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About Corners Cornerstone is the bimonthly publication of Covenant Presbyterian Church. Cornerstone provides in-depth articles on the events that take place on and off campus and the people who make them happen. Content includes the Pastor’s letter, Session news, member and staff spotlights, and a calendar of upcoming events. More information on the events can be found online and in Covenant Matters. Download the paper version of Cornerstone online at We hope to update the Cornerstone blog as we receive content at We need you! To make Cornerstone better, we need your help! The content will be more interesting and more fun with more writers. If you have something you want to write about or want us to write, let us know. While we can’t promise that every submitted article will appear in the printed version of Cornerstone, we will publish all appropriate stories on the blog. We also need photos of events. If you have suggestions for how we can make Cornerstone better, email us at or stop by the office in Covenant Hall.




A Letter from Interim Senior Pastor Paul Parsons 4

cornerstone Contributors 13




Senior Activities Day

Community Outreach Through Fun and Games 19

Good Grief

A Look at Walking The Mourner’s Path

Aaron Arnold Contributing Writers

A Very Happy Instrument

An Interview with Choir Member John McFarlane

Stephanie Schultz Design and Layout

Taking the Journey

A Look at Journey Youth Choir with Stacy Curtis

Frederick L. Clement Editor

The Search for Ringers

Do You Have What It Takes to Ring Handbells?

Marv Hackert Business Administrator

Worship in the New World

Interviews with Jerry Wise and Derek Nafe, Covenant’s Contemporary Worship Team

Paul Parsons Clerk of Session

Anticipate Joy

A Preview of Jazz Sunday on February 19 6

Interim Senior Pastor

Dear Friends


Voices of Covenant

Members Talk about Their Experiences at Covenant

Victoria Benningfield, April Kelly, Tela Mange, Lisa sledge


Clerk’s Corner

Session Clerk Marv Hackert’s Update Photography Kay Austin, Beth Bishop, Aaron Arnold


Finance Report, Calendar


DEAR FRIENDS, Recently, I was watching Austin City Limits Live on television. It was a taped show from several years ago, featuring Patti Griffin and Emmy Lou Harris singing a dear, sweet song called Little Fire. The music and words conspired to take me back to my childhood; back to the living room and people gathered around old Appalachian music with sweet harmonies and simple melodies, telling a story about something bigger than my life. They call it “roots music” today, and it transports me.

“Certain songs blend words and music into such a perfect whole that we feel the hope of things being made right again in our world.” 2

Music is like that, isn’t it? I must confess that I am a novice in the world of music, bringing no expertise or particular skill to the subject. But I do know from my personal experience that music has power, wonderful power. It evokes memories

of other times, people and places we have known. The interplay of passion and tempo, instrumentation and intonation, and dynamics and artistry can fashion thoughts and emotions that surprise and delight us. Certain songs blend words and music into such a perfect whole that we feel the hope of things being made right again in our world. All of these blessings attend to those who are Christ-followers and those who are not by the common grace of God that He gives to all of humanity. But some great music can also take us into the Story that is being written by God himself; that is, the Story of redemption and restoration of all creation in and through Christ Jesus. One of the first times I ever experienced this was listening in earnest to Handel’s Messiah in 1977, recognizing the heart and voice of the Hebrew

people, desperately waiting for release from exile, longing for the Messiah to come. I found myself in the midst of that Story, as if I too were one of the people of God in the 500s B.C. This became an encounter point between God and me, in which I came to know that there is only one people of God through the ages, the communion sanctorum, the community of saints; one Church, which includes Abraham and Priscilla, David and Ruth, Rahab and Paul, you and me. Such music is like a poem through which we enter into the Kingdom of God and see the way things really are. Let’s slow down and listen. Let’s ask God for the sensibilities to know when heaven and earth are touching through music. Let’s enter into Lent, especially, with the awareness that God may be preparing to say something, do something,

or show you something you’ve never heard, done or seen before in the music of our faith. That’s where I am hoping to go this season, and I hope you’ll come with me.

with love and care,

Paul Parsons Interim senior pastor


Anticipate Joy 15th Annual Jazz Sunday is February 19

On Feb. 19, at the 9:30 and 11 a.m. traditional worship services, Covenant will hold its 15th Jazz Sunday. The event, which has grown to be one of the church’s best-attended Sundays, initially raised eyebrows, according to Covenant’s Director of Music Tom Brown. “I really like Jazz, and I thought that the music had a place in worship. I’d had success with it in Southern Louisiana, but the worship committee wasn’t sure about the idea when I introduced it about 15 years ago,” Tom said.

Jazz Sunday Logistics A group of Austin’s finest musicians (see The Band) show up at 8 a.m. on Jazz Sunday morning, and see the music for the first time. They are presented with a general structure of the pieces and some written parts, and are expected to heavily improvise.

After promising the committee that the service would not be “gimmicky” or just an excuse for entertainment, Tom, the Sanctuary Choir and a jazz band of accomplished musicians from all over Austin started what would become one of the “really fun days at Covenant.”

“Since the songs are primarily choral, the band does not have a lot of opportunity to stretch out during the service,” Tom said, “but that leads to another part of our tradition, the Jambalaya lunch. Years ago, I gave [Covenant Chef] Mark Toussaint an authentic recipe from Southern Louisiana to make for congregants. He’s modified it some, but follows the basic recipe. The jazz musicians play until about 2 p.m. on the patio and get a chance to show their skills.”

“The joy inherent in jazz music can align wonderfully with the joy expressed as part of Christian faith,” Tom explained. “The blues influence can make much of the music very appropriate for lament. It’s not just exuberant; it can also be reflective and soulful.”

