Thursday, June 29, 2006

An Interesting Website

In my search to find something that I can no longer remember what I was looking for, I discovered a church marketing website called, The title kind of threw me but not necessarily in a bad way. Going there I found a slew of church marketing resources and I have now bookmarked it on my computer and here on my blog.

Go on over there and give it a looksee:

Crazy Ministry Statistics

Here are some crazy statistics compiled by the Barna Group (or so it said it was compiled by them, listed on and posted on a pastor/blogger's blog. I am amazed at the statistic that says 1500 pastors leave the ministry every month. Can that be right?! Are there THAT many pastors to begin with? You can read the whole article here.

  • Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
  • Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
  • Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.

The Big Corporate Secret

Here is a follow up movie to 'What the Bleep' with many of the same quantum scientists as guests. In this movie, however, you'll find more 'spiritualists' explaining the secret, from theologians to mystics. It starts out like a Da Vinci Code movie but then goes into a documentary-like presentation. That presentation is equal parts 'Star Wars: the force', prosperity-like philosophy, New Age something-or-other, and 'very interesting stuff'.

The Big Corporate Secret

This movie was available on google's video. I watched it in its entirety and even posted a link here on my blog so you could watch it too. I am guessing someone put it up and shouldn't have (for copyright reasons) and it got pulled off the following day. I am actually updating this particular post to explain why the link doesn't work.

Still, you can view it once for $4.95, which I think is an interesting marketing campaign. Or you can buy the move. You can go to the website and figure out for yourself if you want to do it.

Anyways, I enjoyed the movie and found myself correlating some of the principles from my own faith tradition while at the same time worrying that some other principles were less than appeasing, especially the part about pursuing one's own happiness as the sole reason for our own existence. Still- the movie is providing a food for some hungry folks looking not only for meaning in life but, something our churches may not be providing: interconnectedness.

I guess this pursuit is gaining much ground in our lives. I read a book some time ago called The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho that talks about following your dreams and watching the world conspiring with you to achieve them. I loved the book and found it to be interesting. A lot of people would agree with me it seems, it's a worldwide bestseller.

What the Bleep?

A couple of years ago, a small sleeper movie hit a few theatres in New York City. That movie, "What the Bleep Do We Know?" was about a look at quantum physics and how that study has been undertaken to help explain who we are and why we're here.

What I found interesting about the movie was how it worked with religion and faith to find a purpose that seems to transcend what we think we know. As I watched the movie, I found myself correlating what many gnostic teachers taught about when they spoke of a 'secret knowledge'. Unfortunately for the gnostics of the second century, their knowledge was only for a specific few who either evolved in a special way or for those who payed enough to gain that knowledge (think Scientology of today). In the movie, one finds a mass-market appeal for everyone to gain that 'secret knowledge'.

On a pure secular level though, the movie is quite facinating. I don't have the mind for serious scientific study but the movie is explained by quantum physicists in an entertaining way similar to one of my science professors in college. You'll find yourself in awe watching the movie and at some points going, "Yes, I understand that!"

I hope you enjoy the movie. It is about an hour and a half long. Be sure to turn your speakers up.

The CLASSIC Bugs Bunny Opera

Oh my... you're gonna love this!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A List

I have subscribed to an online personals thing. It it, you look at a profile in which a person describes themselves and what kind of person they are looking for. The following is how this one man describes himself and it's the only thing he has put in the 'About Me' section of his profile. I think it is priceless. I have removed one bullet because, well.. ahem.. my mom reads this blog:

1. I`ll laugh loudly, infectiously (sometimes at myself, sometimes at you)
2. I may have just spelled "infectiously" wrong and I care enough to comment on it
3. I`m a loyalist
4. I promise
5. I`m a part-time dreamer, full-time freedom fighter (not in the Bush the good way)
6. I believe life is music
7. I can take you up on triva on the topics of Madonna to the IMF to Steinbeck
8. I know how to french braid (it got my sister through 3rd grade)
9. I walk with purpose (even when I don`t have one)
10. I believe in forevers
11. I need constant affection to live
12. I have several tells
13. *********************************
14. Let the choir sing
15. I believe anything worth doing, is worth doing muchly and greatly
16. I`m sexually attracted to fire
17. I make lists when I`m too lazy to write a paragraph

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

He Just Doesn't Get It

"As you all very well know, marriage is under vicious attack now, I think from the forces of hell itself. And…I believe with that destruction of marriage will come the decline of Western civilization itself."

