Thursday, June 21, 2007
Monday, July 31, 2006
UMC Administrative Question
I have been suddenly struck with a concern that we United Methodists call our annual meeting of Clergy an "Executive Session." Without getting into whether or not clergy ought to be meeting generally aprt from laity in a presumably democratic, balanced lay-and-clergy church polity (which I think may be well justified on matters of character), I need help understanding this.
We are, presumably a church whose polity bends over nearly backwards to maintain a balance of leadership between laity and clergy. Yet, we call our "clergy-only" session an "executive session." Does not the use of the word "executive" carry the connotation of somehow being a step above or preferred, or higher in a hierarchy?
Just say no to "Executive" Session! Call it "Clergy Session," or tell me why not!
Saturday, July 29, 2006
I had a few moments to spare this evening so I decided to check out the UM News site. I found a link to Annual Conference reports. Curious about what's happening elsewhere I decided to read a few.The last line of each was the most depressing. Consider these examples:
"Membership stands at 230,500, down 6,807 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 122,691, down 1,115.""Membership stands at 283,617, down 7,238 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 109,269, down 976 from the previous year."
"Membership stands at 321,970, down 4,302 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 156,865, down 4,536.""Membership stands at 95,777, down 3,059 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 33,526, down 1,055."
" Membership in 2005 stands at 77,291, down 1,758 from 2004. Average worship attendance is 23,086, down 1,320 from 2004."You get the idea.
Back when I was working on my last degree I served a church in California, so I thought I'd check the Cal Pac news. Covering southern California and beyond (to Hawaii & Guam), the Cal Pac AC includes many large, growing cities. A prime mission field, one would think. But the focus seemed to be on retirement. 22 clergy retired. 6 were ordained Elder. How can you reach a large, growing population when you retire so many workers relative to the number you take in?Now it may be the case that these are good retirements for the Conference - along the lines of the preacher who says his church is "only a few funerals away from real growth potential."
Where's the urgency? Why are we content to "celebrate" this or that all the time? People are dying in the darkness and, as Keith Green used to say, "the church just can't fight because it's asleep in the light."
It's time to wake up.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Back from Camp
I'm just back from my annual pilgimage to church camp. The past couple of times I've been I've worked Senior High camp.I first went to camp at Lakeview in winter 1978. It was a "Midwinter" weekend event. I don't remember any details, but I think I liked it. That summer, and the next several summers I attended summer camp each year until I began college. I liked the fellowship of camp. I liked the people who were there. I didn't care for the content & lessons so much. In my memory it was more the gospel of diversity and pluralism than the gospel of Jesus. There seemed to be an assumption that all the kids there were already Christians.
Camp has improved immensely in the past 25 years. Though there is still great variety from camp to camp, district to district, and year to year, in my experience working camp the gospel of Jesus is regularly preached, invitations to receive Christ given (and responded to). While the organization could be improved (Texas conference camps are still run by the pastors and laity in the districts who do the work on the side), all in all, I think they are a positive experience for the kids. You can hear the messages and devotionals from our camp at http://tridistrictcamp.blogspot.comAttendance at our camp was up this year. There were about 940 in the four camps together - 240 in our camp alone. Logistics were a little difficult: we had to go back and forth across the property to get to meeting rooms for small groups. Normally the exercise would be gladly accepted, but with the temperatures over 100 every day, it was pretty hard.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Preaching at the Old Home Church
When people ask me where I'm from I have two standard answers. The first is, "Around." Since my dad was in the Navy (an itinerant profession) while I was growing up and I am in an itinerant profession, moving is a normal part of life. Five years is the longest I've ever lived anywhere. I'm from "around." My second answer is that my hometown is a small town in southern Illinois, even though I've never lived there (unless you count the few weeks I was there staying with relatives while my parents house-hunted in the D.C. area). Centralia is theonly town I've been going to all my life.My grandparents, Floyd & Hazel Heyduck, married in September 1916. Floyd was a member of First Methodist Church, Hazel a member of Demaree Methodist down the road. Instead of fighting over which of their churches to join after marrying, they decided to go to a third church, First Christian (Disciples of Christ). Like Centralia is the only town I've been going to all my life, First Christian is the only church I've been going to all my life - though I've never been a member. It's the church we go to whenever we're in town for a Sunday. Some of my earliest memories of church anywhere are of my grandparent's 50th anniversary held at the church.
