Monday, November 18, 2013

Carleton Knights

This past Saturday, Amy, Hannah and I drove to Northfield to watch Carleton play their last football game of the year.  The opponent was Augsburg. 
This was the second game the three of us have seen the Knights play this season.  We drove to St. Paul to see the Carleton open their MIAC season against Hamline.  The Knights pulled that one out in overtime.  I wasn't present to see that as the red heads had convinced me to leave when Carleton was behind in the 4th quarter.  As a Knight junky I listened to the game at home while Hannah rolled her eyes in disbelief. 
I had thought the season would be a success if we could win our non-conference games plus beat a conference rival in addition to Hamline.  That mission was accomplished before Saturday’s game.  The Knights defeated Grinnell, Macalester, and won the Goat Trophy back against St. Olaf, who is having a down season.  We had also given a scare to St. Johns and Concordia at home.  This was progress—incremental, but still progress.
Coming into the game Augsburg was only one game better than Carleton; however they had played a close game against Bethel and St. Thomas, the best teams in the conference.  I wasn't optimistic.
It rained during the drive and was still drizzling when we pulled up to Laird Stadium.  Amy and Hannah didn’t want to get out of the car, so I walked by myself under an umbrella to join a few hundred folks who appreciate Division III football.
Augsburg took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter behind the outstanding play of their quarterback, Ayrton Scott.  Even when the Knights scored a touchdown, Augsburg ran back the kickoff for a touchdown.  In fact I was texting a friend that Carleton had scored and by the time I had finished the text Augsburg had scored on the kickoff. 
In the second quarter I ran into an old teammate, Troy Ethan.  He was two years behind me and was inducted last summer into the Carleton Athletic Hall of Fame.  We stood under our umbrellas and screamed our lungs out for most of the game.  We even did some recruiting for Carleton at halftime.
For most of the game it appeared that our screaming would not help the Knights.  We stayed in the game, but barely.  Carleton was behind by two touchdowns at halftime and seventeen points entering the fourth quarter. 
Carleton scored at the start of the fourth quarter to make the score 38-28 in favor of Augsburg.  After that touchdown I told Troy that I could see Carleton winning, 42-41.  I had hardly finished my sentence when Augsburg again ran the kickoff back for a touchdown. 
Carleton scored another touchdown and was fortunate when the ensuing kickoff rolled to a stop at the one yard line.  Augsburg had to start their drive at the three.  The Knights held and got the ball back with a little over four minutes.  In a little over a minute Carleton scored and got a two-point conversion.  45-42 Augsburg.  Could some Knight magic be in store?
Augsburg went conservative and Carleton forced a punt.  With a long runback the Knights were suddenly in business at the Augsburg 37 with a little under three minutes to play.  How had this happened so fast?  Soon after Carleton faced a fourth and six.  This was the play of the game.  Conor Lynch threw a pass to Anthony Kemper who was wide open over the middle.  Kemper ran down the middle of the field for a T-O-U-C-H-D-O-W-N.  Somehow Carleton had scored four touchdowns in less than ten minutes.
By this time it was pouring rain and the sky had gotten very dark.  The atmosphere was more conducive to building an ark than watching a football game.    
Troy and I are experienced Carleton football fans meaning we’ve had our hearts broken many times before.  It didn’t look good as Ayrton Scott quickly drove Augsburg down the field in the pouring rain.  An inexplicable unsportsmanlike conduct (which almost caused me to lose my voice as I yelled at the official—nothing profane, of course) and a completed pass gave Augsburg the ball at the Knight 23.  Scott dropped back to pass and dropped the ball, which had to be slippery.  F-U-M-B-L-E!  Knights R-E-C-O-V-E-R!  Knights W-I-N!!
I slapped Troy’s hand in jubilation with the passion of a linebacker blitzing the quarterback. 
Most of the time I walk away from Laird Stadium in a sour mood wondering why I attend the game.  But this long-suffering player and fan was jubilant on Saturday.  I did a dance in front of our car—where Amy & Hannah had camped out for most of the second half—and drove home with a huge smile on my face.
I’m still not sure why I get so worked up about a Division III football game in late November, but it sure was a terrific way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

