Showing posts from March, 2008

I'm Bummed + I'm Excited + I'm Nervous

I got a voicemail the other day that I have yet to return from a seminary friend. During this voicemail, he mentioned how much he'd miss me during Eden Seminary's annual Herbster alumni gathering. I hadn't thought about it in a couple weeks until he brought it up, which bummed me out. Herbster is today. I'm not there. The reason is simple and perhaps obvious: with my luck, I'll pull into the seminary parking lot, my cellphone will ring, and it will be Coffeewife saying, "My water broke." Yeah, that's not going to work.

So here I sit, thinking about St. Louis and how that first view of the arch would have evoked a certain feeling of homecoming. I sit thinking about all my buddies whom I won't see. I sit thinking about places like Kaldi's and Racanelli's and Vintage Vinyl. I sit thinking about professors I'll miss joking around with and former churches that I served as a student and Central Reform Synagogue and Forest Park Hospit…

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. People may be less familiar with Haw than Claiborne, the author of The Irresistible Revolution and advocate for a radical return to the roots of the Christian message and life. This new book is basically a timeline of sorts chronicling the various ways in which people of faith, from Moses through the present day, have conceptualized the interaction between God and secular government. So we get the transition from a more decentralized Israel to the monarchy, to Jesus' preaching of the kingdom of God over and against Caesar, to Constantine and Theodosis becoming much more friendly to Christianity, and so on. It's an excellent summation, if not for me somewhat of a repeat of most mainline Biblical and historical scholarship. Claiborne and Co. add their own editorial license to the proceedings as well, frequently mentioning more current problems such as Iraq and sweatshops, as well as digs at some current …

And Now Some of the Harder Stuff

Before really attempting to wrap my mind around the real issues underneath the Obama/Wright connection, I decided to take a little trip around the blogosphere to get a feel for what those issues might be. I've even watched a little FoxNews, because there was bound to be some mention of it on there, right? Little did I know that I would still need to do my own discernment regarding what was important and what was white discomfort, as well as that up until recently FoxNews has pretty well been running 24/7 "analysis" of the Obama/Wright stuff.

I ran across one blog taking issue with a comment that Obama had made in response to a question about his white grandmother. Obama offered this:
"The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity," Obama said on WIP. "She doesn't. But she is a typical white person who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know, there's a reaction that's been bred into our exper…

"Not much to do with faith?"

I want to write something about Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright. I wanted to try hunkering down to deal with the really difficult stuff involved with what's been happening. But until I truly set aside time to do that, I figured I could at least deal with some of the shooting-fish-in-a-barrel stuff.

Here's an excerpt from an article that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal:

Much has been said, in an effort to excuse the toxic content of Pastor Wright's sermons, about the ways in which his speeches are part of the "black tradition." But most black churches are Baptist, Methodist or independent. They have religious doctrines with a long history. Trinity, on the other hand, belongs to the United Church of Christ, a mostly white denomination defined almost entirely by its social-justice agenda.

This is how the Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's (white) general minister and president, recently defended Pastor Wright: "Many of us would prefer to avoid the st…

The Stirring Conclusion

It's Easter. Happy Easter.

That also means that it's the end of Lent, and of the Big Serious Blogging Experiment. Let's recap where we've been on this little ride:

Green - freaking out about fatherhood
Atonement - rambling reflections on what the cross means
Darren - reflecting on the loss of a friend (counts as 2)
Review of "Becoming a Pastor" by Jaco J. Hamman - pretty self-explanatory
Dress - pastors really are normal people
I Was Watching - preacher's kids in the ministry
I Want to Preach at General Synod - sticking up for the everypastor
The UCC, Obama, and the IRS - quotes and thoughts on the current dustup

Most of these "essays" were well-received. People seemed to gloss over the book review, which was fine. The cat story didn't get much of a response either, although I was asked by a concerned friend if it was a masked cry for help. I sort of had a feeling someone would wonder that, but I assure everyone that I'm fine. I just needed a goo…

Pop Culture Roundup

This past week I finished The Buzzard which, as mentioned last Friday, is an account from former production manager Jim Gorman about the heyday of Cleveland radio station WMMS. Basically, it chronicles its rise and most successful years of cutting-edge programming, attention to personality as well as current musical trends, and constant re-invention to keep up with the times, and then the beginning of its descent into mediocrity and staleness ("just another FM rock station") through inter-office politics, corporate paranoia, and character assassination of former employees who had contributed to its success. Gorman is very restrained while describing these later events, and should be given credit for that. Actually, the included pictures of a few of the corporate guys responsible for the politicking say it all. They turn out to be your basic "guys who don't know or care about music running a piece of the music industry" people. It's pretty sad to read Gorman…

The UCC, Obama, and the IRS

You may or may not have heard that the United Church of Christ is being investigated by the IRS for having U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama speak at General Synod last summer in Hartford. If not, here’s the short version:

The Internal Revenue Service has notified the United Church of Christ's national offices in Cleveland, Ohio, that the IRS has opened an investigation into U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's address at the UCC's 2007 General Synod as the church engaging in "political activities."

