Saturday, May 22, 2010

Graduation and Ordination

Praise God! I'm done with seminary. This is my graduating class, standing outside of the cathedral in Pittsburgh on May 15.

Next, God willing, I'll be ordained a transitional deacon in Albany, NY, on June 5. I just moved to upstate NY this week to prepare to begin doing church planting work in the city of Troy.

Our church plant will have a blog or e-mail list with regular updates (unlike this blog, which has been very sporadic). I'll post the link to the new blog on this page once it's up and running.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What I'm Learning About Being a Pastor

This summer I've been doing CPE, which stands for Clinical Pastoral Education. It's a program that sort of combines hospital chaplaincy, group therapy and individual soul-searching. I've been serving as a chaplain in the VA, and I've been spending a lot of time caring for very sick and dying people.

I've got two of my ten weeks remaining. Recently, those of us CPE had to write a short paper describing what aspects of our theology inform how we minister. I thought I'd share it here because it reflects a lot of what I'm learning right now. Here it is:

I believe that every human being possesses dignity as God’s created image-bearer – no matter how mutilated and twisted that inherent nobility may become as a result of our universal fall into evil, sickness and death. My understanding of the deep worth of humanity informs my daily ministry by challenging me to “respect the dignity of every human being” (BCP baptismal covenant). At the VA, I have tried to honor every person that I encounter – even if they dishonor me, even if their bodies and minds are broken by illness and the rigors of war.

I believe that I have been freed from sin and death by Jesus Christ, God incarnate who took sin upon himself and crushed it through his death and resurrection. This means that Our Lord established “a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3) for every human being who clings to him for life – a hope that will be consummated when he returns in glory to vanquish the powers of hell forever. This understanding informs my daily ministry by allowing me to convey hope beyond the despair and pain of a given moment. At the VA, I have tried to point to the truth of this gospel hope in numerous ways – by word, by silence, by Scripture, by sacrament, by prayer, by touch, by listening.

God is both transcendent and immanent. His holiness and glory are beyond comprehension, yet he walked with his creatures in the garden, led his people in the desert, took on human flesh and burns within each believer (Romans 8:11). The transcendent God showed his self-giving love, mercy and justice most gloriously by dying in agony on a Roman cross. Because of this, my own ministry is deeply incarnational, but I focus on God’s immanence with the understanding that it cannot be separated from his transcendence. My constant prayer is that I can be a living icon to each person I encounter so that they will not fixate on me – rather, that they will gaze on the God of glory who works through me.

I worship a God who was wounded for me – who, in fact, saved me through his woundedness (Isaiah 53:5) . Because I believe God is constantly healing the wounds of the world, I trust him to work through the broken places of my life to heal others. I believe God is strong in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) and that he uses the painful moments of my life to minister to others (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). In my daily ministry, this belief allows me to minister without having all the answers – to minister in faith, trusting that the Holy Spirit uses even my failings for his purposes. At the VA, it allows me to sit with others in their broken places, trusting that God is at work even there – especially there.

In all of this, I strive to be desperate in my reliance upon the Holy Spirit. Although my truest identity is “child of God” because of what Jesus has done, I am still a sinner who can do nothing apart from the source of life – take a breath, stay sober, be of use to anyone as a chaplain. In my daily life, this means I have to maintain spiritual disciplines (reading Scripture, prayer, worship, community life, observing Sabbath) to keep focused upon the God who is my strength. I have found this is crucial for my ministry at the VA – if I am not keeping focused upon God, I am not effective as a chaplain.

