Monday, March 10, 2014

March Twin Cities Area Presbytery meeting

This past Saturday I had the privilege of attending the March meeting of Twin Cities Area Presbytery.   Kate O’Brien-Soltau attended the meeting with me.  Kate has participated at Chain of Lakes for over a year.  She is in the final stages of being ordained.  She will be an outstanding chaplain.

We arrived early to set up a table for Chain of Lakes Church, a ministry of the Presbytery.  As always I enjoyed speaking to people and sharing what is happening at Chain of Lakes.

The meeting started with reports from the officers.  Moderator David Colby shared that with all of the changes happening in the Presbytery this is an opportunity for the Presbytery to set priorities and then to do ministry based on those priorities.  In her report, Presbytery Leadership Team chair Barbara Lutter shared a first draft of possible areas to which future monies from departing congregations could go.  She acknowledged that it is awkward to talk about this when these congregations haven’t left yet.  However having a clear plan is essential.  The first draft of this plan can be found at one of the links at:

The big item of the day was the report of the Hope Church Administrative Commission (AC).  They have been working with the church for the past 18 months.  The four members of the AC spoke.  General terms for Hope’s departure were shared.  The terms can be found at the link that I shared above. 

The bottom line is a significant number of people at Hope Church in Richfield want to leave the PC(USA) and join the Evangelical Covenant Order (ECO). 

Leaders from Hope spoke.  David Lenz, lead pastor from the church, said that when leaders from the church started the process they didn’t imagine they would have to pay the amount that is being proposed—1.2 million, plus AC expenses plus the Oliver Building.  He said that the Session had met for nine hours, praying and discerning over these terms.  At the end they unanimously voted to accept them.

The conversation on the floor of the Presbytery was refreshingly pastoral and healthy.  No debate, no vitriol, mostly compassion and sadness.  Important questions about the general terms were asked.  But it became very apparent that the AC had done an outstanding job.  They had covered all the bases they could imagine regarding Hope’s departure. 

I hate to see Hope leave the PC(USA).  I believe that the churches who are thinking about leaving have an important voice within our denomination.  They have many lessons to teach about growing churches.  I have friends who go to Hope.    I have many memories of attending Presbytery meetings and other events at Hope. 

But in Hope’s case the differences apparently are too big to overcome.  The divorce language of irreconcilable differences seems to describe the relationship between the Presbytery and Hope.  Though it’s hard to accept the divorce, it seems the best thing to do is finalize the terms while continuing to pray for both Hope and the Presbytery as they and we go our separate ways.  As the AC shared the objective is gracious separation for both Hope and the Presbytery.

The Presbytery almost unanimously approved the general terms.  The almost unanimous vote was a reflection of the outstanding work done by the AC.  The next step will be a final vote on final terms of the agreement by the Presbytery in May.

The meeting felt a bit anti-climactic after that.  I attended a Presbytery conversation on electronic giving.  The meal is always one of my favorite times of Presbytery and that was the case again.  I was very impressed by the hospitality shared by the folks at Valley Community Presbyterian.  One person told me that 68 people from the church helped in some sort of way on Saturday.

The Presbytery has six churches who have requested an Administrative Commission to explore departing the PC(USA).  This takes a lot of energy and time away from other priorities of the Presbytery.  Perhaps this past Saturday’s meeting is a first step in moving ahead in a healthy way.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Reflections on turning 50

Yesterday I turned 50.

I know this is a milestone birthday, but to be honest it felt like just another day.  When I turned 30 I said that the only difference was the turn of two digits.  This feels the same.  I got a lot of “you’re getting old” cards and some good-natured ribbing, but I don't feel that much different.    

What I do know is I am blessed.

I have a terrific wife.  She invited me to a birthday lunch at St. Joe’s Catholic Church.  They lined the hall with RIP gravestones, and we all had some good laughs.  Later in the day she wrote out 50 things she likes about me.  I can hardly write out fifty of anything, so having her do that was the best present I could receive.  

I have a terrific daughter.  Though she is in seventh grade—Middle School, argh!!—she is still willing to give me a hug.  She “lets” me take her to basketball games and “lets” me give her some tips on her basketball play.  She’ll come to church without being asked and treats everyone with a kindness that is her own.  

I have a terrific job.  How many people in their lifetime receive the opportunity to start a new faith community?  Even though we haven’t grown to the size we had anticipated, I passionately believe that our “growing” days will coming.  I love the people, our leaders and especially the staff at Chain of Lakes.  I love the generosity of the people at Chain of Lakes, love our balance of personal faith and social ministry, and most definitely love our willingness to try new things.  Yay, God!

And I’m blessed to be loved by a God who frequently surprises me.  God is willing to put up with my questions, complaints, praises and passionate petitions.  My four life goals are to love as Jesus loved; grow to be like Christ; be a blessing to others; and help bring in God’s kingdom.  I’m just as committed to those goals as when God helped me come up with them about ten years ago.

I have a lot of other blessings too—terrific parents and an understanding sister; a beautiful house and many friends—it’s just too bad they don’t live closer.  My health is still good and I have some time to run and write.

Oh sure—my life isn’t perfect.  I’m Reformed, so I don’t believe in perfection.  I could easily share a blog detailing complaints, but I like to stay positive.  I’ll save my complaints for my prayer life.  I’m excited about the journey ahead.  I haven’t hit middle age angst, and am praying that I won’t.  I’d love to live to be a hundred and think it’s possible.  But whatever happens I can grab hold of these blessings as two digits of my age turn again.