General Conference Updates on New Blog

You might have noticed a decline in posts since I received my first appointment last summer.  Writing a sermon every week seems to sap my writing energies, and on top of that—-even with trying to keep this a semi-private blog—-I still don’t feel that I can be fully professional and authentic because I don’t know what the audience here is (family? old friends? clergy colleagues around the world? the local congregations? the Board of Ordained Ministry?).  So writing about frustrations seems inappropriate and writing only about uplifting ways in which I’ve seen God sounds exhausting. 

But Iam excited to partner with my family in sending back daily updates of our life at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference.

As my brother says, this blog promises to be boring because, out of respect to the monitoring ministry (which has the task of remaining neutral observers), I must refrain from sharing my opinions on the issues presented.  (I will break that promise if and when we add “gender” to paragraph 4 of the Constitution!)
And my mother wants to reflect back to the people of West Virginia, who elected her as the first lay delegate to General Conference, the tension of listening and voting with integrity while maintaining a view of the whole church.
And my father really is a very middle-of-the-road Methodist whose goal of unity in the midst of diversity trumps many other concerns.

So this is not the best place to receive breaking news on human sexuality (see the Love Your Neighbor Coalition for that) or restructure (see UM Insight or Hacking Christianity for some great analyses in that area).

But we will give you a perspective on what does it look like to be a delegate, page, or monitor.  And then you can imagine yourself in our shoes if you were here…

2012 General Conference Logo
(copyright by The United Methodist Church)

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La Flor Más Linda De Mi Querer

Ay, Nicaragua. 

How long has it been?  Nine years ago this week I returned from a Mission of Peace to Nicaragua.  That trip (through the United Methodist Church) changed my experience/understanding of self, vocation, community, God, and the globe.

I am so excited for those who have just returned from the 2012 Mission of Peace to Nicaragua.  I can imagine their excitement, and the conversations with stateside friends who will just never understand, even though you talk about it constantly to them.  And I am praying for those returning MOPers, that the experiences never leave them, but that their experiences of God only deepen with time…

But thinking of those students, makes me ask:  how long, indeed, has it been?  I returned to Nicaragua once since Mission of Peace.  It’s been four and a half years since I worked at Proyecto Chacocente for a summer, on a project I helped to start five years earlier as a high school student.  (Really? I did that?  It sounds so much more impressive than what I really did —- I cried, and prayed, along with a lot of other people, and then I came home and asked people for money.)

How long ago has it been?  Only nine years.  And yet, one of our number has died.  I’ve fallen out of touch with most of the rest.  And when I went back in 2007, one of the women we had met five years earlier, who had been learning English and dreaming of her future, was working in a sweatshop.  I was attending a wealthy private university and trying to decide between grad schools.

Nicaragua, Nicaraguita.  Yo te quiero mucho más…

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The Jesse Tree: An Interactive Worship Service based on Matthew 1:1-17

This week was supposed to be an “easy” week — a week off from the hard work of worship preparation, a week to relax (during Advent – HA!) and let the Children’s Christmas program do all the work — at least at the first church.  I figured I would muddle my way through with the second church on the charge.  But then I got inspired…

We need to tell and re-tell our stories. In Atlanta, a local Lutheran church celebrated an Easter vigil each year in which they shared the narratives of faith through drama, art, music, and story-telling… what a vision of God they shared!  And yet so many Christians–even adult Christians–do not know the stories of our faith.  There were two kingdoms, Israel and Judah?  God made a promise to David?  Who was King Josiah?  Isaiah wasn’t talking about Jesus?  Why were there two temples?

Inspired by Matthew 1:1-17, I put together a worship service for Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (order of worship below).  During our adult Bible study on Wednesday, we made fourteen circle ornaments, fourteen crown ornaments, and fourteen star ornaments.  We put on them the names of the ancestors of Jesus (according to Matthew).  We will hand out all of the ornaments at the beginning of the service (there are usually twenty people in worship, so each person will receive two).  During the reading of Matthew 1:1-17, when people hear their name read, they will go forward and hang the ornament on the Christmas tree/Jesse Tree.

