Covenant’s Party on the Patio is Sunday morning, Sept. 7, from 9 to 9:30 and again from 10:30 to 11. This year’s theme is “Think outside the Boat.” Those interested in fall classes, groups and events will get a preview of what’s ahead. It is a time to reconnect with old friends, meet new people and pick up information about Covenant’s fall offerings. Senior Pastor Thomas Daniel invites all to consider how you can explore getting more connected with the Covenant community our regular programs resume. “Consider how you can structure your time to get plugged into one of these opportunities, to experience God’s bold calling on your life, and to know the joy of joining Jesus on a walk that is life changing. Come, join us as we learn to Think Outside The Boat!” he said.
We all need a plan for our money. Financial Peace University (FPU) teaches God’s ways of handling money. Through video teaching, class discussions and interactive small group activities, FPU presents biblical, practical steps to get from where you are to where you’ve dreamed you could be. This plan will show you how to get rid of debt, manage your money, spend and save wisely, and much more! Come learn how you can create a family legacy! Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University will start Sunday, Sept. 14, at 9:30 a.m. in CO 208. The cost is $102.30 (includes registration and shipping of class-related materials). To register, visit the Dave Ramsey website and click on Covenant Presbyterian Church in Austin. You must register online to attend class and receive your class materials. Class size is limited so register early. For more information, contact Nikki McNabb (email@example.com).
Thomas Daniel preached on Sunday. His sermon, “What if You Had Everything You Wanted?” made congregants think about their idols, which were often good things. He gave a homework assignment, asking those in attendance to answer a few questions during the week. If you failed to jot them down or didn’t hear the sermon, these are Thomas’ questions. 1) What do you dream of? 2) Where does your money go? 3) How do you react to disappointments and unanswered prayers? 4) What lies at the root of your uncontrollable emotions? 5) What are your idols? 6) How do you repent and turn to God?
Covenant’s 20s/30s group started in July 2013 and quickly attracted numerous young adults to participate in fellowship and Bible studies. Led by Nick and Laura Marra, group members worked together to answer the following questions: Cornerstone: How did this group start? 20s/30s: Several of our couples met at a contemporary service last July. I approached Paul Parsons, mentioned the lack of a young adult group in our church and asked what I needed to do to get one started. He answered simply, “Just do it,” and told me if we needed anything to talk to him, Maureen Crawley or Beth Bishop. We worked with the three of them and Munn Hinds to set up a room for a Bible study class and to meet other young adults in the church. During this time, group members took turns hosting potlucks at their houses and we started a weekly Tuesday night fellowship tradition. The following month we started a Sunday morning Bible study class. We’ve kept both consistently going ever since. We now have more than 30 active members, Sunday morning Bible studies, men’s and women’s small groups, Tuesday night dinners and we had a weekend group retreat. What started as a few adults going out for lunch after church has grown into a beautiful group that supports and loves one another while growing in faith. Cornerstone: Why did this group start? 20s/30s: We started in response to a deep desire by many of our members to share what we were experiencing. We feel it was a God-ordained experience that led us all together one Sunday morning. What started with a few like-minded individuals sharing a lunch after church, led us to realize that we were connected in many ways through our belief in God. We decided the fellowship we had experienced was something to be treasured. The committed group members have helped it to grow and flourish. Our group is not defined by any set program; it has organically evolved to meet the needs of the individuals involved. Through our weekly potluck meals and group get-togethers, we began opening our homes and sharing our struggles with one another. We started to develop a sense of family and our group became a place where we all felt we could be authentic with each other. I believe this authenticity is rooted in our shared faith and is why the group functions so well together and continues to grow. Cornerstone: Do you see relationships coming out of this group that are an example of intimate fellowship? 20s/30s: Thomas (Daniel) and a few of our members discussed, at length, the topic of intimate fellowship, as it has been part of what has defined our group. Our friendships are not casual; we desire to experience relationships that go deep er and deal with tough issues in life. Our group has shared one another’s burdens and celebrations. We have been intentional about praying together as a group and praying over our struggles. We are committed to studying the Bible together as a group, and in our smaller men’s and women’s studies. In this way, we have developed our faith, strengthened our bonds and felt known by one another. CS: What is the most meaningful thing the group has done? The most fun? 20s/30s: Many of us agree that the men’s and women’s small groups have become one of our most meaningful experiences. We meet twice a month to discuss more personal issues, share stories and read the Bible. Through these groups, we’ve formed some close connections by diving deeper into topics that can be difficult to discuss in larger groups. Our first weekend retreat at the Skagg’s Ranch in April was one of our most fun activities. The fellowship, the discussions, the food and the weather were all a wonderful blessing. We discussed how to live and follow Acts 2: 42-47, and shared stories with one another and the Skaggs. We grilled, played games and enjoyed s’mores. Covenant’s 20s/30s group has many things planned for the upcoming year, including increasing their mission work. They continue to meet Sunday mornings and at different times throughout the week. If you would like more information about the group, contact Nick Marra at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Covenant’s Children and Preteen Ministry has several spaces that need some creative people to make a little magic. If you are a person who loves to see new possibilities in familiar spaces, rearrange furniture, paint walls, or create bulletin boards and displays, we have a project for you. There are several projects to choose from – some smaller, some larger – to fit all types of decorators’ styles and schedules. Contact Stacey Grooms if you are interested.
