Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

Back in the Saddle Again (Sort Of)

It’s been ten years since I served in the parish, but when the invitation came to do an extended bit of supply preaching, I couldn’t resist. Chuck Trittin, the pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church in Eagan, was going on sabbatical and All Saints needed someone to preach and lead worship during the sabbatical. All Saints is near my home, so I accepted the invitation. The congregation was even gracious enough to grant me a three-Sunday “vacation” early in the assignment while

Life in the Kitchen

On wintry Sunday evenings this year my wife and I settled down for an evening of TV from PBS and Great Britain. I am referring to “Downton Abbey”, of course. I know it is only a dressed-up soap opera, but an hour or so with the Earl of Grantham and his fun-loving family is usually at least interesting. And then “Grantchester,” featuring Father Sidney Chambers, Anglican cleric and crime-solver from the mid-twentieth entury. Chambers even has a “curate”, the equivalent

That Old Devil Change

We had a wonderful family vacation in February. My wife and I, our three adult children, our daughter-in-law, and our two grandchildren went to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, for the proverbial week of fun in the sun. It was our eighth year at our favorite resort. We had neighboring ground floor rooms just steps from the pool. Wonderful.

At first we weren’t too sure. The resort was pummeled by Hurricane Odile last September, and was closed from mid-September until mid-December. Rebuilding is still

How Wide Are the Fences?

I have pictures of myself from the 1970s wearing a leisure suit. It was, as I recall, burnt orange in color. I had a colorful floral print polyester shirt to go with it and a really natty wide white belt and white shoes and classy looking very long sideburns. At the time I thought I looked great. Forty years later I look back and am appalled. (If you haven’t had that experience yet, be patient. You will. I have one word for you: Tattoos.)

About that time I was teaching confirmation using a

Hitting the Wall: A Reflection on November by Steve McKinley

I admire those folks (some of them interns and the spouses of interns) who run marathons, but I cannot say that I have ever wanted to be one of them. Perhaps if I had started serious running 30 or 40 or 50 years ago I would be a marathon addict by now, but I didn’t, and I’m not, and when you look at me you would not mistake me for a marathon runner.

I have heard that marathon runners often reach a point 20 miles or so out when they “hit the wall” and wonder if they can possibly

Excellent Mistakes: A Reflection on Doing and Learning

Just for the sake of giving him a name, I’ll call him Nebuchad-nezzar. Nebuchad-nezzar did his internship last year, and came away with excellent and hard-earned evaluations. I was talking with Nebuchadnezzar, and told him that his successor, Jeroboam, had now begun his service, and good reviews were coming back.

Nebuchadnezzar pondered a minute, then posed a semi-rhetorical question: I wonder if Jeroboam forgot the Kyrie the first time he led worship.

Nebuchadnezzar, you see, did forget the

A Good Start: A Reflection on Beginning Well

As September begins, so do many internships. We want those internships to get off to a good start, so here are a few tips on starting well.

For Interns

Walk away from that computer screen! Get out and meet people. Ask your supervisor to give you a list of people you should visit. If a group is meeting in the building while you are there, introduce yourself and then do a lot of listening. If the church has a photo directory, use it to learn names. That tells people you care about them.

Take some

A Little Crazier All The Time

At the end of May, my wife and I had a wonderful tour of Spain, during which we engaged in one of our favorite activities: buying things for our grandchildren. (We have enough things. Too many, in fact. But that is a story for another day.)

In one of the two Picasso museums we visited (Barcelona and Malaga), we bought the children’s book Picasso’s Trousers by Nicholas Allen. In this book, people are always saying no to Picasso, telling him what he cannot and should not do. They say he

Step This Way, Please: A Reflection on Leadership

I’ve occasionally had guilt pangs about not doing enough as a volunteer in the church we belong to, so during the most recent “Time and Talent” survey, I signed up to be an usher. We’re in church most Sundays anyway, so it didn’t seem like an imposition on my schedule. Now I have actually ushered a few times, and, let me tell you, this ushering business is a great gig, one of the best church assignments I’ve had in years.

People come in and I greet them and hand

Behind in Their Reading

I’ve talked to quite a few pastors recently, and I am concerned about them. I don’t think they’re keeping up with their internet reading.

These pastors tell me that they consider themselves blessed to be serving where they are. Their congregations are supportive, encouraging and understanding. While there is a steady throb of disagreement within those congregations, the pastors understand that as a sign of health, people wrestling with hard issues together. These pastors say that