#SMS15 and Vestry Blogging

This coming Sunday is Social Media Sunday. As a regular church goer, and a social media professional, I’m recognize the value of this and will participate, at least to some extent. However, I have problems with a lot of church related social media that I’ve seen so far, so I’ll participate in my own idiosyncratic way.

It has often seemed that a lot of church social media activity has been around the nuts and bolts of churches, things like publicizing events. There is a value to this, but to me it feels a bit Martha-ish, focused on the preparations and not on the presence of Christ. I’m still looking for ways to make the presence of Christ felt online. Until then, I’ll continue to check in on social media sites at church, similar to how I check in at the transfer station on Saturday mornings. I’ll continue to post about events, at church as well as at church and in the community.

It struck me, this morning, that perhaps there are some parallels to vestry minutes. When I became Clerk of my parish’s vestry, I wondered, how do I make the presence of Christ felt in the minutes of vestry meetings? Such minutes are legal documents of a governing body. They are often terse, “after much discussion, a motion was made to …” Could I write vestry minutes as a poem? As a blog post?

With this in mind, here are some of my thoughts about our vestry meeting. One of our vestry members asked to resign from vestry due to personal reasons. We discussed whether we should fill the vacancy immediately, or wait until the annual meeting. What if there was a close vote on some vestry issue?

Fortunately, our vestry has not had to face close votes on an issue. In fact the only time I can remember anyone not voting for a motion has been when we were approving the minutes of a meeting they were not at and they abstained. Unlike a political body, where the minutes of regular meetings need to be published ahead of time and what gets included on the agenda can be a matter of conflict, vestries are leaders of Christian communities. We might not always agree, but we work hard to find consensus and work closely together.

This led into another topic. Typically, at our vestry meetings one of the first agenda items is to approve the agenda for the meeting. I don’t know how many other vestries have such an agenda item, and we discussed whether this is really necessary given the nature of our vestry meetings.

Like many churches, our church faces financial challenges. As we talked about pledges and the budget, the topic of our diocesan pledge came up. It seems like this is a frequent area of conflict in vestries. How much should we, as a church, pledge to the diocese? Perhaps it mirrors the discussion around dinner tables as families discuss how much they should pledge to their parish. We talked about how the diocesan pledge is in our budget under outreach and about the importance of program the diocese does as a community of churches that we can do individually. We talked about the upcoming diocesan convention, who would attend, what some of the topics that would be addressed were.

So far, this all still feels a bit dry and doesn’t get to what makes vestry meetings special. Yet the next discussion captures part of what makes our vestry meetings special. The budget committee talked about their meeting. We talked about how we need tighten up our budget and reduce more of our deficit. Yet a key part of the focus was about how we could use some of our assets to help refugees. Yes, we need a sustainable budget to sustain our mission, but the focus needs to be on our mission.

I was struck by how the discussion focused on things that we couldn’t do as a single parish and about the desire to work with other churches, how like the diocesan pledge?

We talked about failed ministries, successful ministries, and we prayed. God’s love for us was very present. It was present in our love for people we had helped. It was present in our love for people we tried to help and seem to have failed. It was present in our love for one another.

Can we use social media to help us rethink our relationship to our parish, to our diocese, to our mission, to God’s love? I hope so.

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Rethinking Martha

I’ve been reading ‘searching for Sunday’ by Rachel Held Evans, as part of a distant participation in St. James West Hartford’s book study. I got the book late, and have only now just barely caught up. The section for this week was ‘Communion’.

In this section, Rachel writes, “At Eagle Eyrie I learned why it’s so important for pastors to serve communion. It’s important because it steals the show. It’s important because it shoves you and your ego and your expectations out of the way so Jesus can do his thing. It reminds you that grace is as abundant as tears and faith as simple as food.”

This jumped out at me, as I struggle with my own journey. I feel that God is calling me to ordained ministry, but when asked what I think God really wants me to do as an ordained priest, I don’t have a good answer. Can’t I keep doing what I’ve been doing as a layperson? People have suggested looking at things that ordained priests can do that lay people can’t, such as celebrate the Eucharist.

Perhaps I need to become a priest so that I can celebrate the Eucharist as a means of keeping my ego and expectations in check. I remember years ago reading in the Articles of Religion, “Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.”

It makes me think of the Rite I Eucharistic prayer:

And although we are unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service, not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences, through Jesus Christ our Lord;

So how do we think about the story of Mary and Martha? The feast is important. It takes work. The typical guy’s response may be to put out a couple bags of chips and some beer, or perhaps a pile of wafers and some wine, but even so, the feast is important.

Where was the foot washing Jesus, who instead of saying that Mary has chosen what is better, wraps himself in an apron and helps prepare the meal? Was this something that couldn’t happen because of the historical context, or the context in the narrative?

