Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Defining Church .. hmmm, not really !!

In reading yesterday's (July 21) Presbyweb, there was a link to an article on Dr. Joseph Small's talk at the Calvin Jubilee held in Montreat.

One thing in the article struck this Reformed Catholic as in error, and I admit I'm not as well versed in Calvin as some. I quote:

Small focused on three aspects of Calvin’s thoughts on the church that remain relevant today: word and sacrament as central marks of the church, a unified plural ministry of clergy and laity and the communion of congregations.

Now, I'm not sure if this is exactly what Dr. Small's said, or if this was messaged by the reporter, but having attended lectures on Calvin from someone who has made Calvin his specialty (Dr. Charles Partee), I don't believe that is what Calvin actually wrote.

So I checked via Google, and found this information from Dr. C. Matthew McMahon on the site "A Purian's Mind". I won't go through the whole article, but I will list the three Marks as listed there, with supporting Scripture verses:

Mark 1: Sound Doctrine (John 8:31, 47; 14:23; Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 3:16-4:4; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 9-11)

Mark 2: Right Administration of the Sacraments(1 Cor. 10:14-17, 21; 11:23-30)

Mark 3: The Right Administration of Discipline (Matthew 18:17; Acts 20:28-31a; Rom. 16:17-18a; 1 Cor. 5:1-5, 13; 14:33, 40; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 5:6, 11; 2 Thess. 3:14-15; 1 Tim. 1:20; 5:20; Titus 1:10-11; 3:10; Rev. 2:14-16a; 2:20).

Again, not sure if Dr. Small was emphasizing areas of his concern; he is trying to bring back the idea of teaching/ruling elders, or just eliminating areas of Calvin's thoughts that are inconvenient to those who are currently holding power in the PCUSA.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Blog Template !

OK, I'm a geek ... found this on the Harry Potter website, and thought, what the heck, for a few weeks, it won't hurt.

I'll have to rebuild the old template gadgets, but for the fun of having a Harry Potter skin on the blog, its worth it ;)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Just got back from the midnight show of Harry Potter and the HBP. Okay, so I'm a geek. I think I was the oldest person there without kids. So be it, however, SWMBO was along to enjoy the movie, and I have to say, I enjoyed the movie.

However, much as the novels got darker in 5, 6 and 7, so the movie starts out dark, gets a bit lighter, then dives back into the darkness. The writer, Steve Kloves, who's written every movie except for Order of the Phoenix, did a very good job in keeping most of the feel of the book, yet allowing for the visual needs of the screen vs. the mental pictures of the book. Some scenes were altered to allow for a more visual staging, yet they lose nothing of the suspense found in the same scene in the novel.

I could go into more detail, but I really don't want to start creating spoilers. All I need to say is this:

1. If you liked the book, run do not walk and see the movie
2. The movie is much darker than the previous, it is rated PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality. (OK ... Ron gets snogged for most of the first half of the film) :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Getting back to the Daily Grind

Well, after five weeks on the road, coming back home is somehow bittersweet. Yes we both had time to relax and renew, but the reality that playtime is over is here.

Sunday, we lead the praise time we have here each summer. The stodgy folks here at SPC; you know the types they've been here since the church went up and nothing changes in my church, would not hold to do something like that during the normal worship service. So, we get 10 minutes prior to the normal worship time. What that means is that while we're up front singing Come, Now is the Time to Worship, people are walking in making small talk, and basically ignoring us up front. Luckily a few people join in the singing, and eventually the talkers get the idea.

Monday, I spent time working on the network to clean up a few things that occurred while I was on vacation, then Tuesday I changed the church announcement sign that has had the same thing since the middle of May. I had hoped someone would get the idea that maybe VBS should be advertised, but I did that today. At least someone had the forethought to change the worship time from the usual 11am to the summer hours of 9:30am.

Would be nice to have Air Conditioning, but that would call for a capital campaign, which would mean actually asking people to pledge.

FWIW .. I didn't begin this as a rant post, but it turned out that way. I think the reason was that I found out that someone who was the Deacon Moderator last year, and one of those stodgy folks I mentioned above, decided after her 3 years on the Board was over, to start attending a different church.

I won't go into what I think are the reasons, just that it seems like a temper tantrum, and she took her ball and went home.

I think that differentiates those who look at the church as a club, and those who look at the church as a group of believers who worship the Living God. Those who worship, work at making the church open to all who come through the door seeking Christ. Those who club, want to keep the church the way it is for themselves and their associates.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Last day on the road.

