Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Homeschooling and the Church 2

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

            “Why, big boy,” I forlornly asked, “Are you weeping?  Daddy is carrying you!”
            To cover myself with his mother whom I earnestly wanted to believe I was not neglected our youngest charge, I loudly repeated, “I AM carrying you. What else do you want?”

            “I need mommy, Daddy, I need mommy,” Peter exclaimed.

            Now, these are sublime words to my quickly tiring arms, but, Peter knew, as I knew, that my wife, his “mommy,” was not above implementing a needed maturity lesson, even on a three year. So I persevered.

            With ear shot of my lovely wife, Karen, I subtly but loudly quipped, “Why mommy? Daddy is carrying you just fine, right?”

            “No, Daddy, I so tired that I need Mommy.”

            Well, that was that. I gratefully handed him to my wife and Peter proceeded to tell her about his woes.

            “I am tired mommy. “

            “My feet hurt.”

            What the heck?  I took care of those things for him.  But I was missing the larger point . . .

            His mommy listened to him and hugged him. That is all.  I did that too. But Peter  needed was empathy and love from him mommy.

            Peter reached a point where he needed his mommy. Period. Daddies are ok but the really serious hurts require the mommies–at least in my family. ; And it wasn’t just that Peter wanted to be carried; he needed to share his journey with someone who cared and, if need be, someone who would kiss a boo boo or two. His journey had carried him from comfortable epistemology to uncomfortable metaphysics,  a need for empathy, a need for revelation of the nature of being and beings, existence, time and space, and causality and he preferred his mother as a traveling companion on the latter leg of this summer morning journey.

            Which is one reason I look forward to going to church every week. I want to be with my church family. I want to be with people of faith whose world views extend beyond their epistemology.  My epistemology—everyday struggles and challenges—can only take me so far.  And in Church I find again my way to the Cross.

            I have walked all week to the beach and now I need my church family to help me a little. Lifting my hands in praise and adoration of a God who extends beyond my experience, I relish every praise song, every biblical truth. Out of the fog of doubt and tentativeness, I find in my little mountain church, people who can carry me the last 100 yards, who let me be myself, and love me anyway. They let me tell them the woes of the journey so they can remind me of the joy of the journey.  And, ultimately, we always make it safely to the beach, together!

Homeschooling and the Church 1

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

            Eons ago, I was serving as a summer pastor at Matinicus Island, ME (as in Keep the Light House Burning Abby!, by Peter and Connie Koop). I was  with my whole family, Karen, my wife, and our four children. Summer pastors served congregations for a month or two and for payment we were able to live in the parsonage rent free.

            My duties were pretty light. I preached on Sunday and handled emergencies. But most days we were free to explore this exotic paradise, full of exotic Puffins who delighted us with their reticent composures and dark Russian U-Boats who lingered off the coast in Cold War stealth.

            Almost every day we loaded up our backpacks, and three year old Peter, our youngest son, on our backs and headed to the beach (about a mile away). We aggressively negotiated with Peter him to be a big boy and walk a little. Being a good natured child, he always succumbed to our approbation.

            And he walked for about a mile, bless his heart! Despite occasional excursions–like a  butterfly expedition–and an inconvenient potty break–a task at this stage of his life was generally relegated to the male member of the team (me!). But we made pretty good time and Peter walked with no more encouragement than the nudging of his older sister.

            Inevitably, though, about 100 yards from the beach, Peter began to cry,  “I am tired daddy I am tired!”  Peter, even at age 3 knew that his dad’s commitment to character building, if it meant necessary suffering, was much more fragile than his good mother, and he also took advantage of my detestation of his lamentation.

            So I carried Peter in my arms.

            But my humane intervention could not diminish, much less abrogate, his weeping. In fact, the closer we got to the beach, Peter became even more agitated.


Monday, May 31st, 2010

The Elizabethan Age in some ways has no precedence. The reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) saw England emerge as the leading naval and commercial power of the Western world. England consolidated its position with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, and Elizabeth firmly established the Church of England begun by her father, King Henry VIII .

