Monday, December 28, 2009
I soon realized that I needed to impose comment moderation, under which I would be able to review comments, and then reject them or approve them for posting. Comment moderation has worked for most of the life of my blog.
There have been a number of readers who have posted anonymously or pseudonymously while making valuable contributions to discussions, and I have appreciated their comments without regard for whether they agreed with me.
Over the last couple months I have seen a steep increase in the number of spam comments — comments that are utterly irrelevant to the posts in question, and offering medications and get-rich-quick schemes. Comment moderation has given me the ability to reject these submissions a dozen at a time. But I'm tired of dealing with them.
I have decided not to allow anonymous commenting any longer. I regret having to make this change, but it seems to be the simplest step toward stopping the flood of spam.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Over the next six Sundays I will be involved in worship at the following churches.
December 27, 2009, 11:00 AM, preaching at the Pine Run Presbyterian Church.
January 3, 2010, 11:00 AM, officiating at the Lord's Table at the Puckety Presbyterian Church.
January 10, 2010, 9:30 AM, preaching at the Nu Mine Presbyterian Church.
January 10, 2010, 11:00 AM, preaching at the Rural Valley Presbyterian Church.
January 17, 2010, 9:30 AM, preaching at the Jacksonville Presbyterian Church.
January 17, 2010, 11:15 AM, preaching at the Ebenezer Presbyterian Church.
January 24, 2010, 10:45 AM, preaching at the Apollo United Presbyterian Church.
January 31, 2010, 10:45 AM, preaching at the Apollo United Presbyterian Church.
File under : Apollo, Lower Burrell, worship, Presbyterian
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Clocks that self-adjusted: computer, atomic clock, cell phone, GPS.
A clock that is finally almost correct: the time and temperature clock at the corner of Tarentum Bridge Road and Leechburg Road.
Friday, October 30, 2009
My schedule, for those of you who are interested, is as follows:
Nov. 1, 11 AM, Presbyterian Church of Mt. Washington, Pittsburgh
Nov. 8, 11:15 AM, Tunnelton Presbyterian Church
Nov. 15, 11 AM, United Presbyterian Church of Freeport
Nov. 22, 11 AM, United Presbyterian Church of New Kensington
Nov. 29, 9:30 AM, Jacksonville Presbyterian Church, Kent; and 11:15 AM, Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Lewisville
I think this will also be a lifetime record for me, as I don't believe that I have ever preached for six different congregations within a single month.
In honor of this record, I updated the firmware on my nüvi (well, that's something I have to do about monthly anyhow because of changes to the GPS satellites) and I went to the Garmin Garage to download a new vehicle avatar: Giddyup. Now I can feel just like a circuit rider during November.
Friday, October 09, 2009
I thought the city was very attractive, and I am looking forward to when the PCUSA General Assembly meets there in 2010.
I had researched how to get to from the light rail stop at Nicollet Mall to my hotel. Google Street View helped me orient myself in advance, so that I would recognize what landmarks I would see — as long as I was going in the proper direction. But I chose to use Nicollet Mall as the route to get close to my hotel; Nicollet Mall is a pedestrian mall, so unfortunately the Google Street View vehicles have not captured images of what a beautiful street it is.
Of course, I had to stop at the Mary Tyler Moore statue in front of the Macy's at the corner with 7th Street. It's not that I was a big fan of the show, but while the show was in its first run, it was one that I watched, largely because I didn't have cable.
There are lots of larger statues in downtown Minneapolis, and I really appreciated the art being made available to the public everywhere I went.
On Sunday morning I took a walk early to get breakfast and a cup of coffee. While I was walking down 6th St., I saw flashing lights like an emergency vehicle slowly approaching me in the distance. As they got closer I saw that they were three police motorcycles followed by a crowd of something that seemed to be moving low and close to the ground. Then I saw that what was following the police were a group of people in racing wheelchairs. A bystander explained to me that this was the Wheeler division in the Twin Cities Marathon. I saw about 20 participants in this division, and was very impressed.
On Monday I was warned traffic for a football game that day might complicate my trip back to the airport. Everywhere I went that afternoon I was seeing Vikings jerseys and cheesehead hats. This Minneapolis camoflage would not work in Pittsburgh.
