Monday, November 15, 2010

Great Job St. Pat's!

Yesterday (Nov 14) we held our annual Time, Talent, and Treasure auction/fundraiser for our building fund. This was a traditional event at St Patrick's prior to Katrina, and we brought it back last year in our new building.
The proceeds go towards payments on our building debt, which is quite burdensome on our budget. We had a lovely evening, the auction committee was AMAZING, worked so hard and so well together. Local vendors donated dinner, appetizers, desserts, and beverages and we had over 100 auction items. I don't have an official tally yet but looks like we will make even more than we did last year, considering these economic times that is fantastic news. I am so proud of our hard working and dedicated folks, and so thankful for everyone who contributed and bought items. Great fun, great food, great spirit, great entertainment!
On another note, went to see my surgeon today for an infection check - the incision has had some infection which we've been watching closely and treating with antibiotics. He was very pleased with how it looks and even gave us the green light to actually wash my leg with soap and water! OK, maybe that's TMI, but a shower without wearing a garbage bag over my boot will be so sweet. It does remind me of how blessed my life is and all the advantages I have compared to so many people throughout the world and in our own community. I give thanks to God, to my LW who is the most patient and skilled nurse on earth, and for all those who continue to pray for me and my family (and I ask you continue to pray for my wife, whose health has been better of late but still struggles on some days).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Deja Vu all over again

Those not in the Knight circle of information (in other words, not Facebook friends with my wife) probably don't know that I have done it again! Yep - three weeks ago I tore the achilles tendon on my left leg. Once again I was playing tennis and it snapped (it was the right leg in Feb of 2009). It's such a weird feeling, that now unfortunately I am too familiar with, but it really feels like someone has SLAMMED your calf with a baseball bat. Of course, you have that feeling as you are falling, unable to walk (the achilles is what allows you to raise up on your toes when walking and running - it's by far the largest tendon in the body and is under great tension, so when it ruptures completely (tears in half), the torque it's under causes the feeling of being hit in the calf as it retracts up into your calf muscle). On the way down I thought "Who hit me?", then "did I run into a fence?" then "have I been shot?" then "oh crud I know what THIS means - lots of pain here I come!".
And I was right.
So here I sit, leg in a boot, non-weight bearing for at least 6 more weeks, post-op two weeks. UGH!
Surgery was in Hattiesburg at the most excellent Southern Bone and Joint (my ortho from 09, like many other fine doctors on the Coast, has left for other pastures). We go back first of next week to get stitches out and hopefully enjoy at least a few moments boot free (while a boot is better than a cast, for at least the time being I am not allowed to remove the boot EVER! I begged Jennifer a few days ago to take it off just for a bit, as over activity was swelling the foot and I was in agony. Being the good nurse, she refused).
Pain management is working out ok and I almost never take any prescription meds now for it. Getting-around management is another story. Crutches are just SO MUCH FUN, making every activity we take for granted a pain in the &*^%. .
The LW bull dogged the insurance company and doctor's office and got me a knee walker thing couple days ago - WAY better than crutches. Ideal for rolling around the house or church, frees up a hand and even has a little basket! Great invention! Can't do stairs with it but other than that it's great. You kneel on it with the bad leg and propel with the good one.
Meanwhile, many other things to talk about and I think this down time will allow me some blogging time so look for much more frequent posts, if anyone is still out there. I hope to begin rehab in December, so listen for the screams!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Five Year Thoughts

