When I was 42? (1991 – 1992)

A question for my millennial friends: What were you doing when you were 42? What was going on in your life? Many of us who are retired or approaching retirement have children approaching the age of 42. This in mind, I have been reflecting on what I was doing both personally and professionally.

I find myself braking into song:

“When I was 42 – it was a very good year!
Very good year – for family, church and friends”

Now, I have some free time, in retirement, to write about such things. The years around the time I was turning 42 – 1991 and 1992.

What was painfully obvious in my reflecting on this slice of time was my addiction to my work as a Presbyterian Pastor.

Perhaps, someone who runs across this journal entry will benefit from my personal/professional reflections in asking yourself: What was I doing when I was 42!

Now, a quarter century beyond the age of 42, I can see clearly how I could/should have done some things differently. For the most part, I wouldn’t change a thing!

Personal Highlights

It’s hard writing these “personal highlights” because I don’t have notes or a journal to draw upon in building a chronology of evens.

Generally, Nancy and Emily and I, along with two cats, lived in Saginaw, Michigan. We lived in a beautiful home on Court Street.  We loved hat house we occupied for over 25 years.  We had great neighbors – especially Jim and Loraine and Sandra.

Emily was 12 years old attending South Middle School. An active young girl, she was involved in cheerleading and chasing boys. As with all dads, I was always worried about the “boy thing!” 🙂

Emily loved living on Court Street and inviting friends over to play. Two of these girls are friends to this day – Carrie who now lives in Seattle and Darcy who now lives in San Diego.

Nancy was always active as a mother, wife and leader in the church where I was pastor. She was blessed with an opportunity to get her Maser’s Degree in Library Science at the University of Michigan. Having worked for the Saginaw Public Libraries, she got a wonderful position at the Dow Chemical Company. As an ‘Informational Specialist’ Nancy had opportunities to travel the world. At the same time, she always found time to give 100% attention in supporting Emily and me and the church we both loved.

My biggest regret is in not spending more time at home. How many men say this? I can only hope, now and as a grandparent, that I can make up some of what I didn’t give Emily in now spending quality time with our grandson Tommy. Back in 1992 I could only dream of my little girl growing into the lovely parent and wife and daughter she has become today.

I also had ongoing issues with my health—heart issues and chronic arthritis. I will save discussing these important issues for another time. Needless to say, 1992 was a pretty good year for me health-wise.

One experience I recall and now laugh about: Following my doing a funeral with a good friend and mentor, Ron Watson, I went to my second floor study in the house to do some chores. I gathered some trash and decided to save some time by throwing it over the second floor deck fence. The fence wasn’t that strong. When I leaned against it, this fence gave way and I fell 18 feet to the ground landing on my right hip. How would this be funny? My adrenaline kicked in and I got up and ran up the stairs to my study – and called my wife. She came home and took me to he emergency room. Nothing broken but boy was I sore. I also recall attending a meeting of the Presbyterian Church General Assembly Council within a few days – boy was I stiff and sore! Muscle relaxants did a pretty job of helping me through this tough experience. Who do I laugh? The neighbor who said they thought we had an earthquake when my body hit he ground. I hit so hard my glasses were found twenty-feet away!

Lots of personal things that could be said, I want to move to my passion for doing ministry.

Professional Highlights

A capsule in time between 1991 and 1992 – when I was 42

Ordained in 1977 at the age of 26, I was in my 15th year of ministry in the year of our Lord 1992. This was my 7th year as pastor of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church in Saginaw. Having previously lived in Davenport, Iowa and Evanston, Illinois, the Cundiff family, as I mentioned before, was living on Court Street in Saginaw.

Church membership in 1992 was roughly 350 members. We celebrated 11 baptisms the previous year, a statistical reminder that things were going well in the church. We received 9 new members in 1992. Unfortunately, we also had 7 funerals that year. As years went by, we would see the losses surpass gains. The church, 26 years later, would need to make the heart-breaking decision to close.

Back to 1992. One thing I loved about this church was the fact the active membership never let the statistics drive their mission. Of course we wanted to see more members—in bringing more people to Christ. In reality, we were more focused on bringing Christ to people in the community. There was a large number of churches in our community. This being a predominantly African American neighborhood, most of the potential for church growth was with neighboring black congregations. Main-line denominations weren’t doing well when it came to receiving large numbers of new members.

