Thursday, April 26, 2007

Oops... December I fell while I was running at the park. I hurt my ankle pretty badly, but, that night I was hosting the UMW Christmas party at my parsonage, and so I didn't go to the ER or anything. I just figured it would get better.

A month later, the ankle was still causing a lot of pain, and every time I tried to run again, I would make it about 60 seconds before it hurt too much. I got X-rays. The X-ray showed some spurring on my ankle, but nothing serious.

I visited an orthopedic surgeon. He sent me to physical therapy. I've been doing that twice a week, without seeing much change.

My orthopedic surgeon sent me to have an MRI. I got the results finally today. I have, among other issues, a fracture, spurring in two places, a torn tendon, and lots of fluid buildup.

Oops. Guess I should have gone to the ER that first day. Not sure yet what treatment will be now, but I have a bad feeling that some sort of surgery may be involved.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bits and Pieces

I am in Washington, DC for the rest of the week at the spring meeting of the General Board of Church and Society, so pretty soon you'll get to hear my usual meeting reflections, lucky readers!

For now, a few thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head with not enough to them for individual posts:
  • Mini-review: I recently listened to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer on audio CD. What a fantastic book! I highly recommend it. The main character is 9 year-old Oskar Schell, who is trying to cope with life after losing his father in the World Trade Center on 9/11. I found myself literally saying, "Oh!" out loud while listening, because there are so many simply deeply moving scenes.
  • Mini-review: I also recently saw In the Land of Women with my mom. The movie stars Meg Ryan, Adam Brody, and Kristen Stewart, and focuses on Brody's character, Carter, who tries to get some direction for himself following a breakup. I wasn't expecting much - a light movie to enjoy - and certainly it wasn't an Oscar-contender or anything, but I thought it was better than expected. It was strange to see Meg Ryan not as the romantic lead exactly, but as the older woman - the mother - and I thought she gave a good performance. Stewart is fine as the brooding teenage daughter, though the girl is seriously skinny - distractingly skinny, worrisomely skinny. Brody - cute, ok.
  • Last weekend I had a meeting (Camps, Conferences and Retreat Ministries - CCRM) at one of our conference camps, Camp Aldersgate. I grew up going to Aldersgate (located in Brantingham, NY, in the foothills of the Adirondacks), loving it, packing my bags weeks before camp, and eventually was on staff myself as a lifeguard. But I was remembering - when I was hired as a lifeguard, I wasn't actually certified as a lifeguard. They had to send me to one of those one-week intensive lifeguard training things. And in fact, I wasn't even a very good swimmer when I was hired as a lifeguard. But once I was hired as a lifeguard, I became a good swimmer. I knew that to even begin the crash-course, I would have to start with a 20-lap swim, which I definitely couldn't do at the time of hiring. So I switched from my regular gym class to the beginning swim class at my high-school, and the teacher just let me swim laps while she gave everyone else lessons. I just swam and swam, and she would give me occasional tips on form, etc. So by the time I started work, I was ready to be a lifeguard. I don't know - I guess I was reminiscing as I was looking out at Pleasant Lake, and thinking about how sometimes we need to be asked and expected to do something before we can learn to do it, and know that we can do it. Does that make any sense?
  • VA Tech - I've read so many good reflections on the VA Tech tragedy, and keep feeling like I should write about it too, but the truth is that I have no idea what to say other than that it is a horrible, tragic event and I'm so sorry for all the people whose lives are impacted by it. Andy B. at Enter the Rainbow had some insightful thoughts to share, so I direct you there.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Satisfied Clergy

My sister-in-law, who works at a newspaper, passed along this article to me recently, with the tagline, "If you want to be rich, get an MBA. If you want to be happy, go for an MDiv." The article talks about results of a study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The study found that clergy had the highest job satisfaction - a whopping 87% said they were satisfied with their jobs, followed by firefighters and physical therapists.

The study also found that clergy topped the list as 'happiest', with 67% of clergy responding that they were "generally happy." In general, those most satisfied with their jobs were either in helping professions of professions with a great deal of creative expression, and those with the least satisfaction were those in low-skill jobs or with customer service positions.

There were mixed reactions to the study - some were not surprised that clergy were so satisfied, since clergy enter the field "with no expectation of getting rich and every expectation of being able to make some difference in the world." But one researcher at least was surprised at the high satisfaction rating because clergy also have such stressful jobs.

I'd be interested to know more about who was included in the study - which kind of pastors, which denominations, etc., and I could probably find that out if I had more motivation...

Pastors, what do you think? Are you satisfied? Happy? Surprised at the research?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hilarious - Which Methoblogger are You?

John created this hilarious methoblogger quiz. I'm a little bummed that I wasn't one of the possible choices though.... And a laughing that after Lorna, John is in second place for me!

You scored as Lorna Koskela. You are Lorna Koskela! You read, write, take walks, and no one knows the truth about what goes on in your basement!