(We used this public domain picture from Wikimedia Commons on the front of the bulletin, along with this description:  THE STORY OF THE JESSE TREE – During the Middle Ages, Christians created art to communicate our faith stories.  One of the pictures they created used Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,” the father of King David. Jesse is usually shown asleep at the bottom of the picture (like a tree stump), with a branch growing out of him to show the Biblical characters who were ancestors of Jesus. Many of them have crowns on their heads because they were kings.  At the top of the tree is Mary holding Jesus, the flower from Jesse’s tree).

At certain points in the genealogy, I’ll say, “Now let me tell you the story of [insert name here]…”  Using Ralph Milton’s excellent The Family Story Bible as a guide, I am re-telling and condensing seven key stories in Israel’s history.  Milton’s stories cover only half of the ones I want to tell, and they’re each double the the length of what I want — but the example of how to boil a story down to its essentials and yet add details enough to be interesting is a huge gift of Milton.  My goal is 200 words to each of the seven stories… that word count is hard enough, but not as hard as narrowing the number of stories to seven!  I’d love to do this service again and use some of the other stories from Matthew’s genealogy (Jacob, Rahab, Solomon, and Josiah top that list of “if only we had time”).

  • Purpose #1: to increase Biblical literacy by reviewing Biblical history prior to the birth of Christ
  • Purpose #2: to engage people of all ages, particularly children, in worship (since the other church is doing a Christmas pageant)
  • Purpose #3: to learn the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Although the church I serve has a tradition of lighting an Advent wreath, we did not know any Advent hymns prior to this year.  The new hymns we are learning this year are “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Prepare the Way of the Lord.”  We’ve sung both of them (my original plan with “O Come” was to do two verses a week), but this service has the secondary goal of reinforcing theses hymns and illustrating some of the Biblical references in the lyrics (e.g., “What is exile?”).

Third Sunday of Advent: Rejoice!

An Interactive Worship Service based on Matthew 1

December 11, 2011


*Lighting of Candles on the Altar
Greeting & Announcements
*Hymn #207…..……….“Prepare the Way of the Lord”
*Passing the Peace
Prayers of the People – After each prayer, please pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.” 
We Give God Our Tithes & Offerings
*Doxology #236: “While Shepherds Watched” (v.6) – “All glory be to God on high, and to the earth be peace; good will hence-forth from heaven to earth begin and never cease, begin and never cease”


Matthew 1:1-17 (see insert – Matthew 1:1-17 in the New International Reader’s Version)
All are invited to say, “was the father of”

The Story of Abraham and Sarah – based on Genesis 12:1-9; 13:14-18; 17-18:19; 21:1-7
Hymn #211           …“O Come, Desire of Nations” (verse 7)

The Story of Nahshon, Aaron, and Moses – based on Exodus and Numbers 1:1-16, 2:1-9, 7:1-17
Hymn #211           ……“O Come, Great Lord of Might” (v. 3)

The Story of Ruth and Naomi – based on Ruth 1-4
Hymn #211           …………“O Come, Thou Dayspring” (v. 6)

The Story of Jesse’s Children – based on 1 Samuel 16:1-13 and 2 Samuel 7
Hymn #211…..…“O Come, Thou Key of David” (v. 5)

The Story of King Manasseh and King Jeconiah –  based on 2 Kings 21:1-18, 24:8-16, 25:27-30
Hymn #211           ……“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (v. 1)

The Story of Zerubbabel – based on Ezra 1:1-3, 2:1-2, 3:2-13; Haggai 1:1, 14; 2:4-5, 21-23; Zechariah 4:6-10
Hymn #211…..…..……“O Come, Thou Wisdom” (v. 2)

The Story of Joseph and Mary – based on Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38
Hymn #211..……“O Come, Thou Root of Jesse” (v. 4)


There were fourteen generations from Abraham to David …
Lighting the 1st Candle (Purple, for royalty)

There were fourteen generations from David until the Jewish people were forced to go away in exile to Babylon….
Lighting the 2nd Candle (Purple, for royalty)

And there were fourteen generations from that time to the Messiah, the Christ…
Lighting the 3rd Candle (Pink, for “Rejoice!”)


