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Sunday, October 05, 2014

One Degree From Don Shula

It was 1978 and I was in sixth grade and in my eyes, my science teacher was as cool as a rock star. In truth, she was a humble nun. Sister Virginia Kenefick had been my science teacher since I began attending at St. Peter's Elementary School in Utica, NY. She was stern and strict. Just what my mother was hoping for when she sent me there two years earlier.

Sister Virginia could never remember my name and frequently called me "Eddie" because I was best friends with Billy Carroll whose real name was Edward and we kind of looked alike. And she loved the Dolphins, and me, and all the kids. And we all knew it.

Early in Sister's career she went to school somewhere near Baltimore. There was a faithful member of the Baltimore Colts staff that attended mass regularly and became a friend of Sister's. Eventually that staff member got a new job as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. His name was Don Shula and his storied, Hall of Fame career went on to be legendary. Having a science teacher who was friends with an NFL head coach was possibly one of the coolest things ever to 11 year old me.

Every year the Buffalo Bills played the Miami Dolphins at Rich Stadium in Buffalo and it became must see TV for St. Peter's boys. Why? Don Shula always sent tickets for Sister Virginia to come to the game and walk the sidelines. We watched every minute of the game looking for a glimpse of our short, robust nun amongst the giant football players.

Back to 1978. One day in science class she was presented with a huge bouquet of roses and a box. They were a gift from Coach Shula in honor of Sister Virginia's 25th year of serving God as a nun. Inside the box was a football autographed by all the Miami Dolphins! Certainly this was the most memorable day of my St. Peter's career.

I saw Sister Virginia last year for the first time since I left St. Peter's in 1979. I had gone to the Franciscan Motherhouse on Court St. to pick up some cards with St. Marianne on them and to Nun Better Chocolates for the obvious. While I was there I made the acquaintance of a couple of beautiful nuns who took me on a tour of the museum for St. Marianne and the Motherhouse.

I shared some of my own story and ancestry. St. Joseph's-St. Patrick's has been my family's parish since the 1850's when my great-great grandfather, John Schreck and his brothers, Franz, Bartholomew and Peter emigrated from Bavaria and settled into the German community of West Utica. They lived within blocks of the church and were neighbors of and parishioners with the family of Peter Cope and their daughter, Barbara, who would become St. Marianne. I always affectionately call Mother Marianne an old friend of the family. She has become an inspiration for my ministry, but I'll save that sermon for another day.

As I was walking and talking with the nuns, I mentioned my cousin who is part of the community, Sister Mary Louise Williams. She descends from my great-great grandfather's brother Franz. The nuns told me of another cousin I have there who I have yet to meet and we then met another sister who was from St. Joe's - St. Pat's.

I spoke of my time served at St. Peter's and some of the nuns I remembered. When I mentioned Sister Virginia, my new friend immediately stopped and said, "Do you want to go up and see her?" "Absolutely." I was stunned and in truth, a little scared. I was expecting that she would tell me to stand up straight, stop scuffing my feet and make sure I didn't have any chewing gum in my mouth.

Secretly I was hoping she would call me Eddy but she couldn't call me anything at all. She had had a stroke and couldn't speak. Sister sat in an easy chair watching TV with several other of the community who had suffered with a variety of debilitating illnesses. She grinned broadly at having a visitor. She was just as I remembered her.

Even though I don't think she could recall me specifically, it was obvious she was thrilled that I remembered her and came to visit. I told her about my family and my ministry as an Anglican priest, and deep within my heart I had hoped she was proud of me even though I wasn't Catholic anymore. I have always known that my calling into ministry was strongly influenced by my youth and the godly impact of the community of St. Peter's, especially Sister Virginia, Sister Honora, Sister Christine, Fr. Felix Colosimo and others.

Before I left I teased Sister a little, "Well Sister, you can't yell at me for misbehaving now can you?". She laughed. I hugged and kissed her on the forehead and told her I loved her. That was the last time I saw her.

Sister Virginia passed away last week on October 1st. I thank God for her life and look forward to the day when I will be reunited with her and all the saints who have gone before me.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Perspective: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and God's Grace

Back in February of this year we had one erratic week in our house with my 13 year old son. On Monday of that week he was just ornery and difficult, giving his mother fits about getting his schoolwork done.  Not just the routine resistance of the average 13 year old, but more of a defiance to the point of exasperation. On Tuesday, without provocation he joyfully made a full dinner for the family.

