Project Open Door complete

February 18, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion 

The Project Open Door task force, which has been studying our congregation’s hospitality and community interaction for 18 months, completed it’s work tonight with our Final Report to the session.

The Session chose to restrict the publication of our report both within the congregation and externally.  As a result I am not allowed to share our conclusions or recommendations with you.  I apologize for that – I know that some of you helped with input for the team and it seems unfair that you not be able to share in the learning.

This Week

February 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Ham Radio, Religion 

This week is “in between” time.

I’m in the middle of the process for obtaining Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute.  I’ve had the skills for years, but never got the certification.  My wife already has this certification.

It’s a lot of work getting this certification.  I had to document 4,500 hours of work leading project tasks over a period including at least 36 months of time.  I also had to document 35 contact hours of training.  The process of documenting that alone took me a solid week.

Then I chose to take an exam prep training class to make up the 35 hours.  I found out later that I already had the 35 hours (my previous boss reminded me of an in-house training class that counted), so I should be able to carry some hours into the next reporting period.

I completed the training class yesterday and submitted my application.  Now I’m in the up to 5 day waiting period while they decide whether or not to approve my application.  Then I pay for the test and either immediately scheduled the test or go through the 5-day audit process.

This PMP certification will open up a lot of jobs that I am qualified for aside from not possessing the certificate.  Many large and medium-sized companies require this certification for project management jobs.

I had to put the job search on hold while doing the documentation and training.  I should be restarting it now, but I believe it would be more effective to get the certification and update my resume and then start.  So this is limbo time.

Tomorrow is busy anyway.  I need to drive to Philadelphia (in the rain and/or snow) to pick up a city ID card for my volunteer work with the Philadelphia Digital TV project.  I was recruited by the local FCC office as a ham radio operator to assist with the installation of Digital TV converters for the elderly or disabled.  I may be volunteering this Friday to do this work.  Then in the evening my church committee Project Open Door is presenting our final report to the church Session.

Thursday I’m having lunch with somebody from the church.

Friday as I mentioned above, I may be volunteering in Philly.  There is a Trenton Devils hockey game that night.

Saturday evening is a major event.  The Trenton Devils are retiring the number of Scott Bertoli – who played his entire professional career (aside from a few trips up one league) with the Trenton Titans.  I’m definitely going to that game and getting out all of my old Trenton Titans stuff.

Sunday I have coffee duty for the deacons at church, and youth group in the evening.

Project Open Door news

February 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Church New Member Process, Religion 

A while ago (perhaps 18 months ago) I wrote about my new committee studying hospitality at my church.

That team chose to call itself Project Open Door.  We were charged with studying hospitality to visitors, the community around us, and inactive members.

We completed the majority of our work last night.  We’ve produced a 44-page report which will be given to the Session in 2 weeks.  We were unable to complete our work on inactive members (due to personal issues of several team members at a critical time) and have suggested that this task be forwarded to a successor committee.

Several of you have expressed an interest in hearing what we’ve learned.  We intend to ask the Session for permission to release our report.  If I am able to do so, I’ll post it here.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers over the last 18 months.

2008: My personal year in review

December 31, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Admin, Job Search, Life, Religion, Work, Young Adult, Youth 

Good riddance.

It’s not that the year was all bad.  Some of it was really very good.  It’s just that the bad outweighed the good.  Most of this was due to one very bad thing.

Work
This was a particularly bad year.  I’m not going to go into details, but you should assume that life at my former employer wasn’t particularly fun before August.  In August, I was laid off from a job that I’d held for 13 1/2 of the last 15 years.  It only helps slightly that this employer ultimately filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November.

And if that wasn’t enough – the economy tanked at the same time.  The cause of the company’s failure wasn’t solely the economy, but it was a big part of it.  Jobs just plain dried up from September through early December.  There are signs that things are easing now.

If it weren’t for positive things and positive people in the rest of my life, I don’t know how I would have handled this.

Church
The good:
I LOVE my youth group.  The young men and women that I work with more or less every week are all wonderful, and I learned a lot about myself, them, life and God over the last year.  Sunday afternoon/evening is the high point of my week.

