Sort of an open ended question, is it not? I want to begin big and then move downward from famous people to not so famous ones. The late ABC newsman Paul Harvey was always one of most favorite newspeople . It seemed to me that he was almost in a class by himself; at once reporter, commentator and yet never too full of himself. Since he died earlier this year he just has not been replaced. Don’t know what ABC has done to fill he void, doubtful they even could.
On the other hand, Charles Kuralt, North Carolina native and Tarheel alum was host for years of Sunday Morning on CBS as well as other segments here and there. He died in 1997 after hosting the program for 15 years. He may not have been replaced in the strictest sense but he was succeeded by CBS’ own Charles Osgood. And Osgood has put his own stamp on the show while for this viewer retaining the same “feel”. One was replaced, one not.
Our own presidency provides for me the greatest example of replacement or succession,if you will. Potentially, every 4 yeras we replace our chief executive. We have been doing so for over 200 years. Through war( Roosevelt to Truman ) assasination- Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy; death, Roosevelt, Harrison, Harding ; the office changes hands. Often it is controversial. Try the 1876 contest between Tilden and Hayes before you leap to any conclusions.
The system has worked, not always to our liking, but it has worked. Our head of state can be replaced so perhaps we should be careful not to toot, toot our own horn so loudly.
One small personal example, actually one example that was repeated. Way back in 1979, my company prepared to transfer to a somewhat distant locale. Mrs THT and I were quite active in our church and that made our departure more difficult. I will confess to feeling a bit smug about the positions I held and thought how will they do without me. I somehow forgot that the church was 100 years old and, just maybe would carry on. It did.
Fast forward some 13 years. Same church, a bit greater position of leadership and another job transfer. Imagine my feeling when I jokingly told someone in a meeting how easy I wold be to replace. Another person responded, I don’t know about that and actually was not kidding. Proud was I, oh yeah. Again was I replaceable,see previous lesson. Seemed almost as if I were being taught a spiritual lesson to not be overly enamored with myself. Still working on it some, not so much as before.
Not nearly as proud of my humility, either. Ha!
Is it good or bad to be ignored? Unfortunately, there is no always correct answer. There are places to be ignored, where it is even desirable. On the other hand, there are times when been ignored can be irritating or even life threatening. A couple of examples to illustrate. A number of years ago, my wife and were at a Pizza Hut with another couple. We received drinks , had our order taken and then nothing. After what seemed like an interminable wait, one of our friends had had enough. He , gently at first, but with greater insistence began banging on the table with his silverware. Still being ignored, he stood up as if to leave. Miraculously, a waitress appeared from nowhere. Many is the time at a restaurant that I have wanted to mimic his actions. My wife, for some reason would rather us remain ignored rather than being, shall we say, the center of attention. Don’t know why. Of course, being ignored at a restaurant is not as bad as being ignored at an emergency room.
But, for much of my life, I reveled in being ignored. This was particularly true in the dreaded public years. I held tightly to the belief that if I sat in the back and didn’t look at the teacher, he or she would not look at me. I hung on to that feeling into much of my adult years. However, as I began to teach Sunday School, that began to change. After all, if you are the teacher, you do not want to be ignored.
Now, as the years amble along, I fear that I have come full circle. There are times when I admit, I hate to be ignored. There is that word again. So, where does this somewhat negative emotion surface? Of course, at a restaurant, at a family gathering and sad to say, even at church. Let me add a qualifier. I suppose that there are instances when I think I am being ignored are more an example of being too concerned with my own importance, maybe.
So, how might one be ignored at church or how might one perceive such to be true. People walk by without a glance, peoplewhom you think should at least recognize you do not and there are people all around you but you feel alone. Solution, take the initiative. I know, I know, but that is not as easy as it seems although I have used that technique at times. Speak to someone by name who may not actually know you and for a brief instant, there is panic. But this too is not ideal. Suppose I need to work on my own advice from Cheers. Be glad they have come whether or not you know their name.
So, in a matter of 2 days I will attempt to finish my hypothetical church. It has proven to be more interesting and more challenging than I thought. I have been reminded of dear friends from the past and special moments that occurred in the buildings that we like to call church. As I hope to show more so today, those facilities, while important, are not in the real sense, the church. In fact, at least 3 of the places where we have worshipped, one only as guests, the buildings really didn’t even look like a traditional church building.
