Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Finding Pastors in Your Backyard

Finding a good fit in a pastor is not an easy thing. Meeting a congregation’s present reality and the hopes for the future is a daunting task for a search committee – given that we task ordinary people, doing ordinary jobs with the job. Granted, they love the church and are deeply committed to the life and health of the future church, plus they have the ever present young person on the search committee who represents the future (but doesn’t have a clue as to why he or she said yes when asked.)

Thankfully there are lots of places to advertise, and each Area Church Minister has access to a list of people who have said they would like to pastor somewhere within half an hour of Winnipeg. Okay, lots of these potential candidates are more open than that. But have we looked in our backyard lately?

It was only a couple of generations ago when we expected that our pastors would be raised up from within the fellowship of our congregation. And, back then, the bonus was that we would just call them, they would keep their day job, and we would find ways to say thank you throughout the year.

In the last few years in Mennonite Church BC we have found ways to call people from our backyard and pay them too! Some are fulltime, while others are in varying measures of part-time. In each case, full effort was given to looking in all the available places, but in the process, God began to reveal a candidate right near at hand, who ultimately became the one to fulfill the calling.

If February of this year, First Mennonite Church in Kelowna called Kevin Barkowsky to be their lead pastor. I introduced him to the chair of the congregation more than a year ago as a friend in Kelowna who had previously pastored, gone back to his former employment, but was open to re-engaging pastoral ministry. They courted each other for that year. It was one of the most serious discernment processes I have seen – ending with a joyous commitment to the marriage.

The road to Granisle - May 1st, 2011

On May 1st, Rob Wiebe was installed as pastor of Church of the Way in Granisle. Rob attempted pastoral ministry just out of Bible School, years ago, and it did not go well. He has had many years of volunteering and developing his ministry gifts in his home church, First Mennonite Church Burns Lake (which is an hour down the road from Granisle). The Church of the Way people love him and he loves them, so after an eight month courtship, they too made the marriage official. They went the full route of a proper search, but soon it became clear that this was Rob’s time to re-enter the pastoral ministry. It was time for Church of the Way to extend the call.

Look hard – far and wide – but keep your eyes open to your backyard.
(Look for this article in an upcoming Canadian Mennonite under "From our Leaders")

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rhythm/Balance in a Smartphone Age

I made a note to myself to blog about rhythm/balance in a Smartphone age. When I sat down to do it, it occured to me that I thought I had already written about rhythm. I checked back, and sure enough, a year ago, almost to the day, this was my topic. Check it out in the sidebar. I won't re-write it, but I will expand on it.

You can get an App for almost anything on a Smartphone. This includes: a fitness counter, diet monitor, time and travel tracker, and of course, keeping your finger on all of your favourite sports teams instantaneously. There are so many more Apps in which I have not taken any interest, but may be just for you! Many of them are free, too. Surely our lives should be fully under control by now.

Yet, how easy it is for the rhythm and balance in our lives to be totally out of control. Do we admit it? Of course not, because there must be just one more App to finally fix it all! I must admit that it is kind of handy to have almost my whole world saved into my phone, safely tucked away in the pouch on my belt or in my pocket.

The trick is to turn parts of it off in certain settings. If I am engaged in a meaningful conversation with someone and the smartphone rings, there is a wonderful button to hit called "Ignore." It sounds rude, but I think it is more rude to answer it. How can that person in the phone be more important than the person I am with? After all, they can leave a message.

Another button that is well worth it, and is never more than two clicks away, is the "All Alerts Off" button. It is so simple. When I am in a meeting, the people in the meeting have my full attention. When I am in church, I can still check my Bible on the phone, but never interrupt my worship experience (or that of my neighbour's) with a vibration, buzz, or - heaven forbid - a full-on ring! Sorry if I have ignored your call, email or text for more that a 1/2 day - it's because the "All Alerts Off" feature has been directing you to leave me messages.

Then there is the option of turning it completely off - what a concept. It sure makes for a good night's rest. And, you know what, the smartphone actually likes a rest too. Seriously, it works better after it has been given a rest!

Blessings in finding the rhythm and balance in your multi-sensory life.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Water Under the Bridge

There has been a lot of water that has passed under the bridge since I last contributed a blog entry! The river of life keeps moving on, even if we don't pause to talk about it every once-in-awhile.

