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tgawarmychris
15 September

The first weekend in August brought the first wedding over which I had the joy to preside; while weddings are often a lot of work and nothing but headaches for pastors, it was a joy to work with the bride and groom and, while it was a lot of work, it was also fun. Rachel was able to come to the reception with me, and we enjoyed ourselves.

Rachel’s family came to visit shortly after that, and we enjoyed a week with such activities as the zoo,

Rachel and I have recently returned to the dentist, as mandated by the Army (at least in my case); while all I need is a cleaning, she needed some more extensive (or perhaps I should say expensive) work…

Of course, with the start of September, things have begun to pick back up at Hope (not that I’m sure things ever really slowed down… ). I started a new opportunity for adult education on Sunday and Wednesday nights,

My new commander has joined my new unit, and I’m nearly fully settled in, having just been to the unit to get my gear for our upcoming Battle Assembly (BA). I will be in attendance on both Saturday and Sunday, as we are headed to Camp Custer for the unit to qualify with their rifles, go through the gas chamber, and go on a 12 mile ruck march! I found supply for myself, but as I told Hope, I’d rather be preaching than on a 12 mile ruck march… 
As a part of my Army duties, I recently had to make two casualty notifications, informing two fathers that their sons died in the service.

Rachel and I undertook a major cleaning project at the parsonage, both scrubbing and reorganizing and making space by giving away or tossing those things we don’t use. It took most of Labor Day weekend, but was worth it! I’ve undertaken a similar project at Hope, but it’s a much longer-term project! I’ve not only found some interesting historical and personal interest articles, I’ve also made room in and cleaned the mess I call an office!

A friend of mine from seminary, who was in his second year when I was in my last, was recently called to be the pastor a congregation about an hour north of us. Since I also know his wife from college, we’ve started getting together every few weeks to relax and have fun.
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Since I last posted…

Since our return from Niagara, things have settled a bit…

I returned to my mostly normal schedule of visits and office work, except that I worked nine straight days (and remember, I’m not full time!). Three of those days were with the Army, because I would not be able to make our normal weekend, I rescheduled it for the week, and the commander of a unit with which I worked as a part of my previous command requested me to come to her unit.

I arrived at the Reserve center in Bay City before 0750; the unit, however, was not in their building. The other unit that uses the building was also drilling, and they directed me to the cemetery across the street where the people I was seeking were taking their Army Physical Fitness Test (Army Physical Fitness Test). The commander filled me in on the situation there (issues of infidelity, which is punishable under the UCMJ), and asked me to advise her as well as assist in counseling. But first, she asked me to teach a suicide prevention class, as there had recently been a suicide in the battalion. Basically, then, I spent the whole day in counseling, and it was a long day.

I rearranged my office schedule the week that followed, as I was with the Army that Wednesday and Thursday (getting my paperwork straight, etc.), so I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday at Hope. Saturday included Marlette Country Fair Days, which included a community 5k at 8am, marching in the parade with the VFW at 11am, and then going to an open house at Hope; I ran a decent time in the 5k and took first in my age category, but was beat by an older guy and a girl (I had never been beaten by a girl in a community race before that). Still, it was a good day.

Sunday of that week, I led worship and made two house calls. That evening and Monday morning involved packing for our vacation to New Jersey, which we planned for this time of year because my father and his siblings threw my grandmother a surprise 80th birthday party!
We left on Monday, but we headed to Lansing first for lunch with the bishop, after which we headed for New Jersey, stopping in the Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Bedford areas to meet up with friends.
We spent most of the week visiting with people over food, though on Thursday we went to Dix to buy the alcohol for Gram’s party and getting our IDs updated with my new rank (turned out to be easier at Fort Dix than in Michigan).
Gram’s party was so much fun! First, it worked, and Gram was totally surprised; she had no idea that a party was being thrown for her at all, let alone who was there (including most of the still-living people in this country to whom she’s related, like her sister from Denver, Rachel and I, her nieces, nephews, retired priest cousin, his sister, etc.). Dad found an Elvis impersonator online, and we were thrilled with him – he was hilarious!
Our vacation was cut slightly short by the death of a parishioner, whose funeral I did on Tuesday morning.
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Shall I finally finish this?

On Sunday, 5 June, two friends came to stay with us after preaching a call sermon; we enjoyed their company, and they have since been called to a congregation a little more than an hour from us! Now we have friends our own age in the area!