Tom added that some years, our pastors develop a sermon that fits into the joyful theme of Jazz Sunday. Tom himself has worked hard to convert some traditional hymns into a more contemporary jazz style, including Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee and How Great Thou Art, just to


name a couple. He added that some Hispanic hymns work beautifully as bossa novas and Latin jazz styles. Tom has shared some of his arrangements with other church choirs around town, who have kicked off Jazz Sundays based on Covenant’s success. “[Former Pastor] George Claddis once told me one year that Jazz Sunday attendance was exceeded only by Easter,” Tom smiled. “But to be factual, I’m sure we have more people here on Christmas Eve.” Yet one thing is for sure. There is no more eyebrow-raising when Covenant members hear about the Jazz Sunday. Instead, church members rise up in anticipation of a fun, joyous worship service, looking forward to another foot-tapping, hand-clapping celebration.

The Band According to Tom Brown, the musicians have as much fun as the congregation. A cadre of Austin’s finest musicians will again join Covenant for Jazz Sunday on Feb. 19. Mike Mordechai, who plays trombone, leads the Elephant Room’s Monday Night Jazz Band and is owner of Fable Records and BBA Management and Booking; John Mills is one of Austin’s most in-demand saxophonists, arrangers, and composers. He is associate professor of jazz composition and jazz saxophone at the University of Texas ; John Fregman, a UT professor of jazz, string bass, has played with many jazz luminaries. He’s also been on David Letterman and played bass for many television show theme songs and commercial jingles; Steve Summer is a lawyer who plays the drums so well that he has opened for Santana, Spiro Gyra, Chuck Mangione and Smokey Robinson; Bob Meyer, trumpet, is the University of Texas' former jazz program director and owns his own music production company. He has scores of published arrangements.


Worship in the New World


Jerry Wise and Derek Nafe of Covenant’s Contemporary Worship team discuss their love for God and the opportunities He’s provided to share their talents with the world, both near and far. 7

Creating Community through Music Jerry Wise joined the growing Contemporary Worship team in March 2011, bringing his musical talent, strong faith and fun personality with him. Jerry’s talent and faith seemed to bolster the service’s growth, and now the contemporary service is consistently the biggest it has ever been.

eventually landing in Austin as a contracted worship leader for several churches around town. It was at one of these churches, Austin Christian Fellowship, that Jerry met Derek Nafe, the Creative Arts Producer of Covenant’s Contemporary Service. Soon after, Jerry was leading worship services with Covenant.

Long before coming to Covenant, Jerry used his ever-expanding musical talents to lead others in worship. Jerry was born in a family of musicians and grew up in the church. “I’ve been singing all my life,” Jerry said. “But when I got to college, I had an encounter with God that made me realize who I really was.” The encounter led Jerry to pick up a guitar and a three-ring binder filled with worship music, and he has never turned back.

“It’s been awesome,” said Jerry of his experience at Covenant. “I’m really getting to know the regulars at the Contemporary Service, and I feel like we’re starting to build a community.”

After college, Jerry took a job in Brentwood, Tenn., leading youth worship. After finishing his own album, he toured for a few years,

The music varies from Jerry playing his acoustic guitar to full bands performing. “Our music is usually very acoustic,” Jerry said, adding that


Jerry’s music has played a significant part in bringing that community together. “I have a heart to see people connect to God. Music does that for me, and I hope that I can help others find that connection, too.”

“Everyone has their own way of connecting to God, and for me that’s music.” With all that Jerry does throughout the church, it’s clear that music is his calling. “Music resonates a part of me that reading doesn’t. Everyone has their own way of connecting to God, and for me that’s music.” he likes to try to bring a James Taylor sound to the service. When Jerry plays with others, the band can include anything ranging from drums to piano, and sometimes even more exotic instruments like a sax, steel guitar or cello. In addition to the Sunday service, Jerry also plays with other musicians at the church, including Covenant’s Director of Music Tom Brown, the Journey Youth Choir, and several of the youth in student ministries. Jerry leads student ministry in worship on Sundays, accompanied by the musical talents of several of the students. He enjoys working with the students, because it gives him a chance to get to know them and help them develop both as musicians and as Christians.

But Jerry has bigger goals for the Contemporary Service. Jerry’s ultimate goal for the service is that it will begin to form its own community within the church. He would like to create an informal, inviting place for worship that is authentic and relevant to its audience. “I’d like for it to be a place where you can invite your ‘non-church-going’ friends, where you can wear jeans and bring a cup of coffee,” Jerry added. “I really want it to be excellent.” Jerry is thankful to all who have been supportive of him in his role at Covenant. “I couldn’t function without the support of Covenant, and I wouldn’t want to.” With as many blessings as Jerry has brought upon Covenant, he likely won’t ever have to.

