Monday, May 30, 2011

Pastor’s Corner January 2011

Pastor’s Corner January 2011

The turn of the pages on the Calendar to bring in another year also means folks are talking about the New Years’ Resolutions they made, and in some cases already broke. I discovered long ago that I could make a few, but to hold myself too firmly to the fire merely meant I would get burned. I set high goals, and got frustrated when they did not pan out. So some years I would skip the New Year’s Resolution altogether. Then I began to understand that some flexibility could carry me a long way. Set the goal, establish your desires, and then be flexible, on timeline, achievement, talent, etc. This wasn’t a matter of cutting corners, but adjusting along the way.

In the church, I realize many of the same principles are always in play. We need to be flexible, adjust, and ride the waves of good fortune, and the riptide of frustration. As one friend put it to me once again recently - “This too shall pass”. This phrase is purported to have been one of the real pieces of wisdom imparted from the lips of Solomon, and inscribed on one of his rings, for the reminder that the good times will pass away and we need to enjoy them all the more, and the bad times too shall pass away, so that we may see a brighter day ahead.

In past years I have had to outline particular goals for the Staff Parish Relations Committee, or for my supervisor. I know that in the local congregation both are the larger congregation. SPRC serves as a sample of that congregation and everyone is supervising what I do according to their own standards and expectations. I suppose it only fair that I share with all of you the goals I have, and have had since I arrived at St. Andrew UMC.

-Trust: As is so often the case, nothing of substance can happen without trust. Now, there are a few little tricks of the trade I have been taught over the years; like as a pastor you get your first three “wishes” in a church, after that all bets are off (not sure if I ever used all of them). This comes about because the new church wants to trust you, and has hope that the “wishes” you are making will be the magic bullet to solve all the problems of that church. Trust comes in making what my wife, Anna, would call “pie-crust promises: easily made and easily broken”, just to follow through and do them. Sometimes it means keeping promises that were made by someone else, and never completed. And, it means making big promises and keeping those as well. We have had many instances of this, from completing name badges that were commissioned long before I arrived, to setting a series of preferences for what the pastor (me) would preach, and carrying that out. We have some that are still in process, like completing the technology upgrades to the church for all to have better access, repairing the roof of the Social Hall and Classrooms, and restoring the finances of this church to completeness and invoking the next word:

-Transparency. We want to be clear about what we take in and what we spend, and show all of our finances with clarity and with accuracy. But, there is more to a church than financial transparency, and one of the deepest challenges to any community is the transparency of its members with one another. I have tried to provide an example of this (this newsletter article being just one such example) through my recounting of facts and foibles, successes and failures before the congregation, whether that is from the pulpit, through electronic communication such as Facebook or Twitter, in print, like my blog or the newsletter, and with my covenant group. Transparency and trust go hand in hand. Trust without transparency leads to devastation and destruction, transparency without trust leads to defamation and devaluation. We build a base of trust and provide transparency to establish a long-term viability to the program and ministry, as well as the individual witness of those in the local church, and the local church itself to the community in which it serves.

-Truth. As noted above, truth involves telling the complete story of oneself and of the church. When we are afraid, we hide information, and keep people from helping us find real and effective opportunities to solve those issues and problems we have, as persons and as community. There is another truth in play for me as well. I have seen several laments over the past years about what we can tell the congregation about the Bible. the general idea is that we cannot tell the congregation about the Bible, or the truths that are evident, because it would obscure the capital “T” Truth (God/Jesus/Gospel) for them. I try to offer the truth at every turn, even if it challenges our current notion of what the scriptures say. I struggle with the places where it says things I do not like, or agree with, and where it seems to say something different than what I thought I read elsewhere in scripture. I open myself to being wrong each time I read scripture, about what I thought I knew, or even making a wrong turn in what I think I discover in this reading. I have found that this vulnerability allows me to be more transparent, and allows God greater room for Truth to invade my very being, from my words to my actions and to the perception of me, which helps me to transition.

-Transition is that state of change which is neither here nor there. The common phrase, “the only constant is change” reminds me that we are ever in transition, from one phase of life to another. I came from an appointment at Ojai UMC where I was there for a one-year appointment. [Truth is, all appointments in the UMC are one-year appointments. We are appointed one year at a time from July 1- June 30 of the following year] At Ojai UMC, I had the privilege of working with that congregation to complete their vision statement.They were transitioning from what they had been over the last 50 years to what they would yet become, and the vision helped lay the foundation for the how and why of what they would become in their future. Prior to my appointment at Ojai, I followed a beloved pastor in a church who had been burned out of his home at the parsonage, and where the church was dealing with the loss of community and homes during the Old Fire of 2003 in San Bernardino. My penchant for telling the truth got me in some hot water when I told that congregation 2 months into my time there that I was their “transition pastor”, and that “whether they were transitioning to me or to someone else was yet to be seen”. Transition is that space that is uncomfortable because there is obvious need for change, or has been dramatic upheaval in the community at large, but where the future is yet undetermined and needs to be fleshed out and created. From this seeking and discovery I use the tools at hands - the gifts and graces of the individuals in the church, the assets the church can bring to bear, and the needs of the community. Transition is that time of discovery. We are still seeking the answers to all of these questions, and even when we find the baseline for each of these categories they will need to be reassessed on a regular basis because “the only constant is change”.

