What I'm Reading now

It's not exactly a book for earnest seekers of everyday spirituality, but I've always been attracted to that "off the beaten path" approach. This summer I picked up Barney Hoskyns, Small Town Talk. It’s the story of Woodstock, not the festival that captured the imagination of a generation, but the town and all the characters that came here beginning with Bob Dylan in 1964.

Hoskyns is a fine writer and he weaves the narrative of this Catskills town from its famous residents, now long gone, to those less well known carpenters and mechanics who currently occupy the town.

There was a music festival that was supposed to be held in this town in 1969, but a variety of factors forced its relocation 60 miles away to Yasgur’s Farm. That event put Woodstock, NY on the map, and every year tourists come to the town looking for the site of the festival. What they find is a small town of about 5,000 people, some of whom moved here after that festival and now their children run shops, inns and repair cars. There is an arts scene today, but forty years ago it was Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Band and Van Morrison along with others who played music, and ate in local cafes.

In my book Everyday Spirituality, I wrote a chapter about music. There I reflected on the third sacrament as a gift of the sacred. Hoskyns paints a portrait that is quite down to earth. One might wonder how spiritual music really is as you read this book. But, I would suggest, that it is in the blood and guts, the loves lost and gained, the fear and redemption of these musicians lives that we find a certain holiness.

I was born a little late for this sixties adventure. So reading of this time period is more history than biography for me. If I want something from a period I lived through, I’ll have to pick up Hoskyns Hotel California, which chronicles the early 1970’s and the West Coast version of Woodstock. But, that’s a read for another day.

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The Everyday Spirituality of RAGBRAI

RAGBRAI, the annual bicycle trek across the state of Iowa, has become the go-to activity for bicyclists from around the world. Annually since 1973, tens of thousands of bicycle riding enthusiasts pour into Iowa's small rural towns and ride some 400 plus miles from the border on the Missouri River to the waters of the Mississippi. 

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This year I, along with seven other friends, joined the crowd of some 18,000 people. We rode across the landscape of corn and soybean fields, through small towns and camping in church basements, yards or the occasional home. The week before the start was fraught with 98-degree temperatures and humidity intended for the tropics. Fortunately, a cold front came through on the night before the ride, showered us with rain on the first day but brought lower temps and humidity. It was a glorious week.

Each day we rode an average of 60 plus miles in a parade that from any satellite must have looked like a long snake making its way across the rolling hills. If you think Iowa is flat, you've not been there. We were riding over the Southern Iowa Drift Plain formed from retreating glaciers and resulting in some of the most fertile soil on the planet. Up and down and up and down, we rode our bicycles. Along the way farmers, school children, and vendors set up tents where one could purchase much-needed fuel in the form of Amish pies, pickles, and other types of calories. We needed it all, and in the one epic 90-mile day, I consumed more calories and water than I usually do in a week.

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The ride is most enjoyable, and it's easy to pick up brief conversations with your fellow travelers. A husband and wife wore bicycle helmets with Loons on top, so this lead to a chat about Minnesota and people we might have in common. Two young boys, age 8 & 10, had sprinted far ahead of their parents. They were on their fifth RAGBRAI ride, having been a part of tandem bikes with mom and dad on previous trips. This was their first on their bikes. The US Air Force cycling team, the largest cycling team in the world, was everywhere. Their task was to both enjoy the ride and stop to assist people with flat tires, snapped brake cables, or jammed chains. A team from Saudi Arabia was riding the tour because they hoped to bring back to concept to their home country. Hmmm, a bike ride across Saudi Arabia… I think that might be a little warm for my tastes. The point of all this is the community that is formed. In the course of seven days, you are bound by this physical and emotional, and yes, spiritual experience.

There is a liturgy and rhythm to the ride. In an event like this, and people delight in many and various ways. We are all in this moving caravan, this pilgrimage across the landscape, the modern-day Promise Land. Each of us brings with us our hopes and disappointments of the lives we lead, the quiet desperation and longings for something we dream can be. Together riding the ups and downs of the Iowa landscape, our shared humanity taking it all in.

