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Showing posts from September, 2005

An American Daughter

Tonight I had the privilege of seeing my little brother act in a production of An American Daughter , by Wendy Wasserstein. (Todd is a senior theatre major at SUNY Geneseo ) I was unfamiliar with this play prior to Todd's being cast in it, though as I was reading information about the play tonight, I discovered that it had once been made into a Lifetime movie. Basic plot: A conservative Senator's liberal daughter is nominated for surgeon general. All goes well until the news is spilled by a well-meaning friend that the daughter once overlooked a jury summons, and by the media spin on some comments the daughter makes about her mother as a homemaker. Her popularity rapidly sinks, and she's under great pressure to withdraw from the nomination. Not a far stretch from reality for a storyline, eh? An American Daughter particularly deals with women's issues - feminist issues, women's power. I really enjoyed it. One character, an African-American Jewish woman, gives a

Book Review: Leading Beyond the Walls by Adam Hamilton

Well, I finally took the plunge and read a type of book I do not normally read by an author I have not yet read - Leading Beyond the Walls by Adam Hamilton . When I'm reading non-fiction, I tend toward the social justice/ethics oriented books that are my passion. But I also have been wanting to find some books that would address other concerns of ministry in my current setting - things like stewardship and pastoral care. I've found most 'leadership' books I've read (we had a lot of them to read in some of my less-than-favorite classes in seminary ) wanting in quality and content, offering a lot of fluff and not a lot of depth. I've also particularly not picked up any of the many Adam Hamilton books, because, frankly, they are so over-advertised by Cokesbury . Maybe that sounds like a silly reason, but there it is - I resist marketing strategies sometimes. So, finally, I read Leading Beyond the Walls. Revwilly should be pleased, since he told me I should add &

Book Review: 1984

So, a while back I asked for your suggestions on what I should read . I'm starting to make my way through the list. First up: George Orwell's 1984. Nope, never read it in school. We did read Animal Farm in junior high. I liked 1984 a lot better. Thanks to Turbulent Cleric for the recommendation - he said he's not sure it counts as fiction anymore, and I see where he's coming from! I thought the book was excellent in a depressing sort of way. Like Winston, always hoping somehow that the human spirit will win out against Big Brother, I was hoping Winston could hold out against O'Brien and the rest. But I don't want to spend a lot of time on the details of a book (most) everyone has read. So here's what struck me most about it - I was thinking about capitalism and socialism and economic systems. And I think what it all comes down to is: coveting. Has socialism worked well? Is capitalism, even if imperfect, always better? I think from our perspective, maybe,

Getting to Know Me - A Blog Challenge

I got this 'blog challenge' of sorts from Lorna at see-through faith . Here goes! Getting to Know Me... 5 things I plan to do before I die: 1. be ordained an elder in the UMC (hopefully a lot sooner than later) 2. pay of my student loans (probably a lot later than sooner) 3. get a ThD in Environmental Ethics 4. go on a date (Ok, I've done this already. But I mean another date. To that end, John at Locusts and Honey is trying to help me out . :) ) 5. visit Australia 5 things I can do: 1. preach! 2. tap dance (not very well, but hey) 3. make vegan desserts 4. sing 5. worry 5 things I cannot do: 1. embrace confrontations and conflicts 2. give up Diet Coke for more than three days or so before I break down 3. play guitar, or play piano with enough skill to accompany, talents I covet 4. drive standard 5. beat Snood Puzzle in one run 5 things that attract me to members of the opposite sex 1. activism/social-justice orientation 2. sense of humor 3. artistic/musical i

ordination paperwork: question #14, 15, 16

Ok, here's the last round, all together since they are short. Thanks for reading! c) The Practice of Ministry: 4) Are you willing to minister with all persons without regard to race, color, ethnicity, national origin, social status, gender, sexual orientation, age, economic condition, or disabilities? Yes! Indeed, I covet the opportunities to be in ministries to all of God’s creation. To me, the church can not be the true church if there are person who we exclude from our life together. I hope to see our communities of faith become more diverse, to see the body of Christ be a body that breaks down barriers between people. I will gladly share in my responsibility to work toward this end, and to minister to all. 5) Will you regard all pastoral conversations of a confessional nature as a trust between the person concerned and God? Yes. I understand that in some circumstances, information I receive must be shared (i.e. in cases of suspected child abuse). I believe that it is imp