-Transformation: I leave this for last, but the reality is that this is the first goal. The other areas I have named are all there to help create space for Transformation. And the reality is that “the church” in any form, let alone the form it takes at St. Andrew UMC, is here because God has already transformed people and the very order of creation by the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ, and the existing relationship God had with Israel. Transitions help us to move through those spaces where we are neither here nor there, but transformation is what arrives on the other side. Our small transformations, such as how we interact with a certain individual in a given moment, or how we choose to spend our money, or whether we are going to sing with gusto to the hymnody, all are part of a larger transformation. The true Transformation is what we have become in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are challenged in each moment to allow God’s rule to guide us and not our own. When we all gather together and claim the name of Jesus Christ, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us, the “church” as a gathering of people in a certain time and space can become something far more powerful than the sum of its people, the assets they bring to bear individually (wallets) and corporately (walls [of the church buildings]). The transformations effected are those of individuals and churches, and most especially communities. If we are truly living according to God’s transforming power, then the principalities of this world cannot stand against us, and God’s Kingdom will come on Earth as it is in Heaven. To that end, I seek to make adjustments in my attitude, and my actions, and sway people according to the understanding of Truth I share, but more deeply the power of the Holy Spirit given opportunity to act in my life, and the openings to do so in yours. God is faithful, even when we are not. We take each moment as it is given to us, to begin to find a solid unity of people and purpose for God’s action which will change and transform the world around us into the new Heaven and new Earth promised in Jesus Christ.

I hope that laying my goals out before you, adds another level of transparency to our relationship. At the end of it all, what I want most is for meaningful relationships to translate into more meaningful relationships, beginning with those who are immediate family and church friends to those who are further from us, in walks of life, in location, and in understanding. We want to challenge one another to have a deeper relationship with the God who named us, and sent his son Jesus Christ into the world, knowing that would not be enough and sending the Advocate, the Holy Spirit to abide within each of us. May we transform the world, because we have chosen to listen to the truth of the Gospel, and been willing to transition through the difficult times, transparent with one another, building trust along the way.


David Camphouse

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pastor's Corner February 2011

Pastors Corner February 2011

Recap and preview.

During the first few months I was here at St. Andrew UMC I asked a few questions about how we do things, and what we want to be doing. You all told me about all kinds of things, from money to maintenance, worship to outreach and beyond. We have worked on all of these, and are continuing to do so, and I think I have done a pretty good job of recounting the stories of what we have done with money, maintenance and outreach through the telling of “One More”, as told in the January Voice newsletter, and in more complete detail in the Pastor’s report for Charge Conference 2010. However, we set some very particular goals for what we wanted to be doing in worship. I heard from you some of the areas of interest, and wrote them down. I want to give you a bit of a recap of what we have already covered, and what the plan is to cover the other topics and scriptures you asked to learn more about in the years ahead of when we did that survey during worship.

After talking with our youth and boiling down the requirements for a “church” to exist to three simple things - Something to worship, worshipers, and the act of worship itself. I think that is the core of what we want to do. We want to be worshipers worshiping the One to be worshiped, the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are definitely aided in the process by the fact that God exists, and is longing for us to gather and worship together. We gather in many different forms and locations throughout any given week, but it is the Sunday morning gathering, where we have tried to take what you all presented as areas of interest, form worship themes around them, and develop our acts of devotion accordingly, in music, prayers, discernment (by way of meditative thoughts and the sermons) and service (we move from the time of worship into more active service in the week ahead, as well as the service we provide as ushers, musicians, worship leaders, and technicians).

