Saturday, February 09, 2008

Planning for a Sabbatical.

I blogged on the topic of the small church pastor taking a sabbatical during the last week August. At that time I was unsure if I would take a sabbatical if the church offered one to me. Well… it looks like I am going to eat my words.

By December my internal fuel tank was running on empty. My step mom had a serious health emergency that would eventually end her life. My father has serious complications for diabetes and being 100+ pounds over weight. Dealing with these situations from two states away has taken its toll. The Session and I started to have serious conversations about the possibility of a sabbatical near the end of November. At its December meeting the Session voted for me to have a three month sabbatical in 2009. We are working on a grant to fund the sabbatical.

My grant writing team wants to use a blog to:

  • Keep the congregation informed of the progress in writing the proposal;
  • To provide an easy avenue for the Evergreen Presbyterian Church family to give input to the grant writing team;
  • To give folks around the globe the opportunity to learn from what we are doing and to give their insight on our process and proposal.

The blog for this process is: Journey 2 Sabbatical.

Please try to check out the new blog every week or two to see the latest updates. We look forward to your thoughts and will covet your prayers.

Friday, February 08, 2008

A God Thing!

My last posting talked about Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras and Carnival. I suggested that it might be a good idea for some churches in Graham go band together to present an event that might touch upon the human “needs” that people try to satisfy at Mardi Gras, Carnival, etc.

Does God read this blog? Did God use this blog to prepare me (and Evergreen) for something that he had in mind? Here is what happened…

Wednesday afternoon I received a phone call from the Senior Pastor at Graham Emmanuel Baptist Church (GEBC). Jim is a great guy. Our churches already partner with the Graham Evangelical Covenant Church for our Easter Sunrise Service. Last year GEBC hosted an event for the Graham community call Graham Jam. They rented the local fair grounds for a day in July. Graham Jam had Christian concerts, games, and activities for all ages. It was a HUGE success. In fact, it appears to have been so successful it was overwhelming. GEBC is looking to partner with three other churches in Graham for Graham Jam 2008 (July 12). They are looking for prayer support and people to help run various activities. They are looking at shouldering the majority of the expenses (they are by far the largest church in Graham). What a wonderful way to try and make a positive impact on our community!

Pending Session approval we will be involved in Graham Jam 2008!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Shrove Tuesday—Pig Out on Pancakes!

The time has come for this blog to resurface. Life is getting back to normal--or should I say, “As normal as it ever gets for a pastor!” Our daughter left yesterday for a short term mission in a refugee camp, in the Sahara Desert of North Africa. She will be working with a mission organization in an on going mission effort in that refugee camp. Yesterday, she flew to Europe to meet up with the permanent people of the team. They will be in North Africa by the end of the week.

Now for today’s topic…

Mardi Gras in New Orleans will be in full swing tonight on this, the last day before Lent begins. Shirts will be lifted and breasts exposed. Beads will be thrown. Puke will cover the streets. People will be falling down drunk. Memories of the night’s activities will be clouded through the alcohol-enduced fog. Tomorrow morning it will all be over—that is except for the hangovers.

Carnival in Rio makes Mardi Gras in New Orleans look like child’s play. Millions of free condoms have been handed out to protect partiers from STDs and pregnancy. For twelve days the party rages on and on.

I have never been to New Orleans or Rio. I have never attended Fat Tuesday in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. I have no desire to hang around large groups of drunken people. If I am going to be around a bunch of drunks I will go to a NFL game!

Those of us in the church should take a closer look at Mardi Gras to see what we can learn. Here are some of my observations:

  • There is a human need to gather with other people for fun. People will use any excuse to find a time to have fun. Last Sunday was Super Bowl XLII. Super Bowl parties were the norm. If you went to Costco on Saturday you would have seen more food sampling stations than normal – almost every one had a type of snack food that could be served at a Super Bowl party. People just love to get together for fun.
  • There is a human need to try to escape the drudgery of every day life. Just the other day I spoke with a person whose life is anything but enjoyable. The person looks for a few moments here and there to try and get some freedom from his/her situation. People look for avenues of escape when they have no sense of hope in their lives.
  • People are lonely and will go to extraordinary lengths to feel wanted, needed or important. The woman with the most beads at Mardi Gras is a celebrity for one night. Men desire her because they know she will flash her boobs at them. Some women envy her, wishing they had so many men wanting their attention.

These are just a few of my observations on Mardi Gras.

So, what are churches doing to help meet some of the deep human needs that surface during Mardi Gras? That is a very good question!

Evergreen Presbyterian Church (the church I serve) has an annul Shrove Tuesday pancake supper. Shrove Tuesday is the Church’s version of Fat Tuesday. This supper is something that our church has done for years and years—I believe that it goes back to the founding pastor of the church. It is a fun dinner. We have about 150 people stop by the church for dinner. It is the same people every year:

  • There are those from the church family who are in worship on a regular basis.
  • There are those who are extended family members of those who attend Evergreen. This is the one thing that they come to every year.
  • There are those from the area around the church who come to the dinner, but attend a different church for worship.

We have almost no people who come to the dinner as their first experience at Evergreen.

The “older” people at the church love the Shrove Pancake dinner. It meets their needs. It is a fun time. They get to see people they know. They get to laugh and catch up with neighbors who attend other churches. It gives them a chance to escape the “regular” drudgery of Tuesday night television. It gives them a feeling of being needed. It takes a lot of people to put on the supper.

I enjoy our pancake supper; and yet, I wonder…

Do we do the supper to meet our needs or do we do it to meet the needs of the unchurched in our area?

Mardi Gras’s success depends on the cooperation of all the people and establishments in the French Quarter of town and the city of New Orleans. It is a huge effort! The crowds and their $$$$ make it worthwhile for those who sponsor the event.

What would happen if churches around the country decided to present viable alternatives on Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday?

Let me dream about what could happen in Graham, Washington.

Graham is an area in unincorporated Pierce County. It is basically the intersection of South Meridian and 224th Street East. Graham is a zip code! The area called Graham is partly rural. Subdivisions have sprung up all over the place. The high school gym is the largest building around. The Pierce County Fair Grounds is located in Graham.

Here is my dream. The local churches would get together and rent the Pierce County Fair Grounds for the day. Events would start as soon as school gets out. Christian bands (some big name bands) would play continuously until 10:00 pm. Food booths would be serving food for all who attend. Fair rides would be available for free, or almost free. A paint ball course would be set up. There would be age-appropriate activities for everyone. The admission fee would be non-perishable food for the local food bank. Social service agencies would be there to get their information to those who are interested. Participating churches would have booths to let people know where they are located and what they have to offer. Within a year or two it could become THE place to be on Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday.

Our Session (“church board” for you non-Presbyterians out there) retreat will be occurring next month. One topic to explore will be our Shrove Tuesday “event.” Is it all Christ wants it to be? Is it possible for our church to meet human needs by providing quality experiences for the churched and the unchurched?