Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Those Infant Hands"

Another worthy Advent/Christmas song by Charles & Carl!

Those Infant Hands
word by Charles Wesley, music by Carl Thomas Gladstone

Those infant hands,
of the heavenly stranger,
So poor and mean,
His court an inn,
His cradle is a manger:

Those infant hands
now for us descended,
Who built the skies,
On earth he lies,
With only beasts attended.

Lie hid in human nature;
Incarnate see
The deity,
The infinite Creator!
Godly hands, those infant hands.

Those infant hands,
Of endless adoration!
Those infant hands
Shall burst our bands,
And work out our salvation;

Those infant hands,
Strangle the serpent ever,
Till open set
The glorious gate
And take us up to heaven.

Find the music here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"No More Turning From the Child"

Here's another Advent/Christmas song that is on target with the story. It's often a challenge to use the great music of old in a style that works today. I appreciate what Carl is trying to do as the Charles Wesley words have a depth and power to them despite the challenge of the years.

No More Turning From The Child
word by Charles Wesley, music by Carl Thomas Gladstone

Where is the holy heaven-born child,
Heir of the everlasting throne,
Who heaven and earth hath reconciled,
And God and human joined in one?
Shall we of earthly kings enquire,
To courts or palaces repair?
The nation's hope, the world's desire,
Alas! We cannot find him there.

No more turning!
See there! The new born Saviour see,
By faith discern the great I AM;
'Tis he! The eternal God! 'tis he
That bears the mild Immanuel's name.

We search the outward church in vain,
They cannot him we seek declare,
They have not found the Son of Man,
Or known the sacred name they bear.
Then let us turn no more aside,
But use the light himself imparts,
His Spirit is our surest guide,
His Spirit glimmering in our hearts.

Drawn by his grace we come from far,
And fix on heaven our wishful eyes,
That ray divine, that orient star
Directs us where the infant lies.
The Prince of Peace on earth is found,
The child is born, the son is given;
Tell it to all the nations round,
Jehovah is come down from heaven!

Find the song sung here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Heaven Cannot Contain"

OK, I know that, strictly speaking, we're in the time of Advent. That's the Christian season that is a preparation for Christmas. Of course, in a culture that is full launch into the singing/spending/buying season it's sometimes tough to consider a spiritual preparation for the birth of Christ. Rather than attack the overwhelming Christmas tide that starts on Black Friday I like a more positive emphasis.

Here's a great Christmas song that you may not know about. I like both the words and the style music as the approach points to another side of Christmas that can get lost in the hype, razzle dazzle, and excessive busyness of it all.

Heaven Cannot Contain
Words by Charles Wesley, Music by Carl Thomas Gladstone

Glory be to God on high,
And peace on earth descend;
God comes down; bows the sky,
and shows himself our friend!

God invisible appears,
God the great I AM
Sojourns in this vale of tears,
And Jesus is his name.

Heaven cannot contain!
Knees and hearts to him we bow;
Jesus is our brother now.

Stand amazed, ye heavens, at this!
Lord of earth and skies
Humbled to the dust he is,
And in a manger lies!

Emptied of all majesty,
Dazzling glories shorn,
Being's source begins to be,
And God himself is born!

Go to Heaven Can Not Contain to hear the song.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Season of Rest"

"Season of Rest"

by Scott Parrish
November 2011

It's time for leaves to fall;
season of rest is here.
Let go of work and toil;
days of production are over.

Yield to the winds of change;
relax in the rhythm of weather.
Warm, sunny days are past.
Now comes the sleep of the winter.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Exponential Futility"

Exponential Futility
by Scott Parrish
November 2011

Raking leaves
ankle deep
on a windy day
with the trees only half shed.

"How Do You Say?"

How Do You Say?
by Scott Parrish
November 2011

How do you say all the colors
of autumn leaves on hardwood trees?


Too many colors,
too many shades,
too much nuance,
too extraordinary and subtle for words.

The best you can do
is soak it in
and enjoy the wonder.

You must see,
you must touch,
you must experience
for yourself that which is beyond words.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Recruitment Manual for the Augusta Irregular Militia: Ready for the Battle"

Everything we've discussed so far concerns a power far beyond you or your abilities. What I am suggesting isn't a mere illustration. This isn't a child's game. Rather, this is a life and death matter. This is for teenagers and young adults and adults of all ages. The consequences, in your life and in our community, are very real. The impact is NOW. The implications are played out in our community today and tomorrow.

This is an urgent call to action. The enemy has over run the town! The adversary has control of too many in our community. Too many of our own ranks have divided loyalties. We can no longer play it safe. We must choose who we will serve. We must be of firm conviction in this matter. We must be persistent and not give up hope or allegiance.

