Thursday, April 30, 2009

Facebook has made me a better pastor !


Facebook has made me a better pastor. I joined the social networking site a while ago, but never used it for some time. Then, just a few months ago, I became an avid user (my friend Jae Hess claims I need an intervention, but so far I’ve managed to avoid anything so extreme). Since then, I’m becoming more and more aware of the benefits of Facebook to me as a pastor:

1.Facebook helps me connect with more people in the church. Last Sunday, I was able to greet someone with a followup to a statement they had made on Facebook! We enjoyed a short conversation and a laugh that might not have gone beyond “good morning” otherwise. And it allows me to make connections with people at their convenience, without intruding into a busy schedule or hectic home.
2.I send daily birthday greetings to members of my flock who are on Facebook. It only takes a few seconds, but it’s such a blessing to have that brief connection. I can’t help but believe it means something to send those greetings.
3.I’m in the loop. Through Facebook, I’ve been much better informed about the lives of my brothers and sisters: who’s on vacation, who’s having surgery, who’s having a bad day, and so on.
4.I pray via Facebook. I have had multiple opportunities to include a short prayer for a member of the church, and I’ve linked my daily prayer blog to my profile page, so my church family can gain a sense of what I’m praying each day.
5.It makes me “normal.” As normal as a pastor can be, that is. People can see on Facebook if I share an interest of theirs, or keep up with the semi-normal pursuits of my daily life.
6.It extends my example when I mention that I’m on a date night with my wife, or “sabbathing,” or “complining before bedtiming,” for example.
7.It helps me learn names. I have actually studied photos of people in the church whom I’ve “friended” on Facebook to try to improve my recollection when I see them at church. And just yesterday we got a program tab with a newcomer’s contact info on it, and I wasn’t sure of the last name...until that person asked me to “friend” her on Facebook!
8.It has increased my photo library of church things. Last week, after a child dedication on Sunday, a friend posted photos of her child’s dedication and “tagged” me in the picture. I copied those photos to my own files.
9.Facebook gets the word out. A few months ago, my church got a donation of brand new white boards. We installed those we needed and had one left over. I saw a ministry friend’s update on Facebook saying he was shopping for a white board. I sent him a message and a few days later he had a brand new board at no cost.
10. It encourages me and invites prayer for me. A while back, I was having a really crummy day, and said so in my update. Within minutes, a bunch of friends assured me they loved me and were praying for me. For a guy whose tendency is to suffer alone, that’s a huge benefit.
11. It makes me laugh. With all the stresses that come with public ministry, having an occasional friend poke fun at me---or me at them---makes the load a little lighter.
12. It makes me look cooler than I really am. At least, cooler than pastors who aren’t on Facebook, right?

I’m sure I’m forgetting or overlooking a few more ministry advantages to Facebook. Feel free to add your own in the comments. And, by the way, it’s not as time-consuming as most people think. I keep my Facebook page open in the background and check it a few times a day, max. Honestly. Seriously. No, really. No kidding. I’m being straight with you. Oops, just got a message on Facebook. Gotta go.

Bob Hostetler
Former
USA East

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What do we learn when we take off the Red Epaulets? Part -2-

My next career is as a Life Coach, I have done the Cert IV in life coaching and will soon have the piece of paper that says that is what I am, and I am wishing that I had done this as a SAO in my first year out, what I am learning is not necessarily new, but it is stuff that has taken me nearly half a century to pick up and I see this as one of those activities that can very quickly put ‘old heads on young shoulders’. What has impressed me so much with life coaching is that it is all about people and why they do what they do, and how they can literally fulfill all their hopes and aspirations. Within Fundraising we often find that we are over educated on ‘How too..’ but deficient in the ‘Why too..’ (excuse my grammar). Within the Church/Army, and I was guilty of it as well, we focused on ‘this is what we believe, and this is how we do it, rather than realizing that our oft quoted uniqueness also attaches itself to our beliefs as well. I have read with dismay over recent months words that seem to divide us into Real Christians whose beliefs are as the writer feels they should be and the rest of us who it seems should be bowing to their greater knowledge or revelation or enlightenment. A recent discussion on the Army’s lack of recognizing spiritual gifts, in my experience is that it is often a veiled excuse around ‘I have not got the exulted position that I should have so I am going to take my marbles and go home’. It’s a very sad destructive power play to hold the army to ransom and justify bizarre actions. I also have examples from my end of the world. In many of the discussions of Spiritual gifts we gloss over the fact that they need to be recognized and validated by the faith body; that means the congregation and also the organization to which we are aligned too. ‘Complaining about the DC’ is such an antiquated means of justification that it needs to be left behind.

So in one of my current roles of fundraising trainer I am in the process of putting together a seminar where we look at Professional Development, the ‘How too’ stuff but I also want to add to that the ‘Why too’ in the form of developing life skills. My philosophy is that if you make better people they will be better fundraisers. This can be extrapolated out to any profession.

