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Showing posts from July, 2005

Book Review: The Darling, By Russell Banks

Well, not being quite as cool as Dean Snyder , I wasn't able to actually travel to Liberia this year, but I did just read a book that is set (mostly) in Liberia - The Darling by Russell Banks. I found the book - fascinating. I'm still not sure if I liked or disliked it - it is not a typical novel in many ways. The 'heroine', if such a word is appropriate, is a woman named Hannah Musgrove. Through a series of flashbacks, we follow her life from her late-teens/early twenties to her late fifties at the close of the novel. She's not a particularly likeable character, but I found myself routing for her anyway, or at least rooting for her to get with it! Hannah is involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the US in her early years, but quickly gets drawn into more dangerous/extremist political groups, and eventually flees to Africa to go "underground." She ends up in Liberia, marries a man who is not too high and not to low in government, and has three children

a thank you and more on church-searching

Thank you all for responding to my post on finding a new church home . Also, check out my friend Jason's response , which he posted over on his blog, for more reading. I think the stories you've shared are fascinating - you never know what will be the deciding factor for someone to call a church 'home' - no magic pattern. That's a needed reminder sometimes. Actually, I should have mentioned that my mom is currently looking for a new church home (a blogless family member - shocking, I know) Her journey is somewhat aided by the fact that her daughter and her brother are both pastors in the conference, so we have plenty of suggestions for her! Today she worshipped with a congregation near her hometown who has a new pastor as of July 1st of this year - one of the few African-American clergy in our conference , one of even fewer female African-American clergy. The church is a smaller church, but filled up for its size, and my mom thought the pastor was great and very spi

finding a church

At my church , we're starting plans (slowly, but surely) to add a Saturday evening worship service, for a variety of reasons, which maybe I'll write another post about soon. Anyway, in planning, I was talking with a parishioner about how people end up at the church they attend. I was 'born into' one church when I was little. My parents eventually led me to a new church home when I was a sixth-grader, where I went grudgingly at first, but eventually came to love. I stayed at that church until, well, I became a pastor! During college , I attended one of the UMC churches in town, but hopped from church to church too. During seminary , we had a very strong community of worship in our own chapel. So I've never really been in the position to seek a church to call my own. So I want to know - how do people find a church? If you've had the experience, I want to know, if you are willing to share: How many churches did you visit before you landed where you attend? Where y

review: The Working Poor, by David K. Shipler

WARNING: LONG (rambling?) POST! I finally finished reading The Working Poor by David K. Shipler. Let me start of by saying that this is an awesome, excellent book. You should read it. You should especially read it if you think a) the government gives too many handouts to the poor or b) poor people should just work harder and they'd be fine. But you should also read it if you just want your eyes to be opened even wider to what it means to be part of the so-called "working poor." I feel like I could write several posts about this book, but I'll try and spare you and condense my thoughts. Shipler spent years researching the people whose stories he follows in this book - he knows them and their struggles over a period of time that gives him some real perspective. He divides his work into chapters that deal with aspects of poverty: immigrants, education, family ties, etc. - but his focus is on the people who are poor, and their stories. I think he strikes a good balance -

children's sermon: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Sorry I haven't posted a children's sermon for the last two weeks - I wasn't preaching! So, for this Sunday, here's my plan. I'm focusing on the 'yeast' part of the parable, and I am going to bring in two cakes - one made without any baking soda/rising agents, and one made with. I will show them the flatter cake, and ask the children what is wrong with it. I'll talk about how even though it is such a small amount of the recipe, a bad-tasting, unexciting ingredient, it is totally essential to the cake. I'll tie that in to the kingdom of God, and to our own essential and important role in that kingdom. Not a perfect comparison. But it will do :)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

So, I just took a brief break from the other books I'm reading to read JK Rowling's latest in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Like the others, I loved this book as well. I'm fascinated by the details that Rowling has come up with, the world she has created. I admire people who can write so creatively. What I don't understand, really, is the condemnation of the books by some Christian groups. I really just don't get it. Some of my other favorite books, as I've mentioned before are the Chronicles of Narnia from CS Lewis. I realize he's a theologian writing clearly with Christian themes, but he certainly still talks about witches and wizards and magic in a way that doesn't say they are evil. What makes Harry Potter so bad? Indeed, as the series progresses, Harry has to struggle with deeper ethical questions. I won't pretend they are blantantly theological questions of course - but they are ethical life questions. Harry

Reflections: Youth Retreat

I've been a bit delinquent in blogging this week, and I just got back from a weekend conference youth ( CCYM ) retreat held at one of our conference camps, Casowasco . It was an exhausting weekend, with a wedding thrown in the middle. But the thing that keeps me doing youth work, the reason that makes all the craziness worth it, which I've mentioned before , is seeing youth articulate their faith for themselves, their own thoughts, sometimes for the first time, as they are figuring out who they are. Being a witness to the transition between child and adult is a precious gift, even if I occasionally (or frequently) want to pull my hair out from being part of such a process. This weekend, our keynote was my probationary colleague Rev. Heather Williams , and the theme of the weekend was "You've Got a Friend in Me," based on Disney's Toy Story. In one of her talks, Heather referred to the movie and how Woody knows that he belongs to Andy because Andy has written

