Dear Church,Dear Church,
Grace and peace to you in the name of
Jesus Christ, our Rock!
Rock has long been a metaphor to help
us imagine the nature of God. Rock is
meant to evoke for us a rm foundation
in which to ground ourselves, a place
of refuge where we can rest and seek
protection, and even the source of our
salvation. God has also worked through
rocks; handing down the Law engraved
on two stone tablets and bringing water
from a rock in the wilderness to sustain
the Israelites along their way to the
Promised Land. And the Apostle Paul
makes the connection that, as the One
who was with God from the beginning
and who sustains and saves us, Christ is
our rock.
One of the most well-known references
to God as rock in scripture can be
found in Psalm 19. The psalmist here
praises and gives thanks to God for all
the ways of providing. God creates the
heavens and the earth and the heavens
declare God’s glory and proclaim God’s
handiwork to the ends of the earth!
God not only creates all that is, but God
provides perfect instruction and wisdom
for living faithfully through the Law
and the Commandments. God even
provides salvation from both accidental
wrongdoing and willful sins, the psalmist
declares, ending his thanksgiving with,
“Let the words of my mouth and the
meditations of my heart be pleasing to
you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
God is our rock and our redeemer,
generously providing all that we need to
live faithful, purposeful, and joyful lives
and the psalmist gives thanks! That is
the proper response for gifts so great
as these, don’t you think? Imagine a
gratitude that rises up inside and can’t
help but burst forth in spontaneous
praise and thanksgiving proclaiming to
all creation the awesome nature of our
creative, generous and saving God.
Perhaps you’ve experienced this sort of
gratitude that rocks you, heart and soul!
Gratitude Rocks! That’s what we are
celebrating during this year’s stewardship
emphasis. Gratitude rocks us and inspires
us to meet God’s innite generosity
with a generosity of our own expressed
through a commitment that offers to God
our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and
Y’all rock! Even during these uncertain
times, you, the WUMC congregation-
have remained committed in your
service to God in all the ways, and your
nancial commitment has remained
solid, steadfast and strong…sort of rock-
like. Because of you, we are on target
to receive close to 100% of your 2020
pledged giving. Thank you!
We are so inspired by your faithful giving
that this coming year we have a bold goal
of 100% participation in giving by church
members and we are condent we can
achieve that.
It is my hope that, in the following pages,
as you learn of all the ways that God has
continued to create, provide, sustain and
save through Westlake UMC, your heart
and soul will be rocked with gratitude and
inspire you to commit, re-commit, or more
deeply commit to God and God’s mission
and ministry through this local church.
In Christ our Rock,
Pastor Tracey
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be
pleasing to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. ~Psalm 19:14
When 2020 started out none of us could have predicted all
the ways in which we would have to adapt the plans we had
made for well…everything.
I’ll never forget the phone call I had with the current and
incoming Chairpersons of Church Council on Friday, March
13th. That was the conversation that determined that we
would shift to online only worship, you know, “for a few weeks
or so.” By Sunday morning, together with an incredible staff,
we had pivoted to an online worship experience that was
engaging and meaningful. None of us imagined we’d still be
managing a pandemic more than six months later.
Even though none of us knew exactly how long this pandemic
would last, we quickly realized that keeping the community
connected to each other and to God and God’s mission would
be essential to the physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing
of the congregation. Over the past 6 months we have
continued to adapt everything from an ever-evolving, deeply
meaningful online worship experience, to how we connect as
a community through small groups and Sunday school classes,
to how we care for our church members, to fellowship, to how
we connect with and serve the community and world around
us, to how we care for and utilize our facilities. Through it all,
the thing that has made all the difference is our staff.
Our staff rocks! Often, we are almost apologetic about the
fact that such a large portion of our budget goes to support
our staff. I will never apologize for that again. Even as
this pandemic has rocked our lives, our amazing staff has
remained steadfast and it’s made all the difference. The
ways in which they have stepped up, innovated, created,
persevered, learned, trained, and supported one another and
this community have surpassed all I might have dreamed or
imagined. It’s impossible to capture all they have meant to
me and this church in a few short pages but, here goes…
Music and worship ministries have faced particular challenges.