So in all this I have learned that the importance of people is what, for me, this life is all about. I have a strong faith and in my fantasy moments I do see myself one day walking the Streets of Gold meeting my maker, meeting all the people of faith from the east and the west who will sit down in the Kingdom of God. There are questions that I want to ask of the Founder and I have already planned the Army Band that is going to welcome me in to heaven, made up of all the people that I have played with or wanted to play with over the years, the music is also planned, and I want to talk with my mum who died before I realized how important people are in our lives. Yes, I know it is fantasy and possibly will be very different; but in that time the people who come from the east and the west to sit down in the Kingdom of God, will not be judged on what they did, nor will they be judged on what they believe.

Officership, Fundraising, Life Coaching and so many other things that I, and all of us, have done have one thing in common. It’s all about the people. One of the principles that are promoted through Life Coaching is 'you get what you focus on’. I want to focus on people and how I can support and encourage them in their individual journey. What they believe or how they do it is their responsibility. There is no greater compliment that anyone can receive but to be called Barnabus – Son of Encouragement.

Peter Fletcher
Former Officer
Australia

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What do we learn when we take off the Red Epaulets? Part -1-

It was July 1991 that I terminated my officership and began a new life that I was ill equipped for. When you have been a Corps Officer for nearly 20 years, with a couple of stints in PR; you are well qualified to be an Officer, but in my case felt that my effective working life was over. However, I believe that I had an advantage in that for the last few years of my officership I had read the Saturday Melbourne Age classifieds and actually circled jobs I thought that I could do. My motivation at the time had nothing to do with looking for a job, but I wanted to prove to myself that I had value that the world might recognize to give to the Army. Being an officer at times felt like being in a Truman like existence where I had little connection with my people in the real world; I did not have to relate to the world in any significant fashion, I did not understand what the pressures they were under and I had contact with a few fellow officers who I perceived were taking advantage of this secure, lifetime existence that would take them through to retirement and beyond without too much effort on their part.

The result was that when I left I sat for two months in a men’s shelter pondering the meaning of life and not coming up with too many answers.

It has been 18 years since that sad event took place and I am at times haunted by the ‘what if’s’, and the thoughts about what I could have been and where life would have taken me; but it is as we all know a fruitless exercise that leads to some very dark places. As I sit here this morning am tempted to ruminate on what has become of ‘Fletch’ as I have become affectionately known to some and dismissively known to others; what have I learned, what difference have I made in people’s lives and what is to become of me.

When I left I was given the opportunity to be a promotion officer for the Uniting Church and this gave me the opportunity to visit local congregations to promote the wider work of the church and assist them in their stewardship and fundraising activities; this led on to a career in professional fundraising and I have had a fantastic time. Incidentally most of the fundraising principles that I have come across are based in the scriptures and yet most churches look at stewardship (fundraising) I such a legalistic and negative way that it is scary in the extreme. I have been involved in this profession in three countries now and taught and spoken at conferences around the world; it has been an exciting adventure.

However, over recent years I have found that there has developed almost an arrogance in some areas over some aspects of the profession where it is all about facts and process. “This is how it is done and you need to be able to tick all these boxes to say that you can do it’. I have felt for a long time that so many organizations want to know ‘what have you done?’ ‘How much Money have you raised?’ And ‘what is the biggest gift that you have achieved?’ My take on this is the same as It was when I was an officer Fundraising is more about people than it is about money. As an officer my take on this was that Officership is not about theology, or practice, or commitment or the verities of Salvationism; it’s about people.

Peter Fletcher
Former Officer
Australia

Monday, April 20, 2009

THE GAY THING -Part Two-

In my lifetime the church has railed against divorce and, mostly, relented. There are now churches that say divorce is okay but remarriage is not. There are churches that say divorce and remarriage is okay. There are those that say one set of rules applies to those in leadership while another applies to the congregation. There are others still that hold firm to the belief that divorce is wrong period, the end. We live longer lives than ever before. We are different people at 50 that we were at 20. We are different people at 80 that we were at 50. I’m not suggesting divorce is the answer but I am suggesting life changes and life goes on. We now have divorced soldiers; often in positions of leadership. A divisional youth band leader I know has divorced twice and is married to his third wife. We have divorced officers. We have remarried officers. We have divorced officers, now soldiers, married to active officers. How far we have come; congratulations Sven and Glad!!

Which church is right? How about which territory is right? What’s working in England isn’t even a glint in an eye stateside. Personal interpretation is in the eye of the TC? Whoever was so loving and ‘liberal’ as to ‘allow’ and bless the Ljungholm/Thompson is rockin’ this Army. In the vernacular of the 70’s – right on.

Segregation was the norm; a norm of which we should be ashamed. Mixed race marriage? I think not. Mixed race children? Here in the states they were destined to be called names and ostracized. People, Americans, actually believed other people were less smart, capable, fill in the blank, based on color alone. When I saw the film Australia I saw that we were not alone. The half cast ‘creamies’ were taken from their aboriginal mothers and sent to camps run by churches determined to westernize them including, if necessary, marrying them off to white citizens. The church was determined to “breed the black out of them”. Caste systems exist in India. South Africa labels everyone white, black, brown, and yellow. Just a few examples but thank God for people like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela for teaching us to abhor such a way of life and to believe everyone is equal in the eyes of God and civil rights.

Trust me on this, I know people who still think black people are inferior and should be subjected to lives of inferiority. I am not proud to know these people. They are covert but to quote Cyndi Lauper, “I see their true colors shining through”.

