Frederick Buechner said that your vocation is where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.

Vocation – with the same root as “voice” – is about a person’s calling, and the concept that God, the mystery at the heart of all creation, calls and invites you to take on some of God’s mission for the world.

It’s not always about hearing voices.

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Wow, I’ve been away from this blog for a year. Ever since I was appointed last summer to Tracyton, in fact!

So, here’s the next Bird’s Eye View, snipped from Bing Maps, for your contest.

It’s a United Methodist location in the Pacific Northwest Conference. I knew nothing about it until today, so maybe it’s news to you, too. It’s good news, though!

What's the UM connection?

What’s the UM connection?

To find the view, open Bing Maps, go to the area you want to look at, and  click “Bird’s Eye” on the menu bar just above the map. When you find the right location, zoomed-in, you should see this image on the big screen. Now, click the Envelope icon in the upper right corner of the page (“Share”) to get the address of the view, and put the link in a comment below, in this blog, along with the name of what we’re looking at, and you’ll gain immortality, at least for a while, in cyberspace.


Can you find this United Methodist location in the northwestern US? It’s a snip of a Bird’s Eye view at the Bing Maps website.

This one should be easy, given my current events.

To find the view, open Bing Maps, go to the area you want to look at, click “Bird’s Eye” on the menu bar just above the map. If you zoom in on this location, you should see this image on the big screen. Now, click the Envelope icon in the upper right corner of the page (“Share”) to get the address of the view, and put the link in a comment (below, in this blog), along with the name of what we’re looking at, and you’ll gain immortality, at least for a while, in cyberspace.

(By the way, you get extra points if you name the park across from the church as well.)

[Note: This would have become the script surrounding my Rules Committee report to the session of Annual Conference last Sunday -- but we were running late, so I just posted this -- a not-quite-finished draft -- and announced that anybody interested could read it here.]

Bishop, following Diana Butler Bass’s teaching Friday, on the shift from conceiving of what we do in the Religious category of Rules, to the Spiritual category of Practices, we may want to be looking at re-naming and re-tasking the Conference Rules Committee as the Conference Practices Group.

Words & Names matter. But as a friend reminded me the other day, sometimes we change the name of something, or craft a statement – or a rule – and think we’ve accomplished something. No, the best we do by renaming is to point toward an accomplishment that may come to be.

Yesterday the sixty-some clergywomen honored Bishop Mary Ann Swenson with the Ruth Award, and spoke of its history, an award given to women “standing before us, making us strong, lending their wisdom to help us along,” an award named after the first recipient, Ruth Steach. She stood before us as a Conference in so many ways, but I remember her best as the chairperson of the Rules Committee, delivering the committee’s work with clarity and grace, and trusting the body to do with it what it thought best.

So yesterday afternoon I gave Ruth a call. She lives right here, in Kennewick, and doesn’t get out much, but was interested to hear that Annual Conference was meeting here, and that we were thinking of her, holding her still as a model of faithful service and witness.

The Rules are a skeletal part of the body, which exist to give language & clarity to our expectations of our common life of this community over time. The rules should not be the limiting factor of our life, the lines outside which we must never color, so much as the frame on which the vitality can grow.

Sometimes our skeletons get too rigid: flexibility and motion are impeded instead of enhanced. It ought to be easier to fix stiff, worn-out or calcified rules than it is to treat stiff, worn-out or calcified joints.

So we have several items to work through, that describe practices we may decide to keep, together, over the unforeseeable future. This year, none of them are radical changes, some are tweaks, some are clarifications. It’s our intention that these enable the Conference to live and move and have lively being.


The changes we have worked on today are relatively minor; we are just off of GC, and were expecting that drastic changes at the denominationwide level might have made tweaks irrelevant, and undone any deep change we might have attempted.

Our rules are long. Our structure has become byzantine. We are not a Simple Church. One of these times, it might be good to do a complete Rules Audit, ask how each element serves the mission, and how each element distracts from the mission. I expect it won’t be this year; the work of the Committee this year is likely to be about continuing to clarify what’s unclear, to repair the worn-out, and … this year’s complication … to respond to whatever General Conference DID do, so that our rules are in conformity with the 2012 Discipline. But one of these times … I think we’ll be ready to make profound change, more than tweaks and patches and trendy names.

Pure Praise

I’m beginning to work my way through Laurence Hull Stookey’s book, Let the Whole Church Say Amen! a Guide for Those Who Pray in Public. It’s a basic text for anybody who leads worship — whether pastor or lay speaker or liturgist or small-group leader —  well, when you get right down to it, anybody who prays aloud in a group, especially as a leader of a group’s prayer.

It’s a workbook; most chapters have exercises. I’m leaving it blank, though, so that I can loan it out to whoever wants to borrow it. (Let me know if you want to borrow it.)

I’ll be using this blog to share what I’ve written as I go along, both prayer and reflections. If it’s useful to you, either directly, or as food-for-thought that leads you in different directions from my own, I’m thankful.

The first chapter is “Pure Praise.”

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Pedestrian matters

For the past 2 months, I’ve walked the parishes of the Tacoma Connection: The United Methodist churches of Bethany, The Bridge, Fern Hill, First, Grace, Kalevaria, Parkland (not in that order). I walked the parish of Epworth LeSourd last.

What I’ve learned can’t be distilled into a single article, but here are some points:

Sometimes I walked alone; sometimes with other pastors, including the pastor of the parish we were walking.

Alone, the walks gave me a prayerful sense of the presence of God in the city: God’s love flowing for each neighborhood, blessing each act of community-building, grieving each sign of brokenness.

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I’m going to revise it and revive it: the English church tradition of “beating the bounds.” Maybe we’ll even do it on Rogation days (I love Wikipedia!). The tradition comes from old England, a land long divided into parishes by law and custom. Each church of England was assigned its geographic area of responsibility, and every bit of England was assigned to the parish of one church or another. The boundaries between parishes were marked by boundary-stones. Annually, or more often, members of the churches both old and young, led by robed priests & acolytes, would make procession along the boundaries of their parishes, singing and praying – and inspecting the boundary-stones, to be sure they had not been moved, damaged, or lost. This was “beating the bounds.”

[more below the fold]

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