The summer trip to the Montreat Youth Conference was one of the top 10 experiences of my life.  I truly feel that God spoke to me that week in some fashion.  I know that my faith deepened, and that the same happened to most if not all of the group from our church that went on the trip.  I also feel that I grew outside of the religious aspects.  (Of course, this high leaves me wondering where God is in my life now, when things are not so good.)  The biggest thing that I learned this year – while I care a lot about our youth, they care about me too.

Putting together the Moderator Meet and Greet event in April was a lot of fun as well as being a lot of work.  I met a lot of new and wonderful people.  The event was well attended, and I hear that it helped commissioners make a decision at General Assembly.

Meeting in person and working online with other church leaders has been mostly positive.  I’m amazed at how strong the online Presbyterian-and-beyond religious community is.  I’ve felt support when I needed it and given and watched it flow the other way when others needed it.

Serving as a deacon has been rewarding.  This is work that I know that I can do and do well, and that is relatively easy, and that aids the church.  That’s sort of the point, isn’t it?  I just have to be careful not to schedule myself too heavily (like the Sunday that I had coffee service AND served communion AND agreed to set up tables for a later event).

My committee studying hospitality, visitor and community issues for the church has nearly completed its work.  We have identified 19 issues and more than 19 suggestions for how to change/fix/handle those issues.  We present to the Session in February.  The team has worked hard and learned a lot.

Serving as the new webmaster for the church’s website and weekly e-mailed newsletter has been a growth experience for me.  It has forced me to learn new technical skills and also to generate a little content independently.

The bad:
The worst has to have been the controversy over my blog in March/April/May/June of this year.  I don’t know if people realize it, but the church was about 12 hours from losing me in April – the only things keeping me were the facts that Youth Sunday and the Moderator Meet and Greet were imminent responsibilities of mine.  This event only took 2nd to the loss of my job in how poorly I felt while in the middle of it.

I am also continually dismayed by the negative tones in some conversations/fights/battle-royales in the church community over the hot button issues of today.  Those of us within the church fight harder and with less love than we do with our colleagues in other denominations or religions, even though the points of disagreement are far smaller and unimportant.

Home
Home life continues to be solid.  Carolyn and I have ridden out the very rough patches of the 2nd half of the year with no negative effect on our relationship.  Most of this is due to Carolyn’s very conservative nature when it comes to money, and the strong planning ability that both of us have.  She continues to be supportive at a very difficult time in my life and it has brought us if anything closer together.

The cats are still fine.  They turn 13 tomorrow.  Isaac is still suffering from a bit of arthritis in his hips, but the daily Cosequin is helping.  Both of them still have a fair amount of kitten left and still go running around like crazy animals occasionally.  Albert has had no recurrence of his kidney issues.

The house is fine.  We have had to put off a bit of home repair work (mainly fixing the fireplace chimney that failed a while back) for economic reasons.  Nothing important is wrong, and we continue to love living here.  It’s a great neighborhood – not too noisy, not too quiet, and plenty of kids running around.
My car has had a rough year.  I was rear-ended in July and minor damage was done to my rear bumper.  It was fixed pretty quickly, but it took about 4-5 months before the insurance companies paid my deductible.  Here’s a tip – no matter how late you are, don’t pass on the right on a one-lane on-ramp.

Health

No major changes.  On the Montreat trip I lost a number of pounds due to the stairmaster-like qualities of the village of Montreat (to get anywhere you have to walk down a big hill and up a big hill).  The emotional strain of being out of work took off some more.  I’ve managed to end the year a net 10 pounds down.  Otherwise, my health remains the same.

I’m hoping that 2009 will be a combination of the continuance of good things, and an end to the bad things that are happening now.  I see new hope in the elections of both our PC(USA) Moderator and the new President of the USA.  It remains to be seen if that hope turns into a better reality for the country, church, and me.

Happy New Year!

I was a VIP … for dinner

November 20, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

Last night I went to the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville LOGOS program.  I was invited as a “VIP” – a person who volunteers in a leadership role in the church.  Also honored were our pastor, our treasurer and his wife (who also does a lot), the former Associate for Pastoral Ministry and her husband who is our Pledge Coordinator.

