Sunday, June 27, 2010

Brand loyalty and your church

from The Lead:

Ron Sellers writes in The Clergy Journal about the "brand loyalty" problem facing mainline churches:

• 84 percent [of people in your pews] would be willing to consider switching


What to do?

... It’s time to brush up on your branding acumen. Think about brands that have a clear identity. ...

Growing denominational awareness and loyalty within the congregation is not the same thing as selling televisions or mouthwash, but it does have many common elements. Both require:

• understanding what your audience believes, feels, and thinks right now;

• understanding what makes your “brand” different from others;

• understanding how and why the organization can make a difference to members and affect their lives;

• making a conscious, consistent effort to build the brand; and

• clearly, concisely, and repeatedly communicating the distinctives to your audience in a way that is relevant to them.

Read it all...

This is exactly how I feel, I just didn't have numbers about it. We need to know who we are, what we believe, and how what we do brings salvation of life through Christ to the world in which we live. I don't like "church" as product necessarily, but I do think that we need to know who we are and why that matters.

Sermon: Gleaning

from Sit and Eat:

Lydia's congregant Jennifer Goodnow preached this sermon at St. Lydia's on Sunday, June 20 as part of our exploration of the book of Ruth.  Jennifer is a teacher and life long Episcopalian.  You can read the text for her sermon here.

There are women who come to my neighborhood on a regular basis to go through the garbage bags that the supers leave out for sanitation pick-up the next day. These women are well-known by the supers, always work in a tidy and organized fashion, and clean up after themselves, tying up bags when they have collected what they need. The women collect cans but also go through the black garbage bags and collect clothing that Upper East Siders deem unworthy of the many local thrift stores. 

I have often wanted to talk with them but I don’t speak Spanish very well and I don’t want to scare them. I’m guessing they are undocumented and suspicious and fearful of being turned over to La Migra. I’d rather smile and say good morning and leave it at that instead of frightening them with the many questions I have.

They are foreigners. They speak Spanish and I believe are from South America. They may not speak English. They may have little education, little opportunity other than collecting cans and clothes. They are modern day gleaners, sweeping up the remainders of people who live n the wealthiest, highest educated zip code in the United States. They are the Ruths of the 21st century.

It’s easy for me to look at these disenfranchised women and compare them to Ruth. Ruth has chosen the life of a foreigner in a foreign land, just like them. Women during Ruth’s time had little power. Childless widows had no power. The gleaners on my block – if they are undocumented – are, technically speaking, against the law. If they were caught they could be deported, even though NY is not exactly Arizona. The gleaners I see on my block are poor. They are in a desperate situation, like Ruth.

However, I am gleaning as well. I’m a spiritual gleaner. God has laid out a huge feast for me … and I am eating crumbs off the corner of the table. I believe God sees more in me than I can see for myself. I think that God’s perfect paradise, enlightenment, full communion with God is just over my shoulder. But I am looking for it in the wrong place. I’m looking straight ahead and can only see a glimpse of it out of my peripheral vision. I’m standing and eating the crumbs that have fallen on the edge of a table and that’s all I can see. If I would shift my gaze a bit more, I would see an enormous banquet with dish after dish laid out on an endless table.  But, I seem to suffer from a myopia that does not allow me to realize what is present. The Hindus call it Maya – the mistaken belief that the world we are living in now is all that is real which leaves no room for the other-worldly or divine.

I used to go to another church, an Episcopal church, here in Manhattan. Dogs are allowed in the church and I would bring my golden retriever, Music with me to the service. A few years ago, we decided to switch the Eucharist from the wafer to homemade bread baked by different congregants. It’s a honey-infused, whole-wheat crumbly cake. Connor, my godson, hated it when he was younger. He would receive and then palm his communion bread and try to sneak feed it to my dog! I used to tell him that dogs don’t need communion because they are already in full communion with God. My dog, Music is pure love. We humans are the ones who need the help! We need the communion with each other and God. When I come to St. Lydia’s every week, I eat a piece of baguette and I drink three buck chuck from Trader Joe’s – but that’s not my communion. My experience of communion is being in community with everyone here. I have small moments in life when I’m not simply gleaning. When I’m not eating crumbs off the edge of the table, moments when I get a clearer sense of the feast that is laid out for me and everyone else in common union.

We share the sermon at St. Lydia’s and I invite you to reflect on your own experience of spiritual gleaning, communion, or anything else that resonates with you from the text or my words tonight.

Read it all...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Prayer for Priests

I'm watching the ordinations to the priesthood of the Catholic St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese 2010 and this prayer just happened and I really liked it. It really speaks to my call, too.

