An Open Letter to the Noble Road Congregation from Pastor Francis

Dear Friends:

I spent last the Friday and Saturday of January on retreat with 12 of our colleagues who are serving in churches in Cleveland or first-ring cities. These representatives were commissioned to this retreat by a larger group invested in working for a strategy within the presbytery that will address the specific needs of these urban and metropolitan churches. We were led by the Rev. Phil Tom who is staff associate for small church ministries for our denomination.

Our intent was to make a list of goals and objectives within this strategy and walk out of the retreat with individual responsibilities that we would bring back to our churches.

The strategy never materialized. I could go into the many reasons why, but I will cut to the chase and share with you one of the major issues on which we were stuck:

Triage v. long-term goals

1. Triage: We’ve already seen three metro/urban churches close in the past four years: Heights, Bosworth Rd., and Immanuel. Without some intervention, a couple more are looking at closure either within the year or not long after. {Let me add, if not for the rebounding of Discovery Preschool, we would likely be on that list.} The delegates from First Church, East Cleveland said straight out that unless they get a tenant in their building, they will close, therefore having no need for a long-range strategy. So, what do we do about the immediate needs of some of these churches, who feel like they are still providing relevant and needed ministry in their communities?

2. Long-term goals: How do we make our presbytery colleagues see that its urban churches are vital to its witness? How do we engage our suburban sisters and brothers in symbiotic partnerships? How do we discover beneficial community partners for each individual church? How do we write a strategy for the whole presbytery that will have some teeth—accountability—to it; ie. so it is not just rubber stamped only to be forgotten as each presbyter steps out into the parking lot following the meeting?

Added to this was the question of how any of us–clergy and lay–in urban/metro churches finds the energy and time to steer the presbytery along this strategy while trying to do what we are called to do in our own contexts.

I shared with my colleagues that I was going away from the meeting feeling both tired and adrift. Many spoke of being hopeful and encouraged by the relationship-building that was established throughout these frank and honest conversations; and that we were well on the way to creating something, but the time was not yet right.
As I have had some space away from that retreat, I have realized that I, tending to be an optimist, join alongside them in their hope. I believe that if God really wants us to be doing things in the Presbytery of the Western Reserve then God will equip us for the journey—urging us to evolve/change/transform in the process.

Alright, so how do these reflections serve as an annual report?
Our work together over the past four years has led us right into the middle of the tension that was revealed this weekend with this group of urban practitioners.
We went through the whole mapping process to help us internalize the general directions we need to be heading as we live into our vision of “transforming lives in Jesus Christ.” All signs point to the fact that the direction-setting responsibility has moved out of a small group of visioners and into the capable hands of the Session.

We literally bought into working with some of these same sibling churches in being equipped by the resource-rich Partners for Sacred Places organization. Through this we have begun to ask how our ministry in the community can be most enhanced in this facility? It has also encouraged us to seek out a variety of partners with whom to serve and find common grounding. As I listened this weekend, I was again reminded that these partnerships are the keys to a vital ministry as we move into the future.

In our engagement with the Justice Ministry’s offering of the Racial Diversity Assessment, we have been challenged to throw open the door to our understanding of Jesus’ call to embrace all of humanity—in its complexity—in hospitality, in action, in witness, in mission, in study, in worship, and, again, in partnership.

We have some hard work ahead of us.
On the Sunday following the retreat (27 January), the Rev. Phil Tom preached at our church. His message was about the need for changing one’s ways lest one suffer fatal consequences. He gave several examples of individuals needing to make life-changes in order to stay healthy and how hard it can be to change habits. Churches like ours, Phil added, are in similar situations; if we don’t take a fresh approach to ministry we will soon find ourselves closing our doors. He cited examples of ways people have changed life habits (diet, exercise regimen, etc) and suggested churches can do the same.

