Sunday, November 30, 2008

facebook ads

So, I was on facebook today when I noticed this ad in the sidebar:

"Get Fit to Preach - Even with the busy schedule of a pastor, you can get in great shape without the gym or lifting weights. I'll show you how I did it."


Thursday, November 27, 2008


Deaths always seem to come in clusters. When I started at my first appointment in Oneida, I had several funerals right away, which were the first for the congregation in a while. At my appointment in Franklin Lakes, I've had fewer, thankfully. And in my time since leaving Oneida, to my knowledge, no member of the congregation has died, except family of members, folks less directly connected to the congregation. That is, until this week, when one of my dear former parishioners passed away after a long struggle with cancer. Her funeral will be next week, and the new pastor in Oneida has graciously extended an invitation for me to be involved in some way, which I greatly appreciate.

Nina was one of a handful of folks at St. Paul's who I knew before arriving. She was active in district and conference UMW activities, and I'd met her through some of the UMW women at my home church in Rome. When I was appointed to Oneida, these Rome friends asked Nina to look out for me, and she certainly did, no questions asked, making it clear to everyone that they better be ok with me!

Nina was a character - a joker, a fighter who battled cancer with courage even after it returned again and again, a dedicated church member, stubborn and humble. She was our lay member to annual conference, and I was especially pleased to have her as a stole presenter, along with my mother, at my ordination. And I know she loved being there for me! When I was about to announce my new appointment to New Jersey, Nina was one of a very few people I made sure to tell before the offical news came out.

In some ways, I feel blessed that over a year has passed since I left Oneida without experiencing this kind of loss. I think that's a gift to me, something that makes it easier to leave one place and move to the next. And it's a gift to still be able to be a part of celebrating her life.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

District Resource Day: Lovett Weems

Last week, I attended another district resource day, this time with Lovett Weems as the guest speaker. You've probably heard of Weems around the connection because of his work with the Council of Bishops on the State of the Church Report and his work on Young Clergy in the UMC. I really enjoyed his presentation, which focused on "Congregational Leadership in the Wesleyan Spirit." Weems lectures in a warm and conversational style, and doesn't seem to take himself too seriously!

My notes:
He started by talking about how a concern or issue is raised in the church, which is addressed by a certain response - a 'form' that encompasses the concern. Over time, the concern changes, but the church holds onto the form that no longer fits. We don't need the right answers, but the right questions:

1) Who are we? Churches can be renewed out of their own history - not by clinging to history, but by remembering what made church thrive, live, grow, risk, etc. It is important for leaders to really know the history of their congregations. Pastors should lead with grace before judgment - "I am so proud to be your pastor because _______."

2) What is our mission? For what purpose has God raised up the UMC, or a particular UMC? Mission statements are to often in 'be' language instead of 'do' language. The mission is everything. Everything a church does should answer the "so that" question. We do this _________ SO THAT _________ (mission is fulfilled.) We have a bulletin so that ________. We have a choir, ushers, so that ___________. We worship so that _____________.

3) Who are the people? Weems answered this for us with some 'categories': a) Metropolitan population centers (used to be rural, this has changed.) b) Diverse racial population. Pay attention to professions of faith category for people of color. c) Younger people. Our members, as we well know, are much older than the age of the population as a whole. d) Poor people. Hello! e) Fewer married households. Only 25% of people are in two parent married families with children. More people are unmarried than married. Stop focusing so much on "young families." That's a smaller category than we think!

4) Who are our neighbors? What are their needs? Who are the people God has given to us? How have or haven't we changed as the community has changed. The longer a church exists, the less connected it is to the community. Becomes turned in rather than turned out. "The parish is my world," instead of "the world is my parish." No one encourages leaders to go out into the community, but want to know instead how you are taking care of those already in the congregation. When communities change, congregations have options, but usually choose just one - stay the same! Weems called this "vigorous inertia." How apt! In other contexts, businesses, refusing to change would cause you to lose your job. Mission Audit Question: If your church closed today, who would miss it other than its members??

5) Given our identity/context, what is God's vision? Quote from Scott Cormode(?): "Leadership is helping God's people take the next faithful step."

Part Two: "Leading Lasting Change in the Church"

We can't become what we need to be by remaining what we are, but people experience change as loss, and as a judgment on the past.

But... not changing says that "how things are" is synomymous with God's ultimate will. So there has to be change.

Step 1: Help define reality. You need a common understanding of the situation you're in. Peter Senge: "Nothing is more limiting to a group than the inability to talk about the truth." People remember 20% of what they're told, but 80% of what they discover themselves.

Step 2: Reframe/refocus specific interests in light of the whole. Help people see their special interests through the lense of the big picture, rather than seeing the big picture only through the lense of their special interests. But don't devalue special interests, or people will cling to them lal the more tightly.

Step 3: Seek continuity and change. Macro, meso, micro culture, basic shared assumptions, stated values, artifacts and your own views are all part of the church culture - not just one stream of influence that is the 'right' way.

Step 4: Advance the plot of your congregation's story. Leaders function in making a bridge between a congregation's past and a congregation's future. Mission (can last for a while): what we exist to do, leads through congregational identity, internal congregational context, and external congregational context to the Vision (is more short term): Given the mission and context, what is God's vision for our near future?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

from - "Global Food System Near Collapse?"

Check out this article from

"Some mothers choose what their children will eat. Others choose which children will eat and which will die.

Those mothers forced to make the grim life-or-death choices are the impoverished women Patricia Wolff, executive director of Meds & Food for Kids, encounters during her frequent trips to Haiti.

