When people experience genuine community, they naturally want to share it with others. This is my latest letter to the good people of University Baptist Church of Austin, Texas.
I am struck by the eagerness of this congregation to be about something new. There is a desire to act. It is not a desire for willy-nilly doing but for purposeful activity. I observe a readiness to engage our university community, to cultivate relationships that make the most of the church’s resources and make meaning for individual members. The desire is for a mission that makes sense.
The mid-1960s handwritten minutes from one of the church’s mission circles helped me understand this desire that I witness. The minutes describe in plain, summary fashion a consistent pattern for each meeting of the circle. A handful of women convene in a member’s home. They share refreshments. They listen to a speaker on a topic of mission. They discuss an opportunity for the circle to act, then they decide what to do. The fellowship leads to action.
This pattern, evident throughout UBC's history, is still compelling. It is a natural pattern for people who care about each other. Once we experience this care, we want to share it with others. Because it springs from fellowship, because it deepens fellowship, outreach is the authentic action of a caring congregation.
I trust you see how the church staff is giving greater attention to outreach. You will find in other staff reports details on outreach planning, new systems to support outreach, and specific activities to share with others the love we find at UBC. Because so much of our common life happens at the corner of 22nd and Guadalupe, the staff is coming to understand that the stewardship of the property — the opening of the sanctuary for midday prayer, the maximization of the front doors to signal life at this corner, the use of space by outside groups, the cleanliness of the buildings, and the way we communicate through lively landscaping and timely marquee messages — is key to outreach. The staff is becoming clearer about how intentional we must be in such stewardship in order to connect with others. The readiness of members to engage our university community, coupled with our own desire to meet our neighbors, is prompting the staff to explore new modes of outreach and to experiment. Related to these efforts, we are clarifying staff roles and shifting responsibilities to make outreach a priority.
Several years ago I heard a reggae band perform an old song that was new to me. The lyrics pose a question that gets to the heart of our discernment during this interim period: “Now that we found love what are we gonna do with it?” May we let this question do its work in us in the days ahead as our fellowship turns toward our neighbors.
Peace and blessings,