Baptist Church

Photo Credit: Chris Foxx | Daily Texan Staff

Though many students will head home for Easter weekend, churches near campus are busy preparing for those who decide to stay.

“[Easter] is usually the most highly-attended worship service of the year,” said Robert Carter, communication director of University Baptist Church.

Many churches participate in Triduum, the three days leading up to Easter. On Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday, people typically wash each other’s feet and remember Jesus’ message of servitude. Good Friday recognizes Christ’s death, and the Great Vigil on Saturday recognizes the power of Christ.

Carter said University Baptist is participating in the first two days of Triduum and offering an Easter service Sunday. On Sunday, the church will have several events, including breakfast with the deacons, a traditional Easter egg hunt for children and worship service with performances by a youth choir.

Chris Foxx | Daily Texan Staff

John Leedy, associate pastor at University Presbyterian, said this is the second year the church will hold three-day services.

“We have received a lot of interest because people use the services to reflect on issues that our culture does not always discuss,” Leedy said. “Students, whether they are middle school, high school or college age are beginning to address the issue of life and death. These days create a safe place for them to experience these things they may be questioning.”

Chris Foxx | Daily Texan Staff

Amelia Fulbright, associate pastor with the Labyrinth Progressive Student Ministry, said the ministry will hold an older practice of worship called Tenebrae on Friday. Labyrinth is a congregation student group associated with the University Baptist, University Christian Church, First Austin and the Congregational Church of Austin.

“Tenebrae is Latin for meaning ‘darkness,’” Fulbright said. “Tenebrae reminds us of the darkness surrounding the crucifixion of Christ — the physical darkness described by the gospels and the spiritual darkness which made the cross necessary.”

During the service, candles are extinguished, and the sanctuary is darkened to remember the final hours of Jesus’ life and the reality of his death. The service will end in silence, but the celebration will continue Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, Fulbright said.

Kevin Bryant, a student section leader for the University Methodist choir, said he learned a lot from attending his first Maundy Thursday services.

“Growing up Methodist, I have never been to Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services,” Bryant said. “I definitely [want to go] next year and see if I have the same experience.”

Daniel Wei, Philippa Maples, and Sara Asberry are members of Labyrinth, a student-run Christian group that meets weekly to meditate. Students walk along the multicolored labyrinth to help ease their worries and anxieties.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

When Amelia Fulbright started working as an associate pastor at University Baptist Church in Austin, she discovered that students were searching for a more inclusive ministry. 

In turn, she formed the Labyrinth Progressive Student Ministry in August 2013. Labyrinth is a student-run Christian group that meets weekly at University Christian Church to meditate and explore spirituality.

“I thought it was really important to have a louder voice on campus that says, ‘That’s not the only way to be Christian,’” Fulbright said. “We believe in God and try to follow the teachings of Christ, but we actually believe that Jesus was all about liberating people from various forms of oppression.”

Labyrinth worshipped and worked with members of Jewish and Muslim student groups on campus in its first year. This year, the group plans to collaborate with Texas Secular Humanists, a nonreligious student group.

“We’re really LGBTQ-friendly — that’s one of our big things,” Fulbright said. “And we are Christian, so we’re coming from that perspective. Interfaith dialog is also really important to us.”

Labyrinth offers weekly meditation, which isn’t necessarily religious. Each week, the group tries different meditation techniques, allowing members to relate to their personal beliefs.

“When we use the image of the mountain, that’s usually something you can find across religious traditions,” Fulbright said. “And you can make it Christian, or, if you’re not particularly religious, you can just think about a mountain. I try to structure it so that you have a lot of options and that you trust your subconscious to find the image or the phrase that you really need the most.”

According to English sophomore Sara Asberry, vice president of Labyrinth, she uses this time to de-stress rather than to pray.

“It’s kind of different, person to person,” Asberry said. “A lot of people take it as a time to explore their faith and try to center themselves, but I just use it to take a break for the week.”

During the meditation sessions, students can walk along the group’s rainbow-colored labyrinth. According to Fulbright, they symbolically take all their worries and anxieties with them to the center, leaving them there, and journey out into their lives less burdened.

