Stewardship Webinar

I just completed a webinar on congregational stewardship. I was most impressed by the ways people are giving to churches electronically these days. My biggest disappointment was the lack of biblical stewardship principles which made the webinar sound like a fund raising effort.

We continue to struggle in the church separating stewardship from fund raising.

Full Voice Mail Boxes

I have been trying to call a congregation on the south side for several weeks and each time I call I am told their voice mail box is full. I wonder if anyone checks it regularly.

How many times do you call someone with a full mail box before you give up?

September 17, 1950

Sixty eight years ago on this day I was baptized at Park Place Lutheran Church in Houston, a church which has since closed. Before it closed some years ago, I visited the church again to see the sanctuary where I began my journey as a child of God. I am happy I went back to see the place one last time.

How long has it been since you visited the site of your baptism?

Mama's Cafe

Today I followed through on my promise of yesterday and had lunch with Pastor Heather at Mama’s Cafe. Instead of eating my usual chicken chalupas, I CHANGED and ate the daily special of chicken and dumplings.

This time I was luckier with the Monday special. The last time I ordered chicken and dumplings I got all dumplings and no chicken.

Pastor Heather said the Mama’s Cafe nearer her home has closed.

Infinite Hope

Anthony Graves, a Texas ex-death row prisoner, spoke last week at UIW. He had spent 12 years on death row for a wrongful conviction, some in solitary confinement. I was invited but unable to attend his presentation because of commitments here.

As I explained to the pre-game show today, this past week was a good week to discuss capital punishment because of the Bible texts assigned for the week.

Unfortunately, this issue tends to get media attention only when someone is about to be executed. Other times may be more appropriate for discussion.

Jesuits Leaving San Antonio

The Society of Jesus is pulling its last priest from San Antonio by the end of the year, ending service to our city dating back to the 1930s. A lack of Spanish-speaking priests was cited as a major reason. Because of the demographics of San Antonio, most Catholic workers here need to be bilingual.

I got to know Fr. Marty Elsner, SJ well when he was here and we worked together through COPS/Metro.

Jesuits are well-known in Lutheran circles for leading the Counter-reformation in the sixteenth century.

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to ever be named pope.

Oak Grove Elementary School

I joined several members of our CBA team last week as we met the new family specialist at our local school.. Volunteers will need to do more work now because of staff reductions and I am sure the people of MacArthur Park Lutheran Church will do what they can to make Oak Grove better.

To show our personal support for the school, several of us joined the local PTA. Be watching for ways we can help at the school.

First Secular City Council Invocation

I was invited to attend last Thursday’s meeting as Nick Lee gave the city’s first secular invocation. He received a warm reception from his city council representative from District 7 and did a good job of reminding those present that 25% or more of the citizens of our city claim no religious attachments but have good ideas to contribute to make our city better.

Student from Sri Lanka

Every Friday I try to read at Oblate School of Theology and sit by Luther’s Works in case someone walks by who knows me and thinks I may be thinking of jumping ship for the Roman Catholics. Last week a new doctoral student came by and grabbed a volume of Luther to read. I started a conversation with the student and learned he just arrived in the United States and he was part of the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation last year in his home country.

Of course, being from a younger generation, he wanted to show me something on his cell phone and he showed me pictures of Martin Luther and Pope Francis sitting together. Luther leans over and says to Francis, “When I tried, they got rid of me.”

I think this student likes both Martin Luther and Pope Francis.

Hard Calling

The September 12 edition of Christian Century quotes an article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune of August 18 which claims the following:

“With dwindling membership and decreasing budgets, fewer congregations are able to pay for a full-time pastor. This is true for one out of four congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Fewer people feel called to congregational ministry, which is putting a strain especially on churches in rural areas. Though the numbers have stabilized in the past two years, over the past decade seminary enrollment dropped 50 percent. Some pastors have to serve as many as four separate, struggling congregations. A Barna Group-Pepperdine University poll in 2017 reported that 75 percent of pastors polled were emotionally exhausted frequently or at times, and half the pastors with congregations of fewer than 250 members said they had episodes of depression.”

