The Trinity: Life Together

Last semester, the student leaders at Emory Wesley and I met and decided that we should cover some pretty exciting topics in Monday Night Worship this semester–“The Trinity,” “Race and the Church in America,” and during Lent: “The Long March to Redemption” (hooking off of Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom” and other social justice influences partnered with Jesus’ walk to the cross in Lent).

For the first series on the Trinity, we’re going to be doing a 4 part series on The Trinity with staff and students Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 5.04.10 PMgiving homilies on the overall Trinity and the 3 persons of The Trinity. The students are excited about the series and are really engaging well with the topic, songs, and the way we’re addressing this theological behemoth. We’re not trying to answer all the questions, but really we’re trying to help students ask the RIGHT questions. We’re halfway through the series and things are going pretty well thus far.

Here’s the first night of the series where I preached about how the Trinity shows us how God is in relationship and we must also seek to be in relationship in a homily called “The Trinity: Life Together.”

01.13.14 Monday Night Worship // ” The Trinity: Life Together” from Emory Wesley on Vimeo.

faithful mentors

I’m writing this post today in response to a DAY OF BLOGGING for Exploration 2013, a United Methodist Event for people discerning a call to ordained ministry. They asked us to respond to the question: “Who influenced you in discerning your Call to Ministry?” So here it is:

For many in ministry or clergy roles we simply “walk alongside” and  “live life” with the people whom we guide and work with in ministry. This is what the many faithful mentors in my journey have done with/for me–they’ve simply been there as I have experienced (thus far) the full stretch of human life–good times and bad.

auburn samford hallMy specific call to ministry and working with college students came during my freshman year at Auburn University when I went on a Weekend Mission Trip with Auburn Wesley Foundation and Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM) to Mobile, Alabama to work at St. Francis Street Mission. The trip was led by Lisa Pierce, the founder and director of ARM

On the trip we worked with a man named “Mr. Johnny” where we fixed his roof and shared some good times and even a few jokes about coffee, roofing, and life. On Sunday morning instead of GOING to Church we went and DID Church: we worked in the soup kitchen and sang songs with the men, women, and children, the poor and homeless, who were in the mission that day. It was an eye opening experience to DO Church instead of just attending church/worship on Sunday morning.Emory Wesley students at ARM on Spring Break 2013 I came back from that trip feeling called and knowing that I wanted to do those kinds of things, and help others to do those things as my vocation. Lisa’s facilitating that trip and encouraging me to go has helped shape the direction of my life for the better. We still stay in contact and it is a great joy to bring Emory Wesley college students on trips to do work with Lisa and ARM.

Over the course of my time at Auburn the Auburn Wesley Director, Rev. David Goolsby, guided and mentored me in ministry and helped shape me into a leader in the Auburn community. I had the opportunity to help lead music and liturgy in worship, experiment with different styles and types of worship, lead small groups, reflect theologically and dream about church models, plan and lead mission trips, and many more opportunities for transformation and service. David is still a mentor of mine, officiated our wedding, and is a thoughtful guide and ‘guru’ of campus ministry for many.

I am thankful and grateful to God for mentors like Lisa and David who helped me to hear God’s call in my life. I’ll end with a word from David in my own paraphrased Goolsby-ism: “May we seek to be faithful to God as God is faithful to us.” Amen.

For more info about Exploration 2013 click here:!

2011 Baker Award: Rev. Kristin Stoneking (making of the video)

This summer, while out in California, we had a little side project…a VIDEO project. Our task was to help capture and tell the story of Rev. Kristin Stoneking who had received a scholarship award for her doctoral studies.

I love learning about video and film making. Below is my reflection on a video project I worked on this summer & early fall to help tell the story of a friend who is a scholarship recipient working on her PhD (w/ some technical jargon):

THE PROJECT: This summer I was able to travel out to Sacramento, CA for Youth 2011, an every-4-year gathering of United Methodist youth ages 13-18 to help represent Collegiate Ministry. While out in California we had a little side project…a VIDEO project. Our task was to help capture and tell the story of Rev. Kristin Stoneking–Campus Minister and Director of the CA House at the University of California in Davis, CA. She has received the Bishop James C. Baker Scholarship which aids United Methodist collegiate ministers in advanced degree or doctoral studies.


