Thursday, September 27, 2007

Friday Five: Reverendmother's Swan Song

This week's Friday Five is brought to us by Reverendmother who is about to have a baby. I'm at that age where there seem to be new babies everywhere. I even had a dream last night that I was pregnant (Mom, don't get hopeful. I'm not and not going to be any time soon!). Anyway, Reverendmother writes:

Well friends, as I prepare for the birth of Bonus Baby, it's time to simplify life, step back from the Friday Five, and let one of the other capable and creative RevGals take the helm. It's been a great almost 17 months of co-hosting the F5, but it's time to say goodbye... so here's my swan song.

On Endings and Goodbyes:

1. Best ending of a movie/book/TV show: Well, one of my favorite movies of all time also has a wonderful ending: The Princess Bride. What a great ending! The most romantic kiss ever kissed in the history of kisses. Wow, I'm swooning just thinking about it. As for a book, partly because it's still fresh on my mind, but the ending of HP7 really was quite perfect. My hubby and I were both bawling toward the end, but then it all wrapped up nicely, but not boring and predictable. TV show? Can't think of one right now. I don't watch to much TV - well, I have to admit that I do watch Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, and I totally loved the ending of the last season of both - the right people won!

2. Worst ending of a movie/book/TV show: Well as for a movie, nothings coming to mind right now. Book - I would have to say the end of the 3rd of the Lord of the Ring Trilogy. And only because I got so wrapped up on the stories that while I was reading them my life basically stopped. I stopped socializing, practicing, studying, etc. I would get upset when someone would call me while I was trying to read. I just couldn't put them down. Anyway, I was close to the end of the 2nd book and thought that if I could just get to the end of it, I would take a break and come up for air. It was about 3:30 am one morning when I finally reached the end, and it leaves you on such a frustrating cliffhanger that I threw the book across the room in a rage and picked up the 3rd book and continued reading. So, really, that could also qualify as the best ending of a book. Again, with TV I can't really think of one.

3. Tell about a memorable goodbye you've experienced. When I was finishing my Masters in Organ Performance from TCU I was offered a job at a small music production company in NYC as a sound engineer. So, I decided that I would move up there as soon as I graduated. The ceremony was on Saturday, and the next day, Mother's Day, I moved to NYC. However, I had to say goodbye to my church. I didn't mind saying goodbye to the organ (not a fun instrument to try to lead with), but telling the choir that I was leaving and then saying goodbye to everyone was so difficult. They sent me off with a very generous gift, and lots of cards and well wishes. I'm still a member there, even though I've not lived in Ft. Worth since 2000. However, I do get to worship there this Sunday as I'm off this week for some family concerts and will be back down there on Sunday.*

4. Is it true that "all good things must come to an end"? Nope. I think all good things (and bad things for that matter) might take a temporary break in this life, but like everything else, they'll be renewed someday :). Otherwise, just shoot me now.

5. "Everything I ever let go of has claw marks on it." --Anne Lamott
Discuss. Somethings, sure, but once I decide to let go of something, generally, I'm ready to let it go and move on. On a very small scale, it's like when I've decided it's time to get my hair cut, I have to get it cut off RIGHT. THIS. VERY. MOMENT. Whenever I was dating and I realized that this particular guy was not who I was supposed to marry, I cut it off almost immediately. I leave claw marks on things that I don't want to let go, or things that I'm being forced to let go of... like my bed in the morning...

Bonus: "It isn't over until the fat lady sings." I've never loved this expression. So propose an alternative: "It isn't over until ____________________" It ain't over till the cows come home. No wait, I think that's a mixed metaphor. Hmmm... It ain't over till monkeys fly? Nope, did it again. Why does the lady have to be fat, and who cares if she's fat or not? And if its over when the lady sings, then lots of things should be over by now because I sing quite frequently, and I have been known to be pleasantly plump in my time. It ain't over till the candle is carried out... oh, hold on a minute... that's actually when it begins...