The time for us to join the battle is now. We can not delay as we put ourselves and those around us in jeopardy. While drugs and gangs control some of our homes and neighborhoods we have stood idly by. While the expectations in many of our homes, schools and community has diminished we have waited for someone to step up to do something. While we've expected politicians, or teachers, or preachers, or someone else to make a difference, we've been content to complain but not act. The burden is upon each of us as individuals to step up to the challenge. Then the task is to unite under the banner of the One who has given us everything we need to win the battle!

The time for action is today and it begins with us. But we must let go of our sense of power and submit ourselves to God. We must follow the example of Christ. We must rely upon the Spirit as we take our place in this spiritual battle as a soldier of the One True King. Yet, as seen previously in the manual, the hostile forces prefers to use our everyday habits, thoughts, attitudes, and practices against us. The Enemy uses our own sense of independence, ability, and self certainty/self centeredness against us. We have proven we can not win the battle doing what we have always done. We can not be partially armed for the battle. Rather, we must be fully equipped if we are to stand in the cosmic battle played out in our everyday lives.

Read Ephesians 6:10-18 for more background and to reinforce the urgency of this matter and the full armor you must have to be effective. As you reflect upon your life and our community these are some of the essential characteristics that are most necessary to effect a lasting change in our lives and in Augusta. The demons of idolatry, religiosity, poverty, addiction, racism, hopelessness, gangs, and a legion of other forces of evil can not be overcome by our continued ineffective efforts. The fact is that we fuel the flames of negativity and despair as most of us give in to "what has always been and will always be." We expect too little of ourselves and too little of our community with such thoughts and expectations. We do not expect the Kingdom to be present and our prayers mock what God desires to do through our submission. We must view the battle in new and different ways, and we must armor ourselves accordingly as the fight is much different than we have previously supposed.

Today is the day for a new battle to be fought in Augusta which will take seriously our place in it and our obedience and resolve to depend upon God and one another.

The Augusta Irregular Militia is mobilizing and is prepared for battle. Will you join the ranks? Will you give yourself to the battle at hand? Will you submit your life to the the Field General who calls for obedience? Will you help us transform in Augusta that which many have given up on? The time is NOW. Which side will you choose to serve?

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Recruitment Manual for the Augusta Irregular Militia: The Problem Reconsidered"

Have you known many people in the military? They are just like the rest of us. Some are excellent examples of all the finest virtues you can name for a soldier. Others, well others try to live a divided life and maintain their old habits, lifestyles, and vices even as they seek to serve.

The problem is that we can rather quickly, and most naturally, fall back on our old ways. Old habits, old attitudes, old practices can easily creep back into our daily life. Our passion for the mission and enthusiasm for the battle can become overwhelmed by our emotions or self perceived needs. We get lax with our expectations and our exercises. We do the minimum and get by. We lose our high calling and revert to our most base instincts.

The danger is that we may not be a soldier of light but a warrior of darkness.

Recall that our standard bearer, King Jesus, is the One who withstood the temptations in the wilderness (do you recall those specific issues and emphases?). Our Commander in Chief, our Field General, has a different way of doing battle than we tend to naturally follow. Yet, we are to avoid idolatry and follow the way of Christ. See Ephesians 4:17-5:20 as an extended reading worthy of the time to understand these matters. A key to this section is 4:17-19 and the warning not to live in the futility of our thinking.

HA the futility of our thinking seems to proclaim the noise and confusion of our times!

Be aware of the specifics in the passage, but dwell on the main theme issues of:
-hardening of heart/lost sensitivity
-lust for more
-be imitators of Christ

What does this mean for the cultures and subcultures which seem to revolve around the most base natural instincts and emotions?
What are deceitful desires? What are new attitudes that lead to righteousness and holiness?
What does this mean for me? Where am I in this picture?
What does this mean for my church, faith group, or spiritual/life support group? Where are we in this picture?
What does this mean for my community? Where are we in this picture?

I'm still thinking about Augusta and more concerned than ever about the urgent needs of our beloved area and the people of it. We are called to live as children of light and to make the most of every opportunity. But the challenge of the battle may be before we have even begun!

Can you keep up the standard and live up to the expectations that define this type of service? Are you part of the solution to the challenges in Augusta or are you part of the problems?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Megachurch Bubble?

There's an interesting discussion currently as to whether a "megachurch bubble" exists. You've heard of the housing bubble and similar "industries" that have overreached. Exhibit A for anyone who advocates a megachurch bubble would be the Crystal Cathedral and it's demise/restructuring. In that situation, and in general, there do seem to be commonalities. A key issue is the question of economics and which churches are sustainable. Others would point to leadership and the transition to the next generation of pastors. Still others might point to the ministry approach that worked with the last generation which doesn't seem to be as effective today. Megachurch Bubble offers an interesting review of the possible megachurch bubble and a focus on particular Nashville area megachurches. Those with a solid financial base, entrepreneurial spirit, and current plan of active ministry including succession of leadership proves a strong approach no matter the size church.

