Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve Post

2008 ... what a year. My 401K became a 200.5K, my Mini Cooper had a clutch and water pump replaced, and I found out that I have arthritis in both my hands.

At least my cholesterol levels are down !!

What am I praying for in 2009?

Hopefully a full Alpha course this quarter (See previous entry: here).

A congregation that will understand that while budgeting 10% of offerings for missions and benevolences is a great goal, having the church fall around your ears while doing that is NOT good stewardship.

That the same congregation will learn that being a Christian does not mean showing up for Sunday worship, then forgetting about church for another week; ignoring all attempts to educate them in their faith.

And finally, that my friend will find a location that will accept her as the pastor I know she can be.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Post

This is probably why I like the KJV of the Christmas Story:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Talking about Sessions .....

In my little screed about a Session meeting previously, I mentioned a few issues I have with the Session I serve on at Stodgy Presbyterian.

It seems that I'm not the only one who feels that more and more Sessions have become executive boards, rather than Sessions. They're more worried about the business side of a church (and lets face it, a church has a business side), than the spiritual well being of the Congregation.

So I throw out a question, could this be due to the fact that the PCUSA did away with the original titles for elders of Ruling and Teaching Elders?

Update: 20081220.00:48 I guess no one had any good answers to that question. So, I'll just throw it out for thoughts: why are Sessions changing from the courts of the church, to the Board of Directors ??

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An interesting Session meeting.

Well at Stodgy Presbyterian, as in many other Presbyterian churches, its budget time. Time to look at the amount of pledges made, and to figure out how much each ministry gets for the following year.

The PCUSA Book of Order has said that the Session is required to be good stewards. It has also been said that the church should provide for the minister so that he ro she can tend to the spiritual needs of the congregation, and not have to worry about the temporal needs of his or her family.

That said, in many churches, the last thing considered is the Call of the pastor. Usually, that's figured in after the cost of keeping the building open. This year, Stodgy Presbyterian was no exception.

As I'm the commissioner to presbytery meetings, prior to the budget discussions, I brought out the list of the terms of call for all the churches in Plodding Presbytery. A quick perusal of the list shows that in comparison with churches of the same size, our minister (of over 25 years) is not making as much as others with less tenure (and no D.Min).

Later once we kicked the minister out so we could do our deliberations, one of the elders on the Personnel committee said that "she personally felt that my bringing up the salaries of others is only rubbing [his] nose in the fact he's not making as much as others", I retorted that this information could be had by [the pastor] anytime he wanted by just a download as it was part of the last Presbyterian meeting materials. I had brought it to Session so that Session would have an idea of what others are getting. In the back of my mind, I had hoped that it would shame those elders into giving a better raise.

However, since pledges are down, and we need to make sure that we can pay the water bill, the pastor got a 3% raise, which is in line with the rest of the Presbytery. Still, based on what I've seen, the guy is about 7 to 10K below what he should be getting. And one of the reasons I was told was that he's not doing visitations to people, and that his next raise would be based on how the church increased membership.

I remarked that putting it all on the pastor is not an answer, the pastor cannot be friend, confidant, teacher, preacher and evangelist all at once. The rest of the officers need to step up and take some responsibility for the growing of the church.

They basically had no idea what I was talking about. Our deacons drop off flowers, a meal to those who are sick, provide donuts on Sunday (the pastor makes the coffee), and hold fundraisers. When I mentioned that the deacons should be contacting the congregation's members on a regular basis, someone said that in other churches they were in, the Deacons never did that !! Its not their job!!! I said that their job is Congregational Care ... in order to care for the congregation, you have to keep in touch with them.

The puzzled looks I was getting were frustrating.

Anyway, because we lost our custodian for a while this year, the pastor was doing a lot of the cleanup, so they decided to give him a $2K bonus for his efforts. It was joked that it was a retention bonus. They didn't want to put it in his salary, as that would raise it up, and it may not be possible to pay that next year.

I didn't mention that if the pastor did leave or retire, they wouldn't be able to hire someone with his experience and degree at the rate they're paying the current pastor. I'll let them figure that out when COM tells them that!!

And so it goes

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sappy Christmas Song

Quotidian Grace has again sponsored the 'Sappy Christmas Song' contest. I am an inveterate song parody lyricist, and can sit and write parody lyrics to a song at a moments notice.

Not that I can write a note, I can however, fit a word to the tune and the beat on a very close basis. I happen to enjoy contributing to this song contest, and I hope that what I did contribute added to the sappiness.

You can read (or sing) the Sappy Christmas Song here.

Update The final stanza that put this year's song in the Sappy Christmas Song Hall of Fame is here;

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Speaking of Presbytery Meetings

I've not commented here in a few weeks, primarily because its been a very busy few weeks. However, since I was speaking of Presbytery meetings, there's another one I want to comment on.

As some know, I have a few contacts over at the better PTS in Pennsylvania, and I know a few people who graduated this past year and are now either ordained or going to be. At this past presbytery meeting, one second career seminarian friend was given his orals, and approved by the COM as the new Pastor/Head-of-Staff at 1st Presbyterian of Pittsburgh.

At a previous meeting, two young men who went from college to seminary, were OK'd for ordination, and were installed as the founding co-pastors at a new NCD in Pittsburgh targetted at those attending the many colleges and universities in Pittsburgh.

In all cases, these new pastors are evangelical and articulate in their beliefs, as are many of the new Presbyterian graduates coming out of PTS. However, was this what was seen in the local newspaper, and on Presbyweb.

No ... it was that an attempt by a local church Session to try to put words to what they feel is the only correct response to the question

Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?

And, of course, the newspaper phrased it as a change to gay ordination standards, and featured the name of a local, progressive pastor who brought the last attempt to the GAPJC. While many seemed sympathetic to the idea, the thought of another church legal battle gave many pause.

So again, instead of talking about the good things happening in the church, only the hot button issue is talked about.

And so it goes ....