When Elizabeth assumed the throne the nation was ready to support her.  The alternative was civil war—her father, Henry VIII, made everyone uneasy. His successors, Edward VI and Mary, brought great discord.  Most Englishmen saw the disaster that would result if England divided again over religion.  So, mostly, people decided not to be religious.  In some ways, then, Queen Elizabeth usher in one of the first “secular” regimes in world history.

Elizabeth understood and fervently sought public support for her person and policies.  She was a masterful campaigner and resourceful public relations experts. She embraced Parliament. “Though I be a woman I have as good a courage answerable to my place as ever my father had.  I am your anointed Queen.  I will never by by violence constrained to do anything.  I thank God I am endowed with such qualities that if I were turned out of the realm in my petticoat, I were able to live in any place in Christendom. . . and though you have had, and may have many princes, more mighty and wise sitting in this state, yet you never had, or shall have, any that will be more careful and loving.”

Elizabeth worked hard and surrounded herself with capable counsellors, counsellors who were honest advisors, not sycophants. Her wise rule brought England out of the Middle Ages to the Modern Era.

Her explorers gave her the world.  Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the world and became the most celebrated English sea captain of his generation. Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Walter Raleigh sent colonists eastward in search of profit. European wars brought an influx of continental refugees into England, exposing the Englishman to new cultures. In trade, might, and art, England established an envious pre-eminence.  England experienced a cultural

Hip Saga Continues

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

In 1988 I was serving as a summer pastor at Matinicus Island (as in “Keep the Light House Burning Abby!”), ME. I was there with my whole family, Karen and our four children. Summer pastors served congregations for a month or two and for payment we were able to live in the parsonage rent free during our time there.

My duties were pretty light—I preached on Sunday and handled emergencies. But most days we were free to explore this incredible paradise.

On this day we had loaded up our backpacks, and Peter, who was three, on our backs and headed to the beach (about a mile away). Naturally we aggressively negotiated with Peter trying to persuade him to be a big boy and walk a little. Normally he resisted, but, today, thankfully he agreed to walk.

And he walked for about a mile! Despite occasional excursions—like the “butterfly expedition” and an inconvenient potty break—a task at this stage of his life generally relegated to the second team (me!). But we were making good time and he was walking by himself.

However, about 100 yards from the beach Peter began to cry, “I am tired daddy I am tired!”

No problem. He had gifted me with a glorious unencumbered morning and I actually wanted to carry him the rest of the way.

So I picked him up.

The closer we got to the beach, however, Peter was noticeably agitated. By this time he was weeping loudly.

“Why, big boy,” I asked, “are you crying?”

To cover myself with his mother who I earnestly wanted to believe I was not neglected our youngest charge I loudly added, “I AM carrying you. What else do you want?”

“I need mommy, Daddy, I need mommy.”

I pushed a little further—although I was ok with giving him to his mother—“Why mommy? Daddy is carrying you fine, right?”

“No, Daddy, I so tired that I need mommy. When I feel this way I need mommy.”

I handed him to Karen and he proceeded to tell her about his woes. She did nothing really but listen and hugged him—no special hug but it was a hug and a shake– but Peter looked noticeably better.

Peter reached a point where he needed his mommy. Period. Daddies are ok but the really serious hurts require the mommies—at least in my family. ; And it wasn’t just that Peter wanted to be carried; he needed to share his journey with someone who cared and, if need be, someone who would kiss a boo boo or two.

Which is why I looked forward to going to church the Sunday after I came home from the hospital. I wanted to be with my church family. I wanted to be with people of faith whose world view extended beyond their stethoscopes.

