Archive for September, 2009

September 29, 2009

What Makes a Church?

As we enter a season of stewardship at Washington Plaza, I am finding myself along with the leadership of the church, having conversations with folks about what their commitments might be to our organization in the coming year.

We are finding that there are some who are eager to jump in to new roles and try new things.

We are finding that some are timid, wondering what getting involved with a church beyond just attending on Sunday might mean.

We are finding that there are some who are really tired and just don’t think they have it in them to keep doing what they are doing (even when I say please, I just need you for one more year) because they’ve done it for so long.

My heart aches for people across the committment spectrum because I know their experiences are authentic.

It takes a level of spiritual maturity at all to have the ability to make a committment to church in the first place, especially when there might be a thousand other good things to do with your time.

Furthermore, once you are involved in a church,  is very easy to become discouraged. It is as easy to become discouraged is to be encouraged. (And, I have my days too, even though it may not always appear this way on the blog). Sometimes the journey looks so overwhelming that we just don’t want to attempt to climb at all. And, sometimes we wonder if our contributions really matter when they seem insignificant to us.

2693361974_1c532e1683But with all of that said, what remains true is that the church, Christ called us to build together  needs all of us to make it work.

So what makes a church? What makes a church thrive? What makes it become a vital partner and contributor to its community with the good news of Jesus?

From my in the tenth month of seeking to bring new life to a place, this is what I’m thinking;

A church needs folks are willing to do the tasks that no one may never see them do and no one will ever thank them for . . . changing the lightbulbs, taking out the recycling, cleaning the pews, making the coffee.

A church needs folks that it can count on to do what they say they are going to do.

A church needs those who are inspired by the  mission, even when the results aren’t instantaneous.

A church needs those who have big ideas that bless the entire community (not just pet projects) and are willing to put in the time, attention and sometimes even finances to see them through, not alone but with the support of the entire fellowship.

A church needs a strong communication base in its office so that as activities and new projects are organized, everyone is on the same page.

A church needs those who are cheerleaders for its leadership. Though you don’t feel you have the gifts to lead, we need you to help us be motivated by your compassionate and exhorting hearts.

A church needs folks who are willing to put in the time to coming to meetings (even if they seem too long), to clean-up workdays (even if you think your own house needs more help), and to mission driven activities in the community (even if you think you’ve already done your time by serving inside the church itself).

A church needs those who can teach, those who can pray, those who can organize, those who can write and those who can manage money. We need you all.

Without you, I am afraid, our church with its mission of sharing the hope for God’s good future for all people, will not live into our potential. I can’t do it alone. The trustees can’t do it alone. The church council can’t do it alone.

Sound like a lot of work? Yes, it is. But, work I feel is all worth it as we are building a strong community of faith.

Now, more than ever, you are needed to make our church by sharing your gifts so that we all might be blessed– or whatever your faith community might be.

September 28, 2009

A Pastor’s Vocation

Yesterday after officiating a memorial service for a beloved member of Washington Plaza who died last month, several folks came up to me after the service to talk about how beautifully the choir sang (they were great!), how lovely the shared remembrances were spoken by family members were (special words from the grand and great-grandchildren, especially), and how I seemed to be able to describe the deceased man so well in my remarks.

I kept hearing folks saying the same thing over and over: “You have only been at the church 8 months? Are you sure? You seemed to really hit his character and spiritual sense right on. How could you do that in such a short time of knowing him?”

I believe my short answer was that I was allowed in to the  deceased man’s life in meaningful ways. He welcomed my invitations to get to know him better and I welcomed his. We had several occasions just to sit and be with each other. I felt like through these times I was able to really enjoy the company and learn from the dear soul.

But ultimately this is something I view as not out of the ordinary. It is what I hope I am able to do with all members of the congregation. It is what being a pastor is all about.

Always, I welcome the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with individuals and groups about the stuff in our lives that really matters. I love the chance to get pass false pretenses and have my world view changed through understanding someone else’s perspective. I value the trust that is placed in me when persons seek me out to be their pastor. These reasons and many more are why I love my job.

And, as I am doing my job, I hope that I am blessed with some God-given discernment to really know those who are given to my care . . . what makes the tick, what excites them, what saddens them, what makes them afraid and how I can fit in and be an encouragement. Most of all this begins with listening and listening well.

And when it comes time for me to preach a funeral, or an Sunday sermon on  average day in September, or at a summer wedding, my vocation is to say what is needed as the shepherd of the community. Hoping that as I do, the Spirit will be present, speaking in and about, and around (if necessary) my words.

