Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I used the word confused
With my grandson
While we put the blocks away
Sorting the yellow triangles,
The blue circles and the red squares
Through the corresponding outlines
In the container lid
Like a crime scene on Sesame Street.
He repeated the word
Not knowing what it meant.
In love with the sound I suppose
Rolling the syllables joyfully
With the soft dexterity of the tongue,
Again and again
Until it grew large enough
To contain his delight.
This is how we learned
Before we stepped back from our lives
and stood before consciousness’s long mirror
Adjusting our collars and smoothing down our hair
Before what we loved
Became complicated with meaning
And eclipsed by our own reflection.
Back in those sweet days
When one thing followed another
As easily as these blocks
Slip through the empty space
Made especially
With them in mind

COPYRIGHT: Charles Oberkehr 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nuts and Bolts

We have swung the publicity campaign into full gear. Posters are going up around the neighborhoods, and an email campaign has started. It’s time for some of the nuts and bolts decisions to be made.

The biggest so far is where to have the liturgy. We have a large, gothic sanctuary, which is beautiful but not very flexible. Pews are fixed and the altar is against the wall. There is really no room for instruments. They never envisioned anything more than the organ when they designed the space. Those are just some of the minuses.

The pluses are that the sound system and the piano is there already. The drums and the guitars are portable. There has been some grumbling about drums and such in the sanctuary, but that’s been isolated. We can always set up a free-standing altar for the liturgy.

I guess my biggest concern is expectations the sanctuary imposes on the liturgy. The idea for this liturgy is to help all of us relate to our worship experience in a new way. That includes how the Good News is communicated in a new way and how we might be an inclusive community through this liturgy. Some sacred cows are sure to bite the dust here. Trying to do all that in the sanctuary may be the equivalent of new wine into old skins.

My inclination now is to set up the auditorium downstairs into a worship space. That poses a different set of logistical challenges, but at least it puts everyone on equal footing. Everyone already has an experience and an idea of worship in the sanctuary. Whatever happens will be judged against that experience. No one knows quite what to expect from a liturgy in the auditorium though.

As March 1st draws nearer, I am feeling more than ever how important this initiative is for our congregation and our community. There is so much division, fear and isolation in our communities, and it can be so strong, even within our own congregation, the resistance to something new and unknown. Still, the Spirit blows where it will. I pray our sails are set in the right direction on March 1.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Charting a new course in bilingual ministry

We've set a date to begin our new bilingual ministry "Somos El Cuerpo de Cristo" "We are the Body of Christ" Sunday, March 1st. 7:00PM. Keep your fingers crossed and please keep praying for this fledgling ministry.

The idea is to use music to bridge the language barriers, and make the liturgy active, culminating in the action of gathering at the table for the meal. The key for this liturgy will be interaction and participation. I imagine us trying to develop a sort of liturgical sign language, focusing on music, dance and the visual arts as the universal platform for the spoken word.

There have been so many false starts in attempting bilingual ministry here. The prevailing two church model, or tenant/landlord, has been a bust, twice. Trying to fold a new model of a unified diverse congregation into an old envelope has been disappointing. But there have been glimmers of hope from that attempt. Sparks to cup with your hands so that they may grow to a new flame. So, I think it is time for a new approach. New skins to hold the new wine of a bilingual inclusive congregation.

I'll keep you posted on how things are developing. Especially on the "demons" in the form of unexamined expectations this brings up in the "established" group. There has been a lot of that, and its not really surprising. It's sort of like the kick when you fire a shot gun. Enthusiasm in whatever form it takes, digs squarely into the shoulder of the one who pulls the trigger. The bigger the blast of enthusiasm, the bigger the kick.

All I can say so far is for a leader to expect that and know how to exercise self care so that you can keep the vision moving forward. Keep your shoulder loose, so to speak, so the kick back doesn't set you down on the seat of your pants. The biggest thing you can do is to keep standing. Whatever that takes.