No, I was tired and I needed my church family. The church. I was tired, worn out. I was in sore need of a metaphysical moment. I relished every praise song, lifted my hands too much I know, but I was glad to be home. And, most of all I wanted to hear the Word. Now I am the pastor, and I did preach, but preaching is the best way for me to hear and to respond to the Word. Anyway, I had come home. Out of the fog of morphine, doubt and tentativeness, I found in my little mountain church, last Sunday morning, people who could carry me the last 100 yards, who let me be myself, and loved me anyway.

That is a great church!

Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 18th, 2009

America needs the church to reclaim its systemic importance. Early in its history, the church was the major conduit of social welfare. Several historians have emphasized how critical the church was to the social welfare of the city. In circa 1830 Utica, New York, after a Charles Finney Revival, the women’s welfare society at the local downtown church was the strongest social welfare system extent in the city. And it was extremely effective! Its budget surpassed the city’s social welfare budget–an impressive $3000. With no cost to the city and in the name of Jesus Christ, before the New Deal the downtown church was taking care of the poor and the needy in churches all over the country.

With the collapse of the positive liberal state, and the abandonment by state and federal governments, the city needs its churches again. We who seek to serve God in the city must do social work without being social workers. We must remain the Body of Jesus Christ but we must not flinch in the face of social problems.

William Julius Wilson in The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy argues that Roosevelt’s New Deal, and Johnson’s The Great Society failed because they ignored the most fundamental need of all disadvantaged people: employment. The downtown church is in a strategic place to affect this problem. With our often under-utilized church bureaucracy–secretaries, office managers, and their equipment–we are able to stimulate and to create many small businesses. For example, in my former church, we started a small business that employed forty seasonal employees. Furthermore, we were able to do this business/ministry with no cost to the local Church. It is through these creative ventures/ministries that the Church will reclaim its proper place in the community.

I am not naive. I know that the women association, as laudatory and important their work may be, will not end homelessness in the South Bronx. But working with government, the church can help. Or tongue in cheek–dare I suggest–working in spite of the government, perhaps the church can do the job. Illegitimacy is only one of the many social ills undermining American society. It the government is really serious in its drive against illegitimacy, it perhaps should abolish the welfare system rather than reform it! This is suggested by authors like Charles Murray and Charles Krauthammer. Essentially, personal accountabliity and social responsibility simply cannot be passed on to the state.

Two public policies, according to Charles Murray and William McGowan (a journalist)–welfare for unwed mothers and racial and ethnic quotas–are moving us toward dystopia, a condition in which the quality of life are dreadful.”

As a point in fact, a church in the poorest part of the country, New Horizon, Mississippi, has started a vigorous and successful social welfare intervention in its congregation. Ronnie Crudup, pastor of New Horizon Baptist Church, has shown that churches had make a greater impact than government with less cost to the taxpayer. Clearly, though, to Crudup, spiritual nurturing is a vital part of welfare reform. His church has “adopted” 10 welfare families. New Horizon helped with monthly grocery money, finding employment, caring for the children’s Christmas needs via the church’s Angel Tree project, and meting any back-to-school expenses. In return, the church asks permission to counsel families with drug habits and requires them to attend church. It is working.

Most people agree, that, in the foreseeable future, single family numbers will increase. And most are female led. But, instead of enabling problems–as the government seems to do–the church should encourage families to grow stronger. A mom may be the key.

Most family therapists agree that a mother is critical to the success of a family system. In fact, family counselors are taught that if they can shore up the mother they can probably help the whole family.

Israel needed a mother in the time of Deborah. The city needs mothers. In fact, as we urban pastors know all too well, it is the mothers in our innnercity neighborhoods who hold together the very fabric of our society. The Cotton Patch Gospel interprets Judges 5:7 as “Things were bad until a woman arose . . . we needed a mother!” In 1995 we need a lot of good mothers!

A woman in Deborah’s day had no property or value herself without her husband. If she was infertile she could be divorced. And, in any event, most women died before age thirty. They were married about age 13 and delivered an average of sixteen children (but only five survived). In fact, most women died in childbirth. This was a terrible time to be a woman.

