Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dave's Top 3 Questions for Faith Church 2010

The New Year is time to take stock of the past and look forward to the future. Here are my top 3 questions for Faith Church moving into 2010. There are only 3 but they are big questions. Three questions of discernment I feel are fundamental for Faith Church to reconnect with it's foundation of benevolence and move forward to growth in less traditional ways.

1) How do we provide the training necessary to nurture folks in their understanding of and growth in mission? Exploring what mission means. What the bible says about mission. The importance of mission to what it means to be Presbyterian. Developing a deeper personal sense of mission. Developing the tools necessary for discerning what God’s call to mission is for each of us personally and as a congregation.

2) How do we transform ourselves into a congregation that reaches out to the new generations of folks that see no need, or simply don't have the time, for a church home or anything beyond a personal spirituality? The experience of Maricarmen, the presbytery’s new minister of New Church Development, is a wonderful new resource available to us.

3) How do we engage ourselves in demonstrating Kingdom living to our local neighborhood? Recent actions by the Huntsville Housing Authority as well as community reaction to them have deepened divisions within the Huntsville community. Huntsville schools are undergoing increased growth along with shrinking budgets and significant demographic changes. How do we respond in action and partnership?

Please pray with me over these questions over the coming year. What are your questions?


Pew Time

Over this Christmas weekend I’ve racked up a lot of “pew time.” I’m not saying the amount of time one spends in a pew has any correlation to ones holiness or degree of being saved! However I’ve had the opportunity to experience several different forms of worship this weekend that have been quite enlightening and refreshing. Of course I attended Faith’s Christmas Eve service and traditional Sunday worship; unfortunately I missed our contemporary worship. I have also been attending our 12 Days of Christmas Prayer devotionals. All of these worship experiences have been wonderful, spiritual, and fulfilling! But probably the most eye opening was my attending two Catholic Masses with my brother who has been visiting this Christmas.

Now I have attended Mass with my brother before when he’s visited, but this visit included two Masses within 48 hours. You may or may not know that I grew up Catholic and had drifted away from “the Church” after I left home; until Faith Church found me. However, attending Mass twice within 48 hours along with the recent tension we’ve had at Faith over our style of worship put these visits in an entirely different light.

There was very little in the Mass in the way of word, action, or song that I could not accept or rejoice in as a fellow Christian! Oh, I had to watch myself with “trespasses” rather than “debts”, and who could argue about kneeling in the presence of the Lord? I did have to deal with some personal baggage when it came to making the “Sign of the Cross.” But that was only dealing with my personal issues from leaving the church in the first place and recognizing my trouble with that sign was a remnant of rebellion that has no place in my life anymore. I did have to deal with the fact that I was not welcome at the Communion Table along with some theological differences about exactly what Communion means. But I recognize those issues are as much theirs as they are mine and that in the Glory After that will all be cleared up. In the meantime I can be a polite guest and respect their customs. And I can tell you I experienced Communion just as much as they did!

All this just drives home to me even more what a waste it is to argue over differences in worship styles! We are called to celebrate our relationship with the Lord in worship. There are ways of celebrating that are unique to each of us. But we are also called to celebrate each other’s relationship with the Lord. As the PC(USA) Book of Order (G-4.0401) states: “Thus the fellowship of Christians as it gathers for worship and orders its corporate life will display a rich variety of form, practice, language, program, nurture, and service to suit culture and need.” We should respect each others choices and rejoice in the Lord “all ways”.

When I joined Faith I made a statement to the congregation that I had found a relationship with Jesus and that I could have gone back to reconcile myself with the Roman Catholic Church. But I also said that I felt I needed to stay at Faith where I was surrounded by the love of the people that had brought me into that relationship to continue to grow. That statement has been tested in recent years, and a couple more times in the past, but it still holds. It holds because Faith Church is bound together by the love of Christ! Faith Church, by grace, always seems to re-find that core truth; even if sometimes it takes a while longer. As long as Faith Church remembers and rests on the rock of Christ’s love it will thrive. There will surely be pieces of baggage we’ll need to deal with but I am looking forward to rebuilding upon that foundational rock in the coming year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Joy, Both a Feeling and an Action

This is my offering to Faith's "12 Days of Christmas Prayer" devotions this year...

Joy, Both a Feeling and an Action

Opening Prayer: Lord God, open our hearts and minds that we might come into greater communion with you in this time of prayer and reflection. Amen

Philippians 4:4-7 (New Revised Standard)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As Christians I think that is the feeling we feel when we talk about Joy, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” Yet that is often a feeling that eludes us. But if we read earlier in the passage we find that it requires an action on our part, to rejoice! Rejoice, the action verb of joy. We are to rejoice, revel if you will, in the fact that the Lord is near and approachable. We rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas, Emmanuel, God is with us.

From the Blog: Solitary Broomtree
“There are times when rejoicing is down right easy – when finding joy in the Lord is almost a natural response. We receive good news about the health of a loved one, and we praise the Lord. We get reacquainted with an old friend we haven’t seen in years, and we rejoice in one another’s company. Our family arrives for a visit, and we rejoice in their safe travels.
And finally, there are those times when rejoicing seems counterintuitive – almost insulting or inappropriate – like when a loved one dies. Or when they receive dire news of a terminal illness. Or when we learn that our position in the company is being eliminated, and we’ll be out of a job. Or when someone we care about is convicted of a crime and sent to jail. What is there, at times like these, to rejoice in?
Rejoicing in the Lord isn’t about finding a treasure in life’s trash heap of bad news. It’s about being joyful because of our relationship with God. It’s about giving thanks for the hope that we have in God’s love for us, proven in Jesus Christ. If all of our hope is found there, and “the peace which surpasses all understanding” emanates from Him, then we will be filled with joy in the Lord regardless of our present circumstances.”

But wait, it gets even better than that!

Zephaniah. 3:17 (New Revised Standard)
The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

God rejoices in US! What more could we ask for to give us that feeling of joy?

Silent Prayer

Closing Prayer (read together):
Lord God, Abba Father, you came to be with us to share new hope in the form of a tiny baby. That baby grew up with us to lead us in your ways. And finally that baby sacrificed himself for us that we may be free to rejoice in you eternally. Halleluiah, Amen!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent 2009 – Faith and Hope!

It’s been well over a month since I posted anything to my blog. So many things have been happening at work, at home, with family, at church, and spiritually.

This year Faith Church most certainly embodies the feelings of anticipation and hope that Advent brings! With our new pastor, Pastor Tom, in place, the Fellowship Hall reopened, and folks comfortably back in two worship services, things are starting to feel more normal. There is now an excitement about the tough work the Lord has ahead for us to complete our healing and discern our call for moving forward! I have seen so many parallels between Faith’s journey and the journey of God’s people in the bible this last year. The up and down relationship with God, the feelings of exile, and now the sense of something new coming just as those that were graced with the awareness that the birth of the little Christ child signaled a momentous new beginning revealed in such a humble setting. (No Tom, I do not think you are the second coming, but your arriving here in record time is surely a God thing. :-)

Spiritually my biggest event is that I decided to heed the call to become an Elder. I wrote about that struggle back in August (8/7, 8/12). Wow, that long ago? Faith responded by electing me! Training has been abbreviated this year but the North Alabama Presbytery training day was fantastic! Houston discussed the PC(USA) Book of Confessions and you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Rosemary rap about the Book of Order! Rosemary also shared some of the actual beauty of the Book of Order infused in the first 4 chapters; a beauty that I recognized when I read it during my discernment (9/6). We also had a short talk from Maricarmen the presbytery’s new minister of New Church Development. I believe we all have a great deal to learn from Maricarmen about church transformation! We also had some training at Faith with Pastor Tom. It is going to be a joy to work with him as well as the other elders and deacons!

