Monthly Archives: August 2007

Last April, in a string of comments on Presbymergent, some other people and I brainstormed the possibility of a special gathering for “Presbymergents” here at Pittsburgh Seminary. Thanks to PSF, Continuing Ed, and a lot of hard work by Brian and BJ that gathering will be . . .

Always Reforming: Emergence in the Presbyterian Church

. . . on October 12th & 13th, 2007, featuring John Franke, Nanette Sawyer, Adam Walker Cleaveland, Brian Wallace, BJ Woodworth, Andrew Purves, Scott Sunquist and a whole host of other amazing pastors, leaders, teachers, and students.

I’m extremely excited about this event – if you’re interested in registering, just follow the big link above!

For three weeks, I’ve been searching for time between traveling and visiting my family to study for my ordination exams. Tomorrow, a few dozen seminarians and candidates for ordination will meet in the Knox room at PTS to take the Theology and Worship ordination exams – six hours of testing, some of which is open book. The next day, we’ll take the church polity exam, and then be given a passage to exegete in a paper to be turned in next week. All of this to determine whether or not we are sufficiently educated to become Ministers of Word and Sacrament. I think it’s fair to say that it’s an intimidating process.

I spent most of today sitting in coffee shops and bookstores reading. Seeking refreshment during a study break, I wandered over to the poetry section of the bookstore I was in. One of my professors at CU used to talk about how we need poetry because it “slows us down.” When we are frantically running about, chasing after a hundred tasks at once, the blank space on a page or inverted syntax or clever turn of a poem somehow can calm, slow, and make peaceful our minds. It’s one reason why the biblical writers and prophets so often used poetry – it’s the natural vehicle of epiphanies. So I decided to slow down. First with a few poems from Wendell Berry’s Given and then with a few more from Czeslaw Milosz’s Second Space.

Both books struck me with the calm quiet faith that stands behind the writers. Berry’s book wrestles with tension between the mourning of death and the hope of resurrection. Milosz examines the process of growing old, naturally turning toward faith. And in the face of death, both writers words are filled with peace. Their lessons reminded me of the need to slow down, reflect, and savor life as a gift – a challenge when studying for the tests that impact the rest of my life. This week I’ve felt a need to be prepared spiritually as well as intellectually for these tests. I don’t know how possible this is, but I want to go into these tests with a worshipful and prayerful attitude. So, while I will study a bit more, prayer and now some poetry will also accompany my preparations, and I pray that God will settle the nervous hearts of everyone else who will be taking these tests tomorrow.

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us –
yes, establish the work of our hands.”
-Psalm 90:17 TNIV –

The past three weeks have been a whirlwind of traveling all across the country as I’m trying to enjoy one month of freedom between the end of CPE and the beginning of my last year of seminary. First I went back to Colorado, where I preached twice – once in the Eckert Presbyterian Church, which was founded by my great grandfather nearly a century ago, and once in Delta Presbyterian Church, the church I grew up attending. I also spent a lot of time visiting family. Every time I go back to Colorado, I come back with something new that I’ve learned about members of my family. This time I found out that one of my great-aunts grew up in Pittsburgh, and that one of my dad’s cousins had been the first female moderator of her Presbytery. While I knew she was very active in the Presbyterian church, I had no idea how much work she had done at the presbytery level until this most recent visit. Anoher highlight from Colorado was visiting some of the wineries in my home county with my dad and uncle John. Western Colorado has been gaining a reputation as a wine-growing region for the past few years, and I have to say that the wines we tried there were definitely higher quality than some of the ones that Eileen and I tried in Erie on our anniversary trip. My personal favorites were from Alfred Eames Cellars (which is owned and operated almost single-handedly by an amazing guitarist who used to play in a band with the woman who taught me to play guitar), and Jack Rabbit Hill, which produces some incredible organic red wine.

After that trip, Eileen and I came back to Pittsburgh for three days, then drove to Bethlehem, PA, to visit my mom and her side of the family. Our time there was packed as well, as we took trips to the beach in New Jersey, watched my newest baby cousin be baptized, and toured the Martin Guitar factory in Nazareth. At Martin, I was amazed to see how much expert work goes into building a guitar. It struck me as an incredible metaphor for how fragile yet beautiful life is in general (perhaps a topic for a later blog post . . .). At the end of the tour Eileen and my mom and I went into a special room where they let you try out some of Martin’s finest guitars. Out of the five or six I tried, there was one in particular which I just fell in love with. The D-45 Koa has officially become my dream guitar . . . at the startling price of $9599!! I will never be able to afford that, nor could I in good conscience justify spending that much on a guitar for myself, but it just sounded so good.

Last of all – I have to put in a quick ad for two new cds that are coming out. First is the new Caedmons Call cd, which will feature again their former band-member and one of my all-time favorite musicians Derek Webb. The second cd that I’m excited about is Songs for a Revolution of Hope vol. 1: Everything Must Change. As the Brian McLaren’s preface on the website explains, the cd is designed to present worship songs that reflect themes of justice and hope, rather than individualistic me-centered Christianity. I’ve often wondered why there wasn’t a more explicit connection between the emerging church movement and musicians such as Enter the Worship Circle who so obviously share common values. Part of the reason this cd excites me so much is that connection is being made. Plus, it features some of our favorite artists from Boulder – Aaron Strumpel and The Blackthorn Project. I started listening to Aaron Strumpel last year when he did a cd in the Enter the Worship Circle “Chair and Microphone” series – it’s filled with raw, beautiful, simple, emotional, and intense songs of lament. As for the Blackthorn Project, Tim and Laurie used to be members of our favorite local band in college: “Newcomers Home”. We were sad when Newcomers disbanded, but Blackthorn’s music is amazing as well, and much more bluegrass than Newcomers were. I hope someday to use their hymn arrangements in church . . . . Anyway – thank you for reading so far in this long post, buy these cds and support these amazing musicians. Amen!