Monday, October 28, 2013

Mission Insite

I am jazzed!  This morning Crystal and Carlo and I received online orientation about Mission Insite, a resource that provides churches with valuable demographic information about their mission fields.  It is available today at for all Alaska Conference clergy and laity.  Anyone in any of our church has free access to data that is designed to fit your community. 

Do you want to know how many preschoolers live within a 3 mile radius of your church building?
Do you want to know how many Samoans live in a specific area near your building?
Do you want to know the average income levels of people living in your neighborhood?

Mission Insite can give you this information today.  It is FREE to Alaska thanks to Mission Insite and the Pacific Northwest Conference.  Another example of how our big sister conference is helping us. 

Each pastor or layperson from any UM or union church in Alaska can log on and set up their own account.  That way each search or report you generate will be saved.  The amount of information and detail will amaze you.  Carlo Rapanut, as chair of our Board of Congregational Development, and Crystal Feaster, our conference assistant, will be learning the capabilities of this system.  They will be available to show others how it words via webinars or perhaps the clergy retreat.  We hope to present it to our annual conference next year. 

The goal  is to bring a major focus on our mission fields.  We simply need to know more about the people we are trying to serve.  We hope that Mission Insite will become part of our conference vocabulary as we experiment with ways to reach out with the love of God.

You will be hearing more each week in the E-Aurora about this new resource.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Day Alaska

New Day Alaska is the name we are giving to a new missional community in Anchorage.  We are six lay and clergy, UM's and ELCA at the moment, who comprise the lead team.  This is a fruit of the Academy for Missional Wisdom I experienced for two years.  Now is the time to implement what we are learning about how to create new places for new people at the edge.

On Friday, Oct. 25 we will welcome Rev. Kirimi Ikiugu, a Methodist pastor from Kenya.  For the next year he will help us assess the need, network, and begin a new faith community somewhere in Anchorage.  This is a grassroots effort.  We are receiving no institutional funds from any denomination.  But it is ecumenical and we are close to naming four anchor churches from the UMC, ELCA, Presbyterian, and Episcopal churches.
I invite you to pray for us as we launch this new initiative.  We have already seen how God is blessing us with offers of help and funding.  We anticipate some bumps along the way, but we are convinced this is a God-inspired movement.  It is already spreading around the country as the Christian Church tries to retool itself to present a meaningful model of faith to a world in need.

Thanks be to God!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Indigenous People Day

 I am not a fan of celebrating Columbus Day.  I just have an issue with a holiday touting the achievement of a European "discovering" a land that was home to people who had lived here for thousands of years. 
I was talking with Rev. Charles Brower, pastor of Nome Community United Methodist Church, and native Alaskan last week.  He was talking about his contact with a Canadian native woman who is concerned about the effects of colonialism on indigenous people today.  It made me think of the trauma caused to a congregation by a pastor who violates a sacred trust in some way.  Experts talk about the amount of time it requires for a congregation to recover and heal.  They refer to them as "after pastor" congregations.
I wonder if the same thing would apply to entire nations of native people.  Is Alaska an "after colonialist" state?  How deep is the trauma caused by well-intentioned but misguided missionaries and territorial officials when Charlie and other native youth were removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools? 
One thing I believe to be true is that no one can fully comprehend or evaluate the pain of another.  As United Methodist Christians we need to be willing to listen deeply to the hurt of native Alaskans.  People have a deep desire to be known, and part of knowing another is a willingness to hear their pain.
Grace and peace,

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Body Age vs. Mind Age

Today is my birthday.  I have walked this earth for 61 years.  It is weird because I have in my mind an image of a 61 year old man, and I do not fit that image!  Perhaps I am caught up with my baby boomer peers who have always been reluctant to accept the script on how we were to act.  Maybe I am in some form of denial, or immaturity.

As a young pastor I remember visiting Mildred who was 92 and living in a retirement home.  She remarked, "In my mind's eye I am eleven years old romping around my grandfather's farm."  I have always appreciated Mildred's attitude.  She has helped me to have a child like spirit even as my body ages.

There is a difference between childishness and childlikeness.  Jesus teaches us to come to God's kingdom like a child.  I take this to mean expanding our sense of wonder, being grateful for the gifts of life and breath and community, living in the present moment, and asking amazing questions. 

Yes my body is getting older.  But I try to live an active and healthy life.  And my mind age is way younger than my body age.  Thank God for role models like Mildred who show us all how to live as a child of God.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Bigger Part of the Story

None of us fully comprehend the bigger story of peoples' lives.  As pastors and laity we get snapshots.  The advantage laity have over clergy is that if they live in one community for a long time they are privileged to see and know a larger part of the history of their friends and neighbors.  Itinerant UM pastors promise to go where they are sent.  So it is a special gift when we get to be in one place for a long time.  Kim and I have lived in the same house for the past 14 years.  Our four children all graduated from Service High School.

This may be a stretch but today nature presented me with a rare look at a bigger part of one story.  A bull moose was following a cow moose with the drama unfolding in our yard.  First up was the cow eating from our crab apple tree.  Then a bull showed up and laid down ten feet from our front door.  Eventually they got fairly close with the cow whining at him.  It was evident that the bull wanted this cow, but I could not tell if the cow was rejecting him or playing hard to get!

Later I watched a large leafy branch get stuck in the bull's antlers.  I laughed as I imagined him trying to camouflage himself as he sneaked up on the cow. 

Anyway the point is that mother nature gave me a bigger view of this story being played out in my yard in Anchorage, Alaska.  It made me grateful to have witnessed it, even as I realized I would not see the full story as they meandered down the street.

God knows the full story of our lives.  May God grant us the vision, the heart, and the patience to listen to the stories of others. 

Grace Always,