My other spiritual adventure has been launching the Faith Reach website. Faith Church started with a call to mission and that call is as steadfast as God’s love. We are called to reach out to those outside our walls as well as within. Faith has been active in many ministries yet it has always been hard to keep track of them without having to hunt down Frank. I felt the call to offer my time to set up Faith Reach as a place where information on those ministries can be easily found. It is intended to be a place of information, encouragement, and education in mission. The Faith Reach website has also recently led to starting a Faith Facebook fan page! Establishing this website and researching its ministries has shown me the vast array of outreach and mission opportunities available! The next logical step is to find an avenue to provide the training necessary to nurture folks in their understanding of and growth in mission. That is something I am looking forward to working on with Tom, Frank, and Philip over the next year!

May we all be enveloped in the warm glow of hope over this Christmas season and prepare ourselves for the work God would have us do in the coming year! And to start us out right please consider attending the 12 days of Christmas Prayer series starting Christmas Day!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Can We Part Friends?

Things are looking up for Faith right now. We have a new pastor coming, the Fellowship Hall will be reopening imminently, and the budget is more stable. With a new and much anticipated sense of normalcy present there are also strong forces to restart a contemporary worship service and un-blend the traditional service. I have spoken several times in this blog about my support for multiple format worship services. Particularly September 2009 and November 2008 and maybe a few more times in between.

I suppose this entry's title should more correctly be "Can We Part as Brothers & Sisters in Christ?" I have concerns that we are not quite ready to part into two services in a healthy way. I get the sense right now that the parting is based on dividing rather than multiplying. I could be wrong and I pray that I am, but I would like to pose several questions each of us needs to prayerfully consider.

Are we multiplying with a sense of new mission to address a need?

Are we dividing to get back to something we are comfortable with?

Who would you invite to the service you feel more connected to?

Who would you invite to the service you feel less connected to?

Are you willing to serve the service you feel less connected to? Usher? Read? Child care? Flowers? Sound booth? Media operator? Attend? Children's sermon? Setup? Cleanup?

Are the plans inclusive or exclusive?

Do you look forward to a regular "joint" service as an opportunity of sharing, experiencing, and learning?

Can or should this wait just a little longer to give God and the new pastor a chance to work on healing our hearts so we can part as Siblings in Christ?

Some important things to pray about!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Spirit just keeps on showing up...

I think this prayer is going to become a personal thing with me...

"Lord, it is so easy for us to lose sight of your vision for us in the world. You have required that we do justice, but we are more comfortable when it’s “just us.” You have required of us a kindness, but we are most at peace with our “own kind.” You have asked us to walk humbly beside you, but our self-centeredness refuses to keep the pace. Forgive us. Amen."


The Spirit just keeps on showing a guided missile...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Studying the Word of God

My thoughts have been turning to bible study lately. Bible study will play a pivotal role in reestablishing Faith’s identity. Without studying the Word of God we can’t know the Will of God. Without knowing the Will of God how can we expect to form an identity that seeks to follow and glorify God?

Now I will admit right here that my knowledge of the bible and my skill and diligence of studying it are seriously lacking. My knowledge has come in fits and starts along the way, being mostly driven by third party commentaries or books that essentially tell you what the bible says. Actual study of the Word itself has mostly been prompted by mentors from Church for which I am grateful. And I honestly must say it has improved with the use of online study tools and search engines that help me find the connections needed between the various parts of the bible. Adding a prayer that the Holy Spirit guide me on seeing what I need to see has been the most important addition to my process!

I believe the older generations in the church take for granted that the younger generations have the same knowledge and understanding of the bible that they do. And they over estimate the degree of understanding that the younger generation, as a whole, have of the bible. I believe that leading and/or participating in bible study with the younger generations is a key gift and responsibility the biblically mature hold within the church.

While I’m in a confessional mode, I also regret the way that the University of Faith Sunday School concept panned out. Sunday school classes were seriously flagging already at that time and it was an honest attempt to restructure in a way to provide the variety of options that the current enrollment seemed to desire. The team understood that it was ignoring the social aspects of Sunday school but was not staffed to address them. It turns out those social aspects were the driving force of the Sunday school hour. The following discipleship groups were an attempt, I believe, to re-gather and re-mix the membership into groups around a common study. This effort had mixed success but has lacked staying power also. Both of these efforts should be considered constructive attempts, with successes and failures, which should inform future efforts to get a handle on the social/study dynamic within our congregation.

Just like in worship, one size does not fit all when it comes to bible study; probably even less so. Here is a metaphor. Think of the Word of God as rain that falls on the Earth. Just like rain it falls on every individual at some point. Everybody enjoys a rainy day sometime and when an individual responds to the rain it is like a personal bible study. As people collect the rain they gather together in little tributaries or small groups; you can’t help but share the Good News. The groups then gather together into brooks, creeks, small rivers or congregations and worship together. As these creeks and rivers join they form larger rivers or denominations. And finally these large rivers flow into the ocean which is Jesus’ Church Universal on Earth. The Word of God runs through a cycle of Living Water! So each of those groups (individuals, small groups, congregations, denominations, and the Church Universal) responding to the Word are each of different character and an important part of the whole cycle.

So as a church we should be encouraging this flow of Living Water. We should be encouraging personal bible study, particularly for those that are new to it, or even afraid of it. We should be encouraging group studies. Sometimes this means channeling them as in studies among elders, or deacons, or mission teams so these groups can come into communion with the Word and each other enabling their ministries. Sometimes this means encouraging groups to form on their own seeking their own level. And as a congregation we encourage by sharing the Word in our worship.

Personally I feel the Sunday school hour should lean toward introduction to different levels of bible study, a welcoming nurturing approach to usher folks into both the study of the Word itself and the community of Faith and eventually some small group. Small group studies of more committed folks can better handle the difficulty of supporting alternate meeting times.

I personally feel it is important for the different leadership teams within Faith to have bible study time in addition to committee meeting time. How can we lead if we aren’t connected as a group to the Word?

And finally, I also believe that varied styles of worship usher different folks into the Word. I feel these different worship styles should flow together regularly as a whole. Perhaps that should be on Communion Sunday rather than every Sunday or a fifth Sunday?

All of these different tributaries work together culminating in a church community that is reflecting the Kingdom of God. How do we nurture and encourage meaningful bible study? We’ll have to study on that…


Sunday, October 11, 2009


I went to the informational meeting held by the Interim Pastor Search Committee (IPSC) today. They are recommending that we call the candidate they have selected as the “Designated Pastor”! The congregational meeting is next week, October 18th.

There are two primary differences between an Interim and a Designated Pastor.
  • An Interim may only serve 1-2 years; a Designee may serve 2-4 years
  • An Interim cannot be called as the permanent pastor; the Designee may
The primary reason for the recommendation is the time factor. The possibility of becoming permanent was a distant second. The difficult work required of us during this transition encompasses three major areas.
  • Coming to terms with our history
  • Discovering a new identity
  • Developing new leadership
During the time of discernment and interviews the IPSC along with the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry (COM) concluded that Faith’s transitional work could take two years or more. The Designated Pastor option provides the time, stability, and continuity of trained leadership required for this work before us.

We are now a short time away from being able to start in earnest the difficult work of healing that Faith has been praying for! Praise God! And praise the presence of the Holy Spirit during this process!

Watch for today’s meeting notes to be made available on Faith’s website. A letter detailing the candidate and nature of next week’s meeting will be mailed this Wednesday.


Friday, October 9, 2009

More Questions than Answers 1

Who are Our Neighbors?

Who are Faith's neighbors? Who are our neighbors? Some brainstormed questions to stir...

