Comfort Zone

A little more than halfway through my New Hampshire adventure, and during a two-week visit home, now seems like a good time to reflect on what I’ve been doing for the past three and a half months.

Thanks to all who have been following and encouraging me in this venture, an undertaking unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Your comments on my blog and Facebook page have been a hoot. My life has not been in danger in the great frozen Northland. Some people actually live in New England and survive. However, Monday, April 25, when I flew home for two weddings and a two-week break was a study in contrasts. It was 27 degrees and snowing in Hanover, New Hampshire. It was a beautiful 63 degrees in Columbia, South Carolina. Color has not yet arrived in New Hampshire, but our South Carolina garden was an explosion of flamboyant fertility—greens, reds, yellows and purples. On the front porch was a Clemson flag which rounded out the color spectrum with a bright orange. I haven’t seen that in New Hampshire.

Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover called me to serve as an Interim Pastor and Baptist Campus Minister to Dartmouth after the retirement of Ken (Pastor) and Sandy (Campus Minister) Hale. Our goal is to have a new Pastor/Campus Minister in place when I leave in late June, after six months. We have made strides, receiving excellent resumes, and having a few fine interviews, in spite of being able to offer only a part-time salary of $25,000 per year.

The furnace at the church is on its last leg, and I’m trying to raise $18,000 to replace an over thirty-year old antique before I leave. Otherwise, the church facility is in good shape. If you want to participate in this fund-raising effort, send your check to

Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover

Box 5079

Hanover, New Hampshire 03755

 

Any help will be appreciated. And tax-deductible.

The church, being small (an average of ten people in worship every Sunday), has not required my full-time attention. As those who’ve read my Facebook and blog posts know, I’ve had fun.

  • I’ve been able to see my Boston-based daughter Julie and her husband Tom about ever other week. That has been a great gift for me.
  • I’ve taken two writing classes Dartmouth provides for senior adults in the area. As surprising as it may be, I qualify as old enough.
  • I’ve taken walks throughout Vermont and New Hampshire in some beautiful villages. My favorites are Walpole and Orford, NH, and Woodstock and Norwich, VT.
  • I drove up to Montreal, Canada, for two days and two nights, a lot of walking (ten miles each day) and some world-class meals. I might as well admit that I’ve eaten a lot of amazing food on this adventure (including local cheeses) and gained some weight.
  • My cousin Yvonne, who lives in Vermont, along with her husband Hal and daughter Stormie, picked me up and drove us to Portland, Maine, for a two-day and two-night mini-vacation there. I ate lobster.
  • Gerald and Kari Aldridge and Frank and Susan Broome came to visit on occasions when it was important to see familiar faces. Speaking of friends and family, I am grateful for the phone calls of folks who checked up on me. Sally and I talked almost every day.
  • I haven’t watched much TV, but I’ve read a lot. I’ve written less than I’ve read.
  • I’m enjoying preaching every Sunday and doing the tasks necessary to help this congregation move to its next chapter. That is why I went to New England. It has been fulfilling to watch the church transition after the Hale’s leadership there for 32 years.

After two weeks in my South Carolina comfort zone, which I’m loving (though it is also filled with doctor, dentist, and other appointments), I’ll head back to Trinity and New Hampshire for my final two months there.

In June, Sally will fly up to visit Julie and Tom in Boston, then come over and see where I’ve been living, preaching, walking, and eating. She will meet the good folks at Trinity. Then, we’ll drive back to South Carolina.

That’s the plan. Keep the church and me in your prayers. Thanks again for your interest. If you’ve read this through to this last paragraph, you are a friend indeed.

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, South Carolina, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Reading in New Hampshire

With cold weather and free time, I may have been reading even more than usual. Of course, I have recommendations.

Fiction I’ve enjoyed:

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, a World War II story about a blind girl as she experiences the war. Very fine New York Times bestseller and deserving winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, another World War II story, usually ranked in the top 100 novels of all time. I’d never read it. I try to catch up every year by reading some of the classics I’ve missed.

Three Spenser novels, all of which take place in the Boston area and all of which I’m re-reading for the second time. Since I’m visiting my daughter Julie and her husband Tom in the Boston area nearly every other week, more or less, it’s fun to read these for local color. Robert Parker does not write Great Literature but he is fun and easy to read. Spenser’s sidekick Hawk is one of the three best in all of literature, along with Sherlock Holmes’ Dr. Watson and Travis McGee’s Meyer.

