Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What ever do they do?

I started this from a personal perspective and as my blog, it should be. However, from my preacher perspective, it seems that I should blog in a broader sense - not just about the town where I live, but about the communities that make up this county. Some might say from a preacher perspective, you would rather I blogged about church and God and eternal life. For today, this blog is about my personal life here in the almost Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania.

When I arrived in Tioga County, I wondered about the turns my life would take. High on my list of things I wanted from this move was a sense of community. Coming from a metropolis, I asked if there would be choices of things to do. Would I like the choices? Would the people like and accept me so that I could be part of the community? Today I write about "community" another time, I will write about acceptance. This is part of what I have learned about ways to spend time in this community. These are offerings in a recent 7-day period:

* Attending our local five-star community theatre where two productions are staged odd nights would have enriched you. This month, “Underneath the Lintel” and “7 Stories” are on stage. I hope to get to both this coming weekend.
* For the athletically inclined there are tai-chi classes, yoga at several studios, water aerobics, hiking in the Pine Creek area, biking (b-r-r-r).
* There are reading groups keeping up with the current and the not so current; one locally owned and operated bookstore has a movie afternoon (Sunday) and game night (Friday). This week is “Friday Club” instituted in 1906 by women wanting cerebral involvement and now comprised of dedicated residents who select a topic each year and all current members write a quality report on the selected topic. This year, we are tackling 21st Century authors.
* Anyone who is musically inclined would do quite well – Wednesday Morning Musicale offers many varieties of music for listening or playing. The Penn-Wells hotel has Jazz night and the Wren’s Nest restaurant has Jazz Wednesday. Mansfield University – an institution filled with world-class music majors – sponsors many evening performances that are open and free. Not to mention both Men's Chorus and Women's Chorus. I think carrying a tune is a requirement of both, so I am not ever trying out!
* We have dream groups and self-awareness groups and self-improvement {they are not all the same :o)}.
* Rotary and Kiwanis are active in the county.
* Local faith communities are offering Lenten series. One on Wednesday and one on Thursday. As pastor of this year’s host church, I preached at last week’s Thursday lunch service: Praying for the right-brained.
* Faith communities offer suppers and games and movies.
* Did I mention photography and art?

Finally, there is the sisterhood of creative and awesome women who are now my sisters.

The above is not all-inclusive. What I hear from others and what I see as I write is that a calendar could be full of events of various ilk. If you lived here, you would see people you know and like (and some you don’t especially like) at these places. Your mind could overflow with enrichment or you could lounge around over a beer sopping up culture. Or both. How great is this?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Snow Day

This morning, it is snowing. For the people in the Capitol City area, that would be a devastating event since they are still getting around though paths rather than road (I hear that from the weather folk). In Wellsboro, we have not had snow many times this winter. When we did, it was almost like Colorado snow – falls, melts, grass peeks through. Almost like Colorado except for the continued cold temperatures. This morning, I shoveled for two reasons – the first, the dream group comes and they know I am expecting them when I have cleared the sidewalk.

The second reason I shoveled is that I have a sidewalk - of sorts. It was poured some years ago, has heaved from the trees that used to adorn my front yard, and has parts that are disintegrating even as I try to spell and wordprocess simultaneously (what did we do before red lines under words?). At any rate, Wellsboro Borough has a law: Shovel all sidewalks within three hours of a snow. Therefore, I get my shovel and do it. As I look up my street, I see that my house is the only one to have a sidewalk. The house is two-story with a great front porch. Over one hundred years old and may have been the first house on the street. Perhaps sidewalks were in keeping with the dignity to which the neighborhood aspired. Perhaps the law went on the books before other houses were constructed and the builders said: "no sidewalks." In Columbus Ohio, the neighborhood my sister-in-law lives in decided not to have sidewalks. At any rate, I shovel each time the snow flies, remembering to throw the snow away from the house, I trick I learned in Maine where large snowfalls were the rule. I don’t think this effort counts as exercise. Too bad.

From the rate of snow falling, I will be shoveling several times today.

Oh, I neglected to mention that I throw the worst salt I can get on the sidewalks, hoping they will crumble and next year, I will be sitting by the fire during snowstorms.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Remembering to Evangelize

Last Sunday I preached to my congregation about evangelism – about Jesus as evangelist and that he first made relationship then disciples and, after chosen, the disciples need to make relationship and then disciples when they have an opportunity (Luke 5:1-11). I, too, would do well to remember to be an evangelist. Make relationship but be sure to take that to the next level.

One way to evangelize is through this blog. When I meet people, they virtually never ask me what I believe. There are people across the country reading this blog, so I think I will spend a bit of time writing about what I believe.

