Austin New Church (ANC), a congregation in the process of becoming part of the Rio Texas Conference, celebrated their first Sunday worship service in their new location this week. ANC is now gathering on the former Faith UMC campus in South Austin.
While this was ANC's first Sunday service on the new campus, they previously celebrated Christmas Eve a day early at Faith UMC on December 23. The church began renovation on the sanctuary in early January to be ready for this Sunday's worship.
The freshly updated sanctuary welcomed a large crowd. "The seats are full," said Rev. Laura Merrill, Assistant to the Bishop of Rio Texas. "Youth even claimed the balcony—some things never change!"
She was excited by the energy in the room. "The Spirit of the Lord of Life is loose in this place!" she said.
Faith UMC Lay Leader Chuck McClenon was asked to share words, and he extended to the congregation a warm welcome to the location:
"On behalf of the people who have worshipped here for the past many years, the congregation of the former Faith United Methodist Church, I say 'Welcome!'" said McClenon.
Capital District Superintendent Rev. Teresa Welborn was active in the process of ANC moving into Faith UMC's facility. She welcomed the congregation at the beginning of the service.
"On behalf of the United Methodist Church, it is my great honor to welcome you to the family."
"Long before I was ever in the role that I am now, leaders in The United Methodist Church have been wondering about and praying about this specific place, because we believe that this is an area that's ripe and ready for amazing things to be done," said Welborn. "We know that God hasn't given up on 78704 here in the heart of Austin. In fact, we believe that God is very much at work already in this place that is buzzing with life and we are thrilled about a vibrant faith community that's ready and eager to join what God is already up to in this area."
ANC Pastor Jason Morriss took time during the service to welcome those who previously worshiped at Faith UMC. He acknowledged the mixed emotions experienced by Faith UMC members:
"There is pain and loss that is involved in this chapter [of this church’s life]," said Morriss, "but many of you have been praying for us." He recognized those who served in leadership capacity at Faith UMC will continue to lead in ministry with ANC.
Morriss also encouraged Preschool Director Jill Varnell: "Jill, you are on our team! We are going to count on you. We are going to join you. We are going to lock arms with you.”
He also recognized the leaders of Faith UMC’s Alcoholics Anonymous ministry, known as the the largest in city. Others recognized included the church’s respite care ministry for caregivers of those living with Alzheimer’s.
“What I want you to see is every one of these things are exactly the kinds of things that ANC would be about. We have inherited an amazing team,” said Morriss.
Pastor Morriss expressed excitement with becoming a part of the United Methodist Church. “What a team, what a family, what an amazing place to be.