Monday, December 25, 2006

The semester is finally over! As you all have undoubtedly noticed, my blog died yet another untimely death during the past semester, a condition which, I hope (as I do every time I post) to remedy. So briefly, here is a summary of this past semester-

My supervised ministry (10-15 hours of work at church every week in addition to a 2.5 hour class weekly at the seminary) went extremely well. I’m working at Monroe Community Church (a new church start) and Trinity United Methodist (the parent church) about an hour south of Drew. It’s been a wonderful semester; the people are fantastic, I’ve connected well with the congregation, my supervising pastor is fantastic (if a bit crazy).

The rest of the semester, quite frankly, was a train wreck. I have CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome), which had been in remission about five years. I had a major relapse last semester, but was hopeful that I would recover over the summer before this fall semester. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and I ended up missing a lot of class time. Thankfully, my professors are very understanding, and I’m carrying most of my coursework into January. (Our spring semester doesn’t start until February).

Finally, for those of you who are wondering, Melissa and I finally have an official date for our wedding- Saturday, August 18th, 2007. Hopefully, we’ll have invitations out by the end of this January, but make sure to put the date in your calendars!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Hello Everyone!
Just wanted to give you all a heads up on w, which is a microfinance organization. Microfinance providese small loans to people and small businesses, generally in third world countries, so that they can build a better life for themselves.
This site will alow you to donate to an businesses or people who areproperly vetted by a microfinance institution)in amounts as small as $25, which will be paid back to you over 6-12 months. Once the loan is repaid, you can either withdraw your money, or you can put it towards another business or person. Check them out at

P.S. Thanks to Matt for e-mailing me about this site!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Up and Down- Drew Edition

Hello Everyone!

I just wanted to make a quick post with what’s up and what’s down from my first two weeks of class.


  1. Supervised Ministry (the church)- My church is wonderful, the people are welcoming, my pastor is delightfully crazy, and I’m really excited about what I will learn and the ministry I’ll be doing.
  2. United Methodist History- Taught by the professor who taught my parents United Methodist history nearly three decades, who is apparently as delightful, passionate, engaging (and slightly profane) as he was when my parents had him.
  3. My Fiancée- Who is always way up in my book ( And, to make things better, she threw me a surprise birthday party!
  4. EDIT Drew Hierarchy- For funding myself, Melissa, and two friends (Farrah and Matt) to go to the Northeast Jurisdiction Leadership Training Event.

  1. Supervised Ministry (the class)- I was devoured by a six credit class in three credit clothing and spent a lot of time at the first class typing into my notes (as we were told how important self-care was), “I will not jump out the window, I will not jump out the windowl….” Believe it or not Drew, there are people who use the number of credit hours to determine how much work they’ll have to do, and have to drop other classes if the workload proves to be too much. (e.g. me)
  2. Supervised Ministry (the Pastor’s Orientation)- Held on Monday, September 11th, which is not only many pastor’s Sabbath because it’s a Monday, but is also a day when most pastors now have duties leading worship services, etc. However, after forcing pastors to break Sabbath and forcing others to probably work a twelve hour day, we did hear another nice lecture on self care; how considerate of them!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Run of the Mill Blog Post

Just wanted to give everyone a quick update on the past few weeks. Two weeks ago I was coordinating Orientation for about 75 eager incoming first years- it went extremely well, although it was a lot of work, and I am still catching up on lost sleep!

Last week was the first of classes. For all of you who are curious, I am taking Systematic Theology (which looks to be fun and stimulating), Supervised Ministry (which is a six credit course masquerading as a three credit course, a fact that might have been helpful to tell us BEFORE we enrolled), Preaching (the jury’s out on this one), and United Methodist History (taught by the delightful Dr. Kenneth Rowe, who taught my parents United Methodist history when they were at Drew).

In other news, I had my first Sunday at my supervised ministry, which is a multi site church: one site (Trinity UMC) is a small church, much like what you’d find all across New England, and the other (Monroe Community Church) is a new church start. So far so good- I managed to successfully read scripture and be social without any serious mistakes J

That’s it for now; I’m beginning to realize that I can’t simply wait to post when I have a good idea and/or time to develop a really insightful post…so, for all of you disappointed readers, brilliance will have to wait for another time, and in lieu, you just have this simple update.

P.S. In case you were wondering, yes, I did have this on my to-do list, and yes my brother did harass me about posting when we talked tonight.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Whitewashed Churches

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” – Matthew 23: 27

I visited a local UMC church this morning for worship. Because my dress clothes are in the laundry, I went in a clean pair of jeans and a black polo.