“In a labyrinth, there’s only one path, as opposed to a maze where you can get lost and you have to figure out the right way to go,” Fulbright said. “And, spiritually, the significance of that is, even when you feel like your life is twisting and turning, [if] you just keep going forward you’ll get to the right place in the end.”

For that reason, the group decided to name itself Labyrinth. Many of its members are able to explore their faith through meditation sessions, discussions and activities that help them navigate their own “labyrinths.”

“We felt like [the labyrinth] was a good metaphor, particularly for students,” Fulbright said. “When you’re asking questions and exploring different directions, it’s comforting to know that even when you feel lost, you’re not.”

Sarah Wildt, a student at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, joined the group when it was formed and decided to become more involved this year. Beginning this fall as an intern, she plans to organize activities and guide discussions with students.

“For me, Labyrinth is everything I believe in an organization,” Wildt said. “Labyrinth is literally the epitome of what I believe in, and I never really saw myself that interested in college ministry before, but being here and taking on this role is because I’m so passionate about what we stand for.”

International relations senior Will Davies dances in front of Westboro Baptist Church members as he and fellow opponents of the hate group surrounded them at the corner of Dean Keeton and Red River streets on Wednesday morning. Davies and other community members held a rally in oppoisition to the Westboro Baptist Church’s visit to Austin.

Photo Credit: Guillermo Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Westboro Baptist Church members, who had planned a picket protest on campus, were met with student counter protesters on the edge of campus and at the Capitol Wednesday.

The group, which originally planned to picket on campus at the Frank Erwin Center, protested at the intersection of Red River and Dean Keaton streets, on city property adjacent to the University. In a statement on Tuesday, UTPD said protesters who are not affiliated with the University are not allowed to protest on campus.

Westboro Baptist Church Counter-Protest from The Daily Texan on Vimeo.

Before coming to the center, the Westboro Baptist Church was at the Capitol. Later in the morning, they went to Camp Mabry.

Westboro calls these gathering “religious protests and warnings,” according to their website. Westboro is an unaffiliated Baptist church based in Topeka, Kan. known for targeting the LGBTQ community and protesting during military funerals.

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said the group protested with signs and music until a larger crowd of people arrived. Austin Police Department and UTPD assisted with traffic issues during the event and the protest ended without any arrests.

While near campus and at the Capitol, the protestors stood alongside counter protesters opposing the anti-LGBTQ message and the church’s presence. The various counter-protesters included UT students who gathered after opposition to the Westboro visit spread via social media.

Update: This article has been updated to include a video from The Daily Texan's multimedia department.

The Morning Texan: Westboro Baptist Church, regent controversy and more

Today's temperature is dropping slighty to 93 degrees as a few clouds roll in. There is even a twenty percent chance of thunderstorms today and tonight, according to the National Weather Service.

This is the last day an undergraduate student may add a first-term, nine-week or whole-session class, and the tuition payment for any added classes is due today at 5 p.m.

Here is some morning reading:

Yesterday's most read article online: The Westboro Baptist Church might be coming to Austin to protest. They have a planned stop on the University's campus, but according to UTPD, they will not be allowed to protest on campus since they are not a university group. 

In case you missed it: UT has posted details on the requirements for UT's first Dell Medical School Dean. In a 21-page document, the University has outlined the qualifications and expectations of the dean. 

What you have to read: Yesterday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced he was adding abortion to the special session

What we missed, but you should still read (The Texas Tribune): Following continued open records requests by the UT System Board of Regents, two UT System regents have lashed out against Regent Wallace Hall, calling his actions "an abuse of power." What has resulted has been continued arguing among several members of the board.

Westboro Baptist Church not to be allowed on UT's campus tomorrow, UTPD says

If the Westboro Baptist Church arrives in Austin tomorrow, they will not be allowed to protest on UT’s campus.

The Church’s current agenda shows it intends to pickett and protest Wednesday morning at the Texas Capitol, the University campus and the Camp Mabry Texas National Guard base. Listed as a hate-group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Westboro is an unaffiliated Baptist church from Topeka, Kan. that has gained notoriety over the last decade for protesting at military funerals, engaging in anti-semitic protests and aiding actions against gay, lesbian, transgender and queer people. 