Everything from keeping the various choirs connected and
engaged in meaningful rehearsal across uncooperative
technology, to providing all that a singer or musician might need
to contribute to a recording meant for worship, to synching the
full praise band or choir in carefully crafted videos takes ingenuity.
The creation of weekly worship takes vision, strategy, advanced
planning, heightened technology, patience, perseverance, and
resourcefulness. Thankfully, God has provided all of the above
through our amazing staff, who are lled with (perhaps the most
critical elements) grace and good humor.
Nina Revering, together with Frank Webster and Gus Sterneman,
have provided excellent leadership as they’ve learned, together
with our various choirs and bands, the art and science of producing
powerful musical offerings in a remote setting. Nina has worked
to keep music planning well in advance to allow for the particular
complexities of producing music under these conditions. She
has also worked, together with our very gifted organist, Stephen
Krahn, to make weekly recordings of hymns while providing musical
accompaniments, voice tracks, sheet music and more to equip
adult, youth and children’s choirs to continue to participate in
music ministry. Frank has done much of the same to keep all of our
Foundation praise band members regularly participating, plus he’s
learned how to expertly create and edit imaginative and meaningful
music videos that keep us all singing and tapping our toes! Gus, in
addition to helping with vocal choirs and editing some choir videos,
has continued to help the Bell Choir remain connected and has
successfully produced the rst virtual single handbell choir.
It’s been truly inspiring to experience the creativity of our music
ministries and to continue to enjoy the incredible gifts that all of
our choir members have continued to share.
Curt, Diane, and Megan create, organize, coordinate and
contribute most of the non-music related weekly worship
elements, and Curt shares in preaching. And, trust me, all of it
looks much easier than it is due to the conscientious, professional
and good-spirited ways in which they engage this sacred work.
In addition to planning and producing weekly worship elements
and our monthly Children First worship service, Megan has also
learned and taken on greater responsibility in the area of worship
video editing and production and all 3 of these staff members
now share in the Sunday morning responsibility of streaming the
services at the appropriate times. And, though he is technically
not a staff member but a contractor, we cannot forget Jonathan
Kofahl who leads us all through the entire process and, at the end
of the day, makes us look really good, especially on those weeks
when we (I mean I) submit a million sermon takes hopelessly in
need of extreme editing! ? I can’t imagine the past 6+ months
without his expertise, experience, and generous spirit!
Children’s ministry, led by Megan Getman, spent the spring
and summer innovating ways to keep children engaged in
their faith and faith community through a variety of online,
age-specic groups. In an online setting, what works for a
4th or 5th grader does not work for a toddler! So, a variety of
groups were designed specically with the needs of a variety
of age-ranges that varied in length, frequency and content.
Re-imagined children’s Sunday school was rolled out for the
fall to provide ways to engage children of all ages as they learn
and grow in faith.
Over the summer several events were planned both in-person
and online to bring families together for fellowship and fun. A
drive-thru popsicle party where families parked in every other
parking spot and visited with masks and social distancing had
high participation as well as a living room fort-building contest
that families could enter online. Both events were marked by
laughter and joy!
This fall Megan took our customary 3rd grade Bible presentation
on the road, videotaping several presentations on-location for
celebration in online worship. It was an opportunity for children
to receive Bibles in person and for them and our congregation
to participate in the liturgy and celebration together!
Youth Ministry, led by Diane Kofahl, started a weekly
college-aged meetup on ZOOM that lled a need for
community that these college-aged students had suddenly
lost over spring break! Participants connected from several
different states, forming a community that would not have
happened pre-COVID-19. This meetup helped group
members nd each other during a difcult season and has
provided consistency in a time when things continue to
change at a rapid pace.
We typically celebrate our graduating seniors each year
with a celebratory Sunday morning brunch and slideshow
as well as recognition in worship. This year, graduation
looked very different for our students. In an effort to nd
new and fun ways to celebrate, Youth Council decided to
provide yard signs for every high school graduate! It was
such a joy to surprise each student as Diane installed them
in front yards - each with the graduate’s name proudly
displayed as evidence that their church community “sees”
them, is proud of, and loves them. Each sign also signaled
to the community that Westlake UMC cares about its young
people and celebrates their accomplishments. The signs
were such a hit that it looks like we have started a new
tradition of celebrating our seniors at WUMC!
