MINISTRY TOOLS IN WORKING WITH URBAN CHILDREN AND YOUTH

Keywords in my ministry at the Warren Ave. Presbyterian Church are connected with the same two concepts described by Chip Hardwick in his recent blog—COLLABORATING AND INNOVATING.  http://www.pcusa.org/blogs/comings-and-goings/2014/5/5/collaborating-and-innovating

As a former pastor of this small congregation with a huge building, a gigantic heart for the well-being of inner city children and plenty of sacred space to share with the community, the Session opened the doors to the Women of Colors Inc. for office and classroom use.  The Session also opened the church Gym and adjoining kitchen and classrooms for the Mark Neumeier Youth Center—an after-school / summer youth camp for as many as 60 neighborhood children .  

What made these decisions unique:

1.  Innovative vision in giving rent-free space to two organizations providing  programming and advocacy for the well-being of community children—programming aligned with the mission priorities of the church.

2.  Collaborative partnership with established organizations that had specialized expertise in running programs for children—more expertise than members of this small congregation with a huge building!

While I am no longer pastor of this Saginaw church, I truly believe this congregation is blessed with leadership willing to think “outside the box” in doing innovative/collaborative ministries. 

To end with three excellent questions Chip Hardwick asks in his blog: 

First, what are innovations which are currently going on in society and in the church which can help congregations to thrive?  Second, what are the basics of change management which will help church leaders to navigate congregational preferences and politics to implement the innovations?  Finally, what are the habits of the mind which help congregational leaders develop innovations on their own?”

May God continue to enrich and bless us in the work we do as church leaders!

For readers of this blog: Specifically, in what ways are you giving glory to God? I have been thinking about this question. Have I been using what God has entrusted my care? These are questions I have been contemplating after reading what has become my “favorite quote for the week”. Written by N.T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture, and found on FB on April 30th:
“Glory is not simply a kind of luminescence, as though the point of salvation were that we would eventually shine like electric lightbulbs. Glory means, among other things, rule and power and authority; as other writers (notably Saint John the Divine) make clear, part of the point of God’s saving his people is that they are destined not merely to enjoy a relaxing endless vacation in a place called heaven, but that they are designed to be God’s stewards, ruling over the whole creation with healing and restorative justice and love.”

WHY AM I BLOGGING?

WHY AM I BLOGGING?

BOUND AND NURTURED IN GOD’S LOVE

I have been blogging for six months.   My style is:  Helter-skelter! J  I am trying to navigate my way through the murky waters, trial and error, in deciding what to write.   I am trying to be disciplined in preparing one or two posts each week.   

My blog theme is based on what has been my core theological value:   Love is that which binds us together an builds us up!  Thus my theme:  BOUND AND NURTURED IN GOD’S LOVE.

My initial goal has been to record my thoughts along with links to the writings of others who “stir the pot” for me as I think through a variety of issues/topics.  I have posted a few sermons.  I have written about this transition in leaving the church I truly loved and served for over 28 years.  I really miss working with this congregation!  I have touched on some controversial topics:  gay marriage, gun violence – topics that concern me.

Honestly, I really like reading and posting links to the work of others who stimulate my thinking!   

My purpose in writing:  I am blogging for myself.   Some of this is an EGO thing.  I also see blogging as a pubic style of journaling.  I want to share my blog with those who may be interested in what I have to say!   And its okay if I don’t get any responses. 

My blogging has been a slow-motion journey forward in my accepting:

             I am no longer an active pastor in a church. 

            My dealing with life on being on “disability”.   I am not yet retired!

            I now have the time to delve into a variety of issues of interest

            I can read, write and share – free now from weekly sermon preparation

All in all, I am blogging in order to record some of those things that interest and/or excite me.

So what’s next?   I enjoy posting LINKS to posts of others and their blogs.  Three persons on my short list:  John Buchanan, John Vest and John Wilkinson.  (I have always been drawn to those who have connections with 4th Presbyterian Church, Chicago)

So if you are reading this:  Please stick with me!  Let me know what you think about my blog.  Help in guiding me toward those topics that are of interest to you.  Be part of the process of helping me perfect my blog.     

May God be with us all as we share our deepest thoughts and opinions with those who have entered the blogosphere.

 

 

A Prayer for Pastors on Easter by Brian McLaren

http://brianmclaren.net/archives/2013/03/

Found this wonderful prayer in the archives of Brian McLearn, March 31, 2013

A prayer for pastors on Easter

Dear Lord, I pray for all the pastors today Who will feel enormous pressure to have their sermon Match the greatness of the subject and will surely feel they have failed. (I pray even more for those who think they have succeeded.)

Help them to know that it is enough Simply and faithfully to tell the story Of women in dawn hush … Of men running half-believing … Of rolled stones and folded grave-clothes … Of a supposed gardener saying the name of a crying woman … Of sad walkers encountering a stranger on the road home … Of an empty tomb and overflowing hearts.

Give them the wisdom to know that sincere humility and awe Surpass all homiletic flourish On this day of mysterious hope beyond all words.

Make them less conscious of their responsibility to preach, And more confident of the Risen Christ Who presence trumps all efforts to proclaim it.

Considering all the Easter choirs who will sing beautifully, and those who won’t, And all the Easter prayers that will soar in faith, and those that will stumble and flounder, And all the Easter attendance numbers and offering numbers that will exceed expectations And those that will disappoint … I pray they all will be surpassed by the simple joy Of women and men standing in the presence of women and men, Daring to proclaim and echo the good news: Risen indeed! Alleluia!

