Monday, July 21, 2008


I have had a couple conversations these last few weeks with folks who have visited the congregation I serve on a Sunday morning for worship, that have reinforced for me the notion that most people equate church to a one hour block on Sunday mornings. That leads to a next assumption that worship style defines you as a church, both of which I think are wrong.

The particular congregation I serve has two services of worship on Sunday morning. The first service is more relaxed and casual. The music is typically more modern in style (I’m trying to avoid the word “contemporary” as hard as I can.) Kids make noise, I preach from a bar stool down in the seats rather than up on the platform. We sing together, we pray together, we hear scripture, we laugh together on occasion cry together as well. Our second service is more of a traditional Methodist service. I typically wear a robe and stole (for you non liturgical folks - a stole is a fancy long scarf usually in the color of whatever season of the church calendar we are in). We follow a pretty set liturgy, most of our music we sing originates out of the hymnal.

So... we had a very nice visitor who came to our more traditional service. On that particular Sunday it was about 90 degrees outside, so that means that inside the oven that is Orchards United Methodist Church it was approximately 375 degrees. I opted not to wear the robe. After worship my wife was talking with a woman who was very interested in us. “I saw you were wearing a modern watch (Thank you Target $7 clearance table) , and you announced that you were leading a book study on one of Brian McClaren’s books, but most of the people here were older... so I was thinking what is going on here” As we talked more she was very into categories. She defined herself in very clear categories and wanted to know what my categories were. (BTW My Myers Briggs letters are ESPN, or is it Briggs and Stratton I can never remember) I also discovered that she was very interested in the categories as they related to the “Emerging church” movement... ooops i mean “conversation” to which she made the comment that she and her husband had joined “the conversation”... I kinda wondered if they sent out a mailer to people to notify them of this fact.

I personally have found quite a bit of life and spiritual renewal for my self in the midst of the emerging church’s “conversation”. I personally have been attracted to and "pastored" in such a way that fostered compassionate, missional communities, and focused on Jesus as the center of our faith. The verse that has been tattooed on my heart (figuratively) is “Love the Lord your God... love your neighbor as yourself” Ok so there are my categories... as best as I can shoe horn myself into them.

So as we talked more about those things she said “ ya know you could really easily turn this congregation into an Emerging church...” and she listed off some things that we could change to our style of worship. I then realized that she was equating our time in worship with what we are as a church. In her process, if we follow this form, or change our categories to worship in an “Emerging” style we will be Emerging... maybe even emerged... Crap! Then what will we do? I’ll have to find a whole new category.

The way my congregation worships together, the style we are comfortable in during that first hour has a lot of similarities to the way church’s who label themselves as "Emerging" tend to worship together. But beyond that, beyond the doors of our sanctuary, out side the one hour block on Sunday, we are still learning what it means to love our neighbor, what it means to be part of a compassionate, generous community, what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Regardless of the way we worship, the style of music we sing, the color of the table cloth and the scarf the pastor wears, if we never have lives that reflect a faith grounded in the love of God, made real in our communities and families then our categories are are just white washed sepulchres. (oooo i impressed myself there by tying this all together with a scripture reference!)

Have a great week friend... Love God and love everybody else!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fireworks, Reunions and The Police

Hi friends!

Yes I am still alive, as some of you e-mailed me to find out. It has been a busy summer for me and I haven’t had time to sit down and put any thoughts up on the blog. I try not to just post boring meaningless things here on “mark’s mind” ( Most of you really don’t care that my 10 year old son is quickly gaining ground and is about to cross the threshold of being better than me at Wii tennis)

I have a little break in the pace of life at the moment, so hopefully next week I will be able to contribute a bit more.

As for now... here is the meaningless stuff (well to you... not to me :-) )

Our Annual Conference for the PNW Conference of the UMC was in Moscow this year. Idaho... not Russia... I spent some time in Moscow, ID many years ago in a former life... when I was a student at Washington State, 8 miles down the road in Pullman Wa. Idaho’s drinking age was 18 at the time, while Washington’s was 21.. hence the reason i spent so much time in Moscow. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I almost got into a fight while eating lunch . Well the last time I was actually in a fight was in Moscow, ID, in a bar when I was 18. I drove by it and got sentimental while i was at Annual Conference. I’m kidding... there are actually more memories of that time in my life that I would like to get rid of, than remember, and I’m not very sentimental about them... That the subject of another blog... moving on...

On the way back from Idaho I was able to stop in the Tri-Cities area of Wa. where I grew up and spend some time with my family there. It was great! I forgot how much i love the desert of Eastern Wa and the Columbia River running through the middle of it!

We again operated a huge fireworks tent as a fund raiser for the congregation I serve. Well, to be precise we operated 3 tents in a shopping experience called “Boom City”. Three tents, no waiting. unlimited variety... The problem was that with the economy the way it is not many people were in the market to buy things that you set on fire. We did about half the sales we have done in years past... Oh well...

We spent the 4th of July down in Southern Oregon with my wife’s family. Lots of good relaxing days in the In-law’s swimming pool. My wife’s 20th High School reunion was the same weekend, so we went to a dinner for that. I didn’t know anyone, but It was pretty fascinating to see how cliques reform, and people really don’t change all that much. It was pretty interesting to be an outsider looking in. Second only to the Tri-Cities, Southern Oregon is my favorite place to be.

Last Friday, Jennifer and I went to the Police concert at the Amphitheater in Clark County. Wow! What a great concert. The opening act was Elvis Costello. I was very disappointed with Elvis. The sound was terrible. I never understand why opening acts have the crappiest sound set up. I literally couldn’t understand a word he was saying and barely recognized most of the songs... “what's so funny bout what?... oh! Peace, Love and Understanding ... I think i recognize this...” BUT The Police were Awesome! For three 50+ year old guys they “brought it” as my daughter says. One of... if not THE best concerts I have been too. The place was packed and hearing 15,000 people chant “Yeeeoooo, Yeeooo, Oh, Oh” to Walking On The Moon with Sting was pretty amazing. Andrew Summers still plays the guitar incredibly and Stewart Copeland can hit a giant gong like few others!

In August we will be heading down to Disney Land for my son’s 11th birthday and my 40th Birthday. (Feel free to wear black arm bands to mourn the passing of my youth on August 3rd if you like)

So that's the update on all that is going on in Mark’s life. I hope your Summer’s are going equally as well!

Have a great week friends!