Sunday, January 3, 2016

My Visit to a Lutheran Contemporary Service – 2nd Sunday after Christmas

As I was wondering about where I would go to church yesterday, I decided to check the offerings of the churches in the neighborhood. The local Lutheran church had a contemporary service and I decided to see how our ecumenical siblings do that. I would go again - it was well done and gave me some new ideas. 

Order of Worship (70 minutes total) – screens, no bulletin
            1 Praise and Worship song
            1 Christmas hymn
            Opening Prayer
            1 Christmas hymn
            “Noisy” Offering for local outreach with video
            Gospel reading & Sermon (25 minutes)
            Gospel Reflection by Worship Leader while children brought in
            1 Christmas hymn
            Communion & Peace (Music by band – no communal singing)
            Offering with Video
            Closing Prayer
            Closing Christmas hymn
            Dismissal

            I arrived at 10:20 for 10:30 service – did not park in visitor parking. An usher at the door of sanctuary greeted me. I was told worship band was still rehearsing and they didn’t usually open the doors until 10:30, but that I could go on in. I was glad of that because I would have been more uncomfortable standing alone in the narthex than sitting alone in a pew. There were about ten people already in the space – other visitors who do not know the norm? The worship band worked out kinks until 10:28 when the ushers asked if they could open the doors. A 5-minute countdown clock started on the screen as people came into the space. Service began about 10:35.
            I loved the idea of the “Noisy” offering for local outreach. Metal buckets were passed – maybe painted by youth? – people shook them playfully as they passed the buckets to make noise. The emphasis was for noisy money, but there was silent money in there also. I was slightly concerned that it was the regular offering also, and maybe I had missed my chance to drop in the check I had remembered to complete at home. 
            The Peace was at the end of the words of institution and after the communion instruction (which was very clear and well done). The regular offering followed communion and a video was shown for a Financial Peace University class starting in January.

            Afterwards, I walked to my car. The pastor was a member there, but not on staff. The usual pastor was on vacation.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Choose Life!

As you all know by now, I am usually a strictly Lectionary preacher. But today, I am going to bring in another text. Today, I want you all to also hear the words of Moses to his people. Moses had led them through the Wilderness and knew that he would not be able to lead them further – he would not accompany his beloved people to the Promised Land. So today, I am using his words as a framework for my final sermon among you all:
Moses said,
This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach. It’s not on a high mountain—you don’t have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it’s not across the ocean—you don’t have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now—as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it!

Before we get to Moses’ commandment, I want to remind you all of what we have all done together over this last year:
     ·      50 people for Christmas eve services
·      Bylaws passed
·      Upgraded Sound System
·      Helped launch new church in deanery
·      Lived through several rearrangements of our space
·      Bishop High at Palm Sunday
·      Seder Dinner with WF MCC
·      60 people for Easter services
·      Power Packs for Kids >300 per packing
·      Covered houses for Parade of Homes – met many new friends
·      Started Downtown Dinner: 6/16, 9/15, 12/15
·      Sent two of us to General Convention
·      Welcomed New Members
·      Ferris Teacher’s Lunch & School Supply Donations
·      First Combined Audit
·      Racial Reconciliation
·      Hosted Executive Council
·      Bishop Mayer Visit
·      Joint Deanery Project: Ramp for Marsha
·      St Francis Blessing – Outside
·      All Hallows’ Eve & Trunk or Treat
·      Live Broadcast of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Installation
·      Hosted live music concert for WF MCC friends
 “Just do it” – and we did!

Here is Moses’ Commandment to his beloved people
And I command you today: Love God, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments… so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by God, your God, in the land you are about to enter and possess.

I do not know what land you are about to enter and possess – I have no idea what God is up to here – Moses didn’t know for sure either. He did know that was not his to worry about – that God knows and God is working. It may take another 40 years for God’s work THIS DAY to be known in this place. Just as our Biblical ancestors showed us, we will continue to worship and praise God, trusting that was are all God’s beloveds as we move forward.

Mary and Elizabeth show us that same faithfulness and trust in God in our Gospel lesson today. Childbirth could be the beginning of the end for any woman, statistically much more so for Mary and Elizabeth in their day – yet they are happy to be carrying new life. They are celebrating their pregnancies and dreaming about how their lives will change. They are birthing the future, just as you all are here. Dream big dreams and live, truly live exuberantly, blessed by God as you nurture and raise up the Episcopal Church of Wichita Falls.

Moses continues, for us and for his people,
I call Heaven and Earth to witness today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, he is life itself, a long life settled on the soil that God, your God, promised to give your ancestors, Abraham [and Sarah], Isaac [and Rebekah], and Jacob, [Leah and Rachel].

All that you need is here. You are courageous and beloved  – Just like Mary and Elizabeth – pregnant with possibilities – Choose Life!