ordination paperwork: question #13

c) The Practice of Ministry 3) Describe and evaluate your personal gifts for ministry. What would be your areas of strength and areas in which you need to be strengthened? I have spent a lot of time examining myself and my gifts for ministry throughout school, candidacy, and the probationary period. Serving a congregation has tried, tested, and developed gifts in me in ways I had not expected. Some of my gifts do not seem to have as large a place in my ministry as I might have anticipated before I began pastoring. Other gifts that I saw as less strong have played a bigger role in my ministry. I still see areas in which I seek to develop my skills, and I see other areas where my perceived weaknesses have turned into strengths in my current setting. Pastoral Care is an area of ministry where I continue to seek growth and strength. In part, I believe continued experience is the best source of strength – as I speak with couples preparing to marry, or counsel those who are grieving, I fe

ordination paperwork: question #12

Today, short and sweet. c) Practice of Ministry: 2) Do you offer yourself without reserve to be appointed and to serve as the appointive authority may determine? Yes, I do. I have had the luxury of being appointed very close to my hometown during my first years as pastor, and I appreciate my location in many ways. However, I am certainly willing to be appointed as the Bishop and Cabinet feel they find a community that is a match for me to serve. Truthfully, I have spent most of my life to this point with occasional transitions. Since junior high, I have never been in one setting for more than three years. Right now, I enjoy my mobility – I am always finding new interests and new passions, and God always seem to be finding new challenges, issuing new calls on my life. I want to always be ready to respond to God’s call.

Meanwhile: CNN.com - Aid group: Niger crisis getting worse - Sep 13, 2005

I found this article today on CNN.com - "Aid group: Niger crisis getting worse - Sep 13, 2005 A survey last month in the eastern region of Zinder showed "alarming conditions" and a worsening situation, with one in five children suffering from malnutrition, MSF said. Mortality rates in the Zinder region for children under the age of five have risen to 5.3 deaths per 10,000 per day -- more than double the internationally recognized emergency threshold of two deaths per 10,000 per day, according to an MSF statement." With Katrina, we've got so much on our minds right now in the US - but to me this was a needed reminder that there were before Katrina hit and are still crises around the world that also call for our attention, prayers, action.

Request: International Day of Peace

This Sunday in my congregation we will be celebrating the International Day of Peace , which is technically September 21st. I am looking for stories, short vignettes about peace that would do for a segmented message on Sunday. Does any one know of some good stories, good 'peace resources'?

ordination paperwork: question #11

c) The Practice of Ministry: How has the practice of ordained ministry affected your understanding of the expectations and obligations of the itinerant system? A recent issue of Circuit Rider magazine focused almost wholly on the itinerant system and the issues surrounding itinerancy. The articles and the responses to the articles highlight just what an important issue itinerancy is and shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of the system. Itinerancy is certainly a challenging issue for many pastors, and I understand the complexities that leave some wishing for a different system. However, I believe that the itinerant system still best serves our church and our pastors. I believe that the itinerant system helps us use the gifts of a diverse leadership – men and women, younger and older clergy, clergy of all colors and nationalities, clergy in first, second, or third careers. Churches are often slow to change! Even today, many congregations are still hesita

ordination paperwork: question #10

b) Vocation: a) How do you conceive your vocation as an ordained minister? I, like many others coming through ‘the process’, working toward ordination, have struggled with exactly what ordination means and why we practice it. We believe in the priesthood of all believers – we encourage people to embrace their gifts and be in ministry as God leads them, all sorts of ministries. What, then, is special about ordained ministry? Why is it set apart, and in what way is it set apart? I feel that the probationary period has enabled me to struggle with these questions, as I seek to be ordained for the practice of Service, Word, Sacrament, and Order. Ordained ministry has a place in the story of the church as an office set apart in the community of faith. Throughout the scriptures, the role of priest has been set aside, with the community charged to raise up from within itself those who have been called to fill such a role. God, as a gift to the church, provides leadersh

ordination paperwork: question #9

a) Theology 9) What is your understanding of (a) the Kingdom of God; (b) the Resurrection; (c) Eternal life? a) “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” [1] These words greet us in the first chapter of Mark, reminding us that the good news of the gospel is all about God’s reign, here, at hand. In Jesus, we experience a kingdom that is made present right now, even as we experience it as approaching, drawing near, with anticipation. In Luke’s gospel, we find Jesus reading the scriptures in the synagogue: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Today,” Jesus said, “this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [2] The Kingdom of heaven that Jesus proclaimed and that the Church proclaims today is two