We were asked to arrive in time to join the children for dinner.  Each of us got to sit with a grade level for dinner and we were asked questions about ourselves.  Then after dinner the children introduced us and talked about what they’d learned and what we do for the church.

I was assigned to the 5th grade.  There were 5 children and our table parent – seminary intern Kate Elliott.  The questions were varied and amusing.  Two consecutive questions were:  “What is your favorite color?” and “How did you decide that you wanted to work with the church?” – I got the bends going that deep that fast.  I was also asked about my family, my favorite sports team (a question answered with some trepidation – we’re on the border between the NYC and Philadelphia markets), my favorite book of the Bible, my favorite Psalm, my pets, and what I do with the church.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much the kids remembered of my answers.  Just about everything that we talked about was used when I was introduced.

I was honored to join them, and I look forward to 4 years from now when they are part of Senior High youth group and I can work with them more often.

Robyn Campbell is our Director of Children’s Ministries, and was responsible for inviting me.  Thanks, Robyn.  She also mentioned that she’d love it if more adults in the church were able to join the LOGOS program for dinner.  There’s a table for adults that is stafffed by parents and volunteers and there’s usually room.  If you want to consider joining them some Wednesday evening, contact Robyn.  I may start going on the nights that I have a Wednesday meeting shortly after the LOGOS dinner is over.

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.

A bit of a round-up

October 9, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Ham Radio, Job Search, Life, Religion, Work 

Hello, readers.  I have been neglecting you lately.

Here’s a bit of a round-up on things going on with me at the moment.

Job Search
– I think I’m going to stop counting days on the blog.  I’ve been making good contacts in the last few weeks, and today I have my first meeting with a “hiring manager” (someone who is in the right position to potentially hire me).  It’s not an interview – just a meeting.  The search is going slower than I’d like, but apparently reasonably on track according to my outplacement coach.  The economy and general financial crisis aren’t helping.

Church – This part of my “non-work” life is busy.  My deacon work is adding a little time to my Sunday mornings, plus I’m serving as the “e-mail reminder” person who sends a note to the deacons scheduled for a particular Sunday.  My youth work is keeping me busy as well – the time commitment is a bit higher than last year because of some schedule changes for the Sr. Highs, but it’s completely worth it to me.  I was asked to be the webmaster for the church website, and I’m investigating how much time that actually takes – it might be too much.  Project Open Door is moving along nicely to the end of our chartered work – we brainstormed issues surrounding hospitality, visitors, relations with the community, and inactive members last week.  In our next meeting we’ll brainstorm solutions, and then start writing up the report to the Session to be delivered in January.  I’m looking at starting spiritual direction.  Aside from a minor dust-up this week, all is well in this department.  I will admit to my faith taking a beating due to my job situation, though.

Home – All is well.  Carolyn is a conservative spender by nature, and I am one when the situation calls for it.  We’ve pulled way back on our discretionary spending and even made some more economical choices with our necessary spending.  This is setting us up well for a long siege if necessary.  The lack of a job hasn’t hurt my relationship with Carolyn that I can see.  The cats love having me home more often.  The homefront is safe and stable right now, and financially prepared for a while.  Carolyn is still taking next week off from work (a Smith family vacation including my parents and siblings was planned for Orlando – we have to miss it for financial reasons), and I’m taking our anniversary on Wednesday off from job searching.

Ham Radio – I’m still participating a little.  I haven’t been able to purchase equipment beyond an HT (walkie-talkie-style radio) and accessories.  I saw the trouble in the economy coming even before I knew that I’d be laid off, and chose not to spend in this area.  I am staying involved with some emergency management and public safety events, and I’m still attending the club meetings.  I think I’m qualified now to get a key to the club’s radio shack and will pursue that soon – they have LOTS of equipment for club member use there.  Unfortunately, ham radio activities tend to be scheduled at the same time as church events, and between the two church wins.

That’s about it.  As always I welcome any comments, and assistance in my job search.

Starting as a Deacon

September 9, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion 

My journey as an active deacon is beginning again.

Last night I attended my first Board of Deacons meeting at church.  This was the reorganization meeting for this year.  I had also been to New Officer Training last Saturday.