"Recruitment Manual for the Augusta Irregular Militia: The Problem May Be You"

Have you ever seen a zombie movie? It's almost always crystal clear who is alive and who is "undead." Movies are that way. You can usually determine the "good guy" from the "bad guy." Real life is somewhat more complicated.

We can not be confused about where we stand and how we are doing.

This likely requires an honest assessment, a demanding drill instructor, and a team of others committed to the mission. Anything less and you will neither tell yourself the truth, push yourself hard enough in the mission, or benefit from the competition, encouragement, and truth telling that others on a team will bring you. Anything less than this total package and you will be confused about where you are and how you are doing.

This is not a call to inaction, or discussion, or status quo- in your life or in your community. This is a call to deployment. This is a call to change Augusta starting with you, with your home, with your neighborhood, with your workplace, and with your social groups and relationships. This is a call to be a foot soldier in the Kingdom of God.

A soldier must be prepared for the mission. A soldier must be patient and persistent. A soldier must be prepared to follow orders. A soldier must be willing to work hard for the greater good of the unit and the mission. A soldier is always on call. A soldier must be willing to sacrifice, both in small ways and perhaps in significant ways, for the mission to be accomplished. The life and practices of a soldier demand best efforts, attention to detail, practice, and commitment.

But you aren't there yet.

Even if your mind and heart soar with the thought of service there are some preliminary matters to attend to. Think of basic training for a soldier. And don't forget the ongoing training and every day disciplines required of those in military service. Tough, consistent, demanding, high expectation training is the key.

Read Ephesians 2:1-15.
Are you dead or alive?
Who, or what, rules your life?
What are your daily desires and thoughts? What are your cravings?
What is the motivating characteristic in your life?
What is your purpose, your calling, in Augusta?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Recruitment Manual for the Augusta Irregular Militia: Call to Action"

Given the challenging times and the dire consequences of our inaction, the time has come for a general call to action of all men and women of the Augusta, Georgia/ Central Savannah River Area. This is issued to every teenager and adult, every person of conscience, everyone who imagines a neighborhood and community and town that reflects our greatest hopes and dreams.

It is no longer appropriate for us to continue in a state of apathy, nor is it prudent for us to live in a self centered fear that nothing may be done. We can not continue the policies of "every man for himself" nor the isolated suburban pursuit of happiness. What happens in urban Augusta affects suburban Columbia County and has effect in the rural CSRA. Our former ways of living must give way to a more community centered, honest, and fruitful approach at creating a common life that is worth handing to our children. Our failure to seek to encourage and create such a community will be a continued sin handed down to our children and grandchildren unless we repent of our failures and atone in ways that lead to life. This grand failure must be reversed immediately and it must begin with us!

Look at what we have become. Consider what you see every day in your Augusta experience. Examine the daily news and reflect on how we have gotten here. We can argue the points and the causes (though my hope is that we are stirred to action and not merely more discussion!), but the process begins with us. Some issues that get my attention include:

-we divide rather than unite- our opinions, our anger, our platforms, our politics, our personal pursuits are an agenda that is a "dead end road" as we only know, friend, and work with those who agree with us. "Others" are counted as enemies- how can this be in community?!

-we are obsessed with ourselves to the detriment of the community- what we can gain, our addictions, our values become the objective. Our personal pursuits become the agenda and are foisted on the community. The community must be about more than one individual or group. Multiply this and community is divided by our small, fractured viewpoint.

-thus there is no common culture, no common goal. We all play our car stereo obnoxiously loud all the time because we don't care about our neighbor. We don't extend courtesy to another car, another person, because we don't think of them as friend or neighbor, but as nameless competitor. We are desensitized and our children are version 2.0 of selfish insensitivity.

-Should we even discuss the "older sins" of our community? This seems no longer civil to even speak in public, but the reality of white flight and separated neighborhoods and obviously divided political commissions begs the question. Of course, racism isn't a one way street! This is an equal opportunity evil that we seem to mutually embrace. Sadly, the Church is just as much a culprit and perpetrator in this as any institution. The sins of the fathers and grandfathers are now being visited on us today. How can we break through this, build bridges and relationships, and do the needful work of the Kingdom?

-the irony is that our personal spirituality and isolated lives of work and play are impacted by the current state of affairs. We have become Lone Rangers, though the team requires unity of purpose and life. Sadly, the Church is relegated to the sideline as for too long the emphasis has been on the "spiritual" versus the "practical." Yet, we pray "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven." There is something very important here about us that we must respond to.