Non-Fiction I’ve enjoyed:

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi, is the autobiography of a neurosurgeon who dies from cancer as he is writing his story. A Number 1 New York Times bestseller.

The Class of ’65, by Jim Aychmutey, is the story of a boy my age who grew up at Koinonia Farms in Americus, Georgia (where Habitat for Humanity was founded), in a radical, pacifist, integrated commune founded by Clarence Jordan. For anyone raised in the segregated schools of the Deep South, this is a fascinating and painful read. Stories of apologies that came to the author before his fiftieth class reunion are particularly poignant.

The Pine Barrens, by John McPhee. I’m taking a course on nature writing here at Dartmouth and have been introduced to the clear prose of McPhee. I’ve also read Encounters with the Archdruid by McPhee. I like his writing. I also enjoyed Henry Beston writing about Cape Cod in The Outermost House. I’m less impressed with E. O. Wilson, In Search of Nature.

Bill Bryson has written books I didn’t enjoy, but I liked most, including his latest, The Road to Little Dribbling, his latest walk across England, Scotland, and Wales, with amusing anecdotes of his travels.

Bob Gibson’s Pitch by Pitch gave me a baseball fix in the dead of a New Hampshire winter. This is his account of the first game of the 1968 World Series.

I was already reading The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh when I arrived in New Hampshire, but I finished it and I’m glad I did. It’s a religious classic that can help a Baptist from the South understand a faith system practiced by millions.

A Sense of Style by Steven Pinker was recommended as a good book about writing. It’s not as good as I thought it might be. It goes back on the shelf.

That’s some of what I’ve read. I’ve just purchased Kill ‘em and Leave ‘em, a biography of James Brown by James McBride. Since Brown and I grew up near each other, I’m anxious to read that. And I’ve purchased The Legends Club by John Feinstein, about the Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano world of college basketball in North Carolina. Looking forward to that.

And I’m always open to good suggestions.

Categories: Baseball, Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Humor, Race, South Carolina, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sunday at the Masters

Marooned in New Hampshire this spring, I’m watching the Masters by myself—on television.

The Augusta National, to those of us who grew up nearby, is a sacred place—not in the same way as Iona or Stonehenge maybe, but holy ground, in its own way. Time there with family and friends, enjoying one of the most beautiful pieces of real estate on God’s magnificent planet, prayers uttered, disappointments suffered, joy and celebration, maybe even a little communion.

In absentia this year, I’m fascinated by the story lines. A broadcaster’s job is to keep the viewer interested, as if we need their commentary to keep us glued to our television sets for this annual spring ritual. Here are a few narratives I’ve noticed:

  • An older golfer being honored
  • An amateur impressing us, a surprise contender
  • A dominant golfer making mincemeat of the course
  • The unique perspective of international players
  • A golfer with some aspect of his life claiming our sympathy, e.g., a wife with cancer
  • A golfer approaching some sort of record (back to back wins?)
  • Real competition on the golf course—Remember Arnie’s charges?

Stories we never know anything about are also part of the Masters every year.

  • A happy couple naming their baby after the winning golfer.
  • A player or a fan battling alcoholism.
  • The unexpected illness of a patron who hasn’t missed a tournament in forty years.
  • Two teenagers falling in love on the sixteenth green.
  • A wife finding out her husband went to the Masters with his girlfriend.
  • A patron suffering a heart attack on the golf course.
  • Someone in New Hampshire enjoying Ben and Jerry’s ice cream while he watches the match on TV. Cherry Garcia,

We all have stories. They’re not all on television.

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Mud in New Hampshire? Mud in South Carolina? Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder…

Dirt, water, pebbles, rocks, and minute quantities of organic material, along with random muck.

In New Hampshire, during March and April, that grayish brownish wettish combination culminates in what is affectionately known as Mud season. The affection may be mixed with hostility depending on the exact composition of the miry bog as well as its relative location to your feet or your vehicle.

In South Carolina, we are proud of the pluff mud in our marshes, and we want to keep it there. A low country brewery produces a Pluff Mud Porter, but they market their beer based on lovely images of the Carolina coastal marsh, not because the beverage contains mud.

Scooped up in a clear glass container, mud is not pretty. It could have been named Yuk because the mixture of these common materials into a muddy consistency is a mess.

