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Thursday, April 27th, 2017
2:09 pm - Roll your dice and move your mice

I had a phone interview with Derek White, a fellow UM pastor in Tennessee, who does a lot of ministry with the gaming community. No, not the gaming-as-in-gambling community -- the gaming-as-in-fantasy-role-playing-and-war-games community. You know, the people with the polyhedral dice, or who dress up in funny costumes at GenCon, or who do LARPing on your local college campus. To paraphrase John Wesley from the point of view of Dungeons & Dragons™, "the planes of existence are my parish."

Derek has been a reader of this blog for several years. He wanted to talk with me about the early days of D&D; specifically, the crazy days c. 1980, when I became, for a while, almost the only clergyman in America known to have said something nice about fantasy role-playing games. Derek was surprised to learn that our entire gaming group that began meeting in the late 1970s was made up of clergy/seminarians and their families. We didn't think we were doing anything odd.

Anyway, the relationship of religious people -- and religious leaders, specifically -- to the gaming hobbyists has been a fraught one over the years. But people are people, and people need Jesus. We who have been called to round up the strays find those strays everywhere we go, and we try to lead them home from wherever they are.

I haven't had much to do with the hobby for many years now, though my children continue to play many kinds of games, and I know other clergy gamers here and there. Fantasy games show up occasionally as topics on this here blog, and probably will continue to do so, along with theology and church politics, Scouting, language and literature, history, and general piffle. I will certainly continue blogging in retirement (this is to relieve those who have expressed concern that I'm going to drop off the face of the earth and never be heard from again).

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Sunday, April 23rd, 2017
8:27 pm - LJ 18th anniversary

#mylivejournal #lj18 #happybirthday

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8:07 pm - My church newsletter column for May
The Wordsmith's Forge

A brief recap of my Sunrise Service meditation: I began by noting C.S. Lewis, who said that people tend to assume that we recommend Christianity to them because we think it will be good for them. This makes us look like busybodies, salesmen, or scolds, depending upon how we present our faith. But this is a fundamental error. We do not recommend Christianity to people because we think it will be good for them. We recommend Christianity to them because we think it is true.

If the Christian message is true, then it describes the most important thing that ever happened in the whole, long history of the world, and it is thus the most important news ever heard. This is why we are so urgent in our recommendation of it. But if Christianity is not true, then it is of no particular importance at all — a mere hobby for those who like that sort of thing.

And the linchpin of the Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This is the validation of everything Jesus said about himself, about God, and about us. As St. Paul put it, “if Christ be not raised,” then none of this matters much. The scoffers, meanwhile — those who think we want them to be Christians because it will be good for them — want to argue with us about the Bible, particularly the creation, or Jonah and the whale, or some other “gotcha” passage that they think unbelievable. And, they want to make fun of or deride our behind-the-times morality. Their cartoon impression of the Bible and of Christian doctrine may, in fact, be what some Christians think Christianity is, but all too often it only exists in the minds of the well-educated ignoramuses who scoff at us.

I am not an uncritical reader of the Bible. I’m pretty sophisticated, and I understand metaphor, I understand context, I understand point-of-view. I understand science, too. I do not subscribe to the cartoon version of Christianity that the scoffers think I do. On the other hand, since I am willing to believe that Jesus came back from the dead — really dead, not just “sort of dead” — then I’m also willing to take a miracle or two on faith.

I any case, I have found it important over the years to remember that I am not engaged in arguing with people over how they should live their lives, or selling people on how much happier they would be if they adopted my values. I am saying that I have discovered the truest thing ever said; and if it is so, then that has implications for everything, including my behavior and my happiness — and theirs.

Making up your own religion can be fun. It’s like a quiz show in which everything you say is correct. Unfortunately, the prizes are all in your mind, too. If you want real rewards, though, then you have to find out what answers are actually true.

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5:51 pm - Doin' the Lord's work
I was up betimes this morning. Made it out to the camporee at Rogers Quarry just after 7:00 a.m. There was a beautiful balsamic moon when I left the house, and by the time I was there, its light had vanished in the light of the rising sun. I walked about, met our Scouts cleaning up their campsite.

