Showing posts from January, 2009

Pop Culture Roundup

I have a small list of books that I feel compelled to read again every once in a while. Open Secrets by Richard Lischer is one such book. This is a spiritual memoir chronicling some of Lischer's experiences in his first pastoral assignment: a small country church near Alton, Illinois. He recounts his years in private schooling designed to groom him for Lutheran pastoral ministry (which he and his classmates call The System), and how little relevance he found there to other events outside the school walls. This sets up the reader for similar discoveries that he makes once he begins his time in ministry. This is, I believe, my fourth trip through this book. I discover new things every time I read it, but am always struck by how pastor and congregation, while initially suspicious of each other, end up forming a community in ways neither expected.

This past Sunday we ordered the WWE Royal Rumble on pay-per-view. It's my favorite event that they do all year because it feature…

UCC Announces Main Speakers for General Synod

I will once again be serving as a delegate to General Synod this summer in Grand Rapids. For those unfamiliar with General Synod, this is the biennial national gathering for the United Church of Christ. It features worship, workshops, speakers, delegates debating resolutions meant to speak to the church and not for the church but that mostly won't make any difference at all, and a variety of keynote speakers.

Delegates are elected to serve at two consecutive Synods. This will be my second, and thus the end of my latest stint as a delegate.

As we inch closer and as resolutions are made available for review, I'll offer my usual pre-Synod analysis.In the meantime, the national office recently announced this year's keynote speakers, which are fairly impressive even though my invitation must have been lost in the mail. They include:

Eugene Robinson - a journalist and author. I'm not familiar with his work. He's a Michigan grad, so I'm sure he's a wonderful hu…

St. Louis - The First Year

Note: Back around the time that I wrote my Bonfire of '96 entry, I wrote this. But I hesitated to post it, and came up with this entry entitled Fully Human instead. For some reason, I've decided to post it now with much fear and trembling, because reading it even so many months later, it feels very raw to me. I was sorting a lot out back when I wrote this, about what I'd really experienced by this point in my life and who I could blame for what I hadn't. I'm feeling a lot better about all that now and have realized that I simply never really integrated a lot of things into my sense of self..not by my first year in St. Louis, and some things not even up until this past summer. I really don't know why I've decided to post this, but it at least feels more right to do it now than back when I wrote it.

It's 1:00 a.m.A lone candle flickers on the floor of a living room of modest decor, adding the faint yet distinct scent of pine forest to t…

Rev. Joseph Lowery's Inauguration Benediction...again

For an explanation behind taking it down, reposting it, why I like it, etc., etc., see here.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee.

Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to thee, oh God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day.

We pray now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration.

He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national, and indeed the global, fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hands, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations.

Our faith does not shrink though pressed b…

Small Sips - Inaugural Religiosity

To Include or To Not Include? - Commenters over at Internet Monk are being asked to compare and contrast the prayers given by Gene Robinson and Rick Warren during inauguration festivities. Depending on who you ask, Robinson addressing the "God of our many understandings" was the best or worst thing for a Christian minister to say. Also, depending on who you ask, Warren praying explicitly in Jesus' name and then trying to lead everyone in the Lord's Prayer was the best or worst thing for a Christian minister to say.
People at Internet Monk in particular are jumping on the "God of many understandings" line, and their argument has plenty of merit. Robinson was attempting to be pluralistic that day, recognizing that we're not a nation solely full of Christians by any means, and this was his attempt to acknowledge that. Besides the expected offense taken that a Christian would dare acknowledge other faiths, commenters are suggesting that such a line may actua…

Cabin Fever Meme

Once again, courtesy of the RevGals:

Here in snow country we are settled in to what is a very long stretch of potentially boring days. The holidays are over. It is a very long time till we will get outside on a regular basis. The snow that seemed so beautiful at first is now dirty and the snow banks are piling up. Our vehicles are all the same shade of brownish grey, but if we go to the car wash our doors will freeze shut. People get grumpy. Of course, not everyone lives in a cold climate, but even in warmer places the days till springtime can get long. Help! Please give us five suggestions for combating cabin fever and staying cheerful in our monochromatic world?

1. Coffee and a book. Ain't nothing like it from where I'm sitting. And I'm sitting on my couch, book in my lap, mug next to me, in pajama pants and a hoodie. And I can see the snow blowing outside. I scoff as I flip the page; take another insides-warming sip. My mind and body are both nice and cozy.

2. Bloggi…

Reflections on Four Years of Ordination

Four years ago today, I was ordained into Christian ministry in the United Church of Christ.