Special thanks to Kristin and the CA House as well as Allyson Collinsworth of Scholarships and Loans at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. Interview, filming, and editing by Michael McCord & Joseph McBrayer.

THE SETTING: The CA house is a remarkable residential, intentional, and mutli-faith community in Davis where students live, learn, and serve together. It is a really neat, older house that has some cool spaces in it. For the interview we decided to use her office (looks scholarly–just out of focus books are always a nice background). The office is located on the second floor of the house and faces south out over a main road that runs beside campus. The natural light was good but we wanted a little extra so we took the lampshade off of a desklamp and moved it closer. In interviews, the best way I’ve seen to frame the shot is to put the subject’s head in the top-left or top-right quadrant with them looking across the line-of-sight of the camera to the interviewer–it is supposed to help the viewer to feel more like they are there–like they are just sitting on the couch next to the interviewer. Kristin sat in a classic wooden chair like the kind you’d purchase from your alma mater and we framed the shot of her from just above the waist up (allowing for some hand movement when she raised her hands to gesture, but not when they were at rest).

CAMERAS & AUDIO: For the interview we used a standard sony HD camera that our agency provided shooting in 1080 at 30 frames per second–this is the camera mounted on a tripod, which framed the standard “interview” shot. This camera also received the audio off of the wired lapel mic (a low-end Audio-Technica lapel mic). In video, audio is one of the MOST overlooked and neglected things. To me, audio is just as important as the video…well, its at least very important. For the second camera I used my Canon 60D DSLR shooting 1080 video at 30 fps (the camera has manual ISO & aperture settings which I used at 1.8 and 60–you most often want the ISO to be at least double the fps). I shot this video off to the left side of the subject using a shoulder mount (Cowboy Studio’s $30: plastic, lightweight, & affordable!) and the built in audio (which I removed from the clip afterward). The idea of the second camera in this situation was for us to give the video some live-feeling movement (very popular in film, tv, commercials, etc) and to utilize the out of focus caused by the shallow depth of field in the DSLR lens (a 1.8 50mm Canon lens).

DURING FILMING: While we were filming we just let the camera on the tripod roll the whole time so that we’d capture anything we said that could be helpful (this is ideal when filming interviews as some side comments may end up being quite sincere and be full of wisdom or little sound bites that prove useful). For the shoulder mounted camera I broke up the filming into two big chunks (the whole interview lasted only around 20 mins) as I had to set down the camera a few times to help fix the lapel mic. One of the big things for the interviewers to remember during an interview (especially one where the subject is the only one on camera) is to resist the temptation to agree or comment on what the subject says while the subject is still speaking or too quickly after they finish. The main reason is so that the subject finishing what they were saying and you don’t have to go back to take out audio because the interviewer agreed, applauded, or sighed–especially if the interviewer is not in the shot or the video at all. Another helpful thing is for the interviewer to think on your feet to hear something that the subject said that was especially good or where they may have stumbled on a word–in either case, ask them to rephrase or “could you say that again”–this ‘on the fly’ thought process is especially helpful if you have one person filming and one person interviewing.

B-ROLL: Before and after we filmed the interview Rev. Kristin gave us a tour of the CA House and the residential spaces behind the main house. We filmed with the DSLR & shoulder mount the whole tour looking for moments that might make good cutaways while Kristin was speaking. The B-roll before the interview was based upon what Kristin was showing us and her explaining the community (giving us a sense of the space & context with which to better ask questions) and after the interview was based upon what she said in the interview (specifically focusing on things she’d spoken about that ‘jumped out’ to us after the interview).