Pro-life, pro-choice, or anti-abortion? I am pro-choice for selfish reasons because I want to be able to choose for myself. But I am also of that ilk because I believe all women should be able to choose for themselves. Not all women believe in Christ or even God. I find it presumptuous that we should dictate to them how to live their lives. Women who may be in vicious, horrible circumstances we cannot even begin to comprehend. There are those who will say some are using abortion as birth control. And you may well be correct. That does not mean all. Each person and situation is individual. Each pain is personal. Each decision is difficult. I know we are to preach to the ends of the earth but I also know the reality of having taken women, before and after Roe V Wade, for abortions. It’s not pretty. Even less so in a dark, dirty, after hours, illegal environment. And when does life begin? It’s 2009, time to stop disclaiming science and begin figuring out how to incorporate the ever increasing knowledge base into our belief system.

Interestingly, several people I know who refer to themselves as pro-life believe in capital punishment and/or abortion in cases of rape or incest. I’m not quite sure how that gels with pro-life because they are still lives. At least in God’s eyes. Or so I’m told. And don’t even get me started on people murdering the supposed murderers. Justification for what?

And the last of this week’s controversies, homosexuality. Again, though we oft feel compelled or commanded to tell everyone including non-believers how to live, I say live and let live. I so agree with Anonymous Active SFOT that what people do in their bedrooms is their choice alone. And Sven, as always, articulated so well that as in most other relationships it has much more to do with love than sex. Not to mention science again. Brain research is showing differences in straight versus gay as well as in such things as narcissists and sociopaths. Love is hard enough to find so grab it when you do. If you are hetero, then good for you. If you are homo, then good for you. If you are lucky enough to find unconditional love in either state, then great for you. I’m not talking about sex, or infatuation, or casual relationships. I’m talking about truly finding someone to love unconditionally and for you to love back unconditionally. Take it, hold it, keep it…however it comes to you.

How we integrate that into the church and leadership/officership may be a challenge. Celibacy? I doubt it. Many of those single, widowed, divorced officers and soldiers you think are celibate are not. There may be some but that is not the norm. Sex is a normal part of a healthy individual’s life. Think about this guy in Wisconsin. I’m not saying they are or are not having sex. I’m saying they are in love and for most healthy people the two usually go hand in hand. They are in love to the point that he was willing to break the rules and, in the end, lose his job and ministry.

So how do we come to grips with all of this? Love.

Not the sex kind. Not the kind that is determined by if we are straight or gay, married or not, black or white, male or female or any other categorizing but the Christian kind. After all these years, I still continue to be amazed at the things we do in the name of trying to save souls. That always seems to be the end goal. We serve meals, visit, do whatever it is we are doing that week but always with that statistical goal in the back of our brain.

Perhaps it is time to forget about numbers and cut the judgment calls and simply love them for who they are, how they are, with no end result in mind. Let the chips fall where they may. Love them into the fold. Love them into the Saviors arms. His arms will welcome them even if they are women, divorced, non-Caucasian, post-abortion, or gay. His arms will welcome them if they are the polar opposite of all those things. His arms will welcome them if they are anywhere in between. Let’s leave the saving up to Him and we’ll just do the loving.


Deb Taube
Former
USA East

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I'M NOT WHERE I OUGHT TO BE


I am 35, a wife, and a mother of two. I love my life but I know that I am not where I belong.

I began attending army meetings and youth activities when I was 12 years old and my life was built around that. There I found friends and people that truly cared about me. I'm not saying that my family didn't care, but this was a deeper, different care. GOD was there.

For as long as I can remember I was army all the way to the bone. I was accepted no matter what. I worked at camp, went to youth councils, and participated any where I could. I loved the army; I was army!

I am from ALM and then I moved to Texas to get away from my home. I did all of my testing and everything else required to get into the training college. I went to assist at a corps and then I went to work at camp before we left for training. I was a Messenger of Hope in the USA Southern Territory. I truly loved it... tt was my life.

During my second year I met my future husband at a Future Officer’s Fellowship retreat. I was going to finish my second year and he was going to do his ‘first year’ and then we were going to get married and go back in order for him to finish his second year. Well, in May, just before my commissioning, I was told that I wasn't deemed ready. The officer at the training college wanted to tell my ‘family’ (the people that I had just spent 2 years of my life with) that I was leaving for personal reasons, however, I told him that I wouldn't let him lie to them. I went and sat through him telling them why I was leaving. To be honest, I felt as if my soul was being taken from my chest.

We decided that we would get married and go assist an officer that we were close to. The DC in Texas was happy, the DC in Florida (where my husband is from), and the DC where we were going to go (ALM) was all for it. Well, one officer decided that he didn't want us in the division there, and that really hurt. I decided that I wasn't going back and it was like I had killed someone. But I think I was the one that was hurt.

Well, we got married and we didn't have much to do with the army for a while. I guess it was about 3 years before we went to work for some friends. It was great. We were with the army for about 4 years until some other friends (that were officers) did some ‘bad stuff’ and they tried to put us in the middle of it. That was not a good thing. Again I felt as if my life was falling apart.