When I entered the church, I looked around the congregation, and immediately felt out of place. I nearly turned around and left, even as the committed churchgoer and theologian-in-formation drove me forward, reminding me that even if they cared how I was dressed, God didn’t. My eyes found their way to the back of the sanctuary, to the one lone aberration in the scene: a teenager, with long hair that drooped over his face, a black t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and black jeans, sitting alone, in the very back corner.

If I, the lifelong United Methodist, felt out of place, then what did this scene say to him?  Would he know that God loved him even though he was dressed differently? Would he realize that Christians weren’t simply a group of whitewashed, polished people, that sat neatly in rows on a Sunday morning?

As the service progressed, I began thinking about all the little ways this church (and indeed, most UMC churches) put up walls. There were no signs to show people where to park, only a brief welcome, no explanation of what happened and why, and no invitation to partake after the Communion liturgy.

I began to wonder, if this is what the church is like, all across America, then who are we truly serving? If we all feel the need to get dressed up to the nines on Sunday morning, even at the cost of excluding those who don’t have it all together or perhaps simply can’t buy the dress clothes, what are we saying about who Christ came to save?

If we simply sit in rows, listen politely, and contentedly participate in the unexplained secret codes of the church (Communion, theological terms, navigating the hymnal and Bible, the Order of worship, even where to park), then are we truly church, or are we simply whitewashed tombs, giving the outward appearance of order and beauty, while all lies dead within?

If we, the insiders, cannot come to our churches, and be real, be brutally honest, be incurably broken, be slovenly, be not-put-together, be true servants, then where can we? If the church no longer serves Christ, then where will Christ go to find true disciples?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Engagement

     Well, I suppose this is the best way to commence a “Yes, I’m finally back after a four month absence” post.  Since Melissa did such a wonderful job telling you the general outline of the story in her blog (, I’ll fill you in on some of the behind the scenes details.

1) In many ways, I could not have picked a worse weekend to  propose- I was coming off an exhausting week volunteering at a music theater camp at Camp Mechuwana, had to work my regular job as Orientation Coordinator, and then, to make matters busier, play gopher-assistant for a worship conference at Drew at the end of the week. However, since this was the only weekend for the next month where someone important (e.g. family) was not gone, I decided to go for it.

     2) When Saturday morning came, I found out, to my dismay, that the Conference schedule had changed, that the lecturer was doing an question and answer session instead of  a talk, and therefore I had absolutely no clue when the conference was going to end (rather than a reasonable assurance that it would end around noon). Frantic, I dashed out of the conference as soon as I could, ran to my car, parked it next to Melissa’s apartment building, and hurried everything into the apartment.  
     I put everything up as quickly as I could, sweat pouring down my face (because, naturally, it was about 90 outside), finally finishing around 11:25. I ran to the bathroom, changed into some nicer clothes, turned on Norah Jones, and settled down to wait. It was only then I realized that I had locked Melissa out and that in order to return her keys, she’d see me dressed up, hence the unsuccessful ploy to prop the door with Melissa’s recycling, which, as you know, worked oh so well

     3) My parents were absolutely shocked to see us when we drove up to Amesbury on Saturday, since we didn’t tell them that we were coming. We walked straight in, garnered some surprised looks, gathered them into the kitchen, and told them the news. They were thrilled, to say the least. Dad got a big smile, Matt was grinning like a Chesire Cat (he knew beforehand), and Mom started crying, jumping up and down, and hugging Melissa and I all at the same time. I don’t expect I’ll see such a sight again (that is, until Matt gets engaged someday).  

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Why Men Shouldn't Be Ordained

     For your amusement, here’s a post I picked up from “Transforming Seminarian” that’s making it’s way though the blogosphere right now.  Enjoy!

“ I'm also quick to note that this is not my list, but something I got from a professor of mine, who didn't write it, either, but got it from the internet. He will actually be using it today, as well, as he teaches a course entitled "Women, the Bible, and the Church" here at the seminary (which my wife is Teaching Assistant for!). This list has made the rounds in a few forms over the past several years. I've taken the liberty of making a couple of small edits from the form in which I got it.Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained (think David Letterman)10. A man's place is in the army.9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be "unnatural" for them to do other forms of work.7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, and maybe even lead the singing on Father's Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.”

Saturday, March 25, 2006

An Ode to ShopRite

An Ode to Shop-Rite

For those looking for those weird, utterly irrelevant details that fill out the picture of the life of a poor Drew seminary student, here you go.

I love Shop-Rite.

To explain: I have been shopping in the high warehouse ceilinged, wide aisled, beautifully antiseptic grocery store commonly called Shop and Stop, contentedly wasting my money paying $4.50/lb for chicken and hamburger and dealing with their mystery bread (the bread isn’t a mystery, but finding the prices is.)

Then I discovered Shop Rite, the low ceilinged, narrowed aisled, low priced claustrophic’s nightmare and a miser’s dream. I probably saved 20% on my groceries today. I feel like Christmas has come again.

Thank you God for bestowing upon us Shop-Rite, your special gift to poor seminary students across New Jersey!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

What I'm Doing For Lent

This Lent I’ve been spending time with the mystics. Currently I’m reading St. John the Cross, a 16th century Carmelite Monk. I attempted to read him several years ago and he made absolutely no sense. I understood his yearning for union with God, but his writing about “the dark night of the soul” and his statement that “faith is a ray of pure darkness to the soul” were incomprehensible . Now a few years later and several steps farther on my faith journey, he’s making perfect sense.
With the caveat that much of his writing is hard to understand before you’ve personally experienced what he’s writing about, I thought I’d share with you one of my reflections coming out of his statement “The excessive light of faith is darkness because a bright light will suppress a dimmer light”.
Enjoy, be enlightened, or scratch your head in puzzlement as suits you best.

We expect that God will come to us like a bright beam of light, will blind us with its brilliance, and will reveal God’s self in its fullness. We expect that God will bring us greater spiritual clarity and comfort. We wait for greater consolation, more spiritual highs, more mountaintop experiences.
However, the purest Divine light brings deeper darkness. As the love of God illumines our life, all the dimmer lights of our life are extinguished or subsumed into the eternal light. Our consolations dry up. Our ecstasies are more subdued. Instead of better understanding God, we draw closer to invisible Divine Mystery that suffuses our lives and is forever beyond our most brilliant conceptions or most vivid sensual experiences.
We come to a place where the Divine Darkness dwells so purely within us that we can only detect it by the way that we are transformed. All our arrogance, egotism, and preconceptions disappear in shadow. All that remains is Divine Darkness.
Often we pray for light, for clarity, for God to show oneself and make God’s presence known. Instead, perhaps we should pray for mystery and night. Perhaps we should pray for God to work secretly and transform us in ways that we cannot detect. Perhaps instead of praying for divine Light to illumine our lives, we should pray for Divine Darkness to enshroud us in the mystery of God’s love.
Dear Lord, let me reach the Darkness and come into the cool night of the Spirit. Subsume all lights that shine within me and enshroud me with the divine light that extinguishes every other desire of my heart. Cloak me with the Divine Mystery and let me live into the night of your Love. Amen.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Derek Webb

Yes, I know this isn’t a new post with any real merit, but after yet another plane delay on the way back from the WCC a couple weeks ago (and a wonderful four hours of sleep in the Sao Paulo Holiday Inn, which was populated by hundreds of happy Brazilian Walmart execs), I’ve been incredibly busy catching up with schoolwork and utterly exhausted from the trip.
At any rate, a quick music recommendation for people who are looking for good Christian music without the trite, paper thin, theologically objectionable lyrics. Try out Derek Webb, who’s touring with Jars of Clay (my absolute favorite band) right now. This is a particularly excellent song off his latest album.

Rich Young Ruler

(vs. 1)
poverty is so hard to see
when it’s only on your tv and twenty miles across town
where we’re all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
from going through our trash
he says, more than just your cash and coin
i want your time, i want your voice
i want the things you just can’t give me

(vs. 2)
so what must we do
here in the west we want to follow you
we speak the language and we keep all the rules
even a few we made up
come on and follow me
but sell your house, sell your SUV
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor
what is this, hey what’s the deal
i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal
i want the things you just can’t give me

because what you do to the least of these
my brother’s, you have done it to me
because i want the things you just can’t give me

Sunday, February 19, 2006

WCC- February 17-18

Saturday-Sunday afternoon, February 18-19th, 2006
  • Sight of the Day- A little Methodist church about five blocks from my hotel, busting at the seams with people from every part of the world

  • Weather- Sunny, humid, in the mid 90’s

  • Price for Lunch- I will pay something today (probably 3.00 or less), but yesterday my school took us out to a fabulous Brazilian/Italian restaurant for free