For those of you in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, my family will be giving a concert in Duncanville (just south of Dallas) in the Duncanville Highschool auditorium at 7:30 pm. My mom, two sisters and I do a show called ClaviVoce - we each play piano and sing. We've got 4 pianos and do everything from Brahms to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, and every combination of 4 pianos and 4 voices. It's a fun show and it's free! We'll also be in Midland, TX on Tuesday, October 2nd, but I can't remember where exactly. If your in Midland/Odessa, we're apparently on the front page of the newspaper, or something like that. I'm pretty sure that one's free as well.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Three of the best years of my life

Today, September 25th 2007, Jack and I celebrated our anniversary - 3 YEARS!!!! Wow, I can't believe it's been that long. It feels like just yesterday. Here are some pics from our wedding:

My little sister helping me apply fake eyelashes

Jack getting dressed. Also pictured with his head down is his best friend Huard. I met Huard in the 6th grade when he was sitting in my seat on the bus. When I asked him his name, I thought he said Qbert, so I've called him that for years :)

Just moments before becoming Jack's wife :)

Everyone singing one of my favorite hymns "God Is Here!" We were blessed to have the TCU Concert Chorale, conducted by Ronald Shirey sing for our wedding. Our processional was Antiphon from R. Vaughn Williams' Five Mystical Songs.

Processing out - We're Married!!! Isn't Jack handsome in a skirt.. urm... kilt?!?

In our getaway car after the wedding. We took all our pictures beforehand, and so when we walked down the isle, we just kept going and got into the back seat of our Prius. Jack's other best friend, Steve-O drove us around, stopping at the 7-11 for a slurppee before heading to the reception.

Thank you my dearest for 3 wonderful years. Wanna try for 3 more? :).

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Five: De-cluttering edition

Sally at Eternal Echos brings us our Friday Five this week. She writes:

With Jo, Jon and Chris all moving to college and University accommodation there has been a big clear up going on in the Coleman household. We have been sorting and trying hard not just to junk stuff, but actually to get it to where it can be useful. On a brighter note we have used Freecycle ( check it out) to provide the twins with pots and pans etc that other folk were clearing out.

Making the most of our resources is important, I have been challenged this week by the amount of stuff we accumulate, I'd love to live a simpler lifestyle, it would be good for me, and for the environment I think...

With that in mind I bring you this Friday 5;

1. Are you a hoarder or a minimalist? I want to be a minimalist, but have to admit to some amount of hoarding. However, compared to my husband, minimalist would be an understatement. When we got married, I brought my clothes and a few boxes of books. He brought more stuff than I ever thought possible for one person to own, and 85% of that is books. I would love to own less stuff - it all just seems rather wasteful to me, especially when I'm dusting it!

2. Name one important object ( could be an heirloom) that you will never part with. My husband :). Seriously, I'm not quite sure. When I think through all my stuff, there are certainly some things that I would rather not have to part with, but nothing that jumps out at me as so important that I will never part with it. Almost everything can be replaced, or at least will always be in my memory. Most of my pictures are digitally saved. Hmmm, I'm not sure I could part with my computer, or at least most of the data on it :). I'm surprised that this is such a tough question for me.

3. What is the oldest item in your closet? Does it still fit??? I think the oldest thing is my bathrobe that I bought my freshman year in college, in 1991. It does still fit, though that's not saying much - it's a bathrobe, you know, one size fits most. The next oldest thing I can think of is a concert dress that I wore in my senior recital in 1995. That dress has been worn many times, for many concerts, in many places. I got my moneys worth out of that one. It has gone through many stages of fit and unfit. Currently it's a little loose on me. There have been times though that I couldn't get my big toe into it.

4.Yard sales- love 'em or hate 'em ? I've only done a couple in my life time. I kinda have mixed feelings about them. It's fun to go through the house and pick out stuff to get rid of, know that they'll get used some more and not thrown away just yet. But, it's also a whole lot of work, and I always seem to have lots of stuff left over.

5. Name a recycling habit you really want to get into. Well, I've recently joined Freecycle. Sally is right - you should check it out. It's amazing what people will take. I'd love to rig my house for water recycling. Instead of watering my lawn and plants with potable water, I'd save all the gray water and rain water for that purpose. I've even seen some really elaborate systems that take all the gray water and re-filter and clean it so you can use it again. That would be really cool.