On Wednesday evening the roommate of my neighbor across the street, came over and knocked on the door. Now he is a little odd to begin with, but when I answered the door he kind of stuttered and was stressed.  "S-s-s-someone here is shining a laser on the TV and on ME and that, that, that is j-j-just not right! You can't do that to someone."  I apologized profusely and agreed it was not right. After closing the door and an angry inquiry, my son admitted it was him. I didn't know whether to laugh or kill him.

On Friday evening we went to my 10 year old son's Upward basketball game. After the game was over as my wife and I were socializing with some of the other parents, my 13 y/o comes running up to me. "Dad, c'mon. This lady has a flat tire and we're going to fix it for her."  I really wasn't interested in going out in single digit degree, snowy, weather but how do you turn down a kid that wants to do good?  So we go out there. He finds the jack, jacks up the car, gets the tire off and then we had some complications as to where was the spare and how to get it off.  It took us a good 45 minutes to get it done with the help of a few others -- who my son got involved to help us. We froze, literally almost to the point of frost bite, but got it done. After we got in the car he said, "Wow Dad, it feels really great to help people like that. I'm really glad we did that." What a good Samaritan! I was so proud. I wondered what happened to the kid with the laser. All in all, it was a schizophrenic week.

Fast forward five months.  Ben, an avid baseball player, had been struggling at the plate. He's had an injury that hampered him but mostly he was just in a frustrating slump.  We traveled with another family to a game about 45 minutes away.  After walking and scoring in the first inning, he was up again in the third. He struck out looking horrible. He was furious after each bad swing. On the third strike he slammed his bat down but the catcher dropped the ball so he ran for first. The catcher fired it down to first base but the ball got past the fielder. Ben rounded first but was still clearly irate. What he didn't notice is the second baseman backed up the play, fielded the ball and threw it back to first. Ben turned to go back and was tagged out. Now even more irate he launched his helmet off his head across the field. The ump pointed and said, "You're gone." He was ejected from the game.

My wife called during the next inning, wanting to know how the game was going.  I awkwardly told her, "Not that great."  As I was, she was heartbroken and furious. But during the next few innings of watching my son not play, I kept hearing, what I think was from the Lord, to keep this in perspective. And then I remembered February.

On the next afternoon after this notorious game, I came home from a bike ride. My wife said she just spoke to a neighbor whose autistic son was missing. Both my older sons, immediately stopped what they were doing and left the house and started combing the neighborhood for the boy. They spent nearly 2 hours jogging, walking and biking through our neighborhood and the nearby streets.  Thankfully he was found, not by us, but I was so pleased that my sons assessed the seriousness of the situation and without being asked, just started looking.  That was character a parent wants to see in a kid.

In the weeks beyond these incidents I have been reflecting on how complicated kids are.  There's good, there's bad and there's ugly.  And they aren't all that unlike their parents. Who some days are preaching great sermons, loving the outcasts and helping the poor. And the next day lusting, complaining, lashing out at others in anger, failing miserably at their prayer life and other unmentionable sins.

And sometimes I am so wrapped up in the guilt and shame of my own helmet throwing incidents that I let them mark time in my world and keep a perpetual memory of them. And I then I fail to give the same import to those incidents where I stopped, dropped and inconvenienced myself to help those in need -- where I was a good Samaritan.  In other words, my perspective, and I think most of our perspectives, are seen through broken incomplete lenses.

Whereas, our savior, Jesus Christ, has a complete, grace filled perspective.  He doesn't mark time by noting all our ejections, nor even our good Samaritan moments. He marks time by his grace in our lives that empowers us for good and heals our shame from the bad.  And I want to suggest that we need to begin letting that grace fill our minds as we evaluate our lives and the incidents with which we mark time.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Are You Growing Spiritually? How Do You Know?

1 Peter 2:For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I see my doctor every couple months as there are issues that we are trying to manage related to certain bloodwork results. We have a basic chart that shows us a history of where we started, when we tried certain medications and got off them, where we changed diet and exercise, etc. I can map my progress or lack of it. I have markers -- points and times where I checked and noted my progress.  But it wasn't just me that checked. Somebody else, namely a laboratory, had to check for me. I needed help to identify the problem, manage the problem and track the problem.

