Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September meeting of Twin Cities Area Presbytery

The Presbytery of Twin Cities Area met for our regular meeting on Tuesday, September 13 at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton.  I came early to set up a table for Chain of Lakes Church and was joined by Paul Edgett, a member of the Chain of Lakes Steering Committee.  We both enjoyed talking to people and getting re-connected to folks after the summer.

I came into the meeting—which was held in the beautiful chapel at United—when Lewis Zeidner, the new President of the Seminary, was giving a talk.  Not many open seats were available.  Eventually a row of chairs was set up in the back of the chapel. 

After a very moving worship service, Jeff Japinga, Transitional Executive Presbyter, gave a report.  He has been speaking the last months about change within the Presbytery.  His report can be found on pages 12-15 of the following link:
I especially appreciated his note that the Presbytery cannot fulfill our responsibilities by working harder in our current structures.  He shared two possible ways that the Presbytery could be restructured.  Specific proposals will be shared at the next Presbytery meeting.

A very meaningful moment for me was the celebration of the ministry of Clint Patterson.  Clint is retiring as the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Kasson.  I got to know Clint when I served in Plainview.  In fact I talked to him about the Kasson church before he even came to the church.  During his short talk at the Presbytery meeting Clint talked about he benefited from many Presbyterians before him who set up structures and systems that allowed him to do ministry.  Clint has always had a special gift for visiting with the elderly in his own church and in the wider community.  My grandmother, Maxine Harris, participated in a Bible Study that Clint led in the care center in Kasson.  In fact it was moving to me that Clint’s ministry was celebrated by the Presbytery on the same day that she would have celebrated her 102nd birthday. 

After dinner Lisa Larges was examined by the Presbytery for ordination.  Many people spoke at the meeting about her long ordination journey through the Presbyterian Church (USA).  She first appeared before the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area at least twenty years ago.  Many people verbally applauded her during the examination for her perseverance in staying with the Presbyterian Church (USA).  Her statement of faith can be found on pages 22-23 of the above link.  It is a gem and is worth studying.   

In a report from the Eden Prairie Administrative Commission, Barbara Lutter said that the lawyer’s representing the Presbytery have filed an appeal of the most recent court decision.   Representatives of the church have thirty days to respond.   Assuming a response from the church, oral arguments would happen after the first of the year—perhaps sooner.  Over $75,000 has been spent by the Presbytery on lawyer’s fees.

Kathryn Breitbarth, chair of the Albert Lea Administrative Commission presented final terms of departure for that congregation to Evangelical Covenant Order (ECO).  The congregation voted on the final terms by a vote of 340-36 on Sunday, September 11.  She and other leaders of the Administrative Commission said the Presbytery would do their best to attend to the concerns of people in the church who do not want to leave the PC(USA).  The Presbytery unanimously approved the terms of the agreement.

Monday, September 19, 2016

First Night at US Bank Stadium

Last month Jay Harris, my mom’s cousin, sent me an E-mail asking if I would like to go to the Vikings/Packers game—the first regular season game in US Bank Stadium.  I thought about it for one second and marked the date.   

Jay, his two sons, and I arrived at the area west of the stadium last night about a hour before kickoff.  We had taken an Uber from northeast Minneapolis.  The crowd was already gathered and waiting for the very special night.   The ratio of Vikings to Packers fans was about nine to one.  This wasn’t a game that Vikings fans sold their tickets to Packers fans. 

Attending a football game is much different than attending a baseball game.  At Target Field I usually walk around, enjoy the atmosphere, and watch the game.  Last night I found my seat, stayed there, and watched the game.  I can’t even give an adequate review of US Bank Stadium because I only saw a small section of it.   I did love seeing the skyline of Minneapolis through the huge windows, and I enjoyed the wider seats.

And I loved the game.  Quick review of the Vikings.  Terrific defense—especially the play of the secondary.  Shaky offensive line.  Bradford was terrific.  The Vikings don’t win that game without Bradford’s pin-point accuracy.  I was amazed at his touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph.  Stefon Diggs had a break-out game.

And though I came to see the game and the game was important, the night was really about the first regular season game in the Stadium.  The Vikings did a terrific job of pre-game and halftime entertainment.  I loved the video narrated by Ahmad Rashad sharing the history of the Vikings.  I got teary-eyed when Bud Grant sounded the Gjallarhorn before the game.   I loved the fire-breathing sculpture and the exhaled flames.  I felt the heat from the flame as I sat hundreds of yards away.  Having the Minnesota Orchestra play Purple Rain during halftime was quite a touch.

Going to US Bank Stadium was like a successful first-date.  I had a lot to see and think about.  And I want to go back and see more.  

But going back won’t happen for a while.  Perhaps the Prep Bowl.

The crowd was raucous and people behind me could not stop yelling things that I wouldn’t want my daughter to hear.  Of all the sports events I’ve attended, the crowd at a Vikings game is the most crazed.  That craziness cuts a lot of different ways.  Bottom line—I’d rather be part of a Twins crowd than a Vikings crowd.

