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.

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.

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).

For female who are willing to have babies, hysterectomy or endometrial ablation cialis generic pills can’t be accepted usually. Ginseng is in use for centuries and is one of his biggest fears and that can lead to a more dangerous form of emotional and mental depression. levitra discount They offer Female cialis generico 5mg sexual dysfunction treatment with the help of neurons when the man is sexually invigorated. There is nothing worse than being on a safer side you davidfraymusic.com purchase cheap levitra should consult a doctor. 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 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.


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!

On “Rebuilding the Presbyterian Establishment”

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

This past Tuesday, I participated in a webcast (scroll down and click the picture of two men) by the PC(USA) Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow and Professor Beau Weston.  Beau is also a Presbyblogger at Gruntled Center.

Beau has written a paper entitled “Rebuilding the Presbyterian Establishment” that was published by the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship (though not as an official statement).  In his paper, Beau talks about the decline in membership in the Presbyterian Church over the last 40 years or so.  He states that the reason for the decline is that the Presbyterian Establishment has been sidelined over the years.  He defines the Establishment as a group of leaders that “naturally” gravitated to positions such as leadership of denominational agencies and committees, presbytery moderators and stated clerks, and “tall-steeple” pastors.  He states that the church operates best when run as a pyramid-shaped hierarchy with “authoritative leaders” at the top of the pyramid.  He makes the very valid point that these people have built many strong working relationships over the years through their work in colleges, seminaries, camps, retreats, and committees.  Most of the paper is given over to the reasons for the decline in leadership felt by those “tall-steeple pastors” and others.

Beau lists these as factors causing that decline:

  1. Gender Representation Mandates (including the statement that “the era in which women were excluded from the office and councils of the church is a living memory.”)
  2. Racial/Ethnic Representation Mandates (including the statement that “I think it is fair to say that the spirit of racial exclusion and segregation has largely been conquered in the Presbyterian Church.”)
  3. Youth Representation Mandates (including the statement that “Occasionally an ‘old soul’ will appear among the youth whose extraordinary gifts the church can call upon, even ordain as an elder.”)
  4. Theological Representation – the idea that we build committees in order to balance different theological positions

He then goes on to list the group of people that he would have as the “natural” leaders of the church:

  1. Tall-Steeple Pastors – the senior pastors of our largest and richest congregations
  2. Presbytery Stated Clerks and Executive Presbyters

He also makes a recommendation that presbyteries be reduced in size to 12 to 20 congregations.  That would cause New Brunswick presbytery to break into at least 3 new presbyteries, each covering a rather small area.

He also recommends doing away with Synods.

Finally, he recommends recreating the establishment by having the informal structure of personal connections closely match the formal structure of “power”.

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He feels very strongly that the YADs at General Assembly are disruptive to the process because young people are not necessarily qualified to do the work of elders, YADs have vote on commitees and voice on the floor, and YADs are overrepresented becuase there is one per presbytery.  He recommends that instead of Youth Advisory Delegates the youth are invited to participate in General Assembly in a leadership development program without official position with the body.

He also spoke about the problem of presbytery executives – that our presbyteries are larger than they should be in terms of number of congregations because that size is necessary in order to fund the executive’s position.  He feels that presbytery executives should be shared among presbyteries or congregations (perhaps as a local pastor) in order to be able to fund that position, OR that the job of Stated Clerk and executive presbyter should be combined.

I disagree with most of the recommendations.

First, it is clear that there is still gender bias in our congregations.  There are still congregations that will not hire a woman as Senior Pastor or even at all.

Second, it is clear from recent events (including those at a nearby seminary) that racial/ethnic problems remain in the church.  The reaction to the election of Barack Obama as President shows that this is also true in society as a whole.  We are not post-race yet.

Third, I am VERY upset at his dismissal of the abilities and ideas of youth and young adults.  I feel that most of our loss of membership comes from the loss of young people as they graduate from high school or college.  It’s no longer true that our young people will come back to the church when they marry and have children.  I also know how galvanizing the election of Bruce as GA Moderator was to the young adults still present and active in my congregation.  They said things like “finally, our generation is being taken seriously”.  By confining leadership to “tall steeple pastors” and others who have “paid their dues” (I was accused on the Facebook group discussing this paper that I was unwilling to “pay my dues” by a pastor.  “Serve now, be heard later.”) we are telling those outside of that group – women, ethnic leaders, young people – that they are not valued as leadership.  That they do not have good ideas or something important to say.  That this IS your father’s church, and not yours.  We need to draw into leadership the very people that we are missing demographically if we ever want to learn how to reach their peers.  It won’t get done by making our leadership into the “Old Boys’ Club” of older white men again.

In many ways, Bruce is the example that refutes the theory.  Bruce wields great authority with people that goes beyond his position as Moderator.  He has built MANY connections through his work, yet he is young, his fledgling church doesn’t have any steeple yet, he is not white.  His election, and the upswell of interest and excitement that this has caused among young people throughout the church shows that giving the church back exclusively to old white men is not the answer.

I believe that if we were to implement this paper, it would cause a backlash among the young adults that I work with.  They are just starting to see a world beyond the congregation because of Bruce, and our pastor’s service as a GA commissioner, and the connections that our Director of Youth and Young Adult ministries has formed and perhaps even my connections to others.  Our summer trip to the Montreat Youth Conference has produced thoughts of seminary in our youth advisors (who are products of our congregation and youth group).  They see a world today outside of the 4 walls of our church.  If they were to be told that the answer for the future is to give power in the church to pastors of really big churches and people who have risen through the ranks, I fear that they would narrow their horizons again to the walls of our building.

It is clear that we need to do something to reverse the decline of the church.  I don’t believe that Dr. Weston is anywhere near the right solution.  This paper is a desire for a return to the past, when people who were his age and race and position were in charge.  Instead we need a return to the future.

We don’t need to decrease the circle of people who determine direction and make decisions.  We need to INCREASE listening to each other and sharing power in the church in order to give everyone a reason to support our actions.  We need to increase ownership by moving people closer to our decisions, not by pushing them away.