At our church Bible study recently we studied the above passage and I was struck by the words "are yours and are increasing".  How do you know if they are increasing? Have you checked? Has anyone else? Do you have any evidence other than a subjective feeling that says, my faith is growing, I am becoming more virtuous, my affection for the saints is growing, etc.?

I remember in seminary, John Weborg used to say, "Memory is half imagination."  We don't have perfect memories. An so consequently, we do not have perfect views of ourselves. We need help to know ourselves.  

I often say to people, "Tell me what your back looks like. In detail. Where are the freckles, birthmarks, blemishes or hair? What's your skin look like back there?"  They don't know. And none of us find out without the help of another person or object (mirror) to show us.  There are parts of us that are very public that we don't know what they look like, we can't see and need help for us to know know.

We need something similar to a physician or soul friend for our spiritual lives as well. We need a long term friend to walk with us and help us see ourselves, even the parts that we can't see alone.

At our Bible study I suggested journaling as a possible helpful tool. Long term work with a journal where we pour out our souls to God in prayer, record significant and sometimes insignificant events in our lives, and elaborate on our heart's condition could help us know if "these qualities are [y]ours and increasing" as the text above says.

But we're not meant to live the Christian life alone. We need someone to have our back and to journey with us to help us to see ourselves.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Start 'em Young

Acolytes do several jobs through out the worship service at St. Andrew's. They serve as the Crucifer, one who leads the procession carrying the cross into and out of the service. They also assist the priest or deacon at the table as they prepare holy communion and assist in the receiving offerings. Acolytes are essentially the priest's lackeys. :)

These past two weeks in church we have had 2 new acolytes. Both of them beautiful 7 year old girls.Their only job was to be the Crucifer, while another acolyte assisted with other responsibilities. I'm not sure about the Rectors before me, but I sensed that when I suggested it that the church hadn't started them this young before.

We did very little training.  Maybe a quick rehearsal about 15 minutes before the service.  They both did great. The church was beaming as these little girls served our Lord. Their parents blew up Facebook with cute photos. It was probably bad form for me, the priest, to have my cell phone out in the service taking photos but I did so unashamedly. I love these kids.

I gave them each a little pep talk, letting them know that we, the church, and Jesus, our Lord, were proud of them and for them to not worry about or be embarrassed by mistakes. I make mistakes every week. Sometimes my whole sermon is a mistake but I digress. Both girls did their job flawlessly, were vigilant and at full attention.

I remember when my family was part of a church plant here in Syracuse called Catalyst. Everybody had a role in set-up and tear-down -- even children. My kids took that very seriously. Church changed for them after that experience. They were no longer just coming for someone to teach them something. They came to serve. That was the highlight for them.  My older ones are teens now and they still serve in church running video or sound, caring for kids in nursery and leading children's church.

My hope is this experience changes these kids as well. I hope to see them become life long servants of Jesus Christ. When they put on their vestments I hope they have a sense of pride and dignity, and feel a belonging to the body of Christ that spills over into the way they conduct themselves day in and day out.

For many, many years I have thought there was just something wrong with churches who just sent kids to Sunday School, Children's Church, VBS, etc. and treated them as if they were just empty little heads that we had to pour Bible knowledge into to get them to grow up Christian. They need more than just knowledge, they need experience in service and training in areas to serve and pray.

Seven years old and they have begun serving as Crucifers. Maybe when they are 10 I'll have them serve as Lay Readers, reading the Scriptures and leading us in prayer. Maybe when they are 25 they'll become my assistant ministers getting ready to take my job.

Glory to God!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Growing Churches

Assemblies of God 2012 Statistics Released | Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

When speaking of the body of Christ, St. Paul says, "if one part is honored every part rejoices with it." Let's all rejoice with the Assemblies of God. They are growing. In fact, their growth outpaced the population growth in the 2011-2012 year.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Top female porn star finds Jesus | God Reports

Top female porn star finds Jesus | God Reports

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Anglican Pentecostal: The Prayer Station

Anglican Pentecostal: The Prayer Station

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Bivocational Ministry. My New Ministry Paradigm.

Pastor-And: Real Talk on Bivocational Ministry | Kevin Scott

Ministry is so different for me these days than in years past. And that is good! My beloved friend Scott Emery linked a blog post on Facebook today about Bivocational ministry, which is my world right now that I am wrestling with (and feeling like I am losing the match, I might add).