Winter snow is beautiful. Spring flowers are lovely.

Mud season is a different matter. Houses in New England are constructed with mudrooms to keep the grime out of the living areas of the house. Mud mats are required. Automobiles are made filthy by the accumulated grunge. Muck is the enemy. Pets that get caught in the quagmire are disgusting.

Mud, however, may be highly valued in health and beauty spas as a type of therapy for skin problems. Some mud formulas are used to soothe aches and pains deeper within the human body. Minerals in some soils, containing ash, for instance, are said to provide healing for various physical maladies. You can buy a Borghese Mud Mask “sourced from Tuscany’s volcanic hills.” You can purchase Dead Sea Facial Mud or Seaweed Mud. These products are not cheap. They are also not for the sane.

Mud can also be redeemed as a structural aid. Malleable when wet, mud, when dried, can seal cracks in the joints of construction projects, or make bricks for building huts.

Children spontaneously make art with mud. If the dirt contains kaolinite, it’s called clay. Potters use sophisticated formulas of mud and/or clay to produce magnificent pots, plates, chalices, and sculptures.

If the proportions of the primary ingredients within the recipe are altered, our experience can be transformed. Dirt, water, pebbles, rocks, minute quantities of organic material, along with random muck, may still surround me, but it doesn’t always result in unsightly mud. Instead, I can enjoy a flowing river and marvel at the deep gorges as I raft with my grandson on the whitewater of the Chattooga River. The same materials as mud, but comprised by different percentages of each ingredient, make for outdoor beauty that has little to do with ugly and unpleasant muck. Instead, the landscape bursts with color, a Garden of Eden.

As a hiker, my favorite destinations are waterfalls. Water is even in the name. A stream of mud and water flows over miles of rocks as it searches for lower ground and, ultimately, the sea. Lots of muck is stirred in the process, as creek banks cave in, but the water continues its meandering journey, pulled by gravity down, down, and farther down the riverbed. Photographers flock to these picturesque sites to capture images of beauty. International tourists travel to mammoth cascades listed among the natural wonders of the world—Angel Falls in Venezuela and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

Yet what is a waterfall but dirt, water, pebbles, rocks, and minute quantities of organic material, along with random muck?

“God saw everything he had made and, behold, it was very good.”

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Humans interacting with nature in a pleasing way: That’s a good thing.

As a wannabe naturalist, I am cursed, instead, by being a dilettante, a jack-of-all-trades, a master of none. Drilling down deeply into any one tiny segment of flora or fauna is probably not in my future. Example: Mushrooms fascinate me. I’d be willing to spend a half-day with an expert in the woods being shown which fungi are edible and which are fatal. That would be fun. But I won’t be devoting all my Saturdays this spring and summer to searching for mushrooms. The world is too big and too wonderful for that self-imposed limitation. I understand the value of acquiring expertise in one field of focus, but my own inclination is to gape in wonder at every aspect of the observable universe. Ultimately, I find myself interested in the whole: the fishing industry of Cape Cod, the nomads of the Sahara Desert, the rice fields in Bali, and the saints who once lived on the Inner Hebrides island of Iona. For me, never either/or. Always both/and.

A few years ago, my cousin’s daughter introduced me to an Internet website, Stumbleupon. The user creates a list of interests—from American history to architecture to gardening to jazz to photography to travel. No limits. Then, through the miracle of algorithms, Stumbleupon places random websites on your computer screen—photographs, essays, videos, tutorials, portraits, cartoons. If you like what they show you, you give a thumb up. If not, a thumb down. Then, based on what you have valued thus far, the site magically begins to display what it believes you might like.

The process is addictive.

This silly time-wasting website—you can enjoy it while watching your favorite sporting event or a reality cooking show on television—taught me something about myself. Apparently, I like it best when the natural world and human activity come together in a way that values both. Pictures of eco-sensitive architecture and landscapes kept appearing in front of me—Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Thumb up.

Stumbleupon also introduced me to the craft of building backyard bluebird boxes. Thumb up. I viewed oil paintings of old mill waterwheels and photographs of Japanese gardens. Two thumbs up.

Stumbleupon understood me! I appreciate the simplicity and practicality of Shaker furniture.   What’s not to like about a British hedge maze that draws us in? Every visitor who travels to Charleston, South Carolina, wants to take home a woven sweetgrass basket. Australian cowboy hats, whether wide-brimmed and made of kangaroo hide, or Irish tweed flat caps, make perfect sense for the culture in which they are worn.

