Friday, May 30, 2008

Licensing School - Take the Test and Go Home

Well, the car is packed and I'm heading to breakfast. At 8:30 we take out test and by 10:30 we're on the road. Carpe Diem!

Licensing School - Last Full Day

Well, its almost over, last day of classes. There's 3 hours of Educational Ministries, then Small Rural Churches, Professional Ethics, and a session on the Local Pastors' Fellowship. We also got a explanation of what we will be doing at the Annual Conference in Roanoke in June. Apart from that we're be getting names, addresses, and emails from each other to keep in touch. Even though we will all be seeing each other at Conference. We have several class members from Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Georgia that won't be at our Virginia Conference. Fortunately someone brilliant soul was inspired to make a list of everyone and their email addresses.

The real high point of the day was evening chapel. The dean of licensing school, John Crawford, is leaving and he did the worship service. At the end of the service we had a gift for him, which included a wiffle ball bat and ball, signed by everyone who played with him. Then he and Beth Downs gave each of us a pocket Book of Worship.

It has been a long nine days. Too much information in too short of a time. Strange bed and a stranger daily routine. I am tired. But, it has been an excellent time of fellowship and worship. The friends will be around a lot longer than my weary joints and worn out brain. I guess that's really what this time has been about for me. Connecting with men and women who are going to be doing the same thing as me and dealing with things like I will, and knowing that I can really call on one of them for advice or prayer. Not a bad deal, trade nine days for a boat load of friends

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Licensing School - Information Overload

Talk about having stuff flying at you all different directions, this was the day. Our first two classes were on Clergy Tax Laws and Regulations & Pension and Benefits for Pastors. That was two hours for each session and we couldn't get close to covering it all. Once again I have a pile of things to read when I get home. That might actually happen some time in September.

Then we had a meeting with the Director of Connectional Ministries as he introduced us to directors of Conference Communications; Ministerial Services; Office of Lay Life & Work, Disabilities and Older Adult Ministries; Office of Mission and Global Outreach; Hispanic / Latino Ministries; Higher Education and Social Concerns; Youth, Young Adults, and Single Adult Ministries; Children's Ministries and Discipleship; and Stewardship. Each one told about their ministry within the Conference and the things the did that you would never imagine would be under their office.

Then we had Resource Fair that had information from not only the groups above, but from groups like Virginia United Methodist Assembly Center in Blackstone; Board of Laity; United Methodist Men; United Methodist Women; United Methodist Family Services; Heart Haven; The Society of Saint Andrew; and the Virginia Conference Historical Society. I know I left some out and I beg their forgiveness but the brain is simply melting. Fortunately for me they all had hand outs or websites for me to refer back to when the brain starts to re-gel.

I guess the school could see the grey matter dripping from our ears because the rest of the day was set aside for a trip to the Eastern Shore. I was stationed at Langley AFB for several years, but this was my first trip across the Bay Bridge Tunnel. We went to Frankland UMC in Frankland, VA. They had several outreach ministries that they do and we had speakers tell us about them. One was a preschool/after school program and the other was a ministry to Hispanic migrant workers. We had dinner in the fellowship hall prepared by their youth. The proceeds are for their mission trip, no destination set yet. Our evening speaker was a pastor who was originally from Liberia in Africa. He had been a refugee because of war in his country and after serving in a number of African countries he ended up on the Eastern Shore where serves as a UMC pastor. By the time we got back I was starting to recover from information poured into that restricted space between my ears.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Licensing School - Theology: Creeds and Sacraments

If there was ever a day that I realized how little I really know and how much more I need to know it was today. Yeah, I know I had theology classes some odd number of eons ago, but that's really beside the point. As we old poots are always ready to say, "I've forgotten more than other folks know!" The problem is that I've let myself remove things to some moldy, dusty corner of my mind and I've forgotten the filing system to pull it back up. I guess I'm going to have to sit down and do some serious reading for a bit and forget watching the TV.

That being said I did enjoy the classes. I love the sacraments. Communion has always been special, I could do it more often and it wouldn't loose the mystery and awe. There is that incredible sense of and knowledge that God is right in the middle of this. That you are taking part in something that every Christian in the world does in one form or another. What an amazing connection.

I realize folks have a lot of issues about baptism, but that really isn't what its about for me. It's that connection with God's people and that expression of faith. It is such a powerful grace thing. I wish I had the right words to explain what an emotional act it is for me, but for now just take my word.

In the Creed class we were asked to write our own creed at our table. Between four of us it wasn't easy. You get a sense of how difficult it must have been when they put the various creeds together to get the wording just right. Did you know that there is no United Methodist Creed? I didn't know that until today. We accept a number of creeds and they're in our hymnal, but we don't have one. I guess they figured out how hard it was to put one together before we did.

Maybe I kinda worry that I'll learn the mystery out of it all. Naw, ain't gonna happen.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day at Licensing School

One of my major reservations about coming to licensing school was that it was over Memorial Day. I like to be with my family on Memorial Day and I wanted to be with my churches the Sunday before. It is simply a special holiday for me.

