14 December 2009

2009 Best of List

The Usuals:


1. Best Non-Fiction Book: Why New Orleans Matters by Tom Piazza (this book created a deep desire to move to New Orleans).


2. Best Fiction Book: Confederacy of Dunces by John Kenndey Toole (this book was so good I had to come see the town for myself. I spent at least a half an hour just on the title).


3. Best Children's Book: Who Needs Donuts by Mark Alan Staymay (I took this to #2's class and read it, man was it a hit! I had a blast reading it and they had a blast listening to me read it and looking at the pictures).


4. Best Meal: Going Away Meal at Nancy's. Afterwards me and four other men sat in Adirondack chairs, drank single malts and smoked cigars - it was really something.


5. Best Worship Service: My last Sunday at Lime Rock Baptist, it was unbelievable - the best goodbye of all time (folk are still talking about it).


6. Best CD: Jazz from the Soul of New Orleans by Dr. Michael White.


7. Best LP: The Holy Land by Johnny Cash (I have been looking for this for a couple of years and just found it last week. I also wonder how great the heart attack would be if I asked the choirmaster and organist to have the choir sing He Turned the Water into Wine.)


The Not So Usuals

1. Best Moments as a Father. The first two are closely related. #1 informed her music teacher that her father played the violin - then she volunteered me to come to her class and play. Even though on my best days I am an advanced beginner, I thought okay I'll do it. As I entered the school the secretary casually told me how the music teacher was going to teach her violin. She then casually told me that the music teacher is second chair flutist in the symphony. I about died. I only wish I could have taken pictures of the music teachers face as she winced when I played the notes wrong. Last week #2 informed his class that he was not a Saints fan, he was a New England Patriots fan. The kids started to tease him but the teacher jumped in to assuage the situation. #1 then confided to his teacher that I played for the Red Dragons. In his mind the fact that I played high school football was the same as playing in the NFL. And of course the daily rounds of "tickle time mania."


2. Best Moment as a Husband. An after dinner walk with the VOR around downtown Providence shortly before we left. We held hands looking at the water, the skyline, Le Reve, The Man in the Water. Then I grabbed her tight and kissed her. It was pure bliss.


3. Hardest "thing" to depart with: My Gravely tractors - man that was difficult. Non-things: fiddle class, lunches and hanging out with Darin, five o'clock Scotch with Raymond, laughing with Joe, messing with the SEVN, spying on my neighbor Kevin, and time spent at the Providence based office.


4. Funniest Moment from Craigslist: when a person named Scout came to buy our Davenport. After looking the piece of furniture over she put her face down in the cushion, took a gigantic whiff, then came up and said when you buy a couch it is all in the cushions. How the VOR and I held it together I have no idea.


5. Best Facebook Moment: after I read a NY Times article that one can only keep up with about 100 friends I went through and purged my friend list, (this was before I knew about the "Hide" button). Since then one person has tried to refriend me five times. I know this person is just a facebook harlot, the person has something like 500 friends or something like that. I cannot recall my ever saying one word to this person.


6. Best New Beer Discovery: Red Stripe. For whatever reason I never tried it. After I saw Henry Louis Gates, Jr. drinking one with Obama I thought hmmm I may give it a try. What a great beer.


7. Oddest Occurence: the vendor in Rouses (like a Kroger's for those in WV, or a Wegmans for those in upstate NY or like a Stop-n-Shop for those in RI) who offered me a Rum and Coke sample, at 10:00am. Of course I accepted it, without the Coke.


8. Most Bizarre Pastoral Moment: one day, shortly after arriving in New Orleans, I went to visit a parishioner. Since this person only lived a few blocks from the church I decided to walk. Being new to the city I had yet to fully appreciated the ramifications of tropical humidity and how dangerous it would be to not wear an undershirt. The walk was a little further than I imagined it would be. As I cut through Audubon Park I knew I was in trouble and saw spots developing all over my shirt. I thought if I took off my tie and unbuttoned my shirt I would be okay. Needless to say I was wrong. I arrived at the parishioner's house looking like I had ran back and forth through a sprinkler about ten times. The parishioner offered to take my shirt and put it in the dryer. I contemplated this but thought it a little odd to be sitting in a new parishioner's living room topless. My initial fear was quickly subdued when the parishioner offered me another shirt to wear while the other dried. I simply sat in front of a fan and within a half hour or forty-five minutes I had partially dried out.

09 December 2009

A Strong Possibility

This afternoon the VOR and #s 1-3 along with yours truly asked a church member who is home from college to take our Christmas picture. We decided on taking the picture on a street car. Luckily there was an empty street car on the end of the line without a driver and who left the door open. As we scooted up the steps a woman sitting in the front of the car informed us that the driver had gone over to Burger King. We replied that we were not seeking a lift, we only wanted to take a picture. The woman then replied do you want me to take your picture. We said no thank you, we have some one who will take it. Then the woman said, I am a professional photographer about to go to a shoot. I will gladly take it for you. So we let her.

As she strategically placed in the car, #2 somehow turned the streetcar engine on. After snapping some shots she ran around to the side of the car and started taking shots through the open door. Now that may sound fairly sublime but it aint. She was taking these new shots while standing in the middle of South Carrolton St.! Autos were zooming past, blowing their horns and muttering obscenities (well, I assume they were). And the photographer - cool as a cucumber. In fact, she was swatting at them telling them to be quiet.

Upon returning to church another parishioner, who happens to be the father of the college student, asked if when I have plumbing problems do I open the door and find a plumber who just happens to be asking for directions?

Now I have read Twain's sarcastic War Prayer and I have played Dylan's With God on Our Side many a times during a Wednesday night bible study meeting. I am just as skeptical as they are. And yes of course I know correlation does not equal causation. But you gotta admit here folk...

06 December 2009

A Neighborly/Friendly Christmas

This afternoon the VOR and I went to the Christmas at Loyola event. #s 1-3 did not attend; we were able to obtain the services of a sitter, a fantastic sitter. While we were at the concert the kids watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. After watching they staged their own production of the Christmas story. When the VOR and I returned home we gazed at the props and set up of the production. One piece, a sign whose lettering, particularly, caught my attention. The sign read: King Harold's Bethlehem. All of sudden the umph, the viciousness of King Herod, of the story evaporates. King Harold. I wonder how the story would read if it were indeed a story about good ol' King Harold?

03 December 2009

A Mouth Full of Heaven

This Sunday, being the first of the month, will be a communion Sunday. Being such there will be a table, bread and cup for all to share. Underneath the ritual is the great symbolization: the morsels representing a foretaste of the glory divine.