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Ride for Refugee Children

Next week, I will be riding across the State of Iowa with 18,000 of my best friends in the annual RAGBRAI event. (WHich stands for something-something-something Bike Ride Across Iowa). Our team of bikers includes Erik Bell Kurt Christenson Mark Hagen Bradley Thom Rick Hoyme Frank Kaduk and Loren Clark. Jeff Thiemann will also join us later in the week. Our group of Halfling Riders will cover an average of 60 miles per day for 7 days. The temperatures forecast indicated that we will also be experiencing Dante's Inferno. I'm dedicating this as a "Ride for Refugees" and inviting everyone to consider supporting the AMPARRO ministry of the ELCA and their work with Refugee Minors. There is a donation button on the page link below. Consider making a gift to help the Lutheran Church assist young children at the border. #rideforrefugees Feel free to share this with your other FB Friends.

P.S. If you want to follow along, you can do this on my Instagram www.instagram.com/jimhazelwood

https://www.elca.org/AMMPARO

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Letter Regarding ICE Raids

Letter Regarding ICE Raids

As many of you already know from various news outlets, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers are planning raids across the U.S. are this weekend, the following ELCA links provide information on how to respond:

https://blogs.elca.org/advocacy/responding-to-our-sorrow-with-action/

And resources for those facing deportation:

https://www.elca.org/Resources/AMMPARO#ForSynodsAndCongregations.

I am aware of several Lutheran congregations in our synod who are afraid of what may or may not happen this weekend either in their church buildings or in the homes and apartments of their members.

I am asking all of the congregations of the New England Synod to do two things this weekend.

First, please include in your prayers this event. I trust you to formulate your own prayers, but I suggest that at its core this is all about fear. 

  • ·     The fear that some Americans see in a changing society. 

  • ·     The fear experienced by those newly arrived in this country who are targeted in these raids. 

  • ·     The use of fear by those in power is a weapon of both political manipulation and the accumulation of power. 

  • ·     Fear as something Jesus regularly addressed in his ministry. 

 Second, if you, your congregation or some of your community are holding vigils, participating in demonstrations or other forms of a civil action, please communicate them with one another, share them on our synod Facebook Page. We need people to be aware that this form of intimidation is not the way to address the policy matters of immigration. 

Finally, if you or your members are indeed subjected to a raid, let us know so we can respond as best we can to individual situations.

In Christ

Bishop James Hazelwood

 

On Patriotism and Faithfulness

Can one be both a citizen and a follower of Jesus at the same?

In a former life, not so long ago, I served a congregation that included a wide variety of people. We weren't very diverse in our ethnicity, but we had the whole range of people, economically, politically as well as understandings of the Christian faith. The parking lot had everything from beat-up old Datsun's (pre-Nissan) to brand new convertible Mercedes. One summer, two families told me they were leaving the church because of what they described as "your politics." One family expressed their dismay that I was not preaching about the most critical issue of the day. For them that would be abortion, they were staunchly conservative in their perspective. The other couple announced that the congregation, particularly its pastor (that would be me), was not prophetic enough in denouncing the current policies around war.

Despite my attempts to broaden the conversation, try to help different perspectives see the others way of thinking (even if you didn't agree) - I felt like a failure. Until I realized it wasn't about me.

It happened again last week. I received an email complaining about my lack of issuing a public proclamation celebrating the 4th of July. As the example, the sender attached an Email newsletter from another denomination extolling the virtues of America. If only I had more respect for the flag, our country and could provide appropriate leadership as a Christian leader. That was the implied message. The week before someone expressed displeasure with my recent encouragement for people to speak out, write to their representatives regarding the imprisonment and separation of children along our southern border. In the same batch of mail was an angry email that I was not doing enough to stop Donald Trump.

Ah, the life of a leader in Post-Civil America.

How does one embrace both loves of country and love of God? How does one honor the way of Jesus who embraced the outcast, and live in consumer-oriented US America?

Sure it was easier for liberals to be supporters of Barack Obama and see in him a desire to embrace an ethic of the Christian faith via the lens of Christian ethicist Reinhold Niebuhr. On the other hand, the current President has supporters from different views of Christianity, and see in his policies an explanation of their perspective of the faith.

What do we do? The temptation is to fall into the current polarity of our political culture and claim your side is right, and their side is wrong. (A Reading of Dr. Suess The Butter Battle Book if you need a refresher). That is indeed one option, and many are taking that road.