As church leaders, again in 1992, we struggled with budget issues. With a demanding program schedule and full staff we were dependent on an endowment fund –a million dollar bequest that was given to the church roughly 20 years earlier. We had a huge campus, nearly 40,000 square feet. There was always a long list of expensive maintenance projects. The endowment fund was often used for emergency repairs that cost a lot of money to maintain. From the 1992 Annual Report:

“As surely as churches have roofs, those roofs will have leaks. We had to deal with three areas of water damage this year, including the renovation of the organ pipe chamber and repairs to an area in the sanctuary. …. We also did a major re-roofing over he Narthex…..” Ruth Gardstrom.

I also liked to joke with the fact the church, with such a large campus, had 11 toilets…..one for every 30 members.

As a congregation, the intentional decision was made to remain in the downtown Saginaw location in order to use our resources in serving the community—especially the children. We made the decision to maintain a full staff including an Associate Pastor, the Rev. Tony Patrick. The Associate Pastor, in addition to doing general work as a pastor, was called to manage our Summer Magic program.

For years, women and men would return to visit the church talking of he wonderful expediencies they had participating in community youth programming.

The congregation loved Tony Patrick. He was a good friend. One of the best things we did as a church during my pastorate was calling him to serve with me as a pastor. We truly grieved when he made the decision to move to Detroit to become pastor of hi s own church—the end of 1992.

1992 was the year the work of a long-range planning committee came to an end with proposals forwarded to the Session in redefining how we would manage bequest, memorial and endowment funds. The church still had an endowment valued at roughly 1 million dollars. This number, however, was misleading given the amount we chose to use to support our annual budget. In 1992 12% of the Market Value of he Endowment was used to support the church operating budget.

1991 Endowment Fund $ 965,175
Amount taken for operating budget $ 115,820
Payback of Renovation Loan $ 40,000

1992 Endowment Fund $1,052,913
Amount used for operating budget $ 126,349
(Numbers from Annual Reports)

In 1992 we adopted a new Mission Statement:

Mission Statement

“We are a people of God rooted in a commitment to use our human, physical and spiritual resources to enrich the lives of our members and our neighbors, near and far, in creating a sense of community. We shall invite and welcome all who profess Christ to join us, to be a witness for Almighty God as revealed to us in Jesus Christ, that we might serve the poor, heal he broken and create a community and world filled with God’s justice and peace.”

I must not forget this important fact: I begin service as a member of the General Assembly Council and Committee on the office of General Assembly in the year 1992. Serving the church at the national level was an honor of a life-time!

In 1992 we celebrated our 125th Anniversary. Some of the guests we invited to be with us in celebrating this anniversary:

September 13, 1992 Dr. Clinton Marsh, former PCUSA Moderator and brother of former city mayor and church member was invited to preach.

September 15, 1992 We were host to the meeting of he Presbytery of Lake Huron with Dr. Clinton Marsh preaching.

October 11, 1992 Rev. Timm High from the Community Presbyterian in Flint was invited to preach on HOMECOMING SUNDAY.

November 15, 1992 Dr. James Andrews, Stated Clerk of he PCUSA was our guest preacher. (Note: A perk in serving on the General Assembly Council was in gaining access to national church leaders. Rev. Dr. Ken Hall, another former Moderator, was also scheduled to speak.)

All of these reflections, from my perspective, paint a positive picture. We had (and would always have) an enthusiastic core of church members excited about all the things we were doing in and beyond the community. With a lot of factors working against us, we never lost HOPE in the work that would be accomplished in coming years because of the endowment funds and because a core group of members would never – ever waver in their commitment to be Christ’s Church in the neighborhood.

While I am no longer pastor of the church, I know this church will be closing the end of this year (2018). Yet I have to CELEBRATE all the years we were able, with God’s sustaining help, to move for another 25 years beyond where we were in 1992! Many thought back in the early 90’s that the church was dying and that there was little hope. I now thank God for all the decisions that allowed this wonderful church to serve Christ for many years to come. Everyone who reads this should be proud of all that the church was able to accomplish in its first 125 years in serving Christ. Another 25 years would follow.

As a pastor I loved everything I was called to do. We had, in the church, way too many funerals. I would delight in monthly meetings with the “Lunch Bunch” – seniors who gathered regularly for lunch. I loved leading worship and preaching.

The weekly gathering of members for worship was the highlight of every week in my ministry. I enjoyed greeting members before and after worship.

I enjoyed all the meetings – not because of the work but because we shared in fellowship every time we gathered to meet. I found a great deal of satisfaction in seeing church members gather to do Christ’s work.

One guiding principle in the work we were doing as a congregation and disciples of Jesus Christ was in having fun! In my mind none of the hard work we were doing was worth anything unless we had a sense of satisfaction – and having some is and having some fun in the process. For me Worship was in giving glory to God.