Yesterday I think I received a better representation of the divine feast: a Mahony's French Fries Po-Boy. Ever since the NYTimes article I have been drooling in anticipaton that sandwich. The VOR and I hoped to sample one at the Po-Boy festival but by the time we arrived they had already sold out (plus they were not selling that sandwich there anyway). Yesterday the chef at church prepared Meatloaf - although the chef cooks with a high degree of tastefulness I still cannot handle even his meatloaf. So after a noon time meeting I snuck down to Magazine Street, walked up the steps to the establishment, and ordered the sandwich.

After a few minutes the server handed me my made to order sandwich. I greedily liberated it from its dual prison of the bag and wax paper. The sandwich thanked me for my liberation with a rich aroma of gravy and an unbelievable flavor that can only be described as a mouth full of heaven.

Indeed this Sunday I will feast on a geometrically shaped portion of bread and a plastic shot glass full of grape juice; I will try to recall a meal with my ancestors a meal of celebration, a meal of grace, a meal of courage; it will be a foretaste of glory divine. But until Jesus comes back or I go over yonder I am fine with the sensory overload of a sandwich laid open with roast beef, cheddar cheese, french fries, and gravy while I wait.

02 December 2009

The Need for Historical Memory

In college I was a History major (interesting how many of my ministry colleagues were also history majors). People always say folk study history so we do not make the mistakes from the past. I have never subscribed to this idea. My main reason for the continual study of history is the for the development of a historical memory. Allow a picture from back in to illustrate my point.

If you were to travel from my hometown to the 1-64 entrance ramp you would pass by a bar, but not just any bar - a bar name Billy Sunday's.
If a historical memory did not exist why not name a bar Billy Sunday's. It is a catchy name. It is the kind of name a sub par 2nd baseman would have. But if a historical memory does exist then irony upon irony is available.

For those who do not know Billy Sunday was an evangelists, a Southern Baptist evangelists, a conservative (at that time in their existence there was such a thing as liberal Southern Baptists) who strongly advocated for Prohibition. Does the owner of this bar have any idea who Billy Sunday was? I doubt it. But when you do you appreciate this fantastic irony.

28 November 2009

He was a hard working farmboy: Tales from Our Thanksgiving Trip to WV

Fresh back from our trip to WV: tired, a bit haggard, and happy to be home. The trip was great. Yesterday while waiting at DFW for our flight to New Orleans #1 and I walked to a food court to grab some lunch, as we passed the Rosetta Stone kiosk #1 immediately began quoting an advertisement: He was a hardworking farmboy, she was an Italian supermodel, he had only one chance to impress her...

The highlights included: getting together with my best friends, the Professor & Old Philsy, seeing family, eating (yes a Tudor's biscuit was eaten), taking flowers to dad's grave, and watching my two nephews play basketball. Both of them play ball on the junior varsity squad. One evening they scrimmaged the girls varsity squad. Memory serves me that girls basketball in junior high was just getting its feet under it when I was in junior high. I could not believe the strides girls athletic programs have advanced in the ensuing years! I have always held that women are better pure shooters than men. But good heavens those girls at the scrimmage were great athletes too, even a bit mean. When the ball was on the floor they dove, dipped their shoulders and even threw a couple of punches. I could tell my nephews were a bit hesitant they were victims of an age old dilemma: if they play too aggressive their friends will say you were playing too hard against a girl, if they back off and the girl schools them then they will be made fun of for getting taken to town by a girl. Nevertheless they did a good job, and those girls were good!

Another surprising highlight was the conversation I had while in transit from New Orleans to Chicago. Apparently American Airlines changed planes from when I made my reservations to when we flew. Therefore, all of our tickets were jumbled and the ticket person scattered the First Family amongst the cabin. Thanks to some friendly folk (By the way the American Airline employees were amazing and fantastic people) we were able to reassemble close to one another. The man who moved over so I could sit on the aisle in front of my kids ended up being the dean of the Univ. of Chicago Div. School (in town for the SBL too). I have never had a nicer conversation on a plane than that. The last time I had an in-depth conversation with a person sitting next to me on a plane he told me about a crazy raccoon virus that scared the bejesus out of me!

One other story about WV. One day my mother and I went to Sams Club, I have never seen so many moustaches before in my life!

22 November 2009

Social Networking Experiment, number 1

Today was a great day. First off the former dean of my alma mater, being in town for the SBL meeting, led the Sunday School hour and preached at SCABC. The First Family and I took the deanster, as The VOR affectionately calls him, over to The Ruby Slipper for brunch. We took him back to the hotel and then headed to the rental chateau. We packed some in preparation for our forthcoming trip to WV then headed over the Third Annual Po-Boy Preservation Festival (only in New Orleans would they hold a festival for a sandwich). The VOR and I had high hopes for the French Fried Roast Beef Po-Boy the one you too may have read about in Wed. NYTimes article. By the time we arrived at the festival, however, most of the places had sold out, the booth for Mahoney's was nowhere in sight (did they show? or did they sell out remarkably fast?) -- research shows that Mahoney's did not sell the French Fried Po-Boy.

Now here comes to my experiment. I have long held the idea that folk like The VOR more than me (no pity party here, she is a fantastic and interesting woman who thrives on sociality, I am more of an introvert than her who usually shies away from social interaction - but I will say that living in N.O. is changing that by the day.) Several days ago I began noticing how The VOR could post virtually anything and 10 people would comment. (I swear she could post I just sneezed and 15 people would say Bless You) I posted, what I considered a comment worthy post and receive nothing. So this evening I posted pictures (that I took) of our time at the Po-Boy festival onto my facebook page. An hour later The VOR came home and I proposed that she post the exact same pictures to her account. (up to this time no one had commented on my album) She copied my album and posted them. Within five minutes she had a comment!

Sure the variables are numerous - my "friends" were not home at the time, most of my friends clicked on the "Hide Travis" button months ago, my friends do not spend much time on facebook, or my friends all have a running gag never to comment on my posts. Sure...

09 November 2009

A Catch Up Post

Life in the New city is starting to feel normal. (I especially like the new normal: shorts in November!) I was even able to make some bread the other day (only after ordering the yeast online, for a food city the grocery stores are disappointing). Turned out pretty good.

I coupled it with a cheese tray with fruit and sweet potato fries. Moving on...there was the birthday ice cream pie the VOR made, amazing:

Then there was halloween:

Furthermore, some great finds at the seminary library booksale:


27 October 2009

Alright, alright

I tried, I really did. I created a new blog but I never felt comfortable with the new format, even though I find blogger lacking in many respects I like it.

