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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Death to Pragmatism & Efficiency Part Deux

My church was known for its extravagance -- emphasis on was. Being located in Watertown, NY, about 8 miles from Lake Ontario and 25 minutes to the St. Lawrence River, Trinity Church formerly had its own yacht club on the lake. That's right, its own yacht club.

The current parish house was built in 1912 as a gift from Emma Flower Taylor, in memory of her father, Roswell Flower, and uncle, Anson Flower. The structure she had built replaced a parish house that was only 24 years old! The elder Flowers had paid for the church to be built earlier. Here is a quote from the history on the Trinity web site about the current parish house:
"The present parish house, designed by Philadelphia, PA architects Watson and Huckel, served as a social and recreational center for the entire community, and was built with an auditorium, gymnasium, bowling alleys, and swimming pool."
The Parish House also had apartments for curates (priests in training) and what is currently my office was formerly the billiards room. The bowling alleys are gone, the swimming pool has a deck over it and is the AA room, the gymnasium is still used, and the auditorium has become the Great Hall.

This whole story reminds me of articles that St. Brad of Abet has posted about "third spaces." People have places where they work and live, but what is currently missing in our culture is a "third space" or location where community & friendships are built and lived out. Trinity would certainly have been that at one point.

Ten years after the parish house was rebuilt, the church sanctuary was redone. Again from the web site:
"In the sanctuary in 1922, the entire chancel area was rebuilt to include the present marble altar, reredos, and altar and chancel rails. Marble tiles were later laid in the aisles, and other redecorations and renovations were carried out."
During the time frame all this happened, rinky dink little Watertown had more millionaires per capita than any other city in America. It was these wealthy Episcopalians that spent all this money. Oh yeah, and they had another church built so their servants would have a place to go to church. Wasn't that nice? Certainly one wouldn't want their servants to go to church with one's self.

For a long time I sneered at them, ranting about how that money could have been better spent. Now certainly the church didn't have a big impact for the Gospel. It was more a social club. But I think I've changed my mind on the extravagance of it all.

What if churches became known as wealthy and extraordinarily generous? What if one of the distinguishing characteristics of God's people was that they always appeared blessed? They had enough for themselves but even more so, they appeared almost insane in the amount that they gave away? What if they appeared so confident in God's provision for them?

I'm just thinking out loud here, which is always dangerous. I could change my mind later this afternoon. But I wonder what kind of witness that would be, if God's people appeared so blessed, wouldn't that be an attractive witness for the Gospel?

As it is now, God's people never appear to have enough. They are always having fund drives, auctions, rummage sales, pledges, car washes, solicitation letters and the like, to get the money for something God has called them to do. I see a lot of mediocrity, cost cutting measures and worry about where the money will come from. Is that really God "just building our faith" or is it something else? Why does it appear that God is never extravagant and His people never really appear blessed to the point of overflowing abundance?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Pope Innocent III Action Figure

Get your own Pope action figure: Pope Innocent III Action Figure

Jesus Nodder

Bobblehead Jesus: Jesus Nodder

Jesus Playing Hoops Statue

Angel Snot

What happens when an angel sneezes? Angel Snot.

Mary Soap

Take a shower with Mary.

Syracuse Obituaries

This little boy drowned at a church picnic. My wife's older sister's husband is the associate pastor there. My wife's brother found him at the bottom of the pool and pulled him up. A horrible tragedy. The kid's parents said he wanted to grow up and be a missionary.

New Religion

Why doesn't orthodox Christianity support Mormonism? Is it because they proclaim a new revelation from God? I remember visiting the home of a friend whose father was president of the stake in Syracuse. He made the comparison that just as the New Testament, which led to Christianity, is to the Old Testament, so Mormonism is to the NT. But essentially, orthodox Christians don't agree with Mormons on issues of salvation, revelation, scripture, who the person of Jesus Christ is and other things.

Now I ask you, what is the difference between Mormonism and the Episcopal Church USA? Like Mormonism, ECUSA has all the trappings of Christianity. Frank Griswold believes in a new revelation that supercedes scripture. John Spong doesn't believe that Jesus really died for our sins. Charles Bennison believes that "we wrote the scriptures once, we can write them again."