I end this journal entry with this – from the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

What is the chief end of man (humankind)?
To glorify God and Enjoy God forever!

 

WHERE ARE YOU HIDING, GOD?

I had a delightful time with my grandson Tommy, now just a few months into his fifth year, reading a small children’s book by Elisabeth Zarti named “Where Are You Hiding, God?” It took more than few minutes to convince Tommy to spend some valuable with grandpa in reading what he called “a boring book”. “Boring” is a new word in his vocabulary. Most of his time with me, grandpa, is with Legos. I need to spend more time with him reading. I literally melt when he finally climbed up next to me on my recliner, putting his little head on my chest, to dig into reading this small book.

I like to tease and test Tommy. He is a smart kid. He always catches my mistakes. In reading this book I would call a FOX a FISH—waiting for him to point out my misake. This way I knew he was paying attention. I will point to the word RED and say BLUE. He corrects my mistake—he actually focused on the letters in the word RED. I marvl in his catching my intentional error—for he is only five. I count only five dragonflies on one of the pages in this book. He can easily find two or three more! Like I said, he is a smart little boy! And yes, I am biased!

But the point of the book: Where Are You Hiding God? How does a five year capture this concept that alludes many of us as adults? How often, as adults, do we ask in our lives: Where, God, are you hiding?

With little children suffering: Where are you hiding, God?
With families that don’t have beds to sleep in: Where are you hiding, God?
Women and men looking for meaningful work: Where are you hiding, God?
Chaos with government decisions: Where are you hiding, God?

These are all questions that are going through my mind as I read this little book wondering what I will take for little Tommy to believe that God is all around us – in and around and above and below us.

“There you are? I’ve found you! You are in the leaf touching me. You are in the wind that sent the leaf down onto me.” Beautiful, clear language for a child.

Some challenging questions as I search with Tommy for God – in the trees and birds and the MIRROR found at the end of the book.

Personally and for me, God is in the warmth of knowing this little boy, Tommy, will learn something special in the time we have invested in reading this book.

Filled with God’s love and he feeling of God’s presence I start to sing. “Grandpa?” “God is not in your singing!” There is so much more for Tommy to learn—as I work on my singing skills!

 

Elisabeth Zarti, Westminster John Knox Press, 2013.

 

 

Black History Month — Honoring A Man of Faith — Walter Giryer

Giryer Walter Mack

Black History Month 2018
In Honor of Walter Mack Giryer
October 6, 1919 – August 8, 2011

Several news outlets have been highlighting and paying tribute to African-American heroes. Within the African American community, who would I call a hero—a man to be remembered? Who has been a “black” role-model for me as a pastor? In writing this blog, who would I like to talk about? This Black History Month I share, some of my thoughts about a man who was a great influence on me and the church I served.

Walter Mack Giryer

You haven’t seen his name in the headlines. He wasn’t a national or global leader. You won’t see his name in history books. As far as I know, he never ran for political office. A man who was born in Buena Vista, Georgia died a the age of 91 in Saginaw, Michigan. He served in the Army as a Master Sergeant. Married to Ann, he had a lovely family with four children. He was a citizen and friend and member of the church I served for over a quarter century.

Walter Mack Giryer is a man who will not be forgotten! He was my friend. Along time member of the Wadsworth Avenue Presbyterian, he transferred to the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church in Saginaw in 1965. I presided over the funeral of his beloved wife Ann in 1991. A church leader, Walter served the church as an Elder and Deacon. Honestly, I never thought of him as being black or white. He was, simply, a lovely-loving man! Upon his death in 2011, I was honored to preside over his funeral.

Now retired and reflecting on my ministry, I can imagine looking out from the pulpit on any given Sunday seeing this tall, well dressed man handing out bulletins to members coming into the sanctuary for worship. I can see him sitting with his good friend Charlie Campbell. Charles Campbell died in 2010—greatly missed by Walt. Charlie, has a family that could easily fill up two pews in the sanctuary. His children and grandchildren need to be mentioned because they were members of Walts extended family. Truly a man to be honored and remembered this “Black History Month”—Walter Mack Giryer.

While pages could be written about this man and his involvement in the community, I mention a few things that make him a man to remember:

1. Walt, year after year, would volunteer to work with children during our Summer Magic program. He was the first to arrive in unlocking the doors. He was the last to leave. Our being an inner city church, he would always sit at the entrance to the Gym providing extra security. On hot days, he would go to the playground with jugs and cups to share water with thirsty children. Little things that didn’t go unnoticed. Walt was always ready to look after the well-being of neighborhood children.