Monday afternoon I also hung out a bit at the PCUSA Polity Conference and caught up with a number of old friends. No General Assembly event would be complete without seeing the Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons and Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow, two cool people.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
There are things one notices while spending a weekend with a group of people who care intently about choosing the correct word for the purpose. Keith Geckeler pointed this sign out to me on the way to lunch on Saturday.
A parking garage would be "vacant" when it is empty. It would have a "vacancy" when it still has a free space for a car. It would be "full" when there is no more room for any cars to park.
Someone may have saved a letter by not spelling out "VACANCY", but this sign saying that no one is parking in the garage might not encourage a customer considering using it. It might be nice to know there is room, but does one want to be the only or very first customer of the day? (Do the locals know something about why no one else is using the garage?)
On the other hand, the "occupied/vacant" distinction on an airplane restroom door makes a lot of sense. I would not be sure what to do if a sign in that setting said "VACANCY", suggesting that there might be room for more people inside.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Has anyone else noticed that PittGirl was a shameless hypocrite?
Virginia "PittGirl" Montanez apparently had no problem cashing her paychecks from an organization that is dependent on the support of the VERY people she trashed - anonymously ...- on her blog.
This is all about a news event this week in the Pittsburgh area. For a number of years Virginia Montanez had blogged under the anonymous pseudonym "Pittgirl" on "The Burgh Blog" and entertained many with her sharp wit. Last fall she abruptly stopped posting "The Burgh Blog" and I am one who missed being able to read what she had to say. During the last week she revealed her true identity and was fired the next day.
I disagree with Dimitri and think that the reasoning in his charge of hypocrisy is flawed.
No one knows the true motivations of the individuals and organizations that support the Negro Educational Emergency Drive. A charitable view would be that they approved of the good purposes and mission of NEED, and were glad to be able to support its work. A less charitable view would be that they wanted the positive public regard that derived from others knowing that they supported NEED. A totally uncharitable view would be that these supporters couldn't care less about the mission of NEED but wanted their thumbs in every pie in order to gain power. I personally take the charitable view, but whatever the truth is, the supporters got what they paid for.
I don't see any hypocrisy in cashing paychecks that one earned by doing the work assigned by one's employer. Where one's employer gets its funds is irrelevant.
Moreover, a charge of hypocrisy would require some evidence that Virginia Montanez was using her anonymous persona to say things she did not really believe. Where is the evidence? As far as I can tell, she believed what she was saying.
Dimitri's radio show is on 1020 KDKA tonight from 6 to 9, and he plans to talk about his question. Unfortunately, I probably won't be able to listen in.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
I needed to wear running shoes because during the previous month my youth group had talked me into trying to water ski and I had injured my ankle. (My ankle returned to normal size in a matter of weeks, but it has never been the same.)
The church in which I was ordained was the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
The denominational headquarters was at 475 Riverside Drive in New York City.
The terminology of 'teaching elder' and 'ruling elder' was very much in use and well-understood in the Presbyterian Church.
There was a position called Assistant Pastor. (That was my first position in the first church I served as a teaching elder.)
Assistant Pastors and Associate Pastors were not members of the Session. (Soon after I was ordained the church would vote on changing this rule. At the time, I thought the change was a bad idea. I was wrong.)
The session of the first church I served had recently studied the blue book report on Homosexuality and the Church. But they were uncomfortable even talking about the experience of studying the issue.
The General Assembly (the church's most inclusive governing body) met annually.
The Book of Order was published annually and was an inexpensive paperback with a non-glossy cover.
The Presbyterian alphabet soup of organizations and committees was populated with acronyms I have not seen in a long time, such as COWAC.
The UPCUSA was in conversations with the Presbyterian Church in the United States about reunion. Someone showed me a copy of the PCUS Book of Order and I could tell by the much smaller size of their book that the two churches had markedly different cultures and ways of relating to their constitutions.
There was no Committee on Representation. (I would later chair one of those for a couple years.)
The General Assembly had no Advisory Committee on the Constitution. (As the church considered reunion, I thought the addition of the ACC as part of a second way for the General Assembly to render constitutional interpretations was a bad idea. I was wrong.)