What to share...the ubiquitous sightings and offerings of alcohol in the Big Easy, the gargantuan portion sizes of food, my personal quest to the city's best pulled pork bbq, the fact that all of my clothes are tight, my new commuter bicycle, not being able to wing a sermon anymore, how much I miss New England, wondering what my late father would think of this place, a possible book I am working on, getting used to having people around when I work, serendipitous book readings, that I could not find instant yeast in any grocery store and had to order it online, surprises of having kids in Catholic school, the air conditioner kicking on in October, bananas growing in my neighbor's yard, that my wife dressed up as a witch and rode her bicycle to my daughter's school, my desire to smoke cigars, new found love of fountain pens and thick French paper, that I seem to have lost my favorite bible, how we go through a tank of gas in one week just driving around the city, that my computer crashed (without the aid of a Rolling Rock), that our kids prefer jazz music to kids music, that I love my kids now more than ever, that I am tired of facebook but at the same time I am addicted to it, that I really want to play a game of croquet. All of this and more, but I'll wait and let it settle before I begin

25 June 2009

sunday update

Make that three baptisms for Sunday and an additional fiddler has joined our band (up to 13). Concerning Sunday's service -- a deacon emailed me this morning after seeing a draft of the service to inquire how long it will go into Monday...

24 June 2009

saying goodbye, another installment - part iv, the notorious coffee shop

I spent the better part of the morning in a truck with an 80+ year old man going 35 in a 55mph zone. He is a parishioner and like so many of the folk at Lime Rock Baptist is more like family. I asked him if he would say a few words at the service this Sunday, he agreed. Over breakfast (I'm coming to that in a minute) he said he had composed a 3 minute essay and asked if I wanted to hear it. I said I did not. But he insisted on telling me the first line. Here goes, "How in the hell did we get that bastard up here?" I do not know if he is serious; more than likely he is.

Now back to breakfast. For about five years this particular parishioner has been telling me about this bizarre coffee shop located in one of the five villages on the town of Lincoln. He kept telling me that I would not believe it. Reluctantly I agreed to go to this place. At 8am I was picked up and escorted to this place. We entered; the owner sat, acknowledged us, finished playing the video slot machine then poured us a cup of coffee. In the meantime my associate and I took our seats at the counter. To the right of me were two boxes full of individually "full-sized" packaged donuts: plain and cinnamon; beside them was a box of the mini six pack donuts of various coatings. Across from me on the other side of the counter was a coffee pot, a large tupperware bowl of sugar (a "regular" coffee in New England consist of three spoons of sugar and a good shot of milk), a large jar of grape jelly (Pricerite brand) whose lid was unlevel the last time it was sealed which gave it a droopy and sad look, a four slice toaster which had not been used since Nixon was in office (you pick between governor of CA or POTUS), a plastic bag full of bagels and a griddle/hot plate contraption.

Our coffee was served in scratched and coffee stained cups. After 15 minutes or so some other patrons entered. Now here is the catch about this place: everyone helps themselves. They walk behind the counter, pour their coffee or toast their bagel while the owner sits in the corner and plays on the video slot machine. You dare not ask for eggs or something more substantial; there is no menu; and the owner gets ticked - I was forewarned. It could be the only business where the proprietor gets mad if you ask her to do something that could very easily be interpreted as work.

After we finished our cups of coffee (we were asked if we wanted refills but we said no, in a polite way) my associate asked if the owner would show me the backroom. The backroom? Years ago the establishment used to be a strip club/pool room/bar. And the backroom was pretty much left as was, except for the continual "inside" yard sale that went on. Massive slate top pool tables, a bar (built with pine), and bizarre vanity license plates that read "Don't stare at the bartender you too will be crazy one day."

Am I glad we went? Sure, but for reasons I am unforsureof at the moment.

We finished our coffee and went off to another destination for breakfast. My navigator suggested a place he had not been to in ages; apparently it is not there anymore. We drove on into Franklin, MA (it is right across the border). We drove until we found a policeman (yes, our move to park directly behind him in the middle of the road did not sit well with him) whom we inquired of where was the best place to get breakfast in this town? He suggested the pizza parlor right next to the Mega Lo Mart grocery store. A pizza parlor that has good breakfast in a strip mall - no way. We decided not to chance it and went back to Woonsocket for breakfast at a regular breakfast stop.

While I have you here... Woonsocket lies to the north and west of Lincoln. It is an okay town, could be a first class place. But if you ever enter 295 from Phoenix Avenue you are given two options:

You decide?

23 June 2009

saying goodbye, another installment - part iii

For my sermon this past week I pulled out my calendars of seven years and used my notes to write the sermon. I thought about sharing those stories online but then folk in New Orleans may read this post and know all of the stories from my "go-to" bag. I would have nothing left to say - I would be like Kramer and forced to buy Newman's bunion stories (no one wants that). So I am saving them. The sermon went well.

I was actually allowed to steal away for a 30 minute nap! Then we packed into the van and went to a friend's house for a cookout and farewell jam session.

This Sunday I am referring to as a garbage plate day (please go to link for the history of the garbage plate) : two baptisms in the morning at the state park, baby dedication/blessing, going away service, and a wedding in the afternoon.

The service is shaping up to be a fun time. I asked three people to say a few words about our time together. I also invited the former organist/choirmaster, my fiddle teacher, members of the fiddle class (a couple of fiddlers, a dulcimer player and two banjo players), a jazz drummer, a trumpet player and two guitar players to join us for a hymn melody: Be Thou My Vision, Star of the County Down (in 3-4 and 4-4 versions) and Holy Manna. It promises to be a fun service.

18 June 2009

Around Providence

While my best friend was up last weekend I took some pics that I thought I would share. One day we went down to the Roger Williams National Memorial (a great place to go if you are in Providence), then hiked up college hill, checked out Brown Bookstore, moseyed over to Spiritus Fermenti (only near an Ivy League school would there be a snoody alcohol shop with a name like that) to purchase some drinks for dinner, sashshayed back down the hill to Cafe Choklad to purchase a little something for the VOR (a key lime cupcake with strawberry butter cream frosting), then headed back towards the van. On our way down North Main Street I noticed on the buildings was built by John Updike, not that one, nevertheless i had to take a picture.
The next day we did the usual Saturday stuff: t-ball, swim, lunch, sold stuff via craigslist, then went back to Providence for dinner. While we feasted on the variety of plated portions I noticed a sign across the street which read: "Parking for East Side Towing only, all others will be towed." I wondered if anyone else saw the irony in that sign? I did not get a picture, sorry.

Since the curried chicken made sweat pour from our foreheads we scurried over to my favorite (sometimes) ice cream shop. While we sat and ate I noticed another sign, this one I took a picture of. A special tool...

