Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Special worship and cultural celebration led by our friends from the Cameroon

The following information was released today to the Press.  This event is a signficant opportunity for the people of Blaine and Lino Lakes to experience the hosptiality of our friends from the Cameroon.  We expect at least 150 Cameroonian Presbyterians to be with us in worship.  We want to encourage the community to attend.  How often do we have the opportunty to attend a worship service led by our African friends?  We are going to be guests in our own church!
The Cameroonian Presbyterian community in Minnesota has chosen Chain of Lakes Church to celebrate their annual celebration of the independence of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon. 

The Cameroonians will lead worship at Chain of Lakes on Sunday, Nov. 11.  Worship will begin at 10:30 a.m. and takes place at Da Vinci Academy, 13001 Central Avenue NE in Blaine.   

“We are honored that our Cameroonian Presbyterian friends have chosen Chain of Lakes for their annual worship service.  We have decided to turn our worship service over to them that day.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the people of our new church and the people of Blaine and Lino Lakes to experience an African-led worship experience,” said the Rev. Paul H. Moore, Organizing Pastor for Chain of Lakes Church.
Every year the Cameroonian Presbyterian community in Minnesota chooses a Presbyterian church in Minnesota to celebrate the independence of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, which happened in 1957.  They day is called Presbyterian Church Day.  Last year hundreds of Africans joined the people at Arlington Hills Presbyterian and people in the community for the celebration.  

During worship African choral groups will sing and Communion will be celebrated.   Leaders of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon have been invited to speak.  After worship a Cameroonian meal will be shared for everyone who is present.     

“I want to especially to invite the people of Blaine and Lino Lakes to attend this service on Sunday, Nov. 11th.  This is quite an opportunity to worship, celebrate and learn from our Cameroonian friends,” said Moore.  “Many of us at Chain of Lakes and in the community will feel like guests who are being hosted by our Cameroonian neighbors.”
Chain of Lakes is a new church sponsored by the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The congregation recently dedicated property at the northern edge of the Lakes Development.  They worship every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at Da Vinci Academy in Blaine.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Remembering Paul Wellstone

I first heard about Paul Wellstone when I started classes at Carleton College in the fall of 1982.  Some of my football teammates made fun of his “radical” political positions.  He was running for State Auditor against Arnie Carlson in a quixotic quest for political office. 
I began to take him much more seriously when I signed up two years later for a class he taught called “Social Movements and Protest Politics.”  The mid 80’s was a time of protest in rural Minnesota.  Paul Wellstone was a significant part of those protests.  I couldn’t help but sign up for a class from him. 
It seemed that much of the state of Minnesota was upset about the many foreclosures that farmers suffered.  Farmers had been encouraged by the banks and credit unions to borrow beyond their means.  When land prices fell, the banks and credit unions pulled out the rug from underneath them through foreclosure.  I had two uncles who went bankrupt; farmers were losing farms that had been in their family for generations; people were turning up at the foreclosure sales and throwing pennies at the auctioneers.  Farmers were protesting at the State Capitol in large numbers and the farm protest movement, Groundswell originated in my home town of Worthington.  I still remember the first meeting at Memorial Auditorium.  I interviewed Bobbie Polzine, the leader of Groundwell and did my senior thesis at Carleton on how the people of Worthington viewed the social movement.  My Dad and I called hundreds of people in Worthington to survey their impressions. 
In the class I was expecting to experience a liberal professor—which I did—but the lasting impression of Paul on me was his authenticity.  He was one of the few people who I’ve known who would risk his career, his reputation, and anything else that he had in order to share his beliefs.  He was the poster child for “what you see is what you get.”  There wasn’t a phony bone in his body.  He always was willing to share the courage of his convictions.
I loved to listen to him speak, and I traveled with him to many rallies around the state.  I still remember going with him to “take over” the local credit union in my hometown of Worthington.  I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to call my parents from jail. 
When I told him in the spring of 1986 that I had the opportunity to work with Cesar Chavez in California he encouraged me to go; when I told him a few years later I might go to seminary he thought it was a terrific idea because he always believed that the world wouldn’t change unless the church was part of that change.  He wrote one of my recommendations for Union Seminary.
I stayed in touch with him after I graduated from Carleton.  When I became a community organizer I spoke in a few of his classes about my experiences and enjoyed breakfast at his home.  I never thought he would beat Rudy Boschwitz in 1990 as I saw his run like I viewed his run against Arnie Carlson in 1982.  It was one of the great surprises of my life that he won that race.
I never talked to Paul after he became a Senator.  I had always meant to catch up with him when he spoke at an event near me, but I was always too busy.  I respected him from afar.  I was not at all surprised that he made friends with many conservative Senators.  Even though he disagreed with their positions he could see the humanity in another person.
I won’t forget what happened the late morning on October 25, 2002.  My wife, Amy, came home in tears to tell me that Paul had died in an airplane accident.  She put up a black drape over the Wellstone sign we had in our yard.
Amy and I drove up to Williams Arena a few days later to participate in the Memorial service.  At the time I thought Rick Kahn’s speech was over the top, but I understood the grief he was feeling.  For one of the few times in my life I cried at the loss that everyone in the Arena was experiencing. 
Last Thursday Amy and I went to hear David Wellstone speak about his work regarding Mental Illness.  I had never met him, but hearing him speak brought back many memories.  Afterwards I stood in line to purchase his new book.  When we talked I shared with him some of my experiences with Paul.  He smiled and gave me a hearty handshake.
I’ve certainly “gotten over” the loss of Paul Wellstone.  But on the tenth anniversary of his death I want to celebrate one of the most decent people I’ve ever met.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pew Forum Report--Good news for Presbyterians