Ohio

I spent a Monday-Friday, 6-10 June, at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, taking a course called “Celtic Christian Life and Thought AD 300-1200.” The course was excellent, and included history, poems, hymns, art, original works, and hagiography of the Christianity that existed in the British Isles from the Roman period until the Middle Ages, including the so-called “golden age” of Patrick and Brigid. One of the aspects of the course looked at what we know about the period and how others looked at it through history. For example, there are only two pieces are we sure that Patrick actually wrote, but many others were attributed to him; he wrote an “autobiography” in which he is very humble, but the things written about him two hundred years later show him as quite the self-confident wonder-worker! I enjoyed the week very much, staying with friends in nearby Springfield, but the week away from Rachel was hard on both of us; the week also came at during a long stretch of a great deal of work. I thought about pursuing another master’s degree (S.T.M.) at Trinity, but will most likely not.
During the week, I gave blood at the Red Cross blood drive that came to the seminary; while I sort of enjoy giving blood, it was kind of silly to run a 5k at the end of the week in Bridgeport… still, I came in 2nd in my age group! I do hope to do better on 16 July in Marlette, though…

Army

In mid-May, I received notification of my promotion to captain; I had to find out myself by looking for it in the Army personnel system. My transfer request was approved in early June, and I was transferred on 10 June to the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, which is in the same complex as my first unit. I’m finally the battalion chaplain I was trained to be!

VBS

The week of the 13th was Rachel’s VBS; the week of the 20th was my VBS. VBS was great (they did “Hometown Nazareth: Where Jesus Was a Kid” and we did “Pandamania.” I joined her on Tuesday and she joined me on Friday. It was fun, but made for long and exhausting days. In between, Hope Lutheran Church had its family portraits for the new directory we’re getting.

Niagara Falls

It had been so ridiculously busy that we needed a break; we didn’t take the Sunday after Easter as vacation when we saw Rachel’s parents, so instead, we took it for ourselves. We didn’t take any time around our second anniversary because we were at Synod Assembly (aside from going to the Melting Pot for dinner), so we called this trip our second anniversary celebration; this was 24-27 June.
Many of our parishioners had been to Niagara Falls, as it’s only about four hours from Hope. We took several recommendations, including staying on the Canadian side and getting an “adventure pass,” which we were pretty sure we wanted even though we weren’t sure what it was.
We figure it’s the perfect anniversary/honeymoon spot; it’s gorgeous, and there’s sight-seeing/tourist-y stuff to do, but not so much that you want to try to do it all at once for fear you’ll never return and spend a zillion hours exhausting yourself. It’s the perfect place for rest and relaxation.
It didn’t hurt that it was supplied by my father, who had extra timeshares left over this year. Thanks, Dad and Alison!
We left from Hope on Friday after VBS (pretty close to 8pm); we arrived at Niagara around 12:30pm. No trouble at the border, and our “enhanced” Michigan driver’s license meant we never needed our passports (although we had them in the car, just in case, we were never asked for them). We spent Saturday at the White Water Walk (where we bought our adventure passes), Niagara’s Fury, and the Tunnel behind the Falls; these were all included in the adventure passes, which included buses for two days. The White Water Walk is a boardwalk built along the rapids north of the Falls, and it was incredible; it was right across the street from our hotel, so we started there. There was also a bus stop right there, so as we were getting our bearings, we went north and ended up at the Aero car over the whirlpool, so we took that (it was not included with our adventure pass, but it did give us a discount). Niagara’s Fury was a “4D” movie, and we were not impressed, but it was included. The Tunnels behind the Falls were amazing, but they were incredibly crowded. Both of these last two included trash-bag like ponchos, and they took our picture and tried to sell it to us at the Tunnels.
Sunday we got up and walked to worship in an ELCiC (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) congregation! It was pretty much exactly like an ELCA congregation; they even use our hymnals. We had looked them up online and stayed for fellowship hour afterwards; we had to leave, because we were meeting Rachel’s friend for lunch (a friend of Rachel’s from Wittenberg who is grad school near Niagara figured out we were up there and contacted us via Facebook). Lunch was enjoyable and included a lot of walking, and we followed it up with a trip to the much-recommended (even by Gram) butterfly conservatory, which was also discounted due to our passes and was well worth the price. We went to dinner in a nice restaurant overlooking the Falls, and the wait was long enough to get some great shots of the falls; they messed up my steak, so we were there long enough to see the falls illuminated.
We planned to take the “Maid of the Mist” boat ride on Monday, and we figured correctly that it is the “main attraction.” Pictures aren’t possible, and a description wouldn’t do it justice, as it basically takes people into the waterfall; another trash-bag like poncho was included. Afterwards we shopped for souvenirs, which we had scoped out in advance, and sort of on a whim we walked across one of the bridges to Niagara, New York! Canada may have us beat on attractions (and the view), but the American park is far superior.
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Synod Assembly