After our tongues regained consciousness we piled back into the van to view Waterfire. We had been telling our guest about Waterfire for a few years but never had the opportunity to take him (this being our last chance to catch we had to go). We sat on the hill overlooking Waterplace Park, watched kids roll down the hill, various people stroll by, before the floating bons were lit. My friend was curious about what happened once the fire started. I explained to him with great excitement: when the fires go down, they throw more wood on. That is about it folk. A few thousand people all watching a fire. (I suppose this is a symptom of being a dazzling urbanites, they never grew up experiencing large open air fires.) Oh well. After a short while we headed back to the van again, but not before I snapped this picture of the statehouse at night.


17 June 2009

Saying goodbye, another installment

This week I am preparing the last sermon I will preach as the pastor of Lime Rock Baptist Church. The service on the 28th will be more of a celebration. As I prepare I will share a some insights from the past couple of weeks.

I have invited folk to stop by the office to sit for a spell so we can share a proper goodbye. Odd that most folk come late in the afternoon around cocktail time, hmm... I suppose folk want me to share all of the presents they gave me at the Christmas open house. Just one less item to pack.

The goodbyes have gone well. I am glad they are taking place.

Last Sunday was Children's Day - the kids are in charge of the entire service. It is a great day for the kids and a great day for the church. Unexpectedly, the kids presented the VOR/First Lady and myself with a painting. They made a piece of art for us with personal messages on people cut outs. The VOR and I were not prepared for the painting; tears rolled down our eyes. Here is a picture of the painting that will definitely find a prime spot in our new house then in the new office in New Orleans.
After the worship service we went outside for the last kids vs. adults kickball game that I will be present for. My best friend was up from Harrisburg, PA for the weekend which I told the kids he was my secret weapon who promised to kick the snot out of the ball. Nevertheless, we let the kids win the one inning affair then went back in for lunch. It was a great day indeed.

09 June 2009

The Rumor Mill

For years I have been hoping to be the subject of a great spinning rumor here in Lime Rock. A couple of years ago the story/rumor transformed from me playing football against Randy Moss' older brother, Eric, to playing with his older brother, to playing against Randy, to playing with Randy. By the time the local sports reporter contacted me at the church one afternoon he had a pen and paper ready for a juicy story. When I told him the truth he never called me back.

Then there was the time last year when a friend of mine from fiddle class came to church one Sunday. That afternoon a member from Pastoral Relations emailed wanting to know why a search committee was prospecting at worship.

The acceptance of the call to the New Orleans church has created quite possibly the greatest rumor ever. At the yard sale on Saturday a church member pulled me aside to inquire: is it true that the church you are going to is a church with a 2,000 membership? Part of me wanted to affirm this rumor just for the sheer thrill of it. But I did not. I told the truth.

Now what kind of stories can I start seeding for rumors in New Orleans...

07 June 2009

Saying goodbye, probably the 4th installment

This morning I used the day, Trinity Sunday, to talk about the communal aspect of God and the gift of community I experienced at the church. After the sermon, the prayers of the people, announcement, and offering it was time for communion. I used the occasion to tell my favorite communion stories.

Story #1 - When I first served communion as the pastor of LRBC I made some grand liturgical gesture which knocked over the chalice and spilled all of the wine on the table. (Sometimes it pays to be a low-level Protestant).

Story #2 the time one of the deacons used an old bottle of wine which had soured way past vinegar (no one informed me of this decision). Imagine then the aroma that rose up and invaded my olfactory senses!

Story #3 the time one of the deacons forgot to buy a loaf of bread for me to tear and decided to use the loaf in the freezer (without thawing it, again no one informed of this). Imagine me trying with all of my might to tear the body of our Lord and Savior.

Story #4 the time I introduced intinction as a method of communion. One person did not hear the instructions properly. The person came forward, dipped their bread, ate, then dipped again!

There were other stories but I will not share them here. I will only say there were just as many tears shed as laughs.

Saying goodbye aint easy, but it is rewarding. I am glad about the intentionality of this process.

29 May 2009

The Perfect Job for the Voyeuristic

In a few minutes the third moving company will be coming to the parsonage for a "walk-through" in order to give us an estimate for moving costs.

The walk through is a real bore. You answer the constant question: Is that going? or its variation: What about that? Then you point out to what is not going.

We are attempting to downsize selling just about everything we can, thank heavens for Craigslist. The most painful item to sell thus far: my Gravely tractor. One sold, one more to sell, and a roto-tiller. Painful but necessary.

28 May 2009

Announcement Ripples: New ID

As mentioned in a previous post my wallet was stolen while preaching in New Orleans (again I was not mugged or assaulted from the pulpit). Anyway, I needed to obtain a new driver's license upon arrival back in RI. Needless to say I put it off for a few days before trundling up to Woonsocket to obtain a new license. When I arrived at the DMV parking lot was nearly and several folk were milling around in the waiting area. I walked to the kiosk, pushed the ID button, and waited as the machine printed my ticket. I was #63 and my estimated wait time was 5 minutes. In less than two minutes my number was called, I walked up to the window, gave the woman some proper id, wrote a check, and she gave me my temporary id. It took all of 45 seconds! I told the woman I was calling the newspaper, she chortled and I departed.

I mention this story for what I am about to retell is my experience when I first obtained my license when I arrived in RI.

When I moved to RI I was in no hurry to get a new driver's license; I suppose I wasn't quite ready to have a Yankee id, so I did not obtain one. Needless to say my WV license expired and it slipped my mind. Fast forward a good bit of time to the moment when #1 was ready to graduate from the crib to a big kid's bed. One day the VOR, #1 and I went shopping and bought a solid maple bed at a local consignment shop. Later that day I was assigned the task of picking it up (along the way I was also going to get a haircut and go to the grocery store).

After getting a haircut, going to the grocery store (with a serendipitously placed cooler in the bed of the truck), and loading the bed I headed home. As I traveled due west up the crest of Cumberland Hill I stopped at the traffic light and proceeded to turn left. Reader, as the beaming rays of the sun glared my vision I mistakenly did not notice the subsequent left turn arrow, i.e. I ran a red light. Upon descending down Manville Hill (apparently direction determines the name of hills here in RI) I noticed the flashing lights and a waving hand of a public officer; I pulled over.

The officer asked for my license and registration. I gave him both. He went back into his vehicle, ran some checks, then came back and asked me to step out of the vehicle. While sitting in his vehicle the officer had called WV and discovered that my expired license plate had already been assigned to someone else. While sitting in his vehicle the officer had also called a tow truck to impound my truck. I asked the officer if I could just coast to the bottom of the hill then I would be in the town I reside in and we could act like nothing ever happened, un-nuh.

Being a kind and proper gentleman the officer allowed me to use his personal cellular phone to call the VOR(we had yet to enter the digital age) but she was not at the house so he phoned in a cab and arranged for a drop off point. A few minutes later a tow truck towed my truck and #1's new bed off to the impounding area while I with my new haircut and serendipitously placed cooler with groceries waited at the ubiquitous donut facility.

