Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Record Two Posts In Two Days!

I thought I'd share a couple blogs that I have found particularly insightful and well written, especially in comparision with the rest of the blogosphere.

The first is a blog from someone who works as a cook in a homeless shelter. He spends a lot of time detailing his experiences with the homeless and the indigent in his city.

The second, for you UMC types, is a blog by William Willimon, the Bishop of the North Alabama conference, and one of the foremost preachers in the denomination. He posts about once a week.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Regular Post

After delaying, procrastinating, ignoring, and outright evading posting on this blog due to a lack of creative energy and ideas, I have finally come to the sad realization that not all my posts are going to be brilliant creative pieces of prose, and my readers (all three of them) are far more interested in the life of Ben than reading the next Great American Essay. So anyway, here’s what will hopefully be the first in a series of non brilliant but (most importantly) regular updates on my life.

Quite honestly, I probably shouldn’t be taking the time to write this right now. After two months of relaxed boredom, school is finally picking up and I’m beginning to feel challenged, stimulated, and even a little bit stressed. Between now and the Wednesday after Thanksgiving Break, I have to:

1) Study for a major Greek test.
2) Write a final draft of my exegesis paper (which is taking the form of a sermon) (8+ pages)
3) Write a 15-18 page term paper for my Church History class.
4) Write a 4-6 page paper on power and marginalization for my Pointless Public Practice of Theology Class.

However, compared to last year around this time, when I was frantically writing my honors thesis, pulling multiple all nighters, and coordinating CrossRoads, this is positively a vacation. I’m now discovering the joys of having a social life after several years of self enforced isolation at school. As a matter of fact, for the first time in several years, I’m able to hang out with friends, expand my social circle, go out on a Friday evening, and generally enjoy myself without the burdens of responsibility. In short, I’m living life as an early twenty-something should be living it.

It’s a very healing experience. I’ve learned this semester that my worth us in no way connected to my grades or my responsibilities. I’m not sure I could have handled going to a more intense school or program this semester. Having this opportunity to rest and relax has given me a chance to start processing the seismic changes in my life overthis past 14 months: my cousin Josh dying, graduating, having my parents move, moving away myself, being “desingled”, and leaving my spiritual home at Green Street. Even though there are days when I’m frustrated with my school’s program, this experience confirms that Drew was the right choice for me.

Let me finish by saying hi to everyone back home. How are you all doing? How are things at Green Street? Feel free to post a comment or send me an e-mail and catch me up!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Interesting Quote of the Week

On The Way Mainline Churches Evangelize

“We’re polite Christians, we don’t knock on doors and to tell people about Jesus. We leave that to the growing churches”- Bishop Steven Charleston

And On the Relationship Between Social Justice and Evangelization

“How about getting some food in their stomachs so you can get Jesus into their hearts?”- Bishop Steven Charleston

Read. React. Comment.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Hilarious Yet Horrifying

For your reading pleasure, every week I’m going to post a link to a story that I found hilarious and horrifying at the same time. Read, laugh, and rant. After all, that’s what the comments section is for.

Our government apparently thinks that animals and women are pretty much the same thing.

Monday, September 26, 2005

My First-Month-At-Drew ABC’s

A is for my Apologies for not posting more frequently!
B is for letting Melissa and her housemates Borrow my television and in turn let me Borrow their cable on Sunday afternoons for Patriots games.
C is for Cliff Ives and Grace Bartlett, the new wonderful interim pastors at my home church.
D is for Dana Fewell, the brilliant professor of my Intro to Old Testament Class, who has inspired, challenged, and stimulated me more than any other professor during the first month at Drew.
E is for all the wonderful E-mails I’ve received from people back home.
F is for Farrah Willis, Natalie Finch, Sara Wastella, Matt Goode, Matt Goad, Beth Underwood, Sister Shane, Susan, and all the other wonderful classmates I have met so far.
G is for Grace Episcopal Church, the church that I plan to attend for the next year.
H is for my Homes in Amesbury, MA and in Augusta, ME, both of which I miss greatly.
I is for the Incompetent Drew administration, which seems to find new creative ways to make its students lives unnecessarily annoying every day.
J is for Jonah, the great satiric book of the Bible, featuring a suicidal, unenthusiastic, yet wildly successful runaway prophet.
K is for Koine Greek (common Greek), which is the Greek used in the New Testament. This is the equivalent of common American speech. So, when we think Paul is “sending greetings”, what he’s really saying is “Yo! Waz’ up dog?”
L is for Melissa’s Lame suggestion for this letter, namely “L is for how much I like seminary!”
M is for Melissa Yosua, my best friend, significant other, and fellow seminarian, who has made my experience so much more fulfilling then it would have been otherwise
N is for New Jersey, the state where everyone needs to return to driver’s ed.
O is for Ocean Grove, where I had a wonderful retreat after the first week of school.
P is for all the Pressing responsibilities that I no longer have!
Q is for all the Quiet times I’ve been able to find in the midst of my easier-than-normal schedule.
R is for the blessing of Rest, which this workaholic-in-recovery if finally finding.
S is for Professor Seesengood, my witty New Testament Greek teacher.
T is for the Two weeks between now and when I get to return home (both of them!).
U is for the Ups and downs of the first month of school as I’ve tried to find my feet and get into a routine.
V is for Verizon, which has yet to turn on the internet in my house.
W is for the quiet ten minutes it takes me to Walk to campus from my house.
X is for how eXtremely contrived this list is becoming as I’m running out of letters.
Y is for Yung-Tek Bae, my Korean housemate and Brother in Christ, who is a wonderful seminarian and will be a wonderful minister of the Gospel.
Z is for the Zillion and a half vocabulary words that I have to memorize for Greek this week.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My Adventures at Drew Begin (Part Two)

