Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas 2010 style

Occasionally, I remind myself the purpose of this blog is to write about experiences that I have as a city pastor in a rural community. This is the perfect time of year to look at some of the changes the two years in Pennsylvania have wrought.

In Colorado, before my husband died, at Christmas I would be preparing for 20 or more people for Christmas dinner. I would actually have planned a menu and purchased food. Most likely turkey and though I am not fond of turkey it seems many feel that turkey is a Christmas feast. I prefer prime rib though as my lifestyle has changed, I rarely eat beef these days. Not much poultry for that matter. Since I no longer eat gluten, my “feast” would be limited - if one counts “feast” only in food terms. These years, I count feast as part of time spend with friends and those important in my life. I cry when I remember the feast of friends and family I miss who are still in Colorado.

This year, knowing how much I miss family and friends, I offered (and had it in the newspaper) a free Christmas dinner to the first thirty people who called just to say they want a place to eat. So far, three days before Christmas and one day (or two) before I have to shop, not one person has called. I have invited five - three will come. As I wondered why no one called, I thought how it would seem to call a stranger to say I had no place to go on this family holiday. Pretty daunting. It must be even worse when the open invitation is to a home (a pastor’s home at that). Homes are intimate, therefore perhaps intimidating. Homes are final in the sense that once you are in the door, leaving with grace could be difficult (how many times have I planned my escape even before arriving?). Homes imply love, which also implies loss; homes offer warmth, but what is wrong with me (or anyone) that we have to look outside ourselves to fill that cold spot? So, this week, I offer fellowship to three people who have accepted my invitation - I know each of them, so I don’t feel strange. In inviting each of them, I was inviting my friends to join me for dinner. Yea!

Finally, this season, I gathered with the Spirituality sisterhood for a solstice celebration. For some Christians, solstice is pagan and is far from their frame of reference. They, in my opinion, are those who forget that our faith co-opted nonbelievers by incorporating their pagan - meaning believer in earthly gods - beliefs into the new sect called Christianity about some 1900 years ago. At any rate, the solstice ceremony is a bonding of friends to caring and love of one another, it is a pledge to care for animals and the firmament as well as each person. Global concern! The solstice celebrates the world’s (universe’s?) interconnectedness and raises our awareness that when a butterfly flutters its wings in Peru, we notice it in Pennsylvania. Part of any good ceremony includes gift giving and even giving of the self as we shared our reasons for giving a specific gift and food. We had abundance of each. With this sisterhood, I know one thing for sure: wherever I go in this community, I have a connection to some women who recognize in me the friend, not the stranger.

How blessed I am. God has indeed smiled on me as this opportunity to live in a “foreign” land has unfolded.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Loneliness during the "most wonderful time of the year"

Today I went to Act Up, the community group that leans toward interesting reading aloud. After we finished, I stopped by the Fifth Season (clothing for women and home decorating) to see if there is anything I could wear to Christmas Eve/New Year’s Eve parties. I know I will go to three Christmas Eve gatherings; who knows about New Year’s Eve, there is still time and one wants to be prepared just in case ...

I struck out at Fifth Season, though I do try to shop locally prior to trekking to the malls. I need to qualify “struck out” a bit. I did not find anything to wear. But I did eves-drop on a conversation between one woman (Denise) and the store manager (Susan). Their conversation gave me a different gift to take away this Christmas season.

Denise is living in Wellsboro while her husband works for one of the many gas companies. They are from Austin, Texas - a place of sun, music, life outside and many goings-on. Wellsboro, while having many things to offer, is in a different league. Denise and others are feeling the isolation one feels when living out of one’s element.

As I said, I was eves-dropping while standing in a line without something to purchase. I read recently that any line is an excuse to tell my story. As I listened to Denise’s story, wishing I had a way to break in, I ignored the obvious: just joining the conversation. Once I left the store, got into my Beetle and started to drive out of the parking lot, I determined that I could be rude and join their talk, so I then circled around and parked again.

Denise was still in line at the store (wrapping takes time) so I joined the conversation. A few questions by me garnered the following information: Denise and her husband lived in Mexico, where culture was varied and quite interesting. They lived in Ireland and other European countries, experiencing cultures some of us only read about. Comparatively speaking, Wellsboro is a bit keyed down. Consequently, Denise is lonely. I asked what things she would interest her. Response: exercise, cooking lessons, volunteer work. YEA! For me, these are things that are do-able.

As an immediate option for the loneliness, I asked what she and her husband were doing for Christmas (“Nothing”) so I gave Denise my telephone number and told her that I was offering Christmas dinner to anyone from the community who called. If they wanted to come, give me a call. I hope she calls.

Even if Denise does not call, Soul Link can find ways to help address the loneliness she and others find in this beautiful mountain community four-hours from everywhere. I have been aware that the changes that accompany the gas companies bring opportunities for our faith community to begin a second outreach. Our Fourth Sunday Supper, at 18 months old, is settled in and the congregation is able to add one community outreach. I have ideas of what we could do, but nothing is crying out to be noticed. IDEAS: any six-week class on any topic of interest led by a congregation member or a community member. Yoga comes to mind, as does a weekly gathering of couples cooking and tasting food from other cultures or heritages.

What else? If any of you reading this blog have ideas to offer, ideas whether tried or not, let me know. Perhaps we can incorporate them into this outreach effort.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chiasms and Similes and new efforts, Oh, My!

In seminary we learned things about how the Bible is written - you will recognize them as I write them: there are poems, Psalms of lament and joy and wonder and prayer. There are narrative stories by those who wrote the Gospels and there are first hand experiences such as those relayed by Saul of Tarsus now known as Paul. There some writing styles called chiasms where certain ideas are repeated. In their repeating they are alphabetically differentiated so that “A” is equal to “A-.” As an example, in looking at the substance of part of Genesis we learn that certain themes repeat themselves. In Genesis 2:4-4:1, early talk of generations is equal to “A” and later talk predicting birth of a child becomes “A-” even when “A-” occurs may verses later. For some reason, I really liked this in my Hebrew Scriptures class.

In addition to the above, there are similes and metaphors that are used to say how one thing is like a second. A grammar site ( differentiates the two:

A good book is like a good meal. A simile suggesting that a book may be as (mentally) nourishing and satisfying as a meal.
A wire is a road for electrons. A metaphor suggesting that electrons actually do use a wire as a road to travel on.

The simile is what I choose for writing this day for Tuesday Thoughts. The simile of a community and a church. (I won’t belabor the point by saying how the two may be different.)

To the point! Last weekend was Dickens weekend in our community. People drive from all over Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and as far as Maryland, Virginia and Ohio to experience this interesting and fun weekend. Motel reservations are made one year in advance. This is an important weekend for our local merchants and though many in the community know most of what is happening, they volunteer to help various art organizations, choirs, acting troops and community theatre to assure that success of this annual fete.

On Saturday, weather was perfect reading 0 C on the digital bank clock, no wind and to top it off, we had snowflakes floating through the air sticking to eyelashes and faux fur collars of coats. As is the custom at this time of year, most everyone was holding hands as they walked, smiling up and down the streets, and I did not hear one cross child at all. The 5PM peace walk brought 40-50 walkers going toward the town green where several hundred gathered to listen to a few carols and light the Christmas tree.

I had volunteered to sell clam chowder for Kiwanis from 10 to noon. I walked to town early to look over the vendors’ wares brought to tempt me though I knew I might only purchase one item: a carved Christmas tree (apparently the line formed at 5:30AM and I was too late at 8:30 - even though selling was not to begin until 9AM). After walking and touching and restraining myself, I got to the Kiwanis booth at 9:50 and sold clam chowder - $3.50 for each 8 oz cup: oyster crackers and salt and pepper optional.

While at the booth, others from the community were helping in some way make this weekend a success. Some acted in one of two indoor staged presentations of “A Christmas Carol.” As I left the Kiwanis stand, hands frozen, to return home for awhile, evidence of other community helpers abounded: one of the impromptu theatre troops performed in the middle of the street affecting a Dickinsonian-like gathering. All were dressed in period clothing and participating with good cheer. Half a block away, youth with top hats and rosy cheeks gathered to sing carols. I know, though I did not go, the Presbyterian Church offered soup to warm the innards and music was played at the Gmainer Art Center to give folks a reason to be out of the cold for a few minutes of warmth.

It was, in short, a group of community citizens partnering with merchants and the arts to make this tourist weekend a success. This, in chiasmic terms, becomes “A.”

This “community action” reminds me of church (the simile). One person begins an effort and others, wanting to see success, help in whatever way they can. Our Fourth Sunday Supper is like this. At first, during a congregational meeting, a few brave folk voted to host this supper each month. We decided to give it a try. Not something that could be thought of as “easy-peasy.” There are responsibilities: getting congregation members to prepare food or have food donated, then cooking, then setting tables, collecting and washing dirty dishes and table wear, making sure the floor is clean before we leave and disposing of the trash. But each month, people gather to make this a success. We are into this 18 months and still going strong. Depending upon the weekend, as many as 90 people come to eat, to talk with others and to listen (perhaps line dance) to live music. All for free - with no preaching. It is our way to be Christian in the community.

Lately, I have noticed that some who hear about us come to help. Someone may bring an extra pie, a couple helps in the kitchen even to cleaning the floor at the end of the evening. Others - whether within our community or outside of it - send money to help defray expenses. Monthly, musicians offer music for two hours.

