This is a Public Service Announcement

Please note: Jesus (while saying nothing about homosexuality) was crystal clear that our primary purposes as Christian were to love our neighbor as our selves, care for the sick, help the poor and empower the marginal…the next company/church/protestor/athlete etc. who claims to be Christian really should show how they are following Jesus’ many life changing commands, that’s what real Christianity is, and if anyone tells you differently, they need to spend some time in deep conversation with God (prayer). Please stop fooling yourself and pretending that Jesus was about politics, money and grandstanding (that would be your humanity showing)…that is all…

 

PS what is the most “Christian” thing you have ever witnessed?

A Post about being Post…well Post-Everything

I am a graduate of Oberlin (yay Oberlin), and I loved (almost) every minute of it. But one of the things Obies love to do is take things apart. (Any other Obies feel free to chime in about this). In fact, sometimes we would move to “deconstructing” things so fast that I would feel like I didn’t even know how the thing was constructed in the first place (as an English Major my high school was highly lacking in Shakespeare, and I wanted to round my education out with him, however the only classes offered were about deconstructing what we supposedly had learned in high school).

Now as I get into ministry I hear a lot of talk about what this post-culture is going to do? Author Ross Douthat wrote an article about Can Liberal Christianity be saved? (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/opinion/sunday/douthat-can-liberal-christianity-be-saved.html) His conclusion was that” Today, by contrast, the leaders of the Episcopal Church and similar bodies often don’t seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism. Which suggests that perhaps they should pause, amid their frantic renovations, and consider not just what they would change about historic Christianity, but what they would defend and offer uncompromisingly to the world.Absent such a reconsideration, their fate is nearly certain: they will change, and change, and die. (PS for a good response to this read http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2012/07/can-liberal-christianity-be-saved-a-response-to-ross-douthat/)

However as I look at this world, I see that we are trying to construct a Post-Religious world (i.e. Spiritual not religious viewpoint that is so oft referenced). So the question comes, what does a post-church, post-christian, post-denominational (I am told by a good friend this is a move that the Bible belt is especially making) world. How do we post about our Post-world? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postchristianity)

Going forward I have to say that to me a post-religious world would look like the following

1) Where individuals ultimately choose to uphold each other as people, even when beliefs differ (perhaps what our Moderator and Vice Moderator were trying to model at GA before our Vice had to step down). Allowing Spiritual Practices to bring people together–>at least I think this is what some of the Spiritual people are trying to get at…

2) Where church isn’t made up of the “shoulds” of religion: church should have pews, church should include hymns, church should have Sunday School, but is instead moved by Holy Spirit to BE a faith community whenever and however that comes together….

3) Where the Faith of a group of people is ultimately used to empower those individuals who are powerless. What happens when powerless people come together? that’s right they become empowered If the church functions as a community builder grounded in the love of God, then we cannot help but support and empower each other to do new and wonderful things….

Places where this is overlooked today=basically everyone who is assigned an associate pastor (that is a rant yet to come)

The Young

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Recently, these interactive boards have moved from the back of the broken pews to the corner of the sanctuary that we designated as a toddler area. (from a fellow pastor http://theresaecho.com/2011/04/18/interactive-toddler-boards/)

The Elderly

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The College Age

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The Young Adult (i.e. those in there 20s and 30s)

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(you know those with young families who need babysitting or those who are still single and constantly on the move to find a job in the tough economy)

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The Minorities: Racial, Ethnic and of course the poor

Thats right if your not a white middle class, middle aged American in many denominations your power is significantly less not only in society but in the church itself. Plus if you are not well-educated and don’t love words (say you learn by practice or are a visual learner) you probably won’t fit in well to the traditional Presbyterian service. (Does anyone else see something wrong with this?)

What would a service look like if it was regularly handed to these groups? What would faith look like if we went to where these people were?

You know what I think? I think that Ministry, True Ministry is to make FAITH ACCESSIBLE (that’s right, I put it in caps, that’s how serious I am). ImageHow do we make, not only our building, our worship and our activities accessible, How do we make our Faith Accessible. What does it mean that people identify Spirituality over religion or faith? I think its because Spirituality feels accessible. You can use what is comfortable to you, you can learn about it at your own pace, and your can connect with different people over different aspects of it even if you don’t agree completely with them (for the record I have both liberal and conservative friends).

So how can we do that for Faith?

I don’t know,

But let me remind you friends, that there is no resurrection without death!
Whether you consider this time the denominational pregnancy http://vimeo.com/25360983

or even if you think we are dying….http://treymorgan.net/17-signs-your-church-might-be-dying/

Either way, there is a rebirth a coming, the question is how will we access it?