And for a bonus- well anything you want to add.... I think recycling, using less stuff, and other ecologically minded activities can be a spiritual discipline, and one more way we can live out our baptisms. Our society's current consumeristic mindset is rather antithetical to the command to love our neighbor. Oooh, and it's so hard to buck against that trend. It's so much easier to drive my car 3 miles to church instead of ride my bike, even though I'm perfectly capable, have the luxury of owning a nice bike, and have a safe route to take. It's so much easier to just throw away leftovers and buy more food, instead of eating what I have, or at least composting what's gone bad. The list could go on.

Here are two websites that I've found that you might like to know about. One of them is a community of people striving to live generously and sharing their ideas and actions with one another: A Year of Living Generously. The other site doesn't have enough information on it, in my opinion - you have to purchase the book to get the rest. I have not purchased the book, yet. But the information about certain major companies business practices helps me make wiser choices about where I want to shop and who I want to give my money to: Better World Shopper.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Can It really be true?!?

I'm not sure that I'm not dreaming, but the 6 weeks of classes are over!!! And, I'm not sure that I actually taught them anything. There was so much that got left undone and untouched, and Geeze - it's like that story of the Native American from Oklahoma who had never seen the ocean before. He was taken to California and saw it for the first time - after overcoming the shock he took a small glass jar and began to fill it with water. His companion asked him what he was doing, and he replied that his people had never seen the big water before. I feel like I've been trying to show these people the big ocean, but all I've got is this little mason jar full of water.

Oh well, one jar at a time, I suppose.

Anyway, Tuesday's class went really well. First the groups presented their "practicums" which were, honestly, a little predictable. The call to worship people did a responsive psalm reading, the proclamation people played a recording of a song, the response people had a children's sermon (which was really a proclamation instead of a response, but I'm not being picky) and the benediction was a responsive psalm reading. All stuff that we already do, but that's ok. I just wanted them to get started brainstorming as a group and planning something in a group. We talked a bit about other options we might have for each of the elements. Then, I touched on some major points that i wanted them to take away from the 6 weeks:

1. God ALWAYS acts first - God initiates any relationship with us
2. We respond - our worship should always have this basic movement of God initiating and us responding.
3. We have over 2000 years of rich worship resources from which to draw and to be informed by. Don't discount something because it's "too catholic" or because it's just not very presbyterian, etc. First be open to the option and then weigh whether or not it would effectively tell The Story in this current context, and if not, is there a way to make it so.
4. Because God's initiation demands a response, worship must be participatory and not passive. We cannot force people to participate, but we can certainly encourage or discourage it.
5. Worship is an act of the community - even private times of devotion and prayer happen in the context of community. It is important that our worship is a welcoming community - of all ages and types of people. We have to constantly be looking for how our worship might exclude people, and how we can fix that. It's not an easy task and one that requires vigilance (or "constant villigance", as my husband and I jokingly say).

Then, we were led to the Chapel by one of our group carrying the Christ Candle. I asked Jimmy to do it because he has always expressed how much the Christ Candle means to him in worship - watching it come down the isle, knowing that it represented the light of Christ in our midst, and watching it leave at the end, knowing that it represented the light of Christ leading us out into the world. Once at the chapel, we had a communion service that lasted about 40 min. Below is the transcript from that service. The intro to the Prayer of Confession, Assurance of Forgiveness, Prayers of the People, prayer after communion and the benediction are all taken from The Worship Source Book. (Copyright 2004 CRC Publications)

Call to worship Marlene
Leader: The Lord be with you
People: And also with you
Leader: Open our lips, oh Lord
People: And our mouths shall proclaim your praise
Leader: Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
People: As it was in the beginning, is now
and will be forever.

Hear the Word of the Lord: Genesis Dave
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water."
9 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so.
11 Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so.
14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so.
20 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky."
24 And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so.
26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, [b] and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Hymn: All Creatures of Our God and King 1, 4, 6

All respond: Thanks be to God, the Lord of all Creation

Hear the word of the Lord: Psalm 90:1-12 Susan
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn men back to dust,
saying, "Return to dust, O sons of men."
4 For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning-
6 though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.
7 We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
10 The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11 Who knows the power of your anger?
For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
12 Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Prayer of Confession: The proof of God’s amazing love is this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Trusting in God’s faithfulness and compassion, let us confess our sin before God and one another.

