40 Prayers of Hope and Gratitude, for Bruce

May 2, 2009 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Religion, Work, Youth 

Tomorrow is the birthday of Bruce Reyes-Chow, a friend and currently the moderator of the PC(USA).  On his blog, he asks for some very charitable birthday “gifts” to him.  One of them is “a list of prayers for 40 things for which you are grateful, gives you hope or are in need of God’s healing“.  (Besides – he needs a little love.  The first comment on the post attacked him for a position of faith and politics – on a post related to his birthday!)

I can do that.

  1. For my wife, who I am VERY grateful for.
  2. For my family (parents and siblings) and the relationship that we have that didn’t look too likely for a while.
  3. For Barbara, Jill and Kathy – former co-workers who are being very supportive during my career transition.
  4. For the youth group at my church.  I am both grateful for them, and they give me hope.  Some of them need your prayers for healing.
  5. For the horde of Twitterati who follow my every tweeted move, give me music when I need it, give me information when I need it, and entertain me.
  6. For Rich, Jeremiah, Jill, Gooitzen, Elsa, Aaron and others from my church family who are being very supportive during my career transition.
  7. For the many recent and near-future seminary graduates that I interact with, who are both a source of hope and in need of prayers to find their destinations.
  8. For S (who will remain otherwise nameless here but I’m sure is reading this), for being/assisting my sense of call and helping me to explain my Montreat experience.  You know who you are.
  9. For the children in my neighborhood, who remind me of the relative importance of parts of life.
  10. For healing for those on all sides who have been hurt by the whole Amendment B business.
  11. For my cats.  Gratitude for them being there for me and entertaining me.  Hope that they radiate (particularly when it’s snack time).  Healing for both as they age and begin to suffer the effects.
  12. Hope from the members of my church’s confirmation class, who were able to teach parts of the lesson that I was teaching.
  13. Healing for two youth workers waiting for transplants.
  14. Gratitude for those who have let me put my skills to work for them while I’m seeking a job.
  15. Gratitude for my sister whose birthday is today (sharing it with Bruce’s “Middle” child).
  16. Healing for everybody else hurt by the economy.
  17. Healing for everybody else hurt by greed.
  18. Hope and healing for those with obstacles between them and what God is calling them to.
  19. Healing for those affected by swine flu Hamthrax H1N1 and gratitude that it is turning out to be mild for most.
  20. Healing for those suffering from mental illness.
  21. Healing for Mom, who had two teeth pulled yesterday.
  22. Hope for/about Sara, who is taking the first steps in a new direction.
  23. Gratitude for and hope from Rich who is letting me find my place in the youth ministry.
  24. Gratitude for Lorelei.  Everybody needs a Lorelei, some of them the same one.
  25. Gratitude for two places on the entire planet (outside of my relationship with Carolyn) where I have been able to be myself 100%:  Camp Johnsonburg and Montreat.
  26. Healing for the people whose prayer cards come to me each week after worship.  Hope that my prayers are helping.
  27. Healing for the people of Sudan, of Somalia, and other places where oppression and violence reign.
  28. Gratitude for Tim, Jessica, Jessica, Nancy, Carolyn, Andrea, and a few others who have been there during my darkest hours (whether they realize it or not).
  29. Gratitude for the Project Open Door task force – it was great working with all of you, and I look forward to the next steps.
  30. Healing for all of those who feel that fighting about minutia is more important than loving one another.
  31. Hope and healing for all who feel that being somewhere else is what they have to do.
  32. Gratitude and hope for all of those who I’ve networked with during my career transition.
  33. Gratitude for the opportunity to play the drums again for a purpose.
  34. Hope (healing?  help?) for the God Complex radio staff and talent that we’ll be ready by Monday.
  35. Healing for those that I have hurt and have not reconciled with (and for me to do so someday).
  36. Gratitude for polity – specifically that of the PC(USA).
  37. Gratitude for that unexplained good mood that strikes sometimes.
  38. Hope?  Healing?  for my personal discernment in this season of change.
  39. Healing for all of my issues that I’ve chosen not to mention here.
  40. Gratitude, hope for/from, and healing if he needs it for Bruce.

Happy Birthday, Bruce!  Welcome to the over the hill gang.

Staying Busy

Recently I have been thinking about what I do with my “non-work” time.  With my career transition, I’m able to use time for “non-work” activities during the day, hopefully to the benefit of others.  Someday I hope that I can combine my vocation and avocations.

This led me to thinking about listing all of the various things that I do.  Some people put them on their resumes, but mine is already too long and I’m not sure what it would add.  So I’ll list my “sideline” things here for your interest/amusement.  I know that once I find a job I may have to cut back on some of these (indeed – several of them have been started since my career transition started with the caveat that I may have to stop at some point).