I think the Episcopal Church has essentially become an offshoot of Christianity -- a new religion.

VirtueOnline: African Anglicans Make New Push to Split

Very signficant article. This a glimpse to the future, where worldwide Anglicanism thrives under the leadership of African Bishops.

Note to Homebuyers

If you buy a home in Dec/Jan, and you see a field next door, inquire about the field. Perhaps they are planting corn in the field, as they are next to my house. I never inquired about the field when I purchased my house nearly 2.5 years ago.

Now, during a blistering hot week, where the temps are in the 90's and humidity is nearly 100% and I have no air conditioning, I'm wishing I had asked about the field. Because the manure spreader went by yesterday and smell of fresh farm fragrance permeates the air. There is just no relief from the stench or heat/humidity.

Lord have mercy.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Note that nakedreligion has a new address. It's nice looking, like the author behind it. He even linked me. I'm honored.

Harmon Killebrew

One of my favorite baseball stories of all time is about Harmon Killebrew. I've cut & pasted here from a recent mailing I got from the Hall of Fame ...

This Wednesday, on June 29, Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew, who spent all but one of his 22 seasons with the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins, will celebrate his 69th birthday. Born in 1936 in the small town of Payette, Idaho, Killebrew remembers learning the game of baseball at an early age.

"My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard," recalled Killebrew last year during Induction Weekend. "Mother would come out and say, 'You're tearing up the grass'; 'We're not raising grass,' Dad would reply. 'We're raising boys.'"

The Killebrews ultimately raised one of baseball's great power hitters, as their son tallied 573 home runs in his career, which ranked fifth all-time at the time of his retirement in 1975. The 11-time All-Star won the American League MVP Award in 1969, when he led the league in home runs, RBI, walks, and on-base percentage.

Friday, June 24, 2005


I can't decide: Should God's people be the wealthiest in the world or the poorest people on the planet? It could be a matter of semantics. What do we mean by wealthy and poor? Maybe those aren't even the right categories or the right question to ask. Maybe we are just supposed to be the people who have given the most away. But I wonder.

¡Death to Pragmatism & Efficiency!

Where in the Bible are pragmatism and efficiency held up as values? I need some help with this one. They may be there and I don't know it. But I doubt it. I'm thinking and ranting out loud at the moment so don't hold me to any of it.

Is efficiency the opposite of blessing? I'm thinking of when God was to release the Hebrew people from captivity and he promised them a new land, a land over flowing with milk & honey. This new land was to be extravagantly joyous and brimming with the produce of the earth. He wanted to bless them, not just be efficient? Where is God ever efficient? That just doesn't seem to be his style.

Now one might say, God was efficient in his production of Manna (bread from heaven) when His people were in the wilderness and also when he was feeding Elijah & the widow at Zarephath. He gave them just enough for that day. But then again, when He was feeding with fish and loaves there was an abundance -- 12 baskets leftover was a lot considering he started with a not enough for one basket. When he gave the disciples fishing advice and told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, He gave them a super-abundant supply of fish. Jesus also said, you shall have life and have it to the full -- not the minimum.

When the church is being efficient we ask certain questions. We look for the bare minimum we need. We look to give or spend the minimum amount. We look for how to get a project done quickly, as if we didn't do as quick as possible, we some how aren't doing it right.

God is a god of blessing. I think he likes to bless. It seems that blessing really isn't about the bottom line. Blessing is about giving in such a manner that provides more than necessary. I know. I can hear it now. "More than necessary? That's wasteful. That's not godly either. What about the starving people in the world?" But there was left over Manna every day and the people were not able to keep the extra. I'll bet there were starving people in the world then also.

Question: Can God bless someone with abundance or even extravagance and still have poor people in the world, or is every rich person supposed to eventually become poor and just be a vehicle for the transference of wealth? Is God's desire ever for someone to enjoy wealth and it's privileges, even when there are poor people some place else in the world?

