Ordination Prayer for Sanchita Kisku

God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, Our Guide through the past and our Hope for the future,

We don’t have words majestic or glorious enough, sensitive or tender enough to speak adequately to God above all gods. Yet, here we are, gathered for worship, acknowledging our complete reliance on a Higher Power.

We are humbled by the Omnipotence of the Almighty and by the limitations of our humanity.

All we really know to do is to utter repeatedly the words, “Thy Will,” “Thy Reign,” “Thy Way,” “Thy Delight.”

May it happen on earth as in heaven. Let us not wait until we die. May a reign of justice and love surround us today and every day.

Today, especially, we pray for Sanchita Kisku, as we ordain her into the gospel ministry. We are grateful for the people and events that have brought her to this place and time. We ask that she continue faithfully to serve Christ and the church and individuals with the compassion we have already seen evidenced in her life. Help her to be a good listener, a good learner, and a good teacher of the Good News of Jesus.

We ask for your protection of her body, mind and soul as she engages in ministry. Help her avoid the temptations that so often befall women and men in positions of spiritual responsibility, whether deacons, pastors, chaplains or educators.

Bring her through the years, gracefully, to a good old age, where she will know the truth of the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

We pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Marion D. Aldridge on behalf of Kathwood Baptist Church, Columbia, SC

Categories: Faith/Spirituality | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Frequently Misused Religious Words

Frequently Misused Religious Words

Marion D. Aldridge

  • Altar alter (Both are good words, but they don’t mean the same thing. An altar is a place of religious ritual. To alter something is to make a change.)
  • Baptist Babtist (Babtist is not a word. Ever.)
  • Baptists Baptist (Baptists is plural, meaning more than one Baptist. A Baptist church is not full of Baptist. It is full of Baptists. Our Baptist history professor had to teach this on the first day of class.)
  • Calvary cavalry (Jesus died on Calvary. Cavalry describes soldiers who fight on horseback.)
  • Counsel council (Pastors often counsel, similar to advise, people in their congregations. A council is a group of people.)
  • Cemetery seminary (Some people make this mistake and think it’s funny. Probably not funny to men and women scholars who have invested a lifetime in fighting ignorance.)
  • Episcopal Episcopalian (Episcopal is an adjective. You can attend an Episcopal church. Episcopalian is a noun. The bishop is an Episcopalian.)
  • Hospice versus hospick. (Pure linguistic laziness, possibly complicated by low IQ. Some people say Walmark instead of Wal-Mart. There are South Carolinians who still believe their Senator was Strong Thurmond.)
  • Pastoral pastorial (not a word)
  • Prodigal prodical (not a word) Bonus: Prodigal means wasteful.
  • Prostate prostrate (How many pastors have been asked to go visit a Dad who, the pastor is told, has prostrate cancer?)
  • Psalm Psalms (Both are good words. They don’t mean the same thing. There is a book of Psalms that contains Psalm 23.)
  • Revelation Revelations (There is no book in the Bible called Revelations. The final book of the Bible is The Revelation to John.)
Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Beware of Controversial Churnalism: News as Entertainment

Most newspapers and television stations aren’t really in the News and/or Information business. They’re in the advertising industry, making money by selling toothpaste and automobiles. Still, it drives me slightly nuts when so-called news programs and news channels use emotionally charged language to attract and hang onto viewers. Their hope is to keep you tuned in, so the really important thing you need to know is coming up in a few minutes or a few days. I’ve heard such enticements called “churnalism” because their goal is to stimulate readership and viewership, not to inform.

These words during a news broadcast or as headlines in a newspaper are a clue:

  • Alarming
  • Amazing
  • Angers
  • Blames
  • Bombshell
  • Chilling incident
  • Conspiracy
  • Controversial
  • Crackdown
  • Devastating
  • Disturbing
  • Emergency
  • Feared
  • Lashed out
  • Leaked documents
  • Monstrous
  • Power play
  • Scary
  • Shamed
  • Shocking
  • Sparking outrage
  • Stuns
  • Urgent
  • Victims

A key component of democracy is an educated electorate. We need information. I have no objection to legitimate descriptive words:

  • Deadly
  • Hoax
  • Indicted
  • Missile
  • Missing
  • Nuclear power
  • Rape
  • Sniper
  • Suicide bomber
  • Survivor
  • Suspect
  • Turmoil

There’s enough news that’s important and interesting to inform us without adding the lurid enticements of charged language. I’d prefer to keep our news sources and our entertainment sources separate. (I hope you’ll find some humor in and be entertained by this blog title, even though I have no toothpaste to sell: Beware of Controversial Churnalism.)