I posted a reply to the blog and felt like I wanted to add it here and develop it further as a blog post.

I was a full-time pastor for a decade. Then worked for a parachurch organization for a couple years, unemployed for a couple and now bivocational. Now, I am an Anglican priest and run a small web design business plus work as an investigator (it’s unique and complicated). I also have a large busy family where we homeschool. A couple of things I learned …

As a f/t clergy, I had no real appreciation for the great effort lay people put into their ministries. Life can be so complex trying to balance work, spiritual life, care for your family, Little League, dance, time for my spouse & friends, small groups, leadership team, specialized ministries at church, etc. As a full-time pastor I used to feel like lay people didn’t understand my world and to some extent they still don’t. HOWEVER, what was equally true is how little I understood their world. Being bi-vocational keeps me appreciating the great servants of the church who are not clergy and the herculean effort they put forth for the Kingdom. Their faithfulness to the Lord is amazing. I often try to tell the people at church that I love and appreciate them. I don't know if they understand how much my heart swells with gladness that I get to serve alongside them.

I was never the pastor to be completely sheltered from the unchurched because of my evangelistic mindset. However, most of those relationships were friendships. Now as a small business owner and investigator, I have working partnerships with many outside the church world. It’s different — and better for me. I think I’m a better pastor — more motivated with a more realistic worldview — for working outside the church culture.

There may come a time in the future where I am full-time again. I’ll do what the Lord wants. But I kind of hope not.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Poor Man's Lyle Schaller

Celebration of Life Service Set for Larry Sherman

That's how I often referred to Larry Sherman, Associate Superintendent for the Great Lakes Conference -- as "a poor man's Lyle Schaller".

Everybody in ministry, particularly those over 45, knows who Lyle Schaller is.  He's written books and articles, spoken at ministry conferences, and is a genius on all things related to church life, growth and health.  His ministry has been a gift to the church for decades.  He's an expert with national name recognition.

Larry Sherman did not have Schaller's name recognition.  I don't know if he was published at all.  But the genius the Lyle Schaller gave to the church over the past decades, Larry Sherman had been doing with equal effectiveness

Larry knew it all.  Every time I started to see a new fad in the church, something I never heard about before: I would call Larry.  Sure enough, he knew all about it.  He knew about missional church stuff before it was cool to be missional. He knew about planting church campuses before there was anything published about it.  He knew about the emergent church -- strengths and weaknesses -- before anyone else I knew did.  Absolutely any topic related to church planting, church cultural trends, church growth patterns, leadership, governance, finances, health and dysfunction in congregational life -- Larry was an expert and had a bibliography of what I needed to read to learn more.  His insights were invaluable to me.

He wasn't just a smart guy.  He was a holy, godly man.  There was no deceit or false pretense about Larry.  I've seen him have very frank conversations with church leadership about difficult subjects, but never did he do so maliciously, vindictively or with even the least amount of smugness.  Never heard him talk inappropriately.  And as anyone who knew him knows, he truly loved his family, the Lord and the people he was called to serve.  Even in difficult circumstances he was positive, hopeful, direct, honest and caring.

I have so many good memories of Larry.  We served together on the Prayer and Evangelism team in the Covenant. We did evangelism seminars together at GLC churches.  He always made time for coffee or a meal with me when he came to town.  He answered literally dozens of questions about stuff I wanted to know about or would help me think through whatever whacky idea I had in mind.

What I will always remember Larry for is his compassion for me.  During a time of underemployment in 2002, he would call to check on me and was an advocate for me with churches who might be looking for a pastor.  He always asked about my wife and kids. 

My last memory of him was of just a couple weeks ago at the GLC Ministerium Annual Meeting where he playful greeted me as, "The Right Rev. Father Evans!" and congratulated me on my ordination to the priesthood.  That day at our meeting he gave another of his brilliant presentations about his ministry and church planting and growth in the GLC.

Larry's death seems untimely at 60 years of age in the throes of a vibrant ministry.  Certainly it was unexpected.  But Larry's ministry will not end.  He raised up leaders in so many places and no doubt one of his protege will take his leadership mantle.  Though no one will take his place in our hearts.  Further, because of his leadership literally thousands of people will have come to know Christ as Savior.  Some of them also will carry on his legacy.

