Saturday, June 1, 2013

because Katie Z asked...

I love serving the church, I can usually find something interesting in committee meetings, I like funerals and believe church ladies are the best cooks.  I wake up extra early Sunday mornings because I am so excited to get to church for worship.  Even though I am '49 and holding' I'm still relatively new to this whole full-time ordained clergy thing.  I am a 2nd career pastor.

In my 'past life' I worked over 20 years as a marketing type for radio and television stations.  I'm the one who tried to convince you to stay at home and watch a tv show/movie/news broadcast.  I fear I may just be a part of the whole culture that so many Christians are fighting against.  My kids were in day care, as recently as two years ago my son played midget football on Sunday afternoons, we spend more time on-line and on our electronic devices than around the dinner table and 2 1/2 years ago I went through a divorce.  I am a single mom with 2 of my 4 children still at home and sometimes I lose my temper and a bad word or two may slip out.  But, I love Jesus and I love the Church and I think God has a great sense of humor to use someone like me to serve in His name.

I believe it's time for the church to be more of the culture than fight this silly war against it - we are doing grave injury to our very souls.  The only way I think the Church will be able to wrap its mind around the realities of this brave new world we are now a part of is to revisit the doctrine of Incarnation.  A doctrine that is both mysterious and prone to messiness.

Richard Rohr writes in Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality; (p. 121)
"The mystery of the Incarnation is precisely the repositioning of God in the human and material world and not just part of that world. Common variety top-down religion often creates very passive, and even passive-dependent and passive-aggressive Christians...Bottom-up, or incarnational, religion offers a God we can experience for ourselves and a God we can see—and must see—in everyone else." 

As we gather as an Annual Conference to consider our Strategic Priorities I believe it is essential that we set aside ourselves and consider the every day realities of the people we are called to walk alongside.  Jesus was known to prefer meals with ordinary folk over fancy dinner parties, the folks he chose to hang out with even got him into trouble!  We need to pause and be quiet and seek to be more fully present with "The Word [who] became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood."  (John 1:14a The Message)

Or, as Paul explained so eloquently in Acts Chapter 17; 
“People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.  
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’
(Acts 17:22-25)

While I agree with the overarching goals of the Iowa Annual Conference Strategic Plan, I think we have to be careful about appearing to impose expectations on congregations from the top down.  It will be important for me as a leader in the church to spend more time listening, engaging the community and even setting aside some of the 'priestly' tasks, those things that have become part of my daily or even weekly routine, in favor of things that may seem like trifling away time - like hanging out at the pool with the young families or at the coffee shop with students at our local college or at the city council meetings even.   

I am all about change, don't get me wrong.  At the same time, I want to ask the Iowa Annual Conference to take time to listen deeply to their lay and clergy folk.  I fear that we are attempting a quick fix on something that has been building (or falling apart - depending on your point of view) for a generation or more.  Bottom line, I want us to be faithful to how God reveals God's self to the world.

what do you see in the phrase above? 
We have to be intentional about taking time to look at where God is already at work, and who God is gifting to engage in ministries and new faith community starts and we need to be ok with the idea that these new places for new people may not look like what we are accustomed to.  They will certainly take a great deal of energy and in fact, many of these new faith communities may not be able to pay apportionments - ever.  Are we going to be ok with this IF it means that the Good News of Jesus Christ is shared with those on the margins?  (cause isn't this what its all about?)

We find ourselves in an interesting season and I look forward to the discussion at Annual Conference.  I pray that we are able to take the time to really think deeply and pray together and discern where God is calling us in our unique, beautiful and often messy contexts.  I also pray that we are willing to engage this discussion boldly and with courage!  The world is hurting and in need of redemption, reconciliation and resurrection and the Good News is that this is available to us anew each and every day.

To God be the glory for the great things He has done, is doing and will do through each of us!

in Christ, together,


  1. I think that shift you are describing in both the role of the pastor and lay people in the congregation is the hardest part. If we are going to listen to Jesus call us out of our church buildings to the poolside or to the bar or to the school sporting event to be in relationship, then letting go of the way we have always done things will be important. Navigating that balance, and equipping laity and clergy to understand what change is happening, why, and to do it themselves is key.

    p.s. thanks for getting personal in sharing your story!

  2. yes, we need to stop thinking that we have 'professionals' for ministry and each consider how we are each able to engage as Christ's representatives in the world.

    One of the most important things that I am being reminded of in the Academy for Missional Wisdom is that 'church' doesn't have to be big. One relationship, one household, at a time seems to be the way the disciples did it...and this is where I think we are going to have our biggest challenges with a large institution making course corrections. These are interesting times.