Chapel was at 8:00 a.m. Since it was a Geology Merit Badge weekend at the quarry, and the Scouts had toured the limestone galleries underground and all, I talked about Karst topography. The Holy Land is all limestone, too, which leads to caves and other features -- such as Artesian wells. The spring bubbling up from the ground by itself is the picture Jesus gives us when he talks about "living water" springing up within us. So I preached to them about Jesus and the woman at the well at Sychar.

Then it was back to the old home parish. This Sunday After Easter, I did one of my semi-regular musical sermons. I taught them how to do plainsong for starters, and we chanted Psalm 95. Then I sat down at the piano and cranked out a couple of modern things. Ended up with my guitar, singing "On the Wings of a Dove," which I can still hear Ed Mellett singing at Pleasantville forty years ago.

After lunch and a nap, I went over to Dick Carl's, and we started sawing up some oak for the stained glass window frames. Finally, we were both fatigued, and he was afraid I'd get careless. I realized I couldn't push any more, too. So we called it a day. I need to get another small piece of oak to finish the fershlugginer apsidal window frame. Anyway, it's progress.

Just another day in the vineyard.

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Thursday, April 20th, 2017
11:44 pm - More possibilities to submit to Conference
Maybe I should have people vote on which pic to present for the retirement review at Conference. (I guess I had more pix of myself than I thought. Most of these were obviously taken by other people.)Collapse )

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11:00 pm - Nah, maybe not
I don't actually have a lot of pictures of myself, since I normally take the pictures I save and post, and I don't do "selfies," much. But here's one someone else took of our Venturers on Baldy.

120720f huzzah

Philmont, 2012
Our happy Crew salutes their Advisor atop Mt. Baldy

I rather like it, but I didn't think it was quite what the BOOM was looking for when they asked for ministry highlights. Still, if they'd like to turn the retirement snoozer into a goodie reel, I could probably come up with some other zingers.

For instance . . .

Ready for anything

Scafell Pike, 2005
Note the gaiters. Very English.

Pirates of Lake Tanganyika

Pirates of Lake Tanganyika
Trip of the Millennium, 2001

Adult supervision

Adult Supervision
Early Council Venturing Event

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9:52 pm - Through the years
The Board of Ordained Ministry is asking for me to send them some pictures: one, from my very early ministry; one, from a high point in ministry along the way; and one, a more-or-less current head shot. So, here they are, or at least, what I could find.

Up against the wall

Early ministry
This shows me and Deanne at Easter, 1976, I believe. I was completing my first year in seminary, and I would be appointed as a student pastor that summer.

Hail, hail, the gang's all here!

Philmont 2010
Standing with the rest of our happy Crew atop Mt. Phillips. I'm on the far right.

godandme ARTone

Recent head shot
This is me teaching God and Me with 1st-3rd graders a couple years ago. It's not too bad a likeness.

Ministry Record

February, 1975 Entered Asbury Theological Seminary
June, 1976 Appointed Pastor of Pleasantville, Mt. Moriah, and Bethlehem UMCs
June, 1977 Ordained Deacon
June, 1978 Graduated M.Div.; appointed Pastor of Mt. Pleasant UMC, Terre Haute
June, 1979 Ordained Elder
January, 1980 Appointed Minister of Youth and Evangelism at Gobin Memorial UMC, Greencastle
June, 1981 Appointed Pastor of Calvary UMC, Indianapolis
June, 1984 Appointed Pastor of Odon UMC
June, 1986 Appointed to attend graduate school; also, Pastor of Cass and Long's Chapel UMCs
June, 1988 Graduate school at Indiana State University; no pastoral appointment
January, 1991 Appointed Interim Pastor of West Terre Haute First and Bethesda UMCs
June, 1991 Graduated Ph.D.; appointed Pastor of Lynnville and Spurgeon UMCs
September, 1995 Appointed Pastor of Aurora UMC
June, 1998 Appointed Pastor of Tanner Valley UMC
July, 2006 Appointed Pastor of Ellettsville First UMC
June, 2017 Will retire following Annual Conference

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Wednesday, April 19th, 2017
6:24 pm - The pile of boxes is steadily growing
Packing to move is always a weary and depressing affair; however, packing to retire is even worse. Always up to this point, I've looked at all the stuff I own and thought about how I might enjoy it or use it in the next stage of my career. Now, I'm thinking what I'll do with it for the rest of my life.

