Showing posts from June, 2009

Immerse Yourself

Hello from Grand Rapids. And yes, the rapids are quite grand. This is a beautiful city, and this General Synod is possibly the most laid-back one that I've attended thus far.

Last night began the committee work, where each delegate is assigned to a committee to process one or more resolutions before they're brought to the floor. My committee had some changes to the UCC Constitution and Bylaws, and while there was the predictable haggling over grammar and word choices, we had a fairly calm--albeit long--evening that actually saw the completion of our work. Hence, my morning today is freed up for me to hijack one of the computers in the exhibit hall to type this out.

Prior to the committee work was River City Saturday, where people were invited to attend a number of speakers, workshops, and performances in and around the convention center. Musicians performed at nearby Rosa Parks Park all morning and afternoon. I saw Barbara Brown Taylor in the morning (and got my copy of Le…

Coffee at Synod

I'm at General Synod for the next few days.

There's no telling whether I'll have much access to a computer. If I do, maybe I'll check in.



Pop Culture Roundup

A day early, due to Synod.

This past week, I sat down at a coffeehouse and burned through about 100 pages of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and doing that really did a lot for my interest in the story. I find that I'm usually able to read only a chapter or two a night just before bed when I'm starting to drift off already. But now I'm much more invested in the book, which is exploring the details of the family keeping their dog breeding business, why it was started, why the dogs are unique. And now that the story is in full-on Hamlet mode, that piece has become very important.

I watched the movie Once this week, about an Irish singer/songwriter who meets a Czech singer/songwriter and their budding relationship through music. This could almost be considered a musical, as they perform full versions of many of their songs during the course of the movie. It took a while to grow on me, I think because so many of the songs are of the lovelorn ballad variety. The single for whi…

Sacred Conversations at Synod

Please allow me a few moments to openly process something.

I leave for General Synod early Friday morning. There's no telling whether I'll be able to "live-blog" at all while I'm there, as I'm not going to attempt to smuggle the laptop out of my house. But that's not that important.

A good seminary friend is a pastor in the area, and my plan for Sunday morning was to wander over and hear him preach. His church is actually closing at the end of July, and while I'm sure I'll have other opportunities to see him in action, it certainly won't be at this particular place. I figured it'd be a good way to use some Synod downtime, relax before all the committee work and jam-packed plenary sessions got started.

You see, General Synod does not let much time go unaccounted for, and that includes Sunday morning. But at Synod, we don't worship on Sunday morning...I can't recall a worship service being scheduled on Sunday morning at Synod since…

Time and Talents

My church is working on a new Time and Talents Survey. I'm not sure whether you're familiar with this or not, so allow me to explain. Many churches--I think this is a much more common practice in mainlines than other traditions, but I really don't know--distribute what amounts to a checklist of tasks to their membership, and in turn individuals select things that they're interested in helping do until the next survey is distributed and the process begins again. It's done in the name of stewardship, and can be a helpful teaching tool for people to understand that stewardship isn't just about money.

The problem with Time and Talents Surveys that I've recently discovered (and there are many), is that usually these lists are not really lists of talents. Instead, they mostly consist of tasks within the existing church structure of programs that we really hope you're able to help with. Can you be liturgist, or an usher, or a greeter? Can you serve on one…

"Only Human" - A Sermon for June 21st

Job 38:1-11

In preparation for this Sunday’s sermon, I traveled to Cokesbury in Canton to pick up a commentary on the book of Job. I don’t have many resources on my shelf about this book, so I made a quick trip over. After finding what I was looking for, I set my purchases on the counter. The woman at the register noticed what I wanted to buy and asked about my interest in this book of the Bible. I answered that I was planning on preaching on it the following Sunday, and she got a funny look on her face. She said, “You’re going to preach on Job in this economy?”

Obviously, she didn’t think it was the most uplifting choice in this current economic climate, one that is seeing more layoffs, more business closings, uncertainty surrounding things like insurance and health care, even difficulty in acquiring basic needs such as food.

