Monday, July 26, 2010

Interim Minister Training in San Francisco

To all of our Alaska clergy let me offer a suggestion when scheduling your continuing education this year...Consider doing it with other colleagues. It's way more fun!

20 experienced pastors from the west gathered in San Francisco in a Catholic retreat center with lots of signs beginning with "Do NOT" and blocking software that would not allow us to get on Facebook. Alaska had the most with six: Tom Telfer from Fairbanks, Kim Poole from Juneau, Ev Erbele from Ketchikan, Leila Disburg from Anchorage, myself, and Bishop Hagiya.

We learned about how to be an intentional interim minister which is different from filling the gap between pastorates. The interim minister has a specific time with specific tasks which include dealing with a church's history, see its identity, acknowledge changing leadership, strengthening the denominational connection, and living towards the future. One mantra we heard over and over was: The Interim Minister is responsible for the process, not the results!

This was Phase One. Phase Two involves doing two case studies with Phase three returning to San Francisco in January.

We walked around during limited free time. Ask Ev Erbele about her dumpster diving and finding a decent roller bag. People didn't know much about Alaska so it was fun to tell our stories. It helped that we had people from four different parts of Alaska.

So maybe your next CE experience could be done with a few colleagues. Maybe you'll laugh like we did in San Francisco. Here's a clip.

Grace and peace,

Monday, July 19, 2010

God Is Doing a New Thing at East Anchorage UMC

On Sunday, July 18, East Anchorage UMC received about 40 new members, all part of a new Samoan fellowship. Former local pastor, Fa'atafa Fulumua, from the Hawaii District, has been giving leadership to a band of Samoan United Methodists in Anchorage. Now they are full members of East Anchorage UMC. There will be an English speaking worship service and a Samoan language service on Sundays. Tafa also serves as the choir director for the English speaking choir.

Here is a video clip of Pastor Jon Disburg and the congregation welcoming their newest members.

Pastor Jon Disburg did a masterful job of weaving the story of Elisha and the salt in the bowl with how God wants to do new things in the world. At the risk of embarrassing Jon I recommend any of our clergy or lay preachers who want to improve their preaching skills to request a consult with Jon.

We truly received a glimpse of the diversity and full inclusion of the reign of God on earth. Here is a clip of the Samoan choir.

Grace and peace,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Remembering Della

Our only ordained native Alaskan pastor died on July 4. Here is part of what I shared at her memorial service at Turnagain UMC.

There are many words that form in our minds we would use to describe Della. The one that comes to me is “bridge.” Della was a bridge of love, understanding, and grace between people who came from different backgrounds. One morning in the bathroom while listening to the radio I smiled as the reporter interviewed this native Alaskan woman who was teaching native dance to children and youth in White Mountain. She was using their love of basketball to encourage them to dance. It was, of course, our Della.

When Pastor Dale told me Della was in the hospital and not doing well I walked into her room. She was unresponsive and surrounded by family. As I looked on this diminutive woman who could no longer talk or sing or caress a loved one I was struck by her power. This was a spiritual giant in a very short package! I touched her forehead as we prayed. Even in this state she was sending forth the love and grace of God. We could feel it.

Rev. Jim Campbell, longtime Alaska missionary pastor and friend of Della, wrote this poem in her honor. Those of us who experienced Della's stories while she created a doll from her cuspuk will certainly smile when we read.

The Cuspuk Doll

Jim Campbell

Her hands cast wonder
folding, transforming her cuspuk.
A yard of string
twisting, binding the cloth
until from her garment,
this identity that wrapped her body,
there emerged the likeness of a doll
faces transfixed by the weave of her hands
now melting to a Christmas morning smile.

Over and over it happened.
All across the land it happened.
Each town,
each stop on the agenda of places to be by five o’clock,
each plead for her people that were starving in Chukotka,
each feast attended for those who had no bread,
there came the hope moment,
that transforming moment,
that gospel moment of all things made new,
that moment of the parable of the doll.

Della made other dolls,
hands of an artist given to beading, sewing, carving…..
dolls of the Anchorage museum,
life like dolls of her people,
dolls of worth and beauty and display.
Della bore the standard of craftsman.
She distilled the beautiful,
the colors and foods of the changing seasons,
the rhythm of the beat of the drum,
the telling of stories,
especially stories to the children,
who gathered with her on the floor,
as she made her cuspuk doll
and told of times when that was all she had.

Hands, stilled….. folded,
her blessings complete.
So many lives yet sway in the wake of her Sunday prayers,
heart prayers in this sanctuary,
to the Creator,
to whom, in this moment
We lift up our dear friend…….
daring to notice in the hand of God,
a yard of string,
waiting to make,
one more new creation.

Grace and peace,

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

July 4 in Seward, Alaska

I just love being in Seward on July 4 for the Mt. Marathon race and festivities. It is such an Alaskan event steeped in history. Ever since Duane Chase and family lived in the parsonage our family has camped out on the lawn to cheer for the runners, catch up with old friends from the Kenai, see Anchorage folks, and eat of course.

It also happens around the time of the first Sunday when a new pastor arrives. Rev. Paul Caseman jokingly tried to charge me for the spot. I reminded him who arranged for him to be in Seward and Moose Pass!

Here's a short clip of the race that ends with Paul and Patti watching. Patti is the one with a bag of kettle popcorn. She and I discovered a mutual addiction to the snack!

Grace and peace,