We began each of the last two years with celebrations of Epiphany (the time when we remember the coming of the Magi to the manger), and a baptismal remembrance service, where we take the water to ourselves and accept our calling to ministry. 2012 will follow in this same pattern. 2010 then started at the beginning as we covered Genesis, with particular focus on the creation stories, Abram (Abraham), and Joseph (and his amazing coat). With Easter arriving early last year on the first Sunday in April we covered traditional texts for Palm Sunday and Easter, and followed that up with a series on Death and Resurrection, in the healings of Jesus and the Disciples, and a look back at the death of David and Bathsheba’s firstborn child. We recalled the birth of the church with Pentecost, and looked at the deeper meaning of what it means when we say we worship a Triune God, on Trinity Sunday. The Summer months took us back into more traditional Lectionary texts, and brought out some of our brightest stars to shine as guest preachers, hearing from David Seibert, Chris Odell, and Dave Goss. To be fair, we also heard from Brad Jones and Scott Davis during the year, and Dave Goss helped lead us into the journey’s of Paul, after an introductory sermon, Dave came to share about the power of conversion. In October, we examined the power of the Exodus story, leading to Christ the King Sunday, and into Advent.

All of that covers where we began in 2010 to the current time. We are currently looking at the Psalms and discerning some of the many facets of what it is we can learn from the Psalms in 2011. Following Ash Wednesday we will delve into the Spiritual Gifts, and Spiritual Gifts discernment. As the year quickly speeds away we enter into Holy Week, celebrating Passion Sunday, and Easter, followed by a series on the Book of Judges, which seems appropriate after we have just discovered our spiritual strengths to find out how the spiritual strengths of the Judges were also those things that led to their demise, and how to care for our gifts to not fall into that same trap. We will look at the development and use of Spiritual gifts during this time, and realize we are at the doorstep of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and into a Summer tumble through some of the larger characters of the Old Testament, Ruth, Esther, and David. The plan for the Fall is to see how Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament. Before we enter into the wonder of Christ the King, Advent, Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord, we will take one last look back at the Old Testament for a story request from the Prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel with Elijah.

2012 will offer up a look at Leviticus, and several of the Creation Stories of scripture, including Genesis and John, with Ash Wednesday stashed in between. Palm/Passion Sunday leads us right into Easter, and what appears to be a “Pastor’s Discretion” segment in the preaching schedule, just before Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. The Summer will find us perusing the many parables of Jesus, before we look at the Spiritual Disciplines (for those who like to get a jump start on things, you may want to pick a copy of Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline to read before we hit the Fall of 2012). We then conclude the Calendar year with Christ the King, and Advent.

All of this is to alert you to where we have been, what we have ahead, and the reminder of the covenant we share, to develop our discipleship through the learning and understanding of scripture. I realize that for some my style of preaching is a little different. I am not one who is prone to giving answers, but rather raising questions. My hope is that you will leave with more questions than you came in with on a Sunday morning, and that that energy to discover and challenge those questions will spur you into action for Christ and the Gospel. In that way, many of my sermons feel like they are left right at the part where I “just get going”. My desire is to leave that sense of energy and unfulfilled promise as part of your entry into a new week.


David Camphouse

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Some Favorites

I am trying to get back into some blogging, which may or may not mean I post anything original. Just some stuff that gets my attention.

Some links for today

Campings Calendar via Nakedpastor

Towel Day via Neatorama

Huguette Clark dies and leaves a huge estate; now what? via The Independent and Yahoo News

Peace y'all

Monday, May 23, 2011

Worship Thoughts

Pastor’s Corner June 2011

A brief review of our worship service will be our topic this month. I want to take a moment to explain some of the theology that goes into our service as it is, and some of the personal choices I have made in how to transact those theological moments.
830AM Service



Songs of Praise

Children’s Moment


Opening Prayer

Scripture Reading


The Lord’s Supper


1020AM Service

Order of Worship



























THE LORD’S PRAYER (in unison)






The preparatory time for worship in both services is a little varied.

During first service, we begin with the announcements, clearly placing these outside of worship. This is more confused in the 1020 service with announcements, which are not worship, and the time of greeting one another firmly placed in the allocation for praise and prayers. The Call to Worship is effected through the responsive reading in the 1020 service, and the music of praise and worship in the 830 service.

In the traditional order of service for a church service the greeting would come at the end of the service, as an addition to the benediction, with those who have gathered unsure of where they might be next, as they may have been interlopers present for a psingle service, or under some scrutiny for their faith, and thus subject to persecution which would prevent them from participating during the next service.

This time obviously breaks the flow of a worship service, and can make it difficult to bring the people back together, which we know to be the case in both of our services, using music and the children’s message to drag people back to their seats to continue to participate.

This brings me to the question of a children’s message. What I find interesting about this time, is that it is used in churches to do a variety of things. Some churches use it as a “dumbed down” version of the sermon, because the “kids” won’t understand what the pastor has to say. In some churches, like ours, it is used as a prelude to dismissal, where we tell the children that they are to be different and separated from the rest of the church body. The children’s message is a new advent in the church, implemented during the 1900s. Prior to that children were in the entire service with the entire congregation, to learn how to be Christians, to be a reminder to the entire congregation that we are all children in the eyes of God, and as a social trainer to help children learn how to act in the rest of society. The old adage from Africa, “it takes a village to raise a child” was the premise of the children in service. Kids were cared for by the entire congregation during the service. The other alternative, which was what some churches turned to was that the children were not in church at all, set apart for Sunday School during the worship service, or just allowed to be elsewhere to play games or be with other kids.