Doubtless you are responding in a similar way as I: we’ve heard this song before, we’ve talked about change—and experimented with it so much—that we’re not even sure who we are anymore. As I continue to reflect and be challenged by this notion of change I have had one recent revelation: we have changed a lot of the programming we do, but we have not necessarily changed the program. Here’s what I mean:

Change in the way we function: For as long as I can think of, the “way of being church” has been defined as program- and worship-centered. We who have grown up in the church (irrespective of Christian background, I think), and I who was trained to serve the church, expect that we will engage one another through programs like Christian education (children’s and adult forums), bible studies, and more recent popularity of small groups. Also, a primary focus of our life will be centered around Sunday morning worship. These programs and events are the ways we traditionally measure our ministry: how many members or visitors show up for worship, study, or potluck supper? I might add that another yardstick this particular church has used was how many rallies, protests, support marches did we initiate and/or attend?

As our membership numbers decrease we become frustrated when any of these measurements fall short because of low attendance…. But, when we are dealing with a small church, and people are spread thin, this is an unfair expectation!

We are challenged to move away from centering our lives on worship and church programs, and to move into a model offered by Jesus, the disciples, and apostles…sharing life with folks one-by-one, two-by-two, sometimes peaking with groups of 4000 (i.e. loaves and fish story).

That’s why I believe we have some hard work ahead of us. The work will be hard, not because it is going to require that much more time than we are used to spending in, at, and for the church; although maybe it will, I don’t know?? But, rather, the work will be hard because we’re doing some things which we are not used to, and, for which we have not been trained…yet. Kind of like those fisherfolk Jesus met and had to change their perspective from catching fish, to catching human beings in the story of God’s grace-, justice-, and love-filled kin-dom.

So, what is our call, here at Noble Road?
That’s a good question, and one with which we have wrestled for a long, long time. I imagine each of us has our own understanding of it, and we’ve boiled it down to that oft-quoted and not real concrete vision of “transforming lives in Jesus Christ.” And that statement is true. Others we could use: to promote abundant life, to share the light we know in God’s love with the world, to live into the welcome we have come to understand in Jesus Christ, etc.

If you want to skip the preface above, here are some of my proposed actions steps:
But how do we put these wonderful creeds into action?? Here are a few suggestions I have discovered along the way:

I think we are called to find out what the community needs, and find ways of bringing people together in order for these needs to be met. We are in a position to use the bricks and mortar around us to offer a meeting place for folks; a place where short-, medium-, or long-lasting programs come to find hospitality and welcome. This is why we are engaged in discussions about renovating our building and grounds; so, in the process of discussing the needs of our neighbors we have a place that is ready to comfortably receive all who wish to use the space we hold in trust of our mission.

Bringing people together means using the connections and associations we already hold within our daily lives to be pulled together at appropriate times. Bringing people together means taking time to do research of existing programs/organizations that already do what we are looking to do. This doesn’t have to be painstaking work, nor does it have to be about recreating the wheel. This can also include any of our interests…we should be engaged in things that we enjoy and love and for which we have passion.

We need to be sharing with one another what we are doing out in the world. If worship is our main time to gather as community, then we need to use that time to tell stories, ask for support or to make invitation.

Most of all, we need to be in conversation—as a congregation. Session has been having plenty of conversations about the direction of the church. But we don’t have enough forums where critical mass of the church community is able to come together, and talk with one another in an open, frank, trusting, patient, non-critical, hopeful, yet realistic way.

As the Annual Meeting came to a close, we had a glimpse of how this type of sharing can be. About 15-20 folks—with some flow in and out of the room—shared and listened to thoughts about what we need to be doing concretely as a congregation, as well as some things people see we are currently doing. Like with the folks at the retreat I attended on Saturday, the NRPC folks on Sunday didn’t come away with a concrete plan. But, we named the fact that by engaging in the conversation we made a little bit of movement. And the momentum must continue! As we sang in the service on that Sunday (with a little bit of lyrical license thrown in):

Inch by inch, row by row,
we’re gonna make our ministry grow…

Let’s keep it up, good people of Noble Road Church. I welcome your feedback in whatever form you choose: with comments in my box at church, email, or leave a comment on this blog.