While the water keeps flowing, we need to make sure we give attention to most important things. I think we often have distractions that allow us to avoid the important things. For some it may be Facebook. For me, it is just simply email. I think there are many of us who would say that if we gave a careful response to every email that comes our way, we could actually spend our whole day - every day - on email. Given that Facebook and email are both communciation tools that help us keep in touch with people, as well as accomplish things, we have to figure out how to manage them as tools to use rather than the master that rules us.

This season of Spring is a time, for many places in Canada, where the rivers that have stopped flowing for the winter because of the ice on them begin to melt and break up. It is amazing to see (and hear) the power of the spring break up of river ice. But, for today's thoughts, I am led to the possibility of the river stopping its flow and taking a rest.

It may look like I took a winter break from blogging because I let the constant flow of water under the bridge freeze up and stop. But reality, as you might well imagine, is that the real water of work, life, and technical support has been flowing so hard and fast that I have not found the time to stop and write.

While I haven't yet figured out the function, value and usefulness of Facebook, I've been thinking about Twitter. It seems like saying things is smaller soundbites, and saying things more often might be the ticket. But then, maybe just figuring out Facebook makes more sense. What do you think?

By-the-way, what are you doing for Lent? I have taken a cue from one of my colleagues to write every day about "Where have I seen God's hand today?" It's great to just pause to think about big and little things that appear to have been touched by the guiding hand of God. Yesterday I wrote, "I see God's hand in the beauty of another rainless day to allow me riding pleasure. In the sacrifice of a certain individual (name removed) in rearranging her schedule to make the Sunday meeting work - it is the amazing nature of God's people to be unselfish."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dutch Blitz - Family Style

It would have been great to get a photo of our family's - after Christmas dinner - Dutch Blitz game. Picture this - eight adults around the dining room table playing with eight decks of cards. That's right, 8 decks of Dutch Blitz cards at once. Fortunately there was a new deck and an well-worn deck of rags. We still marked the rags to make it easier to sort after each round.

Yes, Christmas dinner was settled. We had taken time to sing carols, read the Christmas Story, open gifts, go for a walk around town to look at Christmas lights, and clear the table.

With that many decks and people it made for a whole lot of piles out there at once. Those with faster hands and minds prevailed. A lot of blitzes happened with the winner having only 11 or 12 cards out there. Those of us who aren't known to be super fast never got the experience of a positive score. I'll just say that my son-in-law and I ended up tied at minus 45.

If you don't know how this game works, google it at www.dutchblitz.com and learn all about it. I'll include a picture of it below.

This was on Boxing Day, and we did it all again 3 days later upon returning home from Diane's birthday dinner at a favourite local restaurant. Actually this time we only went with four decks, dividing the responsibilities for each deck between two people. It was still a riot!

Oh, by-the-way, did I tell you about this year's new Christmas Tradition. It is our married kids dividing up the leftovers to take home. Actually it started as a Thanksgiving Tradition, and will carry on as an Easter Tradition as well!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

St. Pete's Beach 2010 Toy Run

We do Toy Runs in Vancouver and Abbotsford, but it has never worked out for me to go on one. I have no idea how big they are. For those who may not know what a Toy Run is, it is an excuse for motorcycle riders to go on a ride and also contribue a toy to charity.

The St. Pete's Beach Toy Run is done with a Christmas theme. There were 2000 motorcycles participating. The run took 45 minutes. Just standing in one place and seeing a steady flow of every kind of motorcycle going by was quite a treat (actually about 90% of them were Harleys.) The run went right by the inn where we are staying, so we just went down to the street and took it in. I guess it's kind of obvious from the photos that helmets are optional in Florida.

Bonfire of the Beach - Florida Style!

Wow, that was quite a fire!
They dig a big hole in the sand on the beach and then throw pallets in. These are great because they allow for a lot of air flow. We did get worried when they started throwing on pallets with K3 board on them - not too sure how much glue was going up in smoke. Oh well, it didn't seem to affect us. People were having a great time. It was an event with a good mix of locals and visitors - 20th Anniversary. Santa Claus was a big hit for the kids! Enjoy.

How much Christmas can there be - in Florida?