I hoped in the meantime the VOR would hear my message on the home phone's answering machine, come to Cumberland with all the necessary information, pick me up, and then we would head off to the DMV and all would be rosy.

Background information -- before the current governor of RI reformed the DMV, residents would go the DMV, located the kiosk, push the button, and receive a coupon stating their number and estimated wait time which averaged, no foolin' here, 2 hours and 45 minutes. At 8:00 a line of 4o people was formed a good half hour before the doors opened. We, the VOR and I knew, because we did just that a few days before only to discover we did not have the proper paper work to obtain a license. Oh yeah, you need to know this - doors for the DMV close at 3:30 and once you were in you did not go out to use the bathroom or anything.

The VOR never got my message. And a 25 minutes later at 3:00pm a cab arrived to pick me up. I told the woman cab driver where I lived and my story. She listened attentively and responded with a heavy Greek accent, no problem I will take you to your house, wait for you, then get you to the DMV in time. I said no way, she said no really. I then informed her that I only had $25 on me (the cab to the house was already $32), she said no problem again.

In no time at all I was at the parsonage. I ran inside retrieved all my paperwork, scribbled a note to the VOR, and ran back into the cab. Between the parsonage and DMV lays a series of roads with posted speed limits of 35mph. The Grecian cab driver did not heed their advising, she went at least 55 and at times 65 mph down residential and business lined streets, taking corners with the ease of Richard Petty all the while steering with her left arm, her right arm across the front seat, and head and torso turned towards me telling me her life story. I was scared silly. Somehow she parked me at the front of the DMV at 3:23.

I ran in, punched my number, and exhaled. While almost at the moment of relaxation I went over my documentation and realized I did not have a check on me. I ran back to the door, called the VOR got in touch with her and gave her directions to Woonsocket and asked - no pleaded - with her to bring the check book. She arrive shortly thereafter with the checkbook, the guard at the door even let her in. We went over the events of the day and waited for my number to be called. At 4:37 we both exited with RI driver's licenses! But what about the truck with #1's bed in the back of it - especially when the forecast called for showers that night.

We immediately proceeded to the nearest branch of our bank, withdrew the prescribed amount of money to "free" my truck, and made a beeline to impoundment. The facility where my truck was being held for ransom was a run down scrap yard of a place. I asked for the manager, told him my story, gave him my new license, showed him my money, and asked for my truck. He laughed at me, saying he could not give me my truck back till I had my ticket authorized from the police department (which was about 15 minutes roundtrip, plus another parameter of time till a detective decided to authorize my ticket). On top of that he said he was going home and to come back first thing tomorrow. I said come on man, I got my kids bed in my truck and it is about to start raining. He said alright, but you better be here first thing tomorrow, besides I know where you live...

26 May 2009

A Little More on the Announcement: The Importance of a Church Bulletin

Now it is time to share about my time in New Orleans.

The VOR and #s 1-3 piled into a Southwest plane and headed south a little over a week ago. We flew into Nashville (but the pilot referred to the Music City as Nashburgh) for a stop then onto New Orleans.

After there for a day or two we had eaten some great meals, rode the street car (throughly), got lost once, and saw some homeless men gathered around a light pole giving each other buzz cuts. Then it was time for Sunday morning worship. A few things caught me off guard while I was in the pulpit: one, the presence of kids; and two, a healthy crop of young adults.

Here is the sermon (barring a few grammatical changes)

For Just One Moment

text: “…we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

Ascension Sunday – 17.May.2009

The Rev’d G. Travis Norvell


Let us pray,

May God take our minds and think through them

May God take our lips and speak through them

May God take our hands and work through them

And May God take our hearts and set them on fire.

Amen.

C

urrently, roughly 1500 miles to the north and east of here, timid New England gardeners, with the passing of the last average frost date, are setting out tomato, cucumber, and pepper plants. They will plant, water, and allow nature take its course like gardeners everywhere. The sun will nearly scorch the tender leaves, the shock from temperate greenhouses to the wild outdoors of backyard plots will almost stunt their growth, and the wind will come close to snapping the brittle stems.

During our time of proclamation this morning I ask that we retain the image of a swaying seedling in our minds. On the surface a swaying seedling appears to be hanging onto life by the thinnest margins. A view from below, however, reveals a radically different reality. When the wind sways a seedling to and fro the stem communicates to the roots directing them to spread and protrude deeper into the ground.

I offer the image of the swaying plant as one particular metaphorical window to view this day in the Christian year, the day of the Ascension, the text in Acts, when Peter and John say for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard, and what I perceive God is up to by bringing us together this morning, on this day of extension of a call.

D

epending on how acute you observe the Christian year today may or may not be the day you celebrate the Ascension of Christ. Seeing and hearing no objections let us celebrate Ascension Sunday this morning. I dare say that no one here will be hosting an Ascension Day party (however, this being New Orleans I better watch my assumptions). I dare say for the vast majority of Christians Ascension Day will come and go without fanfare or hoopla. Yet I want to place on the table, without Ascension Sunday our faith as Christians would scarcely exist at all, if it did exist it would be of an immature vintage.

-On the day of the Ascension God in Jesus Christ said to the disciples: See you later.

-On the day of the Ascension, God in Jesus Christ said to the early church: You are on your own.

-On the day of the Ascension, God in Jesus Christ says to us: Grow up.

This is a day of tough love. God desires for us to be co-creators with him, no co-dependents. On this day God performs significant service by extending to us the space and time to mature properly. On this day God reminds how God is willing to take a chance on us. On this day God reminds that God’s faith in us is much greater than our faith in God.

Of course God is always present. Of course Jesus is Emmanuel – God with and for us. Of course, the Holy Spirit is with us as the Comforter and active generative presence in creation. But Jesus as the disciples knew him is no longer on earth – the very indwelling and incarnation – Jesus of Nazareth and Christ of Faith.

The absence, the ascension of Jesus, empowered the faith of the church to grow, to deepen, to mature.

-No longer could the disciples inquire about the meaning of a parable.

-No longer could the disciples hear Jesus describe the look on the father’s face when Jesus healed his daughter.

-No longer could the disciples say they were sorry over and over and over again for abandoning Jesus.

Without the physical presence of Jesus the disciples had to learn to live without him. I am sure all of us gathered have had to adjust our lives in some form or fashion due to the death or absence of a loved one. It has been nearly three years since my father died and I still have to stop from picking up the phone to call him when I have a question or a story I want to share with him. And so the disciples had to alter their lives without the presence of Jesus.