I wasn't really planning an entry about this fact. Today is Pop Culture Roundup day, after all. And four years, while an accomplishment and a milestone in itself, is not a nice rounded-off one like, say, five years would be.

Still, I began wondering what an entry reflecting on my ordination would look like so many years after the fact. If one reads back over some of what I wrote on this blog in January of 2005, I was understandably excited and honored that such an event was happening. One can sense how wide-eyed I was about the entire experience.

Today, after continuing to work out my calling and attempt to live up to the vows that I took that afternoon, I find myself pondering whether I'm still wide-eyed about the whole thing; still as gleeful and naive as I seemed to be in those early entries.

Yes and no.

Four years can make a lot of difference in one's perspective. At the start …

In RichRod We Trust

I mean, what else can we really do? At least he has a better record as DC than head coach.

Pop Culture Roundup

I read The Sandman: A Game of You, the fifth book in the series. I wanted to start reading one or two of these before I forgot what happened. In this one, a character from a past story is visited by one of her dreams come to life. She has to visit the dream world that this creature came from to help save it. The Sandman stories are well-written escapist fare for me. And they're quick, too - I finished this one in the span of an afternoon.
We watched The Living Daylights this week. I hadn't seen either James Bond movie starring Timothy Dalton, so we added both to our Netflix. This is the first of the two, and it's obviously a product of its 1987 release: the hair, the clothes, the music, and the bad guys are Soviets. Bond has to protect a Russian general who has defected, except he hasn't really defected, so he has to track him down after he un-defects. There's also a ride down a snowy mountain on a cello case and some involvement by the Afghan mujahideen. …

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it)

Innovate, for God's Sake

For decades now, the United Church of Christ and other mainline denominations have been experiencing a slow and steady decline. It's all laid out in the annual National Council of Churches report. Everyone has their own theory as to why this has been happening, but I've maintained that the most ridiculous and unfounded theory has to do with theology.

Critics of the UCC and other mainline churches love to talk about how, if they just gave up their heathen liberal ways, they'd begin to see growth again. People are leaving in droves, and the assumption is that they're heading right to more conservative churches because they're just so wonderfully...conservative. If only we believed in Biblical inerrancy. If only we domesticated women. If only we adhered to the Five Fundamentals. If only we [insert stock conservative stance here].

A closer look at the situation, however, doesn't seem to support that theory. People with an anti-liberal axe to grind may not wan…

Five Things Meme Based on a Rent Song

Courtesy of the RevGals:

Whether it's new friends or new loves or new employers, what are five things people should know about you?

1. I hate being misunderstood. I hate it more when people persist in hearing what they want to hear or ignoring my strained attempts to clarify what I mean.

2. I'm a Michigan sports fan. Being back in Ohio deepened that. Sure, take your jabs. Just understand that when the other RichRod shoe drops I'm going to be incredibly obnoxious.

3. I play instruments that many people don't consider "churchy." I want to play them in church sometimes. I'll find a way to do it, too.

4. I'm not sacrificing my family for my career. It's that whole "I wish I'd spent more time at the office" thing. It's not for me.

5. I wear a tie one day a week. If I have a wedding or funeral, then I wear a tie two days a week. I greatly enjoy this system, and I thank you not to mess with it.

Pasta Fazul

It's hard to lose a grandparent. I think that it's especially hard when you lose your last grandparent. There is something about one's childhood that is lost forever when that happens...a door sealed shut, or at least it brings the full realization that such days are long past.

Sometime on Wednesday evening, my grandfather, the last of my grandparents, passed away. It had been an anticipated thing, drawn out over the course of the day after a heart attack. But even when death is inevitable, even when you can see it coming and prepare for the phone call that is surely soon to come, I don't think that one can ever truly be ready.

The call came, and I wasn't. And one of the reasons for it was that he was the last of four loving, doting grandparents to go. Not everyone is able to tell that story, but I can, and it's a big part of the sadness that I've been feeling since I learned of his death.

I owe a lot to Grandpa. I owe a lot to both my father's pare…

God the Problem-Solver

"How many of us have treated the gospel as an object that can answer a deep-seated need (for acceptance, happiness, companionship, a clear conscience), and in so doing approached Christianity in self-interested weakness, hoping that it will be the pill that will cure us, the liquid solution that will provide the ultimate solution. Bonhoeffer wondered whether it is possible to embrace God out of love and lightness of heart, out of a seduction that is caught up in the call of God rather than the need of God." - Peter Rollins, The Fidelity of Betrayal
The evangelical group that I was a part of in college advocated the use of a couple small booklets to aid in one's "witnessing to" another. The premise of these wasn't too terribly complicated, which may have been part of the reason why I never really liked them. Essentially, these booklets contained a few drawings showing a chasm between a person and God, and eventually the cross acted as the bridge between t…

Remembrance of Baptism

I led my first remembrance of baptism this Sunday as part of Baptism of Christ Sunday. I've meant to lead this every year that I've been here, but I've usually been on vacation the week of Baptism of Christ, which is chiefly why it's never happened.