The church has a reputation for not arriving at scheduled picketing protests, however, and may not appear. 

Cindy Posey, spokeswoman for UTPD, said it was within UT policy to prevent Westboro from entering campus.

“Only UT Austin students, faculty and staff are permitted to hold events on campus,” Posey said. “Consistent with our policy, UTPD will not allow external organizations, including [Westboro], to protest on campus. This policy is consistent with the reasonable time, place and manner requirements of the U.S. Constitution."

Journalism senior Cody Permenter, who started one of several Facebook groups for counter-protests when Westboro arrives in Austin, is helping to put together a counter-protest at the Texas Capitol. 

“The intent of the protest is to get people who feel they have been targeted by this hate group a chance to go out there and express their feelings in a manner of love, compassion and peace,” Permenter said. “The reason for this rally is to shine some light into the darkness of their hate.”

Permenter said he believes Westboro still has a right to free speech, however, and said he hopes students avoid confronting or getting too close to the church members. 

WEST — John Crowder stood on the gray concrete slab where his house once was, pointing out one spot after another. There was the garage where an overflow of guests would eat their Christmas dinner. There was the dining room where he ate meals with his wife and college-bound daughter.

There was the chair where he would have been sitting, had he been home the night of the fertilizer plant explosion that ruined his home and many others in West.

"All the memories come back to mind. You think about the good times you had there," said Crowder, who watched the house come down last week. "That was hard. But that's an important step. That's the only way to move forward."

The slabs popping up across town are one sign that the effort to rebuild West has just begun, almost two months after an explosion that killed 15, injured 200 and forever changed life here. Town officials and many lifelong residents desperately want to keep people from moving away, but they face many obstacles: rebuilding schools and water lines, helping residents who in some cases are short tens of thousands of dollars and reassuring residents that their once-tranquil streets will be safe again.

Many displaced residents promise they will try to come back, saying they missed West's quiet streets and friendly neighbors. Even by the standards of a small Texas town, roots run deep in a community where many of the last names, street names and bakeries serving kolache pastries still recall West's Czech origins.

But there's still no running drinkable water in the area closest to West Fertilizer Co., now a 93-foot-wide crater where investigators could not figure out what caused the blast. The school district hopes to put older students this fall in portable buildings on the lot where part of the middle school once stood. And it's unclear where many people, particularly residents of an assisted-living center partially caved in after the blast, will come back to live.

"We want people in West — that's my charge," said Tommy Muska, the town mayor. "My job is to keep them here and to convince them, one way or the other, to plan on building."

Muska said he hoped to replace damaged water and sewer lines throughout town at an estimated cost of $3 million. For now, crews are demolishing ruined homes and clearing them away, breaking a weekslong quiet on many streets with the loud rumble of excavators smashing through walls.

Even if infrastructure comes back, money is still a challenge for those trying to rebuild their homes. Phil Immicke, associate pastor of First Baptist Church in West, said he kept hearing the same thing after the blast. Demolition was costing residents anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000, with the money often coming out of an already too-small check for rebuilding their entire home.

Crowder, who is pastor of First Baptist, and Immicke have made demolition part of their ministry. The church used $200,000 in donations to knock down an initial 50 homes, with another 50 to come. The church borrowed construction equipment and volunteer work crews, using the donation money to pay for fuel and removing debris.

Immicke — a police officer who jokes that he's now a de facto construction foreman — said he sees the immediate impact demolition has on residents.

"When they walk into their lot and see a clean lot, they can say, "OK," and they can bring a contractor and say, 'This is what I want.'"

W.R. "Bo" Bohannan, 84, watched the home he lived in for 52 years get torn down last week. He told a work crew on the scene that he wanted them to try to save the trees in his front yard. Otherwise, he said he was ready to get going. As an excavator plowed through the back of the home, Bohannan watched without visible emotion.

Bohannan was inside the night of the blast, but escaped without serious injuries. He said his reason for staying, and not using his insurance payout to move somewhere else, was simple.

"My wife wanted to rebuild it, so we're going to rebuild it," he said.