  1. Who are the people that live to our south, north, west, east?
    1. Are they elderly?
    2. Are they young families?
    3. Are they single?
    4. Do they believe in God?
    5. Are they active spiritually?
    6. Are they lonely?
    7. Are they comfortable? Or struggling?
    8. Where do they fit economically in Huntsville?
    9. Hunters ridge?
    10. Johnson Road?
    11. Walton’s Mountain?
    12. Etc.?
  2. Who are the people that regularly commute or drive by Faith?
    1. Where do they come from?
    2. Where do they go?
    3. What do they think about Faith when stopped at the intersection?
  3. Who are the people that patronize the business district around Faith?
    1. Do they live locally?
    2. Do they work locally?
    3. Do they travel farther to shop or dine?
  4. Who are the people that work in the business district around Faith?
  5. Who works in the Crestwood medical district?
  6. Who uses the Crestwood medical district services?
  7. What would it be like to hold a bible study in one of the restaurants in the area?
  8. Or a prayer service in the hospital chapel?
  9. What are the needs of our neighbors?
  10. How do we get to know our neighbors better?
  11. What could we offer commuters during the morning rush? Evening rush?
  12. What could we offer our neighbors during lunch hours?
  13. Car wash and prayer circle?
  14. Fair Trade coffee and news of PC(USA)'s self development and justice efforts?
  15. How is God already working in the lives of our neighbors?
  16. How do we join in with what God is doing?
  17. What would it be like to offer a worship service on Sunday afternoons for all those resturant workers that serve all us church goers at 11:30? With invitation card left with a tip?
  18. Do the businesses around Faith have an association? Do we participate, have a presence?
  19. Are you aware of our Faith@School efforts?
  20. Are we present in our PTAs?
  21. ...
What are your questions? Where will God lead us?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I'm not going to say the M-word...

The following are some very good conversations by some "notables" in the M-word area. A bit high-brow at times but the speakers do try to identify jargon when they can’t avoid it. I think these are particularly appropriate for Faith right now. Not because we are at one end of the spectrum or the other. Actually we're probably nowhere right now. But we are in a phase where we are trying to reestablish our identity and are being pulled by these forces. And at the same time trying to find a pastor that will help us achieve ... what?

The key to listening to these is not to side with one idea or the other. The key is to also remember our circumstances (history, people, place, and present) and to try and discern what combination of bits and pieces of these ideas is God trying to put together in a unique way at Faith?

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

The last part is where the rubber hits the road; how do we allow ourselves to experiment with actual examples without tearing ourselves apart?

(Of course the answer to that is easy to say but hard to do. Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit to imitate Jesus and keep God's Kingdom first.)

Watch, Listen, and pray...


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Who Ever Said That Unity Means Being The Same?

We folks of Faith Church are an odd lot!

When it comes to worship we seem to be on this road of everyone having to worship together all the time and we all have to like the same type of worship service? However, when it comes to outreach or ministry, it is impossible to get more than a handful or so to come together in any particular ministry? When it comes to worship, if the service or the message aren’t to our liking we tune out or leave? When it comes to benevolence the outreach budget is heavily biased with directed giving rather than a general benevolence fund?

Wait a minute - maybe we’re not that odd after all? Isn’t that the way of the world we live in? We all want what we want and we want everyone else to want the same thing? We all want to belong but we don’t want to change who we are? We all want to feel good about ourselves and help others, but we want that on our terms? I’m sorry but these behaviors reflect a “me first” attitude, and I’m as guilty as anyone. Yet, we are all in church because, deep down, we know there is something better. And somehow we all ended up in a place called Faith Presbyterian Church. So what is this place called Faith? Who are we? Who should we be?

The Church created and headed by Jesus Christ, in its worship, and mission, is supposed to be our best imitation of what God’s Kingdom is like. It’s supposed to be the place where we bring each of our God given individualities to multi-faceted worship of our one true God. And the Church is supposed to be the place where we bring each of our unique, God given talents together to help each other carry on God’s outward mission to this world. It is one of those paradoxes that we are supposed to show a “visible oneness” of being a united God’s people at the same time as we demonstrate the uniqueness of the Christian faith that recognizes the diversity of people in the world. From the Presbyterian constitution:

G-4.0203 Visible Oneness
Visible oneness, by which a diversity of persons, gifts, and understandings is brought together, is an important sign of the unity of God’s people.

G-4.0401 Variety of Forms
The church in its witness to the uniqueness of the Christian faith is called to mission and must be responsive to diversity in both the church and the world. Thus the fellowship of Christians as it gathers for worship and orders its corporate life will display a rich variety of form, practice, language, program, nurture, and service to suit culture and need.

So, how do we accomplish this? We do this by living up to the mission we are called to and modeled by Jesus, the head of the Church. That mission is to spread the good news of the Gospel and be humble servants. We start by rebuilding Faith Church’s identity by being servants to each other.

We start by communicating and understanding what each other needs in order to worship and serve God in a meaningful way. We demonstrate that in a mutual combined and blended worship.

We start by engaging as a community in the internal and outward missions and prayer of the church. We demonstrate that by getting personally involved through participation, either working in nurture, prayer, and outreach efforts or sharing in the decisions of how our outreach dollars are spent.

We start by engaging in the personal and communal study of God’s Word, preparing ourselves for the spreading of the good news. We demonstrate to each other the continual nature of learning and understanding the Word by studying with and teaching each other.

As we do these things we will recognize our common foundation in the resurrection and reestablish our common identity as Faith Church. Once we have regained that foundation and identity then we will be able to offer varied styles of worship services, not as divisions but as offerings of service and support to others. Once we have regained that foundation and identity the outreach life of Faith church will thrive, grow, and not be the burden of a few. These things will then be rooted in an eternal foundation with a common and current identity, not a nostalgic one.

Easier said than done, you say? You’re right! We cannot do this alone. Through what power can this be achieved? The Presbyterian constitution says it best:

G-3.0103 The Holy Spirit
God’s redeeming and reconciling activity in the world continues through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who confronts individuals and societies with Christ’s Lordship of life and calls them to repentance and to obedience to the will of God.

G-3.0400 Called to Risk and Trust
The Church is called to undertake this mission even at the risk of losing its life, trusting in God alone as the author and giver of life, sharing the gospel, and doing those deeds in the world that point beyond themselves to the new reality in Christ.

I strongly urge everyone to read Chapters G-3 & G-4 of the Presbyterian constitution also called the Book of Order;


Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Grounded" in the Holy Spirit!

This is a repost of a Note from Joanna Caldwell on Facebook. Healing IS taking place in the life of Faith Church. Amen.

The Holy Spirit and Coffee
At the GMA Conference, I was introduced to the best coffee ever: "Land of a Thousand Hills" coffee. I'd never had coffee two days after it was roasted before! The aroma was deliciously tantalizing and it tasted every bit as wonderful as it smelled. It's also coffee with a conscience and not just because it's "fair trade" coffee where the workers receive a living wage. This coffee is evidence of the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit! Coffee? Yes! The flyer I picked up at their table tells the true stories of two young women whose families were brutally hunted down and murdered during the 100 days of genocide 10 years ago by a man named Jean. The country was so devastated by the violence that when everything was over, the government turned to churches to bring healing and reconciliation. Through the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working through them, these two young women FORGAVE the man who massacred their families and now they are working side by side with him growing coffee beans. So as I drink this coffee, I'm thinking about the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit and I wonder, if these young women and the hundreds of others like them, can forgive the people who murdered their families, how can we have any excuse to refuse to forgive each other for canceling our favorite church programs, changing the style of worship, hurting our feelings, or anything else? Jesus told us to forgive our brothers (and sisters) without limits. We have been forgiven much, we have no grounds to refuse to forgive fact, just the opposite, my coffee grounds remind me that by the power of the Holy Spirit, anything is possible.

Reposted with permission.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Full Court Press

In my last entry I related that I was having a hard time dealing with repeatedly bouncing between good and bad news about Faith; struggling with the realities of power and money in the church; and discerning if I’m called to be an Elder. I even found myself searching for other churches. Well God was doing a full court press on me last Saturday and Sunday. Three things came together that have started to put things in perspective.

First on Saturday, I started reading the Book of Order. Over and over again, it stressed the sovereignty of God, and the call to unity as a church in mission, worship, and fellowship; all the while stressing diversity and openness to the continual reformation of a church and its people.

Secondly on Sunday I felt a strong pull to attend the contemporary service at Big Cove. Not necessarily seeking a new church but just to see what was there. Well it was apparent I was meant to hear their message that day! They had just started a series on Acts and happened to be covering Chapter 2 about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit. They talked about the transformative power of the Spirit to change people in ways they could never hope to change themselves. They talked about the need to expect and look for this power to change the circumstances of any problem.