—Focus on the Family chairman James Dobson, speaking during his daily radio show, Family News in Focus, on May 30

What is so troubling by this comment (among other things) is that many people actually respect this man. To suggest that me and my friends are from the forces of hell itself because we advocate for gay marriage, makes me wonder what he thinks of those who destroy the environment, steal money from taxpayers, unfairly lobby Congresspersons, get rich off of the backs of the middle-class, send young men and women to their deaths in an unjustified war and use God-talk to justify wars, collateral damage, homelessness, and faulty constructed jetties and poor evacuation strategies from hurriances and other national disasters.

How come he doesn't talk about the affects on the family of the above evils? Why is 'gay marriage' such a unique threat to the American family? How does our American consumerism, both parents wanting more stuff, raising latchkey children, and a healthcare system where more than half the popluation doesn't have healthcare, how do these things affect marriage and the family? Why aren't capitalism and consumerism forces of hell? I think they destroy more families than any lesbian couple living in a small house in Colorado ever could.

I sometimes wonder when evangelical Christianity will ever speak to the real evils of society and actually make a difference for all of us in God's family, rather than only those select few who are going to heaven. This is the main trouble with pursuing a theocratic nation: only those who believe and pursue the Christian God of the most powerful are meant to enjoy and reap the benefits of a rich society. To those who do not hold to such a Christian political view, then the only reward a person can expect is to live off the breadcrumbs and 'common grace' produced by the ruling body. At least that is their aim. Fortunately for us, it'll never work out that way- they'll go on ranting and the real evil forces will continue to thrive, left unchecked to grow, consume, and ultimately destroy.

If only they could wake up in time to actually do some good for us all, then we could see some incredible change. Can you imagine what would happen if all the resources that are being spent against gay marriage could go into fighting hunger and poverty? Can you imagine what good could be accomplished if these religious non-profits urged their followers to conserve energy, recycle, and picket corporations who pollute the environment? Can you imagine the wealth of aid could go to those who are too poor to pay for basic medical care such as yearly physicals that would provide preventitive medical care? Can you imagine how the schools in poorer areas could prosper if evangelical conversatives could rally the senators and congresspersons for equal educational benefits? Can you image what could be accomplished if we attacked illiteracy in the name of Jesus? Or racism, in the name of Jesus?

So much good could be done if only those that have so much influence could only direct their attentions and financial aid to the things that really matter most instead of scapegoating gay and lesbian folk and blaming us for the anticipated fall of Rome. When Rome burns, it won't be because of Bruce and Tom's ceremonial marriage, it'll be because of forces far greater and far greedier than Dobson can imagine.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Now It's Official

I was 'installed' yesterday as the pastor of my church. Woo-hoo!

An installation service is a ceremony where the local UCC denominational association affirms the covenantal relationship between the local church, the UCC, and the new pastor. Normally this is done within the first 3 months of a pastorate but because of scheduling conflicts with the parties involved, it wasn't done until yesterday, a little over 6 months after I began my pastoral office.

Participating in the service is the Conference Minister and a representative from the association. But since this is a big ol' fancy service, there are others who participate too. I had a friend of mine, my former Conference Minister in the New York Conference preach the charging sermon and I had another friend lead in the prayers, she just received a new call at the assistant pastor at a church down in Florida. She and her husband will be leaving this summer for their new home there.

