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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Anglican Healing Liturgy

St. Andrew's holds healing services, at least twice a year where pray for the sick. For the past year or so, we have enjoyed using a healing liturgy from the Anglican Province of Kenya. The Eucharistic prayer is also from Kenya. This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday and our next healing service. Please come and let us pray for you. St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Syracuse, NY.



The Prelude

Welcome

The Acclamation
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Collect For Purity
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Procession

Pentecost Collect
The Lord be with you.
And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.
O GOD, you teach the hearts of your faithful people by sending us the light of your Holy Spirit; By your Spirit, give us right judgment in all things, so that we may rejoice forever in his holy comfort; Through the victory of Christ Jesus our Savior, who lives and rules with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Service of Healing (from Our Modern Services, Anglican Church of Kenya, 2002.)
Brothers and sisters, we have come together to worship God whose hands are always stretched out in blessings and healing. This, he has shown us through his Son Jesus Christ. We come to thank him for calling us to share in this work of healing. We come to seek his grace and wisdom and for a bruised and broken world. We come to give ourselves to him, that we might be instruments of his love and power to all who need his healing touch today.

People sit or kneel for confession

Eternal Father, God of our ancestors, before your power all things tremble, but through your Son we approach your throne. We have done wrong and neglected to do right; our sins weigh heavily on our hearts; Lord have mercy, count them not against us. Grant us the joy of forgiveness and lighten our hearts with the glory of Christ, who died and rose again for us. Amen.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ rejoices at repentance and declares his acceptance. The dead are alive, the lost are found, His goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life, and you will live in the house of the Lord for ever. Amen.

The First Lesson Ezekiel 37:1-14
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

The Second Lesson Acts 2:1-21
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

All Stand for the reading of the Gospel and face the Gospel.

The Gradual Hymn

The Holy Gospel
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to John.
Glory to You, Lord Christ

Read: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to You, Lord Christ.

The Gradual Hymn

The Sermon

Healing Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, we are weak but you are strong; we are poor but you are rich; we are sinful but you forgive; we are sick but you give health. Come to us through your Holy Spirit, so that we may receive all that you plan for our healing and wholeness, and may all glory and honor come back to you. Amen.

Praise be to the Lord our King!
Praise be to the Lord of Lords!

He forgives our sins;
He heals our ailments.

He died to give us life;
He rose to give us hope.

Christ is with us now;
He is here indeed.

The Spirit is here;
With healing in his wings.

Let us pray for health and healing.

We give thanks that God longs for healing and wholeness for all people. Let us bless the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.

For the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, touching men, women and children at the place of their deepest need.
We bless the name of the Lord.

For the work of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us with this ministry today.
We bless the name of the Lord.

We bring before you Lord, those we know who need your healing touch, the sick, the lonely, the bereaved, those enslaved by drugs, the displaced, the confused, the hungry, those who have wandered from home.
Reach out and touch them Lord.

Either silently or out loud pray for those who need God’s healing.

O Sovereign Lord, you who created all humans and gave them life, give your blessing and wisdom to all medical professionals, researchers and all who work to bring health and healing to others. Bless and keep all who are involved in the care of the sick and dying at home, in hospitals and hospices; fill them with love, patience and courage. Give special grace to those who minister to the dying.
Bless and empower them O Lord.

Either silently or out loud, pray for your doctors and any persons you know involved in the medical /healing professions.

Bring healing to every family where there is stress or conflict.
We pray for healing and reconciliation O Lord.

Bring about a healing of relationships in this church. Bring reconciliation, bring harmony, bring peace, bring unity. Just as the Father is one with the Son and the Holy Spirit, may your people, though many, enjoy that unity of purpose which the Holy Spirit alone enables and facilitates. Grant us the privilege of meeting with you today and enjoying your presence in this service as we wait with expectancy for the great things you are going to do for your people. We pray this in the name of our Lord and healer, Jesus Christ.
Come Holy Spirit and unify us. Move among us in your power.

We bring to you Lord, people with diseases that doctors have described as terminal;

We bring to you Lord, people whose diseases have not yet been diagnosed;

We bring to you Lord, those people who have been diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, HIV, depression, mental illness, addictions, arthritis and others;

We bring to you Lord, people who have been deprived of love and friendship and are in a state of deep loneliness;

We bring to you Lord, those who are suffering from numerous other conditions and who need your healing;

We bring to you Lord, those who are sick and require healing, but would rather their names are not mentioned.

For all these people Lord:
Bring healing, bring wholeness.

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit

Sanctify this hour as we stand before your holy presence, lifting our hearts and waiting in faith and hope for the opening of your healing springs. Open them now Lord as we stand in awe of your sovereign majesty, and heal these your people of all that weighs them down, physically, emotionally and psychologically.

Release those whom Satan has held captive, comfort the disturbed and the distressed in spirit; heal those who may be nursing deep hurts arising from separation, divorce, and failed or strained relationships; those deeply devastated by the loss of loved ones and abortion; heal and forgive those that may be suffering from restlessness and guilt due to unrepented sins.

Come Holy Spirit, we wait for you. Our lives are needy, our hearts are open. Bring to us the healing touch of Jesus. Move among us in your power and grant us healing and wholeness, in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Consecration of Anointing Oil
Consecrate this oil, Lord, which your servant is about to use for the anointing of your people. In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Ministry of the Holy Spirit
At this time those who wish to receive prayer of any need or concern are encouraged to move to one of the prayer teams, as they become available. The congregation is encouraged to worship through prayer and singing.

The following prayers are said by the prayer ministers as appropriate.

In the name of Jesus Christ who was wounded for our sake, and by whose stripes we are healed, be healed of all infirmities in your body, mind and spirit. Amen.

I anoint you with this holy oil. Receive Christ’s forgiveness and healing. The power of the Saviour who suffered for you, flow through your mind and body, lifting you to peace and inward strength. Amen.

I anoint you in the name of the Anointed One, Jesus Christ. Receive healing, receive forgiveness, receive peace, receive fullness of life, even eternal life. Through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ the great healer and Saviour. Amen.

Let us pray.
In simple faith we come to you, to draw from your healing strength. We ask this trusting in the name of him who lives and reigns for ever, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen. 

All stand. The Celebrant says to the people.

The Peace
The Peace of the Lord be always with you.
And with your spirit.