Because really this is an important part of a pastor’s vocation in the first place: knowing people to the degree that God’s presence can be recognized and maybe understood a little more with each passing year as we build a community of faith.

Let us continue to listen well to one another as we are in service to God together. And, as we do, I know there will always been plentiful words when the time comes to say them.

September 18, 2009

Talking about Race

RacismPosterIf you are like me, the political climate of this country is growing to be more alarming by the day. By this I am not speaking of one political persuasion against another (though I have thoughts on this for another time and place) but in how we talk about issue that really matter.

It seems that people have stopped listening to each other, no matter what their opinions on an issue are. And that the church is not leading out with a different way that is helpful at all.

The most recent comments of Former President Jimmy Carter about racism changing the way our nation responses to our current President have fueled the debate of racism once again. Asking us all to consider what is racism really mean? And, if we care enough, then what are we to do about it in our little corners of this world?

My former teaching assistant at Duke who is now a Professor Seattle Pacific University at wrote this about his thoughts on our current quandaries. I wanted to add his thoughts to the conversation with you, my readers.  

Check it out here.

My hope and dream for the church is that we can be an instrument of speaking with truth with and about one another, but with just acts and deeds that stem from love (not just hearing ourselves speak).

What do you think we (a local body) and we (the church universal) need to be contributing to this 2009 conversation of importance?

September 16, 2009

Women in the Pastorate

I recieved this article from my pastor friend, Lizzie yesterday. I thought it would be food for thought on the state of women in the pastorate, especially for churches like ours that are obviously so supportive of them.

Any comments or reactions to this are welcome!

Number of Female Senior Pastors in Protestant Churches Doubles in Past Decade

After decades of no growth in the ranks of female senior pastors serving in Protestant churches, a new Barna study that has tracked the ratio of male-to-female pastors indicates that women have made substantial gains in the past ten years.

From the early 1990s through 1999 just 5% of the Senior Pastors of Protestant churches were female. Since that time the proportion has slowly but steadily risen, doubling to 10% in 2009. Not surprisingly, a large share of the woman in the pastorate – 58% – are affiliated with a “mainline” church – i.e., a congregation that is aligned with denominations such as American Baptist Churches (ABCUSA), United Church of Christ, Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), United Methodist or Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), abbreviated PC(USA).

Among male pastors, less than half that percentage (23%) is affiliated with a mainline ministry.

Other Pastoral Characteristics: The survey also revealed that the median age of female pastors has risen during the last ten years, from 50 years of age to the current median of 55. In contrast, the median age of male senior pastors has also risen, from 48 to 52. Women in the pulpit are generally more highly educated than are their male counterparts. Currently, more than three-quarters of female pastors (77%) have a seminary degree. Among male pastors less than two-thirds (63%) can make that same claim. Despite their higher educational attainment, though, female pastors typically have smaller compensation levels than do male pastors.

The average package for female pastors in 2009 is $45,300. The median compensation for male pastors is $48,600. As striking as the gap may be, it has diminished somewhat over the last ten years. The Barna study noted that while male pastors have experienced a substantial increase in compensation packages since 1999 – up 21% – female pastors received an even greater jump, growing by 30%. In other words, the difference in compensation has been cut by more than half, from $6,900 per year to about $3,300 annually. One of the reasons for the discrepancy in pay rates between male and female pastors is the size of the congregations they lead. Male pastors lead congregations that average 103 adults in attendance on a typical weekend compared to 81 adults at churches led by female pastors.

September 15, 2009

The Gift of Holding Our Tongue

Last Sunday’s lectionary epistle reading came from the book of James, chapter 3. It is the most explicit part of scripture as pertaining to what our patterns of communion have to do with our faith. After preaching a sermon on this passage, folks came up to me afterwards and asked if I had changed the text to fit the events of the week. No, it had been the plan for many months.

The more I think about my experience last week of preaching about this as I continue to read the news and hear all of the accounts of famous folks with little regard for keeping their explosive thoughts in tact, the more I realize how much we need the wisdom of James.

Washington Plaza is now posting an audio file of the sermons on our website each week. But, we had technical difficulties last Sunday, so I thought I’d post the manuscript version of it here. Enjoy!

