Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Engaging Men in Worship

The more I progress as an emerging worship leader, the more I see the distant and not-so-distant past converge. Drumming is the most recent example of this merging of past and present.

As a new church planter, I am constantly looking for ways to engage men in this congregation. One man I spoke with talked about the late night barbecues he has attended that attracts men. The men who attend do so during hunting season - they bring some of their - is catch the right word or maybe just animals? cook them over an open fire and celebrate fellowship outside in late October or early November. This seems to be one way to offer men a worship experience. The trouble is that late-October-early-November only comes once a year.

As I write this, I am visiting a friend who showed me her healing drum kit. In Penna, she joins an occasional group and drums - more, she drums at home, alone, as a way to relieve stress. Before Penna, in Colorado, there was a drumming group that met weekly as part of the men's participation in our United Church of Christ group. My late husband was an occasional part of that group. As a non-believer, he may have felt that drumming was not excatly worshiping. The interesting thing is that this group appealed to men (women were not invited) who might not ordinarily come to Sunday morning church. The rafters never fell in when they came to drum but not to worship. To broaden opportunities for men, I have thought of asking one of the men who does attend worship to begin a drumming group. I buy some drums and give him license to make this group what it will. If I step back, perhaps men will feel more welcome.

I cannot help but think that church is not just for women - Christ's official disciples were men. Women played an important role in the early church, but those who left their homes and livelihood and travelled with Jesus were men.

I invite comments and suggestions from readers about the drumming circles, the barbecue dinners or other ways to offer men a worship opportunity. In order to post a comment, you must sign in using one of the search engine options (e.g. "gmail" or "yahoo"). Creating one is free. I use both yahoo and gmail and on a computer that is not mine, I signed in using my yahoo email address.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Relationships: new and eons old

Baby robins reside on my front porch - the very same porch where I have carefully tended flowers all summer. The porch is theirs until they fly away. I do hope some of the plants are still living by then.

It seems as though we make choices: have flowers or baby birds. My cats and I have enjoyed watching the birds. I will be happy to have a place to sit outside while we still have summer. Another choice: Last Friday, I joined a group of people from the local communities on a forest walk - it was guided by knowledgeable folk, biologists and forestry people and such. We visited four stations learning about clear cutting and tree management, the economics of our beautiful forest and most amazingly, about the world beneath the land we walked on. Seems there is a symbiotic relationship between what we see above ground and the huge subterranean growth. I can only liken it to the vast underground ocean mountains and aquatic life that never surfaces. The take away from the day? For me, that this pristine (some of it never cut) land needs care even as we manage visitors looking to share our experiences. The Tioga County Visitor's Bureau director was right in reminding us that some people who come on buses want to see the forest and visit gift shops and we must have a place for them while others want primitive hiking. The two can coexist. Much like the birds on my porch and me.

Another choice: At the same time as I wander the forest, I drive by new derricks from gas wells that have begun to "grow" all over our area. Gas has been found - a huge amount of natural gas and the gas companies have bought the rights to some of it, leased the rights to some of it and are still negotiating the rights to other pockets of gas. There is a huge environmental discussion about how good this gas drilling is for the earth. This is especially poignant for an area that was coal mined years ago. On the one hand, I want the area to remain pristine; on the other, we see that people who have lived without many amenities have a chance to have what some consider basic requirements. For instance, one of my congregation members will have a new kitchen in her house. "New" not being an $80,000 kitchen; new, meaning appliances that replace a 30-year old range, or adding a dishwasher. She tells me they may just get the shell done and the appliances - finish it as times goes by. Not luxury. Basic to me. The gas and the forest and the land and all the people will negotiate a way to live that gives each a chance to survive and even live better.

Now, you may be wondering how these experiences fit into the work of a new church planter. Sometimes, so do I. I think in the long run, it makes me a better pastor - more able to understand the people in my congregation on Sunday morning and those I meet who I invite to this new church. As I network, I never know if/how my efforts will bear fruit (as it were). Wheter they do or not - I cannot help but be a better steward of all my environments.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


This morning I picked blueberries with several members of the congregation - we picked and talked, then went to breakfast and talked. the blueberries offered an excuse to create community and bond. Later this afternoon, I will go the neighbor's garden, pick as much lettuce as possible and take it to the food pantry in the morning. Create community. Two ways, each offering opportunity.

As I write, Judge Sotomayor is being questioned about the one thing that can be seen as divisive - her public identification with her community: Latina, female, member of the nontraditional workforce that generally defines women. Her community, her bonding, her identification. Luckily, people don't always hold my comments against me - even the public ones. I would not want a justice of the Supreme Court of this land to be selected without being vetted. I would only wish that more of her judicial (that is the official position) be publicly discussed. She has been on the bench for years and surely has been a force in the road our justice system has taken. Yet the focus of the hearings seems so narrow (I am 5 hours from DC - but viewed from Endless Mountains to the beltway, it is a very long way). Which of us leaves behind our heritage? She brings a viewpoint shaped by her communities. When I bond with congregation members or take food to the food pantry, I have my own baggage and issues: bonding with anyone when I am a transplant to this community is suspect. Fortunately, no one grills me on my intentions, what I meant to say, what I would say in the future.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Endless Mountains Summer

Over the weekend I participated with the Rinky Dink and Precision Marching Chairs Band (maybe they have an official other name, but this describes it). What a fun time. For two weeks we had practiced playing and marching - there were four practices in all. Then on Saturday morning at 10AM we gathered in Mansfield to get ready to march. I practiced clarinet on my own, something I was to learn is forbidden since no one else practiced their instruments. People come from all over the area for the parade - traditionally, the Rinky Dinks march last - we had a great time saying "hi" to those we knew along the parade route. We were even judged, but I don't know how that turned out. On Sunday evening, we gathered again and played and sang patriotic songs prior to the fireworks display. Rural America certainly knows how to celebrate a holiday!

On a more serious note, I received a letter encouraging the local churches to preach about "Take back America for God" - the Christian god, I am sure. The organizers mentioned in their call to preach this sermon that our President said this is "no longer a Christian nation" the rest of the quote was omitted. We are not a Christian nation, we are a nation of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Pagans, many others, all following their own God, a god who is generally benevolent and loving. I preached that I was concerned about this increasingly narrow view of who God is and should be and the danger of having our nation be limited to only one view. We were founded by people who wanted their own religious convictions to be part of their lives and our founders, I believe, did not want a state religion. I rarely preach such directive sermons, believing that the pulpit has much power that can be abused. This week, I needed to at least alert my congregation to this movement that is happening in their communities.

The UCC part of me is proud of our tag line: "No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here" and I really want that to be heard in this rural new church start.