I guess it has been about 9 years since I have had anything to do with the army. I am happy with my life but I know that it isn't complete. I made my husband and my children my world. I didn't have any contact with anyone from the army. I know that I was running from my calling. If I got in touch with anyone, they would ask that question,"When are you going back."

My husband doesn't want anything to do with it and that hurts me more than anything in the world. This is the first year that we have been back to the corp. Not our home corps, but one that is about 3 hours away. They want my children to go to camp and I would love that. I hope that it works out for them to go. I want them to have that in theie life because I believe that it saved my life.

So that is where I am right now. I love the army but I am afraid that I will get hurt once again and I don't like to even think in that direction...

(name on file)
Former Cadet
USA South

Saturday, April 18, 2009

FROM THE PULPIT TO THE PEW !

Sometimes I feel just because we are ex-officers it may appear that we are no longer useable, available or even approachable!

Because we are no longer wearing red, that does not automatically indicate we are not still called or available for ministry. Why is there such a gulf fixed from the pulpit to the pew? Is it our own making or is it that others are not sure how to treat us? Maybe there are times our congregational leader(s) may feel uncomfortable and rather than check on our status, would find it easier to just ignore us. Is that the situation for anyone?

Initially my "Pulpit to Pew" transition from red on my shoulders to nothing or even blue was an emotional and sometimes almost a phsychologicall roller coaster experience. I did resign from Officership of my own free will, it was my choice but I was still called and very much aware of that. However, the thoughts, feelings and treatment was everything from frustrating, challenging, and even upsetting at times. Maybe the thoughts and feelings were self induced, but certainly not always.

For those who may be just experiencing the transition, take heart, time does help heal some of the transitional experiences. But let me encourage you speak up and share with colleagues and even through the FSAOF on FACEBOOK. Don't box yourself in and feel alone.

In these days, fortunately I find myself being very appreciative. To a large degree I am truly blessed and able to, a degree at least, still fulfill my calling. I have been hired part time as a Lay Pastor . Wearing blue and not red on the shoulders, but for me "once called, always called", so if it is blue or red, God has opened doors for me and I am truly grateful. Even though the hours are few, the blessings are numerous and rewarding. God has been blessing the work and the joy of ministry is just wonderful.

So if you are in the Pulpit and thinking about being in the pew? Think again! Be sure you are ready and really know the pew is where you need/must be. Personally, I don't think I was ever, nor will I ever be ready for full time pew occupancy. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Weeds still grow there, maintence and hard work with all the stress is still a factor. But know, truly know that God is faithful be it pew or pulpit; He still reigns.

Blessings one and all.

Former (name on file)
Newfoundland
CANADA

Thursday, April 16, 2009

MY KIDS IN THE MINISTRY? I DON'T THINK SO !!!


Perry Noble, in his blog (perrynoble.com), writes about one of the leaders he’d like to meet with. Speaking of Larry Osborne of Northcoast Church (a multi-site church in California), he says: The words of wisdom he shared that day were awesome…but the thing I remember the most was when he talked about how his main staff guys had been with him since the beginning…how none of them had flamed out or failed morally…and how nearly all of their children were in ministry as well.

Hearing him say that lit a fire in me and every ounce of me screamed, “I WANT THAT FOR ME AND THE TEAM I SERVE WITH!” I do, too. Please, Lord. BUT the phrase above about how nearly all of Larry’s coworkers’ children are in ministry made me realize there’s something wrong with me. A few weeks ago my daughter emailed me after reading a blog entry (it may have been on this blog or on my prayer blog at bobhostetler.blogspot.com). She said she wasn’t sure she should read my blog because I sometimes get so honest about the hurts I experience in ministry. I emailed her back not to worry about me, that it just kinda goes with the territory, and then I wrote without thinking, “that’s why I’m glad you’re not a pastor.”

Wow. Something’s gotta be wrong with me, to write that, right? It’s totally sincere, but once upon a time I would have been thrilled if my children had chosen full-time ministry (I should say: the lovely Robin and I have always prayed hardest for our children to be in the center of God’s will, not for any particular path, and we’re intensely proud of the people they are and the way God has gifted them and is using them). Now, though, to say to my daughter that I’m glad she’s not a pastor....that’s an awful thing to say, isn’t it? About this high calling of pastoring?

But, alas, it’s true. Now, I do say to young men and women when they ask me for guidance about entering seminary or going into ministry or planting a church, “If you can possibly do ANYthing else, DO IT!” And I mean that wholeheartedly. Ministry ain’t easy, and it can be incredibly hurtful, and it’s only worth it if you’re called to it by God, if it’s a call you can’t escape. And, when Robin and I dedicated our children, we vowed not to hold them back from the service of God even if it meant pain or poverty or persecution, and we haven’t strayed from that commitment. But I must admit that being a pastor has been so hard and hurtful in recent times for me that I would grieve to see my children experiencing such attacks and such ill-treatment (at times). In fact, as I proudly sat under my son’s leadership in worship last Sunday (afterward, actually), I had a moment when I actually WORRIED about what God might be preparing him for and leading him toward. That’s wrong, right?

