Friday, March 21, 2014

Dreaming Big

Most days I have to remind myself that I'm not the boss in charge. Actually, that is God's role. The conference I just joined today (Trent Symposium) focuses on just that. A group of young pastors have come together to learn and practice some of the basics of church business (worship, fellowship, service, stewardship) and we started with a reminder of who we are (children of God) and to what we are called (serving God). The business of the church must all be rooted in our identity in God, lest we be led astray.

God's role is to lead. My role is to pray, to discern, and to dream with God.

Our church community has been dreaming with God recently at our retreat and as I reflect on our gathering I am learning two things:

(1) God's dreams are BIG. They're going to take some time to reach. Small steps and lots of trust will get us there.

(2) God moves powerfully through people present. The energy (of the spirit) is with us always, we just need to show up and commit to doing the worthy work.

The work of discernment is the hardest, I think. Managing, sending emails, showing up, giving of our resources and skills...those are much easier. do this work of discernment together....

During this season of Lent, I invite everyone to join me in praying the psalms. Calvin (theologian) calls the psalms "an anatomy of all parts of the soul." Through the psalms, we learn to pray.... to listen for God's voice. We also gain the courage through the stories of trust of those who have gone before us to take great leaps of faith in following God's will and dream for our lives - both individually and as a community of faith.

Join with me, google the psalms now, Psalm 66 for today and begin praying with me (with us!) for God's dream for you and for MBCC to come.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Urban Pastor

Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by how secular this city is and I wish more people knew and appreciated my identity as a pastor. 

Sometimes I love how I can go completely unnoticed. No one suspects my role as pastor.


This last Wednesday I felt both of these things as I put on my collar and grabbed some ashes to offer ashes and prayer on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). 

Early Morning with intern Lacey Hunter

One of our pastors, Leslie Veen, mentioned last year how protestants always receive their ashes at the end of the day. Wouldn't it be cool to get them first thing? So, as is tradition at Mission Bay Community Church, we set out to try something new. 

It was new for us - hanging out in the train stations and streets of the city instead of holding a worship service in the church building where we normally live. 

I had several reflections from the day:

-  I was amazed by how many strangers approached me with questions. I must have busted the myth of "only males are pastors" about 10 times and had some fascinating conversations about Lent and what the ashes do for our faith.

- I was humbled by the way strangers stepped into the intimate space with me of receiving ashes, recognizing our shared mortality and asking for prayer. It was holy.

- Standing in silence with a sign offering prayer and ashes is my kind of evangelism. Several people eyed me cautiously and a few came forward risking whatever we may offer for the ashes and prayer. Once one person would work up the courage to walk over, others around them would see that we really just were imposing ashes and offering prayer, and then several more people would follow. One woman watched as her friends received ashes, read the scripture verses we had for people to take and said, "You really are just giving out love?" "huh."

My day in a clerical collar on the secular streets of San Francisco taught me that I need to be out there more - meeting God's people. Risking my comfort to mark spaces as holy. 

(left to right) Intern Lacey Hunter, Rev. Dr. Leslie Veen, Rev. Brian King, Elder Tom Pack

(left to right) Rev. Diana Bell, me, Rev. (and mentor) Maggi Henderson 

Good thing I've got some awesome clergy friends and MBCCers who are willing to risk the comfort with me!