  • Price for Dinner- Nothing…yes, that’s right, I will spend about 3.00 on food for two days
-     New Insights: Latin Pentecostals (who led evening prayer yesterday and don’t belong to the WCC) sknow how to worship with passion. Quite frankly, they showed all the rest of us staid mainline denominations up in terms of congregational participation and enthuasiasm. Maybe this points to one of the reasons why the charismatic church is exploding worldwide, while mainline denominations wither and die.
  • Portuguese Word of the Day-“Deus, em tua graca, transforma o mundo”- “God, in your grace, transform the world”: This was the theme for the WCC assembly

  • Best Experience of the Weekend- Singing praise songs loudly and enthusiastically with a room of rather charismatic Methodists from around the world during Sunday morning worship.

  • Amount of Sleep Last Night- 8.5 hours

Friday, February 17, 2006

WCC- February 16th

Thursday, February 16th, 2006
  • Sight of the Day- No particularly interesting sights- but tomorrow I’ll see the President of Brazil and the Archbishop of Canterbury!

  • Temperature- Mid 80’s with some rain and a lot of humidity

  • Price for Lunch- $3.20 American (for two sandwiches and soda)

  • Price for Dinner- $4.75 American

  • Cool Conversation(s) of the Day- Bartholomew, a Benedictine monk from Belgium and a professional religious reporter…Soren, a classical organist from Denmark who’s interested in global music….and a youth steward from Vancouver, Canada, on the bus back to the hotel
-     New Insights: I’m beginning to think that my Christianity has been incomplete because I haven’t had the opportunity to build relationships from Christians in other contexts, especially internationally. If you never have had a chance to interact from Christians around the world, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. In America we are far too narrow minded and provincial….there’s a rich wealth of Christian wisdom in our world that we are utterly unaware of.

  • Portuguese Word of the Day- Sanitarios- Bathroom (One of the most important words in Portuguese)

  • Amount of Sleep Last Night- 9.5 hours (a record for this trip by a long shot)

  • Quick Quiz- Which even today do you think will be most likely to make my mother gasp in horror and worry?

  • A) Nearly getting crushed in a crowd getting onto a bus on Tuesday

  • B) Wandering alone in downtown Porto Alegro in search of food (okay, so just a block, but that’s okay)

  • C) The sound of a broken bottle and a cop pulling out a shotgun on the driver of the car next to us while someone in our bus tells us to “get down”

Thursday, February 16, 2006

WCC- February 17th

Friday, February 17th, 2006
  • Sight of the Day- The President of Brazil (on a screen), a man dressed in a dress shirt, tie, and lovely black skirt, and the Rowan, the Archbishop of Canterbury

  • Weather- Somewhat cloudy in the mid 80’s

  • Price for Lunch- $1.80 American (for a nice sized sandwich…my budget loves these prices!)

  • Price for Dinner- $1.90 American (for two homemade stuffed sandwiches)

  • Cool Conversation(s) of the Day- Kerry, the youth steward who I mentioned but didn’t name yesterday
-     New Insights: It is utterly unbelievable how you can plan for seven years, bring in the top people in the western world in global music, and still have mediocre performance based worship.
  • Portuguese Word of the Day-A qui- Here, a lever- to go (these last two terms are extremely important when ordering in Brazilian restaurants)

  • Best Advertisement of the Day: A cigarette packet with a government warning that smoking causes….(hint, it’s a medical condition that is not life threatening but it advertised about extensively in the United States)

  • Amount of Sleep Last Night- 6.5 hours (this is what happens when you stay up later talking economics, politics, and theology with your roommate)

  • Most Unique and Enjoyable Experience- Participating in the choir and getting taught a song by a Coptic Christian Bishop

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

WCC- February 15th

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006
  • Sight of the Day- A male delegate from Fijii in a polo shirt and lovely colorful skirt.

  • Temperature- Mid 80’s with a cool breeze

  • Price for Lunch- $5 American (a buffet)

  • Price for Dinner- $5 American

  • Cool Conversation of the Day- One Presbyterian New Testament Professor from Germany on the bus this morning.

  • New Insights: Ecumenism is not about unity in dogma, but about asking “what do we see together?” rather than “What is right and what is wrong?”- From the workshop entitled “Recentering the Ecumenical movement in Spirituality”
Also, in case you were taking the right of women to be ordained ministers
for granted, understand that in most of the world, women are prohibited, either explicitly or implicitly, from ordained parish ministry. This isn’t true just in regions of the world like Asia, South America, or Africa, but is largely true in Europe as well.            