Kerry and Marilee alternate on the verses of These I Lay Down (John Bell) with the group joining in on the last line and also singing the last verse.

(Jane) Hear the Good News: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Friends believe the good news of God’s grace: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

Psalm 103:1-4; 8-10; 12; 20-22
All: Bless the Lord, O my soul,
Lectern side: And all that is within me bless his holy name.
All: Bless the Lord, O my soul,
Pulpit side: And do not forget all his benefits
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Lectern: Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Pulpit: He will not always accuse,
Lectern: Nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins
Pulpit: Nor repay us according to our iniquities.
Lectern: As far as east is from the west,
Pulpit: So far he removes our transgressions from us.
All: Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
Lectern: You mighty ones who do his bidding, obedient to his spoken word.
All: Bless the Lord, all his hosts
Pulpit: His ministries that do his will.
All: Bless the Lord, all his works,
Lectern: In all places of his dominion.
All: Bless the Lord, O my soul.

All respond: Thanks be to Christ, the redeemer of our souls

Hear the word of the Lord: John 14:15-17; 25-26 Debbie
15"If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 25"All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

All respond: Thanks be to the Holy Spirit, the one who empowers our worship and sustains our faith.

You’ve received three items during this service. The longer stick, which you received first, represents God and God’s action in our lives. God initiates any and all relationships with us, and we respond to God’s call. When we heard the words of God’s creation at the beginning of our service, we responded with praise. But, we also responded with the realization that we are far from God. There is a vast chasm between us and God. But, once again, God acted first! God sent his Son Jesus on our behalf to bridge that gap. The shorter stick represents Jesus. Again, our response is required. We respond with our lives – not because it’s the right thing to do or because the law tells us, but because we are so overcome with thanksgiving. We responded in worship with our Psalm reading – blessing the Lord for the gift of grace and forgiveness we have in Jesus Christ. But, all this responding is empowered not by our own will and strength, but through the power of the Holy Spirit – the Advocate that Jesus sent. The Holy Spirit is represented by the ring. (2 sticks are held together as a cross with the rubber o ring) So, we are empowered to give the thanks and praise to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that wells up inside of us. But, how do we show our thanks and praise? What does the Lord require of you, Micah asks. So, we cannot stop here in this room. We cannot come here to get filled up and comfortable – to be made to feel good and get our needs met. No, we must, if we truly are to respond to God’s love, grace and sustenance, we must go out in the world to Do Justice, Love Kindness and walk humbly with God. We must go out in the world to feed His sheep.

So we come to the table to be fed and nourished. Not so that we may become comfortable and content. Rather, that we may be strengthened to serve each other and the world, for the glory of God. And more specifically, that this group may serve this congregation in worship so that they may serve the world, for the glory of God. Let us join in prayer, offering our praise, thanksgiving, and intercession to God:

Prayers of the People

O Lord and Father of the household of faith, Jimmy
we thank you for the gift of faith
worked within us by your Holy Spirit.
We thank you for having called us to yourself,
for consecrating us to your service,
for having set us apart to the sacred ministry of prayer.

O Lord and Father of the household of faith, Sue
we pray for the church
in all her breadth and variety,
gathered out of every nation, family, people, and tongue,
to be a kingdom of priests serving you.
We pray for the church in all the world,
for churches in North America, Europe, and the Middle East,
for churches in Africa, Asia, and Latin America,
for young churches and old churches,
small churches and large churches,
weak churches and strong churches.
Grant to the church true lowliness
and genuine humility where there is pride, unity where there is division.
Grant to her truth where there is error and wisdom where there is folly,
that you might fulfill your purposes for her.

O Lord and Father of the household of faith, Joyce
we pray for those stewards to whom you have
entrusted the affairs of your house,
for pastors, elders, deacons, lay leaders, volunteers, and committees.
Give them the spirit of willing service and true humility.
Give them a sense of spiritual devotion.
Give them delight in those whom they serve.
Grant that they may lead your people in the way of Christ,
that thereby we might all enter the land of our heritage.