“Together with us, may they be faithful stewards of your mysteries, so that your people may be renewed in the waters of rebirth and nourished from your altar; so that sinners may be reconciled and the sick raised up. May they be joined with us, Lord, in imploring your mercy for the people entrusted to their care and for all the world.”

Aside: Oh PostIt notes. What would altar books be without PostIt notes?

Is the Southern Baptist Convention Moderating?

From Ethics Daily:
I said the SBC wasn't going to change its anti-public school agenda, hostility to women as ministers and hardwiring to the right wing of the Republican Party.

Four years later, I still think I was right then. But I'm wondering how to read events from last week.

Has the SBC pivoted away from its position over the past 20 years of fidelity to angry fundamentalist leaders and faithfulness to the political right? Are the results of last week's meeting an aberration or a new positive trend?

Read it all...

This is good news. On the one hand it's nice to see that there isn't so much focus on (fringe) social issues (ie silence about Disney). But on the other, this is good for me to see personally. Through college I built up a lot of anger, frustration, and bitterness toward many Southern Baptists because of relations on campus and things they said both about the Wesley Foundation and St. Mark's Episcopal Church.

Additionally, I was having a paradigm shift and frustrated that I felt like I hadn't been exposed to some ideas (social justice as a Christian mandate -- not just giving money to the poor but working to systemically eradicate poverty). Reading Pastor Wade's blog (and the links he often gives) is helping me do some reconciliation...even if it's not calling me back to the tradition of my roots! :)

Congress agrees rules on bank risk

from BBC News:

The US Congress all but finalises the biggest reform of US financial regulation since the Great Depression.

Read it all...

Star Trek: Tik Tok

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Judge Who Stuck Down Moratorium Invests In Oil

from NPR Law:

The federal judge who struck down the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling has a number of investments in oil- and gas-related companies. Questions are now being raised about whether Judge Martin Feldman's decision Tuesday could have been influenced by those investments.

Read it all...

Burst Your Bubble

from Wade Burleson:

I would like to help Matt2239 and a handful of others get to know me a little better. First, my family is pictured above. I've been married to Rachelle for 27 years, and we have four great kids. Charis (23) is getting her real estate license in Florida after graduating with a business degree, Kade (21) is in the Business School of the University of Oklahoma, Boe (20) is in college at Northern Oklahoma and interning with Oklahoma's next Lieutenant Governor, and Logan (16) is going to be a junior at Oklahoma Bible Academy.

I would strongly encourage my friends who read Anglican blogs, or any blogs regularly for that matter, to add Wade Burleson's "Grace and Truth to You" to your list of blogs to check out regularly. I think it's good for me because I get some insight into the organizational structures of the SBC, which I was never exposed to when I was a member of an SBC church. It's good for me as an Episcopalian to see what other people are talking about. While we're in a tizzy about Mitregate, Pastor Wade is talking about his views on the Convention and some of the stuff his church has done. As we tie ourselves up in knots about the covenant, he's talking about whether to teach a 10% tithe or just generous giving.

I started reading this blog sometime in the Spring and don't know how I got to it. It's something that I enjoy reading, though. It's nice for me to get over us and all that we think we are. He gives me some good food for thought and fodder for writing. It's out of my norm (and regular readers of Preludium, Telling Secrets, MadPriest, The Lead, etc.) and it's nice to just read and think, "Huh. That's what's going on in an entirely different world of Christendom."

I'd encourage you to read it all... on his blog and add him to your blogroll.

Canon Kearon speaks

from Desert's Child:

Then Canon Kearon looked out at a room that was at least nearly half full of people of color, and the first thing he said was the "problem of increased and growing diversity in the Anglican Communion has been an issue for many years." He said that by the 1990s leaders in the communion has begun to name "the diversity of opinions in the communion and diversity in general as a problem and sought some mechanisms to address it."

Jaws dropped all over the room. People looked at one another in disbelief. Had he really just said that? Yes, indeed he had. Whether Canon Kearon meant diversity of cultures, of people, or of thought, to see “growth in diversity” as a problem is astonishing in a leader in the Anglican Communion, don’t you think?

I like what Katie Sherrod has to say. She has a good voice and does a good job not just recounting details but also doing analysis and commentary.

Read it all...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


from Of Course, I Could Be Wrong...:

IT first posted it at FRIENDS OF JAKE.

The Crisis over Kat in a Hat

A Bishop went Calling
in old London town
And she brought her hat
and she brought her gown

But someone at Lambeth
said, "not quite so quick,
We must see your papers
In case there's a trick."

