Dream Catcher

Craig in Alaska

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


I have been doing dream work with my new spiritual director. This means cataloging my dreams by recordings or writing them down in the night or first thing in the morning. Dreams can be elusive. It is difficult to remember them clearly. Some believe this is because the conscious or waking mind doesn’t want to hear or accept what the subconscious is trying to say. Even when a dream can be remembered, it is often difficult to understand. Dreams are layered with meaning. In the book Dream Work, Jeremy Taylor writes, “Why then are dreams generally so obscure and opaque to waking consciousness? It is because every dream has multiple meanings, and multiple levels of meaning woven into a single metaphor of personal experience.”

I imagine there are many people who have dreams of ministry in our presbytery. These dreams are often the result of questions we ask in our waking church life. If you could change one thing about your church, what would it be? If you could help your community in one critical way, what would you do? As you see the needs of people in your world, how can you meet them? These dreams of ministry and service are flashing thoughts that may not fit your current waking world of the church. Yet these are ministries that are answering a real need, and they desire to go from opaque to luminous, from obscure to visible.

You don’t have to be a teaching elder to have a dream. You don’t have to be a leader in the church to imagine a different way of doing ministry, sharing the gospel, or bringing good news to the poor. Your dream could be like Hagar’s Community Church, which was planted inside of a women’s prison in Washington State. Another example is a group that fellowships with students, neighbors, and homeless men and women in Pittsburgh. Still another is a digital ministry in New York State that reaches those who feel outcast or outside of the church. Each of these new worshiping communities began as a dream that didn’t exist in the waking world of ministry. Each now is serving God’s people in the communities where they live.

What is your dream? Why not talk with me or Steven Mathews, chair of New Worshiping Communities Commission? Why not participate in the next Dreaming and Discerning event on October 20? Steve can be reached at Steven Matthews pastorsteve2015@gmail.com. Take the next step to make the dream God has given you into a reality.

Craig M. Howard

 

Finding Hope

Guest Blog by
Rev. Max Hill
UKirk – StL
ukirkstl@gmail.com


 

 

Several months ago, I was sitting in a Zoom meeting of campus ministers from around the country. The meeting was focused on helping us to connect and share ideas about how we could help one another as pastors whose ministries are akin to one another.

Throughout the call, I began a group text with several friends (also in the meeting) about our frustrations with things that were being said in the call. One of the main points of contention was centered around the idea of hope. Many people on the call were wrestling with the question of “how we can bring hope to our students as they return to college campuses this year.”

Now we are all pastors and recognize the need for hope in the lives of our congregants. However, we worried that by jumping directly to “finding hope”, we’d create a version of it that wasn’t real. That it would be a “hope” divorced from lived experience, filled with platitudes about how to “make the most of a pandemic” (and I’m not in the business of “making the most” of people’s very real suffering, death, and loss).

We worried that jumping to hope leapt right past people’s anxiety, past their fear, not recognizing it as something that is substantial which affects everyday life.

What we wanted to recognize in the conversation is that ministry is enough when it offers connection, listening, and recognition of suffering.

This semester, UKirk St. Louis, has been utilizing every avenue that we can to address the needs of students. Our twice weekly community Zoom meetings offer a brief moment of connection, one-on-one pastoral conversations allow us to listen to what student experiences, and our podcast Bible study allows us to engage with topics like faith and politics, anti-racism, LGBTQ+ identity and scripture, and topics of mental health and caring for one’s wellbeing. When schools changed their housing policies for the year, we are working to provide meal delivery gift cards and fresh produce and recipes to students who are unexpectedly without the guarantee afforded to them by a meal plan.

There are certainly moments throughout this year that have provided me with hope. But it’s not a hope that “we’ll make it through” or a hope that “things will all return to normal” – because I have no way of knowing what the future holds.

The hope that I find is in moments where students continue to connect with one another. When they bring me ideas about topics of faith that they want to explore. I find hope when I hear from students who found creative ways to cope with an eating disorder by scheduling meals with friends so that they would eat that day. Or when they tell me about how they’ve been working to get other students on their campus registered to vote.