Synod Assembly went well. The lay voting members from Hope arrived on Monday morning, which meant that, while they only really missed worship on Sunday night, they also had to get up super early on Monday morning (even by my early riser, morning person standards) to drive from Marlette to Kalamazoo by 7:30am. Worship throughout was excellent (and I may be biased because Rachel was helping to lead the musical portion of it), though I had some difficulty with the theme of the assembly, which was “caring for creation.” Of course, I do not have a problem with caring for creation (I read Genesis 1 & 2 as telling us human creatures that we are God’s stewards, and we’re not doing a great job), but that the assembly was, in and of itself, less “green” even than it could have been (for example, why did we need 400 bulletins when we had two massive screens?). But I enjoyed seeing/meeting colleagues, the debate was civil (though a bit silly at times), the food was pretty good, and the travel was pleasant.

The two resolutions that I think of as important are:
1. We have voted to be in discussion with the Southeast Michigan (SEMI) synod about participating in ministry more fully in the future. I was one of only three votes against the resolution. I think most of the people in North/West Lower Michigan (N/W Lower MI) voted to talk to SEMI, whereas SEMI voted to consolidate synods, which means we voted “yes” to two different resolutions. Further, we’re looking to do a “new thing,” but I’m pretty sure we can’t do a new thing because our ELCA constitution prevents it. A good idea, but nearly impossible to implement. Finally, SEMI has some real problems as a synod, and I’m not sure I want to be one Lower Michigan synod.
2. We voted to act on being a “book of faith” synod; this is fantastic! Our congregations are being encouraged to read the bible! However, the Resolutions Committee took the standards out of the resolution itself, and while this is apparently within the bounds of their authority, I think it was a mistake; we now have nothing for which to strive! I will attempt to hold to standards in my congregation and I will report to the synod office as to our success, and I hope that other pastors will do the same.

There were three other resolutions that had more to do with the State than with the Church; we elect our representatives, we live with their decisions. If we don’t like their decisions, we vote them out of office. That’s how our federal republic works. (My opinion)

Mom’s visit

Mom arrived on 26 May, and that afternoon/evening was a time for resting after her long day of (mostly uneventful, at least by comparison to my/Rachel’s) travel. While she was here, we went to three zoos (Saginaw, Birch Run, and Detroit), she came with us to our clergy breakfast, she attended the Memorial Day service at which I spoke in Marlette, we went to a local conservatory and minor league baseball game, and we relaxed over Star Trek: the Next Generation and Netflix.
It seems to me that there was other stuff, but I can’t remember what at the moment… if I remember, I’ll include it in my next post!

Memorial Day

A member of the congregation who is very active in the Marlette VFW asked me to go with the guys and speak as they honored veterans in each of the local cemeteries; this included a thought from me (and the other pastor who came) and the rifle salute. We started at 6:30am, which meant I left home at 5:30am. The individual ceremonies went well, although one of the cemeteries was loaded with mosquitos, and we finished up with the Memorial Day parade and the big ceremony at the Marlette cemetery, which was very well attended. Afterwards, Rachel, Mom and I went for lunch at an establishment in Marlette.
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Post-East Vacation

Sadly, our schedules didn’t allow for us to take a Sunday off until June, so months ago Rachel asked her parents if they would rather wait or that we come down for just the weekdays following Easter; they decided that we should come down for the days following Easter and not stay for the weekend. Thus, we would still have another Sunday to take for vacation. It worked well this year, but hopefully Easter’s earlier fall every year after this one will prevent it from happening again.

Monday, however, began with a funeral, as I mentioned that we received word that the father of a friend from Wittenberg/LTSS; his funeral was in the not-too-far-away Indianapolis area, so we attended the funeral. It was good to see John, but the circumstances were sad.

During the week, we went toured a local confectionary, saw much of Rachel’s family, enjoyed a pleasant trip to Shakertown (the weather was cooperative for the first time), and on the way home, stopped to see a friend from Wittenberg who is now a pastor in Indiana. I ran most mornings with Rachel’s parent’s new dog, who enjoyed our runs; the only mornings I didn’t run were Monday, because we had gotten very little sleep the night before, and Wednesday, because the streets were horribly flooded. It was a good vacation, on the whole, but we had to get back for Sunday worship.