Its been an interesting 4 or 5 weeks on the road. Visiting friends in Virginia, Big Tent in Atlanta, relaxing by the river in Florida, then winding up with the Christian Life Conference in Montreat. Yesterday was a travel day to Sutton WV, where we RON'd (Remained Over Night) after 6 hours of driving. We try to break it up, rather than rush to where we're going. Later today, its 3 or 4 more hours of driving, then we're back home, back to the usual grind.

Work, and then a church that does not realize its dying. I had more meaningful worship with people I didn't know at the Christian Life Conference than with those I normally attend church with.

I'm not tossing criticism at SPC's Pastor or Minister of Music, its the congregation itself. Unwilling to try new things, unwilling to do more than attend an hour a week (then going through the motions when there), and unwilling to do anything that changes their church. Get a clue people ... It's not yours, its HIS.

The people at the Christian Life Conference got that, they understood that church is more than a building, that worship happens more once a week, that it can last more than an hour, it's more than traditional hymns and organ, or even contemporary hymns and guitar. Its about taking the time to learn more about what Jesus said, what God the Father has planned, and how the Holy Spirit can come and work in your life.

I'm not sure how much I will retain of this week. I left there renewed, I hope I can sustain that over the next year.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Final Day at the Christian Life Conference

This morning was the last session of the Christian Life Conference. Dr. Bailey again lead us in a walk through the parables of Jesus. Today's was the parable of the Good Shepherd. Again, he brought us from the Old Testament to the New, showing how Jesus took an OT theme, one well known to the Pharisees, and then turned it on its ear to show up those Pharisees in front of the rest of the community.

After the teaching, we celebrated Communion. SWMBO and I had the honor to serve along with 7 other couples. It was a very moving ceremony, my eyes got all blurry as we sang the Lord's Prayer to close the conference.

Depending on where we are, we will probably attend again next year. Next year's conference is being held at the same time as the 2010 GA. One of the goals for next year's conference is to fill the Anderson Center to overflowing. So, if you aren't a commissioner to the GA, come to the CLC as there will be prayers flowing from Montreat asking that the Spirit helps renew the PCUSA.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Third day at Montreat.

Last night ended with another great talk by Dr. Ridgill, who managed to get the assembled Presbyterians to witness when asked with a loud Amen.

Today, started out with a great devotional, then a bible study wrap-up by Dr. Bailey on his insights into the parable of the Prodigal Son which, when viewed through Dr. Bailey's over 20 years in the Middle East, showed us that the usual take on this parable would not have been the point (or points) that Jesus was making when He told the story.

As real estate agents say Location, Location, Location, Dr. Bailey emphasized Context, Context, Context, and the context of that parable was of the 1st century Palestine, when the head of the household, in this case the father of the parable, would have never acted in the way the parable describes. I would heartily recommend finding Dr. Bailey's Jacob and the Prodigal: How Jesus Retold Israel's Story to discover Dr. Bailey's insights. BTW .. he is still finding themes in the parable that he did not notice previously.

A Seminar with PFR's Paul Detterman and Bob Snelling was next on my list, Congregational Renewal in the 21st Century. This was interesting as it was more a way for Paul and Bob to get some ideas on how to target renewal training in the future. We had about 4 groups of 5 or 6 discussing questions as put out by Bob. This group had some great insights on what may be needed for reaching out to the 30 & 40-somethings who do not get church or who may not see a need for church renewal.

Right now SWMBO is attending a seminar on Holistic Faith Nurture in a Fragmented World, which will cover faith nurture at home and church. How can the joy of nurturing faith spill out of a 45-minute Sunday School class into the whole of our congregations life? I hope to get some insight from her. Me ... I need a breather. They sell a t-shirt here, that reads Montreat ... its not flat. Boy do I agree !!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Second Day at Montreat

Second day at Montreat, fantastic morning devotion, a bible study by Dr. Ken Bailey, worship with a Dr. Bailey sermon; and a concert by David Bailey (Dr. Bailey's son), could a Sunday be made better? Yes, another plenary session with sermon by Dr. Alice Ridgill.

And so it goes ...

Renewal at Montreat

SWMBO and I are attending the Christian Life Conference held at Montreat every year by Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR). This first evening consisted of registration, and then the keynote speaker. This is our first time at the conference, but it has been going on since 1972.

Our keynote speaker, the Rev. Dr. Alice Ridgell, is a very powerful speaker, coming from the African-American tradition of preaching. Having listened to my friends from Plodding Theological Seminary talk about the homiletics classes they've gone through, it was very interesting to hear her, and pick up on the repetition that a good sermon must have to reinforce the teachings therein.

The conference theme this year is Our Father's Love, and the sermon's topic of No Greater Love kept referring back to that theme, which was printed on the banners hanging from the Anderson Assembly Hall stage. She kept referring back to those banners and its theme, by gestures and turning toward them when emphasizing her topic. Very effective preaching. A few AMENs were heard from the Frozen Chosen in the pews at salient points, something you would not have expected considering the light complexion of the assemblage.