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Alexander Hamilton

“Alexander Hamilton is the foremost political figure in American history who never attained the presidency, yet he probably had a much deeper and more lasting impact than many who did.” Ron Chernow

Honesty compels me to confess that Broadway piqued my interest in Alexander Hamilton. Family and friends who were fortunate enough to see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about Hamilton raved.

My formal education in American history was deplorable. I took the required course in the eleventh grade. Probably made a “C” and probably didn’t deserve that. But I spent most of July 2016 overcoming that deficiency. I read all 738 pages of Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton. I loved it.

Somewhere in my under-utilized cranium was awareness of Hamilton versus Jefferson. I knew the name Aaron Burr. This volume remedied my early American history deficit.

Chernow covers Hamilton’s view of church and state: “The best government posture toward religion was one of passive tolerance, not active promotion of an established church.”

About mud slinging, Hamilton lamented that, “no character, however upright, is a match for constantly reiterated attacks, however false.” I’ve observed that in politics, religion, business and education.

Hamilton and George Washington often sided with one another against Thomas Jefferson and other “state’s rights” advocates. Hamilton and Washington “had drawn the same conclusions: the need for a national army, for centralized power over the states, for a strong executive, and for national unity.” When twenty-first century Americans want to interpret the Constitution according to the desires of our Founding Fathers, we would need to ask, “Which Founding Fathers?” They were no more homogeneous in thought than we are today.

Some of the issues our forebears wrestled with sound modern: “Hamilton had to combat the utopian notion that America could dispense with taxes altogether.

Another twenty-first century conundrum: “For Hamilton, the federal government had a right to stimulate business and also when necessary to restrain it.”

Another current dilemma is mirrored from early years of our history: “It irked Hamilton that Jefferson claimed a monopoly on morality, and he made the following retort to his adversary: ‘As to the love of liberty and country, you have given no stronger proofs of being actuated by it than I have done. Cease then to arrogate to yourself and to your party all the patriotism and virtue of the country.’”

I love it!

 

 

Categories: Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Quotations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Advice to a Congregation with a Young Pastor

Advice to a Congregation with a Young Pastor

(Second of two parts. Part one: Advice to a Young Pastor)