POST-FILMING & EDITING: This is the hardest part. Editing and working with the video you’ve captured is likely one of the hardest parts because *most times* the video you have is all you’ll have to work with. Moral: take LOTS of video on location. On occasion you can go out and re-create something that might work well to supplement an element that you’re missing, but in the majority of situations it is all about what you have on your hard drive or camera at the end of the shoot. I use iMovie (w/ the ‘advanced features’ turned ON) to create most all of the videos I work on–again, I’m not a professional and I’m still pretty slow using Final Cut. This project was challenging in part because we were creating it for another section of our organization (Scholarships and Loans). We communicated the goals, constraints, content, and needs of the project before we filmed itand after the interview we worked closely by email to discern and collaborate on how the project proceeded. There were 2 draft versions of the video which helped us to reach the final version of the interview and the comments and ideas generated from the first two drafts helped the final version to be more polished, more engaging, and better edited.

Well, that’s all…and that was a LOT. I hope that it might be helpful for those who are interested in filming and interviews–especially in the non-profit realm of the world. Feel free to contact me for more info or to collaborate on a project. There is a wealth of resources in the area of ‘how to’ and there are many excellent film makers out there helping to ‘tell the story’ of all the amazing things that are happening out there. May it continue.

A Day of Prayer for Exploration 2011

Today is a day of prayer for Exploration 2011. Exploration is a gathering of people ages 18-26 who are discerning, wrestling, or just trying to figure out their call into ministry. It is a weekend of people gathering from all over the church to pray, worship, teach, learn, listen, and hang out with other people who are asking some of the same questions about ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church. Exploration 2011 will be held in St. Louis, MO at the Millenium Hotel  November 11-13. Registration is online and TODAY is the last day of earlybird registration!

And now, a prayer for exploration 2011:

you know all people and you have made all people in your image,

 you love us and know us and we thank you for your love and call upon all of our lives:
for all of us: a call to work, live, and love people.

And today we especially pray for those who are discerning your call on their lives
to Ordained Ministry as Elders and Deacons in the United Methodist Church.
We pray that you would guide, equip, lead, and develop them into servants of the whole church and the whole world.

We pray for exploration 2011–that your Spirit will be obvious and apparent to all who gather.

In the name of Jesus the Christ, Amen.

Video making & Prepare 2011

I have always loved taking pictures–since being a kid and capturing images using one-time-use cameras to “borrowing” my mom’s film camera…

I have always loved taking pictures–since being a kid and capturing images using one-time-use cameras to “borrowing” my mom’s film camera (a Canon EOS Rebel…which I STILL have in my possession…oops).  Recently I’ve really enjoyed shooting video on my Digital SLR camera–formerly a Canon T1i and I have recently upgraded to a Canon 60D! (Christmas & Birthday until I’m 35 or so…). The video quality and the shallow depth of focus on these kinds of cameras is changing the way films are being made. Last year an entire episode of the TV show House was filmed on a Canon DLSR camera! They are also the tools of choice for amateur and aspiring film makers–both in the commercial and non-profit film world.

This spring and this summer I have had the privilege of working with a Design Team for Prepare 2011, which is a new collegiate minister training event (both meanings in there–it is both a NEW event and for those NEW to the field). The design team is made up of campus ministers and chaplains who are experienced veterans of ministry with college students. Prepare 2011, a mentor-based training event for those new to ministry with college students, will be held July 17-19th in Nashville, TN (a few days before the United Methodist Campus Minister Association gathering July 20-23 in Nashville, TN).

At a planning session back in April a few members of the design team allowed me to film a couple of quick takes about what to expect at Prepare 2011 and why new campus ministers and chaplains should come to Prepare. Using my Canon T1i and a 50mm 1.8 II lens I quickly captured a few minutes of video (literally we filmed the whole thing in 5 mins) and then created the following promo video. Enjoy.

Refresh 2010: UM Campus Ministry Conference Day 3

a day of hopeful conversations, innovative speakers, and meaningful discussions. Total was the final day of the United Methodist Campus Ministry conference…

Day 3 (12.16) of Refresh 2010 has come to a close–a day of hopeful conversations, innovative speakers, and meaningful discussions. Toda was the final day of the United Methodist Campus Ministry conference which is sponsored by the Foundation For Evangelism. Laura Story & band members opened our 10am session with music and time for prayer and reflection.