Four Cups of Tea

I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read the book Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. It is about an3 Cups of Tea American–Mortenson–who had the vision to build schools in remote Pakistan after being saved by villagers after a failed attempt to reach the summit of K2. The book, and Mortensen’s mission– has become more profound in the recent assassination of Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto.

Mortensen befriends the chief of the village in which he would end up building the first school. Haji Ali explains the practice of offering tea as an invitation to hospitality:

Here (in Pakistan and Afghanistan), we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything–even die.

In the US, the closest we come to this ritual is to offer somebody a hot or cold drink–depending on time of year–when they come over to our house. But even that tradition is falling by the wayside in our faster paced world. Since I am not a coffee drinker, I tend to accept cups of tea–iced (sweet, of course) or hot (sweet, of course)–whenever they are offered.

This week I’ve enjoyed four occasions when tea was offered me, each of which was a significant glimpse into what sustains me–dare I say brings me peace–as I travel through this world.

Cup #1: A Classic Earl Grey set out by my wife. Usually my first cup of tea in the morning is prepared by me: sugar, milk, water, and tea bag. On this Monday morning I found that the mug had already been filled with water and the tea bag was floating there-in. Unexpectedly preparing tea is not a ritual that we are used to giving one another. But on this occasion it was a welcome and appreciated surprise.

Cup #2: A mango herbal, given to me by my spiritual director. It took me a while to find out the blessing of being asked monthly “where have you noticed God’s presence in your life and ministry.” Yet in the infusion of this question through my spirit, I find an opportunity to reflect and receive. “What do you discover?” you may ask. The assurance that ready or not, God accompanies me…and the difference that makes in how I meet the world.

tea-bag.jpegCup #3: A detoxifying Rooibus, offered by a member of the congregation I serve. As he concludes a latest round of chemotherapy for a stubborn group of cells going by the name of lymphoma, we begin our weekly visits with a cup of tea before diving into the theologically-rich text of Babylon 5.

Cup #4: Several infusions of a Milk Oolong, a rare tea, received at The Monestery restaurant (reviewed in prior post), while lunching with a dear friend and colleague in ministry. To receive insight and wisdom, care and concern, laughter and silence, from and with her is a great gift.
In these four cups a balance in life has been struck. Was it the tea that made the difference? Not really. It was after all, the relationships. But I am thankful for the gifts of boiling water, tea leaves, cup and saucer, as the elements to bring me together with these companions of mine.

Wherever you are, I invite you to pour a cup and take a sip with me.

Vote for BRC

You’ll note the badge on the left that supports the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow standing for Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). I would urge you to click on it and check out what Bruce has to say.

Bruce and I were in graduate school together at San Francisco Theological Seminary. He and I worked together for a year in campus ministry at UNITAS Presbyterian House on the campus of Cal-Berkeley. We have also staffed college and youth events, as well as shared in groups supporting the work of young presbyterian pastors and pastors who work in urban settings.

I have come to regard Bruce not only as a trusted and valued friend, but as a pastoral colleague in whom I have the utmost respect. I have appreciated Bruce’s ability to be a forerunner in the movement of pastors who aren’t interested in maintaining the church as it has been throughout the 20th Century. Bruce had the grace to realize early in his pastorate that a typical church wasn’t going to nurture him and his gifts for ministry. Instead, he challenged himself to look deeply within and fashion a ministry that would have great integrity within who he is. In the process, he has discovered that not only are there other clergy people who are looking to emerge into a different way of engaging the gospel, but that there are a whole lot of people searching for meaning who, for a variety of reasons, aren’t going to find it in the church as we’ve known it.