Friday, May 22, 2009
Back in April I had noticed that the lights were out in the building on Leechburg Road where Steel City used to be located. Then the sign in front of the building was changed to say "Building for lease." I wasn't the only one to be discouraged by the apparent closure.
But tonight I learned that Steel City Pizza has moved -- into a restaurant location very familiar to me in Tarentum -- the former location of Lee's Chinese Restaurant, 415 E. 4th Ave.
When I started telling friends that I had discovered where Steel City had moved, I realized what a popular spot it had been for a lot of people. I called the restaurant to get answers to the questions people were asking.
Do they still have those wonderful bread sticks for those who eat in the dining room? Yes.
Do they still deliver to Lower Burrell? Yes, they will deliver to Lower Burrell, New Kensington, and Tarentum. The new phone number for the location in Tarentum is (724) 224-7499.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
- May 17, First Presbyterian Church of Gibsonia
- June 14, Harmony United Presbyterian Church, Belle Vernon
- July 26, Northmont United Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh
File under : worship
Friday, May 08, 2009
Tags: Allegheny, fundraiser, Habitat, housing, outdoors_recreation, ride, run, Valley, walk
Support local artists and finding a cure for breast cancer.
Tags: art, breast, cancer, fundraiser, health, Lower Burrell
Tags: internet, radio, clergy, education, Presbyterian, religion
Tags: PCUSA, Pittsburgh, polity, Presbyterian, rFOG
Friday, May 01, 2009
Habitat for Humanity of Allegheny Valley offers one faithful response to the problem of poverty housing. Organized in 1996, it has been building decent homes with partner homeowners since 1997.
Support for Habitat is so broad that it is easy for people to forget that Habitat is a Christian ministry. Countless local church groups volunteer their time in our building projects. Church groups come from out of state as well. Although we don't require volunteers or homeowner families to make to make a formal profession of faith, we do invite them to join us in something that Jesus is doing in the world.
Beyond faith groups, our local affiliate has had help from American Eagle Outfitters, State Farm, and Comcast, to name just a few of the corporations who have lent a hand and provided resources. We've had an amazing partnership with the new mall in the area - the Pittsburgh Mills.
Habitat's work involves a careful balance of enlisting and deploying volunteers, soliciting donations of funds and materials, identifying and supporting partner homeowners and their families, and developing projects in which all of the above can come together. A couple years ago I visited one of our local affiliate's work-sites on a day when an unexpectedly large group of volunteers showed up. I was amazed by the flexibility of our Executive Director Diane Belitskus in adapting to the greatly increased number of volunteers that day, and her ability to identify tasks that were suitable for the unexpected group.
Our local affiliate is working on increasing its building capacity. We have benefited from a special partnership between Habitat for Humanity International and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans called Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity. Under this larger partnership Thrivent Financial is providing $125 million over five years to help Habitat for Humanity significantly increase the number of homes it builds. Habitat for Humanity of Allegheny Valley is one of the many local affiliates that has received grants and extra commitments of volunteer hours from Lutherans to build more homes.
As I have seen the wonderful things that Thrivent Builds has been able to accomplish in partnership with affiliates around the world, I have been asking myself one question: Is there an entity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that is in a position to make a similar partnership with Habitat for Humanity?
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Is he summoning a manifestation of the Holy Grail?
Is he causing a chalice to levitate?
Is he doing a little bit of stage magic?
Or is he simply "doing his thing" as the photographer modestly describes?
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Wait a month to find out.
My cousin gets involved in the most fascinating cases. And this one about a blogger being sued for slander over online conversations to research an article really piques my interest.
I've observed that my own blogging takes me in different directions, sometimes engaging in conversation about an article someone else has written, and sometimes producing original content to which someone else might respond.
When I started attending borough council meetings I wanted to learn about the issues that were important to the people in the community. My blog was a convenient tool for me to record my perceptions and to share them with others.
I noticed that sometimes our local newspaper had a reporter there to cover the story, and sometimes not. It is easy for a local government to stay off the radar screen. It can hold meetings at the same time as the well-attended school board meetings. It can cancel agenda meetings and make the public wait for the actual meeting to find out what business is to be transacted. It can make clever use of executive session, misstating the purpose for excluding the public, or reconvening in open session after most of the public have gone home.