(P.S. Giving Access is not the same as watering down faith, just so I’m clear on that!)

LOL Pastor

I have been an LOL person before it was cool, before LOL was conceived (almost) I was living it out. If you have ever been to one of my services, be warned, LOL will happen. In fact I am very likely to LOL at myself (and if you don’t know what LOL please google it immediately)Image

Now here is the interesting thing, my willingness to laugh has gotten me into a lot of trouble. (For why I laugh please read https://katyandtheword.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/pastor-with-a-sense-of-humor/)

a. People think I’m an airhead (I think this has to do with me being female). People assume because I laugh, I don’t care, when actually its the opposite. I laugh because I do care. I tend to take life very seriously. And when I say seriously, I don’t mean in a holier-than-thou or everything-is-sacred kind of way I mean the, life-is-God’s-gift, We-only-get-one-shot-at-it, so I pay attention way! I pay attention, so I don’t miss the happy moments. I pay attention because I have found that laughter is rare, and humor is a hard commodity to find. I pay attention because it is SO important to find Joy in life, and I don’t want any ounces of it that I can catch to slip through my fingers. Image

b. People think I devalue God, ministry, etc. by laughing. Last I check the Book of Order (the Presbyterian Constitution) says W-1.1000 i.e. the very, very, very first thing said about worship is “Christian   worship   joyfully   ascribes   all   praise   and   honor,   glory  and  power  to  the  triune God.” We are supposed to have fun, I don’t know why we forget that (p.s. when is having fun not holy?)

Plus-we are currently striving under Openness to be more open to joy (bet you didn’t even know that). In F-1.0404, our first Openness statement is “a  new  openness  to  the  sovereign  activity  of  God  in  the  Church  and  in  the  world,   to  a  more  radical  obedience  to  Christ,  and  to  a  more  joyous  celebration  in  worship  and  work;”

What does this mean? It means the more obedience we find, the closer we are to God, the more joyous our celebration has become. My most recent example of this is the Farmer’s Market, which most of us find “fun.” This doesn’t mean we aren’t working, to the contrary, it means we are doing the right kind of work.

Which brings me to the third problem I often encounter.

3. People think I don’t work hard enough. I seriously think because I enjoy my job, people think I’m not “working.” I have tried to give more voice to the work I am doing, but I have found it difficult to do this without gogguzomen (grumbling, muttering, complaining in Greek–I love that word, doesn’t it sound just like what it means?). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbhnRuJBHLs Anyway, so if I don’t complain like the rest of the world, I must not be doing my job properly, but in actuality I am obsessed with my job. I am, in truth a workaholic, and it takes a lot for me to put down the reins and take the days/hours/minutes off that I need. However, it is hard for people to see this, because I love my job. I truly love my job. I love that when I do well I can laugh, I love that when I make mistakes I can laugh at myself, and I love how God turns everything upsidedown on me, so what I thought I was doing completely changes (rather like a King in a manger, Salvation on the cross, Great Epistles written by a tax collector), when these surprises come I like to laugh. It doesn’t mean I am taking things lightly. It just means that I am game for God’s jokes. I am ready to be surprised, I am ready to be happy, and I’m ready to find happiness, even in what seems like mistakes at the time. It doesn’t mean that I don’t internalize those mistakes, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilty, or work on them. What it means is that I am able to find the humor in things. I am able to understand that I don’t understand. I see the mystery in God’s face, and I laugh.

So I admit it. In the face of a faltering denomination tearing apart on issues of acceptance no less (talk about the ultimate irony!!!), despite a disappointing GA where the Youth/Younger people were ignored (even as people wondered how to get young people into the church), in a place where Vice Moderators are threatened and feel the need to step down (http://www.pcusa.org/news/2012/7/4/mccabe-resigns-vice-moderator-220th-ga/). Times seem to be tough. However, I refuse to give in. It is easier to pick-a-little and talk-a-little than to find the good. It is easier to dwell on the bad, and it is human to try to rip things apart rather than to laugh and move on together. So in light of all this….I’m going to continue to be a LOL pastor.

Psstt….Meet me at the well…..

Once when I was working as a Children’s Coordinator the pastor told me that I really needed to try to look bored more often….

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This was a great point in fact, because I love to be busy (I guess I’m in a good profession for that).

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The Pastor then told me the story of Jesus at the well. He told me to think about not only Jesus’ ministry of presence but also his ministry of waiting. There he was, waiting at the well, for someone who needed water to come….and thus a friendship was born.