I was unable to attend his funeral in Detroit which is distressing me greatly.  When his funeral was happening today I was keeping pitch count at Little League.  I know he would have been pleased.  Many people plant trees in memory of a loved one.  We should all plant churches in memory of Larry. 

Thank you Lord for the gift of Larry Lee Sherman.  That was one of the better ones you have ever given me.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Fastest Growing Denomination in the US

Covenant Companion | Trends

The Evangelical Covenant Church grew by 33% between 2000 and 2010. Nice.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Following Jesus in Prayer for Our Enemies

So let's just assume for a moment that Jesus wasn't messing around when he said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." I wonder how often he thinks we should do this. Every day? Multiple times a day? Annually?  I'm guessing at least occasionally, right?

Well, here's a little something to help you pray for your enemies: a web site devoted to listing terrorists to pray for.  It tells you a little about how bad they are, a nice mug shot and how many people have signed up to pray for them.

Adopt a Terrorist for Prayer

I'm thinking about adding this to the prayers of the people in church on Sundays.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Just a Question About Prayer

So I'm not asking about the rightness or wrongness.  Not asking for a theological debate.  Just use your imagination for a moment:

How would it effect your prayer life if you believed that by praying you could change God's mind?

I listened to some sermons recently by Jack Deere and Michael Rowntree at Wellspring Church that talked about that very thing. There is plenty of Scripture that points in that direction.

My worry in prayer is always more that God would give me what I asked for instead of what's best, good, right, healthy or more fun for me. My prayers too often focus on pain reduction and comfort enhancement, and in truth, it's that pain and discomfort that might make me be the best me.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rethinking Everything and Post-Christian Syracuse

I'm experiencing some dissonance in my life between my experience and what I "know" to be true.

On the one hand, I believe we are entering a new dark ages. My radar tells me that we are entering a period of steep moral decline, mass economic poverty, widespread ignorance and academic failure, decline in the arts, the disintegration of religious institutions and their positive impact on society, and are on the verge of widespread violence, particularly in places like the U.S. where peace once reigned. Yeah, I know you think I'm nuts.  Which leads me to this link that a friend posted on Facebook today.

REVISED_41513_Secular_States_Barna_Cities_Site_F4.jpg (JPEG Image, 745�נ1466 pixels) - Scaled (40%)

Syracuse is ranked #16 on the chart of Most Post-Christian cities.  Albany (#1) and Buffalo (#8) are higher with Rochester (#21) close behind.  A post-Christian culture is one where Christianity is no longer the dominant meta-narrative amongst the people's beliefs.  It's a unchurched culture -- one that doesn't go to church and has no history of ever going to church, as opposed to a dechurched culture -- one that has a memory of church and Christianity, even if it isn't currently practiced.

Many of my evangelical friends locally frequently talk about how we are living in a post-Christian context. I have been saying this for a very long time. I remember as far back as the early '90's when a friend of mine worked at Lechmere's, an electronics boutique that used to be in what was then known as Carousel Mall, now Destiny USA. On the loading dock one day he got fed up with a co-worker's filthy language. After the guy uttered a "Jesus Christ" as an expletive again for the umpteenth time, my friend said to him, "I didn't know you were a religious guy."  The guy was dumb founded and said, "Religious guy?"  My buddy said, "Yeah, you keep talking about Jesus Christ."  The guy replied with all seriousness, "What's Jesus Christ have to do with religion?"

That happened circa 1990, plus or minus a few years, right at the same time my mother-in-law told me the story of shopping for an Easter card.  She overheard two other shoppers near her have this conversation, "Look at this! Now they are trying to make Easter a religious holiday!" as she held up an Easter card. Incredulously the other said, "I can't believe they would do that." True story.

Yet my experience these days doesn't match up with either the linked chart above or of my friend or mother-in-law -- especially since I started wearing a collar and am the pastor of an Anglican (traditional) church. In the last several months since being ordained first a deacon and now a priest in the Anglican church, my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of ministry opportunities. If my evangelical friends knew what I have experienced since I started wearing a clergy shirt with a collar, they would run to the store to get one.

My experience here in Central New York tells me that so many people are still lapsed or marginally practicing Roman Catholics or even evangelicals, instead of being "Post-Christian". Further, it has shown me that many just don't know what to do with evangelicals.  Not in an exasperated sense but literally just don't know how to relate. 