So, now for the harder part. What kind of worship and teaching and preaching will we have? Up until about 10 years ago, all of our worship had been in traditional Baptist churches in an almost exclusively traditional format. One( my home church) was independent Baptist and the others were Southern Baptist. The formats were very similar, congregational singing, welcomes and announcements, passing of offering plates, special music by choir or soloist, sermon of varying length, and an invitation or altar call for some type of individual decision. Services generally began and ended at about the same time every Sunday. Hymn books were employed, usually a printed order of service and little variation except on special occasions. Of course, attire was also similar, ” dress-up clothes”, one might say. Now, is any of this inherently good or bad. I know well some who would say yes with no equivocation. Having experienced it that way for so long and then moving in another direction I would say that it is neither.
So, my services will a bit of the traditional, an order of service but with flexibility. A definite starting time but no locked in end. If one must leave at noon, so be it. Hymnals are optional, but a mixture of contemporary and more traditional music would be employed. I like some use of technology, video screens etc, but not too much. I really would not have a choir per se, but rather more of a worship team with a mixture of instrumentation. I have written before about worship styles and this is a tough one. My preference, since this is my hypothetical church, leans toward the casual but sans sloppiness.
Finally, with a nod to my Pentecostal brethren ( I have been called a Bapticostal by one pastor of mine) , I would leave room for the working of the Spirit as it is sometimes called. A better explanation can be found on the Assemblies of Godwebsite under beliefs. I realize this area can be one of disagreement in some Christian circles but I would hope not a make or break issue.
I know I do not have a church with all the needed elements, but it hopefully gives us a small glimpse into all the features that come together to make a church. One closing line that I think all churches could use more of; to be place where everyone knows your name and they are always glad that you came- Cheers!
Today we revisited a church that we had not attended in quite a while. A friend of ours had relatives there from Texas, two of whom were going to sing. She asked that we visit and we were most happy to do so. It was quite a good service, met some old friends and some new ones. During the service, i confess that my mind wandered a bit in an odd direction. I wondered what kind of church would come out of a combination of features from the churches with which we have been affiliated. For example, the sanctuary from one church the music program from another and so on.
So, here we go. For technical reasons, I shall include my home church and my wife’s home church even though neither of us were formally affiliated with the other’s church. Bear in mind, these are strictly subjective, based on how these places and I interacted. And if one takes all the parts that assemble, they might form an odd looking church.
I have a great fondness for history and we have been part of 3 old churches with all that means in terms of facilities and grounds etc. I have an affinity for the grounds of FBC Eden, a smallish church sitting on a little hill, that has been in its locale for over 100 years. Each time I see it, it seems somehow unchanged as the first time I saw it.
So, we have a sanctuary, but since my wife prefers the stained glass windows from FBC Salisbury, NC and I like what what we called the praying hands window from Columbus, GA. , those shall be added as well. Already becoming complicated, huh?
Next, we need a library. For that we will somehow mesh those from Eden and Salisbury. Almost forgot, FBC Columbus had what they called a loggia. I had never heard of such, but I and my children loved it. Alas, I could not locate a picture, but I would describe it as an interior walkway witha beautiful courtyard in the center.
Now, for a hard choice, music. I am not musically talented but i love music. We have been blessed to be in several churches with top notch music, both the traditional and the contemporary. This was tough. So, i took the Living Christmas Tree from Columbus, along with a world class organist named Rex Whiddon. The worship team comes from Rowan Cristian Assembly in Salisbury. This was a place where I could literally lose myself in the music and I shall remember it forever. Thanks to Gay Lynn Dckens and those who served with her at that time. Close second to Bob Chambers at New Community Church in Elizabeth City.
As I am getting a bit lengthy, I will conclude tomorrow with more of a people focus. This church stuff is hard, is it not?
I could have a bit of fun with the title, but no,it has little if anything to do with sports or a law firm or politics. It refers to pastors, from my first to my current. You can learn quite a lot about my current pastor who is listed on my blogroll. And I would invite you to do do. As for the others, that will take a little time and space.
I have only referred briefly to my various pastors but thought it might be interesting to do so in more depth. First, some general info and guidelines. The term pastor refers to men who led a church that we attended or I attended as members. As has been the case in recent years we have not officially joined the churches we have regularly attended but these pastors still make the grade.
