Reconnecting with Faith – Finding Your Home retreat 2007 – How’d it go?

January 29, 2007 by · 8 Comments
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

Reconnecting with Faith Retreat 2007 Group

The Reconnecting with Faith – Finding Your Home retreat was a big success this past weekend at Camp Johnsonburg!

We had 10 paying participants, plus 4 staff (and a few other camp folks floating in and out during the weekend).  The participants were a very diverse group in several dimensions.  We had people from age 20-something to age “I don’t want to guess and be wrong”.  We had people in churches, people not in churches, and people looking at alternatives to Christianity.  We had some racial diversity.  We had theological diversity in that we had folks all along the spectrum from conservative to progressive.  Most of us came from a Presbyterian (PCUSA) background, and there were a few Catholics in the group.  We had 3 couples, a few singles, and a few married folks whose spouses didn’t attend.

The weather was a bit cold (particularly Friday, though it wasn’t the 4-degree F cold that the camp folks had to put up with before we arrived Friday morning).  There was just the right amount of snow on the ground; we got a little each night – just enough to cover the ground but not enough to slow us down.  The lake was frozen over except for an oval about 1/3 of the size of the lake.  The geese and swans were camped out on the frozen part.

We began the weekend by doing some get-to-know-you games Friday evening, followed by some fellowship and food time.  We also outlined the Johnsonburg standard core values of “No Discount” (of yourself or others), “Challenge by Choice” and Permission-Giving.  Because some of the participants knew each other outside of the retreat and the knowledge that someone might want to leave their church could be dangerous in the wrong hands, we added a new rule – “What happens at Johnsonburg stays at Johnsonburg”.

Saturday morning, we had a very emotional and uplifting session where each group member was able to tell the story of their faith journey.  These stories brought the group even closer together and allowed each to unburden themselves of the reasons that they might be looking to join a church or switch churches or leave the church.  A participant said it best:  “Mark and I can’t really do justice to the beauty of the stories that were told at the retreat this weekend.”

Saturday afternoon we did some brainstorming: what people wanted in a faith community, what people were looking to avoid in a faith community, and what stumbling blocks were keeping them from making progress in discerning whether or not to join a faith community and if so, which.  This session provided some good ideas for each person when they are considering a new faith community.

Saturday afternoon we had some free time.  Some of us took a 4-mile hike along the Yellow and Red Trails, while others connected with each other, relaxed, or even napped.  The camp canteen was open for a while so that folks could purchase a souvenir of their retreat experience.

Saturday evening, we completed the afternoon activity by brainstorming ideas on how to look for a new church.  Use of the Internet, friends, neighbors, coworkers, church visits, church staff and other resources were highlighted.  Those who had taken this route before were able to add their own experience to the bounty of ideas.

Reconnecting with Faith Spirituality 101

We then experienced a fascinating lecture – Spirituality 101.  In 90 minutes, our retreat’s minister leader went through the breadth of spiritual options in the world, along with the options within Christianity and the historical reasons for the number of denominations that we have.  It was amazing – I’ve had full semester religion classes that contained less information than this presentation.

Reconnecting with Faith Fellowship

Later Saturday evening we had food and fellowship again, with S’mores and Banana Boats cooked on the fireplace in the dining hall.

Camp Johnsonburg labyrinth in winter

Sunday morning after breakfast (including a wonderful body prayer for grace) we began with Quiet Time.  A number of the group ventured out into the cold to walk the camp’s outdoor labyrinth in the quiet stillness of the sunny winter morning.

We followed that with a worship service planned by the retreat participants WITHOUT the aid of the religious professionals.  The service was very camp-like and yet still had all of the reverence of a church service.

After worship we concluded with evaluations, lunch, and an invitation to enjoy the camp facilities for the rest of the day.

For this retreat, the people ARE the program.  I’d like to thank the folks pictured above for their wonderful contributions.  I’d also like to thank all of them for the mutual respect that we all felt – in this era of Christians tearing each other apart we were able to assemble a group from all parts of the spectrum who worked together to help each other while respecting the conscience of each of us.

I’d also like to thank the Johnsonburg staff who helped plan/staff/support the retreat – including Lorelei, Kurt, Alicia, Harry, Josh, Shelly, and everybody else.  Additionally, I’d like to thank Dave Myers, who served as our minister-in-residence and all-around expert on things religious.

Based on feedback received, there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll try to do this retreat again.  Watch this space or the camp website sometime this fall for more information.  As I’ve stated before, any suggestions on how to advertise this retreat to the target audience (particularly those NOT in a church at the moment) would be appreciated.

