Monday, September 29, 2008

When you've got it, you' it...right?

A bustling hive of activity. A chaotic community center. A program sized church who it trying to figure out how to be something "else." All of these fit the bill for St. Andrew's church on St. Thomas. I spent the weekend with my friend Lenroy Cabey and the parishioners of St. Andrew's.
So here's a church that has a split personality...between, "We do pretty well here, " and "We could be doing better here."
It's a healthy place, the way churches go, and there's some good points to their life that my skill sets and experience might be able to help with. More on that later. But what did i learn from St. Andrew's that is a positive influence on me? How about how it's kind of cool to be the only light skinned person in town, because everyone can recognize you and say hello? Or that the real way to move forward in ministry to the people of the Church is to manage the growth and death process of projects.
If you start a project with your own needs in mind as a priority, then you've just created something that is so close to you it can run the risk of BECOMING your identity. Which also means that the project or program is tied so closely to you that it NEEDS YOU to run it. What happens if you leave? Get burnt out? upset the Rector? Tic off the wrong mom? It's not you that suffers the most, its the collected souls involved in your program that you didn't think of.
So when you grow a program, itis not enough to think of simply "how to grow it," but you must also think of "how to kill your involvement with it." Do you train others to run this thing with you? Do you create a team of people that run it with seamless authority across multiple persons? Do you do a third option that doesn't come to mind right now...
Growth and Death...we are a resurrection people...birth and rebirth are "supposed" to be the thing that sets us apart...where our hope rests, and in which knowledge we find peace. But instead o fliving this life, we grab and stranglehold things until we or it becomes ineffective. God help me plant a new church ideal amongst the youth workers of St. Andrew's, because they deserve it.
here are some projects i'd like ot take at St. Andrew's, once i've cleared them with Fr. Cabey:
4. Does the after school program truly reflect the needs of the community? If not (which seems to be truth) what can we do to make it THE place to hang out after school?
3. Training for church school teachers (and other adult sponsors), who aren't trained teachers, and don't seem to be mentoring their students..rather they are just talking to them.
2. Anglican youth organization - does it refelct the needs of the teenagers @ St. Andrew's, or is justa model based on the best experience of the adults?
1. Social Justice Ministries. To get the teens thinking about serving the community in real ways, teaching people to fish...not just giving them fish to eat.

Works cut out for me, eh?

Friday, September 26, 2008

What a hard day

My Friends, let there be no doubt that when the Divine wishes you to learn a lesson, you will learn it one way or the other...and typically, because of our inherent egos, we must learn it the hard way. Yesterday was such a day.

Imagine you are getting ready to run a very important've trained, prepared, and built the body necessary to run this race. You've collected resources, you've made the bargains, you've sacrificed time and energy for this race.
You wait all day long until the moment of the race, but when you show up and take your place, you realize that all the other runners are gone. The spectators are nowhere to be seen, and you're standing alone, wondering what was going on.

The lesson here? Do not place your hopes for satisfaction and acceptance on other people. Your ability to be welcomed and respected comes directly from your belief that God will welcome and accept you, no matter who you are surrounded by or what their attitude is. The more you hope for another person to acknowledge your worth, the less time you focus on acknowledging your OWN self worth, and thereby separate yourself from the peace and unity that is found in God.

Christ taught that we should not worry, that God would take care of us as God takes care of the sparrow and the lilies. I know that is impossibly hard to believe in and to follow on a daily basis, but the alternative extreme (which we so often live) is to surrender control to the whims of "them" (whoever "they" are) and letting other people control your emotions for you. Stand up for yourself by ensuring that you won't have to stand up for yourself in a mindset where you can be proud of how you prepared for the race, and let go of the end results. In the end, serving God is about personal growth, because you are only as good a minister to others as you are to yourself.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Web Sites

I promised that the era of multiple 12 hour days was done, but this week has proved me wrong. I feel like i haven't taken a break in weeks, but am getting things done, for sure!
The website is "just" ready for launch, and then i have to figure out wordpress well enough to give a blog site to 14 churches.
BUT...i can do all that without working 12 hours a day. We have this meeting of all clergy today, and i wanted so much to have this site live and ready to discuss at that, but it looks like my best laid plans and attempts are not going to happen. So the site will sit safe and sound on my hardrive a couple more days...bummer.
It seems the creator is bound and determined to force me to slow down to island pace, even in the business sense of things. I don't like that, i'm finding. I liked fast and furious, like some bad episode of the West Wing. But I'm getting the message, and doing my best. Thanks to anyone and everyone who prays for me and thinks of me, it can get pretty lonely in paradise. Don't forget that have an address for mail!

