June 2007


I am on vacation this week at Chautauqua Institution. It has been a fabulous first two days. President Thomas M Becker tapped the gavel three times and officially opened the 134th session of Chautauqua and the tradition that seemed so overly formal last year was refreshingly welcomed this year. Rev. John M. Buchanan, pastor of Fourth Street Presbyterian Church in Chicago preached the opening message. The message of God speaking to Job in the whirlwind was inspiring and challenging.

I had the opportunity to sit at a table with pastors that had served in ministry a minimum of 40 years. We talked abut church, conflict, lay leaders, spiritual discipline, marriage, their mistakes and triumphs. I took two messages away that I will share real quickly.

Every church has experiences that have developed the character and leadership skills of the laity. This is a gift that every church can offer a new clergy person. What is your church’s gift that they can teach you to be a better pastor?

I think this is profound as I talk to pastors who are always telling me what they have to teach and get across to their congregations. Do we as pastor’s (especially whose who are in disciple making churches) listen enough?

The second take away is that no change should occur in your church where 20% of the worshipping congregation can not explain the reason and rational for the change. If less than 20% of your congregation is sufficiently informed, you have not shared it clearly with enough people.

I think that this is profound as I see all of the top down decisions that pastor’s make and implement and claim that “this is for the good of the congregation.” If most of us communicated clearly the reason for change to 20% of the congregation we would have greater buy in and less resistance to change.

I check back in later on !

Unpaid Sick Leave Diminishing for Poor

Listen to this story...

Morning Edition, June 20, 2007 · Half of working Americans don’t receive a sick day. For low-wage workers, one out of every four workers doesn’t get a sick day. Beth Shulman, labor consultant and author of The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans, talks with Steve Inskeep about the issue.

Last week I went to pick up some wings from a restaurant that was recommended to me.  The experience that I had has challenged, frustrated and angered me. The strip mall was not far from our church but I had only passed the many shops.  I had never engaged the people who worked and hung out in that row of nail salons, beauty shops, delicatessens and restaurants.

 I experienced men who were unemployed whose conversations were filled with hopelessness and despair.  I found shops owned by foreigners who were not involved in the community but sucked the economic viability out of the community.  The convenience store had every brand of cigarette, bags of loose tobacco, bakery goods, candy and chips.  The coolers in the front of the store had soda and ice cream.  I had to go to the back of the store to find water, milk and I saw no fruit, eggs or other staples.

 I walked the entire length of the mall to experience one African American owned business, one organization that was empowering the community or one business that was supporting community initiatives to change the sense of hopelessness and despair.  Besides the beauty and barber shops I found nothing.

 I am overwhelmed right now with the apathy of the people in the community who are enlightened and many times empowered to make a difference and usher in change.

There are more churches involved in building campaigns to build bigger buildings than there are churches engaged in addressing domestic violence, drugs, poverty and homelessness.

 Where is the outrage?  Where is the talented tenth?  Where are the churches who care about the lost, the left out, the marginalized and the oppressed? Where are the pastors who can collectively call the members of city council, county government, state legislators and others who are accountable to the public into a room and challenge the status quo and lack of services to the people on the edge?

 I hear the voices of those who do not live confined by these circumstances.  They speak of being busy with commuting, busy with family and not willing to risk their safety for people who are not aware that they need help.  I hear the voices of the suburb dwellers not wanting to expose their families to danger, wanting a better education for their children and explaining on the pain they experience when they remember their family members still in these communities.

 There is nothing new in this reflection except for the salt thrown into a reopened wound.  The distress of feeling powerless to change the conditions and the apathy of the community to accept the conditions that oppresses them.  It still hurts. AM I arrogant to presume that I am a part of the talented tenth? Are the writings of Dubois relevant in the 21st Century? Will there always be an oppressed class of people in the US? It is too early in the morning to answer these deep questions so I will move quickly to get my first cup of coffee for the morning.

 

These reflections are a work in progress.  Your feedback will be helpful as we develop a finished product. I have made some general assumptions about dealing with difficult people within a congregational setting.

 

  1. Conflict is natural within a healthy, vibrant and progressive church
  2. People who are consistently difficult and constantly letting others know how difficult they can be are people who are in pain about something.
  3. No matter how difficult a person is to deal with as a pastor we must extend to them the same care, compassion and grace that we would to every other member.

 I would like to suggest that the way to do this is to begin with introspection.

 Introspection

‘Introspection is thus a very important part of  the process of finding our self identity. Looking for place that God has worked or is working within us is a part of introspection. We mull over our won histories and find in them the times and places where by God’s grace our true selves have been enabled to make decisions: in our choice of career; in our handling of children; in our relationships with friends. In this case the practice of introspection becomes the singing of a kind of love song of gratitude and joy to God for God’s good gifts.”  Introspection can be excruciating.”

 
Roberta C Bondi

To Pray and to Love: Conversations on Prayer With the Early Church

Page 90

 

Question for Reflection

  1. How do we produce depth in our introspective time?
  2. How do we probe the places in our own lives where there is pain without dwelling there?
  3. The inward search takes time. How do we search inward with such a busy schedule?

 The next process is sharing outward because of the inward journey.

  1. Unlimited Intercession
  2. Unconditional Love
  3. Unconditional Grace
  4. Radical Gratitude