I was very happy to see a lot of my friends some to this service. There were folks from my former congregation, Broadway UCC as well as folks from the congregation where I was a student minister in Scarsdale, NY. With everyone present, the congregation was the fullest I have seen it since Easter. ;)

After the ceremony, my church had a reception that could have fed an army! We all ate so much that we had to be rolled out of the church. There was a bit of leftovers that I now have in my freezer here at home. I will be eating much of that reception food until Christmas.

The church did another wonderful thing. The flowers on the altar for the ceremony were actually house plants. One of our church members is the wife of a flower distributor and a flower arranger in her own right. She is amazing! Through her, the church purchased these huge and beautiful houseplants for inside and a few hanging plants for my front porch. And, there are even a few plants to put in my new garden out front.

All in all, it was a super day yesterday. After everything was done, my who participated in the service came over to the parsonage and we gabbed for hours. It was nice to have them over- and it was a wonderful way to cap an incredible day.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Party Corruption

Here is an excerpt from Randall Balmer's new book, Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament,

America has been kind to religion, but not because the government has imposed religious faith or practice on its citizens. Quite the opposite. Religion has flourished because religious belief and expression have been voluntary, not compulsory. We are a religious people precisely because we have recognized the rights of our citizens to be religious in a different way from us, or even not to be religious at all. We are simultaneously a people of faith and citizens of a pluralistic society, one in which Americans believe that it is inappropriate, even oppressive, to impose the religious views of a minority — or even of a majority — on all of society. That is the genius of America, and it is also the reason that religion thrives here as nowhere else.


The entire article is a laundry list of why the Religious Right is so corrupt and anyone who reads it will agree with at least a few of its points. It's a good read though although Balmer is a bit engaged, so much so one wonders if his broad brush strokes of criticism will do more alienating than eye opening.

Balmer sometimes taught NT classes at Union Seminary and he is one heck of a nice guy; Presently he teached at Barnard College in Manhattan. I am actually a bit surprised in his lament here. But that said, the article is worth reading nonetheless.

Have a looksee and tell me what you think.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Separation of Church and State: Marriage

About two years ago while I was serving as the assistant pastor at Broadway UCC in Manhattan, my senior pastor, Bonnie Rosborough, offered to our Board of Trustees her conviction that she would not longer act as an agent of the state when performing marriage ceremonies. Her proposal was motivated by the issue of gay marriage and she found that if she was to follow her conviction that all people should be entitled to this basic right, regardless of their sexual orientation, then she could no longer in good conscience officiate a marriage ceremony. She said that she would continue to bless heterosexual marriage ceremonies as an agent for God and the church but that she would not sign a marriage license. If a couple wanted that, there would need to be present an agent of the state who would sign and testify to the ceremony performed.

It took me a few months to grasp the magnamity of what she was saying.

But there is another angle to this debate. To honor and value the idea of separation of church and state which is the main idea of the U.S. Constitution, one has to wonder in what ways is the church currently involved in issues of the State. And there is no greater activity than in the course of marriage. The minister, in many ways, validates to the State a marriage. In this way, a recognized clergyperson may indeed cross the boundary meant to be protected by the Constitution.

And, given the conversations by many religious conservatives regarding the idea that allowing gay marriage would undermine their heterosexual marriages and, their argument that the institution of marriage must be protected, one only has to understand that to them, the institution of marriage is a religious institution. And if it is religious, then how can the State best be served when it is supposed to be separated from religion in the first place? It is a complicated matter where the answer isn't as 'cut in stone' as one might suspect.

So then, back to Bonnie's recommendation: Would desolving the relationship and responsibility of the clergy to act as an agent of the state speak to the issue of separating Church from the State? A think thank in London, Ekklesia, seems to think so when it is recommending a conversation in which we think about the ramifications and justifications of removing clergy-officiation of marriage ceremonies altogether. You can read part of the whole story here.

What do you think?

What my mother said..

My mother is so super- she was at her physical therapist last week and commenting on how nice the therapist was, she said: "You are so nice, you simply must be gay."

He isn't, or so he says, but what a nice thing to say, right? He may have felt like that was an odd thing to hear from one of his clients but my mom is surrounded by nice gay men (both her renters and her youngest son (ahem).