Image4Now he had to go through Samaria.So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the townto buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”–John 4:

Hearing from the moderator today, he noted that he is making a point to be present (either himself or the vice moderator) at the committee meetings…a strong choice for presence, and one that echoed the hard questions given to him on the floor.

It took four votes to elect our moderator (the youth/seminary advisory board loved him). There seemed to be some dispute because he is abiding by the letter of the law regarding gay marriage, meanwhile his running mate signed a marriage license in her state during their campaign.His response to this was that he wasn’t going to put aside 10 years of friendship over a difference of opinion. i.e. part of being friends means being present for one another–choosing to be present even when our choices differ.

During the Hymn Sing at GA we sang “Go to the World” the final verse is

“Go into the world! Go as the ones I send, for I am with you ’til the age shall end, When all the hosts of glory cry Amen!”

What a friend we have in Jesus, who promises to be present no matter what we do.

So here I am, present at GA. On the one hand I’m not “Doing” much, I have little to no agenda about the meetings, and have not been commissioned, chosen or asked to do anything.

On the other hand, I am here, I am present. I am witnessing the work we are doing, praying for all of us who are doing it, and keeping my eyes and ears open for the Holy Spirit. I have waited, hoped, and possibly even made some new friends

Guess I made it to the well Pastor Kevin! (at least for GA)Image

 

Farmers, Markets and God

Well,

2 weeks in, and our Farmer’s Market is going fairly well. It is also very time intensive! Here we are in the middle of summer, and our stats stand as follows

 

Grand Opening over 200

Rainy, Rainy 2nd week 65

Overall, I think that we are doing pretty well–however as we begin this ministry of farming and marketing, I am trying to tease out the theology behind the market.
Why are we selling vegetables? What space does it provide the community? Should I be doing more “religious” looking stuff? Are we touching people–doe we get the word out? How is our advertising anyway? Do we have enough farmers (a lot of our vendors sell things other than vegetables)? What is growing out of this seed that is being planted (get it)?

You can tell there are a lot of questions….and yet, its exciting. It’s exciting to do something new, to see the church pull together, to actually have people want to come into our humble parking lot (which is apparently a lot less scary than the church building itself)…
So we’ll see what develops, in the meantime, I’m enjoying the adventure…..

When to go to church (or) the Christian Struggle with Perfection

“Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” Image

“I’ll warrant you’ll make plenty in it,” said Marilla. “I never saw your beat for making mistakes, Anne.”

“Yes, and well I know it,” admitted Anne mournfully. “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice.”

“I don’t know as that’s much benefit when you’re always making new ones.”

“Oh, don’t you see, Marilla? There must be a limit to the mistakes one person can make, and when I get to the end of them, then I’ll be through with them. That’s a very comforting thought.”

 

I can still remember having a very “adult” conversation with my parents. It was one in which I must have been about 10, and my parents were telling me that I wasn’t perfect, and that I was going to have to live with myself. My response to this (because I knew no one could be perfect) was “I don’t want to be perfect, I just don’t want to make any mistakes!”

As Christians we have this ongoing struggle with perfection. On the one hand we want to be perfect, on the other part of being Christian (at least for me ) is admitting that we aren’t perfect. It is contending with our brokenness, and giving it up to God to be healed.

However, even though we know this about ourselves, I think that Christians often feel the mistaken need to pro-ject perfection. We want to look or at least seem perfect to everyone else. It’s as if our perfection reflects upon the perfection of God. If we aren’t perfect, then God isn’t perfect. If we don’t have all the answers, then God doesn’t have all the answers.

Instead of pointing towards God’s for answers, we rely upon ourselves or the “church” (i.e. that human conglomeration that we too often see as being the church) to be perfect/have the answers.

 

That’s where pastors mess up too right? Pastors feel that they have to be perfect, and instead of being open about their faith and their brokenness and talking about where they meet, Pastors try to be perfect, hide their mistakes/failings (which often leads to a whole nasty secret double life). Too often pastors skip their own confessions–of both faith and doubt, and then the quagmire’s come

So we are back to the perfection and mistakes. It is important to strive towards perfection, but to also rely on God on the source of all perfection. And even when I think that I know my way to God, it is important not to project that as the only way to God.

Too often, I think that Church is shown as a place for “perfect” people or (worse) people who think they are perfect. Too often Church is seen as the place where all of our answers are provided. After all, church is not the place to give standardized tests–God answers each of us personally and individually….Image

When, in actuality. God is a mystery, the church doesn’t know how everything works (Trinity, anyone? Or how about that Virgin Birth thing?) The church should be the A number 1 place to go when you AREN’T Perfect, it should be THE place to go when you have questions, and it should be the surrenduring of your mistakes and imperfections to God so that God is the one we are relying on to “project the right image” not humanity or the church in itself…..

