Friday, May 26, 2006

Gman's Memorial day weekend Qs

Feeling like I'm gettin' called out on this weeks questions so here we go. You'll find G-man's answers through the link in the title.

"Wherefore comfort one another with these words" - 1 Thess. 4:18

1. How are you comforting one another?
Call it a ministry of presence. I'm just trying to be there for some folks.

2. What does your Youth ministry do in the summer?
When I was still doing congregational stuff we took the summer off mostly. One event a month, something fun - go canoeing, hit the amusement park, etc. Now it's CAMP TIME!!!!!!!

3. How far in advance do you plan?
Not nearly far enough. I'm trying to get at least 6 months ahead. We can usually lay out the rough dates for a program year.

4. What is something frustrating for you this week?
My ongoing struggles with my mother's estate. Don't even get me started.

5. What is something encouraging for you this week?
Spent some time meeting with various folks at the diocese and came away encouraged with their ideas and support for youth ministry.

6. How are you spiritually?
Ummmmm, not where I'd like to be. Just kind of marking time.

7. What are you watching on TV?
Season finales and series finales for West Wing, ER, Numbers, Two and a Half Men, all the CSI's, etc

A. Prayer - Watch over my friend Lee who is struggling mightily with serious problems
B. Praise - I'll say it again, you did great work with the lady in my life!
C. Other - As my church heads into our national convention be with us.

Copyright 2006. Gerrard R. Fess. Permission to pass everywhere. Especially those
thinking the Sabres-Canes series is going to be a long one. (That would be me! Go Sabres!)


Thursday, May 25, 2006

As promised...and late

I promised that I'd share my thoughts on the movie "The Da Vinci Code" after seeing it last weekend and one thing after another has gotten in the way. So here are my quick thoughts on the movie, as both a movie lover and youth minister.

As a Movie - I really enjoyed the movie. My feeling was that the tempo was a little slow but given the amount of explaining that had to be done that may be impossible to avoid. There's a lot of folks who claim that if you didn't read the book you won't understand the film and I think that's nonsense. I read the book and got confused in a couple of places. If you have to understand everything about a movie you watch take a friend who's read the book or read it yourself (it's a quick read). Or just shrug off the stuff you don't understand and follow the action. It's a fun movie and I'd certainly recommend it.

As Theology/History - It is an enormous load of you know what. The history is suspect, the whole conspiracy is based on an exposed fraud (the dossiers secrete which is the "proof" of the Priory). Could Jesus have been in love and even married Mary Magdalene? Sure. Is there ANY substantial proof of it? None that either the book or the movie can show you. It's all based on coulda/woulda/shouldas. Ten minutes on Google will clear up most of the "revelations". Nothing to get excited about. Are there legitimate questions about the treatment of women by the church and in the church? Of course there are. My real question is IF the "Holy Grail" is in fact Jesus' bloodline, what the heck are they waiting for?

A threat to the Faith - Well given that I think this is an enormous bucket of drivel I'm astounded that anyone's faith might be affected by this. If this tips you over then your faith was mighty thin. And if the church can't easily answer the questions raised by the book/movie then we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. A little less panic, a little more thoughtful teaching please.

A threat to the Roman Catholic church and Opus Dei - More much ado about nothing in my opinion. In both cases we're shown that it's a small band of renegades within the structure of the church (and without) that are responsible. They even acknowledge that they'd be in big trouble if they got caught. As for the historical failures of the church in Rome those are well documented. Given that every other denomination has it own share of black eyes and shortcomings I think it best if we attend to our own planks. While I have disagreements with both the RCC and OD I think they could unruffle their feathers over this rather lightweight jab in their direction as well.

So bottom line? Good movie for entertainment, good movie for DISCUSSING the faith issues raised, bad movie if you're an uptight person of faith who's positive everyone is out to get you. My advice? Unclench your cheeks, buy an extra large popcorn and have some fun.


Monday, May 22, 2006

From Gman

Gman is right on the money with this one. You can check out his blog with the link on the right here. I'm quoting today's posting in its entirety because you need to see it all. Sounds like my kinda book too.

