Saturday, December 31, 2011

What-a-ya doin New Year's...New Year's eve?

While I remind myself that the Christmas season continues (7th day:  there be swans swimming), I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year's!

Be safe, and God Bless!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, and thanks for reading! Kurt

Monday, December 19, 2011

Last Advent: Three years past

(A sermon given at All Saints' Littleton on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 12/18/2011)

Three years have past since I became rector at All Saints’.
3 years is an important time marker for an Episcopal rector, perhaps more so than for the parish, because 3 years means that we have completely journeyed through the lectionary together.
Other than the Sundays that I’ve been gone, I have now had the opportunity to preach on every Sunday reading offered by the Episcopal Church.
To put it another way:  we’ve entered reruns…
This could mean a few things:
It could mean that you have already heard the best of what I have to offer on every Sunday reading.
(I’m hoping that this is not the case…)
It could mean that I can now begin every sermon by saying:  “Remember what I said three years ago?” and you all will of course instantly recall everything I said.
(That’s probably not happening either…)
Perhaps all it means is that I now have another source to check in on.  For each Sunday, I can now see what was it that was speaking to me, and perhaps to you, three years ago.
So I checked in on that first sermon I gave, one week before Christmas. 
The quick recap is that I made this bold claim: 
“I believe that we have found favor with God by our coming together.”
Three years have past, and I still believe this today:  we have found favor with God.
Be clear and forwarned:  finding favor with God may not bring us exactly what we bargained for.  Things are certain to not be exactly like we dreamed.
Remember that Mary…the one told that she had found favor with God...was an unwed, pregnant teenager.  She wss among the most vulnerable in her society.  By the laws of her culture, she could be publicly shamed, exiled, or killed.  At the very least, she was one that people were whispering about, and not in a friendly way.  
Despite all of this, Mary said yes to God.
In doing so, she embraced God’s vision for the world.  She gave up the way she had envisioned her life, and opened herself up to something greater than herself.
It is the most powerful of Advent messages.
So:  what sort of favor now lies before us?
Well, it is my believe that it is now time to move from being one of the best kept secrets of Littleton, to embracing a dramatic period of growth.  I believe it is time to adjust our focus towards taking the radical hospitality that we offer here outside of these walls, while at the same time, actively inviting those outside of our membership to Come and See what we are all about.
The power and beauty of what we offer is not that we all think the same and have all of the answers.  We are, instead, a place that honestly wrestles with the complexities of human life in the midst of claiming relationship to a loving God who is still in the process of transforming the world.
We offer a model for the world:  one not based on complete agreement, but instead, a loving respect for all life.
I believe the North Country desperately needs a church like All Saints’.  
We will be asked to stretch in ways that we never have before:  graciously embracing new ideas and possibilities as we share the transforming power that God has brought forth in our community.
It is this type of growth that Advent has been preparing us for...
Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"I loved you fellows, one and all": a goodbye to Harry Morgan

Harry Morgan died today. Stories on his life can be found here and here.

I did not know him, and hesitate to devote too much of a remembrance on a character he played. 

Then again, his Colonel Potter changed the dynamics of arguably the most important show on television ever. Colonel Potter brought the historic perspective of a seasoned career military man, and yet was a character who valued humanity more than anything. He recoiled at the horrors of war even as he honored the intent of those who served, and also gave the show the example of a different type of authority: one with integrity. While the writing was good, the delivery was special and always believable.

In relation to the other characters, Colonel Potter embodied the best of what a father could be:  wise and insightful, open and honest, and never to old to learn something new.
Perhaps his best known moment:  the toast to old friends, while supported by his MASH family.
Here's to you, boys.
To Ryan, who died in W.W.I, the war to end all wars.
To Gianelli, who died in the war after that.
To Stein, the joker of the crowd.
And to Gresky, my best friend who just passed away in Tokyo. 
You were the friends of my youth.  My comrades through thick and thin and everything in between.
I drink to your memories.
I loved you fellows, one and all.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Does leaving as Priest require "Unfriending"???

Episcopal Cafe continued a conversation started on Twitter including The Rev. Dan Webster at Church Social Media Blog.  The entire Tweetchat is here.  On his blog, Webster wrote:
Last week’s chat focused on professional and personal boundaries in social media. I mentioned how when I left a congregation as vicar, I would "unfriend" parishioners on my Facebook page. “When you leave, you leave,” I tweeted. 
Webster recommends a helpful guideline put forth by The Episcopal Diocese of New York, which contained many fine suggestions.  

But is the severing of all relations (including Facebook friend status) the way to go?

A countering response was made by Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of on his blog:
I believe our difference of opinion about what to do when a minister leaves a church stems from different understandings concerning the relationship between ministers and laypersons.

Rev. Webster seems to view his role as priest as being purely professional. He’s not there to be anyone’s friend, but rather to perform services for them. In that context, when the professional relationship is over, the relationship is over.

My view of minister/layperson relationships comes from observing the way Jesus related to his disciples. Jesus did not separate himself from disciples. Not only did he teach them, but he also lived with them, ate with them and did everything else with them. This was not merely a professional relationship. He loved them and they loved him.

Steinbrueck is careful to say that the relationship does indeed change:

I do think that when a minister leaves a congregation, the relationship with people in the congregation will change. He or she also needs to be careful not to undermine the leadership of the new minister. But a mass unfriending on Facebook?

Clearly I agree more with Steinbrueck here.  I think that some connection in today's digital world is normal.  Relationships continue beyond the end of the time as priest of a particular community, and Facebook is an obvious way to continue.  

What HAS to be clear that there is a change in the relationship.

When I left Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland (granted, as Canon of Congregational Life), this was what I said in my final sermon:

Tomorrow will come:  and I will no longer be your priest.
I have been honored and blessed to have as my vocation the sharing of all of your hopes, dreams, and fears.  I have Celebrated the Eucharist, proclaimed the Gospel, preached sermons, baptized new members, prepared and presented Confirmants, presided at marriages and unions, and have mourned at funerals with so many of you.  Those are the big celebration moments.  What has been even more sacred is the laughing and crying we have done together.  I have spent the last six and a half years in some combination of talking and listening with all of you, and there is nothing I would trade for these moments.
This is the role of Priest.  I have been honored by your sacred trust, in the willingness to enter into the relationship that is priest and congregation member.  It’s a strange, complex, multi-faceted, and uncertain relationship:  started by some life transition, developed in unexpected moments, nurtured by gentleness with each other, damaged by assumptions and unattainable expectations; and marked by grace and the opportunity for unexpected new life.
It is a fragile yet surprisingly resilient relationship that mirrors our very humanity.  
And, like our very lives, the time passes.  During our Healthcare forum series, Jeffery Spiess offered us the inspired title, “Dying is not an option.”  This is true of the relationship of Priest and the Gathered Community:  at some point, it always ends, sometimes by members of the congregation moving away, sometimes by a priest moving on, sometimes by retirement, sometimes even by death.  Priest is a relationship that always transforms into sometime else.
I will no longer be your Priest tomorrow.  That’s what we’re saying goodbye to today.

What are your thoughts?