Announcements

The Offertory
O Lord our God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power; because you have created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. Revelation 4:11

The Presentation
The people stand while the offerings are presented and placed on the Altar.

The Great Thanksgiving From the Anglican Province of Kenya
Is the Father with us?
He is!

Is Christ among us?
He is!

Is the Spirit here?
He is!

This is our God.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We are his people.
We are redeemed.

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is right and our delight to give you thanks and praise, great Father, living God, supreme over the world. Creator, Provider, Savior and Giver. From a wandering nomad you created your family; for a burdened people you raised up a leader; for a confused nation you chose a king, for a rebellious crowd you sent your prophets. In these last days you have sent us your Son, your perfect image, bringing your kingdom, revealing your will, dying, rising, reigning, remaking your people for yourself. Through him you have poured out your Holy Spirit, filling us with light and life.

Therefore with angels, archangels, faithful ancestors and all in heaven, we proclaim your great and glorious name, forever praising you and saying.

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

The people may kneel or be seated.

Almighty God, Owner of all things, We thank you for giving up your only son to die on the cross for us who owe you everything. Pour your refreshing Spirit on us as we remember him in the way he commanded, through these gifts of your creation. Grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit these gifts of bread and wine may be to us his body and blood.

On the same night that he was betrayed he took bread and gave you thanks: he broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, "Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me."
Amen. His body was broken for us.

In the same way, after supper he took the cup and gave thanks: he gave it to them, saying, "Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this as often as you drink it, in the remembrance of me."
Amen. His blood was shed for us.

Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again!

We are brothers and sisters through his blood
We have died together, We will rise together, We will live together.

Therefore, heavenly Father, hear us as we celebrate this covenant with joy, and await the coming of our Brother, Jesus Christ. He died in our place, making a full atonement for the sins of the whole world, the perfect sacrifice, once and for all. You accepted his offering by raising him from death, and granting him great honor at your right hand on high.
Amen. Jesus is Lord!

The Lord’s Prayer
And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to pray,

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name,
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

This is the feast of victory!
The lamb who was slain has begun his reign. Hallelujah!

Christ is alive for ever.
We are because he is.

We are one body.
We share one bread.

Draw near with faith.
Christ is the host and we are his guests.

The Gifts of God for the People of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on Him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.

The Post-Communion Prayer
Let us Pray.
God Most High, we thank you for welcoming us, teaching us, and feeding us. We deserve nothing from you but in your great mercy you have given us everything in your Son Jesus Christ. We love you and give ourselves to you to be sent out for your work; grant us your blessing, now and for ever. Amen.

The Blessing
While standing, the people accompany the first three responses with a sweep of the arm towards the cross behind the Holy Table, and their final response with a sweep towards heaven.

All our problems
We send to the cross of Christ!

All our difficulties
We send to the cross of Christ!

All the devil's works
We send to the cross of Christ!

All our hopes
We set on the risen Christ!

Christ the Sun of righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path: and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.

The Final Processional

Dismissal
Go out into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit
Thanks be to God!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Book of Common Prayer 2011

bcp2011.com | ancient worship for today's christian

Over the past couple months I have been working with the BCP2011 on both a devotional and church worship level. Though I haven't blogged much in recent times, I wanted to make some comments here about this prayerbook that require more than a Facebook post.Let me begin with my wholehearted recommendation of this prayerbook.

The BCP 2011 is edited by the Fr. Keith J. Acker, Pastor of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity in the Diocese of the West in the Reformed Episcopal Church.

Some introductory quotes:
"The Book of Common Prayer (2011) embodies the ancient tradition of two thousand years of Christians who have prayed together. This book incorporates the common prayer from the historic prayer books of the Anglican Church as received in North America. The first Book of Common Prayer (1549) is the standard framework for this prayer book, incorporating additions from later prayer books of the Anglican Communion." (page 1, BCP 2011)
"This Book is proposed for trial use by the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in North America for liturgical review. This Trial version has not been authorized, at present, for general use except as permitted by the ordinary of each diocese." (page 2, BCP 2011)
Here are some of the many reasons I recommend this book:

It is user-friendly and would be especially useful for newbies to praying the daily office. If you read Scott McKnight's book Praying With the Church or have been encouraged by Phyllis Tickle's works to pray the Daily Office or Divine Office, this prayerbook in the Anglican Tradition is straightforward simple to use. If you tried using the Episcopal BCP 1979 and gotten lost with it's options and distracted some certain theological matters, try again with this book. Various sections throughout the book also include informative introductions.

Evangelicals will greatly appreciate the BCP 2011 for 2 reasons: First, it uses the ESV Bible. In fact, it is also known as the BCPesv version. It includes a Liturgical Psalter with Psalms from the ESV.  From the website:
"This edition contains the ancient prayers and liturgies of the Anglican
tradition as used in North America, conformed to the Biblical phrasing
of the ESV Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®)"
Secondly, Evangelicals (as well as others) will appreciate the extensive Biblical referencing throughout the entirety of the book. It provides a Biblical reference for the collects and other written prayers, as well for the Eucharistic prayer but even for the Apostles Creed, the Kyrie, the Gloria in excelsis deo, the Offertory sentences, the Ordinal, the Catechism and much more. In fact, there is very little in the book that does not have a Bible reference notation. Several people in my church have exclaimed, "That's exactly what I was looking for!"

For those who would use this book in a worship setting, the textual color scheme is brilliant: "titles in blue, text in black, rubrics in red, posture in green" (website). The pages and text are readable and it's simple color scheme makes visibly appealing.

The BCP 2011 is modeled on Thomas Cramner's BCP 1549 but it is in modern English. This is very significant in the world of Anglicanism where the most faithful prayerbooks are written in old English / King James English. Many faithful Anglicans, especially those with a long history in the Episcopal Church, speak lovingly of the beautiful prose of the old English in the BCP 1928, BCP 1979 Rite I or other traditional prayerbooks. Though beautiful, and it is actually easy to speak during the liturgy, it is not missionally helpful. For me personally, the missional issue is of critical importance.

In one church that I have worshiped in recently that uses the American Anglican Missal (think: BCP 1928 + very Catholic, ancient additions) a visitor commented that he found the archaic English "oppressive". For newcomers to the Anglican tradition, liturgy itself requires an adjustment period to learn and become facile in its use. For some it is a barrier and no doubt spurred the development of the Seeker Movement. But when the liturgy hurdle is coupled with the language hurdle, the worship service becomes nearly inaccessible for many.