Simple hospitality can make a world of difference. My second day at Drew, I met one of my Korean housemates, Yun-Tek Bae. He is a first year student from Korea who is in the United States for the first time, and, if that wasn’t enough, is speaking English outside of a classroom for the first time as well.

I was making dinner that night, and asked him to join me. We talked for nearly two and half hours, discussing our lives, politics, our cultures, and the ministry, despite the language barrier. It was an absolutely magical experience.

He told me how blessed he felt to have made a friend so quickly, but I’m certain that he couldn’t have felt as blessed as I did. For me, that conversation was the most spiritual experience I’ve had so far at Drew.

It’s easy to forgot how showing hospitality transforms and blesses us. When we think of service, often we associate it with drudgery, lack of recognition, self sacrifice, and perhaps burnout. However, when we truly serve for Christ’s sake, rather than for our own satisfaction, we are transformed.

Please think about this every Sunday morning when you’re comfortably sitting in church. Every time you see a visitor, think about the tremendous courage it takes to go to any new community of faith. The visitors you see are worshipping with people they don’t know (but who obviously know and love each other), are singing unfamiliar songs, and are learning an uncomfortable set of rituals. They are literally foreigners in a foreign land.

It is easy to assume (especially if you’re from Green Street), that someone else will come up to them, say hi, and make them feel welcome. However, if we are serious about showing hospitality, then hospitality can never be something that other people do for us. Take a moment to put yourself in their shoes. Say hi, and find out their story. Don’t just have a conversation, establish a friendship. Show them around the church, introduce them to other people, make them feel included in the community. After all, when you minister to the stranger, you are ministering to Christ in your midst.

My Adventures at Drew Begin (Part One)

For all (one) of you who have been eagerly awaiting my first post on my life at Drew, please accept my somewhat sincere apologies- it’s busy being a seminary student! Now that I can finally get into a routine, I’ll try to catch up in a few installments over the next couple days.

On the whole, my first week at Drew went the way that a standard incoming seminarian’s should: I moved into my room in the house that I’m sharing with four other people, met a couple of my housemates, and waited (patiently and sometimes not so patiently) for orientation to start.

When moving to a new place, simple thoughtfulness or thoughtlessness can make a world of difference. I’ll start with one negative example.

Melissa, my significant other, (and yes, I prefer that term to girlfriend, which sounds so fifteen to me, (with my apologies to all the fifteen year olds reading this blog)), had an awful time moving into Drew. Housing couldn’t find her a place to stay, and after finding her a room about two weeks later than they said they would, didn’t bother to send out housing forms and so gave her housing information only a week and a half before she was supposed to move in.

When she finally arrived, she found out that her apartment was filthy. Her dresser was missing a drawer (she only received a new one yesterday, after her third call to the Physical Plant Department), one room didn’t have a bed, and the entire place was unswept. The small kitchen was disgusting (it took me an hour and a half to clean five cupboards because of all the grime), the oven was unusable, and there was only one overhead light in the entire space, which meant that her room and the common area became unusably dark by 7:00PM.

This made her first few days at Drew unbearably stressful, as she had to worry about cleaning her apartment, harassing housing about sending furniture, trying to find lights for her room, moving in her belongings, starting orientation, and getting used to the foreign land of New Jersey.

