Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hello, loyal readers...

...I am not dead from proposal. The thing shipped on Wednesday, and I promptly slept for 20 hours straight. I really haven't done that since college, and I'm not actually sure I made it that long back then. I'm getting old, though, and the all-nighters are taking more out of me these days. It didn't help that I had a major adrenaline rush at the end of the whole process. The high-volume printer broke, just as we were getting ready to reprint sections with corrections. We had two additional color printers, but they were much, much slower. Plus, we still had to prepare electronic versions of the proposal, and there was some miscommunication about the lable for the cd's, and that was about 95% my fault.

But it is done, and that's all that matters. And I know I'm at least two big proposals away from managing another one of these. Maybe by then our process will be fully mature, because this one went better than the last one we did.

So today my congregation had a unity service with an African-American Baptist church. It was really cool. And their choir showed us how to really sing spirituals. Although I have to say it was funny to see us white midwesterners try to figure out when it was appropriate to clap during a hymn and when it wasn't. We sing. We don't clap or wave our hands or otherwise engage bodily with the music. We tried, though.

Actually, I've learned some really interesting things about my congregation over the past couple of months. It turns out that we were one of the first five "white" churches in Baton Rouge to declare ourselves fully integrated and welcoming to all, and we did it within a year of our founding. Now, for a congregation in the deep, deep south to do that in in 1959-1960 took a lot of guts. And even though it was mostly a symbolic gesture (there still aren't a lot of African-Amercans in the ELCA), it has been part of our heritage to this day. We have about 5 or 6 African American families who are memebers, which is more than a lot of churches twice our size can claim.

I also learned that we were one of the founding members of the interfaith federation in my city, and we are still one of the more active congregations. In fact, their Executive Director keeps at our church. We were also one of the first churches to participate in the Congregation-to-Congregation program that was instituted after a series of church burnings in the south in the late 1990's, and we are one of only four congregations still doing it (our partner is the African-American Baptist church; the other two are the Unitarian church and a predominantly African-American United Methodist Church).

I think that's really exciting for a lot of reasons. First of all, denominations tend to stick to themselves down here. That was a big shock when I went to work for the CCC. I was all about trying to do things ecumenically, which I was used to in the area where I grew up. You would have thought I had grown two heads. The Catholic churches down here are really scared of the big, bad Protestants trying to steal away their young people. I always wanted to say that perhaps if we made an effort to be more relevant, that wouln't be a concern. I always found that doing some things ecumenically made a huge difference to everyone who participated.

Perfect example. In my neighborhood, every Good Friday the Catholic churches (one of which was my church) and the mainline Protestant churches (we invited the non-denominiationals, but the declined to participate) sponsored a community Cross Walk. Basically, we reinacted the Stations of the Cross (an ecumenical/biblical version - no Veronica in this one, and the Last Supper was added) on a walk through the neighborhood up to the West End Overlook. The youth played most of the parts, and they took it very seriously and prayerfully. It moved the whole community (literally about 500 people came out for it every year), and really had an impact. That kind of thing just doesn't happen here.

So it's exciting for me to belong to a congregation where inclusivity and diverstiy matter.

Next week, we start on some developmental tasks in preparation for calling our next pastor. This could prove to be an adventure, I think.

Now, I'm going home to watch the Steelers, unless I fall asleep.

Happy Sunday!

No comments: