Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Time for Some Campaignin'

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

South Tryon Sermon

I thought I would post the sermon I preached at South Tryon Community Church this past Saturday. South Tryon is a predominantly African American church so it was a new experience for me, and you can hear one gentleman "Amen" particularly well. It was a great experience! Listen here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Week 9

Well, my time is almost up. I wrapped up my ninth week here at Myers Park UMC this week and now I have only one more until my internship is officially finished. July 27 is my last Sunday and last day period. It has gone way too fast, but it will be nice to have some time off before school starts again to reflect and get ready. I will also be making a short trip home to Michigan from August 9-19. Jen will be in Barbados at the time so I thought rather than sit around in Durham I'd come back and spend some time with family. I've missed Michigan summers so this will be much welcomed by myself.

This past week was surprisingly hectic. I spent a good deal of time with my book study, as I've been trying to figure out a more effective way to run the class. The first two weeks were a bit chaotic and I struggled with not having clarified our goals. This past Tuesday went much better, as I had more of a plan for the night. I also helped Kevin Wright with a few tasks, and spent time preparing for my Sunday school class this weekend. It will be an interesting class.

Like I said in my last post, I'm discovering how hard ministry really is, and how hard it is to be a Christian. It's not easy to worship a crucified Lord in a world ostensibly ruled by crucifiers. It's not easy to be willing to follow him, to renounce violence, to enter into solidarity with the poor. It's not easy to recognize that capitalism creates us to be a type of people in direct conflict with the character of people Christ calls us to be. It's not easy to put trust in God, not money. It's not easy to have people you love call you a fool, or morally depraved for refusing to concede that humanity is in control of history. It's not easy to confess the Slain Lamb as Lord, and his cross as his method of conquest.

Discerning how to follow Christ in an unwilling world is not easy. But if there's anything Christ says in the Gospels it is that following the narrow road that is itself life is not easy. Of course, we middle and upper class Christians have largely neutralized this cost, thinking that somehow by virtue of the fact we live in America the cost of following Christ is less than it used to be.

I've also discovered that ministry can be very lonely. I have a roommate, and I have great friends and colleagues at the church, but there is a keen sense of loneliness that sets in. It's more than simply being around people can remedy. I think I'm realizing that it's very difficult for us to really know another person. This becomes especially poignant in the hospital. Even those suffering from similar diseases suffer differently. Our suffering always has our own nuance that no one else can fully understand.

Okay, now I'm starting to ramble. Thus, I will end. One more week ahead, and it's time to continue to prepare for my book study. Hope all is well with each of you.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Week 7

Clearly, this blog has been a massive failure. I suppose it became a superfluity among the immediately pressing activities with which I have been involved this summer. But, I thought I'd give a quick update on my rapidly ending internship.

In the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to be involved in a number of ministries. I've done hospital visits, home visits, been a liturgist, helped serve communion, prepare a funeral service and sermon, preach, construct and lead a book study, etc. My summer has been inundated with fantastic learning opportunities and wonderful interactions with parishioners. The life of the parish is tough; and this might be one of the greatest intangibles I've learned this summer. I am more convinced than ever that adequate theological training is a necessity, nay an absolute requisite for pastoral ministry. I worry to no end about those Christian denominations that consider it either a hurdle to get out of the way or ancillary concern to effective ministry (ahem...my own Wesleyan denomination). I worry about those Christians who have been taught that Christianity is relatively simple and easy, and that to be a Christian is predominantly associated with something we confess, rather than with how we live our lives. And I am even more alert to the danger that Christian acquiescence to American culture and patriotism poses to faithful Christian discipleship. We need to get the flag out of our sanctuaries, and we need to do it now.

Nonetheless, with all of these worries that have become more acute I am also extremely hopeful. I am hopeful because 1) I believe that the Holy Spirit actually is active in His church, and 2) I think parishioners are smarter than we give them credit for.

