Ministry in Context

Wreck this Journal

My lovely wife gave me a gift for my birthday that is absolutely driving me nuts.

She knows very well that I love blank journals. Give me a Moleskine and I go to my happy place. And if a pen comes with it, all the better.  It is an article of faith for me that a person can never have too many journals or too many pens. 

So here’s this gift called “Wreck This Journal.” Every page has an instruction on it.  For example:

  • Figure Out A Way To Freeze This Page
  • Write

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Matching the Words and the Music

During a long car ride last week we popped in an old CD, and I heard a song from deep in my past that always makes me laugh.

When I was in high school the singer Bobby Darin had a short-term hit with a song called “ Artificial Flowers .” What amuses me about the song is this: while the narrative is “tragic”/maudlin (a nine year old orphan girl freezes to death), the music that goes with it is relentlessly cheerful and upbeat. If you just heard the music, you’d want to

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Learnings from the Road

I was more-or-less out of touch for a couple weeks in May. Pat and I were on a “Turbo Tour” of Europe, touching the soil of eleven different countries in the company of other Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders. Most of the Americans were contemporaries of ours, meaning folks who can remember when Dwight David Eisenhower was president and your television picture, if you were fortunate enough to have one of those new-fangled devices, came in two colors: black and white.

Pat and

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Life is Good

One of the businesses temporarily displaced from its Boylston Street headquarters by the Boston Marathon bombings was the “Life Is Good” company, well known for its line of optimistic apparel and other sundry items bearing the “Life Is Good” logo. When they were able to return ten days later, a reporter on the spot questioned the company president about the irony of the situation.  “We don’t say ‘Life Is Easy,'” the president replied. “We

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My Guilty Pleasure

As I write this I prepare to say good-bye to whatever vestige of mature, cultured, intellectual status I might have previously claimed, revealing myself to be a total slob. As if you didn’t already know.

Three tides converged at about the time I retired from full-time parish ministry:

  1. My wife and I took ballroom dancing lessons.
  2. I had more free time in the evening.
  3. "Dancing With The Stars” became a TV hit.

What can I tell you? I confess to being a “Dancing With The Stars”

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On keeping it simple

One of my great friends and mentors when I was a young pastor was the Rev. Elward (yes, Elward) O. “Ozzie” Hollman, rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Windsor, Conn. Ozzie respected the high church liturgical tradition of the Episcopal Church, but led the liturgy in a very down-to-earth way, which was Ozzie’s style in all things. He had a great gift for keeping things simple and cutting through to the core.

Ozzie was famous at Grace for one of his Easter sermons. He stood up in

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Taking a longer look

I was in my bank, a supermarket branch, sitting down and doing some simple business. Next to me an elderly woman (even older than me) was conducting banking business. She was the very picture of the elderly lady: a tiny thing with carefully coiffed grey hair, precise make-up, neat clothing, wrinkled skin, a pleasant smile on her face. I could see her baking cookies, drinking tea, watching “Downton Abbey” with a cat on her lap, giving generous gifts to grandchildren and maybe even great

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To be content

Call me an old softie and a slob. I love Christmas. I love the whole month of December.

I love the scripture and hymns of Advent. I love the “stir up” prayers. (God knows, we need to get stirred up.) I love the candles. I love the concerts. The late service on Christmas Eve has always been one of my two favorite worship services of the whole year. (You didn’t ask, but the answer is the sunrise service on Easter Day.) I love the Sundays after Christmas, with relatively small congregations

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Everybody loved it ... Not!

Pat and I are not huge movie-goers, but I had read a number of enthusiastic reviews for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and the trailer caught my interest, so one day this summer we packed ourselves off to a matinee. I am admittedly obsessive about getting places on time or, ideally, early, so we were there to see all the pre-movie ads that flash up on the screen while you are finding your seat and opening the popcorn.  As a matter of fact, we saw several of them twice. Then the standard

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Learning the language

Some years ago one of my friends accepted a position teaching at a Lutheran seminary in Namibia. He found that many of the hymns of the Namibian church were Finnish in origin and were sometimes sung in Finnish, as were parts of the liturgy.

The Lutheran Church had been planted in Namibia in the 19th century by the Finns and was a product of that great missionary effort which brought Christianity to many places, but sometimes with the understanding that before the “natives” could learn

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