Some friends and acquaintances appreciated what I wrote. And some politicans made ingratiating comments to me about how my blog posts were so much better than what the newspaper had published. Come on - I had read the newspaper stories and I knew that they were just fine.
Was I a journalist in what I wrote on my blog? I don't know. Was I journalist when I started writing original local stories on Topix.com? Perhaps. But in both cases I am sure that I made a contribution to keeping the public informed.
I never faced a lawsuit over sources - or for anything else related to my blogging. But I am really looking forward to learning the outcome of Shellee Hale's case.
And I hope she wins.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Stan Schroeder raised some questions about whether Facebook needs to be a democracy, and if so what process it should have followed.
I don't think this is democracy at work, nor does it have to be. It is a business gathering marketing data before restating or changing its contract with users. I appreciate that Facebook took the time to do this.
I was one of those who initially joined the Facebook protest back in February, until I realized that it was based on an odd and inaccurate interpretation of what Facebook was trying to do. If people want to complain about the new documents that were in fact well-publicized and for which the users did have an opportunity to respond, I am one user who does not want to hear about it.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Yesterday before the meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery, the Peacemaking Ministry Team sponsored a panel discussion on Youth and Violence. Panelists were ministers and elders from five diverse congregations of the presbytery: Bethesda United Presbyterian Church (in Pittsburgh), East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church, Southminster Presbyterian Church, and Verona United Presbyterian Church.
The Rev. Dr. Ron Peters of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary moderated the panel discussion, inviting the panelists to respond to various questions. How have youth in your church and community been affected by violence? How has your church responded to violence among youth? How is your church uniquely gifted to help? Where is God leading your congregation in regard to the problem of violence among our youth?
One of the common themes that emerged is that there will be "push-back" from within the congregation, i.e. that when we are dealing with genuine spiritual problems we should not be surprised that resistance conducting such a ministry will appear even from within the congregation.
The Peacemaking Ministry Team has prepared resources for churches who want to deal with the problem of youth and violence. Download links for three published resources are going to be made available to all who were in attendance at the panel discussion.
The walls in the lecture hall where the panel discussion was held were decorated with various mandalas made by young people at the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
When I arrived at the church I immediately saw yellow police tape blocking off the entrance to the church. It was an eye-catching reminder that something special was supposed to happen, and that it wasn't going to start in the sanctuary. Posters directed anyone who hadn't heard about the starting place for the service to go around back of the church.
In back of the church a crowd was milling around on the patio, some warming their hands over a fire. Others were sitting inside the fellowship hall with a view of the activity that was going to take place outside.
We sang a praise song from newsprint being held out of upper windows overlooking the courtyard. Then the drama began.
Young people in the crowd were asking questions. Checking whether anyone had heard about Jesus, and what had happened to him.
An unmarked police car drove up, lights flashing. Judas (played by Colin Yuckman, the pastor) identified Jesus (played by one of the young people)to the officer. The officer arrested Jesus, who went along peacefully. Meanwhile the crowd made comments about how it was about time somebody did something about Jesus.
Some people in the crowd recognized Peter as one people standing around the fire. Peter denied he knew Jesus when challenged by the crowd and the police officer; after the third denial he ran off.
Then we all moved inside to the fellowship hall where scripture was read and we sang more hymns. We were invited to complete a statement on a piece of paper: "I denied Jesus when I ..." The unsigned sheets were collected and pinned to a wall. Kathy Davis spoke to us about our denials and our forgiveness.
We turned our chairs to the side and Colin Yuckman offered a dramatic first-person monologue portraying Judas as he defended his choices and contemplated what he had done and was about to do.
We then moved ourselves upstairs to the vestibule where we joined in a litany posted on newsprint on the walls, committing ourselves to follow Jesus.
After singing another praise song we proceeded into the back of the sanctuary, where we watched Pilate conduct the trial of Jesus. At the conclusion of the trial we moved to the front of the sanctuary where we watched the crucifixion.
The young people did a great job in organizing this service. I am sure that everyone walked away from the experience with insights to ponder.