I hope to post a few more reflections before my time at Myers Park UMC finishes, but for now I will provide you with access to my recently preached sermon, and transcript for my funeral sermon. I hope and pray all is well with each of you!

Pax Christi.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Week Two


I've come close to finishing my second week at Myers Park. This was a shorter week, as Monday the office was closed for Memorial Day (if interested, I have written a short piece on Memorial Day on my main blog). Although short, I still was able to participate in a variety of experiences. Jen visited over the weekend and left Tuesday morning. I had a meeting Tuesday morning and also two afternoon meetings. My first afternoon meeting was with Alisa (pastor of local missions), Pastor Charlie (pastor at South Tryon Community Church), and my roommate George. We will be meeting weekly until Alisa leaves, and talking about the relationship between Myers Park and South Tryon. I'm really looking forward to these times as I am very interested in the Myers Park/South Tryon connection.

On Wednesday the director of church communications, Ken Garfield, and I had breakfast together. He worked in the newspaper business for 14 years and thus he has some interesting takes on Myers Park and churches in general. I also had lunch with Kevin Wright, who has just moved to Charlotte to start his pastoral activity at Myers Park UMC. It will be wonderful having him around this summer and I'm glad we can both help each other transition this summer.

Thursday was a lot of fun and a unique day. I went with the Adults Plus! group to Landsford Canal State Park to help grill for their lunch. I spent my early afternoon grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, which was an absolute blast. I also was able to see Landsford's unique clan of Spider Lilies, which are pictured above. They were beautiful! I really enjoyed my time with the group and was surprised that those folks seemed to have more energy than me (Adults Plus! is a group for people 55 years and older, although most are at least 65).

Today, Friday, I'm back in Durham as I traveled back last night to watch the Lost finale with Jen. As expected, it was mind blowing. That show is seriously great. At the moment Jen and I are sitting in Panera bread while she studies and I write blogs. :) When I'm done with this, I'll be enjoying Hauerwas' book "A Better Hope: Resources for a Church Confronting Capitalism, Democracy, and Postmodernity." How I love summer.

Tomorrow I'll head back to Charlotte early in the morning in order to participate in a community event between Myers Park and South Tryon, and then Sunday I will be leading the Church in the Round service at 8:45am. Should be good.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Week One

It's difficult to describe, but I feel as if I've been here at Myers Park UMC for forever, and it also feels like I just arrived. This week has been long, and yet when I think about how short the entire internship will be (10 weeks) it seems as if it has gone quickly. Nonetheless, I am happy to be here and excited for what will unfold this summer.

Myers Park is a unique church. It has roughly 4800 members, and is located in one of the more affluent parts of Charlotte. It is additionally unique in that many of the members are themselves affluent. While most churches have some wealthy members, Myers Park has many. This creates an interesting ministry situation, and raises serious theological questions about wealth and the church's use of financial resources. With the multifarious challenges that emerge from such a situation, there are also numerous advantages. For one, this church has the ability to fund basically whatever project they want to whenever they want. For example, in order to complete serious renovations on the chancel the church needs to raise nearly half a million dollars. The senior pastor suggested that would be relatively easy to do, and the more difficult issues would be the logistical ones regarding where the congregation will worship while the sanctuary undergoes renovation, etc.

Issues of wealth and poverty have been on my mind and heart significantly this past academic year. Myers Park is providing me with a fantastic opportunity to think theologically about these matters in the context of the local parish. My roommate for the summer (George Fultz) will be working across town with Myers Park's sister congregation, South Tryon Community Church. South Tryon church is literally located in the projects of Charlotte. It is night and day from the situation in which Myers Park exists. I am very interested to see how the relationship between the two churches functions.

Let me give you a brief overview of what I've done this first week:

Day 1 - My first day was extremely overwhelming. There are so many ministries going on here at Myers Park, and the church is so large that even beginning to get acquainted with the building is a huge task. In the morning I was given a brief tour of the building and also sat in on a staff meeting. My afternoon consisted mainly of working with Barbara Barden (Minister of Education). We labeled books for the internal library in the church. Myers Park has a significant library inside the church with valuable resources. Basically, if I need a book for a sermon they will order it and have it here in a few days.