I know, of course, that I’ve been in a season of trial and testing in the last year-plus. I’ve pouted under the broomtree a lot in the last year. And I have hope that that season will soon come---maybe IS coming---to an end. I know I have more people praying for me today than at any previous time in my LIFE! And I know that God has great plans for his people, Cobblestone Community Church. So I hope among those plans is a healing and restoration of my heart in such a way that I will soon repent of my words to my daughter....and my fears for my son.

Bob Hostetler

USA East & NHQ

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

THE EXIT Part -3-

A second issue is the authors’ assumption that collegiality among pastors, though important, is inherently limited because “ministers feel unavoidable competition with each other, which gets in the way of forming healthy support groups.” But is such competitiveness inevitable? Or is it possible for denominations and judicatories to create conditions under which competitiveness becomes less likely and strong collegiality more common?

By conceiving of collegiality in terms of “support groups,” the authors fail to appreciate the potential for strong forms of collegiality that have the character of friendship, in which fellow pastors share each other’s lives and help shape each other’s character. Friendship sustains pastors over time and not simply during crises—it is the kind of collegiality that is crucial to the cultivation of self-knowledge, relational intelligence, the capacity to remain dynamically engaged with one’s work and the ability to identify and negotiate conflict, all of which are relevant to preventing the dynamics that cause clergy to leave pastoral ministry.

In his book on the experiences of Roman Catholic clergy, The First Five Years of the Priesthood, Hoge claimed that one of the most important findings of his research was that priests left the ministry because they “felt lonely and unappreciated.” Loneliness was the one factor always present among the various reasons priests resigned in their early years of ministry. Hoge claims that when loneliness “is absent, resignation from the priesthood is unlikely. Whether a priest is heterosexual or homosexual, in love or not, it will not drive him to resign unless at the same time he feels lonely or unappreciated.”

This same dynamic appears to be present among Protestant clergy. The indication of loneliness and isolation among pastors who leave parish ministry warrants a more positive view of pastors’ potential for collegiality and calls for a vigorous exploration of the conditions that encourage noncompetitive relationships between clergy.

Precisely because this book succeeds in providing us with an unprecedented, multidenominational reading of why pastors depart from ministry, it is bound to leave readers asking for an equally in-depth discussion of why pastors stay and how they thrive.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

THE EXIT Part -2-

Leaving ministry is hard to do, and ex-pastors said “there are at least parts of ministry” that they miss. “Their accounts were remarkably consistent: they most missed leading worship and being a meaningful part of people’s lives.” Pastors who had left ministry under circumstances not of their own choosing or who felt that they had in some way been mistreated mourned the loss of pastoral ministry most intensely. The researchers note that “several interviews were interrupted when pastors cried.” Former pastors who were content with their new vocational setting also told of their love for local church ministry. The sense of loss says something important about the good that is intrinsic to the work of pastoral ministry and about how this work shapes a way of life that is not easily transferable to other vocational contexts.

The gap between the ideal and the reality of pastoral ministry also matters. A significant gap between pastors’ ideal about how long it should take to accomplish particular tasks—preaching, teaching, pastoral care, administration—and the amount of time it really takes has a direct and predictable bearing on their level of stress and dissatisfaction. Striking a balance between what one wants to do in ministry and what one has to do is crucial.

This raises the critical question of encouraging pastors to manage their work in ways that take into account both their particular skills and capacities and the full breadth of demands and tasks that make up pastoral ministry. A correlative question is how congregations might become more active in helping pastors strike this balance.

There are two issues on which I would have liked to see the authors elaborate further. They assert in one of their introductory chapters that pastoral ministry is no more difficult today than it was four decades ago. Hoge and Wenger concede that ministry is different—indeed, they mention both differences that have emerged in Protestant life since the 1960s and differences in seminary graduates. However, they contend that the differences do not translate into a greater degree of difficulty. They leave unexplored the social and cultural changes of the past 50 years and the possibility that these changes have made pastoral ministry more difficult as well as different. The proliferation of communication technologies, the changing structure of everyday life (due largely to technology), the growing complexity of family life, the changing understandings and norms of sexual conduct and the expansion of consumer culture (as evidenced by unprecedented levels of consumer debt) are only a few of the conditions that present pastors with new kinds of demands.

The authors’ apparent dismissal of this possibility is puzzling, and it prevents them from raising questions about social and cultural factors that may contribute to the negative experience of pastors. Addressing these new challenges would not diminish the challenges of past decades; nor would such a discussion need to claim too much for current circumstances. Rather, it would help pastors to make the connection between larger cultural shifts and their experience of the work they are called to do.

Part 2 of 3

Saturday, April 11, 2009

THE EXIT Part -1-

Why do pastors leave the ministry? Several common issues emerge from the research of Dean Hoge and Jacqueline Wenger: preference for another form of ministry, the need to care for children or family, conflict in the congregation, conflict with denominational leaders, burnout or discouragement, sexual misconduct, and divorce or marital problems. Of these factors, which form the basis for the central chapters of Pastors in Transition, two are especially important: conflict and a preference for specialized ministry. A close third is the experience of burnout, discouragement, stress and overwork. As the authors explore these factors, they provide significant insights into what can be done to help people stay in ministry.