The Power in Your Words

James 3:1-12

Sunday, September 13th, Washington Plaza Baptist Church


At the very essence of our incarnation are words. How you and I and all the generations that came before us created meaning out of life came with a word, with words spoken from language.  images


With a word from our caregivers, we all entered the world “It’s a girl” or “It’s a boy.” With a word, you and I were given a name that would identify us the rest our lives, “We will call her Elizabeth.” With a word, some of us would choose to marry and create lifetime partnership, “I do.” With a word, you and I would make friends, settle into homes and make decisions about where we will work, “Yes, I will” or “No, I won’t.”


Without a word, whether it is communicated in those parts of speech that make up a sentence or through the body language we use to respond to one another, you and I would cease to have life. Words narrate not only our stories but our very existence! There is power in your words and mine. There is power when we begin to exchange words with one another. They give being to who we are in all the ways that both build us up and tear us down.


Our worship service would break out into group therapy session this morning if I asked all of you to share with one another what the most encouraging thing anyone ever said to you and what was the worst thing anyone ever said. It would be an easy task to complete because all of us know these words by heart. They are at the tip of our memory. They stick with us even when we’d sometimes wish they’d go away. And, even if we go as far as to chart different paths than the words spoken over our life, they are still there!


Words like: “I will always love you.” Or, “You are the smartest student I’ve ever seen in this class.” Or, “You make a wonderful father.” Or, “You really have a gift at that.” Such words lift us to glorious heights showing us their power to make us better at something than we ever thought we could be.


Then there are words like: “I wish you weren’t ever born.” Or words like “I never loved you.” Or, “You’ll never be good at that.” Such words cripple us and show their power to beat us down.


No wonder, then, the apostle James, desires to devote a sizeable chunk of his letter of wisdom to the church on the topic of the power of words. We just can’t get around their power, even if we wanted to.


Even more so, James was writing most likely to the Christians in exile churches, he knew that it would be important for the followers of Jesus to distinguish themselves from those around themselves not only from those without any faith connection in their lives, but the popular wisdom teaching of the day that had no knowledge of Christ. According to James, those following in the way of Jesus needed to be grounded in the wisdom that faith had everything to do with action. And, in this portion of the letter, faith had everything to do with what came out of your mouth.


To describe the power of words, James gives us three very accessible metaphors. First, he, said, consider training a horse. Second, he says, in the same way, consider the rudder of a ship.


Lastly, he speaks of raging fire (makes me wonder if James envisioned the scene like we’ve observed over the last couple of weeks coming out of southern California).


And, James says, it is the same way with the tongue (the part of the body where the metaphor of all of our communication is directed) though our tongue may just be one small part of our body, it should not be under-estimated. It has explosive power to change the course of lives in ways that can never be changed.


Thus we could pre-suppose the message of this text is: Watch what you say. Be nice. Don’t be fool and put your foot in your mouth. Wash out your mouth with soap if you need too. And, your life will go much smoother.


And, while all of this might be true and really great advice for any human being anywhere in the world today (well maybe not the soap in the mouth part), remember that we are talking about what it means to be called a collective people of God from our Christian tradition. How might we be instructed to consider the power of words, in our efforts to be a Christ-centered community both in this place and out in the world?


I believe we begin to find out the significance of the exhortation when we closely look at 3:1, a verse that might seem out-of-place if not given a second look:


“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”


Why is James talking about guidelines for teachers? What does this have to do with godly speech?


A.K.M. Adam, Professor of New Testament and Church History at Western Theological Seminary puts it like this: our speech is dangerous because of the possibility not only of the hurtful things we say, but of the position of who says them. He writes: “Few should become teachers, and those who do become teachers should watch what they say, because teachers will not be held liable not solely for their own follies but also for the errors that their students assimilate and pass on.”


Adam goes to talk about the serious problem with the power in our words. He writes, “The more a mistake (or hurtful word) is repeated, and the more authority with which it is clothed, the greater are the damaging effects.”


Thus, beyond the fact that all words have power, the consequences of negative words spoken stem from the authority associated with the person communicating it. We might think here that James is just talking about teachers, and for those of us who are not teachers think that we are off the hook. Such is far from the case.


In the church intended to receive James’ letter, “teachers” were all those with leadership abilities. It was everyone who had a voice in the way the church business operated. It was everyone who had the opportunity to open their mouths and expect to be heard.


Now, fast forward to today, to us, sitting here in this building, in this organization called “Washington Plaza Baptist Church.”