In short, this is a group of caring individuals partnering with others and each other to make this meal a success. This part of a chiasm would be labeled “A-” and be the completing component of a symmetrical depiction of community.

“A” and “A-” combined is the simile: showing how one community event may be likened to another. In this case, both are a success though of course, the simile could be used to depict a terrible event. At this time of the year, I tend to want to be Pollyannaish even as I seek similes for Sunday’s sermon on John the Baptist (Matthew 11:2-11).

This is exciting: We are preparing to add another (less demanding) activity to reach others as we continue being Jesus-like Christians in our community. Stay tuned for this new effort.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I spent Thanksgiving with LaVonne. It was a nice several days, providing a respite I needed and the 10 hour drive down and back gave me ample time to think about the state of the world (and my life). The thinking is the subject of another blog. Today, I write about Burke’s Garden and LaVonne’s ministry there.

Arriving at Burke’s Garden takes tenacity and endurance. Once one has travelled about as far south in Virginia as possible, a right turn takes the car up over a winding gorgeous roadway, then down into a valley surrounded by the Garden Mountains. Mr Burke is long gone but his unexpected trip to this area lives on in his name. After climbing up several thousand feet - best done in daylight - then down the same number of feet, the forest gives way to a bowl called Burke’s Garden.

LaVonne had emailed me detailed directions, so I drove past the one and only store with gas station out front, past the volunteer fire department and the former school that now functions as community center till I came to the Pepsi sign. Took another right and crossed two cattle guards to arrive at the top of a hill that overlooks much of this valley. It was twilight as I arrived with still sufficient light to see the view she wakes to daily. Breathtaking is the best way to describe the sight.

During my time there, she drove me around the valley and out to see the second church in Blue Field (VA, not WV) where is is Vicar. Her house is the parsonage for Central Luther Church, though if your vision of parsonage conjures up well-worn and modest, put that aside. Her digs for this year are not dull and neglected, but light and bright. She lives in the home of a woman who rents to the church - a glass house, built just a few years ago. A glass house with radiant heated floors and instant hot water, skylights and windows offering the valley a way inside.

During my time, we spent time eating and talking and discussing theology for Sunday’s sermon. I hope hers turned out better than I think mine did. But it was good to have a person to test my thoughts as they formed and were discarded.

On Wednesday, LaVonne had organized a community interfaith service and supper. The other part of “interfaith” was the Methodist congregation. LaVonne’s pastor preached and the Methodist minister helped with prayer and singing. After, those gathered enjoyed a pie-fest, complete with turkey (good for me since I don’t eat gluten - not so good for LaVonne, since she eats gluten but no meat or dairy though she did enjoy the vegan pies). We ate Thanksgiving with a neighbor who fixed food for LaVonne (some dairy free and meatless options) and I had the meat and no stuffing.

What the food brings to mind - and the real purpose of this blog - is taking note of the similarity between how LaVonne is trying to create a community in this mountain town of 100 families and how I try to encourage community at Soul Link in Mansfield PA and how FCC in Colorado Springs creates church by creating opportunity for people to engage and interact. “Church” “God” “Jesus” scripture and the other theological concerns are often perceived as unimportant - it appears that what draws folk to our congregations in this text-messaging world is the congeniality, the mixing with others, laughing and working and pulling the load together.

LaVonne and I are bright, well-educated at a stellar seminary and we both end up hosting meals as a way to involve theology in the lives of those who eschew church. I hope the best minds can come up with another way to build a church. One that asks us to use our collective brains. Most church websites focus on the activities and events one can attend. At a conference a year ago, the presenter, Gil Rendle of The Alban Institute, talked about how churches are emptying but God is standing there, watching. He reminded us that God will be there as we all struggle to find the newest way to do church. And, according to Phyllis Tickle (and others) in 500 years or so the struggle to make church relevant begins again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Growth and its financial counterpart

Today I drive 9 hours south of Wellsboro to Burke’s Garden VA to spend time with my friend who is Lutheran pastor for two congregations. I left myself plenty of time to get down to Virginia, mostly so I can stop in one of those malls that I know I will pass on the way. Today I plan a tourist route because who knows when I will get back to Virginia again?

I needed this time off. As I look at myself, I see a tired woman, struggling to keep up with the schedule she set for herself. Thursday through Sunday were horrendous 12+ hour days each. Thursday, I was the unpaid staff for Olan Mills photos at church. It was a positive experience as I had a bit of time to talk to each member of our congregation as they came in for their photos. It was awesome, too, in that we have sufficient numbers to more than meet the minimum number of photos needed to put a book together. The last time the photos were taken, two churches got together to compete one book. This photo directory is tangible proof that the congregation is growing. We are not flourishing and financially, we are floundering.

To help with the financial part, I enlisted six members of the congregation asking each to raise funds to keep us going. I gave them packets containing a letter and a brochure and asked them to send ten letters to friends they know who support our progressive church but who either don’t go to church at all or who attend another congregation. The letter asks for financial support. To a person, the six were horrified and though we brainstormed names, I am not confident they will send the letters.

I am doing my part. As I put together packets of letters, brochure and a business card, I too was hesitant to send out this fund raising appeal. It is so reminiscent of heading a nonprofit organization where this time of year many fund raising letters reach out to supporters pleading: “Please help keep us going.” I sent the letter to 15 people I think will support this church - most of them live out of state. After Thanksgiving, I will send out 15 more. But not to pastors as I assume they, like I, already tithe to their own congregations.

In the religious sphere, we don’t think the church should do this fund development. Group think is: “God will provide” if we are faithful. At the risk of offending some of my congregation who may read this or offending other pastors, the counterpart is “God helps those who help themselves.” This applies to raising sufficient money to run a church.

In order for Soul Link to survive, we need those who our support a progressive congregation to help us. Our congregation IS church (I got that from Sharon Watkins, President and General Minister of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) when I heard her preach several times. She starts out “Good morning CHURCH” to remind us that we are). Soul Link, too, is church - we are diverse and not at all the most segregated hour of the week. We include those with some money, those with lots and those with none. Each contributes weekly. But, frankly, there is not sufficient money in the annual offering to pay a pastor, to print a bulletin, to turn on the lights.

Many pastors don’t talk about financial support of their church - we segregate ourselves into old thinking: the Stewardship committee takes care of finances and pastors take care of souls. Well, if this church is to survive, we need a different model. This pastor will do stewardship and do it by reaching beyond the walls of our church.

A comment on Facebook by Diana Butler Bass included a quote from Sharon Watkins (see above) "God never told the world to go to church; but God did tell the church to go to the world." We strive to go to the world - that is my (almost) weekly message. Like everything else, going forth requires money. If you are reading this and can support us, please contact me through Facebook and I will tell you where to send your tax-deductible contribution. If you cannot support us with funds, please keep us in your prayers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Living Without

My experiment of living without buying things is about half-way through. I have failed in so many ways, though I have succeeded in others. Here is how this experiment stands:

Promise to self: don’t spend money except on food.

First “lapse:”
bought a new couch. It is not here yet, but I could not sit on the other one because it was too deep and too soft and too big and too ... My plan was to (first) sell it then I was told no one would buy it, so then (second) I planned to give it to a nonprofit that could use it and then (finally, three) what I actually did is sell it to a neighbor who has two foster kids. The kids can sit on it, sleep on it, tussle on it. So, if I bought a new one to replace the one that will be well used, does that mean I have failed? I think not.

Second “lapse:”
I get way too many clothing (and other) catalogs in my mail. Many of them are showing longer sweaters and light coats. I did not have one but I resisted the many colorful ads until I was in a local shop (notice I said local, not mall, not online-shopping) and found one that fit. I like it. It is brown (one of the two great colors for next year, the other being gray-green). It can be dressed up or down, it can go to the malls or the theatre or church. WOW! A great investment for less than $85. Having it last for two years - might it last for four years - is actually a better investment than the mutual funds I have that are losing money even as I type.

Third “lapse:”
though it is difficult to call this a lapse since I am doing home improvement. I am having my front porch repaired where the wood is rotting replacing the stair railing in wood rather than the mismatched wrought iron that was there. That is the investment. While the contractor is here, I sked him to do a few more things so here comes the spending part: the new faucet in my bathroom sink. I needed to change the handles and they would have cost about $25. For a mere few dollars more I have an up-to-date spigot. Taller, shiny and fits in with the bathroom more than the one that was in the house when I bought it. So now, I need towels, especially hand towels. Do I need matchy-matchy all new towels or just hand towels? Probably not today, but soon.

I don’t think it is a lapse to spend money on these items. My mother used to tell me there were excuses (not too important from her perspective) and reasons (ah, yes, more real and truthful). This is more an excuse, if I am truthful. Reminds me of the things we tell ourselves when we don’t go to Sunday church. We justify with excuses or reasons things done and things left undone.

When I talk to folks about church, I hear lots of excuses about why people don’t go. Some say they we can’t prove there is a God, so why bother? On the other hand, there is Pascal’s wager: if you have to bet, bet on God. In the end, you can’t lose. Ultimately, since science - seeking proof - is so different from faith - belief - it is not fair to look to science to prove faith. Other folk tell me that there are ball games and television programs and sleeping late and can’t get around and too tired. I sometimes, too, want to just turn over and go back to sleep.

In the post-modern world of Christianity, we don’t think too much about the Mystery-we-call-God (not referred to just plain “God” anymore). We certainly don’t think about being judged, though in the Hebrew Scriptures, God both judges and protects. According to progressive Christian thinking, judgment is not from the outside though it may be internal.