CAST

The next major event was Chaplaincy Annual Sustainment Training, or CAST. Normally, there are CAST events around the country, and I would have gone to a closer one, but it conflicted with our first call conference. So, I requested to go to CAST in Fort Lewis, WA, which is also supported by the command (I’ll avoid the technicalities of the four regional commands – send me an e-mail/FB message if you really want to know.

Rachel wanted to go with me, as she did last year (when we could drive from Columbia, SC to Orlando, FL), so we bought her airline tickets. I will not go into the details, but that was our first major headache, because my unit switched command structures, so my first set of orders was cancelled… again, if you want more info, contact me and I’ll send you a separate response.

The conference itself went fairly well. Not all of the sessions were stellar, but on the whole, the conference went well. One session in particular, which was an elective, was about “millennials,” which is the title given to the generation of us born between 1980 – 2000 (roughly); I was expecting it to be an out-of-touch old guy lecturing about “young people,” but he did an excellent job.

While we were there, in our conference-planned down time, Rachel and I went to the Tacoma Zoo (incredible) and hiked a bit of Mount Rainier. Both were incredible, and there are pictures on Facebook.

Stationed at Fort Lewis as a mobilized reservist is a friend and colleague of mine whom I met while I was a prospective seminary student; she went on to be the intern (and later pastor) of my mother’s congregation in Texas. The three of us spent some time together during our stay at Fort Lewis, and it was good to see her, as I hadn’t seen her since her deployment to Iraq.
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I haven’t updated this thing since Lent! As such, I’ll be giving the highlights since the last time I posted. Because this will be a great deal of material, I will post it over several days, hopefully two “events” at a time. I hope to have more actually written than I post, staying ahead so that, should I start to fall behind, I can continue to post.

Let’s see, highlights:

FCTE

After worship on Sunday, 3 April (which was the fourth Sunday of Lent), I went home to pick up Rachel, finish packing, and wait for a colleague of ours to join us for the First Call Theological Education (FCTE) conference in Huron, Ohio (which I mentioned in my last CLN). This was a gathering of the all of the pastors in their first three years of their calls from the two northern Ohio synods, the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, and the two lower Michigan synods (most of what we call “Region 6”). We are “required” to participate in this conference for each of the first three years.

Our drive down was brutal – we drove through hail, sleet, snow, and freezing rain (what might be called a “wintry mix”), and although our thermostat told me it was above freezing, the snow was, in fact, making the road nearly impossible to drive. I was… pleased, after seven years of fellow students telling me what a horrible driver I am (mostly in jest), that our colleague praised my ability to drive through the winter weather and the traffic without killing anyone. Once we got south of Detroit, the weather dried and the driving was easy.

We had dinner with several colleagues, and then returned to the hotel for opening worship, preached by The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, bishop of Northeastern Ohio, who preached an excellent sermon but (sadly) had to leave immediately after for a clergy funeral. The opening mixer called upon us for an extreme level of extroversion which I didn’t mind, but the room was about a zillion degrees, the presenter didn’t know how to use a microphone, and I was starting to tire physically – poor Rachel hated it.

I found worship that morning to be lacking.

The topic for the three days was mission redevelopment (helping a struggling congregation thrive), which most first calls are. The next morning, were told that we were not presented with a program, which it clearly was (a timetable, set bible studies, steps through which to lead a congregation); this presenter decided not to use the microphone (the presenter the night before didn’t use it well), and instead of projecting, he yelled at us for the morning (he was actually audible two buildings away).

Lunch was on our own, and I met a colleague who was the intern at the congregation in Texas where my mother is a member while I was serving internship in PA. We were given free time that afternoon, which we used to socialize, meeting new people and hearing about their experience from across the Region.

That evening’s presentation was better, and evening worship was wonderful. We also figured out how to control the heat in the room.

At some point, there was some excellent small group time.

Tuesday we spent broken down by synod, and that was time well spent. Worship was preached by the Rev. William (Bill) Gafjken (Guf-ee-an), and it was another incredible sermon (that’s probably why they’re elected bishop!). Our drive home was uneventful.


Holy Week and Easter

I tried to memorize the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) for Wednesday of Holy Week; I reasonably well.

Maundy Thursday did not go as well; we tried both the laying on of hands during the confession, for which no one came forward, and we tried a footwashing, for which no one came forward. We will not try those things again next year.