People seem to relate more easily when I say, "St. Andrew's", or that I'm a "priest", or when I describe my church service, which is liturgical. Amongst unchurched people, I have found deep suspicion of evangelicals or evangelical churches.  It's like they don't know what do with a church name that's not traditional.

Now that I am also, "Fr. Steve" as well as "Pastor Steve", I find unchurched people more comfortable with my priestly role.  It's like they know how to relate to me, despite the fact I'm married and have kids.  At the same time Evangelicals are confused and suspicious of me!

When I have the collar on and am in public, people smile and talk to me all the time.  Stuff that never happened as an evangelical pastor.  I have so many more opportunities to pray for people and sometimes, exhort them, even strongly to follow Christ.  Stuff that if I would have tried as an evangelical I would have been marginalized as being pushy.  I don't wear a clerical shirt every day, but when I do and I'm out in public I seem to have new and wonderful ministry experiences that never happened to me in my 15+ years as an evangelical pastor.

Now I'm sure, there is something else going on also.  I'm sure there are people who look at me as a creeper to watch out for and make sure I'm not near their kids.  This because of the Roman Catholic priest abuse scandal. And I really have no way to gauge that as those who have that visceral experience keep away.

So I'm having some real dissonance with knowing that we are in a Post-Christian culture and at the same time experiencing tremendous ministry opportunity in a traditional setting.  And I'm loving it. :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ordination Photo

Bishop Doc Loomis praying over me at my ordination to the Anglican priesthood on February 23, 2013.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Church Advertising

I admit it. I like to push the envelope, though substantially less than I used to.  Here's the beginning of a couple of new ads I'd like to run for the church -- either print or media.  The second one I have run previously for a different church in a different market in the form of television and radio ads and it worked very successfully. Had phone calls to the church within the first hour of my first spot.

I'm making my wife nervous.

Here are the beginning lines for each ad ....

"Contrary to popular belief God's last name isn't Damn. But He does know your name and invites you to St. Andrew's this Sunday to get more familiar with Him. :)  "

"God really doesn't mind when you shout His name in the bedroom. He would just like you to sing it at church also. Come to St. Andrew's this Sunday. Try it out. :) "

Monday, April 08, 2013

Memory and the Church

At church this week my wife challenged adults and kids to a memory challenge, encouraging them to memorize some Scripture and the Apostles Creed and Lord's Prayer. What a great challenge indeed.

I often wonder about our ability to use our memory and it's relation to our ability to grow spiritually as a disciple of Christ. Does God see spiritual growth like we do? In our North American evangelical Christian culture, some of the aspects we view as spiritual growth are the ability to know (i.e. recall) and appropriately implement Scripture in our lives, have a good bank of theological orthodox knowledge, our ability to pray, speak to others about our faith, and serve others in areas of giftedness. Much of these are memory dependent.

At the same time, all the news media this past week has been running the story about the growing cost of healthy coverage due to the seemingly growing epidemic of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. Other popular stories of the week have been about mental illness, suicide and depression and autism.  While it's obvious in the case of dementia related illnesses, depression, mental illness and autism all have significant memory related components as well.

Which leads me to wondering about how does God view spiritual growth and discipleship in persons with dementia, mental illness, depression or who are on the autism spectrum.  Does He have any expectations at all?  In light of the fact that these are growing populations in our current culture, how does He expect the church to minister to them? What expectations should the church have?

When memory is compromised, how do we view ourselves as disciples? How do evangelize persons with memory issues and disciple persons within our churches that are memory impaired?

My hunch is that the church is woefully under-prepared to disciple these person, though certainly able to lovingly care for them. In fact for many churches, I wonder if it's on their radar at all.

Well, here are some memory hacks to put to good use to memorize some Scripture. I put a couple below that would be good for the memory bank. I felt convicted to memorize some more Scripture this week:

Top 10 Memory Hacks

Drastically Improve Your Memory by Building a Memory Palace

1 John 1:8-9:  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 Peter 4:8-9 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Peter 4:9-10 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 12:28-29: 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

2 Timothy 1:9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time ...

1 Thessalonians 5:15-18  15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Why I Became An Anglican Priest

On February 23 I was ordained an Anglican priest. It was a wonderful and joyous event. This happened over 15 years after I was first ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church in 1997. The ordinations were very different.