*Hymn #207………….“Prepare the Way of the Lord”


If you use this or adapt this in your own setting, please let me know through comments or e-mail!
I would love feedback!

Creative Commons License
The Jesse Tree: An Interactive Worship Service Based on Matthew 1:1-17 by Diane Kenaston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Top 10 Hymns

The two churches that I’m serving are having fabulous (if I do say so myself!) worship services on Sunday.  After celebrating the crossing of the Red Sea last week, this week we are going to sing together in response to God’s grace, just as Miriam, Moses, and the Israelites did.  Our Sing to the Lord! service will feature the top ten hymns voted on by each congregation.

I didn’t vote.  I figured that since I get to vote every week, then it wasn’t right for me to participate.

But as we’ve tallied the votes, I have had some big surprises!  Several of the songs in the top 10 have made me go, “REALLY? That’s your FAVORITE?”

Some of the songs I have never really liked but am now growing to tolerate as I hum them around the house and research their origins (“In the Garden” would be one of these…. I am happy to say that I no longer actively dislike it.)

Most of them, however, are songs that I like but would not put into my top ten.  For example, there’s nothing wrong with “Amazing Grace,” but it’s a bit overdone… what makes it a favorite over so many other good choices?

So, dissatisfied with the crowd-sourced lists, I came up with my own Top 10.  We won’t be singing them on Sunday, but I’ve been humming them all day…

 The rules are that they had to be in the United Methodist Hymnal (1989) – so no “The Summons” or “She Comes Sailing on the Wind” or other fabulous hymns from The Faith We Sing hymnal.

My second rule for myself was that it has to be a song that consistently makes my heart thrill to hear/sing it.

Doesn’t this video make your heart thrill?

And my third rule (this as I begin narrowing down my list from 20 to 10) was that I had to be able to sing at least one verse by heart.

And so now… not in any significant order:

  • And Can It Be that I Should Gain (UMH 363)
  • Christ the Lord is Risen Today (UMH 302)
  • God, Whose Love Is Reigning O’er Us (UMH 100)
  • Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (UMH 127)/ God of Grace and God of Glory (UMH 577) (I’m combining these because evidently it’s the tune I like!)
  • For All the Saints (UMH 711)
  • Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending (UMH 718)
  • Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (UMH 384)
  • And Are We Yet Alive (UMH 553)
  • Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (UMH 400)
  • Joy to the World (UMH 246)

I made a list that included double this number of hymns, and I was surprised as I found myself cutting hymns that were *definitely* my favorite fifteen years ago:

  • Lord of the Dance (UMH 261)
  • Hymn of Promise (UMH 707)
  • Here I Am, Lord (UMH 593)

For this time in my life, they no longer give me that same thrill that they once did.  I still love them, but—especially with “Here I Am, Lord”—I am no longer moved to tears by them OR inspired to dance by them (Don’t worry, “Lord of the Dance,” I still think that you should be sung allegrissimo!).

Out of the 20 hymns selected by the two congregations (14 distinct hymns, since six of the hymns overlapped), precisely zero were by Charles Wesley.

How many did good ol’ Charles write on my list?  Five.  Perhaps we’ll have a Wesley hymn sing in the future 🙂

There is a good chance, however, that I am currently drawn towards hymns that my congregations don’t know because I know it will be a lot of work to get us to sing them.

Okay, enough commentary!  That’s my list.  How does your list compare??

POSTSCRIPT: Rambing Anna played!  Let me know if you blogged your top ten hymns, and I’ll link to you, too!

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Welcome, RevGalBlogPals!

Welcome, RevGalBlogPals!   (For the rest of you regular blog readers [particularly my clergywomen friends], head over to see what they’re doing each day…)

I’m excited to be in the August Meet-n-Greet and can’t get to know you all better!  (I’m already learning… it’s a bit sad how long it took me to figure out how to add the RGBP badge to my site!)