How do I judge myself? On the issue of consuming, leniently. When I spend, no one is doing without. When I do actually turn over and go back to sleep (it is not only Sunday mornings that tempt me), I judge myself more stringently. I feel guilty all day and vow to do better tomorrow.

The real issue is: If I were being judged, how then? If you judge yourself on an action or issue, how do you fare? If you were being judged by another (God?) how would you fare?

As I prepare myself and my congregation for the Christmas season I want to do better not because there is a Santa Claus God rewarding my actions by checking off a list, but because I am “God Dependent” and I want to feel right with God. God is the one thing I cannot live without.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gifting myself this Advent

We are approaching the beginning of the Christian liturgical year. In 2010, the first season, Advent, begins the last Sunday of November and takes us through Christmas. After Advent, we have Lent, then Easter, then Pentecost, then ordinary time (or numbered Sundays Pentecost), then back to Advent of the next Christian year. To get through the Bible in an orderly fashion, Christians focus on scripture readings that many mainline denominations have agreed to read at the same time throughout the year. This year, we begin Cycle “A,” having just completed Cycle “C.”

Commencing a new year is an especially good time to make resolution. Mostly, our resolutions - made on January 1st - are past history by January 31. However, as we begin our Christian year, we do not give up or take on a resolution although many mark Lent with a special effort of letting go of a named pleasure. Then, as Easter approaches, many quickly return to eating chocolate. In-the-know-Christians remember that Sundays do not count in the 40 days of Lent, so they can indulge that day.

Why offer this information? As Advent and the new Christian year approach, it seems a good time to rethink our religious practices. Maybe we can give something up for a year. Perhaps it would be a good time to add a practice. I have read that it takes 30 days to make or break a habit. Now is a good time to start. Can’t think of any? Here are a few to consider:

Join a religious book discussion group, make it one that is accessible to all of
your family.

Take a Sabbath break to attend a religious service. I know many do; many more do

Spend a few minutes each day in prayer that focuses on thanking God for the gifts
you receive. Gifts include health, recovery, peace, family, a wonderful place to
live. You name it, just frame it in a “thanks” format.

Do prayer walking, that is, walk and pray at the same time. I do not mean walking
past someone’s house and praying that that person will change, but being
deliberate in prayer as you walk from one place to another during your day.
Places where this is appropriate? Going from house to car. On the way to the
grocery store. As you walk through the house to straighten it up. On the way to
the soccer field. I often say a prayer as I drive between Wellsboro and Mansfield.

Visit one person who lives out of home beginning November 29 until she/he returns
home, or until the end of the year. In this way, you may become a friend to
someone who is lonely.

Find the labyrinth in Coudersport and go walk it. Then see how many labyrinths
there are in our area and visit them.

Say the rosary.

Volunteer for a nonprofit organization in our community. Do whatever job needs
to be done. Bring a friend or your kids to help. And do this volunteer work with
love throughout the year.

There are so many things you can do that enhance your spiritual life. They take just a bit of time but bring huge rewards in your own well-being and sense of peace. For me, I need reminding that these are just what I need this time of the year - and, if I am honest, all through the year.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Making Friends

In the United Church of Christ this Sunday is “Bring a Friend to Church” Sunday. In some ways, that sounds hokey. Bring a friend to church - some say that if their friends wanted to be in church, they would be. Sometimes, they say their friends are in other churches. Both of these are certainly true statements. However, there is another true statement: Asking a friend to come to church seems like “evangelism” and we don’t do evangelism in our (liberal) circles.

When I think of evangelism as such, inviting a friend to church may sound uncomfortable. It may sound preachy, too. When I think of the mega churches, however, I see that these pastors and members are not hesitant to invite friends to church. They do it frequently and nicely. Friends are invited to worship, but they are just as likely to be invited to a dinner, a game night, a movie or a kids' play. The hope is that when the friend comes, what is offered will be received positively. Since they are raising friends, the design of the event is to engender positive feelings.

As I look at our rural but progressive congregation, I see the potential for a mega- church, right here in north central Pennsylvania. That vision requires defining “mega” not in the thousands - our county is only about 15,000 - but in the hundreds. Yesterday I wrote my monthly report for the New Church Start committee of our conference. In it, I said I am happy that when we have thirty-five in attendance on a Sunday we are approaching the norm for the county. Lord, I should have said “I dream in hundreds” so thirty-five is this month’s starting point.

I am happy to report that we have grown to thirty-five. I will be happier to report that we have grown to forty-five, then even one hundred. “Mega” is all a matter of perspective. We can do it. Our enthusiasm is contagious and our message gives hope to all.

If you live in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, I invite you to attend this week’s service at 10AM on Sunday (in Mansfield, by WalMart) to see what it offers you. If you live out of the area, but know of folk who live here, I invite you to pass this blog on to them. If you don’t live here and don’t know anyone who does, I invite you to join many others who are praying for this fledgling church. A growing church with a big heart with arms that embrace all who come through the door.

May the peace of God be with you this week.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What a pastor does

Somedays, I have thoughts that focus on how I spend my time. This morning, was such a time as I reflected on the day to come and the past several days. The thoughts were something like: I spend so much of my time networking that I often don’t feel like a churchy person. From Tuesday through Friday, it seems as though all I did was go to meetings, meet people, even meet some new people and put a check in the mental “networking” box that accounts for my time. Other boxes to check should include “evangelizing” and “pastoring” though in truth it would difficult to compartmentalize these activities.

This morning’s reflection, however, reminded me that after Friday Saturday and Sunday were all spent pastoring or evangelizing. Saturday, as usual, I finished researching the scripture and wrote the sermon (“Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble” from Luke 18:9-14) and pulled together the Sunday worship bulletin, found a worship leader (you think that Saturday is a bit late for that?), copied music that our musician had requested, practiced the sermon and rewrote what I thought needed changing, then went to a dinner at the local university so that I could, perhaps, meet a few new people who are part of the university (and eat a delicious meal at the same time), then went to the first half of a musical program, came home and finished up for Sunday. Went to bed at 11PM. Alternating between each of these, I cut up and cooked bacon for Sunday’s Fourth Sunday Supper.

Early Sunday morning, I got up, showed and dressed, ate something then left for church in Mansfield allowing sufficient time for a stop at the local grocery to pick up communion bread and grapes and The New York Times for our discussion over coffee. On my way to church, after the grocery stop, the worship leader texted me that she was ill and would not be coming. At church, the fire detector was talking loudly to me, so I fiddled with it - it could not need a battery since it is hard wired. Just about 9AM, I asked another congregation member to be worship leader and she agreed - first time ever. About 9:45, I tried to collect myself so that I could be ready for worship at 10AM. Forgot the children’s message until time to think of it just before the sermon. Since I do a children’s version of the gospel for them, it generally is not too difficult. The kids make this part of worship a special joy.

After worship, I collected my thoughts and drove back to Wellsboro and prepared for the inaugural gathering of Soul Link Too - a different worship service designed to attract the seekers who live in Wellsboro but don’t travel to Mansfield. That began at 1:30 - with ending time at 3:00. Only one person came, but I have committed myself to six months, so we will see what happens for the next several months. At 3:00 I drove back to Mansfield for Fourth Sunday Supper - where I act as pastor and visit with many people. This month, the church served 78 people. The menu was baked potatoes with all the trimmings. By the time all cleanup was finished and I drove home, I fell onto the couch in time to stare at the TV and see who was eliminated from The Amazing Race. It was 12 hours since I had left that morning.

Today, I spent most of my day reading: the final section of Chopra’s The Third Jesus, read a few chapters of a fund raising book aimed at the church, did some preliminary work for a three-week session on the Enneagram scheduled for three weeks in November, and outlined the agenda for our board meeting on Thursday. A bit of the morning was a meeting with one congregation member who has access to pumpkins for pumpkins carving next Sunday evening.

Looking back, each of those are pastoral. No pastoral work can happen unless there are people, unless there is the church, unless there is preparation. None were huge weddings, and thankfully, no funerals; other deep listening opportunities cannot be counted as actual counseling, but each have their role in today’s church as they always have. Some make me feel great, and a few not so good. Worship statistics can be discouraging when only 24 fill the pews; however, church reaches so far beyond the walls that those in the pews receive one type of pastoral attention and those who did not make it to the church but made it to another place where they looked to me as their pastor found another type of pastoral attention.

So, I guess I am a pastor. A pastor who is planting a church. Occasionally I need to remind myself about this.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Big Bertha

Yesterday I had a medical appointment - one of those these four (or five or six) tests could save your life. I thought I would go just in case I have a problem that would not be discovered during a routine exam. The advertising also said: “Ask your doctor ....” I did not, but just signed up and went. 12:05. Left the house a full hour before my appointment so I could get there early. Took my Nook just in case I had time to wait.

Well, there was no waiting at the church hall where the exams were being conducted. Mostly because I got behind a huge piece of equipment that was going down the very same road as I. How inconvenient. It had opportunity to turn so I could speed on my way, but it did not turn until I was almost at my destination.

As I drove slowly, very slowly, behind this piece of equipment I wondered whether moving it had the same ramifications here in Pennsylvania as one I saw in Ohio. In the southeastern corner of the state, there was a huge piece of mining equipment (called Big Bertha by community residents) that changed the lives of those living in one county when it moved across the street going into the county or out of it. If it moved in, property taxes went down. When the work of this huge piece of equipment was finished, it moved across the street impoverishing the losing county and helping the county tax base of the receiving county.