Hoge and Wenger’s study is part of the larger Pulpit and Pew research project on the state of pastoral ministry, based at Duke Divinity School and funded by the Lilly Endowment. Hoge has authored two previous volumes (one coauthored with Wenger) on the status of the Catholic priesthood. Pastors in Transition is the first book-length Pulpit and Pew publication to examine the state of Protestant clergy.

The authors conducted extensive interviews with clergy who have left parish ministry, voluntarily or involuntarily, and with denominational leaders from five church bodies—the Assemblies of God, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Methodist Church. The narrative is peppered with numerous quotes from clergy and enhanced with helpful graphs and concise summaries of the findings.

Hoge and Wenger learned, first of all, that polity matters. This finding is most clearly illustrated by the high degree of dissatisfaction expressed by United Methodist clergy in relation to their denomination’s deployment systems and the level of support they received from judicatory officials. Among the denominations included in the study, “the United Methodist Church stands out for the level of centralization, supervision, and commitment to its clergy.”

The denomination sets up a standard of dependence between clergy and denominational leadership that is hard to live up to. Furthermore, social trends such as greater freedom of choice and the tendency of pastors’ spouses to be working outside the home have made the itinerant model increasingly difficult to implement. The authors conclude that “the more a pastor’s career is determined by his or her denomination, the more conflict that pastor will potentially feel with denominational leaders.”
Conflict in the parish also looms large. The top five conflict issues cited by pastors who left ministry were pastoral leadership style, church finances, changes in worship style, staff relationships and building projects. Organizational and interpersonal issues, rather than doctrinal differences or hot-button issues such as homosexuality, were the most likely to motivate pastors to move on. “Most notable about the main conflicts experienced by ministers who left parish ministry is their ‘everyday,’ prosaic nature.” As they reflected on this finding, Hoge and Wenger “came to believe that the conflicts most often experienced by our participants are ones that could probably be resolved and in the process offer growth experiences for both pastor and congregation.”

The importance of collegiality to pastors’ flourishing emerges in several places in this study. Isolation and loneliness contributed directly or indirectly to pastors’ moves out of local ministry. Of those who left due to sexual misconduct, 75 percent indicated that they were lonely and isolated. In all five denominational groups, the top motivating factors for leaving were the same. Pastors reported:

“I felt drained by demands.” 
“I felt lonely and isolated.” 
“I did not feel supported by denominational officials.” 
“I felt bored and constrained.” 
Furthermore, Hoge and Wenger discovered a consensus among judicatory officers regarding pastors who have left local church ministry: “These pastors tended to be loners in the district or presbytery, for whatever reason not part of ministerial friendship groups or action groups.”

HE IS RISEN !


Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

Arabic: Al Maseeh Qam!

Chinese: Helisituosi fuhuole! !

Czech: Kristus vstal zmrtvy'ch!

Dutch: Christus is opgestaan!

Gaelic: Erid Krist!

Irish Gaelic: Tá Críosd ar éirigh!

Scots' Gaelic: Tha Crěosd air čiridh!

Georgian: Kriste aghsdga!

Greek: Christos Anesti!

Hebrew: Ha Mashiyach qam!

Italian: Cristo č risorto!

Latin: Christus resurrexit!

Polish: Khristus Zmartvikstau!

Russian: Khristos voskres!

Serbian: Hristos Vaskrese!

Slavonic: Christos Voskrese!

Slovak: Kristus vstal zmr'tvych!

Spanish: Cristo ha resucitado!

Swedish: Kristus är upstånden!

Ukranian: Kristos Voskres!

Welsh: Atgyfododd Crist!

PLEASE SHARE YOUR RESPONSE IN THE COMMENT SECTION IN A LANGUAGE OF YOUR CHOICE. If your response is in a language other than English, kindly share with us what language you are using.

HE IS RISEN !

Sven Ljungholm
Exeter, UK

Monday, April 6, 2009

MARY'S SWORD -2-

But love never looked like this. Pools of blood beading the dirt beneath the cross. A heavy spike through the feet. Ribs protruding against the skin. Open wounds bothered by flies. Eyes swollen with fever. Hair matted from this morning's thorns. Hands raided to God on splintered wood. A slump torso, dangling from impaled wrists like some grotesque pendant.

This is what his mother sees as she bares her heart to the hilt of that cruel, Roman sword. It is more than a mother can bear. But somehow she does. Largely because of the man standing beside her, steadying her...John, the disciple Jesus loves. Arm in arm, the two people Jesus loves the most in the world. They were never closer to each other than they are now, at this very moment.

They hear Jesus groan as he raises his head. He shapes his farewell with a tongue that is parched and lips that are split. John leads Mary closer to spare Jesus the strain, for her son has so much to tell her:

"Thank you for everything...I owe you so much...you've been as dear a mother as anyone could ask for."

But the spasms in his chest are more frequent, and those feelings go unspoken. Jesus pushes on the spike and struggles to fill his lungs. The pain is excruciating. His words come at great effort.

"Dear woman, here is your son."

She looks to John and clutches his arm as fresh wells of tears pool in her eyes. Her lips squeeze out a tremble smile.

"John, here is your mother."

The disciple nods as he bites his lips to fight back the emotion. That is all that is said. for an intimate moment they behold the one they love so much. Then Jesus slumps again, his heavy eyes closing.