Not to belabor this point, I am convinced that the archaic language actual diminishes the importance of the incarnation which is vital to Anglican theology. The Pray Tell blog had a magnificent post entitled, Cramner's language considered unorthodox and harmful. The post quotes former Anglican, now Eastern Orthodox, scholar David Frost:
Despite being a lover of Renaissance literature, I have argued throughout my working-life that to create a special language for religion akin to ancient Hebrew or Sanskrit is the characteristic of cults — and the Christian faith should not be turned into a cult. It is contrary to the practice of the Apostles, for the gospel was communicated in the Greek koine, an international trading language whose counterpart today might be internet computer English.
To have a substantially different language for worship would seem to contradict the basic message of divine incarnation. When at Christ’s crucifixion the veil of the Temple was rent in two, the barrier between sacred and profane was shattered. It is all too easy to erect that barrier once again, and the barrier goes up imperceptibly as language grows old-fashioned and unfamiliar.
The greatest danger presented by imitation of Cranmerian English among the modern western Orthodox is that it may become yet another hierarchic, archaic language for worship that can protect and insulate one from its content, just as much as colourful ceremony and fine chanting.
The BCP 2011 is faithful to the ancient Anglican prayerbook tradition and making it accessible modern people. For those seeking a faithful Anglican BCP or eucharistic liturgy in contemporary English the choices are few. Also available are the Anglican Mission in Americas' Prayer Book and the Anglican Church in North America's trial use liturgy. Both are excellent resources, but this one should not be ignored.

The Daily Bible Readings for the Offices and Lectionary for the Propers work seamlessly together for those who want a 3 year lectionary cycle.
This book uses the historic Sunday readings for the Epistle and Gospel lessons with the optional readings form the Old Testament and Psalter (Book of Psalms) in the Sunday Propers. ... In an effort to provide a wider set of themes, the Sunday readings for Morning and Evening Prayer have adopted lessons and themes corresponding to the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), a three-year lectionary of Sunday reading themes. In this book, the Sunday readings for Morning Prayer roughly correspond to the RCL Year B, and the Sunday reading for Evening Prayer roughly corresponds to the RCL Year C, preserving the historic prayer for each Sunday of the Christian Year. (page 8, BCP2011)
Other random things I like: services for Morning & Evening Prayer + Compline; Healing Services; Services for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Good Friday; and lastly, it just feels good in my hand.

Overall, I like so much of this book. I had a copy of the book for nearly a month before I used it in worship. Now I have used it 4 times in public worship and have attempted to use it 'as is' with very few modifications to honor the spirit of the book and wisdom of it's editor and tradition.

I wanted to really love this as much in church as I do in the daily office. I'm not sure I do. The congregation has been very open to trying this and again, I was hoping to hear effusive praise for this change. I have not though I have not heard any complaints. Actually, I haven't heard any comments at all.

Part of the problem I am having is me. I am used to using the BCP 1979 Rite I and some of the language is so similar that I am tripping over myself to stick to the text and not say what is familiar. The other problem I am having is that it feels wordy and long. I am also considering moving the Prayers of the People back to our church's customary position, before the Offertory and after the sermon, though I want to give that some more research and consideration.

In the coming weeks, I will elicit some feedback from the church and make some decisions about it's continued use in church going forward. I am essentially, still a rookie priest and by no means a prayerbook scholar. There is a lot to like about this book and I highly recommend it. On a personal level, I have found a friend in this book for the daily office and will continue to use it.

Introductory price: $16.95. List price: $18.95. Order it at the bcp2011.com web site and pay via PayPal. I encourage you to buy one.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

One Degree From Don Shula

http://www.fultonhistory.com/Process%20small/Newspapers/Utica%20NY%20Daily%20Press/Utica%20NY%20Daily%20Press%201978.pdf/Utica%20NY%20Daily%20Press%201978%20-%202704.pdf
It was 1978 and I was in sixth grade and in my eyes, my science teacher was as cool as a rock star. In truth, she was a humble nun. Sister Virginia Kenefick had been my science teacher since I began attending at St. Peter's Elementary School in Utica, NY. She was stern and strict. Just what my mother was hoping for when she sent me there two years earlier.

Sister Virginia could never remember my name and frequently called me "Eddie" because I was best friends with Billy Carroll whose real name was Edward and we kind of looked alike. And she loved the Dolphins, and me, and all the kids. And we all knew it.

Early in Sister's career she went to school somewhere near Baltimore. There was a faithful member of the Baltimore Colts staff that attended mass regularly and became a friend of Sister's. Eventually that staff member got a new job as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. His name was Don Shula and his storied, Hall of Fame career went on to be legendary. Having a science teacher who was friends with an NFL head coach was possibly one of the coolest things ever to 11 year old me.

Every year the Buffalo Bills played the Miami Dolphins at Rich Stadium in Buffalo and it became must see TV for St. Peter's boys. Why? Don Shula always sent tickets for Sister Virginia to come to the game and walk the sidelines. We watched every minute of the game looking for a glimpse of our short, robust nun amongst the giant football players.

Back to 1978. One day in science class she was presented with a huge bouquet of roses and a box. They were a gift from Coach Shula in honor of Sister Virginia's 25th year of serving God as a nun. Inside the box was a football autographed by all the Miami Dolphins! Certainly this was the most memorable day of my St. Peter's career.

I saw Sister Virginia last year for the first time since I left St. Peter's in 1979. I had gone to the Franciscan Motherhouse on Court St. to pick up some cards with St. Marianne on them and to Nun Better Chocolates for the obvious. While I was there I made the acquaintance of a couple of beautiful nuns who took me on a tour of the museum for St. Marianne and the Motherhouse.

I shared some of my own story and ancestry. St. Joseph's-St. Patrick's has been my family's parish since the 1850's when my great-great grandfather, John Schreck and his brothers, Franz, Bartholomew and Peter emigrated from Bavaria and settled into the German community of West Utica. They lived within blocks of the church and were neighbors of and parishioners with the family of Peter Cope and their daughter, Barbara, who would become St. Marianne. I always affectionately call Mother Marianne an old friend of the family. She has become an inspiration for my ministry, but I'll save that sermon for another day.

