Monday, March 28, 2005

Of the latest news

This is a post that some folks would tell me I shouldn't put up. It's probably not wise and it's probably not a career move and it's probably ill advised.

And I'm doing it anyway.

What follows are MY opinions. They do not represent the diocese which employs me or the congregation that is my home. This is mine and mine alone. If you need to be ticked off at someone it's me and me alone.

On Wednesday of last week my bishop took the hour and a half long drive down here to my little corner of the world. I knew what he was there to talk about I just didn't know how bad it was going to be. We found an empty office and sat down. There was no point in beating around the bush, he said. We're cutting your job by 20%, from 5 days a week to 4. The reason wasn't because I don't have enough to do (HA!) or because I haven't done a good job. The reason is budgetary. The bishop had to find some $85,000 dollars in savings to balance the budget. And a bunch of us saw our wages get cut. A friend of mine lost her job.

And I'm angry.

This is the part I probably shouldn't write. Why are we in such straits? Because some congregations and some individuals have chosen to withhold their contributions from the diocese. If you follow the Episcopal church you know why so I won't go into the details. Let me note that while I may not agree with their theological position I respect their right to it and the anger they feel about what has happened. But I have a problem with them playing financial games to "punish" people.

Episcopalians are defined at the diocesan level. We are gathered around a bishop. When we decide that our congregational needs/wants/desires/thoughts are more important than the diocesan ones we are rejecting a fundamental part of the classical/traditional Episcopal church. If you want to disagree with those diocesan thoughts please do. We have a variety of methods for doing that and a long history of encouraging just such discourse. It's the problem a lot of folks have with Anglicanism in general, the ability to hold two conflicting points of view in tension within the same body. But we seem to have left that behind for mutual "my way or the highway"s. The idea that traditional anglicanism is being defended by abandoning core understandings like the centrality of the diocesan structure is inexplicable to me. Anglicanism has been defined by our liturgy not our theology.

But when I set aside my anger (which I will grant you comes from the hurt my family suffers) I need to note this. My question is who are you punishing? Just in regards to my own little patch - If we continue down this path here's what I see happening in youth ministry:

Costs Go Up The amount of money that can be used to underwrite base costs for camps and Happening will decline. Those costs will rotate onto the families of our youth. It will make these events less inviting, and less accessible.

Programs Cut This isn't fear mongering. Programs will either become economically unfeasible and be eliminated or the programs themselves will suffer cuts to try and keep them afloat. We'll eliminate portions or reduce the scope of things like camp (maybe 3 days instead of 7). Maybe good will come of that but it's not sustainable in the long run. In the long run you don't see growth by consistently cutting investment.

Growth slows As fewer assets are available, and more of them are put into maintaining current programs all new ministry is left to shift for its own. We move away from mission towards maintenance.

There's a possibility that next year will see greater cuts in the position of the Youth Missioner or even possible elimination.

I don't want this to be a tirade against my traditional brothers and sisters. That's not my intent. But I will demand from them an answer to the question I asked above: Who's being punished?

Yeah I probably shouldn't have posted this.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A personal milestone

Well it was a moment of personal history yesterday. My gas gauge was showing empty and I'd even gotten down to the point where the little gas pump icon lit up. This drives my wife crazy. She never lets her tank get below a quarter of a tank. Being a man I assure her that I know how close I can cut it and all is well. She reminds me that I've run out of gas several times during our marriage and the she hasn't ever. Feeling that it's unfair for her to resort to facts I simply ignore her.

But anyway...

I cruised up to the pumps and got the fuel flowing. This is one of those stations that still lets you put the pump on auto so you can do other things rather than sit there freezing holding the lever. So I'm dusting the snow off the lights and the windows a little more while it chugs away. When I heard it kick I checked the total and felt like I'd gotten kicked.

$30. Actually just over that. But that's a first. I don't drive an SUV. Technically I believe my car is classified as a compact. It gets around 22 in the city (mileage that is) and 32 on the highway. The tank only holds a little over 13 gallons.


I remember when gasoline sold for 30 CENTS a gallon! And the gas wars that drove it even lower. Of course I also remember getting toys when my dad filled up and people who came out and filled it up for you.

30 bucks.

It boggles the mind.


Friday, March 18, 2005

Buncha stuff

Wow I thought I was way behind but I discover that I'm not. No pressing issues for me to fulminate about so just a few thoughts that wandered across my forehead.

One of you readers (I think it was Drew) got me started thinking about a phrase from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. If you don't know Bonhoeffer google him and learn. You'll be a better person for knowing him. Anyway he wrote about how our faith should infect our entire lives.

Infect. What a great image.

So I was thinking about how that would really work in day to day life. Do we all become monks and nuns? I don't think that's where he was going with it. But I do think this may be in line with it. It's still winter where I am, cold and damp and nasty. I was watching one of the supermarket employees doing what HAS to be the worst job this time of year. Playing grocery cart cowboy. How often do we look out the windshield of our car and see a cart that's been left by someone who can't or more likely simply won't take the time to put it into one of the corrals? So my infection now will show in a new way. I will continue to put my cart away and if there are carts in the area of my car I'll put them away too. Not for thanks or glory or a crown in heaven. Just because I can and I can ease the way of another human being doing it.

I had a death in my extended "family" this week. She had been my summer time "Mom" for several years and a friend of my family since I was in third grade. Her son is one of my best friends in the world and her daughter is as close to a sister as I've ever had. But this past Wednesday she was ready to go. It had been a long illness that had left her bedridden and unable to enjoy life. And enjoying life seemed to be one of Ellen's best things. When I think of Ellen I think of two things one happy one sad. The sad one is I always think of a cigarette. The habit may or may not have killed her but it didn't help in so many ways. The happy one is her laugh. There was nothing small about Ellen's laugh. In fact she lived most of her life large. I haven't seen her in a couple years (she'd come up to my neck of the woods most summers and I'd make sure to see her)and as is too often the case I realize what a dope I'd been by letting "life" (which is mostly stupid and unimportant stuff) get in the way of people. I'm sorry I didn't make the time to spend some time with her. I'll miss her. I believe she's in a better place with her husband Ralph and my Dad and her folks and many other people she loved. Goodbye Ellen.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Mild Language

I was in a video arcade the other day. Yes, I go to video arcades. I like video arcades. I have games I play regularly when I'm there. My current favorite is a sniper game called "Silent Scope". I shoot the bad guys and I get extra points for shooting them in the head. You're just going to have to learn to deal with it.

As I was exchanging my money for tokens I noticed a sign on the wall explaining the "ratings" for each of the game. Down at the bottom was one listed as "Mild Language" which explained that meant the games used "commonly heard four letter words"

Ummmmm, OK.

That would be like, cake and milk and work, right?

No,probably not.

When did that kind of language (I don't really have to give you a list right?) become "Mild Language"? When did it become socially acceptable? When did it stop being a big deal?

I'll be honest, I know all those words (and many more) and have used them all. Still do. But there's no pretense that they are "nice" words or "acceptable" words. They are profane words. My dictionary lists profane as meaning "vulgar or coarse". I use them as expressions of profound emotions. They are not playthings, not childish toys to be tossed around carelessly.

I've made my living for over two decades using language and the lack of respect for language I see today concerns me. We're far too likely to just brush something off by saying "That's not what I meant" as if that solves the problem. Words have power. Words have meanings. Meanings that can change based on context and delivery. They're damned dangerous things and should be treated as such.

Commonly used four letter words. Shouldn't those be glad and love and life?