I want to suggest a third way. It begins with getting very clear on what one believes and why — articulating that belief clearly and concisely, while at the same time acknowledging possible shortcoming to one's position. Then allowing others to respond, offer their opinions. Let's listen and ask clarifying questions. In the end, maybe no one changes their point of view, perhaps there is a shift, but hopefully, there is at least respect.

For instance, I'll give it a try here:

Immigration. I'm very much for a path to citizenship for people. We need immigration for cultural, economic, and spiritual reasons. I believe our country is enhanced in its diversity of people. I'm also well aware that immigration, when done correctly, increases the economic well being of families and the nation as a whole. I also believe that the United States is a unique place and a beacon of hope for people who are suffering and oppressed. I also think that people coming to this country should do so through a proper and orderly system that includes documentation. The current system is broken, and there is no genuine interest in fixing the system. Various proposals from the so-called Gang of 8 plan to President Obama's approach with Dreamers have been attacked from all sides. My position would allow for people already here to become citizens based on several factors, including family relations, economic activity, and evidence of positive contribution to civic life. A system for those not here would be similar. Yes, I also believe we should continue to be a refuge for the world's distressed and oppressed. All of this is not without shortcomings, not the least of which is coming up with a functional immigration system, refugee resettlement program on both the public, private, and non-profit sectors. I'm also aware of the abuses that can and have occurred within our current situation. These need to be addressed, but not in the present manner, which is cruel, vicious, and costly. In brief, I'm for an orderly immigration system, recognizing that there are benefits to all while acknowledging risks that are challenging.

My argument above is ultimately rooted in my faith, my understanding of a wide swath of scripture that calls for an embrace and welcome of the stranger, hospitality for the sojourner, and welcome of the refugee. I'm also holding this position because I genuinely believe it's best for our democracy as well as the economic well being of our nation.

I recognize there are those who disagree with my position or parts of it. Those who claim the faith of Jesus and affirmation of our constitution may hold somewhat different perspectives. That does not make them evil or wrong.

Democracy is hard. Following Jesus is hard. If we want something easy and straightforward, it likely leads toward fewer freedoms and a more restrictive faith. I'm not interested in those options. I'll take the hard work of being a patriot and a Christian every single day, warts and all.

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A Funeral for a Friend's Daughter

Driving across the Berkshires on my way to Rochester for a funeral, I listened to the music of Over the Rhine. The song “Broken Angels” penetrated my soul and reminded me once again what soft and fragile yet resilient creatures we are. Complete with it’s reference to poet Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, this song touches so many themes of the edge we walk, holding the tension of the opposites of spirit and matter, saint and sinner, life and death. You can listen to the whole song here. A glimpse at some of the lyrics for you…

I want to take a break from heartache
Drive away from all the tears I’ve cried
I’m a wasteland down inside
In the crawlspace under heaven
In the landscape of a wounded heart
I don’t know where to start

But the wild geese of Mary
Pierce the darkness with a song
And a light I’ve been running from
And running for so long
As their feathers spin their stories
I can still cling to my fears
Or I can run but they come along
And we both disappear just like all

All these broken angels
All these tattered wings
All these things come alive in me

Karin Berquist and Linford Detweiler are the couple who comprise Over the Rhine

Karin Berquist and Linford Detweiler are the couple who comprise Over the Rhine

Practicing Everyday Spirituality on the Boston T (Metro)

On Wednesday, I had a series of appointments in Boston, and the prospect of facing hours of rush hour traffic convinced me to use all of the public transportation modes available.  I boarded an Amtrak train in Kingston, Rhode Island, hopped onto a BlueBike to ride from the Back Bay Station to Dorchester, road the T back to downtown and continued my day with a mix of walking and riding, til returning home that night.

During all this movement, I was mindful of an everyday spirituality – particularly an urban version of it.  My friend Laura Everett has written about this in her book, Holy Spokes

I remained aware of my breathing, walking, moving, and singing as expressions of Everyday Spirituality.  But, it was while riding the T that a Holy Intervention struck me.  (The photo below was taken just moments before this all happened)

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While everyone was immersed in their cell phones, an older woman in a wheelchair was attempting to exit the subway car. Her left wheel got caught on the part of the doorway.  She was stuck and in distress.  It took a minute for all of us to realize what was unfolding.  Soon, many people were up to her aid with one person offering the woman assurance, and two others working on getting her wheelchair unstuck.  All this unfolded in a matter of, maybe, a minute and a half. Eventually, she was on her way, and the riders returned to their seats. But, for a minute or two strangers exchanged reflections on what happened, evaluations of the safety of her wheelchair, the nature of riding on the T and thoughts of wellbeing for the rest of the day.