Since I've become a preacher, I've often dreamed of preaching in this old home church (though it's of a different denomination than my own). This year when I was sending in my reservation for the family reunion I included a note that if they needed a preacher that Sunday I'd be happy to help out. I knew they had an interim pastor and were in the midst of a long search for a full time pastor. I had no idea whether they'd be open to a United Methodist from Texas. They were. As it turned out it was a good thing also - their pastor was in the hospital over the weekend after emergency surgery.My preaching was well-received in both services. There were even a few double dippers. All the people were gracious and friendly (including my relatives!). It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for me. Here are a few things I noticed:
1. As I greeted peopel before the service many asked if I was "The Minister" for the day. I knew what they meant, but in light of the prominent display of their slogan, "Welcome to First Christian Church Where Every Believer is a Minister," I found it a little anomalous. While the church had some strong lay leadership (they have to survive long stretches without a full time pastor), I got the idea many in the pew didn't think of themselves as Ministers.2. There were fewer young people than last time I was there. I could say this each time I attend. While there remain many committed people, the energy level seemed low, especially in the second (traditional) service. A quiet, slow-paced, contemplative worship service has value, but in our sleep deprived society it often fails to gain or hold the attention of younger folks.
3. FCC is having difficulty finding a full time pastor. Talking to the people, I got the idea they wanted a younger (at least under 60) pastor, full of energy and creativity. They want someone who preaches in an engaging style, not a manuscript reader. I know none of the dynamics of the DOC denomination, but it sure looks like there's a shortage of young, energetic pastors who want to go serve in a small, long-established church, in a small town with a declining economy. We who inhabit a pastor-appointing system sometimes complain. In the case of FCC, I can see how such a structure might be beneficial.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Hotel Reviews - Vacation report
We're just back from our vacation trip to a family reunion in Illinois. Along the way we stayed at several hotels. Here are some comments on them:
1. The Super 8 in Geneseo, Illinois offered us a nice, spacious room. Travelling as a family of five, that's good (and rare) to find. Unfortunately, the sofa bed we paid extra money to get turned out to be broken, missing several springs the supports on one corner. We managed to get it to work by piling sofa cushions underneath, but it was less than optimal. On the negative side, the room also had a bit of smoke odor to it, though the front desk had told us it was a non-smoking room. Other non-smoking rooms had an identifying plate on the door - unlike our room. On the positive side, the hotel was quiet, had a friendly staff, and a nice indoor pool for the kids.
2. The Comfort Suites of O'Hare in Schiller Park (a suburb of Chicago) were quite nice. For only a tiny bit more than we'd paid in Geneseo, we got a much nicer suite. The room was very quiet (even with a major airport nearby and the heavy traffic associated with it). Note on price: I got a better price by calling the hotel directly than I did from the website. I was somewhat concerned about the security of our vehicle, but everything went fine. We were looking out the window (to the north) about 6:30 p.m., shortly after arrival, and noticed a convoy of helicopters. They were too far away to read any markings, but we figured the military must be up to something. Only later did we discover that the President had flown into town for his birthday.
3. Next we were at the Bell Tower Inn of Centralia, Illinois. We'd stayed there many times in the past since it serves as the headquarters for our family reunion. I think it was quieter than usual. Another improvement was the price - about $10 less per night than last time. On the down side, my daughter lamented the absence of plain glazed donuts at the breakfast. Sure looks like the best hotel in Centralia to me.
4. Our final hotel was the Super 8 in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. After driving over 300 miles through often torrential rains, it was nice to be able to park right outside our door (the only hotel in our travels this week that was true of) to unload our stuff. We especially appreciated the on-site laundry facilities where we could dry our rain-drenched clothes from the car-top carrier (the canvas model we have didn't repel much of the rain). The hotel doubled as a RV park, so there were plenty of people around. Unfortunately, one of our neighbors decided to pound on his door at 5 a.m. The breakfast was pretty sparse. One daughter again missed the plain glazed donuts. The other (somewhat easier to please), had a cinnamon roll and a sausage biscuit.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Definition of Insanity?
North Korea says they will continue to test their missiles. (As poorly as they have been performing, can you blame them?) Israel and the Palestinians are escalating threats of violence. I'm sure Iran doesn't like all these other natiosn gobbling up press-time, so you can count on Amhadinejad doing or saying something very loudly in the next couple of days.
Don't all these folks realize that whoever isn't with us is against us? Haven't they taken the lesson of Iraq that we aren't going to play nice anymore?
Maybe bullying is not a necessarily effective way of fighting the war on terror and keeping rouge nations at bay. And, while we're here, what makes them rouge nations, anyway? That they won't play by our rules? Those of the United Nations? Seems to me we pick and choose just what international treaties and declarations we will adhere to ourselves.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.