I don’t believe that this lack of hospitality was intentional. However, it implies that Drew didn’t care enough about their students to make sure that their arrivals at Drew were as smooth as possible…(to be continued tomorrow)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

SpiritSong Surprises

Editors Note: I actually wrote this post on July 7th, after the first day of SpiritSong, a Christian music festival that I went to with my Aunt, Uncle, cousin, and family. I didn’t post it until now due to vacation, lack of Internet access, and, of course, general laziness.)

I have a confession to make.

While I am generally an open minded person, Fundamentalist Christians are not exactly on my A list, (unless of course, unless it’s A as it refers to the posterior of a four legged horse like mammal.) If you ever feel the twisted need to raise my blood pressure or give me an ulcer, simply find a good story about the Christian Right preaching pompously on homosexuality while aggressively ignoring the pervasive heterosexual immorality of our culture, working to raise taxes on the poor (or lower them for the rich), or blandly informing people that senseless personal tragedies (like the death of a child) are part "of God’s plan".

One quick caveat: when I say "fundamentalist" Christian, I do not mean "Conservative" Christian. There are many God-filled people who are on the right side of the fence who are utterly wonderful people, amazing Christians, and who walk very closely with Christ. These people do not fall anywhere in the above critique.)

As I visited SpiritSong this weekend, I was prepared (as I do when I listen to Christian radio), to tune in for the music and mute the message.

My expectations for these A-list Christians were utterly shattered.

Newsboys, a group that I often find theologically repugnant, put on a Spirit-filled show. Their lead singer is a gifted worship leader, and after about a five-song opening set, he gave a sermon of sorts.

I certainly didn’t agree with a great deal of what he said, but he did say a few things that surprised me and made me shoot surprised "Ican’tbelievethatHEjustsaidTHAT" glances at my brother.

He said, "I accepted Jesus, I read God’s word, but I didn’t find the peace that transformed my life. It’s a journey and I’m not there yet. You have to live it and find people a community to support you in order to transform your life."

"To often, we say that we believe in Jesus, go down to the altar, and then continue our lives as if nothing had happened. This is exactly what the enemy of our souls wants us to do; he wants Christians to act like they’ve never been changed. Why is it that we go from city to city, thousands of people accept Christ, and there’s no transformation in that city…You cannot be a Christian by wearing a T-shirt, listening to Christian music, going down front, or going to Christian concerts, Christianity is about community."

"The world doesn’t need more teachers. It needs more fathers for those who don’t have fathers, more mothers for those who don’t have mothers, more brothers and more sisters. We need to love."

There is hope for the church, because if I find myself Amening the lead singer of Newsboys, then anything can happen. I was actually feeling fairly glowing and ecumenical as he prayed to end his sermon

Then they began their next song (to huge audience applause).

Breakfast in Hell.

If the toast is burning,
And the milking is churning,
Captain Crunch is waving farewell.

If the Big One finds you,

Let this song remind you,

That they don’t serve breakfast in Hell.

Oh well. I guess the church, as John Wesley put it, is still journeying "on to perfection".

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Ugly Face of Christ

I'm sitting in my room, watching the Live8 concerts on VH1. For those who don't know, Live8 is a series of concerts happening across the world over the course of 24 hours to raise awareness for the desperate plight of Africans, especially in regards to poverty and AIDS.. Will Smith, U2, Pink Floyd, Green Day, Alica Keys, Paul McCartney, and other big name artists are participating just as the G8 conference, (which incidentally, my Bishop, Peter Weaver, is attending) begins on Wednesday, where some of the richest and most powerful countries in the world will discuss how they should aid or not aid Africa this coming year.

VH1 and MTV has interviewed artists performing in London and Philadelphia talk about the cause. Their spirit is absolutely inspiring. They talk about how it is wrong that people will live or die based upon where they are born. They speak in outrage about how during the Live8 concerts, 30,000 African will die from lack of the basics of life and drugs for AIDS that we take for granted in the United States. These celebrities with passion about how it is the duty of the fortunate to help the unfortunate, even sometimes using Christian language, such as talking about “our brothers and sisters in Africa.”

The Live 8 concerts depress me.

They contrast painfully with the general apathy or even hostilty from Christians in America towards those who are less fortunate. While concerned non- religious people are preaching about justice just as Jesus would, Christians in America concentrate on supporting tax cuts for the rich, picketing the funeral of gay soldiers with signs like “God hates fags” and “This fag is burning in hell”, and making it impossible for those who have nothing because of medical costs not covered by our horribly insufficient health system to declare bankruptcy and start over.

