How I Saw It – my Testimony at the Worship in a New Key Service March 13, 2011

March 14, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Job Search, Religion, Work 

At my church, our alternative service is called Worship in a New Key.   One occasional element of this service is personal testimony by someone from the congregation about their own experience that is relevant to the scripture or sermon.  I was asked about a year ago to tell my wilderness journey story but the time didn’t feel right – my journey wasn’t far enough along.  I was asked again to speak this week, and it felt right. Below is the text and audio of my story.

Barren WildernessAudio: Mark_Smith_WINK_Testimony_2011-03-13

Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11

Today’s scripture talks about Jesus’ time in the wilderness.

Each of us at times ends up in the wilderness.  Sometimes we’re there for a short time, sometimes we’re there for a while.  We each have our own path into the wilderness, and we each have our own path out of the wilderness.

My wilderness time is recent.  Some of you know my story but for those who don’t, here’s a brief summary.  On August 12, 2008 – a few days after the mountaintop experience on the youth trip to Montreat – I was laid off from my job … suddenly and without any idea of what was coming.  For 18 months I searched for another Information Technology job with little luck in this difficult economy.  Throughout that time I periodically got a sense – louder every time – that I should be looking to attend seminary and go into ministry.  Ultimately that message got so loud that it was impossible to ignore and I will be starting my Master of Divinity degree at Princeton Seminary this fall.

But this story is about the wilderness.  And this particular wilderness was very hard.  Losing a job these days is like a quadruple edged sword.  In one shot you lose your income and your security, part of your circle of friends that you’ve seen every day, your 40+ hours a week purpose in life, and likely a huge chunk of your self-esteem. If you’re like I was, a lot of your sense of self is tied up in what you do and how you do it – and all at once you are told that that no longer desired.  Even when you’re told that it was an economic decision – for the good of the company, nothing personal – that sense of failure is there.

The first thing that I did was to start looking for a new job. I was offered outplacement services, and when you go to these outplacement services they teach you how to find a new job. And one of the first things they teach you is that finding a new job requires having and showing a good attitude. In other words, you have to hide the feelings that you’re feeling so intensely in order to make those feelings stop.  For some that might be possible – for me it was painful. I think the hardest part for me was the isolation and purposelessness – the change from being in a small cubicle but surrounded by neighbors and noise and conversation about work and other things, to being alone at home in a room in front of my computer for hours at a time doing what I felt was accomplishing nothing. …

I’m an Introvert, and even introverts need people contact from time to time.  The networking with strangers required by the job search was stressful for me, and on the flipside, the excessive time alone was also stressful.  One-to-one time with trusted friends was incredibly valuable to me.

Leigh [Leigh Stuckey, who gave the sermon before I spoke] spoke  about the character of the human Jesus – about faith and how God expects us to be.  With a few notable exceptions, I have most often experienced God through other people. In my wilderness time I was not alone.  There were times that I didn’t see it or didn’t believe it, but God was with me.  God was with me, often in the form of the people who surrounded me.  My wife, who was and continues to be incredibly patient and caring while I go through heavy emotional weather.  The staff of this church who took time to listen to me and encourage me – particularly Jill and Rich Richards.  My friends in the church.  The youth and advisors of the Sr. High group, who told me quietly that they were praying for me and how I inspired them throughout this journey.  Now I’m a heavy Twitter and Facebook and Internet user, and I found that my Twitter friends and Facebook friends far away and local were absolutely wonderful when they gave me advice, words of encouragement, face to face time, and occasionally something productive to do.  All of these people were the face of God to me, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes just by being themselves.  They let me be me, let me know that I was loved and valued, through a time when circumstance and rejection told me otherwise.

I’m almost out of the woods now.  I can see the path that I will take, and I can see the edge of the wilderness from here.  It’s been a difficult time and a growing time for me. I am ever so thankful that God let His presence show through the people around me, and I thank God for them.

Job Opening – Assoc. Pastor for Youth and Worship – Lawrenceville, NJ

March 3, 2011 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Job Search, Religion, Work, Young Adult, Youth 

My congregation has an opening for an Associate Pastor.  The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, NJ is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PC(USA)) and is part of the Presbytery of New Brunswick.  Information on our congregation can be found at the church website and the PC(USA) statistics page for the congregation.

DISCLAIMER – my role.  I am a Deacon among my roles at the church, and I served as the Chair of the Mission Study team which completed its work prior to the creation of the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee.  I do not serve on the APNC, but have been asked by them to help advertise the position.  I will be happy to answer what questions that I can via any communications method including in person.  The APNC requests that specific questions about the position be directed to them – specifically to Thomas as listed below.

