Monday, July 23, 2012

A recording of my Candidating Service

Not that I expect anyone to take an hour to listen to this, but IF you are interested, or if you are enjoying a cup of coffee one morning and need some background noise, here is a recording of my Candidating Service in Ripon.  

My sermon, if you want to only listen to that, begins at 33:30 or something like that (scripture begins at 31 minutes)

Edited to Add:  I am so sorry that I forgot to mute my microphone during the hymns.  I won't make that mistake again.  Hey, God can't give everyone every gift...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

An Announcement

After a candidating service followed by a congregational vote this morning, I am delighted and proud to present myself as the pastor of First Congregational Church of Ripon, Wisconsin.  This church is the type of church I've dreamed of serving for years-- so much more my "cup of tea" than I ever imagined my first pastorate being.  It is located on the campus of Ripon College, a small liberal arts school, but the town itself is surrounded by farmlands.  From that, the congregation is filled with people who are both intellectually driven and in-touch with God's great Earth.  They have just begun discussions on the Open and Affirming process, something that I feel very passionately about, and I'm so glad to walk with them through it.  They have also received a challenge from the religion department head of Ripon College to be the leader in Interfaith dialogue in the community, another passion of mine.  

Excuse the crooked photo,
it was taken out the passenger side of the car.  

All three of us first flew out to Ripon about a month ago.  After a second interview (the first was on Skype), the search committee met us for a beautiful dinner on Green Lake, and then spent a day showing us the town and the church.  I went back to the hotel that evening and said to Maic, "It's too good to be true."  Being so far from home is truly the only negative of this place, and we already feel like the congregation is embracing us and we're in good hands.  

After that interview, I wrote the blog entry on patience, and I waited until I got the call while I was in Arizona offering me the position.  Since then, I've had to go back to the patience entry about 30 times to remind myself that I can wait to make the announcement until after worship on Sunday the 22nd.  :)

We arrived in our hotel room Friday night to a bouquet of sunflowers, a note, and two boxes
of Rippin' Good cookies.  YES, this town does have a cookie factory! 

We're still in Ripon until tomorrow afternoon, and we have a pretty booked schedule until then, so I'll leave the update at this and come back Monday or Tuesday to update you all about things like my Ordination ceremony and our moving date.  My first Sunday here is September 2nd.  

Many blessings to you all!  Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers.  They have been tangible!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Love to Tell the Story

I've had a great time preaching each Sunday this Summer.  I've learned a lot about myself and my preaching style, but I've been getting really excited for the chance to preach every Sunday in the same place.  It's pretty stressful to learn a new routine every week.  Each church has different deadlines and different ideas of how much a service should be rehearsed beforehand, and, to be completely honest, I hope my days as a "traveling" preacher are over soon and I'll have an office with a hymnal in it so I don't have to drive down to First Church in Oberlin in order to choose hymns.  

Well, this Sunday is the last Sunday that I have booked this Summer.  I'm so looking forward to just showing up at church and worshiping on a Sunday morning for a little while.  I will not take it for granted.  Anyway, all week I've been thinking about how much I love preaching, and I've had this hymn stuck in my head.  I was going to just post it as a link on Facebook, but then my description of it kept getting longer and longer, so here it is-- as a blog entry.  

"I love to tell the story of unseen things above-- of Jesus and his Glory, of Jesus and his Love.  I love to tell the story because I know it's true.  It's satisfy my longings, as nothing else can do."

I really do love it.  I remember the words of my atheist college English professors, who said, "If you actually open the darn book [the Bible] you'll find that it's full of the craziest stories of all time."  So, so true.  The Christian story is a good one, and I'm excited to go on telling it for so many more years.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Seeing Sergeant Grampa

My dad has been a Civil War Reenactor for just about as long as I can remember (I think for over 20 years).  Today we had the day free and he was doing a Living History event at James Garfield Park in Mentor, so we went to see his camp and watch them march.  We had to leave before they did any shooting drills because we figured it would be too loud for Evelyn's baby ears, but still got to spend a good chunk of time there.  

