Showing posts from April, 2010

Pop Culture Roundup

I've started reading Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson, which is all about what he calls "vocational holiness." In one sense this is an exploration of integrity, in another it is a study of calling vs. careerism. Using the story of Jonah, Peterson talks about how easily pastors slip from a sense of God's call to ministry into one's own preoccupation with being the Big Important Religious Professional. The latter is more about feeding the ego: it wrecks havoc on one's family life, leads to poor boundaries, and cultivates a preoccupation with "moving up." By contrast, Peterson encourages pastors to toil in the muck and mundane of the daily tasks of ministry and of people's lives, helping to name the holy in the midst of it all.

I've also found myself back in Walden, figuring that I don't want to be enmeshed only in ministry issues over the next month. Thoreau is quite a disillusioned person, and by that I mean he has str…

Other Rooms

My church’s sanctuary is of very modest décor.

A long center aisle of red carpet parts two sets of wooden pews, the ends painted white with a dark natural finish for the backs and trim. You’re able to sit on red cushioned seats that match the floor, facing frontwards in straight formation.

The walls are a bare white, save for the bottom three feet, which are covered in wood paneling. Four clear glass windows line each side of the room, and depending on which side of the room you sit on, you have the option of viewing our cemetery or our parking lot and parsonage.

The focal point of the room is a large ornate gold Celtic cross hanging in the middle of the chancel, augmented by a velvet red curtain hanging behind it. The pulpit and lectern match the pews and walls: white with dark natural trim.

Above you is a polished dark wood ceiling, a remnant from the original sanctuary before various changes had been made. Six gold chandeliers hang from it, along with a large speaker that some thou…

Pop Culture Roundup

I'm still reading Walking a Sacred Path in preparation for my sabbatical. Artress advises against unreasonable expectations when walking the labyrinth, as if one is assured of some mystical experience. She notes ways to prepare to walk it, such as identifying questions one is wrestling with or hopes for clarity, but also advises to be open to the experience and just let things happen. She uses the analogy of walking through the country and expecting to see a frog: one may either become so preoccupied with finding a frog that one misses the scenic beauty, or if one finds the frog one misses how expectations affect what we see or don't see. So one may experience something in the labyrinth, but one should be open to the high possibility that it won't be what one expects.

I watched The Hangover this past week. I'd heard from pretty much everyone that this was one of the most hilarious, laugh-a-minute movies they'd ever seen, so my expectations were pretty high. I …

Other Things I Plan to Do During Sabbatical

~Daily exercise. Daily. Exercise.
~Eating well
~Time enjoyed with family
~Bass guitar
~Beginning days with The Living Book of Daily Prayer
~Visits to coffeeshops, used bookstores, wineries, parks
~Spiritual/vocational direction conversations with colleagues
~Time spent in silence
~Deepening my understanding and use of the labyrinth as a spiritual exercise
~Reading poetry and/or Walden
~Worship with faith communities not necessarily of my own tradition
~Just taking in the spring days
~Large chunks of time with my cellphone turned off and my computer shut down
~Rediscovering my love of astronomy
~Getting tattoo #4

If I get to all of it, good for me. If I skip one or more of these things, save the first three, oh well. That's just how I'm gonna roll.

Big Sabbatical Plans

The time for my sabbatical has finally come. It begins a week from today, and will last through May 30th. I will have five weeks of rest and renewal.

Almost from the time I began at my church, it seems, I began thinking about the possibilities for this time. Of course, in comparison to other pastors who have earned sabbaticals, mine will not be that long. Along with that has been the arrival of Coffeeson, so a month-long trip to Europe or some other grand plan like that was taken off the table a couple years ago. Nevertheless, I kept wondering what might be meaningful and worthwhile for this, and I came up with two main questions that seemed appropriate to think about.

First, after so long in one church, how do you keep things fresh and vibrant? After this long in one place (5 1/2 years), many pastors start thinking about updating the profile and seeing what else is out there. The answer to how to keep things new, they may say, is to go to a new church. For a variety of reasons,…

The New UCC Ad

Color me underwhelmed:

Overstuffed Pop Culture Roundup

I'm putting off the rest of Walden for a time. I feel bad, because this is the second time that I've done so. But I'm getting pretty close to sabbatical and there are some other books that I want to concern myself with right now. Even so, it remains on my nightstand with my place marked, and I'll probably even take it along on my different outings for those moments when I get sick and tired of thinking about theology, church, ministry, whatever.

I finished For the Love of God for my book study group, and I am really freaking happy about that. I can't say that I am tremendously better off for reading it, I can't even say that I was all that good about paying attention as my eyes moved down each page. Part of it is my very limited knowledge of Eastern traditions, and part of it was that every essay started to sound the same. I did not find it edifying or enriching; it only drove me up the wall with its redundancy. I would recommend this book to no one at an…

Vintage CC: Innovate, for God's Sake

Note: I wrote this a while back in response to the somewhat common claim that mainline churches are declining just because they are liberal. I figured I'd dig this back out to complement my recap of my time at Eden that I posted the other day.

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 dome…

Back to Eden

Last week, I spent a few days back at Eden Seminary for their spring convocation. No longer eligible for their Herbster alumni event, I wasn't made to be in such a rush to make it there for that program. And that turned out to be a good thing, because a funeral came up for Monday morning, the day after Easter. Needless to say, by the time I got to St. Louis Monday evening, I was pretty beat.

My spirits perked up once I met up with friends at Schlafly Bottleworks for a late dinner, followed by some frozen custard at Ted Drewe's. Ah, St. Louis. How I missed you.

The opening worship at convocation featured Dr. Steve Patterson, professor of New Testament, as the preacher. In part, he introduced the event's theme, "Church Next." But more than that, he preached on how life in Christ is always continuing no matter what sort of state the church is in: "Life in Christ: always ending, always beginning, always incomplete." Dr. Patterson is leaving at the end…

Kyrie eleison

Shortly after I began blogging, I came across a blog titled The Internet Monk. I can't remember the how or why, but I quickly became a regular reader. I was quickly drawn to the discussions there about "post-evangelicalism," the notion of identifying with a particular Christian system, but also critiquing or rejecting much of its unnecessary elements. He greatly resisted the "herd mentality" that tends to plague every Christian movement to some degree, his being evangelicalism.

As I continued to read, I was struck by discussions of spiritual disciplines and the liturgical calendar, of an appreciation of a wide breadth of Christian practices and ideas. The author, Michael Spencer, self-identified as a Southern Baptist, but rejected his tradition's rejection of those practices, along with lifting up many other Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and mainline practices as enriching rather than hindering a life of faith and discipleship.

Along with this post-evange…

...and I'm spent.

I'm taking some time off. Check back in a few days.

Easter Sunday

Holy Saturday

In stillness, the earth awaits the resurrection.

Good Friday

Go to dark Gethsemane, Ye that feel the tempter's power;
Your Redeemer's conflict see, Watch with Him one bitter hour;
Turn not from His griefs away, Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

Follow to the judgment hall, View the Lord of life arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall, O the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame or loss; Learn of Him to bear the cross.

Calvary's mournful mountain climb; There adoring at His feet,
Mark that miracle of time, God's own Sacrifice complete;
"It is finished!" hear Him cry; Learn of Jesus Christ to die.

Maundy Thursday

When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, "Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."- John 13:31-35

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