The keynote speaker for the morning was Rev. Adam Hamilton, lead pastor of Church of the Resurrection & author of numerous books including When Christians Get it Wrong, Seeing Gray, and others. Hamilton spoke from his experience with young adults & college students at Church of the Resurrection. He spoke of the increasing secularization of society and the aggressive atheism (anti-theism) present in the current American culture. He applauded campus ministers for their ministry and noted that campus ministers are on the “front lines” of understanding and working with the new generations. Hamilton remarked that Christians must “understand the questions and concerns of the people you work with and help answer some of the questions” and that we must “formulate thoughtful Christian responses” to their difficult questions.

Hamilton shared portions of his own narrative interwoven with many of the questions that young people and college students are asking–questions of Theodicy (evil in the world), questions about other world religions, and questions about sexuality. Hamilton told the tragic story of the accidental death of his two best friends while he was in college and about how that caused him to reevaluate his call to be a pastor and whether or not he could represent a loving God after their untimely deaths. Ultimately, he emerged from that 6 month time of study with the understanding that God gives humans choice and that the world has laws which are seldom suspended by God. He decided that God wrings out the good–that is forces out the good from the suffering.

In looking at other world religions Hamilton spoke of a “third way” which lies between exclusivism and universalism. This “conjunctive faith” (James Fowler’s term) is a “radical centerof inclusivism. This position articulates that Jesus is the means of salvation, but that God can give salvation to anyone God chooses. The conversation around sexuality centered specifically on homosexuality. Recognizing that this is a divisive issue in ours and other denominations, Hamilton said that 2 factors have changed his view point: 1) the complexity of the Bible (its “messiness”) and 2) spending time with the parents of gay teens or students who committed or attempted suicide. Throughout his talk, but especially in the context of this difficult issue, Rev. Hamilton modeled responsible dialogue, civil discourse (esp. in the resulting Q&A), and a vulnerable, disarming openness that helped to produce mutual understanding and a furthering of love for each other. Hamilton articulated a hopeful-critical vision for the future of the United Methodist Church that calls for young people to be “modern day reformers” helping to retool and rethink Church in ways that help the wider world to see the Christian faith as an examined, intelligible, and practical way of living.

After lunch, there were additional workshops including Fundraising w/ Creighton Alexander, Leadership with Upper Room‘s Sarah Wilke, Sabbath Keeping with GBHEM‘s Assistant General Secretary Bridgette Young, and others. For dinner, sponsored by GBHEM, we ate BBQ from Jacks Stacks (#1 or 2 BBQ place in Kansas City) and continued to share in conversation and reflection upon the workshops, the speakers, and Refresh itself.

After dinner Creighton Alexander, Refresh organizer, led Refresh participants in recognizing and honoring the work of Jack Ewing (Exec. Dir. for Foundation for Evangelism now transitioning to Exec. Dir. of Lake Junaluska) and Royce Reynolds (longtime benefactor of United Methodism, FFE, & Refresh).

The evening’s keynote speaker was Pete Greig, UK leader of 24-7 Prayer & author of Red Moon Rising and God on Mute–two books about his experience as a church planter and prayer movement leader. Greig shared a time of teaching and practical prayer with our gathering centering around the Great Commission in Matthew 28. He focused on how “we’re all wired differently, but all are used equally in God’s purposes.” Greig shared his own personal story of prayer & his thirst for God’s presence and how that fueled the 24-7 prayer movement, which began in 1999. He shared the history of prayer movements with groups like the Moravians at Herrnhutt and John Wesley’s encounters with them–especially in the context of prayer. Pete argued that  “people aren’t looking for another program or a product…they are looking for the presence of God.”  And said that we as pastors must also long for that living water that God provides and that prayer is on of those primary ways by which we can experience God’s mercy and grace.