Indeed, the swaying wind quickened their faith maturation. The swaying disciples, just like us in midst of life’s readjustments, had to live their new lives with great trust in their decisions and an openness for risk; they had to – for just one moment lean on the Spirit and rely on their time and experiences with Jesus. The book of Acts records the chances and moments as the swaying disciples matured.

O

ur lesson for this morning recounts one of those times, when two former fishermen, Peter and John, spoke authentic words when they were in the custody of the religious and ruling authorities. With their backs against the walls, probably literally and definitely figuratively, Peter and John defied the command to stop teaching and preaching in the name of Jesus with their words, “we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.

Just a few weeks ago these same disciples feared for their lives and were behind locked doors. After the resurrection of Jesus the disciples were not on the streets preaching God’s great action. They cowered behind locked doors thinking Roman soldiers were coming for them next. They were behind locked doors with nothing to say. But after their time with the resurrected Christ, after they started putting his life, teachings, actions, death and resurrection together, after they were left on their own they realized they had something to say, we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.

We know very little about the personalities, particularities, or eccentricities of the disciples. Our gathered biographical information on Peter and John could possibly encompass a paragraph or two. We do not have specificities of their whereabouts, thoughts, or inner dialogues but we do know that primarily from Good Friday till the Ascension, they, had been through fire and rain, death and new life, abandonment and reconciliation. They witnessed first hand that God’s faith in them was/is/will be stronger than their faith in God. For just one moment they leaned on the Spirit and spoke from their experiences – they had something to say. we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.

Peter and John furnish us a model of authentic words, fresh words, clean, concise, and crisp words. When they are offered, lives are changed. We live in a time and age when religious language evaporates as quickly as it is uttered. Words crucial to the good news: forgiveness, grace, and love just do not seem to have the bite they once did. When, however, you discover a way to embody in deed and word forgiveness, grace and love you will witness the melting of a hardened heart, crossed arms loosen and drop, and cold steal eyes well with tears. When you speak from a center of faith that is genuine folk listen. Not every word we speak or hear should cause our ears to burn, but when the time is ripe we hope to either speak or hear living words and not empty phrases. When the time was ripe, for just one moment, Peter and John spoke from a new center of their lives, for we cannot keep from speaking what we have seen and heard.

A

few months ago while reading The Christian Century from right to left, well really from back to front, starting with the job advertisements before moving to the articles, I noticed the advertisement for this church. I knew of the church from stories Bill Rogers told while I was at BTSR and I knew of this church from legacy of Avery Lee. I shared with Lori I’m going to apply for the Senior Pastor position of a church in New Orleans. She just kind of looked at me – didn’t say no, but didn’t say yes either. (Allow me to drift for a brief parenthetical moment – after I interviewed with the search committee and agreed to preach in view of a call Lori said hold on a minute. I want to go down there myself and see if this is a place I want to call home. A few days passed, she looked me dead in the eyes and said “I do not need to go down there, I am putting all my trust in you on this one.” Brothers and Sisters I have invested nearly 12 years in marriage to Lori plus an additional 2 in dating. I have given her everything I have of my emotional, intellectual and spiritual capabilities. I do not mention this to influence your vote but know that more than a call is on the line here, a marriage is also).

Part of my preparation for the interview involved reading every article and book I could on New Orleans. Every book I read mentioned that this is a city like none other in America. On the one hand you have to be off your rocker to live here: hurricanes, crime, and weather that was described as wrapping a hot steamy towel on your head for six months of the year. While on the other hand if you allow this city to percolate through your blood you will never want to live anywhere else in America. The city definitely has something to say.

When I honed my focus on the church I was amazed to find that both aspects of a swaying seedling came to the fore. Different ones offered the usual assessments of mainline congregations: graying/silvering membership, lack of true direction and mission, small youth group and Sunday School, blah, blah, blah. (That’s the plant swaying in the wind.) Different ones, also, offered another assessment: this church a sleeping giant. (This is the deep root system of a swaying plant.) Here is a congregation brimming with talent, skills, and creativity. Here is a church with a rich legacy that few others can match. Here is a beautiful church on one of the most unique and majestic streets in America.

After I caught my breath. After I peeled away and deconstructed all of the glories of this church…I found a real church, a gathered people, who have been through fire and rain, through death and new life, through abandonment and reconciliation. I found a people who had something to say.

T

he day, is the day of the Ascension, when Jesus departed from the disciples so they could mature, so they could for just one moment lean on the Spirit and offer authentic and fresh words. I venture to say this congregation has/is experiencing its own ascension moment: a deep experience and sense of loss and loneliness that I can barely, if ever, imagine. I would expect to find a church behind locked doors, silent. But I discovered a church with open doors, with something to say.

The main question I asked the search committee and I ask you as a church is what do you want me to help you to do? As your pastor what do you want me to help you to do? I sense God is asking us for just one moment to dive deep into the stories that have/are/and will shape you as a people of faith. I’m here because I want to help you articulate your story, to become a part of your story. I cannot promise overflowing crowds but do not hear me saying I do not care about numbers, because I do. I can promise you however, that if you promise to work with me and know that I promise to work with you on digging into your story, this place will not be just “a church on the avenue” – it will function more like a Baptist cathedral, a spiritual dynamo. For y’all have something to say. Your stories have some real sinews and muscle to them. If for just one moment let us savor a foretaste of the sweet glory divine in the midst of everyday life. If for just one moment we lean on the Spirit then we can all say together, we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard. Amen and Amen.

Loving God, who first loved us. May we open our hearts for just one moment, to have your Love Supreme re-birth us as your servants, as your disciples, as your friendsto help heal our world, mend our wounds, and to reconcile each to you and one another. In the precious name of Jesus, your Son, our Savior we pray. Amen.


I think the sermon went well. Now to the importance of a church bulletin. While preaching - my wallet was stolen (no, I was not mugged in the pulpit). After the service I changed and hopped into the rental vehicle and started driving back down the avenue when I noticed my wallet was missing. I looked and looked but could not find it. As a precautionary measure the VOR called our credit card companies, indeed illegitimate charges were made. Although it was unpleasant to have my wallet stolen, there was nothing that could not be replaced. But what about a photo id? How was I going to get on the plane? This is where church bulletin comes in. Believe it or not, my form of valid id to get through TSA screening was a church bulletin with my name on it.

25 May 2009

Some More on the Announcement

Yesterday at church I read my letter of resignation. There is no textbook on how to do this. Do I read the letter, does the moderator read it, do I send a letter first, do I meet with committees, do I read at the beginning, during the sermon or after the sermon, & etc? I chose to read it right at the beginning. A good chunk of folk knew, a good chunk did not. The reaction? I gotta tell you the reaction was great. Sure everyone was sad, but everyone at the same time was glad for me and my family. I think the aspect that impressed me the most: everyone wanted me to succeed. Their reaction is a testament to just how wonderful the people are.