Though she'd been there before
She obeyed their directive
To prove her ordination
and office elective

And then Lambeth begrudged,
"you may lead the prayer
but there's a condition:
you can't cover your hair!"

So the Bishop obeyed
And she carried her mitre
but she's a smart lady,
and known as a fighter

So she preached on the Gospel
On love and inclusion
And on hospitality
and at the conclusion,

She proved to be greater
than petty Lambeth priests
She said, "you are welcome,"
She said, "love has saved you,"
She said, "be at peace."

Thqanks to Dah-veeeeeeeed! for sending it in.

Read it all...

The Full Derek Webb Quotation

from After the Handbasket(emphasis mine):
Derek Webb, on the CD The House Show talks about community and the gospel as he introduces the song Nobody Loves Me. He talks about the risk that we run as we enter into community with each other…

…which we necessarily are. We are called into community together. If you divorce the people of God, the local community, from the gospel, then it ceases to be the gospel. There is no other context for your faith as a Christian than to be in community with other people. I’ve heard a lot of people say to me over the years, “It’s just me and Jesus, and that’s all I need.” Well, that’s not the gospel in Scripture. If you’re going to be those who claim to love Jesus, then you’ll be compelled, and I’ll be compelled to love the things that he loved. And he not only loved, but came and gave himself up for the church. And that makes it our concern as well.

And if that’s not hard enough, that we just live in community together, we are also called with a mandate that we preach the gospel to each other – which seems probably like a backwards idea to a lot of us. If you’ve grown up in church, you think that, “well, if we’re the church gathering, then we certainly know the gospel. We certainly don’t need to hear the gospel. That’s the last thing we need to hear, because we know that.” But that’s not true. We mistake as a Christian culture so often the gospel for only the thing we preach to non-believers in hopes that they would come down the aisles of our churches and place their faith in Jesus. Now, it certainly is that. But much more than that, the gospel must have, and necessarily has a primary place in the life of believers. We’ve got to hear it every week if not every day.

There’s a great quote by Martin Luther in the sixteenth century. He had a church that he was the pastor of and some came to him and said, “Pastor, why is it that week after week after week all you ever preach to us is the gospel?” – implying that “we’re ready to move on to something else. Certainly we know this by now.” Luther’s response was, “Well, because week after week you forget it, because week after week you walk in here looking like a people who don’t believe the gospel. And until you walk in looking like people who are truly liberated by the truth of the gospel, I’m going to continue to preach it to you.” And, until his dying day, he did.

And if we stop hearing that every single day – especially in light of the great righteousness that we might prop up as an idol from time to time – then we are never, ever going to grow. Our hearts are never going to change, our communities will never be sanctified. Because, here’s the truth, flattery at its very best will encourage nothing more in you and in your community than behavior modification – modifying your behavior to act the way you should, to hide the things you do that are wrong, and to try to amplify the things you do that are right. But, see, here’s the truth: all the behavior modification in the world will never change your hearts, and it can never change our communities. Jesus however, does change our hearts and he will change our communities. And that is why boldness is called for.

We have got to be honest. We should have no fear in being honest with each other about who we really are – not just offering up the sins that we feel safe confessing, but being completely bold, being completely forthcoming about who we really are. And saying, “You know what? I am going to stop hiding from you, and I’m going to tell you who I really am because I believe the gospel is true. I can only admit to you who I really am to you because I believe that Jesus is who he really is as well.” And you’re never going to be truly filled with joy unless you truly know yourself for who you really are. And until you are a real sinner with a real Savior, you will be a hypothetical and theoretical sinner – and therefore, with a hypothetical and theoretical savior.

If you confess, “Oh, I know I’m sinful. Scripture tells me, ‘we’ve all fallen short,’ right? And that’s me too, man. I’m sinful.” – but you can’t honestly put your finger on one sin you’ve committed all day because your view of sin has become nothing more than this cultural hiding game, then you’re not experiencing real joy. Because if all I can confess is a knowledge of how sin has affected me, but not any of my real sins – if I don’t really know that I’m sinful – then I don’t truly know, and I’m not truly encouraged by the fact that I’ve been saved. Because, saved from what? If I’m not really sinful then what’s the big deal? What’s the good news? It’s just news.

But if you know yourself as exposed by the cross, then I believe you will begin to experience true joy. Because you will not constantly be looking over your shoulder all the time – constantly checking the knots in this great suit of fig leaves that you’ve sewn for yourself. But rather, you will be comfortably exposed in your sin and boasting in your great Savior because he is real.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “If your sin is small then your Savior will be small also. But if your sin is great, then your Savior must be great.” And, folks, our Savior is great. And what does that tell us about our great sin?