It's kind of like making your will and setting your affairs in order. There's a deep sadness to it. I'm sure once I actually retire, I'll find life opening out again -- at least, I hope I will -- but right now, there is a funereal quality to preparing to move.

I have just the two children, and they don't particularly need any of my stuff. I have just the two grandchildren, and while I'm saving a lot of this for them, I'm not sure they'd miss it if I just burnt most of it. But then, I'm not ready to go sit in a single room and stare at the TV, either.

So, I'm believing in life after retirement the way I believe in life after death. I don't know what it'll quite be like, but I believe -- even without evidence -- that it will be good and fulfilling. Meanwhile, I don't want to just sit down and wait for Jesus to do something. I have this picture of us living in the house I have imagined for so long, surrounded by not only the things I treasure, but the people I treasure. And time to enjoy everything to the full.

Lord, may it be so.

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Monday, April 17th, 2017
2:33 pm - The glasswork is completed
I thought I would finish the painting details on the last window of our stained glass project this morning. To my disgruntlement, I found that my paintbrushes have disappeared from the studio/Venturers' room. Aargh. So, I put "buy paintbrushes" on my to-do list for this morning and nabbed some while running other errands. This afternoon, I set myself to finish the work.

So, here it is. This is the fourth, and last, window in our huge display. The center window is a boat on the open waters. A small apsidal window above has a dove flying overhead. The legend says, "The Church is the Ark of Salvation." The window on the left has animals in it. The window on the right -- this one -- has people. The animals are one aspect of God's love for his creation; redeemed relationships between people is another. Both illustrate the central legend and title of the work.

All I had to do was paint some minor facial and hand features on the figures. Oh, yeah, and I added the little house in the distance behind the embracing Father and returning Son at the top.


Fourth Window
Redeemed Relationships

And now, we start carpentry! Dedication is set for June 4 in the morning worship service, ready or not. I hope to have the light box built and installed by then. We'll see.

So far, 21 youth and 7 adults have worked on this project, which was initiated and designed three years ago by the boys of my 2014 Confirmation Class.

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Thursday, April 13th, 2017
7:25 am - Fasten your seat belts; it's going to be a bumpy ride
President Trump has been flip-flopping all over the place. Campaign promises, inaugural address visions, senior advisors, are all in flux. What Trump believes and what he does are malleable. But we knew that. At least, those of us who had paid attention to politics for a while knew that; the Trumpkins of various sorts may have persuaded themselves that Trumpism was a fixed star that would guide us to their most-desired destination, whatever that was.

Some of Trump's decisions are going to please conservatives and some are not. But that's not unusual. No president makes even his own loyalists happy all the time, let alone those who are merely along for the ride. I'm just hoping that, on balance, the good outweighs the bad. But whatever the future holds, Trump has already done three things that have justified his election, many times over. The rest of his term may be a nail-biter, but I can't say I regret his winning the presidency. He'd have to do an awful lot of terrible stuff to cancel out the benefits of his assuming the office.

And what are those three things he has done that justify his election?

1. Hillary Clinton is not the President. Progressives want to point to Trump's gaffes and goofs and say, "Don't you regret voting for this man?" Not a bit. The idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency is simply too awful to contemplate. She was, and is, the most corrupt politician in US history. Her policy choices would be equally inept, but ideologically worse. Until you understand just how deep and visceral is the rejection of Hillary by conservatives -- and more than just conservatives -- you cannot understand the election of Donald J. Trump. Every day that I wake up and find that Hillary Clinton is not the President of the United States is a good day; Trump would have to go a long, long way to dim the sunshine that smiles on us.

