Friday, July 27, 2007

Awaiting Confirmation

We are in the process of re-thinking how we do confirmation here at our church. What we've done isn't all that bad, but not anything to write home about either. So my questions for you all are:

What are you doing in this area that you think is really exciting and replicatable for other congregations?

What age(s) do you include?

Are you using a particular curriculum? So far, we've found that we like parts of several curricula but aren't sold on the whole package of any.

What are the assumptions going in about the end goal? I ask this because there has been discussion here that if you state the "end goal" as joining the church, the youth who choose not to join,(and their parents), end up feeling that there is some stigma attached to that decision--and the adults who lead the classes are set up to have folks wonder what they did "wrong" with the class that it couldn't make Christianity and church membership seem like a compelling choice for these kids. Is there a different way to frame the whole process?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Multiple Intelligences

In this corner:
Two pastors and one church custodian. Two MDivs, 19 years of combined pastoral ministry, 25 year track record of custodial experience.

In the other corner: A dunk tank borrowed from the local Rotary Club for our church summer picnic. Some assembly required.

4 hours, much head scratching, some swearing, breaks for internet searches and cold water then finally . . .


How was your day?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

All manner of things . . .

So: Last sentence of last Harry Potter--deliberate allusion to Julian of Norwich or total coincidence????

Results In

The report from camp is that it was "really good and I want to go back next year."

One sad bit of news, though. Due to the extreme fire danger level in So.California right now, they were allowed NO campfires. (In this case the, "it only takes a spark to get a fire going" turns out to be a life and death matter.) I understand why this has to be, but for me the nightly campfire was practically the whole POINT of camp. Let's pray for a rainy winter so they can have proper campfires next summer.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Camps Songs

Tomorrow we awake early and drive into the mountains to retrieve our boy. As we wind up camp memories week, please share your favorite and least favorite camp song off all time.

For me:

Favorite--It's a toss up between Green Grow the Rushes, ho! and Oo-ooh, I wanna linger ooo-ooh, a little longer . . .The first is really fun to sing, especially if you and your friends get to be "Three! Three! The rivals!" and really ham it up. The second song we always sang as part of the last night ritual at girl scout camp as we set our candle boats adrift on the lake. Very emotional.

Least Favorite? No question here. Pass It On Bleah. The summer I learned this song there was a toothpast commercial clogging the airwaves that had the same basic slogan: "Your mouth will taste so fresh and clean you'll want to pass it on . . . . (roll image of couple kissing)" So in my young brain this song was bonded to mental images of this uber-cheesey ad. But even without that association, this song has issues, IMHO. Who decided that the phrase, "once you've experienced it" is singable?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Things were different then

At camp 30 years ago:

A Girl Scout pocket knife was on our required "to bring" list for camp. Imagine: 80+ girls between 8 and 16 roaming around armed with a weapon you can't even put in your carry-on luggage today.

At one camp, if the trail head for that day's hike was too far from camp to walk to, they piled us in the back of a couple of old pick-up trucks and drove us there. Squirrely kids in the back of a truck on winding mountain roads: What a great idea!

We brought drugs to camp with us. We had to turn in prescription meds to the camp nurse, but we all had a small pharmacy in our tents and shared aspirin, cough drops, eye drops and midol as needed.

We had to eat at least "three girl scout bites" of everything we were served.

Not better, necessarily. But different.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fuzzy Thinking

As camp memories continue . . .

At every camp I ever attended in the 1970's--church camp, girl scout camp, sixth grade outdoor school--you name it, at every camp we were told the story of the Warm Fuzzies and the Cold Pricklies. All the grown-ups seem to have drunk the kool-aid on this one. They seemed positively evangelical in their zeal for this fable.

Usually, after we heard the story, we had a craft time during which we made yarn puff balls that were meant to symbolize Warm Fuzzies. Sometimes we glued googly eyes and/or antennae onto them. Some grown-up would then encourage us to secretly gift each other with these puff balls throughout the day. Oh joy.

I'm pretty sure we can trace many of the deficiancies in our nation's current social policies to an over-reliance on this story in the moral formation of youth 30 years ago.

Can I get a witness???

