Sunday, May 03, 2009

notes on the great 50 days

Once I am beyond Easter, there is a sense, to borrow the phrase of the Dixie Chicks, that I am in "wide open spaces". And so a rambling post about goings on.

1. We had a great Confirmation service this morning. It is the culmination of a process of a yearlong process, and my primary intersection with it is a) a retreat and b) individual conversations with them. We make a big deal about this being their profession of faith (personal) and the link with being a part of the body of Christ through membership (social). And that it is not graduation from church!

2. I officiated at a neat wedding this past weekend in Winston-Salem, where I served prior to Charlottte. The wedding was at the Brookstown Inn in Old Salem, which is the Moravian area below downtown, it was outdoors, and the rains stayed away just long enough to have the service. A really nice couple, whom I enjoyed connecting with. And in the bargain we were able to see a few friends (but not all of our friends!).

3. I gave a talk on "The Shack" at the United Methodist retirement community in Charlotte (Aldersgate) on Friday. It was fun to get back into the book, which a) I don't think is the best novel I have read in recent memory [that might be Gilead, or Home, or Jayber Crow, but b) I do think is an excellent way of getting into the issues of providence and forgiveness.

4. I also met with a young woman in our church who is going to be involved in a mentoring program in the Dominican Republic next year (2009-2010). I am moved by the young adults in our community who want to give some of their life to service. It is a pronounced trend, for which I can only thank God.

5. A few years ago I wrote a text, " A Hymn for Resurrection People", which has been placed in several musical settings. Two years ago a friend here, Greg Cagle, arranged and recorded it. He is an excellent musician. We have made cds of the song, and copies are available for $5, with all proceeds going to a microcredit initiative in northern Haiti. For more information email me at kcarter [at] Or send $5 to Providence UMC 2810 Providence Rd Charlotte NC 28211, with a return address so that the cd can get to you.

6. I am really getting into Lost. It makes all the sense in the world if you let go of the concept of chronological time. As Edwin Friedman once said, time is not like a telescope through which you see into the past or future. Time is more like a collapsed telescope in which all time, past and future is in the present. So hang in there with it----it will be over soon enough---and don't get hung up on making sense of time travel.

7. On a family note, our daughter Liz is working and flourishing in Beijing, our daughter Abby is coming home from college next week (yeah!) and Jacques is also coming home from college, to be with us for a time before he goes on for the summer to see his parents in Cap Haitien. Meanwhile, Pam and I are thinking ahead about the mountains and July.

8. I have been writing a great deal lately. I was asked to write seven blog posts for Theolog, the website of the Christian Century. These began on Easter Sunday, and conclude on Ascension of the Lord. I also wrote several pieces for Lectionary Homiletics. And I finished a longer work that will be the Lenten study for 2010 (United Methodist Publishing House). It is already being advertised, if you receive a Cokesbury catalog.

9. I did see a few hours of the Quail Hollow Championship here in Charlotte. I am not a great fan of golf (I know this destroys the stereotype of the large membership church pastor in the south), but it is fun to walk around and take in the culture. At one point I was a few feet from Tiger Woods, who is remarkable.

10. My initial and very tentative thoughts about the Proposed Constitutional Amendments for United Methodists: some I like, some I can live with or without, some I am opposed to. The whole matter resurfaces our fundamental divisiveness and leads to the realization that we are almost "constitutionally incapable" of making decisions at the general church level.

11. I have been reading the issue of First Things that is devoted to the memory of Richard John Neuhaus. Neuhaus is more political conservative than me, and at times I thought his head was in the sand in the midst of the priest abuse scandals (labeling many who wanted to focus on it as anti-Catholic). But, I must confess: Neuhaus was an American prophetic, having marched with Martin Luther King, and sensing a natural progression of social inclusion in his advocacy for the unborn. I regret a comment I made on a prior blog about the one time that I met him; he comes across, in the issue of FT as, yes, forceful and even arrogant at times, but also pastoral and personal in his concern for others. His Freedom For Ministry is a classic text on pastoral work. I commend this issue for anyone who wants to understand what has been happening in North American Christianity over the past decades, especially the interface of religion and politics. Neuhaus really does defy the sterotypes we so easily ascribe to him.

12. Pam and I saw the movie Pray The Devil Back To Hell, which is about the women's struggle for peace in Liberia. We will be traveling there in August, at the invitation of Bishop John Innis, and one of the Liberian members of our congregation had urged me to see this movie. It is a moving documentary, and if you are interested in social change, or the cause of peace and reconciliation in our world, or the experiences of our brothers and sisters in Christ in a desperate circumstance, you will love this movie.

Thanks for stopping by, and God's blessings in these 50 days!


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