Sabbath

 

Giddings-Lovejoy Transitional Presbytery Leader

Rev. Dr. Craig Howard
choward@glpby.org

 

Sabbath

I had the opportunity to go to Israel last November with a group called Interfaith Partners for Peace. It was a group of 30 people, 15 Rabbis and 15 Christian Pastors. Our goal was to visit with political leaders, business people, and educators in Israel and Palestine. We wanted to get an understanding of the complexity of Middle East relationships, while observing how some people are actually bridging the chasm that separates these two peoples.

I experienced the 10 day trip while in the midst of business. I’d worked six weeks without a day off. I left a conference in Louisville to go to Israel. I didn’t even have time to wash my suitcase full of clothing!

Workaholism has always been a weakness of mine. Somehow I came to believe that I could solve problems by persistence where I lacked intelligence. This has served me well in education (I completed the M.Div in 4 years while working full-time) and in ministry (I worked bi-vocationally, which meant 60 – 70 hour work weeks). While serving as presbytery executive in Milwaukee, personnel called me on the carpet many times for the hours I kept. I’m trying to do better here in Giddings-Lovejoy. So far I’ve stayed out of the office on Fridays (still checking emails and phone calls though).

One thing a workaholic can do is spot another workaholic. In my first month as your Presbytery Leader, I’ve spotted quite a few! These are pastors and leaders who don’t have consistent down time. Or, their down time is planned but it never happens. There’s always one more meeting, writing, untimely hospital visit or funeral. There is more need than there is time. I’m watching pastors and leaders exert a lot of energy, as they attempt to do more, help more, and save more, yet still remain behind.

While in Israel I was able to participate in Shabbat and Sabbath. The experience left a strong impression on what it means to enjoy the company of friends, celebrate, and rest. Even the elevators work differently on Sabbath! They stop on every floor so no one has to press a button!

I know I am pushing against the cultural grain of 24 hour news and microwave ovens. We desire service. We want it fast and we want it now. Our leaders are expected to maintain the cultural pace and always be available.

But God has a better way. It is alright to stop. It is alright to disconnect and spend uninterrupted time with family and self; to read something we don’t have to preach. It is alright to take time to rebuild and re-create.

Let us model for one another a holy leadership that includes down time and rest. Let us become the people of God to one another.

 

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Future Church: God is calling us to be transformed

Giddings-Lovejoy Transitional Presbytery Leader

Rev. Dr. Craig Howard
choward@glpby.org

 

 

Future Church

On Sunday, I had the pleasure to visit our church in Ferguson, just north of St. Louis. In his sermon, pastor Michael Trautman challenged the congregation to take repentance seriously. “Repentance transcends the social/political structures we are faced with,” he said. Michael spoke of repentance as being part of a three pillar system: repentance, forgiveness, and healing. These pillars are held together with prayer, as we seek to be transformed disciples of Jesus Christ.

The power of this message is that Michael has the courage to say that change is part of what it means to be a Christian; a disciple of Christ. God is not content for us to improve or just to be better. God is calling us to be transformed.

This same message holds true for the congregations in our presbytery.

My ministry in executive leadership has focused on leading our denomination into the Future Church. I am certain that there will be a church in the future. The question is what will that church look like? I am not sure if that church will be like our land-locked urban structures or spacious suburban plants. Will the Future Church be rural congregations of the faithful few, or will it consist of the mega-churches that are dominating the Christian landscape? Chances are, the Future Church will be as different from what we are currently doing as my smart phone is as different than the rotary dial I grew up with.

As a presbytery, we are called to usher in this church; a church that will be different from what we have and probably operate in a different way than what we know. To get from here to there will take dreaming, imagination, and risk.

So, here is the challenge. Are we stuck trying to do church the same way it was done 50 and 100 years ago, or are we willing to imagine a church community in a different way? Some models are already out there such as Sweaty Sheep (a church built around running and exercise), Creation Labs (a church that builds community around doing art together), or radical ways of doing traditional church like Contemplative Prayer communities or New Monastic communities. (Click here to see more ideas from the 1001 New Worshiping Communities, or here for Fresh Expressions.)

As a presbytery, we must use our Holy imaginations to dream God’s dream for our future. There will be a Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy in the future. With God’s help it will be a transformed community leading all of God’s people into a Future Church.

 

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Doing Something Right

Giddings-Lovejoy Transitional Presbytery Leader
Rev. Dr. Craig Howard
choward@glpby.org

 

Doing Something Right

In his book, The One Minute Manager, Kenneth Blanchard writes, “Help people reach their full potential, catch them doing something right.” This applies to organizations too! In my first week as your Presbytery Leader (ok, I’m supposed to put “Transitional” on the front of that but you know I’m transitional and I know I’m transitional so I’m dropping it for now!) I have been sitting in a lot of meetings, listening, participating, and taking in a lot of information. I have studied the wonderful history of Giddings-Lovejoy and learned about the recent trials the presbytery has endured. I could fill this column with the number of changes and challenges the presbytery has overcome this past year alone. But I would rather talk about something we are doing right. I’d prefer sharing some good news with the presbytery.

Here it is. We have a balanced budget for 2017!

I know for some this isn’t exciting or spicy enough to warrant celebration. But if you have lived through the financial roller coaster Giddings-Lovejoy has endured these past years, or if you only knew how close we came to financial calamity, you too would be doing a step, a jig, or a poor attempt at a moon walk! Imagine, we do not have to worry about paying our bills or how we are going to meet our obligations this year. This financial strength is a gift that we plan to build upon.

The finance team is developing a strategy to keep the budget balanced and add to the financial foundation we now have. This means living within our means, creating an investment strategy that will allow our endowed funds to grow, and managing all the accounts in the presbytery to maximize value. We are committed to being good stewards of our funds, investments, per-capita, and mission dollars. Our goal is to live into a vision of financial excellence, and become an organization and presbytery that people and congregations want to invest in.

Now, that is doing something right!

Rev. Craig M. Howard

 

 

 

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