Another thought: how about when God gave instructions to the Israelite priests and temple builders. They weren't to use just any linens but fine, expensive, extravagantly beautiful linens. They were not to use just any wood, metal or stones, but precious metals and gorgeous gem stones and fine cedars.

But this is not so with the current people of God from the evangelical strain. I suppose not just them, but they are one of my favorite targets. Ever been part of a building project? They are forever searching for how to cut corners and do it for the bare minimum. "Can't we get some of own people to do it or do it at a discount?" "No one really needs more than 1200 ansi lumens any way." "Dial-up is good enough."

Or how about when we set pastors salaries? Do we look to bless? I doubt it. Basically we don't want him or her to have more than common person gets? Often it's based on what does the local school teacher get paid. Leaders think that's a safe number. It won't look like we're being extravagant and the congregation won't get mad at us. And it will keep him or her humble. Church leaders think: no one goes into ministry to get rich, and we'll make sure of it.

I think it really gets out of hand when there are multiple staff. The associate pastor gets a percentage of the senior pastor and the youth pastor gets less than that. Why? Efficiency and pragmatism. Are the senior pastor's responsibilities that much more important, or are they just different? Is there really a good reason other than tradition, efficiency & pragmatism to give the associate staff less than the senior or lead pastor?

After a while this conversation always takes a turn. Eventually someone says, "Let's get real." In other words, "Let's be pragmatic." Sure God is a god of blessing in theory. But in realty, His people are tight-wads and will only give if we cajole them just right, send them a t-shirt and are as efficient and pragmatic as possible. We do things like check the five star efficiency rating of our favorite charities at Wall Watchers. If it's good, we give. It it's not, we are suspect of them being hucksters and ungodly, because certainly "God's people would be efficient."

Assuming that we've heard God's call correctly: I wonder if we should really be making plans for building new churches, or setting pastors salaries, or creating new ministries, or giving to the poor as if the money wasn't going to run out. I guess I wonder if we should be acting as if God was really providing for us, and He didn't want us to just get by but wanted to bless us. Is He an efficient God or a God of blessing or something altogether different?

I, for one, am tired of serving the God who makes us cut corners to get by and never seems to have any extra, and never, ever appears extravagant.

More to come on Emma Flower Taylor and Episcopal wealth ...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Carter Evans 2005 Pinewood Derby Champ!

My son Carter won his Royal Rangers Pinewood Derby tonight at New Life Christian Church in DePauville, NY. His car raced 8 times with 7 wins and 1 tie. Congratulations Carter!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Covenant News - Palmberg Calls Church to Remain Faithful to God's Call

Here's the lead story about the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church. I'll bet the Episcopal Church wishes it was having this much fun.

VirtueOnline-News - Viewpoints

The Bishop I serve under, The Rt. Rev. Gladstone "Skip" Adams is mentioned in this article as "Revisionist". Without question, he is the Bishop with the absolutely coolest name of any Bishop anywhere.

What does David Virtue mean when he says "revisionist"? In another article posted on his site, Dr. William G. Witt writes:

"Contrary to the Selectivist approach, which recognizes forthrightly that the Bible condemns same-sex activity, a second type of attempt to justify same-sex activity could be called "Revisionist" in the sense that it tries to revise the traditional interpretation of Scripture concerning homosexual activity. Revisionists argue that it is a misunderstanding to say that the Bible prohibits all same-sex activity. To the contrary, Scripture does not condemn loving committed same-sex relations, and loving committed relationships are the only kind of sexual relationships the Church is interested in endorsing. What was condemned by the writers of Scripture was either exploitative same-sex activity, pederasty, or cult prostitution.[10]"

Skip might be a revisionist. I actually don't know. However, when he is painted as "revisionist" without any explanation I think that is unfair. I wrote to David Virture and told him so. Here is my email to David (edited):

Dear David,

Thank you so much for your very fine journalism and web site. I am a faithful reader and send many people your way.

I am the Associate Pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church in Watertown, NY in the Diocese of Central New York. I am ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church (the same denomination as St. Barnabas in Austin, TX) but serve as Trinity's youth pastor and lead ¡alive@5!, an alternative worship service on Sunday evenings.