Walt Giryer being a black man was a wonderful role model to the black children in the community!

2. A member of the men’s club, he was always ready to help serve Easter Breakfast. He would befriend members who might need a ride to church. He was always ready to help me out when I encountered a situation that required a sensitive heart.

3. Another good friend in the church was our custodian WG Turner. As good friends they were always seen together doing things around the church. Hey were also two of the best dressed men in the church. While I would often dress casual, they always wore their best clothes when working around the church. Deep down I think they believed it was their duty to give God – the church – their best! Just as it hurt Walt deeply when Charlie Campbell died, it was also a major loss for Walt when WG died in 2007. Another black man who should always be remembered.

4. I chose to write about Walt because he was a “quiet man of faith”. He was not a preacher. I wouldn’t volunteer to stand to say anything publicly. Behind he scenes, you could ask him to do just about anything. Walt Giryer would be ready to help. Regardless what I might need, I knew I could always call on Walt for help!

Thus, with a few short comments, I felt the need this “Black History Month” to write a little about this influential man. To learn more about Walt, I have attached to this blog the eulogy I shared at his funeral.

God continue to give glory to God and his faithful servant Walter Mack Giryer. May God continue to look after him and his family and friends along with all the “Saints who from their labors now rest”.

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A Service in Witness to the Resurrection
For Walter Giryer
Thomas B. Cundiff
August 11, 2011

I Corinthians 13: 1-7

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

MEDITATION // EULOGY
“TO KNOW GOD’S LOVE”

God’s unending love has brought us here today.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life.

God’s promise is realized today. Walter Mach Giryer has achieved the goal. He has lived in God’s love for over 91 years….good and faithful years. Through faith in Jesus Christ, Walt has not perished. While physical life is gone, Walt has spiritually received eternal life. God’s Love has endured in touching us all….family and friends — churchman and friend.

Faith – for you and your children: God is with you holding you in his gracious and everlasting love today! God is holding all of you in his love this beautiful day.

Faith
Anika (Craig) Roy, Ft. Wayne
Morris, Toledo
Terrance, Toledo
Myron (Jennifer) Chicago

God’s love is deep and wide and as broad as anyone can imagine… in holding all of you. God’s love, as I said last night, is found in every breath we take. God’s love is found in every experience. From every hug to every smile…sitting on his lap, through moments of play, in times of grief, in values taught ….. memories to cherish – Walt has always loved you….and God has always been with you.

Walt loved life as reflected in all the positive things he did throughout life. From Georgia to Saginaw; a retired Master Sergeant in the Army serving in the Korean Conflict….to his work at the Grey Iron Foundry….to serving this church and community in numerous capacities. Walt loved life—through all the seasons and ups and downs …. seasons of experiences with you—Walt has always loved you….and God has always been with you.

Walt loved his lord. He didn’t like to do things for an audience….I could never get him in front of a microphone to speak to the congregation….but Walt sure was the best well-dressed man in church! He was always a sharp looking man. I can only guess he is now the best dressed saint in heaven.
II.

To Know God’s Love is to know that God’s presence penetrates all aspects of life — including the ups and downs – even death itself.

While Walt was not feeling well these past few months, he remained positive. He continued to think more about others than himself. In God’s love, he fought the good fight… finished the race…..kept the faith……staid the course to stay with you as long as he could. He then had to let go. He had to let God take him. We can be so grateful his passing into eternal life was graceful and filled with God’s presence and peace…..

Because of our love for Walt, his absence from our lives makes us hurt so much more. The grief we feel is indescribable. Yet with all the discomfort and pain these past weeks, we know that God always held Walt. God’s always loved and embraced him. You never stopped praying for him. Walt was never alone.

It would seem that death is something that separates us from loved ones. Physically, yes, When we are separated from someone, we can feel that love has failed us or cut us off from God. Quite the opposite is true. While death does separate us from loved ones, scripture assures us that even death cannot separate us from God….as Paul to the Romans says:

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life…can separate us from the love of God, which is In Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Love is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Walt. As we pray today, let’s pray for the peace of God to enter our hearts: Let’s us know that God’s love seeks us out like a shepherd seeks out his sheep to protect them from harm. The lord is truly our shepherd seeking us out and loving us. It is faith in the Lord our shepherd that will carry us all of you through the days and weeks ahead.

These are powerful words: I LOVE YOU.