The negative vibe, the crime and violence, the crush of addiction, the power of mass despair, the rampant unemployment and underemployment, the challenges of basic food and housing, the loneliness and isolation of those who want to reach out to someone, the lack of voice and leadership that the masses will follow-- provides opportunity for an "all call" as we are in a state of emergency! It is time for a sense of urgency, for action on behalf of others, for a level of team work and unity that is seldom seen outside of war.

Here, in the time of the Great Recession, it is time to call up the Augusta Irregular Militia. We need teenagers, and young adults, and adults of all ages and stages who are willing to serve. Such a group -interested in loving God and loving neighbor as ourselves- is still a worthy experiment and the timing has never been more urgent. Augusta Kingdom workers need to mobilize NOW to meet the needs of the battle as the war has already been raging. People are being lost everyday to the ravages of battles that consume them.

Consider this call to action a personal invitation for your life. Carefully read and ponder Ephesians 1: 3-14 as you respond to this call to action. In the next few days I'll share more from the "Recruitment Manual" as we consider the mission and the preparation you will need as a recruit. There are some key battles to be waged in the coming days. Are you ready for what this will require of you?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Trinity Outreach Celebration, January 28-February 5

Here's a sneak peak for TOC 2012 with our theme of "Faith in Action: Radically Courageous." We've scheduled it a little differently this year as there is too much to offer! Trinity will host some North Georgia UMC training, offer new mission projects, and have some exciting worship as part of our mission extravaganza.

Saturday Jan 28- Day of Mission—HANDS Day/Service Projects around town. We'll have a variety of options for all ages. We're excited this year to add a meal packing component as part of international hunger relief. If you don't know about Stop Hunger Now and the Meal Packaging Program get an idea. NOW get ready for Trinity on the Hill to offer this as one of our work day projects. I'll share more details on this and all the other great mission projects as we'll also be feeding the hungry in Augusta at the Master's Table that day, doing construction projects, helping clothe the naked, visiting the elderly, cleaning up creation, and more.

Wednesday, February 1- Mission Celebration- 6:30-7:30- including the mass children’s choir singing and Rev. Phil Schroeder preaching. While I knew of Phil, and had some conversations with him, I first got to know him best as we served together on church teams responding to Hurricane Katrina damage in Gulfport, Mississippi. You'll find him to be an exciting, challenging preacher who will inspire you in your mission service for Christ.

On Saturday, February 4 we will host a Faith in Action Training Event. Some classes will be half day and others full day with certification options for disaster response, mission team involvement, emergency shelter volunteers, etc. We are pleased to be offering a Children's Disaster Services training which will prepare volunteers to work with children in an emergency shelter setting. Space will be limited in these premiere classes so look for registration at the Trinity on the Hill website in December.

Sunday Feb 5- Mission Challenge @ both worship services (8:30 & 11:00AM) including both youth choirs with Rev. Phil Schroeder preaching.

This will prove to be great time of inspiration, education, and mission. I hope you make plans to be part of the mission!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Flow of Thanksgiving

I tend to think in images and get a focus on certain thoughts or ideas in a day and week. I'm not a poet or writer yet, and often get drawn to a concept that I then enjoying playing with for days. Here's a rough draft as I'm trying to get myself ready for Thanksgiving. I'm still fussing with the grammar, wording, and punctuation, but want to share it with you to say THANKS. Maybe it will help you tap into your soul as you prepare for Thanksgiving.

This year I'm thinking a lot about all the sinners and saints who've framed my life, added to who I am, and made a huge difference to what I've become and what I'm becoming. I hope as you get caught in the busyness of Thanksgiving that you'll also get caught up in recognition of everyone that your life is built upon and the power of gratitude. Do something -traditional or creative- that helps raise your awareness of thanks giving/living.

Oh, the first photo is of a dry well in a west African village where we work, and the second of the pump is from the deep well we put in at the Kipuke Ministries Trinity Center outside of Kara, Togo. I was thinking of the old pitcher pump or shallow well as I started writing and was reminded of my rather shallow daily approach of thanks giving.

Flow of Thanksgiving
by Scott Parrish
Thanksgiving 2011

The pump needs to be primed.
The flow is hesitant from a
rusty, forgotten, untended supply-
a spring not drawn up.

slowly welling in mind and heart-
of the people who have changed my life,
of the spices added to the dull recipe.

stirring in my thoughts-
family, friends, folk who sharpen iron,
those who create my life of experience.

flowing in life and story-
to be displayed and recounted,
stream that keeps me alive.

gushing spring of thanks knowing-
deep, deep gratitude from the core,
holy awareness, an offering, a prayer.

Spring of true thanks giving,
meant to flow pure in me.
Stories recalled, retold
as I drink deep of the pure water.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Could ReThink Annual Conference Lead to ReThink Charge Conference?!

I've been away from the blog of late with mission trips, catch up work, & then something flu like knocking me out of everything.