As I was walking and talking with the nuns, I mentioned my cousin who is part of the community, Sister Mary Louise Williams. She descends from my great-great grandfather's brother Franz. The nuns told me of another cousin I have there who I have yet to meet and we then met another sister who was from St. Joe's - St. Pat's.

I spoke of my time served at St. Peter's and some of the nuns I remembered. When I mentioned Sister Virginia, my new friend immediately stopped and said, "Do you want to go up and see her?" "Absolutely." I was stunned and in truth, a little scared. I was expecting that she would tell me to stand up straight, stop scuffing my feet and make sure I didn't have any chewing gum in my mouth.

Secretly I was hoping she would call me Eddy but she couldn't call me anything at all. She had had a stroke and couldn't speak. Sister sat in an easy chair watching TV with several other of the community who had suffered with a variety of debilitating illnesses. She grinned broadly at having a visitor. She was just as I remembered her.

Even though I don't think she could recall me specifically, it was obvious she was thrilled that I remembered her and came to visit. I told her about my family and my ministry as an Anglican priest, and deep within my heart I had hoped she was proud of me even though I wasn't Catholic anymore. I have always known that my calling into ministry was strongly influenced by my youth and the godly impact of the community of St. Peter's, especially Sister Virginia, Sister Honora, Sister Christine, Fr. Felix Colosimo and others.

Before I left I teased Sister a little, "Well Sister, you can't yell at me for misbehaving now can you?". She laughed. I hugged and kissed her on the forehead and told her I loved her. That was the last time I saw her.

Sister Virginia passed away last week on October 1st. I thank God for her life and look forward to the day when I will be reunited with her and all the saints who have gone before me.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Perspective: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and God's Grace

Back in February of this year we had one erratic week in our house with my 13 year old son. On Monday of that week he was just ornery and difficult, giving his mother fits about getting his schoolwork done.  Not just the routine resistance of the average 13 year old, but more of a defiance to the point of exasperation. On Tuesday, without provocation he joyfully made a full dinner for the family.

On Wednesday evening the roommate of my neighbor across the street, came over and knocked on the door. Now he is a little odd to begin with, but when I answered the door he kind of stuttered and was stressed.  "S-s-s-someone here is shining a laser on the TV and on ME and that, that, that is j-j-just not right! You can't do that to someone."  I apologized profusely and agreed it was not right. After closing the door and an angry inquiry, my son admitted it was him. I didn't know whether to laugh or kill him.

On Friday evening we went to my 10 year old son's Upward basketball game. After the game was over as my wife and I were socializing with some of the other parents, my 13 y/o comes running up to me. "Dad, c'mon. This lady has a flat tire and we're going to fix it for her."  I really wasn't interested in going out in single digit degree, snowy, weather but how do you turn down a kid that wants to do good?  So we go out there. He finds the jack, jacks up the car, gets the tire off and then we had some complications as to where was the spare and how to get it off.  It took us a good 45 minutes to get it done with the help of a few others -- who my son got involved to help us. We froze, literally almost to the point of frost bite, but got it done. After we got in the car he said, "Wow Dad, it feels really great to help people like that. I'm really glad we did that." What a good Samaritan! I was so proud. I wondered what happened to the kid with the laser. All in all, it was a schizophrenic week.

Fast forward five months.  Ben, an avid baseball player, had been struggling at the plate. He's had an injury that hampered him but mostly he was just in a frustrating slump.  We traveled with another family to a game about 45 minutes away.  After walking and scoring in the first inning, he was up again in the third. He struck out looking horrible. He was furious after each bad swing. On the third strike he slammed his bat down but the catcher dropped the ball so he ran for first. The catcher fired it down to first base but the ball got past the fielder. Ben rounded first but was still clearly irate. What he didn't notice is the second baseman backed up the play, fielded the ball and threw it back to first. Ben turned to go back and was tagged out. Now even more irate he launched his helmet off his head across the field. The ump pointed and said, "You're gone." He was ejected from the game.

My wife called during the next inning, wanting to know how the game was going.  I awkwardly told her, "Not that great."  As I was, she was heartbroken and furious. But during the next few innings of watching my son not play, I kept hearing, what I think was from the Lord, to keep this in perspective. And then I remembered February.

On the next afternoon after this notorious game, I came home from a bike ride. My wife said she just spoke to a neighbor whose autistic son was missing. Both my older sons, immediately stopped what they were doing and left the house and started combing the neighborhood for the boy. They spent nearly 2 hours jogging, walking and biking through our neighborhood and the nearby streets.  Thankfully he was found, not by us, but I was so pleased that my sons assessed the seriousness of the situation and without being asked, just started looking.  That was character a parent wants to see in a kid.

In the weeks beyond these incidents I have been reflecting on how complicated kids are.  There's good, there's bad and there's ugly.  And they aren't all that unlike their parents. Who some days are preaching great sermons, loving the outcasts and helping the poor. And the next day lusting, complaining, lashing out at others in anger, failing miserably at their prayer life and other unmentionable sins.

And sometimes I am so wrapped up in the guilt and shame of my own helmet throwing incidents that I let them mark time in my world and keep a perpetual memory of them. And I then I fail to give the same import to those incidents where I stopped, dropped and inconvenienced myself to help those in need -- where I was a good Samaritan.  In other words, my perspective, and I think most of our perspectives, are seen through broken incomplete lenses.

Whereas, our savior, Jesus Christ, has a complete, grace filled perspective.  He doesn't mark time by noting all our ejections, nor even our good Samaritan moments. He marks time by his grace in our lives that empowers us for good and heals our shame from the bad.  And I want to suggest that we need to begin letting that grace fill our minds as we evaluate our lives and the incidents with which we mark time.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Are You Growing Spiritually? How Do You Know?

1 Peter 2:For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I see my doctor every couple months as there are issues that we are trying to manage related to certain bloodwork results. We have a basic chart that shows us a history of where we started, when we tried certain medications and got off them, where we changed diet and exercise, etc. I can map my progress or lack of it. I have markers -- points and times where I checked and noted my progress.  But it wasn't just me that checked. Somebody else, namely a laboratory, had to check for me. I needed help to identify the problem, manage the problem and track the problem.

At our church Bible study recently we studied the above passage and I was struck by the words "are yours and are increasing".  How do you know if they are increasing? Have you checked? Has anyone else? Do you have any evidence other than a subjective feeling that says, my faith is growing, I am becoming more virtuous, my affection for the saints is growing, etc.?