O Lord and Father of the household of faith, Marlene
we pray for all peoples of all nations.
We pray that in every land there might be peace and true justice
(especially in [country] and other places of conflict).
Grant that in our own communities
those who are troubled,
those who suffer,
those who are discouraged
might find support in time of need
especially from your church.
Particularly we remember before you
the work done for the troubled, the suffering, and the discouraged
by the deacons in our congregations
and denominational and Christian agencies.

O Lord and Father of the household of faith, Matt
we pray for our nation and
those who lead the nation:
the president/prime minister and advisors,
the congress/parliament and the courts,
the diplomatic corps as they negotiate for peace and justice.
We pray for the leaders of all nations,
that they might know that you have called them
to serve their people in your fear and
for your glory and the good of the peoples.

O Lord and Father of the household of faith, Ann
we pray for those who have special needs.
To all who suffer any sickness or weakness [especially names(s)],
give health and strength.
To all who are disturbed or troubled, give rest and understanding.
To all who are lonely and alienated, give fellowship and love.
To all who grieve and sorrow [especially name(s)],
give comfort and assurance.
To all who are aged and frail, give homes of comfort and safety,
and others to help them, and a willingness to accept help.

All these requests we present to you, Amy
O Father of mercy, in the name of Jesus Christ,
who even now is seated at your right hand to intercede for us
and who taught us to pray, Our Father…..

Our Lord Jesus, told the apostles, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” We have the peace of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, which guides us toward the perfect unity of God’s kingdom. Let us share this peace with each other. (Peace of Christ, Susan…)

Bryan invites the group around the table for the words of institution. He offers a prayer and we hold hands as a family around the dinner table. Each person serves the next person, saying something like: “Sue, this is the body of Christ, broken for you, etc.”

Let us pray:
Lord God,
in gratitude, in deep gratitude
for this moment, this meal, these people,
we give ourselves to you.
Take us out to live as changed people
because we have shared the living bread
and cannot remain the same.
Ask much of us, expect much from us,
enable much by us, encourage many through us.
So Lord, may we live to your glory,
both as inhabitants of earth
and citizens of the commonwealth of heaven. Amen.

Hymn: Be Thou My Vision

Go into the world: dance, laugh, sing and create
We go with the assurance of God’s blessing
Go into the world: risk, explore, discover, and love.
We go with the assurance of God’s grace.
Go into the world: believe, hope, struggle, and remember.
We go with the assurance of God’s love.
Thanks be to God.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Five: Meetings Meetings

Our Friday Five topic is about meetings and is brought to us by ReverendMother. She writes:

In honor of a couple of marathon meetings I attended this week:

1. What's your view of meetings? Choose one or more, or make up your own:
a) When they're good, they're good. I love the feeling of people working well together on a common goal.
b) I don't seek them out, but I recognize them as a necessary part of life.
c) The only good meeting is a canceled meeting.

Definitely A. I'm all about teams working together. However, the opposite is also true. When they're bad, THEY'RE BAD!!! There are some meetings that leave me so drained that I just want to go home and crawl into bed for weeks. This usually is associated with slow speaking or inarticulate speakers. We've had our weekly staff meetings canceled 3 weeks in a row and it's driving me crazy. First of all I wanted to share with the staff all the stuff we've been doing in the worship planning team training sessions, and secondly, why would we NOT have a meeting the week fall programing starts back up is beyond me! There were so many issues that needed to be addressed the past few weeks that just got left hanging because we didn't meet. So, meetings are necessary, and when they're good, they're great!

2. Do you like some amount of community building or conversation, or are you all business? I think community building is vital if the meetings are actually going to get anything done. It's not necessary to do a ropes course at each meeting, but if, through consistent work, a community is built where the trust level is high and the ego level is low, the meetings can be ever so much more productive than just a 'business only' gathering. I'm all about community (see my last post).