FAITH AND FAMILY
FAITH, with you and your family – all of your children — love is the positive, sustaining force of God holding you these past few weeks that will continue to hold you well into the future. While the death of your father has been tough…God and family have given you strength. You and your dad both knew when it was time for him to go.

Walt is now reunited with his wife Ann, who went to her eternal home in 1991. Walt and Ann are back together. With your family here today, think about the values your mother and father, grandmother and grandfather — shared with you, the moral resources they gave you, the life tools you will use for the rest of your lives. These are precious gifts your mother and father , grandmother and grandfather gave you….all in love.

Faith, the legacy of love you inherited from your parents has been passed on to your children and grandchildren, nephews and nieces. ….and again, I have to believe your parents are still reaching down, smiling upon you in love.
Listening to the words of Paul, love in your family has always been
“patient and kind, not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Love contains all the values your parents taught you. The legacy of all that your father (and mother) have given you now lives on through your families…..and yes, in family love bears all things and endures all things….gifts of family, gifts of love, gifts for which we thank God in commending your father, this beautiful day, to almighty God assures us one thing: LOVE NEVER ENDS.

CHURCH

Walt Giryer has loved and worked hard in his beloved church for nearly fifty years – serving as an elder and deacon; preparing for communion, ushering, working on various committees; helping with our summer magic children’s program—yu name it and Walt was there.

I can think of at least two men out of many good friends and family, who recently died who are now reunited with Walt in eternal life. WG TURNER was a deacon and church custodian and friend who died in July of 2007. I remember the countless times I would see these men working around the church….or sitting in a corner just talking and laughing….I know Walt really missed WG.
Another brother in Christ, CHARLES CAMPBELL died in February of 2010, and they were best of friends. They enjoyed each other’s company, sharing stories about the war, lots of laughter….and countless visits to KFC with Charlie’s grandsons. I can only imagine, reunited in heaven, Walt along with all the Saints and friends who went to heaven before him, are now sitting around a KFC bucket of Chicken…..and I wonder if God likes the crispy-spicy or regular! (I sure wish I could find a way to send them these coupons!)

Many friends are now reunited with Walt….in what scripture calls that “Mansion with many rooms” — eternal life with God.

FINALLY, God will continue to hold you. Find comfort that Walt is at peace. He is being well cared for in his eternal home. Walt and Ann is also looking upon you saying: everything is going to be okay. As the hours pass through this day, hear these words of comfort from scripture:

In God’s eternal love, through all the seasons in life, these words from Timothy:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, my God, the righteous judge, will award me this day.” (I Timothy 4: 6-8)
May God bless you all and surround you in love and peace….

Amen

 

 

Rio Vista – Evolving Into the Future

OP-ED  Rio Vista Beacon // February 21, 2018

“Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living waters.” John 7:38

Rio Vista in the year 2018 is nothing like this city has ever been before. We are growing. We are evolving.

As a community, grounded in a rich history with citizens who care deeply about our future, is our need to keep our eyes focused on important issues that will shape what kind of city we will become in the future. The passionate debate about Cannabis is a good example.

Rich in history as a small town on the north shore of the Sacramento River, this small town has doubled in size over the past twenty years. New people, are moving into this community — roughly 15-20 new souls per month! We are not what we used to be! With each new resident, the personality of the community evolves. As businesses come and go, we become what we can support economically. We are evolving.

I see some challenges facing our community that must be addressed.

1. Excellent School System – it is going to take a concerted effort to make sure Rio Vista develops a quality school system. Young and old in our community, educating our children with quality schools is the key to our future. It’s going to take a solid economic base of support from local businesses to help our schools grow. We need to find ways to draw people and business into our community because “it is a good place for children, our future, to grow. Cannabis isn’t going to destroy this possibility. Our working together to make sure these proposed business ventures are successful benefits us all. I am sure the city leaders are committed to the goal of keeping our children and youth safe!

2. Highway 12 improvements are critical. We are seeing way too many accidents, especially among seniors, that must be eliminated. Personally, I would like to see improved “street-scaping” from the bridge to the west border of our community. Hard work, money and dedicated leadership will help with this issue of “image”.

3. Medical facilities: The entire community could benefit in having an urgent care facility. It would be wonderful if we could find ways to bring some general practitioners into our community. Perhaps those owners who will be making huge profits with the sale of cannabis would consider finding ways to help promote improved health care in our community.

4. Development along the river: While the city has already done a lot of work in developing the river front, there is still a lot of work to do.  The river is our greatest asset! What about some kind of river-boat business? I have also wondered about a small boutique hotel of some right on the shore of the river?