I remember in seminary, John Weborg used to say, "Memory is half imagination."  We don't have perfect memories. An so consequently, we do not have perfect views of ourselves. We need help to know ourselves.  

I often say to people, "Tell me what your back looks like. In detail. Where are the freckles, birthmarks, blemishes or hair? What's your skin look like back there?"  They don't know. And none of us find out without the help of another person or object (mirror) to show us.  There are parts of us that are very public that we don't know what they look like, we can't see and need help for us to know know.

We need something similar to a physician or soul friend for our spiritual lives as well. We need a long term friend to walk with us and help us see ourselves, even the parts that we can't see alone.

At our Bible study I suggested journaling as a possible helpful tool. Long term work with a journal where we pour out our souls to God in prayer, record significant and sometimes insignificant events in our lives, and elaborate on our heart's condition could help us know if "these qualities are [y]ours and increasing" as the text above says.

But we're not meant to live the Christian life alone. We need someone to have our back and to journey with us to help us to see ourselves.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Start 'em Young

Acolytes do several jobs through out the worship service at St. Andrew's. They serve as the Crucifer, one who leads the procession carrying the cross into and out of the service. They also assist the priest or deacon at the table as they prepare holy communion and assist in the receiving offerings. Acolytes are essentially the priest's lackeys. :)

These past two weeks in church we have had 2 new acolytes. Both of them beautiful 7 year old girls.Their only job was to be the Crucifer, while another acolyte assisted with other responsibilities. I'm not sure about the Rectors before me, but I sensed that when I suggested it that the church hadn't started them this young before.

We did very little training.  Maybe a quick rehearsal about 15 minutes before the service.  They both did great. The church was beaming as these little girls served our Lord. Their parents blew up Facebook with cute photos. It was probably bad form for me, the priest, to have my cell phone out in the service taking photos but I did so unashamedly. I love these kids.

I gave them each a little pep talk, letting them know that we, the church, and Jesus, our Lord, were proud of them and for them to not worry about or be embarrassed by mistakes. I make mistakes every week. Sometimes my whole sermon is a mistake but I digress. Both girls did their job flawlessly, were vigilant and at full attention.

I remember when my family was part of a church plant here in Syracuse called Catalyst. Everybody had a role in set-up and tear-down -- even children. My kids took that very seriously. Church changed for them after that experience. They were no longer just coming for someone to teach them something. They came to serve. That was the highlight for them.  My older ones are teens now and they still serve in church running video or sound, caring for kids in nursery and leading children's church.

My hope is this experience changes these kids as well. I hope to see them become life long servants of Jesus Christ. When they put on their vestments I hope they have a sense of pride and dignity, and feel a belonging to the body of Christ that spills over into the way they conduct themselves day in and day out.

For many, many years I have thought there was just something wrong with churches who just sent kids to Sunday School, Children's Church, VBS, etc. and treated them as if they were just empty little heads that we had to pour Bible knowledge into to get them to grow up Christian. They need more than just knowledge, they need experience in service and training in areas to serve and pray.

Seven years old and they have begun serving as Crucifers. Maybe when they are 10 I'll have them serve as Lay Readers, reading the Scriptures and leading us in prayer. Maybe when they are 25 they'll become my assistant ministers getting ready to take my job.

Glory to God!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Growing Churches

Assemblies of God 2012 Statistics Released | Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

When speaking of the body of Christ, St. Paul says, "if one part is honored every part rejoices with it." Let's all rejoice with the Assemblies of God. They are growing. In fact, their growth outpaced the population growth in the 2011-2012 year.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Top female porn star finds Jesus | God Reports

Top female porn star finds Jesus | God Reports

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Anglican Pentecostal: The Prayer Station

Anglican Pentecostal: The Prayer Station

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Bivocational Ministry. My New Ministry Paradigm.

Pastor-And: Real Talk on Bivocational Ministry | Kevin Scott

Ministry is so different for me these days than in years past. And that is good! My beloved friend Scott Emery linked a blog post on Facebook today about Bivocational ministry, which is my world right now that I am wrestling with (and feeling like I am losing the match, I might add).

I posted a reply to the blog and felt like I wanted to add it here and develop it further as a blog post.

I was a full-time pastor for a decade. Then worked for a parachurch organization for a couple years, unemployed for a couple and now bivocational. Now, I am an Anglican priest and run a small web design business plus work as an investigator (it’s unique and complicated). I also have a large busy family where we homeschool. A couple of things I learned …

As a f/t clergy, I had no real appreciation for the great effort lay people put into their ministries. Life can be so complex trying to balance work, spiritual life, care for your family, Little League, dance, time for my spouse & friends, small groups, leadership team, specialized ministries at church, etc. As a full-time pastor I used to feel like lay people didn’t understand my world and to some extent they still don’t. HOWEVER, what was equally true is how little I understood their world. Being bi-vocational keeps me appreciating the great servants of the church who are not clergy and the herculean effort they put forth for the Kingdom. Their faithfulness to the Lord is amazing. I often try to tell the people at church that I love and appreciate them. I don't know if they understand how much my heart swells with gladness that I get to serve alongside them.

I was never the pastor to be completely sheltered from the unchurched because of my evangelistic mindset. However, most of those relationships were friendships. Now as a small business owner and investigator, I have working partnerships with many outside the church world. It’s different — and better for me. I think I’m a better pastor — more motivated with a more realistic worldview — for working outside the church culture.

There may come a time in the future where I am full-time again. I’ll do what the Lord wants. But I kind of hope not.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Poor Man's Lyle Schaller

Celebration of Life Service Set for Larry Sherman

That's how I often referred to Larry Sherman, Associate Superintendent for the Great Lakes Conference -- as "a poor man's Lyle Schaller".

Everybody in ministry, particularly those over 45, knows who Lyle Schaller is.  He's written books and articles, spoken at ministry conferences, and is a genius on all things related to church life, growth and health.  His ministry has been a gift to the church for decades.  He's an expert with national name recognition.

Larry Sherman did not have Schaller's name recognition.  I don't know if he was published at all.  But the genius the Lyle Schaller gave to the church over the past decades, Larry Sherman had been doing with equal effectiveness

Larry knew it all.  Every time I started to see a new fad in the church, something I never heard about before: I would call Larry.  Sure enough, he knew all about it.  He knew about missional church stuff before it was cool to be missional. He knew about planting church campuses before there was anything published about it.  He knew about the emergent church -- strengths and weaknesses -- before anyone else I knew did.  Absolutely any topic related to church planting, church cultural trends, church growth patterns, leadership, governance, finances, health and dysfunction in congregational life -- Larry was an expert and had a bibliography of what I needed to read to learn more.  His insights were invaluable to me.