from IMDB - FEMA and charities

From imdb.com's Studio Briefing : FEMA Promotes Robertson Charity; Ignores Secular Ones "Televangelist Pat Robertson's controversial charity group Operation Blessing stands to gain millions of dollars after being prominently included on a list of organizations accepting donations for hurricane relief, according to an article posted on the website of The Nation magazine. In fact, only two non-faith-based organizations were included in the FEMA list, one of which is the American Red Cross, which has been at odds with the Department of Homeland Security after being barred from attending to New Orleans holdouts who have refused to evacuate. The Nation pointed out that Operation USA, a prominent secular disaster-relief group, was omitted from the FEMA list. It described Operation Blessing as 'a front for [Robertson's] shadowy financial schemes' and cited, among other things, an expose in the Virginia Pilot alleging that Operation Blessing's planes had be

ordination paperwork: question #8

a) Theology 8) Describe the nature and mission of the Church. What are its primary tasks today? “The visible church of Christ is a congregation of faithful [persons] in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments duly administered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.” [1] Such is the nature of the church according to the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church. This statement highlights the communal nature of the church, which Wesley himself described with the strongest words, saying “Christianity is essentially a social religion, and . . . to turn it into a solitary one is to destroy it.” He continues, “When I say, This is essentially a social religion, I mean not only that it cannot subsist so well, but that it cannot subsist at all, without society, -- without living and conversing with other[s].” [2] The essential oneness of the Church, the identity of the Church as the Body of Christ,

ordination paperwork: question #7

One more today... a) Theology 7) What is the meaning and significance of the Sacraments? The sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion are at the heart of our expression of our identity as God’s children and members of the body of Christ. In the gospels, Jesus calls us to baptize as a sign of repentance, a sign of God’s grace, a sign of new life. He calls us to remember him, to be his body, to share in him as we partake of the bread and cup. The sacraments are significant as expressions and vehicles of God’s grace. Through baptism, we witness God’s prevenient grace, already at work in us, before we even know what it is or how to articulate it. When adults are baptized, or reaffirm their baptismal vows in confirmation, we see God’s grace at work and received with faith. Holy Communion is also a means by which we experience God’s grace. The word Eucharist, used more commonly for Communion in some traditions, means literally “good gift,” thanksgiving,” and “good

ordination paperwork: question #6

oops. Missed a day. Back to the questions... a) Theology 6) For the sake of the mission of Jesus Christ in the world and the most effective witness to the Christian gospel, and in consideration of your influence as an ordained minister, are you willing to make a complete dedication of yourself to the highest ideals of the Christian life; and to this end will you agree to exercise responsible self-control by personal habits conducive to physical health, intentional intellectual development, fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, social responsibility, and growth in grace and the knowledge and love of God? Yes, I am willing. I believe this description of “the highest ideals of Christian life” is a model for ordained ministers, and a way of life to be modeled in turn for others, for communities being served. I see this agreement as a call to commitment and accountability, not unlike the standards John Wesley tried to uphold for himself and for those in his societ

ordination paperwork: question #5

a) Theology: 5) How do you understand the following traditional evangelical doctrines: (a) repentance; (b) justification; (c) regeneration; (d) sanctification? What are the marks of the Christian life? a) God’s grace is always extended to us, and working in us. Before we can name it, God’s grace is calling us to respond to God’s outpouring of love, and to be in relationship with God. God calls us to repentance, a response to God’s grace. From the opening of the gospels, with John’s voice crying in the wilderness, we are called to repent and prepare. Repent, from the Greek metanoeo^, is one of my favorite words! It means literally to “have a change of direction of the mind,” to do a 180° turn and head down a different path than the one which we were traveling before. It means admitting that our own path has gotten us lost, led us in the wrong direction, and that instead, we will choose now to take God’s path, re-order our life by God’s plan. Repentance is hard work, becau

ordination paperwork: question #4

a) Theology 4) The United Methodist Church holds that Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason are sources and norms for belief and practice but that the Bible is primary among them. What is your understanding of this theological position of the Church? The Bible is the primary source for our Christian beliefs and practices. In its books, we find our own story, the narrative of humanity. We read of God creating; we read of people seeking and hiding and running from and to God; we encounter Jesus, hear him teaching, and witness his love for least, lost, and last. In the scriptures, we are challenged to be disciples, challenged to be Christ-followers. In God’s Word, we find our Christian identity. The scriptures are tied, inextricably, to tradition, reason, and experience. Indeed, I don’t believe we could or should try to separate them or take one without the others. How can we hear God’s word and not take into consideration the early church tradition, or o