Here is my letter:

Brothers and Sisters of Lime Rock Baptist Church,

I write this letter to inform you of my acceptance of a new call. My last Sunday in the pulpit will be the 28th of June.

I leave after six years and eleven months of service as your pastor. During our years together you shared with my family and me your love, your grace, and your lives. I arrived a bit green with a definite “deer in the headlights look.” You provided me the space to grow as your minister, to find my voice as a preacher, and develop my presence as a pastor. I will leave with much growth still ahead; but I will leave with a deeply rooted and highly affirmative experience of pastoral ministry.

As a congregation you opened your homes and hearts to Lori and Seneca and me when we first arrived, made room for Glen and Johnny, and held us up when our fathers died. As a congregation you introduced us to grapenut pudding, seasonal ice cream shops, doughboys, and beans for breakfast. As a congregation we have laughed, cried, and loved together. As a congregation we have grown, been pulled and stretched, and forced to lean on God for direction and hope. I thank you with all my heart, mind, body, and soul for sharing your lives with us.

Over the next few weeks I will continue the difficult process of saying goodbye. No one is good at goodbye, but we will try nevertheless. An intentional goodbye creates the opportunity for us both to say hello to the next phase of life we will both experience.

Know that the Executive Minister of ABCORI, the Rev. Dr. Liliana DaValle will be active and engaged in this period of transition.

With all our heart – Thank you.

The service went as usual until the sermon. It was peculiar being in the pulpit, rather than skirt the issue I dove in head first. I stated that yes I am excited about the new call, but that it is not an easy leave. I love the people and am firmly thankful for their presence in my life. I then dove into the text for Ascension Sunday as an analogy for how God said goodbye to the disciples. After a bit of textual work I looked at everyone and said we have two choices: either we can avoid eye contact with each other or we can work at the hard job of saying and doing an intentional goodbye.

We all agreed to do just that. The next few weeks are going to difficult but I think worth it.

11 May 2009

Mother's Day Highlights

Early morning - the #s and I took the VOR out for breakfast.

Church - we had a good crowd yesterday, mainly because a couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary afterwards (lots of family and friends were present). For the message I went British by stressing Mothering Day - whereby we celebrate the church who gave us birth: First Baptist Church in America and the Baptist story in the colonies and UK and Europe. Folk really appreciated the message.

Afterwards - lunch then a trip down to south county to the coast, Point Judith, Iggy's for dough boys (at first #2 said he would not eat them, he was only going to lick the sugar off of them, the lo and behold he ate them - two of them!), then to Scarborough Beach so the kids could play in the sand. The VOR said it was the best Mother's Day ever, wow!
at Point Judith with the kids

VOR and #3 at Scarborough Beach
Me with my feet in the water. When the 45 degree water lapped around my feet I screamed Holy Moses! Oh brother it was cold.
But, the cold did not bother #1 & #2 they were running in and out, splashing, and I am pretty sure they would have rolled around in it if we would have let them.
Now how about this - a wood paneled station wagon with a surfboard, what are the odds?



09 May 2009

New Culinary Wonder

This morning The VOR made pancakes for breakfast while I prepared #2 for instructional t-ball. The VOR made her usual more than needed amount which allows for creative and fascinating lunch time inventions. Today #3 came up with a peanut butter-strawberry jam-taco. I was not allowed to make this at the counter. Nope. I had to put all the pb and j on the side, get a spreader, and a spoon and walk over to the table to make it.

How good were they (that's right, plural) - good enough to want three of them.

07 May 2009

Tis that Time of Year Again

This morning I piled the boys into "the mini" and drove to the barber for their first of the year buzz cuts. Two big movements this year: one, #3 did not cry and two, Mom did not cry when I brought them home.

Opening Day Festivities

A couple of weeks ago the town where I reside held its annual Little League Parade. Parents and kids were asked to assemble at the local Catholic Church parking lot and then march to the field. Sometime, however, between the initial announcement and the parade a parishioner of the church died; the funeral was scheduled for the same time as the parade. So a few alterations were made and sent out in an email. 1. We were not to park at the Catholic Church. 2. Park at the nearby funeral home. and 3. Please have the kids be quiet and respectful. The first two were no problem, the third, well...
As you can see from the image there were quite a few people milling around behind the Catholic Church (about 500 according to my estimation). No one was quiet, and the person in charge of the parade had a bullhorn - although I am pretty sure he forgot to turn it on, so he kept talking really loud with the bullhorn over his mouth; no one could hear him. Never mind that the local middle school band was there drumming a marching rhythm and playing "Yankee Doodle Dandy." As we marched past the church all the workers from the funeral home came out to cheer us on. It was the oddest and most amusing Little League parade I have ever been a a part of.

Here is an action shot of #2 and #3 (who joined us halfway for about 20 feet of parading.)


Once we arrived at the field the festivities were in full swing:
The Bouncy House


Then the Rock Wall. At first I said no, then the VOR said come on, look who we are talking about, after a few feet they will jump right down. Okay I said. #2 climbed halfway; #1 climbed to the top (30 feet) and rang the bell.


02 May 2009

Force Feeding a Steak at 4:30...

Perhaps you recall the Seinfeld episode when Jerry visited his parents in Florida. While there Mr. and Mrs. Seinfeld wanted to take Jerry out to eat, the only issue was that the parents wanted to take him at 4:30 so they could get "the early bird special."

Last night the VOR and #s 1, 2, & 3 went out for dinner; specifically we went to Tito's, in our opinion the best Mexican restaurant in the area. Here's the deal though: do we wait and eat at a normal time, put our name on a waiting list, and hope order prevails until after the dinner? Or do we leave early, avoid 5 o'clock traffic, and eat in relative peace in a sparsely crowded restaurant? We choose the latter.

As usual we were not the only ones with this "bright idea;" other families had the same idea. Although I must say I have never seen anything like the time Lori and I took the kids to our favorite pub one evening at 5 o'clock on a Saturday. The place was packed with moms and dads and kids. It was like it was family hour.

After our early dinner we went to a little ice cream shop in Providence. As we exited the establishment the VOR mentioned that I had chocolate ice cream all over my nose but I did not pay much attention for we were going to a park. While at the park a fellow dad and I made eye contact and gave each other a manly nod, yet he included a rather peculiar smile. Peculiar smile? Yes, in Yankeeland people are not naturally polite or nice. Then I remembered the VOR's request for me to clean off my nose. I reached for my nose, I could not see the chocolate but I could feel its stickiness! The other dad was not being friendly, he was simply amused at ol' chocolate faced.