He wasn't just a smart guy.  He was a holy, godly man.  There was no deceit or false pretense about Larry.  I've seen him have very frank conversations with church leadership about difficult subjects, but never did he do so maliciously, vindictively or with even the least amount of smugness.  Never heard him talk inappropriately.  And as anyone who knew him knows, he truly loved his family, the Lord and the people he was called to serve.  Even in difficult circumstances he was positive, hopeful, direct, honest and caring.

I have so many good memories of Larry.  We served together on the Prayer and Evangelism team in the Covenant. We did evangelism seminars together at GLC churches.  He always made time for coffee or a meal with me when he came to town.  He answered literally dozens of questions about stuff I wanted to know about or would help me think through whatever whacky idea I had in mind.

What I will always remember Larry for is his compassion for me.  During a time of underemployment in 2002, he would call to check on me and was an advocate for me with churches who might be looking for a pastor.  He always asked about my wife and kids. 

My last memory of him was of just a couple weeks ago at the GLC Ministerium Annual Meeting where he playful greeted me as, "The Right Rev. Father Evans!" and congratulated me on my ordination to the priesthood.  That day at our meeting he gave another of his brilliant presentations about his ministry and church planting and growth in the GLC.

Larry's death seems untimely at 60 years of age in the throes of a vibrant ministry.  Certainly it was unexpected.  But Larry's ministry will not end.  He raised up leaders in so many places and no doubt one of his protege will take his leadership mantle.  Though no one will take his place in our hearts.  Further, because of his leadership literally thousands of people will have come to know Christ as Savior.  Some of them also will carry on his legacy.

I was unable to attend his funeral in Detroit which is distressing me greatly.  When his funeral was happening today I was keeping pitch count at Little League.  I know he would have been pleased.  Many people plant trees in memory of a loved one.  We should all plant churches in memory of Larry. 

Thank you Lord for the gift of Larry Lee Sherman.  That was one of the better ones you have ever given me.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Fastest Growing Denomination in the US

Covenant Companion | Trends

The Evangelical Covenant Church grew by 33% between 2000 and 2010. Nice.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Following Jesus in Prayer for Our Enemies


So let's just assume for a moment that Jesus wasn't messing around when he said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." I wonder how often he thinks we should do this. Every day? Multiple times a day? Annually?  I'm guessing at least occasionally, right?

Well, here's a little something to help you pray for your enemies: a web site devoted to listing terrorists to pray for.  It tells you a little about how bad they are, a nice mug shot and how many people have signed up to pray for them.

Adopt a Terrorist for Prayer

I'm thinking about adding this to the prayers of the people in church on Sundays.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Just a Question About Prayer

So I'm not asking about the rightness or wrongness.  Not asking for a theological debate.  Just use your imagination for a moment:

How would it effect your prayer life if you believed that by praying you could change God's mind?

I listened to some sermons recently by Jack Deere and Michael Rowntree at Wellspring Church that talked about that very thing. There is plenty of Scripture that points in that direction.

My worry in prayer is always more that God would give me what I asked for instead of what's best, good, right, healthy or more fun for me. My prayers too often focus on pain reduction and comfort enhancement, and in truth, it's that pain and discomfort that might make me be the best me.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rethinking Everything and Post-Christian Syracuse


I'm experiencing some dissonance in my life between my experience and what I "know" to be true.

On the one hand, I believe we are entering a new dark ages. My radar tells me that we are entering a period of steep moral decline, mass economic poverty, widespread ignorance and academic failure, decline in the arts, the disintegration of religious institutions and their positive impact on society, and are on the verge of widespread violence, particularly in places like the U.S. where peace once reigned. Yeah, I know you think I'm nuts.  Which leads me to this link that a friend posted on Facebook today.

REVISED_41513_Secular_States_Barna_Cities_Site_F4.jpg (JPEG Image, 745�נ1466 pixels) - Scaled (40%)

Syracuse is ranked #16 on the chart of Most Post-Christian cities.  Albany (#1) and Buffalo (#8) are higher with Rochester (#21) close behind.  A post-Christian culture is one where Christianity is no longer the dominant meta-narrative amongst the people's beliefs.  It's a unchurched culture -- one that doesn't go to church and has no history of ever going to church, as opposed to a dechurched culture -- one that has a memory of church and Christianity, even if it isn't currently practiced.

Many of my evangelical friends locally frequently talk about how we are living in a post-Christian context. I have been saying this for a very long time. I remember as far back as the early '90's when a friend of mine worked at Lechmere's, an electronics boutique that used to be in what was then known as Carousel Mall, now Destiny USA. On the loading dock one day he got fed up with a co-worker's filthy language. After the guy uttered a "Jesus Christ" as an expletive again for the umpteenth time, my friend said to him, "I didn't know you were a religious guy."  The guy was dumb founded and said, "Religious guy?"  My buddy said, "Yeah, you keep talking about Jesus Christ."  The guy replied with all seriousness, "What's Jesus Christ have to do with religion?"

That happened circa 1990, plus or minus a few years, right at the same time my mother-in-law told me the story of shopping for an Easter card.  She overheard two other shoppers near her have this conversation, "Look at this! Now they are trying to make Easter a religious holiday!" as she held up an Easter card. Incredulously the other said, "I can't believe they would do that." True story.

Yet my experience these days doesn't match up with either the linked chart above or of my friend or mother-in-law -- especially since I started wearing a collar and am the pastor of an Anglican (traditional) church. In the last several months since being ordained first a deacon and now a priest in the Anglican church, my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of ministry opportunities. If my evangelical friends knew what I have experienced since I started wearing a clergy shirt with a collar, they would run to the store to get one.

My experience here in Central New York tells me that so many people are still lapsed or marginally practicing Roman Catholics or even evangelicals, instead of being "Post-Christian". Further, it has shown me that many just don't know what to do with evangelicals.  Not in an exasperated sense but literally just don't know how to relate. 