Finally, my work at the VA is informed by my understanding of my call to be a minister of word and sacrament as an Anglican priest. Obviously, God is currently forming me for this work through seminary, CPE, and other avenues. My understanding of priesthood is formed partly by the Biblical images of the shepherd. Although Jesus is the true high priest and only Good Shepherd, he has appointed some disciples as his slaves and agents (John 13:12-17) to act in such roles. One of the Scriptures I turn to in informing my ministry at the VA in this is Ezekiel 34:1-4. God calls his shepherds to feed his sheep, to strengthen the weak, to care for the sick, to bind up the broken and to seek the lost. When I am ordained (God willing), I will have the freedom to administer the sacraments, but my understanding of my charge to serve as a pastor of God’s beloved flock will not change with the laying-on of hands. At the VA and elsewhere, I pray God will give me a heart that is shattered for the lost, the broken, the sick, the weak and the hungry.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Fighting through Seminary -- the Halfway Point

Well, fall semester of middler year at Trinity has come and gone. Actually, half of seminary has come and gone. Yikes!

The last semester was nothing short of an incredible span of months, both intellectually and spiritually. A big part of that was due to my Mentored Ministry class -- a yearlong program where a student works closely with a pastor in a parish. I have been working at Shepherd's Heart Fellowship, an inner city church devoted to serving the poor. This semester has stretched me plenty, both in teaching me how to be a better servant to broken people and in teaching me to rely more and more heavily on God in my own brokenness.

This semester my classes prompted me to spend long hours thinking of, writing about, praying through questions about the poor, about war and violence, about the sacraments, about prayer, about sex and marriage and celibacy, about anger and grief, about ecstatic visions written in ancient Hebrew, about the intense joy found in worship and song, about utter dependence upon God. And I can see even more of Christ as the Healer, the Lover, the Priest who restores us forever to our God.

At this crossroads, I just want to pause and thank God for leading me on this good road. Left to my own devices, it is never a road I would have chosen.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Worship in a church that God made

For the past month, I've been living, working and worshipping in Sequoia National Park through a program called A Christian Ministry in the National Parks ( This picture shows me with some members of our ministry team after our first worship service together.

Basically, all of us work secular day jobs in the park (mine is sort of high altitude fast food), and we do some ministry stuff in our off hours, primarily in the form of leading worship on Sundays for campers/co-workers.

Should anyone who reads this blog want to visit a service, they're at 10 a.m. in the ampitheaters in both Grant Grove and Lodgepole (I'll be at one or the other depending on the can e-mail me to find out on any given week).

More updates to come.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Year One: Complete

Whew! When people said seminary would go fast, they weren't kidding around.

My spring semester ended Thursday when I turned in my Greek II take-home translation exam. On Saturday, Trinity had its graduation at the cathedral in Pittsburgh, and a classmate of my was ordained to the priesthood afterward. I got to serve as a marshall during graduation -- it's kind of like being a liturgical usher (in a purple cassock and white cotta). The photo above is of all of the marshalls (we added the badges and six-shooters).

There's a crazy amount of stuff happening in the next few weeks -- visit with family, cross-country trip to California with my mom, my best friend's graduation and ordination, preaching at my parish in Fresno and beginning a three-month summer job in bivocational ministry in Sequoia National Park. Life is good -- hectic, but good. It's times like this when I wonder how I ever believed so sincerely that the Christian life was dull.

3 Thanksgivings and Prayers:

My head is kind of swimming right now after the last week, but I think I can offer a few tentative reflections on the first year:

* After one year, I can say that Trinity's instructors have tremendous skill in what they teach, and I've observed the great heart they have for every student at the school. I have learned a great deal here, and I pray that I may pass on these teachings faithfully.

* I can say that the classmates I came in with -- and the older students we met when we arrived -- have taught me a great deal about love and humility. I pray that we will continue to sharpen and uphold one another in the coming years.

* And, I can say that God has been faithful in disciplining and loving me. I pray that he'll continue to transform me into the image of Christ, all to his glory.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cool Prayer by Charles de Foucauld

I abandon myself into your hands.
Do with me whatever you will.
Whatever you may do I thank you.
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me and all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul.
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart.
For I love you Lord and so need to give myself,
surrender myself into your hands without reserve
and with boundless confidence
for you are my Father.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

-- Romans 6:10-11