Don't Rock the Boat.

In Rick Bundschuh's book, Don't Rock the Boat, Capsize It, he writes the following on page 56:

"Give a cat enough bowls of milk, diversion, and careful petting, and sooner or later that independent feline comes and jumps into your lap, plays with you without breaking your skin with its teeth -- or even goes far as to give you a lick of love.

I have to admit that cat herding can be frustrating. The floating, low commitment level of many people entering the community of faith is a terrible commentary of what our culture has produced. It plays havoc with decency and order. And those with feline tendencies will find that God is out to change them in a serious way ....

I've come to the conclusion that assuming the church is full of people waiting eagerly to be guided toward godliness is a load of crock. This is the desire of some, to be sure, but the vast majority of folks are a complicated tangle of spiritual and carnal desires, hurt, insecurity, ignorance, misconstrued priorities, and pride. .....

Sometimes we have to learn the hard way about herding our cats. We have misread or presumed our congregation and launched some Bible study or church ministry that bombed.

If we were leading sheep it would be easy to get bitter and start talking to ourselves in the 'I work hard to give these ungrateful folks what they need to grow spiritually and they can't even commit to one evening a week to attend a home Bible study' mode. But when we came to realize we were leading cats, we just figured that we would have to rethink the whole way of doing church."

Man, this hit me hard. It is where our church is at. Rethinking. Trying to seek and be connected to the vine. Herding cats.

Rick's book is a must read for anyone who loves the church, and doesn't want to leave it in her current status.


Friday, May 19, 2006

The Visitors Center

I tend to write primarily with Episcopalians in mind. That's probably short sighted on my part but I've never been a member of any other denomination (although I'm working with some ELCA congregations right now). I think in terms of the church I grew up in and continue to be a member of today. As I've spent more time meeting youth ministers from other denominations I realize that not everyone thinks the way I do (GASP!) or even understands where I'm coming from.

So I'm happy to include a link to The Visitors' Center at the home page of my denomination. It's a good place to get started with who we are and what we believe and even how to find the closest Episcopal church near you. If you're so inclined. The link is in the title to this post.

Also at the center is the results of a poll they did of Episcopalians about the most "notable" Episcopalians/Anglicans. You can find the results here. I've added my two cents already and invite you to do likewise.

The only one I had any problem with is Henry VIII who is commonly held to have "founded" the Anglican church. I think a closer reading of history would show that Henry would find that conclusion rather surprising. Henry had great energy for burning and hanging Reformation types in England, both before and after the annulment of his first wife.

But that's one of my pet hobby horses.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Da Vinci Code

I'm looking forward to this weekend since I hope to see the movie. I enjoyed the book. Yeah I know, that's going to make some folks nervous. I didn't believe the book and even a little bit of research shows what a bunch of malarky it is. But it's FICTION! I thought it was a fun, Saturday afternoon with nothing to do kind of a read.

Of course I've just been scanning some reviews of the movie and they're running about 2-1 that it's a bad movie. Not theologically bad (which it certainly is) but that it's just a BAD movie. Best critique I read was "Welcome to the 2006 Ishtar"

Ishtar is probably the worst movie I ever watched. It's the only one that I stopped in mid viewing and never finished. Horrible.

So after I see it, I'll let you know.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A dreaded day passes without incident

Had one of those days I dread. Time for a physical. Since I'm just a little bit of a hypochondriac (don't tell me the symptoms of some new disease!) I always worry when the doctor mumbles to themselves and marks thing down on the paper. I'm always certain that they're thinking "Wow, I've never heard on do THAT before!", or "Well, THAT'S not good". Plus I got hooked up to an EKG machine. Being connected to medical electronics is never a good thing. Plus the usual poking and prodding and peering....

And I'm fine. Heck my new doctor called me "normal". She's new, she'll learn differently!

So other than my good cholesterol being a little low and my blood sugar being a little high (neither of them serious, just need to be watched) I'm the picture of health for a slightly overweight middle aged guy.