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Even Happier Campers

I continue to mark the days my first born is away at church camp by remembering my own camp experiences.

The summer following the great tent transfer incident, my family was living in a different place and plans were made for me to go to church camp with Carolyn, a friend from both regular school and church school. For some reason, now long forgotten, we had to be dropped off at camp a couple of hours before the official drop off time. One of our parents called ahead to be sure this was okay and the staff said that was fine.

However, the supervision offered to us during this "gap" time was extremely minimal. After my folks dropped us off, a staff member told us we were free to explore the main camp compound, but not to go down the trail that led to the lake. He then gave us a red, playground ball and pointed us in the direction of an open field.

Neither Carolyn or I were the sporty types, so we tossed the red ball aside immediately and went to explore. We checked out the cabins. We inspected the bath house. We poked our heads into the dining hall which looked very promising as there was a piano in there, but the staff was having some kind of meeting there, and they asked us to go play somewhere else. We went into the woods and played Pioneer Girls for a while. Then it occurred to us that we were hungry.

I can't remember if it was actually lunch time or if we just had the munchies. At any rate, we had no food with us. The most logical solution would have been to march into the kitchen and say, "Hey, got any cookies?" But we did not do this, partly because we were too shy and partly because it was greatly more appealing to us to imagine ourselves in crisis: needing to live by our wits.

We discussed whether the little red berries on one of the bushes in the woods were poison. We finally decided that we should try a couple. They tasted just awful, so we abandoned this line of inquiry. We snuck back to the dining hall and peeked inside. The staff meeting appeared to be over. In fact, there were no staff anywhere in sight. With me standing look-out, Carolyn zipped into the dining hall and snatched a big handful of sugar packets off one of the tables and a squeeze bottle of ketchup from the serving counter.

With our ill-gotten booty, we streaked back into the woods and spent the next half hour happily eating the packets of sugar and taking turns squirting ketchup into each other's mouths. We were well pleased with our daring and ingenuity. By the time we finished, the rest of the campers were starting to arrive. Our only problem was how to return the empty squeeze bottle without being caught. We ended up leaving it on the dining hall porch.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Happy Campers

Yesterday we dropped off my nine-year-old son for his first week of "sleep-away" camp at the Presbyterian camp for our Synod. It brought back memories of my own first camp experience at about the same age. It was an experience in early independence and adventure--and also an early experience of blatant racism, thought I didn't figure that out until much later.

It was the summer of 1973 at a Girl Scout camp in the mountains of North Carolina. When I arrived, a friendly young counsellor told me I would be in Tent #8. We hauled my gear over there and met my tentmates: three girls from Ashville who were friendly, funny and black. We campers did not spend much time in our tents that first evening, but I had the comfortable feeling that we would be friends.

However, the next morning at breakfast, the lead counselor for our area informed me that I would be moving to tent #4. I found this confusing, but obediently gulped down the rest of my pancakes and went to gather my belongings. Later that morning, during craft time, the same counsellor sidled up to me and whispered that she hoped I hadn't had too bad a night, but that she had rescued me as soon as she could.


After lunch, the Camp Director visited our area. I noticed that she and the lead counselor were looking in my direction and having what looked like a very tense discussion. The camp director got all the girls from my section together, sat us down and gave us a "talk" about how we were all Girl Scouts together at this camp and that we would ALL treat EVERYONE with KINDNESS and RESPECT.

Okay. Pretty much what we were used to hearing from grown-ups, but she sounded mad.

After that things settled down and I enjoyed the rest of my time there, although I lost half my stuff and wrote a famous letter home which began, "Dear Mom: I am a mess!"

When my parents came to pick me up, they questioned me about the tent reassignment and gave each other a meaningful look. My Mom sighed and said, "Well, look at it this way. Ten years ago those black girls probably wouldn't even have been allowed to come. "

This was my first hint that my whole, perplexing first 24 hours of camp had something to do with the skin color of my first tentmates.

Years later I hypothesized that the lead counselor had filled the fourth bed in the "segregated" tent with the girl with the funny, foreign sounding last name. When the little girl showed up and proved to be a perfectly "normal" looking white girl, she rushed to fix her "mistake". (Though if she had know about the half-Jewish part, she might have left me where I was.)