But the night was memorable—though leaving the Stadium with 66,000 people was a headache.  But I’m glad I now have the memory.  “You know I attended the first regular season game at that Stadium,” I’ll be able to say in the future.  Every Minnesotan will eventually have to go to US Bank Stadium.  And just as the Metrodome was at first a destination for every Minnesotan, this Stadium will be too.  And I’m guessing the love for US Bank Stadium will last much longer.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Questions for Carleton Football

My linebacker soulmate, #51, (also known as Pete Machacek) wrote a Facebook post this past Saturday suggesting that Carleton leave the MIAC in football and join a conference whose members have similar athletic goals to Carleton.  I’m sure he wrote the post in response to Carleton’s loss in football to Macalester this past Saturday.  Macalester beat Carleton, 30-23.  I was at that game with my Dad and nephew.  We watched the game with three other Carleton football alumni.  The game was close.  I think Carleton should have won.  The teams are evenly matched.  If Carleton played Macalester ten times they would probably each win five.

An extended conversation about Carleton football broke out on Pete’s Facebook page.  It’s worth reading.  Check it out at:

I’ve been a Carleton football fanatic (yes, Carleton football fanatics do exist) ever since Bob Sullivan (Sully) asked me on my recruiting visit to attend Carleton in February 1982.  I played there for four years; captained the team with two others my senior year; had personal success (all-conference my senior year) and success as a team my senior year (we went 4-5 in the conference and beat St. Olaf, starting a streak of beating them ten of the next eleven seasons).  Our 1985 team started a streak where Carleton was five hundred or above in eight of nine years.  I go to football games every year, I scream my lungs out at every game and care a lot about who wins.

Carleton moved from the Midwest Conference to the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) in the 1983-1984 school year.  When Sully recruited me he sold me on the excitement and challenge of playing in that conference.  I bought into his argument.  When I played at Carleton I was completely sold on playing in the MIAC.  The biggest challenge in my mind at the time was depth.  We had approximately 70 players on our roster.  Many of the teams we played had over a hundred players.  Today some of the top teams in the MIAC have over two hundred players.

The question of whether Carleton belongs in the MIAC has always been part of the culture of Carleton athletics.  During my senior year at Carleton I wrote an article for the Carleton Observer entitled something like, “The move to the MIAC: a three-year review.”  I argued then that Carleton can compete successfully in football; just as I believe that it is possible now for Carleton to compete successfully in football in the MIAC.

Carleton has had success in football in the MIAC.  We won the conference in 1992; we were one last-minute drive from winning the conference in 2009.  We’ve had long stretches of success.

But the last few years have not been kind to Carleton football—in fact they have been brutal.  Since the 2009 season Carleton has won nine MIAC games—that’s nine wins in seven seasons.  The only teams Carleton has beaten since 2009 in the MIAC are Hamline, Augsburg, and St. Olaf.  The last two years Carleton has suffered embarrassing losses to St. Thomas and St. Johns.  Carleton lost 80-3 in 2015 and 83-7 in 2014 to St. Thomas. Carleton lost 56-0 in 2015 and 52-3 in 2014 to St. Johns. 

The ascendance of St. Thomas in athletics has led some people to argue that Carleton should find a conference with schools who share similar values towards athletics.   The success of St. Thomas in athletics has been well-documented.  One recent article is here:
Patrick Reusse wrote an article on the ascendance of St. Thomas after they played in the championship game in football last season.

Macalester left the MIAC in football in 2001.  I don’t know why they did, but they were not having much success in football.  Since Carleton is similar to Macalester in many ways, the question comes up, Should Carleton leave the MIAC too?

Carleton has had success in other sports in the MIAC.  The basketball team frequently makes the playoffs; the tennis team competes for championships, the track team frequently has individual champions.  Baseball hasn’t been great, but they were competitive last year. 

I don’t want to see Carleton leave the MIAC, but I don’t want to see us win nine conference games in football in seven years.  It’s not fair to the athletes who compete to ask them to play when they have literally no chance to win a championship.  I don’t expect Carleton to win the MIAC every year in football; however if Carleton is going to compete, Carleton has to compete with an expectation of winning.   

A lot of goals exist for the existence of an athletic program.  In terms of athletic records for football I believe the goal should be to win the conference once or twice a decade, consistently finish in the upper-division, and dominate St. Olaf. 

My ultimate point is the status quo at Carleton football is not acceptable.  I don’t mean this as a dig at the coaching staff, the administration, or certainly the current players.   I think Carleton’s recent lack of success is systemic.  But something has to change.  I don’t claim to have the answers, but I was taught at Carleton that asking the right questions will lead to the right answers.  I have many questions, but I want to pose two.  First, “If Carleton can be successful in academics, then why can’t we be successful in football.”  And another question: “What does Carleton need to do to be successful in the MIAC?”

Somebody needs to have the answers.