I was interested to note that there are 11 names but 12 people on my list, on e being there twice, like Grover Cleveland. With the exception of the last 2, all were older than I when I was under their ministry. Several came from Tennessee(don’t know what that says) and a couple from South Carolina. One played minor league baseball and one has an inexplicable attachment to the Detroit Tigers. Two were independent Baptists, two were Assembly of God, six were Southern Baptist and one was non-denominational.
I have learned and grown spiritually under most of them, some more than others. I counted two of them as very dear friends, each of which was a minister to me in a difficult time of life.
- Rev. Odell Hall – Bethel Baptist Church- Eden, NC
- Rev Eugene Wood ” “
- Rev. Harry Wood- First Baptist Church – Eden, NC
- Dr Ken Altom ” “
- Dr Harry Smith ” “
- Rev. Bob Potts ” Columbus, GA
- Dr Harry Smith ” Eden, NC
- Dr Cris Cannon ” “
- Dr Phil Cooley ” Salisbury, NC
- Rev Glynn Dickens Rowan Christian Assembly- Salisbury, NC
- Rev Clay Manos New Life Assembly of God- Elizabeth City, NC
- Rev Mike Gothard New Community Church- Elizabeth City, NC
I owe a spiritual debt to each of these individuals . Having said that, I will attempt to explore in the coming days what I have gleaned from these men and what I think one should realistically expect from ones pastor.
Of all the things I considered posting about, for some reason, this one grabbed more of my attention. The Tony of our title would be former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Mr Blair now travels the world on behalf of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation which seeks to promote understanding of the world’s main religions.
Mr Blair, who left the Church of England for Catholicism in 2007, recently had a private audience with the pontiff. He now sees fit to challenge the Pope’s “entrenched” ideas on homosexuality. Mr Blair believes that among religious people, attitudes towards the gay lifestyle are largely a generational thing. And he further concluded that the Pope is out of step with the public. He went on to say that religious figures everywhere should reinterpret their religious texts as metaphorical, not literal. If this happened, then in time all gay people would be accepted as equals.
Amazing is it not. Mr Blair leaves his church only recently and now seeks to alter the thinking of the head of Catholicism and encourage, no urge us to treat our Bibles as metaphorical. This gentleman, who served some ten years as Britain’s PM has now, at least from his perspective, become he who can bridge the generational and doctrinal gaps of religions.
I found this comment on Mr Blair from conservative Catholic Bill Donohoe, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Mr Donohoe wonders where about Mr Blair’s position on church teachings on sexuality in general, not just this particular aspect. He made an interesting comment which I will quote and leave open to the reader’s interpretation.
” Moreover, there is a big difference between embracing someone who is a homosexual(no problem there) and embracing the gay lifestyle(big problem there) .
Interesting question indeed.
PS: Mr Blair would also like to become the President of the European Union (hmmm) .
Over time, it seems that there has been a subtle change in the relationship between my son and I. I have long been impressed and thankful for how he has learned and continued to learn how to use his talents and abilities. But this is different, although it is perhaps an outgrowth of the thought just expressed. I sense and more than just sense that he is becoming more the teacher and I the learner. Not to suggest that he is infallible or I am clueless but rather that he has some well thought out insights from which I can benefit.
I was reminded of this today at church when Mike talked about 4, I guess you could say, tolls for evangelism. Though I had not thought of these in the way they were presented, they did make sense. They seemed to be a rather good profile of our son, and his mother actually agreed with me.
- Ask questions of people, the subject matter not necessarily having to be religion- Jesus did it masterfully. Jon is not to shabby at it either.
- Listen to their answers, this is where Jon and I differ, sad to say. He is much more adept at listening,while I am too busy thinking of my next comment.
- Count conversations, not conversions. Sermon emphasized that we do not do the converting. If one is strong in points 1 and 2 this is somewhat easier.
- Pray behind people’s backs,i.e. when they don’t know about it.
I think these points are good comments on our son’s approach to ministry, although they are of course not inclusive. For this, his dad wants to say- Well done !!
Some parts of our country are being blasted with wintry weather, snow by the bucketload with howling winds to boot . Thankfully , that is not the case here, we have already had an inch of snow and that’s enough for me . But lo and behold, the sermon at church yesterday was about snow . I was reminded that we have a pastor who loves it and actually preached a rather good sermon about snow . There are a number of references in scripture to the white powder and they are generally positive in nature LBJ’S favorite verse was actually Isaiah 1: 18 ; look it up , it’s a keeper .
