Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Airplane Story

I really don't enjoy traveling by plane, but it is a big part of my job and I accept it.  As an introvert I get a bit squirrelly when my personal space is invaded.  On a recent red eye flight from Anchorage to Minneapolis a large man sat next to me.  For over five hours our shoulders and arms were in constant contact.  Every time I dozed he would move and wake me.  Consequently I was not able to sleep at all. 

We live in community whether we like it or not.  Sometimes we choose our community.  Sometimes we do not.  I've said often that when we say yes to following Jesus Christ we give up the right to choose who we will love and who we will not love.  Darn it, Jesus!  I wanted to be mad at that man who kept me up on the plane.  Even though we did not know each other he was still part of my community on that plane.  We were all on that plane and that journey together and nothing could be done about our touching shoulders.

Perhaps part of the spiritual issue for me were my expectations when boarding that plane.  I was expecting to sleep, to be undisturbed.  What if I had given up my right to expect this before I boarded?  Maybe part of my frustration with forced community is that I expect to have my own space. 

The next time you are thrust into close contact with people you don't know and your space is invaded, how will you respond?  With frustration and even anger?  Or a patient spirit and gentle smile? 

God, help me to smile before boarding every plane in the future so that your spirit may flow through me.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ecumenical Partnerships

Do you have a Lutheran, Presbyterian, or Episcopal church in or near your community?  What partnerships does your church have with them?  I would love to hear from you in the comment section below.

Today I met with Bishop Mark Lattime of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Shelley Wickstrom of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Curt Karns, Executive Presbyter of the Yukon Presbytery, and Michael Burke, senior pastor of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Anchorage.

We are genuinely excited to see what God is going to do with our partnerships!  Here's a list of issues we are discussing:
  1. Social justice issues
  2. Video project to train church leaders
  3. Creation care issues
  4. Native ministries
  5. Possible shared office space
  6. New clergy orientation
  7. Church conflict resolution

This is a short list.  We agreed to an annual retreat where we can discuss issues in depth.  We want to keep this somewhat unorganized and free as we respond to the rustlings of the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes when we assign tasks to committees the energy has the potential to dissipate.

I invite you to get to know your ecumenical partners in your community.  And please pray for us as we lead you all towards our mission to grow the kingdom of God in Alaska.

Grace Always,


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Creative Church Conferences

My fourth church conference season is nearly over.  I want to take this time to acknowledge those lay and clergy leaders who responded to my call for some creativity with these gatherings.  I am not a big rule person and love the time I get to share what's on my heart with our churches and to engage in dialogue with what people are thinking and feeling about our ministry.  Here are some of the creative things that have happened this season.

The three Juneau churches held a joint event to highlight their new community youth ministry and for me to lead a Healthy Church workshop.

Soldotna, Kenai, and North Star held a joint event with creative story telling, celebrations, and food.

Ketchikan First and Sitka's conferences were done via Skype.  I will visit Sitka in March to lead a Healthy Church workshop for the church and community.  Next summer I will travel to Ketchikan to experience the community wide Blueberry Festival.

Pastor Tori Hicks of Wasilla Christ First weaved their conference with Sunday worship. 

I continue to be open to new ways of celebrating our connection.  May 2013 be a fruitful year as we lead our congregations and communities for the sake of Christ.

Grace Always,

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Time to Change the UMC Mission Statement?

Last month I was in Seattle attending a joint cabinet meeting.   Bishop Hagiya shared the story of feedback he received from a member of First UMC, Portland, after worship.  Basically, this woman who was very involved in missional activity in the city told the bishop that his sermon which focused on discipleship was not relevant to the people she was engaging in the world.

This sparked a lively conversation in the room.  I think we all understood where this woman was coming from including the bishop.  Are we imposing church language onto the people we are trying to reach?  How important is it that new people participating in new missional communities grasp our mission to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world?  Is it the langugage or the missional concept that is important?

In Alaska we understand that we exist for the sake of mission.  It is vital that we learn the language of the people we serve so we can "translate" the gospel in words and images people can understand.  Is it time the United Methodist Church translate our discipleship language into words that can be embraced by the people we want to serve and bring to faith in Christ?

Grace Always,