This is what I wrote in my application to join:

“I am a newly-commissioned United Methodist clergywoman who has been lurking at RevGalBlogPals for a long time.  I began subscribing to your posts four years ago when I was dating a man who didn’t believe women should be ordained.  Just knowing you were out there helped me to get through that relationship—and the subsequent break-up when I went to seminary! . . .  I didn’t blog much (about once every 3 weeks) while in seminary, but I would like to do better at that as I transition away from all of my seminary friends and live by myself for the first time.  With only virtual ties to the people who have supported me for the last few years, I would be so excited to participate in the RGBP community!”

Seriously, I started blogging when I did in part because I wanted to justify joining as soon as I graduated…

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Decisions, Decisions

One of the biggest challenges since moving here one month ago is figuring out how to prioritize my time and energy… how to make decisions between two good things (or eight good things…).  I’m reading Getting Things Done by David Allen (because I “love systems,” according to my delightfully perceptive significant other) and love the way he recognizes that it is impossible to get everything done but we should have the freedom to be in the moment with whatever we choose to do:

“Whatever you’re doing, you’d probably like to be more relaxed, confident that whatever you’re doing at the moment is just what you need to be doing–that having a beer with your staff after hours, gazing at your sleeping child in his or her crib at midnight, answering the e-mail in front of you, or spending a few informal minutes with the potential new client after the meeting is exactly what you ought to be doing, as you’re doing it.” (p. xi)

  Centering prayer has taught me the same thing: be present in the NOW.

And this is why the RevGalBlogPals Friday Five challenge has been super-difficult for me this morning.  I could write eight pages on each decision and why I want both/and instead of either/or.  But it boils down to what I want in the *present,* recognizing that I can’t have or do all things all at once.

This week’s challenge is to check out the following pairs and tell which one of each appeals to you most:

1) Sunrise or Sunset
Sunrise –> alone or with others, waking up early, sitting on the beach, waiting for God to appear….

2) To the Mountains or To the Beach
Mountains –> the smell of trees, the greens and browns of living color, the sense of home…

3) Coffee or Tea
Coffee –> by myself, with a friend, beginning to feel normal after the arduous waking-up process, slowing down for a cup in the middle of the day….

4) Advent or Lent
Advent —> “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” the joy of anticipation, the sharp turn in the weather, and oh! the music

5) “Raindrops on Roses” or “Whiskers on Kittens
Whiskers on Kittens –> squirmy, living, cuddly…

So those decisions weren’t as hard as I anticipated, even knowing that there are ten good choices to choose from… perhaps I can someday soon make the decisions about my time (what to work on, when to rest, what to let go of) knowing that there are too many good options from which to choose…


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Your Killer Taste

This Ira Glass quote shared by Sally McGraw at Already Pretty helps me key in on the despondency I’ve been feeling in my new work!

What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me —  is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

~ Ira Glass

Sally uses the quote to talk about style; I find it totally applies to sermon writing and worship planning; and Ira Glass wrote it to discuss his own journalism.

It is so reassuring to know that my own disappointment at not being good enough comes from my “killer taste”—this is a good thing!  And it’s not going to go away, even as I have to work to live up to it… and reassure myself that it’s okay on those weeks when I don’t.

(My Dad said last night, “Don’t worry about being creative.  For now, do what you have to do, figure out what you’re doing, and your creativity will still be there for you when you take it back up again.”)

Does this describe your own creative endeavors?  Have you already fought your way through?  Or are you still fighting?

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Whew.  I am tired!

Nothing has prepared me for full-time, all-by-your-lonesome, too-much-to-do-and-too-little-time-in-which-to-do-it Methodist ministry.   I’ve been blessed with an outstanding education, challenging internships, and a strong support network.  But still, this transition is making me tired.