Day 2 - In the morning I gave George the tour of the church I had received the day before. Then I attended another staff meeting. Following, I sat in on a meeting about the renovation of the sanctuary. When this meeting ended I was taken to lunch by Dr. Howell. My afternoon was spent emailing the various staff leaders to set up dates and times when I could meet with them and ask some questions about their ministry fields.

Day 3 - I attended a meeting with the Adults Plus! group, at which Dr. Howell (the senior pastor and my supervisor) gave a summary of his time at General Conference. Immediately following I had lunch with the members of Adults Plus! upstairs in Jubilee Hall. Myers Park has a phenomenal cook (Shebra Claypool) and the food was fantastic (particularly the crab cakes!). In the afternoon I spent time crafting my learning goals and objectives for the Learning-Serving Covenant that Duke Divinity School requires the field ed students to complete. I also finished my Annual Service Report to the West Michigan District of the Wesleyan Church.

Additionally, I spent some time looking over the curriculum of a group that will begin meeting this summer. The group is called "Living The Questions" and will use a study designed by and for "progressive Christians." I will be leading one of the two-week sessions. It ought to be an interesting group and discussion. For those of you who are familiar with theologians and contemporary theological discussion, some of the people involved in the creation of this curriculum are Marcus Borg, Walter Brueggemann, John Cobb, John Dominic Crossan, Hans Kung, Amy-Jill Levine, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, John Shelby Spong, and Mel White. That gives you an idea of the type of study it is. :) Which is why I say it will be very interesting.

At night I went to the Wednesday H.O.T. meals that the church has every Wednesday. It's basically a chance for the congregation to eat together and fellowship. This was a wonderful time and I was able to meet some very kind parishioners.

Day 4 - In the morning I had the chance to sit down and meet with Dr. Howell for a few minutes. Then Nancy Pryor (the executive secretary) took me to Cokesbury to buy an alb. Pictures will be forthcoming. :) We also went to lunch at the Dragon Fly, a delicious little Chinese restaurant.

My afternoon was filled with meetings, as I met with Sarah Sumner (Director of Children's Ministries), and Carol Tate (Consultant for Spiritual Gifts). Both of these meetings were very helpful and helped give me a sense of the mission of Myers Park UMC. Needless to say, I am excited.

In the evening I attended the Disciple group graduation in the sanctuary, and then fellowshipped with these people over hors devours in Jubilee Hall. Again, Shebra made some wonderful food. I'm going to get fat this summer.

Day 5 - Fridays will typically be the day I have off. However, this Friday I had set up four meetings in the morning, so it was a bit packed. I met with Susan Mobley (Parish Nurse), Renae Burgett (Administrative Assistant - Youth), Vanessa Pierre-Parker (Events and Personnel Coordinator), and Jeanne Poole (Receptionist and Administrative Assistant). Eve with these meetings, I still have plenty to go. Yes, the staff is rather large.

What is most exciting about today, though, is that Jen is visiting! It seems like a long time ago that she was leaving me in tears to head back to Durham. But now she's coming for the weekend and I am thrilled!

I should also mention two interesting things that happened this week: First, I learned that a Rose Bowl game was held at Duke in 1942. Random, but I thought that this was pretty cool. The gentleman who told me about this actually attended the game and sold concessions. Second, I met Ben Witherington III's mother! Ha! Go figure. For those of you who don't know, Ben Witherington is a well known scholar who teaches at Asbury seminary in Kentucky. And now, I know his mom. Apparently she and her husband attend Myers Park, which I think is really cool. Like I said, this summer will be fascinating.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Welcome

Welcome! I will be utilizing this blog to both keep family and friends up to speed on what I am doing this summer in my internship, as well as a space to reflect theologically about my time spent at Myers Park UMC. Feel free to leave comments and ask questions, as my experience will be enriched by your participation.