Wolff says Haitians are so desperate for food that many mothers wait to name their newborns because so many infants die of malnourishment. Other Haitian mothers keep their children alive by parceling out food to them, but some make an excruciating choice when their food rationing fails, she says.

"It's horrible. They have to choose among their children," says Wolff, whose nonprofit group was formed to fight childhood malnutrition. "They try to keep them alive by feeding them, but sometimes they make the decision that this one has to go."

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. declared in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech that "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies." Four decades later, King's wish remains unfulfilled. The global food market's shelves are getting bare, hunger activists say -- and it will get worse.

Food riots erupted across the globe this year in countries such as Egypt and India. Food pantries in the United States also warned that they were running out of food because of unprecedented demand. The news from the World Food Programme is even grimmer: A child dies of hunger every six seconds, and hunger now kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined."

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Another meme. (I'll try to write a real post sometime this week.) Borrowed from David.

  • What song makes you instantly think of junior high? Mr. Big, "To Be With You"
  • What song takes you immediately back to high school? Songs from Rent, which was hugely popular when I was in high-school
  • What song reminds you of your first girlfriend/boyfriend? Proclaimers, "500 Miles"
  • What song reminds you of your first heartbreak? Bon Jovi, "Bed of Roses"
  • What song reminds of being young and reckless? Haha. I was young once, but never reckless!
  • What song is still your favorite after all these years? None are still my favorite, but Indigo Girls' "Blood and Fire" is still up there.
  • What song reminds you of summer? Gloria Estefan's "Live for Loving You."
  • What song reminds you of vacation? Rod Stewart, "Rhythm of My Heart," and Extreme, "More Than Words," - camp more than vacation
  • What's the first album/cassette/cd you purchased? Whitney Houston, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," the single
  • What song do you still have in your collection after all this time? Indigo Girls, the first alblum, is probalby the album I've had longest
  • What song do you think you can sing but you really can't? Tuck and Patti, "Time after Time"
  • What song do you always mess up the words to? "Million Voices" from the Hotel Rwanda soundtrack. Part of it is in a different language, but I sing along as if I know what I'm saying.
  • What song makes you immediately 'bust a move'? Any song that I associate with junior high dances, such as: "Finally," by Ce Ce Peniston
  • What song do you wish you could fall asleep to? I have a hard time falling asleep to music - I can't not listen to it, and so it keeps me awake. But if I could... the pas de deux from The Nutcracker or "The Kiss," from The Last of the Mohicans.
  • What song do you wish you could wake up to? Tracy Chapman's "Change," a good tone-setter for the day.
  • What song do you want played at your funeral? Sorry - can't imagine having 'regular' songs, and not my favorite hymns, at my funeral. So..."Be Thou My Vision," "I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry," "Shepherd Me O God," etc.
  • What song do you want played when your casket opens? Open casket? No thanks.
  • What song do you currently have as a ringtone? "Overture," from Jesus Christ Superstar, of course.
  • What song do you currently have as a ring back? I don't have a ringback. But my other ringtones include U2's "Mysterious Ways," more Jesus Christ Superstar tunes, and "Masquerade" from Phantom of the Opera.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Seven Random Rules

I was tagged by Melissa to do this meme, and since I haven't been blogging about anything else....

Seven Random Rules

Here are the rules:

Post the rules on your blog.
Write 7 random things about yourself.
Tag 7 people at the end of your post.
Pass on the tag.

7 things:

1. When I was in eighth grade, I accidentally ran over my own ankle with a mini-van. It takes a special kind of skill to do that. I didn't break any bones. I remember feeling mostly embarrassed, because this took place near my junior-high school and I didn't want my classmates to see me.

2. I hate, hate, hate flying. When I have nightmares, they are usually about flying. Not about anything bad happening on the flight - just being on a plane in my dream is enough to constitute calling it a nightmare.

3. I love Irish things, and Irish names. I'm a little bit Irish (I'm a little bit of most every European background except Italian, which is ironic when you grow up in Rome, NY) but probably not enough to constitute my fascination. I especially loved the name Aidan, until everyone under the sun started naming their child Aidan. I blame this, of course, on Sex and the City. (Actually, just after I wrote this, my mom surprised me with a Celtic Nativity. Cool.)

4. I am extremely competitive about a lot of things. This is something most people don't know about me unless they know me well, because usually my introverted-ness and my hatred of conflict dominate in public settings, and I keep my competitiveness in check. But in reality, I like to compete! My congregation in Oneida used to get a kick out of this because I would rally our Relay for Life team to try to raise more, win more prizes, etc., so that we could be "the best."

5. I am left-handed, and left-handed people are awesome.

6. I used to be extremely neat and organized. Then, in high-school, I had a very busy time during my junior year when I was in The Diary of Anne Frank, and a switch flipped, and I became a messy, disorganized person. I still have tiny pockets of extreme organization, like in my DVD and CD collections. But everywhere else, I have piles.

7. I've been keeping a journal since fifth grade. I used to index them (see #6) by person, so that you could figure out (and by you I mean me, since I've never let anyone read my journals...) on what page(s) I'd mentioned someone. I have about 30 volumes of journals. I used to write daily, and recently went through some very dry journaling times, but I've been writing a bit more lately. My journals are probably my most important possessions to me, aside from my photo albums.


1. Jason Moore

2. Tim Quick

3. Jockeystreet (if you would deign to such a post...) (Todd, I don't know if you blog about non-theatre things, but you can do this too if you want.)

4. John the Methodist

5. Gavin Richardson

6. Episcogranny, whose blog I've been reading of late

7. You!