Thirdly I went on to attend Faith’s Sunday service. It was a wonderful service! Being Disability Sunday, the focus of the worship was on the abilities and disabilities we all have. The sermon text, John 4:5-27, was about the Samaritan woman at the well. Despite the woman’s many “disabilities” of sin, infidelity, prejudice, and ignorance, Jesus patiently ministered to her. He ministered to the tiny point of faith she carried, "I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." (John 4:25)

It was at that point I couldn’t help but realize the disabilities we at Faith are experiencing right now! The disability we all have of wanting “our” service, “our” church, back rather than seeking the presence of the Holy Spirit in God’s worship and church. The disability of disharmony and disunity we are all experiencing as we seek what we want rather than what God wants for us. The disability those of us that “see clearly” have when we are fed up with those that “don’t see” and we all discount the power of the Spirit to transform all our visions and actions into His plan. Disabilities just like any others that need to be met with love, making way for the transformative power of the Spirit.

These three have come together in my mind as a sort of Trinity. The Book of Order, particularly Chapter 3, informs us about God’s plan for the Church. The Disability Sunday worship demonstrates our brokenness and Jesus’ unfaltering love for us that we are supposed to imitate. The Pentecost message tells us where the power comes from that will transform us into the church God wants us to be.

Pretty amazing to experience all that in one weekend!

What is your tiny point of faith?

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Difficult Day of Discernment

I have been struggling to figure out if I am being called to become an Elder at Faith Church. It is evident in the many previous entries in this blog that I have tried to see both sides in our conflict and keep my eye on where God wants to direct us. I go from positive days to negative days regularly and with increasing frequency. Today was a difficult day.

Today I received more evidence that we are a divided congregation. The details are irrelevant, they are the same issues that have plagued us and seem not to want to go away. It’s just that when you try to stay focused on the positive and then the negative jumps back in view it hurts all over again. I suppose today could be described as a Scrooge moment. The way ahead appeared very clear and bleak, unless we do something to change that. That something must rely exclusively on our dependence on God. Yet the ponderous weight of earthly power seems stacked against experiencing that dependence.

At the same time as I am struggling with the call, I also find myself searching the web for another church. I wish I could say this was for research purposes to see how others are doing things; I cannot. I was searching for a place to go.

It sometimes seems clear that if I cannot find enough faith in Faith’s future to accept a call to be Elder, then it is time for me to move on. Other times, if I put my faith in God, it seems I need to stay and accept the call. That is difficult, because I’m not sure if that is to see Faith through these tough times and keep pointing to God on the way or is it to help others see God’s grace in hospice as we wither away.

And to make this decision even worse, the time to make the decision is either before or just after we anticipate getting an interim Pastor. Just like God to force the decision to be made in faith and not based on visible evidence.

I have many more thoughts and questions. But I’ll lay those down at His feet for tonight and try to get some sleep.

Today was a difficult day.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Life at Faith These Days - Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog entry I told about several good things happening at Faith these days. However, I was also telling you about my friends that are really wrestling with what has happened at Faith and where Faith is going.

Bad things have happened at Faith. Things that have been done by people still at Faith. Things that were allowed to happen by more people still at Faith. There is no escaping this. My friends, and I, and many of us struggle with many questions.

"How many times are we to forgive our brother (or sister)? Jesus' answer is understood to mean many times as they sin against you. What happens when we let the sun go down on our anger? (in other words we hold a grudge and refuse to forgive, work it out, let it go) We give the devil a foothold....each time."

"What is THE commandment Jesus gave us? To love each other like he loves us and gave his life for us... The kind of love defined in 1 Corinthians 13."

How can we have missed that we failed this commandment? Why is it so hard to follow this commandment? How do we come back together as Christians when we know we have sinned? How can we come back together as Christians with people that don't know they've sinned? How do we deal with our feelings of injustice and that sin must be punished? How do we recognize, confess, and deal with our sinfulness?

My friend found the verses that encapsulate the problem and the answer; Galatians 5:19-23. "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy...I warn you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

The first thing that popped in my head as I was reading my friend's note was the parable of the sower. Read Matthew 13, yes the whole thing. I did and I believe I will be reading it a number of times now.

Here is where I am now in finding my way through all this. After I found out Steve was leaving I was angry. But the Spirit quickly put me in the place where the only thing I could do was to forgive and forget the past, wipe the slate clean and hand it to God. That meant forgetting the hurts of the past and not seeking punishment or retribution. A good parent knows you cannot punish a child for something that happened two weeks ago. BUT that does not mean ignoring new transgressions! So I promised myself to try to address things as they happen. This keeps me from imagining or embellishing things in the past or listening to rumors. I am trying to focus on now and moving forward.

Reading my friend's note and having those parables placed in my head I understand much clearer. Faith is God's garden. It is our job to tend the garden. But God is still the one in charge. There are good patches and bad patches and patches that need cultivation. I've been all three! There are also weeds in the garden, but it is not for us, at this time, to pull them up and risk the budding plants (As seen in Part 1 of this blog entry). Jesus tells us in Mathew 13 that the weeds will not hear the Word and will remain weeds. God will take care of that in his time.

BUT, the gardener in me says, if one of those weeds pops up a seed head above the other plants it's time to take care of it; before it can spread. But how? My friend said it best…

"Loving each other doesn't mean we only speak sweetly to each other saying only "nice" things. Speaking the truth in love can be hard to say and hard to hear, but it's the attitude of the heart that is important when we speak the truth in love. […] We love because God first loved us so it makes sense to me that our focus needs to be on loving and knowing God more. As we know God better, we learn how to love and we are filled with GOD'S LOVE which is different from human love. God's love is 1 Corinthians 13 love. It is a love that is sacrificial, unconditional, dying to self, submitting to God and one another. That is the love we are to extend to one another. Bible study, fellowship, and worship are good things to encourage this."

I have a couple more comments to the Session on life at Faith these days before I finish. I encourage the Session to actively watch for the seed heads and deal with them in a loving and timely manner. I also applaud the Session's efforts in dealing with our budget shortfall in a timely manner. Finally I encourage the Session to understand that the budget is not the problem, it's a symptom. The problem is our spiritual budget. It is easy to get distracted by the easier problem of the money budget but we have a lot of folks hurting and confused and in need of spiritual guidance through these times.

As my friend pointed out; "We've heard excellent, pointed, sermons from Warner, Bob, and Kerry [and Mel] but I haven't felt the pall lift over my heart and I think I am not alone. I think in order to heal from this grief we're in, we need an opportunity to make an active corporate response." I agree, but I don't think we're there yet, and it may be awhile.

Agape, (As Rev. Grigsby would say.)

I hope my friend doesn't mind my quoting much of their note. My friend was worried about presenting these things. I'll take the heat.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Life at Faith These Days - Part 1

It's been a month since I blogged. Life at Faith has been getting better! Last Sunday was amazing!

Worship was fantastic! I had dropped my daughter off at the airport for the adventure of a lifetime; a semester studying in Costa Rica! I then went on to worship. There were many more folks than usual! There was a delegation of folks from Africa that were in town and came to worship with Frank! That morning and previous evening the church had just hosted two mission teams crossing paths to and from the Gulf coast. Our contingent of folks was back from a South Africa trip! Some friends from work that have been church hunting showed up at Faith that day! The music (all the music) hit a chord with me! Kerry's sermon was fantastic! I wept.

I have been working hard to put up a new Faith Reach webpage;, and it is reaching a stable point and is generating a bit of excitement! The page sprung as a personal response to a list of tenets that Faith's Outreach committee is working to.

  • A team ministry that oversees the total missional arena at Faith
  • A team ministry that lifts up, communicates policies and interprets
  • A team ministry that develops, approves, oversees and implements a budget
  • A team ministry that links members with complementary gifts with ministry of service
  • A team ministry that manages a dynamic relationship with 15 to 20 local ministries
  • A team ministry that provides a Theological foundation and understanding of missions
  • A team ministry that serves as a primary bridge interfacing with laity, church and world
  • A team ministry that will provide leadership for Faith into the mission era
  • A team ministry that uses sound infrastructure, accountability and regulates implementation.

