Monday, October 06, 2008

The view from the pew

Over the last month I have begun my transition from installed pastor to whatever God has in mind for me next. Not having a pulpit where I am expected on Sunday mornings has given me the opportunity to go worship in other churches.

I had a short list of churches that I thought I would want to experience, and was pleasantly surprised that my visit on to the United Presbyterian Church of New Kensington persuaded me to stop church-shopping. The pastor, Colin Yuckman, preaches thoughtful sermons and has been dealing with the theme of exile. Their education minister, Kathy Davis, does the Time with Children during the service, and talks with the children on issues related to the rest of the worship service that would be especially relevant to them. The music in worship is a broad mix of traditional hymns from the Presbyterian Hymnal and more contemporary praise music; I have enjoyed using familiar praise songs as specific liturgical elements throughout the service. The congregation is engaged in many forms of ministry and mission within the community; the very first Sunday I was there the pastor was recognizing members of the church who had been involved in a work project to fix someone's home.

I have felt appropriately greeted each time I go there. I have been able to sit with a neighbor of mine in the apartment building, and that has provided ways for me to be introduced to other members of the church. The second Sunday I visited I was pleased to see old friends Bert and Bob Erickson who were there to ring handbells.

A week ago I needed to find a different church in order to go to an earlier service because of plans I had for the afternoon. I found a church near my home that had an early contemporary service. Again, I felt appropriately greeted by a couple of the worshipers. I did not know any of the praise songs used in the service, but they were all easy to learn so their newness was not a barrier to worship for me. This contemporary service did not use a bulletin, and the one sheet of paper that was handed to me as I came in was a list of announcements. Interestingly absent from the list was the name of the guest preacher, who was also not introduced during the praise service. That service will go down in my memory as The Sunday I Heard The Sermon From The Anonymous Preacher. Pastoral anonymity is not necessarily a bad idea, because I think most of us preachers would like to be transparent, not to put attention on ourselves, but simply to participate in sharing the eternal Word with others. In this case, the mystery (to me) about the identity of the preacher was an unhelpful distraction.

Today I start my first week of Interim Ministry training.

Current mood: pretty good, with great anticipation. Rating: 4 flowers.

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