Suddenly, Mary realizes, "HE is about his Father's business."

She prays to that Father, prays that death would come quickly to her son. No, their son. For both would lose a child today. Both would bear the blade in their breast.

Yet in spite of her grief, in spite of the cold steel sheathed in her heart, she is standing near the cross. She can't bear to watch. But she can't bear to turn away either. She is there. Standing by her son. As any mother would.

She was there when he came into this world. She would be there when he left it. She was there when he was pushed through another painful passage, returning him to the arms of his Farther.

A personal prayer:

Dear Man of Sorrows,

Who, with the weight of your body pulling against those nails and the weight of the world's sin pulling against your soul, thought more of the sorrow of others than your own.

Who was such a compelling commentary on the only commandment with a promise, all the while knowing that for you that promise would be withheld.

who was stripped of everything, yet still found so much to give: to your executioners, forgiveness; to a thief, paradise; to your mother, a son.

Grant us the grace, O Lord, that we would never forget how you rose above your forsakenness to make sure your mother would not be forsaken. What an example of selfless love. What an example of everything a son should be.

Father, keep us from ever wandering far from the foot of that cross. For that is the fountain where love is most pure.

That is where we are cleansed, not only from our sin but from our pettiness. That is where we are closest to you. That is where we are closest to those who love you. Bring us there daily, Lord. That is where love is. And that is where we need to be.

Andre L. Burton
Former, USA East
Greater New York Division

MARY'S SWORD

Scripture John 19: 25-27
Mary stares at the cross, it blurs in a teary mist and seems like the hilt of a sword plunged into the heart of the earth. As she ponders the image, the cryptic words of Simeon, spoken at Jesus' birth come rushing back to her:

"This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword shall pierce your own soul too."

As the cross comes into focus again, it dawns on her: So this is the sword.

It is something every mother fears...losing a child. That fear has haunted her ever since Simeon's foreboding words. Then there was the terror of Herod's assassination plot on the baby. And the Suffering Servant prophecy in Isaiah has always troubled her. It was as if Death had perched on Jesus' crib since his birth, casting its dark shadow as a reminder that one day the boy would be his.

Deep down inside, Mary knew that Jesus was a child born to die. He would not grow up to be a doctor or a lawyer or a rabbi. He would not marry or give her grandchildren to carry on the family name. She's known this for a long time now and had buried it in her heart.

In pools of tears swim a few tender memories. His birth in that cold, dark stable in Bethlehem. How he shivered as she held him for the first time, so tiny and helpless. How her breast warmed him. How her song lulled him to sleep. And how, when she kissed his forehead, he looked so peaceful, without a care in the world.

The cross comes into focus again, and she sees crude, hunched-over men gambling their souls away as the cast lots for his clothes. She looks up at her son and aches. He is naked, and there is no one to warm him. He is thirsty, and there is no one to wet his lips. He is tired, and there is no one to sing him to sleep. His forehead is wrinkled in agony, and there is no one to kiss it, no one to mop his care-ridden brow.

"What did my baby ever do to deserve this?" Again her eyes blur. another memory floats by. And another. She remembers his first word. She remembers his first step. She remembers how he used to love to help her bake, and how she would pull off a portion of fresh bread, dip it in honey, and, give it to him. She remembers how it made her little boy smile and his eyes sparkle.

"What did my little boy ever do to deserve this?" she remembers when he was twelve and already about his Father's business at the temple in Jerusalem. She distinctly remembers thinking, "He's not my little boy anymore."

A mother's love, that's why she is there. A Savior's love, that's why he is.



Andre L. Burton
Former, USA East
Greater New York Division

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Salvation Army opens striking new Chelmsford centre

Just over a year after the last service was held in its old church on Parkway, the Chelmsford Corps of The Salvation Army has celebrated the dedication and official opening of a new striking suite of buildings on the same site.

The celebrations on a beautiful sunny spring day (Saturday 21 March) began with a march by church members, accompanied by The Salvation Army band, from the town centre to the new building. The 320-seat worship hall was packed for the ceremony where invited guests included the Mayor and Mayoress of Chelmsford, Councillor Tom and Mrs Jane Willis and the MP for West Chelmsford, Simon Burns.

The leaders of The Salvation Army for the United Kingdom with the Republic of Ireland, Commissioners John and Betty Matear, were the special guests for the weekend. Commissioner John Matear cut the ribbon and unveiled a plaque in the main foyer, to officially open the new building, witnessed by Olive Hance (94) and Olivia Wright (9) representing the oldest and youngest members of The Salvation Army in Chelmsford.

The new building is made of wood panelling, covered with zinc cladding. Motorists driving along the A138 Parkway will have already noticed the innovative tower, which changes colour as light is reflected off the surface.

Major Alan Watters, church leader at Chelmsford Salvation Army with his wife Major Linda Watters, says the building is much more than a wonderful exterior. Inside, a reception area and cafe with wi-fi internet access lead on to several multi-purpose rooms, which can be used by local people, businesses, and community groups for receptions, meetings, and events. Catering and sports facilities are also available.

"The building looks spectacular from the outside, but it's been designed with the needs of users in mind, and we're sure that a wide range of community groups and local people will find it a useful resource," Major Alan Watters said.