Work-related

Recently I’ve been providing computer services to others as a sideline.  Mostly this consists of PC maintenance, including some hardware work, installing software updates, and a lot of fixes to things like “my computer does X when I do Y – can you fix that?”.  This is done for various forms of renumeration including lunch and good will.

I’m also going to be helping another church do some brainstorming of what they want on their church’s website.  And yet another church has asked for help with their website, but I don’t know the specifics yet.

Local Church

I have a lot of roles at church:

  • Deacon – currently serving on the Board of Deacons, assigned to the Prayer Team and enjoying serving Communion on occasion.  I’m also the designated “e-mail reminder” person who sends a note to the people assigned to jobs each Sunday.
  • Open Door – recently completed a stint as co-chair of a task force studying issues of hospitality to visitors and the community.  I’m likely to serve as a member of the new Session committee being created to continue this work.
  • Webmaster – of the church website and the weekly e-mail that goes to almost 400 people.  This role also has me serving as the social networking expert surrounding our presence on Facebook and such.
  • Youth Advisor and member of Youth and Young Adult Council – nothing that I do at church brings me more joy than my work with the Senior High youth group.  I’ve also been involved in supporting the youth director with strategic planning for the youth council lately.
  • Percussion – most members of the church have been surprised to learn that I was classically trained as  a percussionist in high school.  I’ve been using those skills on snare and cymbal, djembe, congas, and other instruments in both the alternative and regular service.  Apparently I’m not as rusty as I think that I am.

Greater Church

  • The God Complex – serving as Webmaster for the new weekly Internet radio show that is hosted by Bruce Reyes-Chow and Carol Howard Merritt.  This involves blogs, web hosting, e-mail and other stuff that I don’t even know about yet.
  • I will be assisting my local Youth Director with the Small Group manual for the next Youth Triennium.  Not in a major way – just reading and editing.  I hope to turn that into a trip next summer, but that would require some creative planning (anybody need someone to man a booth or serve as a chaperone?).
  • This blog seems to provide value to some.  I’m also on Twitter and most of my friends there are church-related

Other Stuff

  • I’m a member of the Delaware Valley Ham Radio club.  I’m a general-class ham – KC2SMS.
  • I’m one of the keyholders for the ham radio emergency equipment for the local Red Cross office.  The Princeton Red Cross chapter is the “center” for ham radio for the state’s Red Cross groups, mainly because we are centrally located.  Monday night will be the monthly equipment test for the Red Cross and the NJ State RACES/ARES folks.

So, I’m keeping busy.  If I were being paid for all of that at a reasonable salary I’d have a full-time job.  As it is, it’s more like 1/2 to 2/3 of my days and some of my non-work hours.  I like to help people, and I usually don’t care whether I get paid or not (though getting paid is important for other reasons).  My hope is that someday I can use these skills for a paying position with some meaning to the world.

The God Complex podcast – tagline contest

April 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

The Revs. Bruce Reyes-Chow and Carol Howard Merritt are going to be starting a new podcast called “The God Complex”.  They are holding a poll this week to choose the tagline to go with the title.  It can be found here.  Please go there and vote.

I have two entries in the finals, but I’m not going to tell you which ones so that I don’t stuff the ballot box.  I didn’t vote for one of mine anyway – I found another that I liked better.

BREAKING NEWS: PC(USA) Moderator leaving PC(USA)

April 1, 2009 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Can't Make This Up, Religion 

SAN FRANCISCO,  April 1 (AFN) – The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), revealed today that he feels called to leave the denomination that has been his home for all of his 39 years.  Reyes-Chow stated that during his recent Moderatorial trip to Hong Kong and Taiwan, he felt the pull of his Buddhist ancestors and plans to leave the Presbyterian Church and take up the robes of a Buddhist monk.

Robin Pugh, his wife, and his three children are said to be staying with relatives recovering from the announcement.  Our reporter was able to hear a single question from his eldest daughter to her mother:  “Does that mean that I have to shave my head?”

The Rev. Byron Wade, Vice-Moderator of the General Assembly, spoke extensively on the subject of Reyes-Chow’s abandonment of his Presbyterian heritage.  “I’m not at all surprised”, said Wade, “Bruce has always been a bit unusual.  I’m just glad that I get the chance to step into his shoes.  The Moderator gets all of the glamour while the Vice-Moderator is relegated to being a traveling second banana.  Bruce got to go to the Phillipines and China; I had to settle for East Tennessee!”

There is no word on what will happen at Bruce’s church, Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco.  Abby Kaiser was last seen rubbing her hands together and cackling with glee.

Read more

Prayers for our Moderator’s Family

November 15, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

Please pray for the family of Bruce Reyes-Chow, PC(USA) General Assembly Moderator.

Bruce’s brother-in-law, Brian Pugh, was killed in a workplace shooting on Friday in Santa Clara, CA.  Bruce and his eldest daughter are in NYC on a Moderator trip as of the writing of this post.