All week we've been flooded with images - special reports each night on the news, the obligatory "before and after" shots, the interviews (often with the tears and shock of 5 years ago coupled with either "we're back" or "we are still struggling"). A great editorial on our local channel, WLOX, read it HERE , calling the President out for helping the nation to, as usual, focus on New Orleans and manage to ignore what happened over here, reminds us of our struggle just to stay in the mindset of people.
I don't even know where to begin, in reflecting on these five years. Do I talk, again, about those early days? The horror of riding that storm out, how it FELT, SOUNDED, SMELLED? The incessant howling (SCREAMING) of the wind, the nauseating feeling in my gut, the way the very low pressure made our ears hurt, the terror of watching a roof peel off behind you and wondering if you've put your family in harms way, grateful so much for the friends who sheltered us and took loving care of us for weeks after, the miracle of our own home surviving when so much was destroyed, the church flattened, finally being able to make phone calls - randomly and not often - finding my oldest daughter with the mentally handicapped people she evacuated from the group home she worked in, evacuated to Lord-knows where, took us 3 days to find her and see her and know she was ok, the utter despair and destruction, the mountains of debris (tens of millions of yards, trust me it is incomprehensible), the "Dorothy houses" sitting in the middle of roads they were deposited on, the unbelievable flooding of every stream, river, bayou, bay, creek and drainage canal, helicopters and National Guard trucks, and people simply undone.
Remembering the blur of day after day, waking up wondering, crying out to God - "What am I supposed to do today?" Here I was a person who actually prefers a little structure, a plan, something to attack and measure, and each day brought complete chaos with no plan and way too much to tackle, too many people with such great need, too much destroyed to even imagine it rebuilt, so we just got up, early, Jennifer and I and headed to the relief center, helping the volunteers who came by the hundreds to setup and unload, to tend to medical needs in the miracle of a medical clinic run and managed by my wife, to begin the clean up and removal, to hold a hand and say a prayer. How many times I followed someone out to their car, helping them with their load of water and food and clothes and diapers, heard their story, slipped them a hundred dollar bill from the checks I had cashed which had been given to us to help, cashed on road trips to Alabama since we had no banks, helped this one woman who loaded her old beatup Dodge Caravan with supplies, who then broke down crying on my shoulder, this worried and burdened woman who told me she had six family members sleeping in that car, nowhere to go, and I went with her and took more stuff and some sleeping bags and a tent and prayed for them and with them, never to find them again, hoping they moved to a shelter. Being so proud and teary as some teens from my church came and helped us at Camp Coast Care, they laughed and worked and played with kids that came in, all these teens also had lost THEIR homes, were staying with others, as so many families were, if you had a house standing you had other people in there with you, recalling my son, about 8 months into this thing asking, not in a mean way, but just in a curious-will-normal-ever-come way, "Dad will we ever have a night where someone I don't know is staying with us?', and Dad has no answer. We were blessed, very much so, so it was no big deal.
Do I move on or talk about the woman who almost died in her home, water to her neck, neither she nor her daughter could swim, how a neighbor rescued them out of a window and lashed them inside a boat tied to a tree, where they watched it all play out, tornadoes and wind and water and prayed the tree held, watched her home and car wash away, knowing her story was just one story of so many JUST LIKE THAT. Do I step away or talk about the friend in Hattiesburg who is a Chevy dealer who loaned me a pickup truck that I would fill up with supplies and drive around to all the tent "villages", especially in the Bay, and hand out what I had and money if I had it too, and then go back for more supplies and do it all over again. What a gift that truck proved to be, just in the nick of time. So much came to us just in the nick of time, over and over again God provided, in the triple digit heat and the dust and the great despair, God kept showing up, looking different every time, but present and there always. Always.