Humans interacting with nature in a pleasing way: That’s a good thing.

Categories: addiction, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Holiday, Lists/Top Ten, South Carolina, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Lifeyness of Life—Holy Week Reflections

If I had my druthers, I suppose I would spend most hours of most days doing what I love—quality time with family, reading, eating fine food, enjoying scintillating conversation with friends, walking in the woods, traveling to exotic places, napping in the afternoon, going to baseball games, writing.

But life intervenes, and I must do a bit of or a lot of what I don’t exactly enjoy—getting an oil change, buying underwear, vacuuming, filing income taxes, installing software, putting gas in the car, getting a haircut, enduring political shenanigans, driving from one place to the next. But those ordinary everyday activities are also what make life. I was still a teenager when someone told me you don’t have to take out the garbage. You get to take out the garbage.

These days leading up to Easter are called Holy Week on Christian calendars. I’m glad we set aside time to pay attention to matters of ultimate value—love, grace, sacrifice, humility, transformation, resurrection, celebration. But those can happen on a Tuesday in February or a Monday in October. I have a minimalist theology of sacred days and sacred space, because I also believe God can speak out of a burning bush when we’re taking a walk, or through an animal that is aggravating us, or through a misadventure on a journey. The Bible is full of such stories.

This nitty-gritty stuff is the texture of human existence—ordinary life made holy.

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Mantras/Slogans I Use

I’m not sure the exact difference between mantras and clichés, except that mantras are a positive part of my life, refrains I find myself using repeatedly to help me move through sometimes-difficult situations.

Since some things broken cannot be fixed—an alcoholic parent, a narcissistic boss, “Accept what I cannot change” makes sense to me.

Clichés, however, tend to be trivial platitudes, used by bad writers and thoughtless politicians: “I’ll make you happy” or “Better safe than sorry.” Maybe, maybe not. Clichés seem to be for lazy people, willing to let other people think for them. When someone once told me, “God puts you on your back to make you look up,” I disagreed on two fronts. First, I don’t think God puts you on your back. Second, the fellow who recited this proverb appeared, at least to me, never to look up. They were just words, meaningless gibberish.

Mantras, though they also borrowed from others, become your own, after sometimes painful deliberation.

Here are mantras that make sense to me and that I call on occasionally:

  1. Accept what I cannot change.
  2. Be still.
  3. Blame is wasted energy.
  4. Breathe in. Breathe out.
  5. Do I need a new tool in my tool kit? If the old one is not working, Yes. (I like Dr. Phil’s, “How’s that working out for you?”)
  6. Fake it till you make it.
  7. Fear not.
  8. Feel what you feel when you feel it.
  9. First things first.
  10. Goal is progress, not perfection.
  11. A.L.T. (Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired?)
  12. Happiness is an inside job.
  13. Have a sense of humor.
  14. How to let go? Over and over and over again.
  15. I can be right or I can be happy.
  16. I didn’t cause it. I can’t cure it. I can’t control it.
  17. I don’t have to go to every fight I’m invited to.
  18. I need to focus on my issues, not on someone else’s behavior.
  19. Keep coming back.
  20. Listen. Listen.
  21. Live every day as if it’s your last.
  22. Mind your own business.
  23. My level of serenity is directly proportional to my level of expectation.
  24. No! is a complete sentence with no explanation or justification required.
  25. Nobody is a mind reader, including me.
  26. Not my will, but Thine.
  27. One day at a time.
  28. Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.
  29. Say what you mean and mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.
  30. Slow down.
  31. Take what you like and leave the rest.
  32. This too shall pass.
  33. Time takes time.
  34. What can I learn from this?
  35. Whose need are you meeting?
Categories: addiction, Faith/Spirituality, Health, Humor, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Old Man Jesus

(This article was published in Baptists Today a few years ago, but never in my blog.)

 

Old Man Jesus—the very idea grates. The sound of the phrase is somehow offensive. Jesus did not get old. He died young. An aging Jesus?  That image, that reality, would be a challenge to our theology. No resurrection! No Easter!

What do we think about Jesus becoming gray-haired?