Ham and Eggs – Breakfast with Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow

November 12, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

(I forgot to bring my camera, but Sara didn’t.  Pictures as soon as I get them from her.)

Today Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow – the Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the PC(USA) – came to Lawrenceville, NJ.  The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville hosted him for the 2nd time for breakfast and conversation.

I’m not going to go into details on any issue in particular for several reasons.  One – I don’t remember the details so well.  Two – this post is about both national issues and my local congregation, and I’m reticent to be controversial locally.  Three – at one point Bruce said “Let me get my words right – you never know who is blogging about this” and a number of folks from my church reportedly looked at me.  Hmmm.

The group of about 50-60 that attended was made up primarily of ministers serving in a congregational capacity – mostly from the Presbytery of New Brunswick but also from quite far away in some cases.  There was a smaller contingent of seminarians, another group of non-congregational ministers, and some others who aren’t ministers from our congregation and other places (like me).

The food was excellent – egg strada, homebaked breads, and lots of fruit.  The tables were particularly well-decorated.

The conversation took the form of about 90 minutes of question and answer.  The topics varied broadly but included:

  • Multi-cultural churches – how they succeed and when they might fail
  • New Church Developments, including tips from Bruce based on his experiences at Mission Bay Community Church
  • The use of web 1.0 and web 2.0 technology in ministry, including the upcoming re-design of the PC(USA) website
  • Bringing even the smallest PC(USA) churches onto the Internet through the use of single-page websites for the church (at a cost that Bruce estimated to be about $100 per church)
  • Preserving mission in an era when church budgets may be shrinking
  • Shrinking congregations – when is it appropriate to talk about the end of a congregation’s life?  How do we talk about leaving a legacy through the church’s property and other assets?
  • Supporting small congregations that are not New Church Developments, do not believe they are at the end of their life, and want to redevelop.
  • Providing a living wage for pastors in small churches
  • Campus ministry and keeping young adults engaged with the church
  • Seminaries realizing that not all graduates will be able to go into full-time ministry, and potentially helping them get ready for 1/2-time ministry, 1/2-time something else
  • Information on how many appointments the Moderator makes after General Assembly (a very high 100+ this time around), and how little impact the Moderator has on the work of those task forces after making the appointments
  • Praise for New Brunswick presbytery for having enough interest to need a waiting list for the Social Witness Committee
  • an off-hand reference to “Friends Are Friends Forever” that went over the heads of anybody who wasn’t in the 30-45 age group
  • a reminder that Bruce and Vice-Moderator Byron Wade are willing to send video greetings to any group that requests such far enough in advance

I know that I’m missing some of the topics, but that’s most of them.

As always Bruce was engaging, funny, very authentic and willing to tackle the tough questions.  I’m impressed that while he is clearly more comfortable addressing groups of strangers now that he has 6 months of Moderator experience under his belt, he still speaks very openly and authentically and humbly.  His content and delivery are surprisingly consistent between his in-person appearances, his blog writings, and his blog videos (and his tweets on Twitter for that matter).

In short – a good time was had by all, and it was worth getting up early to be there.

Thanks, Bruce, for including Lawrenceville in your NYC/NJ trip.

Breakfast with Bruce – Wed, November 12, 2008, Lawrenceville, NJ

October 24, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion 

Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the PC(USA), is coming back to Lawrenceville, NJ!  And you can join him for breakfast.

Bruce will be meeting and speaking with all comers for breakfast from 8-10am on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, NJ.  If you haven’t gotten a chance to speak with Bruce about the present and future of the church before, this is your chance.  He is trying to get a chance to talk to as many people as possible during his travels.

All are invited, and you are encouraged to bring a friend.  Eggs strada, fruit, and baked goods from the Lawrenceville Bakery will be served.  If you have any other questions leave a comment or send me an e-mail and I’ll get an answer for you.

If you are on Facebook, you can find more information in this event.

The New PC(USA) Moderator on blogging

June 23, 2008 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Religion, Web/Tech 

Bruce Reyes-Chow, the brand-new Moderator of the PC(USA), spoke about blogging in his post-election interview.  He spoke about the Internet and blogging in particular.

Reyes-Chow, a 39-year-old San Francisco pastor, husband and the father of three daughters between the ages of four and 11, said that blogging and using Facebook and other social networking sites “is part of my  way of being, how we naturally engage with people.”

He believes being transparent and prolific will “help people  feel invited to participate in the church in new way.”

He also recognizes people have “concerns about why we share so openly,” especially on the occasion when he places his political views online.

“I see something and I think, ‘That’ll blog,’ and I put it  on,” he said.

