>Ministry WITH* — A new video by the General Board of Global Ministries, highlighting ministry with the poor of the world.


>"I Wanna Snuggle With You" / Transitions

>Homer welcome sign.Image via WikipediaIt’s a long ride from Homer, Alaska back home to Girdwood.  The 3.5 hours may not be “long” by Alaskan standards, but it’s pretty long when you have 7 family members and 7 bikes in the car, along with luggage and all.

We were down in Homer for the Alaska United Methodist Conference’s Annual Conference session.  Four nights away from home.  The whole family in a little cabin.  A whole lot of togetherness.  And our little twins (the “Short Louds”) met some new friends and played hard the whole time.  Last night when I was getting them ready for bed back at home, I asked what their favorite part of being in Homer was.  I was thinking they would have said “the playground” or “the beach.”  Bethany said, “When we got to play in that little room.”  That “little room” was the childcare room at the Homer United Methodist Church.  They had fun at the provided childcare…which is not something that happens at every Annual Conference gathering.

On the way we back we also stopped at Dairy Queen (always a treat when passing through the town of Soldotna) and spent a couple of hours with some old friends.  Talking.  Eating.  Sharing life.  Laughing.  And, for the little ones, running around the restaurant.

Well, on the next part of the journey on our way home, after the stop for ice cream, dinner, and visiting, young Abigail, age 4, started crying in her car seat in the way back of our Suburban.  This was not a “hurt” cry or a “frantic” cry.  This was a “sad” cry.  In between the tears she kept calling out to my wife and saying, between quiet sobs and sniffles, “Mommy, I wanna’ snuggle with you.  Mommy, I wanna’ snuggle with you.”  

I asked my wife if she was tired.  My wife said, “She just doesn’t do transitions well.”  She was going to have to wait another couple of hours until we got home for her snuggle time to reassure her that things were OK…that she’d see her new friends again, that it’s OK to miss them.

Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church is a time of transitions.  Sometimes we do them well. Sometimes not so much.  It’s a great time to get together with clergy and families we haven’t seen in months and share some life with each other.  The singing is always dynamite.  The worship is usually inspiring.  And, this time in particular, the preaching from our leadership was awesome.  But in the midst of all of this celebration we say goodbye to friends.  This is the time when people we have loved and have served with…for me, as long as 14 years…move on to something else…a new state, a new position somewhere else, perhaps retirement.  We are all travelers through this life and sometimes our journeys take us in different directions.  Annual conference reminds us of this.  And, it’s the time when all the rest of the clergy who are left behind are reminded that they aren’t going to stay forever in their present churches or ministries no matter how much we want it to be the case.

Transition time comes for all of us.

And, while “snuggling” may not be required, we may just need that time of Annual Conference to hold on to each other for a little while, affirm each other, celebrate all that is good and holy and right about our lives together, be challenged to be more faithful, individually and collectively, and transition ourselves into another year.  I do so appreciate the time we share as a conference.  While I don’t consider myself to be a very “needy” person and try to portray myself as pretty independent, I know the time we have together is deeply meaningful to me.  It’s “family time” at a conference level.

I’m thankful that there is no move with my transition into this new year…my 12th here in Girdwood.  However, I’ve had my share of hellos and goodbyes over those years, even if I haven’t had to move.  I will count my blessings and thank God for another year of ministry in this place.

My thoughts and prayers go with my clergy friends and families who are moving on to something else, someplace else.  Thank you for all that you have done for the glory of God in our time together.

May you transition well.

May you get the snuggling…or holding…or affirmation you need.

May you cast yourself on the providence of our God who is always bigger than any difficulty you face.

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>Fundamentalism, Truth, Fear — What Are The Roots?

>RootsImage via WikipediaI thought THIS POST by David Hayward has some good insight on fundamentalism.  I, too, wonder if the the more conservative side of evangelicalism will become more and more entrenched in fundamentalism and grasping at certainty as things in the world seem to become more and more uncertain.  Or, will folks find some ancient, historic roots in finding beauty and truth in mystery.  I don’t think that’s only a concern for right-leaning evangelicalism, but also churches such as The United Methodist Church as we discuss issues such as hospitality and homosexuality.  Where will we draw the lines?  And is our line drawing based on how we understand the truth of God’s revelation to us or based on the fear or those who think differently or are different than us?