For death is not the last word. Violence is not the last word. Hate is not the last word. Money is not the last word. Intimidation is not the last word. Political power is not the last word. Condemnation is not the last word. Betrayal and failure are not the last word. No: each of them are left like rags in a tomb, And from that tomb, Arises Christ, Alive.

Help the preachers feel it, And if they don’t feel it, help them Preach it anyway, allowing themselves To be the receivers as well as the bearers of the Easter News. Alleluia!

 

 

Including People who have Disabilities

http://www.christianitytoday.com/amyjuliabecker/2014/april/including-people-with-disabilities-in-your-church.html

Amy Julia Becker has written about a topic close to my heart—including people with disabilities into our churches. She says,

“If people in your community are going to Wal-Mart in their wheelchairs but not coming to your church, a lot of times the church community calls them shut-ins. They’re not shut-ins; they’re just shut out of the church” (Ned Stoller (cited in Making Churches Accessible to the Disabled, 1998). When your church considers including people with disabilities in your congregation, what questions are you asking? Does the conversation run something like: What sort of accommodations should we make? Which ones would make sense since some accessibility options are really expensive? An elevator would take a major campaign!

What if we began to ask ourselves, our churches, and our ministries this question; “What is it that we are missing? What are we missing out on because we are not as inclusive of persons with disabilities as we truly would like to be?”

I commend this article for anyone interested in learning more about including those with disabilities as members of the whole body of Christ.  http://www.christianitytoday.com/amyjuliabecker/2014/april/including-people-with-disabilities-in-your-church.html

 

PHEWA (Presbyterian Health Education and Welfare Assocaition) also has a network for those interested in this topic.

http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/phewa/

 

 

WHAT A RETREAT! Camp Lu Wix E from 1995-2004

What a Retreat! Camp Lu Wix E

1995-2004 

This phrase comes to mine in reflecting (and writing this morning) on what was one of the most satisfying experiences of my ministry. While pastor of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church a group of church members would invest quality time during Lent sharing in a special retreat experience. We did this for ten years in a row. An important part of our Lenten journey, this was always a pivotal experience for me as a pastor in finding some “sacred time and space” in order nurture a closer relationship with God in the context of our being a community of faith.   

As many as 20 to 25 adults, youth and children would attend this retreat. This was a great number given the size of our congregation.   We traveled about 45 minutes to Wixom Lake and Camp Lu Wix E[1] (owned and operated by St. John’s Lutheran Church in Saginaw).  Volunteers would work on preparing meals, crafts, games, various recreational activities—while I would focus as pastor on the program. [2]

We would gather on Friday evening for an orientation, opening program, worship and snacks. Saturday would be a full day of study and play – private walks along the shore of the lake, photography, crafts – a host of activities for young and old. While some of the program time was designed to be intergenerational, we also provided special time for the children in a different building. During free-time in the afternoon, many enjoyed taking a nap! Sunday would be a time to conclude our program and sharing in worship with communion.

Some will remember the little RED DOT. As a game for children and adults, I would hide a small little red dot someplace in one of the public spaces we used for this retreat. This dot was the size of pencil eraser. The first person to find the DOT would get a free trip to a treasure chest. We always brought along a chest full of small toys and gifts for the children and adults….many of these items in the box could be used as gifts to be given to secret pals (see below).      

 The ten themes we enjoyed:

 1. 1995  Angels 2. 1996  Seasons on the Christian Calendar

3. 1997  Heroes and Heroines in the Bible

4. 1998  Bible Concepts

5. 1999  World Religions

6. 2000  Bible Covenants

7. 2001  Journeys of Paul

8. 2002  I Corinthians Study (Bill Kehrer Leader)

9. 2003  The New Catechism

10.2004 Biblical Prophets  

In looking back at this list of retreats, I am amazed that we actually held these retreats for ten years in a row. I think the only reason we discontinued these retreats was my personal inability to physically handle working in this retreat environment.

Why highlight this particular experience?   I truly believe these retreats were among the most important of all Lenten events that could be planned for members of the congregation to grow and mature in their personal relationship with God.   This was also a significant bonding experience for member of the church. This was also one of those rare opportunities for the congregation to see me outside the context of Sunday worship.   Having served my first years of ministry with a focus on Christian Education, I knew that building a significant retreat experience away from the every day hustle and bustle of life could be as meaningful way to help members of the congregation grow spiritually!

The closing worship service was the most meaningful. We would always gather in a circle. In addition to singing and my sharing s short sermon, the most memorable part of these worship experiences was sharing gifts. How did this work?

Prior to the beginning of each retreat, we would draw the name of someone on this retreat who would become our “secret pal”!   As a secret pal we would try to do special things for this person. Also, each camper would have a gift to give his or her secret pal during this closing worship. This often became an emotional

Needless to say, the sharing we did in this circle during closing worship was for many an emotional experience.  

We would then close the retreat experience with communion, a noon meal – cleaning and sweeping the camp space.  

In thinking about this, I was always aware that taking this many members away from weekly worship back in Saginaw could create a bit of a “hole” that would need to be filled when we returned. For this reason, it was always important for me to make sure we shared some of our retreat stories and singing some of our camp songs so the rest of the congregation could capture a glimpse of what we did while away.

 

[1]   http://stjohnlutheranelcasaginaw.weebly.com/camp-lu-wix-e.html

[2]   Always a bit frustrating that I would be leaving behind a small congregation that would gather on Sunday with a guest preacher. I was always lamented the fact that more members of our unified church community could not be part of this wonderful retreat experience.