Should I talk about that or let you browse the archives of 2005 from this blog and see the images yourself in the media reports. Going there, just a little, just in writing this, is hard. So this must do for me, I can't go there too much, still.
Do I reflect on that 1st anniversary service, down at our outdoor chapel, looking towards our former church where the green tentacles of nature have taken over, where we sang and prayed and anointed and shared Christ and baptized two of our own, reclaiming water as a creative and cleansing force instead of a threatening and destroying one. If nothing else, go HERE and read friend Bruce Colville's account of that service, his prose capturing the moment beautifully. Please read it...
2nd anniversary, no big production, did a treadmill stress test and wept in my car as I looked at the picture of my seminary class, sent to my from the death bed of a dear classmate, letting all that sweep over me, the terror and loss and despair, sometimes it can creep up and tug on my sleeve, if I let it, and that moment in the lonely parking lot of a still-rebuilding hospital I had my time with crushing sadness and grief. Why did it take so long? I have no idea. Read more about it right HERE.
Three more years of rebuilding, of watching people come and go, of praying for direction, of traveling the country, of meeting so many people whose hearts were changed because Jesus said GO and they did, not looking back, and so what was once despair turned to joy, oh how I prayed Psalm 126 over and over, declared it for us, made it our own personal promise from God - "WHEN the Lord restored Zion, THEN we were like those who dream, our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of JOY. The Lord has done great things for us, and we ARE filled with joy". And then 45 months after the storm-that-must-not-be-named, we moved in, into our new home, our own holy space, missing still our volunteer friends, we claimed holy ground and sang with joy, we said yes that night to laughter, we said yes, oh yes, to joy.
There is such a big gap, so much more to say, people to thank, stories to recall, trips to remember, victories and frustrations, so much more. The archives of this blog have some, my heart has so much more. But this has been long enough. 5 years we will mark on Sunday. We won't look back much, or even dwell too long in sadness. We have a new playground to bless, new stations of the cross to dedicate, new (to us) vestments to pray over. We will give thanks to the army, God's army, that have given time, money, prayers, support, their very selves, to help us. We will count those blessings and many others, share a meal together, and proclaim that the Lord has restored our fortunes, though we may still have far to go we too will fill our mouths with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy. For this is what the people of God, supported and loved and helped and made whole by our brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what we do. May God be pleased.

Monday, May 03, 2010

So we wait and watch....again

It's really hard to describe to folks who are not from here, haven't been through the post-Katrina years. In August we will pass the 5 year mark since the storm-who-must-not-be-named. And here we sit, anxious and worried, confused and angry, puzzled and pretty helpless as oil pours into the Gulf of Mexico and drifts our way, bringing with it the great unknowns - do they have a CLUE how to stop the leak? Do they know what the environmental impact will even be? How will our poor fishermen, shrimpers and others, ever survive this hit?
What have we done? Why isn't more done? How could this happen? WHY IS THIS FAIR?
I kind of lost it a bit with someone the other day, someone who doesn't live here, who hasn't even seen "here", other than the news reports that would, on occasion, wander over from New Orleans to show where Katrina actually made landfall. His comment was something about "can you believe this oil spill mess? I mean, people just don't understand what it will mean to our nation and our economy and how much it's going to cost me in seafood price increases and gasoline price increases".
Really? That's the concern? It might impact the pocketbook and bank account of people far away, who only get their news in the sound bites they are fed and who for the most part are shocked to learn just how ravaged the coast of Mississippi was by that DAMN HURRICANE?
I was not kind in my response....

I am not one to panic. I know that there is much to be done and much I don't understand about how this stuff works. I don't think anyone knows enough to scream that this is the end of the world as we know it - it's all guesswork. But common sense tells us, even if they stop the leak tomorrow, there are ramifications on both fishing and tourism industries that absolutely cannot take such a hit. And they really don't know if they can stop it, which is what the little voice in my head keeps reminding me. But I refuse to panic without more information, and I am (recognizing I am in the minority here) not going to scream at the Feds or BP for their "slow" response. I think, like Katrina, this is something no one had really prepared for (although in this case THAT is inexcusable). And while they try many, many approaches to both stop the leak and contain the spill, some of those will fail, fail hugely, but that's ok - keep trying. We live in a world where we expect our government to snap it's huge, money-printing fingers and fix all our ills overnight, friends that's just not reality.
Meanwhile, as usual, there is another side, another story that has been told. Thousands of people have already signed up to volunteer to help with cleanup. Many, many local folks already have gone through training on beach and animal cleanup procedures, many more from all over are waiting on the chance to come and help. As I told my parishioners Sunday - don't forget you are incredibly resilient - you KNOW you ARE. You CAN get through this. God is with us, in the faces and voices and hands and feet of our neighbors. We can pray and we can dig in when it's time. And we will, of that I have no doubt.
In someways the anxiety and the "it's so unfair-ness" is more distressing than the smell of oil or the images we watch. It triggers something in folks who have been here, it weighs on us, it haunts us. This is the part I pray would go away, and the part I don't think anyone else really understands. A friend called it a "tipping point". Perhaps that is the best way to describe it. Friends - pray we don't tip. That may be the best thing you can do for us, for now, as we wait and watch again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The 100 Word Sermon

A few folks had asked me to post this - it's from a few years ago. As a fund raiser at an auction, the highest bid item was the right to select what Sunday I would preach a 100 Word Sermon! They fought over this! Hmmph!
Anyway, the winner, a mom, picked, of course, Mother's Day. So I did it - here is the result. By the way at our auction last fall we auctioned another one of these, I am waiting for the winner to tell me when I have to do it!
I had fun with this....