Even while Bruce has been testing the waters for new expressions of ministry and mission, he is deeply committed to the Presbyterian Church. You will find as you engage him in conversation, that his faith and witness are steeped in the reformed faith. He will be an excellent leader to bring people of divergent beliefs together. As I’ve spoken with him about his hopes as Moderator, Bruce has spoken with great energy about wanting to find a variety of forums for promoting constructive conversations in order to unite the denomination in its interface with the world.

It is without hesitation and with great expectation that I endorse the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow as Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) .

A New Look for a New Year

Yes folks, my number 1 resolution for 2008 is to blog much more consistently than I did last year. Well, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Maybe I’ll take baby steps: like trying to write three a month rather than one. For starters, I’ll go with a fresh look. What do you think?

I’ll write something a little more interesting soon.

Liturgical Year: How Shall We Greet Thee?

I am currently working with a group of folks who serve urban churches–both clergy and lay–who are preparing to raise the cause of churches in the city to a higher profile in our region. It’s a hopeful project in the midst of the current rough reality for many metropolitan churches, whose hey-days have long since past.

Last month we were trying to schedule a next meeting, and our moderator asked if it made sense to plan one during the second week of December, smack in the middle of the church season of Advent. The general feeling in the group was energetic and were gaining some momentum in our strategizing. I, riding that forward-moving wave, spoke up and said sardonically, “Who gives a crap about Advent?? In a couple of months it is conceivable that one or two of the churches represented around this table may not be opening its doors anymore.” There was some cautious laughter in the room, and a few nodding of heads, and we went on to schedule our next meeting on the appointed December date.

Since then, I’ve noticed a couple of other things. One was the exasperating energy used by the chair of our church’s Discipleship Ministry. She was looking all over the church for the advent wreath she had purchased just the year before. Everything was turned upside down throughout the church and the d@^n wreath never presented itself. In a flurry, she set out to order a new one, so that we could at least get it on the second Sunday of Advent (we’d have to use the old one for one week!). Then the prodigal wreath was found–where it was believed to have been in the first place–in a mis-marked box. Hallelujah!

Don’t get me wrong–I really enjoy the lighting of candles during the season of Advent. It is an invitation for multiple generations of folks to share in the liturgy of the church. Each candlelighting marks the slow march towards Christmas Day; we’re given the opportunity to ponder a fourfold set of gifts of the season: peace, love, joy, hope, or, angels, shepherds, magi, child, or, ????. The candles, the colors, the themes all add texture to our service.

But is it worth the anxiety it causes? Especially as we add to the mix, the pageants, parties, decorating, and other traditions of the season. So much time; so much effort goes into these special events that are linked to the seasons–I haven’t even mentioned what happens at Lent/Easter, or the lesser celebrated seasonal high-point, Pentecost. Each of these are firmly entrenched into the cycles of the church seasons.

There is definitely a place for them in telling the story of God, Christ, and Spirit. But I wonder if we sometimes focus on them too much. For all of the planning and executing of seasonal events, we can lose momentum on our mission. Especially in a small church (<90) like the one I serve, the people resources are already thin. Except for a participation in a few gift-giving programs for at-risk families, December is almost a lost month. the same is true in the weeks leading up to, and especially the one following, Easter. We turn inward towards our liturgical movements and away from our involvement with the community.

I wonder what some of the emerging churches are doing with church seasons. Assuming that many of the folks they are drawing are previously “unchurched”–lacking any previous Christian affiliation– I wonder if the seasons of the church year are engaging, meaningful, or relevant? I hope that some of my sisters and brothers serving such expressions of the body of Christ will share their thoughts and experiences.calendrier.jpg

I need to sign off now, it is time to concentrate on week 3 of Advent. This Sunday we will be lighting the candle representing a theme of love; I pray it will spark us to share acts of that theme with the world, during–and outside of(!)–this season of the church year.