Marion D. Aldridge

  1. Don’t expect your new pastor to be like your last pastor—or any other pastor, ever. Not too many decades ago, seminaries produced cookie-cutter candidates to be pastors. Same theology. Same clothes. Same haircuts. Same gender. Their wives could play piano and teach Sunday school, two employees for the price of one. Your pastor could retire or move on, and your church could almost be guaranteed to get another man very similar to the last one. That is no longer so. Nowadays graduates of the same seminary vary theologically—from fundamentalist to liberal. They vary in worship style from traditional to contemporary. They may wear tee shirts to church on Sunday and have beards or shaved heads or both. Some of the best pastors are females. If you want an old-fashioned, twentieth-century pastor, you might as well put up a For Sale sign in front of your church building now.
  2. Love your pastor. Pretend he or she is your beloved grandchild. Invite the new pastor to your house for a meal or meet somewhere for coffee and a donut. Remember your pastor’s birthday. You are at least partly responsible for your pastor’s success or failure. All pastors need support and encouragement, especially young ones. I made mistakes as a newly-minted seminary graduate in my first church. I needed help, good advice, a listening ear, wisdom, and grace more than I needed judgment.
  3. The job of being a pastor looks easier than it is. Pastors don’t think jokes about working one hour each week are funny. Believe it or not, a twenty-minute sermon may take twenty hours of preparation. Make sure young pastors have coaches, mentors and support systems that can help them successfully navigate the inevitable challenges in a congregation made up of human beings—an organization that operates in real time with real money and with real problems. Make sure your pastor does not have to choose between vacation and continuing education. No pastor graduates from seminary with all the requisite skills needed to be a competent pastor. Allow them time and money for continuing education experiences.
  4. Most conflicts in a church are about power. Even if the conflict is about the color of the pew cushions, it’s about power. He said/she said/he said/she said is always about power. Power is often about change—a marriage, a birth, a death, a retirement, a hospitalization, a bankruptcy—something that may look as if it has nothing to do with the church. Pay attention. The issues under dispute are almost never the real issues. God advises patience. God advises listening more than talking. God advises kindness. Reducing anxiety is a worthy goal. Everything young pastors attempt to do won’t work. Make sure you, as a member of the congregation, are a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Blessed are the peacemakers.
  5. Every generation has new insights about Jesus, Holy Scripture, and the Christian faith. With a young pastor, be prepared to hear something different than what you were taught in Sunday school fifty years ago. The Bible is a Big Book. Every generation, every culture, every denomination, even every family emphasizes aspects of faith unfamiliar—maybe even anathema—to older ears. Many members of my first congregation after seminary, in 1977, deep in the segregated South, did not want to hear anything about race relations. Or, about peacemaking. Or, about an expanded role for women in the church. They heard it anyway. They grew (at least some of them did). I grew.
  6. The Christian faith, while acknowledging sin and failure, also highlights faith, hope, love, joy, peace, freedom, gratitude, being born again, resurrection, salvation, hospitality, rites of passage, baptism and blessing. Churches that find occasions to celebrate, to eat together, to laugh, to praise God, and to acknowledge successes are doing something right.   Have you ever noticed how important festivals and holidays (holy days) were in the history of Israel? Milk and honey, bread and wine. Find reasons to recognize, honor and dedicate people, places, events, or memories. Your church and your pastor will, by doing so, not only be more faithful, but happier as individuals and as a congregation.
Categories: Faith/Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Advice for a Young Pastor

Advice for a Young Pastor

(First of two parts. Part two: Advice to a Congregation with a Young Pastor)

Marion D. Aldridge

  1. It won’t be like they taught you at seminary. That’s not always the seminary’s fault. They can’t predict the random realities of your life or our culture for the next thirty years. The past two weeks of my ministry have been dominated by trying to get the musty smell of mildew and mold out of our church building in the least expensive way. I am highly motivated because recently a couple visited our church and the wife told me she has allergies that respond badly to mold. De-humidifying a sanctuary was never mentioned in any seminary course.
  2. It’s a real job. Recently, I talked with a 26-year-old Dartmouth grad who wasn’t particularly thrilled with the nitty-gritty, unfulfilling duties of the entry-level job in her chosen career. But, she had been humbled by initially having to work as a maid—even with her Ivy League education. Every job involves grunt work. Nobody gets to do only things they enjoy. That’s why we call it “work” and why we are paid to do it.
  3. You are a meeting planner. You have pious thoughts about introducing people to God and counseling people in crisis, but what ministers spend much of their week doing is preparing for events—the big ones such as Sunday morning worship and the little ones such as the finance committee. You must become expert at convening groups. Some young pastors (like many laity) assume events magically happen and have no clue that hours are spent each week in coordinating schedules and planning activities.
  4. You are a fundraiser. No matter how big or small your congregation is, bills must be paid. Budgets and projects must be created that people will support. Call it stewardship, but the money must be raised. Emergencies happen. Heating systems fail. Your church’s best contributor dies. An unbudgeted summer mission opportunity needs to be financed or twenty teenagers will miss out on the experience of a lifetime. Jesus didn’t hesitate to think and talk about money.
  5. Preaching is the silver bullet. Your congregation will want your sermons to be lightening in a bottle. Every now and then a pastor is charismatic, charming and dynamic (one in fifty?). Have something to communicate, say it well, with humor, with drama, with clarity. Inspiring preaching will fill pews faster than excellent hospital visits. That may not be fair, but it’s reality.
  6. Your calling is crucial. There will be times when people criticize you. Sometimes you’ll doubt yourself. I never self-appointed myself to a pastorate. A congregation asked me to shepherd them. You’re not a pastor-in-waiting. This is your calling, your vocation. You could be led to a different vocation or the church could vote to rescind their call. But individuals or small groups of unhappy members do not have the right or the authority to alter what the church and the pastor have previously agreed to be God’s call.
  7. Take care of your own spirit, mind and body. Pastors who read scripture and pray only when desperate to prepare a sermon are sad, lost souls. Study. Listen. Learn. Exercise. Grow. Don’t get stuck in the theology or habits of youth. Change. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Pay attention to your physical, emotional and spiritual health. Pastors who are more-or-less friendless (and there are thousands) with no systems in place (outside their congregation) for encouragement and accountability are not modeling relationships of love. You need to have a life outside the church. Find faithful friends. Pastors who aren’t working to maintain their own family ties are to be pitied. First things first.
Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Gifts of the Jews