We moved later that summer, so I never went back to that particular camp. I wonder whatever became of that lead counselor.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I'm no prude but . . .

I just don't get why anyone, much less a roundish, forty-something woman, thinks it's a good idea to wear a dress that just barely covers her bottom TO A FUNERAL!

I'm just sayin'

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ministry Sorting Hat Revisited

In anticipation of the Big Movie Event this week, I'm reprising the "Hogwart's Styles of Ministry posts from 2005. What's your style?

Ravenclaw: You delight in the intellectual aspects of ministry: the study of theology, the crafting of sermons, the assimilation of vast knowledge regarding church history, polity and tradition. Your study is your sanctuary--it is here that you feel the presence of God. Your keen mind penetrates to the heart of ethical and ecclessial dilemmas. However, the relational aspects of ministry can be hard for you. You have to drag yourself out of your study to connect to people on an emotional rather than intellectual level. You have a limited amount of social energy, so you have to focus it carefully and pace yourself. Alternate careers: Professor, author, librarian.

Hufflepuff: Hufflepuffs loooved their Practical Theology classes at seminary. Your greatest delight in ministry is the actual tasks of ministry: pastoral care, visitation, organizing programs, recruiting volunteers, managing the organization. You know where the church furnace is located and could fix it in a pinch. You are generally quite popular with your congregation for your hard work and availability. However, your focus on the practicalities of ministry sometimes keeps your from seeing a grander vision, a bigger picture. Your congregations will be solid and healthy, but will seldom make the news for taking daring stands or developing cutting edge ministries. Some folks will exploit your willingness to work hard, so you have to guard against early burnout. Alternate careers: Director of community center, chef.

Gryffindor: You are attracted to the ministry because it offers a context for your need to be involved in a heroic quest: Defending the Truth, Working for Justice, Spreading the Gospel; Building God's Kingdom. You are willing to take a stand, be part of an embattled minority, sacrifice everything for The Cause. Your ministry is inspiring. As a charismatic leader you can motivate your people to great undertakings. However, you are easily dillusioned with the petty realities that inevitably crop up in congregational and denominational life. The day-to-day routine of running a church can make you tired and frustrated. You have absolutely no patience with church politics or polity and can become enraged when you run smack into it while on your quest for Truth and Justice. Alternate careers: missionary, non-profit founder, social work

Sytherin: You have incredible entrepenuerial skills. You look at a swath of farmland on the edge of the suburbs and get that Megachurch gleam in your eye. You can size up a congregation or community and immediately identify who has resources and connections that can be tapped for the success of your latest project. You may scorn denominational structures and rules, but you know how to use them to promote your mission---or to take down your enemies. Members of your church are grateful for the growth and money you bring to your congregations, but deep down they may feel that you don't care about them personally. They may hesitate to approach you with problems, feeling that you only want to hear "success stories". Alternate careers: business owner, Archbishop.

Hogwarts Churches Reprise

In honor of the Big Movie Premier this week, I thought I'd re-run these Sorting Hat "Styles of Ministry" posts from 2005. Some of you weren't yet readers then and I thought maybe even some of you who were might enjoy seeing them again.

Ravenclaw Churches
The church member who first uttered the sentence, "Let us appoint a committee to study the matter," surely was part of a Ravenclaw church. These congregations love to discuss, ponder, debate and contemplate. Once in a great while they might actually get around to doing something. Lay theologians and bible study lovers thrive in these churches. They like scholarly preaching and can sniff out a theologically incoherant argument from miles away. If they receive a huge bequest, they will likely use it to endow an annual lecture series.

Griffyndor Churches
These are cause driven churches. While other congregations also address current issues, in Griffyndor congregations issues are THE focus. These churches are animated by commitment to some kind of crusade: anti-war, pro-life, inclusion of GLBT persons, converting the lost, justice for the poor, saving the traditional family---you will find these congregations across the entire theological/political spectrum. These churches are very exciting places to be and you are never in doubt about what they stand for. However, since members of these congregations are nearly required to think alike, the spiritual growth that comes from seeing Christ in "the other" is often lacking.

