Through a glass darkly

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)KJV

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Post-Christmas Contemplations

So much for my promise to blog more now that I'm on vacation-it seems my mind has stepped down into lower energy state and I haven't been having deep philosophical discussions with anyone. It's been a fairly slow news cycle as well these past few weeks with some of the stories reflecting on the big stories of 2005-the Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the death of the Pope and the election of his successor to name just a few.

For me personally, 2005 has gone by so quickly. A year ago I was acting as the High School director while we were without a Youth Pastor. We were "snowed out" of our winter camp last January and had to reschedule to the following month. Spring was just a blur and Summer was filled with sicknesses and camps. Fall gave way to Winter and the Holiday season. I wasn't as nearly prepared for Christmas as I wanted to be or expected to be with a week off before. I got some great gifts but the best one was from my sister and her fiance.They decided to donate a barnyard full of animals through World Vision instead of buying gifts. Totally cool!

So as the year ends, it's been a pretty good year, although time seems to be moving more swiftly as I get older. More on this later.

Monday, December 19, 2005

On Being a Middle Aged Youth Worker

One of my friends emailed me this link, Internetmonk authored this piece on being middle aged. While it is written from a man's perspective and some of doesn't really apply to my life -he was a little too morose about getting old , his comments about being a 40-something youth worker are on target. I especially liked the line about being at the top of his game preaching but faced with an audience that wants to hear the 23 year old with a guitar and one sermon.
It is kinda frustrating that teenagers do not appreciate the middle aged person's life experience and instead prefer whoever is "new", as if the novelty of their words imparts the greater wisdom. This view was even shared by a twenty-something youth pastor I knew. In his book, I was too old to work with students at 31 years of age; when I was 35, he insisted I had "nothing" to offer them. (He later changed his tune when he himself crossed the magic age of 30). Regardless, I don't pay attention to those pronouncements. I may not jump into a game of Bombardment anymore but I have so much more to offer than that. The students who want the superficial stuff aren't going to come talk to me anyway (although they are quite shocked to discover that I do know about their culture), the ones that are serious about their faith do come around. Still, it is amusing when they first try to get an answer out of the young, "cool" worker who then refers the student to me anyway.
I guess my perspective on the whole issue comes from the fact that I work with youth, not to serve them, but to serve Christ. Sure, I'd like to have a twenty-something body again and go sledding down the hill next month at Winter Camp but let me keep the forty-something mind.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My Busy Week

Oh my! I have not had the opportunity to blog here for a week because I've had just too many things going on.

For one, I was gearing toward a big presentation at work, what we call a conceptual design review, where I had to prepare approximately 70 Powerpoint charts to be shown in front of a group of 20 or so of my technical peers. This had me working some late hours this past week and made me miss most of youth group last night. For those of you still in school, compare it to writing a 10 page paper or studying for finals.

Second, I did the unthinkable - I went shopping at the mall to get something new to wear at Laura's Baccalaureate Dinner and her Graduation from Talbot. I also had to make a run to the Guitar Center to pick up some supplies for the Worship Band.

There's a lot of stuff going on at church with Christmas coming in eleven days.

The good news is that tomorrow is my last day of work for 2005 and eventhough I have a lot to get done before I leave after lunch, I'm looking forward to more than 2 weeks off.

Perhaps I'll blog more during vacation -it will give me more time to rant.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Cancelling Christmas and Other Rants

Christianity Today's Weblog reports on certain Megachurches cancelling their Sunday services that fall on Christmas Day this year. See the link to the articleshere. The reason given by these churches is that they want to allow their attenders to spend the Christmas holiday at home with their family rather than having to come out to a worship service at the church campus. My ABE forum buddies have been having their own rant on this one. Mostly the arguments against have centered around the megachurches' capitulation to our self-centered culture, the improper exaltation of family over the corporate worship of the Christ of Christmas. While I agree with some of these objections, my own rant has more to do with the annoying practice my church has of trying to combine the December 25th Sunday Service into one big celebration.

Quoting from my post there:
"All this togetherness by combining services is overrated in my book. It's also pretending (to any visitors) to be a church you're not the other 51 weeks of the year.

First, you have all the additional traffic caused by the twice a year C&E crowd that you try to shoehorn into one facility with the regulars from x number of different services. You end up setting up chairs in the aisles, standing or turning people away. Faithful Central Bible Church can do it, but then again they own the Great Western Forum (where the Lakers used to play). (In my church, that's potentially 500+ people into a facility that seats 400+.)

Second, for those of us with separate services with different styles in each service, you have a choice as worship planner of making the combined service a reflection of only one of the styles or of trying to mix the different styles together. Do really think that someone who's in love with choir, organ and traditional carols wants to hear the rock band play a City on a Hill "It's Christmas" number? Or vice versa? The previous combined services have the old folks plugging their ears (or walking out) while the band played at its normal sound level. If you try to blend the two, every last choir and musical group feels the need to present a number (or two), so we get the bell choir, the traditional choir, the children's choir, Sister So-and-so singing a solo (badly, sometimes), Brother Not-so-Talented playing his instrument that he hasn't touched all year trying to fit in with the band. Yikes!