And it’s true – Job is not the happiest of books. Here is the story of a man who is doing pretty well for himself: he has a big family, plenty of land and livestoc…

Pop Culture Roundup

I'm still reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. It's some 500 pages long, so I imagine that I'll be reading it for a while yet. The book is a bit meandering. While I can see how certain asides can contribute to the overall plot, I'm not sure that we need as many as the author is presenting. I don't have trouble holding my interest and it isn't dense's just that I just hit 100 pages the other day and the plot is just starting to pick up.

I watched the movie Run Fatboy Run, starring Simon Pegg as Dennis, a schlub security guard who left his pregnant girlfriend at the altar five years earlier. He has a great relationship with his son Jake, and regrets leaving her. She, meanwhile, has a new boyfriend played by Hank Azaria who is his exact opposite: financially successful, a great athlete, and seemingly getting closer to Jake. Dennis is eventually inspired to run a marathon, the boyfriend's specialty, in order to at least earn his ex's …

Small Sips: Some People Said Some Stuff

You mean, they weren't doing that before? One of my theological heroes, John B. Cobb Jr., recently spoke to the Southern California-Nevada Conference of the UCC and challenged the entire UCC:
In Cobb's own words, his challenge consists of "proposing that the United Church of Christ take as its mission working with God for the salvation of the world."

He says the UCC is uniquely positioned among Protestant denominations because of its embrace of progressive theology that sees Christian mission as inclusive of spiritual, personal, social and ecological care.

The progressive Christian project, Cobb says, theologically addressed and repented for a religion that had "acquiesced in outrageous racism [and found] that our inherited form of the Christian faith was anti-Jewish, patriarchal, religiously exclusivist, anthropocentric, and demeaning of our bodies and their sexuality."The phrase "salvation of the world" obviously means something different dependin…

Vadrum Meets the Barber of Seville

Just let the awesome wash over you:

HT to Drum Zone Blog.

Back to Basics

This past week, I decided that I want to play my drums more often. They're my first musical love, and always have been. And I've felt inspired to return to that first love in full force...not as in, "I'll play these once a week as a token gesture," but as in, "I want to at least touch them daily." I've dabbled in bass guitar and I play my acoustic weekly for Sunday worship, but drumming has been the constant, the one I can't leave behind, the one I usually don't have to think about when I'm playing (meaning I just feel the song and go). Drumming also relieves some tension for me, so I need it for that reason as well.

There are, of course, certain roadblocks to this endeavor: 1) job, 2) family, including small child, and 3) the only time I really have to play an unavoidably loud musical instrument is while said small child is asleep.

There's also one other problem, which I discovered yesterday when I was finally afforded some time t…

Brant's Blog of Awesomeness Update

The other day, I reported that Brant Hansen, the writer of the blog Letters from Kamp Krusty, had abandoned said blog in favor of his official radio show blog, Brant's Blog of Awesomeness.

Well, upon clicking on the link to Kamp Krusty, which I kept on my sidebar mostly out of sentimentality and perhaps also the vain hope that he'd one day return, he put up a new post:
I just...stopped. No good reason. Just couldn't handle it. And then I got embarrassed about not visiting it, and then REALLY started ignoring it, this time out of guilt. Very healthy, huh?

I want to do it again. I miss it. I'm still blogging a "work blog", but it's a different audience, and I have to try to meet them where they are. I simply can't be as free-wheeling. Not everyone understands irony, it turns out.

My job is VERY challenging. And I'm expected to Twitter and Facebook, I'm doing both of those things. Please feel free to keep up there, if you like. An…

Pop Culture Roundup

I started reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle this week, on the recommendation of Scott at Nachfolge. The short short explanation is that this is Hamlet set in rural Wisconsin. The slightly longer version is we meet Edgar, the son of a farmer who has condition rendering him mute. His best friend is a dog named Almondine. We get some background on his parents and the dog-breeding business they keep.  And then Edgar's shady uncle Claude returns from overseas.  I've yet to reach the meat of the story (it's 500 pages or so), but Wroblewski paints vivid word pictures without being overindulgent. The Amazon reviews for this are all over the place, so I'll be interested to get deeper into the story and see for myself.