In the IRS letter dated Feb. 20, the IRS said it was initiating a church tax inquiry "because reasonable belief exists that the United Church of Christ has engaged in political activities that could jeopardize its tax-exempt status."According to the IRS letter:

Our concerns are based on articles posted on several websites including the church’s which state that United States Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama addressed nearly 10,000 church members gathered …

Time/Transitions Meme

From the RevGals:

1. If you could travel to any historical time period, which would it be, and why? The 1950s, so I could catch some baseball games while guys like Mantle, Williams, DiMaggio, Kaline, and Feller were playing.

2. What futuristic/science fiction development would you most like to see? The thing they do in The Matrix where they can upload programs into your brain. Like, here, sit in this chair. Okay, now you know how to tap dance. That'd be sweet. The downside is that we'd all be escaped pod people from giant farms tended by evil robots, but if we could do it without that part, it'd be cool.

3. Which do you enjoy more: remembering the past, or dreaming for the future? I do these about equally, I think. I think back to my time in St. Louis a lot, and I've been looking back to remember my experiences as a PK to try to understand what Coffeeson might experience. But I also spend a lot of time wondering where I'll end up location-wise, career-wise, and what I…

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading The New Christians by Tony Jones, which is part history, part explanation of the emergent church movement. I use "emergent" as opposed to "emerging" purposefully, because he does. One would think that I'd be sick of books that explain this movement by now, that maybe I'd move on to books more about how to read the local culture or exploring new church forms. No, let's read another "definition"-type book instead. It might help if there were more non-"definition"-type emergent books out there, but my picking up this book is my own fault. And if I'm being completely honest, I mainly did so because I'd read on another blog that this book contains a little history on why Mark Driscoll hates these guys so much nowadays, and I was curious. And it does. The book itself is as good as any other emergent/emerging "definition" book. What makes this one a little different is it has more of a history of the …

I Want to Preach at General Synod

I want to preach at General Synod.

I preach almost every week, so you know I’ve had a lot of practice.

No, seriously. You should see it. I’ve got a couple shelves of commentaries that I pull out every week, and I study. I turn the text inside out, pull it apart, piece it back together and make new shapes out of it. I ponder the richness of its meaning for a new day and age where people are interested in the new day and age. I relate it. I’m very good at relating. You could say that I’m relatable. I’m a relatable preacher. I take a text and relate it because people like relatability. You should see the amount of relating that I do. This isn’t some dusty, overly poetic stuff…I’m gritty. A gritty kind of relatable. Unless you don’t like gritty. Do you like gritty? Or do you like poetic more? I can do poetic. But rest assured, it’s a relatable poetic.

So let me preach at General Synod. I preach almost every week, so you know I’ve had a lot of practice.

Maybe you’re looking for something more …

I Was Watching

I’m a preacher’s kid. Before you go assuming things, I’m a preacher despite being a preacher’s kid. Some people might think that my career choice is the natural thing based on my upbringing. You see, I had seminary classmates with some very colorful, rich, at times painful stories leading up to their calls to ministry. By the time people got to me and heard the famous initials, “P.K.,” they thought they had me all figured out.

I’m not mad at anybody for their assumptions. Looking back, I should have told my story sooner. Still, if you think you know why a preacher’s kid entered the ministry him- or herself, you probably want to ask them just to make sure.

So having said that, here are a few things that you need to know about preacher's kids and the ministry.

My father’s ministerial career was what you might call a mixed bag of experiences. He can tell you the story way better than I can, so I won’t bother with a full recap. But I do need to tell you that by the time we wound up in …

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading, well, leafing through, Places of Promise by Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce. The tagline for this book reads, "finding strength in your congregation's location." So I'm expecting a book detailing ways to maximize potential wherever your church is located physically, or maybe some stories by churches who have done this, or whatever. Instead, this book is the result of an extensive survey of congregations and what factors contribute to their vitality, and for the purposes of this book the bottom line is that location is not a factor. The authors use chapter after chapter to break down how it's not a regional thing, or a red state/blue state thing, or even a denominational thing. Finally they share that it IS a methodological thing: churches that are intentional about being welcoming, who incorporate new members well, who offer "meaningful" worship, provide strong programming for youth, offer opportunities for "spiritual grow…


When I was in elementary school, I wore the same outfit to church every week.

I think I remember the outfit changing every six months to a year, but it really didn’t change that much from week to week. The shirt, though it was replaced by a larger size occasionally to accommodate the growth spurts, was of the short-sleeve button down collared variety. The pants were a little more diverse depending on when you saw me, though I only really remember two pairs: a pair of straight dark blue slacks, and a pair of light gray cargo pants with Velcro on the pockets.

There was even a designated hanger in my closet, on which the entire church ensemble hung together. There were a few other assorted dress items that hung unused next to the church hanger, including a 5th-grade sized blue blazer, but I only remember being made to wear that once for Christmas Eve. We’d lit the Christ candle on the Advent wreath that year, so it did seem like a big deal to be wearing that blazer. But on most Sundays, I …

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