Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A tribute to Sister Carlan Kraman

Last week Amy & I received a letter from the Sisters of Saint Francis in Rochester that Sister Carlan Kraman passed away in April.  She passed away peacefully while surrounded by her beloved Sisters.   

Sister Carlan was my Spiritual Director for four years.  When I first started as the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Plainview it was important to me to set up a support system for my ministry.  Part of that support system was to find a Spiritual Director.  I called Assisi Heights and asked for a Spiritual Director.  They put me in touch with Carlan.  The first time I met her she asked me in a gruff manor, “What do you want in Spiritual Direction?”  I explained to her that I wanted to grow in my relationship with God and have a place to process what was happening in my congregation.  “That sounds good,” she replied.  “Let’s get started.”

And so we did.  What developed between us was more a spiritual friendship than spiritual direction.  On two Fridays a month I would drive over to Assisi Heights and visit with Carlan.  Often she would do most of the talking.  She would share what was going on in her life, with the Sisters of Saint Francis, her opinions (often critical) of the Catholic church and events of the world.  For Carlan sitting down and reading the “National Catholic Reporter” with Minnesota Public Radio playing in the background was enough to satisfy her very creative mind. 

Sister Carlan was a gifted writer.  She taught English in a secondary setting for thirty-two years.  It was important to Carlan that Mother Alfred Moes received credit along with the Mayo Brothers for the start of the Mayo Clinic.  She wrote a terrific biography of Mother Alfred called, “Odyssey in Faith.”  She gave me a copy which I proudly have in my library.

Because of Carlan’s work St. Mary’s Hospital had a display acknowledging the role of Mother Alfred and the Franciscan Sisters in starting the Mayo Clinic.

Sister Carlan and I remained friends after I stopped seeing her for Spiritual Direction.  I frequently would lead retreats at Assisi Heights with people from the Presbyterian Church.  While there I would find Carlan at the cafeteria.  Even though she didn’t know I was coming, she would greet me with enthusiasm and quickly start a conversation with me about the issues of the day. 

It was a honor for Amy and me to have Carlan read Scripture at our wedding.  Like me she dreamed and prayed for the day when the walls between Catholics and Protestants would come tumbling down. 

Carlan loved being a Franciscan, and she loved her Franciscan Sisters.  She enjoyed telling me stories when we were together about Saint Francis.  Because of her I’ve read many biographies about Francis and think of him as an important part of my own spiritual formation.  When one of the Sisters at Assisi Heights celebrated her Golden Jubilee or passed away, Carlan would take time to share with me the significance of her life.

In concluding a beautiful obituary about Carlan, Sister Mary Lonan Reilly wrote,
“Bon Voyage, Sister Carlan, dear.  You who loved to travel and to explore new vistas must be overwhelmed as you are immersed in the many marvels of Eternity.  Not the least of these must be really experiencing our loving and faithful God and singing (on pitch according to the notes” ‘Forever I will sing of the goodness of our God.’

Indeed, bon voyage, Carlan.  You shared the goodness of God in many, many ways.  The earth is richer because you traveled upon it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A morning of leafletting for Chain of Lakes

I’m inviting all friends of Chain of Lakes to join us for a morning of leafleting on Saturday, June 2.

This summer the primary worship experience for Chain of Lakes will be Wednesday. We’re calling worship, “Sundaes on Wednesday.” We will be worshipping at Northpoint Elementary School which is very near the property the Presbytery is purchasing for us. Worship will be different. We’re calling it casual, engaging and conversational. People will be seated at tables, I will preach in a conversational way for 10-15 minutes, and after the sermon people will have conversation around thetables. Music promises to be very good. We will have a separate youth program for youth ages 5th grade and older and 4thgrade and under. Participants can pick up some healthy, pre-packaged food when they come and eat it during worship. We will have sundaes afterwards. Worship will begin at 6:30 p.m.

This service is aimed at people who leave for the weekends during the summer and for people who are not connected to a church. It is also a way to get the word out about Chain of Lakes to people who live near our new property. We are very hopeful that the new people who come to Sundaes on Wednesday will connect over time to Chain ofLakes church.

We are starting “Sundaes on Wednesday” on Wednesday, June 20th.

This is where you can help!! Come pass out leaflets on Saturday, June 2. We will gather at the Lino Lakes Senior Center at 9:30 a.m. The address is 1189 Main in Lino Lakes. (A map is on the Chain of Lakes web site—colpres.org). After we gather on June 2ndeveryone will receive a short training. Folks will then go out in groupsof two to pass out leaflets for about two hours.

This is a wonderful opportunity for the Presbytery and friends to live into the idea that Chain of Lakes is a Presbytery ministry.

I hope you will come. If you are planning toparticipate, send me an E-mail at pastor@colpres.org.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Si Se Puede! United Farm Workers

This weekend the United Farm Workers Union is celebrating its 50th convention in Bakersfield, California. The convention can be watched at: http://www.ufw.org/_page.php?menu=news&inc=_page.php?menu=news&inc=/50/anniversary.html

I had the opportunity towork for the farm workers for a total of two and a half years on two different stints. I worked for them in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago. It was a privilege to help them out during that time in my life.

Working for the farmworkers was unlike anything I’ve ever done. We lived in community, were paid basically nothing (I think I was paid $35 for two weeks of work), and worked very hard.

