Ministry in Context

Stay on your side of the net

Feedback is a constant aspect of internship. Feedback from supervisor to intern, from intern to supervisor, from lay committee to intern, from intern to lay committee. Sometimes, unfortunately, feedback leads to hard feelings. Sometimes, even more unfortunately, the fear of hard feelings leads people to withhold important feedback. 

In a “Corner Office” column from the Sunday New York Times business section, Adam Bryant interviewed Andrew Thompson, the CEO of Proteus, a biomedical

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

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

For the 10,000th time

One warm July night Mrs. McKinley and I treated ourselves to a Neil Diamond concert at the local hockey-and-concert arena. We’ve seen Neil in action before and were quite eager to go again.

While there were some younger people there, most of the crowd was our generation, more twilight-side-of-the-hill than morning-side-of-the-mountain. But then Neil himself is 71. Nonetheless, the man radiates energy and performed for two solid hours without an intermission. Of course many of the songs were

Saying good-bye

Every year at the Spring Cluster Meetings we have a discussion about saying good-bye to the internship congregation. This is the advice given to interns at that time. Supervisors hear all of this, but lay committees might find this advice helpful.

  1. Talk openly about leaving and your feelings about it.
  2. Accept invitations out, even if they were not offered before.
  3. Pay outstanding debts in the community.
  4. Have a farewell celebration—accept gifts graciously.
  5. Take time to say individual good-byes

When is internship over?

You in the back row…when is internship over?

When you give your last sermon in the internship congregation.

Wrong. Over by the windows, what do you think?

When the congregation has its farewell party.

Sorry. You in the front, sticking your hand up and jumping up and down.

When you move back to campus.

Wrong. Anybody else want to try?

I didn’t think so. Here is the correct answer:

Internship is over when all of your evaluation forms have been returned to the Contextual Leadership

Muppets in Ministry

Journalist Dahlia Lithwick, who usually has better things to do with her time (like covering the Supreme Court for the electronic magazine Slate,) recently wandered a bit away from her home territory (or maybe she didn’t) with an article in Slate proposing that every living being is either a Chaos Muppet or an Order Muppet. Quoting from Lithwick:

Chaos Muppets are out-of-control, emotional, volatile. They tend toward the blue and fuzzy. They make their way through life in a swirling maelstrom

Time to step up

I began service in my first call on July 1, 1967. I was an assistant pastor. The senior pastor took ten days to break me in and then left for a two-week European vacation.

It was a large, downtown church in a major Eastern city. It was the summer of 1967, a summer that was riddled with urban rioting. Our city was no exception. When the senior pastor had been gone for two days, rioting broke out and reached into the neighborhood around the church. Our block was put under a dusk to dawn curfew. Armed

On being influential

While walking through the neighborhood the other day I was discussing the injustice of the world with our dogs Abby and Hobbes. Specifically, I was pointing out to them that Time magazine recently published an issue identifying “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” and had the nerve to leave me off the list.

“Appalling. Simply appalling,” commented Hobbes. This young gentleman has only been a part of our household for a few weeks and is still working on ingratiating

The view from the other side

In my “family of origin” we used one particular phrase to describe those people who went to church on Christmas and Easter every year. “C & E Christians?” “Christmas and Easter Christians?” No.

We called them “Religious Fanatics.” It was hard for us to imagine why anybody would go to church that often. Most years--most--we made it for one holiday or the other. That was plenty.

My parents did not dislike the pastors of the church we technically