People seem to relate more easily when I say, "St. Andrew's", or that I'm a "priest", or when I describe my church service, which is liturgical. Amongst unchurched people, I have found deep suspicion of evangelicals or evangelical churches.  It's like they don't know what do with a church name that's not traditional.

Now that I am also, "Fr. Steve" as well as "Pastor Steve", I find unchurched people more comfortable with my priestly role.  It's like they know how to relate to me, despite the fact I'm married and have kids.  At the same time Evangelicals are confused and suspicious of me!

When I have the collar on and am in public, people smile and talk to me all the time.  Stuff that never happened as an evangelical pastor.  I have so many more opportunities to pray for people and sometimes, exhort them, even strongly to follow Christ.  Stuff that if I would have tried as an evangelical I would have been marginalized as being pushy.  I don't wear a clerical shirt every day, but when I do and I'm out in public I seem to have new and wonderful ministry experiences that never happened to me in my 15+ years as an evangelical pastor.

Now I'm sure, there is something else going on also.  I'm sure there are people who look at me as a creeper to watch out for and make sure I'm not near their kids.  This because of the Roman Catholic priest abuse scandal. And I really have no way to gauge that as those who have that visceral experience keep away.

So I'm having some real dissonance with knowing that we are in a Post-Christian culture and at the same time experiencing tremendous ministry opportunity in a traditional setting.  And I'm loving it. :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ordination Photo

Bishop Doc Loomis praying over me at my ordination to the Anglican priesthood on February 23, 2013.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Church Advertising

I admit it. I like to push the envelope, though substantially less than I used to.  Here's the beginning of a couple of new ads I'd like to run for the church -- either print or media.  The second one I have run previously for a different church in a different market in the form of television and radio ads and it worked very successfully. Had phone calls to the church within the first hour of my first spot.

I'm making my wife nervous.

Here are the beginning lines for each ad ....

"Contrary to popular belief God's last name isn't Damn. But He does know your name and invites you to St. Andrew's this Sunday to get more familiar with Him. :)  "

"God really doesn't mind when you shout His name in the bedroom. He would just like you to sing it at church also. Come to St. Andrew's this Sunday. Try it out. :) "

Monday, April 08, 2013

Memory and the Church

At church this week my wife challenged adults and kids to a memory challenge, encouraging them to memorize some Scripture and the Apostles Creed and Lord's Prayer. What a great challenge indeed.

I often wonder about our ability to use our memory and it's relation to our ability to grow spiritually as a disciple of Christ. Does God see spiritual growth like we do? In our North American evangelical Christian culture, some of the aspects we view as spiritual growth are the ability to know (i.e. recall) and appropriately implement Scripture in our lives, have a good bank of theological orthodox knowledge, our ability to pray, speak to others about our faith, and serve others in areas of giftedness. Much of these are memory dependent.

At the same time, all the news media this past week has been running the story about the growing cost of healthy coverage due to the seemingly growing epidemic of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. Other popular stories of the week have been about mental illness, suicide and depression and autism.  While it's obvious in the case of dementia related illnesses, depression, mental illness and autism all have significant memory related components as well.

Which leads me to wondering about how does God view spiritual growth and discipleship in persons with dementia, mental illness, depression or who are on the autism spectrum.  Does He have any expectations at all?  In light of the fact that these are growing populations in our current culture, how does He expect the church to minister to them? What expectations should the church have?

When memory is compromised, how do we view ourselves as disciples? How do evangelize persons with memory issues and disciple persons within our churches that are memory impaired?

My hunch is that the church is woefully under-prepared to disciple these person, though certainly able to lovingly care for them. In fact for many churches, I wonder if it's on their radar at all.

Well, here are some memory hacks to put to good use to memorize some Scripture. I put a couple below that would be good for the memory bank. I felt convicted to memorize some more Scripture this week:

Top 10 Memory Hacks

Drastically Improve Your Memory by Building a Memory Palace

1 John 1:8-9:  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 Peter 4:8-9 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Peter 4:9-10 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 12:28-29: 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

2 Timothy 1:9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time ...



1 Thessalonians 5:15-18  15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Why I Became An Anglican Priest

On February 23 I was ordained an Anglican priest. It was a wonderful and joyous event. This happened over 15 years after I was first ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church in 1997. The ordinations were very different.

The Covenant one happened at the denomination Annual Meeting in a hotel ballroom with a couple dozen other godly men and women with several Covenant leaders laying hands on me.  My most poignant memory is of Paul Larsen, then President of the Covenant Church, laying hands and saying, "Bless this evangelist."  Since it was in San Diego and my church was in Cleveland, I felt really honored when one couple from my church was there.

The Anglican one happened in a borrowed historic Gothic church where the ordination service was just for me and was attended by my whole church.  Bishop Doc Loomis laid hands on me and invited the other clergy present to join him, and he did so with a nod toward apostolic succession, in recognition that this ordination is to represent an unbroken chain back to the Apostles.  The love poured out on me by my church and +Doc will forever be with me.

I've received a lot of questions recently about this journey recently. "What is it you like about the Anglican Church? What attracted to the Anglican Church?" And sometimes it's asked in such a way, "What do you like better about the Anglicans?" Amongst some -- not all -- of my colleagues there has been a hint of contempt like, "Oh, you think your better than us now?"

Others see me dressed in a clergy shirt or chasuble and wonder about my evangelical faith. I look and talk too Catholic for them.

So why did I do this? First, let me assure you, it wasn't for the money. Here's the long painful truth. I did this because I believe it was what God was leading me to do. Is that so bad?

During the long painful "dry season" of 2008-2010 when I was substantially unemployed, I received a word from the Lord that my next position would come without me submitting a resume and that I would be sought out for it.  That is exactly what happened when I became the Interim-Pastor at St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Syracuse..

After I served there for a just a short time, I fell in love with the church.  I admire them for their tenacity to stand for the Gospel, to endure hardship, to personally sacrifice their resources for their church, and for their graciousness towards others. And I really liked how they treated me and how they received my ministry. It became obvious we were a good fit and we both felt God led us to each other. So I continued the journey to first become ordained a Deacon, and then, ordained a priest.  This was not a small, inexpensive paper pushing process but I'm glad I did it and thank St. Andrew's for their support.

It's not like I have a new girlfriend now and gave up on an old one. I still really love the Covenant Church and feel a part of it.  I still go to ministerial meetings, am still an ordained clergy in good standing and am a member of a Covenant Church. Shoot, I still read the Covenant Companion every month cover to cover.