The “Baptist” part of our name means something very important about how it is that we have decided together to be God’s people gathered in this place. One of the historical principals associated with what it means to be Baptist is the celebration of the priesthood of all of the believers. We believe that no pastor or elder or leader in this place has authority that is greater than any other member. In fact, it was this book of the Bible, James that inspired Martin Luther’s call for reform in the Catholic Church which led to the Protestant Reformation.


And in following in our Protestant roots, our church constitution says that it is not me, your pastor who makes decisions for the church life, but you and I working together. This is why we make such a big deal about our bi-yearly congregational meetings and do everything we can to keep everyone informed about all the big decisions facing the church. The authority of this body of people trying to live in Christ way is spread out among all of you who would make your permanent home here.


And, I have to say that, this is something that all of you are good at. I’ve never been to a Bible Study or a committee meeting or even a Church Council meeting where our problem has been lack of verbal contributions.


I mean this in the nicest way when I say that this church has the gifts of gab. It is rare that I do not know what you are thinking or feeling about a subject, because this is a church that takes the priesthood of all believers seriously. Even for the more quiet among us, these folks usually get at least one word into any conversation we have. You truly live into your authority as teachers, as companions, as leaders to one another along this journey of being a church together.


But, my question for all of us this morning is, are we mindful of the power of what we are saying, when we choose to speak?


Let’s face it most of us enjoy talking about other people. The phrase our mommas might have told us growing up time and time again: “If you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all” doesn’t quite cut it these days in an era when gossip TV has its own channel. Even in our God-centered community like this, it is easier to do the alternative. To quote the great theologian Oscar Wilde, “If you can’t say something good about someone, come over here and sit next to me.”


Yet, before we begin speaking out of our own impulse to fill the void of space with our voice, or we begin to spew out the latest piece of gossip “Have you heard about so and so?” or even we feel compelled to speak with any thought to our commentary, in the way of Jesus Christ there is a different way. A different way of being God-centered people where blessings on others reign and cursing fall away before they ever get to the tip of our tongue!


James exhorts us in verse 10 of our text, “From the same mouth come blessings and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not be so.”


Like it or not, intentional or not, your words in this church and in this community have power. And though we might not always find ourselves at the end of the day saying exactly what we would have liked to have said, the important part is that we are mindful of the great power we hold in our tongue. And, to use it, asking God for great wisdom as we do.


Why is such a calling important, needed and even worth all the effort, you may wonder?


I believe that such kind of speaking is the leadership that our culture needs from us, just as the leader’s in James’ community of faith needed from them. For in our world today, words are as cheap as they come and are often exchanged without regard for who and what might be abused in their path.


Through the “gift” of email, slander is as easy as it comes. Through the gift of online social sites like Facebook and Twitter, individuals can post words on a minute by minute basis without having to feel the immediate consequences of the hurtfulness of statement. And, even this week, we’ve seen what happens when an elected official thinks he can share his opinions without any concern for proper protocol or forum. How easy it is to just put words out into the world without acknowledging their power.


Just yesterday, I was downtown DC and found myself in the middle of a political rally. While I applaud our country’s gift to us of freedom in speech, some of the words on the signs I saw protesters carrying were quite disturbing. Signs carrying words of slander against non-Christians, signs carrying words of slander against our Presidents, signs carrying words of hate against the views of people who were different from them!


What was most disturbing about this experience was thinking about how the authority transmitted with these hateful signs, might have led innocent bystanders to think about all people of faith. It breaks my heart for even one person to think of Christian people of faith as judgmental haters. But, that was the only presence of words there.


My friends, our world needs us, now more than ever. We need to set a different tone in our culture allowing this local body to be light of words shinning in our dark, dark world. We in this place are to be an example of a different way.


If we are going to be a local body of people who are seeking to show through our lives the good story of Christ’s life, then we’ve got to step it up. No longer can we just speak to one another as if what we say doesn’t matter. No longer can words of emotional passion but without claim be the norm of our speech. No longer can we voice our personal opinions without thinking about how it helps the greater good as what we are about a community of faith. No longer . . . .


Let us commit this morning to use our words with great wisdom. And, let us use this time of commitment to ask God to help us seek the higher ways of discipleship that we are all being called to this morning as we sing, the hymn “Higher Ground.” AMEN

September 15, 2009

Wedding Evangelism

IMG_0790I know some of you dear readers might think that I’ve gone off the deep end and some of you might applaud when at the title of the post, but please keep reading . . .

Last Sunday after worship, after lunch and after a worship team meeting, my day was not complete. Kevin and I were off to a 4 pm wedding that I was to officiate.

