News – May 6, 2022
Dear Members and Friends,
This past weekend we held a very special event. Dr. Jolie Rocke, our Director of Music, organized “I Am in Need of Music,” a concert celebrating the past, present, and future of our congregation’s music program. It featured performances by Dr. Rocke, Chelsea de Souza, the choir, the string band, Traveler, and the Clear Creek Girls.
You will note that I referred to Dr. Rocke as our Director of Music. One of the exciting things about the concert is that I got to announce that she will be staying on with us. She was originally hired as our Acting Director of Music. She’s done an amazing job. We’re lucky to have her and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to continue to collaborate with her in our efforts to offer you spirit-filled and uplifting worship.
One of the other treats of the concert was the opportunity to hear and meet former Music Director Dr. Isabelle Ganz. She served First Houston in the 1970s and offered an impromptu performance, with the string band, of the Yiddish song “Donna, Donna.” As I mentioned in my May Day sermon, my father’s family is Jewish. I found myself unexpectedly moved when heard Dr. Ganz singing in Yiddish.
Her words inspired me to spend much of the last week listening to Yiddish music. There’s a lot of fine social justice music in Yiddish and one of my favorite Yiddish singers, Daniel Kahn, who sings in both English and Yiddish, has a song with lyrics that run:
Freedom is a verb!
Something never finished, never done!
It's something you must make
It's something you must take
It's something you must constantly become
I have found inspiration in these words as I have been struggling with the news of the hour. As many of you know, the Supreme Court seems poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. Such a decision will almost certainly result in the outlawing of abortion in Texas. The impact on reproductive health and on the lives of women is hard to imagine. Many people’s lives will be devastated. Families will be harmed. Some women will be forced to have the children of men who have abused them. I could go on but I believe that most of you know what is at stake.
First Houston is one of the few Reproductive Freedom Congregations in the city. We have committed to:
Trust and respect women;
Create a religious space for people that is free from stigma, shame, or judgement for their reproductive decisions, including abortion;
Work for comprehensive and affordable reproductive health services because we believe they are moral and social good.
I know that with this commitment we will be doing what we can to work for reproductive justice in the coming months and years. One of the ways that we will be doing that is by supporting public actions and attending protests. This Saturday, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., I invite you to join me, the Justice Coordinating Council, and other members and friends from the congregation at a Texas Rally for Abortion Rights at Discovery Green. Please wear your yellow Side with Love t-shirts, if you have them, and meet me in front of the Grove restaurant at 10:45 a.m. Bring signs but remember that we’ll be attending the event as non-partisan supporters of reproductive justice, not as backers of any particular politician.
Offering prophetic witness and speaking up against injustice is an essential part of First Houston’s identity. Over the next year, as part of our work around developmental ministry, we will be exploring other aspects of our identity as we seek to answer the question: What kind of church do we want to become?
The Covenant, Mission, and Vision Committee of the Board we will be helping us answer that question. Over the next several months, they will be leading the congregation through a process to vote on a new covenant, mission, and vision. I will be talking with you more about all of this at our May 15th service. We’ll be celebrating Covenant Sunday and what it means to be a member of the congregation. This will be the first time we’ve held this particular observation and rather than tell you about it in my newsletter column, I hope you’ll attend and find out for yourself!
This weekend we’ll be observing Mothers’ Day with services on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, at 5:30 p.m., I will be leading our third Spanish language service of the year. Then on Sunday, Rev. Scott will be leading the English language services and offering a sermon titled “The Story Goes On.” Throughout the month we’ll be exploring the theme Reimagining Success. The other two services will focus more closely on that theme. My May 22nd sermon will be titled “The Successful Pilgrim” and I will be exploring what the practice of religious pilgrimage can teach us about success. On May 29th, Rev. Scott will be offering a sermon for Memorial Day.
The theme of Reimagining Success ties in well with the last thing I want to mention in my newsletter column: our stewardship campaign. Building the Legacy of Tomorrow has been very successful! While there’s a few people who haven’t yet made their pledges--and if you haven’t, please do so here--as of today we have received 182 pledges totaling $515,323.84. In the next few weeks, as we reach out to the remaining 45 or so households that have yet to pledge, we anticipate coming in at over $600,000. So, if you haven’t yet turned in your pledge I hope that you will do so. When you do, please consider increasing by 18%. The congregation has a wonderful legacy. And we can build on it together!
Where are the Ministers?
Dr. Bossen is preaching on May 7th, May 15th, and May 22nd. From May 16th to May 21st he will be on a hiking trip, funded by the Lily Foundation, organized by the Rev. Noah Evans (Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon, PA). He will participating in the Religion in Houston’s Pan-African Community forum on May 24th with Gladys House-el and attending TMO’s accountability session on May 15th. His sabbatical starts on June 6th and will run until September 5th.
Rev. Scott is squeezing in some study time this week before preaching Sunday on Mother’s Day. On Saturday evening, May 14, he will be supporting Bay Area Unitarian Universalist at the Concert and BBQ for Houston Voting Justice. He then heads to Denver for the Festival of Homiletics, where he’ll get to participate in preaching master classes and hear outstanding preachers from across the country from diverse backgrounds, traditions, and ministry settings. Once back in Houston, he’ll be attending the Religion in Houston’s Pan-African Community Ministers’ Forum and preaching on the 29th for Memorial Day.
From May 16th to May 21st, pastoral care will be provided by Carol Burrus.