Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Comming soon

Hi friends, I apologize that I haven't put much up on this page lately. My schedule is a bit wacko at the moment so I haven't had much time to write down anything earth shattering (or even lame for that matter). I've been out at our Fireworks tent on the surface of the sun (translated Vancouver Mall parking lot in 103 degree heat!) So once things slow down a bit I'll try to get some more thoughts on here. Have a wonderful independance day celebration if you celebrate such things!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It didn't suck too bad!

Well its Father’s day and I am in Seattle, in a parking lot outside Quest church waiting for the gathering to start. I have been in Tacoma for the last 4 days attending the Annual Conference of the Pac NW United Methodist Church.

For those of you who know me other than from this blog, you know that Annual Conference is my least favorite time of the year. First of all, it is always the week that ends in Father’s day, Second, it’s always the same week of my wedding anniversary. (oops maybe I better switch that to #1 , sorry Jennifer I love you where did the last 15 years go!) Third, our conference doesn’t always play well together. I have seen delegates throw papers in the air and storm off the conference floor. I’ve seen people belittled in official statements and many unofficial ones. One year I had a lay woman sit across a table and cry as she said, “I didn’t know the church was like this!” Not our finest moments. I’ve seen our pastors remain firmly seated arms crossed and scowls on their face while a colleague received awards for their work for the kingdom of God because they were either “conservative” or “liberal”, again not our finest moments.

It saddens me that my qualifications for a successful Annual Conference is to be able to say at the end “well, that didn’t suck too bad”

I probably should have prefaced all of this by saying even if we all got along well, and played nicely, I would not like annual conference. Administration and “holy conferencing” are not my gifts for ministry. My image of Hell is spending eternity in a small room with clergy who have Robert's rules of order memorized, eternity would be spent debating if a motion is debatable because the motion is for non-concurrence. (my blood pressure went up just typing that )

Well, I can whole heartedly say “It didn’t suck that bad”. As a relative newbie to our conference (11 years), which is an issue unto itself, I have noticed a change in the tone and climate in our conference meetings. I was surprised to see us spontaneously offer prayer for our bishop and his wife as she faces major surgery in the coming months. We laid hands on each of our clergy as their appointments were read and prayed for God’s work to be done through them in the places they serve. We spoke as we do every year about the problems we face and the statistics that show measurable decline in many areas, BUT our board of congregational development (of which I am secretary) presented the Conference with a new policy we will be operating under in an effort to help developing congregations and move forward in starting new congregations within our conference. It was well received by the delegates, although I must admit somewhat guardedly, due to some history many delegates have with congregational development and redevelopment.

For a Pastor who is far to young to be a cynical as I am, it was good to see us begin to turn a corner in our life together and our service to God. Please pray for us as we live out this call together.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Love God, love everyone else...

We are in the process of nominating people to fill positions at the church such as trustees and SPR committee members etc... I have recently vented on this page about the frustration surrounding the fact that there are about 50 positions within our church that meet on a monthly basis yet little has happened to transform the culture we are in, or make personal transformations within the people who “serve” on these committees.

Each fall and spring I offer a “class” for people who would like to be more than just regular attenders of our church and become members. The last class I offered had a rather large group attend. So we met at a coffee shop in town and talked about the history of our denomination, how our church got to the place it is now, and what it is we feel God calling our church to do and be. It was a great time and as we spent the month together it was wonderful to hear these new members talk about their faith and gifts that they bring to this community of faith....

Sooo, I am faced with a dilemma.. I have these 13 people who have found a community they love and have wonderful gifts and passion... do i plug them into a system that seems to be mostly selfish and introverted at its core hoping they will find the avenue to serve or do I quit propping up a flawed system (in my opinion) with wonderful people?

The even more frustrating thing is that as I discussed these new members most of whom have been with us for over a year, the vast majority of the old leadership folks had no idea who they were other than “they are that new couple that sits where so-and-so used to”

So, that brings me to my point, (I think I have one) I’m really tired of programs. I’m weary of the “purpose driven 40 days of growth plus alive in 75 decade of harvest”. I’m tired of people giving me a book and telling me here is the key to “successful ministry” or the new structure or program...that someone will be blogging their frustrations over. So far the best I have seen, or at least seems to strike a chord with my heart, and where I feel God calling us, is ironically John Wesley’s class meetings. Groups who care about each other, look out for each other and help each other be faithful christians in the midst of their world and community. I’m tired of hoping the program will lead us to life in Christ and thus transformed communities.

In the next year I am praying that the congregation I serve will begin to see their lives as followers of Jesus as something way beyond church and committee attendance.

I think we (and I always include myself in all these posts) need to work on Jesus words in Mark 12:28-31 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

I hate to be so simplistic because I know that living lives of faith is difficult, and complicated at times, but I really think unless we get a real, tangible grasp on what it means to love God and love everyone else, no program is going to transform us, or our world and culture. Having a community that helps us learn how to do both those things is the best program I can imagine.