Friday, February 06, 2009
Pittsburgh Presbytery had a mission fair at its meeting yesterday at the Pleasant Hills Community Presbyterian Church. The theme was "Showcasing the Presbytery" and all of the committees and entities that related dirctly to Pittsburgh Presbytery were invited to have a display. Unlike other committees that were present, the Permanent Judicial Commission was in the enviable position of not needing to lobby for budget money and not looking for work. Although I had never heard of a PJC having a display at such an event, it seemed to me that it would be appropriate for the PJC to make itself available — in a limited way — to the rest of the presbytery community.
I put together the display shown above, and a brochure that had the same information but in some greater detail. Two other members of the PJC (Dave Carver and Jeff Tindall) made themselves available to staff the table along with me.
I am not surprised that there was a low level of interest in our display, but the fascinating part of this experience was that so many people at the mission fair would glance at the display from a distance and then hurry past as if they were afraid of catching something if they lingered too long.
A couple of our brief visitors indicated that they had served on the PJC in the past. One person asked about how someone gets on a PJC and I directed her to the presbytery's nominating committee.
Even though the display met with a low level of interest, I was glad to have had the experience of putting it together. I hope that the display's existence will make it easier for the presbytery to explain this part of its work to people who have questions in the future.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I am suspending judgment on whether this storm will turn out to be all that the forecasters have predicted. I can tell that there is poor visibility, but I didn't expect to see this cardinal in the apple tree outside my window on such a gray day.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Pittsburgh Presbytery has formed a task force to prepare recommendations to the Presbytery on each of these matters. That task force scheduled six listening sessions in order to hear from ministers and elders about each of the issues. I decided that I would try to get to the three that were closest to me in order to hear from people in the presbytery.
Saturday's session was held on a cold day, but the temperatures did not stop 21 people from coming out to listen and be heard. The Rev. Tom Moore led the session that morning.
Those in attendance identified proposed Amendments 08-B, 08-E, and 08-F, and ecumenical statement 08-K as the ones about which they wanted to speak.
The majority of our time was spent discussing proposed amendment 08-B, "Ordained Officers: On Amending G-6.0106b, G-14.0240, G-14.0450." The energy expressed around 08-B primarily had to do with the amendment of G-6.0106b. The thrust of the amendment is to replace a reference to a specific standard with a more general, but specifically Christ-centered, standard for officers "to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church ...."
As I listened to the statements people wanted to make both in opposition to this amendment and in support of it, it seemed to me that the major division we were experiencing had to do with our differing interpretations of Scripture. For some the proposed constitutional change seemed like a relaxing of clear teachings of Scripture; for others the same change seemed like a move towards greater faithfulness to Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture. With such great differences of perspective, is it possible for us to find common ground? I continue to hope so.
When we discussed Ecumenical Statement 08-K "Ecumenical Statement with the Roman Catholic Church on Ratifying a Common Agreement on Baptism" many were pleased at the prospect of formalizing agreements that that some of us had assumed were already in existence. Yet even as we looked with favor on this statement, there were some who were still concerned about the fact that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Roman Catholic Church have different understandings of justification. Should a disagreement on justification (not addressed in this ecumenical statement) be a sufficient reason for disapproving an agreement on eight points where there is no dispute? I don't think so.
I plan to attend other listening sessions that are reasonably close to me, to continue to hear the thoughts of others in Pittsburgh Presbytery. I need to know how these potential changes affect them. The people with whom I may have disagreements are all recipients of the same grace that God has shown to me in Jesus Christ.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
There were many activities for all ages - and more than anybody could possibly attend in one evening. A synthetic ice skating rink was set up on Academy Hill Place, and it seemed that there was a constant crowd of people skating on it.
Inside the museum there were art activities for children (sponsored by such groups as Greenlight Engage) as well as interactive science activities sponsored by the Discovery & Interactive Science Center. (I liked the percussion demonstration.)
A smorgasbord of musical performances were happening inside the museum, in the auditorium of the Greensburg-Salem Middle School, and at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral. I enjoyed two performances by young people from Stage Right. The first was a somewhat impromptu set of audition songs that various students had been working on; they put this together when they learned that another group was not going to show up. The second was a medley of songs performed by the Stage Right Sensations.
The galleries in the Museum were open for anyone who wanted to browse the exhibits. I made a promise to myself to come back and explore the exhibits further when there was not a karaoke contest happening in the next room. 2009 will be a good year for further visits because this is the fiftieth anniversary for the museum.