Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Stark Difference

I went to two different, unrelated public hearings today.

It's hard for me to imagine a greater difference between the scope of these two hearings.

The first was at the State House in Boston. As part of dealing with homelessness in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the overseeing governing branch of the government had made changes to regulations and budgeting in regards to how homelessness is fought (mainly shifting funds from sheltering to housing). Some 200-300 people were there, with dozens upon dozens of testimonies, mostly against the proposed changes.

There were families present who shared very difficult and sad stories about being denied approval for shelter or other assistance. Story after story was told like the one about a young couple who after much trying and no hope, ended up living in their car...with six-week-old triplets (who were born six weeks premature). There were pediatricians, college professors, and certainly social workers and family advocates who spoke passionately about what they saw as important steps to help the homeless.

I left feeling helpless. The problem is daunting.

The second hearing was in my town of Hingham, MA. Hingham is a proudly historic community, and has several historic districts in which buildings and landscapes (basically anything in the public line of sight) are regulated to require committee approval for any kind of change whatsoever, including everything from material used in construction to the very color of the paint splattered upon it. These regularly-scheduled meetings involve business- and home-owners having to present their case for changes to their building or landscape in front of a committee of seven people.

The passion of some of the committee members about what they do is incredible - they know their stuff. They can tell you what colors were being used in various architectural periods spanning the last couple of centuries, with specific knowledge about trends right here in this town. It's unbelievable. At the same time, it can be frustrating to the applicants when this knowledge and desire to maintain historical accuracy and appeal come in the way of desired changes to one's home. I'll never forget the older gentleman a couple of years ago who was almost in tears as he requested using synthetic decking on his front stairs so they wouldn't rot out again like the ones his wife had stepped on and tumbled down. (He was denied...he had to use real wood.)

The disparity between these two hearings I went to today was stark. The hearings took place but a few miles apart, and yet their scope was a world apart.

I'm not necessarily placing blame or onus upon anyone at the moment.

Just observing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Sabbatical

When we were interviewing as a possibility to come pastor North Street Community Church of the Nazarene, the church board and I agreed that an agreed sabbath plan was a good idea. Aspects of this plan have risen and fallen and risen again (weekly and tri-monthly rhythms). But the notion that I would take an extended sabbatical period in the seventh year of ministry is coming to fruition.

Next summer I will be taking a sabbatical from June through early September. I am very excited about this and what it means for myself, my family, my extended family, and our church community. I will share more details in the coming months, but in general, my family and I will be traveling to re-connect with tradition, family, and culture. This will include Nazarene General Assembly (at the very beginning, thankfully), northern Vermont for a couple of weeks, Switzerland, Israel, and Virginia. After Vermont, I will travel to the West Coast to drive from Portland, OR to San Diego, CA visiting with various pastors & friends and Christian communities that I've admired from afar. My parents and my in-laws will be with us at various points. When I go to Israel, it will be with my father and father-in-law.

This is all in great thanks to our church's application to the Lilly Endowment and their National Clergy Renewal Program. The whole sabbatical period is fully funded by the Endowment. We are so thankful. In addition to our activities, there are a number of opportunities for us to study and share sabbath together with our church community, culminating with a weekend retreat in the early fall.

As part of the proposal, I said that I'd be sending reports back (non-interactively) about what I'm doing. At the moment, I plan on using this site/blog.

Here is a press release if anyone would like to read just a couple of more details for now.