Where do I begin? Summer 2013 has been packed full of the wonderful, and we are only beginning!

First and foremost, I celebrate with you the wonderful news that Kat Spangler will be joining us later this month as our Associate Minister. Many of you have stopped me in the hallways, called me up, or chatted with me out in the com- munity about how thrilled you are that Kat is coming to minister and live alongside us. I am glad that you had the opportunity to be as impressed with Kat as the Search Committee is. She brings many gifts, a brilliant mind, and a heart for the Church and the world that will challenge us and help us all grow in our commitment to the Way of Jesus. As her moving date approaches, the Search Committee will inform us of ways we can help welcome Kat to UBC and the Hattiesburg community. Wonderful!

Over the past few weeks, UBC has been buzzing with the sounds of construction as the renovation of the second floor of the Garner Wing takes place. I am especially delighted to see a beautiful space coming to be for our new Godly Play program. While construction continues, our team of Godly Play teachers—Dee Bishop, Chris Carson, Lida McDowell, and Lucy Parkman—are busy meeting and planning for the start of the program. Our new Godly Play teachers are devoting significant time to preparation and study so that we will have the best possible program we can for the Christian forma- tion of our children. Wonderful!

This summer our Children’s Committee planned a series of Mission Day Camps in place of our traditional VBS. It was something new. It wasn’t like we have always done it before. We wondered, will this work? And the verdict is in—what a tremendous time of biblical and missional formation this program has been for our children. The Children’s Committee got something right in this model, biblical formation happens best when text is laid next to opportunities to live out the biblical story. Our children have lived out the story of our faith by serving the Forrest General Cancer Center, Edwards Street Fellowship, and both Hawkins and Thames elementary schools. All of this has been accomplished by the vision and leadership of our Children’s Committee. Wonderful!

In the last few months, plans have been in the works to expand our Children’s Choir program. Con- versations began in the Children’s Committee, moved to Personnel, then to Finance and finally to the Deacons. The end result of those conversations is the upcoming expansion of our children’s choir program, under the leadership of Kerrin Hightower. We look forward to a new generation of UBC children being nurtured by sacred music and to their regular participation as leaders in worship. Wonderful!

This past year, members of UBC dirtied their hands in the soil of gardens at Thames Elementary as we began to explore how we might form a more meaningful partnership with teachers and students. If the best way to learn is through experimentation, then this past year provided great learning oppor- tunities for our volunteers. Since the end of the last school year, Lida McDowell, Karen Walker and Kim Walker have been in conversation about how to more effectively continue this partnership. The result is a catalog of learning opportunities that UBC is prepared to assist teachers within the upcom- ing school year—from math and science activities to reading to classes in the garden. I anticipate that this will provide more and more opportunities for our UBC family to volunteer and build relation- ships with the Thames community. Wonderful!

In many ways, this summer has been all about preparation for the next season of life at UBC. I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced we will be saying over and over again: “Thanks be to God, how wonderful it is to be a part of the UBC family as we grow and serve together!” Wonderful!

Journeying Together,