You can view the ¡alive@5! band online ...
God of Wonders
Light The Fire Again
Spirit In The Sky
or visit our unofficial site: ¡alive@5!

After reading your piece on the Diocese of CNY I wanted to add a few comments ...

Bishop Adams knows that I am an evangelical to the core. He knows that I disagree with his vote on VGR and that I am not supportive of homosexuality as a lifestyle.

However, he could not be more supportive of my ministry and of me personally. Revisionist or not, he certainly isn't attacking easy evangelical targets like me -- just the opposite. He knows me, my band and youth group leaders. He knows we target the unchurched and preach that people need to be converted Christ. And he has been extremely supportive and even once suggested I become an Episcopal priest.

I currently work half-time for Trinity and half-time for the [an evangelist], coordinating [an evangelistic crusade]. This is a crusade-style evangelistic event to take place next week. You can see the details at: [...]. Again, Bishop Adams knows of my ministry there but has never in any way suggested I not be involved or been unsupportive of me.

Beyond all that, Skip Adams is a decent human being who really does care for all his priests -- even the orthodox ones who make life difficult for him. I know this from very personal, frank conversations with him.

When you label him "Revisionist" with little explanation, it is easy to think he's just another Charles Bennison, Jack Spong or some other wacko, heretic bishop that you report on. He's not. We disagree on important issues, but Skip Adams is honestly trying to follow Christ as best he knows how and certainly isn't out to persecute the orthodox. His humility is exemplary. I consider him my friend and the ¡alive@5! people love him deeply.

The five churches you mentioned are NOT the only orthodox parishes in the Diocese. Fr. CharlHendersonson of Emmanuel Church in Adams and Zion Church in Pierrepont Manor, has his M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Seminary and is a solid evangelical theologian.

There are also 2 other orthodox retired priests in the North Country (upper Central New York), Fr. Walter Giles, who pastors 3 parishes in Lowville, Copenhagen and Carthage, and Fr. Richard Clay, inactive due to serious cancer. Though their parishes may be small, the gospel is preached there.

All three of these priests are close personal friends of mine, and I can confidently speak on their behalf to say, though they disagree on key issues with Bishop Adams, they respect him and feel supported by him.

Fr. Henderson, a member of his parish, Karen Richmond, and Fr. Giles' wife, Patty, are also part of The North Country Encounter Leadership Team.

Thank you again for your web site and hard work. I hope you will consider printing some more information about Bishop Adams other just labeling him as "Revisionist" and pastoring a dying diocese. That doesn't tell the whole story.

PEACE -- [theultrarev]

One thing I really appreciate about David Virture is he is faithful in responding to email sent to him, and gracious when doing so. I won't print David's responses other than to say he was gracious and humble.

One more thing to say about Skip: he seems much more gracious than the priests in his diocese who are labled orthodox and conservative. Now granted, I am not in their shoes as an actual priest, but from as near as I can figure they are nasty and beligerant to Skip. It might be helpful if the "orthodox" were seen as a little more loving, but I suppose there is a degree of righteous anger and indignation.

VirtueOnline: NOTTINGHAM: ECUSA Shameless in Its Defense of a New Gospel

This article and the one linked below adequately describe the position of the Episcopal *church* (kinda like calling the Latter Day Saints a *chuch*) on homosexuality. If you want to understand where they are on this issue, these are a couple of definitive articles.

VirtueOnline-News - Exclusives - NOTTINGHAM: Episcopal Church Reaffirms Position on Homosexuality

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Encounter Over

The North Country Encounter is over. Nearly 12,000 people attended our events and 520 people made some sort of public profession of faith. This was a great project to work and for the past 2 weeks it has taken all my time and energy. I'm attempting to recover.

Now I have a void to fill in my life. What next? Plant a church? Planting a new church is always a good idea. There's never a bad time to plant a church in God's economy.

I like the feeling of doing something that I'm called to do. When I was in OH I put up with a lot crap because I knew I was called. And working for the Encounter for the past several months was also a clear calling. Now I need a new calling, or more immediately, something to pay the bills.