Lorna Koskela


John the Methodist


Jonathon Norman


Art Ruch


Allan Bevere


Gavin Richardson


Theresa Coleman


Keith McIlwain


Abi Carlisle-Wilke


Which Methoblogger Are You?
created with

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New Book Study and a Movie 'Study'

I mentioned a while back that St. Paul's was engaging in a book study of Brian McLaren's The Secret Message of Jesus. The live study went very well - I had about 8 in the class, and I think everyone enjoyed the book. I also tried an online version of the study through a blog, which was mostly unvisited, and, eventually, un-updated.

Well, we've just started a new book study, and I'm going to try to blog through the study again - this time we've selected Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts, by John Dominic Crossan and Johnathan L. Reed. Unlike Secret Message, I haven't read this book in advance, and am reading it along with the class. So far I'm through the prologue, introduction, and most of chapter 1, and I already find it quite fascinating. The book takes a two-pronged approach to looking at Jesus in historical context - the written word and the 'words' from the archaeological record. So, check out the book blog for an online version of this study, coming soon, and hopefully more consistently.

This summer, we're having two more studies at St. Paul's - a short term disciple study on Romans, and a movie 'study'. We'll be watching movies every week and talking about them - what spiritual/theological/ethical issues they raise, etc. So far, I'm pretty sure we'll be watching Romero and of course my personal favorite, Jesus Christ Superstar. But the movies don't have to be so overtly 'religious', and I'm looking for some good suggestions. What should we watch?

Friday, April 13, 2007

New Music

I recently ordered some new CDs that came in the mail this week, and I'm very happy with my selections - U2's Achtung Baby (had on cassette once...) and The Best of 1980-1990, The Best of Bonnie Raitt - I had her Luck of the Draw, but lost it (temporarily, I hope) and got this to fill my Bonnie Raitt void - excellent music - and then Tracy Chapman's newest, Where You Live.

Tracy Chapman is by far my favorite singer. She first came to my attention in college when a dancer choreographed a piece to "Fast Car." I used "All that You Have Is Your Soul" as the title and focus of my first ever sermon. I like this newest album, and have been mulling over the first track, "Change":

If you knew that you would die today
If you saw the face of God and love
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that love can't break your heart
When you're down so low you cannot fall
Would you change would you change?

How bad how good does it need to get?
How many losses how much regret?
What chain reaction
What cause and effect
Makes you turn around
Makes you try to explain
Makes you forgive and forget
Makes you change
Makes you change

If you knew that you could be alone
Knowing right being wrong
Would you change?
Would you change?
If you knew that you would find a truth
That brings a pain that can't be soothed
Would you change would you change?

How bad how good does it need to get?
How many losses how much regret?
What chain reaction
What cause and effect

Makes you turn around
Makes you try to explain
Makes you forgive and forget
Makes you change
Makes you change

Are you so upright you can't be bent
if it comes to blows
Are you so sure you won't be crawling
If not for the good why risk falling
Why risk falling

If everything you think you know
Makes your life unbearable
Would you change?
Would you change?
If you'd broken every rule and vow
And hard times come to bring you down
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that you would die today
If you saw the face of God and love
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you saw the face of God and love
If you saw the face of God and love
Would you change?
Would you change?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Eco-Justice Notes

A few eco-justice related items of note:

Did you read this article from CNN about the report of the Panel on Climate Change? The report highlights that of course, it is the world's poorest that will be most impacted by climate change. Most disturbing about the article though is that the document got to be edited by "government negotiators" who toned down anything that sounded too extreme. That sounds objective and accurate, right?

Earth Day is in a couple of weeks, and in the United Methodist Calendar, that means Festival of God's Creation Sunday is also in a couple weeks. A worship resource (and many other resources) from the Eco-Justice Network of the National Council of Churches can be found here, and a page from GBOD about Festival of God's Creation is here. You can read the resolution that created this God' Creation Sunday here.

If you are a Young Adult (22-40) interested in Eco-Justice, you can apply for the NCC's Eco-Justice Fellowship program. Applications are due Monday. The program is meant to train and support emerging eco-justice workers, and looks pretty cool. I talked with Adam Bray, who works in the NCC program (and was the coordinator of the Eco-Justice track at Ecumenical Advocacy Days), and he said that they are trying to select a more diverse group of young adults this year, especially those engaging in or hoping to engage in eco-justice work at the local church level.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


It is hard to believe it is Easter Day already, and that all those Holy Week services are already done. I was particularly happy with the way everything went at St. Paul's this year. I think in part I was better about planning ahead, at least with the major pieces. I had a lot of lay people participating in the service in different ways, and they all stepped up to the plate. I also really love going deeper into some of the liturgical traditions of the church and exploring them, and my congregation seems to enjoy this too.

In the past, we've had a Maundy Thursday service, and then an ecumenical noontime Good Friday service. But I've found that not many of our members do (or can) attend this service. Most people do not have Good Friday off from work anymore. The ecumenical service also features the "Seven Last Words of Jesus," with seven of us area clergy preaching mini-sermons, and frankly, I'm not sure how this appeals to people either. So...I decided to offer a Good Friday evening service at St. Paul's. We focused on the Last Supper on Thursday, and the Tenebrae on Friday. I think Tenebrae has become one of my favorite Lenten services. I first went to a Tenebrae service with my pastor and little brother when I was in high school at one of the many, many Catholic churches in Rome. I thought it was strange - I'd never been to a service at a Catholic church before, and I was very uncomfortable with the "veneration of the cross." But I like the Tenebrae - and with the candles extinguished until you are in darkness - it makes us uncomfortable, but we were ok being uncomfortable for once.