If you have any questions about this retreat, please feel free to contact Lorelei at the camp or me.

Off for the Weekend

January 25, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Life, Religion 

Carolyn and I will be headed up to Camp Johnsonburg for the weekend for the 2nd Reconnecting with Faith – Finding Your Home retreat (which I’ve written about here and here).

We’ve got a good group – about an even split between last year’s group coming back for followup and new folks (including a few new to the camp).  Carolyn and I are going up early Friday afternoon to meet with the camp folks and finish the planning, and then the rest of the crowd arrives in the evening.  It’ll be COLD (a high of 17F is predicted Friday at camp), but the group will be warm.

See you next week!

Last Mother-in-Law Update

January 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life 

Carolyn’s mother is back home now.  She’s talking about going back to work, so she must be feeling better.

Thanks to all for their prayers and thoughts.  She did appreciate them.

This will be the last update for now.

Mother-in-Law Update – the Sequel

January 23, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life 

They figured it out.  Slipped, herniated disc someplace low on her spine.  She’s had cortisone directly to the spine.

They may let her out of the hospital today.

Thanks for all prayers.

Mother-in-Law Update

January 22, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life 

No news.  She’s still in the hospital, still in pain and still no diagnosis.

She’s had a barium swallow with CAT scan, MRI, lots of X-rays and other tests.  They haven’t figured it out yet.

Prayer Request

January 20, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Life, Religion 

Carolyn and I got a call about 10am this morning.  Her father took her mother to the ER at 1am for acute pain in her left side.  She’s on a morphine-like drip for the pain.  Tests have ruled a few things out, but they don’t have a diagnosis yet.

Prayers would be appreciated.

Tenafly High School Class of 1986

January 17, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Life 

OK, I admit it.  The title is search bait.

You see, I just got the 3rd notice for my 20th high school reunion which will be held in the Spring.  Most of me wants to skip it, but part of me is pulling me to consider it.

At this point, I don’t plan to go.  I went to the 10th reunion and found that everybody more or less broke in to the same cliques as high school, and my clique wasn’t there (with a few exceptions, Ollie, Jon and others).  That reunion was all about jobs and marriages.

I suspect that this reunion will be all about children.  We don’t have any.  So I believe that I’ll be lost again.

The one thing that might draw me in is that I’m really curious about what people are like and up to today.  I’ve seen a partial list of attendees, and some of the folks that I’m curious about are on the list.

If you’re from the class and reading this, I’d love to hear from you.  I’ll be happy to catch you up on my life and I’m really interested in what you’re doing.  You might even be able to talk me into going.

And no, I don’t have the beard any more.  Haven’t had it since freshman year in college.

And the schism begins ….

January 17, 2007 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

The New Wineskins Association has published a proposed Strategy Report (warning – large PDF – over 150 pages) calling for a schism from the PC(USA) denomination.

Well, OK.  It doesn’t actually SAY that this is a schism.  In fact the report goes out of the way to avoid calling it a schism.  But let’s face it – what they want is the wholesale departure of a large number of PC(USA) congregations to another denomination.  That’s a schism.

What this group is pushing is for all New Wineskins congregations to leave the PC(USA) and go to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  The New Wineskins group will ask the EPC General Assembly next June to allow for non-geographical presbyteries.  They will then ask to create a New Wineskins EPC presbytery to contain all New Wineskins PC(USA) congregations that want to leave.  That presbytery will be self-governing, and all officers and congregations will be required to the Essential Tenets of the New Wineskins Association AND their Ethical Imperatives.  It should be noted that “destructive speech, unforgiveness” are listed in their Ethical Imperatives, though they use PLENTY of such speech in their Strategy Paper.  At some point this presbytery can either be folded into the EPC or possibly create a new denomination – the EPC and this presbytery will hold discussions over time on which way to go.

I say “LET THEM GO!”  Most of the destructive controversy in the PC(USA) is caused by two groups – the evangelical right, and the extreme liberal left.  Both are responsible in part for the decline in membership and the inward focus of the church.  If one of those groups wants to leave, let them go – WITH THEIR PROPERTY – and let’s get back to doing the important stuff.  Let’s either let the presbyteries let these 150 congregations go (less than 2% of the PC(USA) by count of congregations or members) or have the next General Assembly approve a method for their departure.

Those interested in the roots of this schism should read a document from Perspectives (published by the PC(USA) Office of the General Assembly) titled Presbyterians and Separatist Evangelicals: A Continuing Dilemma.   This is admittedly written by from a leftward leaning point of view, but it is a very scholarly document that shows the roots of our ongoing controversies and splits.

And for God’s sake – let’s get this over with and move on.