With the new upbeat story format of Living Lutheran, I am having to read elsewhere much of what is happening in the ELCA. Christian Century is a good resource.

Book by Brene Brown

Last week I completed reading Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, parent, and Lead by Brene Brown. This book was the basis of the bishop’s convocation for pastors a year ago.

Brown encourages readers to be vulnerable and take risks. Her themes are valuable during a time of change and uncertainty in the church and world.

Part B Meeting

I appreciate the way attendees of today’s meeting are handling some of our current issues and upcoming decisions. One can tell we are a mature congregation.

Thank you for your prayers for the staff and council during this process.

Thank You to Pastor Heather

I thank Pastor Heather for putting a stone in the box for Sermon in a Box or Stump the Pastor this Sunday. I had prepared for something yucky and she gave me something I could work with easily.

I am looking forward to what families may put in the box in coming weeks. I think Pastor Heather may be up next Sunday.

I am making good on my offer to take her out for lunch. We are scheduled for tomorrow.

Meemo's

Today I had lunch with the new pastor at St. Matthew’s Methodist Church, Rev. Dave Felts. We discussed our early education programs, the annual Thanksgiving service, happenings in the neighborhood, community organizing, and other topics. I continue to note how our two congregations face such similar issues.

Meemo’s serves breakfast most of the day but I had a tuna sandwich for lunch.

Interfaith Letter on the Flores Settlement Agreement

I signed a faith leader letter to Congress on immigration which begins with the following two paragraphs:

“We the undersigned faith leaders and faith-based organizations, write to call for you and your colleagues to oppose the administration’s practice of family incarceration and any legislative effort to alter or weaken the protections of the Flores settlement agreement that would expand family detention and indefinitely lengthen the time immigrant children are held in custody, vulnerable to abuse and trauma.

“As people of faith, our concern stems from shared values rooted in our sacred texts that remind us to love our neighbor and welcome the sojourner among us. As Leviticus 19:34 (CE) reminds us: ‘Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.’”

New Approach to Children's Sermons

Starting this Sunday Pastor Heather and I will be trying something new for this congregation. Pastor Heather is preparing a box which will be taken home each Sunday by a family to find something interesting to put in the box and return it for the next Sunday worship. Then the preacher for that service will be required to open the box and make up a children’s sermon on the spot based on what is in the box.

I am up this Sunday. We will see what happens.

Gathering of Retired Pastors

Though I do not think I am retired, I attended yesterday’s gathering of retired pastors at TLU and they did not kick me out. The food was good and two honorees were memorable.

One who had been ordained in the eventful year of 1968 (my high school graduation year) remembered the turmoil of that time in American history and compared that year to 2018.

A second pastor who was celebrating the 70th anniversary of his ordination, Pastor Merle Franke, the father of Pastor Kris Franke Hill at Shepherd King, talked about his work in English missions of a former Lutheran church body. At that time, domestic United States missions were called English missions, partly because virtually all Lutherans coming to the United States had to learn English and become Americanized to be accepted in this country.

The requirement of northern European immigrants to learn English and give up some of their old world culture has been historically one of the reasons these northern European churches and their descendants have had a more difficult time reaching out to people who speak languages other than English, in this past of the country especially Spanish. A common question was, “Why should we give up our native tongue when others do not have to?” Hopefully we are moving beyond that question as the years pass.

MPLS Vision Statement

Our school is in the process of writing a vision statement for the school, similar to the work our congregation did with Rev. Jon Lee several years ago. This process was suggested at a recent meeting Carla Lockett attended and I am trying to help.

One reason to be clear about the purpose of the school is because several recent news reports indicate the government program known as Head Start is not getting good reviews on its effectiveness. Families which have traditionally used Head Start may be open to other options if it appears other programs can do a better job with early childhood education.

2903 Nacogdoches Rd.     San Antonio, TX 78217    phone: 210-824-7135  fax: 210-826-5146