This is short list of what I believe we can accomplish if we keep our eyes focused on what we can become – always grounded in the values that have sustained this city since 1862. We will always have issues. It is incumbent on all of us to work to keep this city ‘moving forward’ in positive ways in serving all her citizens—specially her children.

 

Living in a California Gated Community

It was over a year ago Nancy and I moved from Michigan to Rio Vista, California so we could live close to our daughter and her family.  This has been a new experience for me–living in a gated compound.  This compound/community is called TRILOGY IN RIO VISTA–complete with an 18 hole golf course and two huge club houses, swimming pools, bocce courts, tennis courts, bar and restaurant….etc.

There are of perks living in a gated 55+ community with over 3000 residents–including dozens of daily activities.  Our HOA dues are roughly $135.00 per month.  A listing of daily activities in TRILOGY not including golf, January 3rd, going from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Yoga, TOPS, WOW-Tabatha-Boom, Aqua Fit, Walk and Talk, Bridge Lessons, Dancercise, Men’s Fellowship, Art Card Design, Stretch, Billards Club, Hot Zumba, Iphone Basics Class, Kare Bears Mtg., Gentle Aqua, Stained Glass Club, Pickleball, Ukulele Club, Music of the Night Rehearsal, Cycling Club Mtg, Delta Divas, Stretch and Flex, Delta Harmony Rehearsal, Fat Quarter Quilters, Jazz Band, Soul Line Dancing, Square Dance Class, Table Tennis Club

This doesn’t include the Café, Exercise Gyms, two swimming and exercise pools.  Nancy is attending the quilting club. I’m just planning on going out for an afternoon drive.

PS  New houses are selling fast—roughly 15 new homes are being purchased each month.   Rio Vista is on the Sacramento River halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento.

 

 

http://www.trilogylife.com/communities/california/riovista/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=*California%20-%20Brand%20(National)%20(s)&utm_term=trilogy%20rio%20vista&utm_content=Trilogy%20-%20Rio%20Vista&gclid=CNmlq_-ivNgCFRG3fgod-wEKDQ&gclsrc=ds

 

 

The Inclusive Church

This quote from the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church, The Book of Order, jumped out of the page when I read it — found in the September 18, 2017 issue of the church publication, The Presbyterian Outlook.   Question:  Are our churches living faithful to this command for inclusion?

From The Book of Order:

A congregation shall welcome all persons who trust in God’s grace in Jesus Christ and desire to become part of the fellowship and ministry of his Church. No person shall be denied membership for any reason not related to profession of faith. The Gospel leads members to extend the fellowship of Christ to all persons. Failure to do so constitutes a rejection of Christ himself and causes a scandal to the Gospel.” (G-1.0302)

For my colleagues in ministry, I encourage you to read the entire article by Elder John Harkey, a professional in helping “organizations develop and implement inclusion and diversity strategies.”

This article, Reformed Inclusion, details the experience of an elder at the 3500 member Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. Of particular interest are the intentional steps individual members of the faith community can do to “demonstrate more consciously inclusive behavior”.

Volunteer for an activity that makes you comfortably uncomfortable and creates an impact on others.

Sit someplace different in your sanctuary each Sunday for the next eight weeks.

Demonstrate active listening that shows empathy towards others who may be different than you.

Become more self-aware of the biases and assumptions that you possess, and do not let then interfere with your personal or business interactions.

When you see someone standing alone while you are in a group, invite them to join you.

If you are faced with an issue or challenge, ask three people who are different that you (generationally, culturally or in other ways) for input as you make your decisions. (Presbyterian Outlook, September 18, 2017, pg 32)

I would suggest that these simple steps of inclusion can open doors beyond the local church in the communities where we live.

A public thanks to John Harkey for his faithful work.

 

My Friend — Lottery Winner

 

Are you a lottery winner?  Yes!  I join with my friend from College, Tom Crisp.  He has given me permission to share his FB personal reflections.   I commend him in taking the time to write this insightful piece.  I’m amazed he has such a wonderful memory.   He has giving me cause to reflect on my life filled with blessings – for yes, I am a lottery winner.  Every breath I take proves this fact.  Please read and enjoy.  (a bit long but worth taking time to read it to the end) 

 

 

 

If I win a lottery……by Tom Crisp

If I win a lottery, it won’t be because I deserve it.  The knowledge that lotteries are not a prize for the deserving is probably part of what keeps me playing.  I have as good (or as lousy) a chance as anyone, saint or sinner. 