The idea of following Jesus as we get older, as our model, requires some mental and theological gymnastics. We have to make some guesses about “what might have been.” Would he have mellowed? Would he have continued to rail against unjust and uncaring religious traditions? What would the followers of the Jesus-faith have looked like, over a period of centuries, had Jesus not been crucified? Would it bear any resemblance to the church as we know it? How would Jesus have lived out his own journey into old age? The words “Jesus” and “compromise” do not go together easily. I can’t imagine Jesus becoming “tame” or “domesticated” by further exposure to the bad habits of the religious leaders of his day. They showed few signs of being converted.

The bottom line is that I failed at following Jesus. I am still alive. Had I followed Jesus fully, I would be dead, having picked up my own cross some time during the past 30-40 years. I did not sell all I have and give it to the poor. I make a mortgage payment every month. I have insurance. I put money away for a retirement income, storing some in figurative barns. I never plucked out one of my eyes or cut off one of my hands.

I have a friend who once lamented to our ministerial support group that we just aren’t as committed to following Jesus as we were when we were younger. Maybe he was right, but I argued that I have additional commitments now, none as important as my obligations to God, but loyalties nonetheless. I am married. Sally, while a tolerant woman, prefers that I come home at night. Sober. That is a commitment.

Jesus never had teenagers. I don’t mean to be disrespectful by saying that, but he didn’t! I did. Raising two daughters required a commitment of time, energy and money. I don’t begrudge anything I ever gave to them.

Maybe my most serious conflict of interest is that I took a salary from religious institutions for over 45 years. As a dedicated employee, I felt called and committed to nurturing and protecting the churches where I was investing my life. Often, that meant learning how to get along with people who did not seem to measure up even to the minimum standards of a faithful disciple. Greedy, angry, racist, malicious: the churches I pastored had them all. Was I wrong to maintain my loyalty to the church, when the institution and the people in it were so flawed?

How would Jesus have advised an aging band of disciples to live? Jesus could draw a crowd, but he could also offend and alienate them. Jesus had a very small core of serious followers. The church as we know it was not established until after his death, resurrection, and ascension. More truthfully, the church as we know it bears little resemblance to the church of the first century.

The Bible does have some positive models of good old age, but Jesus isn’t one of them. We can read about Abraham, Sara, Moses, Naomi, Dorcas and Gamaliel, but we will never know what Jesus was like at age 60, 70 or 80. All we can do is speculate. Reverently. Humbly.

We get hints in the New Testament of some of the issues faced by people who expected the quick return of Jesus, concerns ranging from diet to marriage to work ethic to moral behavior. We have nuggets of advice from the Apostle Paul and other early church leaders that are relevant to aging Christians:

“Be temperate.” Yet, I don’t see a lot of moderation in a thirty-year-old Jesus.

“Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them.” Frankly, Jesus doesn’t sound very patient in some of his sermons.

These kind words from the apostles came later, after the earthly ministry of Jesus. Jesus cannot be our example, our model, our pattern, for how to live as a gray-haired elder. He died too young.

The truth is we don’t know that much about him as a teenager or as a young adult, either, so we have to fill in the blanks. Did Jesus, young or old, ever have a hobby or was he always, relentlessly, about his Father’s business? What sense of humor did Jesus have? What did Jesus think about passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that said such things as this proverb: “Rejoice in the wife of your youth.”? Christians believe those words were inspired by God, but they are not the words of Jesus. I have been married to Sally for 43 years, and I am glad we are both alive to have fun in our retirement years together. Is that okay with Jesus? It is certainly not something he ever modeled.

We don’t know the answer to those questions or dozens of others. What would Jesus have learned between the ages of 33 and 73? Did he ever work “within the system?” We have hints that sometimes he did. I am glad because my entire life has been within the ecclesiastical system! Yet, literally, I failed to follow Jesus. I’m still alive.

Is there anything we can learn from Jesus about being an older person who is a wannabe disciple?

Was growth possible for Jesus or did he emerge from the womb of Mary, as I know some believe, knowing everything there was to know? We have an answer to that in the Gospel of Luke. As a teenager, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in divine and human favor.” It would be very frustrating if I were challenged in my faith system to follow a leader who was and is static, who was a know-it-all from the get-go. I never knew it all and never will. It helps me to know Jesus was a growing, learning, changing person. It may shock people who believe in a static God to learn that even the adult Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man, changed. The Evangelist tells the story of Jesus meeting a Canaanite woman. Jesus appears to have an “Aha!” moment, and alters his point of view because of the conversation. How many of those transformative interactions happened to Jesus daily? Weekly? How much might Jesus have changed, and in what areas, had he lived another 40 years?

