Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

Last night I joined millions of others in America to travel out to participate in Black Friday shopping. My nephews, their Dad, and I have established our own yearly ritual on the day after Thanksgiving. We look at it as a “guy thing," somewhat similar to hunting without the guns. We had gone through the ads sharing the big box specials, knew our route, had a sense of the prey for which we were looking, got a late night nap, and left the house in the dark.

I completely support the workers who have protested the earlier start of Black Friday. I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving because it’s a day to enjoy family, food, and some football. I love Thanksgiving partly because the culture hasn’t taken the holiday to provoke our consumerist urges. The people who have to work on Thanksgiving have no choice, but to leave their families to go to work. I was stunned that the Star Tribune actually wrote an editorial criticizing the workers who protested the earlier start of Black Friday.
Their logic that the workers should just be happy to have a job, so thus shouldn’t protest having to work hours on a national holiday makes no sense. Principles of justice and fairness don’t depend on the unemployment rate.

We left the house at about eleven and found the Wal Mart in Woodbury. The parking lot was almost full. I found a parking spot that probably is used once or twice a year. When I walked a quarter of a mile to the entrance I got in line. The number of people in the store had obviously exceeded the fire marshal’s limit. I waited in line for ten minutes before my daughter, Hannah, and I walked through the doors.

I never could have imagined a store being so packed. We heard that the store was offering waffle makers for $2, but so had many, many others. Many people had televisions in their carts, but Hannah and I were just happy to find an item on our list. The hardest thing for us was to find the check-out line. There were lines everywhere.

We finally found the checkout line. It weaved through the store looking like a caterpillar. After a half hour we purchased our stuff and looked for our next conquest.

Which was Best Buy. It was now after one in the morning. We don’t make it to Woodbury often, so took some wrong turns before we found the parking lot. I drove to the entrance of the store and saw a line at least two hundred yards long. I could do the line once, but not twice.

So on we went to the Target in Hudson. The store was crowded, but not overrun. I wanted to buy a camera that had been advertised for $60. I made it to the electronic desk and shared the serial number of the camera. No such camera. I was offered a camera that was $450. I asked if they had the Target circular that I had seen earlier. They found the circular, but I didn’t find the camera for which I was prowling. The attendant again asked if I wanted to buy a camera that was four bills. I’d come back another time.

I found some stuff and got in another caterpillar line. When our group had made our purchases we celebrated over a warm Target pretzel smothered in butter. It was 2:00 a.m. I don’t know if I could describe the snack as an early breakfast or the celebration of finding our prey.

We stumbled into the house at 3 a.m. I don’t like the rampant consumerism of our country, but I’m not going to be a hermit either. I didn’t purchase any items that I couldn’t have bought at any other time in December. But I do have some stories to share.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A night to remember

Last night the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area squeezed into a room at Presbyterian Homes Boutwells Landing for our November meeting. Many important items of business took place including the passing of next year’s budget and the retirement of three pastors. However my focus for the meeting was completely on the vote the Presbytery took regarding a property purchase for Chain of Lakes Church.

This property purchase was the culmination of a year of work that two separate task forces completed. The task forces were made up of folks from Chain of Lakes and from other Presbyterian churches. Both task forces represented the best of Presbyterian connectionalism. As the Organizing Pastor of of the new church I was very happy that I didn’t have to be the chair or orchestrate the process of either task force.

The property is located on the northern edge of the Lakes Development in Blaine. As I mentioned in a blog last week it is a terrific piece of property. It’s near hundreds of new houses and ideally will have visibility and access to Main Street. No churches have a permanent location within the Lakes Development. I can hardly imagine a better location within our geography for a church.

I was very confident about the vote last night as the hard and difficult work had taken place in the last sixty days. In that time an agreement has been reached with the sellers plus the three committees of the Presbytery (Church Development Team, Board of Trustees and Presbytery Council) had agreed to the terms and financing for the property.

The hard work had been done—last night became a night to remember.

Before the meeting I handed out “I love Chain of Lakes” stickers that Jennifer Huehns, the administrator of Chain of Lakes, made. Enthusiasm was high as I quickly distributed all sixty stickers I had brought. I was very pleased that eleven folks from Chain of Lakes came to the meeting.

The voting for the new property came right before dinner. John Ivers shared some history of the project, I gave a report sharing how we are doing at Chain of Lakes, Dave Nyberg shared a report on how this piece of property will benefit the ministry of our new congregation.

Walter Rockenstein, chair of the Board of Trustees, then led the body through the votes. The Board of Trustees had done an outstanding job of sharing materials which clearly explained what was taking place. After his presentation opportunities for questions were given to the Presbytery. No one had any questions. Knowing the irascible nature of many Presbyterians this was amazing. The first vote to purchase the property was then taken. It was---------------------------UNANIMOUS. The financing plan was then presented and a vote taken. It was also unanimous. The final two votes were easy. A third property task force was established to satisfy the contingencies of the Purchase Agreement and to authorize leaders to sign documents when we close.

The contingencies are significant to the people at Chain of Lakes Church. We want to move the sound barrier on Main and do it in a way that is acceptable to the neighborhood. We also want access to the property off of Main.

Once the votes were taken it was time to celebrate and not be concerned about the heavy lifting that lies ahead. After the Presbytery applauded for the votes, I started singing the Doxology. The people of the Presbytery soon rose and joined in the singing. It was a powerful moment of celebration. I still get chills as I reflect on our offering of praise to God. As a Presbytery we were united in how God had brought us together to take a very significant action which will have a long-lasting impact on the world.

