Showing posts from February, 2012

Vestments, Part 4

Last year, I wrote three posts musing on the meaning of vestments and clerical shirts. If you feel like reading them either for the first time or once again, they are here, here, and here.

When a conflict or disagreement arises in ministry, I often say to myself, "this is not about that," meaning that whatever the stated surface-level issue is, it's not the deeper issue that an individual or entire church is wrestling with. Instead it's only a tiny part of the story or, more likely, a distraction from the real issue. Those posts were certainly meant to wrestle with why I as a pastor wear what I wear in my position, but the deeper issue that I only touched on had more to do with my sense of call. If I am an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ, charged with certain responsibilities among a community of ministers but also to embody a particular role in the world, how might I best "dress the part," as it were?

The clothing issue became a specific aspec…

Pop Culture Roundup

So after months of picking it up, putting it down, reading a chapter and then not touching it for a week or more, I finally finished This Odd and Wondrous Calling. This is what happens when I no longer have 7-9 hours every weekend just to read while rocking Coffeeson during his naps. I wasn't too excited to read it at first, as I felt oversaturated by ministry books at that point, but by the time I finished it I was glad to have taken the time.

We watched Thor the other week, starring Chris Hemsworth as the title character, banished to Earth after being deemed too hot-headed and arrogant to succeed his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) as king of their realm. He spends some time as a human and hanging out with a few scientists, including love interest Natalie Portman. Eventually it is revealed that Thor's brother Loki is up to no good, and the other warriors from his realm need to help get him out of exile. Then, of course you have to stick around after the credits for yet another …


Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. The Road to Easter officially begins, although I always include Transfiguration Sunday in that as well. I think that view is steeped in tradition somehow, but I'm currently too lazy to look it up. I use the reasoning that when most of us in the congregation next see each other, the season will already be four days old, so my sermon usually has an anticipatory flavor to it. Which it did.

The season is shaping up to be a good one activity-wise. We of course will gather tomorrow evening for worship including imposition of ashes. We will gather on subsequent Wednesday evenings for soup and discussions about the church calendar, a subject my church nerd self loves to think about and plan accordingly. My hope is that we have some good conversation about how it helps us live out the Christian story throughout the year. We'll see. Honestly, attendance the past year or two has been a little discouraging. I wonder if it's time for a different format.

As far …

Death and Life and In Between

I've officiated three funerals since the end of January. Actually, I've officiated four. The first was in a community a good half hour or more away because they specifically wanted a UCC pastor and the ones closer to them weren't available. The next two were the sort of "lived a good long life" funerals of church members who had, indeed, lived good long lives.

The fourth was just yesterday. I can't really say that it was a "good long life" sort, as she was only 59. Hers was a good life that included a good long fight with cancer, but arguably this life was not long enough as is often the case with that disease. As I recount my thought process when writing the eulogy, two things stick out. First, I originally wrote about "her cancer," but decided that cancer is not really ours. Instead, it is an intruder, an unwanted guest, a foreign despicable thing. So I left out the "her." Second, the longer I'm here the more regularly I bre…

Owning a Moment

One of my favorite traveling memories is of the day Coffeewife and I drove into New York City with my brother and his then-fiancee. We'd taken the trip to see my grandparents in Tenafly, a short 20-mile car ride away (accounting for traffic, of course). It was early January, which in that region means freezing temperatures and the sort of wind that feels like it's going to cut right through you. We bundled up, layer upon layer, and made our way to our destination.

We parked in a nondescript parking garage, but a parking garage was not what we went to see. The sights, sounds, tastes, and smells were just a few blocks from where our van temporarily rested. It's curious, as I think back on it, how the assault on the senses grows the closer you get to the center of town. There are a few billboards and giant tarps touting the wonders of this product and that location, and then there are many, overlapping and running against each other like a great consumerist mosaic. Ther…

Pop Culture Roundup

We watched Everything Must Go this week, starring Will Ferrell as a guy whose struggles with alcoholism cost him his job. He comes home to find his stuff strewn all over the front lawn and the locks on the house changed, with his wife nowhere to be found. After a few days, he decides to just have a big yard sale. Included in this are interactions with various neighbors who help look after him. Ferrell's character eventually sums up the embarrassing aspect of his troubles by saying, "My problems are here on the lawn for the world to see while the rest of you can hide in your houses." Ferrell already showed that he has dramatic chops in Stranger Than Fiction, but he does well here again, even though the movie is a bit too understated at times.

We also watched Abduction, starring OMG TAYLOR LAUTNER~! as Nathan, a kid who discovers that the people who raised him aren't his real parents. Unfortunately for him, that discovery involves the CIA, rogue foreign agents, and lots…

Ten Ways Theatre Prepared Me for Ministry

I was heavily involved in theatre in high school and college. Jan's post about being a cheerleader inspired me to write this. Here are ten things I learned in theatre that prepared me to be a pastor.

1. Get to know your role and play it well.

2. No matter what size the part, you're all in this together.

3. Bad reviews and performances happen.

4. You're not above correction or further training.

5. Even though sometimes you think or wish otherwise, you're not the Director.

6. Practice, practice, practice.

7. Don't overdo it.

8. Don't half-ass it.

9. Know when and how to enter and exit a scene.

10. Sometimes, you just have to improvise.

God's Feminine Side

During my third and final year of seminary, I was student pastor of a large UCC church just down the street from the school. Out of my entire seminary career, it was the only contextual education experience where, stereotypically, the seminarian was given everything that nobody else on staff wanted to do: I coordinated the senior high ministry, I organized the Thanksgiving Day service (producing this wonderful memory), and I preached on two Sundays that nobody else wanted, namely Scout Sunday and Mother's Day.

I didn't really get the big deal about Scout Sunday, but I did understand the bother with Mother's Day. There is a certain contingent that perhaps expects or prefers the gushing, wine-and-roses sort of sermon about wonderful mothers and motherhood on that particular day, but to go full bore with this tact easily leaves out those with bad relationships with their mothers, those who are unable to be mothers, those grieving their mothers, mothers grieving children, and s…

Vintage CC: The Preaching Rut

I've been thinking about this post from August 2010 lately. There are, I think, a lot of factors that cause a preaching rut, which these may or may not address. Nevertheless, I've found them helpful and felt like re-presenting them.In this post I mention being nearly finished with my second tour through the lectionary, and now I'm nearly halfway through my third. So yeah, these things (and others I haven't thought of) are worth keeping in mind.

Not too long ago, Scott wrote about a preaching quandry he's been dealing with, one facet of which is whether he uses his experiences as a father too often for sermon illustrations. While I try to be very conscious about generally avoiding illustrations about my family, I can certainly relate to the basic issue: getting stuck in a preaching rut.

In three more months, I will complete my second tour through the Revised Common Lectionary, the three-year cycle of suggested texts for each Sunday and holy day of the church year. …

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