Well, they had divided the class up into groups and each group had the responsibility for one of the weekday morning chapel services. I happened to be in the group scheduled for Memorial Day. We were to have our first planning day and I was late getting out of a class and missed it. When I saw one of the guys I asked what they had decided to do. He asked me if I would object to having the service set around Memorial Day. It was like an answered prayer.

The service started out remembering those lost in service to our country and moved to the hope of the resurrection. The scripture was 1 Corinthians 15:42-57, we read half before the prayer and half after. We had the lights dimmed in the chapel until the reading of the second half. We sang the hymn "God of Grace and God of Glory". It was one of the most moving services I had ever participated in. Even knowing what was planned, I was moved. I read the following poem and offered a prayer for our fallen as my part of the service. We closed with the Korean Prayer from the UM Book of Worship.

"Gift to the Fallen"
For each soldier that has fallen so that many may stand
We honor their spirit as they pass to God's hand
For without their sacrifice we would live forever in fear
We pray for their loved ones and provide a salute and a tear
God help us heal the wounds of hate and the misery of war
That is our gift to our fallen heroes that are amongst us no more

I hope you all had a blessed Memorial Day, I did.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Licensing School, Sunday 25 May 2008

I am at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, VA attending the UMC Licensing School. Classes started this past Thursday and will finish this coming Friday. That's 9 days starting with breakfast at 7:15, chapel at 8:00, first class at 9:00, and the closing chapel at 8:30 in the evening. It's a seriously long day. I'm already feeling weary and I'm not even half way through. Each morning I pray, "Lord, lift me up on wings of eagles, let me run and not grow faint." I'm afraid my brain is going to melt from information overload.

While its long and an endurance for someone who likes afternoon naps and going to bed early, it has been good. There is a lot of worship, prayer, and good fellowship. The classes have been worthwhile and I have taken over 20 pages of notes already. There are about 50 students in the class, with ages ranging from just out of seminary to even older than me, but not by much. It has been a long time since I have sat with so many men and women who are sincerely and passionately desiring to serve God and the church. It is humbling to be among them.

Today is Sunday and I really missed my churches. I looked at my watch all morning imagining which church was having their sermon and what stage they were at that time. I prayed for each congregation during the time they were having service. My time here has refreshed me (while wearing me to a frazzle) and I hope will make me a better pastor.

I'll put some pictures on once I get home and can download them. Well, it's going on 10:00 and I have to get up at 5:30 so I can still get hot water out of the shower.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Brian Daniels

Brian Daniels is an active member of Providence UMC. Brian is pictured with Mrs. Rhinda Johnson, the Drama Coach and Theater Arts Teacher at Galileo Magnet School in Danville, VA. (which was selected as one of the top 1,000 high schools in the US by newsweek Magazine just this week, #711). Brian was selected as his school's 'Most Up and Coming Actor '. Brian was commended on his voice as Duke Senior in Shakespeare's "As You Like It". The awards ceremony was held on May 19th at Bonner Middle School.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Please Stop...I Want to Pray With You Pt. 4

This Past Saturday we moved the "Please Stop...I Want to Pray With You" project to Providence UMC on Java Road.

It was a beautiful day, the sun was bright, the skies clear, with a nice breeze.
We even get the dogs involved in minstry when we run short of people. It's called the laying on of paws.
These last several weeks have been a wonderful time of fellowship with the three churches coming together for a common purpose.

I think this project, while we haven't had so many people actually stop for prayer, has opened our vision of what we can do in minstry even if we are small in size. "Your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams." When you put those together you get a church that thinks outside the box and comes alive.

Rained Out

Yesterday we had planned to have an outdoor service at St. Andrews UMC. They had been forecasting rain all week and I had been watching the projections each day trying to figure just when the rain would hit. At my last check the rain was to arrive in the afternoon. We had our window of opportunity.

When Joanne and I got to the church the clouds were ominous and the wind was picking up. Everyone was waiting outside the church to see what we were going to do. We decided to give it a shot and everyone ran to their cars and trucks to get their lawn chairs out. Someone grabbed a podium from inside for me to use. We set up out in the grass and started service.

The wind was gusting and I had to clip my notes to the podium to keep them from sailing away. We got through the announcements, call to worship, morning prayer, and the offering. We had forgotten the offering plate, so we used Billy Wyatt's baseball cap for the collection. Then the drops started falling. I said let's get inside and everyone grabbed their chairs.

This Sunday's message was on Pentecost and how the fresh air of the Holy Spirit blew into the upper room. When we stepped into the church from the gusting wind outside there was a stillness in the air. We hadn't turned on the AC since we were going to be outside. We could here the wind blowing outside. It was as if we had been given a real life example of how the mighty gust of wind would have felt coming into the still, stale air of the upper room.