2. Neil Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court. The actual opinions of Justice Gorsuch are all in the future, and no doubt I will occasionally be disappointed in them. That's the way these things go. But for now, there is no doubt that Trump honored his promise to pick a worthy, originalist, successor to Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia's death changed the dynamic of the 2016 presidential election. Many conservatives held their noses and voted for Trump for this reason alone, and they have been vindicated. I wish the Supreme Court wasn't such a big deal. If it merely did its job, instead of trying to be philosopher-kings, it wouldn't be, and we'd all be better off; however, the progressives have turned the judiciary into coaches rather than merely referees, so it matters who sits on the bench.

3. The Cabinet. The chaos in the Trump administration is basically in the Office of the President, not the Cabinet. Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, et al -- the Gong Show -- may tell you something about the way Trump runs things, or fails to. But Trump's Cabinet picks were surprisingly solid. They may not all work out (all presidents pick some disappointing people, and there is also always change), but they are far better than I would have thought going into the election. I consider them a bonus.

So, I'm rooting for the President's success, though I admit many criticisms of his conduct, his decisions, or his staffing choices. On balance, I'm content -- hopeful, even -- though also preparing for turbulent times. And I pray for our country, rather than throw brickbats.

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Saturday, April 8th, 2017
11:12 am - Do we call it Serendipity or Schadenfreude?
Deanne had a rough day yesterday. Her boot, which she must wear after her fall, has been severely chafing her; plus, walking with a bad right leg means her left leg is taking extra strain and being thrown off in her gait. (How well I know that experience.) She fell asleep in her recliner last night, and didn't wake up to come up to bed. Spent the whole night in her chair.

Meanwhile, I've been taking it slow as well. Slept in a bit, took a late shower, and decided we were between breakfast and lunch, so I'd make breakfast for lunch. So, while Deanne continued to sleep, I whomped up a huge mess of bacon and eggs and toast. I took her a plateful and asked what else she wanted. She replied, to my stupefaction, that she's doing a twelve-hour fast, as she does regularly (news to me). She didn't want to eat before noon.

Well, okay. That left me with an enormous amount of bacon and eggs to eat for my brunch. Beat me up.

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Wednesday, April 5th, 2017
6:58 pm - Inspiration by Deadline
Even as I am still working on putting together Holy Week and Easter stuff, I'm already working on the next set of sermons and worship services. I break the year up into several planning periods and work 6-13 weeks ahead. This next planning period, April 23-June 26, will conclude my active ministry.

So, it's not just my final sermon (tentatively called "The Last Word") that I'm working on. I'm working on my final sermons. Getting my last licks in. Thinking about what still needs to be said. Trying to finish strong, and offer the full counsel of God.

I imagine it'll take a while after I retire for my brain to quit working on sermons automatically. Sermon illustrations shape themselves in my head even as I experience various things. Objects stimulate thoughts to be worked into children's lessons. Hymns, psalms, the ever-repeating pattern of praise, confession, communion has been my life's work. As the journalist and sometime politician Winston Churchill put it, "I live mouth to hand," meaning, I live by talking, writing, teaching, communicating.

The pastoral routine is a matter of week after week, season by season, over and over. Sermons, newsletter articles, reports, lessons. I'm looking forward to a less demanding pace for inspiration. To quote Hebrews out of context, "Nevertheless, there remaineth a rest for the people of God."

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4:39 pm - By request
One of our mommies whose kids are helping on the stained glass project wanted to see pix of my previous art projects at Tanner Valley UMC. Here they are.

My first two confirmation classes (1999, 2000) collaborated on this whole-wall mosaic.

mosaic in fellowship hall

Mosaic in fellowship hall, TVUMC

mosaic detail, left

Mosaic detail, left

mosaic detail, center

Mosaic detail, center

mosaic detail, right

Mosaic detail, right

Two of my later confirmation classes (2004, 2005) cooperated on this stained glass window. It's a Nativity angel. Her name is Megan.

stained glass window

Stained glass window

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Wednesday, March 29th, 2017
1:11 pm - Names
I just read a comment on a website that said that according to Jewish tradition, the wife of Lot was named Edith. I looked this up. She is named in the Book of Jasher, for what it's worth, as "Ado" or "Edith." Does anyone know what form the Hebrew in Jasher takes? Are there multiple, differing citations? Is "Edith" even in the form of a Hebrew name/word?