I have always figured that I won the lottery when I was born in the U.S.A. just as the post war economic boom met the baby boom. I won by being born male, white, on-time, in a hospital, to parents who would remain married. With four living grandparents, 16 aunts and uncles and eventually about 26 cousins, all of whom I got to know, some of whom I grew up with.

 

Being white I had the win of being majority, but more than that, being the status quo. Generally discovering that the person in charge was … like me. Whatever battles lay ahead, I wouldn’t have to fight that one.

 

Not everyone would agree that I won the lottery being raised Catholic, but everyone I knew at the time would say so, especially after JFK broke that barrier. I didn’t know until much later that we were a group hated in some households. (In case we forget, the KKK despised us as Papists, and the John Birch Society was pretty much aligned with that.)

 

I grew up with a library card, in a home with some books, with the World Book Encyclopedia, with some records to listen to, a piano, and a TV that delivered the westerns, the comedies, the variety shows, the late-late-shows and the news shows. Magazines that inspired my need to make art, my love of buildings, my infatuation with cars. Morning and evening newspapers delivered daily.

 

We weren’t rich and we weren’t poor, and if we had been poor an effort would have been made to see that we kids wouldn’t know it – and that we didn’t look it. And definitely that we didn’t announce it. Not that we were pretending to be MORE than we were or had, never that – although it became a game for me later, when I was just old enough to wander into a place like the Waldorf Astoria lobby and act like I belonged there, until I believed that I did.

 

When I was born we lived in a tiny and rather shabby house, but 5 years later moved into a new house my folks had built. We had the same used furniture as before, but new carpet, and slipcovers made from Grandma’s curtains, and 6 of us would share one bathroom – as in most of the houses we visited.

 

The first time I remember looking at the earliest “studio” photo of me, my mother shared two comments: it was not a baby picture (I was about four years old) because we couldn’t afford to have it done sooner. (Finally Grandma ordered it done.) Mom also said that she always was a little embarrassed by the picture because I was wearing worn out tennis shoes. (To this day I look at that photo and can’t tell.) Apparently we couldn’t afford a new pair of shoes for me right then, and after all the waiting for the photo, I guess Mom felt guilty. But they had their priorities straight, saving up for the down payment on the new house that was then just a plan.

 

I was already a repeat lottery winner. One night in the year or so before that photo I had fallen out of the car on a busy road – at dusk, a chancy time to be a small person lying in the middle of the street. Because Mom happened to be driving, and thanks to my brother yelling, “There goes Tommy!”, Dad was able to jump out of the car before it even stopped, flagging down traffic and averting what In my personal opinion would have been disaster. I spent the night in the same hospital where I was born, and possess the bill to show for it: eleven bucks, and Blue Cross paid nine of it.

 

I won again at eleven or twelve. After I contracted rheumatic fever, thanks to antibiotics and our good family doctor, I spent much less than the average time out of school with a disease that less than a century earlier was near certain death. And I escaped any permanent effects to heart and lungs.

 

I didn’t quite win on teeth. I was cavity prone. But they grew in more or less in a straight line, and l did always have dental care. A few years ago my hygienist told me I inherited very good gums. So there, cavities.

 

I won the teacher lottery, that’s for sure, and still remember the names of all my teachers, K-12, and most who came later, from Sister Irene in kindergarten to Simona Volpi, my beautiful Torinese Italian tutor of 16 years ago. I had wonderfully nice friends through all those years, even after changing schools twice in one year, and changing towns, too. Thanks to FaceBook and reunions I regularly get to touch base with some of my earliest friends – the very first children I played with.

 

I was a kid attracted to cities, but happily growing up in small towns, in an era when all summer we ran free, once the morning chores were done, and where we knew it might be reported to our parents if anyone saw us get out of line. We got out of line anyway, of course, but we were lottery winners, and we escaped alive and intact, uncorrupted by our associations.

 

Despite my intention in high school to go to college a long way from home, I ended up an hour’s drive away and ended up happy about that. Thanks to my parents’ sacrifices and some scholarship help I also ended up debt free at graduation, whereupon I began making up for the matter. (My folks did their best to get us all through school without debts – I didn’t know how lucky I was.)

 

In the middle of that, the draft lottery drew some lines and let millions of young men know who could expect to go to Vietnam, and who could likely expect not to. At number 221 I was on the “not” side; like some of my friends, and unlike others. Many waited with resignation for the yellow envelope to arrive. Many others rushed to enlist in order to give their service a measure of self-determination. A few of the young men I knew then did not come back; some others, who I would meet later, had returned not always whole.