For a brief moment, we were a community - just seconds before we were all in our worlds, strangers with no connection, and no interest in connecting. But, something broke that all apart, and transformed us into generous and concerned human beings.

I'm not saying God caused that to all happen through the woman in distress, but I am saying that when the woman's emergency occurred and people responded, a certain kind of holiness was born into the world - the holiness of the best of human nature.  There's something sacred in that, and that's an example of Everyday Spirituality.

Do you have stories like this from your life? Let me know jim@everydayspiritualitybook.com

I'll include it either here on this blog or in an upcoming Podcast Episode.

 

Podcast Changes are coming...

Just a brief update. As I enter the final stretch of last minute edits to the book Everyday Spirituality, I realize the journey is not over. More and more people are coming forward with stories of how they encounter the sacred, the holy, the divine in ordinary life. So how do we keep this movement going? We keep telling the stories. I’m collecting them for the podcast, and for this blog space. If you’ve got one send it to me at jim@everydayspiritualitybook.com

I’m looking forward to continuing to share the stories.

FYI - Got to the podcast page and listen to more.

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Sing...How Music is an expression of Everyday Spirituality

As you may already know, in August my book Everyday Spirituality: Discover a Life of Hope, Peace and Meaning will be released. Below is an excerpt from the book. This is Chapter 15 Sing. Enjoy

 

Sing

 

I'm a tad bit embarrassed to admit that the first record album I ever bought was Bobby Sherman’s “Julie, do ya love me.” Yes, even today, typing that title gets that song going in my head –sugary Pop music of the early 1970s. Fortunately, there was a quick pivot away from that first foray into American music. A year later I immersed myself in the music that was key to the southern California of my childhood. Upon learning of my interest in music, my mother went to a local record store to inquire what she should buy her 14-year-old son for his birthday. She walked out with three audio cassette recordings, wrapped them in colorful paper and placed them at the kitchen table where I found them on my birthday that spring. 

I’d never heard of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Led Zeppelin or Carole King. In retrospect, it was an odd collection, but it inspired a voracious appetite for all things musical. Throughout the 1970s I frequented the record stores, music clubs and concert halls around Los Angeles. Later in college, I developed the embryonic radio station KRCL-FM into a significant player among Southern California college radio stations. As the emerging punk and new wave music scene emerged, we were there to usher in a revival of bands such as The Police, Heart and The Clash. A little-known Irish boy band named U2 first got airplay on that station. Every teenager needs a tribe or a sub-culture to belong to. My world was music. 

I never played an instrument, as I was told at an early age I couldn’t sing. The adult condemnation stuck and was later reinforced when I hopped onto a friend’s drum kit, only to be told, “Jim, you got no rhythm.” But that didn't matter. Music allowed me to enter another world. The combination of sounds and lyrics were the contemporary psalms that gave meaning to my teenage angst. Bruce Springsteen introduced me to poetry, Bob Marley kindled the call for justice, and Joni Mitchell brought the unconscious to life. 

Music is sacred, whether we listen to it, sing it or create it. I have often felt that if I had one wish for the tradition which claims me, it would be that Martin Luther would have added music as a third sacrament. I doubt I’d get any opposition to that suggestion today, as Lutherans are among the best-singing denominations of the Protestant movement.

Music is lifted so often in the scriptures. The Psalms were quite likely lyrics set to music, as was the poetry of such books as Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. Roger McGuinn, of the 1960s band The Byrds, took the well-known passage from Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, and turned it into the song “Turn, Turn, Turn.” 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to throw away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace

The New Testament includes references to Jesus and his disciples singing, and Mary's Magnificat in Luke is a song for the ages. In the 18thcentury, Johann Sebastian Bach then took the Magnificat and turned it into one of his most beloved pieces of vocal music. Music is central in most religious traditions around the world, but particularly in Christianity. The long connection of western religion and western culture is evident in the works of musicians throughout the ages. The rich legacy and contribution of the African American community to jazz, blues, and gospel music, forms the foundation for much of today's rock, hip hop, and country music. With this great variety of music, one has to wonder if we can even make a distinction between sacred music and secular music. The singer-songwriter Linford Detweiler, of the Ohio-based band Over the Rhine. recently commented on the sacredness of song:

This reminds me of something Wendell Berry wrote: “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.” At its core, songwriting is a sacred act. Music has huge potential to heal and soothe. No human community can be healthy without culture, without a means to tell our stories together, to make pictures and hear each other’s music. During a particularly difficult, dark time in my own life, I asked my mother what she did when the valley of the shadow grew too deep, when she felt like throwing in the towel, falling down, giving up. She didn’t hesitate one second. Her answer was simple: I sing.

Music-based stories were among the most common examples of everyday spirituality that I received. People wrote of encounters that had every element of divine presence, ranging from times at summer camps where, “I felt God at our campfires as we sat together singing gently to end the evening – the feeling of our spirits touching each other” to more formal settings in a church building. “Singing solos in church brought stage fright, and at my first solo (I) was more than a little scared. God planted in my thoughts: you are singing to me, be calm, it will be all right. It was all right. Years later, when my grandmother died, I knew I needed to sing at her funeral. Though my inability to pick out the notes from sheet music prevented my singing career and attendance at Julliard, as I was practicing the song I would sing for Gram, in her home, I found every note without a piano. God was there.” 

Another person wrote of the comfort she received from the Rod Stewart song “Forever Young.” While cleaning her home one weekend, Arlene received a phone call informing her of her father's imminent death. Without changing clothes, she raced off to the hospital to be with her 84-year-old dad. Sitting with him in his last few moments, she realized she was wearing an old Rod Stewart concert t-shirt, and the lyrics of the song resonated in her head.  “May the Good Lord be with you down every road you roam, may sunshine and happiness surround you when you're far from home.”

One of my closest friends, who refuses even to enter a church worship service, confessed to me once, “If there is something in this universe that is all-knowing, all-loving…what you might call God, then he, she, it is probably present in the music. Because it seems like music, its tonal quality and its rhythms, are the one truly universal language. Music connects people in ways nothing else – and I mean nothing elsedoes. If there is a God, I think she’s probably more likely a black gospel singer than an old man in white robes.” 

In the introduction to this book, I explained that one of my motivations for writing this book was an attempt to challenge the prevailing myth that spirituality is lacking in our culture, and in particular, our congregations. I wonder if all the instruments that attempt to measure passionate spirituality or vitality are deficient because they don't measure music as an expression of everyday spirituality. Is it possible that in song, in rhythm, in the poetry of lyrics, the melodies many people delight in, we experience a sacred encounter? This can be true for the teenager listening to screaming guitar on his earbuds, the church member singing boldly while the organist accompanies, or the trombone player performing a solo with her jazz band.

On one of my trips to Honduras, our group’s lunch hour was interrupted by a funeral procession through the old colonial-looking town of Yuscaran. For a few hours, the entire village was transfixed on the ritual of burial as a coffin was carried from the local Roman Catholic Church through the streets to the cemetery on the outskirts of the town. Everything stopped. One could imagine this was how funerals had been conducted here for hundreds of years. Our group of North Americans followed the procession but stayed at a distance as workers lowered the coffin into the ground. Then quietly a single sound emerged over the cemetery – the sound of a clarinet playing an old hymn. The music was both haunting and comforting – a reminder that the sound of the divine was present.

Music helps us cope with life’s unexplainable moments. It gives voice to things we cannot express, emotions too conflicted to comprehend. Music is divine. In many ways, all music is soul music. Whether in the shower, your car or on stage, let’s sing it out loud.

 

This Cruel and Heartless Administration

In all likelihood, Student Pastor Betty Rendon will be deported to Columbia this week.

Yes, one of our ELCA Pastors was arrested in her home in Wisconsin several weeks ago by

You can read the latest news at this link from the Chicago Sun Times. In addition, the background of this story, if you are not familiar with this case can be found here. The photo below is of my colleague Bishop Paul Erickson of the Milwaukee Area Synod speaking at a rally calling for her release.