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Announcement of Transition at ECWF

My very first day on the ground in Wichita Falls was October 1, 2014. And here we are, 14 months later. This is hard for me to say – it is hard for me to live – but I feel as though my time among you here has come to an end. Next Sunday, December 20th, will be my last Sunday as the Priest in Charge of the Episcopal Church of Wichita Falls. This week, I will be here on Tuesday to feed our homeless friends at WFMCC, and I will pack up my office. Next Sunday, I will ask you all to bless me, as I will bless you.

I have brought you all along as a church as far as I am able. The Bishop and Canon to the Ordinary will lead you on from here. I do not know what that will look like. It is not my place to know, nor will it be my place to be involved in the on-going life of the church here. I know I will see you at diocesan gatherings and you will all remain in my prayers. “Surely it is God who saves us, we will trust in him and not be afraid.” God is steadfast and faithful to you. No one can thwart God’s will.

“What then shall we do?” “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” “Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; Make his deeds known among the peoples; see that they remember that his Name is exalted. Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, and this is known in all the world.”


Today’s Advent candle is the candle of Joy. My prayer for you – no my task for you – is for us to remember our time together with great Joy. I have been blessed beyond measure serving here with you all. I know I was called by God to serve here, and I know God is calling me away from here now to do something different. It has been a season of Joy, and I pray that we will continue to live that Joy through our last week together.

Audio is on the right sidebar PodBean player.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christ the King

“Fear is such a powerful emotion for humans that when we allow it to take us over, it drives compassion right out of our hearts.”                              Thomas Aquinas

Today is the last Sunday in this church year. When we gather next Sunday, I will wish you a happy new year, as I did on the first Sunday of Advent last year. This is the Sunday when the story comes around to complete the circle.

I remember how confused I was on my first Christ the King Sunday in the Episcopal Church. As most of you know, I was raised and formed at First Baptist Church in Archer City. When David and I met and started dating here in Wichita Falls, he was attending the Disciples of Christ church over by Midwestern State University. David is a cradle Episcopalian; he used to bicycle himself to church for some of the early services when it was his turn to acolyte. When he moved here, someone had told him about the Diocese of Ft Worth – not ordaining women, being out of step with the rest of TEC – so he went to church with his friends. One of the doctors in town was a childhood friend, their moms were lifelong friends, and David had moved here partially because of that friendship. After David and I met, we moved to Lewisville and tried out different churches. I had no desire to return to my Southern Baptist roots. We tried a Methodist church and a Lutheran church before we went to the Episcopal Church. Of course David was most comfortable there and that may have been what led to my feeling of being “home” there. I loved the vestments, the liturgy, and the seasons. Christ the King Sunday felt out of place though. I got that we were marching through the stories of the different gospels in Ordinary time, but to have Holy Week readings in November made very little sense to me.

This is the first year for me that these readings do not feel so odd. Over the years I have gotten used to this Sunday, but this year I “get” it differently than I ever have before. Maybe it is the world’s political landscape, maybe it is this church’s special circumstance this year, maybe – after 21 years as a confirmed Episcopalian – it has finally sunk in. I never claimed to be the brightest one here. J


When I read and heard our own bishop and our presiding bishop saying “Do not fear,” it dawned on me that it is the same thing I believe our lectionary planners might be saying: “Do not fear.” In these darkest nights, on these cold, stark days, after journeying through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time, we get one last reminder: Christ is King. Christ is the Truth. Christ is the Incarnation of Love who walked among us and remains among us as the Holy Spirit does – Perfect Love. Perfect Love casts out fear. After all of the stories we have heard over the last year, after all of the stories we have lived this past year, Christ is still King of all – in control, faithful to us, as we are faithful to him: a King who is willing to give his very life because he loves us that much; a King who conquered death so that we can live without fear of death, without fear of refugees, without fear of what may come tomorrow. We are His people and he is our King. “Do not fear.”

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Part-Time Call

NaBloPoMo Day 9: Monday day off or Friday day off... Discuss.
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When I worked full-time at a parish, I tried each one. I figured out really quick that I can honor a Monday off much better than I can honor a Friday off. I believe my seminary training may have had a small part in this: there were no Monday classes in seminary at Perkins in Dallas, so I was formed to take Mondays off in some way. In seminary, I usually had some reading, writing, etc to do on Mondays, but I did not have to leave my house those days. It may not have been a true day off, but it was different than the other days. 

In the parish, Mondays worked better for me because the deadline for just about everything is the next Sunday. On Monday, I can forget all that needs to be done that week and relax into a day off. On Fridays, I could never ignore what was still undone and I would end up working on Fridays in small ways. 

Now I am in a part-time call, which sometimes feels like it is part of every day. I have more time off, but there seems to be just a little something all the time. My newsletter editor likes my submission every Monday about what is happening that weekend. It only takes me about 10 minutes and then I have the rest of the day to putter around. Tuesdays are really a better, more complete, day off for me now most weeks. If diocesan meetings fall on Tuesdays, then I take Fridays off instead. I have gotten better about honoring a Friday off by either getting work done before then, or doing whatever it is on Saturday.