During his campaign for moderator, someone asked Reyes-Chow if he could tell the person something about himself that could not already be found on his blog. “Not really,” Reyes-Chow said. “I am an open book, pretty much. I am excited about connecting with folks and using my spiritual practice of blogging.”

It sounds like Bruce has more or less the same view of blogging that I do.  Compare this to what I wrote a while back (after a very different emotional experience than Bruce’s):

As I have written, some of my most important core values are honesty, openness and authenticity.  When my pastor asked me, “Is there anybody that you run your blog posts by before you post them?” it hit me hard.  Most of you agree that I may have a been a little too open and have said one thing
out of frustration that you wouldn’t have said, but that it’s my blog and that I’m being careful enough by leaving out names.  …  One of the things that I love most about Camp Johnsonburg is that you truly can be yourself – warts and all – and you will be accepted (and even loved).  Some folks have rougher edges than others, and it IS possible to get too far outside of the bounds of acceptable behavior for camp, but for the most part it’s a place where 90% of the folks who come there feel at home.  I expect that from the local congregation too – after all, isn’t that what we’re called to do?  I realize that this may be an unrealistic expectation, even if it is a valid expectation.

I’m glad to see that someone else sees the usefulness of transparency in our community.  (Note – other commenters here have said the same thing – this is just the first time I’ve seen it in a press article.)

Congratulations, Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow!

June 22, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion 

Late last night (eastern time), the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow was elected Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  Bruce was elected on only the 2nd ballot, after leading but narrowly missing 50% on the first ballot.

I hope that Bruce will fulfill the promise of a new way of speaking to each other that I saw in him when he visited Lawrenceville with the other candidates.

Congratulations, Bruce!

Bruce Reyes-Chow for Moderator

June 19, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion 

Better late than never, I always say.

I am proud to endorse Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow for Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Let me start by saying that I think most of the candidates will do a good job in the moderator role.  The differences between them are primarily differences in style, not differences in substance (the perennial debate about homosexuality being the exception that proves the rule).  All love God.  All support Jesus as Lord.  As far as I can tell, all meet the essentials of our faith as I see them.  I enjoyed meeting all of them when they came to Lawrenceville, NJ.

Bruce stood out in one huge way – he has a plan for the future.  Well, maybe not a plan per se, but a direction.  Bruce is the one candidate who gets the problem of the aging of the church.  He sees both the problem (that young people are not remaining engaged after high school, and that they are NOT following the pattern of returning when they have children) and solutions.

Most importantly, Bruce sees the need for local solutions for local cultures.  He pastors a very successful congregation in San Francisco called Mission Bay Community Church.  This church is at the same time traditional and non-traditional.  Services there bear some resemblance to traditional Presbyterian services, but likely would also cause some members in our churches to blanch at the differences.  Bruce has found a way to reach out to a population not being fed by traditional practices and bring them into the faith.  Too often, we expect people to become like us (in behavior, dress, etc) before they join us (in our traditional service).  Bruce has turned that on its head, he and his church expect people to join us (come as you are) before you become like us (followers of Christ).

I also believe that Bruce challenges the assumptions about the essentials of our faith.  How many of us believe that it is essential to the Presbyterian faith to sit in rows of pews, sing 100+ year-old hymns with a pipe organ, and have a choir sing at us before the sermon?  I believe that we have confused practice with faith.  Bruce has undergone a process where he has broken down the essentials and his church sticks to those that are truly essential while ignoring those that are simply the product of our cultural inertia.

And it works.  His church has people of all ages present in reasonably well-spread numbers.

Another area where Bruce excels is in listening.  When the candidates met in Lawrenceville, the format had each candidate sitting in the center focus of a U-shaped set of tables.  In some cases, the discussions were straight question and answer sessions – even when the candidate chose to ask questions of his audience.  In the case of Bruce’s session with each table (and in one other case), there was more of a dialog.  Bruce was truly listening to what the questioner was saying, and thinking.  Silence was not the enemy – it was time to process.  And Bruce was remarkably consistent in his responses.  He did not shade his responses to meet the desires of the questioner – he answered them openly and honestly and authentically.  And it wasn’t “this is what I think – deal with it”, it was more like “this is what I think – what do you think?”  This is what our denomination needs now more than anything else – questions rather than answers.  Everybody (and PCUSA bloggers are particularly bad at this, including me) comes to the forum ready to present and defend their answer before they hear the question.  What we need now is more understanding of what the other person is saying and thinking – how they came to their answer – and less posturing.  Bruce is humble when working with others in discernment – he really tries to get your point of view.

If you are a commissioner to General Assembly, I hope that you will consider Bruce Reyes-Chow for the Moderator position.  I won’t say “hope that you will vote for Bruce”, because that’s not how it should work.  You should consider Bruce, (and Bill, Carl and Roger) and make your own choice.  I just hope that I have provided an opinion that is useful as you and the Spirit decide how to vote.

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