Thanks to Curt Davis’ leadership, Megan’s Zoom savvy,
and Diane’s hosting expertise, nearly all Adult classes and
groups have transitioned to online meet-ups! They have
done a fantastic job checking in with one another and
tending to each other’s needs while continuing to grow
Our Fall programming includes both pre and post
fellowship opportunities via Zoom that are hosted by Curt
and members of our Welcome committee. It’s a “come and
go” opportunity similar in intent to our customary Coffee
Time in the gym. Feel free to pop in late and leave early to
say hello and greet some familiar and new faces!
In response to a climate calling for cultural and social
change, we launched two online book studies focused on
learning about and dismantling racism. These two studies
have attracted 80 to 90+ registered participants about 1/3 of
which are new to our community. These studies have been
an opportunity for rich and transformative conversation that
is helping us nd ways to meet the painful reality of racism
with thoughtful and concrete action.
There is also a new weekly Bible Study and Brown Bag Lunch
and Mid-Week Morning Prayer offered via Zoom to help
us continue to learn and grow while remaining grounded
spiritually during these unsettling times.
Weekly Youth Meetups have continued to occur through
Zoom and (when public health guidelines allowed) in small,
outdoor, in-person, socially distanced gatherings. Students
have consistently participated, creating a closer community
as they’ve traveled together through an odd time that
included a sudden shift to online school, a summer that
felt simultaneously free of its usual busyness and limited in
possibilities, and adjusting to fall online school.
During the Spring, this year’s conrmation class shifted
to online and nished strong, demonstrating a real
commitment to their faith. They attended all the nal (and
extra) classes online consistently, despite the early hour! It
was a joy and privilege to conrm their faith and receive
them into membership using our now familiar technologies
of Zoom and online worship!
Curt, along with our whole programming leadership
team as well as community partners like Lost Creek Living
Magazine, the Westlake Hills Chamber of Commerce, and
various local businesses, has continued to nd safe and
innovative ways to engage our community.
On May 23, we partnered with our friends at Lost Creek
Living Magazine to lift spirits and bring some joy to our
neighbors in the Lost Creek Neighborhood by hosting a
drive-by/walk-up Breakfast Taco Stand and Diaper Drive.
We gave away 150 breakfast tacos and copious amounts
of coffee and collected almost 2,000 diapers along with
wipes, toys and clothes for an amazing non-prot partner
– Any Baby Can.
On August 29, we again partnered with our friends at Lost
Creek Living Magazine to celebrate our kids going back
to school in the Lost Creek Neighborhood with our Back
to Learning Community Event. Megan and our Children’s
Ministry gave away backpack tags and stickers and we
let people know about our online Children First worship
service. We gave away popsicles and iced coffee and
provided kids with a single-player game called Soccer Darts
where they kick fuzzy soccer balls at 15-foot tall inatable
dart board and try to rack up the highest score. We also
partnered with the Westlake Chamber of Commerce in a
community-wide effort and collected hundreds of dry and
canned food items for the Central Texas Food Bank.
In September, WUMC hosted a Flu-Shot Clinic with CVS
Pharmacy and we will also be an Early Polling and Election
Day Voting site for Travis County beginning October 13th
through November 3rd. Both of these events are wonderful
means to both serve and connect with our community in
ways that are relevant, timely and helpful.
Together with the leadership and faithfulness of
Congregational Care ministry, WUMC has continued to care
for the community by staying connected through phone
calls, emails, text messages, and card writing, providing
meals when helpful, and establishing virtual waiting rooms
for people undergoing surgeries. Though we cannot always
care for people in our usual pre-pandemic ways, the church
has continued to offer love and support people in the midst
of all that life brings. We’ve even had a joyful Facebook
Live wedding and were able to celebrate the life of one
of our beloved members via a Zoom Memorial service.
Both events gathered family and friends from across the
country to connect and participate in these signicant and
necessary rituals.