Would that happen locally as this piece of equipment moved from one township to another or would there be any discernible difference? I hope that our Borough would benefit because the Borough of Wellsboro sure could use a shot in the tax base. Our water system is lacking routine maintenance and because of the deferred maintenance, we are under a boil water advisory for the immediate future - December? January? Longer?

Apparently those who had lived in the borough for some time were called and told to boil. I was not one of them. Until I opened the paper two weeks ago, I lived in peaceful oblivion. I turned on the tap, water flowed in. Turned it off, water went away. That was then, this is now: boil all water for washing dishes, drinking, brushing teeth, cooking food. What a pain for this big city girl.

Living without reminds me that I don’t live without very much and except for not spending money on myself for this six months (and what I count as “myself” is broad) I get what I “need” and even what I “want.”

Sometimes I know that when Jesus said to leave everything and follow him then I might not be in ministry because I am not so good at doing without. Perhaps he meant give up the easy things, not the necessities, and follow me. Could he really have meant get water from a well or even boil town water? Would he accept me for giving up those things that are easy: extra chocolate, movies?

What have been Big Bertha’s in my life - computer access, up-to-date electronic access, natural gas heat a garage for my car and yes, clean water? Though I rarely name them, when any of them go away, I feel deprived.

Amazing what an hour of slow driving can do to one's mind.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The importance of little things

Last Monday night I attended the Community Concert at the Wellsboro High School auditorium. It was a delightful hour and a half featuring music from the 1970s. The audience was involved in some parts, clapping, singing “uh-ah,” dancing. A fun evening.

Even as I sat watching, I thought of the work of cleaning up after. Since moving to Wellsboro I have spent some volunteer time working for the local community theatre. I started out auditioning for a part and (luckily for me) decided that rather than having a part on stage, being involved in backstage was more my talent. The decision led me to be Assistant Director cum Stage Manager for Witness for the Prosecution” co-director for two one act plays and gofer for a few others. The learnings were great including the critical part of replacing each part of a set in exactly the same place as it was last night and is required to be tomorrow night. I have a desk that is piled high with stacks, but I can find everything I want. That does not work if tomorrow the stage is being struck by a person who is at home tonight. Being able to pick up a wire and place it in the right place the first time, saves time, worry and stage meltdowns.

This striking of the set is part of my job as solo pastor in this small church. Each Sunday, I put on a one-act play for anyone who comes in the door. No reservations required. Before the play, I get the sound system turned on, get the worship bulletins set out, fix up the coffee accouterments, assure myself that communion bread is defrosted. All that on Sunday morning after a weekend of getting the script prepared for the bulletin and my soliloquy (called a sermon) designed to inspire the congregation to go out from our little church into the world as Jesus-people.

I am reminded of the values of replaced every wire on a set to make life easier for the next stage crew and what happens when my “set” is not properly cared for. Two weeks ago, I rushed into church, got sound turned on, communion ready, checked the pews to be sure they were cleaned up from last week and went out to have a before-church discussion of contemporary subjects. Among the things I should have done was to check my own copy of the bulletin so that I could open the huge pulpit Bible to the appropriate scripture. I skipped that step and later discovered that the worship leader - substituting for the worship leader who was ill - read the previous week’s scripture. I preached on this week’s scripture. A huge disconnect that I realized when the reader was reading. Fortunately, the congregation cuts me lots of slack. We laughed a bit about the mix up and went on. You can be sure that the next week, I made sure everything was ready for that morning.

I berate myself by saying I should get to church a bit earlier, but I am already there two hours ahead of time. I could blame or beat myself up. Or, I can do for myself what I would do for anyone else who made that mistake: remind myself that the only perfect person died about 2000 years ago. We all make mistakes. Life goes on.

I don’t want to make the same mistake again. Make mistakes I will. I hope they are of this less-serious variety and I can laugh at them and at myself.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Forever home?

As I visualized this blog I thought about “forever homes” because I wanted both my cats and my G4 Mac notebook to last forever. I was reminded that both my cats and my Mac came from abused situations.

When I sold my home and could no longer have a dog, I determined that I needed a cat and Crowley entered my life. He came from Denver Dumb Friends League. As we drove home, even as he cried all the way, I promised him that this would be his forever home. He cried for the next six months (still does 4 years later) and I thought getting him a friend would alleviate what I perceived as his loneliness so Pema, Siamese mix, entered our lives. She was a rescue cat as well, but feral. As she and I drove home, I made the same promise – this would be her forever home. There have been many times - thousands – when that promise seems rash. We continue today, two cats and a mom. Pema was abused, but has gradually come to trust me a bit and like Crowley curls up with me each night. Crowley was not abused, just abandoned. He is my lover cat – Pema the one who keeps us young.

My first Mac notebook was like the cats – rescued, like Pema abused, and with time we have gotten to be compatible. When I first got this Mac G4 laptop notebook - abused by an anonymous University of Denver student who had apparently thrown it out a window or perhaps it was stepped on at a party – I was recovering from computers that lost all value as I walked out of the store. This notebook still has dings and idiosyncrasies. The proprietor at the Mac store told me that he had reconditioned it and it would give me some years of good service. Today, six years later, I think I got a good deal.

The computer has traveled across the US a number times, always in my arms, accompanying me to Washington, Boston, New York City, Chicago, California, North Carolina while having its “home base” in the places I have lived: Colorado and now Pennsylvania. It still works just fine, but I can no longer get batteries so it become a desktop and our traveling together is ended.

The cats’ pictures were up on my iPhoto and everyone who wanted could see them as I emailed the pictures to everyone I knew, just as proud as any parent would. People come to visit and know the names of the two cats and when guests stay the night, the cats do them a huge favor by sleeping with the guest – just so they feel welcome in our home.

When this notebook first came to be mine, people used to come over and ask to see it – it sports an aluminum case, making it both light weight and durable. Now, six years later, people come to see it because, in our world of obsolete technology this is a relic and people don’t have a memory that goes far back. Getting “parts” (i.e., batteries) is difficult especially since I live in a world where the mall is at least one hour away, but the nearest MAC store is Harrisburg, about three hours south.

The cats remain central to my life, but the days of my G4 are numbered. Today or tomorrow, my new MAC notebook will arrive. Like the last one, I have selected a refurbished model. I am assured that it comes with the same care and innards as the new Mac Pro would. I saved over $100 by purchasing this used one and can put that money toward word processing software that is specific to Mac.

I hope in five years I like this new notebook as much as I love my cats. What a good bargain I have received from these adopted things.

Having cats and Mac notebooks is important to me as I do church in this rural area. Sometimes, I think isolated living is impossible but that is when God settles in my brain or on my shoulders or in my heart and reminds me that cats and computers and malls are nice but not critical to this life I am called to. I hope that God is as good to you in the things that enter your lives as she has been to me. Each day throughout my day, I give God thanks for the things in my life – cats, notebook, people, rain, warm weather and friends. Could life be better?

P.S. I hope you enjoy this comparison and that reading it lightens your day a bit.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Weighing In

Several weeks ago I wrote that I am on a "diet" of sorts. The diet is pretty simple: I am not purchasing anything for myself (other than food and utilities and car repairs) for six months. I started this "diet" before September 7 - it is important to remember this date so that I can know when to begin spending again. Here is my update.

I expected, when starting this abstinence program, not to buy blouses or shoes or new jeans or pillows for my couch or home decorations. Like Jesus, the temptations keep cropping up and not in the ways of not buying a blouse. Since starting, I have been tempted to purchase a new car to replace my New Beetle - (the correct name is "New" - it does not refer to age as my car is a 2002 model). It is great color and runs well, but it does have 118,118 miles on it. Many people I know replace a car every two years. This beauty of mine is nine years old. It may not be as reliable as it once was though I have no inkling of that. But the "bug" (pun intended) has bit me and more than once a week I have looked to see what I would replace my beloved car with. Nothing that would be so beloved, nothing so well-behaved, nothing so recognizable. Perhaps nothing as reliable. Just new(er). I even went so far as to get pre-approved from my bank. I am now past this temptation.

Is this how it went for Jesus - one temptation, then another follows, because, as surely as night follows day, I have a new temptation. A new couch. One that I can actually sit on - one where my feet hit the floor, where the seat is about the depth of my sit bone to knee, one that is not so soft that it hurts my back. I have looked online. Priced some - determined where I would not purchase one based upon merchant reviews - even sat on a few. The temptation is real. But not so totally overwhelming that I have succumbed.

How many times was Jesus tempted? How many times did he say "no?"

Next temptation is cosmetic surgery. Will my insurance pay for it? If so, would this be called a purchase? How doe I determine what is health and what is vanity? Is my vow of denial i=hindering later health?

What temptation follows? How many times will I be tempted to change my mode. And if I do start spending, what happens to my resolve? I started this so that I could have more empathy for people who don't have disposable income to purchase anything that catches their fancy.

At the time of my first writing, school was starting and my bank's quick quiz alerted me to the costs faced by a family getting kids back to their "free" education: over $650 per family. My saying "no" was just a self-test. This is a pass/fail exam. I want to say I have passed. But not so quick.

Even though I have not purchased anything for myself other than food and gas, does my SegTour in Gettysburg have to be included? And does my motel count? I splurged and stayed in a nicer place in Gettysburg for two nights at less than it would have cost to stay in Bethesda for one night. I guess I do not have to count the motel (rationalize money spent). The tour - yes I do have to count it. But I loved it (excuse for taking the tour) and I rarely DO anything for myself (justification?) and I promise to think twice before I do anything like that again (bargaining) or spend any more money (repentance). For penance, I anonymously gave a huge sum of money to a family in my congregation to help them with unexpected expenses.