my mom on prayer

I think this story from my mom would make a great sermon illustration, but I can't wait - it's too cute. She and I were talking at lunch today about how busy people are and how hard it is to take intentional time to spend with God, devotional time. We were saying that we can incorporate God into everything we do, of course, but intentional just-me-and-God time is also a part of a healthy and growing faith life. My mom told me a story: when she was little, she and a friend got caught outside in a thunder storm and were running home. They were quite scared. My mom's friend was Catholic, and she wanted to stop on the way, kneel down, and say a "Hail Mary" to make it through the storm. My mom's response? "I'm Methodist. I can pray while I run." They ran.

ordination paperwork: question #3

a) Theology 3) What changes has the practice of ministry had on your understanding of (a) the Lordship of Jesus Christ? and (b) the work of the Holy Spirit? a) Who do we say that Jesus is? In the Synoptics, we read that Jesus wants the disciples to fill him in on the gossip about himself. Who do people say that I am? The disciples give the answers, from far-fetched to hopefully speculative. But then Jesus gets to the point: Who do you say I am? It is a question that shoots from the page to our ears, demanding of us our own answer. Ultimately, Jesus was most interested in what the disciples would answer themselves, not if they could repeat the responses of others. Who do we say Jesus is? I think we are each called to respond, and like the disciples heard, we too hear many responses today. In a recent issue of Relevant Magazine, Jason Boyett asked, “O Jesus, Who Art Thou?” He talked about our “Jesuses” - Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild, Republican Jesus, Christ Hipp

ordination paperwork: question #2

a) Theology: 2) What effect has the practice of ministry had on your understanding of humanity and the need for divine grace? One of my favorite scripture passages is from Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he speaks of the ‘inner conflict’: I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me . . . Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7, selected verses) I think Paul hits on the dilemma of human nature: We think we know what is good.

ordination paperwork: question #1

a) Theology: 1) How has the practice of ministry affected your experience and understanding of God? Augustine once wrote, “If you have understood, then what you have understood is not God.” I’ve always been a questioner, an examiner of the world, myself, and my faith, since I was very young. I’ve wanted to know the answers, and to know God, inside and out. During seminary, though, just when I though I had things all worked out, I went through a time of understanding in a different, more authentic – if scarier – way: I didn’t know God; God was beyond my comprehension and labels. This time of growth shook me up, but ultimately prepared me for an openness to God, to experiencing and learning to know God in ways that are shaping and shaped by the practice of ministry. As I am writing this, we’ve just passed the text in the lectionary cycle from Exodus 3, where God speaks to Moses from the burning bush. The passage has really resonated with me – God’s desire to get

ordination: the paperwork

Hey blogging friends! I just came back from a few days of 'spiritual retreat' at Watson Homestead . I spent the time working on my ordination paperwork, as I hope to be ordained this coming June, and my paperwork is due on November 1st - less than two months now! I got a lot done, and I would like to post my responses to the disciplinary questions here on my blog - maybe one a day. I invite you to share your feedback and suggestions. A couple of words about my papers: I am always honest and up front with my thoughts and beliefs. I don't put things in there that I don't really believe. Sometimes I'd like to be more blunt and more direct, but I'm not sure what purpose this would serve other than setting myself up for a harder time at interviews! Our conference asks for responses of about 1/2-1 page each. Also, these source have shaped my responses - I quote sometimes directly, but these are my general 'bibliography': Grace and Responsibility - by John

confession

I've been out of town and out of communication for a couple of days. I haven't seen the news since the initial reports of destruction from Hurricane Katrina. Arriving home today, I've been reading about the looting, the shootings (I just cannot comprehend this), the slow response, etc., the countless people, stranded, homeless, not to mention questions about things like: when and where will children go to school? My confession: how worried about gas prices I was on the way home today. Granted, there are some who will be seriously affected by gas prices rising, but those who will really feel the jump are not middle-class pastors like me. I feel embarassed. I think I can swing the extra 10 or 20 bucks a week it might cost me to drive, and be thankful I'm not boating around my city, wondering where my children are.