David’s post gave me pause today.

Go check out David’s blog (and his art…and his book),  but his whole post is printed below:

Fundamentalism, in many ways, used to rely solely on the inherent truth of its system as the source of its certainty.

It has become more complicated. Now, fundamentalism, although it still depends on the inherent truth of its system, is more of a reaction to the increasing mystery and uncertainty of our world. Fundamentalism is only going to become more rigid as our world becomes more unpredictable. As innumerable questions mount, the ground of fundamentalism will rise to meet them.

I have seen this in my own life as well as in others: I’ve seen conversion to fundamentalism when the questions and uncertainties are just too overwhelming to be assimilated by the mind. I’ve also seen conversion away from fundamentalism for the exact same reasons.

Which makes one wonder if the actual root of fundamentalism is fear.

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>Bored with Contemporary Worship — Reflections from Mike Slaughter


Here is a good reflection on contemporary worship by one of the pioneers of it in United Methodism, Mike Slaughter.  (HT to Allan Bevere for the link).  I thought this was a good read, particularly since we’re trying to find a way to appeal to the traditional folk and the contemporary folk and the folk who don’t care what goes on in worship but love being there with each other. 

In our congregation, for a sermon series on the person and work of Christ, we don’t have unison prayers.  There’s no prayer of confession.  There are no responsive readings.  There’s no creed.  We DO have communion, with the full liturgy from the Book of Worship, but the whole service has a more informal feel than some folks are used to.

And, I know this is a style that appeals to some folks.   I like it. Although I like the really high church services as well and wonder how we keep connected with the ancient traditions of the past while we try to move, still, into the future of worship.

Here what Mike Slaughter has to say.

I was sharing with my friend Adam Hamilton not long ago that contemporary worship has become boring for me. Those of us influenced by the Jesus’ movement of the 60’s and 70’s pioneered early models of contemporary liturgies, which began in the informal gatherings of believers meeting together on college campuses, apartments and coffee houses, along with the influences of Christian rock and Jesus music festivals. The fresh new forms of relevant music, participatory sharing and free flowing spontaneous prayer created a welcoming space for our friends who had no connection to the ancient forms of traditional worship and for those of us who were just plain bored by tired repetitive traditional liturgies that had no connection to daily life. As many of us began to find our way back into the traditional church, we brought our guitars and new contemporary styles with us. I participated in some powerful guitar masses in Cincinnati in the early 1970’s. Contemporary worship forms were bringing Christians together from many different traditions. The Catholic and Protestant Charismatic renewals brought Catholics and Protestants together in conferences and worship experiences with the promising hope of a new horizon for Christian unity. The movement peaked in the 70’s and began to decline, somewhat due to emotional and theological excesses, in the 80’s. The contemporary movement became more distinctly evangelical protestant, connected to the church growth-seeker model in the 80’s. Drama, media and other artistic forms were also introduced during the next decade. Mainline churches began to experiment with the addition of contemporary worship services while maintaining traditional worship options.
So what are my issues with contemporary worship, which is a form that I have advocated and helped pioneer? 
•So much of contemporary worship has become a tired and predicable ritual. The same old-same old that begins with three songs, a drama, film clip, announcements and message, week after week after week after…
•Much of the music is just plain trite. Nothing like the words written by some of the early pioneers of the Jesus’ movement (check out Larry Norman).
•In our attempt to be relevant have we focused more on methodology than theology?

•I had an opportunity to worship with the good people at Custer Road UMC in Plano, Texas last week. Affirming our faith together through the Apostles Creed and the communion liturgy was meaningful. Much of what we have done in contemporary worship has lost all connection to the creeds and ancient traditions of the past.

I am not advocating for a return to traditional worship, which doesn’t work for many of us in the church nor is it relevant for those on the outside. What is a third way beyond traditional and contemporary that is ancient and future? Jim Belcher in his book, Deep Church, says: “Deep worship is rooted in two thousand years of the church and the historic flow of worship. The order of the service, the liturgy, should be both old and new. The goal is to take the best of the tradition and breathe new life into it for the 21st century.” He goes on to state that relevant worship “combines the best of the free church-moving extemporaneous prayers, longer sermons and room for the Spirit- with the ancient church’s commitment to set prayers and a liturgy of Word and Table.”