social justice while also opening spiritual connections with the university community.
- Create an alternative worship service at a different time from our regular Sunday morning services.
- Visit each other’s churches.
- Advocate for public restrooms and showers in our neighborhood.
- Provide opportunities for interfaith dialog, bringing together people of different faiths to promote mutual understanding on spiritual and intellectual levels.
- Take advantage of existing cooperation among our denominations, such as UCC-Disciples Ecumenical Partnership and Churches Uniting in Christ.
- Hire a facilities manager to maximize the use of our buildings, scheduling events and caring for the properties.
- Hire a minister of outreach to engage more fully with our neighbors.
- Combine our church memberships while preserving multiple denominational affiliations.
Some of these things we could do tomorrow if we wished; others might take years of planning. Some ideas could generate immediate consensus among our churches; others might have little hope of reaching a critical mass. Time will tell which of these possibilities come to fruition, but right now it’s clear that those who gathered on Sunday treasure our shared history and are eager to deepen the ties between us. There was no discouragement, no desperation about the future of our churches—only excitement about what we can do together. UBC is in transition, but we are not alone; we are part of a loving family, listening for the Spirit’s call as we find our way forward.
Discernment Committee Member