After Saturday's service of dedication and thanksgiving, a buffet was served and the building opened to members of the public. During the afternoon and evening, more than 200 people enjoyed looking around the building and watching activities and demonstrations from members of various groups who will use the building.

The first Sunday morning service in the new church was led by Commissioner Betty Matear, and this was combined with a celebration of Mothering Sunday. The weekend was brought to a close by the evening worship service led by Commissioner John Matear.

This week, The Salvation Army in Parkway opens its doors for a series of open days to enable people to view and enjoy the new facilities and to see for themselves how the new church building may serve the local community.

The celebration week will conclude on Sunday 29 March, with a Sunday Special service starting at 4:30pm featuring finalists from a talent show organised earlier this year. 'Chelmsford's Got Talent' was held at St Peter's College and the Sunday Special will take the form of a chat show with some of the finalists of the talent competition, including the winner Hannah Dawson.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The General's Easter Message 2009: Very Early in the Morning

The early morning is a strange time. It can be filled with positive expectation or deep apprehension. How are you, early in the morning?

The 15th chapter of Mark's Gospel opens with the words, 'Very early in the morning' (New International Version), and then goes on to tell us what took place in those history-splitting pre-dawn moments. The Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, had been arrested in the night by Jerusalem Temple Guards who had known where to find him because his close friend and follower, Judas, had betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver. His yet more trusted friend, Peter, had openly denied even knowing him. The High Priest in Jerusalem questioned Jesus in public and judicial condemnation soon followed.

'Very early in the morning' Jesus, your Saviour and mine, was handed over to the Roman occupying forces, for final judgment. The Governor, Pilate, interrogated Jesus but could extract no replies. Jesus was like an innocent, defenceless lamb led to the slaughter. By this stage he did not even open his mouth to speak. Urged on by the early morning crowd, Pilate delivered Jesus to the executioners. To curry favour with the subjugated but volatile citizens, the Governor then released from prison a known killer, their compatriot, Barabbas.

All of this 'early morning' action was but a precursor to Golgotha, the place where Jesus would die. They mocked and abused him first. They thrust a crown made of long thorny spikes onto his sacred forehead. They offered him sarcastic homage. Then came history's most tragic, poignant walk – all the way, outside the city walls, to Golgotha on Calvary Hill. There, with two common thieves, Jesus was put to death by crucifixion, a cruel and exceptional punishment by today's standards. They hammered nails into his hands and feet, then raised him up on the cross to hang in slow suffocation as his body slumped downward. At the very end, six hours later, he muttered words to his Father in Heaven asking forgiveness for his persecutors.

'Very early in the morning' is a good time to ponder these events. Jesus himself was accustomed to rising early in the morning to seek out the presence and the face of God the Father.

Pre-dawn, for some, is a time for dubious deeds. It was like that for the arresting guards and their masters. It was as though their plotting needed to be done in secret and completed in a hurry. The goodness of Jesus was to them a threat, not a blessing.

How do you see it all? In the stillness and objectivity that come 'very early in the morning', how does it all look to you? Do the events of that night and the next day, as recorded in the Scriptures, arouse your emotions? Do you feel the ugliness and injustice of it? Do you feel the tragedy and pity of it? Yet at the same time there is another dimension to our responses, a subtle sense of gratitude that it happened, a growing sensation deep within, witnessing to our personal realisation that Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. He faced it all with determination – for our sakes! It was all out of holy love for the fallen human race!

'Very early in the morning' we begin to see also the growing light of a new dawn. It is the glow of the Resurrection morning and the empty tomb. Calvary was a beginning not an ending!

It is good to come to Calvary early in the morning. It is always good to come to the Lord early in the day, each and every day. Now, our Risen and Ascended Lord awaits our approach, and a smile of loving approval comes early to his face. I pray that his smile and his forgiveness may rest upon each one of us this Good Friday and this Easter Day.

Shaw Clifton, General of The Salvation Army

Sweden Becomes 7th Country to Allow Same-Sex Marriage


Sweden Becomes 7th Country to Allow Same-Sex Marriage
By Nathan Black
Christian Post Reporter
Wed, Apr. 01 2009 02:50 PM EDT

Sweden has adopted a law that legalizes same-sex marriage, making it the seventh country in the world to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed in either a religious or civil ceremony.

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After hours of debate, the Swedish parliament voted 261 to 22, with 66 abstaining or absent, on Wednesday to approve a gender-neutral law on marriage.

Christian Democrats opposed the legislation.

The new legislation repeals a 1987 law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Sweden now joins the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa and Norway in allowing same-sex marriage. In the United States, homosexual marriage is legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The new law takes effect May 1 and allows individual pastors the freedom to opt out of marrying same-sex couples.

The Lutheran Church of Sweden has already expressed support for the new law, according to Agence France-Presse.

Since 2007, the Church – which 74 percent of Swedes are members of – has blessed civil unions for gay and lesbian couples but stopped short of blessing gay marriages. The Lutheran Church synod is scheduled to decide in October whether or not to perform same-sex marriages, according to AFP. Polls indicate that a majority of Swedes approve of homosexual marriage. The northern European country has recognized civil unions for homosexual couples since 1995.