Life is good.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Things I think I think

I stole the title from a columnist somewhere. I don't remember who any more. But I always loved that title and the columns that came with it. Just some free association:

Sometimes I take this whole "lay minister" thing a shade too seriously.
I was a radio DJ for 19.5 years and a college DJ for 2 years before that. I love music. But I'm not a big fan of contemporary Christian music. While the musicianship has gone up dramatically over the last 30 years too much of it strikes me as fawning and precious. But I'm a minister! That's serious stuff, so I should only have serious music in my office. While I love classical music it's not what I want playing when I'm writing or working around the office. So I've largely gone without music here in my little office for the last five years. And it has been a colossal drag.
So I'm experimenting with some online radio stations, trying to find someplace that I can sample all the different kinds of tunes I enjoy. To be honest I'm finding a lot of them annoying. I'll keep looking so I can find something that I can play in the background of whatever other work I'm doing on the computer.

It's hard being a Pittsburgh sports fan right now
Yeah, I'm well aware that the Steelers won the Super Bowl this year. But as a died in the wool Black and Gold fan it's hard to watch the Penguins and Pirates just be so very very awful. Thank God I've become a Buffalo fan too so I have the Sabres to root for right now.

I keep forgetting how hard change is
I have several changes going on in my life both personally and professionally. What I'd really like is for the change to just happen, thank you very freaking much, and get over it. What happens in real life is that it drags on and insists on getting complicated and just is never easy. I need to remember this the next time I want to bloviate about how the older generation keeps dragging their feet over changes in the church. Easy to be brave when it's not your life being changed.

I'm very excited and very worried about General Convention
I will be there again in an observers role, as I was three years ago. I'm excited about the amazing experience and the good things that will come from this meeting. I'm also concerned that we may dither on the controversial subjects rather than simply and humbly say "We're sorry that you're offended but we believe this is where we are led to be". I grow weary of both sides who stopped listening long ago. It's time to put up or shut up. I'm also coming to the conclusion that there should be a remodelling of GC altogether. As wonderful as it is, it is also a massive bloated monster in so many ways.

I think that's enough.

Friday, May 12, 2006

On Mother's Day

I suppose I need to deal with this.

The day after tomorrow is Mother's Day. The first one without my mother.

All the advertising and "Make sure you get something for Mom" messages are really starting to bug me. I want to yell at the TV "I would if I could you jerk! Now buzz off and leave me alone"

Part of it was the typical "I should have done more when she was alive". That's pointless for two reasons. First because history is history and no amount of wishing can change that. I did what I did (and didn't). That chapter is closed. Khalil Gibran wrote:

"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it."

The second point is that while I wasn't the perfect son I did OK. We talked on a regular basis. When she needed me I was there. Like the woman in the Gospel I think it can be said of me "He did the best he can". I have to hope that's true because I don't get the chance to improve.

Both of my parents are gone (my father's final illness actually began on Father's Day). I've thought about how to remember them. Both of them would want me to remember them by how I live my life, to be the person they raised me to be. I shall do everything in my power to do just that. But I need to set a day aside when I shall remember them and hold their memories close. Many people would choose the dates of their birth or their death. Their deaths are not what I want to remember and their births are at opposite ends of the year. I could choose Mother's Day or Father's Day. But Father's Day especially will never be the same for me. Certainly not the day to remember my dad.

And so I chose the day that they chose. At the beginning of February, a day in 1956 when the snows fell onto the uniform of a young Navy officer and the dress of his bride. The day my family began, their wedding anniversary.

It means I have to wait almost a year. That's fine. They're worth the wait.

Now the burden of Mother's Day doesn't seem quite so heavy.


Monday, May 08, 2006

But then we already knew this...

Offered without further comment:

You Are 60% Weird

You're so weird, you think you're *totally* normal. Right?
But you wig out even the biggest of circus freaks!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

And there was much lamenting...

