Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Beginnings at Chain of Lakes

This Sunday, December 2 our Chain of Lakes Church is sharing a “New Beginnings” service with the community.  Ever since our new church moved to Da Vinci Academy in September we’ve looked forward to sharing this particular worship experience.  We’ve had a group of about 15 people who have met frequently to plan the day.
We have a terrific service planned.  Chain of Lakes’ Music Director Kristel Peters has composed a new song.  Cathy Smith will share a faith story about a new beginning she experienced on her faith journey.  In my sermon I will talk about belonging to God and how that helps us have a new beginning.  We will also share a video about the ministry of our new church.  After worship we will enjoy a meal together.
I want to especially invite people in the community to come to worship.  Da Vinci Academy is located at 131st Ave and Central in Blaine.  We will begin worship at 10:30 a.m. 
This is a wonderful opportunity to  check out our new church.  Even if you know you can't attend, would you take a moment right now to pray for our day!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

John Gagliardi--two stories from an opposing team

Congratulations to John Gagliardi on an amazing football career at St. John’s University.  Sixty years of coaching football at the same school, 489 wins?  Wow.

I played football for Carleton from 1982-1985.  Our team played St. John’s three times in my career and like the other twenty-six times Carleton played St. John’s we lost.  Since my playing career was over I have followed MIAC football and especially Carleton football very closely.  John Gagliardi deserves every kudo that is given to him.  However with the utmost respect I can’t help but say I’ve never seen a coach able to win games that seemed out of reach.  I wouldn’t at all call him lucky as he was a brilliant coach who ran a brilliant program.  But I wouldn’t hesitate to call him charmed.

When I heard the news yesterday that he had retired two stories came to my mind.

The first happened on September 21, 1985, my senior year.  This was the third year that Carleton played in the MIAC.  We had taken our lumps the first two years, but we felt ready to contend for a championship.  We had routed the first two teams and now we had St. John's where we wanted them.  We were at home, and playing with confidence.  The week before St. John’s had barely beaten Bethel, who at the time finished at the bottom of the conference. 

This was going to be our statement game.

The game was rugged.  We scored at the end of the first half to take our first lead (10-6) ever against St. John’s.  Gagliardi was pacing the sidelines.  We were down by three early in the fourth quarter when our offense went on a signature drive.  We went deep into their territory.  A pass put the ball inside the five yard line.  We were going to score and win the game!  But then—.  A penalty was called on us.  Our quarterback was sacked.  We tried a field goal to tie the score—no good.  They took over, and we suddenly couldn’t stop them.  A touchdown for St. John’s and then a field goal.  St John's 23; Carleton 10.

In about 20 minutes the direction of each of our seasons changed. Something had dramaticially happened in the game—could it be the charm?  St. John’s went on to win the conference—aided by another charmed win the following week against St. Thomas.  We finished the season at .500—which did start a run of almost a decade of upper division finishes in the MIAC for Carleton.  But we had come to win the game—and somehow we lost.

The second story is one I will never forget.  In the fall of 2008 Carleton went on an improbable run of victories.  We were one victory away from our second conference championship.  The only team that was left to beat was St. John’s.  Again we had them right where we wanted them—at home, we were playing with confidence, St. John’s was not as good as in the past. 

By this time I knew about the Gagliardi charm.  I went to the game telling myself not to believe Carleton would win the game.  I had been disappointed too many times in the past.  I wouldn't give in to believing.

The game again was close and rugged.  I had the privilege of sitting next to two Carleton teammates and my revered coach, Bob Sullivan (Sully).  With little time left in the game Carleton was down by four and had fourth and goal.  We held our breath to see if the Knights would finally break through.  The Carleton quarterback dropped back, threw a fade in the end zone and it was ………….caught—touchdown Carleton!!! 

We were finally going to beat St. John’s and win the conference.  The charm had been broken, and we were already celebrating.  My teammates, Sully, and I jumped up and down like giggly kids who had received the greatest gift possible from Santa Claus. 

Carleton kicked off.  We were still celebrating as St. John’s returned the ball to the 40.  They completed a pass, then a long pass, and then the pass we won’t forget.  A long arching spiral down the St. John’s sideline that went for a touchdown.  You—have—got—to—be—kidding—me.  St John's 14; Carleton 10.  I immediately knew the mistake I had made.  I had disrespected the charm.   
Congratulations, John Gagliardi.  You were brilliant.  Your teams broke my heart, but they always earned my respect. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November Twin Cities Area Presbytery meeting

