Monday
Jul212014

I am a Flintoid 

From Jeff Munroe

I’ve been reading Gordon Young’s Teardown, his memoir about growing up in, escaping from, and returning to Flint, Michigan.  Flint is Detroit without the charm of the professional sports teams - 70,000 jobs at General Motors plants have disappeared and the public school system enrollment has gone from a peak of over 46,000 students to around 14,000.  Flint’s problems are a complicated stew of economics, race, crime and apathy.  Like Gordon Young, I too am from Flint, and have my own Flint stories to tell.

My church, First Presbyterian, still stands downtown on Saginaw Street, across from Kewpies (technically Halo Burger), where I would get in line as a twelve-year-old to order a burger and Vernor’s amid the lost souls of the city who sat inside on cold winter days waiting for the cops to kick them out.  In the summer we’d go a half-block further from Halo Burger to the A&W where they’d hook your tray to your car window, guaranteeing the obscenities coming from the guys across the street in the county jail would stream in your open windows.  

In the summer of 1978 all the male members of my family worked for General Motors. My most vivid memories of that time include being there when a woman’s thumb was cut off by a metal press and watching a guy sleep on a pallet of cardboard every night. I guarantee the guy sleeping was making more money than me. And furthermore in the twisted irony of the place department: I remember our quality control inspector would yell needed corrections I couldn’t hear because of my ear plugs and the noise the presses made.  Plus he was an immigrant with a very heavy accent, so what I could hear I couldn’t understand.  What killed GM? Stuff like that, a million times over.

Sunday
Jul202014

Dog Days of Summer

We are in the dog days of Summer, the Book of Common Prayer in 1552 designated July 7th through August 14th as "Dog Daies" which coincided with the rising of the Dog Star named Sirius. Hence, the name Dog Days of Summer. Last week 30 Stephen ministers joined in a basement on a hot sultry day, and we focused on this prayer by Ted Loder. It put the day in perspective and we spent time rejoicing in the simple and beautiful pleasures of a hot summer day, even if it meant we were in a church basement. On this Sunday afternoon, may this prayer enrich and nourish your spirit the way it did for us. Happy Dog Days to you!

Let Me Live Grace-fully

Thank you, Lord,
for this season
  of sun and slow motion
    of games and porch sitting,
      of picnics and light green fireflies
        on heavy purple evenings;
          and praise for slight breezes.
It’s good, God,
as the first long days of your creation.
Let this season be for me
  a time of gathering together the pieces
    into which my busyness has broken me.
O God, enable me now
  to grow wise through reflection,
    peaceful through the song of the cricket,
      recreated through the laughter of play.
Most of all, Lord,
let me live easily and grace-fully for a spell,
  so that I may see other souls deeply,
    share in silence unhurried,
      listen to the sound of sunlight and shadows,
        explore barefoot the land of forgotten
dreams and shy hopes, and find the right words to tell
another who I am.

A Summer Prayer by Ted Loder in his book of prayers,
"Guerrillas of Grace/Prayers for the Battle"

Rev. Kirsty DePree is an associate minister at Marble Collegiate Church (RCA) in New York, New York.

Saturday
Jul192014

Ecumenicity and History

From James Bratt

Last time I threw an elbow to my right regarding the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, so this week I’ll exercise a bit of fair and balanced and tweak the progressive side—at least what passes for progressivism in Reformed and Christian Reformed circles. My thoughts are prompted by a query from a fellow historian of American religion who read that the synods of these denominations held some joint sessions at their recent annual meetings. “Anything to this,” my friend wondered. I, frankly, stifled a yawn and then tried to stifle my cynicism. The only sure method to the latter end is historical rumination. So here goes.

“Nah, nothin’ much,” was my first reply. This making nice at the top is playing catch-up to a lot of ad-hoc collaborations already happening on the ground around the map of the Dutch immigrant diaspora. Then, too, major funding incentives have been provided by a zillionaire whose birth family was riven by CRC-RCA quarrels when these burned hot and intense. He wants to heal that piece of the past before he meets his eternal future. Finally, these talks are a classic instance of the market model of ecumenicity elaborated half a century ago by sociologist of religion Peter Berger. Growing churches don’t merge, Berger observed; they move forward on sunny paths confident that they’re carrying out an important work of the Lord. Jesus’ high-priestly prayer, “that they all may be one,” tends to get piously invoked instead by downsizing corpora—urr, churches that are much less certain of their mission and identity. Overcoming silly divisions from the past contributes a positive item to their portfolios, and raises prospects of higher numbers, greater resources, and restored significance. Except that, in fairly short order, the new combined church gets down to the pre-merger size of each of its constituent parts. See the history of mainline Presbyterianism since the late 1950s.

In general, I’m more excited about churches with organic visions for a significantly different future than official agencies concocting bland statements minimizing the differences of the past. Even more, I get a touch annoyed with ecclesiastical versions of the “enormous condescension of posterity” that English historian E. P. Thompson saw exercised by Whiggish progressives toward archaic forms of radicalism. Ok, let’s not be bound by differences from yesteryear, but let’s recognize that these arguments could involve important matters of substance and perspective—matters at least as important as today’s quarrels over the implications of Hobby Lobby.

Friday
Jul182014

The Frail Thin Line

From Jason Lief

I appreciated yesterday's post by Theresa (or was it Mary? I thought Theresa just turned 40 not to long ago?) The part about "acting our age" really hit home. As I write this I'm sitting in a recliner with my leg propped up on pillows, a knee immobilizer on my right knee. Been sitting here for a little over a week now. For the past six months I've been helping organize a serve project for high school students in the Sioux City area. Last week, 40 high school kids along with their adult leaders spent the week meeting God in their neighbor. Sure, they did some work, but the work really isn't the point. The point is to have our world opened up, to get over ourselves, and experience God at work in the world. The project couldn't have gone any better: the students had enough work, enough tools, times of worship and testimony—a great week.

The problem came during the Tuesday night community time when we took kids to the rec center for fun and games. All day I talked smack, making sure the high schoolers were ready to face my basketball furry.

Thursday
Jul172014

50 is the new.....50

From Theresa Latini

 

I seem to rather frequently read phrases like the following: x (some particular age) is the new y (some particular age that is at least 10 years younger than x). These statements never fail to humor me. In some cases – 40 is the new 20 – they seem to be thinly veiled rationalizations for continuing to behave like an adolescent long after one should have left that sort of behavior behind. In other cases – 50 is the new 30 – they seem to be simply delusional. In every case, it is not at all clear what might be meant.

Since I am in the 50-something category, I feel free to weigh in on the latter statement. At 30, I was in the midst of bearing children. I had two children already and, unbeknownst to me, would have one more before that part of life was over.

At 50, I would frankly be horrified if God approached me as he did Sarah of old and told me I was going to give birth to a child. While those years were wonderful and I look nostalgically and with a certain amount of envy at those who are at that stage, I would not be keen on trying to bear and raise a child at my age, with the relentless demands and sleepless nights that entails. One week with my 4 month old grandson back in April was enough to clue me in to the fact that I am not what I was at 30.

Yard work and house work are another area of dissonance with the statement. Last fall, my husband and I helped our son and his wife weed, rake, and generally clean up their yard. They are relatively new to owning a home and we thought it would be fun. It was fun! We spent a beautiful fall Saturday with them, talking and laughing and getting the job done.