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Archive for the ‘Field Ed’ Category

Family by Faith

The last week of June I helped lead a middle school mission trip to Atlanta, Georgia.  The youth had the opportunity to see life in a very urban setting, something many of them had never experienced growing up in Denver, North Carolina.  They worked with some distinct populations, including the homeless and the elderly.  I believe everyone on the trip was touched and changed in some way while there, myself especially.

Twice I connected with people I barely knew simply through matters of faith.  The first was Samuel, who I met at one of the churches where we worked.  As far as I could tell, he is not on staff there, just a member who volunteers his time.  We talked about the church and the youth.  He shared some fascinating insights about early Hebrew culture.  As our conversation drew to a close, he called me “brother” and drew me into a bear hug.  Now I’m fairly tall at 6’3” but Samuel enveloped me.  I experienced an amazing feeling of acceptance from this man I had known for all of five minutes.

The second was Braden, one of the interns at the church where we stayed.  I had talked with Braden a few times during the limited free time I had in the evenings but did not know much about him.  The same day I met Samuel I ran into Braden shortly before lights out.  He seemed edgy and distracted, a far cry from the easy-going student I had gotten to know.  As we talked I discovered that his grandmother was in the hospital and the doctors had not given her much time.  I asked if he would like to pray and we stood there in the hall as I offered a short prayer for his grandmother and his family.  At this point the walls crumbled a bit and Braden released some of the emotions he had been carrying.  We didn’t say anything else; no more words we needed.  I hugged him and then moved on to get the youth ready for lights out.

Having both of those experiences in the same day really stood out to me.  I probably won’t have another conversation with either Samuel or Braden.  Yet we shared something that day.  We had an honest connection as family.  Not a family by blood, but one born of water.

Reposted from http://ddsfieldedusa.blogspot.com/

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The Joy of Water

One of my responsibilities at Salem has been working with the day camp.  During the summer, the church’s afterschool program becomes a day camp for children in the community.  In order to gain more experience with children’s ministry, I lead a devotional one day a week for the day camp.  With forty to fifty kids signed up, these devotionals require a fair amount of planning, finding something that will speak to the kids within the camp’s weekly themes.  My first one followed a script that a previous intern developed after graduating from Duke, a devotional series that draws on the style of Godly Play.  For the second devotional, however, I was on my own.

The weekly theme was Lake Week.  I settled on a devotional about baptism.  I quickly realized that there was more major concern waiting for me.  Since the majority of the kids are not church members, I could not assume they were all Methodist.  In fact, most aren’t meaning that not all of them have been baptized yet.  So I need to ensure that my message, while staying true to the Methodist beliefs of Salem and myself, would not leave out those from other backgrounds.Baptism demonstration

I explained baptism in a general manner and then specifically with regards to the United Methodist Church concerning infants, noting that Methodists do baptize older children and adults as well.  The focal point was that in the Bible water is often a sign of God’s love for us.  So when we see a baptism, we recognize that as God loving us.  As I concluded I splashed droplets of water over all the kids.  Their screams of surprise and joy reminded me that God loves us in surprising ways.  What better way to say thank you than with our joy.

Reposted from http://ddsfieldedusa.blogspot.com/

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Young Reminder

Sometimes we need to be reminded of what is truly important. I know how easily I get into a groove of doing church work and allow my time to become my job rather than my calling. But God has a way of showing up and reminding me what I am missing.

Last Friday the children hosted a lemonade stand as a fundraiser. In addition to the lemonade, they also sold baked goods, tie-dyed T-shirts, Silly Bands (a collectable new to me but very popular in the church) and painted tiles. Although I was off on Friday, I went down to the church in order to get to know some of the children better.Tile of Psalm 19:14

I was their first customer, so I took the opportunity to browse the tables. I settled on a cup of lemonade, two muffins, and a shirt. As I went to pay, this tile caught my eye. Very familiar words leaped from the marble surface in magnificent gold as I heard the prayer of countless preachers in Goodson Chapel. “May the words of my mouth and thoughts and meditations of each and every heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord our rock and our redeemer” (Ps 19:14).

The tile is now on my desk at the church to remind me from where I draw my support. A valuable lesson from the hand of a child.

Reposted from http://ddsfieldedusa.blogspot.com/

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Tongues of Fire

Duke Divinity sponsors a field education blog that I am contributing to.  You can find it here (http://ddsfieldedusa.blogspot.com/).  I decided I would cross-post my entries over here as well.

Like most field education students, my first Sunday at Salem United Methodist Church was Pentecost. I really appreciated how the church weaved several aspects of Pentecost into the service. The confirmation students officially joined the church on Sunday. Since we recognize Pentecost as the birth of the church, this makes a lot of sense. But I had not ever really stopped to consider putting the two elements together. I hope the youth recognized the significance of the timing but even if not, I found meaningful.

Part of the Pentecost service incorporated a dance by seven girls in the children and youth program at Salem. They had three banners, some ribbons, and two flags in the color of fire (red, orange, and yellow). The two flags were the most interesting part for me. At the end of the dance, two girls stood in the center aisle and waved the flags overhead. For a period of time the rippling of the flags was all you could hear. The routine gave me a real sense of the freedom and movement of fire which brought alive the story of Pentecost for me. The sight and sound of the flags rippling like tongues of fire above the heads of the congregation offered a glimpse of what that fateful day in Jerusalem might have looked like.