After tucking my daughter, Hannah, into bed last night I put the following post on my Facebook page: “Excellent Presbytery meeting. 100% better than Sept. Moments of inspiration, hope, despair, pain-- and very well run. And done at 8:30!” 
The meeting had moments of Inspiration
I was touched by the Youth Initiative that was shared early in the meeting.  It’s wonderful to see our Presbytery paying attention again to our high school youth. 
I was also touched by the opening comments by our terrific Moderator, Barbara Lutter.  She shared that after the September Presbytery meeting—which many people, including me, criticized—the leaders of the Presbytery committed themselves to changing the format of the meetings.  There would be longer consent agendas—they must have read Sarah Bigwood’s blog!!—along with less talking heads, less committee reports and less speaker time.  And they promised the meetings would be done by 8:30 p.m.  I especially appreciated the Speak Out time that was given to people right before dinner.  Thanks to the leaders of the Presbytery for paying attention to the many comments that flowed after the September meeting. 
The meeting had moments of Hope
I thought it was cool that the new, and I think all young—30’s and under—pastors led worship.  Thanks to Adam Copeland for sharing a presentation on the new Presbyterian Hymnal.  I enjoyed listening to him sing and singing with others.  I don’t know too much about the new Hymnal, but I’m willing to take a look. 
The meeting had moments of Despair
The Presbytery approved a budget for 2013 that was very difficult to pass.  To fill a hole of almost $100,000 the Presbytery is transferring that amount from a catastrophic reserve fund.  That didn’t sit well with many and a motion was passed to develop a solution.  I’m not sure what that means.
Our new church receives a significant part of our budget and a small percentage of the overall Presbytery budget from these funds.  I’m certainly glad that the Church Development Team budget was not cut.  We have achieved significant progress in 2012 at Chain of Lakes.  To cut our budget now would be like removing an oxygen line to an infant.
I read every Treasurer’s Report of the Presbytery which are on-line and are public information.  One simple—though admittedly difficult—solution would be to collect all unpaid Per Capita amounts from past years.  At of the end of June of this year churches owed a total of a half million dollars in uncollected Per Capita from previous years.  I was the pastor of a church that always paid our Per Capita, so I know how difficult this can be.  But I also know it can be done.  Community Presbyterian in Plainview does not owe any money in past Per Capita.
The meeting had moments of Pain
It was hard to watch the public rebuke of Rev. Jin Kim.  I was on the Permanent Judicial Commission which rendered a verdict on this case.  Many people spent many hours on this case.  I am praying that the victims can experience closure,that Rev. Kim can successfully go through his rehabilitation, and that Church of All Nations will thrive as a congregation. 
This was an excellent meeting.  Great job to everyone who organized it and provided leadership.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Presbyterian Day at Chain of Lakes

Yesterday Chain of Lakes had the joyous privilege of hosting Presbyterian Day.  This is an annual event where the Cameroonian community in the Twin Cities celebrates the independence of the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon at a Presbyterian church in the Twin Cities.  This is the second year of the celebration.  Last year Arlington Hills Presbyterian Church hosted the event.
This is a very big deal for our Cameroonian friends.  We had 320 people attend worship at Chain of Lakes yesterday.  The planning team for the event had been meeting for the last two months. 
We at Chain of Lakes turned over our worship to the Cameroonian community.  I preached and led community only because the community asked if I would.  I even wore a robe for the first time on a Sunday morning since I’ve come to Chain of Lakes—the planning team asked me to do it!
For many of us yesterday’s worship experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Our friends from the Cameroon arrived early and streamed into our worship location at Da Vinci Academy.   We set up seats for 250; they were completely full.  Those who couldn’t find a seat stood while the children went to Sunday School or Child Care. 
And did we worship!!  Three separate choirs sang—one from Arlington Hills and another from Presbyterian Church of the Master.  During the sermon—which can be viewed at I talked about the rapidly changing demographics of our country and area.  Did you know that o9ver 21,000 people in Anoka County were not born in the United States?  Approximately 55 languages are spoken in the Anoka-Hennepin School District. 
One way for the church to address these changing demographics is to have many more events like yesterday where all of us learn about another culture—and for us in the church to put our first allegiance to Jesus Christ. 
Worship lasted for close to two hours.  I would be surprised if anyone left early.  After worship everyone feasted on terrific food that the Cameroonian community had prepared.  We then enjoyed another program of singing and dancing and speeches.  Many of the children in the Cameroonian community shared some memory verses.  At 2:00 at least 200 people were still present.
I was touched by the spiritual energy of the Cameroonian community.  They came willing to spend a lot of time in worship and with each other.  They were not looking at the clock wondering when they could get back to life.  Being in worship and community is a central part of their life.  They have much to teach many of us in America who are so accustomed and comfortable in an individual faith.  For the Cameroonians much revolves around their own deep sense of community.
What a privilege!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election 2012 The Day After

I stayed up until 11:00 p.m. watching the election results.  At that point my body wouldn’t let me stay awake.  When I went to bed I knew that Obama had won—but wasn’t sure about the Amendments or the final results for the Minnesota House and Senate.  I woke up at 2:30 this morning to learn that this election is one that the Minnesota Democrats and Democrats across the country will remember for a long time. 
There will be plenty of time for plenty of people to offer plenty of analysis.  On this day after I’m asking all parties to go out of their way to find ways to work together for the common good.
The problems of our country and state cannot be solved by one political party.  Unless the Democrats are willing to work with the Republicans and vice versa we will be looking at more gridlock down the road.  The majority of our country and state are more interested in results than having a partisan agenda (no matter from what party) jammed down our throats.    
If anything this election should be a repudiation on an agenda-driven politics run by one-party.  The Tea Party had their day in 2010.  However their unwillingness to compromise brought down the Republicans in the Senate and certainly in Minnesota. 
If the Democrats aren’t willing to reach across the aisle, they will be bemoaning their results in two and four years.
I’m praying that bi-partisanship can be the model for the future.  That’s the lesson I’ve learned on the day after.