The location of the offering is always a question. As ultimately, the offering is to God, with the church as the means by which it gets conveyed. In true worship, our offering is given not in response to what the church is or is not doing according to our desires, but given to God as a means of sharing our adoration and praise for the God who has already given us everything, and freely so, including our salvation with the gift of His only Son Jesus Christ. The placement before the sermon signifies this more clearly, and after the sermon it is seen as a means of responding, in action, to the very message of the Gospel communicated in the Sermon.

The Scriptures we use for worship are also a little contrived, as we have not been following the Lectionary of late. The Lectionary is designed to help tell the story in thematic ways, with an Old Testament lesson, a Psalm, an Epistle (letter) and a Gospel Lesson (from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John), and intended to help teach the scriptures, though it does leave many passages out, and rarely deals with the troublesome or difficult passages of scripture. Our current method of selecting scriptures for worship comes from the scriptures you asked to hear more about, either because you felt you knew them well, and wanted a chance to share that wonder of Scripture with the rest of the congregation, or because it was a passage or segment of scripture that was pretty fuzzy and unclear to you, and you wanted to learn more. I have also thrown in a few other pieces to help stay with the Seasons of the church (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost) and affirm the traditions of the church by these means, as well as a few passages that have been “Pastor’s Discretion” with the idea that for the good of the congregational life of St. Andrew UMC we might need to review or learn more about a particular topic or passage of scripture.

In the Order of Service I have chosen to explain our service and the meanings thereof, I also picked a service that has Communion. Insomuch as the Sermon is designed to communicate God’s message in words of the Gospel, and the good news of Jesus Christ, Communion is a “Tangible Sign of an Inward and Spiritual Grace” which was freely offered in Jesus Christ. John Wesley called this a “Converting Ordinance”. If the purpose of a sermon is to encourage change in the life of the congregation member, through the hearing of the message, then Communion effects real change in the Spirit of the individual. The “Converting Ordinance” then is to say that if someone is being pulled to come to Communion and participate God has already effected a change in the person, and in the moment of participating in Communion, the individual affects the mantle of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and is made a Christian, and begins to live the life God has called us to live out the Great Commandment, “To love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind; and to love your neighbor as yourself”.

We follow the effected and affected changes of the worship, transmitted through the Call to Worship, Prayers, Sermon and Communion, with the Benediction to send us out in ministry to the world. At this point, our worship must really begin - with purpose and practice, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, in thought, word and action, according to the grace given us by the Holy Spirit, in the name of God.

I realize that I may sound overly harsh in my assessment of the way in which we do worship. The reality is that this is the form of worship we have learned and decided to participate. I want to acknowledge that I am very open to doing worship in the way of St. Andrew UMC, and many other forms as well. I have a hard time with High Church worship, with stalwart traditions, as most of us are, because it is not a particularly participatory worship, nor was it intended to be. Worship in the traditional forms, especially under the traditional Latin Mass, was for the priest to direct the attentions of the people to God, and the understanding of the language used was not as important as the fact that God was being worshiped properly.
It is from some of this background that I dissected the worship styles we use at St. Andrew. We tend toward the “Isaiah model” of worship which concludes with the sermon, and the idea that the sermon should be driving people out to action, and is the culmination of the work of the Spirit in the acts of worship preceding it.
I realize that there are a variety of theological and practical understandings for the way in which we do ministry, and practice worship. God is faithful in all of them. The various forms we use are tools for helping direct us, and are derived from the initial forms of worship established in Jewish Synagogues and the Temple many years ago, sustained through the ages since by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, as well as the various denominations we have formed since. It is in the amalgam of people we have worshiping with us, that the things that are familiar are utilized and developed to create our current Order of Service here at St. Andrew.
I also want to acknowledge that I do not know it all. If you have insights or knowledge to share with me about the forms we use in our worship, please do so. I will do my best to learn and understand even more deeply from the richness of backgrounds we bring to this time together as we offer ourselves back to God for the many wonderful things God has already given to us.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Important Reminder

The art of leadership

Go to the people. Learn from them. Live with them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. The best of leaders - when the job is done, when the task is accomplished - the people will say, we have done it ourselves.

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because they want to do it.

Lao Tzu - Dwight D. Einsenhower (via Emergent Village)