1) Hope your Christmas season is getting off to a good start. The Buchers just went Christmas crazy this weekend. First and foremost, today we bought a tree. It's six feet tall, embraces fiber optic technology, and is, by far, one of the cheapest trees I have bought in my life (although it'll be tough to top last year, when I payed $10 for a tree marked at $95 at The Andersons.... that's a coup for the ages). The Dollar General was having a sale on Christmas trees, and since we're leaving Wilmore on December 17th for the holidays, we decided that something small and easy to put up and away, was in order. Since all we had to do was take this baby out of the box, pull the wire limbs down to give it a little oomph, and plug it in, I'd say we found a winner. I get the feeling you'll see it on this post before it's all said and done... but you'll need to pay attention.
2) The other thing our family did to get into the spirit was head on into Wilmore for the Chamber of Commerce's annual Christmas bash. On this evening, we saw the Wilmore City Christmas tree light up, AND SO CAN YOU (just lay your monitor on it's side to avoid hurting your neck)....
Next we ate chili and peanut butter sandwiches at the Wilmore UMC while we listened to a Big Band play some tunes (which they felt needed to be amplified in a room that's not much bigger than a three-car garage... but, hey, if it's too loud, you're too old!). Then virtually every business in town opened their doors, and invited everyone in for an open house where they gave you free stuff (usually a cookie and spiced cider... although a doc in town gave away boxes of cereal! The boys had Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast), and in every single shop, there were local artists playing Christmas music (the best: a jam-band at the local mexican restaurant one of Beeson spouses named "No Way Jose's"). Lots of lights, big crowds, cold-but-not freezing weather.... we had a blast!
You should have seen Elijah's face. I put him in the baby backpack, and I don't think the look of wonder or a smile, came off his face all evening. Small town America at its very best! You'll see more of Wilmore later... if you pay close attention.
3) We were late to church this morning. Quest Community Church, our temporary church while we're away from Lima, is about a 25 minute drive from our townhouse. Unfortunately, after I lost track of time reading the newspaper and then having to scrape ice off the van, we ended up with only 15 minutes to get there.
But how many times in my life will I ever be permitted to be late to church? Ah, do I detect the sweet smell of grace..... yes! I believe I do!
We were so late, that we ended up going to V2, which is the church's in-house cafe where the 10:22am service is video simulcast. The place was packed so we sat on a loveseat (Aimee, Xavier - who didn't want to go to his class until I pointed out that if he did he'd get a snack, Eli, and myself). The sermon was nice, and gentle, and peaceful. After Xavier went for his snac... er, class, Eli fell asleep, and we nestled in for the service. For the record, I like sitting in a loveseat at church... and because it's too easy to fall asleep, we'll never introduce them at Shawnee.
Like I need more help putting people to sleep.
4) Speaking of Shawnee, tonight Joseph is meeting with a number of laypeople at the church to announce that as of July 1, 2007, I'll be taking over his Senior Pastoral role at Shawnee. While this has been one of the worst-kept secrets in the history of secret keeping, that still doesn't mean people won't be shocked. Dr. Bishman has been with the church since January 1991, which, if you know anything about the United Methodist Church, is about four-times the normal tenure for an appointed pastor to be anywhere. Needless to say, our family is excited for this opportunity (the story of how all this happened, I'll tell in a later post.... it's pretty interesting) which has been over two years in the making. We just feel beyond blessed, and thank God that Joseph, the Cabinet, and the Bishop were willing to give us this opportunity.
5) I wrote in an earlier blog post that when given the choice to follow a highly successful pastor in a church that's been growing, or follow a pastor that has not done well in a church that's almost empty, almost to the person, my Beeson Pastor colleagues opted for the church deep in the hole. And to be honest, I know why. It's easy to follow someone a congregation was either hostile or apathetic towards. If you just take care of your business, people will just be relieved that you aren't messing up, and then, once they know you mean business, will cut you a lot of slack to try new things.
In churches where things have been rolling, however, expectations are high, relationships that were strong have been broken resulting in lots of grieving, and in many cases the pastor who follows ends up failing simply by not being the person that s/he followed.
Don't think this the case? After analyzing (for my dissertation) all the appointments made in the last 15 years in the West Ohio Conference involving a church averaging 250 people in worship or more, in about 80% of the cases, the church either declined or held steady. And in about as many cases the succeeding pastor only lasted about three years.
This has become such an issue for the conference, that in the case of Shawnee, Bishop Ough has been willing to try this (at Joseph's suggestion) because, quite frankly, he's looking for a new way to do appointments.
So, am I more than a little uneasy about all of this? Yep
Am I going to run away because I'm afraid? 'Fraid not
6) Fifteen years ago when I was hired at Shawnee as a part-part-part-part time youth pastor, the church was not in very good shape. They had declined to the point where they were struggling to meet their bills, had told the Associate Pastor of that moment (for those who remember, Barry Burns - he of the lovely wife Julie and the two sets of twins... yeah, that's right, TWO sets of twins... can't stop laughing when I say that) that he would no longer be in the church's employ come that June, and generally wasn't reaching many people in the community.