3. How do you feel about leading meetings? Share any particular strengths or weaknesses you have in this area. Leading meetings is not my favorite thing to do. I'm never really sure how to keep the conversation on task. There always seems to be someone leading the topic off in another direction than it needs to go. I'm not very good at being the 'tough one.' My problem on the other side is that I have a tendency to jump into any conversation and stick my nose into areas outside my jurisdiction. It's not unusual for me to be an active memeber in a conversation at staff about the nursery program, or adult discipleship, or any other subject matter other than music. So, I apparently have this need to be leading everything, even though I really don't want to. Really, I think it's a matter of patience. I don't always have much patience for people who talk really slowly, or who are not very concise and end up using 5 long sentences when it could have been said in 2 words. Looking back at this answer, perhaps I'm just seeing myself in other people :)

4. Have you ever participated in a virtual meeting? (conference call, IM, chat, etc.) What do you think of this format? Part of my course work for this degree involved conversations on a message board. It wasn't really real time - we didn't have to meet on the board at a specified time, just had to post and respond before a certain date. I liked this format because I could think before I spoke (posted). I'm usually not good at that in a real meeting. As for a real-time virtual meeting? I can't recall ever doing something like that.

5. Share a story of a memorable meeting you attended. Well, the only memorable meeting that's coming to mind was not a happy one. Why is it the bad ones are the memorable ones? This was a special called meeting of the staff on a Monday morning in June 2 years ago. Our senior pastor called the meeting so he could announce that he was leaving because he had broken his marriage and ordination vows by having an affair with a parishioner. I had known something was afoot but couldn't put a finger on what was wrong. I had a feeling for some reason that he was going to be leaving, but thought it was perhaps his wife's health or something like that. But this was so far out of the blue the wind was literally knocked out of me, the carpet ripped out from under my feet, the floor dropped, the anvil fell, on and on and on. Never, NEVER in a million years would I have suspected that. I knew this pastor and his family for over 15 years. I had spent many a night at their home, played scrabble and trivial pursuit with their kids, talked politics, religion, shared personal problems, leaned on them, introduced various boyfriends to them, and even changed my whole career path after a time of working with him in ministry. As it turned out, it wasn't just one person either! How did I miss that completely? I think I must be good at ignoring things I don't want to see. I like to say that I like to assume the best in people, but sometimes I feel like perhaps I'm just to cowardly to recognize the truth. I never want to have another meeting like that again!

Gosh, I hate to leave it on such a terrible note. So, let me brighten the post a bit by saying that this incident was one in a long line of awful incidents that didn't destroy this congregation, but rather brought it together, forged some awesome leaders and forced those leaders to really strive to listen to God first and last. God really does work miracles through broken vessels.

Oh, here's a funny meeting (well, sort of a meeting) story. Last night during choir practice we stopped rehearsal to have a brief bit of announcements. Our assistant choir director was talking about a visiting ensemble coming in October and that we needed to house 35 people. She made the point that these were all adults and that in this situation (which is different than normal) if you could only house 1 person, that was ok. Normally we never have fewer than 2 in a house. This little old lady who had lost her husband about 2 years ago piped up and said, "Can I have a single male, please?" I think the choir laughed for about 10 min.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Only one left?!?!?!!

My, my, how time flies. Tuesday we had our 5th class and it went much better than last weeks. We were talking about community, symbols and the arts in worship. So for our worship time at the beginning of class I had a number of symbols set up around the room: bread and wine; water in a clear bowl; a dish of sand with a fish drawn in it; a candle; a cross (one that has special meaning to our congregation); a picture of a crusty old shepherd counting his sheep; a picture of a dove diving downward; some braided ropes from one of our earlier classes; and a mirror. We began by singing 2 verses of All Things Bright and Beautiful. Then, I read from Genesis 1:26-27 from The Message translation: God spoke: 'Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea and the birds of the air, the cattle and yes the Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of the earth.' God created human beings, he created them godlike, reflecting God's nature. He created them male and female." I said a very short sentence or two expounding on this passage and how God relates to us - makes himself known to us - in the created order and especially through each other. And so we use symbols in worship to help us speak about God and about what God has done. None of the symbols we use is God, and none of them could possibly ever come close to showing all of who God is. Rather, they are little glimpses and signposts that point us to God. Then I invited the class to visit the various symbols around the room. They were invited to interact with the symbols and listen for God speaking to them and to look to where the symbols pointed - to God. It was fascinating to watch them. At first, they were hesitant, and just looked. But then, one person picked up the cross and talked with the person next to him about where that particular cross had come from. Then, suddenly people felt free to really interact with the symbols. Some played in the water, one person ran his hands through the sand - he saw a different symbol than I had planned. He saw the grains of sand, as numerous as the people of the nations of Abraham and reveled in how God knew each grain intimately. One person saw the ropes and remembered the lesson. He counted them and realized that I had put one there for each person in the room, so he took his. Later, he admitted to taking it, and I let everyone else know that there was one for them as well. We closed with two verses of For the Beauty of the Earth, and a responsive benediction that I found in The Worship Sourcebook.