Strangely, remembrance of baptism liturgies seem hard to come by. My shelf of worship materials (including the UCC Book of Worship and Chalice Worship) is devoid of such a service, and the internet wasn't any help, either. I ended up re-tooling the UCC baptism service, inserting language about remembrance and re-affirmation, including the re-affirmation of baptismal vows. I flew totally blind through writing the whole thing, but re-affirming vows seems appropriate in this context.

The service itself was scant in attendance thanks to the ridiculous amount of snow that northeast Ohio received this weekend. I actually thought that there was a good chance we wouldn't have worship at all and I'd go another year wi…

Joining the Cause

Ever since I signed up for Facebook, I've been amazed by a few things.

First, I'm amazed at just how many people from all of my different worlds, past and present, are a part of this silly networking site: high school, college, seminary, church colleagues, fellow bloggers, UCCers far and near, etc. Second, I've been amazed at how active they all are on this site. They didn't just sign up and then walk away, maybe checking in every week or month. No, people are on all the time writing notes to each other, playing with different applications, posting pictures, and on and on.
I'm complicit in that: up until very recently, I was near-obsessed with a Facebook game called Mob Wars, where you build a mob, do jobs, fight other mobsters, put people on the hitlist. It was when I 1) worried about letting this go without checking it for too long, and 2) started getting people asking me to add them as "friends" just to make their mob bigger, that I decided I and m…

Pop Culture Roundup

When I picked up the book The Missional Leader, I did it at the expense of the two books I'd been tag-teaming: Peter Rollins' The Fidelity of Betrayal and Jurgen Moltmann's The Crucified God. I've been spending a lot more time with Rollins, just because his material is less dense and, at the present time, more compelling to me. Rollins continues to make his case for God not being a commodity to be owned, nor something to be objectively understood or studied. To do this, he studies texts such as Exodus 3, where God answers the name question with "I Am Who I Am" or, alternatively, "I Shall Be There However I Shall Be There." Later on, Rollins gets himself into a bit of trouble when he reads the church back into Jesus' parable of the mustard seed by arguing that, since birds are elsewhere portrayed as enemies of faith, this could be a parable warning against the institutionalization of God's kingdom. So it's not a complete win, but it does …

Coffee Blogging

The other month, Philosophy Over Coffee was recommended at another blog called Contexting, which is a blog devoted to thinking about missional church issues. I was recommended along with a few other blogs whose titles reference coffee, prompting Caleb (the author) to ask, "What's the connection between blogging and coffee?" After the complete list of links, he adds, "Note the curious reference to coffee in their titles and the (equally curious) lack of coffee-related posts."

Well...there's no denying that. Coffee isn't specifically mentioned on the blog a whole lot. I've mentioned the origins of this blog's name before, but Caleb's observation and today being my 4th blogiversary, I can stand to go into more detail.

My freshman year of college, my burgeoning group of friends sent each other a few of those "getting to know you" meme e-mails. One of the questions had to do with what you like to do in your spare time, which someone …

A Claymation Epiphany

Since today is the Sunday closest to Epiphany, we're celebrating it during worship this morning.  And since Epiphany is the traditional day to reflect on the arrival of the wise men, here is a classic version of "We Three Kings" from Claymation Christmas:

Pop Culture Roundup

I recently finished The Missional Leader, which was part of the inspiration for my Performance post. Essentially, the authors present a model of pastoral leadership alternative to that of chaplain or CEO. They use the language of cultivation when talking about enacting congregational change, which centers around encouraging members to share stories, ideas, and passions with one another, eventually leading to "experiments on the fringes" that eventually work themselves into the congregational culture. To do this, the authors suggest that pastors need to learn skills other than 1) those learned in seminary (pastoral care, preaching, teaching) which, while important, focus more on caretaking and ongoing expected duties, and 2) those borrowed from the business world, which essentially focus on a top-down set of strategies from pastor and governing board that the congregation may or may not embrace. The Missional Change Model is more bottom-up and organic and arises more from…

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