This "diet" is more restrictive than I expected, easier in some ways than I expected and more difficult in others. And I still have not started on the $21 a week for food. I imagine I will have cravings all week

Friday, September 17, 2010

Early morning thoghts

In a little while, I am going to the local university to talk to students about “God is not a He.” As I was just thinking about this, I remember beginning seminary (my third career start, the others having become too day-to-day) and beginning to learn that God is not a he. Or a she, for that matter. But this is about seminary.

The first day, we sat at a long table, perhaps determined by our assigned advisor, and I looked around wondering what I was doing in the group of people who seemed to know about God. I was the oldest of us, but not by all that much. This was not a group of just graduated undergraduates. Rather, to my surprise, they were more mature, with years of experience behind them and a surety about this calling that younger folk might not have.

We got through the years. I was on a mission to finish in my three years and get on with this new life, so each time we met in a new class, I introduced myself as being in the first (second, third) year of my three year program even as others stated they were in third, or the fourth (fifth, sixth and more) of the same three year program. I also remember when one student said this was the degree he had planned to read all the assigned readings and here he was, finished in three years, turning his final paper and no, he had not read all the readings.

I still marvel that I am an ordained minister. That I have been in a church where I was asked to help them transition to a totally new identity; and now in my second call, I am starting a new congregation from scratch and living in a community that really did not know they wanted this new congregation.

My knowledge of scripture was limited (though better now). This happened in our first day of class: our instructor asked us to rate our knowledge of Hebrew Scripture. I remembered that I had been to church most of my life and the Old Testament was read almost every week, so I put myself at a (modest) three of five. Then she started talking and the English words flowed over my head, occasionally stopping at my brain – and I was lost. Several days later I asked her if I could change my self-evaluation from a three to a subzero. I do better at Hebrew Scripture now.

I learned to love the Older Testament and enjoy preaching from it. People tell me my sermons are different – I notice that almost no one goes to sleep during one. One of two comments my late husband (a nonbeliever) made about my going to seminary was that my sermons would never be boring. (The other? was I going to be Catholic again? No. UCC.)

This is not Tuesday, but on this rainy morning when at 7:30, I have finished the class presentation, have a sermon in mind for Sunday and have been to the gym to do daily workout, I feel ready to share.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Civil War History and 21st Century Transport

This week I am at a meeting in Bethesda that I needed to attend; Bethesda is five plus hours south of Wellsboro. Since I was driving alone, I decided to make the drive focus on something interesting so I planned to stay in Gettysburg on the way down and then on the way back on Wednesday morning when I will attend a second meeting in Harrisburg.

The Gettysburg battlefield tour is what got my attention. I have toured the area before with my late husband and friends. They were all Civil War experts and my knowledge (and truthfully, interest) was at novice level. A year ago, I almost toured with my friend LaVonne Johnson-Holt, but time made my trip down impossible. Yesterday’s stop was different – I would spend the money and the time and do it for me.

I reserved a spot on a segway tour. You know, one of those battery operated platforms on wheels. In our world, they seem quaint and out-of-place. Let me tell you, they are greenest mode of transportation. And the most fun. After a short lesson, anyone can ride one.

My Seg Tour started at 2:30 with my lesson. Learn to stop, turn, go up hill and down, most of all keep an arm’s distance away from cars and others to avoid crashing. A mother and daughter were the other guests on this tour though the daughter, recovering from surgery, kept getting “seasick” so they begged off the tour, planning to return another time. That left me. The one person who did not request a guide but since the guide had been reserved for the mother-daughter duo, he guided the tour.

This is the briefest story of my ride. After I found out that I could actually stay up (use your Tai Chi knees for balance) Bob, Seg Tours owner, guided John Fitzpatrick, licensed tour guide and me through the traffic and we set out on my adventure! Bob kept checking at the line of two travelers behind him assuring himself that we were still in line and on the seg. I felt a sense of okay-ness that he knew whether I was leaning back too far thus stopping my seg or forward too far – worse – making it speed up almost to the upper speed limit of 12.5 mph.

We took the outer loop of the battlefield, the part called the Western Battlefield. In our two and a half hour trip, we crossed four ridges: Cemetery Ridge, Seminary Ridge, McPhearson and Herr’s ridges, named after landmarks that are part of each respective ridge. This battle had the Confederate Army coming down from the north and the Union army going from south north – each of the many statues faces the way each side was moving. I saw McClelland’s monument commemorating Maine’s effort, and intricate statues for Tennessee and Arkansas. I learned that a cannon pointing up marks headquarters of various brigades (or is it divisions?) and that smooth bore cannon are not accurate and don’t travel far but do much damage where they land and that the rifled bore cannon (those with twisty ridges inside) are accurate and can go a long way.

I learned so much more, too much to list. But most of all, I took away an appreciation of the horrendous battle that has forever scarred the landscape and hearts of the north and south. And I took away an amazing awe of both John tour guide who is more knowledgeable about this battle than anyone I have ever met and Bob, owner of Seg Tours, who inserts little tidbits every once in awhile – like, do you think she wants to see …

I did not fall off once, and by the end of the ride, I was able to hold on with just one hand and talk with the other. I think I am ready for NYC!

Pat Davis mentioned once that she reads a preacher’s blog and that the preacher always finds a way to mention God. Here is my God thought: like all wars, families are wrenched apart and filled with terror and sadness and incredible loss. There must be a God, because how else would we bear all the pain from the losses.

P.S. You can find Bob on Facebook at “SegTours of Gettysburg” and John at “jofi2 at”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Qucik Afterthought

On Tuesday I wrote about my changes. Today, I write about changes I think we should make.

In Florida, that preacher is asking people to come to the burning of the Q'uran - so he can celebrate his God's displeasure at a whole community of people.

It seems to me that he is the christian (I find it difficult to capitalize Christian in this context) equivalent of the hate he thinks was expressed on September 11 - when only a few zealots tried to harm our people and our country. So, condemning all Muslims with the same stroke of hatred puts him (in my opinion) into the zealot camp. A camp that condemns all for the deeds of few. Perhaps we could condemn all males because some abuse their children or all females because some abuse their children.

On Saturday, I am participating in a September 11 memorial service in Mansfield. I am the minister who is to give the Invocation - the welcome to this worship service. Then, I am to pray a Prayer of Remembrance. One only hopes the speaker in between these two speaks of those lost and hopes and dreams that were lost, but is not vitriolic and condemning of all Muslims because of the actions of a few.

Regardless of what is said in the middle, it appears that I have the last word!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Several weeks ago I changed my spending habits – this change will not help the economy in general, but I expect it will help my own economy. The idea is not uniquely mine. I am borrowing it from a woman I heard on NPR. (You can hear the full interview at The interview made me take action on something that was already on my radar.

As I listen to radio reports on our spending and as I think of all the things I have and my family has I am appalled. For several years, I have not sent gifts to grandchildren since I cannot possibly purchase anything for them that they don’t already own. As I think about holidays, it occurs to me, for the thousandth time, that we (a general “we”) have too many things. When contrasted with so many millions from around the world, what we have is obnoxious and unnecessary.

Not to tell people what to do, I decided to do my part and stop spending except for essentials: food, medical, car repair, church, housing and utilities. I thought I was ahead of the curve, but apparently a “spending hiatus” is the newest craze among the thirty-somethings and who knows which other groups are on a “spending diet.” Perhaps if I care more about our country, I will go into debt rather than stop spending.

But, what I care about is how I live and what I think I need to purchase. This is not zero-sum. I did not start out without anything and there are some new things in my closet that were needed for summer. I waited until I was almost on vacation to purchase them. They will last through the rest of Indian Summer and next year too.

I think this moratorium on spending is preparing me for the next great challenge: living for one week on the equivalent of a week’s worth of food stamps: $21.00. This is somewhat akin to Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed. I will use only that food that is part of my preplanned menu, even charging myself for salt. And, like Ehrenreich, I am only doing this for a short time. She lived on her predetermined amount of money, supplementing as possible with jobs, for three 30-day stints. I will start fresh, with good health and stored up stamina and wear myself down by the end of the week. Unlike families who do subsist with food stamp supplements, at the end of the week, the experiment is finished. Completed. I don’t have to face months or years on that subsistence food plan without hope of ever getting to a place where food is not that precious commodity, or where fresh fruit is not a luxury.

Fruits and vegetables are abundant now as are farmer’s markets; therefore, during my week, I should be able to eat fairly well, I plan to eat vegetarian – even vegan – to save money. Good thing I have a good education so that I know how to eat well without meat – not all people do.

Yesterday was Labor Day and the CEO of one company in Ohio has forklift drivers who make $20 per hour (about $40,000 per year). The CEO is demanding that the forklift drivers take a 50 percent pay cut. New annual wages: about $20,000 before taxes. Forty thousand dollars is not much money on which to raise a family; $20,000 puts families below the poverty level and they join millions of other who are labeled as working poor. They must depend on food stamps to eek out the constant of needing to eat three times a day. These families need food stamps – or a different CEO.

I cannot do anything about either the food stamps or the CEO. I can only learn for myself what it means to live such a fragile lifestyle.