Sunday comes so quickly. No matter how much I do in a day, so many things get left undone.  (Currently I have 61 items on my to do list for this week… 28 of them for today… I have the feeling that a good number of those will get the “postpone” button at the end of this evening… only so I can wake up to them tomorrow).

And I’ve been afraid to blog because I worry that people will think I should be working instead.  But I *HAVE* been working.  I shouldn’t feel guilty about spending part of July 4th watching fireworks, or devoting an afternoon to buying furniture, or falling asleep after church on a Sunday… but I do.  I worry that if I take any time off I’ll just get further behind.

know that it is silly to work myself into a depression.  I know that I’ll do better at my work if I grant myself some rest.  But knowing that is different from DOING that.

Someone who knows me well suggested that I read for fun.  I thought through the books on my bedside table: “Administration in the Small Membership Church,” “Reading Romans,” “Transitions,” “Beginning in Pastoral Ministry,” John Wesley’s “Sermons” (yes, I am re-reading some of those for sermon prep…).

Last time I counted (which was during finals… I’ve since bought 20+ new books), I had 69 books “in progress.”  Very few of them (save a Michener book and a re-read of L.M. Montgomery) are fiction.  I seem to be on this continual quest for self-improvement, and I have so far to go that I’ll be reading non-fiction for the rest of my life…

I preach about grace every week.  Preach it until you practice it.  Practice it?  Preach it?  I’ll have to preach it for a while.

I don’t cry by myself.

I cry when people are nice to me.
I cry when my parents come to visit, when I talk on skype, when I get an e-mail, when people tell me they’re praying for me, when I make reservations for a weekend away, or when I get a nice card in the mail.

“You aren’t being nice to yourself,” says that same wise person who tells me to read fiction.

I can’t believe when people are nice to me.  I don’t deserve that.  It triggers something inside of me, and my heart just explodes.

Since when is accepting grace so hard?

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Waiting for Myself

I used to sit in the garden next to my college chapel.  The quiet seclusion of the chapel garden was the perfect place to read or pray or kiss

What else do college students do?

Oh yes, sometimes we would dip our feet in the fountain, reach down to collect the pennies at the bottom, twirl around and try not to get the bottom of your skirt wet.

Other times I’d lie on the grass and stare at the clouds, just daring the ants to crawl up my arms.

I spent hours each week in this garden.  I cried there, tears of joy, tears of pleading, tears of bewilderment over my future.  And I napped.

But what I did most often was wait.

I would be reading, yes, or even praying, but inwardly I was waiting to hear footsteps along the brick pathway.  I would glance up from my book, or my prayer, anxious for the someone I was waiting for to walk through the open gate.

I don’t know how many hours I spent like that.  But this weekend I went back to my college campus for the first time in three years.  And on Sunday morning, I went to sit in the garden, taking off my sandals to dip my feet in the water.

It was so freeing not to be waiting for anyone.  I cried a little at the memory.  I prayed a little, adding my current prayers to all of my old ones that seemed to still be hanging around the place.  Eventually my prayers and tears gave way to the revelation that I had missed during those years in college:
I didn’t need to pause in prayer or study, waiting for someone to come.
I could be content by myself.
I could be happy with others, yes, but I could always be content alone.
Waiting for myself.  Waiting for God.
Because if God was there, and I was there, then we were all in the right place.

Entering the Chapel Garden was a small experience of the going-back-in-place-but-not-in-time that is to be my post-seminary life.  One week from now, I will be moving back to old territory.  I’ll be re-entering the county where I graduated from high school.
I’ll be back in a place that I knew well, a town where I’ve read and prayed and kissed and talked.  But I won’t be back in time.  Most of my old friends have left.  They’ve moved on — new jobs, new lovers, new churches, new children even.

It makes me nervous.  I want to raise my head up, see who’s coming, wait for familiar footsteps.

But this time I know that I don’t need to wait, distracted from my vocational call because I’m expecting old voices, allowing others to define me, or finding myself discontented with spending time alone.
Because this time, I know that if God’s there, and I’m there, then all’s as it should be:
No need to wait.

