Sunday, November 25, 2007

A couple days ago I turned 25 - a quarter of a century years old. I don't feel that much older, but I suppose I now definitively fall into that mid-twenties age range that just sounds old. A grad student, married, in her mid-twenties. Old.

Not really. :-)

I spent the Thanksgiving Holiday with my in-laws, made a vow not to buy anything save for the necessities (like food) on Black Friday, unsuccessfully shopped for shoes on Saturday, and went to a wonderful wedding up at Dartmouth on Saturday afternoon. Then, we drove back to New Jersey, and got in a bit after midnight.

This morning, I went to visit Vision Community Church in Warwick, NY. They are a church plant in the Methodist Tradition, as their parent church is a church in the New York Conference. I have to admit, it was nice to be able to sit back and worship without being responsible for something in the service. Don and Pam Heatley, the pastors of this church, had come in and spoke to our church planting class a couple weeks ago, and I was impressed with what they had to say about their church. Visiting, I was also impressed -- they have hospitality down like no one else's business! Igniting Ministries or whatever branch of the church deals with welcoming people should take a tip or five from Vision. I was well-greeted and introduced to other people in the congregation. They serve breakfast before their services (bagels and coffee, and they also had apple pie and pumpkin pie and other pastry things), and people can bring their food into the services with them. The sermon was great, worship tended towards contemporary (with the music blended and communion at the end).

More later...if I get motivated enough (I need to be more disciplined about my blogging).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Meh.

I'm finding it abnormally difficult to concentrate on this chilly, November morning. Perhaps because it's Monday and normally my day off. Perhaps because I can't seem to get the study warm enough for my fingers. Perhaps because I'm being forced to write a sermon for class and I'm just not into it. Perhaps because I can easily think of five better things to do with my time:

1) Start working on designing a website for our new church. We'd have profiles of us, stuff about our process, videos, etc...

2) Pick out the wedding photos I want edited and polished up

3) Start playing around with some graphics design - specifically, see if I can create a new header for my blog

4) Play Sim City 4 or Kingdom of Loathing (equally good options)

5) Knit or do something else crafty

Instead, I have work to do, because this past week was busy. I have to:

1) Write this advent sermon. It's coming along, and I believe everything I'm putting into it, but it's not coming together. It's half-way done. It would be better if we were actually being taught about writing a sermon and using stories and how to call people to action instead of just the generic blah we've been getting.

2) Do an ethics assignment in which we have to design and outline an adult education course on sexuality issues or sexual orientation issues that were raised in our readings for the past week.

3) Laundry, at some point (Ben and I will figure out who gets that pleasure)

So, I'm working in bite-sized chunks. 30 minutes here, (break), 30 minutes there, (break). All breaks are by rule mindless and things I want to do.


Hopefully, if I get everything done today, I can veg out this evening to Chuck and Heroes!

Monday, November 05, 2007

I blinked, and November is already well under way. Surprising and a little unnerving, especially since I signed up for NaNoWriMo on a whim and currently have nothing but a handful of the vaguest of plot lines. A couple other friends of mine have signed up and taken the plunge, and I, much like a lemming inspired by their examples, followed suit.

Except I really did have good intentions. Lately, I've been fascinated by stories, and how they shape us and can be used to shape others. As part of our church planting class, we watched and participated in a presentation on the power of stories. It was an insightful presentation, and I learned a lot about what makes a story what it is: the linear story (what happens), the heart story (the emotions...the undercurrent of the linear story), and the archetypal story (the part of the story that appeals to ancient memory). We talked about worldview and meta-narrative and all of that jazz. We spent a lot of time examining different movie clips in this light, focusing especially on the movie End of the Spear. But while I left the presentation feeling like I had learned something about analyzing stories, I still felt that I didn't know how to craft them, tell them, or catch them in the moment of their creation.

Stories tell us a lot about who we are, where we've been, what we hold dear, and where we're going. It was my hope to convey this to my congregation on All Saint's Sunday; it was my hope to collect stories from different people in the church about the people in their lives who were saints to them - be these saints from the church or not. It was my hope to teach that because we are a community, these different saints affect all of us and are a part of our shared history - our shared story - because of their influence on one person. The stories of our saints - both known and unknown - are stories we know and share with each other. However, things sometimes don't go as planned in a church, and I had to scramble to fill up my sermon with other things.

In our visit to Boston last weekend (which I will write more about in another post, I promise!), the director for congregational development suggested we work on developing our story - and have it be one that we can tell in a short period of time (under 2 minutes). This story is not about an autobiographical account of how the four of us came to be in covenant relationship with one another and then felt this call to plant a church - but the why. Why live in community? Why plant a church? Why - other than because we feel God calls us to it?

On a lighter note, my interest in stories have been also fueled by a new Facebook application called Just Three Words. The principle of it is simple: you and all your friends add to a story three words at a time. I've had great fun seeing what people come up with and how all the stories I'm following have taken quite different tones and turns.

These different snapshots of the semester have left me wanting and needing to learn how to tell a compelling story, not just the verbal articulation of it, but the very structuring of it. What piece goes where? What is the hook? Where should it end?