I cannot change the world. But I change myself and I can preach to my congregation and those outside the choir. If being a Christian in this world is not all about acting on our care of the poor and needy, then we are not fulfilling our mandate to be Jesus-people.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Home is wherever the cats reside

I am back from vacation – the full month (four Sundays) that are suggested by church folk who have been in the business awhile. It was exciting to preach last Sunday and I look forward to a month of busy activities. Vacations are not only time off, they, for me, are times of reflection and learning. Here is what I learned in August:

* I loved having the month off. It gave me time to visit my family and friends. We visited together as the ten-day time allowed, but there was not enough time for me to be sated.

* I had time when I returned home to visit my cousin who lives in New Jersey for a few days – we met in Lancaster PA and spent two nights in Amish country. I am reminded of how blessed I am as I think of how she oowed and awed over the cows..

* I had time to do work on my home that needed doing.

Two bests-of-all,

* After the second week, I was finally able to sleep all night.

* And, God can take care of this new church quite well without my help. Sometimes, I worry, which shows how weak my faith is.

There are a few drawbacks to this long vacation:

* It was really difficult to get through the year, generally working six days a week, without a period of restful time off.

* My family and friends in Colorado are getting on with their lives and in order not to lose touch, I need to be home more than once a year since Wellsboro PA is not, for them, a destination place. In addition to being physically present more often, I need to keep in touch better by phone and email.

Oh, something else I learned

* Don’t ever put your car keys in your checked bag thinking you will take them out before your return flight. If you forget to take them out of the checked bag you learn that checked bags don’t always arrive when the passenger does. Mine did not.

The biggest thing that I am taking away from this vacation is that I really need to have two days off each week; I need to take three-day weekends offered by holidays when possible; and I need friends who are single. Not necessarily men – though if you know a good one, do let me know – but women who want friendship and dinner and a movie on occasion. I am going to a movie tomorrow evening - that is a start.

I am glad to be home. Back in my own bed – the cats still talk to me - and sit on my lap a bunch more than when I left. The weather is fine. All is good in God’s world today.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two ways of understanding faith

I spent the past weekend in Philadelphia at the bi-annual Regional Assembly for Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It followed, by six weeks, the bi-annual Convention of the Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ. Even as I write this, it sounds confusing. Easier to say Disciples and UCC, so I will here.

Every other year, both groups converge on a conference center to keep in touch, to recognize new clergy and those who have died and to celebrate many years of ministry. Children attend and have a “youth” track – activities that interest them. A good thing because sometimes what the adults do is not necessarily interesting to adults, though business is important.

At these meetings, I think it is truthful to say that I am the only person wearing the hats of two denominations: the UCC and the Disciples. I observe the differences between these sister denominations and wonder how they partnered; yes, I did take polity for both denominations in seminary, but practical application is a far cry from classroom learnings. Let me tell you some differences I observed:

Worship is very different – at the Disciples this weekend, each worship I attended was Praise Worship. Lots of singing and standing and Praising Jesus. Not much in the “familiar hymns” department. At UCC, there were contemporary hymns as well as some most Protestants sang as they came up in the church.

Preaching is another huge difference – at the Disciples’ it was filled with emotion and Biblical citations. At the UCC, a preaching centered on a central Biblical theme, but it was more intellectual and far quieter. Almost no “Amens” during the sermon.

At the UCC, it is required that clergy and lay ministers attend; not so at Disciples. At UCC, spouses were included and I saw fewer spouses at the Disciples though it is interesting (to me) that the spouses I did see were from the district of which Soul Link is a part. With the attendance requirement, 500+ attended the UCC event in June; about 200 attended this past weekend.

Sameness is also relevant.

At both, I renewed acquaintances, developed a few new relationships and participated at every level. I also contributed the same amount of money to the worship collections – a stretch gift for me. Father Jim Callan, a priest at Spiritus Christi in Rochester and Elmira, NY, said recently that once you give the money, it is given and there is no loss. I find that to be true and wish I could impart that wisdom to all those who contributed from scarcity rather than from plenty.

Another sameness: there are books for sale. Books are my downfall and since I cannot take money with me when I die, perhaps they will either cremate all my books with me or, better yet, give them to an institution that could use books on preaching and new church planting and making “tithers out of tippers” and church history. Not to mention seven or eight versions of the Bible in sizes ranging from carry-able to not easily portable.

One other sameness – and the basis for our gathering – God was present. In one venue as head of a Trinity in the other, as God, Creator. Not only was God present, so was Jesus, the foundation of the Christian faith, and the Holy Spirit, mover of souls. The question of Trinity in these settings seems unimportant to me, though I am sure that others might see me as heretic for my lack of caring. I think that however one comes to God, it is the journey that is important, not how you pray.

At one meeting there were many references to acceptance of all avenues to God – letting the broader community know that Muslims and Jews and Hindus and others all seek God, just using a different avenue. At the other, inclusion and reconciliation were important words but the way to God was only through Jesus.

If you know me and have read this far, you might wonder how I bridge the differences. Sometimes, I wonder the same. Let me give an example: my preaching appeals to both groups as does my style of worship. I can meet individuals wherever they are on their life’s journey and not condemn or tell them they need to change their thinking. I can sing the old favorites but prefer the new with upbeat music and find one praise song sufficient. I love all and welcome all to our church family. As a result of our worship, I try to send congregants out as Jesus-people, looking for the marginalized, or send them out knowing they are loved and cared for by the same God that so many other Christians and non-Christians recognize and pray to. I try to affirm community and how we can be active both within the church walls and within the larger communities where our homes are.

When I show my preferential “colors” is in small Bible study groups where I remind the participants that the scripture was not channeled to those who are named as writers of the gospel and again, in book groups where the books I select are contemporary and pushing the envelope of our Catechism teachings. I also talk to an individual about an all-loving God, not the Santa Claus God of childhood that kept a naughty-and-nice list and rewards us accordingly.

Bridging these two worlds of Christianity is frequently uncomfortable and I too often find myself wishing for one over the other. Then, in my more sane and objective moments, I remember that I am better off when I see my theology as residing on a continuum rather than at a solid end. I grow when I offer two views to those who ask me questions. And I grow when I see many points on that continuum – those points remind me that God is found in every experience, no matter the label.

Let the people say “AMEN!”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Caught between centuries

Some forms of safety are vanishing in much of my world! This morning a news crawler had this “family sought as body of young girl found.” Is it in the home where we are not safe? or on our streets? or on airplanes? or in cars?

Last night as I walked home from band practice at 9:00, I marveled at this community and my ability to walk a mile in the almost-dark and feel safe. As I left the middle school where band rehearses, two young deer jogged in front of me, crossing the street. Neither of us were afraid and kept on our respective way. A block and a half later, I passed Hamilton-Gibson House and saw lights still on – Thomas working late?

Just a block later, I walked past our town green where a few people gathered, doing summer night things. Not kick the can games, but adult “let’s get out of the house this evening” things. Among those who got out: I saw the silhouette of a person standing in front of the Winken, Blinken and Nod water feature, just staring. I often stop there to stare. Around the perimeter of the park, several people – mostly couples – sat on metal benches talking and one or two just walked. Most of the couples I see in this community walk holding hands. Pretty nice for 21st Century America.

The evening was finally cool after oppressive humidity and a welcomed rain. The night was perfect, made the more so because I was able to walk past, not worry about those people in the park, hearing – in my head – lingering strains of music we are practicing for the last Wednesday in July concert (a selection Scottish music and composers) and get to my home (doors left unlocked) just enjoying the evening.

This is a good town, a good part of Pennsylvania. Lots of people know this and vacation here. But earlier in the afternoon we had a traffic jam (almost a daily occurrence) where getting through a light takes sometimes as many as four red-turning-to-green lights. We back up two blocks, but the omnipresent gas-related trucks take one light each to turn. They are that big. Adding to the confusion, visitors don’t know when to walk because “WALK” comes on when lights are red in both directions. These visitors try to get across the street on a green, just as some wise parent or teacher taught, or maybe the ways it is done at home. Unfortunately, there is no sign commanding the stranger to walk when traffic from both directions is stopped.

Since I moved here, there are changes. Visitor-caused traffic jams and trucks-gearing-up-to-get-to-their-business-for-the-day traffic jams. Still, I walk alone at night and leave my car running (almost like a native) when I go into the convenience store. Lord, I hope some things do stay the same even as progress takes us ahead of our vision.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Loose ends

What is more important – sermon for Sunday or the blog that I was to have written three days ago? Right now, the blog.

Tuesday was way too full to allow time for blogging. I started work at 7AM – got up 2 hours earlier to drink coffee, pray and meditate (maybe they are the same) and finished the day at 11:55 when I clicked send on one final email. O, I watched two hours of TV in between: White Collar and Covert Affairs. I had a meeting Mansfield that started the same time as the dream group, so I made the 24 mile round trip for a 30-minute conversation (well worth the effort) and the dream group let themselves in. They are always welcome.

Then, on Wednesday – just as busy, but differently. One difference: the Almost World Famous Wellsboro Town Band played at 7PM. By the time the concert was over, my thumb could not hold the clarinet one second longer. The music was almost all cut time with too many eights and sixteenths for my skill level. Here is the news: I did have a “solo” – at least that is what I am telling everyone. The next-to-the-last piece was from Phantom of the Opera (a medley of tunes) and I was the scream! You could hear me through the town green so I was loud enough and people loved it. None of the audience knew who screamed until I told them. Suits my “exhibitionist” leaning.

Thursday I hardly remember except working on Thursday evening at church where a community group showed a film on gas and oil drilling in the west. “Fracking” is a new word that is part of our vocabulary and we don’t like it. We also do not like “if you don’t sign a lease, we will just drill under you …” But still, the gas companies bring economic heath. Such a conundrum.

