A Walk That Was A Long Time Coming

I recently had an experience that caused me to reflect on my very first week of professional ministry.   That week in August of 1998 I moved from the suburbs of Chicago to the high desert of Yakima, WA.  I arrived in Yakima and just 2 days later I piled into a van with 5 youth and 2 other adults for my first mission trip.  We traveled to Camp Magruder on the Oregon coast and spent the week doing projects around the camp.  Our big project was to build a bridge.  It actually started out taking apart a bridge as the group that had been there the previous week had put the boards in crooked.  So we took the boards out and then put them in correctly.  It was a difficult but fun job and our group bonded over the experience.  Unfortunately we were only able to get about ½ way across the water before it was time to head back home.  We left with the hope that someone else would come and finish the job so folks could get to the other side.  In the 15 years since our mission trip I had only been back to Camp Magruder once and that day it was so rainy and muddy I could only see the bridge.  I was happy to note that it deed indeed stretch to the other shore.  This past weekend I finally had a chance to walk on the bridge and see where it led for the first time.  The bridge looks a bit weathered and worn but I am proud to report it is solid.  It...

Cake and Beer

This photo does not do the chocolate cake justice. It might seem an odd combination, pumpkin ale and chocolate cake, but trust me it made for a pretty good duo last night at Theology on Tap.  Depending on what you think about both theology and alcohol just the very event might seem like an odd combo to you as well.  Given the history of the methodist movement around alcohol there may have been some of my old Sunday School teachers frowning from their seats in glory.  Or maybe not.  Maybe when you get to full reconciliation with God things like churchy rules go out the window. Our first discussion was about that methodist alcohol history, and was quickly followed by trying to parse the nature of divinity and humanity’s seemingly primal and universal attempts to engage the divine presence.  We talked about our lives, our struggles, our history and traditions.  We ate pizza and salad and the aforementioned cake and drank water, juice, beer, and cocktails.  We laughed, we recommended authors to each other, and we listened and talked in equal measure.The alchemy of the night can’t be fully summed up here by the food and drink or topics we ranged through.  There was something holy about it all coming together.  Something about honest conversation over a table draped in my best 1950’s table cloth that just worked.  Kind of like the pumpkin ale and chocolate cake.  I suggest you try it, whether it be beer & cake or the honest, open conversation with others about all the things that make your heart wonder and your brain hum about...

I’m a Menace with a Hammer

Me- literally building something We are building a community, a culture, a church.  We are creating systems and budgets.  We are learning a ton along the way.  One of the more important things we have learned in our three months of being new church planters is that we care way more about building than destruction.  What we want to be about is creation not ruin. That may seem like a fairly obvious thing, but as we’ve begun to connect with people in the community I’ve found that sometimes I lazily lapse into describing what we are about by describing what we are not.  Boring, lecture, old, irrelevant.  Those are words that I am ashamed to admit I have used in describing church.  It’s lazy because I know that all of that can be true, but I also know that there are many, many vibrant, engaging, fresh, relevant traditional churches out there. It is also true that I would not be here, not have the deep relationship that I have with God, if it weren’t for the traditional churches that I have been a part of over the years. It is easy to react against all the ways that the church has disappointed me or let me down over the years instead of seeing the work we are doing as a continuation of all the beautiful and holy moments we have been blessed to experience in and through traditional churches.This has been a theologically profound learning for me.  It came courtesy of some of the things one of our lead team pointed out at a dinner not so long ago. ...

Under the Bridge

A night of service I was chatting with a friend about something Paige and I did this past week.  “You took your 8 year old where?” They asked.  The “where” in question was under the Burnside bridge on Thursday night to a program called Night Strike.  Hundreds of volunteers from a variety of faith communities gather to serve and converse with hundreds of homeless and low income folks every week.  We went there to participate with a few other folks from our new Sellwood faith community.  Paige and I spent the evening sorting garbage/recycling and chatting with folks.  It was a great, if slightly smelly, night!  I realized that for the person asking the question, where P and I spent our Thursday night was unusual.  Not all kids are immersed in food banks, soup kitchens and community meals.  Wouldn’t it be great if they were?  I know that both Eilidh and I have benefited and been shaped by early experiences in just these kinds of settings and it is part of what we want for Paige.  I believe that we are all called and equipped with gifts to serve others.  Part of the function of who I am called to be as an ordained Deacon is to help people match their gifts with the needs of the world.  At the end of the night I asked Paige what she thought.  She said, “I had fun but I liked the Oregon Food Bank better.”  That’s where we will probably go next time.  Maybe she can bring a friend.  Jeff ...