Tuesday, April 10, 2007


This afternoon we just had the first weekly meeting of local area pastors for a lectionary study. It was great. We just had a few there this first time -- four of us -- but it was a great time. Not only did we get a chance to share insights about the upcoming texts for this Sunday, but we also got a chance to just be colleagues. I mentioned in some previous posts about the isolation that I've experienced here, which is to be expected. But this was a great chance to connect with others who are in similar situations. I'm very excited that we're going to be meeting every week.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Good Good Friday

Something completely new happened to me yesterday. Someone called me at home less than an hour after services had ended to tell me what a good service it was and to thank me.

It was the Good Friday service. Not the noon ecumenical one I blogged about before, but the evening Tenebrae that we had at the church. It was pretty simple. We used the Tenebrae service out of the order of worship. There are 16 readings from the Gospel of John, each done by a different reader. As each reading is finished, the reader puts out one of 15 candles, ending with the Christ candle. Every two readings we had either a hymn or an anthem. The choir did two pieces, and we had a guest bell choir that played two pieces, plus two more as prelude. Very simple. No sermon. Just 16 readers, some songs, and some candles.

After the service several people stopped me to thank me or compliment me on the service. (It's extraordinarily difficult to take a compliment on a Good Friday Service.) Then today as we gathered to decorate the church for Easter, several others made a special point to come up and say the same. It is by far the most positive response I've gotten for anything that we have done. It was very powerful, very affecting. But very simple.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Being Jesus

At noon today we had the Community Ecumenical Good Friday Service over at our sister UMC in North Bend, which is just a couple of miles away. Obviously, this being my first year in Coos Bay, this was my first experience with this service.

We'd gotten no preperatory material, there was not rehearsal, but I knew that I would probably be asked to do a reading or something once I got there. Little did I know that I would be asked to be Jesus.

The central piece of the service was a little reader's theatre setting of John's Passion, and each of the local area pastors were asked to read a part. Like I said, we didn't have a lot of instruction. Just "Will you be Jesus? Okay, here's the script."

I was an interesting experience. I got to be shouted at quite a lot by the congregation (who played at various times, the crowd, the guards, and the Jewish authorities.) I got to be slapped in the face by Father Carl, the Roman priest in North Bend, who was playing a soldier. It was a real slap too. I got to have some nice philosophical discourse with Pilate, played by Pastor David from the D of C church. And I got to fulfill every hair-band-lead-singer dream: strike a Jesus pose in front of a crowd of people. Too bad it wasn't a music video. ;-)

But all kidding aside, it was a pretty powerful spiritual experience. Even doing John's Gospel, which is pretty soft on the suffering, I really noticed how hard it felt having people shout derision at me and call for my crucifixion. I noticed how humiliating it was to be drug around from one official to another, to be paraded in front of the crowds and mocked. And it was interesting to be up there on the cross and yet still caring for those who caused my suffering.

It took quite a lot of energy, but I'm glad I happened on the chance. Next year we can have Fr. Carl be Jesus and see how he likes getting slapped.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


We just got back from a week in Washington DC visiting family. It only took a day there for me to be starkly reminded of just how little contact I have with people of my generation on a general basis. I think in the four days we spent there I spent more time around people my own age than I have in Coos Bay in the last nine months.

Of course, at the church here, where I spend most of my time, there is no one in our age category. Besides Melissa and I, there is nobody between the few middle/high schoolers that we have and their parents. And I'm pretty sure I closer in age to the high school freshman than I am to their parents. The vast majority of people at the church are already retired, with most of our visitors being newly retired people moving into the area.

The community at large isn't a whole lot better. It's been steadily aging. In the last 12 years they've closed half of the schools in the area because of lack of enrollment. There aren't a lot of jobs. Most people are graduating high school and moving to Eugene or Portland.

And I've become to used to this situation now that it rather shocked me when we went to DC and things were different. Suddenly I could speak normally and people knew what I was talking about. When I made little humorous side comments, people understood them. They had a working knowledge of things like pop culture, technology, even international news. I felt like I belonged, like I wasn't just some cooky weirdo, which I'm realizing is how I feel most of the time in Coos Bay.

I came out of seminary believing that the church needed to be more experienctial, more participatory, more spiritual, able to relate to emerging world. I thought that people needed to find meaning out of their harried and hum-drum lives, that they needed to be given permission to question the way that faith has been delivered, that they need to find ways to be a Christian without being the self-centered, money-grabbing, self-righteous, hypocritical, bigotted moralists that seem to have hijacked the Christian agenda in America. I thought people were struggling with the immorality of corporations, the inter-religious issues associated with our pluralistic world, the need to find connection in an increasingly individualistic society.

Now what I'm finding is that these issues and questions are virtually irrelavent here. My entire sense of the need of humanity and ways that God is acting and reaching out to meet those needs is irrelavent. And thus that means that my own spiritual need, my own theological cravings, my own deep yearnings for God are irrelavent.

And I think that it is largely a generational issue. For the last 7 years I've been pressed to find ways that the church can be relavent to young adults, only to find now that young adults seem to be irrelavent to the church.