At tonight’s General Assembly Forum, there was discussion about our Essential Tenets. The following is the document we discussed. Essential Tenets of the Reformed Faith 1) The Mystery of the Trinity All Christians believe that there is but one God and that God is manifested in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Why is it important to believe in the Trinity? 2) The Incarnation of the eternal word of God in Jesus Christ We believe that God came in the flesh in Jesus Christ. We believe in the Lordship of Christ, the Resurrection, and Atonement for our sins through Christ. What does it mean to you that God was incarnate in Jesus Christ 3) Justification (Grace alone, Faith alone) We do not earn our salvation or have to work for it. God freely gives us a new, vital relationship to Him What does grace mean to you? 4) Scripture as the final authority for salvation and the life of faith by the Holy Spirit. We believe that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal and God’s Word to us. What does it mean to you that scripture is unique and authoritative? 5) God’s Sovereignty God is ultimately in charge – things do not depend on us. God is all powerful, all knowing, all loving and all wise and reigns with providential care over His universe. How have you experienced God’s sovereignty in your life? 6) God’s Election of people for salvation and service God chose us (comfort), so no matter how far we wander, God won’t let us go. We express our gratitude for this gift from God by participating in God’s mission for the transformation of creation and humanity by proclaiming to all people the good news of God’s love, offering to all people the grace of God at font and table, and calling all people to discipleship in Christ. What does it mean to you that God has elected people for salvation and service? 7) Covenant life of the church, ordering itself according to the Word of God. God has drawn his chosen people together as a community. We symbolize and seal the promises of the gospel through the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Other protestant denominations believe they decided to join together as a group of like-minded adults, but Presbyterians believe God chose us to be together despite differences and that we are called to learn to get along by following Scripture. What does it mean that God chose to be in covenant relationship with the Church, and how does that shape your relationships within the Church? 8) A faithful Steward of God’s creation We were created with responsibility to care for one another and the world in which God placed us. What does a faithful steward look like? 9) The Sin of idolatry Idolatry is the giving of our ultimate commitment to anything other than God. Of what things in your life are you most likely to make idols? 10) Seeking justice and living in Obedience to the Word of God. Through its indwelling, the Holy Spirit leads each of us on our journey of Sanctification. Sanctification tells us that by the Holy Spirit, God works in us, helping us to leave our sin behind and grow into a new and different kind of life as God’s children living for Christ our Lord. Regarding justice, our task is not to be successful, but to be faithful in our attempts to transform our society. Where do you see the Holy Spirit calling, growing or transforming you?
Covenant will hold a forum on Wednesday, July 9, on the 221st General Assembly of the PC(USA). Covenant member Don Davis served as a commissioner and will meet with the church family to discuss the GA and answer questions about the decisions of the denomination. The forum will be in FE 200 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Covenant’s Career Transitions class will offer an additional session. On Thursday, June 19, at 7 p.m. in FE 100, Dr. Deborah Kerr, Founding Partner of Affintus, will help participants interpret the results of the Affintus free job benchmarking assessment. Many companies use the Affintus solution to make better, more predictive hiring decisions. The Affintus assessment tool determines cognitive learning preferences, personality preferences and work culture preferences. Current and prior Career Transitions attendees are invited to take the assessment at no cost. Instructions for Participation: Go online to the following link to complete your Affintus assessment. https://my.affintus.com/Job/1600 Take the assessment before the June 19 meeting, and bring your emailed results to the meeting. Dr. Kerr will provide an overview of the science behind the profile and how you can best interpret your results. Participation is limited to the first 50 participants.
“The most important element in teaching choir for me was not the perfection of an anthem, but the feelings that the choir members took away from their experience – a sense of self-worth and achievement, belonging to the family of Covenant, an awareness of the importance of participating in worship, friendships made through choir, and finally, God’s unconditional love. And along the way we sang some beautiful music!” So said Alice Sessi upon her retirement from Covenant Children’s Music Ministry after 32 years. When Alice moved to Austin and joined Covenant in 1982, she offered to help Kaye Roth as her accompanist. After several years, the two decided to create the Sunshine Singers choir, a choir for first graders that would Alice teach. In time, Alice would take on much more. “With Kaye’s encouragement and gentle pushing, I eventually took over the directorship of children’s choirs, started the Music Maker choir for four-year-olds and the Praise Maker choir for kindergarten children. Along the way I taught the Carolers and then finally the Choristers,” Alice said. Many Covenant kids have had the opportunity to sing in one of Alice’s choirs. Alice told the kids and their parents at the year-end choir party, “This is the best thing I have done in my whole life.” Alice said her favorite part of leading the choirs has been “knowing and singing with the children, and watching them mature as older children and even as adults.” Case in point: this year’s accompanist. “This past year has been my favorite as one of my first Sunshine Singer choir members, David Kerr, was my accompanist. He sang all the way through elementary school, accompanied for us during his high school and college days, and now as a graduate of UT, I got to have him as an accompanist. That’s what I mean about getting to watch the children mature!” Alice said. “I also had a very talented choir of 32 children this year.” Stacy Curtis took over as coordinator in 2012, and can’t imagine choir life without Alice at her side. “Not only has she been an amazing teacher to our children but she has also been a mentor and friend. I have learned so many lessons from her example and am so grateful for all the years we got to work together,” Stacy said. “Fabulous,” was the word Melanie Williamson, who served as Alice’s choir mom through her two sons and many years, used to describe Alice. “She is just precious to the kids and such a joy to be around.” Thanks Alice, for more than three decades of modeling what a good Christian looks like for Covenant kids and … for beautiful music!