These moments give me hope because they are real ways of recognizing that God is at work in the lives of the congregants of UKirk St. Louis.

I’m often asked how people can support UKirk this year. Many of our presbytery churches, communities, and individuals love to provide meals and meet students each year. But this year in order to keep everyone safe our meetings are all virtual. However, we are still living into our mission to feed students spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

In order to do this, we need the financial support of your churches and you as individuals. Checks can be mailed to the presbytery. And you can give securely online through our website ukirkstl.org/support.

Max Hill (they/them/theirs)

*Folx is not a misspelling this is an intentional spelling used to indicate the inclusion of marginalized groups

 

Know Justice Know Peace

Craig in AlaskaBlog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


I often say that Jesus was the worst evangelist! Instead of trying to attract followers with sugary words or a gentle tone, we hear Jesus saying, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” What! Where is the promise of heaven and the dream of a gravy train on biscuit wheels? Where is the promise of being blessed and prosperous? Using Jesus’ method of evangelism would reduce our membership even more, and in some cases, we may not have a church at all.

If we are not the church of Jesus’ evangelism, then who are we? If we have somehow been allowed to participate in the body of Christ without paying the price for discipleship, what type of community are we? What type of Christian are we?

I am taking a course at Eden seminary on the book of Psalms entitled, Psalms for Justice Seekers and Peace Makers. The course is taught by Dr. Clint McCann, an ordained Presbyterian minister and member of our presbytery. When I signed up for the course, I thought it would be about a select number of Psalms that speak of justice. Instead, I am learning that justice is at the heart and nature of God’s identity. Justice is not one thing about God; it is THE thing about God. This is why the Old Testament kings and society are called upon to provide justice for the poor and orphaned; widow and destitute. This explains why Jesus went to the outcast and did his ministry with those on the margins of society. Seeing God as justice is challenging my assumptions about what it means to be church, what it means to be presbytery, and how we should treat our pastors and members.

This course is causing me to ask different questions about my work and ministry. Are the policies we have in our presbytery fair and just? How do we practice justice when it comes to compensation of our pastors, associates, women, and commissioned pastors? How do we determine what is fair when the needs of one church is very different than another?

Justice is the cross to bear. It is the cross we would like to leave behind, but Jesus requires that we pick it up and bring it to church. To be a Christian means being uncomfortable and off balance. It is then we learn that God is our support, strength, and song. We learn that walking with Jesus may look out of step with our society. Being with Jesus may even feel awkward and different than the way we’ve known and understood our presbyterian heritage. But to follow Jesus is to know justice and find life and peace.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Better

Craig in AlaskaBlog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


Last week we had our second Zoom presbytery gathering. It was an improvement in many ways over our first attempt in August. Worship with Daniel Ervin and Katheen Henrion was energic, creative, and spiritually enriching. Junie Ewing’s sermon was appropriate and edifying. The time with Ben Sanders created an energy in the chat box that fed the conversation between Ben and David Burgess. The back and forth with the presenter, moderator, and chat was an unexpected delight. When it came time to vote, things went smoothly, allowing full participation with those on Zoom video and those with only audio. The content of business flowed, questions were asked and answered. We ended with fellowship, saying hello and goodbye to so many friendly faces.

The presbytery gathering teaches us that during this time of COVID, things are not the way we want them to be, but we can learn to connect and be in touch with one another. We can improve on what we know and on what we are doing. We can do even better. The presbytery office attempts to model ways in which our congregations, non-profits, and worshiping communities should function. Hopefully through the presbytery gathering, we showed that improvement is possible.

How can you improve the way you are doing your worship, meetings, time with youth, and check-ins? How can we make our time together more meaningful, fulfilling, and enjoyable? I pray that during this season when we are not able to be with one another face to face, that we will continue to improve on our technology, content, and form of our time together. I pray that when we are able to meet face to face, this same zeal to do a better job permeates through our congregations and other ministry environments. Amen.

Rev. Craig M. Howard