To all those students in field education placements this summer, to all those persons in their congregations, remember this. You can’t bottle the Holy Spirit or control it. It moves free like fire.

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This summer I had the opportunity to preach two Sunday services.  Because so many people visit the Cashiers area in the summer months, the church expands to offer two services on Sunday at 8:30 and 11:00.  It’s rare that I ever attend two services on the same Sunday and certainly had never preached twice in the same day.

It was definitely a unique experience.  While I enjoy the art of preaching, it can be very draining.  Having to do it twice can leave one honestly exhausted.  I’m fairly certain I took a nap each afternoon, even though I had gotten plenty of sleep the night before.

I remember feeling worried that the 8:30 crowd was getting short-changed.  Yes, it was the same sermon.  Yes, I had practiced my sermons before Sunday.  But still, 8:30 sometimes felt like a dress rehearsal for the 11:00.  In some ways, this makes sense.  It’s hard to get practice in front of an audience, so the 11:00 delivery always has that advantage.  In some ways, this is inevitable as extra practice never hurts.  But it still bothered me.  Maybe the only answer is to have the sermon better established before Sunday.

My delivery at 11:00 had one other advantage; I had some idea of how the congregation would react at certain parts.  But what do you do when the reactions are different?  Handling unexpected laughter I feel is fairly easy.  Pause, smile, and consider repeating yourself if necessary.  But what do you do when you were expecting a reaction and there is none?  Do you try and force it, by admonishing the congregation?  My supervisor will do this on occasion, albeit playfully.  I tried it myself once and it seemed to work fairly well.  Although I did learn to be flexible when using audience participation.  You may not the answers you expected.  You may also get many more than you expected.

Something I did learn with pulpit humor is that the punchlines were sometimes earlier than I expected.  More than once people laughed at what I considered still part of the set-up, as opposed to the joke.  Having not watched the sermons yet myself, this may have been an issue with my delivery.  Or perhaps that’s simply part of preaching.  Like many of my questions in this post, only experience can provide the answer.

I also discovered an odd personal temptation.  The few times I’ve heard multiple sermons from established preachers, they changed between services.  The basic message was the same but the order of the sermon might be different, details elaborated on.  So my first Sunday in Cashiers I tried to do the same.  Nothing too elaborate, just a few little extras.  I was surprised by how much that threw off my rhythm.  Changing things at the last minute impeded my flow without adding anything substantial to the sermon.  I may hold this up as a goal for the future but for now, I think changing sermons at the last-minute is a bad idea for me.

For any preachers out there, what has been your experience with preaching the same sermon twice?  For any non-preachers, have you ever heard the same sermon twice?  How was that experience?

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Have you ever stopped and considered the number of television shows that are about our legal system?  We have Law and Order with its spin-offs.  Other police dramas like Southland, Dark Blue, Cold Case, and Miami Vice.  Then the shows about lawyers: Boston Legal, The Practice, Perry Mason, and Matlock.  The FBI gets Numbers, Criminal Minds and Without a Trace.  The military has NCIS and JAG.  And of course, who can forget all the forensics shows?  CSI with its two spin-offs and Bones.  That’s 19 shows and I’m just getting started.  Furthermore, these are just the ones following the good guys.  We haven’t even touched the shows about criminals.  Quite simply, we’re a culture obsessed with the legal system.

Have you noticed what’s missing from my list?  In all of these shows, judges are an after-thought if they show up at all.  Where are the shows about judges?  I can only think of two that featured a judge as a main character: Judging Amy and a short-lived drama on the Supreme Court.  Of course, we have all the sensationalized day-time TV judges: Judy, Joe Brown, Mathis, and others.  Hardly indicative of the average judge, case, or courtroom these shows reduce our legal system to sound bytes and witty quips.

So why no interest in judges?  Are we scared of them, imagining an imposing figure in black robes sitting behind a high bench banging a gavel?  Or do we just consider their stories less exciting, missing the adventure of cops and lawyers?

I wonder.  Is this how we view what the Bible says about judgment?  God as an imposing figure ready to sentence the unrepentant sinner?  Do we hurry past these passages in search of happier topics?  Or is it no longer a concern after what Christ did for us on the cross?
Sermon continues below

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I was on the docket to preach my last Sunday at Cashiers UMC.  The church was still on it’s trek through the Apostle’s Creed.  My sentence was “[Jesus] will come again to judge the living and the dead.”  Not exactly what first comes to mind when saying goodbye and thank you to a church after ten weeks.  But in the end I think everything went very well.

I preached on two passages.  The Old Testament passages was from Amos.  I hadn’t realized that one of the main Methodist communion liturgies borrows language from this passage.  Since it was also a communion Sunday (first Sunday of the month), I thought that was an interesting tie-in.

The Gospel was from John, the story of the woman caught in adultery.  This was a change from the Matthew passage on the sheep and the goats.  The only downside of that change is that the John passage has nothing to say about Jesus’ return.  So both my passages focused the sermon on the topic of judgment.

Passages below

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