Friday, November 15, 2013

November Presbytery meeting

On Tuesday I drove over to the Korean Church of Minnesota to participate in the November Presbytery meeting.  I went to the meeting early so that I could participate in a training that Newell Krogmann shared on MissionInsite.  MissionInsite is an outstanding demographic program that the Presbytery has purchased—every church in our Presbytery can use it for FREE.  At Chain of Lakes we are training ourselves to understand even more clearly the person who lives in our target area.  MissionInsite is an invaluable help.
After the training I shared information about Chain of Lakes at a table that I always staff.  I particularly enjoyed talking to Ray Larson who is the Interim Head of Staff at Presbyterian Clearwater Forest.  He shared that they have a plan in place to hire a new Executive Director and are making plans for summer camp.
The Disability Task Force led worship.  I enjoyed hearing Lisa Larges talk about how Jesus was an expert participant (I don’t have the words exact) at awkward dinner parties.  I particularly enjoyed hearing Alek Smith read Scripture.  He is the son of Cathy Smith, who is an Intern at Chain of Lakes.
During dinner we were treated by an exquisite Korean meal that was shared by our hosts.  Wow!  I’d like to have Presbytery at that church every time!  During the dinner conversation I discovered that Walter Chuquimia will soon be leaving for a new call in Florida.  I knew that Walter was moving, but didn’t realize that this was the final meeting he would attend at Presbytery.  During the speak-out period I encouraged everyone to bless him on his departure.   Walter has been a good friend of mine ever since he came to the Presbytery.  Blessings to you, Walter!
After dinner reports were shared about the financial situation of the Presbytery and the proposal to change the Communications position in the office of the Presbytery.  The people involved in these reports had obviously done a lot of work in preparing these reports.
Before a conversation about changes in the Presbytery staff were made, Presbytery staff left the sanctuary.  I am technically a staff person for the Presbytery; however I don’t really think of myself as a staff person for the Presbytery.  I don’t attend staff meetings in the Presbytery office, my name is not on the staff web page of the Presbytery, my own business cards make no mention of being a staff person for the Presbytery.  I identify myself as the Organizing Pastor of Chain of Lakes. 
Leaving the meeting didn’t sit well with me.  I had received a phone call the night before sharing that the Presbytery staff had volunteered to leave the meeting at that point.  I shared on the phone call that I was uncomfortable with this proposal and thought it was unhealthy.  I said I wasn’t sure if I would say anything at this point of the meeting, but I reserved that possibility. 
I did get up to speak.  What prompted me to speak at the meeting was the statement that the staff had voluntarily agreed to leave.  This was not true for me.  I rose and made a motion that the Presbytery vote on whether the staff leave the meeting.  I know I surprised Moderator David Colby with the motion.  In retrospect I wish I had consulted with him earlier in the day, but in all honestly I decided at that moment to make this motion.  David consulted with Jay Wilkenson, the acting Stated Clerk, who ruled that my motion was out of order.
I then left the meeting.  I was upset.  As I was walking out of the sanctuary I decided to leave the building.  At that moment watching my daughter, Hannah, practice basketball was more appealing than waiting to come back to a meeting in which I was asked to leave.
Before I left the parking lot I made a comment on Facebook about what happened.  The comment came from frustration.        
The next day David Colby and I talked.  He had reached out to me via a Facebook message the night before.  I’ve known him ever since he came to the Presbytery and have great respect for the work he has done at Central Presbyterian in St. Paul.  He and Bill Davnie, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery, did extensive research about how to handle the process of that part of the meeting.  In their research they were told that a governing body or council cannot vote to exclude members from a meeting.  That is why the motion I made was ruled out of order. 
This issue about the Presbytery staff voluntarily leaving the meeting is still perplexing to me, but in all honesty I am letting it go.  Many people asked me about my Facebook post, so I decided to write this blog to try to explain what happened.  The Presbytery has many more important issues than the Presbytery staff voluntarily leaving a meeting or a motion I made at a meeting being ruled out of order. 
The Presbytery made very difficult decisions this past Tuesday night.  Dennis Sanders will no longer be working for the Presbytery staff.  This will be a loss.  The Presbytery had to tighten its budget in a dramatic way.  These are the important issues to focus on as we move ahead.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Blessings, Gary Elg!