100 Word Sermon

You are wondering, can it be done.
Will it be good? Will it be fun?

You know, this is hard to do
Preaching this gospel, can my words be few?

Jesus promises the Spirit to lead us and guide
To help us love, in Jesus, we abide

I will not leave you orphaned, I am coming to you
The promise of our Lord will certainly do!

The Spirit of truth, the Spirit of love
Sent by Jesus on the wings of a dove

I must stop now, hope it’s been fine
That’s all – it’s a blessing, that’s just ninety-nine.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Holy Holy Week, Batman!

I said on Twitter/ Facebook / Lkendin / Plaxo that this was not the Holy Week I envisioned. Of course that prompted lots of responses. Most were reminders that perhaps someone a couple of thousand years ago said the same thing.
Not that I am Jesus. Or crucified. I am just reporting.
It began the Thursday before Palm Sunday. I had the AWESOME privilege of Celebrating Eucharist at Coast Episcopal School, where we had a "Palm Thursday" service. It was really great. Their chaplain, The Rev. Liz Jones, who was my Rector when I was a Curate out of seminary, at St. James in Greenville, had prepared them so well. Liz was out of town attending her daughter's graduation, so asked me to step in. I was so blessed to do so! The 6th graders (the top class at this school) did the Passion Gospel, not just reading it but acting it out also. They were really fantastic. Great time.
Later that day was at the doctor with my LW (lovely wife), once again. She has been battling terrible headaches and sinus "issues" for months. Had an operation in the fall, and was hospitalized after that for complications. Things hadn't gotten any better, she is obviously allergic to something(s) down here, has started allergy shots, but meanwhile her face swells terribly along with the headaches. After months of trying different ways to deal with it, we agreed to surgery on the frontal sinuses. Since we wanted to go on vacation the week after Easter Day, decided to do the surgery the Monday of Holy Week, our understanding was a 2-3 hour surger, out patient, home later Monday, and some discomfort and pain post-op. We could not have been more wrong.
Meanwhile, my daughter comes down with a stomach virus, while at home watching a friend's baby that often stays with us.
So here I am Thursday afternoon and Friday - trying to think and began writing Holy Week sermons, still working on the liturgies (we were doing some real different stuff for our first Holy Week in our new buildings), sitting in the den as the LW is in the bed suffering from more headaches, and daughter is puking her guts up, needing my attention a good bit (and rightfully so). I was not feeling good about all this.
I managed to get Palm Sunday sermon done, and able to communicate to the secretary to use same bulletins as last year for MT (Maundy Thursday) and GF (Good Friday) services. Saturday was more of the same, with daughter still pretty sick and LW not able to get up much.
Palm Sunday was fun and good. I preached on the Philipians passage. Passion Sunday is a favorite of our parish and we began the procession this year in the center of our recently constructed outdoor labyrinth. My son played guitar as we processed and folks actually sang (Sing Hosanna, Sing Hosanna, Sing Hosanna to the king of kings!). At the doors of the worship hall, we said another collect and switched to the more traditional All Glory, Laud, and Honor.
Monday was surgery. I did ask a dear friend who is a retired priest in our parish to take the Monday evening Eucharist, in case I got delayed at the hospital. Boy, was that an understatement! My poor LW's surgery took 6 hours! It's very meticulous going, working on the frontal sinuses by entering in through the eyebrows, avoiding nerve bundles (and of course, the brain!), but the doc felt great about all he had done. No question of the need to do it, lots of thick mucous that was not draining. He put in stints to create bigger "drain holes" from the frontal to the nose, which should stay in a couple of months to make sure scarring does not close up the holes. Since the operation took so long, felt LW should stay overnight with some pain management too.
My daughter has by now recovered, and as a soon-to-graduate nursing student, did me the huge favor of spending the nite in the hospital. Brought LW home Tuesday afternoon, got another retired priest to take the Tue night Eucharist.
Tuesday night was miserable - LW in much pain and discomfort. Looks HORRIBLE from all the bruising from the procedure. Breaks my heart to see her suffer so.
Wednesday I keep a promise to my son to take him to the DMV to take his driving road test for his license. He's ready - we've spent a lot of hours on the road. While we are there get a frantic call from LW, daughter has sliced her finger open cutting some cheese and they are on the way to an Urgent Care clinic, probably need stitches. My LW has NO business being out of bed but off she goes with daughter. My son passes (yay) the test and we head straight there. We are not happy with the care at this place (wound is deep and on the joint so we prefer stitches, they offer glue) and then go to the ER. I finally convince the LW to go home and go to bed, so the newly minted driver takes her home. This event will take a lot out of her. 5 stitches later, daughter is ready to go home. The ER visit has taken forever, of course, and our Tennebrae service has already started. This is the first time for us to do Tennebrae, EVER, at our parish and I had to turn it over to the very capable hands our our Deacon and Verger. They did a great job. I learned that doing the whole thing can be too long, so if we do it again we will take the shorter version I think.