This morning, I was lucky to have my actor-brother in town for the weekend to perform a monologue as Peter. It is certainly convenient having fairly regular access to a professional actor! My congregation loves him, and I love having him perform at Christmas and Easter.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. I did.

You can check out my messages for Holy Week if you are so inclined: Palm/Passion Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Easter Sunday.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Seen around the methoblogosphere... If you just don't know what to do to fill your time these next three days, you can take this "Which Church Father are You?" quiz. I'm apparently Origen. Huh. No "Which Church Mother are You?" is available, so no way to know if I'm a Hildegard or a Julian...

You’re Origen!

You do nothing by half-measures. If you’re going to read the Bible, you want to read it in the original languages. If you’re going to teach, you’re going to reach as many souls as possible, through a proliferation of lectures and books. If you’re a guy and you’re going to fight for purity … well, you’d better hide the kitchen shears.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Campus Ministry

I'm on our conference's Board of Higher Education and Ministry, and this past weekend we led some workshops at a conference workshop day on being in ministry with college students. Tom Wolfe, who is the dean of the chapel at Syracuse University, put together a powerpoint presentation for our workshop. Here's some of what he shared:

Emerging trends in college students -
• Mainstreaming of pagan and naturalistic religions
• Mainline Protestantism is in decline (we all know this one, right?)
• Evangelical/Fundamentalism is on the increase (This includes “non-denominational” Christian churches).
• Greater interfaith awareness
• "In academia, it is more acceptable to discuss Judaism and Islam inside of the classroom. These traditions are generally viewed as adding to the cultural diversity of the academic environment. The topic of Christianity tends to evoke the fear that there will be an imposition of faith in the classroom."

Citing research from Cherry, DeBerg, Porterfield (bibliography below), Tom shared:
• Students defined themselves as “spiritual” instead of “religious”
• Largest attendance in campus ministry is at parachurch groups (ex: Campus Crusade for Christ, Navigators, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship)
• There is a growing skepticism of denominational expressions of faith. “I don’t want to follow a tradition, I want to have a relationship with God (or whatever).”
• Worship attendance which was once an expression of civic responsibility is now being expressed in forms of volunteerism. (I found this to be very true at Ohio Wesleyan, where the Community Service Learning office is a central and popular part of campus)
• As universities become more international (both in receiving and sending students) they become more interfaith.
• Students are less “churched,” “synagogued,” and “mosqued” than previous generations. Without deep roots in one tradition, their spirituality becomes eclectic.
• Students of color tend to define themselves as “religious” as opposed to “spiritual.” (Huh.)

Citing research from Wolfe, (bibiography below) Tom shared:
• Indifference to religion by the academy may be changing as a practical matter
• Widespread fascination with spirituality in the general culture has increased awareness of and interest in, religious studies courses
• Weekly there are stories in higher education periodicals about colleges and universities struggling with issues of inclusiveness, religious freedom, and academic freedom
• Watch-dog groups are emerging to assure rights for religious freedom because of their perceived bias that the academy favors other groups.
• “Spirituality” is becoming more and more the domain of student affairs as schools look to meet the needs of students in a more holistic way, focusing on education of the student in a more well-rounded way than simply through academics

What was your campus ministry experience like? My experience was a huge part of my overall college experience. The university chaplain, Rev. Jon Powers, was also my academic advisor, and from the first days of orientation he had me involved in planning worship services, and it was definitely key to my making friendship and making connections that served me well as I began the process of ordination. (I started my candidacy with a mentor from Ohio, who was then the pastor of the church I attended in college.) It was easy for me to get involved though because I was already a church-going person, already involved in the denomination to a high degree, already attending and loving Annual Conference sessions, etc.

I think a strong campus ministry can also be a place where students who haven't grown up at church can also become connected, find God, deepen faith, but I bet these students are less likely to key into a specific denominational connection. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's my gut instinct. How about you? Where you involved in campus ministry? Had you been involved in a church before college? What did you like about it, or dislike? Did your local church stay connected with you while you were at school? Did you attend a local church while in college?

Bibliography Info:
• Cherry, C., DeBerg, B. A., & Porterfield, A. (2001). Religion on campus: What religion means to today’s undergraduates. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press
• Wolfe, A. (2002). "Faith and diversity in American religion." The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 8, 2002, B7-B10.

Monday, April 02, 2007

New Methoblogger

My friend and colleague Aaron Bouwens has joined the blogging world at his new blog Lord If I Know. Aaron and I were ordained together. We come from pretty different theological perspectives (Ok, very different), but when it comes to our thoughts about the direction of the church, emerging church, things like that, Aaron and I are usually on the same page (even though it sometimes throws us off to be on the same page!) I'm glad to actually have another NCNYer blogging!