Evans & Tate Winery in Australia

Tried an excellent new wine today. It's a 2004 Sauvignon Blanc called Gnangara, produced by the Evans & Tate winery in western Australia. Slightly sweet, very refreshing without a lot of oak barrel flavor. It does have distinct tastes when served cold or at room temp. While it was good on it's own, I particularly enjoyed it with cold, leftover Domino's pizza with a ham topping. Including tax, the total was $10.75. I splurged today.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

More props

There's a great Nazarene church in our town with two first rate pastors. Not only are they super funny, great leaders but are also really humble servants of God: Greg Gates, senior pastor and Dan Hazelton, associate pastor.

So here it is Encounter week. They haven't had a leadership position on the Encounter Team to this point but have been fully supportive in every way imaginable. But this week, the two of them cleared their schedule and offer to do anything we need. They have been at the arena every day to do something ... loan their church van, unload sound and lighting equipment, run camera, run errands, encourage people, pray and serve, serve, serve with great attitudes. Never sought any props or perks for themselves but just looked for ways to help.

I marvel at guys like this. Here they are, pastors of one of the city's biggest and most successful churches, both are really super bright and they clearly have leadership gifts. But instead of taking over or volunteering to do only certain things, they show up to take orders from others and are willing to do anything. Instead of working the Encounter into their schedule, they made it their schedule.

These are two more people who have impacted me this week and caused me to look heavenward in thanksgiving, and caused me to look inward to evaluate how I am serving God and others.


Encounter Pictures

Michael Tait



Lief Horrell

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Cavallario's Cucina

OK. I know I've blogged my favorite restaurant previously ... like twice. But it's my blog so here I go again.

Pete & Brenda Cavallario are some of the finest Christian people I know. I like them mostly because they are Pentecostals with a nice selection of wines in their restaurant. A great combination of the Spirit and spirits.

Hey, now there's the name of my new bar: The Spirit's Spirits.

Back to Pete & Brenda. When I think of P&B I literally get tears in my eyes and my heart is overwhelmed with love, gratitude, friendship, respect, honor and the deepest appreciation for people I consider heroes. For the past 3 days of the Encounter they have not only fed us but truly blessed us.

When I was in VA taking care of Toby Mac and the other bands and seeing how they were welcomed (or not) I drove home thinking "We'll do much better in Watertown." And Brenda's name came to mind. I knew she was the person for the job. I came home to a meeting, which Pete was at and he announced Brenda wanted that job. God was recruiting for me.

Now in Watertown: picture your basic aluminum, drab, cement floor, barn style ice arena. Enter Brenda in the picture. She gets piping and drapes, white table clothes, vases of flowers, fruits, cheeses, snacks and she creates cafes inside the arena for hospitality areas for the Encounter Team and the special guests. Incredible. Tonight we had garlic mashpotatoes, roast beef, cheese cake, and sauteed vegetables.

Every night after the event is over, the Encounter team goes out for a late dinner, fellowship and to debrief about the evening. For the past 2 nights P&B have opened their restaurant after hours, fully staffed and fed us all incredible Italian cuisine all at their expense. And threw a birthday party last night for my boss. Oh yeah, they fed us lunch both days also.

This is on top of Pete's work as Finance Chair of the Encounter, where he worked tirelessly recruiting people, soliciting donations, attending meetings, making bank deposits and served as a leader exemplar. And they hosted several other dinners and lunches over the past months -- where they wouldn't let us pay! -- all for the purpose of the Encounter, ultimately as an act of worship, blessing and to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I'm a better human being and Christian for having them in my life. They have demonstrated faithfulness, sacrificial giving, grace, joy and hospitality in such a fashion that I want to be like them in serving Christ.

Pete & Brenda, I love you. Thanks for your friendship, love and discipling me without saying nary a word. Most of all, thanks for feeding me! I love the Rigattoni Pomodoro, the sweet sausage soup and especially the scallops.


I never pay to go to a concert. I just don't. That is extravagant money for me. There are about a million things I need to do with my money before I pay for a concert. Yet tonight at the North Country Encounter Michael TAIT (formerly of DC Talk) put on an incredible show. It was about 40 minutes long and best of all it was free. I loved it! What a great show! It was very loud at 115 decibels at the sound board which was about 30 rows back. I've got a clip from my camera that is not high quality but kinda kewl. I'll see about getting that up soon.