Diane and I are in Florida this week. This year's North American Mennonite Conference Ministers meetings were scheduled for St. Petersburg, and I immediately considered it a no-brainer that Diane would come along and we would extend our time here with a week of vacation. I mean, in December 2009 when the decision was made, we started making plans! Funny - of the approximately 40 people at these meetings, and all of them north from here (except the hosting conference minister) - only 2 other couples sensed a Florida vacation as a no-brainer opportunity to connect to these meetings. None of the other Canadian conference ministers (5 of them) saw it this way.

Also funny - this week has set record low temperatures for Florida! We have been sitting inside and reading a lot of the time - but hey, the view we have from our room is a beautiful ocean view of the Gulf of Mexico, framed by palm trees. If it is not too windy, we sit on the lounge chairs on our deck. For exercise we walk as far as we want on the white sand beach.

We are in Florida from November 30th to December 12th. Oh, by-the-way, since we were given an upgrade on the car rental, we chose to rent a Chrysler Sebring convertible. It was 80 F. when we arrived; actually, I'll translate all the temperatures in celcius. Our first day was 26 C. The second day peaked at 22, but we drove the whole afternoon with the top down - granted we put the heat on. Then the chill set in with daily highs of around 14. Besides the first 2 days, we have only put the top down a couple of times. But, we are in a warming trend. We drove with the top down this afternoon. It was really nice. Diane's dream is to actually have a convertible! Tomorrow and Saturday, our last 2 days here, the forecast is for the temperatures to be in the range of 20 - 23; absolutely top-down weather. 5 out of 12 days being convertible friendly, that's not bad for being in a record setting cold spell - but hey, we are Canadian. AND, THE FLORIDA SUN HAS BEEN BRIGHTLY SHINING EVERY DAY!

Our Beach

The View from which we read books on our bed

So, on to the promised topic - How much Christimas can there be in Florida or, how many things can be said about Christmas anyway? Diane loves endless Christmas, and I can appreciate that, but I need a break now and then - like from January to November. But even during December, no-stop is a bit much for me. While I am pretty good with it all, Diane is loving it. I mean, first of all, endless songs. In Vancouver there is a radio station that has committed all of its music, from at least the beginning of December, to be Christmas. Well here too - in St. Petersburg it is a Christian station that is solid Christmas music, and this is the only station available in our car - I mean, I dare not try another! Then the movies; how many Christmas movies are there? The Hallmark channel has Christmas movies all day long - although it sounds like there are many repeats. There's another channel that is doing the same. Since switching from meeting to vacation mode, we have watched a Christmas movie every night, usually 2 and I think even 3 one night. How many men are out there who really think they are Santa Claus - and actually turn out to be him? We have 3 nights left.

One of the largest Christmas light displays in America is right in St. Petersburg. This one takes a distinctly Christian angle on Christmas. In fact, it is a very evangelical emphasis, including a strong denouncement of other religions; for someone who believes relational evangelism is most effective, it would seem that this judgemental message isn’t helpful. But there we a lot of lights. See below.

I just found out the real meaning of the 12 Days of Christmas at our Sherbrooke Christmas banquet, then I heard a “Christianised” version on the radio here in Florida which included “5 shopping malls” and many other references to our commercialised North American Christmas - what a second rate version compared to the original! Take a look at what's behind this song...

From 1558 until 1829 CE, Roman Catholics in England were not allowed to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning; the surface meaning, plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church.

Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality, which the children could remember.

1. The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
2. Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
3. Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
4. The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
5. The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
6. The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
7. Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit: Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
8. The eight maids a milking were the eight beatitudes.
9. Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Ghost: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control.
10. The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.
11. Eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
12. Twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

So there is your history lesson for today. I found this interesting and now I know how this “very strange” song became a Christmas carol.

To conclude my wondering about how much Christmas there can be in Florida - tonight, in 1/2 an hour, Diane and I are going to a Christmas bonfire on the beach put on by the local community; tomorrow after breakfast we are going to a Christmas parade; yesterday was the Jingle Bell Run in St. Petersburg (all the runners have bells around their ankles) and last Sunday was the Christmas Toy Run (This is a motorcycle ride that came right past our place, with many bikes and riders dressed up in Christmas decoration. There were 2000 - 45 minutes of watching. See my next blog with some pictures of the Toy Run.)