Patricia Webre had lived in her home a few streets away since 1984. She held her new Bichon Frise dog, Levi, in her arms as her house was torn down last week by a crew not affiliated with the church.

Her last dog had run out of the house during the blast and never came back. An occasional tear went down her cheek as she watched.

"This is the only home they grew up in," she said of her three children, who were also watching.

About 200 homes in West were destroyed or severely damaged. It's unclear how many of those homeowners were uninsured or underinsured. But two people who lost their homes said they expected to incur tens of thousands in costs above what they received through insurance.

"They just saw my situation differently than I did," said Crowder, who estimated his gap at about $60,000.

The federal Small Business Administration, through its disaster assistance program, has approved 70 low-interest home loans for about $5.8 million, with more applications pending, SBA spokesman Kevin Wynne said. Muska and other local officials are also organizing a charity effort to help residents with unmet needs. Volunteers have put up wood cubicles and offices in a theater that's now the center for residents needing help.

The people in charge of the center say they have potentially hundreds of volunteers who want to clean yards and build new buildings, but face an ongoing struggle to get residents who need help to ask for it. They also worry that a rash of recent disasters that have gotten national attention — the tornadoes in Moore, Okla., and North Texas among them — might lead to some donors forgetting about West.

"You've got to keep moving forward to let them be assured that West is going to rebuild, that there is going to be a community here of which you can raise your family in," said Susanne Nemmer, the recovery center's administrative coordinator.

She said her goal, as well as that of many others working in town, was not to build "bigger and better," but to restore the town to what it was: "Let's keep it West."

Former UT wide receiver Jordan Shipley, speaks Thursday evening at Hyde Park Baptist Church. He discussed his faith and how it has played a large role in his NFL career.

Photo Credit: Andreina Velazquez | Daily Texan Staff

Jordan Shipley has a bared a number of hits during his football career that have kept him on the sidelines, but he said he continues to push through because of his faith.

Shipley, UT alum and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver, visited Hyde Park Baptist Church Thursday evening to talk to a group about his faith and how it impacts his view on teamwork. Shipley was a two-time All-American receiver for the Longhorns, where he broke multiple records. He graduated in 2010 and was drafted in the third round of that year’s NFL Draft.

The Daily Texan sat down with Shipley for a Q&A about how his faith has played into his football career.

The Daily Texan: During your time at UT, you were well-known for both your skills on the field and how dedicated you were to your faith. How has your faith impacted your career?
Jordan Shipley:
I don’t know that it impacted my career. I think it impacted every part of my whole life and I think that’s why I am where I am at. I don’t think of it as something that impacted my career. I think of it as my whole life and I ended up where I’m supposed to be.

DT: During your speech, you said you were very hard-headed and that God helped you set your priorities straight while dealing with your injuries. Did you place your faith in God during those moments?
Yeah, that was kind of a time where I thought I was going to come in to play right off the bat. I felt like I was able to play, but like I said I had two years in a row during which I couldn’t do anything. I feel like that was a time where I learned a lot and kind of helped me figure out who I was a little bit more.

DT: I’m sure everyone wants to know – how is your knee doing?
It’s doing good. I’m pretty much healed. I’m running around and lifting weights. I’m almost ready to go.

DT: You led a different lifestyle in college than is expected from a star football player. Mack Brown was quoted saying you and Colt McCoy were what every parent wanted their children to grow up to be and that you set a new standard for the college football player. Do you feel this is true about the life that you led in college?
I’m living the same lifestyle now. I wasn’t really trying to. I was just trying to be myself, but there are a lot of players that will take a stand on their faith. That just shows you that most of those players are not defined by what sport they’re playing. Football is not just who they are.

DT: You said you maintained the same lifestyle, and now you are in the national limelight and have kids that look up to you as a role model. Has this reinforced your current lifestyle and helped you maintain your beliefs?
I think part of that is that you know you have a lot of people watching what you do. Then you’ve got the media side of it on top of that. You have to be very careful to keep being the person that you are especially, in public. [My lifestyle] is real for me, and it doesn’t change either way. I do think that you’ve got to be cognizant that you’ve got younger kids watching what you are doing.