24 April 2009

Spring Language

Gradually over the last couple of weeks the flora has turned from a deep brown to a bright green. Asparagus has poked through the earth's crust, lilacs are budding, violets have opened, and #3 is trying his best to describe what he sees. Case in point, two yellow blooming flowers: dan-der-lions and daf-fer-dills.

Now the contest is on: how long can I wait until I have to mow the grass? This is an unofficial contest my neighbors and I have waged. Last year I was second to last, this year will I be last? Who knows. When we first moved here a gentleman from the church mowed the grass for me. But there were two problems, no three, with this situation. 1. He would always start mowing when #1 was napping. #2 he would get too close to my garden beds (I think he knew this made me a nervous wreck). #3 he would always mow over our tulips. Eventually I wound up mowing the grass myself. I do, however, miss the service if for nothing else the gentleman mowed the grass at the highest speed possible and would drink diet beer while doing so. I had seen men drink while playing golf, while bowling, selling cars, playing cards but never while mowing grass - a New England memory if there ever was one.

Furthermore, it is time for my annual Dan Champion memorial sentence. Dan Champion was a dear classmate and friend from seminary. One day while eating lunch Dan mentioned how frivolous the late night programming was on ESPN2, yet people still watch it. He said he bet if ESPN2 put two guys passing baseball people would watch it. As #2 and I passed ball yesterday I thought you know I bet I would watch two guys passing baseball...

Miss you Dan.

21 April 2009

A New Men's Clothing Site

My anglophile tendencies have a way of infecting almost every part of my life from choice of clergy fashions, to worship books, to poets, detectives authors, and especially clothing. I love the british look of a spread collar, cufflinks, and a windsor knot. Therefore, I was quite pleased to discover the S Buckingham web page the other day. I ordered the matching silk tie, handkerchief and cufflink set (waiting till a later date to disclose my choice of color and design). Yesterday my heart raced when the Nick the mailman delivered the package with the clearly labeled "Royal Mail" sticker. I opened to find a well constructed and sharp feeling gift set. I am making S Buckingham my first choice for ties.

A Tribute to Peter Carman

This weekend the Lake Avenue Memorial Baptist Church of Rochester, NY celebrated the last Sunday of their beloved pastor Rev. Peter JB Carman. I was unable to be present for the service so I thought I would publish my thoughts of thanksgiving for the person I consider to be my pastor.

A number of years ago when the VOR and I drove from Richmond, VA to Rochester, NY so that I could explore the possibility of transferring from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, VA to Colgate Rochester Divinity School one of the first people I spoke with was Peter Carman. I met Peter because someone pointed to him and his church as a modern example of church living out the social gospel. From the get-go Peter was warm, thoughtful, and gracious. His example and presence clearly steered my vocational choice.

I transferred schools thinking that I would have a better chance of getting into a top PhD program with a degree from CRDS. I wanted to devote my life to the study of the social gospel, especially the life and writings of Walter Rauschenbusch. The school, at that time, housed the American Baptist Historical Society's library (which is the steward of the Rauschenbusch papers). I did immerse myself in the life and writings of Rauschenbusch. Looking back on the school almost 10 years removed I can genuinely say they did approach ministry from a social gospel perspective. I took the maximum number of classes, audited two every semester, and spent any spare time in the archives; I even worked in the archives so I could spend more time with the material. During all of this time, however, I was worshipping at Lake Avenue and watching and conversing with Peter. His presence and words graced me so when it came time to submit application papers to PhD programs I found myself saying "No" and saying "Yes" to pastoral ministry.

Peter Carman witnessed for me that one could be a scholar, a pastor, a friend, a husband, and a father. Peter showed me how one could be a liberal and love Jesus with all your heart, mind, body, and soul. Peter showed me that being a liberal is not about being against conservatives but is about the true root of the word liber: to be free. I have taken this admonishment to heart - I am not a pastor who seeks to make others in my own image. I simply want to help folk to be free people, free people living out the image of God within them. I am still amazed at the various theological positions of folk at the church I serve. When I describe myself as an evangelical liberal I think of this model as my working definition.

After I chose (or it chose me) the pastoral vocation I went to work in WV. I loved the church and my time there. After a couple of years it was apparent (due to finances) I would have to explore another call. I looked for a little piece then Peter called "Hey Travis I used to serve a church in Lincoln, RI - would you care if I submitted your name." I said sure but there was no way I was moving to RI, I thought it would be good experience. A few phone calls, an interview and yada yada yada I was called to be the pastor of the Lime Rock Baptist Church. During my tenure here I have leaned on Peter and am thankful for his advice, his causing me to laugh, and his integrity.

Peter will soon begin a new venture as the pastor of the Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church. I know he will do a great job and the church will be a even greater presence in Chapel Hill and the research triangle area. Godspeed Peter and family.

One last note, while I was going through the ordination process Peter insisted on talking to my dad one day while we were in Rochester. My dad enjoyed Peter very much; my dad was not easily impressed but Peter impressed him.

07 April 2009

A Teachable Moment

Last week as I prepared my Palm Sunday sermon I went through at least four drafts. As I told the congregation usually multiple drafts means the expulsion of several hundred if not a couple thousand words. Last week, however, the words kept coming - eight full pages plus an additional couple in extended notes and questions I wanted to tackle. Finally on Friday afternoon I asked myself what was going on.

My main quandary centered on all of the questions of Palm Sunday and Holy Week. Even though I do not like the combination of Palm Sunday with Passion Sunday - I understand the liturgical importance of celebrating both on the day. I tried to ask questions from the point of view of the religious and political authorities: why was Jesus perceived as such a threat? I have a shelf full of books answering this question, all from a social-scientific perspective. I can describe countless peasant bandits in first century Palestine, Roman taxation policies, and importance of Mark's specific usage of "Gentiles" in chapter 10. But this stuff is hard to formulate in a narrative more or less a sermon. Nevertheless if folk do not spend some time on why Jesus was killed then the surprise of Easter Sunday aint what it could be.

So I scrapped my lengthy sermon and went with a hybrid bible study/sermon. I wanted to wrestle with some questions: What was Jesus doing in Jerusalem the day we call Palm Sunday? Why were the folk waving palms and singing portions of Psalm 118? What did the cleansing of the Temple and the foretelling of its destruction look like from a Roman perspective?

The reaction: I could not believe how receptive folk were to it. I even surprised myself with some of the stuff I said! As we walked through Jesus' time in the City I was struck by how if the story ended on Good Friday it would still have been a transformational story. Why? Take the Last Supper story - God in Jesus Christ giving everything God has, Godself. Of course we read the story on the other side of the Resurrection but it is quite a story on pre-Resurrection side (but is there really any pre-Resurrection portion of the New Testament? Or any word that is not shaped by the Resurrection?). I asked folk this week just to stay with the story up till then so we can be surprised by God's mighty work on Easter.