Monday, January 27, 2014

On Leaving Alaska

I have been thinking about transitions lately.  It is no wonder since I will begin my ministry as pastor of First UMC, Bend, Oregon, on July 1 of this year.  I really want to leave well.  Five years ago after my final sermon at St. John where I served for ten years a staff member said, "Thank you for not making this all about you."

I really believe that what we do in ministry in Alaska are God-breathed words and actions.  Many go unnoticed and are lost in the fog of history.  But if what we do and say is God's work it will always matter.  God's kingdom being built one act of love at a time, especially with people pushed to the edges of society.

So I want this work to continue and find myself dreaming of a transition plan that will empower and equip the new superintendent.  The Alaska Conference has much to celebrate and build upon for the future.  Here's a short list.

  • Payment of apportionments at 94% last year.  Highest ever.
  • Sale of First Samoan property with money going back into our Legacy Fund.
  • Major funding of leadership development initiatives through the Tuell Center.
  • Imagine No Malaria events in every church has us halfway to our goal of $150,000.
  • New Certified Lay Minister training to begin this spring in Kenai and beyond.
  • Several new faith communities starting with training from the Academy for Missional Wisdom.
  • Cooperative youth ministry in Juneau.
  • Outside the box appointments such as Nome.
  • Significant relationship with our two big sister conferences.
  • Advocacy on social justice issues.
I am grateful to God and everyone in the Alaska conference for this opportunity to serve here.  My work is not completed and there is much to do until summer.  What I do from now on is done with a sense of preparing for the next leader to take up the mantle and carry on.  If you have ideas that will help with this transition please let me know.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

This is a week set aside by the World Council of Churches asking Christians to pray for the unity of the body of Christ.  I respect any endeavor that seeks to eliminate the lines that separate not only Christians, but people.  We live in a world that tries to draw sharp distinctions between people.  Black and white, native and non-native, urban and rural, rich and poor.  Such distinctions lead to labels.  And when we look at people through the single lens of a label we fail to see the fullness of their humanity.

Certainly Jesus desired his followers to be united in love and mission.  But he also showed us how to look at all people with eyes of compassion to see them as whole persons.  People are more than labels.

So during this week of prayer for Christian unity let us also diminish and eliminate the lines that separate us from all people of the world.  Our union with God always comes with a mission to become one with others.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


I have one of those Sunday School perfect attendance medals the Methodist Church used to give to children back in the 50's and 60's.  I earned them all...18 years of perfect attendance.  Other kids used to salute me walking the halls of Grace Methodist in Hamilton, Ohio.
In many of those Sunday School classes faithful teachers (most of them with gray hair) would have us memorize scripture.  To this day I still memorize scripture and prayers from time to time as part of my ongoing faith development.  I want to have a reserve of God words in my head during those critical times when I need a word from God.

This month I am memorizing Thomas Merton's famous prayer.  I have used it on the phone a few times talking with potential pastors praying about coming to Alaska.  It has been deeply helpful to them.  Here is that prayer.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. 
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
 But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. 
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. 
Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
• Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”
© Abbey of Gethsemani
Grace Always,