This week I had the privilege of talking to Gary Elg on the phone.  Gary has just started as the pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Illinois.  I am very excited for him and want to wish him a public blessing as he starts his ministry there.  His new church is very fortunate to have Gary as their pastor.
I’ve known Gary ever since I came into Twin Cities Area Presbytery in 1993.  He served in Red Wing; I served in Plainview.  We also served together on the Church Development Team.  We would hang out at Presbytery meetings and trade stories.  He was a friend and wonderful colleague.
Gary’s life came crashing down a year ago August.  He did something that he will regret for the rest of his life.  When I got the news I was in Florida at a New Church Development Conference.  I sobbed like a baby.  I called him immediately and told him I wanted to get together when I came back from Florida.  We can’t abandon people because of their worst moments.
For the past fifteen months we’ve gotten together once or twice a month at a local coffee shop.  I watched and listened as Gary turned his life around.  He experienced a lot of loss—his marriage, his church in Red Wing that he faithfully and successfully served for over 20 years, and his status as an ordained pastor.  It was painful.
But he did turn around his life.  He accepted the consequences of his choices.  He openly went through a restoration process that the Presbyterian church has.  He was candid and authentic.   And it was a lot of work. 
He could have easily thrown in the towel and chose another profession.  But he didn’t because he has a call.  Gary believes that he has gifts he can use to serve God through the church.  And he is right.  Gary came out on the other side of the process much healthier and whole.  He is ready to serve as a faithful and successful pastor again.
Before he went to his new church I shared with Gary that he was like the prodigal son.  He came to himself and through the grace of God has received another chance.  He also did the hard work so he could be restored.  Through the process he has a new understanding of people who have suffered.
A couple Fridays ago Gary and I met at the coffee shop for the last time.  I asked him if I could share his story on this blog.  My motivation is that people will know that Gary is doing well and that he deserves a lot of praise for the work of his restoration.  He reluctantly agreed as Gary has never really wanted to receive a lot of attention. 
When he left I gave him a huge bear hug.  I’m going to miss those Friday morning coffees.  But I have renewed faith in a God who never lets us go! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Welcome, Jason Blair

A few weeks ago Chain of Lakes commissioned Jason Blair in worship as a Discipleship Intern.  We are very excited that Jason and his family have decided to share their gifts with our new congregation and the wider community.
I first got to know Jason when he shared his gifts as a guitar player in worship at Chain of Lakes.  Kristel Peters, the music director of our new church, knew Jason and encouraged him to play.  In talking to Jason I learned that he had received a MDIV from Bethel and was interested in new church development.  We had to talk—I invited him out to lunch.
I soon discovered that he and I look at the world in a very similar way.  Both of us are interested in making and developing disciples who combine the best of our conservative and liberal traditions.  Jason went on to say that he has an interest in starting a new church at some point in his life.  When he said that I couldn’t help but say, “you have to come to Chain of Lakes Church!”
We started talking about what he could do in our new congregation.  We have no money to pay him, but he was willing to come on as an intern.  We put together a position description that our Steering Committee approved.  His task is to help our new congregation foster intentional discipleship and missional community.  What does that mean?  We’re still figuring it out.
Eventually we hope that he could develop and implement a plan for discipleship at Chain of Lakes, and we hope that he could research and gather best practices regarding discipleship which he would relate to our demographic.  I could see him taking a significant leadership role in developing small groups at Chain of Lakes.
Right now we are enjoying his presence, the presence of his wife, Paula, and the presence of their two beautiful children, Breonna and Jordan.
In his bio. Jason wrote that “as a disciple, life is primarily about striving to follow Jesus and help[ing] others to do the same.  … “As a geek [he] makes his living supporting a computer network and those who use it.  As a musician [he] expresses the creative side of his spirit and shares it with others.  As a martial artist [he] trains to find the inner discipline to live out everything out.” 
Jason comes from a diverse theological background.  He wrote that “I was born, baptized, confirmed and raised in the Methodist tradition.  After discovering and embracing my faith in college, I found my way into the Evangelical Free Church … But in that tradition, I have been influenced by Baptists, Anglicans, Orthodox, Catholics, and many others to a lesser degree.  For that reason, Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17 lurks behind all that I do.”
In coming to Chain of Lakes Jason, Paula and their children left Grace Evangelical Free Church in Fridley.  This was significant to them as they had many close friends and colleagues at that place.  Coming to Chain of Lakes did not take place for the Blair family without grief. 
I have no idea what will result in Jason and his family’s participation at Chain of Lakes, but I do know that it is going to be a lot of fun to see how the Spirit works!!