Thursday, July 25, 2013

Terrific week at Chain of Lakes Church!

What a terrific week we’ve had at Chain of Lakes!  It started this past Monday night at the fundraiser we did for the Yellow Ribbon campaign at the pavilion in the Lakes area.  For one of the first times this year when we’ve organized an outdoor event, the weather was almost perfect.  Many people came to enjoy the fundraiser—at least 150.  Many of them live in the Lakes area.  Steering Committee member, Dave Nyberg shared this past week that our congregation was the Lakes community this past Monday night.  We netted over $1,100 for the Yellow Ribbon campaign—which is impressive in that we only sold tickets for $5 a piece.  A big thanks to the Steering Committee for organizing the event and to Val Owens, Dave Nyberg and Jennifer Huehns for taking the lead.  Pictures from the fundraiser are on my own Facebook page. 
Then last night we had one of the best worship services of the summer at Sundaes on Wednesday.  It was a privilege to have Community Presbyterian Church in Plainview be a sponsor for worship.  They sent eleven people who traveled over two hours and through rush hour traffic to be with us in worship.  I served that church as a pastor for 16 years.  It was very special to have two parts of my own journey come together in one worship service.  The Spirit was beautifully present during worship.  Many people were in tears at some point of worship, and we enjoyed one of the largest turnouts of the year.  Yay, God!
A special thanks to Rev. John Curtiss, pastor of Community Presbyterian Church, for encouraging his congregation to join us last night.  It is a rare pastor who is so willing to be supportive of his congregation’s former pastor. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Race, Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman

The acquittal of George Zimmerman revealed that six women (five of whom are white) had reasonable doubt whether Zimmerman had violated Florida’s stand-your-ground law in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
But the case reveals how differently Americans view life through the prism of race.  
I get the outrage that many of my friends have expressed by the verdict.  They see Zimmerman’s acquittal as another case in a long history of African-Americans or other people of color being killed without justice being served.   They rightfully argue that Martin would not have been approached by Zimmerman if Trayvon’s skin color was white.  Gun violence disproportionally affects African-Americans and most African-American males experience some sort of racial profiling in their lifetimes.
I can also understand how many of my friends see the verdict as an act of justice.  They believe that George Zimmerman was attacked by Trayvon Martin and that Zimmerman’s actions were justified under Florida law as self-defense.
I have no idea which of the two characters in this sad drama attacked first or who was in danger.  The ultimate reality is one young man is dead and a large number of Americans believe that justice was not served.
Race heightened this drama.  If this was a white-on-white crime or a black-on-black crime most of us wouldn’t have paid attention. 
Besides revealing how Americans are divided on race, the case also shares how America is a violent nation.  Eighty five lives are taken daily as a result of gun violence which means that almost 43,000 people have died since Trayvon Martin died on February 26, 2012. 
Each of these deaths is a tragedy.  If anything may all of us, especially those of us in the church, re-commit ourselves to creating the peaceable community that God desires from us.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Presbytery meeting, July 2013

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the July meeting of the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area which was held in Albert Lea, Minnesota.  Thanks to an invitation by Stephen Robertson, I rode to the meeting on a bus that took commissioners from the Westminster and Oak Grove churches. 
The bus didn’t arrive at the Presbyterian church in Albert Lea until after the meeting started, so I didn’t have the opportunity to set up a table and talk to folks about what is happening at our new church called Chain of Lakes. 
Three conversations were taking place at the start of the meeting.  I attended one called “Talking about same-gender marriage in Minnesota.”  The discussion was more like a speak-out where folks shared their views about same-gender marriage.  People had different views and spoke in love.
After newcomers introduced themselves, the officers of the Presbytery shared reports.  I’m very hopeful that new Moderator, David Colby will continue the tradition of excellence that outgoing Moderator Barbara Lutter shared this past year. 
During worship, delegates to Youth Triennium were commissioned.  They will be leaving for Purdue next week.  I loved the pink shirts!  Their presence reminded me of my first experience at Triennium in 1995—which doesn’t seem that long ago.
During the Speak Out period after dinner, I was able to share ice cream cups with the body to encourage commissioners to attend Sundaes on Wednesday.  Chain of Lakes is worshipping on Wednesdays during the summer at Northpoint Elementary at 6:30 p.m.  Everyone is welcome to join us.  Check for directions.  Rochelle Le Tourneau came up with the idea of sharing ice cream cups yesterday morning.  A big thanks to her for putting the details together.  She bought the ice cream from a grocery store in Albert Lea.  A special thanks to Dwight Netzer, pastor of the Albert Lea church, for allowing us to share ice cream cups in the church’s sanctuary.
The meeting turned joyous when the Presbytery approved three candidates for ordination.  Daniel Vigilante will be ordained as Teaching Elder at Grace-Trinity Community Church.   He is an openly gay man who shared a moving statement of faith.  He skillfully answered all questions with beautiful poise.  Anthony Jermaine Ross is going to be an Executive Director at Nia-Imani Youth and Family Development Center in north Minneapolis.  His gifts as a teacher are obvious.  I was told that he is the first African-American male ordained by our Presbytery.  I’m surprised that this milestone took so long.  Jacob P. Van Pernis is going to serve as the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Howard Lake.
All three of them will strengthen the witness of the Presbyterian Church.  It is exciting to dream about how their gifts will be used in ministry.
The meeting ended with a few more reports and then we hit the bus for ride home.  It was a beautiful night to look over the countryside and dream about the future.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What does it mean to be a Presbyterian church and a Main-line church?

Recently I had a group of people encourage me to put on our web site what it means to be Presbyterian and what it means to be a main-line church.  I've developed the following first draft.  I am very interested in responses.  Please share your comments in the comments section of this blog, or on my Facebook page.  Thanks!

Chain of Lakes is part of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  What’s important to the leaders at Chain of Lakes is not that a person becomes Presbyterian.  What’s most important is that a person can live out the Purpose Statement of the new congregation, in particular that a person becomes a disciple who impacts the world.

Chain of Lakes Church is not a congregation who puts people through a theological litmus test.  The most important requirement for being part of the congregation is that a person professes Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Every other theological belief is secondary to this primary profession of faith.

Many main-line churches have struggled because of issues that have polarized our world—issues such as homosexual ordination, homosexual marriage, and abortion.  At Chain of Lakes people have different viewpoints on these issues.  Our different viewpoints make us stronger as a congregation.  What’s essential is that on any issue the people at our new church live out our Core Value of Healthy Disagreement.  We understand this to mean that “when we disagree we will encourage discussion while valuing all opinions. We will speak truth in love, treat others respectfully with dignity, and seek to remain in community.”

Pastor Paul shared a sermon series about being Presbyterian in the fall of 2012.  You can find these sermons at  The dates of the sermon are October 14, 21, & 28, 2012.

As a Presbyterian congregation, Chain of Lakes is part of the main-line tradition.  Other denomination in the main-line tradition are the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA), the Episcopal Church, the American Baptist Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Reformed Church in America.  Though differences exist between these denominations they agree on the core traditions of personal faith combined with social witness.