I forget how much I love concerts until I'm at one. A couple of months ago I went to a similar event in VA and saw Audio A, Toby Mac, Kutlass, The Crabb Family, Carla Karst, etc. I really do love a good concert and I highly recommend Audio A, Toby & TAIT. The music is certainly good but the charisma and show is really fabulous.

By the way ... props to TAIT and his boyz for staying nearly 2 hours after the show and signing autographs.


Statistics are what they are: able to be manipulated and made to say contrary things. That is especially true of evangelistic events. Who really got saved? What really is a recommitment? blah blah blah ...

Regardless. Our process of tracking this stuff says we had 194 adults and children TODAY that responded to an invitation to received Christ or recommit themselves to Christ. That's not a bad day. Brings the total to about 430. One more night to go


There are few things as cool as being a hero in your own house. Last night I introduced Jonathan Caldwell of the Power Team to my kids at the North Country Encounter. My kids think it's so cool that their dad knows all the people on stage and is in charge of the whole thing. Yesterday, Leif Horrell, the Encounter Band guitarist came over and greeted the kids too. I love being my kids hero.

Now I am off to Psalty the singing songbook. oi. It's a great show but the it's kinda like Barney ... great for kids but the adults listening to it feel like they have a brain tumor.

Friday, June 17, 2005

North Country Encounter

Yesterday was the opening night for The NCE. We had about 1500 people in attendance. Marvis Frazier told a great story of how God changed his life, and Steve Wingfield preached a great evangelistic message. Marvis couldn't have been nicer and spent time greeting numerous people.

Tonight is the Power Team: Jonathan Caldwell and Willie Raines with his 21" biceps. He's huge.

We've received a ton of positive press coverage making the late TV news for the last couple of nights.

One Wed we had Dedication service at the arena and Steve & the PT went out to Ft. Drum to minister to the soldiers and their families. Marvis has also been spending time preaching in the jails. Right now as I type, Steve & Marvis are about to begin a Biz & Professional luncheon affinity evangelism event.

For as positive as this event has gone so far -- and we do have 3 nights left -- I had hoped to see more decisions for Christ. I know, I know ... it's somewhat of an outmoded evangelistic strategy but I still hoped for more. Without arguing about the numbers as to their validity -- and Lord knows we could argue about that all day -- we have seen 20 decisions the first night in the jail, 50 decisions of the 250 in attendance at the base and 62 decisions of the 1500 that were at the arena last night. Thank God, that's all well and good .... but I wanted more.

Check out Newzjunky for more coverage ...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Churches Seeking Staff

I think I'm going to apply for that Jamestown, NY Association Pastor job. Might have to change my name to something like Evansfalk or Evanslund. But I'd love to work with that cigar smoking, beer swilling senior minister. He rocks!

Houston, TX has a senior pastor opening too that looks nice. I'm a big Astros fan! I'm sure I can steal a couple of people away from John Osteen while I'm there.

North Miami is still open too. Nice weather, hurricanes and all. Wouldn't that be a change of climates from here --- going from 180 inches of snow per year to worrying about sharks, rip tides and sun burn. I'm in.

Where in the heck is Bell Gardens & Patterson, CA?

Monday, June 06, 2005


I'm in NYC right now typing on a computer at the Onasis Library for Greek and Roman Art. My friend is the director here. Blogging is a little slow right now but I should be back in action in a couple days. Can't wait to get a couple of pictures up.

I've been attending the church growth conference at St. Bart's Episcopal Church on Park Ave in Manhatten. Beautiful structure. Weak theology. They do have an open bar after their Sunday eve service.

Tomorrow on my way home I have an interview at 2 pm in Fishkill. Details to follow.

We have eaten unbelievable food. I can't even begin to explain how incredible. Yesterday's dinner started with a few Belinis, which were made with Prosecco and a fruit puree -- I had one with peach and another with rhubarb. More to come ...