But God again chose the most unlikely candidate to do His work and I am convinced that He could do the same again. A person with no status, with no honor. He knew that she would be flexible in His hand. He knew that Deborah would be easier to use than some self-reliant person who was self-important. No, Deborah was willing to follow the Lord no matter what the cost. Afterall, what did she have to lose? She was unimpressed with the Canaanites because she was impressed by who God is. The Church needs to create moms who are not afraid to take on the whole world. Or, as Dobson is fond of saying, moms who “do not lose their nerve in the face of evil.”

In general Deborah’s community was prehistoric–writing was not yet developed. Traditions, history, and morality was maintained through legends, myths, stories, and songs. In early England these traditions and history were maintained by traveling minstrels, story tellers called Scops. Early English poems were memorized rather than written and were recited by scops, wandering poets who chanted their poems. These minstrels maintained English culture for several generations.

Communities–like churches–need minstrels, men and women of God who tell our story over and over again. When I came to my downtown church, I immediately looked for these minstrels, these preservers of history. I found them. A mother arose among them . . .

Deborah was a singer, a culture creator. But she also was a woman who understood power. Understanding that true power arises from God, not humankind, she led her anemic nation to victory. She was not to be deterred. We need to create these kind of moms in our society.

Today, we need Moms who will not be thwarted from raising their children in Godly ways. Who will not be impressed by the power in the world. Not overwhelmed by the obstacles that exist in our society, real though they may be. But will take control in the name of Christ of their children’s future. And teach them to be impressed and to respect power–but not power and rulers of this world–but God’s authority and His word.

Deborah encouraged her community to defy Baal. To stand against the forces of darkness and to win . . .”Souls are like athletes,” Thomas Merton writes. “And they need opponents worthy of them.” Deborah challenged her community to reach beyond themselves and to find the strength to be and to do all that God wanted them to do and to be.

In summary, as Robert Linthicum writes in his seminal work on the city, God deeply loves the city. Many scriptures evidence this fact (e.g., Ezekiel 16:1-14, Psalm 48). Linthicum, and other Christian writers, remind us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities. In that sense, the church is an important system, or organization, in the city and it needs to act like it. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer urges the church in his last book, “I wish to see the city church return to the center of the city.”


Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Walter Brueggemann, in his book The Land, suggests that there is a pervasive “lostness” in American life. In fact this alienation from one another, threatens all aspects of American culture. The reestablishment of the two-parent home would go a long way to bring back stability into our culture.

In that sense, then, church programs must take into account the broken relationships, the loss of relationships, that an Ellen or Elizabeth are experiencing. For instance, in our church we have a Youth Club, intergenerational experience every Wednesday night. A sort of “family” night, everyone is invited. Everyone is part of a “family” at least once a week. The Church should never lower its standards. On the contrary the Church should unabashedly promote a Christian perspective of family–fidelity to Christian morality.

Likewise, the church must recognize that the actual number of Murphy Browns in America (single mothers by choice with incomes over $50,000 a year) is not even .1% of unwed mothers. The fact is, they need our financial support. They need free childcare provided or all events. And so forth.

But it is true, though, that nontraditional family numbers are growing. Single parents should not be discouraged. We all know inspiring stories of how single parent families have prospered.

Another group that needs our attention is blended families. Now that 46% of all American marriages involve at least one partner who has at least one partner who has been married before, we need to recognize that blended families need special programming and attention.

Next, the church must be unequivocable in its ethical stand that the Word of God must not be compromised. While we celebrate pluralism, without being moralistic or harsh, we need to recognize that not all family forms are right nor equal for the task of raising children.

Churches must accept openly and without prejudice the full range of single families, stepfamilies, and cohabiting families (while making clear such a life style is sinful!).

The church should challenge its families and young people to have higher standards than the world.

Our youth programs should emphasize preparation for life in the egalitarian postmodern family. Since one of the major trends of family life in America is the absence of fathers, boys and young men should be spoken to seriously about commitment and parenting.