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November 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

A Different Way of Being Smart

Much has been made of IQ (intelligence quotient) and Daniel Goleman made a significant impact with his research on emotional intelligence with his book by that title published in 1994, arguing that the emotional quotient, or EQ, adds up to a “different way of being smart”.  Now comes yet another dimension to factor in: the LQ, the quotient of love, the capacity for compassion, understanding and, of course, love (according to Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba, the Chinese version of Amazon).

I have talked a lot over the years about all kinds of ways for us to invite people to share the banquet that is set before us at this Table.  Most recently, you may remember Come and See.  Various Vestries have heard a marketing plan and Holy Currencies and a Transformational Charter.  We have done some reimagining and walked the Pathways to Vitality and explored what we would need to do to be a Magnetic Church.  We have looked at Five Marks of Mission and the Jesus Movement, Appreciative Inquiry and going deeper and regaining our prophetic voice and being futurists, and I sent Andrew Goldsmid (the Vestry’s Welcome Commission liaison) programmatic information entitled Invite, Welcome, Connect that maybe will give us some more ideas.  In every venue at my disposal - sermons, forums, the Venite, Facebook, conversations… - I have tried to inform and educate and encourage us to be outward-looking, but to be completely honest with you, I am not sure much of any of that has really made much of a difference.  I see all the good ministry we are doing in this church - liturgy and music, pastoral care, outreach, formation, stewardship of our resources, all the rest - and we continue to be caught up in the seismic cultural shift that is diminishing the impact of the Church, and this is reflected in our budget considerations for 2018.  It got me wondering what we are doing all this for.

Our IQ is pretty high: we pursue learning and are pretty good at problem-solving.  Looking at the ministry we do and why we do it, we at least try understand people and their emotions, their needs - solid EQ.  A willingness to do that has at least some basis in compassion and love, so I think our LQ is on the higher end, but we can get so caught up in formulaic programming that we forget what we do this for.  I want to suggest that that single factor - LQ, the love quotient - become the single most important guiding factor for everything we do.  Not that it is not already, but that it take center-stage in our hearts, minds, and souls; that it be the most prominent, the most salient, the most obvious, first thing we think of when we consider why we do what we do: we do it first to the glory of God, we do it to feed and nurture those hungry for the spirit and presence of God, and even as Jesus did it for those who hated him, we do it even for those who are indifferent and hostile to us or to the Church because that will give them a different vision for what the Church truly is supposed to be.  As Bishop Jennifer noted when she visited with us in June, we already have everything we need, we just need to find our niche.  It used to be lobsters, but now?  Now let it be our LQ because when you factor in, not only our IQ and EQ, but our LQ - quotient of love - and make that our niche, it glorifies God, it feeds and nurtures, and may just change the world by renewing an indifferent heart and dispirited soul.  And that adds up to a whole different way of being smart.

October 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

God is bigger than the boogie man, He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV!

God is bigger than the boogie man, He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV!  If you are aware of the long-running animated series, Veggie Tales, you will undoubtedly be familiar with that line from one of the episodes dealing with children’s fears.  At a recent adult forum, we talked a bit about how difficult it is for an established institution like the Church to adapt to social changes, especially when those changes come at breakneck speed.  With a Prayer Book that is nearly forty years old (and will be much older when the next revision is authorized), canons that often are reflective of a bygone era, and lots of folks who can only imagine the Church being the Church as it currently exists, well it is not too hard to see how we can get stuck

My personal view is that, as much as I was raised on the 1928 Prayer Book and really love the (current) 1979 Prayer Book, I am actually looking forward to the next revision because I am anticipating it being far more inclusive and allowing for adaptability.  As it stands now, because I took a solemn vow at ordination to “uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship” of the Church, even as a priest, I do not have the authority to basically say, “I don’t care what the Prayer Book or canons or my bishop say, I’m going to do whatever I want.”  That may be fine for other traditions, but in our tradition part of the catholic nature of our faith is that I cannot just make things up as I go.  That said, as I said during the forum, God is not limited by the constraints of our tradition!  God is bigger than the boogie man (and Godzilla and the monsters on TV), bigger than Episcopal Church canons, the sacraments, and our fear and anger.  As John Muir observed, God’s charity is big enough for bears.

I have committed my life to this vocation in this tradition, so I cannot flippantly disregard my vows, the canons, my bishop’s directives, and the like, but I can recognize that, while the Holy Spirit breathes through each of these, God is bigger than any of them which gives me hope for the future of our storied tradition, whether a new revision of the Prayer Book or the vitality of our ministry in the 21st century.