We did it because we believed in La Causa. When I arrived in California from Minnesota in August 1986 I discovered an agricultural system that was completely different from what I experienced in rural Minnesota. Farm workers often hand-picked picked fruits and vegetables, they were mostly Hispanic, many didn’t speak English, some were not citizens of our country, and almost all were very poor. They lived in conditions that most of us wouldn’t tolerate and often had to work in fields that had been sprayed by pesticides. Some of them were poisoned by the pesticides and their children were born with birth defects.

By contrast the people who owned the land were wealthy, powerful, and mostly white. The disparity in power in that system took my breath away—and not surprisingly led to many abuses of the farm workers.

For me working for the farm workers was never a political act—it was a moral act of helping the poorest of the poor.

Cesar Chavez—the leader of the farm workers—became one of my heroes. He gave his life to helping his people. He was the first person in the history of California who was successful in organizing farm workers. Because of his work, farm workers live a better life today.

Plus—anyone who can fast for 36 days on behalf of his people, as he did in 1988, deserves our admiration.

I had the opportunity to work with Cesar. I was fortunate to organize two college speaking tours and many rallies for him.

Like most Caucasians who worked for the farm workers, we came to help the poor and ended up being helped ourselves. During my time I learned the challenges of stepping out of my power to empower the powerless.

Congratulations to the United Farm Workers for being around for 50 years. May you last for another 50.

Si Se Puede!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Presbytery meeting

Yesterday I drove to First Presbyterian Church in Rochester for the May Presbytery meeting. It was a pleasure to attend the meeting at the church. I have many fond memories of that sacred space including my marriage in the sanctuary on June16, 2000. The new entrance on the south part of the building is a place of beauty.
I quickly settled into my pre-Presbytery routine of sharing information about the new church I serve—Chain of Lakes Church. I enjoyed sharing with people our new ministry for the summer—Sundaes on Wednesday. Pending our Steering Committee’s approval we will worship at Northpoint Elementary on Wednesday evenings and not on Sunday morning.

Right before the meeting started I was able to connect with Roger Ring—chaplain at Methodist Hospital. I’ve known Rog for years. He kept me on my toes while I served at Plainview by moderating a support group in which I participated foralmost a decade. Rog and I settled near the front of the beautiful sanctuary at First Church and witnessed this important meeting.

The main event was the Presbytery’s voting on the Gracious Separation Policy which was presented by the Presbytery Council.

I admire the original group who put together the first draft that was presented at the January Presbytery meeting. I can't imagine developing such an important and complicated policy from scratch.

I believe the original document was strengthened through the many comments shared by people throughout the Presbytery. The Council was authentic in allowing all people in the Presbytery to share their opinions. Though that process seemed compressed, I think it helped.

The Gracious Separation Policy sets forth a process for churches within the Presbytery to leave the PC(USA). The policy can be found on the Presbytery’s web site-- http://www.presbyterytwincities.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/PTCA-2012-04-10-Proposed-Gracious-Separation-Policy.pdf

It’s a terrible shame that a policy has to be developed, but the Presbytery Council had no choice but to develop one. The meeting last night was obviously important as my conservative pastor friends from the Presbytery showed up with along with the elder commissioners from their churches.

Two contentious issues of the policy are what should constitute a quorum at a congregational meeting when a church votes on whether to leave the PC(USA), and the financial terms of dismissal.

The debate that developed was one that pushed the buttons of any person who isn't a Presbyterian polity wonk--me! All of us listened as it was determined whether an amendment was a substitute amendment, whether a poll was a vote, and whether the results of a mailed poll should be determined by a percentage of respondents or by a percentage of the members of the church. Amendments were made to amendments. We even had the joy of listening to a reading of Robert’s Rules of Order.

Our debate must have been similar to the Minnesota Legislature's debate over the last 48 hours of the stadium proposal. Thankfully we didn't have as many amendments as the Legislature.

An excellent recap of the issues can be found on Sue Rutford’s Twitter feed.

Though the issues are contentious, the spirit of the meeting was certainly Christ-like. Speakers shared their opinions in a respectful way and the meeting was moderated well.

Though we Presbyterians like to debate we like to eat even more. Our debate on Gracious Separation was stopped by dinner—only at a Presbytery meeting can dinner be the order of the day. After dinner we enjoyed a rousing worship service led by the terrific organ playing of Lee Afdahl. We then sat down to slog through more amendments. Rog left the meeting to do some work. He didn’t have the time for such slogging.

Rocky Rockenstein saved the day by making a motion that the entire Gracious Separation policy be debated at a separate Presbytery meeting called by the Presbytery Council within the next 60 days. Thankfully the Presbytery approved this motion. At some point in the next 60 days we will view more Amendments.

It is very difficult for a large group of people to wordsmith a document on a contentious issue. My suggestion to the Council is to get the most interested parties in a room to see if a document can be developed that is fair to all sides. Such a meeting might not work; however it's worth a try as it could save many of us a lot of time of wordsmithing at a future meeting.

The main highlight of the rest of the meeting was listening to Nancy Grittman share her gratitude for serving as the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery for the past six years. Nancy broke down in appreciation. We gave her two standing ovations. That moment was worth the drive.
I left the meeting at 8:45 after asking the Presbytery to join Chain of Lakes on a leaflet drop on Saturday, June 2. I left late by my standards, but early by the standards of the meeting. If Sue Rutford’s Twitter feed is accurate the entire meeting ended after 10:00.
Such long meetings might be acceptable to some, but to many of us who work 60 hours a week they aren't. I am thankful for the beautiful spirit of the meeting and to see the progress in how our Presbytery relates to each other. I hope that many of the issues regarding Gracious Separation can be hammered out in advance of the future Presbytery gathering.