After the service we still had our picnic lunch, only we were in the fellowship hall. Even with the weather everyone enjoyed the day and wants to do it again. Besides we never got to play the adults vs the youth volleyball game.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mother's Day

This past Sunday was Mothers Day. It was also Pentecost Sunday. the mothers won out, Big Surprise! Joanne prepared the watering can card with the pack of flower seeds for each mother. We did have to redefine mothers. We explained that a mother is not someone who simply gave birth; there are adoptive mothers, spiritual mothers, mother figures, you get the idea. We wanted to make sure that we recognized all the women who have a mothering role in someone's life. Several women said they had never been recgnized as mothers on Mothers Day.

There's a quote, "It's easy to become a mother, it's being a mother that's difficult".

Worldwide Telescope

I just found this site and want to pass it on. I has some truly incredible visuals of the universe. It's like getting an up close view of the expanse of creation. Check it out.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Spending Our First Night at the Parsonage

When we came to the Mount Airy Charge in July of 2007, the former pastor was in the process of moving out of the parsonage. He had a load of stuff to move and it was taking him a longer time since they had to thin their belongings because they were moving to an assisted living facility with less space. We live an hour away and have our own home, so I wasn't in any rush to have him out so I could move in. After he had moved we found that the parsonage needed some work before it could be used again. Again, having our own home I encouraged the churches to take their time and do things as time and finances allowed. They have done an excellent job getting the inside of the house ready.
All the inside walls have freshly painted. They sanded and refinished the hard wood floors. The floors seem to glow and expand the room. The wood is so warm looking.
They also replaced the floors in both the kitchen/dining space and in the bathrooms. The parsonage has 1 1/2 baths, the 1/2 bath is off the master bedroom. There are 2 bedrooms, with a third room that could be a bedroom or a study.
They also replaced the bathroom fixtures and retiled them, too.
The range and oven are new. I made cinnamon rolls in the oven Sunday morning. That new coffee pot was donated with me in mind. It is a 14 cup capacity and we can set the timer so its ready for me on Sunday morning.
The refrigerator is new and a new microwave was donated , too.
The living room has a sofa and love seat, with glass top end tables and coffee table. It looks sparse right now but as we move books, pictures, and nick-knacks in it will get a homier feel. That's a gas log fireplace for those cold winter nights.
This is our dining space. There is a sixth chair, but its in the midst of repair. All the windows in the house, except for a few in the kitchen, have new blinds on them. We're working on the curtains. This past Saturday night, we spent our first night at the parsonage. Joanne went to bed before I did and when I went to turn out the lights I looked out on the carport and could not see the car 4 feet away. Now that's what I call dark. Where we live in Lynchburg there are railroad tracks behind the houses across the street. We're accustomed to the sound and actually don't even notice it anymore. It was so quiet at the parsonage that even the slight creaks and pops were waking Joanne during the night. Imagine having to get used to quiet, nice thought.
Now that the parsonage is functional, we plan to start having Bible studies there. I had wanted to have them there so that it would be a "Charge" thing and not a "Church" thing. I didn't want anyone to feel like the Bible was the other church's study and not for them. I also wanted the facility to be used as much as possible for the churches.
In July we're looking to have an open house/cookout at the parsonage. While there have been a multitude of church members who have worked on the parsonage, there are still some who haven't stepped inside in a decade. It just opens all kinds of fellowship possibilities. This is going to be fun!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Please Stop...I Want to Pray With You pt 3

The first Saturday in May the "Please Stop...I Want to Pray With You" project moved to Republican Grove UMC. It will be here for two Saturdays. We had a beautiful day, though a bit windy. Kathy Fraley had to hold the banner down to be read until they got it tied down.
Betty Jo Dawson had her priorities in order, making sure she had her cup of coffee to start he day right.
We set the canopy up right in the grass in front of the doors to the church. Kathy looks a little chilly back in the shade there.
Good idea, move out into the sunshine. Might as well catch a few rays, eh? Carl Wayne and Doris Adams came over from Providence UMC to cover a time slot. In two weeks we will be moving over to Providence for the remainder of May. It continues to be a excellent time of fellowship and ministry.

If we're honest, most of us really aren't comfortable praying for people we don't know and sometimes even folks we know. It takes a lot to step out of your comfort zone and make yourself available for what God has planned for you.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another Hoop Jumped

I got this email yesterday. A bit of explanation first. I was ordained in a non-denominational church back in 1994. While the UMC recognizes my ordination, they do not accept it in their denomination. So I have been going through the process for the UMC. I am presently serving as a Lay Supply Pastor with the Mount Airy Charge. Upon completion of the requirements I will be a Local Pastor with the UMC and that should all finalize in early June. That's probably as clear as mud, but it'll have to do for now.

Charlie -

The Lynchburg District Committee on Ordained Ministry met yesterday and approved you as a certified candidate for ministry, approved you to attend local pastor licensing school, and approved for appointment as a part-time local pastor. Please contact the Lynchburg District Office immediately for the application and book list for licensing school.

If you have any questions about the requirements, please contact our district registrar.

Grace & Peace,

Rick Ecklund, Pastor

Centenary United Methodist Church