Martha was doing something important, the preparations. The community, the companionship, the meal are important. Perhaps the central message really is about our distractions; how we let the means, become the ends. Are we preparing our meals because they have to be prepared, or are we preparing the meals to facilitate the communion and companionship of Jesus?

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The Heston Cover

Years ago, I lived in a rough part of Brooklyn. On a nearby avenue, there was a small candy store. There was practically no candy in the store, and the clerks sat behind bulletproof glass, like you’d find at a bank. It was probably a cover for a drug or bookie operation.

One day, I was sitting on the front stoop, and a guy came down the street headed towards the social club. He approached us, nonchalantly saying something to the effect, “Got some smoke, got some smoke”.

After he passed us, one of my roommates commented, “You know that store up on the avenue that sells candy as a cover? This guy’s cover is selling pot. What do you think he’s really selling?

This story came back to me this evening as a coworker posted a story about giving a ride to a man on the street who claimed to be Charleton Heston’s son. I’ve met a lot of people on the street telling pretty wild stories, but as I thought about it, the story from Brooklyn came back to mind, and I wondered, who would claim to be Charleton Heston’s son as their cover, their alias.

My mind wandered to Hebrew’s 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Perhaps this was an angel, drunk on rose water, trying to find Yasujiro, François and Andrej.

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Time for a Break?

I’ve had a lot going on recently, and with this post, fifty percent of my posts over the past ten days will be filler posts, posts that I’ve written as part of the discipline of writing a post every day, even when I’m too tired, or can’t think of anything I want to say.

It is frustrating, and so I’m rethinking my blogging strategy. Should I take a hiatus? Just cut back to a few posts a week? Should I keep trying to write, even when the words aren’t coming? I don’t know.

I’ll go and read for a while, then drift off to sleep. Tomorrow looks like it will be another very hard day to write, so the chances of me taking a pause are pretty good.

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#Ingress Flash Shards

Saturday, I went to Boston with a bunch of friends who play Ingress, an augmented reality game, somewhere between geocaching and capture the flag. It was a special event which drew people from across New England. This post is going to get into the underlying details about the event. If you don’t play Ingress, parts of it might not make a lot of sense.

In Ingress, you can carry two thousand items in your inventory. These can be bursters and ultra strikes, for blowing up your opponents portals, resonators and shields to put on portals you have captured, or a bunch of other items. Some items, like bursters, ultra strikes, resonators, and power cubes, come in strengths of Level 1 to Level 8. Other items, like shields, can be common, rare, very rare, or have some special capabilities.

Prior to the event, everyone tried to reach capacity in their items, with the right mix of offensive and defensive items, as high powered as possible. Before I left, I recorded what I had in my inventory. During the afternoon, I used a lot of my inventory, and at the after party and on my way home, I started replenishing my inventory. Here are some general details of what I used and what I had left over.

During the event, different people take on different roles, that may be more offense of more defense. I ended up starting off doing light offense and soon moved into pretty full time heavy defense. This determined what I used. I did find opportunities to play a little offense during brief periods of defensive play.

For resonators, I used about 275 Level 8 Resonators, 175 Level 7 Resonators, and 75 lower powered resonators. I ran out of lower level resonators first. I also farmed new resonators throughout the day. At the end of the day, I deployed just shy of 900 resonators and captured over 250 portals I am now less than 8,000 resonators deployed from getting my next badge for resonators deployed and less than 4,000 captures away from getting my next badge for captures.

I did not end up using many shields, deploying less than 30, and coming back with many of my very rare shields.

In terms of weapons, I ended up using about 275 Level 8 Bursters. I started with a lot of Level 8 Bursters, and came back with quite a few. On top of this I used over 100 Level 7 and Level 8 ultra strikes, which was all that I had. Ultra strikes are harder to get and I always try to get as many as I can for events like this. In terms of my own statistics, I destroyed over 175 resonators and neutralized over fifty portals. However, I’m not close to getting new badges in this area.

I also recycled a lot of portal keys, and got a bunch of new keys. Ultimately, I ended up with about 75 more keys than when I started. I visited nearly 150 new portals, and captured about 50 of those. I’m still a long way from getting badges in this area.

My role for the day didn’t involve as much walking as for others, and I only walked 14 kilometers, or about eight and a half miles. I try to walk a couple of kilometers each day playing Ingress, so this gave me about a week’s worth of Ingress walking. However, at my current rate, it will still be half a year before I get my next Ingress walking badge.

I also brought a lot of power cubes, but ended up using very few of them, so at the end of the day, while waiting for one thing or another, I used power cubes to recharge various portals, not something one normally does during an event like this. I ended up recharging around a million XM and using a little over a hundred power cubes, and I still have a bunch left over.

Now, I’m busy building my inventory back up. That will take a little while. All in all, it was a good day.

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