So now I am oh-for-three on Holy Week services, have no sermons done for the rest of the week (although I did sketch out MT, GF, and a little of Easter Sunday while in the waiting room for 8 hours Monday morning). And Wednesday night turned into a terrible nightmare for LW, tremendous pain and discomfort, no sleep at all, misery. We go straight to the doctor's office and he decides to admit her to get a handle on things. Thank you!
We get her checked in and when my daughter is able to come up, I arrive at the MT service 2 minutes before kickoff, sermon somewhat done. It's a nice service, I think the sermon is an interesting one, I took a very different approach this year. I am disappointed in the turnout. I know I shouldn't worry about numbers but so much work goes into these Holy Week services that it does disappoint me to have such a small turnout. Maybe Foot Washing just is too gross for folks to come participate? But isn't that kinda the point?
Back to hospital until about midnight, daughter stays again, LW is only slightly improved.
Electronically I edit and update bulletin for the Easter Vigil - it's a biggie! I have crazy ideas about baptism and rearranging space that I am very excited about. We had reoriented the worship space for Lent, turned chairs to a semi-circular seating, moved the altar to a different wall, etc. During Holy Week I turned the chairs again, this time to a choir-type seating (facing each other). The center aisle quite wide and in the center is where the Tennebrae candles went, the Foot Washing stations were, and Veneration of the Cross was to take place - and then the baptisms at the Vigil.
Early Friday morning I write GF sermon, think a little about Vigil homily, finish proofing Vigil bulletin and Sunday bulletin, go to hospital to hang out with my poor wife, still not better, go back to noon GF service to find my Deacon is ill and won't be there, Verger and I do the service, it goes very well, go back to hospital until time for the 6 pm service, do it all again, go back to hospital. Thankfully my sister-in-law and mother-in-law spend afternoon and evening at the hospital, a big help.
My oldest daughter arrives in town to help out, and she spends most of Saturday at hospital. LW is improving. Saturday from 10 to about 3 we setup church for the Vigil, move the altar and chairs, clean up the buildings, cut the grass, prepare to light the new fire in the center of the labyrinth, mop and sweep and you name it. A great group of St. Pat's folks are on hand to do all this work. I meet with baptismal families for rehearsal, then head to hospital for couple of hours.
The Great Vigil of Easter was one of the best services we've ever done. We do the salvation history lessons by using storytellers and they all did a great job. In the center is the Paschal candle and a huge wash tub for baptisms. Stories are told by candlelight, and then I baptize a baby, a 4 yr old and 6 yr old. The older two are siblings. I baptized the baby first, dipping the shell into the sanctified water that was blessed in the tub. Then the siblings stepped into the tub, the older girl giggling, the younger boy smiling. Liz was on hand to help and she baptized the girl, who giggled the whole time, and then I did the boy as he laughed. It was FABULOUS!
Following the baptisms, the first Alleluias are shouted, all the lights come on, bells ring, you know the drill. I called the congregation's attention to look out the back windows, and there illuminated was a cross made out of the floor beams of our destroyed church on the beach. It was quite a moment!
After the 2 1/2 hour service, all family went back to the hospital where we did "birthday" for our oldest daughter, who turned 25 on April Fool's Day. Cake was shared with nursing staff. LW is lot better. Got home about 12:30, started writing Easter Sunday sermon, while replaying the Butler-Michigan State game which I had recorded. Stopped about 2 with it half done, got up at 5 and finished the sermon, headed to church for a very nice Easter Sunday celebration - packed house, pretty outfits, glorious service, wonderful Easter egg hunt on the grounds put on by one of our families who work so hard to offer this gift every year.
Back to hospital, sending my kids home to cook Easter dinner and the first meat we will eat since Lent started, LW and I wait for the doc to send her home. Have a good visit with him and finally she comes home, 3:00 on Easter Day. We enjoy dinner and then put her to bed.
As I said in my Easter Sunday sermon, I could not have been more proud of the St Pats people who worked so hard to pull off Holy Week. We know how to do HW at St Pats, and it's way not about me, obviously. They all did their jobs and did them well, and for most of the services, I was only able to show up just before kickoff yet everything went extremely well. My secretary, for whom this was her first Holy Week as secretary, did an amazing job with all the bulletins. Altar Guild, choir, vestry, many others worked to make the place shine and do make sure the liturgy went off like clockwork.
This is a long post, but it felt good to get it all written down. Way more importantly than Holy Week is my LW's ongoing health battle. As I write this, she's not well yet. She's better, for sure, but long way to go. I covet your prayers for her complete healing, for strength, for Peace. This has been a long ordeal and I cannot see the end of it yet, so I ask your prayers for me as well.
God bless you all - and remember - The Lord has Risen Indeed. Alleluia!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Wading in on the HOB/D