Monday, September 22, 2008

A brand New Way

Many things came together this weekend: the National Church (thank you Douglas Fenton), the Diocese (thank you Bp Gumbs!) and my own resources pooled together to get me to Houston for a National Young Adult Conference, which was refreshing, empowering, surprising, and humbling. But rather than go long into it all, here's a simple top five list of the best parts of the weekend:
5. Being empowered for Young Adult ministry! It's so good to know the Diocese wants and needs this style of Ministry, i've been wanting so long to get something going...
4. meeting Miguelina Espinal (of PLSE) and seeing how that program and network might be vital to the community here in helping youth and young adults discern their christian vocation, not just find a high paying job (off island, no doubt)
3. meeting David Copley, who wants to lift up this arrangement and how Bp Gumbs, Bp Breidenthal (S OH) myself, and (with David's help) the National can work together to make long term mission placements healthier and more affordable for everyone. He thinks the National Church could help with ensuring my health insurance, a tender topic for me and one currently unresolved with the DVI.
2. meeting Lauren Woody, whose work in the D Atlanta is a model i think will work here, and I hope she might be a mentor to me about getting young adulty ministry going in the Islands. Great girl with amazing energy and a model that just might work on St. Thomas for sure...
1. Being affirmed in my call to theVirgin Islands. This isolation and lack of transportation has really been hard the last couple weeks, mostly because i'm impatient enough to want everything to set up "yesterday," BUT, talking with others who are or want to be doing real mission work with the church was so invigorating that I can't help but find some calm peace looking toward the upcoming months and years.

Other notable things from the weekend:
1. I have been out of the loop for the last day or so since my flight was canceled in Puerto Rico
2. Sorry! I don't apparently have voicemail capability with this new VI number...
3. I now have an internet connection at the Domini House, so if anyone wants a web cam's on!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I dare you to tell the truth...

I was blessed this weekend with being able to go to the British Virgin Islands, or, as they say, "the only Virgin Islands!" for a weekend consultation and meetings. It started pretty slow, with a long leisurely ferry ride through Drake's passage among the islands, but wow did it pick up. God has a strange way or working the greatest healing in the hardest situations, and i think St. Mary's on Virgin Gorda is a prime example of that grace. Here's a church that (in my words, no offense meant) has been handicapped by their previous clergy. No one in church knows how to train acolytes. No one in church knows what to do with confirmation. Or how to provide a pastoral support to those in the community who are hurting. WHY?
...because our clergy sometimes let their ego's get in the way? Or maybe they believe they're being paid for this work, so they have to do their job by themselves...either way, it's a common problem in our church today (in no way is StMary's the exception...she's the rule)...lay people are reduced to participants in a show put on by priests (or bishops to be completely fair) and look to the clergy leadership to provide "everything i need for my spiritual well-being."
If you are a priest, wake up! Christ came here to fight against the boundary set up between God and her people by priests, remember? Empower, teach, enrich, make sure that life goes on and people are better for knowing you in the end. Don't try to build your kingdom with stone and endowments, build it with people's hearts.
And if you are a church goer, I DARE you to tell the truth about how your faith feels after being with your church community. Are you really fed? Do you hunger and thirst for the deep spiritual truth of your life, only to be satisfied with an hour or two on Sunday, sitting in a pew, watching a religious pageant?
Get up, take your mat, and go home, then
Otherwise, enjoy the show as we all watch our church die.
As for me, i'm throwing myself into St. Mary's and will hopefully give them something that means they won't need me, or anyone, to do these things for them.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Leaving the Country! New friends! Loving Thunderstorms!

Top five of the VI (this week):
5. Hurricane season. I know, I know, I'm crazy, right? But here in the VI, we mostly getting these amazingly badass thunderstorms. Hands of lightning rip through the sky, warm rain you could take a shower in, and the smells afterward! I hope i never get so used to them that i stop smelling them.
4. Mofolie Hill. Home of the second rectory of our flagship parish, this spot is a slice of heaven (with a studio apartment involved..."wish!") Sitting on top of the island, overlooking Charlotte Amalie and high enough to see St. Croix lying in the water 40 some miles away. God, could i live there! Fr. Lenroy Cabey took me up when we went for a drive the other day. That guy is a great minister, and (i hope) a great friend.
3. Leaving the country to go to work. I'm heading to the UKVI today for a wekeend of meet and greet and 6:00am sunday service (ugh). But I can't wait to see this new part of the world.
2. Fruit. 'nuff said
1. Being wanted/needed for who I am and what i bring, not looking at me for the things i need to improve. I felt judged in Ohio most of the time. I feel needed here.

Next week, I hope to start posting more sketches and photos. along with updates to the work we're doing here.

Projects currently in process

1. Ginny Burke and writing grants for technology, youth ministry, and hopefully after next weekend, young adult or campus ministry.
2. Training program for adult mentors (church school teachers, youth workers, big bros/sis)
3. Listening for the needs of local congregations
4. Personal space: designing Missioner House, Office.
5. The BIG news, though, is the website. I've got a diocesan calendar up and running, I am collecting info to create pages that serve the Diocese, not just report on the Diocese, and this new homepage layout, which relaxes me just looking at it(click for a full size version, and please leave comments about its design):

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Live free or die?