Our Service Committee has continued to work to inspire
generosity from the congregation in support of our partner
ministries that serve many who are most affected by the
pandemic. There are teams of church members who
continue to work with Mobile Loaves & Fishes, Community
First Village, and Feed My People - to name a few. Our own
Volunteers in Mission have continued to travel regularly
to the Victoria area as the need to rebuild after hurricane
Harvey continues - even as they begin to discern where
to deploy next in response to our most recent hurricanes
and oods. We continue to support Women’s Storybook
Project, Any Baby Can, Kairos Prison Ministry, and our
Border Ministry. Additionally, there were more church
members (along with their friends) who provided resources
for or sewed masks for medical professionals and schools
than I can count – and their work continues!
In our business ofce, Tim Cook has kept our ship steady
by continuing to expertly and professionally manage our
nances while simultaneously assisting many of you as you
shift your giving to online and electronic giving. Tim and
church leadership worked tirelessly to navigate the process
for acquiring funds through the Payroll Protection Program
in order to continue to pay all of our church staff through
the end of August, when the painful decision was made
to furlough the preschool and nursery staff until we return
to these ministries in-person. Shortly after the pandemic
hit, our Church Administrator left to take another job. Tim,
with his customary good-nature, took on many of the ofce
and facilities management responsibilities as we searched
for a replacement. In the meantime, as the preschool was
making the decision to postpone reopening until January,
the Assistant Preschool Director, Gina Hernandez, graciously
agreed to step into the role of Church Administrator until
the preschool reopens or we nd a replacement. She’s
been a God-send, quickly learning responsibilities and
systems and managing processes and vendors to bring
order from the chaos we’d experienced since the position
became vacant.
Our fantastic custodial and maintenance staff, Maria,
Herman, and Rudy Gonzales, have continued to care for
our facilities while learning and implementing heightened
sanitization methods to keep those safe who continue to
work on campus and in preparation for our return to in-
person activities. They have also taken these less busy times
to attend to deferred maintenance including refurbishing
much of the preschool spaces, painting the gym and other
areas of the church, loading in and spreading crushed rock
in our labyrinth as well as all other groundskeeping needs.
We celebrate that before the pandemic hit, Westlake
UMC’s Preschool (WUMP), led by Laura Clemens, renewed
our accreditation as a 4-Star Texas Rising Star program!
The four stars reect that we not only exceed the state’s
minimum standards, but we received top marks in all ve of
the rating categories: Director and Staff Qualications and
Training, Caregiver-Child Interactions, Curriculum, Nutrition
and Indoor/Outdoor Activities, and Parent Education and
In August, WUMP was nominated for Best Preschool by the
Austin American Statesman. We wait in hopeful anticipation
for the nal result and rejoice that we made it to the nal
stage along with only 4 other Austin area preschools.
Through the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 and
related health recommendations, Laura and Assistant
Director, Gina Hernandez with church leadership, have
navigated with wisdom and grace - informed by endless
webinars and consultations with various experts. As we
work toward a safe return to in-person learning, WUMP is
preparing to implement all of the safety protocols while
continuing to provide 4-Star, award-winning learning,
socialization, and faith formation.
As you can see even as COVID-19 has rocked our world,
God, our Rock, has been a rm foundation providing
all that we’ve needed to continue to be the church in
ways that are innovative, creative and relevant. God has
continued to work through our staff and church community
to connect people to God and the Body of Christ, to
learn, grow, worship, and care for and serve one another.
Thanks to the spiritual food and drink received through
our spiritual rock, Jesus Christ, we have remained steady
and steadfast, grounded in a God who continues to care,
protect, and save!
You, as church members, play the most essential role
in keeping our community going and transforming
followers of Christ! During times of uncertainty, it
can be tempting to pull back out of fear. But even in
these unprecedented times, you have continued to
show up time and time again for God and each other -
in ways big and small. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where
your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” You
already have God (and WUMC) in your heart. God
has entrusted you with so many gifts - so please
continue to step out in faith and trust God to return
them tenfold when you share. The more we give of
ourselves to God, the more God gives of God’s self to
us. Give boldly and generously with your whole heart
for God’s glory!
In faith and gratitude,
The Stewardship Committee
1460 Redbud Trail, Austin, TX 78746
Church Office 512.327.1335
Emergency Line 512.710.8650
Make your commitment online at