I think my mom deserves a Gay Hero of the Day award (if there is such a thing).

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Jackson Pollock Work Break

Here is a fun artsy diversion from work that is fun and creative. Give it a shot. Move your mouse to move the paint. Click your left mouse button to change the color.

It was INSANE, I tell you

Last night (or is that this morning?) at 4:00 a.m., I finally finished putting this buffet/server together. It took me 5 hours and 45 minutes to accomplish. The whole process was fraught with difficulties, unclear directions from a 15 page instruction manual, and my weary and tired eyes trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. On some pieces, I put one thing together only to realize I needed to take it apart because I misunderstood a previous step and had to do it over again.

And then, just as I was about to finally finish, and was a bit elated, and patting myself on the back, I tightened the last remaining screw that affixed the top portion of the cabinet and, using my power drill, I mistakenly tightened the screw too tight and caused a tiny, thin, but very noticable crack on the corner of the unit.


It's made of Brazillian pine and the wood is soft. I am thinking I oughta go buy some glue, borrow a clamp, and then, after everything has set, put a coat or two of polyurithane or shallack on it. I am going today to a church member who is knowledgeable about woodworking to get his advice.

Still, after all the insanity, it does look pretty nice. It is actually darker than the picture. It is the color of dark tobacco and it goes very well in my dining room.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Music Website

I discovered a great new website that I pretty much keep open when I am not listening to my iPod. It is called Pandora and it does something interesting with your favorite music. You simply type in an artist you like and it'll create a playlist of not only that artist but other artists who are similar in style and music to the one you entered.

For instance, I have playlists for Rufus Wainwright. The program plays Rufus and Brian Dolanzi (and I have no idea who he is but he's really good) and Ida and the New Amsterdams and others. I also have playlists for Faron Young (an old Grant Ol' Opry favorite) and it plays him and Little Jimmy Web, Buck Owens, and Merle Haggard (to name a few).

Go ahead, give it a shot. Point your browswer to Oh, and did I mention it's free?! You can pay for the service and it won't show any banner ads but then, I use Firefox as my web browser and pretty much keep the Pandora tab hidden behind my other tabs (so I don't see the banner ads anyway).

Monday, June 12, 2006

Over-reacting yet again...

I receive a weekly email from The Advocate, a slick and shiny LGBT magazine pretaining to news and information for the LGBT crowd. In the email, there was a story about May's issue involving the upcoming release of the new Superman movie.

Here is a blurb from the email article:

Ironically, the Advocate story did not suggest that the superhero is gay but instead described how the secret lives of superheroes resonate with LGBT youth who must conceal important things about themselves. Nevertheless, as the story traveled the Internet and made its way to cable talk TV, it was steadily embroidered and exaggerated until it became something else entirely. By this past week, news outlets were stating that gays are demanding that Superman be gay. One conservative pundit even took Warner Bros. to task for courting the gay audience by suggesting that Superman is gay—something that to our knowledge never happened.

You can read the whole story here (although I just copied most of it in this post.)

Next we'll have the Rev. Jerry Falwell calling for a boycott of the movie because of the 'homosexual agenda's' aim to indoctrinate American kids into the gay lifestyle by reimagining a cultural icon. Fred Phelps will organize a demonstration at his local comic book store and the President will reference it in his next attempt to pass yet another antigay Constitutional Amendment. Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Love this


I returned yesterday from a weekend denominational conference at the Univ of Delaware. It was my first such meeting as a new clergy person in the Central Atlantic Conference of the UCC. The weekend was chock full of meetings, gatherings, and a whole heck of a lot of food.

At the conference, there were several organizations who had set up shop there. Some of them were co-sponsoring the event. Others were selling stuff. And there were still others that were set up to promote a UCC endeavor. One such endeavor was the reminder that racism continues to be alive and well around us. Do help highlight that discussion, there were t-shirts with the words, Eracism on them. I had never heard of this particular campaign before.