The Covenant one happened at the denomination Annual Meeting in a hotel ballroom with a couple dozen other godly men and women with several Covenant leaders laying hands on me.  My most poignant memory is of Paul Larsen, then President of the Covenant Church, laying hands and saying, "Bless this evangelist."  Since it was in San Diego and my church was in Cleveland, I felt really honored when one couple from my church was there.

The Anglican one happened in a borrowed historic Gothic church where the ordination service was just for me and was attended by my whole church.  Bishop Doc Loomis laid hands on me and invited the other clergy present to join him, and he did so with a nod toward apostolic succession, in recognition that this ordination is to represent an unbroken chain back to the Apostles.  The love poured out on me by my church and +Doc will forever be with me.

I've received a lot of questions recently about this journey recently. "What is it you like about the Anglican Church? What attracted to the Anglican Church?" And sometimes it's asked in such a way, "What do you like better about the Anglicans?" Amongst some -- not all -- of my colleagues there has been a hint of contempt like, "Oh, you think your better than us now?"

Others see me dressed in a clergy shirt or chasuble and wonder about my evangelical faith. I look and talk too Catholic for them.

So why did I do this? First, let me assure you, it wasn't for the money. Here's the long painful truth. I did this because I believe it was what God was leading me to do. Is that so bad?

During the long painful "dry season" of 2008-2010 when I was substantially unemployed, I received a word from the Lord that my next position would come without me submitting a resume and that I would be sought out for it.  That is exactly what happened when I became the Interim-Pastor at St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Syracuse..

After I served there for a just a short time, I fell in love with the church.  I admire them for their tenacity to stand for the Gospel, to endure hardship, to personally sacrifice their resources for their church, and for their graciousness towards others. And I really liked how they treated me and how they received my ministry. It became obvious we were a good fit and we both felt God led us to each other. So I continued the journey to first become ordained a Deacon, and then, ordained a priest.  This was not a small, inexpensive paper pushing process but I'm glad I did it and thank St. Andrew's for their support.

It's not like I have a new girlfriend now and gave up on an old one. I still really love the Covenant Church and feel a part of it.  I still go to ministerial meetings, am still an ordained clergy in good standing and am a member of a Covenant Church. Shoot, I still read the Covenant Companion every month cover to cover.

My wife works Grace Covenant Church (which makes our Sunday mornings very complicated) where I worship when I have Sundays off and it seems that I am there all the time for kids or special events. It's not like I'm mad at the Covenant Church, don't like them any more, or would never serve a Covenant Church again. It's just this is where I am today by God's leading and grace. Who knows? Maybe I'll be Eastern Orthodox next, though that is very doubtful due to my inability to grow a real beard.

It's not like they are all that different.  The Covenant Church and the Anglican world that I am a part of are not all that different despite some very clear distinctions.  Certainly the difference in ecclesiology is huge with the Anglican episcopacy and the Covenant's congregationalism.  But both are sacramental, both are broad evangelical movements emphasizing faith essentials eschewing rigid legalism, both have strong church planting movements, both view themselves as a 'via media' though I think the Covenant does less so these days, both receive life giving ethos from their reformation histories, both hold very high views of Scripture.

All that said, I do like the Anglican way of worship and church life. I love being a priest and feel very at home with the collar and vestments on during worship on Sunday. I really like having an episcopacy. Most of all, I like being part of a three streams movement that is Catholic, Evangelical and Charismatic.

I offer all this for some clarification of the crazy journey that is my life.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Facebook & Real Relationships

Saw an old friend I hadn't seen in a couple years. Not even sure if we've communicated other traded "Happy Birthday" greetings on each other's Facebook walls. We had never been close but we're friends. Now on FB I generally follow what my other several hundred friends are doing as best I can. Certainly not every single detail but I scan the newsfeed daily. What a great joy it was to talk about stuff we saw happening in each other's lives. He asked about my son's baseball and commented about my beautiful family in a photo. I did the same. There was a sense of closeness in our friendship. We felt connected -- real, honest feelings of warmth. Is it really a false connection?

All the time lately I hear from Christian leaders who are giving up FB for "real relationships" and that FB gives a false sense of intimacy and pseudo-relationships. So many leaders are down on social media. "It's such a huge time waster." Really? I am honestly really thankful for things that have happened in my life due to FB. I love FB for a lot of reasons ... 