The picture at the top of this blog shares the smiles of the people at Chain of Lakes as we celebrated this gift of property that the Presbytery has given to us.

If the spirit of last night’s Presbytery meeting is any indication, it is very clear that God is not through with the Presbyterian Church. Truly we experienced a night to remember.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Great Day!

Yesterday was a great day in ministry. At Chain of Lakes Church we’re looking at Spiritual Gifts during our stewardship drive this year. In the sermon I talked about taking risks with the gifts we have to love someone. In the story of the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) Jesus applauded risk taking. The first two slaves risked a losing a large amount of money to double what they were given. I talked about how the Presbytery is taking a risk on our congregation in purchasing a 8.89 acre piece of property for us. They are risking that God wants a vibrant, new Presbyterian church in Blaine and Lino Lakes; they are also taking a risk that the people of Chain of Lakes Church want this type of church.

The entire sermon could be seen here:

After worship we enjoyed a wonderful luncheon and program. At the program Dave Nyberg unveiled the world premiere of video he made about Chain of Lakes Church. He interviewed folks who shared how our new congregation has had an impact on their lives. I was especially touched by the interviews with Mary Beth Higgens, counselor at Lino Lakes Elementary, and James Chapman, leader at Manna Market. Both shared that Chain of Lakes helped each of them at important times. We are helping the school with money for kids who aren’t able to purchase milk and helping to sponsor a speaker series next January. Chain of Lakes partnered with two other churches to sponsor a walk for Manna Market last August. The proceeds of the walk helped Manna Market purchase a new van.

But my stomach was turned upside down after the video. A woman—who was unchurched three years ago—shared that the video was powerful, but didn’t share the unspoken ways our new congregation has helped people. She said that she receives something from Chain of Lakes that she is not receiving in any part of her life. She said she always leaves our congregation on Sunday in a better place than when she came. Another woman then shared that when her husband was going through a difficult time she was often asked whether she has support from others. She replied that her support is her church—Chain of Lakes Church. Wow!

After worship Amy, Hannah, and I drove down to Plainview, Minnesota for the installation of their new pastor, Rev. John Curtiss. John is going to do a terrific job at Plainview. I felt a little chagrined about coming to the installation service as a former pastor, but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to visit with the people who I came to love deeply over sixteen years of ministry. It was a privilege to worship and visit with the people of the church. I don’t have too many opportunities to sit in that sanctuary to worship. This is a place that our congregation built, where I preached at least 600 sermons, a place where I officiated at least 80 funerals, at least that many baptisms, and many weddings. It’s a sacred space to me.

I told John later that there isn’t a place in that building that doesn’t bring at least one story to me. As we were leaving the building I told this to my daughter, Hannah. She pushed back on this statement to ask what memories I had of the door facing the main street. I said that I remembered the many times that I led a casket out of the building and into a waiting hearse.

I am very excited to hear about what God is going to do in that congregation and with their new pastor.

It’s cool that I get paid to have such moving experiences. Could there be a better job than that of a pastor?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Presbytery vote for property

This Tuesday, the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area is voting on a Purchase Agreement for a piece of property that will locate Chain of Lakes Church for their future ministry. I am thrilled that this action will be taking place and encourage the Presbytery to vote in favor of the motion.

The property is located at the northern edge of the Lakes Housing Development—adjacent to County Highway 14 (125th Ave NE) in Blaine. The picture above is an aerial view looking north.

Hundreds of houses are near the property. When started the Lakes Housing Development and adjacent developments were the largest housing development in the history of Minnesota. During my first year as an Organizing Pastor I met with a realtor who sold houses in these developments. He shared that when the development is fully built out it will have 10,000 residents and 3,000 housing units. Since that meeting I discovered that over 107,000 people live within five miles of the property and the growth rate within five miles is expected to be 5.55 percent a year until 2015.

I still remember the first time I took my daughter, Hannah, to see the property. As I drove near the property all we could see were houses. She remarked to me, “Daddy, if you had a church here a lot of these people could come to Chain of Lakes.”

For the last year the Property Task Force—a sub-committee of the Church Development Team—has worked to worked to secure a property and develop a finance plan. It has been a treat to work with the group. This group is a demonstration of the power of our Presbyterian connectionalism. The Task Force has been made up of Chain of Lakes people and folks from other Presbyterian churches.

The Property Task Force developed some ways to finance the property that passed through the Board of Trustees, and the Presbytery Council. The Church Development Team is in favor of the Purchase Agreement.

The Property Task Force has made presentations at many Presbytery meetings in 2011. In March three lay folks from Chain of Lakes shared their excitement about our new church; in May Ward Sessing, the chair of the Property Task Force, explained what the Property Task Force was doing; in July a pre-Presbytery gathering was held and then a detailed presentation was shared during the meeting.

Providing a piece of property for a new church is a longstanding tradition within our Presbytery. New Presbyterian churches in Apple Valley, Columbia Heights, north Minneapolis, Rochester, the Philips neighborhood, and Plymouth were given land and also buildings in some cases.

At Chain of Lakes we are encouraging folks to attend the Presbytery meeting on Tuesday to share our excitement about this property purchase.

The Purchase Agreement contains some very reasonable contingencies that we at Chain of Lakes requested. If the Purchase Agreement is approved a team of people will immediately gather to fulfill these contingencies.

The bottom line on the property decision is this—the location is excellent, the price is right, and the folks from Chain of Lakes are excited about this exciting step in their journey of ministry.