The site has three major thrusts. A news and invitation feature that keeps folks informed on opportunities to get engaged. A series of background pages on different ministries that Faith is involved in. A blog where Faith folks can share their stories and experiences of reaching out with God's kingdom.

My vision is not only to inform Faith members, but attract seekers, and attract non-religious seekers to Faith's work through Faith's friendships. The latter then provides the opportunity to usher them into a relationship with Christ in God's time. Much the way Faith ushered me into that relationship. I strongly feel Faith's future depends on involving people in Faith's ministries and THEN involving them in Faith, not the other way around.

One of the other facets is that I'm funneling the announcements and blog stories to Faith's friends on Facebook through my account there. I've been found by a number of Faith folks already!

BUT... Faith church is still hurting.

I hear reports of some folks complaining about the contemporary music in worship. Which is OK, but not actually during worship disturbing other worshipers!

I talk frequently with a friend who is struggling with the changes at Faith and the way those changes were brought about. They are hanging in with Faith but the hold is tentative and seeking indications of forward movement again.

And I just heard from someone who is really hurting. Someone who has been distancing themselves, painfully, from Faith because of their need to find an active youth program for their child. (They made it clear they were not placing specific blame on Kerry!) This is a situation we all have responsibility for. A situation faced by a number of families at Faith who have made the hard choice. Oddly, or by design, that connection was reestablished though the outreach into Facebook. A bittersweet highlight of that effort's purpose.

(More on this later ...)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Big Tent?

Unless you're Frank or Bob Hamilton I bet you only have an inkling of what the "Big Tent" is, if you have any idea at all. We do such a poor job of communicating...

I didn't really know anything about it until my RSS feed from PCnews started coming alive in early June. Now this is normally a pretty slow, and boring, news feed. Unfortunately much like the general impression PCUSA gives on a normal basis; yawn. (Sorry, but its the truth.) But the stories that started coming from the Big Tent show a new, exciting, and engaged PCUSA!

Here is a link to this June's PCnews archive. Take a look at the articles coming from the Big Tent, there are many and they are still coming. I think you'll be surprised; hopefully pleasantly.

Bob Hamilton actually went. Ask him about it!


Monday, June 8, 2009


In my April 24th blog I talked about imagining what we would like Faith church to be rather than trying to “solve” our problems. This is a method that several sources recommend for broadening our perspective and really tapping into what God wants Faith church to be. So, how do I imagine Faith’s future?

I imagine a Faith church that has recaptured its past vision for outreach. Outreach that manifests itself in a wide variety of hands-on community involved service efforts. Outreach efforts that have local, regional, national, and global impact. Outreach efforts where members are encouraged to work together with non-members. Outreach efforts where Faith teams also join in the work of other faith-based and secular services. But …I also imagine these outreach efforts are rooted in something much deeper than just doing good works! These efforts do not just answer the call to serve the poor. These efforts also answer the call to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

I imagine these efforts are supported through study groups at Faith. Study groups that tie these efforts to Jesus’ call in the Word and Holy Spirit. Study groups that learn to grow in faith through service and be more effective. Study groups that share what they’ve learned from their teammates and those they serve. Study groups that pray for each other, their non-member teammates, and those they serve. Study groups that invite non-member teammates to join in and understand why we do these things. Study groups that hold retreats to relax, rejuvenate, and celebrate Christ’s work through them; inviting all teammates, member and non-member alike.

I imagine a Faith church rich in interaction with each other; member and non-member. Interactions that love each other as the children of God we are. Interaction through bible study that challenges each of us to grow in faith. Interaction through fellowship that celebrates our life in Christ together. Interaction through prayer that supports each other. Interaction through service to each other in good and difficult times.

I imagine a leadership that discerns, guides, and architects the direction of Faith church in becoming the church Jesus Christ desires. A leadership that nurtures Faith’s members along their spiritual paths toward discipleship and identifying their spiritual gifts. A leadership that empowers Faith’s members to use those gifts in the work of forwarding the church. A leadership that is rooted in our Presbyterian reformed past but embraces the leadings of the Holy Spirit to continue reforming into our future. A leadership that provides boundaries and gentle correction to maintain the focus on being Christ’s church.

I imagine all of this culminating each week in worship that brings the church back to where it begins and ends; God. Worship that returns our work to the one responsible for it all. Worship that refuels the church to begin again each week. Worship that is vibrant and diverse reflecting the needs and experiences of all those drawn together to worship God. Worship that does not limit our experience of the God that is limitless. Worship that models how we should live each day as disciples in the community of Christ.

That is how I currently imagine what Faith church can be. Now do I have the lock on what the vision for Faith church should be or the ability, knowledge, drive, and energy to make this happen? Hardly! God’s the only one that can make this happen. And he’ll do that through all of us together working in community on his plan. So, what do you imagine? Enrich the vision of how Faith church can model the kingdom of God by bringing your dreams to the table!

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Several of us have been having an interesting round of emails over the last couple weeks. It started out as a simple inquiry into the possibility of starting up a bible study for the summer.

What we discovered is that we're all feeling uncertain about our future and we have all been seeking for ways to reconnect in this time of transition. We also discovered that Faith church has been moving in the right directions to rebuild its Christian identity!

1) There are already a number of summer bible study opportunities going or in the works.(

2) There are already a number of fellowship and outreach opportunities planned for the summer. ( The hotdog dinner last night was a good experience for all! (And I was pretty good with my WeightWatchers.)

3) And, for all the consternation about it, we are seeking to come together as a body in a common worship service for the summer.

Now I am actually in favor of having different and varied worship services that respond to our individual needs to glorify and experience God. BUT, in this time of transition we need to re-establish our identity as a community in Christ and that is rooted in worship, fellowship, and service together.

Faith church has been moving in the right direction. But a new Faith church will not just appear to be either everything you want it to be or back the way it once was. We all need to take the first steps to join in our common journey. I urge you all to hang in there with Faith and the summer worship schedule. We NEED this temporary time to come together. I also urge you to seek out others in need of fellowship in Christ through study and fellowship groups. Please urge your personal network of friends to hang in there too, encourage them to participate in worship, and point them toward the various studies available or start up others.

As both Dr. Pope and the Apostle Philip used to say, "Come and see." (John 1:46)

See you Sunday,

Friday, May 15, 2009

Shame, Exile, Hope

This week a friend told me that her and her husband were going to start looking at Presbyterian churches and that they would be coming to Faith sometime in the next couple of months. I have to say I felt ashamed. I think I now understand how a teenager in a divorcing home or with an alcoholic parent feels when a friend asks to come over.

I had to be honest and told her this: Well, you've caught us at a really bad time. We've just run off our Pastor. It will be months before we get an interim pastor and probably more than a year before we get a new one. We used to be very active in community outreach but that has really slacked off in recent years and we can't seem to get it kick started again. We seem to be constantly bickering about making changes even though what we're doing now obviously isn't working. When she described what they were thinking they needed in a church it sounded like a perfect fit with a Presbyterian church! Just probably not ours right now.

On the other hand, I knew that they had a history and a special relationship with Maranantha and I had no trouble passing along the invitation to this weekend's Open House! Particularly after Wednesday's supper with the new Maranantha staff! What an energetic team! Maranantha has been blessed!

I just finished a book, "The Prophetic Imagination," talking about the prophets during Israel's history. Their double edged sword message of criticism and hope. I very much feel like Faith is in exile right now. And I also know there is much to be hopeful about at Faith! I've talked about it many times in this blog. As with Israel, God has not abandoned us, we've given up on God. But also like Israel, its a long road back. Maybe its time for a summertime study of the Exile and the Prophets (Jeremiah and Isaiah)? Anybody interested?

I also just started another book "Beyond Maintenance to Mission." Here are two quotes from the Preface: 1) "Congregations exist for the sake of mission. This fundamental truth about the church is easily set aside in favor of what appear to be more urgent agendas." 2) "The 'mission' of a congregation may eventually shrink to preoccupation with holding worship services and paying bills." ... Sound familiar?

So friend and friends, if your ready to roll up your sleeves and do a lot of Jacob wrestling with God, Faith is the place to be right now. God will be there, I'm just not sure if we've hit the low point in Exile yet?