There's a lot of people that I pray for. Yeah, I'm a guy who believes that prayer makes a difference -- that God answers prayer. So I pray for a lot of people ... my cousin who moved, my wife's cousin needs a job, another cousin started a business, a former parishioner with cancer, a local acquaintance with cancer, a colleague getting married & going back to school, another former parishioner in a bad relationship, prayers of thanksgiving for the healthy birth of a friend's grandson, a former co-worker's husband's heart transplant, another friend starting a new ministry, and more situations than I can mention. I'm so glad I know what's going on and I can pray. There's just not enough time to keep that level of connected via phone calls or letters. 

So many of my family are on FB now across the generational spectrum. There's a sense of closeness with each other that we felt when we were kids. So much so that we ended up using FB to facilitate a family reunion, something we hadn't had in years but had really wanted. I know, I know -- people have had reunions for years without FB and if we really wanted it we would have done it. That's true. But FB gave us the framework for capitalizing on the love we had for one another and the ability to cut through schedule and communication barriers. 

Several times a month I get a FB message from someone who reaches out to me for advice on their life, often on their spiritual life because I am a pastor/priest. I'm helping people find a new church, get healing from their last church, sharing the Scriptures, etc. Often times it's persons that I haven't seen or talked to physically in years and years, or that I only have a cyber-relationship with. But trust has been built as we've observed each other or FB stalked each other over the years. Sometimes pseudo-relationships have resulted in real people worship the true living God. 

Was it a pseudo-relationship when I was able to raise some funds to help out a guy living with no heat in the dead of a upstate New York winter? What about when we were able to utilize FB to collect coats, hats, gloves, etc. for Burmese kids that were freezing because they didn't have appropriate winter clothes? We've had several similar situations. Real or pseudo, it felt pretty real when these people had warm homes and bodies, dry feet and hands. 

We probably could not have not what we did as easily as we did if we did not have the relationship capital that was built via FB. That's right. It's not just about FB as a mode of communication that facilitated requests to multiple persons. There is also the relationship capital built through "likes", birthday greetings, commentating on statuses and photos, celebrating joys and mourning losses, networking when needs occur, and reaching out via messaging when obvious crises or difficulties occurred. When we do those things, good will occurs and bonds of affection are enhanced. So much so that when we do run into each other there's a great sense of joy -- maybe even greater -- because of the connection and relationship building that happened online. 

Maybe FB is a waste of time but I really like the real life joy and warmth it produces in a variety of ways.

Back in Action

Haven't posted in forever, but have really had so much on mind recently that I wanted to blog about. I'm on vacation for the next couple weeks so let's see if I can get my blog-groove on again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Revelation Song -- Advent Style

During Advent 2012 we needed some more Advent worship music. We try to adhere to the church year and not sing Christmas songs before the day and season of Christmas. So in a moment of inspiration (or insanity) I played with the lyrics of great worship song, Revelation Song, and added some Advent-styled lyrics.  

Verse 1
Worthy is the
Lamb who was slain
Holy, holy is He.

Sing a new song,
to Him who sits on
Heaven's mercy seat.  

Verse 2
Worthy is the
Babe of Mary
Holy, holy is He.

Son of David,
Root of Jesse,
Born a child and king.  

Verse 3
Prepare the way of,
the one who is Lord,
Holy, holy is He.
Son of David,
Root of Jesse,
Christ the coming King.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come.
With all creation I sing, praise to the King of Kings;
you are my everything and I will adore you.

Obviously verse 1 is part of the original song and it really is more attuned to Good Friday but we sang it with the rest of the new verses and it worked.

May all honor and glory be unto you O Lord my God and Redeemer. Amen

Sunday, September 02, 2012



Many are familiar with the Alpha Course, an Intro to Christianity Course developed by Anglican church in London, and its success over the past decades.  That success has faded some in recent years, at least in part, due to the the fact that more and more people are so unchurched that even the Alpha Course is too churchy for them.  So we need something pre-Alpha.

Some churches are using the Alpha Marriage and Parenting courses as precursors to inviting someone to Alpha.  But today I discovered the Uglyduckling. It appears to be a ministry support for those wishing to do evangelism. It attempts to get the conversation started with those who are extremely unchurched.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


Anything that points our attention to Jesus is from Him.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Ultra Rev's Anglican Ordination Announcement

This coming Sunday, August 19, 10 am, I will be ordained as an Anglican Deacon by Bishop Doc Loomis of the Anglican Mission at St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Syracuse. All are welcome to join us for this festive event.