Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Taken Back

Do you ever have that experience when you are all of a sudden reminded of something from a long time ago, out of nowhere? It's not really deja vu, because you can place the memory.

I was brushing my teeth this morning, and all of a sudden, the combination of Altoids, water, and toothpaste in my mouth brought back the memory of my grandparents' backyard, when my cousin and I used to play in their garden. I'm not sure what specifically I was reminded of. Something about the water, maybe drinking the water from the hose in their yard. My grandfather had this bird feeder, and also this board that he set up on top of the fence that he'd put birdseed and other food for the birds on. It always frustrated him when the squirrels would get to it. Behind the fence, my grandmother had a garden, kind of back in the woods and up a little hill. I've always wanted to have a garden, and I think it's because of her.

Right inside their back door was a laundry room where they had a fridge. I don't remember if it was their main fridge, I think so. But I remember they always had it stocked full of drinks and snacks for us when we would come. It was so freeing to be able to grab and eat anything you wanted, not that we didn't do that at home, but somehow it was different.

Hmm, it's just nice to think about. Childhood memories, and my grandparent's backyard.

See, one of these days, I'm going to do something creative to share and preserve memories like these. Though, maybe just blogging about them is simply enough.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Annual Conference Day 3.1

Annual Conference ended on a great note. Just before the CFA report and the "Where will the 2010 Conference meet" report (which are always the last two) we heard the official report of the camping ministries. I was very pleased with how they provided both positives and negatives, both honoring what this camp in question is and has been, and being truthful about what it needs to be.

The began by asking themselves what our liability would be if they kept the camp open. They then asked what our spiritual liability would be if we closed it.

What a powerful, important question to ask, especially as they shared the statistics that 60-80% of Christians make their profession of faith at camp.

They revisited the information given in the briefing, that in 2001-2002, the camp experienced a decline in attendance, which we thought was attributed to the incident that occurred there, however camps across the country experienced the same percentage in decrease as we did as a result of 9/11. They continued by saying that the camps that survived and thrived are the ones who "retooled" and moved on in a better direction. We did no such thing with this camp, and the task force proclaimed that they see this camp to be at ground zero.

So, what the task force proposed was to build a new intentional connection between the Conference office and the camping ministries. They propose to operate the camp as only a summer camp until additional usage and income mandates the hiring of a full time director for the camp to be open year round. In the meantime, the lodges will be available year round for "self-use" by churches (meaning you have to cook your own meals).

They propose to update the camp by cleaning the cabins and making them more user-friendly. The kitchen and the dining area are in dire need of renovation, including a whole new kitchen and air-conditioning the space. They acknowledge that we are competing with camps across the state that are already offering much better facilities.

On a broader note, they encouraged the conference to take camping ministries to a place where we are doing a camping ministry that no longer takes a back seat and does things half way, but looks forward and meets the needs of children and youth. They look for the day that this camp can apply and become accredited by the American Camp Association.

They talked about how to fund it, and then told the story of the priceless pearl for which the man was willing to sell literally everything he had. As he walked out the door of the store, the store owner returned all of his possessions to him, saying they are not yours, but you must use them to serve others as they come to you. We have been given this camp back. It is not ours - it is God's. What do we do with this gift that we have been given?

The proposal passed unanimously!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Annual Conference Day 3

This morning and early afternoon we had a speaker, Sally Morgenthaler. She had some good things to say, speaking about passionate worship. Jay was a very thorough note taker on all the sessions: 1, 2, and 3. I appreciate him sharing these with us.

The one thing I will say about the sessions was that toward the end she asked for questions and someone brought up the issue of keeping worship as worship, and not entertainment. She didn't say a lot on this, but I was glad someone brought it up, because it is a big deal. What she did say was that we have to keep our focus on God.

As my computer is now running on reserve battery, my wrap up of Conference will have to come later!

Annual Conference Day 2.1

I left after the amendments to join the Martin Alumni Choir! It was a very exciting experience. The choir was to sing at the Martin Dinner and then at the Laity service. There were about 45 people, from graduating class of '51 to just starting at MMC this fall. The choir was directed by the choral director at Martin. It was so much fun. Both my mom and mother-in-law sang, and I got to see a lot of people I went to school with who I haven't seen since, along with some of Mark's friends.

Personal joy aside, the choir just sounded really good, which is pretty amazing when you just invite a bunch of people, you don't really know what you're going to get. Martin has been working toward lots of improvement, both physically and in programming. One of the bench marks has been to increase the student body to 1000 students, and they'll cross that number this fall. So, our theme for the Martin Dinner was "O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing."

There are so many exciting things going on at Martin, and it is always so great to share the excitement of the school with the conference. Check out what's going on, and see how this college is truly modeling what it means to be a church-related institute.