Five Odd Facts About Me

January 15, 2007 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Life 

I’ve self-tagged, after reading Russell’s (no relation) post about “Five odd facts that most people wouldn’t know”.

My audience is so diverse that I’ll have to lean heavily on the “most people” phrase in that request – somebody who reads this could know any of these.  So, without further ado, here are 5 Odd Facts that most people don’t know about me.

  1. I was born in St. Louis, MO. Most people associate me with New Jersey, which makes perfect sense to me since I live here now and have done so since I was 9 years old (even attending college at Rutgers).  However, I was born in St. Louis and grew up in St. Louis and University City, MO.  Dad moved us east for a job.  I still consider myself a midwesterner at heart, though the truth is that I’ve likely been too contaminated by NJ to fit in out there.
  2. I’ve never successfully passed a swimming test that involved the crawl stroke. For some reason, I can’t do the breathing the way they want me to do it.  That meant that as a Middle School-age kid, I wasn’t able to pass the test that let me into the deep end (I had to wait until I turned 13 and was automatically eligible).  Ditto for the canoe test at camp – I had to wait until I was a staff member.
  3. In high school I was an accomplished percussionist. I was in Jr. High All-Region Orchestra, Sr. High All-Region Band and Orchestra, and Sr. High All-State Band (twice) and Orchestra (once).  This was playing either tympani or traps (anything that isn’t tympani, snare, or keyboard-based instruments like xylophone).  Somewhere along the way I decided that I didn’t like the competitive nature of music – some of the other musicians were real jerks using their bad attitude towards others as “competitive edge”.  In college I did one year in marching band and two in pep band.  I ended up leaving the marching band because I took one of my wrong turns – pledging the band fraternity.  I quit shortly before I was made a full member and after that nobody from the frat would talk to me ever (I tried to start conversations and was met with stony silence, every time.  Mature, eh?).  I haven’t played seriously since, though I have recently indicated to the church choir that I’d be happy to help out if they needed a percussion instrument played some time.
  4. That scratch on the hood of the blue 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza station wagon was caused when a friend that I was teaching to drive accidentally drove up a tree. I’m not sure I’ve ever told Mom and Dad about this one.  I was going into my sophomore year in college, and my parents and sister (brother was staying at college that summer, I think) went on vacation.  I stayed home to work.  That weekend, my friend from high school Jessica Meyerson (now a very well-educated academic, I think) came to stay in the otherwise empty house with me (she was living with her father in Manhattan).  She never got her driver’s license at age 17, and I offered to teach her.  We took the car up to the quiet residential area of Englewood Cliffs and I set out to teach her.  At one point, she turned too far to the right and headed for the curb.  I shouted “BRAKE” and she hit the gas harder.  She ended up driving up and over a 10 foot evergreen tree, pushing it to the ground.  Luckily the back wheels stayed on the ground.  We backed the car off the tree.  The only damage was a scratch on the hood, lots of pine needles all over the place, and a smushed tree.  The lesson was over.  Jessica left her NYC address and phone and ended up paying just about her entire summer wages to replace the tree.  We drove home and spent the rest of the afternoon washing and vacuuming the car.  My uncle worked at the auto plant where the car was built, so lucky for me he had sent some touch up paint.  I’m pretty sure that Mom and Dad don’t even know that she stayed for the weekend! (Oh shush.  Nothing happened.)
  5. I am at least 1/4 Swedish. My maternal grandmother is 100% Swedish and she was a first-generation Swedish-American.  I remember that every time she came to visit for a major holiday, she brought Vort Limpa bread for all of us.  Apparently, the blond blue-eyed genes didn’t come along for the ride.

The Lawrenceville Presbyterian “Green Team”

January 12, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Environment, Religion 

Last night I attended the first meeting of the Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church “Green Team”.  The Green Team is charged with:

  • Reducing the church’s
    environmental footprint
  • Increasing our visibility
  • Educating our community
  • Inspiring our community
  • Connecting with other organizations
  • Advocating for public policy change
  • Connecting our efforts with our faith

The primary focus to start is to come up with and estimate ideas for the church’s upcoming capital campaign.  To that end we are talking about solar panels on the church, insulation, central A/C and/or geothermal energy for the manse (which is currently using window air conditioners), motion detector light switches, bike racks for parishioners, etc.

I went into the meeting thinking that I’d be really useful to the team given my experience with solar panels for home, a hybrid vehicle, and a few other green ideas from home.  It turns out that this church has some seriously committed environmentalists.  One man has a nearly-zero-energy home, others have been advocating in the community.  I felt like a midget among giants.  I hope that I can contribute.

Next Page »