Youth Sunday was April 27 and five students were brave enough to stand up at two worship services and tell where they see God’s fingerprints in their lives. Michael Dossa, James Sipowicz, Rehm Maham, Emily Banks and Taylor Barnes gave their personal testimonies about the impact of Covenant’s Student Ministry. Getting away from bullying, becoming less shy and making solid friendships are the three God encounters that Michael Dosse talked about. “My first encounter with God was in the seventh and eighth grade. I was a victim of bullying and it had become a problem,” Michael said. “I didn’t know how to talk to my parents about it. We came from a religious family so I prayed to God: ‘Please let this stop.’ I prayed every day. And it stopped.” His second encounter would be the youth ministry group. “The leaders were so inviting. They got me out of my shell, little by little.” The third God encounter Michael talked about was the result of D*Now, Covenant’s in-town youth retreat that takes place every January. “I went thinking it would be lame,” he said. “But I got to hang out with the 11th grade boys and girls, and they helped me to feel even more welcome. We poured our hearts out. After that weekend, I attended everything with youth group.” James Sipowicz was born and raised at Covenant, but when his parents got a divorce in 2011, he thought there was no place for God in his life. “I blamed God for a lot of my struggles,” James said. At the end of the summer, a Covenant friend invited James to attend a birthday blessing celebration. “It blew my mind! There were so many happy kids showing love and compassion.” James said that experience motivated him to attend other activities. “I see myself now as a role model to younger kids in the youth program and to my friends. If Covenant and the Holy Spirit hadn’t grabbed me that summer, I don’t know where I’d be. Covenant has been a home for me when I had little faith. I know it’s here to stay. ” Seventh grader Rehm Maham said he’s been at this church “forever!” His mom worked at Covenant when he was young so he was at the church a lot. “As I got older, I joined the choir. I loved the musical, and VBS was the highlight of my summer. But really, I was just having fun and trying to learn something.” Rehm said that changed when he joined the church family in reading the Bible in 90 Days. “When I saw that people were suffering and dying to preach God’s word, I knew Covenant was more than a place to have fun. I started to see that when people were touched by God, something amazing happened. Now, I look forward to church. I try to find meaning in what we do and to help others.” Emily Banks, a sophomore at Vandergrift High School, has been active in her church life. Emily has traveled to Zambia for four years where her responsibilities have changed and grown, from working as a pharmacy tech to serving as team leader for the youth children’s ministry team. It was during her third trip to Zambia that she felt, for the first time, the presence of God. “I went to the market with a team member. During a confrontation with a violent man, I felt I was in the presence of true evil. When I went back to where we were staying, my mom wasn’t there so I went to the Riebers’ room. I found comfort in and felt God as Deb Rieber wrapped her arms around me. When my mom returned, she sang, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Before the mission trip, Tom Brown had asked Marjon and me sing this song in worship. God had placed this song in my life so when the time came that I needed comfort, I would have the words to take strength and never lose my faith.” Eighth grader Taylor Barnes provided her notes for Cornerstone. This is Taylor’s story. I love Covenant. I have been going here for about 10 years. I was in church choir for seven years and was very involved in Club 56. During my younger years, I considered myself a Christian when I didn’t really know who God was to me. I went to Sunday school and read the Bible here and there. The summer before seventh grade, it was time to go to the fourth floor with the big kids. It just so happened that during that summer, I experienced a change in my friendships. One week I was happy with my friends, thanking God for putting them in my life, and the next week, we just weren’t friends anymore. I was asking God why he would do this to me. Amidst my confusion, I had started going to youth church on Sundays and met my D-Group leader Whitney. I shared with her the problem I was having. She shared godly advice and Bible verses, and assured me that it would get better. Every week, I was greeted by the friendly faces of Whitney, Nathan and all the amazing youth leaders. They made me feel loved. Instead of complaining to God, I started thanking Him for putting this church in my life. After this experience, I felt Jesus Christ in my life. Instead of going to church just to have fun and stick around for some “Jesus talk,” I started going to learn about God, and have some fun along the way. I see Jesus in my life every day now. I know he walks with me every step of the way. I’m happy. I have new friends. After this crazy time in my life, I learned God really does give us blessings in disguise.