Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost and the Joys of Teaching Confirmation Class

In many churches throughout the world, today was celebrated as Pentecost. At Rye Congregational Church, the sanctuary was changed to a pageantry of red to symbolize the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. For our local congregation, we also recognized the accomplishments of our graduates, and celebrated the achievements of our confirmation students. It's been a privilege to work with these two students as we've studied the Bible and considered the greater things of faith. I experienced almost a paternal pride as I heard them publicly share their faith with the congregation through personal reflection and confession of faith. Teaching confirmation class has been a source of joy these two years, and I will miss the opportunity to connect with students at such a meaningful level.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A New Name

With a new life circumstance comes a new name for this blog. In a little over a week, my time at Rye Congregational Church will come to an end. Following some time off in Seattle, and a summer job at Pilgrim Pines Conference Center, I will be moving to seminary in Chicago. So, I figure this time of transition is a suitable occasion to give this blog a new name that better reflects my life experiences.

From this point forward, I declare this blog be known as Lingering Providence (unless I feel like changing the name again at a later date).

As some of my readers already know, Lingering Providence is a term stolen from a dear professor at SPU, Dr. Frank Anthony Spina. When Dr. Spina talks about Lingering Providence, he likes to tell the story from Genesis when Joseph is sent out to find his brothers who are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Along the way, Joseph is found by someone who is simply identified by the narrator as "a man." This mysterious character directs Joseph to Dothan, and this is where Joseph finds his brothers. You know the events that follow. In the end, Joseph becomes number two in all of Egypt and rescues his entire family from the grip of famine.

The strange thing about this story is that Joseph doesn't find his brothers without the help of the man. We easily overlook the importance of his role in the story, and yet we don't get this amazing story without him.

Sometimes God works in mighty, direct, and unrestrained ways. However, from personal experience, God's dealings with humanity seem to be less obtrusive, like the role of "a man" in Joseph's narrative. We try to dismiss the events of life as happenstance or good fortune, yet the work of God persists. Sometimes our acknowledging of God's providence comes in a lingering fashion; it takes us a while to see where God's hand has been at work in our lives. Whether it is God whose providence lingers, or simply our inability to observe it right away, it would seem that we are not left to our own devises. Our lives intersect with the divine, and our own stories are forever altered because of this encounter. Examples of this from my own life would be worth many subsequent posts. If you keep reading, I'm sure you'll come across more than a few.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Final Visitor

Joey is here. I've been fortunate to have several of my good friends visit me here in good old New Hampshire within the last year. But now that I'm counting down the days before I move, Joey will more than likely be my final visitor. In less than an hour we're off to do a beach clean in Rye. After that we'll move on to do some New Hampshire/Maine exploration.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Does Anyone Remember What the Pastor Said at the Wedding?

Just a minute ago, I was preparing my sermon for the wedding I'm officiating this weekend and it dawned on me, Does anyone remember what the pastor said at the wedding? Oh sure, there are a few memorable lines like Dearly beloved (actually, I don't even say that), and You may kiss the bride (hmm, maybe this is the only one), but when Sunday morning rolls around, I don't think anyone will recall my precious sermon that right now I'm stressing out about.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Some Good News, And Then Some REALLY Good News

First, the good news: I got a second-hand blender that only cost me $3. It's a beefy Osterizer Bee-Hive style that weighs about 10 pounds and looks like it could agitate a cell phone into a million pieces (I don't know why you would want to, but just knowing you could counts for something in my book). Anyway, I always get excited when I score a high quality kitchen appliance at a good price.

Now, for the REALLY good news: I just received a phone call from North Park Theological Seminary, informing me that I was awarded a full-tuition scholarship! Thanks to the Kern Family Foundation, I won't be paying the roughly $37,000 it would have cost to complete my MDiv.

Friday, May 8, 2009

What If?

I'm almost through reading a book called Who Stole My Church. It's a fictional account of a church in New England struggling to move into the 21st Century. As a staff member at a church in New England, it's been astonishing to read the many similarities between this fictional church and the church I work at.

One of the issues detailed in the book highlights the internal "worship wars" many churches are entrenched in today. Typically, the disputes about worship (music) are drawn along generational lines. In the book, and in my church as well, the older folks prefer singing out of the hymnal and appreciate organ accompaniment. On the other hand, the younger generations gravitate toward "contemporary" music with varied instrumentation that includes guitars, keyboards, drums, and lead vocalists. Although some churches have successfully integrated traditional/contemporary musical styles, most churches in my opinion, remain divided along generational lines.

In my experience, however, I have witnessed how one particular tradition of worship music has transcended the generational divide. I see this happening in the music of gospel choirs. Formerly only a part of the African religious experience, gospel choirs have been embraced by Anglo and multicultural faith communities. Not only are gospel choirs blurring racial lines, they are also reconciling the generational gaps that persist in so many Christian communities.

What if more churches trying to preserve the traditional choir/hymnal musical shifted to a more gospel style of worship music? What would happen if my church's choir abandoned songs like As the Deer Panteth For the Water, and adapted to singing songs like Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus?

To give example to what I'm envisioning, here's a video of my alma mater, Seattle Pacific's gospel choir:

And just for fun, here's an old video from when U2 collaborated with a gospel choir at a church in Harlem. Kind of a low-quality video, but by far the greatest rendition of I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For I've ever heard.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Swine Flu, I'm Done With You

For the most part I watch two TV channels: ESPN and CNN. But as of late, I've been watching a lot of ESPN. There are two reasons why I have been watching a lot of ESPN: 1) because the Blazers and the Mariners have been doing very well as of late (although the Blazers just got eliminated), and 2) because I am sick of hearing about the Swine Flu epidemic. In my opinion, people are bored of hearing gloomy reports about job loss and the economy, so now the networks are on to something more interesting.

Now, I don't want to disregard the sickness and deaths that have resulted from this flu; However, I feel like the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. Whenever the United States is faced with a "crisis" like the Swine Flu, it's important that we keep a global perspective. Let's examine another life-threatening disease: malaria. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 41% of the world's population lives in areas where malaria is transmitted. Each year 350–500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide, and over one million people die, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Again, I don't want to disregard the dangerousness of the Swine Flu, but honestly, compared to the devastation caused by malaria, perhaps there is at least one other issue more pressing than the Swine Flu. So what's my response to the Swine Flue outbreak? I'm supporting malaria prevention. If you too want to provide one family with mosquito nets and education for malaria prevention and control click HERE.