This should be a great encouragement to us as we struggle to live in community with each other. As we struggle to be the bearer or recipient of hard words of truth that might actually change our hearts.

Much thanks to the author of that post for the transcription. I think that sin or not, this type of called-for honesty has some place in the Anglican Communion right now.

Preaching Grace from the Pulpits on Sunday, Living Legalism the Rest of the Week?

from Grace and Truth to You:

Jack Beavers sent me a link to an article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram with a profile on Joel Gregory, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas and Southern Baptist Convention celebrity. Joel is now ministering in black churches across America. Toward the end of the article, in explaining the ministry he has in now in black churches, Joel Gregory is quoted as saying:

"To some degree, white evangelicals preach grace. But when it comes to dealing with real-life situations, there's a good deal more judgmentalism and legalism. Black churches not only preach grace, they are willing to take you where you are and if you fall down, really try to help you get up, and not punish you."

Read it all...

I have to say that this fits totally with my experience of Southern Baptist Churches, in large part. It's been a long time, and I learned a lot when I was Southern Baptist. I got a lot of love from a lot of different people, but I heard very contradictory messages about grace and legalism. I heard "grace, grace, grace," and then heard a lists of things to do and not to (some from the pulpit, some at home) if you're really a Christian. Don't drink. Don't smoke. Don't be gay. Don't get divorced unless there's unfaithfulness. Now, most of the rules aren't necessarily bad things, but there wasn't a lot of room for mess up. I mean sometimes the lived reality of it was graceful, but the attitudes about people getting pregnant outside marriage or messed up on drugs were shame/guilt based, even if the person wasn't explicitly excluded.

This not having room for people to be fully welcomed back doesn't encourage people to be real with one another. It encourages behavior modification. Derek Webb says on The House Show
Because, here’s the truth, flattery at its very best will encourage nothing more in you and in your community than behavior modification – modifying your behavior to act the way you should, to hide the things you do that are wrong, and to try to amplify the things you do that are right. But, see, here’s the truth: all the behavior modification in the world will never change your hearts, and it can never change our communities. Jesus however, does change our hearts and he will change our communities. And that is why boldness is called for.

And later, more on grace and legalism in my experience.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Study: Blacks Routinely Excluded From Juries

from NPR Law:

A new study of eight Southern states shows that blacks are being kept off juries at alarming rates. In some counties, prosecutors excluded 80 percent of the African-Americans who had qualified for jury service.

And this is a problem when the accused is a person of color. A jury of one's peer should include someone of the same race. This is a problem when a black man is being accused of a capital offense. This is a problem and it's unjust. Period.

Read it all...

If we are to be an international church, then why not go Roman?

from The Lead:

Lucas Mix, a college chaplain at the University of Arizona, raises a very good question on his blog. It seems that the Anglican Communion is in the midst of deciding for itself if it is to be an international body or a family of national autocephalous churches. The arc of the actions that were initiated with the Virginia Report back in 1997 and leading through to Windsor compliance commission of today would seem to indicate that we are moving in the international direction.

Yet, as Lucas points out, there's an implication to the international track that not many have mentioned...

Read it all.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

3 Americans Among Troops Killed In Afghanistan

3 Americans Among Troops Killed In Afghanistan from NPR:

Five NATO troops including three Americans died in fighting Friday in Afghanistan, raising to 34 the number of U.S. troops killed in the war so far this month.

Let us pray for the dead and an end to war.

Ecumenical dialogs at the point of collapse? Really?

Ecumenical dialogs at the point of collapse? Really? from The Lead:

In the ENS report earlier today on the meeting between the Executive Council and Canon Kearon of the Anglican Communion Office, it was reported that Canon Kearon explained part of the reason for the removal of Episcopalians from Anglican Communion ecumenical dialog participation because:

[..] the communion's ecumenical dialogues "are at the point of collapse" and said that the last meeting of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, of which Jefferts Schori is an elected member, "was probably the worst meeting I have experienced."

To which Bishop Epting, the former director of Ecumenical Relations for the Episcopal Church replied in the comments:

Too bad the "communion's ecumenical dialogues are at the point of collapse" according to Kenneth Kearon. The Episcopal Church has lively full communion relationships with The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Old Catholic Churches of Utrecht, the Philippine Independent Church, the Mar Thoma Church, and fruitful dialogues with the Roman Catholic Church (ARCUSA), the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, the Moravians and a number of other communions.

Which leads one to wonder just what Canon Kearon was referring to exactly.

A Look at Altar Calls

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Pressure Put Upon People to Come Forward in Decision from Grace and Truth to You - Wade Burleson:

The moment you begin to introduce this other element, you are bringing a psychological element. The invitation should be in the message. We believe the Spirit applies the message, so we trust in the power of the Spirit. I personally agree with what has been said in the question.

