Make A Flood Bucket!

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Reveille people: in worship tomorrow, September 3, 2017, I will be discussing flood buckets as a way to respond to the effects of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation in Texas. Flood buckets are wonderful resources for those helping with the recovery efforts as they are filled with cleaning supplies. We made one today as a family, and it was a lot of fun. The instructions are here, and we will have copies available at church. Get one to church by Reveille Day (September 10), and we will get it to Texas! This is a fun and easy way to make a difference.

As always, you can make a monetary gift here, and remember, 100% of your gift goes to the people in need, because the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) pays its administrative costs via a special offering churches like ours receive in March on UMCOR Sunday.

Reflections Upon Charlottesville

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.49.11 PMWhat follows is my monthly letter to the congregation, which is printed in our newsletter.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

– Romans 12:21

We lived in Crozet, a bedroom community of Charlottesville, Virginia for nine years between 2005 and 2014, while I was serving as the pastor of Crozet United Methodist Church. Tracy taught fourth grade for eight years in the neighboring Albemarle County public schools, and for one year, in the city of Charlottesville, at Johnson Elementary. Our youngest daughter Claire was born at the old downtown Martha Jefferson Hospital.

And now, it is somehow all different. On Saturday, East Market Street, the place where we once watched a parade, became a racial battleground. The Downtown Mall, where Ellen as a preschooler used to hold our hands and slide atop the fallen autumn leaves is now the place where Heather Heyer was murdered by a white supremacist who had driven to Charlottesville from Ohio. The verdant golf course we used to pass on our way into town is the site of the helicopter crash that took the lives of Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of the Virginia State Police.

We were vacationing in South Carolina on Saturday, when the violence took place. It was heartbreaking to watch on television and the internet: this evil imported into our quiet little city. It was a helpless feeling being two states away while hell was breaking loose a dozen miles from our old home. I cannot imagine what it was like to actually be there, in the midst of it all.

That Saturday night, I had a dream where I was supposed to take a document to the University of Richmond, and when I arrived on campus, I realized I had forgotten the document. As I began to return home (for some reason, on foot), two students began to harass me. They followed me everywhere I went, trying to get away from them, hurling epithets, insulting everything about me, pushing me from behind, threatening violence against me.

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The Pareto Ecclesiology

 

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From the Lead Pastor’s Desk — July, 2017 – Reveille United Methodist Church

In 1896, the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto noted in 1896 the principle that bears his name: that roughly eighty percent of effects come from twenty percent of causes. Pareto noticed that eighty percent of the peas in his garden came from twenty percent of the pods. He also noticed that eighty percent of the land in Italy was owned by twenty percent of the population. This 80/20 rule has been noted in other disciplines, including business (eighty percent of your sales come from twenty percent of twenty percent of your clients) and mathematics (a power law or Pareto distribution).

And the same is probably true in most congregations, and that is not a mere principle. It is a theological problem that twenty-first century Christians must have the courage, dedication, and devotion to confront if our churches are going to accomplish our most basic directive: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Confronting this principle will be challenging, mainly because the challenge is so elusive. For centuries, congregations like ours were able to survive, even thrive with the standard Pareto 80/20 division of leadership and effort. In fact, one can argue that prior to the Reformation, this kind of division was preferable to some in the Western church, as it made more power and influence available to the clergy and less available to the laity.

Fast-forward a few centuries, and things were able to continue to work in Western churches, still following the 80/20 rule. Protestantism, with its emphasis upon and greater valuing of the leadership and contribution of the laity offered more people in churches more opportunities to do more things, so the twenty-percent was comprised of both clergy and lay leadership. And this worked well for awhile. Consider how many congregations in existence in the United States today were founded in the nineteenth century. There was a veritable boom of churches and congregational life. Many hands made light work, and there was much work that was done. It was something of a gilded age for American Christianity.

But then two important things changed that dramatically altered the landscape.

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