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September 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

Life in the Church


I know you can quickly look over the Venite (and the bulletin announcements and the announcements that Caroline and Barb send out and on Facebook and on the website), but there are a number of things happening this month that I thought I would highlight them for you:

  • Sept 9: parish picnic
  • Sept 10: Victoria Hoppes (Waycross)
  • Sept 14: Stations of the Cross
  • Sept 17: children’s ministry resumes
  • Sept 17: newcomers luncheon
  • Sept 17: youth group
  • Sept 20: Wednesday Bible study resumes

These are not just bullet-points, but indications of life in the church.  Parish picnic: fellowship and an opportunity to invite people to come and see our community.  Stations of the Cross: unique and ancient spiritual practice of worship.  Children’s Ministry: nurturing our youngest members in their faith.  Newcomers luncheon: welcoming those who find a home for worship, ministry and community at St. Paul’s.  Youth group: nurturing the faith of the next leaders of the church.  Wednesday Bible study: ongoing formation of the faithful.  And these are in addition to all the normal bustle of activity of the church that goes on all the time.

This highlights an important distinction relative to our discussions over the past few years about the state of the church and the impact of the church’s waning influence, a distinction between stressing over declining numbers vs. the church’s vitality.  It is true that, as I pointed out at the annual meeting, the Episcopal Church (and Diocese of Indianapolis and St. Paul’s) is facing what pretty much everyone else is dealing with (including social service agencies that rely on volunteers) - declining membership and straining budgets.  I think it worth pointing out that, even as our numbers reflect the larger social dynamic, our vitality remains strong.  (Aside from what is coming up this month, just look at the response to last month’s rummage sale and the far-reaching impact that has, not just on us, but on our community!)

That vitality is something we should continue to nurture regardless of what our numbers are.  That is part of what is working for those of us who are here and active in the myriad ministries of St. Paul’s.  But the single missing piece in our ministry is figuring out how to respond to what is not working for those who are not here.  Personally, I think more people hearing the gospel is a good thing and eventually the decline in numbers will lead to a decline in vitality because if we do not at least maintain critical mass (preferably bolster it!), we will not be around to offer anyone anything.  So the counsel I try to bear in mind for myself, for the Vestry, and all of us who are the church is to trust God’s Holy Spirit to guide us and emphasize our strengths (i.e. the ongoing vitality of this church) as the best way to address the critical issues we are facing for the sake of life in the church.

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August 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

If It's Not About Love, It's Not Abou God!

There is a saying that I have seen on Facebook a couple of different times lately, attributed to the Dalai Lama or with no attribution at all.  Regardless, it rings true: The issue we have to deal with today is that people were made to be loved and things were made to be used, but now things are loved and people are being used.  It is reminiscent of what Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has often said: If it’s not about love, it’s not about God!

With summer break over and all aspects of the church and society getting back into the routine of the academic year, all the increased activity can lead us to forget what all the activity is supposed to be about in the first place.  Too often the gospel is used for political or personal gain rather than for its inherent purpose: the proclamation of the good news of God in Christ Jesus; the love of God and neighbor as self.

The fall gets awfully busy.  Life piles on.  Regardless of what swirls around us, I hope the simplicity of the gospel message grounds us in love, because if it is not about that, it is not about God!

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July 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

No greater love does a person have than to lay down his life for his friends.

No greater love does a person have than to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).  Our freedom to worship as the Holy Spirit so guides, rather than the State, is one of the founding principles of this country (see the First Amendment to the US Constitution).  We should take advantage of all the recreational activities our freedom provides as we celebrate our nation’s independence on July 4, but we should not forget the sacrifices it took to allow us grill our burgers free from persecution.  As for me, on Sunday, July 30, from noon to 4:00 PM, I will be offering pastoral presence to any who may need it at the traveling Viet Nam war memorial, a smaller replica of the memorial in Washington, DC, that American Legion Post #24 is hosting at the Fairgrounds July 27-31.  I gave it some serious thought in college, but I have never served in the military.  Still, I think one can serve his or her country in other ways, even if not in uniform, if you take your citizenship seriously and participate in your own governance, or in this case, be willing to be present with those who served in Viet Nam (or any other military conflict, for that matter) or with the families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.  If you are so inclined, pay your respects at the Viet Nam war memorial at the Fairgrounds sometime that week and be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy by others’ sacrifices.

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