Jesus was a critic of his culture and faith traditions long before the age at which I began to acknowledge the limitations of my family, my faith and my culture. As a result, labeled as a rebel, Jesus was executed as a young man. I accepted my culture uncritically for much longer than Jesus. When I finally began to challenge the bad habits of my church and my world, I was fortunate enough to live in an era and location where we do not execute dissenters. So here I am, still living, not completely sure how to make Jesus my model for living into my 7th and 8th decades.

My decision has been to latch onto two huge biblical themes that, when all is said and done (since the Bible is a big book, a lot is said and done) seem to be consistent with the teachings of Jesus.

The first of these two notions is that, whatever our age, we are always a work in progress. For whatever reasons, God isn’t finished with me yet. There are family and friends still to be loved, strangers to turn into neighbors, gardens to be planted, injustices to fight, celebrations to be enjoyed, jokes to be told, kindness to be shared, and good causes that need the investment of my time, energy and money.

The second notion, a divine impulse, I believe, is that I am surrounded by God’s grace, no matter my age or station in life. The Bible tells us to “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We aren’t told to grow, at least in this passage, in good works or doctrine or warned that we had better become perfect—or else! Some of the saddest people I know are old people who have never discovered God’s grace for themselves or others.

It seems that, after the human existence of Jesus, the church began to realize, in spite of our best intentions, we would not reach faultless righteousness. Jesus knew that, too. Had we been paying attention, Jesus gave us plenty of reminders that God’s grace is sufficient and never-ending. We have stories such as the Prodigal Son (and the ever-loving, ever-patient Father). We have what has become one of my favorite passages of scripture in another of Jesus’ parables, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus’ response includes even me as a recipient of God’s grace. Failure that I have been, and failure that I still am at following the perfect will of God, I am forgiven and counted among the saints.

Jesus said so.

 

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Being Alone in New Hampshire

Picture Jack Nicholas in The Shining. Wicked grin. Hallucinations. Insanity.

That’s NOT what I’m experiencing during my stay in the frozen Northland.

I’m perfectly fine, thank you. No cabin fever. Not stir crazy. Not bored. I’ve been somewhere every day, talked with somebody, even if it’s chatting with the waitress at a takeout counter. My accent usually gets a smile, maybe even a conversation. Not always. Sometimes they just don’t understand me. But, hey, my family doesn’t always understand me.

Being alone isn’t a choice for everyone. Widows and widowers didn’t ask for their partners to die. Some people who are single want to be married. People who are divorced would have preferred for a better outcome for their marriage.

Still, some people do better being alone than others.

Going out does not require two people. Fixing French toast does not require two people. Going to the theater does not require two people. I’ve heard people say they’re embarrassed to eat alone at a restaurant. I’m not. If I’m all I’ve got today, then I’m all I’ve got. Should I sit home alone because I don’t have a companion? I don’t think so.

Being alone and loneliness aren’t the same. Nor is the issue extroversion versus introversion. I am a people person, but my excessive extroversion, over the years, nudged me in the direction of also enjoying time alone. When part of your job description is to love unlovable people, you can get tired. So I’ve tried to find a balance between people time and alone time.

What have I been doing in New Hampshire?

  • Reading, of course.

 

  • Walking outdoors, even in 15-degree weather. Dress warmly and there’s no problem. I did not walk when it was 17 below.

 

  • Also, I am part of four groups already—a church, a writers’ workshop, a twelve-step weekly meeting, and an association with other clergy. I’m a big believer in showing up!

 

  • New Hampshire, like any other place in the world, is full of interesting sites. I won’t find them sitting in front of a television set. One of my self-imposed rules is “No daytime television during the week.”

 

  • Antique stores, libraries, museums, old churches—it’s a lovely and fascinating world. If only a few turn out to be interesting, then I am way ahead in life experiences. I went into a country store yesterday that took me about 17 seconds to walk through. My life was not diminished, and it could have been enriched. Who knows what I might have found there?

 

  • I ask questions. If a person is rude, or ignorant, I move on. That’s not a life crisis. That doesn’t mean I should stop being curious. I went to a Farmers Market yesterday held in a small town’s welcome center and the lady in charge of welcoming was negligent at her job. That doesn’t quite cover it—she was awful. But other people gathered around and they were helpful. I bought some raspberry jam I put on some toast this morning.