Friend, best wishes and prayers on your search for a church! I may be joining you next year? But I need to be at Faith right now.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Breath of the Spirit

As you would expect, I am a blogger therefore I follow blogs. There are a number of blogs that I follow regularly. (By the way, Google Reader is a great tool for this!) Within the last week or so I keep seeing themes in the various blogs that I follow that just seem to be aimed straight at Faith and it's situation ?!

An important one deals with transformation out of conflict: This is full of wisdom for our situation and points us in God's direction to seek true transformation from the conflict we are going through.

And last night I saw this one: This one is particularly poignant for Faith church and has a double meaning! It has great insight into a besieged Pastor and her church. But MORE IMPORTANTLY, it introduces an intriguing concept of discerning God's will for our future by IMAGINING what that future might be! Rather than remaining trapped trying to figure out how to get out of our current condition it suggests using metaphors to identify and explore possible futures! Now, that sounds transforming to me!

We all need to remember we are not at the helm holding the rudder! The best we can do is keep the sails raised where God can blow us where he wants us! [That's a metaphor ;-) ]

Surely the Spirit is at work here and I just have to pass some of these along to someone...

Can you feel the breeze?

PS: Additional blogs were pointers for pastor nominating committees:, and some ugly statistics about the Presbyterian church:

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Over the last month there has been a lot of discussion about the Huntsville Housing Authority’s plan to decentralize low-income housing. This has always been a touchy subject and always will. Here are a number of links to news stories about this plan and one to the Housing Authority's website.

March 19,0,532925.story

March 24

March 30

March 31

March 31

April 9, 10

April 10

April 16

April 16,0,6665575.story

I have no desire to debate the pros and cons of this subject in this forum. I do, however, feel the need to ask several questions.

What does this mean to each of us as Christians?

What does this mean to Faith Church?

Is God positioning us for some purpose?

How are other churches responding?

Interesting questions of discernment for the near future…

Friday, April 17, 2009

Follow the Leader, Be a Leader

Two of our Presbyterian Moderator’s (Bruce Reyes-Chow) latest blog entries have captured my attention more so than usual. They have captured my attention because they seem to have sprung right from the pages of our own report on the emerging culture discussions we had last summer ( But I know his blogs and our report have both sprung from the much larger moving of the Holy Spirit. Amazing!

Mr. Moderator’s one blog, “Why social media gives visitors all the power,” talks about how much we have overlooked and underestimated the power of the new internet media. This media is a strong avenue for putting Jesus’ message and our individual church responses to that message out for public review. As our report states: “The emerging culture is information savvy and hungry. Weekly bulletin, email, monthly newsletter are good. The website should be more than just an advertisement to newcomers. In today’s world it should be the communication hub of Faith [Church]; an outward sign of a healthy active congregation. Faith [Church] would do well to support the connection between our responsibility of witness and the emerging culture’s need for experience through the use of blogs. Combining cold information and personal witness by blogging mission and other activities will spur personal involvement.

Mr. Moderator’s other blog, “Why a naked Easter just might be a better Easter,” talks about how we underestimate the worship experience. He says, “Gone are the days when people are willing to bear with the service and rightly so. We should all set and strive to meet high exceptions for our worship experiences.” Our own report states:
1) When discussing worship we tend to consider it as a tool to attract newcomers.
2) We need to approach worship as a personal and corporate response to God of those present.
3) We need to celebrate our experience of God by telling our stories.
4) We need to be open to a wide range of worship experiences to relate to other’s responses and keep worship fresh, alive, and renewed.

These thoughts on worship imply to me (or scream?) that we should be considering even more opportunities and styles of worship to support our folks in worship that is meaningful to them. Instead we and many shrinking congregations seem to want to retreat to a single worship and worship style in a “fortress” mentality?

I also get a general sense that Mr. Moderator would concur with our report’s thoughts on mission? I just can’t quote or reference anything in particular right now.

Another area of our report that I would love to see how Mr. Moderator feels about is that of leadership. It seems that if we are to make much progress in these previous areas then a shift in our leadership style is needed. Our report reaffirms the Presbyterian structure of government and leadership! But it does suggest more latitude in its implementation. Rather than a Session that seems to have to approve every little thing, the report suggests that defining the boundaries for the church’s activities to operate within offers a more “emergent friendly” environment. From our report, “Further guidelines and boundaries for team formation need to be developed to empower the emergence of teams and free Session and Diaconate to discern, architect, and guide the overall spiritual direction, mission, and nurture of Faith Church and its members.” Of course the Session retains the responsibility of oversight and the right of “course correction” as needed. Of course mistakes will be made, but too much rigor also risks the loss of opportunity. Leadership is an important and difficult balancing act.

In these times of denominational (and congregational) turbulence I’m reassured that following the lead of the Holy Spirit and the leaders the Spirit creates will reaffirm Jesus’ example of leading by serving.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Together, that is the only way for us at Faith church to move forward from this point. We must move forward together in Christian unity! If not, we are lost!

Faith has wandered away from the Christian unity that Christ has called us to. We are all, every one of us, guilty of allowing this to happen; either by what we’ve done or what we’ve failed to do, and by permitting this illness to grow.

This sounds like a lot of fire and brimstone, especially coming from this author, but let’s step back and take a look. Faith church has a history of rich diversity of opinions and actions. But this diversity has always been rooted in a common commitment to Christ and in Christ’s call to make disciples. I dare say Faith church has actually been a model of how Christian unity is supposed to work. Read this article, “Christian Unity”, based on Ephesians 4:1-16. Now doesn’t that sound like the Faith church of old?

I believe it is widely accepted that in the later stages of Dr. Pope’s illness and the longer than normal period of interim pastors that Faith church got complacent in “doing church” and spiritual growth slowed. When Pastor Steve arrived he challenged us to look at ourselves and examine the possibilities for renewed spiritual growth. Somehow that’s when things went amok and we stopped treating and communicating with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ!? Let me say it again, this detour has not been the cause of any one person, or any one group! We are all, every one of us, guilty of allowing this to happen.

So how do we move forward together from here? First, reread the “Christian Unity” article and Ephesians 4:1-16. How does this affect your vision of our future as a church united under Christ’s love? Second, we must relearn how to discuss things in Christian love. Following Faith’s “Relational Covenant” is a good guide. Thirdly, we must take heed of Pastor Kerry’s sermon of March 29th to seek and offer forgiveness, not blame, and to become friends again. Finally, we need to move forward in Christian unity; which does not mean uniformity. Using Ephesians as a yardstick sounds like a pretty good start.

Following the leadings of the Holy Spirit and bathing in the grace of God Faith church will get through this, together!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I heard about Pastor Steve’s resignation today and it deeply saddens me.

I personally have learned a great deal from his teaching and preaching. Through his missional vision my eyes have been opened to a way of living as a Christian that is much broader than I could have imagined and fills a long felt void even though I am still only just taking some tentative first steps. Further research into this missional approach has unveiled that there is a definite movement afoot, and not just the musings of a single man.

I have never understood the ferocity of ill feelings toward Steve? When these ill feelings (I’m being kind) started, I went to Steve to discuss them. I found a man truly in love with Jesus and passionate for the path he was walking. Yes, I also found a man that is occasionally less than diplomatic and sometimes so focused that some social graces were misplaced. Misgivings we all have. But I saw nothing that deserves the ill will I’ve seen expressed? Steve, I’m sorry you’ve been treated so poorly.

I do not blame Steve for leaving and I wish him and his family well! But his leaving solves none of Faith’s problems and we are still a congregation divided!

Faith has much work to do before we will be able to agree and call on a new minister. As sometimes happens, perhaps Steve’s presence (not Steve himself) has become the ember that keeps a fire burning and his leaving will provide the opportunity for things to cool down and recovery to begin? I have my doubts. Following Faith’s Relational Covenant will be imperative if any real reconciliation is to come about. The covenant is a simple set of rules of conduct. In general, I would say reconciliation is possible but the road is going to be long, hard, and paved with prayer.

