Ministry snapshot: Put the paper down

In the post of my first sermon in my new congregation, Fox Valley Presbyterian Church, I said I’d write soon about this transition.  I remember having a brilliant thought to share that I would get down just as soon as I could. Four weeks later, I have zero recollection of 15171257_10209751498398636_2282619785055001217_n-1what that brilliant thought might be.  That shows it’s brilliance, I believe.

This Sunday was my installation into this position.  One little girl in the church, after
hearing her mother try to explain what would happen, decided to call it my “inauguration.” The preacher for the worship services this morning, my dear friend, mentor, and church match-maker, the Rev. Carol McDonald, called it my naming day (which reminded me of my favorite baptism book, Water, Come Down, by Walter Wangerin, a book my new church gives to each child being baptized). Whatever we call it, it was a wonderful celebration, and I am still floating a bit on a cloud of gratitude.  Not a bad cloud to ride. Continue reading

Ministry Snapshots: All Saints Day

I’m so grateful for the church member, Bill Lenarz, who snapped this picture during worship.

Today was one of those days where there was a lot going on in the service and behind the scenes. It was the culmination of the first unit of our new children and youth education ministry, Faith Craft, a description of which is coming in a post later this week. That meant the sermon was Be a Miracle – All Saints Day 2015. We were celebrating communion, as we regularly do on the first Sunday of the month. We were taking a picture of the congregation to use in promotional materials after worship. None of it on its own was hard, but it just meant there were a lot of details to remember, logistics to take care of.

But it was also All Saints Day, and over the years I’ve developed a love for All Saints Day. Like many Presbyterians, it’s not a feast day I grew up with. I don’t even know when I first experienced All Saints Day worship. Maybe seminary? Whenever it was it carved a special place in my spiritual life that has grown in importance  over time. I love the dedicated day to reflect on those saints, living and dead,  in my life and in history who have shown me what it looks like to follow Jesus, who have challenged and nurtured my faith in just the right doses at just the right times, who have lead the church to be the Body of Christ in the world. Finding participatory ways to lift up this day, to try to help it be a blessing to others the way it is to me, is a joy.

This year the video was already going to have that participatory feel. The congregation, through the interviews they had already provided was going to do the “preaching.” Including the Cloud of Witnesses banner we have created that bears the names of the saints in our church and our lives was an option. But it was in a conversation with a friend that the plan to light candles in honor of our saints was added to our service this year.

My friend wasn’t going to be in her own home church for All Saints Day this year, and she was down about missing their service of candle lighting. It’s not  rocket science, but meaningful worship experiences don’t have to be. After communion, I simply invited worshippers  to come forward and light candles in honor of the saints in their lives. They could speak the name aloud as they light the candle or light it in silence. If they didn’t want to come forward they could speak a name from their seat, and I would light the candle for them. At the end, after lighting candles for the saints of my friend who was missing this experience in her own worship, I lit a final candle for all those saints who had been remembered in the quiet of our hearts.

The picture above captures the lighting of these last candles. It’s a picture that I’ll treasure because it’s one of those sweet-spot moments as a pastor when the leading of worship and my own chance to feel immersed in the experience of worshipping line up perfectly. It’s a snapshot that will remind me of my call to craft worship that asks for the active participation of the whole Body of Christ, my place in that Body, and the gift of saints who have walked with me and before me on this road of faith.

Ministry Snapshot – Your mess is mine

I walked in my office this morning to find this:Pentecost mess

It should not have been a surprise since that’s exactly what it looked like when I walked out the door on Sunday after worship and fellowship.  These are what my mom calls “little ones out of big ones” – the scraps left over from the flames my daughter was diligently cutting out to help me get ready for an activity we were doing in worship.  It’s a mess, and a mess that needs to be cleaned up, but it is by no means the biggest mess in my office right now.  It also isn’t the mess that got my first attention today. Continue reading