Pastoral Visitation: Survey Responses and Reflections

Thanks all for your responses to my survey on Pastoral Visiting . Feel free to keep them coming - my interest is ongoing! Some background on my reasons for my questions. I've just hit my two year anniversary at the church I serve in Central New York. I have about 100 in attendance on Sundays (except in summers, when attendance could be anything) and about 450 members on the rolls, plus constituents. I certainly have not visited everyone or even nearly everyone on the books in my two years. I've visited those who are home bound, those who have found themselves in crisis, and those who have invited me to their homes for one reason or another. But, I still want to connect with those others I've not met, who don't come to worship regularly if it all. So, our evangelism committee is undertaking a project - a series of dinners late this summer and early this fall for groups of 20-25 people - groups by age, groups by geographic location, groups by common interest. I'm hopi

check out: different religions week

A student at Rice University founded Different Religions Week in 2003, and it will be observed starting July 15th this year. Nathan Black started the movement to encourage people to look beyond misunderstandings of other religions, to choose peaceful relationships with one another instead of reactions based out of fear and lack of knowledge. A quote from his site: "Religiously motivated violence is at a troubling level in the world today — 9/11 and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict come first to mind. Different Religions Week aims to take a few small steps away from the widespread ignorance and intolerance that fuels such tragedy . . ." Check it out, as Nathan is encouraging others to simply spread the word about this Week.

Relevant Magazine: reflections

I just finished reading the current issue of Relevant magazine, and I must say, I continue to be impressed with the magazine. Many of the perspectives in articles I disagree with, but you can't box this magazine into a category of liberal or conservative. Many articles also have me nodding my head in agreement, or hopping on the web to follow up something mentioned in what I read. You really should check it out if you haven't seen/read it yet. Anyway, thoughts from this issue: Dan Haseltine, lead singer for Jars of Clay , is an occasional writer, and in this issue has a page article titled The Louder Voice. Excerpts: " The Church has been sold a lie that they are now investing in and perpetuating across the Western world. The lie is that technology, intertainment and comfort are core necessities to tell the Gospel story . . . I have never heard a person in remembering their journey from fear to faith recall the type of screens, the light show, the fabric colors . . . [tha


My heart goes out to people in London today, as many others have expressed. Certainly, we're not dealing with the number of deaths that came on 9/11/2001, but I imagine those directly impacted and indirectly impacted are feeling some of the same feelings of fear and insecurity today. Back in 2001, I was still in seminary at Drew , and doing my supervised ministry at the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns (GCCUIC) , which is in the upper west side of Manhattan. I worked on Mondays and Fridays and had been into the city exactly twice before the attacks. I had thought I was pretty brave trying to navigate NJtransit and the subway, and feeling very wordly and sophisticated. But after 9/11, I basically never wanted to go to NYC again. I did, but it was hard, and I was filled with anxiety all the time. I hated being on the trains and subways. Once on the way home on a train we sat stopped on the tracks for over an hour because of an anthrax scare (turned o

new blog

My friend jason has started a blog . He's currently United Methodist , but sadly on his way out. However, don't hold it against him - read his blog anyway!

informal survey: pastor visitation and calling

I'm doing my own informal survey on pastoral visitation/calling. If you have a few minutes, I'd love for you to respond to my post, either in comments or by email if you are more comfortable (beth at bethquick dot com). Answer these questions if you are a pastor: 1) How many hours a week do you spend in visitation of parishioners? 2) How often do you visit the same person if they are home-bound/nursing-home-bound? 3) How often do you visit a person who is hospitalized for a short time period? 4) Do others in your congregation help with visitation? How? 5) How long is your 'average' visit? 6) Have you visited all members, including those who do not actually attend your church? 7) How did you initiate visits when you first came to your congregation? 8) Do you visit a person when he/she first begins attending your church? How/when would you initiate such a visit? If you are a lay person, please answer these: 1) Has your pastor visited you? 2) If yes, how often has she/he v

Live 8 - reflections

Yesterday I made a day-trip down to Philly with friends to catch that branch of the Live 8 concerts. It was an interesting day. I've seen conflicting figures of how many people were there - I only know that it was hard even to move sometimes it was so crowded. Grassy areas were filled up, so people were sitting in the street, standing on top of trucks, sitting on top of port-a-potties (yuk!) Not a place for the claustrophobic. It was pretty hot out - some fire trucks were even on site sprinkling by-passers with cold water. There were vendors everywhere, selling things at expectedly high and inflated prices. We found our best bet was a stand operated by a local sports association. The music was ok - unless you were very close, you couldn't see the stage, and it was also hard to find "seats" near the jumbotrons, big-screens showing the stage. My favorite - Bon Jovi (I used to love singing Bon Jovi songs on the bus home from elementary school) and Will Smith leading a s

On Being a Pastor from St. Casserole

Via Dylan's Grace Notes , I just found this new blog, St. Casserole . Particularly, I like these posts in honor of an anniversary of ordination - First: On Pastor Spakle , an excerpt - So, having said this, I give you the St.Casserole 27th Ordination Anniversary Coming-Up Sparkle Advice. 3. Make some friends with people outside of the church. I know this is difficult but you need people to relax with and say what you want to say. 4. Spend time without your preacher-self "on". Drop that facade so you won't forget who you were before you became holy. I'm not talking returning to the sin dens of your youth but many pastors have a pastoral affect which is stilted, pious, goofy with holiness and silly. Put that aside and don't be a twit all the time. 5. Ministry is tough. Ministry is demanding. Find humor where you can. Watch a silly movie. I suggest the original "Arsenic and Old Lace", "Airport", "Spaceballs", &q

Children's Sermon for Matthew 11:28-30

I don't know about you, but I always have a hard time coming up with Children's Sermons that are fun for the kids and to the (theological) point. So, I think, when I find a good one for the upcoming Sunday, I will post it here. For this Sunday, try "When your load is heavy" from Sermons4Kids .