SO many time in the world today, we realize there is an injustice in out there and seek to correct it. Yesterday, I spent the day with Fr. Lenroy Cabey, who described such a passion for moving the church forward, upward, and outward. The day started with a foundation's presentation of new demographic material outlining the realities of Children and families in the Territory. Then we drove up Mofolie hill to St. Andrew's second rectory, an amazing place overlooking the island with a couple apartments, and just an amazing place. Then we drove out to the west end of Island, a gorgeous, rural, forested place.
Along the same vein as Fr. Cabey is the message i got from my mother that she's fighting to not only keep her home church open, but to "secede" from the local cluster ministry, making the church it's own entity again.
How much of our motivation to fight for what's right and to battle injustice is inspired by being angered by a situation's perceived darkness? How many decisions are made based on some level of anger, for that matter? The guy who used ot manage the website sent me a letter yesterday wanting to be paid for his services, even though the diocese has never written him a check!
...just be prepared to discern between the knee jerk reaction of anger, versus the slow cooking pressure that same emotion. One will motivate you, the other will control you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

constant pressure: the key to getting ahead

Today, I talked with a very frustrated and upset man. This conversation was result of my calling a guy every day for a week. Not that angry was focused on me or anything, but the whole thing overall was a testament to a primary rule getting things done in the church: constant and steady pressure. You have to be able to keep up and keep focused long enough for the situation to own itself up to you. So now, I only have one website to worry about, have convinced enough people that the current site cannot handle all the wonderful things I plan for it, and I am suddenly more busy than ever.
I also learned last night that the church I grew up in decided to sell it's building and move to a new location. What a church I work in when we make so many decisions based on the financial reports, eh?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Your Choice: Pick it up or not

A couple of my native American Friends explained the concept of picking up what others lay down. In a nutshell, it works like this: "I choose (or refuse) to pick up what you just laid down." and "Will you choose (or refuse) to pick up what i just laid down."

It's a conversational and spiritual rule, having to do with choose to be responsible (or not) to what other people feel. As a minister, sometimes I HAVE to be responsible (my choice) for what others feel, it's my calling. BUT, I simply cannot be made responsible for past hurt, or the mistakes of those who came before me. I spent the first year of my service in Southern Ohio spinning my wheels as I tried to make up for the choices of the Directors who came before me. It wasn't until I was able to begin spawning new programs that healing actually took place (from my perspective) so I'm guessing that what i'm about right now, and in a way, what we're all about.

Can you change the past? No. Can you heal the past? Yes, but only by being aware of it as you walk into the future work you have been given. It's Whakepapa ("fakeypapa"), a Maori Native concept of ancestry whereby a person respects, remembers, and learns from their ancestors, keeping their spirits close, while they journey their own road.

So do i choose to pick up what has been put down before me? Not all of it...but I can pick up what I am able to, and only that much. I refuse to allow myself to fall back into workaholism and ubalanced living, and it's been nice to work in a place where people are willing to give me that freedom and that time.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Spinning Tires

I'm working on getting this Diocesan Site up and running again, and i'm not sure if i'm pushing too hard, or not hard enough. I've got emails out to all clergy saying, "hello, i'm here, what do you want from this website?" and am still tracking down old web guy and new web girl to have the old site shut down and the new site opened up to me, respectively.
we'll see how this goes, but i can't seem to escape a general sense that life right now is "not right" and I keep defaulting to a negative, complaining attitude...which annoys me even more.

Also today I had lunch with Ivanne Farr, "the gem lady," and offered to help her with some pro bono design work. (no worries to those regularly are concerned with my giving work away...this will be in trade for training in the jewelry world) I'll be helping with an identity system for Rare Earth Studios, and a possible system for a "Pure Caribbean" network of indigenous fine artists (porcelain, linens, jewelry, ceramics, etc) She's also offered to take me to a store for some food shopping, so io don'thave to keep paying $20-30/day in restaurant food.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Weary of it today...

Last night, i was sitting on the front porch of Missioner's House talking to a friend on the phone. it was raining (it IS hurricane season) and night time. The power had been out for about half an hour all along the valley, and i was just sitting and enjoying the rain in this really strange light.
The rain stops, and I see a guy walking up the street and turn to look at him just as he raises his arm in the air and fires off three shots from the gun I had not seen. He was about 25 ft from me, i could see the orange glow of the muzzle fire, feel the sound waves from the shots, but hardly see anything. So i stand up and walk straight into the house. Within 10 minutes, i hear shots fired from three other parts of Charlotte Amalie.
So this whole thing was pretty good, actually. I learned that when i hear those gunshots, it might just be young guys unleashing a couple rounds just to feel like a badass? It's a whole tougher culture, and one that is so much better than the incessant talking and doing nothing from Ohio.
needless to say, with the power being out and the gunfire, that i didn't sleep much, and haven't done too much today at all...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


So I've been working my tail off today on the Diocesan Website project - critiquing it and trying to find the hosting systems for it. So far i've got two calls into the host provider for the old site to try and bring that down, wrote a new critique of the existing site, and worked more on bringin the USVI into the Episcopal Networks for Children's, Youth, and Young Adult ministries.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Day one

Today is my first day at work, and i have been wrestling with blogs all, finally succumbing to the reality that blogger is just the easiest way for me to have all the little thing i want as easy as possible...
Once I get a design set up for this (and for this will be the best place to access all things Youth Ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands, and all things Roger Speer as I work giving whatever support I can to youth ministry here in the USVI.

Good luck?