Join Jerry in worship on Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. in FE 200, and bring a friend! 9

To Ru

Covenant Contemporary Produ

Covenant’s Creative Arts Producer Derek Nafe recently returned from a life-changing trip to Moscow, Russia. Derek was one of 26 people who traveled to the former Soviet Union to teach Christ followers how to set up and implement successful worship services and how they can more effectively reach Russians with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Coordinated by the International Christian Federation of Musicians (ICFM), Derek’s team consisted of visual, worship, technical and leadership professionals from Austin, Dallas, Nashville and Los Angeles. The team was joined by worship recording artist Tommy Walker, who has traveled internationally and held worship concerts and mercy ministry outreaches in places of great need. According to Derek, ICFM wanted specific people for the trip. Team members needed to be outstanding at their trade, and also be able to effectively 10

teach break-out sessions. A Typical Day The U.S. team put on a fourday conference. Members headed to the site around 7 a.m. to set up for the general sessions that started at 10. They taught master classes from noon to 6 p.m. After a quick meal, the group met for a final general session beginning at 7:30 and lasting until 9. The team would then set up and plan for the next day, which usually lasted past midnight. Derek said one of the most moving conference moments came with brokenness. He explained: “The visual artists built a huge cross made of plywood and the Russian team painted it with vines and branches. During a general session, participants were given three-inch tiles and asked to write something they had done to create disunity in their churches. When the last song was played that night, each participant went to the

stage, broke his or her tile with a hammer and glued the pieces to the cross.” Russian State and Customs “I grew up in the 70s, when we were learning duck and cover in school because we were afraid of an attack from

“I’m looking for the things that really matter to God.” Russia. And there I was, to love them and worship with them and teach them,” Derek said. “It was a mental adjustment, but easier with their attitude about Christ. They are on fire for God!” One conference participant who stuck out for Derek was a young woman, a worship leader who was also a

ussia with Love

ucer Takes Talent to Russia

songwriter. “She was intelligent, gifted and spoke English well. We heard her sing and Tommy Walker asked her to sing during a master class. It was incredible, but her musical talents were pushed aside in Russia. In school, she majored in aviation. She was one of many taught that her gift had no value.” Derek said other examples of Soviet oppression are still prevalent. “People never smiled and kept to themselves. They didn’t talk much in public; they were always quiet. Even in the crowded airport, it was as quiet as a library.” Saying Goodbye When the team departed after 10 days, Derek’s heart was breaking for the people left behind. “I wanted them to know that it’s not the worship that matters, but the One we worship. I’m trying to live every day now with that thought. I’m looking for the things that really matter to God.” 11

Covenant Choirs Hearing the Call to Sing God’s Grace


The Search for ringers If you are able to count and know right from left, you are qualified to start handbells. That’s what Linda Rutherford, director of Covenant’s handbell choirs since 1985, said about the qualifications for joining a handbell group. She took over as director just three years after she tentatively started playing handbells. “I started ringing handbells in 1982 when I was asked, ‘you’re a musician, aren’t you?’ I majored in music and had played in bands and orchestras, and accompanied choral groups, but never played handbells. However, I soon became hooked on playing.”

that anyone who is interested and willing to commit to rehearsal time contact her about being a part of Covenant’s handbells.

Today, Linda is busy with two handbell choirs. Pro Musica, Covenant’s adult choir, practices on Sundays at 5 p.m. Our youth choir, the Resonant Ringers, meets on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. “We had the student group until two years ago when it was cut due to the budget. This year, after the students repeatedly told us they wanted to play, we told that that we would start it up again if we had nine ringers. Eleven students showed up for the first rehearsal!”

Like Linda, many of Covenant’s handbell musicians quickly became hooked on the unique instrument. “Directing this group has been a joy.” Linda said. “The musicians are dedicated, hard working and have really bonded with each other. They are very musical and are able to play some challenging music. Sometimes they think they don’t like a piece, and then it grows on them. When they start giving pieces unusual titles I can tell they like it more than they thought they would.”

Linda is also looking for folks who want to play in a third group, Ring Out, a Covenant handbell choir that has played at retirement and assisted living communities in the past. Linda suggests

If you can count and tell your left from your right, and are interested in finding out more about handbells, contact Linda at 13

Taking the Jour Stacy Curtis Grows Children’s Music Ministry

Stacy Curtis loves everything about her position as Children’s Choir Coordinator and Journey Youth Choir Director. “I thank God every day for bringing me here and using me in this way,” said Stacy. “It blesses me. It’s not a job; it’s my ministry.” Stacy became the program director this past August after working for Covenant as the Assistant to the Musical Director for five years. Following in the footsteps of former directors Alice Sessi and Kay Ross is a tall task, but Stacy said she benefits from their continued involvement in the program. “I am so inspired by Alice and Kay, and am able to learn from them and draw from their experience and expertise. We all have strengths that are completely different and complementary of each other. We make an amazing team!” Stacy, who started directing the first grade choir in 2005, said that it is fun to watch the 14

Stacy Curtis took the Journey Youth Choir out for some caroling fun this past Christmas kids progress, from instilling good habits in pre-schoolers, to seeing them become more independent in grade school, to watching them become leaders in middle and high school. “They come in as little bitty singers and then we see leadership qualities and true musicianship emerge. It’s fun to watch them grow.”

Before working at Covenant, Stacy was a middle school band director and later, worked in human resources. After she had her first child, she took some time off, until her parents, both Covenant members, told her about the opening with Tom Brown in 2005. It wasn’t long before she was recruited to direct the first grade

rney choir. Two years into that gig, she took over choir direction for Journey, the middle and high school choir. She now

“They come in as little bitty singers and then we see leadership qualities and true musicianship emerge.” directs that group, which has doubled in size since she started and has 20 members, and the second and third graders.

time, this is an opportunity to help to create and publicize the bridge between our children’s choirs and Journey. To that end, Stacy credits Tom Brown with growing the multigenerational feel of some services, mixing up our adult choirs with our students. She aims to create more of that and encourage kids to stick with and join choir at any age. “I want to continue to create a greater sense of unity between the children and youth choirs and make the transition seamless. We’ve done a lot to work toward that direction, but much more can be done.”