Finally, today, Friday I think about Sunday’s sermon. I am not one to just pull one out of the file, though perhaps I should. I will not resort to old thinking; I want the message to be fresh and mean something to those in the pews. I have a vision, but need a succinct statement for the point. All in the next three hours before I drive to Corning, then back for opening of Hamilton-Gibson’s 20th Anniversary Musical Gala!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Wellsboro has a town band – The Almost-World Famous Wellsboro Town Band - someone said that having a town band was “sweet” and it is. One of the nice things about this band is that virtually anyone can join and play. Even a clarinet player who only played in 4th grade for one year and when our military family was transferred, the clarinet was not, so clarinet was no longer part of my life.

Until a friend in Colorado asked me if I wanted to join the New Horizons Band – I said I could not play – he said they would teach me and he would lend me his older clarinet. So, at age 60 or so, I became a clarinet player. And loved it! The first day, the band instructor – a very famous band instructor - taught me how to play middle “C” and middle “G” – he said the next time I came he would teach me a few more notes. Over two years, I practiced and played and learned and got better until I moved from Bronze Band to Silver and was invited into the night band. I vowed nothing would come between me and my clarinet (which by this time was a wood Buffet b flat clarinet). But, something did come between us. Seminary. I just could not practice and go to this demanding school full time. So, once again, the clarinet playing was gone from my life. But this time, my clarinet remaind part of my life and rode in my car (front seat) with me from Colorado to Pennsylvania.

In my playing history, cut time with accompanying eighths and sixteenths are somewhat beyond my level of expertise. Until I played in the Mansfield Field 4th of July parade last year (with the Rinky Dink Band) I had never played with music on a lyre. I had never played standing up. Our music in Colorado was more orchestral than march, frequently fast, but rarely calling on my inexperience for playing. When we needed a tremendous clarinet player, we had the band leader’s wife (their son plays first clarinet in NY Symphony Orchestra).

The music in the Wellsboro Town Band is beyond me. However, I learned something from a friend who rides her bike all over Colorado Springs. When she first started riding she joined a bike ride and going up a hill had to stop and walk. She told the leader of the ride that she could not make it up the hill – he said “keep riding.” Good advice. I will keep practicing – by next year, I will be better.

If asked why I bother with this difficult instrument, I would have to give this answer: Christmas Eve four years ago, the musician for the church I served did not show up for our morning worship. Plain quit. Without telling anyone. Having an evening service planned, I spent the day listening to Christmas music and downloading what appeared to be singable carols from iTunes. What a church musician adds that iTunes does not is keepping tempo with the congregation: the congregation could listen, but not sing with the music I downloaded.

That one event taught me that modern churches need music. In a pinch, I play the clarinet so at least we have a melody to follow. I expect that God does not care too much about our music. I can’t say the same for our members. Unless each hymn is one they have sung all of their lives, they cannot/will not sing without accompaniment. In the emerging church movement, music is newer with the musical message tweaked to fit our modern culture. In church we do the familiar, but I add the new, and play it often enough so that it becomes part of the culture of this “emerging” congregation.

There is another reason that I keep playing this challenging instrument: I love playing!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Twain Shall Meet

In late August, I welcome Jumpei – a Japanese exchange student, into my home for three months. As part of Rotary International exchange program, he comes to the US for one year – his final year of high school, though not every student who comes here does graduate at home as some countries do not accept our school credits.

Over this past several weeks, I made one significant change in my home as I prepare for having a second person live here. The change is to switch the guest room (small) and the larger room generally called “office” giving my three-month guest the larger of the two rooms. There has been a lot of work involved in this switch: move five bookcases of books into the small space; arrange for the cable and computer access to come directly into the new office space, find a table to serve as his desk, find curtains and bedding that are not frilly. I hope Jumpei likes what I have done, though he won’t know of the effort put into the change.

As I carried stacks of heavy books from one room to another, I wondered what I got myself into by volunteering to have this child-man who is traveling halfway around the world for an “American Experience.” I already know that his English is quite poor, so I plan to sit him in front of the TV to listen and try idioms, to talk back to the TV and then to try things with me. When I was in my doctoral program, many students were from China or Taiwan. For the most part, fellow graduate students too frequently gave up expending the effort to listen when the English was poor. Maybe we can get him up to speed before Wellsboro kids give up on him.

I also wonder about having a teen live with an older woman – no kids around to amuse him, no one to share homework answers, no one to show him the ropes of living in this single-person home. I have lots of professional training with kids living out of home but most of it entails rewards/punishment to encourage modeling appropriate behavior. I hope I do not have to worry about this type of relationship.

Other things I hope I do not have to worry about:

* does he smoke? Many Asians on television do, and mine is a nonsmoking home. Nonsmoking extends to the porch and the back deck. So if he smokes, how to handle that.

* Jumpei’s biography states that he does not like tomatoes – though I note ketchup is good. I can handle that and hope that other food choices are not issues. I eat lots of fresh vegetables and chicken and fruit. Rarely do I eat cereal and I have not had a glass of milk in at least 20 years. I don’t mind fixing different foods – will he help?

I also wonder

* if he knows how to do laundry?

* does he clean the bathroom after himself? (I have another bathroom that I will use, but three months of grunge when he moves to the next home would be a pain).

* Will he put away the things he gets out?

* Will he have patience with me?

*Will we hate each other at the end of three months? Looking ahead, 90 days does not seems to be that long; living those days – day by day – can be a huge challenge.

When your children are your children for life, they learn the expectations a bit at a time – here we need a crash course in “Living with Sharon.”

As I wonder these things, Jumpei is getting ready to move to the US for 12 months and he must be wondering why he decided to leave home and come here. I imagine he has questions too

* what about his host families! What are they like?

* What foods do they eat?

* How many kids? How old?

* How to get to school?

* Curfew?

* Will they force him to go to places – like church? (Living with a pastor for the first three months may make this concern somewhat real.)

As a child, I lived in Japan – I am excited to have this young man here and hope that we do have a good relationship. You can keep both of us in your thoughts and prayers (end of August to end of November) as Jumpei faces homesickness and English challenges and friend making. Oh, and he loves tennis, so a tennis partner would be a good request.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Generation to Generation

One book that clergy read and discuss as part of seminary is Friedman’s “Generation to Generation.” This generation-to-generation blog is critically different from the textbook.

On Saturday I attended the 36th annual Laurel Festival parade party hosted by a couple I have come to know and like since moving to north central Pennsylvania. They invite many to bring chairs for sitting, nibbles to pass and a dish to share while we watch the local parade pass. I think more than 100 people, of all ages and stages of life gathered to watch.

It is more than that the parade passes by; it is that this group applauds each band, group and float that is part of the parade. The area “queens” (Miss Dairy Miss Laurel Festival and numerous others) waved and received waves by those in this “reviewing” stand. The bands make an effort to stop at this area and when the bands stop, they play extra well (at least so it seemed to this listener although others in town felt that same way). After the parade, there is eating, more visiting and music by “Spare Parts.” It was a wonderful day though when I walked from my home to the party (more than a mile each way) I could only think of the heat and humidity that measured about the same – 90 or so.

The party, the tradition, the camaraderie were nice and I made sure to get there on time. Last year I was late, not understanding the timing which is: come about 10AM and drop off the dish to share stored in my own cooler if refrigeration is necessary and drop off my chair at the same time. Suggestions were offered regarding parking my car for later. I got into my parking space early enough to avoid paying the $5 for parking. From 10:10AM, I was on foot the remainder of the day and I then did what so many others did: walked back to town and visited local street vendors. After visiting, I hiked home, got a cool drink of water and changed my hot clothes for cooler. Then, before 2PM and starting to drag from walking in the sun, I returned to the party, visited with those I knew, met a few people I did not know, enjoyed the parade and food, then went home to finish preparing for Sunday worship.

The generation-to-generation part of this blog falls under “plans for next year and the year after.” In May I was asked to join a group going on a cruise – this group lives south of here, in another county and none of them come to the Laurel Festival parade so they don’t know about generational parades. I asked a local friend – party attender - if she was interested in going the cruise and sharing a room – she declined because the cruise interferes with next year’s party. Each year, she, her daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren and now great grandchildren converge for this party. Not only that, the family of the host/hostess come with their children from out of state, as do other families. These are people who started attending this party 36 years ago and now come each year. It is a reunion of sorts.

These friends, scattered fron the Carolinas and DC and the northeast are extended family. There for each other, sharing memories, introducing future generations to future generations and instituting the cultural fabric of the future.

I like to think they gather the next day, Sunday, to attend church but that is (perhaps) my fantasy of what rural culture is all about and is a holdover from the times in our society when church was the center of activity. Actually, I do hope that the parade is only part of the activity and that church is important as well. Getting to know God in a cultural setting was what many of these people did as youngsters. I know that God is looking different these days, and that God is less important in the lives of some. I hope, though, that these folk - who used to attend a church - would think that God is as important in their lives as a parade – that the small town, rural life mores are based upon a religious foundation rather than an entertainment basis. Our future generations deserve the chance to accept or reject God, but won’t do so without being exposed to God. A complex God, for sure, but one who should be known.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I spent last weekend, a three-day work-filled weekend, at the annual meeting of Penn Central Conference, United Church of Christ (generally abbreviated as PCCUCC). The theme of the three days of workshops and worship was SPIRITED! Sunday morning, our speaker (not our worship preacher) reminded that we tell each other how awesome and spirit-filled our churches are, but we too often neglect telling others. This blog is one way to communicate how awesome the congregation at Soul Link Faith Community UCC/DOC in Mansfield and Tioga County Pennsylvania is.