Whatever the Hebrew original might be, it should be pointed out that the name "Edith" as we know it is anything but Hebrew. It's from Old English Eadgyð. The first element, ead means "possession, riches, happiness, bliss." The second element, guð means "battle." So it could mean, "prospers in battle" or something like that. (That sounds better than "battle frenzy" or "booty," which would be undignified for a royal lady's name, and there were a lot of Anglo-Saxon aristocrats named Edith.)

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Sunday, March 26th, 2017
5:50 pm - Yo-de-lay-de-hoo
Our happy Crew met today to discuss itinerary options for our trip to Switzerland. Plans are firming up. I hope to complete our booking at Kandersteg shortly. Here's how it's shaping up.

Sunday, June 11 Lost day. Meet at church, Kara drives us up to Indy. Take an early flight from Indy to Chicago, then wait around all day for the overnight flight to Europe.

Monday, June 12 Land in Istanbul. Fly to Geneva. Arrive 9:35 at night, collect our luggage. The Crew liked the idea of staying at the Geneva Hostel, so that's our first choice. It's just a mile and a half from the airport. So, I've got those reservations to make. If local UM folks can assist us, it would be with picking us up from the airport.

Tuesday, June 13 Eat breakfast at the hostel. Wander around Geneva for an hour or so, see some sights, maybe grab some lunch. Hop the train about noon or so. Arrive Kandersteg Bahnhof c. 3:30, take the bus to KISC. Check in. Meet some people. Eat dinner. Adjust to jet lag and altitude.

Wednesday, June 14 Camp activities. There are several interesting things to do in camp. Hey, it's a Scout camp. Special program choices on Wednesday evening are either a "Come Dine With Us" program with Scouts from another country or going into the village for "Swiss Culture Night."

Thursday, June 15 Get a packed lunch and hop a bus into Thun. Tour Thun Castle. Shop and gawk. Eat dinner out at a local restaurant. Take the bus back to KISC.

Friday, June 16 Day hike. There are several to choose from, both guided and unguided. There's a hike to a local cheesery that involves tasting as well as touring that I'm interested in. Friday night is International Campfire Night at KISC.

Saturday, June 17 Overnight hike to one of KISC's huts. The Ueschinnen Hut looks like the easier schlep.

Sunday, June 18 Hike back from Ueschinnen. Still have time, probably, for another in-camp activity.

Monday, June 19 Cleanup. Do any activities in the village or Centre that still tickle our fancy. Last chance to shop for souvenirs. Take the train in the late afternoon or evening to Geneva. Check in at the airport, stay overnight.

Tuesday, June 20 Flight leaves at 7:00 a.m. local time. We arrive back in Indy (by way of Istanbul and Chicago) at 11:11 p.m. EDT. Kara picks us up and returns us to Ellettsville.

Other decisions. We decided to take our own backpacking tents rather than rent Kandersteg's tents. To save bulk, we think we can get away with taking daypacks only instead of our backpacks for hiking. The "hut" is really a large lodge, with bunks and blankets. We only need sleeping bag liners for the overnight hike rather than sleeping bags; plus, we need to carry our fresh food with us.

With only four of us going, we can't afford to make a t-shirt; however, we have plenty of leftover t-shirts from previous trips. I gave Alane extra green t-shirts for her and T.J. from the Tenke Jamboree (that we also wore under our beach shirts for Sea Base). That way, if we need to match in Class B, we call all wear our French Guides et Scouts shirts from North Katanga. And, we are planning on designing a Crew neckerchief for this trip, since the neckerchief is the universally recognized Scout wear (and gets you a free bus ride from the train station to the Scout Centre).

We reviewed one quote on insurance for the trip. I'm waiting on a second one. All the financials are coming together nicely. I'm getting really excited. This trip was stuck on dead center for so long, and now it's rolling. We really lucked into the travel deal, too, with a jaw-dropping price on Turkish Airlines. Hope that works out well.

Now, all I've got to do is to get in shape. Yes, I know, round is a shape, but it's not the shape I want to be. I also need to get my Achilles tendon to cooperate, so I can do some conditioner hiking. But it's all good.

This will be my twentieth high adventure trip. Another milestone on the long, long trail a-winding.