We watched Bolt this week, about a dog who stars in a TV show of same name and whose handlers make it a point to keep him believing that everything that happens on the show is real. This, the producer explains at one point, will produce more genuine emotion …


After five years at my current church, I will officially earn a five-week sabbatical. After admittedly anticipating this pretty much since I signed my call agreement, that anniversary is only a few more months off.

While this time is still just under a year away (I'm planning for May 2010), now is the time to be laying out the plans for the church while I'm gone: arrangements for preaching and pastoral coverage, thoroughly communicating to the congregation that this is happening, why pastors get sabbaticals, etc. I imagine some questioning and hesitation about the whole thing, but I'm not overly concerned about that.

Five weeks does not allow for the same things that a two- or three-month stint would, but I've been thinking for years about the possibilities that this time will afford. I've thought about visiting various churches that fall under the emerging/emergent banner and just soak in their weekly activities, but that was at the height of my immersion in tha…

American Salvation

On the way back from Florida, I saw this billboard:

So, remind me: which political party supposedly has the messiah again?

The Emergent Backlash

I honestly haven't been paying much attention to the latest news regarding the emerging/emergent church/conversation lately. I keep up with a couple blogs and authors and I'm even Facebook friends with a few emergent guys. In fact, Facebook is probably the most direct way that I get any new information about what's happening in the movement.

My own lack of keeping up is perhaps appropriate, as a link to Tony Jones' newest blog post popped up on my Facebook page, entitlted Death of Emergent Round-Up. It seems as though a lot of others are losing interest, dropping out, becoming openly hostile, and so on.

I haven't read all of the entries that Jones cites, but I notice some themes within the several that I have read. First off, as best as I can tell, Emergent Village briefly made a run at having some kind of a board of directors, but that attempt was given up after a few months. In the fallout, posts like these have emerged, although similar sentiments were comin…

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading Barbara Brown Taylor's new book, An Altar in the World. It's a spiritual practice book of sorts, although no concrete step-by-step how-to is included. In Taylor's style, she instead writes chapter after chapter ruminating on different ways one may deepen one's sense of the divine simply by slowing down and paying attention to one's surroundings: to creation, to the simple actions that make up the day, to other people. In her chapter entitled "The Practice of Getting Lost" (essentially, deviating from one's normal life routines and experiencing the unfamiliar), she writes, "Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it that way--once you let it bring you to your knees and show you what is real, including who you really are, who other people are, and how near God can be when you have lost your way." Those looking for the aforementioned instruction manual will be sorely disappointed. But…

Brant's Blog of Awesomeness

For months now, I've been wondering what happened to Brant Hansen, the writer of the blog Letters from Kamp Krusty. His regular musings on faith and his hilarious sense of humor made his blog a favorite of mine. Like, "check it every day" favorite.

Well, he just seemed to just fall off the blogomap, but a simple Google search led me to the official blog of his radio show Brant's Blog of Awesomeness (a title that really isn't that awesome), where he's apparently doing all his blogging now.

So go give it a read. And yes, that's an accordion.

Pentecost, Year Five

In the course of the church year, yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. And I was nowhere near a church building for it.

As I mentioned the other day, I'm in Florida. I can see the ocean from where I'm typing this; can hear the waves running up onto the sand and the voices of other vacationers out on the pool deck. Yep, just a horrible experience all around.

It certainly isn't that I wanted to skip Pentecost. Along with World Communion Sunday, it's my favorite non-Big Commercial Jesus holy day of the church calendar. I love the story of the disciples waiting, wondering what to do next, perhaps struggling with their identity and purpose, and suddenly being overcome by a rushing whirlwind that starts them on the next stage of their journey as a budding kingdom movement. Bystanders think they're drunk! When was the last time church was so Spirit-infested that you thought people were drunk?

So I'm sorry to have missed it, at least in terms of attending a worshipping…

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