Covenant’s Gone Social Did you know that Covenant is on Facebook and Twitter? Like us at to check out more pictures, event postings, and last minute updates. Follow us at for upto-the-minute updates on all of Covenant’s communications. Also check out Covenant’s Cornerstone Blog, where you’ll find all of the stories and photos that didn’t make it into the printed Cornerstone at

Superstart! is Super Fun This weekend, many of Covenant’s preteens will be taking off to Dallas for SuperStart!, a two-day conference designed specifically for fifth and sixth graders. Read what Covenant students Atley Brown and Obie Jones had to say about their SuperStart! experiences at

“Next year will be the first year that Journey will have children from the first grade choir that I taught. It’s fun for me to see the progression. At the same 15

A Very Happy Instrument Membership in Covenant’s choirs means much more than singing and performing. John McFarlane, a member since 1976, said the choir gives him a support group, a place of belonging and a way to give back. “The choir is like our big small group,” he said. “It’s people who you know well enough to share your trials and tribulations. It’s comforting to know you have that support.” John said participating in choir is a gift. “I get more out of worship when I’ve learned the music. I offer it as part of what I can give to the worship experience.” John and his wife Suzanne church-shopped for a place with good music and chose Covenant when they moved to Austin in 1976. John’s active participation in Covenant music landed him on the committee that hired Tom Brown, Covenant Director of Music Ministry. “Tom does a wonderful job of selecting a broad variety of music. It’s very eclectic, and at the same time very approachable. It’s not an accident when the words in the music are directly from the Bible verse of that day’s sermon and lend additional meaning to the service.” The choir has added special concerts over the years. “First we had jazz, next gospel, and then 16

John McFarlane (right) singing on a medical mission to Zambia with Aaron Franz added the GraceNotes Christmas concert. It literally takes decades to build the complexity of the programs we have. “There’s the potential to get in a rut with music,” John said. “Jazz and Gospel Sundays take the rut and plow it over. They are a breath of fresh air.” Several of Austin’s top-notch jazz musicians join the choir for Jazz Sunday. “They keep coming back, year after year, with smiles on their faces,” he said. “Part of it is Tom’s arrangements. I think he sorts through several hundred pieces of music every summer and finds things for the choirs. Much of what makes our choirs work so well is Tom’s musicianship.” Find out how John helped launch GraceNotes and more about his musical background at

Senior Activities Day Community Outreach Through Fun and Games

Who would have known that playing bingo or watching a movie could be such an effective way of bringing people closer to God? The committee behind Senior Activities Day seemed to know just that when it started monthly gatherings for seniors to meet and socialize around games, lunch and a movie.

“We wanted to bring seniors together simply for fellowship and fun.”

“Our goal was to get seniors out of their homes to start socializing,” said Committee Chair Martha Bombaugh on the creation of Senior Activities Day. “We wanted to bring seniors together simply for fellowship and fun.” On the first Tuesday of every month, Covenant seniors and friends do just that. Senior Activities Day starts at 10 a.m. with bingo, bridge, dominoes and many board games. Members Don and Joanne Myers set up all of the games and even work as a team to call out bingo numbers. While some might enjoy the excitement of a little friendly competition, others, like A.V. Ootsey, like to challenge themselves by assembling puzzles as part of a team. But for A.V., Senior Activities Day is about more than just a day for fun and games.

A.V. Ootsey (left) assembles a puzzle with Allen Sparks(right) A.V. is not a member of Covenant. He started visiting Covenant about a year ago, when he attended a Christmas worship service and met Covenant member Burton Eubanks. “Burton greeted me as if I was a long-time friend, even though we’d never met before,” A.V. remembered. It was then that A.V. learned about Senior Activities Day, and he’s been attending ever since. To A.V., Senior Activities Day is just one great example 17

CROP Walk Two of the most common New Year’s resolutions are to take better care of ourselves and to do more for others. Wouldn’t it be great to do both of those things at the same time? Achieve both of these goals by participating in the 33rd Annual Austin CROP Hunger Walk on March 3 or 4 at Walter E. Long Park with friends from Covenant. Sue Roberts has participated in the Austin Hunger CROP Walk for more than 20 years. “Church World Services is a very good organization that spends most of the money on feeding people. They use the money as they say they will, and some of the money is spent locally. I think those of us who have so much have an obligation to do something for those around the world that don’t have enough to eat,” Sue said. This year, Covenant will lead two teams one Saturday at 10 a.m. and one Sunday at 2:30 p.m. For more information on how to participate, visit austincrophungerwalk. org or contact Lori MacNeill at 473-0957 or Submitted by Lisa Sledge


of how welcoming and warm Covenant is. While A.V. has always been a follower of Christ, he’d been floating between churches. As he has attended more and more of Covenant’s services, A.V. has really warmed up to the community that exists at Covenant. A.V. now plans to become a member in the coming months, and has already begun attending the Explore Membership class. A.V. is a shining example of how Senior Activities Day can play a significant role in reaching out to the community. But if playing games

isn’t your thing, maybe lunch is. Covenant’s Chef Mark Toussaint prepares wonderful meals for the group. Last month, Mark prepared teriyaki chicken over rice and a green salad. For dessert, seniors had a tasty slice of apple pie. Senior Activities Day concludes with a movie, shown on the big screens in FE 200 at 1 p.m. The movies range from comedies to dramas, old to new. It’s a great chance to once again relax and enjoy the company of others while watching a film.

The next Senior Activities Day is Tuesday, Feb. 7 in FE 200 at 10 a.m. All ages are welcome. Activities are free, donations are accepted for lunch.