I noticed my old seminary friend, Taylor Watson Burton-Edwards, offers up another insightful and practical suggestion with ReThink Annual Conference.

Plenty of us have talked about this over the years. Many vote with partial attendance, or most correctly stated, lots of attendance in hallway meetings. After you attend AC one year you'll notice a deadly redundancy with a few cosmetic changes.

Check out ReThink Annual Conference and imagine the vibrant new Methodist realities that might take form instead of a repeat of a dead, institutional form of religious business that really isn't fitting for a Methodist movement. I think Taylor is on to a conversation which every conference should engage in and look to implement in some form as we revitalize the connection and reignite a movement.

This might even lead to ReThink Charge Conference!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mission Training Event, Saturday February 4, Trinity on the Hill

Trinity on the Hill UMC will sponsor a mission training event on Saturday, February 4, 2012 including certification for staffing a Red Cross Shelter, leading a mission team, being part of an early response team in a disaster, and more. We ought to have great trainers for UMVIM, UMCOR, and other United Methodist mission training. I'll share more details soon but hope you'll get this district & conference level training on your calendar. Most of our trainers will be visiting from Atlanta as we seek to be better prepared in case a disaster strikes our area, and as we seek to develop "best practices" as we respond to emergencies in other communities.

One session of particular interest will be the training of workers for certification in Children's Disaster Services. This group will stage an overnight shelter and offer a "hands on" class for folk interested in this incredible helping mission. See Children's Disaster Services to get an idea of the work. Registration starts soon and space is limited in this class.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Great Day!"

Our adult choir sang this great spiritual this morning in worship and it was stunning both times. What a perfect match for an All Saints emphasis and a communion Sunday. I just wish that the whole church later sang it in response to the sermon/worship as we ended the hour!

Once you start looking around you may find a few variations of the song and some different musical arrangements. See one set of lyrics below and then a couple of YouTube offerings. I think you'll find this worth using in your worship as it's theologically strong and an upbeat piece that should still be a church favorite.

Traditional Negro Spiritual

Great day! Great day, the righteous marching;
Great day! God's going to build up Zion's walls.

The chariot rode on the mountain top
God's going to build up Zion's walls
My God He spoke and the chariot stopped
God's going to build up Zion's walls

Great day! Great day, the righteous marching;
Great day! God's going to build up Zion's walls.

This is the day of Jubilee
God's going to build up Zion's walls
The Lord has set His people free
God's going to build up Zion's walls

Great day! Great day, the righteous marching;
Great day! God's going to build up Zion's walls.

Going to take my breastplates, sword in hand
God's going to build up Zion's walls
And march out boldly into the land
God's going to build up Zion's walls

Great day! Great day, the righteous marching;
Great day! God's going to build up Zion's walls.

We want no cowards in our band
God's going to build up Zion's walls
We call for valiant-hearted men
God's going to build up Zion's walls

Great day! Great day, the righteous marching;
Great day! God's going to build up Zion's walls.

Bethune Cookman

Howard University

Friday, November 4, 2011

Accountability Booster or Doomsday Device?

I've enjoyed The Office for a number of years. This season it's as strong as ever with a good edge to it and clever situations. Last night's episode was called "Doomsday." Robert California, the new CEO, expects the group to make fewer mistakes. Dwight creates a software program that will identify if the team makes 5 mistakes on the paper orders or accounting. If you know anything about the characters in that office you know this is inevitable! Once they make the 5 mistakes Dwight has an e-mail automatically sent to the corporate office at 5PM. The group calls it a Doomsday Device while Dwight consistently calls it an accountability booster.

So, which is it...accountability booster or doomsday device?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Augusta GA Urban Poverty

Part of my context for ministry in Augusta includes a very high level of urban poverty. See the story which ranks us so high nationally. We've got over 26,000 people in neighborhoods with poverty rates of 40% or higher. "Local resources," mentioned in the story, are being pushed to the limit. What are the best, innovative, transformational approaches to reducing these sorts of poverty trends and the issues related to such high poverty pockets? Employment, housing, food, education, and violence are daily challenges in these neighborhoods. Imagine if half your neighborhood lived below the poverty level and you can see there are no easy answers.

Here's an addendum including the larger national story and the top 10 list:
Increase of Poverty.

Togo Missionary Newsletter- October 2011

Here's an update from Esaho & Beatrice Kipuke in Togo, west Africa. We are the primary sponsors for this couple but are eagerly recruiting other churches and sponsors for the incredible work being done in northern Togo. Here's Esaho's October report:

This publication is very special to us since it is being prepared on October 4th, the date of our 31st Wedding Anniversary. We thank God for His guidance and His blessings on our children, our ministries and especially on us. Thank you all for your cards, prayers, phone calls and the wish for many more years to come.

