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:

God,
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 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

Refresh 2010: UM Campus Ministry Conference Day 1

Today was the first day of Refresh 2010: a 3 Day United Methodist Campus Ministry Conference.

Today (12.14) was the first day of Refresh 2010: a 3 Day United Methodist Campus Ministry Conference. This is the 5th Annual gathering of Campus Ministers & those who work with college students. The purpose of Refresh is to encourage and strengthen those who work with college students through prayer, worship, dialogue, & workshops. This year’s conference is being held at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas–home of lead pastor Adam Hamilton, who will be a keynote speaker on Day 3 of Refresh.

Things kicked off today with Rev. Olu Brown of Impact Church (Atlanta) as the keynote speaker and worship music led by  Laura Story (author of “Indescribable” & other excellent worship songs). Olu brought a word entitled “Gifted” centering in on 1 Timothy 4:11-14–“These are the things you must insist on and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.”

Rev. Brown admonished the some 150+ campus ministers in attendance that each is uniquely gifted and he help us to to hear what Paul was saying to Timothy in the letter:
1) Stay Connected to God (it’s easy to become disconnected–if disconnected, RE-connect)
2) Remember who you are (both your identity & that you’re a child of God)
3) use what you have (your gifts & talents–as well as your innate abilities)
4) stay in the game (don’t give up on yourself or God)

Afterward we shared in a large group skype conversation/discussion with Trent Sheppard, author of God on Campus: Sacred Causes and Global Effects. The evening continued into dinner on the town and a chance for all in attendance to connect & re-connect with friends new & old. Refresh is sponsored by the Foundation for Evangelism and has the support of a number of other UM Agencies including the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry.

Dinner on the Town at Gates Bar-B-Q

More Photos here on Flickr

Doxology: Reclaiming a post-offering hymn

This is my arrangement of the classic “doxology” or as it is better known: “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” or “Old 100th”…or ‘the song they play after they take up the offering.’

It is number 95 in the United Methodist Hymnal (& public domain), but the “Old 100th” came from when the ‘hymnal’ used to only be filled with psalms set to music and this tune was from that 1551 arrangement attributed to Louis Bourgeois. The words for this text came from Thomas Ken (father of english hymn writing) and was written by him with the simple title (or instructions) “morning and evening hymn.”

This may sound strange, but I prefer to play it a safe distance away from the offering. When we do use it in worship (hardly ever near the offering, those in worship seem to grasp a different meaning of the tune and lyrics. The meaning of ‘Doxology‘ is actually from New Testament Greek for praise, honor, or glorify. We’ve settled with it being played at the time of the return of the offering to God (ushers bringing the plates back up to the front of the church altar/table) is because it has a good theological reason: we should give praise, honor, and glory to God in returning a portion of all that God has given us back to God’s kingdom and the work of the Lord. However, the a common result when we hear this song now is that we get an ever-so-strong sense that we should be standing, singing, and giving money.

All joking aside, this is a real example of tradition that needs to be RE-taught and RE-contextualized. I think that many people really do like this song (great history and excellent words and even theology) but it gets used in the church context only as ‘the song we sing after the offering.’ This is a short shrift for such a beautiful, powerful, and diverse song–it can be sung quietly as a prayerful evening hymn or loudly as an anthem at the 11 o’clock service.

This version uses a cut capo (simulates DADGAD by holding the strings in an Esus, which allows the guitar player to play ‘rhythm’ and ‘lead/melody’ at the same time).

Note the use of ‘God’ in lieu of ‘Him’ for greater inclusivity while retaining the Trinitarian and doctrinally important (Baptism/Eucharist rites & inter-denominational covenants/agreements) language of Father, Son, & Holy Ghost.

lyrics/chords:
E                                              A2  Bsus  E
Praise God From whom all Blessings Flow
E                                         A        B
Praise God all creatures here below
E             A      B       E
Praise God above ye heavenly host
E                       A             B           E
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
(Cre-a-tor)

A      E  A     E    A     E    A     B   (E)
Amen   Amen   Amen   Amen

(in G: G C D)

The Summons–John Bell

The Summons is about the calling of all people to follow God’s call to become themselves more fully. To “care for cruel and kind” and to “never be the same.” In this song the call to service is one that is transformational–when we accept Christ’s calling to come and be where God is already, our lives are shaped by the experience. The last line of each verse also echoes the mutual nature of how God works in us and through us and through God we find our living, our moving, and our being.