My wife works Grace Covenant Church (which makes our Sunday mornings very complicated) where I worship when I have Sundays off and it seems that I am there all the time for kids or special events. It's not like I'm mad at the Covenant Church, don't like them any more, or would never serve a Covenant Church again. It's just this is where I am today by God's leading and grace. Who knows? Maybe I'll be Eastern Orthodox next, though that is very doubtful due to my inability to grow a real beard.

It's not like they are all that different.  The Covenant Church and the Anglican world that I am a part of are not all that different despite some very clear distinctions.  Certainly the difference in ecclesiology is huge with the Anglican episcopacy and the Covenant's congregationalism.  But both are sacramental, both are broad evangelical movements emphasizing faith essentials eschewing rigid legalism, both have strong church planting movements, both view themselves as a 'via media' though I think the Covenant does less so these days, both receive life giving ethos from their reformation histories, both hold very high views of Scripture.

All that said, I do like the Anglican way of worship and church life. I love being a priest and feel very at home with the collar and vestments on during worship on Sunday. I really like having an episcopacy. Most of all, I like being part of a three streams movement that is Catholic, Evangelical and Charismatic.

I offer all this for some clarification of the crazy journey that is my life.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Facebook & Real Relationships

Saw an old friend I hadn't seen in a couple years. Not even sure if we've communicated other traded "Happy Birthday" greetings on each other's Facebook walls. We had never been close but we're friends. Now on FB I generally follow what my other several hundred friends are doing as best I can. Certainly not every single detail but I scan the newsfeed daily. What a great joy it was to talk about stuff we saw happening in each other's lives. He asked about my son's baseball and commented about my beautiful family in a photo. I did the same. There was a sense of closeness in our friendship. We felt connected -- real, honest feelings of warmth. Is it really a false connection?

All the time lately I hear from Christian leaders who are giving up FB for "real relationships" and that FB gives a false sense of intimacy and pseudo-relationships. So many leaders are down on social media. "It's such a huge time waster." Really? I am honestly really thankful for things that have happened in my life due to FB. I love FB for a lot of reasons ... 

There's a lot of people that I pray for. Yeah, I'm a guy who believes that prayer makes a difference -- that God answers prayer. So I pray for a lot of people ... my cousin who moved, my wife's cousin needs a job, another cousin started a business, a former parishioner with cancer, a local acquaintance with cancer, a colleague getting married & going back to school, another former parishioner in a bad relationship, prayers of thanksgiving for the healthy birth of a friend's grandson, a former co-worker's husband's heart transplant, another friend starting a new ministry, and more situations than I can mention. I'm so glad I know what's going on and I can pray. There's just not enough time to keep that level of connected via phone calls or letters. 

So many of my family are on FB now across the generational spectrum. There's a sense of closeness with each other that we felt when we were kids. So much so that we ended up using FB to facilitate a family reunion, something we hadn't had in years but had really wanted. I know, I know -- people have had reunions for years without FB and if we really wanted it we would have done it. That's true. But FB gave us the framework for capitalizing on the love we had for one another and the ability to cut through schedule and communication barriers. 

Several times a month I get a FB message from someone who reaches out to me for advice on their life, often on their spiritual life because I am a pastor/priest. I'm helping people find a new church, get healing from their last church, sharing the Scriptures, etc. Often times it's persons that I haven't seen or talked to physically in years and years, or that I only have a cyber-relationship with. But trust has been built as we've observed each other or FB stalked each other over the years. Sometimes pseudo-relationships have resulted in real people worship the true living God. 

Was it a pseudo-relationship when I was able to raise some funds to help out a guy living with no heat in the dead of a upstate New York winter? What about when we were able to utilize FB to collect coats, hats, gloves, etc. for Burmese kids that were freezing because they didn't have appropriate winter clothes? We've had several similar situations. Real or pseudo, it felt pretty real when these people had warm homes and bodies, dry feet and hands. 

We probably could not have not what we did as easily as we did if we did not have the relationship capital that was built via FB. That's right. It's not just about FB as a mode of communication that facilitated requests to multiple persons. There is also the relationship capital built through "likes", birthday greetings, commentating on statuses and photos, celebrating joys and mourning losses, networking when needs occur, and reaching out via messaging when obvious crises or difficulties occurred. When we do those things, good will occurs and bonds of affection are enhanced. So much so that when we do run into each other there's a great sense of joy -- maybe even greater -- because of the connection and relationship building that happened online. 

Maybe FB is a waste of time but I really like the real life joy and warmth it produces in a variety of ways.

Back in Action

Haven't posted in forever, but have really had so much on mind recently that I wanted to blog about. I'm on vacation for the next couple weeks so let's see if I can get my blog-groove on again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Revelation Song -- Advent Style

During Advent 2012 we needed some more Advent worship music. We try to adhere to the church year and not sing Christmas songs before the day and season of Christmas. So in a moment of inspiration (or insanity) I played with the lyrics of great worship song, Revelation Song, and added some Advent-styled lyrics.  

Verse 1
Worthy is the
Lamb who was slain
Holy, holy is He.

Sing a new song,
to Him who sits on
Heaven's mercy seat.  

Verse 2
Worthy is the
Babe of Mary
Holy, holy is He.

Son of David,
Root of Jesse,
Born a child and king.  

Verse 3
Prepare the way of,
the one who is Lord,
Holy, holy is He.
Son of David,
Root of Jesse,
Christ the coming King.

Chorus:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come.
With all creation I sing, praise to the King of Kings;
you are my everything and I will adore you.

Obviously verse 1 is part of the original song and it really is more attuned to Good Friday but we sang it with the rest of the new verses and it worked.

May all honor and glory be unto you O Lord my God and Redeemer. Amen

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Pre-Alpha

Uglyduckling

Many are familiar with the Alpha Course, an Intro to Christianity Course developed by Anglican church in London, and its success over the past decades.  That success has faded some in recent years, at least in part, due to the the fact that more and more people are so unchurched that even the Alpha Course is too churchy for them.  So we need something pre-Alpha.

Some churches are using the Alpha Marriage and Parenting courses as precursors to inviting someone to Alpha.  But today I discovered the Uglyduckling. It appears to be a ministry support for those wishing to do evangelism. It attempts to get the conversation started with those who are extremely unchurched.