Leadership Team Update, January 2021

Update from the Leadership Team meeting, January 17, 2021

We welcomed two new members to the team this year - Rebecca Hample and Brook Schaaf. Continuing members include Katie Coburn, Bonnie Gonzalez, Alan Higgerson, and Susan Sciabarasi.

Our first meeting was a time to reflect on Carmen's legacy for our church and how we move forward together, honoring her vision and what we created with her, and addressing patterns of church functioning that don't serve our community well. New Life, like all churches, struggles with a few people carrying most of the administrative burden. Our team is committed to reimagining how we function as a church so we are inclusive, supportive of each other, and are well prepared to welcome a new pastor to lead our ministry.

Our first task is to begin discussions with a "virtual church secretary" who can help alleviate some of the administrative burden, particularly functions that have been part of the LT's treasurer role in the past. The approved budget includes funds for this.

Suzin Sciabarasi, who is chairing the Call Committee, updated the team that we have three pastor candidates forwarded to us by the Synod. The team also discussed expanding the posting of our opening to the Wild Church Network and other hiring sites. Our goal is to cast a wide net to find the unique leader God is calling for us.

Our team reaffirmed our policy of online-only worship while our region is at Stage 5 of pandemic risk. We will return to safe in-person worship when Austin Travis County public health department returns the region to Stage 4.

At every meeting, the Leadership Team discusses the pandemic’s impact on our worship community. We fully understand this time of being apart is difficult for all of us and realize we are all making sacrifices for the sake of our community in worshiping over Zoom. Our team brings a great deal of public health and medical experience to bear in making these decisions, as well as a deep love for our church community. We acknowledge the difficulty, and we also believe it is the best decision for our church right now.

Many have asked questions about the source of the Stage 5 risk determination, which comes from the Austin/Travis County health department. Here are our primary reasons for using this source.

1. Austin/Travis County (ATC) has the most robust public health infrastructure in the region. Hays County does not have a risk stage system we can draw on to make a decision like this.

2. Important parts of ATC's determination of risk level include Hays, Travis, Wiliamson, Bastrop, and Caldwell counties. In particular, the most important regional Stage 5 indicator is hospital capacity, which is at a critical stage right now.

According to the CDC, COVID infections as a percent of the population are worse in Hays than they are in Travis right now. Staying apart from others is the safest practice for our own health and to lower the risk of spreading the disease, particularly at a time when our health system does not have adequate capacity to treat those who are sick.

We recognize other churches in the area are not taking the same approach to pandemic worship. As in many things, New Life is a unique and independent community. Rest assured that our team is basing our decision on local, state, and national data, relying on public health and medical experts, and keeping the long term safety of our congregation, staff, and community in mind. Remember, New Life is focused not just on our own members, but on our community as a whole. The sacrifices we are making right now will help keep more people safe.

When the pandemic has subsided to a point where the risk level has reduced to Stage 4, we will go back to meeting safely in person with an online option. We are all hoping with you that it will be very soon.


The New Life Leadership Team

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