Refresh concluded, appropriately, in our saying together Wesley’s Covenant Prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
more photos here

Refresh 2010: UM Campus Ministry Conference Day 2

another excellent day filled with hopeful-critical moments for engaging in prayer, conversation, worship, and reflection on how God is at work in our lives, our ministries, our campuses, our denomination, and our world.

SO, Day 2 (12.15) of Refresh has been engaging, provocative, and encouraging. During Morning Prayer this morning (in the Church of the Resurrection Covenant Chapel–the original worship space of the Church of the Resurrection) Rev. Bob Beckwith, UGA Wesley Foundation Director, led us through a reading of Psalm 23 interspersed with times of intentional prayer and music.

The morning session began around 10am with Laura Story & her band leading us in worship with the songs: Marvelous Light, Lead Me to the Cross, In Christ Alone, Mighty to Save, & I Love You Lord.

Keynote Speaker Alan Hirsch, author of Forgotten Ways & Untamed and church visionary, spoke on Ephesians 4 and the 5 different roles of leadership & ministry in verse 11: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, & Teachers. A major focus of Hirsch’s presentation, using the acronym “APEST” to denote the 5 functions,  was on how the church has lost the “APE”–Apostles, Prophets, & Evangelists. Hirsch, an avid researcher of movements in global and historical Christianity, asserts that many of the large problems and the decline of mainline churches in America/the West are a result of the current ecclesial (church) structures that contribute to a loss of the emphasis & importance of the APE–especially of the focus of ordination to the role of shepherd (pastor) and the role of  teacher (theologian). He posits that this lack of recognition and function in the Western church, and especially the UMC, is a direct result of this loss of the NT understanding of the nature (and mission) of the church (ecclesiology). He noted that many people who do or do not fit the accepted norms of a denomination’s expectation for ministers (especially APE’s in light of the emphasis on ST’s) have left the Mainline protestant churches resulting in either a “churchless mission” or a “missionless church.”

Hirsch further described these 5 roles and also explained their sociological dimensions/functions:
Apostle–systematic designer/entrepreneurial/environment making;
Prophet–ask the right questions & question the status quo;
Evangelist–recruits/draws people in, likes sales/marketing/packaging;
Shepherd–knits people together causing cohesion & humanizes the efforts;
Teacher–helps bring about wisdom & understanding.

He explored the difficulties of the modern church and talked in some detail about the divisiveness of the laity/clergy divide–citing specifically the ills it can cause in the church. Hirsch also spoke of the need for leaders in each of these 5 areas of ministry and gave examples of how most of us would express one of the five functions as primary, secondary, etc and how knowing our own expressions of these roles might help us to be better in ministry.

After lunch (Chick-fil-a sponsored by Wesley Theological Seminary) there were two workshop sessions including further conversations with Alan Hirsch (which proved quite fruitful) and a variety of other options including “How to run a prayer room,” “Servant Evangelism,” “Sabbath Keeping,” and more.

Overall, another excellent day filled with hopeful-critical moments for engaging in prayer, conversation, worship, and reflection on how God is at work in our lives, our ministries, our campuses, our denomination, and our world.

more photos from day 2 on flickr here

Making the Wounded Whole

“That ultimate message of hope and healing…is the product of creative tension between awareness of painful oppressive circumstances and the simultaneous envisioning of a hopeful future. This is not a naive optimism, but rather a genuine inner transformation.” Arthur C. Jones

This is a sermon I wrote and preached on Sept 19th, 2010 at the 8:30am Service at Glenn Memorial UMC in Atlanta, GA for Glenn-Emory Day.  I really enjoyed working on this one–special thanks to Rev. Michael Hunt for his collaboration and help in interpreting and working with the Spiritual “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” Great quote from author & musician Arthur C. Jones about There is a Balm In Gilead: “That ultimate message of hope and healing…is the product of creative tension between awareness of painful oppressive circumstances and the simultaneous envisioning of a hopeful future. This is not a naive optimism, but rather a genuine inner transformation.”

pdf of the Sermon: “Making the Wounded Whole” by Joseph McBrayer