“Discernment Update: In the Neighborhood” by the Rev. Daniel Pryfogle

Dear Church:

University Baptist Church was founded as a mission of First Baptist Church to the University of Texas in 1908. On the occasion of the church’s 75th anniversary in 1983, the congregation expressed its gratitude “to those great-hearted people who conceived the dream of the University Baptist Church with the chief purpose of providing a church-centered ministry for the Baptist students of the University of Texas and residents of Austin.”

By 1995, the university area had “become increasingly urbanized, with all the opportunities and challenges urbanization brings,” according to a report of UBC’s Long-Range Planning Committee. And the church had become “an urban, regional church with members driving long distances to attend.” The committee, whose report is titled “UBC 2000: A Proposed Long-Range Plan to Lead Us Into the Next Century,” expressed its wish to “maintain the essential unique character of the church” and appeal to people throughout the city to drive to the corner of 22nd and Guadalupe “to be a part of the unique vision of UBC.”

“At the same time,” the committee noted, “we see a need to be more engaged in outreach and ministry to the specific neighborhood which surrounds the church.”

The committee recommended numerous strategies to grow spiritually and numerically, including:

  • Providing “a place for hospitality to students and community on a continuing basis (coffeehouse, study room, lounge area).”
  • Promoting intergenerational activities for students and older members.
  • Promoting the sanctuary as a performance space and scheduling free recitals.
  • Co-sponsoring events with “like-minded churches.”
  • Providing to people experiencing homelessness “an opportunity to shower,” to “obtain clean clothing” and to “use the laundry facility at certain times.”
  • Initiating a cottage industry to “foster independence and allow individuals to support themselves creatively.”

Isn’t it interesting to see the church’s particular witness to a specific time and place as well as the common threads that run across the years to our time?

Now UBC is in another moment when the congregation seeks clarity about its vision, clarity that will determine the kind of leadership required to live into the vision. This Sunday, from 9:30-10:30 a.m. in the Fellowship Hall, we will take up a question that has confronted UBC since its start in 1908: “How boldly does the church want to move toward being a beneficial presence in the university neighborhood?”

Please contemplate this question in the coming days, then join the conversation Sunday.

If you need to catch up on the discernment process, go to the church website here.

Peace,

Daniel Pryfogle, Interim Pastor

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