A few years ago, I discovered a book titled, The Gifts of the Jews, written by Thomas Cahill. Cahill argues that routines and predictability are pagan ideas, not Christian. I mean “pagan” in the classic sense of ancient religions that worship the creation instead of the Creator. Whether you are an anthropologist studying Stonehenge or an archeologist studying the Mayan ruins in Central America, the common theme is that life is circular, what goes around comes around, spring, summer, fall, winter, then again, spring, summer, fall, winter, this year just like last year, and next year just like this year. The earth’s orbit is predictable. The moon’s orbit is predictable. Round and round, no change, no change. Does that sound like the people in your Sunday school class? That’s pagan, not Christian. Next year is not supposed to look like 1950 or 1980.

God can intervene into history and God does intervene into history.

The gift of the Jews was to help humans understand for the first time, beginning with Abraham, the first hero of Hebrew story, that the events of this world did not have to be circular and predictable. We can break out and go in a new direction. That is what Abraham did, and the world has never been the same.

Of course people resisted that notion then and now.

Numbers 14: 4, while Moses was leading the people of Israel on an Exodus from 400 years of slavery to a new promised land, tells us that some said, “Let us choose a captain and go back to Egypt.” Return to the familiar.  That’s pre-Christian. That’s pre-Jewish. It sounds like a lot of churches.

Categories: Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rites of Passage

“I never wanted any season but spring.” Judith Viorst, Necessary Losses

A passage can be a secret underground tunnel or a dark alley from one location to another. Walking out your front door to your neighbor’s front porch is not much of a passage. A passage is not a leisurely afternoon stroll in the park. Passages are Big Deals. There is something thorny or problematic about a passage. A passage can be a difficult river or sea route: The Northwest Passage. Passages are challenging.

Anthropologists use the idea of “rites of passage” to describe events that mark important transitions in an individual’s life.

High school graduation recognizes the end of one period of life and the beginning of another. Graduation probably involves leaving a familiar home and getting a real job.

A wedding ceremony is important, ultimately, not because of the joy and celebration involved, but because two people from different families are coming together to make a new family. That’s hard work.

We can talk about funerals being a “celebration of life” all day every day, but a funeral marks someone’s death and departure from this life. Tomorrow, when we wake up, our loved one will be gone. Our life will be altered.

In Islam, completing the Hajj, and in Christianity, completing a pilgrimage to Camino de Santiago, are significant rites of passage.

Many primitive cultures made sure adolescents were prepared for adult living by sending them on some sort of vision quest, requiring they live alone for a few days, or a few weeks, facing their demons and a maybe a few rattlesnakes. A lot of American teenagers grew up when they faced their first drill sergeant during basic training for the military.

Rites of passages differ from culture to culture and generation to generation. They can vary for men and women. A ritual for a teenager (e.g., a walkabout in Australia) will look nothing like a retirement dinner for an older person in America.

What is consistent is that rites of passage mark transitions, which means change! Usually, life before the passage will look different than life later. Life may be better, or it may be worse, but it will be different. A butterfly and a cocoon appear to have little in common, but both are vital creatures representing two expressions of the same being. Both butterfly and caterpillar are required for the cycle of life to be complete.

We may want our transitions to be seamless and painless, but rituals that mark our transitions remind us there is a “before” and an “after.” We don’t always get to choose what the “after” will look like.

Rites of passage let us know that others in our culture have been there before us.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Strays

Sally and I have a long history of taking in strays—the human kind. I’m referring to a scale grander than hosting friends and family in our guest room overnight or for half a week.

