Tuesday, May 22, 2007

If you forget to preach the Gospel...

...you can always turn your church into a movie theater! Sell those stained glass windows, board up the holes, and put up a marquee. Strange, but true.

Here's what we saw in Galeton, PA:

I wonder how they made out on the Sunday matinee.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Faith Confirmed

We took nine saints-in-training to a weekend in New York City. These seventh and eight graders are in our confirmation class.

Near Wall Street, they posed by the bull. Aren't they a good looking bunch?

Around the block, they served breakfast to 125 folks in a downtown soup kitchen. That is, they served the poor who reside in one of the richest neighborhoods of the world.

Even though some of their parents might be astonished, they were actually photographed doing a mop dance. And (don't tell anybody) they enjoyed it!

Wow! Perhaps God is making these Christians into Christians...

I think that's exactly what is going on. And it is a great joy to be their pastor and friend.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

On the Road

I think I'm the only Presbyterian minister who takes a week of vacation to tour with a jazz quartet. For five days I'm out on the road with the Presbybop Quartet. The whirlwind tour is taking us through Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Erie.

On Saturday, we played a concert at the Ben Avon Community Church. The music was great, but the occasion was bittersweet. Ben Avon's pastor, Brent Dugan, passed away tragically last November. We offered a memorial concert, and presented a new piece of music in memory of Brent. Titled "The Last Word," it's a haunting ballad, and an appropriate way to remember a good soul.

Since we were in the neighborhood, Linda Williams dropped by. We've been pals for twenty years, and it was great to see her. She has always been such an encouragement to me, and was a dear friend of Brent's as well.

The next day, we stop in Sewickley to lead music for two morning services at the Presbyterian Church. Sewickley is a classy town, and it was a hoot to bring some syncopation to the sanctuary. They want us to come back some time, and that would be a lot of fun.

Soon after the benediction, we hit the road for Cleveland, just two hours away. We have an evening concert at the Rocky River Presbyterian Church, in the western suburbs of the city. Al reminds me that it's the home town of Sammy Kaye, the sweet swing bandleader, but I assure him that we won't be playing any of Sammy's music. The crowd is appreciative, and we're grateful to musician Ginny Roedig and pastor Jon Fancher, who serve as our hosts.

Monday is a well-deserved day off. We sleep in, and then I ramble down to the headquarters of the United Church of Christ, which is next door to our hotel. I've been asked to take part in a conversation about the arts, jazz, and church. We're in the Amistad Chapel, a great space where the band played a few years ago.

To my delight, Bob Chase drops by. Bob is a denominational staff leader for the UCC and a creative genius. He and Bill Pindar were the guys who first invited me to make some jazz for the wider church. They think big: it was the 1989 Bicentennial of the Presbyterian Church, and we collaborated on a huge worship service in downtown Philadelphia, right across the street from the Liberty Bell. For obvious reasons, I call him "Long Tall."

My partners in the arts conversation are Cliff Aerie and Dr. Chris Bakriges, founding members of the Oikos Ensemble. Cliff has a great job title with the UCC: he is their official "Minister of Creativity."

We chat a bit, play a little music, and then go for a long cup of coffee. Later on, I hook up again with the quartet, and we have a wonderful dinner in an Irish pub. It's been a relaxing and energizing day.

Today is Tuesday, and we'll head off to Erie. Our concert tonight will be at the Wayside Presbyterian Church, a friendly place that has welcomed our music in the past. It's close to some of my family, and I'm looking forward to seeing them.