Good Weekend

October 1, 2007 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

I’m tired, but happy.

Friday evening I headed out to church to be the 2nd wave driver for the Sr. High retreat.  There were a few youth who played football who needed to leave later than the 6pm departure time.  I got there at 6:15, and the first wave in the big van didn’t leave until 6:30.  Ultimately we all got to camp and settled in about 9pm.

We headed out to the waterfront and held a campfire, complete with singing and S’mores.  I’m not usually a big fan of s’mores (I prefer to eat the components separately), but I had one anyway so that the vegetarian youth could roast a marshmallow (they contain gelatin, you know).  After that we finally got to bed around midnight.

The next morning was quiet.  After breakfast, we headed into the woods and did a trust/togetherness exercise that involved walking along a rope strung between trees with your eyes closed.  It was done alone, then with a guide, then alone again.  It’s sort of a “walking with Jesus” exercise.  After that we had a talk about when God is and is not present in your life and the youth got into some pretty heavy topics.  I was very impressed with the way that this group handled people’s difficult times without making fun – that’s pretty rare in this age group.

The rest of the morning was “free” time.  A group played football in the meadow while others rested in the lodge.  We ended the morning with a game of “Have you ever….” Jenga.  This uses the book “Have you Ever …?” along with a Jenga game with the tiles numbered (by hand).  Each participant pulls a tile out of the stack, places it on top, and the number on the tile is used to find a numbered question in the book.  If tiles are recycled you just add 100, 200, etc. to the tile number.  We got the stack up to 29 levels before it fell.  (The record is 40 plus two tiles.)

We had lunch, and then headed home.

This was an incredibly low-key and relaxed retreat for Senior Highs.  We had no serious problems with behavior and even though we had a gender split of 7 boys and 1 girl, the girl did fine.  I came home exhausted but I had a great time.  This was also the first time that I felt that I really bonded with the youth.  I was a bit worried about that – I missed the mission trip in the summer and was worried about being “outside”.

Sunday was another church-packed day.  The morning service included an introduction of our 3 seminary interns (with CAKE at the Fellowship Hour).  After Fellowship time, Temple Micah invited us to join them in the sukkah that they’d built on the front lawn of the manse.  There was also the 2nd half of an adult forum series on Presbyterian beliefs that I attended (tough choice, but I’d already done the homework for the forum).  (Discussion for another post – what the heck are we doing listing people’s pledges by size for comparison when we’re doing Consecration Sunday that is supposedly NOT about the numbers?)

At the end of the adult forum I got recruited to usher at the afternoon Jazz Vespers service, which brought me back to church after a 2 hour rest.  The music was provided by Presbybop, a jazz quartet founded by Presbyterian clergy.  The service was attended by about 130 people, and was wonderful.  Presbybop has taken some traditional hymns and jazzed them up while retaining the proper feeling and words.  We sang two of those, and other music was included.  Rev. Bill Carter did the homily.  The service was based on the Book of Common Worship’s “Evening Prayer” order of worship – appropriate to the setting sun.  The congregation was energized by the service.

After the service, dinner was provided by the choir.  Excellent food was catered from Chuckles with dessert from church members and the leftovers from Fellowship Hour in the morning.  Carolyn and I sat with the youth group for dinner, and met Rev. Karen Hernandez-Granzen of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Trenton.

After dinner we headed back to the sanctuary for a one-set concert by Presbybop.  Folks, these guys know their jazz.  You can find them on iTunes, and their CDs are for sale at  The congregation was brought to their feet at the end for a standing ovation (and we did get an encore).  It was hysterical to see the upright and sometimes elderly Presbyterians swaying and nodding their heads to the wonderful jazz.  I saw one guy air drumming using the pens from the prayer card racks in the pews.

I’m still short on sleep, but it was a truly wonderful weekend.

Meetings and trip

September 27, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

It’s been another busy week in Mark-land.

Sunday we had the real Sr. High youth group kickoff session.  We had fun, got introduced to each other, played around, and ate ice cream.  It’s a good group of youth including not one but TWO exchange students.

Monday evening we had the first meeting of the Welcome and Outreach Task Force that I am co-chairing.  As I’ve said before our charter is to study visitors, inactive members and the local community and then to make recommendations on what the church could do to create an atmosphere of hospitality and invitation.  It was a good meeting – mainly kept to start up tasks and ideas.  We have two challenges.  First is scheduling meetings – the folks on the team are really busy and it’s hard to find a 1.5 hour time slot that works for everybody.  Fortunately I discovered (after some hints from the pastor and another team member) Meet-O-Matic.  That should help.  The second challenge is that we have one team member who has no Internet access (or inclination to get access).  We’ve appointed a team member to be that member’s “Internet buddy”, and we’ve covenanted not to make any decisions via e-mail without getting her input.

The team is very diverse (as diverse as we could get given the congregation’s demographics).  We have people who have only been attending our church since last spring and people who have been members for over 25 years.  We have a pretty good age spread, and the gender balance is good.  The skills and interests of the group members are fairly well balanced, too.

One interesting concept that came from this meeting is the definition of our “mission field” – the land area that we are targeting.  The traditional idea was that we serve a 3 mile radius from the church building.  However, over 1/2 of the team lives outside of that radius.  This means (by extrapolation – and it does work out that way) that a significant percentage of the church membership drives past another Presbyterian church or three (not to mention other denominations) to get to our church.  We are thinking that we might have two tiers – the 3-mile “local” tier and a larger area.  We decided to add “active members outside the 3-mile radius” to the list of groups studied to see what draws them to drive a distance to be part of our community.  We’re also going to be mapping the households using software yet to be determined (Google Maps?).

So that was Monday evening.  Did I get a break Tuesday evening?  No.  Carolyn decided that this was the week to re-seal the driveway while it is still warm enough.  (It did need it)  So I got home Tuesday evening and it took the two of us just about 1 hour to put a coat on the driveway.  She was nice to me Wednesday evening and put the 2nd coat on herself (a thinner coat).  I just had to cook dinner.

Tonight is laundry, and then Friday evening I’m going with the Sr. Highs up to Camp Johnsonburg for a quick overnight retreat.  We’ll be home about 3pm on Saturday – just in time to see Rutgers play Maryland (my brother’s alma mater) in football.

Sunday I’ll have church in the morning.  I’m attending an adult forum on what makes Presbyterians different from other denominations.  I have homework to do – matching the names, dates, and a short summary of the Confessions.  Sunday evening the church is doing the first ever Jazz Vespers.  The youth are attending together, and I’m probably going to bring Carolyn along too.

Who was it that said “You can sleep when you’re dead.”?

Rhythm for the Soul – Jazz Vespers, dinner, and a mini-concert

September 20, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Music, Religion 

On Sunday, September 30, 2007, the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville will be holding its first Jazz Vespers service.  A flyer can be found HERE.

The evening kicks off at 4pm with the jazz vespers service.  Dinner follows at 5pm ($5 donation requested).  After dinner there will be a mini-concert at 6pm.  The Rev. Bill Carter and Presbybop will be the performers for the concert and will be featured in the service.  Presbybop is a jazz quarter made up entirely by Presbyterian clergy.

All are welcome.  Come on down!