There is a listserv used by deputies to General Convention as well as Bishops. And "used" is an interesting word - not many "use" it, but many do read it. You can also be permitted "kibitzer" status, which allows you to read but not post on the list.
There are about 10 or fewer folks who constantly post on their. You are limited to 3 posts a day, and most of these use those up fairly often. Some of the interactions and personal, but not too often.
I wander over to it from time to time. My Gmail system throws all the posts into a special label/folder which I usually ignore and clean out from time to time. I have posted myself about 3 times since 2006 when I first was eligible to the list (by virtue of being on the MS deputation to General Convention).
Last week I dared to post something that was a bit risky. It came from my ongoing frustration with our leadership in majoring in the minors. The Executive Council, which is kind of the vestry for TEC and "runs" things between General Conventions, and is also charged with budgetary items and implementation of resolutions passed at GC, met recently. They heard a report from Kirk Hadaway, who is the research statistician for TEC. The news wasn't good, and it wasn't surprising, reflecting on how our denomination continues to shrink. This follows up with the State of the Church report we got just before General Convention, a lengthy and well done document that highlighted much of the same, with more detail and some thought provoking and challenging questions for all of us.
Yet at GC 2009 this report was basically ignored - you know, we had to talk about sex instead. And when the E.C. received Hadaway's report, they had almost no response. Instead they passed a "lengthy resolution" about Israel and Palestine and another about Afganistan. Sigh. While important topics, I wonder why as a national denomination our leaders feel this is where they need to spend their time - in the political arena? I am convinced that those "in power" have completely lost their way but are unable to see it. So I finally had enough and had to say something.
I will post my email below. The responses were not surprising. Some of the "inside" folks were quite rude to me. Many other people wrote to me (not on the list but to me directly) how glad they were I said what I said and supported it completely.
Eventually a decent conversation about evangelism and church growth took place on the list. But after a few days, it's back to "normal". Meanwhile, we will continue to do everything we can to reach more people for the Gospel of Christ, to make disciples and to serve others.
My post:
We have lost our way......
Nero fiddles as the Titanic chairs are rearranged.... (yes, I know I am mixing metaphors)