DT: Who has been a key spiritual influence in your life?
Oh man, a lot of people. Early on, it was my granddad and my dad. As I got older and moved away, different preachers and my wife made a big impact.

DT: What are some of your best memories from your football career at the University?
I have a bunch of good memories, but the 2008 Oklahoma game is probably one of my best memories. And when Hunter [Lawrence] made that kick to go to the national championship was a good one too. It was great to be able to play at the national championship.

Printed on Friday, March 30, 2012 as: Shipley combats setbacks through faith

A privately owned student-housing firm is working on a plan to bring another high-rise dormitory to West Campus.

The housing firm, American Campus Communities, has scheduled completion of the Callaway House at Austin for fall 2013. The 15-story building will be located on the site of two parking lots between 22nd and 21st streets currently owned by University Baptist Church. During a University Area Partners neighborhood association meeting on Aug. 23, representatives of American Campus Communities requested support from the West Campus community for plans to turn an alley way into a tunnel, allowing vehicles to continue through a 14-foot underpass bridged by living space.

Members of the West Campus neighborhood association voted to support the design after hearing from planners, developers and property managers involved in the proposed project.

Austin real estate lawyer Steve Drenner said developers have filed an application with the city that would give University Baptist entitlement to the alley and allow it to remain open to drivers. The application is currently under review by city staff, and city council members must approve the final proposal before construction can begin. Drenner and others involved in the project believe the proposal will reach city council by the end of the fall semester.

The residence hall is designed mainly for freshmen, and the plans provide for traditional student-housing amenities including a dining hall and a parking garage said Jack Tisdale, a senior partner at STG Design — an Austin firm hired to work on the building. The first two floors of the parking garage will be maintained by University Baptist Church for use as public parking spaces, and higher levels will be reserved for student vehicles.

“We’re really treating this space more like an arrival area at a nice hotel,” Tisdale said. “It is really our front door.”

Printed on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 as: University church offers land for college housing

For three weekends this November, Austin-based theater group the Trinity Street Players present “Shadowlands,” a play based on the life of famed British author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis.

Most people are familiar with Lewis’ works, most notably his beloved “Chronicles of Narnia” children’s series among others. However, few know very much about Lewis’ personal life. “Shadowlands,” adapted by William Nicholson from his own film of the same name, reveals the secret passion of the man behind the enchanted world of Narnia.

The Trinity Street players are a faith-based theater group grown out of the First Baptist Church of Austin. “Shadowlands” deals with, among other themes, Lewis’ struggle with his own faith after the loss of his wife Joy Davidman Gresham. Whether or not viewers are Christian, they can appreciate the play’s exploration of the purpose of emotional suffering — what Lewis called God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Director David McCullars did extensive research on both Lewis and Gresham to better understand their motivations and personal convictions.

“Because he was previously an atheist, [Lewis] comes at Christianity from a very practical point of view,” McCullars said. “He was a logical person. He really wanted to create Christianity for the layperson. But at the same time he was all about fairy tales and magic. The marriage of those together is really what makes his writings special.”

“Shadowlands” centers around Lewis’ later life, after he had converted from atheism to Christianity and had already become a successful and well-known author and orator. Lewis meets and befriends Joy Gresham, a brash American writer and poet. The two develop a strong, intellectual and emotional friendship, much to the chagrin of Lewis’ disapproving brother and friends.

When Gresham leaves her abusive, alcoholic husband for a new life in England, she calls upon her friend Lewis for help. Lewis secretly marries Gresham so that she may go on living in England, all the while insisting that their relationship is completely platonic. When Gresham contracts a deadly form of bone cancer, only then does Lewis discover his true feelings for his legal wife.

Linda Miller Raff, who plays Gresham, is glad that “Shadowlands” has brought attention to Gresham’s legacy.
“She’s kind of gotten subsumed under [Lewis’s] legend,” Raff said. “I’m really pleased that people are getting to know her, because she’s kind of been forgotten in American literature.”


WHAT: “Shadowlands”
WHERE: First Baptist Church, 901 Trinity St., Austin
WHEN: Nov. 11-13, 18-20 at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 14, 21 at 2:30 p.m.
TICKETS: Performances are free, but please reserve seats at (512) 476-2625.