Thursday, July 31, 2008

Notes from Orlando, Day One

Here we are in Orlando, and today was Day One at the School of Congregational Development.

It felt a little like we limped into the event, which was kind of disappointing. The welcome and opening music were extremely low-key -- almost as if those organizing the event weren't quite ready for it to start, or maybe that they've done it so many times before that it ceases to inspire any excitement or energy -- but fortunately things are picking up a bit.

We heard a great sermon from Bishop Minerva Carcano this afternoon. She is a great storyteller. I especially appreciated her stories about visiting with church planters in the Philippines, where there is such passion for sharing the Gospel with nonbelievers, and about Christians ministering to immigrants on both sides of the border with Mexico. Clearly she is a faithful servant leader, and I appreciate her impassioned witness.

I am participating in an urban ministry track, called "God at the Crossroads in the City," led by Kelvin Sauls of the General Board of Discipleship. Here are a few nuggets from our first track session:
  • More churches are closing in urban contexts than anywhere else.
  • Cities are at the crossroads.
  • Churches are at the crossroads.
  • Cities are coming alive again. Urban flight is over, and people have moved back -- not the same people who left, but young people, many of them single.
  • Urban churches have mostly reorganized to serve the poor, but those coming back to the cities are not necessarily the poor.
  • How do we undertake an innovative both/and ministry that cares for the poor and advocates for the poor, while engaging newcomers?
  • Newcomers to the city are experiencing "Post-Suburban Syndrome" as they react against the decisions their parents made. They are not churchy, but spiritual. They don't care about denominational labels. Largely, they think the church is irrelevant to their lives. They may not come to a worship service, but they're eager to engage worship through service.

And a couple of nuggets from tonight's plenary with Ed Jones, founding pastor of The Living Water UMC in Pearland, Texas, which we received as a live feed from Grand Rapids, the second site for this year's School of Congregational Development:

  • We must lead from the overflow of our devotional life.
  • Take the values off your charts and plant them in people's hearts.
  • Pray for eyes and hearts to notice what Jesus notices.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

And the summer is flying by!

Probably no one else has noticed, but last night on the telephone, my father-in-law said, "I haven't seen any new posts on your blog in a while" -- so I guess it's time!

A few random thoughts:

I counseled for a week of Middle School Camp at Rolling Ridge, our United Methodist retreat center in North Andover, MA. Pictures here.

On Sunday afternoon, we had a special family birthday party for Rachel, who turned two last Friday. Pictures of our fun on Friday here, and pictures of the party here.

We are leaving today for Orlando (such a great time of year to visit Orlando!) for the School of Congregational Development. Erica and Carlie from New Light are going with us. It should be a good time of learning and connecting with others who share our passion for helping communities of faith to thrive.

I had a great time with my 13-year-old nephew, Jake, who came on Sunday and stayed until Tuesday morning. Among other things, we saw The Dark Knight and had crazy-delicious ice-cream at Cold Stone Creamery in the Old Port.

Super exciting developments for Chestnut UMC - the small established congregation we serve here in Portland, Maine - and by association, for New Light as well. It's too early to be specific, but excitement is in the air! I'll disclose all the specifics as soon as I can...

My alma mater, Boston University School of Theology, has announced the appointment of a new dean. I'm impressed and hopeful!

My brother, Brian, has written a second book -- a wonderful resource book with facts about every U.S. president, their vice-presidents, and their Cabinets. It will be published soon, and I'll be sure to post a link.

Summer blessings!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Catching Up...

~ We had a great time at the family camp on Center Pond on the Fourth of July... good food, time with family, kayaking, swimming, sleeping on the porch, lots of (illegal) fireworks over the pond... good times.

~ I'm praying for my friend David and his whole family as his father, Jim, is in critical condition at Maine Medical Center. Pray, please.

~ It was fun helping Ben & Melissa move into their new parsonage in Haverhill, MA last week. We're excited for them as they begin their new ministry there - another clergy couple sharing an appointment and imagining exciting new ways of being church!

~ I spent some time this week - overnight and a meeting the following day - at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, CT, which will be the site of our New England School of Congregational Development in November. I'm on the planning team, and it's coming together. What an amazing facility!

~ Next week I'm at Rolling Ridge, counseling with middle schoolers for the week. Pray for us!

~ We're looking forward to a couple of days with Paul Nixon, our new coach, coming up. Paul is pastor of Epicenter Church in D.C. and author of the book I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church.

~ We're also looking forward to the School of Congregational Development in Orlando, July 31 - August 5. Anyone else going to be there?

~ Fingers crossed for a possible new site for worship and ministry... We're not there yet, but it feels like we're making good progress...

~ Rachel turns two on July 25. Is that really possible?

~ Where is the summer going already? And how do I make it stop?

Friday, July 04, 2008

An Independence Day Prayer

by Kerry Walters

Lord, we are a mighty empire,
proud of our arms and our wealth.
We fancy they make us independent.
We believe they are signs of our righteousness.

But arms and wealth -- they are idols,
abominable in your sight.
They stunt our hearts and bind our spirits.
They breed fear, distrust, arrogance, greed.

The temple we have raised for them is called
Fortress America.
We are prisoner-priests within its walls.

Move us this day, good Lord,
to yearn for real independence.
Open our eyes to our self-imposed shackles.
Rip asunder the veil of our temple-fortress.

Stir our hearts, that we might seek
vulnerability rather than power
service rather than dominion
peace rather than war
reconciliation rather than preemption.

Inspire us to witness to the world by
demolishing our killing instruments of war
giving our wealth to the needy
practicing apostolic simplicity
forgiving our debtors
and renouncing our mania to be a superpower.

Let us repent of empire, gracious God,
that we might embrace your Kingdom. Amen.


The Rev. Kerry Walters is an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church, peace activist, author, and co-editor of Episcopal Peace Witness.