Good Grief Walking the Mourner’s Path Helps Comfort Participants

Through Walking the Mourner’s Path, Covenant offers people who have lost loved ones a grief support and recovery group. This spring, the group will meet Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. from March 31 through May 19. According to Carole Johnson, who helped start the program in 2001, Walking the Mourner’s Path helps participants better understand the “roller coaster” of emotions that they experience after losing a loved one. “Everybody’s grief is different. We tell the group to have no expectations of themselves but to understand that whatever they are feeling is okay.” Former class participant Florita Sheppard agrees. “I learned so much about grief by seeing the different ways it was exhibited by different people. It wasn’t as obvious as it seems,” she said. Carole explained that when she experienced loss, she anticipated that every day

things would get a little better. “That’s the farthest thing from the truth,” she said. “Grief comes in waves; it’s very unpredictable.” Wendell Bell, who attended the class in 2008 after his mother’s death, said, “Walking the Mourner’s Path is a great ministry where people help each other find spiritual comfort. We enjoy sharing fond memories without dwelling on the sense of loss or sadness.” Starting the Walk Covenant started Walking the Mourner’s Path when Jim Singleton suggested that grief support was a missing piece for the congregation. He received a newsletter from First Presbyterian in Orlando, Fla., about Walking the Mourner’s Path, which was started in the Episcopalian church. He recommended Covenant try the program to then-Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care, Tammy Brown. Not long after, Carole, her husband Morris

and Sally Rowe attended training in Florida. Leaders at the facilitator training shared information on how to run the 90-minute meetings, topics to cover and strategies for comforting the group. The group also had their own WTMP class to see the ideas in action. Though the meetings have changed some, today’s WTMP participants are invited to share their stories, if they wish to do so. They receive a workbook and have homework assignments each week. “We are different than some secular groups that I had experienced because we talk about the hope that is offered by the Resurrection,” Carole said. “I personally believe that we are going to see our loved ones again, and I believe that Jesus made that possible. When you can think in those terms, it’s comforting.” The next Walking the Mourner’s Path class begins March 31. 19

This Lenten Season

What does Lent mean to you? Email us at and we’ll publish it in the next edition of Cornerstone!

Lent is just around the corner for Covenant, and members and visitors can look forward to Holy Week Services, Easter Sunday and more. But what does Lent really mean in a Christian life? While historians are unsure of when Lent actually started, many believe it began sometime around the second century B.C. as a time for converts to prepare for their baptism. New Christians would use the time for penitence for their former life, but because of its establishment in the church, Lent started to show all Christians how to become aware of their own imperfections. Lent quickly became a time for Christians to recognize their own shortcomings and to be sorrowful for their sins as they recognize that Jesus was and is the only way for them to overcome their sinful ways. In The Mennonite, a monthly magazine published by the Mennonite Church USA, Marlene Kropf wrote, “In the daily round of life, dust and cobwebs accumulate in our souls. The hidden corners of our hearts become encrusted with grime or filled with forgotten debris. During the weeks of Lent, God’s Spirit is given opportunity to clear away the clutter, sweep away the dust and wash us clean. We are invited to prepare ourselves heart, soul, mind and body for the new life of Easter.” 20

Covenant views Lent as an important time in the cycle of the Christian seasons for some of the very same reasons that Kropf mentioned. As a Christian, it is important to take stock of your frailty and infirmity and raise this up to God for redemption. In some denominations, this is symbolically done through either denying oneself of an otherwise common practice or by adding an act of sacrificial service to your daily schedule. Covenant does not focus on these practices, but instead asks its members to use this time to remember the sacrifice that God made and what it means in their daily lives. To help the congregation move through this important time, the church will hold several special services throughout the Lenten season, beginning on Ash Wednesday with services at noon and in the evening. During Holy Week, Covenant will offer services daily beginning on Palm Sunday and ending on the evening of Good Friday. We will offer several services on Easter Sunday. So when you’re celebrating the season this year, take time to reflect on just how blessed you are to have such a forgiving Father.

The Teen Years Do you ever feel like you are talking to a wall, when in fact, you are “communicating” with your teen-age child? AGAPE (Adventures Growing as Parents Extraordinaire) provides a forum for parents and grandparents of middle and high school students to explore the issues that teens and families experience. AGAPE was started 10 years ago by former minister Dan Cravey and Kay Sockol. Kay, a school counselor and parent educator, was thrilled when Dan announced the class and eagerly signed on to help. More than 30 parents attended the first meeting, excited to find out more about connecting with their kids. “Parenting in a Christ-like way is so demanding, but it is such a joy,” Kay said. “We tell participants that parenting is a ministry. A lot of times no one has said that before, and it’s a new and

different concept. It doesn’t mean that I won’t make mistakes. It does mean that I can be redeemed. If I recognize the forgiveness that Christ offers as a gift to me, why can’t I offer that as a gift to my child when a mistake is made? “We try to help parents understand the changes happening in their child’s brain growth and function. We talk about the ways that the teens perceive themselves within their family and their peer group, and how these influences are connected with growing spirituality,” Kay said. “We get parents to think about how they can connect with their kids, perhaps in a different way.” Maggie Tate is currently a class leader with Kim NugentAnderson. Maggie says the class has provided much information she uses with her two teenagers. In particular, Maggie found the social media presentation of Chris Jones

AGAPE meets Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. in FE 107. If you have questions, contact Maggie Tate at or 266-2519.