The big news in YM this week is the sale of Youth Specialties to the folks at Zondervan. If you've talked to me about resources for youth ministry you've heard me talk about YS. I don't work for them (although I did serve as a moderator on their forums prior to the forums going on hiatus. For that I got the occasional small gift) and I don't get a percentage for any sales that come from my recommendation. I recommend them because I like their stuff and use it. Mike Yaconelli's books have been a GREAT inspiration to me over the last couple years, not only in youth ministry but in my faith life. I got to meet Mike once and shake his hand. It's a special moment for me.
So what's all the hoohoo about? Well, YS has always had a feel of a free wheeling, let's see where the Spirit takes us kind of organization. They have to have had some basic good business practices to stay in business as long as they have and still put on some major events. So that "Hey kids, let's put on a show" feeling is probably a certain amount perception rather than completely true. The bottom line is this:

YS has done some good stuff over the years.
They were attractive enough to tempt Zondervan to spend some cold hard cash on them.
Zondervan wants them to succeed.
And so do we.

So I'm still firmly in the YS camp (I'm not a fanatic. I also use and recommend stuff from Group and several other places). I look forward to what may develop out of being part of an org with slightly deeper pockets.

And I think we all need to take a breath. Even if YS disappeared tomorrow we'd have the wisdom that has grown under their stewardship to carry with us into the future.

Based on what I've read by Yac, I think he'd advise some of us to chill.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

With New Eyes

This is my column from the May issue of ChurchActs, our diocesan newspaper

I had an interesting experience the other day. I was driving down the road to Jamestown, a road I have driven for about 30 years. At one corner along the way I suddenly realized that I had never noticed a certain building there before. In my defense the building is set back off the road a little way. At the same time it's a medium sized two story barn! I have no memory of that barn. I find it hard to believe that I never look that direction every time I drive by. So I must have seen it but it just never registered before.
As I continued on my drive I thought about that barn. And then I thought about young people (bet that comes as a big surprise!). Have you ever felt like your life was like that barn? Ever felt like everyone's driving by and not paying you any attention at all? There were certainly times when I was in high school when that was true. I wasn't the smartest kid in school, I wasn't an athlete, I wasn't the most gifted performer in the school musicals and I was a loooooong way from being the most popular person in my school. There were times when it felt pretty awful, being that barn.
But there's not really a whole lot the barn can do about it, is there? You can wish you were bigger barn, a more attractive barn, a flashier barn, that you were a little closer to the road or maybe even on a better road. Or what if you hadn't been created a barn at all? Why couldn't you have been made a house, or a mansion or City Hall? Of course that's not the way it works out. In the end we all have to be the barn we were created to be.
Okay, I'll stop with the barn metaphor.
Because I really want to talk about the folks who drive by and don't notice. How many people are there in your life? I'll bet you just added up your family, friends, some teachers and maybe a few others. Is that really all the people in your life or did you just count the people that you want in your life (or with whom you're stuck, like brothers and sisters)? The reality is that all of us have many more people in our lives than we think. How many of them do we just cruise by each day without a second thought? How many people do you cruise by every day in the hallway at school and never even notice? If they disappeared tomorrow would you even notice? Our faith calls us to not only notice those people but to make sure that they're Okay too. Jesus talks repeatedly about caring for the poor and the weak and the suffering. When we choose to ignore, or even worse put down, someone we're not helping them and we're increasing their suffering.
Now it would be easy to think that I'm really aiming this at the group that my daughter refers to as “The Populars”. You know the supposed cream of high school society. In reality this applies to everyone whether you're one of the “cool kids” or not. Every one in your life is in your care at least a little bit. It's amazing how something simple like a smile and a “Hi” can make all the difference in the world. Sometimes it's surprising who needs that little extra help too.
Our call to faith involves everyone around us. It calls us to help those who need help. At a more fundamental level I think it calls us to pay attention. How will we know if someone needs help if we just zoom right past them.
How many people are there in your life that are just barns you zoom by? How many people suffer needlessly because we go by heedlessly? Use your eyes as instruments of your faith and see how many “new” barns you discover.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Thoughts on the Bible

Real Live Preacher is one of my favorite blogs. He recently posted an entry concerning the Bible that I think is worth reading.

Dear RLP