Several months ago, I had been asked to do a wedding for a friend of Kevin’s, Jenny and her fiancee Tom. This was not a new occurence for it seems that ever since I met Kevin nearly four years ago, I’ve become the wedding chaplain of sorts for all persons associated with Kevin Hagan who do not go to church regularly.

I’ve embraced these opportunities and others that have come my way with folks outside of the church for the reason that it is a wonderful opportunity to practice wedding evangelism. By this I mean, the opportunity to connect folks with a pastor and a liturgies of the church that they would otherwise not have met or known.

Not in the traditional- win people to my faith way. Or, not in the hope to get new church members out of the wedding (though it would always be nice). IMG_0792

But, in the way I lead the service. Sticking with my guns to only do Christian weddings with scripture readings and prayer because I am a Christian minister and I don’t know how to do anything else. And it is good for those of other faiths and those of no faith at all to experience a welcoming service in the Christian tradition instead of a watered down version of something else.

And, in the way of “Yes, I am a minister with professional skills, even though I don’t look like one.” God continues to call all types to ministry. And I might just be the first woman pastor or youngest pastor some folks attending the wedding have met. But, this is all good.

And, in the way of “Yes, being a minister does not mean that I am boring.” I always make a point to dance at the reception if I am able to stay around. I do this not only because I personally like to dance (hey, pastors are people too), but because few have ever seen a pastor have fun. Oh the comments I’ve gotten at receptions . . . it is a fishbowl experience if I’ve ever had one.

Above all, I try to show through my presence that church and its leadership might not be as scary as past experiences or cultural references have led themIMG_0796 to believe. I hope to be accessible in my ordained status. In turn, I hope that what happens is evangelism.

The good news that God is nearer to them than they might realize. And, when the time arrises that the church might be of service to them that there are places of faith and their leadership that would welcome them with open arms.

This type of evangelism is one of my favorite parts of my profession.

September 9, 2009

Regional Churches

It is a basic idea you’ll learn in any church planting or church leadership class: reach out to your immediate community first. Get to know your neighbors. Make friends with people in the area surrounding your church building. And, let this be your mission of folks to reach.

churchI agree with all of these things and say that I attempt to do them. (You can read more about this project of mine, here).

But, I will also add that with a church with as unique of a mission as ours, we must do more. Our mission is not just to the Reston community, it is to all folks in the greater Washington DC area who need us.

This is not a new idea to me or our church. Neighborhood churches are growing to be no longer the norm. I meet folks all the time in the community who say they drive 45-60 minutes to go to church without caring about it. “It seems,” they say that “a good church is hard to find these days and when I find one I just don’t want to go looking for another one for a long time.”

There are countless articles out there on this topic. And here’s one example in Indianapolis, IN.

Enter into this scenario the importance of the Internet (the church website needs to be good) and social networking (I mean, who doesn’t want to Twitter with their pastor these days?) and email communication for church committee work. Without these things the regional church would not be possible.

It doesn’t mean that being a regional church is not without its limitations.

Sunday becomes the all important day in a regional church. You must get in worship, fellowship, teaching, and business all into one day. And such kind of pressure can be too much to live under!

And, often times community building activities like weekend get-togethers or more folks coming to choir practice on Monday nights just isn’t possible. It can be a difficult trade off.

But, I think for regional churches (and specifically for Washington Plaza as it is becoming more of a regional church), we have to begin to think intentionally about how this changes our plans for Christian education, worship planning and fellowship.

We’ve had 13 official new members this year, thus far and only 7 of them live in Reston. We are having folks join us all the time from Silver Spring, Rockville, Arlington and even the District, every week now!

To this I say, let us embrace the fact that our mission to love and serve all people means that we are going to continue to evolve into a regional church. This does not mean we love our Reston neighbors any less, but that we are always open to whoever God brings our way, especially when they are so committed to us that they are willing to drive 45 minutes or more to worship with us on Sunday mornings. Our mission is what drives us and is what gives us a hope and future, not merely our location!

September 9, 2009

Simplicity Report

SimplifyOver the past month at Washington Plaza, we’ve focused our energy in worship about what it means to simplify our lives just a little bit. Asking ourselves the question: “In the way of Jesus, how might our lives slow down and be re-organized just a little?” Topics that have allowed us to do this have included simplicity of thought, of the moment, of service, of possessions and lastly of money.