The lyrics for this song come out of the Iona Community in Scotland where writer and musician John Bell lives and works. The music is from a traditional Scottish tune called “Kelvingrove.” Written in 1987, The Summons can be found in the United Methodist hymnal addition called “The Faith We Sing” number 2130.

the guitar chords:

E    Bsus C#m    A2    Bsus
E    Bsus C#m    A2 Bsus E
F#m    C#m    A2    Bsus
E    Bsus    C#m    A2 Bsus E

National Student Forum: Dr. Eboo Patel

Dr. Eboo Patel gave of his time and energy to share with us an articulate, challenging, and thought-provoking vision of young people coming together and leading people from different faith communities to serve the needs of the world through service to others.

This weekend (May 21-24) I’m here in Shreveport, LA at Centenary College attending the National Student Forum of student forum logothe United Methodist Student Movement–basically a gathering of United Methodist college students who are from all over the US. Also there are 50+ UM campus ministers and chaplains (I’m now one of those as the Emory Wesley Fellowship Director!) It is a pretty awesome gathering of people in the United Methodist Church who are deeply passionate about young people, the church, and the world. Our theme is breaking barriers and building bridges.

Today at the conference Dr. Eboo Patel founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core spoke to the students and later to the Campus Ministers about coming together despite differences, pluralism, and serving others. The Interfaith Youth Core, is an organization who “builds mutual respect and pluralism among young people from Eboo Pateldifferent religious traditions by empowering them to work together to serve others.” Patel is a young, energetic, extremely intelligent and well-read communicator.

He spoke to us about the importance of building the “beloved community” of which Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke. Dr. Patel, a devout Muslim, shared his belief that MLK, Jr.’s vision of the beloved community consisted of and was informed/formed by two things: 1) his being deeply rooted in the Christian faith tradition, and 2) his relationships with people of other faiths. Patel encouraged and challenged the students and campus ministers to grow more deeply in their faith, noting that in deepening their own faith traditions they will encounter truths that resonate deeply with other faith traditions. He talked about the interfaith encounters and relationships of Martin Luther King, Jr. with Ghandi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel to demonstrate that Martin Luther King, Jr. was not only a great leader for the civil rights movement and a great leader for the Christian movement, but that he was also a great interfaith leader.

Dr. Eboo Patel gave of his time and energy to share with us an articulate, challenging, and thought-provoking vision of young people coming together and leading people from different faith communities to serve the needs of the world through service to others. His message was and is encouraging, insightful, and it is gaining momentum–one conversation and one interfaith leader at a time. May it continue.

mississippi bridge

Approved!!

So, last week 50+ people desiring to be United Methodist elders and deacons went before the Board of Ordained Ministry of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church to be essentially “interviewed” to be approved or not to be placed in ministry in the UMC. UMC logo

In short, I “passed,” although the official words are that I am “deferred pending appointment.” Many did not make it through, but must repeat some parts of the paperwork and interview sessions. This is a difficult verdict to hear because in preparation for the Board, every candidate has to go through a lengthy candidacy process (it takes at least 3 years) which includes Masters in Divinity, a 3 year graduate theological education basically, on top of your undergraduate degree and ministry experience. My paperwork wound up being close to 80 pages double-spaced as they ask a difficult set of questions ranging from “How do you see the Holy Spirit working in the World?” to “What does it mean to say that Jesus Christ is Lord?” to “What is the nature and mission of the Church?” Basically, the Board wants to see if you can articulate theology–that you can write and speak coherently about God, humanity, and their interaction.

My experience with the Board, although challenging, was a positive one that left me feeling both encouraged and hopeful. Encouraged–that more experienced ministers and pastors on the Board were willing to listen and appreciate the passion and call of a young person who is hoping to enter the ministry. Hopeful–that things are changing in the Church and that the Church has a future with young people in the world and in ministry.

road to somewhereNow what?! We wait for a little longer to see if there is a place where my gifts and talents match the needs of a church or ministry. This is how the Methodist itineracy system works. So, join me in praying for all who met with the Board: that we may find ministries to which we are well suited and that will enable us to fulfill our calling to serve God and neighbor. But, for the next two weeks my wife and I are simply going to celebrate that I was affirmed by the Board of Ordained Ministry–for each day has enough worry of its own.