Position Description

Associate Pastor for Youth, Young Adult and Worship Ministries

The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, NJ

CIF ID #04928.AEO

Contact: Thomas Emerick, APNC Chair: thomas744@mac.com

Fulltime Position, intended to begin September 2011
Reports to: Pastor, Head of Staff

Responsibilities include:

Youth and Young Adult:

  • Overseeing the administration and execution of programs offered to 6th to 12th graders, College students, other “college” age youth and young adults at The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, aimed at spiritual and faith development.
  • Supervising the Seminary Intern for Youth Ministry (10-15 hours per week/School Year)
  • Training, equipping, coordinating and encouraging lay leaders and parents is a primary means for providing ministry to and with youth
    • Conducting regular (up to bi-monthly) leadership meetings
    • Providing staff support for Youth Ministry Council
    • Facilitating youth participation in the leadership of the program
    • Providing programs that include parents in youth ministry
    • Teaching and equipping lay teachers to provide educational experiences for youth.
    • Working closely with a Session member liaison to youth ministry
  • Planning for, and coordinating the Confirmation experience for confirmation-age youth (currently 9th grade) and Mentors.
  • In coordination with Assistant Youth Ministry Director and Seminary Intern, coordinate and provide leadership for weekend retreats, outings and events
  • In coordination with Assistant Youth Ministry Director, plan and provide opportunities for mission experiences locally, regionally, nationally and internationally for all youth, which includes Summer Mission experiences.
  • Participating in the Presbytery Youth Connection
  • Providing consistent and clear communication and publicity about all activities.
  • Developing and utilizing computer technology (e.g. website, email, etc.) in the publicity and promotion of the youth program.

Worship – Worship in a New Key:

  • Work with Head of Staff and other staff on developing and planning for all aspects of WINK, including scheduling worship leaders, preachers, planning liturgy, etc.
  • Provide primary preaching and sacramental leadership for WINK, by preaching/presiding once per month (minimum), and coordinating a rotation of other clergy to fulfill these roles.
  • Work with WINK Music Coordinator, and WINK Planning Team, on weekly planning, as well as long-term, strategic planning for WINK service.
  • Preach monthly at WINK service, and at least twice per year at traditional service.

Young Adult:

  • Maintaining significant contact with young adult members of the church who are in college, the military, in the workplace or have just graduated from college.
  • Providing programming, such as Bible Study and fellowship gatherings, for Young Adult members and non-members of the church.

General:

  • Participation in weekly staff meetings
  • At least monthly supervision with Head-of-Staff

 

Busy Week

May 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Religion, Young Adult, Youth 

This is gonna be a very busy week.  I’m going to be out and about in several communities with lots of activities.  Perhaps I’ll meet you at one of them.

Yesterday the ball started rolling with the God Complex radio show at noon EDT.  That went very well.  Later in the evening I had the Board of Deacons meeting at church which also went very well and very fast.

This morning I’m going to have to mow the lawn due to the impending days of rain (again).

This afternoon I’m going to the Presbytery of New Brunswick meeting, and assisting in the pre-presbytery event on “Working with Facebook”.  Before the meeting I have a networking meeting with someone in New Brunswick.

Tomorrow is relatively quiet.  A networking meeting in the morning, and the DVRA ham radio club meeting in the evening.  I may go get my driver’s license renewed during the day – it’s time again.

Thursday afternoon begins the Princeton Seminary Institute for Youth Ministry Conference on Emerging Adulthood.  That runs Thursday afternoon and evening, all day Friday, and Saturday morning.  Friday evening, I’ll miss dinner and the recreation to attend a fundraising dinner “Southern Hospitality on the Lawn” related to my church.

Saturday morning I’ll miss rehearsal for Deacon Sunday.  Saturday evening my church youth group is holding a Cabaret and Silent Auction fundraiser for the summer trips.

Sunday morning is Deacon Sunday (I’m doing the Call to Worship), grocery delivery for Crisis Ministry in Trenton and the end of year party for our customers, and the Worship in a New Key service.

Monday I may get to see Carolyn again.  This is really a nutty week.

A quick life update

February 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Religion, Work 

Here’s what’s going on in my life at the moment.

Job Search – I’ve been putting most of my effort into gaining Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the PMI.  My application has been approved and I’m scheduled to take the test next Thursday.  I’ve been spending the majority of my time during the day preparing for the application, taking an online class, or studying.  As a result, my job search has been more or less temporarily stopped.  This certification will open up many job openings that I do not qualify for today – not because I can’t do the job, but because the company chooses to require this certification.

Church – As I wrote below, Project Open Door has completed its work.  We’re going to have a bit of a social celebration soon to close out.  Deacon stuff is keeping me busy – I had coffee duty last week, Shrove Tuesday dinner this week, and next Sunday I’m serving communion at the morning service and perhaps again at the Worship in a New Key service.  I may also play drums at the WINK service in some fashion, and we have youth group afterwards.  Tonight I’m going to the Pennington School with our youth director to see the production of Wizard of Oz that at least one of our youth is in.

Home – It’s been a busy week – Carolyn or I have been out each night this week with something.  Monday was the monthly ham radio emergency test, Tuesday was Shrove Tuesday, last night was her yoga and Ash Wednesday, and tonight I have the school production.  The weekend is hockey-free and will be quieter.  House is fine, wife is fine, cats are fine.

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 CDBaby.com.  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!