Over the years, we’ve opened our doors to a wide assortment of total strangers for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.  I’m not counting the dozens of teenagers who, it seems, half-lived at our house while Jenna and Julie were growing up. And I’m not counting Fuzzy, who is a category all his own.

An early failure was in response to a campaign here in South Carolina that “Runaway Kids Don’t Belong in Jail.” Our state’s unfortunate response to children (under age 16) who were homeless was to incarcerate them. We agreed to keep one or two. Some stuff got stolen. The program failed.

Another early failure was a couple, somehow related to our church in Batesburg. They had difficulty with life in general and were kicked out of their apartment. They stayed with us a few weeks, and then moved on to whatever was next for them.

Then came a series of memorable successes where a friend, or a friend of a friend, or a friend of a family member had a specific short term need, often having something to do with a local college. I don’t remember the exact chronology, but I’m glad each of these good souls came into our life:

Jennifer Thrailkill Seigler babysat for Jenna and Julie when we lived in Batesburg. Sally taught Jennifer sixth grade math. When we moved to Columbia, Jennifer said she would come live with us while she was in school. She did. She stayed for a couple of years and became a heart x-ray technician.

Second cousin, once removed, Becky Cremer Taylor (daughter of first cousin Lola) used our house as a retreat from her college dormitory a few times during her four years at Presbyterian college.

Christen Green Kinard (Sissi) also retreated with us during her college years. But since Sissi’s parents were overseas, in Belgium, where we had become friends, we became surrogate parents. It would be hard to say when retreating with us stopped and living with us started. Here is what Sissi wrote on Facebook yesterday after we went to her Dad’s 60th birthday party:

  • “I am one of Marion and Sally’s many strays. They took me in when things were rough in college, fed me expensive cheese regularly, woke me up too early on the weekends and just generally loved me when I was hardest to love. Thank you, both, for being our family. We love you.” (Note: Sissi was never hard to love.)

Jenny Johnson Rooks, daughter of J.J. Johnson, almost a relative (through my beloved cousin Patsy) stayed with us, if I remember correctly, once a week for a year or two while she became a nurse. Who knows when we’ll need the services of these medical caregivers?

Ryan Payne, a friend of our niece’s (Hope Craig) husband, came for a continuing education course, and stayed a while working on his teaching credentials.

Irina Pevzner stayed with us a couple of nights each week for a few years while working on her Ph.D. in piano performance at USC. She got it! She is the Director of the Charleston Academy of Music. We’ve gone to Spoleto a few times to hear her perform. I officiated at her wedding.

Our most recent adoptee is Ramin Pajoumshariati, from Iran, on a post-doctoral fellowship at USC. Ramin only stayed at our house a couple of weeks. I helped him find a permanent place to stay and Kathwood Baptist helped furnish his apartment. His bride, Kimia Yavari, a medical doctor, arrived a year later. She and Ramin have won our hearts. We are trying to help them get Green Cards. Keep them in your prayers.

Sally and I agree that we have received far more from these strays than we have given. They have blessed us beyond words.

Marion (and Sally) Aldridge

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Familiar

South Carolina is home. I loved my half-year in New Hampshire: new sights, new experiences and new friends. Moose. Live Free or Die. Minus seventeen degrees one Sunday. I enjoyed being close to my daughter Julie and her husband Tom for six months. I grew fond of the people at Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover.

But I’m clear, even in 102-degree heat, I love my home state and my home.

I believe in travel, and I believe in getting to know other cultures, other histories, and other ways of thinking.

But I missed the familiar. I missed my wife Sally and my cat Caesar. I missed Sunday night supper at our house with my daughter Jenna, her husband Thorne, and my grandson Lake. I missed old friends who live near enough to see frequently. I missed my church. I missed our back porch and Sally’s garden. I missed the American flag in front of our house (occasionally replaced by a Tiger Paw flag). I missed being surrounded by my books. I missed walking in our neighborhood. I missed the pictures on the wall of my study and the mementos I’ve collected from around the world. I missed our shower. I even missed our dishwasher.

The familiar is seductive. It’s tempting to stay there and never leave, never experience the unfamiliar. I’m glad I resisted the comfort of my nest and ventured out.

Even more, I’m glad to be home.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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