quite valuable. In the fall, Jones provided information on the different types of social media and discussed how parents can be involved. Maggie said that Mark Regnerus offers some of the most interesting lectures. In his research as a University of Texas professor, Regnerus studies the sexual behavior of young adults, and has provided some eye-opening information on how many of our children are not learning how to be in relationships. During February, AGAPE will offer the following classes: • Feb 5-12: Megan Poore will talk about equipping our kids to make good financial decisions • Feb. 19-26: Chris Jones will lead the discussion on Social Media, Teens and Security


Voices of Cove The Miracle of DNOW

The weekend of Jan. 13-15 was not typical for students at Covenant. It was an opportunity to be with friends and leaders, play games, visit fun places and learn about Jesus. This weekend was DNow 2012. Being an eighth grade girl, I was excited to hang out with friends, get a break from parents and participate in games like Murder in the Dark. I did not expect how much I would get from our theme: bringing hope to the hopeless. During the weekend, students stay at different members’ houses. At the seventh and eighth grade house, we woke to a delicious breakfast. Then for 30 minutes, we sat by ourselves doing activities from our booklet and praying. In our morning devotion, we discussed Ephesians 3:14-21; how we can help give hope to the hopeless. Saturday afternoon we planned to go to Jumpstreet, an indoor trampoline park. However, our scheduled bus 22

couldn’t pick us up. While the leaders were working out the transportation, a student got on the piano, another on the guitar and the rest around the piano and we all starting singing worship songs. One of the leaders said later, “Seeing all of you just worshipping because you can made us leaders stop and think about why we were stressing so much.” At Jumpstreet, we had a blast bouncing with leaders and seeing the Director of Student Ministries William Leonhardt attempt to do flips. Back at our house, we had a delightful dinner and, during evening devotion, we talked about how God has blessed us with so much

that we should go out, worship Him and share his love. The theme was “Be a miracle. Love God. Love People.” That was very meaningful because it can be hard to love people who criticize or insult you. Later, we played two games that are DNow traditions. In Murder in the Dark, the whole house is dark and a few people are “killers.” The “killers” try to kill the townspeople, and the townspeople try to find out who the “killers” are. In Cross the Line, leaders say “Cross the line if you...” If how they finish the sentence applies to you, you cross a line on the floor.

enant One of my favorite moments was Saturday night. Seventh and eighth graders were packed into one small room with our leader who wasn’t feeling well. We all made sure she was okay and didn’t need anything. I thought it was cool that we took care of our leader. Some memorable things for other people were hanging out with friends, toilet papering the student ministries room, the good devotions and fun leaders.

True Beauty Defined at Youth Sleepover

Spending time with students is my favorite part of working in Student Ministry. I feel most alive when I am talking, joking and laughing with students. In December, our fabulous female leaders and I planned two overnighters that gave me the opportunity to do just that.

The high school ladies took over the fourth floor of FEB on Dec. 3; the middle school girls followed the next weekend. Sarah Crawley said, “It was fun Both Friday nights were filled being the killer in Murder in with little sleep and lots of the Dark.” laughter. Highlights included a Café Monet field trip, wacky McKenzie Green’s favorite makeovers, friendship braceparts were “hanging out in our lets, junk food eating and room and not having my phone movie watching. The ladies on all weekend.” also showed off their musical talents through karaoke! Obie Jones liked “cross the line, showing fellowship in While enjoying ice cream public, rock climbing and alsundaes, the middle school most getting sick.” girls talked about beauty, a common topic for today’s Submitted by Victoria young women. A video, Dove Benningfield Evolution, shows a model

transform. Hair and makeup is done; computers are used to elongate her neck and enlarge her eyes; and more. The video reinforced that we compare ourselves to unrealistic images. The beauty we should be cultivating, the beauty that honors Christ, exists within. To build on this discussion, we made a collage that depicted what beauty truly is and what makes our lives beautiful. I saw pictures of smiling children, happy families and adorable animals. I also saw words that emphasized dreams, attitude, happiness and friends. It was powerful to see the things that our young women find important and beautiful about themselves and their lives. I cannot think of a more beautiful way to spend two weekends than by sharing fellowship with some of my favorite ladies in the world! Submitted by April Kelly


We Were Loved I received a beautiful gift last year from my husband Bill: a mission trip for two. Our daughter Rigney and I went to Havana, Cuba, as part of Covenant’s partnership with our sister church, Luyanó Presbyterian Reformed Church. Rigney and I left from Austin on Oct. 31, 2011, with nine other people destined to be our friends for life. Many of us didn’t speak Spanish; most of us had never been to Cuba. Most of us had never even met before planning the trip. When we walked out of the Havana airport, we were greeted like rock stars. Several Luyanó church members were waiting for us. They cheered and waved their hands when they saw us. Later, when we arrived at the church, we again met people delighted to see us, even though we’d never met before. Ever wonder what unconditional love actually looks and feels like? Go to Cuba as soon as you can. From the moment we stepped out of the airport and onto the Luyanó church bus, we were loved. 24

It didn’t matter who we were. It didn’t matter what we did for a living. It didn’t matter how much money we had. It didn’t matter if our families were annoyed with us. It didn’t matter that we didn’t speak Spanish. It didn’t matter if we were young or old. It didn’t matter that we were confirmed members of the “Frozen Chosen” who couldn’t dance particularly well or maybe even clap in rhythm. We. Were. Loved. That’s an overwhelming sensation; it took the whole week to absorb and actually understand. Our brothers and sisters at Luyanó love Jesus, and they know we love Jesus and that was enough for them to love us too, no matter what! This was the biggest gift I brought back from Cuba: seeing

Christ’s love in action and written on the faces of folks who have experienced many struggles and still love God unconditionally. We were frequently asked upon our return, “What did you do when you were there? Did you build houses? Did you provide medical assistance?” We didn’t build or fix things, but we did bring medications and monetary donations to help sustain our Cuban brothers and sisters. We also brought hope—and love—to the Luyanó community. We were tangible evidence that, 1,100 miles away, people pray for them, think about them, love them.