Kipuke Outreach Ministries goal for this year is to reach out to many more people in the remote villages far from Pya and win as many souls as we can for the Lord. Students and workers are mobilized along with our choir for that adventure. Elderly people in these villages who have no one to care for them will also be the focus of our outreach program. With God’s help, we will find them and provide them with spiritual and material support.

Our school year 2011-2012 resumed September 12, 2011 with 47 students into our Home Economics program. School started with a prayer meeting where voices were raised up to God asking for His blessings unto all of our personal, programs and us for the entire 2011-2012 school year. Many students and workers expressed their gratitude to God for how He blessed them. They feel it was God himself who has enabled them to join Kipuke Outreach Ministries programs.

Our dormitory for girls lacks space to accommodate all new needy students. More beds and mattresses are needed. Kipuke Outreach and Ministries provides accommodations only to enrolled students coming from other villages, Cantons and Regions of the country. Exception is made to girls rejected by their families due to forced marriages, indigenous religion practices, witchcraft practices…

The Kipuke Outreach program for orphans provides education, food, clothing and medical care expenses for children they have placed in foster families. We are able to find families willing to take in an additional child, but they can barely support themselves, so we must provide money to feed and clothe the orphans they care for. The orphans resumed their school this first week of October 2011. Kipuke Outreach provided all of these children with school uniforms, school supplies, tuition and other related school fees for the school year 2011-2012. Families providing care to these children also benefited by receiving some food for the orphans under their care, and their own children

Kipuke Outreach and Ministries was blessed by the visit of Ed and Linda Baker, The Mission Society missionaries serving on the Global Resource Team with specialization in water and sanitation. Ed and Linda enjoyed their visit to Togo, especially the visit at the Kipuke Outreach Ministries project in the village of Pya. Ed and Linda noticed the difficulty the training center has with training the students in it’s home economics program. The kitchen has no sink and no running water, making it difficult to educate the students about cooking practices. Ed and Linda will be working hard in finding ways to get pipelines run from the well to the main building at Kipuke Outreach and Ministries training center in Pya.

The 9100 District Rotary Club Governor visited Kipuke Outreach Ministries project in Pya where the International Rotary Club approved a matching grand that helped provide electricity to Kipuke Outreach Ministries training center, add electric and manual sewing machines and purchased some kitchen supplies for our cooking program.
The Governor and all who were with him appreciated the Kipuke Outreach Ministries efforts in the area of community development. Bringing to the village of Pya a nice and well equipped school to help young Togolese women to learn a trade is a big investment a NGO can provide a rural area with.

The nursery program at Kipuke Outreach Ministries training center also attracted the attention of the Governor. He noticed that the nursery needs more equipment such as toys for children and, in the long range a play ground to benefit children in the area.

Kipuke Outreach Ministries held a three day seminar for their “Women of Love” program. The topic of the seminar was “Women Leaders – What is Their Role”. Many women from neighboring villages of Pya came. The goal was to provide information to help women understand how they can have a role when it comes to leadership - what they can do to be effective, and to not be misunderstood in a country where the culture has not fully given to women the power to be a leader of groups? A certificate of participation was given to all women who attended.

Kipuke Outreach Ministries is coordinating a French International Mobilization Conference in Togo, led by the Mission Society, December 9-13 in Bagbe (Presbyterian Retreat Center, 35 kilometers away from Lome). We are expecting church leader participants from USA, Mali, Cameroon, Bourkina-Faso, Ivory Coast, Benin and Togo.

Please, pray for our programs, our donors and especially for the event God has for Togo in the coming months. Also, do not forget to pray for us, your missionaries on the field for good health and patience with the challenges we have to deal with on a daily basis.

Esaho and Beatrice Kipuke
Missionaries in Togo

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seeking Church Planting Catalyst

Background Data for Mission is one of my favorite bits of UMC information as they share great ideas based in research and best practices. Today I received the October 2011 Volume 23, No. 10 issue of BDM and offer the whole e-mail below. OK, it also shows one of the coolest jobs I've heard about in some time.

Two that Do, Part II

Last month we looked at two churches which are reaching more people, younger people, and more diverse people. This month will continue this theme, mainly due to unanticipated worship experiences of the editor over the weekend. Three Sunday services were attended. The first was a small urban UMC which is not doing particularly well at any of the three foci just mentioned for reaching people.

Second on the list was a visit to one of those churches mentioned last month, the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Unlike the previous visit to this church, which was the Tuesday night prayer meeting, this was the Sunday noon service. The attendance filled the sanctuary so that closed circuit was used into an overflow room across the street. (Estimated attendance at this service, which is one of three: 3,000) No printed order of service was to be had, though the bulletin was a glossy, full color tri-fold. Worship singing with overhead projection took the first 45 minutes. Then the centerpiece of the service shared two numbers: the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. The power of this presentation reminds the attender why this choir has earned six Grammies. Superlatives fail me. The choir also did the offertory. A key take-away here is that high quality music matters. This poses a challenge for vast majority of United Methodist churches, since they are small and thus have limited resources. Hopefully they can find the means to enhance their music.