Yesterday, while driving to work, jammin’ to Beyonce’s Irreplaceable, I was stuck at a light waiting to turn right.  Looking “to the left, to the left” I watched the last car clear and began to pull into the intersection.  That’s when I saw that two bicyclists had entered the crosswalk, in single file.  The first was coming on too fast to do anything but crank on his brakes.  I froze, and so remained in his way.  He broke (correct tense for “applied his brakes firmly”?) enough to only run into my rear passenger side.  Note, he didn’t SLAM into it, just made impact.  Needless-to-say, he wasn’t very happy that I was in his way, but he did pick up his bike and keep going on to the sidewalk on the other side of the street and his friend also rode on behind him.   I will also add to the story that the two young men were Black–I, if you don’t know me, am quite White…but very sensitive to issues of race.  I’d like to believe that I would have behaved the same way no matter who almost flattened himself against the side of my car, but I wanted to make doubly sure that a) he was alright, and b) that he knew I was sorry.

After floundering at finding the appropriate window trigger (activiating all the windows in the car BUT the driver’s side) I finally was able to splurt out: “Are you okay, man??”

By this point he was a good 15-20 yards beyond me regrouping himself, as his friend caught up to him.  I shouted out again and this time he got off his bike and started looking at me–I’m not sure if he ever heard what I said, but I was getting afraid that maybe it was sounding like “What the f*#^’s the matter with you, do you want to pick a fight?”  instead of the simple, caring four words I kept repeating.

It was then that I realized that I was partway into a very busy intersection, making no headway into a shouting–although seeking to be civil–conversation.  So I moved on.   I thought I’d pull the car over and try to cross–on foot–the same intersection where I’d almost smushed him, and started to pull over and then almost hit a van that appeared out of nowhere.  {BTW, adrenaline does weird things to your brain!!!}

After realizing that doing anything other than driving straight would be hazardous to myself and the other drivers around me, I drove on to meet with my spiritual director; which is where I was rushing to in the first place.  Something strangely ironic about that!?!?

This post was going to be about the lesson I learned from that encounter about slowing down and being more mindful about what’s around you.  And that is still a lesson I want you to take from my vehicular mishap, dear reader.

But then a strange thing happened this morning.  {This being the day after the event above mind you.}  I was in the kitchen fixing school lunches when my daughter came in to tell me a car had stopped in front of the house.  “Interesting,” I said.  Sure enough, she was right, but didn’t do much about it because lunches needed to be completed and I was still in my PJs.  While my little voyeurs were giving me the blow-by-blow about the car, it came to pass that it was a man and a boy of about 7.  Hiding behind a curtain, I watched to see what they were going to do.  They set off down the street towards nothing but more houses.  After going past about 4 houses they turned around walking back towards their car.

I decided to make a dash to my room, change clothes, and see what was up.  By the time I got to the window they were heading up our yard to the door.  By then I could see that they were Latino.  I got my cell phone and went out on the front porch to see if they needed to make a call.  The man told me that he had run out of gas.  Fortunately, we had some gas in the garage and I took it out to him.  He had put the boy back in the car and while he was filling the gas tank the boy smiled and waved at me–you know, with the easiness only children can handle!!  Finally the guy asked for directions and went along his way.

I don’t know if I believe in karma or not, but it sure was nice to have a chance to reach out to someone in need after inadvertently (and semi-violently) getting in someone’s way the day before.  Karma?  Holy Spirit?  I don’t know.  But I say thanks to the universe for whatever it was.  Pay it forward sisters and brothers, and build those ARKs–Acts of Random Kindness.


A Good Day in the Life of a Pastor

Recently my friend Bruce (link in the Blogroll) blogged about one of those Sundays that attacks the ego of an ordained clergyperson. What happened to him, happens to all of us: as your sermon starts to develop (or not), you start to make what you thought was a good point (or not), and then you start to support what you thought was a good thought (or not), and the sermon is totally convoluted, confusing, and all you get back are blank stares and the sound of a chirping cricket. Bruce sums it up nicely in his blog; it s*%ks!