My optimism for a good outcome has been severely damaged. As I understand it, a sizeable group of folks have opted to withhold their pledges until Steve leaves. I personally find this misguided and I pray I have misunderstood! This seems to fly in the face of pledging by faith in God and disagreeably uses worldly mammon to force an outcome rather than working through it in a Christian manner? This type of action that risks the existence of Faith church to exact a particular outcome rattles my trust to the very core! Right now I am disappointed and I am having a very hard time seeing a way toward forgiveness, restored trust, and reconciliation! This is not the Faith church that “loved me like the child of God I didn’t know I was.”

I’m sharing these feelings in the spirit of rule seven from the Relational Covenant; “Share our personal experiences about the subject of disagreement so that others may more fully understand our concerns.”. I have not yet figured out what to do with these feelings other than lay them at Jesus' feet. I know God is sovereign and the Spirit has been and will continue at work at Faith. It is going to take a great amount of praying for me to find God’s way through this. I will continue trying to follow the Spirit’s guiding to help Faith find its way and see my 2009 pledge through. But I’m not sure what the outcome will be?

Relying on Him, His will be done,

These are my personal opinions and are not associated with any particular group or groups.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


In the last year we’ve had a lot of discussion about connecting with the emerging culture. Those that got into the study will tell you this wasn’t about dis-connecting from the older culture! It was about conveying an understanding the emerging culture is different and the need to make some concessions to reach them. Concessions that are really very superficial because the real message of God’s love is conveyed through our love as Christ’s followers.

So there has been a lot of emphasis on connecting with the younger culture. However, with the deaths of six of our older members this year along with the fact that most of our new members lately have been older (I believe), we’re also reminded of the need to carry the message to the older generation. This older generation includes folks that are becoming isolated because of the deaths of their contemporary friends, or because of health restrictions. It also includes aging Boomers that may be starting to face their own mortality for the first time. Life isn’t like the retirement commercials!

So when we talk about caring for the elderly and aging, are we talking about taking care of our own? Or are we reaching out missionally to all those in need of Jesus’ message?

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I’m in both an honored and dubious position. Two different committees want me.

The problem I’m having is not which committee to serve on, but am I called to serve on any committee? Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect and gratitude for those that are called to fill those positions! Committees are a fundamental part of the Presbyterian way and are the nuts and bolts of the everyday operations. It’s that everyday focus on one aspect of church life that prompted me to turn down the request to serve on Session last year and makes me reluctant to attach myself to a committee now.

My experience, at work, home, and church has showed me I have a gift for seeing how things interconnect across boundaries. These boundaries are often artificial and established by people to make things, understandably, more manageable. The two projects I’m currently most interested in have arisen from just such insights to interconnection. It is also these two projects that are making me attractive to these two committees. However, this gift, and the unknown of where it and the Spirit will lead me next is why I’m leaning toward addressing my commitment to these two projects and not to a particular committee(s).

It may seem like I’m splitting hairs here. Being on Session is a definite solid commitment for three years and I made the right choice there. A commitment to a committee is less rigid but signing on to two committees because I’m interested in two projects doesn’t ring fair and honest with me. But if I make my commitment to helping launch these two projects I am more than willing to attend the committees that they fall under. I just want to make it clear that, for now at least, it’s these projects that are my focus. Now if I’m just worried about semantics and this means I’m “on” the committee, so be it. I just want to be clear about expectations.

I suppose this loyalty to a project rather than “structure” is showing my leanings toward the emerging culture attitudes in this regard? Something we need to be more aware of these days. Ah, the joys of being born at the transition!

Maybe the two committee Chairs can live with this committed non-commitment? :-)

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Whoa, the loss of four great men in only a couple months; John Martin, Ernest Hooper, Norm Schlemmer, and now Bill Richardson! Great in the sense that each of these men is a great example of the Christian life we’re offered in following and becoming disciples of Jesus. Men whose Christian lives spoke across the generations.

Some interesting observations came to mind during their memorial services regarding the place of these men and Faith Church in the context of sharing the Gospel with an emerging culture.

  • A large percentage of our newest members seem to be in the older generation. A reminder to us all that serving and sharing the Gospel with this generation is not to be taken for granted.
  • These men’s lives are a reminder of the rock solid love of God that the emerging culture needs to hear and understand.
  • A reminder that there is no retirement from the Christian life and sharing the work of Christ in the world.
  • These men seemed to move freely between Faith’s worship services, both traditional and contemporary. I’m sure they had their preferences but the worship of God was the purpose and in these men it showed.
As we move forward together in faith, in the life of Faith Church, we would do well to remember and share these men’s stories.

They will be missed!

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Early Saturday morning Faith’s Fellowship hall caught fire. Fire Inspectors have determined it was caused by an electrical short in the attic.

We have much to be thankful for!
No one was injured.
Damage is restricted to the Fellowship Hall.
Structural damage appears to be restricted to the roof.
Insurance will take care of it all.

So much for worldly matters, now how do we put this in a Kingdom perspective?

Just so we're clear on the basics, this is not a punishment or judgment on anything or anybody. As Pastor Steve said just last Sunday, God hasn’t been in the “smiting” business since the Old Testament. Jesus is the new deal or covenant, remember?

The real question is what good will God turn this into, as He always offers. How do we sync up with God on discerning that good? Will this remind us of our many communal blessings? Will this be the catalyst to help bring us past our current difficulties and back into unison again? Can we see this as a unique opportunity for reconciliation and seek God’s will together? Is it pure coincidence this is the same weekend we hear from our consultant on our congregational health?

Frankly in awe and praying hard!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Steppin’ Out Summary; Dave

The previous 5 blog entries show an email conversation that I had started. It’s shown in “blog order”, i.e. start at the bottom. (They’re numbered.) I’ve included edited versions of them here because I feel it has been a very important conversation. Important not just in terms of our WHES mission but also for Faith's mission as a whole, for discernment, and for Faith’s leadership development. (I’m defining leadership here beyond our ministers and officers to include any member that takes an active leadership roll in the mission of the church.)

The thing that strikes me the most from this conversation is not about the form or shape of the WHES mission but what form of mission leadership will develop at Faith?

The traditional leadership model has come from the corporate world. It takes one strong leader to spearhead a project through to success. In the church we’ve replaced the name “manager” with “committee chair” and we’ve wrapped words like “call” and “vision” around it. Even the corporate world is now using those terms. But the bottom line is that it all falls onto one strong leader to make a project successful.

One of the problems with this model is that it can easily lead to overwork and burnout for those few leaders. This is particularly true in a church setting because, like it or not, church is largely a part time job for most of us. Another problem is the potential narrowing of the vision to one person’s.

But times are changing and I believe many young leaders are not engaging simply because of the level of commitment required; real or perceived. Young leaders of today do not want the full responsibility of leadership to rest entirely on their shoulders. They are much more comfortable with a team approach. Much of this comes from a more balanced perspective on life. It is no longer acceptable for one’s life to be entirely consumed by one job. Yes, it still takes vision and leadership to get things done but it is more of a team leadership that is shared and shifts from person to person as needed. This can actually be more efficient, balanced, and rewarding. It enriches the vision because it encourages individuals to contribute to the vision. It fosters a people through which the Spirit can act. An outline of this model can be found in Faith’s own “A Covenant for Shaping Our Future”. (A copy is at the end of the Emerging Culture Report; )

I recently saw an interesting blog, , asking the question, do we want to be successful or fruitful? The point being that the goal of church leadership isn’t necessarily the same as corporate leadership.

So the question is, which kind of leadership will Faith adopt? In actuality both forms of leadership will be needed. For short term urgent goals a point person is required. But for long term, sustainable, Spirit led leadership the team approach should win out. Members would grow, in both faith and experience, from showing up for a work day, to becoming part of a leadership team, to identifying visions and kicking off new initiatives.

So maybe my calling is not a particular WHES mission? Maybe it’s more a calling to get Faith members to look at calling, vision, and leadership differently than the world around them dictates?

Discernment is a tough job. Again, though, isn’t it the journey that brings the fruit?