I found this absolutely fascinating! It's a great read and really a nice little piece, regardless of where one is denominationally right now. I strongly recommend to people who already feel that altar calls (that don't start with "The gifts of God..." tend toward psychological manipulation

Friday, June 18, 2010

"You Ain't Got No Pancake Mix!"

"You Ain't Got No Pancake Mix!" from The Daily Dish:

Finally, a way to respond to holy rollers, tea-partiers, Larouchies, Code Pink, Mormon missionaries, Farrakhanites, HRC fundraisers, at al:

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Mormon - Latter Day Saint - Religion and Spirituality - Christianity - Denominations

Speaking of Alabama....

From Towleroad

Pam Spaulding points out this clip from Alabama talk show DJs Rick & Bubba in which they mock LGBT people and Gay Pride, using Obama's LGBT Pride Proclamation as a jumping-off point, explaining to their audience that there's not "fornicator pride" day or "adulterer" appreciation day.

"There is, absolutely, no way, impossible, to biblically justify this lifestyle."

There is a Rick and Bubba Must Go Facebook page.

Is it any wonder that I've been trying to get out since I was 16?

Gardner Execution

Last night @MarkShurtleff tweeted:
I just gave the go ahead to Corrections Director to proceed with Gardner's execution. May God grant him the mercy he denied his victims.

And that infuriates me. Certainly it was not the Attorney General's place to decide at the last minute not to go through with the execution. The Rule of Law has to should be followed by elected officials at all levels of government. But damn what an inappropriate thing to say. "May God have mercy on him, even though he didn't have mercy on his victims, and we're not having mercy on him. While the AG couldn't decide at the last minute there is a major disconnect in Tweeting a statement about mercy while explicitly denying mercy.

I don't know much about the Utah AG. I do, however, know that the Attorney General in Alabama is a blood-thirsty supporter of state-sanctioned murders. He mentions the "liberal elite" aka people who are educated and might be qualified for his job, people who may have actually tried cases before being appointed to a position and then running for re-election. He advocates "using the death penalty to keep Alabama families safe from the most violent criminals" by killing them after they've already done something; who does that protect? That's about vengeance, not safety. He also mentions "recent studies" that aren't cited. Recent studies by whom? When? That's not science, that's politics. Then the view zooms to his wedding ring which says "See, I'm a straight married man."

Troy King first got me riled up in December of 2007 or 2008 when I heard on Alabama Public Radio a brief news snippet about king wanting the death penalty to continue in a case where the evidence doesn't line up and everything has changed. It doesn't matter to King if people are actually guilty of the crimes they commit, just that they get killed if they're accused of something serious. Evidence? Who needs that? It's not a matter of justice or anything. While this certainly has an agenda -- and this is my blog, I can do that -- look at the defense's side of Thomas Arthur's ongoing battle against the retribution-"justice" of Alabama politics.

Let us truly pray for mercy, for those who have been executed, for victims of violent crimes, and for electorates that enable such unjust systems to continue functioning.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Episco-upgrades: Think bigger on pastoral care

Episco-upgrades: Think bigger on pastoral care:

"In a healthy congregation, the lay people engage in the ministries to which lay people are called. The priest engages in ministries appropriate for priests. Of course, the details will vary by church size (family, pastoral, program, etc.), but the point generally remains. When clergy do the work of lay people, the community is deprived of some of its vitality. And, of course, when clergy abrogate some of their responsibilities, boundaries are blurred.

While it is true that many people are attracted (and even called) to priestly ministry by the desire to offer pastoral care, this ought not to be the primary task of a priest. Priests should offer pastoral care, to be sure. But in congregational life, they are also called to offer leadership in other ways. They ought to use the gifts which have been given only to them (sacramental ministry especially), while sharing their ministries with many others."

(Via Seven whole days.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

At Rest

I feel like I'll be singing or thinking these words a bit this summer. That's how I felt a few times at Sacred Harp yesterday, actually.

The world can never give
The bliss for which we sigh;
’Tis not the whole of life to live,
Nor all of death to die.

Beyond this vale of tears
There is a life above,
Unmeasured by the flight of years,
An endless life of love.

Farewell, dear friends, farewell,
For just a little while;
We’ll meet and sing on heaven’s shore,
Where parting comes no more.

An Anthem for CPE

Come, my soul and let us try
For a little season
Ev’ry burden to lay by,
Come and let us reason.
What is this that casts thee down?
Who are those that grieve thee?
Speak and let the worst be known?
Speaking may relieve thee.