After the offertory and some announcements, the preacher came on stage. The style was as described last month. He was very engaging and the attenders responded. It’s interesting to note that in all UMC emphasis on congregational transformation and vitality, little emphasis is given to preaching. Yet few strong dynamic churches got there with weak preaching.

Church number three was Redeemer Presbyterian. This ministry is a unique urban ministry in Manhattan, which has reached mega-church status (5,000 in worship) after being a new start in the late 80’s, yet which does not have its own worship space still. There are no obvious intentions of doing so either. They meet in two locations in the morning and three in the late afternoon and evening. A morning and evening service is held in the Hunter college auditorium. Worship styles vary and include classical, contemporary and jazz. I attended a jazz service in the late afternoon hosted in a Baptist church. The vast majority in attendance were twenty somethings who were highly diverse ethnically. The place was packed. The five piece, accomplished, jazz band played prelude music and provided accompaniment for all singing. The service style was blended with a highly detailed bulletin with the order of service and all music printed. Again, the excellence of the music was a defining and highly attractive feature of the service.

Senior pastor, Tim Keller preached. This is not insignificant insofar as he is not present at all services and the church does not announce where he will be on a given Sunday. The sermon style was very different than the Brooklyn Tabernacle. There was little animation and the content was heavily philosophical with a strong element of apologetics. Nevertheless, the presentation was certainly compelling in its own right. This seems to be a fine match for those assembled. Again it is clear that the preaching has played a role in the strength of another vital ministry and that this church has a strong emphasis on evangelism.

Of course church is more than worship. Redeemer is remarkable in what else happens in the life of this varied congregation. The bulletin lists staff who can be contacted for those interested in mercy and justice, congregational life, family ministries, fellowship groups, a counseling center, outreach, and stewardship. One of the ministries, The Center for Faith and Word, features fellowship groups in various slices of city work life. Arts groups include an actors’ group, a dance industry group and a culture club. Vocation groups include the A.D. agency for those in Madison Avenue related fields, and a business fellowship. There is also an entrepreneurs fellowship. These ministries clearly embody Redeemer’s concise mission statement: “renewing the city socially, spiritually, and culturally.”

An astonishing ministry of Redeemer is their church planting outreach called “Redeemer City to City.” Since its founding, the church planting center has helped to plant over 170 churches in 35 global cities. The ministry model draws from Redeemer's experience as a church in a secular, multicultural global city. The center provides resources, including funding, leadership training, and coaching, for churches in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Australia

Redeemer describes their approach as being strongly based in the Gospel. “Nowhere do we encounter more opportunities to apply the gospel in these ways than in the city. Many modern urban dwellers face loneliness, economic hardship, social injustice, and personal and societal brokenness. The church is to serve all of these needs, including directly serving the poorest and most vulnerable populations in the city. We are dedicated to training leaders and planting churches that are committed to strengthening the influence of the gospel in the city in ways that result in spiritual growth, the flourishing of neighborhoods, reconciliation between classes and races, and the renewal of family life, education, health, and vocation.”

The church is currently posting a position called “Church Planting Catalyst for New York City.” The job description notes that the church is “seeking an experienced, visionary urban church planting leader to direct its efforts in New York City, with a goal of facilitating 100 new congregations during the next decade.” Congregational developers have long noted the importance of vision and compelling purpose in transforming existing churches and starting new ones. Redeemer does not lack for that.

Some might question why this newsletter, and last month’s, did not feature United Methodist Churches. There are certainly many of them doing wonderful ministry. Those highlighted here happen to be those I have personally encountered within a short time prior to writing. Of more importance, these churches are doing remarkable ministry in places where others have not fared so well. Seattle and New York are among the least churched cities in the US and yet these ministries have not only done well, they have gone over the top.

The two churches noted last month, City Church in Seattle and Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York, along with Redeemer Presbyterian are reaching more people, younger people, and more diverse people. They are doing it with excellent music, strong preaching, an emphasis on evangelism, a love for their context, and a driving sense of vision and purpose. All churches can strive to improve in these areas and may be pleasantly impressed with the results.

Rev. Dr. John H. Southwick, editor
Director of Research and Executive Secretary for Rural and Urban Networks
General Board of Global Ministries
New York, NY 10115

Looking for a Great Entry Level International Mission?

Are you looking for a new international mission option? Or perhaps you've never taken on an international mission because of logistical concerns? I've got a great partner who's looking for a few more teams in 2012 that would be worth you consideration. Since these are friends and colleagues in mission I encourage you to pursue this only if you are serious about mission in Jamaica. Contact me if you have any questions. If you contact ACE mention that you heard about this opportunity from me.