For the main portion of the class, we talked about community and how community is a basic fact of being a human and also being a child of God. Trip Huggins, over at Conjectural Navel Gazing: Jesus in Lint Form wrote a post yesterday about community that was very similar to what I talked about in class about community. Here's a link to the actual post: Saving Communities.

I then referred back to our worship time and how God created us in his image. We are a symbol of God and all of us as a community make up the Church universal that is a symbol of the Body of Christ here on earth. We talked more about symbols and their importance in worship - and their danger. We talked about symbols here at WPC and how sometimes the symbols we have around our church give unintended messages. We talked about the fine line between a powerful symbol that is rooted and connected to our history, important to our lives as a community that points to God, and a symbol that has become more important than that to which it is pointing - a symbol that has become a sacred cow.

This conversation then led from symbols to the role of arts in worship. We discussed various forms of art (visual, musical, drama, dance, language, etc.) and when we've experienced it in our worship services. Music is the very dominant art at WPC - many people have joined the church because of our music program. That's not necessarily a good thing. We hope that if they come because of the music, they'll stay because of God. As a music staff, we work hard to make sure our music is always in the context of ministry and not performance. I digress... We watched a YouTube video that I found - an example of drama in worship and how powerfully drama can tell the story. I don't see is doing this kind of drama in our church - at least not yet. We're a pretty formal, traditional church. But, I wanted them to see the possibilities out there. Here's the video:

Some of the reactions were positive to this, some were negative. Some were really put off by the violence in the skit and couldn't get past that. This led to a frank conversation about how our worship really needs to be honest about life. God ultimately prevails and there is hope, but here in this already-but-not-yet time somethings in this life really suck. And our worship will never be relevant, no matter what kind of music we use, if we're not honest about that. The psalms are bluntly honest about the suckiness of life, so why do we think we can't be.

Overall, it was a really good class. For their homework, I gave them a short article out of Call to Worship: Liturgy, Music, Preaching and the Arts Vol. 39.4 titled "Confessions of a Liturgical Artist." I also gave asked them to read an article by Sally Morgenthaler at the website Allelon: A Movement of Missional Leaders. You should go and read that article. Next Tuesday is our last one and then we get down to the real business of planning worship together. I feel that we have only barely scratched the surface. There's so much more to know and find out about worship. One of the hardest things about planning these classes has been trying to figure out what NOT to cover. I feel almost like we've got just enough information now to be really dangerous.

On Tuesday, we'll actually being with class - wrapping up, talking specifically about worship planning and getting a preview on the worship services that we will be planning etc. Then at 7:15 we will journey to the Chapel for a longer worship service which will include Communion. Then, we will get together Friday evening and Saturday morning to start planning.

It's been a wild ride and it ain't even half way over yet...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

I'm so tired

At this point, I'm running on gas fumes. This process is really getting to me. Trying to complete a doctoral thesis while holding down a way-more-than-full-time-job. On top of it, I'm not the most organized person, nor do I have the best time management skills. so, I'm running on very little sleep. I never did post on last weeks class, so I'll share a bit here about it:

Admittedly, it was not the best class so far. I was not as organized and was just really tired. I'm just really tired already this week, but I'm much more prepared for Tuesday's class. Hopefully, I'll survive tomorrow (another marathon day) and make it to Tuesday morning. Anyway, back to last week's class. Oh, geeze, I can't even remember that far back. Thank goodness I'm taping these. I know we talked about liturgy and what it is and means and why we should care. As well we talked about the Book of Confessions and the Book of Order of the PC(USA) and what those documents have to tell us about worship. It really was probably my least creative class. Just a bunch of talking and rather unenthusiastic discussion. Oh well, they all can't be home run hits, right?

This week, we're looking at worship and community; symbols and their role in worship; and arts in worship (music, dance, visual, drama, language arts, etc.) For their homework this last week I gave them different sections of worship to plan with a focus on congregational engagement. We'll present some of those in class this week as well. It's kind of their first foray into worship planning - a practicum, if you will.