  • Portuguese Word of the Day- Aqua, which means water.

  • Great Quote from His Holiness Aram I, Orthodox Patriarch of Lebanon and Moderator of the World Council of Churches

  • “I consider the role of youth as being essentially an agent of transformation. We must help the youth to move from the fringes of our churches to the heart of the churches’ life and witness, including the decision-making processes. I cannot imagine a church without youth. They ensure the church’s vitality and renewal. Youth should be actors, not merely listeners; they should be leaders, not merely followers.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

WCC- February 14th

Tuesday, February 14, 2006
  • Sight of the Day- A black garbed Orthodox Patriarch using his Palm Pilot.

  • Temperature- Mid 80’s with a cool breeze

  • Price for Lunch- $1.60 American (for a sandwich and soft drink)

  • Price for Dinner- $10 American (ridiculously overpriced for Brazil, will probably be the most expensive meal I have here)

  • Cool Conversations of the Day- One with a Presbyterian pastor from Switzerland and another from a 19 or so year old theo student from Germany (who was also a PK!)

  • Quick Portuguese- “Bueno Dies” hello and “Obrigado”- Thank you

  • New Insight- You can experience boring worship no matter how big and well organized your gathering is (and yes, evening prayer was quite tedious today). But at least I got to sit behind two monks from Taize….

The Trip to Brazil (Unabridged)

Note: This was written over two days, the first half written while I was on the plane flight to Brasilia.

What did you get when combine two New York Port Authority cops, one New York Port Authority chief, two police investigators, one irate Homeland Security supervisor, two Homeland Security workers, two feet of snow, five hours on the tarmac, one refueling stop, two planes, one inedible 1:30 AM dinner, and five hours of sleep?
Answer: My first day traveling to Brazil, of course.

Since I’ve finally woken up, the batteries of my CD player have run out, and I have an hour to burn before we get to Sao Paulo (well, I think we’re ending up in Sao Paulo, but currently that’s up for debate), I’ll give you the details..

It seems quite ironic that the most exciting and eventful day of my entire trip could quite possibly have come before I got to Brazil. We ended up flying out from JFK airport on the day that New Jersey finally decided to get serious about winter, and a northeaster swept in and deposited about two feet of snow in about a twelve hour period.
The weather and driving was certainly not good- ever major airport in the Washington D.C./Newark/New York area was closed except for JFK. I had unsuccessfully tried to get to church in the morning, only to give up after getting stuck three times in about half a mile. On the whole, I think I set an all time record by getting about two miles to the gallon throughout the course of the morning. Oh well, I guess today was not the day to save the ozone.

I got on the busy and my group arrived at JFK without incident and got our luggage, and checked in.

Everything was going quite smoothly. I should have been suspicious.

Being the industrious person I am, I decided to go through the security checkpoint and get myself situated before finding something to eat, and this is where things started getting interesting.

No, unlike previous trips, I was not stopped, questioned, searched. I did not have my luggage searched or have homeland security employees looking suspiciously at me as a would-be terrorist. Instead, I put my baggage through the scanner- laptop, laptop case, duffel bag, and coat and wallet together.

When I get to the other side of the checkpoint, out comes my laptop, my laptop case, and my duffel bag. I put my shoes back on, repack my laptop, grab my duffel bag, and right around the time I begin to worry about my last bin, it comes through. I put on my coat, gather my luggage, and begin walk away, when I pat my back pocket and realize that my wallet isn’t there. I return and talk to the Homeland Security supervisor, who, after asking me four times whether I stuck the wallet in my coat, my duffel, my laptop case, other jeans pockets, etc. etc. etc. (although how my wallet could have possibly made it into my close laptop case or duffel is beyond me), begins to search.

I’m starting to get worried and annoyed. He obviously isn’t happy that he has to search for me and I’m obviously unhappy that in the five or so seconds that I took my eyes of the bin to walk through the security checkpoint, that my wallet disappeared. After about 15 minutes of searching, the wallet turns up- on the other side of the security checkpoint and in a separate bin.

The supervisor breathes a sigh of relief, hands me the wallet, and asks me to check to see if anything is missing. I open my wallet- credit cards, ID are all intact. Phew. That’s when I find out that all my money for food and expenses (where ATM machines and credit cards are not as prevalent) has disappeared.