Joseph, who at the time was about 42 and fresh off a good stint at a church in Williamsburg, was the perfect fit for the church, and community. Spirit-filled, entrepreneurial (he hired me with $4000 the church didn't really have), funny, a terrific preacher, and fearless leader, Joseph met the challenges of that age, head on. And for all the success, what many people forget were the large number of people who didn't like all the changes, got upset, and left. When they hired me (then a student at Miami University) I actually lived in Oxford (127.5 miles) and only showed up on Sundays to help lead children's church in the morning and youth group in the evening... so, to be honest, much of carnage just kind of flew over my head. However, given my "unrefined personality" at the time, I was one of the changes not appreciated by more than a few people.... and that carnage I remember.
I remember the day Joseph got stopped by yet another older member of the church to complain about my, um, "unconventional ways" (I drug kids in with guitars to play on Sunday morning, dressed like a guy on a $4000 salary, and generally broke every taboo imaginable). "I don't like that Bryan" she told him. "I don't know why we keep him around here."
"Well Aunt Lucy", Joseph said, "that's OK. We didn't bring him here for you. The kids and their parents love him, so he stays."
Having lived through a few nightmares of my own, now I know.... that was gutsy.
But, the church has grown by almost 3 times it's size (attendance-wise). During that time, serving other people, particularly the poor, became one of its hallmarks. In a day and age where all the gurus pressured pastors who wanted to grow a church to get "more conservative", the church stuck to its guns... taking the phrase, "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors" seriously, by staying in the center where the door can be held open the widest for all people looking for Jesus. And, most importantly, lots of folks found Christ over all these years. I remember baptizing whole families, folks who hadn't darkened the door of any church in quite sometime (or ever), and just generally being amazed at how many folks were able to get some things straightened out in their lives.
So, again, why not run? Well, my blood, sweat and tears are in this place. I've poured thousands of hours of prayer into her people. I feel resonsible for what happens to her. I'm proud of what Shawnee has become, and when God asked me if I'd be willing to pay the price to lead the faithful on who have been force for the Kingdom of Heaven on the corner of Zurmehly and Shawnee sinc the early 19th century, I couldn't think of a better way to honor his request than by saying "yes". I love the people. I love what they want to do. I love what they want, and what they want their kids, to become. I love what Jesus has done with them, and want to stick around to see what he does next.
Besides... I always said back in the day when the UMC would never have dreamed of doing some thing like this, "God bless the sucker who follows Joseph Bishman at Shawnee UMC".
You know what - I can safely say, that prayer has already been answered, with abundance.
7) Looks like it'll be the Gators and the Bucks in Glendale. I have no fear or qualms. Let the games begin!
8) As of today, I will not write another word about the Jeff Greenway situation. Now that we're officially colleagues (his new church, Reynoldsburg UMC in suburban Columbus) in the same UM Conference, I just don't feel it's proper. I've always tried to write impartially, and from the perspective of outsider looking for leadership lessons in what we BP's have turned into a case study on leadership.... but now, I just think it'd be too hard to be perceived as impartial, one way or the other, and that's a real problem now that Bishops and DS's are invovled... so I'm out. If you're here looking for info, I'd like to gracefully ask you to look elsewhere, and invite you to pray with me that someday, some sort of reconciliation can take place between Jeff and the school.
And, Pastor Greenway, if you're reading this, I look forward to seeing you at conference next year at Lakeside. Take my advise... get your housing now (it always goes fast) and do your best to stay in Lakeside proper. It's a lovely place the whole family would love. Let me know, and up there I'd be happy to buy you a cup of coffee some morning at "The Patio". Welcome to West Ohio!
9) Pray for me. Next Sunday I'll be visiting a church connected to one of my Beeson Pastor colleagues for the purpose of writing my final anthropology paper. It'll involve a lot of travel in a short period of time in the mountains during December, which can always be dicey. I kinda have to stay undercover, so I can't say a whole lot more without complicating the assignment further. An extra moment to whisper some good thing on my behalf to the Lord would be appreciated.
10) It's no secret, even if you've followed this half-heartedly, that I like YouTube. It's one of the few links to the outside world I've had since moving down here in July. We don't have cable, so, for example, if a pastor from a mega-church makes a statement about a so-called scandal involving all sorts of unseemly things, what you watched on 24 hour cable news, I watched on YouTube. It's a place to see sports highlights, old SNL skits (I stopped watching before Will Farrell found his voice, so I'm catching up a little), and some of the weirdist things you'll ever see on the internet.
But, until today, I've always been one who exclusively downloaded things from YouTube, leaving uploading to other souls braver or less busy, than I.
That is, until today!
Before I left for Chicago for Willow's "Leadership Summit", Aimee and I bit the bullet and bought a digital camera that could take both stills and video. It's a weird little Chinese gadget I bought indirectly through www.woot.com that has always worked kind of, well, strangely. But, over time I've started to get the hang of it, and since Aaron Wymer beat me to the punch by posting the first BP produced video to YouTube over thanksgiving (the link to this blog is on the left column under, "go surfing"), I felt the time to keep up with the Wymer's was at hand.
Besides, he's a Florida grad... I can't be outdone by a Gator grad!
So, without further ado, for your viewing pleasure, my YouTube debut. Please pardon the video quality... it looks a lot better before it's compressed. The theme is "Christmas in Wilmore", but it's really just an excuse to put up video of the kids for family (particularly the grandparents.... and The Great One if she'd switch to a full computer) and friends at home. I hope you enjoy it, and that it gets you into the Christmas spirit.