First and foremost, I believe in God and that Jesus is my Lord and Savior – that his life and death were lived for me as well as others to give new life to the world and offer us eternal life. Jesus came to change the status quo, not to start a new religion. We would all be Jews if the culture had accepted his radical changes. I also believe in the Holy Spirit though I am not sure that I believe in a Trinity. Mostly, that does not bother me – belief in God, as Creator, Jesus as living example and Holy Spirit as manifesting light and energy is good for me.

If people ask me about issues of the day, the first question is about “abortion” though I say “choice.” I believe in choice. This is not to say that I believe in the late-term aborting of a viable fetus; at the same time I do not believe life begins at conception, so early term abortion fits my values. I believe in teaching our youth about sex and responsibility and, yes, even responsible birth control. One of my issues with conservative Christians is that they often refuse to prepare their children for impulsive acts, so the act born out of raging hormones and the “it won’t happen to me” idea leads to too many young moms, who don’t usually have a young dad to help them parent.

When we talk about choice, though, I think we need to look to the other end of the spectrum – at dying. I want the “choice” to say when my productive life is over. I do not want to merely exist in a nursing facility barely remembering who I am or knowing my children should they visit. I do not want to be at the mercy of underpaid staff who would rather change a baby than an old lady. I do not want to gaze out a window and not see or hear the birds. Those are my choices. I have made them clear to my children. On the other hand, I respect that some understand living to be breathing and choose to have life in any way it manifests itself. I hope they make their choices clear to their children or medical decision makers.

Other things I believe: what makes a Christian different from a civic group is that we are required to find the people in society who are ill, or do without food or shelter, who are outcast in other ways and then we are required to change their situation even if that means trying to change the world. I would love to go to Africa or southern Mexico to minister to those who do without – probably can do that after everyone in my community who wants help is well, and well-fed and housed in homes that are above substandard, and have clothing that keeps them warm in cold Pennsylvania winters. If you come to our church, please understand that I will remind you about these people on a regular basis. I will also remind you to elect officials who have the same values as you and support organizations that care more for the downtrodden than they do their own paychecks. Oh, and support the arts and music and dancing as these help make our culture rich and full and extraordinary.

If you come to our church, bring your enthusiasm and your spirit and your open-mindedness to hear not only me but also others who are far more eloquent and bring your vocal voice and your smile and laughter and your broad acceptance because we are a fledgling congregation of different races and sexual orientations and physical and mental abilities. We all love to sing and hear Charles play the piano. Be ready to forgive me if I forget to do the Lord’s Prayer in the right place – sometimes divine inspiration reminds me at just the right time that I have left it out of the place it was expected. It is probably better where God placed than where I had it placed. Know, when you come, you are welcome to stay, to commune – which we do weekly - and to share your love with everyone.

I think this is a start for evangelizing. I think I will be more vocal in my networking arenas. Our congregation is growing, but there are way more people who want to hear this message than have found us. Even if my congregation does not benefit from my evangelizing, perhaps one person will. And that will make all the difference!

And all of the people of God said AMEN!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Another political statement

This is purely personal. Just posted on CBS comment line.

I am writing to say that if CBS decides to run the Tebow ad on the Superbowl - paid for by a religious institution though in the past it refused advertising by United church of Christ saying that it will not run advertising paid by a church - that I will turn off CBS and not turn it on again. Perhaps my one click will not be heard by the network but maybe others will join me. Even if I am the only one, I will sleep better because I will have acted on and supported my values. PS - I love The Mentalist and NCIS so I will pay some price to be true to myself.

End quote

Politics in the Church

Today I am at a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergy conversation – I came last year for a day and an overnight but felt I did not have much to add to the conversation though we are talking about church leadership. Last week, I spent three days at the Hotel Hershey, a United Church of Christ clergy convocation. It was structured differently, focusing (again) on church leadership. I was pretty quiet.

Since last year, I have become more informed and have formed more opinions about the churches in this area, but still don’t feel that I have much to offer. This is mostly because I am not connected to the broader church leadership. I know it is critical to have this leadership. Locally, I appreciate that the denominations are gate-keepers and responsibly hold all of those recognized by the church to a high standard. I also appreciate a national presence and those who are active participants and leaders who take us to the United States boarders and beyond. However, in my role as local church planter and pastor, I am so busy finding people to stick their toes into our worship space, that the national/conference/region business is too much to add to my daily life.

When I go home I will preach on some of my learnings from the past two weeks and will be more diligent about informing my congregation members about their larger church. I will offer them an opportunity to take a leadership role and encourage their efforts that will (ultimately) benefit more people. We are fortunate that both denominations encourage – really depend upon - lay participation and leadership.

Until then, while I am here, I try to remember that I have two eyes two ears one mouth and use each in the same proportion. I guess that means that I should only say about 20% of what I think. Some would say that is positive.