21 July, 2010

Coffee, Port and Barefoot Wine

I'm ordained, which is nice.

On June 12th, somewhere around 7:45 in the evening, at Salem's First (But Not Only) United Methodist Church, my Bishop laid his hands upon my head and told me to take authority, etc., etc.

The friends and family (1) who had gathered for the event gathered again the next evening at a lovely restaurant in downtown Portland. Wine was shared, good food was eaten, there was much laughter and even a bottle of 1983 Port. It was a fine celebration.

Once I returned home, the fine folks of my church also celebrated with me and, to commemorate the occasion, gave me a magnum of "Barefoot"(2) wine. While this clearly violated United Methodist discipline, it was a gracious and thoughtful gift, and I suspect that neither Jesus nor John (3) would object.

So, ordination having come and gone, where now?

I'm back in The Big, the holy odor of the ordination service having mostly worn off. And there's plenty to do.

We (the fine folks of the LGUMC and me) have decided to start a new worship service. An "emergent" worship, if you will. Aimed at the folks of La Grande who are spiritually hungry but a bit skeptical on the church thing. Or at least they're skeptical on the church thing as it's presently constituted.

And, since my return to La Grande, another bit of news. The new coffee shop (White House Coffee) located oh-so-conveniently next to the church has opened. In fact, I'm sitting there right now.

Since WHC has opened it's been a raving success. Always lots of folks around, a pleasant vibe and community-wide buzz. They've done an excellent job creating a welcoming space, decorating nicely (4) and serving good coffee and food. I've already made it my extension office. So much so that congregants who stop in for coffee or lunch expect to find me here.

What hath these three threads to do, one with the others? Let me attempt to weave mine answer.

We have a crapton of places in La Grande where one might buy coffee. Good coffee. And yet this place is never empty. Why? I think it's because the folks here at WHC have created a warm and welcoming place that feels both old and new. It feels comfortable. And there's this not-so-easily explained sense that I get when I walk in the doors (and that I suspect others experience, too): It feels communal. People walk in and want to be here with other folks. We may not always be in conversation, we White House Coffee Patrons, but we gladly share the space. That's really nothing earth-shaking - all of our favorite public places feel like that, I suspect. But there were precious few places around the LG like that.

I'm hopeful that this new worship gathering, whatever it turns out to be, captures some of the same feel. I hope people walk in and feel welcomed and comfortable and want to share the sacred space with others, both the folks they know and the folks not yet known.

It's a sad fact that our congregations have somehow NOT created places that feel as welcoming as our local coffee shops. (5) One might suggest it borders upon sin that we've made the Good News so unwelcoming and uptight. (6)

And what hath ordination to do with all of this?

Maybe I just wanted to celebrate in blogprint that I really did, after a couple of decades, get ordained. (Hooray me!)

But maybe there's something about the taking of authority, which the Bishop mentioned in passing at my ordination. Nothing has changed dramatically in how I see the world, the Church or my calling. But maybe it's that now I have an excuse to stop waiting around for someone to fix what I think is broken and get my butt in gear to do something new.

Or maybe that's just the caffeine from three mugs of WHC's finest Stumptown brew talking. Hard to tell.

Much peace, much love, too much coffee, etc.

(1) Actually, the assemblage of folks pleasantly blurred the line between these two categories. Should we call these kinds of people "Friemily?" "Famriends?"

(2) They chose "Barefoot" since I was ordained shoelessly, just as I was wed and will ask to be buried.

(3) Wesley, natch.

(4) One room is decorated with old photos of La Grande. At the table at which I sit, hanging 6 inches to my left is a photo of our church building, circa 1915. To my right, through the window and 60 feet away is the actual church building, circa 2010. It's an interesting place to sit and ponder our congregation's past, present and future.

(5) In a similar vein, my VBFFITWWW Johnny Flemmons once pointed out, amidst the brouhaha surrounding Harry Potter, that it might be a sin that we've taken the Gospel and made it so boring, that we don't tell it as well as Ms. Rowling tells her stories. I've always liked John's way of thinking.

(6) Let me hasten to add that I think that the fine folks of LGUMC are warm and welcoming; this is not a condemnation of us particularly. Rather, this seems a Church-wide issue. Not entirely of our making, perhaps, but our responsibility to confront and rectify.

20 May, 2010

Been a Long While Coming

It's been a long while since I've blogged. So long that: 1) my two avid fans who used to harass me about needing to write another post have given up hope, and 2) I am no longer "amply-goateed," but am now "amply bearded" and look shockingly like a younger version of the patient Greek monk in the picture to the right.

It's also been so long that I'm now only 24 days from being ordained, which, if I read Revelation rightly, means the great and glorious Day of the Lord is well nigh upon us. Try to look busy.

I felt my call to ministry at Sr. Hi Camp at Camp Bridgeport, back in Texas. I was 15. So now, 22 years later - almost to the day - I'm finishing up a journey that began before I could (legally) drive. In the intervening 192,864 or so hours, I've graduated high school and Southwestern University (Go Pirates!); worked as a youth pastor; decided to give up on ministry as a career; waited tables at a TGI Fridays; decided to give up on waiting tables as a career; worked on Native American reservations patching up bullet holes and (and other broken stuff) in people's homes; have been haunted by God and her angels; decided to stay with the ministry thing; gone to Perkins School of Theology where I once hugged a dean (1); fallen in love and gotten married (barefoot and almost in the rain); lived in Yellowstone, the Virgin Islands and a house built by L.L. Bean's best friend; lived in a village in rural England with more sheep per acre than any other place in the world; moved to the Oregon Territory and bought a house.

I've been assigned, licensed and commissioned. I've written loads of papers, been interviewed thrice, psychologically profiled once and physically examined twice (2).

And now, Good Lord willing, I shall be ordained on June 12, 2010, at 7:00 in the evening at Salem's First United Methodist Church. (3)

Lately I've been pondering what this ordination might mean. I was able to answer that question rightly (apparently) for the interview committees, but I've been mulling what it really and truly means for me.

I know it means less paper writing and no more BOOM interviews. (Thank you, Jesus.)

I know it means (at least for now) that I will have the Methodist version of tenure and am guaranteed an appointment.

It definitely means that some of my very favorite people in the world are coming to Oregon in June to celebrate with me and that we are going to party like Vikings on holiday.

But actually, the day-in, day-out practice of ministry won't change that much. That's a good thing. Because ministry, as I understand it anyway, is less about formal education and official certificates than it is about receiving and reflecting God's love.

I'm all for church nerdiness, higher education and the clear roles of ordained clergy folk within the life of the church. But I also hope that I've learned enough to know that whatever the certificate says, I'm but one of Jesus' followers and not that different than any of the other folks he's called.

It's been a great ride so far. As I told the folks at the Baccalaureate service this week, I wouldn't change it if I could.

But it will be nice to be done with papers.

Much peace, much love, etc.

(1) At Perkins graduation, I hugged the dean, who wouldn't have known my name if it weren't on the diploma. Last I heard, there is still a "Do not hug the dean" rule during the pre-graduation reminders at Perkins. It's good to have a legacy.

(2) For some reason, the United Methodist Church needs to know quite a bit about a candidate's physical state before allowing him or her to serve. The official, downloadable medical form even requires the doctor to comment upon whether or not the examinee's genitalia are notable in any way. Mine were not.

(3) The Title for Salem's Best United Methodist Church is still up for grabs.