If God calls you, you don’t have an excuse to not go! Our brothers and sisters in Cuba continue to need our help. While we were in Havana, many Cubans talked about the future of Cuba after Castro’s death and how frightened they are. Change is scary, but when changes could impact how you feed and support your family, it can be terrifying. We must continue to show our Christian brothers and sisters in Cuba that they are not alone; they are valued members of our Covenant family. If you have been thinking about traveling to Cuba and have lots of excuses why you can’t go, Rigney’s words may convince you to make the trip: “Because of the relationships between our two governments, it would be easy to think that making a trip to Cuba would be difficult. Because Covenant has been making the trip for 15 years, everything Is taken care

of. If God calls you, you don’t have an excuse to not go! “Even if you don’t speak Spanish, even if you don’t know anything about Cuba, even if you’re worried about being in a new country; all that will melt away as soon as you arrive. The people do not know you, but they have loved you since the moment our partnership started. They are ready and willing to do whatever they can for you.” I think I speak on behalf of all 150 Covenant members who have traveled to Cuba when I say that God is doing amazing things in Cuba. We have been privileged to be witnesses to that, and we have been privileged to experience it. If you want to know more about the Cuba mission in October 2012, contact Jack Kern at or visit

MOVIN’ And Groovin’ Needs your help

Movin’ and Groovin’ is the Covenant mission that provides basic furniture needs for families exiting homelessness through the Interfaith Hospitality Network. We accept donations of gently used beds, dressers, dining tables, sofas, loveseats, chairs, coffee tables, end tables, night stands, etc. Because a large number of families have emerged over the past month, our inventory has dwindled. To donate, please contact Paul Mowry at 795-9371. We offer pickup of those items too large to fit inside a vehicle.

Submitted by Tela Mange


Clerk’s Corner A lot is happening around Covenant. Our worship attendance is up, our stewardship pledge statistics are up, our building debt is down, and there is an upbeat mood on campus about how Covenant is moving forward. We have much to be thankful for. 2011 Reflections Many attended the Service of Wholeness and Reconciliation on Dec. 4 and were blessed with a powerful, emotional service dedicated to asking for God’s forgiveness and release from our past sins. Before the service, Rev. Paul Parsons suggested that Session invite those named as wronged during our Town Hall meetings. Many of the 20 individuals invited did attend the service. James Lee 26

shared a “Join in the Dance” picture as a visual marker of the Healing and Reconciliation Service. Afterward, Rev. Paul said he felt the service will stand as a “marker” in the life of Covenant; he believed it was “a Holy Spirit-initiated encounter”’ and he “sat in wonderment through the event, recognizing how life in the Kingdom of God is first and foremost meant to be in community working together.” Budget Update Covenant’s 2012 stewardship campaign is going well. Twelve weeks into the campaign (Jan. 12), we have received 416 pledges for a pledge total of nearly $2 million. Our average pledge is $4,781, which is 11 percent more than the average pledge at the same time last

year. If you haven’t pledged yet, please give prayerful consideration for doing so. Based on a total revenue projection from the Finance Committee, Session approved a projected balanced 2012 operating budget of $2.97 million. The budget is similar to last year with two notable exceptions: a 14 percent increase in the budget for Missions and a two percent across-theboard cost-of-living adjustment for all staff employed one year or longer. The Fellowship and Education Building (FEB) continues to be both a source of great pride and anxiety. It is a wonderful resource for many programs and activities, but it carries a large debt making interest expense a substantial portion of

our total budget. I am pleased to report that we reduced the debt by nearly $800,000 during 2011, ending the year at $8.15 million. While we still have pledges outstanding, we need to decrease the debt to $7.3 million by August. At that time, all the funding must be converted to permanent financing.

a vision to guide us in the near future. Early in 2012, we expect to respond to Amendment 10A, elect a Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC), and complete Mission Study and a Church Information Form, which are needed to begin the senior pastor search.

Pastor Nominating Committee

Session approved a committee to write bylaws and other necessary materials in response to the passage of the new Form of Government (nFoG). This committee (Fred Clement, Joy Durrant, Marv Hackert, Tom Sedberry and Judith Thorburn) drafted a set of bylaws. Session is reviewing the draft and will share it with members in early February. The congregation will review the bylaws and pass comments to the clerk. Session will then approve a final draft of the bylaws, which the congregation will vote on at the next congregational meeting on Feb. 26, the first Sunday of Lent. At this meeting, you will review the Annual Report, vote on bylaws, elect officers for the new classes of elders and deacons, and elect the at-large members of the next Congregational Nominating Committee (CNC).

Many people have asked about the status of our pastor search. A Session committee comprised of Jeff Horn, Laura Tuma and Clark Weatherby was charged to take the information you provided at Town Hall meetings to write a Covenant identity statement. Session will use this to create

“Early in 2012, we expect to respond to Amendment 10-A and elect a Pastor Nominating Committee.”