But today was not one of those days!! Today was a dream day in my vocational life. One of the most amazing aspects of our position is that we are invited into the heights and depths of the human condition. They are not always happy places; but they are amazing nonetheless.

One of the folks from the church I serve has just been given his last diagnosis of lymphoma; last because there are no more treatments for him. He may not be able to see it yet, but he has been heroic in his quest to embrace life in the midst of his body being invaded from inside. Because of his insistence to claim life, this terminal prognosis has him reeling.

He invited me to his apartment this morning to discuss how I can be one of his partners through this walk towards death. To honor the sacredness of our time together, I won’t go into specifics of the conversation, but in the moment I had no doubt that God held us both.

I left his apartment to process the time we spent, and drove to a local cemetery. This may sound maudlin, but this particular cemetery is no simple graveyard. It is huge, park-like, and over looks the city of Cleveland and Lake Erie. While today was blustery and overcast with a snow-squall here and there, the place was resplendent with fall colors.

I moved on from there to a lunch appointment with a colleague who is new to our area and new to ministry; she is serving her first church. I’ve blogged a little about how I’m beginning to see the changes in myself from young adulthood to middle adulthood (see “Sir” below). In meeting with my friend, I’m reflecting upon how I am approaching potential mentorhood. Nothing formal, but it is interesting to be able to reflect upon experience when talking with someone who has just officiated her first wedding and her first funeral (not at the same event, thank goodness!?!) And, I must say, for once it is nice to NOT be the youngest pastor on the block anymore!!

Earlier in the week, my sister-in-law had asked if I could pick up my nephews from the elementary school that’s two doors down from the church and walk them to a friends house. So, after lunch this is what I did. When I got to the friend’s house, I started talking to his mother–someone I had met before but don’t know very well. Somehow the conversation moved to the fact that she didn’t grow up going to church because her parents didn’t go to church. But she’s had occasions when her 3rd grade son has asked her questions about God, about which she felt she wasn’t equipped to answer. She said it would be kind of cool to have a one-day event where parents and kids could get together with someone like me and just have an opened-ended conversation about such issues. I told her I crave doing something like that, and we both said we’d think about whether or not we’d follow up on it. Definitely a very cool conversation!

Once that was done, I went back to the church for a weekly Bible study with a group of folks who are really fun to be with. Per usual it was a lively discussion; intelligent, irreverent, and at times irrelevant, but a nice bit of icing on a pretty cool day.


Distributing Light

A network of peacemaking folks has asked if churches are willing to hold weekly prayer vigils to pray for an end to the War in Iraq. Our church (I’d link to the website, but we are woefully disorganized) has committed to praying throughout the day on Monday. The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program offers a yearlong Biblical Witness to Peacemaking, wherein a text from the Bible is given for each day of the year. I have chosen to use this each Monday to help focus my prayer for peace.

Today’s text is from Job 38:19-38. I don’t tend to spend a lot of time in Job, but I know enough to get a piece of the content. Job and God are in the midst of a dialogue about the justice of life; a “why do bad things happen to good people” sort of conversation. At this point in the narrative, it is God’s turn to speak. God asks of Job a whole lot of question that can be summed up with the familiar query: “Who do you think you are?” You can read the text for yourself to get into it a little deeper, because I’m more interested in one particular question which God asks. It is found in 38:24:

What is the way to the place where light is distributed?

Light is such an amazing concept, covering so many aspects of life. It is that which is needed when a child is afraid of monsters under the bed. It is that which philosophers spend most of their existence chasing. It is that which the Evangelist John identifies about Jesus in the opening lines of his gospel (John 1:1-5) It exposes injustice, gives hope, warms that which is cold. You can probably offer directions to places where light is distributed.

As I was writing this piece, someone from my church emailed me about the following video; an example today of one who has become a distributer of light: Professor Randy Pausch of Carnegie-Mellon University.