Upon returning home, I googled the term and found a host of blogs, websites, and discussion forums. I love the name and the title and it will surely be a conversation starter for whoever wants to talk about racism and its effects in America (and the rest of the world).

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Meaning of Life Explained

On the first day, God created the dog and said: "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of 20 years."

The dog said: "That's a long time to be barking. How about only 10 years and I'll give you back the other 10?"

So God agreed.

On the second day, God created the monkey and said: "Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a 20-year life span"

The monkey said: "Monkey tricks for 20 years? That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back 10 like the dog did?"

And God agreed.

On the third day, God created the cow and said: "You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of 60 years."

The cow said: "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for 60 years. How about 20 and I'll give back the other 40?"

And God agreed again.

On the fourth day, God created man and said: "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you 20 years."

But man said: "Only 20 years? Could you possibly give me my 20, the 40 the cow gave back, the 10 the monkey gave back, and the 10 the dog gave back; that makes 80, okay?"

"Okay," said God, "You asked for it."

So that is why the first 20 years we eat, sleep, play, and enjoy ourselves. For the next 40 years we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next 10 years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last 10 years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Who Is This?

Imagine yourself on the Titanic, 30 minutes after it has collided with the iceberg. Most people on the ship realize there is a crisis, and look to the crew for direction and leadership. The captain, however, is busily assuring people that all is well, that there is no gash in the hull, and that the shortage of lifeboats won't be a problem. The last time you saw him he was meeting with officials from the White Star Line and discussing a fare increase for those in steerage, so that first class passengers could pay less. And as the band strikes up "Nearer My God to Thee," the captain sits down with the chef to revise tomorrow's dinner menu. Isn't it wonderful having a leader who is so steadfast and unchangeable? Full steam ahead!!!! "If anything is amiss," the captain boldly announces, "it is the fault of the ship's barbers. Throwing them overboard will solve all problems!" Such grace, such wisdom, such leadership!

I got this in my email box this morning from Eugene Robinson, a writer at the Washington Post newspaper.
Actually, this was his tagline; he wrote a larger piece critizing Bush's smokescreen effort to draw Americans away from his Iraq, economic, and gas price problems by pushing for another amendment to the Constitution specifically against gay and lesbian Americans. Maybe I'll post that article later, but I found the above scenario quite illustrative.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Pentecost Aflame!

Pentecost is my favorite high holy day in the Christian tradition. I like it more that Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Easter. Pentecost is often observed as the birthday of the Christian church--or rather, the early Christians looked back and said that was the day that motivated their coming together. I love the music, the liturgy, and the opportunity to experience the Spirit's power.

I also like Pentecost because every minister who can do it, has that day as either their Ordination or their Installation services. And this is where the service really comes alive! Yesterday after church (and a funeral in the early afternoon), I went to New York City and watched my last ordination candidate (I was her ordination advisor) get ordained in the Riverside Church. Lasting for 2 hours, Susan Switzer had an incredible service in which the Rev. Barbara Lundblad delivered the message. Rev. Lundblad was both Susan's and mine's preaching professor at Union Seminary. And, she is considered by many to be one of America's foremost preachers. And she was unbelievable! Then, Susan walked up to the front of the church, knelt down, and the congregation gathered around her to lay hands on her as she was ordained.

Checking my watch, it was unfortunate that I couldn't stay longer. Me and a few others at the Ordination service had to leave--we still had one more ceremony to attend: James Campbell's Installation Service at my former church, Broadway UCC.

Accompanied by the former pastor, the Rev. Dr. Bonnie Rosborough, she and I scurried off together to participate in a ceremony that symbolized both the celebration of James as the new pastor at Broadway UCC but also one that symbolized the 'passing of our torches' to James. Bonnie was Broadway's pastor for 20 years and I was its former Assistant and acting-pastor after Bonnie left for a little over 4 years.