Third, some people don't quite get the word that you're not having the same number of services you usually have at the times normally advertised. We get all kinds of people showing up at regular 1st service time, looking puzzled and confused when you tell them that for this week, the service is 45 minutes later. Same holds true for the people who show up with the combined service almost over thinking they're right on time for second service. Do you think those people are motivated to come back to your church the following week? This is not exactly the best foot forward to present to people who might just be open, by virtue of the season and the coming New Year, to giving church attendance(and possibly following Jesus) a try.

Some folks in my church just love the idea, particularly the ones that think that the only reason the Contemporary style worshippers don't attend the more traditional service is that they haven't yet tried it. The Staff and the CE workers like it because it's less work -one service to prepare for, no Sunday School. All this may be easier on the Pastor (only having to preach once) and some members may like the scrunched in feel (I don't). But remind me why this would be a good idea again?"

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Still More On The Journey From Hierarchicalism to Biblical Egalitarianism

One question that has been asked is what has your journey to egalitarianism meant to you in your ministry. The answer is complex because while I am doing more (teaching & leading High School students in Youth Ministry) than I would otherwise do with my hierarchical beliefs still intact, my home church has not yet adopted a leadership model that would provide equal opportunities for women.

Although my denomination (ABCUSA) has ordained women for more than 100 years and encouraged the full partipation of women in church life, my church has not embraced either practice in its 91 year history. The women who served in my church fifty years ago, in some ways, had more meaningful opportunities to serve. The church in those days operated with a dual board system - deacons and trustees, in which very powerful women led as trustees. They were referred to as Mother So-and-so and their word was law to men and women alike. For some reason unknown to me, the church, a few years later, switched to a single board of Deacons overseeing a system of committees which included a committee of Deaconesses. In the 60's and 70's, this Deaconess Committee were derisively called "The Cupcake Committee" due to their main duty of serving food at church socials. During the mid 80's, the Deaconesses began to move away from food service at socials to having more of an emphasis on their "hands on" ministry - counseling those who made decisions, ministering to the bereaved and the shut-in.

With the call of a Senior Pastor who identified himself as an egalitarian, women who desired an expanded role for themselves were hopeful that church polity would change. Unfortunately, a few powerful men expressed forceful opposition to even discussing the Biblical arguments (one particular "gentleman" stood up during a service where the pastor was teaching on the subject and shook his Bible at the pastor) and the will to "rock the boat" was lost. A subsequent attempt (by a committee I was on) to rewrite the Church Constitution and replace the Deacon/Committee structure with a co-ed ministry team, was single handedly crushed by one Deacon who was extremely opposed to women in minstry. When the pastor's wife was hired (with her PhD with Christian Education emphasis) to head the Christian Education Ministry she was called the Director. Eventhough her two predecessors were both called "pastor" and were ordained, neither option was even considered for her.

In the eight years since that pastor moved on and a new pastor came, the church has not made any more progress towards egalitarianism. Although during the 18 month interim, I was, as the Deaconess Chair, added to the Executive Committee (Senior Pastor, Deacon Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary) and allowed to attend Deacon meetings, my successor found such meetings "tiresome" and did not insist on continuing in those additional roles when the new Senior Pastor arrived. He readily admits that this is not "his issue" and would much prefer a Board of Elders making all the decisions anyway, moving away from strong congregational polity. Those on the present Deacon Board who have a strong opinion on the subject all seem to hold to a "traditional view" and would not allow woman as deacons, let alone elders. Their opinions seem ill-informed; most could not themselves point to any Scripture as prohibiting women from certain roles.

A few years ago, I queried one of my friends whose husband is a deacon, how the Board would react to my roommate's receiving her Masters of Divinity degree (which, BTW, she gets next week) knowing that 1) of all the staff, only the Senior Pastor himself would equal her training 2) every previous MDiv at our church has been, within the year after receiving the degree, been recommended to the region's ordination council. My friend's answer was that the Board will do nothing even if asked. She was certain of this because her husband was on the Board and they (she and her husband) did not believe in women pastors or their ordination. Their basis for this belief was their life-long experience in churches that had taught that as well.

Some might inquire as to why I'd remain in a non-egalitarian church. Well, for one reason, the grass isn't greener somewhere else. Many other churches in my area, including ones like mine with national pro-women policies, hold the same/similiar views on women as my own church home. Others have worship practices or doctrines I'd have a hard time adjusting to as a life-long Baptist. Still another reason is that I hold out hope for an eventual changing of the mind in my church; even staunch complementarians such as those my roommate encounters at Talbot, have softened their rhetoric on their position, allowing for the need to hear the voice of both genders. Against that though, is the re-emergence of traditional thought amongst the younger generations, but that's like playing "Bop the Prarie Dog" at Chuck E. Cheese's -you just have to whack it down when the thought pops up (although in the love of Jesus). I guess the final reason, is that for all its warts, my church is my home and God has not moved me anywhere else.

As I've stated before, I'm gonna do what God wants me to do and if He wants me to do something, nothing really can stand in my way. I truly believe that there will be a time when restricting women in ministry will be a ridiculous as restricting people in ministry due to race is now. One hundred years ago that restriction was not yet consigned to the "dust heap of history" as it is now. It's why I can wait.