How Much Does Losing a Playoff Series Mean??


Being in the middle of a pennant race is taxing on the nerves. Every game is a roller coaster of emotions. In game seven of the American League Championship Series, I found myself doing those things which I tell my children not to; I sat in the same position for several innings in a row. We sent the hitters positive vibes so they would loosen up and simply see the ball and hit the ball. Of course, our calisthenics had no impact on what was happening on the field through our TV screen, and yet we wanted it so badly we were willing to do whatever it took.

Alas, our team lost. Once the tight, close ballgame turned after the unfortunate seventh inning, and the Red Sox piled on the runs to seal the fate of the Indians, I decided to get ready to go to sleep, and begin the process of moving on. I watched the final out–made on a spectacular catch by former Indians player Coco Crisp–and waited for my wife to come out of the basement and give me that all too familiar Cleveland-sports-sigh. What I hadn’t anticipated was my 11-year-old son, who came in bidding me a tear-streaked goodnight.

On the verge of 40 years old, these occurrences of coming-so-close-only-to-lose have become philosophical exercises: Yes, Kenny Lofton was safe on that double off the Monster, even though he was called out. But it is okay. Yes, Joel Skinner should have sent Lofton around third on that billboard-caromed shot by Gutierrez. But it is okay, the sun will rise tomorrow. Yes, the revelation that our weakest-throwing pitcher had used HGH sometime in his career could have waited until the end of the season instead of just hours before first pitch of this winner-take-all series. But it’s okay, there’s no reason to be suspicious about that timing!?! And, yes, our two 19-game winners should have won at least ONE FREAKING GAME IN THE ALCS!!! But, I was calmly putting myself to bed, saying goodnight, when I realized just how upset my son was.

Immediately, his reaction took me back to the bedroom of my childhood when the Atlanta Falcons were knocked out of the playoffs by the Dallas Cowboys (America’s Team my arse!!) I don’t know how my son consoled himself on his pillow as he went to sleep, but it couldn’t have been worse than what I prayed would happen to the Cowboys.

It hurt. I needed to focus my pain upon someone else. It’s hard to place all of your hopes and dreams and passions on human beings playing a child’s game (and getting paid waaaaay too much money for it), and feel like you lost with ’em. I understood my son’s pain. To disagree with Tom Hank’s managerial character in A League of Their Own, there defintely is room for crying in baseball.

In 1995, I got a bit of relief. My wife and I were fortunate to attend the game in which the Atlanta Braves won the World Series. A picture hangs in the basement of us in front of the sign proclaiming “Atlanta, You’ve Got Your Champion.” It should’ve added …”Your one and only Champion.” Indeed, the Braves have come so close so many other times. And yet that is the city’s only time to blast Queen from the sound system “We are the Champions.”

The irony of it all, of course, is that the Braves defeated none other than the Cleveland Indians to get that victory. My hope is that someday, my children in particular, but this Region in general, will someday get the chance to revel in the ultimate prize in sports: the team they love winning a championship. I don’t understand fully why it matters, but my dear readers it does matter a whole lot. Just ask that 11 year-old boy, and check with the passionate child inside yourself, as well.

Voting Rights

Did you know, the form of government for the United States is based on that of the Presbyterian Church (USA)??? Indeed it is. The idea for a representative, connectional form of government comes right out of the Presbyterian tradition.

In June of next year, Presbyterians will exercise their right to make decisions when they come together in San Jose, CA for the 218th General Assembly (GA). At GA, representatives from all over the country, will be voting on a variety of issues affecting the life, ministry, and witness of our denomination. We will be having two key elections to name our most “out front” leadership: the Stated Clerk and Moderator.

I have put my name in as a candidate for commissioner from the Presbytery of the Western Reserve. Perhaps there is some interest in reading my application. You can access the pdf here: fmillergaapplication.pdf

Let me know what you think.


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