Bishop Paul Erickson

Bishop Paul Erickson

In addition this past week, Pastor Imad Haddad, was denied (by intentional delay) a VISA to come to visit us in the New England Synod. His trip was a part of a three city visit as a Companion Church. Pastor Haddad serves in the ELCJHL, Lutheran Church in the Holy Land. His visit, like many others in the past was intended to be a bridge building encouragement as we attempt to Build Peace not Walls.

Pastor Imad Haddad with his Wife

Pastor Imad Haddad with his Wife

This administration continues to practice the most vicious, cruel and heartless policy in relation to Pastors in the Lutheran Church. Even if you are an ardent supporter of this President, you must admit this is all a far cry from the talk of deporting criminals.

Why?

What purpose? What value is served by these acts of hostility?

I am left with no rational explanations. If you are a part of the US American electorate that speaks of concern for the state of Christianity, here and abroad, how can you justify these actions?

Just yesterday I was in a local T-Shirt store ordering T-Shirts for our New England Delegation to the Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee. As I discussed possible designs which would communicate our churches concern for the poor, the planet, the immigrant, etc…the young early 20 something woman said to me. “Wow, What kind of a church is this?”

I explained concisely our history, our core values and Grace. Her response tells us so much.

“I’ve never heard of a church like this, I thought they were all like those crazy people on TV.”

She asked where she could find such a church, and I gave her the local name.

-

When the government starts deporting your pastors, and denying VISAs for short church related visits, you know things have changed. It’s worse than any of us thought.

Become involved

Call Your Senators

Lift up the Values of Democracy

Embrace the New Patriotism

We've got a Book Cover

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Here it is, the first draft of the book cover. Expected publication date is August 2019. If you want to be kept up to date on it’s release, sign up for my eNewsletter, which includes ideas on living Spirituality in the Everyday ordinary parts of life.

Learn the ways of "Everyday Spirituality". I'll send you a copy of the story behind the book along with a sample Chapter, plus tips and ideas.

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Better Questions for Bishop Elections

In my denomination, ELCA Lutheran, the months of May and June include conventions called synod assemblies. Each year a portion of those assemblies include elections of bishops. In 2019, there will be approximately 20 elections across the 65 ELCA synods. Those elections process include questions prepared for the candidates open to serve as a synod bishop. I’ve been watching these questions for several years now, and noticed the similarity as well as the naivety of the Q and A process. This year several organizations with specifically issue oriented focus publicly issued statements that included their own suggestions for questions. As is often the case, these kinds of questions tell us about the one posing the question. As I’ve worked in this call as a bishop for nearly seven years, I’ve now realized that all the questions asked have nothing to do with the actual work one does in this office. Therefore, I came up with my own list of ten questions. In my opinion, these questions more accurately capture the real work of a bishop. (Please note, I’m under no illusion that these will nor should become a part of any synod’s election process. My intention is to try to help people get a more accurate view of what a bishop does, and the qualities he or she must possess to tackle this call)

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Questions for Bishop Elections

1.    Given the fact that an incoming bishop faces multiple constituencies, all pulling for his or her time and energy, how will you choose and prioritize your work knowing that no matter what you choose, you will disappoint some or even many?

2.    Do you like to travel? Do you like meetings? Do you like sitting for long periods of time?

3.    Since all bishops are expected to enter into this office with a vision or plan that will cure the 40-year decline in worship attendance and financial support, how will you handle this expectation when you realize what you are up against?

4.    Do you like conflict? Between people, organizations, factions. Both the petty kind and the significant.

5.    As a bishop, you will use maybe 30% of what you learned while serving as a pastor in this office.  How will you discover the other 70% you need to know?

6.    Where do you get your identity and purpose for life?

7.    Do you know how to take care of yourself? Eat well, exercise, and brush your teeth?  If not, how do you expect to make it through your first term?

8.    Do you like to ask people for money?

9.    How will you handle the fact that some of the friends you now have as colleagues in this synod will soon or someday become the people that seek to undermine you?  In other words, what's your plan for dealing with sabotage?

10.  Someone once said this office is the most rewarding and most challenging call in the church, while another said, it is just relentless.  In light of those statements, how is your stamina?