I again return to the supervisor, who is absolutely thrilled (and a wee bit skeptical) to hear that my money is gone. He shrugs his shoulders and tells me that I can go to the pay phone, call the Port Authority. I thank him for his time and he responds with an eye roll.

Irate and worried, I walk over to the waiting area, deposit my remaining luggage with friends, borrow some change (since of course I am now flat broke), and, after three tries, manage to get the Port Authority, which decides to send a police officer to the scene.

All right, take a deep breath, relax, rest your eyes, go surf your favorite web site for a few minutes, get a glass of water- if you’ve made it this far, you deserve a medal. Plus, I want your full attention, because this is when things get interesting.

Don’t worry. Go ahead. My story will still be here when you get back.

The Port Authority police officer comes over and the previously uncooperative “what are you doing complaining about stolen property at my checkpoint” supervisor, who we shall call Ramon (primarily because that’s his name), becomes considerably more polite and friendly.

In contrast to his homeland security counterpart, the police officer is friendly and sympathetic. I answer a barrage of questions, explain in exacting detail what happened, how much money I lost, etc. etc. He writes my name and address and decides that he should call the Chief of Port Authority police in that area, since thefts at security points tend to be taken seriously.

{Okay, quick aside- I just checked the in flight map, and no, we are not landing at our original destination, we are actually landing in Brasilia, which is about an hour by plane from Sao Paulo, I believe. This probably has something with running out of fuel after idling on the tarmac for five hours, but more on that later). (Quick aside to the aside- I was actually correct…we ended up on the tarmac in Brasilia, so we could refuel- which added an extra hour or so to our flight.)

So the police chief comes over, and asks me the same series of questions. He too talks to the supervisor, who, (poor guy), is now looking very stressed and a bit beat down. The police officer who first arrives informs me that this is likely all the can do except file a police report, since it’s unlikely that the investigators will come down unless there have been a series of incidents at this checkpoint.

Sure enough, about fifteen minutes later, the investigators (who yes, look like they came straight from a crime show) and ask me the same series of questions. By now, it’s looking like a metro police convention down there, with two metro police officers (who informs me that this checkpoint has an awful reputation for thefts), one police chief, two police investigators, two TSA homeland security advisors, and a few TSA/Homeland security officers thrown in for good measure.

They finish, I leave, and we finally get on the plane, which rolls on the runway at 7:30 PM, and stays there for five and a quarter hours.

No, that’s not an exaggeration. Five and a quarter hours. With no explanation.

Finally, around 12:45, we lift up off Kennedy’s only operating runway, and are served dinner (which has been sitting in heating units since 7:00PM) and it was easily the worst dinner I have ever eaten, (which, at that point, I didn’t really care about, my last full meal had been 13 hours before, and I would have been satisfied with mud if they had heated it up and given me a spoon).

After the aforesaid refueling stop, (caused by idling on the tarmac for five hours), we arrive in the airport around 1:30PM, having missed our connecting flight by about 3 hours. We end up getting bused to a different airport which puts us on a five o’clock flight to Porto Alegre. We crash in our hotel, eat dinner around 10:30 in the evening, and finally get to sleep.

And that’s it, that’s my story. No, money is not a problem- people have been forcing money upon me, and if I accepted all the Brazilian (and American) twenties that people have been trying to give me, I might be able to turn a tidy profit by the end of trip. That being said, I guess it will be a good spiritual discipline to rely on others for my daily bread.

All right, that’s enough for now. I’ll give you an update on the first day of the assembly later!

Friday, February 10, 2006


I thought I’d share a quick excerpt from my Bishop’s latest conference wide e-mail where he reflects upon his trip in December to Nigeria. In times when money gets tight for us as individuals and communities of faith, this brought me up short. Maybe it will do the same for you:

Some have asked for the text that I read from my Journal.  I wrote it during my December visit to Nigeria after visiting our mission hospital in Zing where patients desperately wait, sometimes two or three to a bed, for help....for a doctor....we no longer have one there.  Next to the hospital complex is a new, state of the art (for Nigeria) eye hospital....also with no funds....only a very dedicated nurse.  When there was a doctor there, hundreds would come from as far as Cameroon....there are so many in Africa suffering from eye diseases carried by water and insects....many are blind....and waiting....waiting for mission funds.....waiting.   The nurse asked me why the United Methodists in the U.S. could not provide more it used to? 
The day before I had been at a wonderful outdoor service of about 8,000 in a remote area where some of the people had walked for days to get there.  Most of those who came are very financially poor, but very rich in spirit.  When the offering time came, the music started....and then the dancing...the people from each area represented came joyfully processing, singing and dancing, up to the large offering basket....children, old folk, teenagers (who had climbed up into the trees so they could see), mothers with babies wrapped on their fronts....singing and dancing....led by the pastors dressed in their black robes and white stoles that fluttered and billowed like wings of the Spirit...singing and dancing....such joy....such generosity....such faith that if they risked giving their little, God would provide for tomorrow (no 401k plans here....many of the pastors and D.S.'s hadn't been paid for months)....the pastors we re leading...........And then they called on the Bishops!!!  Bishop Ntambo (from the Congo where they do this almost always) and Bishop Weaver (from New England where they do this almost never.....I never have figured out how to get my right foot to follow my left foot in dancing....that's why a hundred years ago I did OK at the "twist"....but I didn't think that would work here.)  But with God all things are possible.....and when the Spirit says "dance" (and be generous), somehow the Spirit provides.....and Bishop Ntambo and I danced our way to the offering...and the offering baskets and hearts overflowed....the "Lord loves a cheerful giver,"  (the Greek word used in the New Testament for "cheerful" is "hilarion."  The "Lord loves a hilarious giver"....think about your church....your own giving.) 
And after experiencing all of this on the day before, the nurse at the hospital that day asked me why the United Methodists in the U.S. could not provide more help???  That night I wrote in my Journal: "What shall I tell them?....that we are too poor with our multiple TV sets and cars...and our Christmas tables laden with more food than many in Nigeria will see in a month.  What shall I tell them, who tithe what little they have, when they ask how our mission dollars can be declining if our American United Methodist's are tithing?  What shall I tell the Nigerian pastors who lead the way in the offering dance...pastors who have not been paid for months...about our pastors who will not lead in stewardship efforts, or even give "Together for Tomorrow" a good faith effort?  What shall I tell them about churches that tell me they cannot pay 100% of their Mission Share, and then show me their new kitchen?  What shall I tell them about churches that disagree on this denominational issue or that issue and think they will make a difference by not sending their mission share dollars, when th e only impact they will have is to leave a child without a doctor in Zing?  What shall I tell them about the too many Christmas gifts I will buy with my VISA card to honor the Christ who gave it all for the poor....and the poor in spirit like me?
O Lamb of God who takes away the sins of self centeredness, greed, waste, lack of boldness, gluttony, and reluctance to love our neighbors as we love ourselves....have mercy upon us."   What would you tell them?

Monday, February 06, 2006

A Quick Update

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve updated, so I thought I’d do a quick hits post to keep people current with my life.

-  I spent the last week of January relaxing, preparing myself for the semester. I visited with my Aunt and Uncle in Philadelphia over the weekend, and had a marvelous time watching their 500 channel (no exaggeration) television, eating great meal after great meal, getting taken out to movies, church, Doug and Buster’s (a huge arcade/restaurant), and generally enjoying their wonderful company.

- Last week was my first week of classes and I’m in for a fairly easy and hopefully stimulating semester. For the record, I’m taking

     1) Greek Exegesis, where we finally get to read and translate actual Biblical texts after spending all of last semester on grammar.

     2) Religion and the Social Process (fondly known by students as Oppression 101), where I’ll get to learn about all the inequities upon which our society is structured and how bad white straight males are. (Just kidding on that last account, our professor (who is a practicing Quaker incidentally) has a wonderfully gentle spirit and is making sure to give people room to struggle and engage with the issues).

     3) The Future of the Ecumenical Movement, in other words, my trip to the World Council of Churches Assembly in Brazil next week, with about 3000 other Christians from across the world and across denominations.

     4) Intro to New Testament, with a professor who’s teaching it for the first time. While I’ve heard great things about her, I’m a bit skeptical about the course, since it’s primarily historocritical in focus (we don’t even start reading the New Testament itself until the third week) and not nearly as challenging as my Intro to the Old Testament course.

     5) Worship in the Emerging Church, with Mark Miller, one of the foremost composers, worship leaders, and musicians in the denomination (he wrote, for instance, the sung communion liturgy in the Faith We Sing). While our first set of classes lacked focus, I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to learn from him and to visit some emergent congregations.

     Hopefully this will sate your appetites for a little while- I’ll try to get one more post before I head off to Brazil on Sunday.     