James' Installation service was incredible. I have never before or since witnessed or participated in such an extraordinary event. Doug Drake, the music director at Broadway, had a stringed chamber quartet accompanying a huge 15 person choir. For James' service, the entire congregation was packed with friends, collegues, and parishioners. There were also 15 ordained clergy persons participating in the service. With festive music and an incredible liturgy, the service gave you goose bumps, make you cry, and caused a celebratory experience like none other.

Following the service, I gathered with everyone in the Undercroft for James' reception. It was the first time I had seen members of the church since I left 6 months ago. I was so excited to see everyone and it was a truly joyous occasion.

When I got home, I sat down on my couch. I sat down, instead of laying down. I knew if I laid down I would fall asleep on the couch all night. Instead, I sat down, stretched my legs and lazily drooped my head down and, suddently and without thinking about it, I fell asleep right there! I slept for 9 hours sitting on my couch, sitting up. I still can't believe I did that. I was sooooooooo tired.

As I type this now and reflect on my day yesterday, I will count June 4, 2006 as one of the best days I have ever witnessed. Thank you Susan Switzer and James Campbell for your incredible and future ministries--and for letting my both witness and participate in the ceremonies that marked and commissioned your ministerial lives.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Making Room

We will be beginning our new adult education book study on Sunday of the book, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine Pohl. The author of the book is the professor of social ethics at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY.

The book is a wonderful read as it chronicles how people have interpreted the art of hospitality throughout the centuries. And, the hospitality she writes of isn't the one of milk and cookies at social hour. Hers is the care of the stranger which is sometimes very difficult and fraught with challenges.

Reading the book, I have discovered a few incredible quotes. Here is my favorite so far. I am thinking of getting it painted on something and placed on my desk at the church.

"Wherever, whenever, however the Kingdom manifests itself, it is welcome." by Krister Stendahl

Thursday, June 01, 2006

"Heads up Harry,

...there's a new young wizard on his way up." This comment was from a review of the latest sensation of Septimus Heap: Book One titled Magyk by Angie Sage (honestly I don't know what the title of the book is, it has all these titles on the cover). It is the story of a wizarding world somewhat like the world of Harry Potter and yet, somewhat different in that when you read this book you aren't thinking of modern-day London but some time a long time ago where Castles with motes existed alongside bustling villagers selling their wares in the public square.

Still.. I loved the first book. It was so easy to read (I love a thick book that you can devour in an afternoon).

How many fingers is that?

I recently purchased Augusten Burrough's new book, Possible Side Effects. It is a collection of stories from Burrough's perspective. Many of the stories are funny but they are "cute" funny and not disburbingly funny, like his other works. I guess I grew used to that style of writing from him and when I read this book, I found myself comparing him to Gallagher's witty observations.

Burrough's other books, Running with Scizzors, Dry, and Magical Thinking were a trilogy of sorts that told the story of his wacky childhood and his battle with alcoholism and later, sobriety. Burroughs is so well liked around New York (where he lives) that his works are often published in local magazines as well as national ones (such as Details).

So I am a little disappointed in his latest work but not disappointed in a bad way--I guess he's work is becoming the stuff for an older crowd. In some ways, his work is like a gay couple that has been together for 20 years--not exactly boring but for the most part charming, sort of.


You know it's time to start blogging again...

when even your Mom wonders why you haven't been posting.

I have been kind of distracted lately, so much so that when I come home, I find myself less likely to be online and more likely to be doing other things. However, since life at church and my own life seems to be slowing down a bit, I thought it was time to start blogging again.

I came across this really great quote and wanted to put it "out there" for your consideration. Here it is:

The test of a law is not its popularity. In fact, the framers of our government set up the courts to uphold the rule of law, particularly when a law or its interpretation might be unpopular. On the other hand, upholding the will of the people is not part of a judge’s job description. If it were, women might never have won the right to vote and interracial marriage would still be outlawed in many states. And you can be sure in their day, the judges that ruled in favor of extending greater freedoms to minorities were always pinned as activists.

You are can read the whole article here


What I like most about this article is how it pertains to the interpretation of law outside of what is popular and what is right. Surely it must be tough to make that determination esp when so many folks differ on what they *think* is right.