Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Alaska Conference Afterthoughts

Last weekend was annual conference for the Alaska Conference and folks are still talking about the glow. Here is part of my "glow." First has to be the East Anchorage Samoan Fellowship singing and dancing for the Lord and for us. It was the highlight of my experience. Then there was the respect we gave one another during debate. And Bishop Grant's visionary leadership and personal sharing. I also noticed the joy we felt in Christ and each other. One of my favorite times is listening to new pastors at their first Alaska conference talk excitedly about how they have never experienced an annual conference like this!

 Five Alaska clergy and two laity are on retreat today with Dr. Elaine Heath. We have finished our first year in the Academy for Missional Wisdom with one year to go. Now we will be moving forward with plans to begin new micro faith communities. We don't know if they will "work" but we step forward in faith trusting God to lead us. It is truly an exciting time to be in mission in the Alaska Conference!

Grace Always,

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Powerful Questions

Last week I attended a coaching training event with Bishop Grant, PNW cabinet, and other PNW leaders in Seattle.  It was a remarkable learning experience and I learned much about listening.  One of the coaching strategies is to ask powerful questions.  You probably know what it means when someone asks you a question that causes you to think and take you to a deep place.

I have been given a powerful question to ponder for several weeks now.  It came from Robert Hicks, co-pastor in Wasilla and Palmer, and director of PLUME.  We were talking about all things theological and spiritual while he was in the hospital recovering from surgery when he said, "I think I am to the place in my life and ministry where I am looking forward to being shaped more by my mission field than by the Church."  Okay, so it wasn't a question.  But his statement prompted me to ask, "Am I being shaped by my mission field more than the Church?"

Then came another.  "How much time do I spend immersed in my mission field compared to my Church world?"  As one who has spent most of his life in the Church world I must say that it is daunting and scary to imagine me fully engaged in new relationships with people in my neighborhood.

But I am enjoying this time with these questions.  Who knew that Robert was coaching me in that hospital room?  Thanks for the powerful question, Robert!

Grace Always,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Embracing Alaskan Lifestyle

When a church is to receive a new pastor the first task is for their SPRC to complete a church profile.  In this profile they respond to a question by listing the top five qualities they need in a pastor to help them meet their mission.  In many cases I see something like "embrace Alaskan lifestyle."  What do they mean?

They want to know that pastors will come to see and appreciate Alaska the way they see it.  In my expectations for Alaska clergy I write, "In big and small ways show them that you are one of them, that you embrace this Alaskan life in its grandeur and in its sometimes difficult realities."

These photos illustrates this very well.  Pastor Dan Lush of Willow UMC created this cardboard and duct tape kayak for an event at Birchwood Camp last Saturday.  To me it shows a pastor who embraces the quirkiness of Alaska in a creative and fun way.  

One of the things I tell new pastors is that Alaska is a place where the people want us to be ourselves.  They don't abide by phoniness or pretentiousness.  It's about being real and genuine.  

I believe God desires this for all people.  Those of us who know the joy of living and ministering in Alaska know this all to well.  

By the way none of these crafts sank as many had predicted!  Way to go, Dan!

Grace and peace,

Monday, May 7, 2012

Full Time Lay Ministry

Last Sunday I preached and led communion at Turnagain UMC which was a great gift.  Most preachers like to preach and I'm no exception.  But we really enjoy the rhythm of leading worship: the music, hymns, liturgies, prayers, and even the children's time!  I got to do a Sermon in a Sack again.  Great fun!

I told the congregation that I have been bragging about them.  Pastor Bob Smith who is half time has helped them (and me) reframe what it means to be a church with a part time pastor.  In the past we have defined a church by whether or not it could support a full time pastor or not.  If a church moved from full time to part time then this was a bad thing and the goal was to get back to full time as quickly as possible.

Turnagain UMC is talking about full time lay ministry served by a part time pastor.  Do you see the subtle difference?  Instead of the pastor's status being the most important, it is the laity's status that is emphasized.  And the laity are stepping up in our churches served by new part time pastors.  I am concerned about how pastors and laity respect the part time boundary, but so far it seems to be working well.

This does raise questions about how we deploy part time pastors to these full time churches.  Currently, our rules only allow health insurance for pastors serving full time appointments.  Two of the six pastors now receive their health insurance through their spouses' work.  The other four are retired.

All this is to say that the ministry of the laity is very important to the health and vitality of our congregations.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Please Watch this Video

When it comes to understanding the history and culture of native people I think those of us in the dominant culture in America have much to learn.  At the General Conference of the United Methodist Church An Act of Repentance towards Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples was held April 27.  I won't share the highlights here but will simply invite us all to do two things.

1. Watch the video of Dr. George Tinker, native American theologian.

2. Engage one another in dialogue about ways Alaskans can be part of healing relationships with native people in Alaska.

Please....watch the video which includes Dr. Tinker's address and the entire service, and let the conversations happen in your church and community.  Pastors and lay leaders...please forward this link to your congregations and ask them to watch it as well.


Grace Always,