Hufflepuff Churches
Think Jan Karon's Mitford congregation. Deep down, we all probably wish we had a Hufflepuff church in our lives. These congregations are not particularly intellectual or activist. They are ordinary places where ordinary people can experience the love of Christ at work in their lives. These churches are comfortable rather than exciting or stimulating. They have the best pot lucks. The same person has probably been directing the Christmas Pagaent since 1972, but if you go into emergency surgery, the pastor will be in the waiting room when you come out--not buried in her study, not marching on Washington. Because they are traditional and conflict averse, these churches have a hard time adapting to rapid social and cultural change. They thrive on stability and may not survive if their community changes drastically.

Syltherin Churches
These churches sincerely believe that we bear the best witness to the gospel if we employ the very best tools the world places at our disposal: imposing physical plants, state-of-the-art technology, a staff of hard working ministry specialists, and the best mass communication access money can buy. Syltherin congregations attach much importance to quantifiable measures of success: numbers, money, market share. They are convinced that nostalgia for quaint, old traditions is getting in the way of proclaiming the good news in a world where secular forces are arrayed against the faithful as never before. They challenge the rest of us to re-think old ways and strive for excellence, but they can also get so caught up in the tools of the culture that the culture captures them after all.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Virtual Wedding Singers

I have HAD IT!!! Starting about five years ago I began to notice a trend toward couples wanting some sort of pre-recorded music as part of their wedding ceremony. At my previous church, we did not have the technology for this, so it was easy to say "sorry, no."

But my current church does have a CD player than can play through the sound system. We purchased it primarily to be able to record sermons, choir music, etc. on CD--the fact that we could play CDs that way in the sanctuary was an afterthought.

I've worked with several couples that had some song or other they wanted to play. If it was appropriate for a Christian wedding ceremony, I agreed. Then more and more soloists for weddings were showing up with a "karaoke" track recording they wanted to use as their accompaniment.

But last night took the prize. For six months of meeting and planning, the bride's cousin has been lined up to play piano for the processional and recessional. But the bride showed up at the rehearsal last night with the news that there had been a death in her cousin's husband's family and she would not be able to play after all. They had it all covered though--she handed me a CD with pre-recorded music to substitute.

I was NOT PLEASED, but faced with the prospect of scrapping family plans to spend the rest of last night and this morning beating the bushes for an organist, (I alreay knew ours was not available), I reluctantly agreed. But I think it makes the whole ceremony feel like a tacky, early 80's music video.

I'm about to mount the dias and declare Pastor Rebel's Complete Ban on Pre-Recorded Music during weddings. (I think we could do this based on legal issues alone. Aren't there penalties for playing commercial recordings in public without permission?) Our wedding coordinator says she will back me up on this and gladly. But before issuing the decree, I thought I'd check in with you all and see how you are handling this.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

One Rig to Rule Them All

My husband has a new job. Same industy, different company. For the first time ever, he will have a company vehicle. He does not get to pick: he will inherit the one that was used by the guy he is replacing who is retiring. The vehicle in question is a big, white SUV.

Now, you have to understand that for the 14+ years that I have known him, my husband has never uttered the phrase "sports utility vehicle" without a certain modifier preceding it--sometimes two certain modifiers, the first profane, the second obscene. And now it turns out he will be driving one on a regular basis.

He took it out for a trial run the other morning--to drop the kids off at daycamp enroute to dropping me off at the church and then on to a meeting of his own. After we dropped the kids off, we came to an intersection with Yield sign. We patiently waited until it was our turn because, as my hubby said, "I'm not going to be like all the other SUV drivers who think the rules don't apply to them."

"I don't know," I said. "I think it may be like the Ring of Power. You think you're different, but eventually it turns you."

We shall see.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hard Landing

Yikes. Sometimes it doesn't pay to come home from vacation. While I was gone, three of our elderly members died and there was a major tragedy in the Presbyterian church in the next town over. Please be in prayer for that congregation. They lost three teenagers and the wife of their youth director in a terrible road accident coming back from their summer mission trip. As a veteran of many such trips, I always said, tongue in cheek, that it was a miracle that we all got home alive. Or something.

On a lighter note, both cats survived our absence, though Balrog the kitten got an eye infection from his either his mother or sibling to whose home he returned for the ten days of our trip.