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Here is the Church, here is the steeple, open the doors…

ImageWe all say that the church is the people, that being said, my church spends more than half of its budget on the building. On the one hand, no one objects to the money that is needed to heat, repair and maintain our building. On the other, I’m rather uncomfortable with this use of our money.

demotivational poster CHURCH

If the church is about people, then we really shouldn’t be spending so much on the building. Having committed now to put forward 10% of the offerings we receive towards mission, I find this commitment both inspiring and sad. Are we really only putting 10% of our money in the community? Are we really going to worry about every dime we spend, or can we figure if we have the  money that means that God wants us to do it.

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I don’t know if I believe in balanced budgets or buildings. I do believe in fulfill our responsibilities though (i.e. paying contracts, keeping buildings safe, not overspending and blaming our lack of money on God or each other). I know that’s probably an auxi moron but there we go. I am also aware that my church provides important community space, but I also am aware that we are in the Landlord business–and I really don’t feel like this is the kind of ministry I wish to be doing….

Here’s what I do think.

I think we should be CHURCH BUILDING not just a church building. I think the church needs to be located at the center of the community, and if the people don’t come to us, we should follow Jesus’s example and go to where the people are.

So what should we do? Sell the building? Become nomads? Be more creative with our uses of space? Where are we the most church? How can we hit the streets more? I am especially struggling with this as many churches are closing and many church buildings are empty or for sale–and what really gets me is the community, those who live near the church and yet never attend it, sees this loss as sad. What is it with the associations we have with “the Church” as opposed or in conjunction with “the Church Building”

I am still struggling to find the answers to these questions. Anyone else have thoughts?????

The Feeding and Care of Pastors….

Pastors only work one day a week, and it’s a half day, Right????

I think my new thing is to ask for an budget for weekly exercise. I find it hard to find the time, energy and money to exercise. Yet if I sign up for a class I inevitably attend, enjoy it and ultimately get sick less, which is a win on all fronts…oh yeah, and to continue to ask for more staff–I always think we need more staff, because I am feeling overworked

In fact, I find in general that anytime I overwork, I get sick. It’s just the way my body works. Not eating or sleeping regularly? There’s no getting away with that….I just get sick, get an enforced day off, and am not happy while I’m at it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabbath

So that’s it, eat, sleep, and hopefully exercise. Contrary to popular belief pastors do not  work only half a day, its more of a on-call-and-thinking-about-your-job-24/7-type-of-career. When we say that we are called, we really mean it!

Maybe the confusion comes from the following facts

1) I love my job

2) I truly care about all those in my ministry

3)I have work-a-holic tendencies.

Add it all up and it means that when I’m working, I don’t always look to be hard at work. It is hard to separate my “work” self from my “home” self (maybe because they are almost the same thing), and I have trouble setting time aside for myself.

Take last week, Monday I worked all morning fielding phone calls for the Farmer’s Market Grand Opening, that afternoon and evening I prepped more stuff for the opening and wrote the bulletin. Tues Morning I ran our Mugs and Hugs Playgroup, immediately after lunch I came back to help to set up then I stayed until 6pm for the market. That night I worked on a bulletin for a funeral.

Wednesday I spent the morning home with the family (normally my open door office hrs), that afternoon I spent with a family for their visiting hrs at the funeral home. That night I finished the bulletin for the funeral.

Thursday I conducted a funeral and burial (at the graveyard), accompanied the family for lunch, that night I packed for a trip

Friday I travelled up to Silver Bay for a retreat of Presbytery (the governing board) and slept over. Sat I returned early due to babysitting difficulties (after the 2nd sitter called out with the stomach flu I gave up), Sat night I prepped for worship/Sunday School.

Sunday=Adult Sunday School and Agape Worship.

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Then there’s all the things I wanted to do: prepare more stuff for the farmer’s market, pick up signs from the shop, plot out my scripture passages for the next month, visit all the shut ins (this is esp. due because I’ve been sick), visit some of our community connections, foster relationships, pray more, oh and rest up since I’m on meds for laryngitis (remember how I said I get sick when I don’t take care of myself…well point made God), this doesn’t even include any of the personal stuff I wanted to do…

How do I resolve this? I think I need to set stronger boundaries, but I also need to train my congregation to take better care of me. I am the most likely to take care of myself if someone else reminds me to do so. My husband helps with this, but I still have a long ways to go to doing it “right”. Someday I’ll get the Jubilee right, in the meantime, I’ll strive to keep a better schedule…..Imagel