Still listening for the Spirit,

Steppin’ Out 5; Person A

[Person B], thank you for your sensitive, insightful, and compassionate observations about the WHES community. Dave, since I answered your initial question of me about whether Dave Ramsey or Crown has a suitable material, part of me says I should sit back and listen to you two prophets hammer it out. (And that is said as a compliment, not cynically.)

The other part of me needs to observe that something happening always takes someone with a vision and a commitment to try to make it happen. […] Yes, Dave, in my day, a person would go to the missions committee and ask permission to set up a task force, ask for a budget, and develop a schedule to present to the session. Today, if you care enough, you can ask Frank and others to help you identify people to call together to see if they want to be part of a team to make it happen and go from there, hopefully led by the Spirit.

And it is not just missional projects. Repeatedly, we have had young couples join the church when someone cared enough to recruit some and train them to recruit others and then also make the church friendly to them; we have had college classes when someone cared enough to get others involved with them. The session has repeatedly declared we need those things to happen, so a person with a vision is not lacking. A person with a passion and the persistence to make it happen is too often lacking.

Steppin’ Out 4; Person B & Dave

[The below is a response from Person B with my answers highlighted in italics within the body. – Dave]

Dave,I have three comments to make...

1) What is it that WHES needs? There is a diverse cross section of people who are zoned for WHES...those that sell food stamps to get unregulated cash, those that live sparsely but within their means, those that have their house paid for and are managing their money just fine. [This description of the WHES district is something I did not have an understanding of. My ignorance could be a symptom of a general communication problem?] Who is it that we should reach, how, and why? [Good questions that I believe we are just beginning to explore with an initial focus on WHES itself?] What I see in your response is the desire to be in community with a population that is different from ours. To fellowship and seek Christ through the diversity and commonality. [These are less desires than natural responses to a "missional" call as I understand it; if I understand it correctly?] This takes a great deal of trust and understanding...a great deal of relationship. [I agree and building that trust has to start somewhere and will take a lot of effort to develop.]

2) We currently do not have that kind of relationship with West Huntsville. I am not saying that we can't, but at the moment we do not. It will take someone with a passion and a calling, that feels the importance of this to establish that relationship and help FPC and West Huntsville find ways to come together. Without a point person, who will foster and formulate, cajole, kick, and pray, the larger relationship will not materialize. This is the way of it...someone must be called to be the light and for a time guide us into a fuller relationship. [This HAS been the way of it. If our study of the emerging culture has any merit then the most likely future of such efforts are through a team approach. A team of folks must catch the vision to move it forward. A single champion is not sustainable and as such has a greater chance to disappoint and have negative impacts. (Throughout the recent study of the emerging culture I've often wondered if this actual call to team action is really calling a bluff?)]

3) From my reading of the past few emails, I have to ask if you are being called to such a relationship and to such a leadership role. [I do not feel called to a traditional champion role. I do not feel the call to quit my job to devote myself to be such a champion and I'm still a few years away from retirement for that to happen soon. I do feel I am called to continue to explore this whole idea of being missional, and WHES in particular, in a public way. Both to promote dialog and understanding as well as painting a vision in hopes that a team of Faith folks might catch it in a team manner. I do not feel I have the people skills (or the correct work hours) to be on the front line of communication with WHES persons.] Please pray about one else seems to have the same conviction as you at this point in time and so no one else can (or probably will) put your vision into action at this time. I will be praying for you and how we can help you as you seek to fulfill this ministry. [Thank you! I and Faith can use all the prayers we can get!]

Steppin’ Out 3; Dave

I agree, in our broken world, there is only so much we can do. In engineering or physical terms there is always a question of benefits vs costs. And if that were the only reason we tried to do this, it would be frustrating and disappointing. And this is exactly what I have been struggling with for the last couple of years. If I'm starting to get the whole missional and even Presbyterian thing straight, are we not supposed to offer the good news of the Gospel and do it in a way that connects with people's lives? We get no guarantees that we'll see the benefits. As Houston has pointed out; plow, plant, pray. This is very tough for the engineering minds you and I have!

I could make the argument that having the mindset to plan, budget, and save is even dwindling in the middle class, particularly the younger generations. The bottom line is that no hope (or a "whatever" attitude) leads to no planning.

If we did this the traditional way, we would try to teach Crown or Ramsey to the WHES folks. In the missional approach we should realize we're all on this journey together and have different experiences to bring to the table. With economic coaching, peer sharing, a lot of spiritual leadership, and an immense involvement of the Holy Spirit, we would all benefit greatly! Even if our physical conditions don't improve much. The objective is to "Explore together how God wants us to think about money", not, "We need to show you how to handle your money." The second is doomed to failure because no one should be casting stones.

If we should decide to venture down this path, I suspect we Faith members that participate will also need a great deal of spiritual leadership to help us change our views, expectations, and motives. It's likely we would need additional sessions where we meet as Faith, without WHES. Dare I say counseling sessions? This is not for the faint of heart and not to be entered into lightly.

Whoa, I never know where He is going to take me!?

Struggling in prayer,

Steppin’ Out 2; Person A

Dave, Crown Ministries has a version called "Urban Crown Ministries" which is designed to appeal to urban blacks. It was produced in conjunction with the Urban League, a fine-old civil rights organization. As I reviewed it, it would appeal to middle class and wealthy blacks, who are the foundation of the Urban League.

My opinion of both Crown and Dave Ramsey is that they require a middle-class mindset. With some justification, poorer members of the American society, no matter their race, live from crisis to crisis and do not have the mindset to plan, budget, save.

It would not take much effort to put together a financial primer. Based on my experience trying to help poor people develop some financial stability even in the best of times (for them) […], I am not sure it is worth the effort. In my opinion, the best triage you can provide is to collect a listing of the all the resources available in Madison county for people in economic crisis and present it in a community forum at WHES.

Person B, you have some experience working with poorer members of society, also. Do you have an opinion or suggestion?

Steppin’ Out 1; Dave

I saw [the Discipleship Group] page in the newsletter. I've been having some thoughts about the Dave Ramsey or Crown Ministries class.

Is there a version of either of these classes that has a primer or, for lack of a better word, a triage scope? I keep thinking about the continually souring economic news as well as the economic status of the folks that generally make up West Huntsville Elementary. (See first link below.) Is there a class that would be appropriate to hold at WHES for Faith members as well as WHES parents? Something that focuses on basic money management (scriptural of course) that spans the economic gap? Something that can bring both sets of folks together to share experiences?

It looks like Asbury is offering something this January. (See second link.) But the outline strikes me as something exclusively for Asbury "class" members that are basically well off, like Faith. If we remain inwardly focused I would expect our class to look similar.

Food for thought…


Monday, January 5, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Prayer – It’s a Wrap!

The 12 Days of Christmas Prayer was a success! 20 people responded with attendance at some point during the 12 days, with a handful of faithful regulars! It was a time of spiritual calm, nourishment, and renewal during a holiday season that sometimes has other overtones and a wonderful way to celebrate our unity in the Christ child with prayer for the mission and ministry of Faith Church. Thanks to all who supported this effort through prayer, leadership, and attendance!

As previous entries have talked about, it was a walk with the Lord to get this whole idea off the ground. Thank you especially to those that felt the call to lead a session! The Holy Spirit was present throughout; from the preparation and decisions, to the wonderful prayer time, to the overwhelming sense of unity in Jesus, to the quieting of the errant fire alarm! (I might also point out the preparation was done completely by email without the need for another meeting to attend in a busy time of year.)

The secular festivities of the season are over. Time for a short respite for those folks that are task driven and will soon be working on the next thing. But it’s also a low time for many, with families dispersed again and the dreary winter weather. What have we learned from this experience?

A new blog friend had this to say about the post holiday time:
I’ll keep praying that in the post-christmastide haze, the clouds of today shall not keep me from following yonder star.
“star of wonder
star of night
star with royal, beauty bright.
westward leading, still proceeding
guide us to thy perfect light. “

Isn’t that what this whole experience has been about? Whether we are consumed with hustle and bustle or prone to melancholy, we’ve reconnected with the true light of the world, Jesus our Christ.

As Steve points out in the Epiphany session:
Isaiah 60:1-3: Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Carry on in the Light and carry forward the Light to others!