I was assigned to the Prayer Team, my first choice.  Last year’s deacon president preached a sermon in which she recounted her trepidation in being assigned to the Prayer Team, so I was surprised to see last night that the 3 slots were filled with people who had chosen it as their first choice, plus 2 others will join us as well.

I also volunteered to be the person who e-mails a reminder to the folks designated for coffee or greeting service each Sunday.  That should be easy, as long as I can keep the schedule straight.

I wasn’t able to sign up for communion (our church uses elders and deacons to prepare, serve and clean up) – mainly because I am already assigned to coffee on communion Sunday in October and all of the preparation slots were taken by the time the sheet got to me.  Maybe I’ll be able to do it in November.  The last time I was a deacon the Book of Order specified that deacons could only serve communion if there was a shortage of elders, so I had only 2 opportunities to serve (one at camp, one at Triennium).  This is a meaningful experience for me, so I look forward to doing it again – even if I have to sit up front at church!

The entire Board meshed well, so I look forward to a good year or three.

Post-Montreat Blues

August 7, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

Today I’m somewhat deep in the Post-Montreat Blues.  This is apparently a common affliction, caused by the collision between the mountaintop high (emotionally, not physically) from a Montreat conference and the mundane realities of “real life” back home.  In other words – while you came home feeling wonderful, ready to change the world, and quite possibly changed for life … the rest of the world didn’t change all that much while you were gone.  I’ve experienced the same with Camp Johnsonburg experiences – though the Montreat experience was at a much higher intensity.

I’m trying to figure out what’s next.

This week we had movie night at the youth group, and most (but not all) of the crowd that showed up was from the Montreat trip.  We looked at the pictures from Montreat from a few people and then watched Saved! the movie.  We got a very insightful question from one youth who wasn’t on the trip about increasing the presence of faith in daily life.  I really think that between the Broad St. Philly mission trip and this Montreat trip we have a LOT of momentum going into the fall for the youth group.  Big things could happen!

I’ve found some confidence and new connections when it comes to working with the youth – particularly in my preferred style of one-to-one.  Again – momentum.

For today, I miss the relaxed me from the trip.  Sunday night I forgot to take my blood pressure medication, and I didn’t feel the effects. My co-workers all remarked on Monday how incredibly relaxed I seemed to be.  In many ways, that’s the Real Me, and I wish I could have it all of the time.

I also really, really miss the daily contact with my friends from my church and with the new friends that I made on the trip.  Seeing them on Facebook (or not at all) just isn’t the same.  I know that if we’d been together more than a week the usual interpersonal frictions would develop, but that was a really nice week.  Tuesday evening helped.

I’m also feeling a bit emotionally adrift.  The Montreat Youth Conference experience produced in me (and probably in many or most) a safe space where I could drop, tear down, explode, or simply eliminate the wall between my emotions and the outside world.  I was able to letthe Real Me outside of my head to a degree not normally possible.
Unfortunately that wall is somewhat necessary for daily life, particularly at work.  Rebuilding that wall takes some time, and is leaving me a smidge off balance.

Now I’m trying to figure out the implications for my life.  One thing that I see (and have seen in the past) is that my job (the combination of place/culture and function) is out of line with my faith and values.  Please note – this is NOT the same as saying “I need a new job”.  There are several possibilities for how to fix this, including possibilities where I remain where I am and possiblities where I move on.

Some have heard the first whispers (or more) of a call to the ministry as a result of this week.  I don’t believe that I’m one of them.  This is something that I’ve considered from time to time in my religious life (before and now) but I just don’t hear the call.  My 10th grade computerized career assessment aside, I’ve never in my memory been told by someone that I’d make a good minister.  I think my call to the faith lies elsewhere.

For now, though, I’m considering the possibilities.  I’m remembering a few key rules:

  1. Don’t make any life-changing decisions within a week (or longer) after such a mountaintop experience.  Regain equilibrium first.
  2. The rest of the world didn’t change overnight.  Maybe you did, but there weren’t big changes elsewhere.
  3. Big, Meaningful Change requires Big, Meaningful Thought.  And time.

That’s where I am.

If I met you on the trip, I miss you.  A lot.

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