Tag Archives: Church

A Call For Awkward

If you don’t have a young adult presence at your church, try finding a few that you trust borrow or bribe them, whatever you need to do to get them there — and have them attend a service and tell you what’s awkward about coming to your church for the first, second, or tenth times. And then do something to change those problem spots. It takes a very brave and dedicated millennial to overcome the hurdles of a complex institution and to actively work to find their way to the center of the community, especially if they were not raised in the church.

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What if we don’t want their church? – 3/25/13

I happen to completely disagree with this article which might mean I am part of the problem.  It might be the fact that I am cradle Episcopalian and couldn’t belong to any other denomination no matter the reason.  It might be that as an Episcopalian I have a deep appreciation for history, sentimentality, and ritual.  It might be that I think that we have no cultural identity as Americans and I am grasping for an identity to hold on to.  It might be that I rail against the current generations and long for the stability and loyalty of generations past.  I am not sure what the reason but while I don’t need the furniture, I do need the institution.  The question is what am I willing to do about it and am I alone in this opinion.

Don’t Wish for Cupcakes

cupcake

by Steve Mullaney

God invites us this Advent to stand at our doorsteps, look into our neighborhood, and join God in the ways that God is already working in our community.  It is all too easy to only look inwards–into our church building–and spot problems that aren’t really problems: we need more young adults/young families; our Sunday School attendance was much higher in the 90’s; if only we had a fireplace room/bigger kitchen/waterslide that goes directly into the baptismal font then we would be a Good Church.

God has already given us the gifts that we need to engage in ministry.  It is harder to see how God is working in our community when we put up obstacles towards participation in God’s Mission.  “First let me build a Sunday School program” sounds a lot like “First I must go see my oxen” in the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24).  When we wish for our churches to look like they did in the 1950’s we miss the ways that God is calling God’s church to be in this moment.  We must look ridiculous, wishing for cupcakes like Lou in Tony Carillo’s “F Minus”, instead of throwing ourselves into God’s mission and trusting God to use our gifts to help meet the world’s needs.

 John the Baptist asks us to repent–to turn back towards God.  Let go of the trappings of the institutional church and “the way things have always been”, turn towards the ways that we are being called by God to be the hands and feet of Christ.  Don’t wish for cupcakes; pray for deeper engagement in the ways God continues to move and transform.

Steve Mullaney is the Missioner for Young Adult & College Ministry for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota and the Organizer at the University Episcopal Community in Minneapolis.

Exodus

exodusThere is a bush burning in the middle of our country. By it, perhaps, nothing is being consumed.

Exodus International has capsized and is in flames. “I’m sorry to those who have been harmed” and the closing of doors does little to raise the dead or to undo the assumptions that undid the health of so many.  As actions they fail to apologize for the reasons for the wrongdoing: the assumption of brokenness, less-than-ness and unholiness the leaders have attached to the queer soul.

And yet, standing here in the presence of the roaring I am nonetheless compelled to take the shoes from off my feet. This burning is holy. An organization which brought destruction on so many lives, a center of gravity which has become a symbol for self-hatred has gone out of being. At that we have to rejoice.

But by it we must also be sent. BP’s dispersant in the Gulf does not eliminate the oil, it only makes it invisible and lessens its immediate harm. But Egypt still stands. Souls remain in captivity and though stuttering and outcast, we are the ones who must go.

I am the one who must go.

Looking at my own soul I see that there was safety in the clarity of the Exodus marker of otherness, the correlation of red and homophobic. But without the label, I risk encountering this other as a human being. I risk loving him or her and being transformed by him or her. I risk not immediately knowing to pass or shout and instead finding myself being honest. I risk that he or she might be converted by me– that I might lose my righteousness next to her humility.

There is a holiness to this burning. Nothing is perhaps consumed, but in it, let us see the ground that is holy, the fire that is Godly, and ourselves who are sent.

Sucks to be you, pastor.

Check out this article on how much it sucks to be a pastor. Well, not really, but it does beg the question of why anyone would feel called to this kind of work. Some of the stats it shares are:

  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
  • 70% of pastors  do not have someone they consider a closefriend.
  • Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year. 
  • 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 45.5 % of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.

The truth is it’s a hard time to be a faith leader no matter who you are, no matter how kind and genuine and personable and intelligent and fun/ny you are.  We just don’t really take faith seriously as a culture and we often don’t understand (or respect) those who make it their work.

And it gets far worse for those operating within existing institutions with unrealistic and unrelenting expectations coming from both within and without.

I have to wonder what  it would look like if we as a body of believers or non-believers revered those who make it their life’s work to build up and support communities of people seeking after something bigger than themselves. It wouldn’t have to mean lessening accountability but it would mean deepening the relationships of trust between us. It would mean loosening our grip on what we expect of our leaders and instead encouraging and protecting them as they do the necessarily creative and entrepreneurial work to which they are called. 

In order for that to happen though, we’d probably also need to loosen our grip on our ideas about where God might be and let these individuals help us to shut up long enough to let the I AM, the source of all being, make itself known to us in unexpected places.

If we could do all that, maybe our joy at encountering God might carry over to those who have helped to bring us to that place and maybe it wouldn’t suck so much to be a pastor.

See, Hear and Understand: On the Feast Day of Saint Mark

Yesterday I had the opportunity to deliver a sermon about the feast day of Saint Mark, the evangelist. Mark who is said to have run away naked from the garden at Gethsemane, Mark who accompanied Peter, Mark the father of the African church, who confronts us again and again with a secretive worker of miracles, Peter’s Jesus, perplexing, enigmatic and powerful.  Here are some of my thoughts.

I work on the campus of a church dedicated to Mark, St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle. It is one of the most bizarre liturgical spaces in the Episcopal church. Bunker-like and spare, the unfinished concrete walls soar into the sky, framing tall arched windows, the panes catching hints of greens, pinks, and oranges, like scales of a fish. High above, enormous wooden beams give the sense of a rustic pub built for giants, great iron chandeliers tumbling down throughout. Continue reading

Rob Bell Is Becoming A Man I Can Say Speaks For Me

This interview about Rob Bell’s new book tells me that Rob Bell is becoming the type of guy that speaks for the Christianity I know and love.  The fact that he ignores the nay sayers just makes me want to do the same.  Give me strength Rob Bell!

What if we don’t want their church?

I happen to completely disagree with this article which might mean I am part of the problem.  It might be the fact that I am cradle Episcopalian and couldn’t belong to any other denomination no matter the reason.  It might be that as an Episcopalian I have a deep appreciation for history, sentimentality, and ritual.  It might be that I think that we have no cultural identity as Americans and I am grasping for an identity to hold on to.  It might be that I rail against the current generations and long for the stability and loyalty of generations past.  I am not sure what the reason but while I don’t need the furniture, I do need the institution.  The question is what am I willing to do about it and am I alone in this opinion.

Badass Saints

imagesWho are some of your favorite badass saints?