There is no doubt in my mind that this opinion I am about to offer will irritate, and possibly infuriate, many folks on this list. I get it. I do. I am a two-time clergy alternate to GC and I know that those "inside the beltway" have a hard time seeing what I, and many others, see.
Isn't it true that an entrenched bureaucracy cannot heal itself? Or has a very difficult time doing so?
Many folks on this list have worked incredibly hard at some of the issues I am about to question, and I hope they know I do not do so at a personal level. I hope they will continue to work towards solutions to really difficult problems. It is their calling and I honor that. But, I want to try to share with y'all how our conversations on this list, and the time and energy of our leadership on certain topics, looks to many people in the pews - the people who are convinced that, at least at a "national" level, we have lost our way.
So here I go......please be gentile....

The most striking thing I heard /read leading up to GC 2009 was the State of the Church report. If ever we had a call to change business as usual and honestly take a look at the REAL state of the church, it was in that report. I arrived in Anaheim thinking surely we would spend a great deal of time honestly reflecting, thinking, praying, discussing, dreaming about the implications of this report.
Instead, I heard nothing - other than the dire budget cuts that came late in the gathering, which can be closely linked to the status the report gave us. Cuts that included the office of evangelism! Amazing! Instead, once again, the vast majority of time and energy and focus was on sexuality.
Then, the Executive Council, which includes some dear friends of mine, meets for four days and hears from Kirk Hadaway some distressing numbers and trends and statistics on our dear church. Surely this was not surprising news? After all, we renamed all of our standing committees of the Exec. Comm to have the word "Mission" in them, so naturally we are focusing on mission - on church growth, new church starts, exciting ministry opportunities, ways to turn this battleship around - right?
No - we get a very involved resolution on Israel - Palestine. They "Passed a lengthy resolution (WM009) on Middle East peace-making efforts". They also "issued the church's first statement on the war in Afghanistan."
We have lost our way.
Don't get me wrong. Those are important matters that all Christians need to pay attention to (all people, actually, not just Christians). And I know some of this was in response to GC resolutions - which leads to the conversation about how much time GC spends on these topics vs. evangelism and growth. But what folks are not understanding is, when these are the focus reports out of GC or Exec Comm, other than a few folks in our churches, our people are left wondering what our leadership is up to. WHY a lengthy resolution on the Middle East, and not one on how to grow our churches? Why a statement on Afganistan that, I am sorry to say, has no more impact on US policy than if our local Rotary Club said the same thing over lunch. It is exasperating to see us still acting like we are a huge political force in this country, the denomination of Presidents - those days are gone! And I hope and pray our last act as a vital and valuable denomination is to witness to the love of Christ and not to make political statements that will be ignored by 99% of the country, much less it's leadership.
This is what the folk in my neck of the woods say to me, when they talk about the "national" church. They scratch their heads and wonder, have we lost our way?
I rarely post on here. A couple of times I have submitted something to do with church planting or growth. The posts are always almost completely ignored. It's not that that hurts my feelings, it is just indicative of the way we have come to operate. There was far more energy and many more posts about the audacity of 815 hiring, GASP!, a non-union cleaning crew, than there has ever been about the State of the Church report.
Can we not see this? Or have we so lost our way there is no getting back?
I want to hear, see, participate in conversations on creative ways churches are reaching the unchurched. How they are making real disciples out of their people, who cannot wait to go outside the doors of their church and be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. I commend the E.C. on the support of Haiti and the wonderful goal of 10 million to support them. This is one way forward, but it has to reach to the local level somehow. We do these things because we are followers of a Risen Lord who taught us to love one another as He loves us. How are people making an impact, in Jesus' name, in their communities? Where are churches growing and what methods are they using? How are dioceses changing their COM in such a way as to recognize a new breed of entrepreneurial leadership that can start new churches and reach whole new groups of people? THAT'S a conversation to get excited about, and one I desperately wish would take place from the national level on down.
I left a comfortable job and very satisfactory way of life to enter seminary at 40 years old because I felt a call from God in Christ to preach the good news of salvation and to help make better disciples of those who believe, and because I felt I had a unique story to tell of reconciliation and hope. This is what I need my national church to help me do, and I pledge to help any others with my small contributions. For the sake of Christ and our church, I hope and pray we can focus our time, attention, energy, incredible brain power, love, and the unique things our church has to offer, to a world looking for Jesus, whether they know it or not.
Perhaps we can find our way, again.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Holy, and different, Lent