We've been working with ACE in Jamaica for a number of years now and send teams down 3-4 times a year. They are a strong partner because they offer exceptional mission options, excellent support and organization for a team, and what they do in mission is a lifestyle and not just a one time adventure. You will find they have partnered for many years with teams out of Ginghamsburg UMC if that is any indication of their ministry. You can find out more about them from some of my previous blogs or in my Facebook photo albums. ACE has great options for construction, medical, children's ministry, recreation, microbusiness, and agricultural missions. Plus you'll eat some incredible jerk chicken and pork (plus other food), build relationships with local Jamaicans in rural St. Mary's Parish, and work on your Patois!

ACE Site Trip Details
The ACE site trip is a chance for you as a leader to come and get to know us. We invite you to stay at our largest micro-business, Galina Breeze Hotel and join us for a full tour as we show you what we do on a day to day basis and how we incorporate our teams of volunteers into our long-term relationships and ongoing projects in the local community. There is no obligation and we do not ask for money. It is simply a chance for you to make a well-informed decision about future opportunities for bringing teams down on an ACE trip.

All ground expenses for one leader per group are covered by ACE. This includes all ground transportation, accommodations at Galina Breeze Hotel, meals during your stay, full tour of the organization, and 24 hr security. Cost per extra person is only $150. Also included in this trip is an optional 3rd night stay for only $120 per room and includes hotel accommodations, breakfast, beach admission, and ground transportation. This extra night is simply a fun time of fellowship and an opportunity to take in the beauty of Jamaica.

 Reservation: To book your reservation, simply communicate with myself
(Mandie) at my contact information below and I will get you on the calendar! I will need to know how many are coming and if you are opting for the third night. If there are any charges (extra person and/or extra night) I will email an invoice.
 Booking: To book your airline ticket, contact Travel Team Brokers at (800) 938-8585 or . Once you have your airline ticket, please email me a copy of your itinerary so that we know when you are arriving and departing.
 Insurance: For liability reasons, all ACE participants are required to have short term travel insurance. If you have travel insurance, we will need to see proof of coverage. If you do not have coverage, you can get coverage through us for only $25 for your entire stay. If you are interested in purchasing this coverage, please let me know so that I can get you signed up and I will send you an invoice for payment.
If you have any questions about the site trip or about ACE in general, I’d love to hear from you!

Mandie Medcalf
Stateside Marketing Coordinator
American-Caribbean Experience
1-877-500-5768 | 770-573-7024

American-Caribbean Experience
P.O. Box 566263
Atlanta, GA 31156 

UMC Gospel Debate

I recently enjoyed Scot McKnight's book "The King Jesus Gospel." While I can quibble with a few thoughts here and there I do believe there are some important key issues raised in it that might be helpful in UMC conversations. Though it doesn't appear that many of the UMC conversations in preparation for GC2012 are theological in nature, but driven more by "practical" issues of funding or fear, I wonder what might happen if we talked about the Gospel we believe and the Gospel we desire to share with the world.

McKnight offers a blog today in the3 J's in the Gospel Debate that may facilitate new UMC discussions.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween UMC Story

Does anyone else find it humorous that the Bishop's met on Halloween? The lead sentence of uncertainty about the answers and questions related to restructuring is certainly curious. If the bishops don't know, or have opinions, on this subject... well, it's just a strange Halloween story! I wonder, beyond the official press release, what those meetings are like.

I love that the bishop from Zimbabwe reminded the group they were meeting in the region where Francis Asbury so actively established the church. Please remind us more about such a heart for growing the church. As I said yesterday, some of our churches are doing exceptional work for the Kingdom of God and we should celebrate the good that is occurring in UMC ministry.

I also appreciate that Goodpaster spoke to some of the ecclesiology and theology lacking in the CTA. It seems to me that the historic Methodist emphasis on the annual conference ought to be worthy of more discussion as we return to our roots. Further, given the global nature of United Methodism prioritizing the conference would allow us to create basic discipline and structure that could be implemented and useful internationally. An emphasis upon the annual conference continues to be the wise Methodist approach that can serve us well in the future. Of necessity this will call for a realignment and retooling of our approaches of the last 30 years that places too much weight on agencies, on bishops being out of the conference, and upon United Methodism in the United States. Consolidation of the agencies makes great sense IF they work together for all annual conferences. I see no reason to establish any super council, a bishop with oversight of the denomination, or anything that detracts from our historic Methodist approach with emphasis upon conference and church.

As we continue the discussions and prayers leading to GC 2012 it will be good to focus on the essentials of Methodism and move the conversation beyond Halloween toward All Saints.