Showing posts from August, 2010

Is a Day off the Answer to Clergy Obesity?

Taking time away sure helps, especially if you can give yourself the freedom to do so. That seems to be the upshot of all the reporting of the portly North Carolinian United Methodist pastors. An article in the NY Times mentions several other clergy ailments such as depression and suggests that we find a way to take more sabbath.

While I think taking the time is extremely important, the reporting never really addresses the fact that, because of the nature of the pastoral life, most of our lives are structured in a way that 's inherently unhealthy. Whatever the "written" responsibilities are, the reality of the pastoral life is that we run the church while also being there for people in crisis. The nature of crisis is that it happens whenever it will, 24/7. So clergy are more stressed out than the general population. Do ya think?

I'm not sure clergy health has ever been that great. Let's not use this or any research to romanticize the clergy health of yesteryear.…

Is "Unworthy" Worthless?

The question's relevance is found in the way we hear the references to our being unworthy in the Bible and in the liturgy of the church: "Say, 'We are worthless slaves,; we have only done what we ought to have done.'" Luke 17: 10, NRSV The CEV reads, "Say, 'We are merely servants, and we have simply done our duty.'" The traditional UMC Communion liturgy has, in the prayer of humble access, "We are not worthy so much as to gather the crumbs under thy table..."

The use of "unworthy" does become a stumbling block. Other words, biblical and otherwise, exist. "Fear of God" is a hindrance to many as well. Should we just use different words now that so many hear them as curses rather than blessings, as nullifying, rather than amplifying, our access to God grace in Jesus?

For me the answer is yes, especially if by the words we automatically do more harm than good. This is much easier to do if your theology embraces our bei…

Study Leave, 2010


Like Garrison Keillor's Pastor Inqvist, I've spoken about the importance of leave- taking in many of these posts. In 2010, it was time for me to walk the talk. Clergy persons need to be creative. There are few prepackaged opportunities for time away for personal, spiritual, and vocational renewal. And while both the D. Min. or a Spiritual Direction program can be renewing experiences, spiritual renewal is the by-product of such courses, not the purpose.

My goal of reading, prayer, study, and rest fit best into a few weeks' of study leave. Within about a month of the start of the time away, shaping up to be two weeks of reflection and discernment of "what's next," I was asked to lead our church's older adult ministry, and continue with existing responsibilities. So the new ministry actually delayed as well as re-framed my time away. The following is a narrative account of what actually happened while omitting some of the plans that changed.

A Spir…

What Would "the Beave" Lie About Today?

What next? Did Beaver Cleever lie again about eating all of his school lunch or did he actually trade it out for a bunch of sweets and candy? How can he claim he didn't jaywalk when half the neighborhood saw him do it? Next, in order to be popular with the older, bigger, cooler kids, the Beaver takes the blame for some of their own misdeeds.

Sure would be nice if that early 1960's level of moral turpitude was around today. Each episode stood alone as a mini-morality play.

In my boyhood, I loved hanging out with the older kid across the street. He, like many of the people that I grew up with, went to the nearby parochial Catholic school. It was connected to one of the larger parishes in our city. It's hard to believe that so many these suburban communities are gone. Their schools and gorgeous churches, are for sale, doors closed.

But in the season of tagging along my older buddy, I learned why intention, not necessarily action, is what makes a sin so bad. Saying "darn&quo…

Why We Take It Personally

The latest comings and goings of sports heroes has been an interesting lesson for students of social belonging.

With last month's hour long "show" dedicated to the wherefore of Lebron James, and the MLB trading deadline, which saw longtime favorites Oswald and Berkman leave the local Astros, those outside of these situations don't have a clue what's happening. Onlookers don't understand the feelings involved because all they see is an athlete improving his chances of winning by changing cities. All this while not hurting his bank account!

But those who are on the inside, I mean the fans, experience it all differently. They belong to their teams in what Joseph Myers has called "public space." Public belongers are committed and participate. They find their connection both important and meaningful. How the team or city views the individual is less important than how the fan views the team. So Lebron's self-absorbed departure from Cleveland and the l…

Why Join the Church?

Some of the better material in books I find in the appendices. Such is true of Fusion by Nelson Searcy with Jennifer Dykes Henson. Subtitled "Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church," the authors address a topic that is a day-to-day challenge for anyone engaged in evangelism and disciple formation.

I found that the "Membership Tools" in Appendix C generated a helpful reflection for anyone who is asked why church membership matters. To put it another way, what difference does following Jesus make? The authors give several reasons. As they assist regular attenders down the road to full membership, they regularly teach, and I slightly amend, their four primary reasons for church membership:

We need healthy relationshipsWe need our gifts to be accepted and used.
We need to feel like we're growing, making progress in the spiritual lifeWe need to belong- to something bigger than us.
#1 requires that we relearn healthy ways of being in relatio…