Thursday, January 19, 2006

In the Dryness of the Season

     I took a course called “Ministry and the Imagination” this week, which turned out (at least so far) to be a wonderfully worthwhile experience.  As part of the writing studio I was taking, we were asked to write new hymn lyrics to a familiar tune. I wrote the following song, which was very well received by the group, and so I thought I’d share it. I set it to the tune called “Beach Spring”, which most of you would be familiar from a hymn like “Come and Find the Quiet Center”.

In the Dryness of the Season
By Benjamin Davis

“Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."- John 4:14

Verse 1

In the dryness of the season,
When God’s love seems turned away,
When our passion and our vision,
Fade away in desert haze,

In the heat God seeks and molds us,
Cries the tears that soothe our pain,
Comes to lift us when we falter,
So we’ll walk and run again.

Verse 2

God remains our faithful parent,
Will refresh, our souls sustain,
Soaked in water, spirit-cleansing,     
Sending down a healing rain.

In God’s love we rest and linger,
Claiming joy that God imparts,
Living water births the Spirit,
Flowing deep within our hearts.

Verse 3

In this place God’s rushing Spirit,
Softly ripples, waits today,
Will we find that stream of water,
Will we love or turn away?

To a world that’s dry and barren,
Filled with hate and parched with need,
Can we find and gently guide it,
To that well, life to receive

Copyrighted January 2006.

Friday, January 06, 2006

My Last Two Months

     I was utterly amazed to find out how well read my very underwritten blog is. I have been harassed, e-mailed, lectured, and scolded by people across the nation (quite literally) about my entirely too laissez (perhaps we should say lazy)- faire attitude towards updating regularly. To this end, I hereby promise (for about the fourteenth time) that I will start updating regularly, with a regular digest of quotes, amusing episodes, insightful reflections, and heartfelt remembrances, so as to appease my reading masses. Furthermore, if at any point I waver from this goal, I hereby give you all permission to e-mail, call, or blackmail me if necessary.

     With that being said, a lot has happened since my post a couple of months ago. My semester ended, and, so far, very successfully. My grades are better than they’ve been at any point I can remember and I even had some time to relax even during finals weeks, which is quite remarkable. Other than Old Testament final night, in which I got to see the beginnings of what I’m sure was a remarkable sunrise around 4:30 AM after about 14 straight hours of work, it was a fairly easy process.

     Life at Drew is good, although I am coming to a fuller realization of the weaknesses of my community. Most particularly, I came to realize that if I simply trusted the seminary process and did my best, I would be a very well equipped chaplaincy style minister, perfectly suitable for a church in the 1950’s. Seminary education will not give me tools that I need to be transformative- it will not teach me about methods for evaluating congregational health, working with small groups, evangelizing, visioning, running meetings, or encouraging discipleship, even as it gives me an excellent background in academics and in pastoral care.

     Perhaps this points to one of the reasons why our clergy quality is so poor in New England. Not only are many of our pastors burnt out, but their training is literally half a century old. If our clergy are to become effective, I believe that our seminaries will have significantly reform their course of study to emphasize practical parish ministry, group dynamics, spiritual growth, personal self awareness, and congregational dynamics. *steps off soapbox*

     One semester at Drew also makes me realize that liberals can be every bit as intolerant as people of any other ideology. It has disappointed me to watch some of my classmates drop one belief that they blindly held onto (e.g. the historical church has always been the sole correct possessor of the truth) just to blindly pick up another (e.g. the historical church has always been a close-minded parochial oppressor). Furthermore, while the school emphasizes racial and cultural diversity, they ignore and even repress ideological diversity. Professors, students, and even one dean have made the assumption that the school speaks with one monolithic voice on issues such as white privilege, homosexuality, the role of scripture, and social justice. Furthermore, they also often imply that those who disagree with them are close-minded, bigoted, racist, and generally inferior Christians. I am thankful that there are many people, especially in my class, who are far more open-minded and can hopefully change the somewhat bigoted liberal attitude that my school sometimes exhibits over the course of these next few years.

     In other exciting news, I attended the wedding of a college friend, Megan Burd. It was a pleasure to be able to support her and catch up with some old time Colby College friends. It was refreshing to see such an explicitly spiritual and dignified wedding- rather than focusing on pageantry, it focused on the purpose of a Christian wedding- which, in my mind, is for two people to make a covenant between themselves and God in the sight of their entire community. What a beautiful sight!

     All right, that’s enough for now. Enjoy your January and keep in touch!