You may know that the Civil War is in the 150th anniversary cycle, so all the events that have been happening since 2011 and until 2015 are 150th anniversaries.  The 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, for example, happens next July and the battle of Antietam is this September.  

I'm not much of a supporter of war, but I am a huge supporter of liberation.  So when it comes to the Civil War, what matters is that I support the memory of what this country and my own ancestors went through for the liberation of enslaved Africans.  I'm so glad that people like my dad work hard to make sure that no one forgets what happened and why it is significant to us today.  

Part of me wants to continue rambling about what these men fought for, but really I know that nothing more needs to be said than what Abraham Lincoln spoke almost 150 years ago.  It's worth reading today as much as it was worth hearing then, and I think the reminder helps us today as we continue to strive for the equality of all people in this country.  

So, friends, a word from the 16th President of the United States:

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

P.S.  I've got quite a few Blog Entries mulling around, including the second part of the Arizona trip and an update on the Search and Call process.  I'll try to get around to it this week, but no promises.  If you find yourself having trouble waiting, you can see my previous entry on patience.  :-D  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Arizona, Part One: Play

The three of us are in Green Valley, Arizona for the week visiting some friends for two reasons:  Work and Play.  Curt and Nancy Ackley run a consulting group for church capital campaigns, and they have started brainstorming about the idea of opening a school for new pastors to teach them about fundraising and stewardship.  They invited us out so that I could be a guinea pig for their developing curriculum and so that we could visit and get an inexpensive vacation!  I'm going to write about this trip in two entries.  First I'll talk about the fun things we've done, and then I'll come back in a couple days and write about the work we did and present to you (my colleagues in ministry) a new way of looking at fundraising and stewardship for your congregations. 

We began our play-week by going to San Xavier Mission, a church constructed in 1783 and filled on the inside with marvelous murals and statuary.  It reminded me so much of some of the churches we saw when I was travelling across Eastern Europe, but instead of having an Eastern flare it had a Mexican/Southwest flare.  

The three of us outside of San Xavier Mission 
On the fourth of July, we went to a Farmer's Market in the morning, worked in the afternoon, and then had black bean burgers and wine in the evening.  It was a surprisingly manageable day outside heat-wise, so we spent a chunk of the afternoon playing on the back patio.

I love this shot of her sweet little face. 

On Thursday, we went to the Saguaro National Park.  Saguaros are the big beauties below.  The National Park is filled with them-- literally one every 5 feet for acre after acre after acre.  These cacti are so fascinating.  They don't even sprout an arm until they are 50 years old, so you can tell how old they are.  A good Saguaro lives to be 200 years old.  

We don't think the hats look silly at all, by the way.  

After that, we needed to cool off so we took Evelyn to the big pool for the first time.  She could have died of happiness.  She's a very serious baby, but on the rare occasion that she laughs, nothing else in the whole world matters.  

Today, we went up to the Madera Canyon, high in the mountain range.  It is about 20 degrees cooler up there than where we're staying.  We had lunch and took a short hike.  Then Maic and I had the awesome opportunity to go out to eat and have Margaritas (well, actually Maic doesn't like Margaritas, but it's only because he's a party pooper--er--fiesta pooper) by ourselves while Curt and Nancy watched Evelyn.  She was a sweet angel for them, and the second we walked in the door she started crying.  

At the Canyon, with the Santa Rita Mountain Range behind us

In a lovely reclining rock. 

Tomorrow, Nancy and I are going to do some shopping while the boys go check out the Titan Missile Museum.  Then on Sunday, we'll go to church and relax and we're flying back on Monday.  I actually didn't get a chance to blog about our trip to visit Allen and Charis in Rockville, MD last week, but we had a blast.  We're pretty excited to get home and just relax and be in our home together, however.  We will have been away for two weeks, with the exception of last weekend, when I came home and preached and then left again.  Having a blast, but so, so exhausted!

I'll conclude this entry on "play" with my master pointer, who says:

"Hey you over there."

"No, YOU!"

"You with the face."

"I like you!"

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