The UCC/DOC means we are part of two denominations. The new part in Tioga County is the UCC connection. We are part of the United Church of Christ, a denomination that has as its foundation three important building blocks: The three are
* Though our faith that is 2,000 years old, it is still evolving giving us the perspective that our thinking is current and in keeping with our culture and times.
* The UCC is a denomination that practices extravagant welcome telling all who come to our churches that “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here” and we mean it.
* We are a transforming church, the Still Speaking Church that reminds us of Gracie Allen’s advice: "Never place a period where God has placed a comma" (I cannot even put a period at the end of her quote ) In Tioga County, God is still speaking through this growing congregation.

In addition to our UCC d.n.a., we celebrate our joint affiliation with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) a denomination that declares “no creed but Christ” and seeks reconciliation of all Christian communities. We invite all to weekly communion and full participation in our faith.

In our lives and in our church, Soul Link is inclusive, an open and affirming congregation, welcoming all into church and all aspects of the life of the church including calls to ministry and ordination. A list of who is included would leave some out, so if you feel called to come to this church, you are welcome.

Weekly, sermons remind us that our faith is still vital and offers ways for us to be called into the community. Someone wrote that if the church is myopic or tunnel-visioned, always focusing on itself, it becomes no different than a social club. We are not a social club, we are a faith community – a group who is fed spiritually seeking opportunities to feed others. This food is frequently food for those who are in need through cans for the food pantry, our Fourth Sunday Supper and cash donations to agencies serving the hungry. We also look to other needs, asking who is lonely, who needs a friend, who faces so much stress they can barely get through the day and who seeks ways to enhance inner spirituality. We cannot always provide cash, we can always provide an arm, a listening ear and a heart.

This coming Sunday, one of our young members will preach for us. He is confined to a wheelchair, but though his body is limited, his mind and abilities are not. I invite you to join this 10AM service – be part of this amazing congregation – a church that offers God to 21st Century seekers.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Worthwhile miracles

Remember the television show called “Bewitched” that featured the good witch, Samantha, who could – if she dared – clean her house at the twitch of her nose. With another twitch, she could make her husband’s boss follow her instructions – maybe make him bark like a dog. She could perform many other feats but always had to be on the lookout for the neighbors who were nosey and might wonder about this woman.

The Revised Common Lectionary for time after Pentecost focuses on Luke’s gospel for several weeks, especially showing Jesus’ ability to cure, make whole and raise some from death. He, unlike Samantha, performed these miracles out in the open - not afraid of people noticing, but perhaps daring them to criticize him for doing God-work.

As I preached on Sunday about miracles I thought about how I would like a few miracles in my own life – the wham-bang type. You know, big ones – miracles that make everyone sit up and take notice. Miracles that make a difference. Then I was tapped ‘longside the back of my head and reminded of the miracles already in my life. Here are a few:

@ I live in an area of the country where the economy is actually quite good – people who want work have it, houses going onto the market sell, and we do not have that much visible homelessness. The bank and I own my house and I am able to make it home for the cats and me.

@ Soul Link Faith Community is taking hold and starting to become a community of believers rather than a group of people who merely worship together. They share birthdays, joys, concerns about family and friends, movies, popcorn, they laugh together and cry when sadness befalls one of their own.

@ Increasingly, I am accepted as a member of this community and the membership is as a pastor. People are beginning to ask me to do invocations at meetings, to offer grace at Rotary, to perform weddings and funerals, and to stop by to visit the sick of our community. When I walk down the street, people call me by name – much as God did when I came here.

@ After August vacation, I will return to home and job. I have a job that makes my life useful to others and meaningful to me even though I sometimes feel I have way too much to do. Lots to do must be a miracles of sorts .

Problem with the above is that I tend to want the miracles to be BIG. Looking for the big miracles makes me risk overlooking the miracle of every day. I would HATE to miss the miracles of daily life as I stretch my neck toward the sky for that BIG one. The everyday miracles – the ones I almost miss - are what offers me life and love and living and success and in the end, proves my faith. Some tell me they cannot believe in God because they cannot prove God. Taking time to count the miracles might help with the “proving” part of that. I hope you see your own small miracles and that they bring joy to your life as they do mine.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

No matter who you are, you are welcome here!

Last Sunday in worship, one of our new members helped with communion. Now this, in itself, is not unusual because I want people to help with church. I encourage them to work in church to make it successful. Ultimately, it is the congregation that makes church succeed. When (in my more delusional moments) I think it is me, I am reminded harshly – even gently – it is God and the congregation making us thrive.

Anyway, on Sunday, our new member, confined to a motorized wheelchair, with one arm that barely works, held the bread in his working hand for all the congregation to come forward to partake. As they came forward, I offered a healing blessing with oils at the back of the church. The two serving communion – one in a wheelchair, the other who works for Partners in Progress (PIP) a community organization for individual with special needs – were in themselves unusual. Even so, the most unusual part came toward the end of communion.

In our congregation, we serve those who cannot come forward in their seat. This being the custom, our new young member wheeled his chair to the pew where a 92-year-old woman waited for communion. As he got to her, he adjusted the chair so that she would not have to reach too far, and held out the bread as far as his arm could reach. She took her piece and then, from our PIP server, took the juice cup. After he finished serving this woman he wheeled back and she walked back to serve each other and wait for me to come back from anointing.

I, standing in the back of the church watched this, then continued watching as the communion serving played itself out. First, our wheelchair-bound young man held out the bread to his co-server, she took her piece and consumed her juice, then she took the bread and offered it to him. At that point, he needed more help to get the bread and juice so another congregation member that works at PIP came forward to help. I could only stare as these three helped each other with this sacred meal.

As a church planter when I came to north central Pennsylvania, I expected to attract the liberal-minded professors and their families to our new church. For the most part, they have stayed away in droves. What we have is the most diverse congregation in the county. We have diversity in race, education, income, ability, disability, age and singing ability (I am low here). We have the best musician you can find who seems – though he is going through a spiritual crisis – to really like our congregation.

I was relating my intention to write this blog to a friend this morning as we drove to Galeton and she reminded me of her favorite line: “If you want to make God laugh, tell God your plans.”

What I need to end with is this: our congregation is small – growing – but small. Yet, we have the biggest hearts of any congregation I have ever known. If church is about everything and everyone being part of God's place, then we ARE church. And I thank God that we are!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

“Molly Ivins can’t say that, can she?”

I used to read Molly Ivins columns faithfully – I loved it that she called a spade a spade and a Texan a tall-tales-Texan. She died way too young of breast cancer – she was 62 and younger than I. I do not have breast cancer – and I do not have a syndicated column, nor do I possess the wit she used in her writing though I wish I did.

Molly Ivins did have some help – for instance, she hired a fact checker. I wish I had a fact-checker to keep me from making some woefully common errors and an editor (Molly had one of these, too) to chop up my run-on sentences and to be sure I finish all my thoughts before sharing them. Most of all, (I don’t think Molly had one of these) I wish I had a button for “pause – reread – reconsider” before clicking send. That button (or the editor or fact checker) would have made my blunder on Facebook this morning less likely to happen. To help, I could have taken myself off Facebook like my friend Larry did. Several months ago, he sent a broadcast email saying “sayonara” “hasta la vista” and “so long” to this wacky communication tool.

Not me, I keep thinking I will sign off FB, but I am addicted. I really want to see what is going on with all my friends – I don’t have millions, not even thousands or hundreds but I do have 116. FB tells me I ought to have more – a friend of a friend would love to be my friend - even when they don’t know me. I say no to most “friend requests.” Sometimes I should say yes, who knows whom I might meet, but mostly “no” fits my life style.

Twitter is another tool for keeping in touch. On Twitter, many people follow me - I do not know one of them. If I wrote more comprehensively about what I do, I would be concerned about the anonymous people following me. They follow me in spite of the fact that once I signed in to Twitter, I never went back online again. Still every few days, I get an email saying “___ is following you on Twitter.” Must be they have drab lives since following my non-existent life is part of their daily routine.

Then there is “Linked-In” – a professional networking site, good for job hunting. Every few days, a headhunter tells me that a job paying BIG BUCKS awaits me. I don’t answer these come-on emails. If I were job hunting, I would contact my Linked-In buddies.

Linked-In sounds the most like it fits my line of work – preaching. According to some sources, the Bible for instance, no one has ever seen God and if we were to, we would have to die, so Facebook is not a really good tool for my work. A liberal, progressive pastor working with twitter-ing might be mistaken for a very conservative preacher and I don't want that confusion. But, Linked-In. I like that. I think I will use that for the title of Sunday’s sermon: “Linked-In – Emerging Church in Pennsylvania.” Linked-in infers that we have others to communicate with. I like that, since I am always looking for someone to tell about church. If I had a sign out front of church where I could put the sermon title in big black letters, I might use “Linked-In: Networking with God.” I could use “Facebook: Networking with God” but that loses some punch.

Linked-In. I like that.

And, gosh, in case you were “Linked-In” to me this morning when I wrote (on FB) that I am sorry to have a round-trip ticket to Colorado, will you please read the part (30 seconds later) where I said that I would be sad leaving my family and friends when I return here – and I should have added “coming home to my new friends.”