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Saturday, March 25th, 2017
7:36 pm - Words, words, words
Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh, that with an iron pen and lead
they were graven in the rock for ever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives . . .

-- Job 19:23-25a

An idle thought seized me today, to divert me from the serious and proper task of typing up my sermon notes: How many words have I written to be preached?

Not, how many words have I preached, for that would be far more than what I've written. After all, I like to re-preach my greatest hits. And then, there are all those camp chapel homilies, the children's lessons, the devotions, all those times when somebody asked me "to just say a few words." I don't have anything down on paper or disk for those things. But, supposing someone, someday, wanted to publish The Complete Works of Arthur Collins, how many words would go into the "Collected Sermons" section?

I did some rough calculations, and I figure I have something over three million words in my sermon files. That's a lot of words from this old, tired wordsmith. But even all those words, plus all the words I've spoken aloud in preaching and teaching the faith once delivered to the saints, all the words I've sung or prayed in public, all the words in all the newsletter articles and columns and blogposts and all the rest that I have written -- have not exhausted the Word.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God. Of him, John said that if everything he did had been written down, the world could not contain the books that would be written. And more: all the books ever written cannot fully explain his nature or exhaust his grace or use up all his power. All of us preachers are trying to fill the ocean a teaspoonful at a time when we offer Christ to our hearers. Yet every drop of him is as pure and full of himself as the whole of him, and all those who stop to drink have their thirst quenched. God be praised.

And now, I've really, really got to get my sermon finished.

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Thursday, March 23rd, 2017
12:40 pm - The window, the window
It's been a while since I've posted any pics of our progress on the stained glass project. We are working on the last of the four windows now. I hope to be done with glass work by Easter; then we turn our attention to carpentry. We're aiming at a June 4th dedication.

Making progress

Making progress

The glass pieces on the top panel aren't for that panel. They're actually the rough-cut pieces for the other hand holding the chalice in the middle panel.

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Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
12:04 pm - My $0.02 worth
As The United Methodist Church lurches ever more painfully toward its next encounter with itself -- meaning, the report of the Commission on a Way Forward and the probable called General Conference to follow it -- various leaders are expressing what they think we should do. They're also saying where they stand, and what they find non-negotiable. Here's where I'm coming from.

As fairly new converts looking for someplace to call home, Deanne and I stumbled across The UMC. My parents -- who literally stomped out of a Methodist Church in 1964 (in the middle of the pastoral prayer, all three kids in tow) -- were reconciling with the UM congregation in the town they'd moved to after I'd gone off to college. As part of the new member curriculum of that congregation, the pastor gave my parents and other participants in the class a pamphlet published by The UM Publishing House. It was the excerpt from the Discipline on our theological standards (sadly, no longer available).

I borrowed that pamphlet and there first encountered The Articles of Religion. I said to Deanne, "I'd like to belong to a church that believed that." We then wandered up the street to First UMC of Terre Haute, Indiana, just two blocks from our first apartment. We crashed the doors cold, and that's where we made our professions of faith a few weeks later. The rest, as they say, is history.

Anyway, my orientation toward The UMC has always been primarily theological. I could have joined any denomination, but I joined this one because of its expressed, official beliefs. Nowadays, it's fashionable to pooh-pooh theology, giving it second place to "mission" -- which, all too often, just means, whatever stuff I like to see the church doing. And certainly, theology without mission, like faith without works, is dead. But mission without theology, works without faith, is not the Gospel, either. And I give primacy to beliefs because they are like a compass. Theology defines north and south -- or, rather, truth and error, right and wrong. Without that compass, you can energetically and effectively head off in the wrong direction, to the great loss of everyone accompanying you.

I had only begun on my journey toward leadership in The UMC when I had to deal with the fact that not everybody on the journey with me actually believed our official statements. I thought that was unfortunate, but so long as the Discipline still officially said, "this is what we believe and teach," then there was no reason for me to leave. I was on the right side of the denomination, not they. If they were in error, it was not my fault. And I would do the best I could to preach and teach the truth, humbly seeking to correct any errors that I might fall into myself along the way.