I agree with most fundamentalist Christians that America is in the midst of a serious moral decline. However, I feel that Christians have often been the cause of this moral decline. We reframed religion as a consumer product, implying God exists solely to serve us and by preaching that you can be a Christian and still follow “everyone for themselves”, law of the jungle mentality. By espousing hate towards the marginalized and consciously choosing to oppress the poor, Christians simply promote our culture’s conviction that the self is the ultimate end of life, and that pleasing the self, regardless of the cost to others, is a worthy way to live.

It is not surprising that voices for justice and morality now come from outside the Church more often than from within it. It is now movie stars, athletes, and musicians who are trying to awaken a sense of selflessness and charity in our nation, in direct opposition to the most prominent and powerful Christian leaders and denominations.

In the midst of this decline, many people in my generation realize that America’s values are hollow and meaningless. Many grow cynical, become dissatisfied, and are starting to look for an antidote to this cultural poison. In their search, many will look for signs of something bigger themselves: the face of God, even the face of Christ. They will look at Christians to see if they can see God within them, if there is anything true in the miracle of Jesus Christ.

We are the face of Christ to the world.

Right now that face is harsh, unforgiving, judgmental, and self centered.

And sadly, irrelevant.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Annual Conference

I thought I would make a brief post about Annual Conference. For all those who don’t know, Annual Conference is the annual meeting of all United Methodists in a particular geographic area (e.g. New England) to spend time worship, conferencing, meeting, gossiping (and slandering from time to time), and making decisions together. So, in true I-can’t-write-a-complete-paragraph blogger form, are the highlights.

I confess that I did not approach the Annual Conference in a Spirit filled way. I overanalyzed the worship services, mocked the people I perceived as tedious or arrogant, and let my wish to participate in the peanut gallery interfere with a sense of where the Holy Spirit might be leading us.

Oh well, there’s always next year to improve. Now, on to the highlights!

Highlights I Regret I Missed

-John Blackadar, current conference secretary, future District Superintendent, singing "Spitball Me Lord Over the Homeplate of Life" after the Board of Ordained Ministry Meeting.

- The candy fueled late night D.S. and future D.S. party on Wednesday night. (It’s nice to know that my future supervisors can have a good time!)

Highlights I Wished I Missed

- The 40 MINUTE debate on a two and a half line resolutaion on whether we give our names and addresses so a reputable insurance company can send us information about the possibility of getting long term healthcare. (Incidentally, after a heated debate, the motion passed about 1100 to 3.)

- The absentminded, confused, and dyxlexic PowerPoint operator of the first two days of Conference, who forgot that clicking to the next slide is not an optional activity, that most hymns have more than one verse, and no, amazingly enough, we don’t know the other five verses of the hymn from memory.

- The long youth ministry session where everyone (mostly the old people) felt compelled to TALK about how much they loved youth, presumably to compensate for their lack of action when they return to their local churches.

- The spiritual cliff I dropped off every time they followed up Bishop Weaver’s inspired sermons with yet another aggresively unsingable mediocre song

Highlights I’m Glad I Missed

- Ordained clergy publicly questioning our Bishops’ intergirty on this issue of homosexuality during his first session with the clergy on Wednesday. Welcome to New England Bishop!

Highlights I’m Glad I Didn’t Miss

- Talking with Drew Professor Chris Boessel about community

- Bishop Weaver’s spirit filled inspired sermons. He is officially my new hero.

- The utterly spontaneous times of fellowship with members of the Green Street delegation and others

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

My Actual Introductory Post

I hate mass e-mails and I hate forwards. Somehow, they seem so untidy, cluttering up our inboxes, ending up in the rubbish or junk files, taking up space and memory. So, instead of sending out mass e-mails about my adventures in seminary and occasional rantings, I'll just take some space up on the vast world wide web instead.
If you're reading this, then you know who I am and at least something about me. I'm giving into this online blogging craze because this seems to be the most logical way to let everyone know how I am doing. I will try to post at least once a week this fall, detailing my adventures at Drew School of Theology this fall and ranting whenever I feel the urge. So enjoy! Or at least survive.

The First (Or the Last, Depending On How You Read) Post

If you have scrolled through countless posts and slogged through large amounts of borderline unreadable material to find this post, then congratulations. I admire you devotion.
Now, go out and find something more exciting to do. Read a good book, hang out with friends, spend some time praying or exercising, I have nothing more to say.