God is good. Life is good. I’m okay, even when I’m alone with my toast and raspberry jam.

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Church in Hanover, New Hampshire Searching for Pastor

Trinity Baptist Church in Hanover, New Hampshire Searching for Pastor (Revised mid-March 2016 to include salary of $25,000)

(Before you send a resume, please read this document in its entirety.)

Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover began in 1977 as a home Bible study group meeting with the goal of establishing a Baptist witness to the Upper Valley communities of New Hampshire and Vermont and to the students of Dartmouth College. In 1981 the congregation constituted as Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover.

Ken and Sandy Hale served Trinity for 32 years as pastor (Ken) and campus minister (Sandy) before retiring in December 2015. Marion Aldridge is currently serving Trinity in an interim capacity as pastor and campus minister.

Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover is dually affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the American Baptist Convention.

The church has functioned as a mission congregation, almost totally relying on the generosity of the Hales, as well as donations from friends of the Hales and friends of Trinity. With their retirement, new streams of income must be found, externally and within the congregation.

Beginning in January 2016, between 9 and 15 people attended worship each Sunday, including a diversity of ages, evenly divided between African-American and Anglo. About half have a connection to Dartmouth College.

There is currently no budget, but annual expenses of maintaining the church unrelated to salary appear to be about $7500.

NEW INFORMATION ON MARCH 15, 2016: TRINITY HAS DETERMINED THAT WE WILL BE ABLE TO PAY A SALARY OF $25,000 ANNUALLY.

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A self-study of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) of the congregation was completed in February 2016:

Strengths (internal)

  1. Diversity (race, age)
  2. Conflict free
  3. Role of women is valued
  4. Excellent, debt-free facility
  5. Dartmouth College connection (a long-term, stable ministry)
  6. Denominational linkage with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and American Baptist Convention

Notable:

Openness and Freedom generally associated with traditional Baptist theology (1) Separation of Church and State, (2) Autonomy of local church and (3) Priesthood of the believer/Freedom of conscience—meaning individuals are allowed to grow and investigate faith in their own way and at their own speed

Weaknesses (internal)

  1. Too small/Lack of critical mass/Lack of congregational infrastructure among laity/No programs
  2. Financial resources limited
  3. Lack of families in church
  4. Outreach is negligible

Opportunities (external)

  1. New people
  2. Congregation is open to change with a new pastor
  3. Dartmouth connection for students, faculty and staff
  4. Re-brand/Re-vision

Threats (external)

  1. Job and Church transfers take current members (and visitors) out of the community or to another church in the community
  2. Vulnerable to any financial emergency (heating system, roofing problem, etc.)
  3. Maintaining infrastructure (bills paid on time, heat regulated, files maintained, restrooms cleaned, etc.)
  4. Must make choices soon from among limited options (part-time or bi-vocational pastor cannot do the work of two former full-time personnel)
  5. Lack of clarity about what constitutes church membership

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Some Pastoral Options being considered for Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover:

  1. Bi-Vocational pastor (a “tentmaker,” such as the apostle Paul, meaning a pastor who has another part-time job, such as carpenter, teacher, or real estate salesperson)
  1. Church Planter or Church Re-Start with assistance from a sponsoring congregation or denomination (This could be combined with option #3.)
  1. “Circuit” or Dual charge pastor (meaning a pastor already in the New Hampshire/Vermont area pastoring another congregation. He or she would preach at one church, for example, at 9 a.m. and the other at 11 a.m.)
  1. Retired pastor willing to serve as interim or full-time pastor
  1. Union or United Church (This ecumenical tradition unites Christians from different denominational backgrounds—e.g., Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist—into one congregation.)
  1. Pastor with some independent income (e.g., a spouse who earns the family income)

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Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover, New Hampshire

*Important Note: When you send your resume (email submissions only), please attach/include a cover letter explaining which of the above options describes you and your sense of calling in this process.

Contact:

Marion D. Aldridge, Bridge Pastor and Chair of the Search Committee

803-413-2734

mariondaldridge@gmail.com

PO Box 5079

Hanover, New Hampshire 03755

On behalf of Pastor Search Committee:

Donald Brooks

Chuck Gibson

Jennifer Kravitz

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