Annual Conference Day 2

Okay, so I'm a day behind.

Yesterday afternoon was the Constitutional Amendments. It was very interesting to see the conversation. The majority of people who spoke on the first amendment was pro. I know there are a lot of forward thinking people in our conference who aren't "afraid" of what this amendment could mean. And that's the bottom line of what's been going on - those "in the know" who are against this amendment have been using a fear tactic to scare those who aren't really up on the latest news to fear what this could mean. We're scaring people into doing what we want them to do instead of educating them and trusting them to make their own decision. I was so happy to see so many people taking a stand against that fear-tactic and standing up for inclusion.

One pastor brought the example that a 6 year old told him he wanted to join the church, and he said that if this passes, then he would have had to offer membership to this child, instead of telling the child she was too young and needed to wait until she was older. My thought? Umm... what's the problem with a 6 year old becoming a member? We hold this thing called "membership" so close, like an exclusive club, that only those we deem ready are allowed. You have to go through confirmation. You have to go through this class. You're not ready. You have to meet with the pastor. What's the problem with them doing that after they join? You can join! Now! Yes! Come! Our doors are open, not only for you to come and worship, but for you to BELONG! No wonder church feels like a country club...

I really wanted to applaud when one pastor spoke out against this element of fear by saying that we need to stop being afraid of what might happen if we accept everyone, and look at what IS happening - 2/3 of our members aren't keeping their vows as it is. What are we afraid of? More people who don't support the church with their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness? Or are we afraid that we might have to actual mean what we say: Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors?

We still don't know the result of our voting, and I'm surprised we haven't heard it yet. We may have to ask for it. I've been keeping an eye on amendment tracker as the rest of the conferences weigh in. It looks like General Conference is quite representative: we're split down the middle. Now, if we can just admit that, it'll be a step in the right direction.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Annual Conference Day 1

Disclaimer: My two greatest fears in life are being boring and being wrong. And being hypocritical. Okay, three. I fear I may be all of the above in this following post, but I will try my best to not succeed.

Yesterday was... it's really hard to be nice. The conference began with a laity briefing session that discussed the amendments from General Conference. The head of our delegation discussed each of the amendments, though very scattered. He didn't go in order of the amendments, or even in order of the way they had been grouped to make things easier. It was very confusing, and in the end he told us how to vote, saying we should only vote in 2 or 3 of the 32. I was shocked, at first, to hear him telling us how to vote (especially since a lot of people here are first timers and aren't used to the politics). However, toward the end of his time I became outraged when someone asked why, if these are negative things, did they pass General Conference in the first place, and their response was that by the time they were voted on, about 200 people had already left, and the rest of the people there probably didn't understand what they were voting on. What?? I would imagine that the attendants at General Conference who were fully present and completely understood that they were voting for inclusiveness, voting for Jesus' words of spreading the gospel to ALL people, resent that comment.

Laity address today. The lay speaker told us that if we're still angry over the "progress" last year, that we need to "get over it." We're supposed to be reaching children and youth, and yet the conference has alienated this exact group of active people by their decisions last year. And now, we're just supposed to "get over it." Get over being marginalized, get over being ignored, get over being pushed aside and had our work scoffed at, saying it wasn't ever enough. I think he has some other things to say that may be good, but it's really hard to listen to him after that. He made a big point of saying we need people of all ages to be involved, but yet, when we do get involved and are completely overlooked and ignored, we're just supposed to get over it.

Okay... I need to think about some good things. The report for our camping ministries was really good. It was during the laity briefing, so we haven't heard the actual report to conference. The issue has been with one of our two camps that had a criminal incident several years ago, and really, the conference became afraid of the safety of this facility, and got to the point last year of considering closing the camp and selling the property. Fortunately, a committee was formed to look at this camp and discuss what needs to be done with it. This is the report that we heard, and basically they said there's nothing wrong with the camp, it just needs facility improvements and programming support. The problem is not with the facility, it's with us and what we've done with it. He said that one camp does not have to meet all the needs of a conference, and that one can focus on the needs of adults, and the other can focus on the needs of children and youth. It was an encouraging report, to know that this facility for summer camps will hopefully continue, and be improved to serve children and youth better.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Annual Conference

The time has come again! I'm headed to Annual Conference today. We're cramming it into two and a half days. I appreciate the honoring of our time, but we'll see what happens when we get to Resolutions and GC Amendments. I (averts eyes in shame) haven't read through the amendments yet. I don't know if there will be much debate - we don't debate a lot, with the exception of last year's Conference resolutions. We'll see how this year goes.

As always, it's sure to be an adventure.