Good Friday started with an ecumenical community service at the United Methodist Church in Marlette, which went well and had a dozen pastors for leaders, but which ended with an Easter Sunday hymn. Then I returned home to greet my father and grandmother, who arrived during worship. That evening there was another worship service at Hope, which was a joint venture between Hope and the two yolked Presbyterian congregations, went much better and was better attended; it included the bidding prayer and the solemn reproaches. The Presbyterian pastor and I hope to expand the relationship our three congregations are developing in the coming years, and we’re off to a good start. I returned home to my visiting family.

On Saturday, we spent time with Gram and Dad eating, playing games, and then visiting the Dow Gardens, where the flowers were not yet in bloom. We cooked every meal on both Friday and Saturday. Sunday had to be different. At some point, we got word that the father of a friend who lives in Indiana died and the funeral would be on Monday.

On Easter Sunday morning, Rachel had an early service at 7am; thus, despite the fact that we live an hour away from Hope, I left home after Rachel. Still, I had to be at Hope before 7:30am, because we had a breakfast at 9am instead of Sunday school, and I was making pancakes. People didn’t come as early as they did the last time we had a breakfast, and I was surprised that only about 60% of the people in worship came to breakfast. WE HAD 96 PEOPLE IN WORSHIP ON EASTER MORNING! Apparently, we haven’t had that many people in worship in 10 years.

That afternoon, I led worship at one of the local medical facilities that has long-term residents; the facility moved up worship from its normal 3pm to 1:30pm so that I could meet Gram and Dad for dinner at a local restaurant. Dad was right – the restaurant was open, crowded, and it was a good thing that we had a reservation. From there, Dad and Gram started their drive back to New Jersey and we started our drive to the Louisville area for our post-Easter vacation; having been up since before 5am, we were both exhausted but managed to finish the drive, arriving around 1am.

Tomorrow I will post regarding our post-East vacation and Chaplaincy Annual Sustainment Training (CAST).
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Tuesday and Thursday were reasonably uneventful days, with office time in the morning and visits in the afternoon. Wednesdays, however, because I’m at Hope until late in the evening, I arrive late in the morning, and join Rachel for her Wednesday clergy pericope group in Frankenmuth. Dinner and worship went well on Wednesday evening.
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I had planned a monthiversary surprise for Rachel on Friday, but we started with breakfast with a chaplain colleague of mine whom I saw in the hotel when prepping for the YTB last week; the last time I had seen him was in CH-BOLC in 2007. We went from breakfast to the Dow Gardens in midland, where a traveling butterfly exhibit is until 24 April – this was Rachel’s monthiversary surprise (I saw it in the paper a few months ago). On our way home, we stopped at Kroger to get some supplies for the synod young adult’s retreat, and we left in the afternoon for Michi-lu-ca, the camp where the retreat was held. Aside from getting stuck in the snow going up the hill to our cabins, the retreat went well, and we returned on Saturday afternoon to finish preparing for Sunday.

On Sunday I taught my first First Holy Communion Class! It went well, especially considering what a wide and varied age range we had. Worship went fairly well, though I almost forgot the Worship and Music committee meeting we had afterwards! I made a visit Sunday afternoon before heading home. On my way home, Rachel told me that we would finally have a chance to host her parishioners who won the auction for our “pancakes at the parsonage,” and that we would host them the next morning. So, when I got home, we cleaned.

Breakfast the next (Monday) morning went well before Rachel headed to the office and I got stuff done that afternoon before going to support the Bridgeport soft ball team, who was the wait staff at Big Boy’s last night.
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On Monday, we ran errands, and as we returned and while backing into our garage, I took off the side view mirror. Tuesday began with the weekly pastor’s meeting in Marlette before heading back to the office and getting an estimate from the local auto body shop ($150, much cheaper than expected). One of my afternoon visits cancelled, and I headed to the funeral of a local veteran (and Purple Heart recipient) before heading home. It snowed on Wednesday, cancelling worship for both Rachel and me, as well as Winter Jam, to which my congregation’s youth was headed; while this was disappointing, it was necessary. Still, Rachel and I went to her weekly pericope (pastor’s text study) that morning, as planned. I got an e-mail that night not to rush to the office the next morning, as the parking lot had not yet been plowed, so I took my time this morning getting to the office, then made a house call and hospital visit in Port Huron.
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I spent Tuesday at the office. While I only intended to spend half a day at the unit on Wednesday, I didn’t get back to Hope until about 5:40pm, just before dinner and mid-week worship. On Thursday morning, I made four visits and had some office time.
I spent Friday and Saturday in Southfield at the Yearly Training Brief for the ESC (Reserve Division). Worship and adult Sunday school went well, and then I went down to Port Huron to make a hospital visit.
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