The worship leader is the Rev. Dr. Robert Austell, who blogs at lighthouse/searchlight church. He brought some of his worship team with him, and the group is fabulous. He's doing a blend of traditional and contemporary music, and I can really get into that. However, some in the assemblage do not feel the same way.

After the keynote, many of us migrated to Assembly Hall's upper lobby for a hymn sing. Using the blue hymnal, we sang many outstanding traditional hymns. The Rev. Paul Detterman, Executive Director of PFR, and an outstanding musician and singer in his own right (his very precise tenor kept me on the tenor line all evening ... well mostly), accompanied on the piano as people called out their favorite hymns. That said, I wished for a red hymnal so that we could sing Onward Christian Soldiers which didn't make it into the blue hymnal as (I'm given to understand) it was too militaristic. Talk about misunderstanding the words and thoughts behind that great hymn.

Anyway, one gentleman of great years remarked at the end of the sing, that the earlier worship music time left him unfulfilled, and this hymn sing made him filled. As my wife commented as we walked to our car, we weren't singing for him. Kind of sums up many of the issued of the music wars in our churches. What are now traditional hymns were as contemporary in their day, and probably had the same complaints as our contemporary hymns do today. Which reminds me, I need to get in touch with the music director at Stodgy Presbyterian. We need to select a few contemporary hymns and songs to start our praise and worship time starting on the 12th. These ten minutes prior to our Summer worship is the closest we can get to a contemporary or blended worship right now.

And so it goes ....

Missed the prairie ....

Hmm ... I occurred to me that I had a theme going there for the past few posts, then I missed a 4th of July post. So, having mentioned the river(s), and the mountains, I had to mention the prairies on what will be a 4th of July post.

That said, I also missed any live fireworks (other than those being set off by individuals), as I was busy elsewhere last evening. More on that in the next post.

Anyway, we hit the road again on the 3rd, leaving the river and Florida behind, and arrived at the waypoint without much of a kitty opera. I think the cats have gotten accustomed to the road a bit. The white one has taken to it fully, she has no problem with getting on the dashboard and lying there as we travel the roads. Passengers in passing cars tend to do a double take. The grey one just sits under my seat, and complains whenever we hit a bump on the road. Still, its better than a chorus of Aida for an hour or so as we heard when we started out.

Its orange barrel time in the South, and Georgia has taken full advantage of it. I-95 is being torn up in parts, with the highway going from 3 to 2 lanes, and lane shifts all over the place. Evidently there were some very timid souls heading south to Florida on the 3rd (along with most of the east coast it seemed), as these normal summer occurrences seemed to have scared them into a crawl. Which then caused a backup, which I measured at 7 to 8 miles long, and growing. Those of us heading north, had no such issues.

Made the final half of the trip to Montreat on the 4th, and it seemed like all the idiots came out to play. You had the people who did not believe the right side view mirror when it says that Things may be closer then they seem in the mirror. I had two drivers who almost clipped me while passing me and moving back into the right hand lane. FWIW ... I always stay in the slow lane with the RV, usually doing 65 although some states have a speed limit of 70. The RV can do that easily, but with a mileage of 8 or 9 MPG, I'd rather save a bit on gas.

The other idiot was the type that my wife and I call a rock in the road. Did you ever watch a stream or brook as it flows. They normally flow quite fast, until they hit a rock in the stream bed, then there's turbulence, and the stream slows. The same happens on the road with traffic, which has a fluid dynamic. Traffic flows swiftly, until it reaches someone that is not doing the speed limit. While I admit that I keep the RV about 5 mph below the limit, the real rocks are those drivers who: a) do less than the limit in the left hand, or passing lane, or b) pull onto a highway using the on ramp, and never even try to accelerate to something approaching the speed limit until after everyone who had to slow down to make way for them entering the highway has panicked, slowing down even less than the idiot who didn't properly merge in the first place.

What really galls me about these types is that after I have moved to the left lane to avoid what would have been an interesting meeting with the idiot, then they proceed to speed up to either pass me, or keep me from moving back to the right hand lane. So I slow down to get over, and I get the interesting hand gestures from those I inconvenienced.

Then we arrived at the KOA in Swannanoa, just outside of Montreat, and I was ready for some renewal ... and a quick shower.

And so it goes ....

Thursday, July 2, 2009

To the mountains ....

We're getting packed up and ready to head to the mountains of North Carolina and Montreat. The PFR's Christian Life Conference is being held there this weekend, so on the 4th we'll be enjoying some great worship, seminars, and fellowship.

Hope to see some of you there.