At the onset of his sermon , Mike asked how many liked snow and then how many didnt . Being an honest sort I identifies with group 2 . So he called all of us pagans ( I thought it was a great line by the way ) . So I guess that makes snow lovers to be rather saintly .
On the way home , my wife reminded me how much our much beloved golden retriever , Rameses, loved snow although he didnt experience a lot of it . One of the great puppy pictures shows he and our son at about age 9 having a blast playing in the snow together . This was a trait he carried with him to almost the end of his life . Numerous times , he would ” throw ” snow in the air and try to catch it or just lie in the midst and enjoy . We have a picture of him the month before he died enjoying the white stuff one last time .
So I have another reason to feel positive about our pastor . Both he and ” the sainted Rameses ” have a cool thing in common . An that aint bad at all .
I’d love to write a post about ghosts and visions and Scrooge and Tiny Tim . But about all that this will have in common with A Christmas Carol is the phrase ” God bless us every one ” . My tale of Christmas Past goes back to 1982 and takes place in Columbus, Ga where we were living at the time .
i often refer to this as part of my previous life when I was employed in a textile company credit union . Being December we were extremely busy lending money and only being a 2 person operation, I was working a lot of ( unpaid ) overtime . So it was not very smart for me to get involved in a very time consuming activity since I had almost no time . But I took the plunge anyway and volunteered to be a part of the crew for our ( First Baptist ) church’s initial presentation of The Living Christmas Tree .
Our music minister was Ron Collins who was one of the originators of the living or singing Christmas tree as it is variously termed . He was ably assisted by a choir of 70 ( of whom my wife was a member ) , an orchestra, numerous people involved in construction of the tree , lighting , sound and technical people , costumers , dramatic people , decorators and others I can scarcely remember . All in all , I suppose 125-150 people, some of them doing double duty .
Not being musical or terribly talented in . in much of anything else , I ended up as one of two people running lights . We sat a small consoles at the back of the auditorium with a gentleman in between who really knew music . He coordinated our lighting work with the music . It sounds so simple to write but simple it was not .
I could write forever i suppose but wil try to narrow things a bit . On Thursday before the first of 7 presentations that began on Friday, rehersal went until about 11 PM . I had a terribly demanding day lined up at work so as i recall, Iarrived at 5 AM and worked until 5PM at which time I raced to the church, fortunately only a few blocks away .
The electricity was definitely in the air , would things work, what would people think etc . I remember being so very nervous and not wanting to be the schmuck who messed it all up . The choir entered in darkness , singing as they mounted the 35 ft tall metal tree, gorgeously decorated with ornaments , lights and greenery . When the lights first came up it was as aif a collective Ohhhh arose from the crowd of 600 or so . I get chills even now remembering . It was a wonderful thing to experience , even as a small cog and I have been thankful for it ever since .
Continuing with yesterdays subject of worship , I want to go beyond music to other elements of a service of worship . This one is not as significant , I guess and perhaps not even an issue to most folks . Does what one chooses to wear have an impact on worship, one’s own or someone else’s ?
Growing up in a very traditional albeit very rural church you can imagine the type of clothes that people wore . For the most part , our church was composed of blue collar folks who looked forward to Sunday and wearing their Sunday best . My mother was a classic example . She worked in a textile mill and came home covered in cotton most of the time . But on Sunday , it was the dress , the shoes , the hat ( yes, the hat ) and the pocketbook all color coordinated . Did it make her more worshipful than some one who didnt go to those lengths, probably not . But , to her , it was the only way .
The ” dressing up ” approach was generally the approach I followed for many years and I never thought much about it since virtually everyone did the same . But I can remember a few folks in one of the ” First ” churches we attended dressing somewhat casually and not being appalled but feeling that they probably should know and do ” better ” .( Now , bear in mind that I am not by any means criticizing the dress of those who dont have choices . )
Over time , the more casual attire has become more and more common except in the more traditional churches . In some places a coat and tie are more or less out of sight, out of mind .
Now , does this mean that anything goes since after all , God looks not on the outward appearance but on the heart ? Now , funny though it may sound this is an issue that I have wrestled with from time to time with no clear answer . Having said that , I have reached a conclusion of sorts that makes a bit of sense, at least to me . One should dress for church in a way that makes him or her comfortable or that is appropriate for the type of church that they attend . But , dont dress in such a way that one calls undue attention to oneself thus drawing attention and focus away from where it needs to be .
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