At any rate, while there was a fair amount of falsity or casuistry concerning our official beliefs, for a long time at least everybody knew what the rules were for clergy. And the rules were enforced, at least in behavioral terms. I might grit my teeth and endure heresy or immorality being preached and taught, but at least the practical rules on what we could get away with doing were reasonably consistent, and consistently enforced by bishops and superintendents.

Nowadays, rules are pretty much whatever you can get away with. We have bishops and superintendents who provide cover for some kinds of disobedience, while being stern and inflexible on other kinds of disobedience. Nobody trusts anybody any more, because those who held our trust have shown themselves capricious and willing to connive at disobedience themselves. This is not a reason for abandoning The UMC, just for reforming it. But certainly, if we don't get a handle on this, we will tear ourselves apart.

And behind everything else, there is still that question of theology. Not just our official standards of doctrine, but also our authoritative statements about values. If, in the end, we change those -- or if we so change our rules that those who uphold our doctrine and values are effectively unable to teach them, or punished for teaching them -- then that change is not salvageable.

The Church is a theological organism. If you change the official theology, it isn't what it was, anymore. And if your rules are not in sync with your official beliefs, then the loss of power consequent upon that will doom any effort at "mission," however you define it. Redefining truth, or allowing different bodies within the Church to define it in different ways to justify different things, is like a cell whose enclosing membrane is breached. The cell dies, and so will the Church.

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Tuesday, March 21st, 2017
2:35 pm - The adventure begins
Well, our happy Crew has finally made up the list of the committed (yeah, we oughta be committed, I'm thinkin') to go on our Switz Blitz adventure to Kandersteg International Scout Centre this summer. The Crew will consist of: Myself, Alane, T.J. and T.C.

Kandersteg has replied that they're ready to talk turkey about dates and services. I have an insurance form in hand to fill out and return to get a quote on trip insurance. I have handed in our application for an International Letter of Introduction to the Council office. There remained only to lock in airline details to proceed to the next step.

The first quote we'd got last November was $1344 apiece. Then, yesterday the cost was $1544! I ran our budget numbers, and they still looked okay, but that was also because the flights were closer together -- we'd lose a day on our plans. Well, I asked back on something, and the cost had risen fifty bucks, and then they were gone. Prices are rising hourly and tickets are disappearing. I said we'd be willing to stretch a day in either direction in order to get a better deal. Well, the agent came back with quite a deal: price-wise, anyway. In terms of getting there, it will be a bit of an OR-deal, I'm afraid. But that's what adventure is all about. We're getting tickets to Europe for $1251 apiece, which just floors me.

The downside is, we'll have two nights without a proper bed just to get there. Here's the itinerary.
June 11 Indy to Chicago 9:50am – 10am
June 11 Chicago to Istanbul 9:40pm – 4:15pm, June 12
June 12 Istanbul to Geneva 7:20pm – 9:35pm

June 20 Geneva to Istanbul 7am – 11:10am
June 20 Istanbul to Chicago 2:10pm – 5:35pm
June 20 Chicago to Indy 9pm – 11:11pm
Note, there's a ten-hour layover at O'Hare. We could probably drive there and skip the first leg, but that means our driver has to return home alone, from Chicago. So, my guess is, we'll just suck it up. Boredom passes, eventually. The other weirdness is, we land in Geneva late, which means we'll have to take a train at night to Kandersteg. A normally three and a half hour trip will stretch to seven or eight hours, dumping us in Kandersteg Bahnhof in the morning. That'll pretty much wipe out doing anything energetic that first day, but we'll be there. And we have a full week to do all the doin's.

Getting home is pretty simple. We take a late-afternoon train back to Geneva (3.5 hours, this time), hop a plane, and it's off we go. Crossing the Atlantic westwards is the Day That Never Ends, but we'll be home and dry here in E-ville by half past midnight, I'd think.

Pray for us.

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Friday, March 17th, 2017
11:27 am - Immigration in the Age of Patrick
Since the Taoiseach has brought up the subject of St. Patrick's immigration status, I thought it would be helpful if I gave the response I'm afraid Donald Trump doesn't know enough history to have given. That's not a slight on the President; most people don't know this history well.Collapse )

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