I really must get to sleep now... as soon as Jack and I finish listening to our favorite radio program: NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Five: On Overcoming

For those of you who don't know about RevGalBlogPals, these Friday Fives are a group activity at that blog ring. So, they'll generally be off thesis topic, though I'm sure I'll find some way to work my thesis into these Friday Fives on a regular basis. Sally provides this week's Friday Five:

I am preparing this Friday 5 just before I take Chris into hospital for a cardioversion, right now we are all a little apprehensive. But this whole thing has got me thinking, so many of us are overcomers in one way or anoither, so many have amazing stories to tell of God's faithfulness in adversity. And so I bring you this Friday 5;

1.Have you experienced God's faithfulness at a difficult time? Tell as much or as little as you like... Yes yes and yes. Though I am rarely aware of God's faithfulness in the valley. It's always looking back that I see God's hand. Why I can't seem to learn from the hindsight that God is always faithful is beyond me. But at the same time, just the intellectual knowledge and weak hope that God is faithful brings me through the difficult times. Other times, it's those around me who have strength, faith and hope for me that bring me through. The Body of Christ in action!

2. Have you experienced a dark night of the soul, if so what brought you through? I hesitate to say that I have had as dark a night of the soul as some but feel that I've had tastes of it now and then. Once, in undergraduate school, I went for about 3 weeks of depression that had me crying most days, and usually at the odd drop of a hat. Just the briefest thought about singing (I was a voice major and dealing with some throat problems) sent me spiraling down a thought path that led to a life with no music, no singing and basically destitution. So, that was definitely a dark night of the soul. Throughout this doctoral program I've had days here and there of serious doubt about more than just my ability to complete the program, but serious doubts about God. Sometimes these moments of physical, clawing, emptiness will last for a few hours, sometimes for a few days. I even blogged about it a little here. It's hard to say what has brought me through. I think for the most part it's those people around me who care for me. Sometimes, I will scream out to God and suddenly feel the darkness lift and peace overcome me.

3. Share a Bible verse, song, poem that has brought you comfort? Psalm 23. I have sung this one so many times, in so many different versions, and heard it read more times than I can count at countless funerals and it never looses its impact. So many verses and songs have brought me comfort that it's hard to narrow it down to just one or even a few. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing comes to mind. Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

4. Is "why suffering" a valid question? Are there any invalid questions? We may not get the answer we're looking for, though I'm finding that God's answers are always infinitely better than anything I could even think to look for. If we don't ask "why suffer" then perhaps we would not be moved to help alleviate suffering in the world and isn't that part of what Jesus calls us to do? Comfort those who morn, care for the widows and orphans, heal the sick, pray for those in prison, etc.

5. And on a lighter note- you have reached the end of a dark and difficult time- how are you going to celebrate? With shouts of joy in the courts of the Lord! And perhaps a glass of wine and laughter with friends. I can't imagine any where else in the world I'd rather be than in the company of friends and family in both times of sorrow and in times of joy. I was one of those weird people who loved living the dorms because I was surrounded by so many people and the part I loved most about living in New York City was the extreme close proximity I had to more than a million people.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Gospel in Paint

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about how, as part of an assignment, each person was to write the Gospel Story in their own voice. They could write a short story, a poem, a song, paint it, dance it, sing it, quilt it, whatever. One of the students painted 4 small paintings about the gospel. I asked her if I could share them here, and she graciously agreed. Thank you, Sue.

For each painting, she wrote a short description and I'll include those descriptions under each one:
"God so loved the world that he sent the Son made man to dwell among us. The light came into the darkness"

"He came to show us the Father and to bring us back to the Father. The Way, the Truth, the Life. The sacrificial lamb - the solution - He is the bridge to the Holy God for sinful mankind."

"Christ took our sins - became sin on the cross (at-one-ment). We have been redeemed, His blood cleanses us. God sees us through Him. In Christ we are heirs to eternal life."

"The Creator; Yahweh; Jehovah; Father/Son/Holy Spirit; Love beyond all knowledge"

Each of these four paintings are © 2007 Sue Cappadona, All Rights Reserved.