All the Jobs I’ve Had (and the ones I didn't get) Have Helped me to this Day

All the Jobs I've had through the years, as well as the ones I didn't get, have contributed to my work. I currently serve as bishop of the New England Synod.  Serving as a bishop is a job and a calling that involves conflict management, human resources personnel work, leading meetings, determining direction of an organization, understanding a foundational level of financial budgets, staff supervision, from time to time an opportunity to pray with people and an occasional scheduled or spontaneous engagement in public speaking.  I have often said I do three things. They are a) provide clarity, b) say thank you and c) cause trouble.  The key is knowing when to apply the right tool.

What Jobs have you had?

What Jobs have you had?

What prepared me for this work?  Academic Education, books, conferences, webinars?  Maybe some, but in reality, the following jobs made me for this work.

Assistant for Maintenance – In the summer of 1973, my Junior High School principal offered me a job. Five days a week, 8:30m a.m. till 3:30 p.m.  I rode my bike each and when I showed up he assigned me a job.  The tasks ranged from cleaning windows, painting desks, washing out classrooms, sanding down handrails.  In other words, I did chores that needed to be done but were below the work of the full-time custodian/maintenance guy.  What I learned from this job was the value of work. What I most recall from this summer some 45 years later is that I rode my bike every day to work, and at the age of 13, I discovered freedom and independence.  I also learned how to navigate rush hour traffic.

Ice Scream Scooper for 31 Flavors aka Baskin Robbins – For about one year I worked after school at this store.  The owners of the franchise were two couples who were related to each other.  Two things stand out from this experience. The first involves an attempt by a customer to trick me out of the change I was giving him.  This was a common petty crime in which someone would buy a small item, give you a ten dollar bill, talk a great deal to distract you, and then insist that he gave you a 20 and want the change. I figured the character out quickly and told him he could leave the store.  The other story involves the owners.  When I got hired, the owners issued two uniform shirts, and they deducted $3.75 from your first four paychecks.  If you kept the shirts in good condition, you would be refunded the total of 4 x $3.75 = $15.  When I left that job, the owners insisted that the amount was $10.  I had kept all my pay stubs in a drawer at home, so I went and was able to find my first, second, and fourth pay stub.  Each was showing the $3.75, but I couldn't find the third stub.  When I brought the three pay stubs to demonstrate that they owed me the total of $15 for the good condition returned shirts, the owner said, "Nope, sorry, it was ten dollars, and that missing stub would show it."   I learned a lot about human nature, the power of pettiness, and greed.  Mostly I learned how not to treat employees.  I also discovered that my favorite flavor is Mocha Almond Fudge.

Insurance Document Courier – While in college, my friend Roger worked for an Insurance company. His job was to manage its fleet of company-owned cars.  These were big long Oldsmobile, Lincoln, and Cadillacs.  He needed someone to help, but mostly it turned out that what the company needed was a delivery driver.  This was at a time before email and fax machines. My job was to drive all over Los Angeles to pick and deliver documents for this insurance agency.  Think Uber driver of paper, not people.  What did I learn from this job?  One thing, one crucial thing.  Namely, the most important people for any company are the secretarial support staff.  They do all the real work, and if you treat them well, everything goes much smoother.

A & R Rep for CBS Records – This is a job I did not get.  My interview was so bizarre as to involve myself and the other candidate sitting in an office on Wilshire Blvd with a bunch of obnoxious young executives listening to a horrible song.   They claimed this song would be the next big hit.  They also discussed all of the "side benefits" of working in the entertainment industry.  I left that office and thought I'd been in the midst of the most childish group of adults ever.  They never called me back, and it was the best job I didn't get.  I drove back to my summer job as a camp counselor, where I enjoyed working with children who behaved more like adults.  Looking back, I realize this was a transitional moment in my young adult life.  I also learned that sometimes it. Might be proper not to get the job.

Youth Director – All Saint's Lutheran Church was looking for a youth director, and I applied during my first semester of seminary.  The congregation's pastor gave me the freedom to experiment, challenge the suburban culture of comfort, and express my complex theological ideas.  I worked there for two years.  It was my first real exposure to congregational life.  I saw the best and the worst of people. After two years, I was convinced that being a pastor was the last thing I should do with my life.   Two years later, I was ordained and called to serve my first congregation in Brooklyn.  My All Saint's experience taught me the first step in the Journey is the Refusal of the Call…and it's just that, the first step.