My Boring Church Fundraising Plan

At my church, we’re approaching the beginning of our annual pledge drive. Like a lot of mainline churches, we spend a couple of months every Fall talking about the church’s finances and asking members to make a pledge for what they will give the next year. This year, the committee that handles my congregation’s finances wants to think a little ‘outside the box’. They want to try something bold and new to attract more donors and inspire people to increase their pledges (though, I suspect, not too bold and new). And I’m not against that. I have bold, new, innovative,

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This Was Not Part of the Plan

This wasn’t supposed to happen. I wasn’t supposed to be here. This wasn’t part of the plan… if there was even any plan at all. When I was a kid, I was an acolyte, just like all of the other kids in my church. We would wear albs that were a lot like the one I’m wearing this morning. At the beginning of worship, we would walk in with the light of Christ and light the candles on the altar. And at the end of worship, we would take the light of Christ, snuff out the candles, and walk out

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Unashamed

In the beginning, God planted a garden. That’s not a scientific statement, it’s a theological one. It’s not about the material origins of the cosmos. It’s about the relationship between God and the world. And I understand that it might seem like a delicate distinction, but it’s an important one. And if you want to learn more about it, then please come to our next I Have Questions, at noon, on Saturday, September 28th, where we’ll talk about Genesis and science. (Bring a lunch). For now, we’ll have to settle for this. It’s not a scientific statement, but it’s true.

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Everything We Need

I have been told that you can’t pick and choose what parts of the Bible you believe. It’s all or nothing. And that if I want to be a real Christian—a real follower of Jesus—I have to believe every chapter and every verse: the easy parts about love and grace; and the hard parts about sin and damnation. Just like those early believers did, the ones who had heard the good news of Jesus Christ straight from Jesus Christ. Today is the third and final Sunday in a short summer sermon series on generosity. Next week, summer comes to an

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Work

I am incredibly lucky. There’s a quote from the writer and theologian Frederick Buechner: “The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger coincide.” It’s a quote that I heard a lot in seminary and continuing ed. Someone would bring it up almost any time that we started talking about being called by God. God is calling you to the place where your passions line up with the world’s needs. And I firmly believe that God is calling everyone to something. God is calling me… and you. God is calling

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With Glad and Generous Hearts

A few years ago, when I worked for Back Bay Mission, we got a new executive director. She wasn’t a member of the United Church of Christ, and I needed to introduce her to the denomination and to a whole bunch of people. So I took her to Cleveland. I took her to the annual meeting of the United Church of Christ’s Council for Health and Human Services Ministries. And I took her to the national offices of the United Church of Christ. I introduced her to the people who work for the Council and to people who work at

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Orange Team, Turquoise Team, Purple Team

At about 5:40pm pacific time on Monday, July 29, a young white man opened fire at the annual garlic festival in Gilroy, California. At about 10:40am mountain time on Saturday, August 3, a young white man opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. At about 1:20am eastern time on Sunday, August 4, another young white man opened fire in a popular nightlife district in Dayton, Ohio. On Saturday afternoon—or, maybe, on Sunday morning—a lot of pastors rewrote their sermons so that they could address the issues of gun violence, white supremacy, and toxic masculinity that these shootings raised.

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Kids These Days

Many of you know that I’m an amateur musician. I play clarinet and tenor saxophone. And while my clarinet is reserved for things like summer band, I actually practice my saxophone. It sits on a stand in my office at home. Sometimes, I can pick it up and work for an hour or so. Sometimes, I can pick it up for fifteen minutes or so. But I practice. And if you’ve ever played a musical instrument, or if you’ve ever played a sport, or if you’ve ever been an artist, or, really, if you’ve ever done something where you have

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Markets, Charity, and African T-Shirts

Recently, I was interviewed for an article from the United Church of Christ’s Tri-Conference Ministries. During that interview, I mentioned that I had recently read about the idea of doing good recklessly (I didn’t originally read it on Cheezburger, but you can read the same thread that I did there). The interviewer pushed back a little, pointing out that doing good recklessly can cause real harm. And she gave the example of companies and organizations dumping t-shirts into African markets, damaging local clothing industries. At the time, I said that there are large-scale policy issues (like market regulation in African

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The Rules

Linda Tirado is an author and a journalist. And she told this story to some people at NPR: In 2008, Linda and her husband moved to Cincinnati. They didn’t have much money, so they got a cheap basement apartment. And then a summer storm came through and the flooding ruined a lot of their stuff and the mold destroyed the rest. Tirado was eight months pregnant at the time and all she wanted was a place to sit down, so she started calling around to churches and charities, asking if she could get a chair. So she gets a hold

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