I have to say that it has been a series that I’ve enjoyed preaching because it is a topic that I care about so much personally. At the end of my life, I’d love to be known as a person who had lived her life in this virtue. Yet, I know how hard it can be . . .

I’ve seen what happens in lives of those around me when simplicity doesn’t occur– people who walk around with heavy worries on their back, folks loaded down with credit card debit, folks with closets jammed with stuff they don’t need nor ever use, etc, etc.

Simplicity is something that all of us need more of in our lives, including me.

It seemed that many of you Washington Plaza folks were listening and agreeing with me that you wanted to tread this earth in more simple ways. This has been some of the buzz around the church:

“What type of donations does The Closet take because I really want to get rid of lots of stuff?”

“I am going to take a week off work to do some necessary purging around my house and have some quiet space.”

“Look at all the food in the basket for Reston Interfaith! They are overflowing.”

“I’m interested in going on the Silent Retreat in a couple of weeks because I’ve been thinking a lot about how I need more quiet space in my life and a lot less worry.”

“I went biking and noticed a turtle on the path. It was a moment when I stopped and just made myself more aware of my surroundings.”

I applaud these marks of simplicity as your pastor and am now even more excited about what our worship will hold for us in the fall after hearing from you in all of these ways.

September 4, 2009

Encouragement for Today

When I arrived home after a burial service yesterday for Grandison Jones at Arlington National Cemetery, I found myself thinking about this text. Though the service was a kind remembrance of him, it was sad to see tears running down the faces of long time members of Washington Plaza. It was sad to see how deeply folks had been touched by his passing.  There are many folks within our fellowship who are still deeply grieving.

Lamentations 3

21  Yet this I call to mind
       and therefore I have hope:

    22Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
       for his compassions never fail.

    23 They are new every morning;
       great is your faithfulness.

    24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
       therefore I will wait for him.”

    25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
       to the one who seeks him;

    26 it is good to wait quietly
       for the salvation of the LORD.

The Lamentations writer tells us even in life’s greatest tragedies, there is always hope!

This passage as long been one of my favorite texts. It is gem of promises that remind us to keep coming back to God’s care and concern for us, no matter what circumstances of life bring our way. May you find peace in such a beautiful promise!

September 2, 2009

The Difficulty of Going Back

So much of a person’s professigoing  backonal life, whatever career you have chosen, is to make connections where you find yourself and keep them over time. Keeping relationships strong that can be mutually beneficial over time to both you and the other person(s) for getting new projects starting and expanding your skills. For me, especially as a pastor where so much of my job is helping to connect myself and others with resources, I know I need to be faithful to do this even when life gets busy. My personal growth and that of my church depends on it.

However, it seems that no matter how hard I try to do this, it is getting harder and harder to do.

It seems appropriate here to say that “I must be getting old.” But then, I know there are those out there who would laugh at me upon reading this statement.

Every time I read the latest edition of my college’s alumni magazine, one of my favorite professors is retiring or moving on (It might not surprise you that I had close relationships with the faculty and staff). “Why would I want to go back to homecoming?” I wonder. I might not recognize the place anymore.

Every time I hear updates from my seminary, it seems that another one of my favorite people is leaving. And, these are folks that I had maintained relationships with and had served alongside since finishing school doing various projects. Read about the latest gem leaving Duke Divinity here. As much as I want to be an encouragement to those coming after me in ministry at Duke, “Who would I connect with if I went back?” I wonder. I might not have anyone who knows me (and it has only been 3 1/2 years!).

And, just this week, I sent out an email to my dearest of friends from seminary asking who might want to attend a continuing education conference with me. It seems that all of us have gone into each our own fields of specialization- some to children’s ministry, another to church planning, two more to youth ministry, another to spiritual formation and me into the solo pastor world. It seems that we don’t have any reason to get together at a common meeting anymore. This is sad and caused me to pause.  (Though I hope we gather again next year for our yearly beach retreat).

The lesson I’m learning in all of this, is that connection making at any stage you are in is very important. We always need to be about the business of making new friends, seeking new avenues of finding people with shared interest, and always open to what life’s journey might bring us.

You and I may not be able to lend on our connections of the past forever due to death, life situation changes from our perspective and others too, and a multitude of other reasons.

Because of this, now’s the time to seize the day and keep an open heart to what might be in the future.

A wise friend once told me, “If you are are going to be a leader, don’t worry so much as what happened in the past, it’s difficulties, its challenges, set your vision on the future, and there you will find hope for all the new beginnings your heart longs for.”

And, this is something I’m going to try today . . .

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