Lent of 2009 we were getting ready. After 3 1/2 years in exile since the hurricane, our new building was going up. We were excited and anxious, and somewhere WAY past ready....
So we paused. During Lent, we reflected and we remembered. Then we looked ahead. Our focus during Lent and Holy Week of 2009 was on returning from exile. What is it like, to return? To come back? What's the same? What's different? How are we different?
I had been saying since the storm-that-should-not-be-named, that if the end result was we were the same as we were before, what a shame that would be. We are forever changed, and despite the human tendency to revert, find "normal" again, halt these changes forced upon us, we cannot now, nor ever, deny how we've been shaped by what we've been through. Some of that is good, some not so much. At the core, though, is this sense of incredible gratitude - for we cannot look at our beautiful new buildings without seeing the faces of so many people who came to our aid and who helped make it happen.
Consequently, we are changed by their love, just like we are all changed by God's love. In both cases, it's love that we did not earn or even deserve, yet was and is freely given. With that at our core, how could we ever be the same?
So Lent 2010 is upon us. This year, as I think and pray and plan Lenten sermons and liturgies, the focus may be on home, home in the true sense of warmth, welcome, security, hospitality - now that we are home, how do we fling these doors open, reach out to our community, be much more present in word and deed, and invite, intentionally and ferociously, others in our community to come "home" too, to be with us, to teach us, to join us?
Could be an interesting time. You, too, are invited to the observance of a Holy Lent. I pray you will do so in whatever faith community you find yourself in - wherever you find home.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Asking for prayers...

Sometimes when you are in this "bidness" you can forget to ask for prayers for yourself and family. It's been a very intense pastoral care week at St Pats - our first funeral of a parishioner in our new building (horrible train - car accident), another great family who is losing a loved one, two other families in real crisis (can't say more). It becomes a challenge to be everywhere you need to be.
And on the home front, my daughter, whose illness was chronicled on here a year or so ago, is having difficulty again. In a lot of pain and discomfort. She and my LW are back at the university hospital today for doctor visits, and some additional tests are already scheduled for later this month. Just cannot find out what's causing all this.
My wife was in the hospital 3 times before Christmas - sinus surgery, then they had to go back in, then had to be put in the hospital a 3rd time to manage things. She's really no better, in fact I think she is far worse than before the surgery. Everyday wakes up with her face swollen and severe headaches.
I think we are haunted by some kind of Katrina Krud.
Then tomorrow (Friday), my mother in law is having a pace maker put in (a new one) and my LW will be her round the clock nurse, as usual. The next day I have a niece getting married (a good thing of course) in the same town where ma-in-law will be, so will get to see lots of family. Then we hope to take a few days off in New Orleans the first of the week. Good friends have arranged us tickets and access to a suite at the Hornets game Monday night - should be fun!
A mix of difficulty and good times ahead. Prayers are always appreciated - especially for my daughter, Mackenzie, and my wife and her mom.

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Year - Post More?

Wow, it's been since August since I blogged on here. Facebook and Twitter have become my primary way of saying anything in the public domain. That's to my shame. 144 character bursts of wisdom don't really cut it (but may be all I have anyway).
So...most likely this blog exists and no one ever checks it any more. Who could blame them? I would like to write more and intend to for 2010. But may find another forum, because this one may just be dead.
So....if you read here, or have me on your RSS or ATOM feed and would like to "see" more, would you comment on this post and let me know? Otherwise, I will move to another venue, because the "itch" to write is growing stronger. It can help me process and share and gather ideas and feedback.
Thanks - if you are still watching!