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First Glimpses of the Orthodox “Other”

Back a long time ago, before I got into the semester, I began a short-lived “I’m going to tell you about my experiences visiting Orthodox churches!” kick.  Things happened: I got a call about a new appointment, schoolwork shifted into a new gear, I got distracted with commissioning things and Commission on the Status and Role of Women things, and mi media naranja moved across the ocean… this was all within the time that I had scheduled to post on Orthodoxy.  Now the semester is ending & I can post what I had started but never finished earlier in the semester: my flirtation with Christian Orthodoxy.   

I’m not sure what it is about the Orthodox Church that draws me to it, but this interest has been growing for a loooong time.  My (very limited) exposure to Orthodoxy prior to this semester:

–     College classes on European diplomatic history (shout-out to Dr. Treadway!), which included all the reasons people have killed each other in the Balkans… this was when I learned that Catholics & Orthodox cross each other in different directions and that the name “Petrovic” (“son of a priest”) was enough to get one killed during Catholic crack-downs on Orthodoxy

My fabulous professor and fellow students

–    Inadvertently, the people in my college class on European Diplomatic History also sparked my love of icons.  When some of my college friends opposed women in ministry, I found refuge in the story of St. Thecla, the woman I began considering as my own saint.  It’s ironic when you consider Orthodox reticence to recognize clergywomen, but it is also a bit ironic that those evangelical iconoclasts who opposed my entering the ordination process witnessed my transformation into an ardent feminist iconodoule!

–    Limited academic exposure.  I did take a class on Medieval Women Saints, which covered hagiography, (some) iconography, asceticism, gender, and awesome women like St. Mary of Egypt, and I also took a required seminary course entitled “History of Christian Thought,” which covered the shared Eastern/Western history through 1000 CE, but I may or may not have been as interested in flirting with the TA as I was in studying.  So I skimmed through The Orthodox Way by Kallistos Ware and searched online for blogs & podcasts & other Orthodox resources… this mainly involved bookmarking every Wikipedia article about home altars/worship spaces and daydreaming about how I would have a dedicated room for prayer & incense when I got my own place (yay, parsonages!).

–    Read Way of the Pilgrim while feeling like a pilgrim myself… a multi-hour daily commute around Nicaragua isn’t quite the same as the Russian wanderings in the book, but it sure felt like it!  This led to praying the Jesus prayer (“Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) over and over while sitting on a 40-person bus, crammed with 70+ people, traipsing around the gorgeous Nicaraguan countryside.

–    Began praying Orthodox Daily Prayer, a gift book from my Dad, inscribed with the note, “May the Beauty of the Orthodox Church be always with you”—and that has been quite the blessing!

–    Orthodox Study Bible – my current favorite Bible… gorgeous (if exclusive) language, christocentric commentary (I always pair OT readings with the Jewish Study Bible, for balance :-)), a lectionary/daily prayer guide that I follow when I can, and a reminder that Scripture can be read on many different levels

–    Read Elias Chacour, who is Melkite [Eastern-Rite Catholic], not Orthodox, but this book goes in my most-likely-to-transform-your-life list of books and led directly to my interest in the following bullet point:

–    Visited the Middle East: Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem), Church of the Nativity (Bethlehem), and the monastery where Jesus was tempted Greece.  Then we traipsed over to Greece, where I visited no churches, but just enjoyed Athens and that gorgeous island of Hydra!  (Would love to go back…)

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

–          Attended various Holy Week services at the local Antiochian Orthodox Church

–          Attended a Greek Festival and a Mideast Festival at two of the Orthodox churches in my city… yummy food, decent wine, and lively music!  What more could you ask for?

What more could I ask for?  So maybe I have had more exposure to Orthodoxy than your average Protestant… but comparing my ecumenical knowledge to “the average Protestant” sets the bar pretty low.  The Orthodox Church still remained Other.  And the more I learned, the more it accentuated the Otherness of the East.  I consider my knowledge to be the bare minimum a pastoral leader should have.  So I set off to visit different Orthodox churches each week this semester…

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