I haven’t abandoned the lectionary altogether—I like it in Advent and Lent—but I preach sermon series more often than not. This article is a good explanation of why.
Now I know that one of the arguments for why the lectionary should be used is that it forces us to have to cover texts we otherwise would not preach on. But, since there are always at least four selections, most of the time I could avoid some troublesome texts, and have found that most preachers do as well.
As I read Rick Ufford-Chase’s reflection on civil disobedience I was reminded of a blog post by Pete Rollins, of whom I am an unabashed fan. Rollins wrote some time ago about religious extremism, and argued that the trouble with fundamentalism isn’t that it’s too violent. It’s that it’s not violent enough. He’s not using the word violent in the sense of bloody. What he means is that…
Read here about the plans underway at Tiny Church for a kid-friendly space in our balcony during worship, which we are calling the Upper Room.
Yesterday we had the first of two scheduled work days to clean out the balcony. Here’s one before photo. You can view the others here; as you can see, there was a lot of stuff up there.
I had no idea what to expect in terms of turnout for the cleanup. I’ve been preaching and announcing about the Upper Room for weeks, and the feedback has been positive. But sometimes in the church (not just my congregation, but church in general), enthusiasm for a project does not always translate to people rolling up their sleeves. I’m happy to report that we had at least 20-25 people stay after worship to box books, move bookcases out, and so forth. They were efficient and good-humored. By the time we were done, the space was empty and vacuumed.
I’ll post pictures.
Of course we have to get rid of/find permanent storage. That will be a huge, not-fun job. (The green couch was taken by someone who bought a small historic building in West Virginia and need to furnish it. She will also take some of the chairs.) The main conundrum is books. There are a few historic books up there amid the boxes, I suspect. But for now anyway, they are out of our way and we can proceed with our plans.
As you can see in the photos, there are elevated platforms up there, which are useful when we need to use the space as overflow, but are a tripping hazard for what we’re envisioning. I thought they were attached to the floor, and that was going to be a pain to rip up carpet and tear those out. Thankfully, they move. We pushed them to the side and stacked them under one of the eaves.
I wrote in a recent post about the emotional energy that’s wrapped up in stuff, for good and for ill. I saw this in evidence yesterday. It overstates things to say that the balcony was dragging the church down energy-wise. But people got a great lift out of clearing it out to make space for something new. There was a lot of junk up there. The desire to be frugal and keep things that might potentially be useful is admirable. It’s good stewardship. But it can also feed into a sense that we don’t deserve new things, that we need to content ourselves with the same-old-same-old. (Another thing that’s going on at Tiny is that we’re cleaning out the kitchen—we recently had a major extermination treatment—and that process, too, will lead us to get rid of some things. Do we need 25 used aluminum baking pans?)
The experience got me thinking about how we do clean-up days at the church. It’s hard to get people out on a Saturday, but people want to help. I started to envision a monthly/bimonthly date on which we ask people to stay 20-25 minutes after worship, then write down small, well-defined tasks and put them in a basket for people to draw and complete.
It also reminds me that, as a leader, I need to expect great things of these folks, because they deliver. My hopes for yesterday were modest—say, to have the books boxed and put in a corner of the balcony—it’s large enough that we could proceed with a corner of the balcony used as storage. But they went way beyond that.
I’m also preaching a sermon series on change, in part to help prepare people for new things happening at Tiny. Yet people have embraced these changes with grace and enthusiasm. I could credit the series for that, but I don’t think that’s it. Churches have a reputation for being change-averse, but there are some places where things have stayed the same so long that people are really ready for new things. Tiny may be one of those places.
As a psychiatrist at the University of Manitoba in Canada, he did study after study trying to tease out exactly what troubled people most about dying. What he found was that what people found most assaulting and annihilating was this idea that who they were would completely cease to exist after their death. And so Chochinov decided to do something about it.
“If the idea of having something that will outlast even you matters for patients that are near the end of life, then we need to do something that will create something that will last beyond … the patient,” he says.
The something that Chochinov decided to create was a formal written narrative of the patient’s life — a document that could be passed on to whomever they chose.
Many of our churches do end-of-life courses and retreats, which include everything from estate planning to living will to planning the memorial service to writing a “spiritual will and testament” of lessons and stories to share with the next generation. Some interesting thoughts here as we plan these events.
Keith Snyder bait: a meditation on belief, narrative and (a)theism:
Fundamentalists of every sect are, pretty much by definition, strongly committed to the literal truth of all of their scripture. But the garden variety “believer,” I suspect, may often be more accurately thought of as a “suspension-of-disbeliever.” (Somewhere in the back of my head is that CollegeHumor video about religion as a species of fanboyism.) When you think about the actual functions that religious narratives serve in people’s lives, literal truth or falsity is often rather beside the point, and yet suspension of disbelief is a necessary condition of immersion in the story. On this view, Richard Dawkins is a little like that guy who keeps pointing out that all the ways superhero physics don’t really make sense.
Dawkins & co. are themselves quite capable of appreciating religious and mythical narratives as narratives. What Rée seems to be positing, though, is that they may underestimate the number of soi-disant Believers who appreciate it on something like the same level.