Finally, Session authorized moving forward on a selffunded columbarium project to be located under the stairs in the first floor courtyard of FEB. We will make 84 niches available; each niche can hold up to two sets of interred cremains. Further details will be coming soon. Part of our identity statement reads: “Covenant is firmly rooted in Austin, a city that celebrates diversity while refusing to be torn apart by differences. We are a uniquely Austin church, and we stand united around Christ in the midst of the division in our denomination.” There is much activity at Covenant Presbyterian Church, and we can all look forward to what God has in mind for us and this church in 2012.

Yours in Christ,

Marv Hackert Clerk of Session


FINAnce REPORT FOR THE Fiscal ENDed December 31 2011 Budgeted Revenues

Annual Budget Budget YTD

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Did you know? Your Contributions to Covenant can be facilitated electronically through Covenant’s eStewardship program via electronic funds transfers; pre-authorized recurring or one-time ACH transactions; or credit card payment. Visit or call Maria Tostado at 334-3001 for more information.


calendar Senior Activities Day

Hallelujah! It’s a Hoedown

Feb. 7 at 10 a.m. in FE 200

Covenant’s Hallelujah Hoedown is Feb. 11 in FE 200. The evening starts with country-western dance lessons at 6:30 p.m., with the hoedown at 7:30. Covenant’s John Harrison and Jesse White and their band, Sons of the Salt Fork, will provide the music. “Anybody and everybody is invited,” said Fellowship Committee Chair Barbara Rogers. Hoedown-ers are asked to bring an appetizer. Water and lemonade will be provided. For information, contact Barbara at

Coffee with the Pastor

Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. in FE 100 Hallelujah Hoedown

Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in FE 200 Come early for county-western dance lessons at 6:30 p.m. Jazz Sunday

Feb. 19 at 9:30 and 11 a.m. traditional services Followed by a Jambalaya Lunch on the patio VISIONS Luncheon

Feb. 21 at 11:45 a.m. in FE 200 Ash Wednesday

Read more about Lent at 30-Hour Prayer Vigil

Feb. 24 at 7 a.m. to Feb. 25 at 1 p.m. in the Sanctuary Contact Kay Austin at to sign up for a time slot Sweet Home Covenant: Preschool Spring Fundraiser

Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. at the Cedar Door Purchase tickets in the preschool office AGAPE – Chris Jones Discusses Social Media for Teens

Feb. 19 and 26, at 9:30 a.m. in FE 107 Visit for more details Austin Hunger CROP Walk

March 3 and 4 Visit for more details

Kitchen Table Talks in April

Lamplighters Women’s Bible Study presents Kitchen Table Talks, a series of informal gatherings designed to encourage women in the midst of crazy, busy lives. The first talk, “Hope for the Weary Mom”, will be Saturday, April 14, at 9:30 a.m. in FE 200. Brooke McGlothlin and Stacey Thacker, authors, speakers and mothers, will share how God meets us in our daily, messy lives. The event is open to the public. Registration begins in March. For more information, contact Kristin Schell at


3003 Northland Drive Austin, TX 78757

Officers AND STAFF of Covenant Presbyterian Church DEACONS Class of 2012 Lynn Adams Paul Askenasy James Bennett Jaco Botes Judy Cooley Beth Dudenhefer Doak Embrey Ty Embrey Elliot Flick Pansy Flick Laura Hargrave Doug Hartman Karen Horn Paulette Kern Marsha LeGrand Lou Ann Looney Brenda Mendiola Wendy Nesmith Bob Peterson John Sedberry Alice Sessi Frank Sheppard Nancy Spencer Lorrie Terrell Joey Wells Sharyn Westmoreland Sandy Youman Larry Zatopek

ELDERS CLASS OF 2013 Breece Adams Ursula Alley Mike Austin June Beck Nancy Bissell Deatra Boese Jane Crowe Peggy Cuevas Kay Davenport Bonnie Hartmann Fred Hartmann Abby Hemphill Susan Hutchison Tammy Linn Steve Martens Ken Moore Sarah Ott Ryan Palm LaTrelle Peterson Megan Poore Charles Ridings Jim Robinson Jim Rumbo Nancy Rumbo Lynn Smith Shannon Windham Amanda Yates

CLASS OF 2014 Marilyn Adams Matt Bair Donna Barksdale Lynn Bell Steve Bissell Julie Bou Allen Carmichael Lynda Chapman Jay Corder Cara Cotham Jim Foster Jacquez “Joc” Gaines Bretna Hackert Elizabeth Hilton Barbara Knisely Bill Mange Lacy Ruwwe Carol Sheppard Lisa Sledge Sharon Smith Tom Smith Brent Stover Diane Swanson Beth Voorhees

Class of 2012 Brynn Anderson John Blitch Marv Hackert Maggie Tate Trey Thompson

CLASS OF 2013 Christy Green Tom Hutchison JoAnne McIntosh Joe Muck Tom Sunstrom

CLASS OF 2014 Joy Durrant Jeff Horn Jan Skaggs Laura Tuma Clark Weatherby

FOUNDATION TRUSTEES Class of 2012 Kristin Alexander David Ferguson Mary Teeple

CLASS OF 2013 Doug Hartman Bruce Pollock Tana Taylor

CLASS OF 2014 Dianne Erlewine

PROGRAM STAFF Paul Parsons, Interim Senior Pastor Beth Bishop, Director of Lay Ministries Thomas W. Brown, Director of Music Ministry Frederick L. Clement, Director of Administration William Leonhardt, Director of Student Ministries Tom Mitchell, Associate Pastor for Discipleship John Schmidt, Organist Stephanie Schultz, Director of Communications Jill Williams, Associate Pastor for Congregational Care Ministries Gayla Zachry, Director of Children’s and Preteen Ministries