28 January 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion

Nice write up in the morning edition of the Times-Picayune if I do say so myself.

As Sunday approaches I have been thinking quite a bit about the process and how I arrived in New Orleans. 1. I thought the search process would have taken place quicker. 2. I did not know what I really wanted until I interviewed with two or three churches. 3. I was surprised at how steep the learning curve was as I journeyed through. 4. I am glad it took as long as it did. 5. I am glad I did not rush the process and kept waiting till I found a right fit. 6. As bizarre as it may seem to thank other search committees, thank you. I talked with one member of a search committee yesterday. I thanked the person for the experience and informed them that if I had not interviewed with them I would not have had the clarity needed to engage the congregation. The person also said the search committee would not have been able to call the person they did unless they had interviewed me. It is a two-way process, dialogue and journey.

I was sad, and still am, to leave the folk from Rhode Island, but I am glad to be where I am today. My family is glad - even though it has been a tough journey for all of us.

25 January 2010

FIrst Class Ticket on the Bandwagon Express

In July my family and I moved to New Orleans. I tried, in vain, to prepare myself for this new journey by reading any and every book I could on this city (still am). One repetitive theme throughout all of the narratives: The Saints. I remember watching the first Monday Night game the Saints played in the Superdome, post-Katrina but I couldn't get my head around why the game was so important to the city. With all the suffering in the city, homes and lives still "under water" it just seemed juvenile to devote so much energy to a frivolous football game. Then I read 1 Dead in Attic, Chris Rose finally provided the proper perspective on the game - the game was more than a NFL game it was a greater symbol for the rebirth of the city and the people. But still it did not sink in, fully.

As the season approached and as I prepared sermons folk kept telling me how attendance and attention revolved around the Saints schedule. I was arrogant enough to think I knew that in reality not everyone was a Saints fan. So we scheduled a Jazz Brunch in September which also happened to be opening day for the Saints. Although it was pouring down rain outside folk packed the fellowship hall for a wonderful day of worship. I thought hah, the Saints are big, but they aren't that big.

The season progressed, the wins kept coming and the fever kept growing. Sunday attendance was affected, definitely. And I soon realized, yeah they are that big, they are important to the civic life of the this city.

We kept hearing folk say "Who Dat?" I could not, for the life of me, figure out this bizarre saying. It reminded me of the way folk would giggle when I pronounced (slowly) Pahwl-tuck-eht instead of a quick Pah-tuck-eht. I felt so strange, alien, and corny saying Who Dat? Then a parishioner gave me a couple of tickets to a game, I was reluctant to go but did. The VOR and I obtained the services of a sitter, she dressed in black and gold, me in lime green and jeans.

The experience at the game was amazing, liturgical even with the dancing, collective singing, range of emotions, and release of so much hope. The game was a baptism. As The VOR and I rode the street car back home, I knew we made the right decision to move here - as crazy as this place may be!

New Orleans is still a "broken city." Hardship stained schools, libraries not open on Fridays, no recycling, Charity hospital still closed, roads full of potholes, and homes still with the National Guard spray paint "icons." The people are still broken, always on the verge of tears and just looking for something to hold onto for hope and new life. More than anything the Saints fill that need.

Last night after the win the sports and news media focused on the party on Bourbon Street (rightly so, it was amazing to watch the festivities) but folk were celebrating all over the region. In uptown there were fireworks, folk beeping their horns, folk screaming and yelling, and camped out on the neutral ground. The local news said today might as well be a holiday b/c aint nobody going to work today. This morning as I took the kids to school they were right, the streets normally packed with morning commuters, were for the most part, clear.

This morning before #s 1, 2, & 3 said good morning they wanted to know if The Saints won. In a past life and in past times I would resist the temptation to jump on the bandwagon but not now. I admit jumping on, and loving it!

Background articles:
Great ESPN article here from a few weeks ago.
And from the NY Times.

20 January 2010

To and Fro, Haiti, and Microhumor

To and Fro.

As some of you may know the VOR and I experimented for a year and a half driving one vehicle. In RI this arrangement worked well. I walked to work (about a 62 step commute) and had easy access to the mystery van (the kids took the bus to school). The demands of my job were not overwhelming and I could work out the xs and os of travel with out much trouble.

Then we moved to New Orleans. It appeared at first that we would be able to keep the same arrangement: between street cars, buses, sidewalks, and my bike it looked liked I could reduce my carbon footprint as a pastor. But an odd thing happened: bigger church = more responsibilities (which I knew but still hard to fully imagine), flat city (great for bicycling) but a humid city (terrible for riding a bicycle in a suit). Catholic school (our best option) no buses (have to transport kids to school). Nevertheless I tried by purchasing a Breezer commuting bike. It was a good purchase and it is a great bike. But all factors considered I needed to purchase an automobile.

I first went to car lots to price the cheapest new cars: somewhere in the vicinity of $13,000-15,000. I just could not justify purchasing a small egg looking auto for that amount of money. So I next researched used cars on the internet. But after a few frustrating hours I said why not craigslist? For I sold two cars, tractors, and other gas powered equipment why not buy a car? First search I found a car and a few days later I had it. It has heated seats (great luxury here in NOLA, no need to ever turn on the heat), and great control. First car ever, nice ride but I do miss the comfort of a truck.

The news from Haiti is horrendous. Some of the rhetoric about Haiti is horrendous. To educate yourself please consult the work of Randall Robinson.

I have always held the view that microhumor is better than macrohumor. Unfortunately #3 thinks so to! He has taken to removing my bookmarks!

07 January 2010

On the Need for Holidays

The other day while doing some research on Christmastide I found a vague reference to the Presentation of Jesus as Candlemas. The more I dug on Candlemas the more I liked about it. The holiday had all of the trappings to entice me: obscurity, long held traditions long since passed, and an official name. For a side note: the choirmaster at SCABC informed that the Chandeleur Islands (barrier islands in Louisiana) were found insert year here _____ on Candlemas.

So I introduced the day to the congregation on Sunday morning and then invited some friends over that afternoon for "Candlemas Cocktails." Why cocktails? On Saturday at the Hollygrove Farm Market I found a basket of "bitter oranges" a product I have been searching for two years for. Why bitter oranges? They are an essential ingredient for a pot of "smoking bishop." Bitter oranges + obscure religious holiday + a need to be with people = Candlemas Cocktails.

Smoking Bishop:
Bake the oranges (low temp, depends on your oven)

After they turn a pale brown remove from the oven and place, stud generously with cloves, and place in a warmed earthenware bowl. Add a bottle of cheap red wine (the recipe calls for Portuguese wine, which I could find easily in RI but not in NOLA, for this batch I used whatever red wine was in the bota box) and a 1/4 cup of sugar. Cover and let rest for overnight and some of the day.

As the party approaches squeeze out the juice from the oranges and discard. (Be sure to remove the cloves if any by-chance sneak into the wine). Pour the contents into a non-reactive pan that you use on the stove top. Bring to a nice warm temperature (do not bring to a boil), then add a bottle of port wine and a 1/2 pint of water (a small glassful should do). Continue to warm, ladle into mugs, and enjoy.