Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ah, Work

After three Sundays at St. Paul’s I find myself so excited about this church revitalization and transformation that I want to run myself ragged by trying too many different ideas at a time. Here are early thoughts:

Worship growth: In worship I started out right off “doing a new thing” - as a statement to visitors who come as much as a statement to those who have been part of this congregation for many years. We are going down a different road. It has started smoothly, not full of ruts or wagon tracks, no boulders in the path to pry out with huge tree-trunks. Perhaps the addition of a singing bowl soothes us all.

Quick Changes: Before the first day, I thought of the pastor who came to the church and saw that the piano was in the wrong place. So, the pastor moved it to the pulpit side of the church. On Sunday, people noticed the change and were not pleased and started a movement to have the pastor removed. After some time, a new pastor was called. First Sunday, the pastor noticed the piano was in the wrong place, and moved it an inch. Eventually the piano was moved to the place the first pastor had selected, but it took a couple of years.

Changing our community: We don’t have time to move the piano by the inch if we are to be successful in revitalizing ourselves into a progressive Christian community - the vision the congregation seeks. I hear that we were considered one of the most conservative congregations in the area. If we go slowly no will notice the difference, yet I remember that when change happens too quickly, people feel out of balance (and out of sorts). Finding that right balance is a bit tricky - one person likes the singing bowl, while another likes the sanctuary arts we have implemented and yet another want nothing to change.

Balance beam: When a congregation member offers a suggestion, I mull it over and see how balance can be achieved. I am short and was told that not all could see me during the sermon. So rather than stand on the lowest level to preach, I now stand up high - but still not near the pulpit and not in a robe and still, generally, without a script. I prefer to be on the same level as the congregation so we see eye-to-eye as it were, but I can walk down to eye level then go back up. That way, even the tiniest person can see me. I remember to thank God that they want to see me.

Who is God calling us to be? Balance is more than worship - balance in taking strides that keep us going forward while we assess where we are. Though we have not yet discerned who God is calling the congregation to be, we have started to do some active outreach to the community. I think that our activity will not hurt us and may even help us in the long run. Eventually, though, we need to be of one mind as we offer ourselves, our programs and our church to the greater Albuquerque community.

In the past, this blog was about my transition from a city dweller to a rural pastor. As I grow into God’s vision for me, I find myself more comfortable as a pastor in a city environment - wondering at the insects that walk on the pavement and don't their tiny feet get hot? and looking toward church revitalization in an area of western thinking - conservative but peppered with rays of hope illuminated by sunshine. So much sunshine.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Getting back to work

It is Thursday, and quite a few Tuesdays have passed since I last blogged. I am pleased to say that I think I may be back on track. Tuesdays will be blogging in early morning after I get to the office. And after I take a minute to sit in the sanctuary and say a prayer.

At this point, I have settled into my apartment as much as I will. The 910 square feet turns out to be way too small – and is arranged in ways that do not suit my life. I have signed a seven month lease, so am biding my time. The apartment complex runs with the Bosque, a God’s place in this New Mexico high desert if ever there was one. I walk this area some mornings and wonder where all the water comes from. I know that our apartment complex coaxes green grass much more than I am comfortable with – even in Pennsylvania, we were concerned about water usage.

Another sight that impresses me as I walk on the Bosque are birds. On Tuesday morning, a local hummer fluttered around me for at least two minutes. I stood still (as in a tai chi bamboo-in-the-wind pose) the tiny wings flapped and the long beak investigated whether I was a source of food or not (not). With my eyes, I looked to see if there were flowers around and I saw none, though after I started walking again, I noticed tiny blue flowers barely sticking out of earth crushed by footprints of runners and walkers. I marveled at the smallness of the flowers and that I had not noticed them as I meditated – what ever happened to Thich Naht Hanh’s reminder about walking with mind attending to surroundings. The hummer left me to find food at a close flower and then I started noticing other birds (swallows ? - I really need a NM bird guide) that were dive-bombing the running water. There were a few goldfinches too.

Speaking of birds, early my first Sunday in NM, but not my first Sunday at church, I walked to church and went in the open door. No one saw me at 6:15 (the door was open because an early group gathers) so I wandered around this new church I am called to pastor. There to greet me was a roadrunner – trapped by the huge glass windows and desperately trying to find a way out. I tried to help, but without success. The poor bird was terrified and kept hopping around. She must have found the open door, because I have not seen her since.

New Mexico is an awesome place. The high desert lives up to the name “Land of Enchantment” and except for the total lack of rain, is pretty awesome. It would be foolish to expect much rain in a desert, but we need some. This season of the year is billed as “monsoon” season. From many years in Colorado, I remember arroyos filled with boiling, rolling water at least two to three times each year. A friend came from Colorado Springs and we went to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center while she visited for the day. We stayed to see the dancing demonstration at 2PM. We sat in shade, the two dancers were in the scorching sun. The lead dancer addressed a question about “rain dances” and responded that all dances are rain dances. Rain is so crucial to every aspect of life that asking the gods for rain every chance is a prime concern. We could make it one of ours. Water keeps us alive – even much water at a time can be managed. A public service announcement here reminds Albuquerque residents that a tremendous water system keeps this city alive. It also reminds locals that we are responsible for keeping water clean.

So – thoughts spanning several Tuesdays from New Mexico. In all, I find that God has been so good to me by giving me this call to St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Rio Rancho New Mexico. I try to follow Meister Eckhart’s advice when I pray "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice." So, I say thank you to God, daily.