 

I wrote that among my chance winnings was being born a male. True then and still true for those born today, around the world and in the US. This implies that females are on the losing side, which is both far too simple to be a rule and, by numbers, also true. For reasons ranging from the traditional to the pseudo-logical to the preposterous, women of all ages are systematically put on the margins. We’ve seen steady if hard-won improvement for women in the “first world,” but the numbers say it is still a plus to be male on this planet, and in many places a life (or death) sentence to be female.

 

These propositions are loaded with exceptions. Because life itself is a game of chance, and advantage occurs on a broad spectrum, not all males feel or are privileged, or blessed with choice and freedom and advantage, and not all women are or feel held back and denied justice. Poverty/wealth, illness/health, love/neglect, all can make or strip away the sense of rightfulness that comes with the birth lottery. Wealth, talent, intelligence, looks, drive, supportive adults – are all distributed unevenly. But that combination of numbers on my first ticket: American, male, 20th century, hard-working and generous parents, strong early education, opportunity, freedom of expression, good health … these were such strokes of great fortune that to think today that I have anything else “coming to me” that does not involve very hard work would be greedy to the nth.

 

My lottery has continued. I’ve been able to pursue dreams, even if I’ve fallen short. I’ve been loved and have given love. I’ve laughed, and been disappointed, and learned, and made things. Making things is the big deal for me, to write something, make a painting, design, build. I’ve seen a lot of the country, a little of the world, and had all the good books anyone could hope to read, with no one telling me I couldn’t. I’ve had the ballot in my hands for almost 50 years; when my vote was for the winner and when it was not, I’ve always believed in it and the power it gave me.

 

I was young and gay in an era when that meant steady change and progress, and I was lucky enough never to hate myself for it. I was also gay in the age of a plague. I won the HIV lottery, whether because I was lucky in birth again, and have something that defies it, or because I was in some way more moderate, or because I was, actually, just plain lucky, and I’ve felt the unreasonable responsibility to live well for those who died young. Because I lost on the other side of that ticket: friends and acquaintances gone too soon, quite knocked down in the prime of life, and in the beginning under a cloud of mystery and suspicion, and no recourse to fight it.

 

“Winning” isn’t all rewards. In any field of play, it carries the burden of “what next?” (Losing has that factor, too, but we know the difference of the meaning in each situation.) And though I believe that life is hugely influenced by habit (much more than by luck), winning is accompanied by loss. Anyone who has loved and lost – which is, face it, everyone – can tell you that. Winning has responsibilities, if you’re made of anything but selfishness. It also provides opportunities, whether to share the money-wealth outright, or to share your intangible wealth: exchanging knowledge, creating opportunities, bringing joy, saving or sparing lives, inspiring the dispirited. Share spendable riches but also share the wealth of skill, experience, time, listening. These things are nothing less than “affirmative action”, or as otherwise named, the Beatitudes.

 

The humorist Fran Liebowitz told David Letterman, “I don’t consider the lottery gambling: when you gamble there’s a chance you might win.” By that wise measure, gambling includes investing in or starting a business, writing or producing a play, making a new product, expressing a new thought, sticking your neck out for somebody, putting your time into someone else’s growth. You are quite likely to lose those gambles. But when you win, it is extra rewarding, because it is so much more than chance. There’s minor satisfaction in betting and winning on a sure thing. Bet and win on a long shot if you want to know elation.

 

So, though no doubt some “deserving” people win the lottery, it’s not BECAUSE they deserve it. God isn’t handing out the winning numbers as a reward any more than He is handing out hurricanes or diseases or football losses as punishment. In fact, if only truly deserving people won the lottery, the rest of us would never play, and the jackpots would be modest indeed. We KNOW we don’t have to be deserving. It is the ultimate egalitarian roll of dice, on the billions-to-one scale of solar systems.

 

As in life, whether you “deserve” to win is probably something you demonstrate afterwards. Few of us have been prepared to live in a “worthy” manner if landed on by extreme, sudden wealth. We imagine we could handle it – I for one have better answers for “what would you do if you won millions?” than I do for the more likely question, “what do you plan to do since you won’t be winning millions?” It would be a tremendous challenge, but I think the only way not to be ruined by a super prize would be to give a whole lot of it away very fast, then keep giving more away slowly, always with the steadfast conviction that you didn’t deserve it in the first place.

 

Knowing that, what I’d try to do, just as I hope to do with my lifetime lottery winnings, which are so intangible that no one can take them away, is not deserve it, but serve it. So there’s the plan, whatever the bankroll I’m working with. ~ Tom Crisp NY NY 8/24/17