Last week the Pew Forum shared a report on Religious Life in America.  The report is fascinating and should be required reading for every religious leader in the United States.

The complete report can be found here:
The executive summary of the report can be found here:

The main headlines of the report are that "Nones" are on the rise.  This means that people who don't claim an affiliation to a church or religion are on the increase.  The report called these folks, "Unaffiliated." Twenty percent of all adults in the United States describe themselves as unaffiliated compared to 15% of all adults five years ago

On the surface this should be depressing for any person who is involved in leading a church and especially a person who is starting a new church. 

This doesn't mean that the United States has become a secular country compared to other countries.  The number of Americans who currently say religion is very important in their lives (58%), is little changed since 2007.  This number is much higher than Britain (17%), France (13%), Germany (21%) or Spain (22%).

It's easy to draw simplistic conclusions to such a detailed report.  However the executive summary shares some fascinating information.

The reason that the number of unaffiliated is higher is generational replacement, which is the gradual supplanting of older generations by newer ones.  One-third of the youngest Millennial (ages 18-22) identify themselves as religiously unaffiliated compared to ten percent of the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945) and five percent of the Greatest Generation (born 1913-1927).  The church as a whole is not connecting with this youngest generation.

It's fascinating to know the impressions of the church by people who identify themselves as unaffiliated.  The chart at the top of the blog interests me the most.  The unaffiliated believe that the church is too concerned with money and power; are too focused on rules; and are too involved with politics.  That makes sense to me.  I don't want to be a pastor of a church who falls into any of those three categories.

A large number of unaffiliated folks believe the church should bring people together and strengthen community bonds; and the church should play in important role in helping the poor and needy.  Does this sound like a Presbyterian church?  Yes!  If anything Presbyterians do a terrific job at strengthening community bonds and helping the poor and needy.

Our Presbyterian approach to service and community building are ones that can connect to people who aren't affiliated to a congregation.  Let's keep doing the great work we've done at community building and helping the poor and needy.  Then let's proclaim our work from "the mountain top."

These aren't the only ways to connect to folks who aren't affiliated with a church, but I think we can grow in numbers if we do them well.  The research bears this out.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection

This past week I had the privilege of attending Leadership Institute in Kansas City with four others from Chain of Lakes New Church.  This conference is put on by United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, the largest Methodist Church in the United States.  The church started with four people in 1990 and currently has 8,300 people worshipping weekly and another 2,300 people worshipping each week online. 
This is the sixth time I have attended Leadership Institute—the third time while at Chain of Lakes New Church. 
Leadership Institute is a combination of workshops, talks given by Adam Hamilton—the founding and senior pastor, and worship.   Church of the Resurrection has always been very generous in giving everything they’ve learned away to other churches.  Notes from their workshops can be found at:
The best workshop I attended was on worship planning.  Connie Stella, a long-time staff person at the church who has just recently taken on a worship position at Abington Press, shared their worship planning process.  I was able to attend the workshop with Kristel Peters, the new Music Director at Chain of Lakes.
Connie Stella shared that for each sermon series the church develops a Creative Brief.  The Creative Brief is a tool or guide for planning a series of services or a single worship service.  An outline of the Creative Brief looks like this:
A.  Objective
As a result of this worship service what should the worshipper
B.  Tone
Describe the emotional quality of the service
C.  Key Characteristic of God that will be emphasized in the service or in the series
D.  Other
Order to worship
Additional Scriptures
Song or Music Selection
Pray—how will we incorporate prayer into the service
Color palette
Announcements and events
Unifying elements
Anything else that is important
As always Adam Hamilton did a terrific job of speaking.  He organized his presentations around a number of stories of Jesus.  He talked about the stories and then gave specific examples of how the stories have influenced the ministry at Church of the Resurrection.
The best part of the trip was spending time with Val Owens, Kristel Peters, Jennifer Huehns, and Melanie Vosdingh.  We spent four days together.  We had plenty of time to talk about our lives and our thoughts about Chain of Lakes New Church.  Spending this amount of unrushed time with them was a gift—and is difficult to have when we are back home. 
I strongly encourage people to attend Leadership Institute.  Our group wants to go next year.  We’d love to go with more people from Chain of Lakes New Church and other Presbyterians.