Thursday, July 28, 2011

Newsbrief: Tell It!

Greetings friends!

This coming Sunday’s worship service is built around the theme and guiding scripture from the recent General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It was a phenomenal event hosted in Nashville, TN (old stomping grounds of mine!) that had the theme “Tell it!”
So that is what we’ll do on Sunday. We will “Tell it!”
There were so many great stories from General Assembly, that I won’t be able to squeeze them all in to one sermon (unless you don’t mind a three or four hour, church service!). So I decided to share one of them with you here.
While I was serving as an Intern Minister at Vine Street Christian Church in Nashville many years ago as part of my Field Education at Vanderbilt Divinity School my supervisor was the Rev. Rachel Dixon. She is a wonderful woman, compassionate pastor, and a phenomenal teacher. Much of who I am as a pastor was shaped by Rachel and her thoughtful, loving approach to life and ministry.
She’s also the proud mother of Gabe Dixon, who was one of the featured Disciples musicians at General Assembly this year. Gabe grew up singing at open mic night Coffee House’s in the basement fellowship at Vine Street Christian Church. Now he is an accomplished singer songwriter and a gifted pianist who has recorded with the likes of Paul McCartney.
And his mom and his church couldn’t be prouder!
It had been so long since I had seen Gabe that I didn’t even recognize his picture on the cover of the General Assembly docket. But as soon as he sat down at the piano at opening worship to welcome thousands of Disciples to Nashville with one of his original songs, well, in that moment I knew exactly who he was!

Check out the video.

You can see other video clips from General Assembly by visiting the General Assembly YouTube Channel.
Seeing my mentor’s son perform on the first night of General Assembly reminded me that our stories intersect and crisscross in remarkable, beautiful, surprising ways. God has gifted us all with stories that are uniquely ours and challenges us to examine our faith, find our stories, and Tell it! See you in worship on Sunday!
Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Digging for Hope: Japan Journal

{Note: My dear friend, and Associate Director of Week of Compassion, Rev. Brandon Gilvin visited Japan in June as part of an ecumenical delegation monitoring our relief efforts in the country. This update includes a report and reflection on the relief efforts he encountered on that trip.}

The smell was overwhelming. We had just gotten out of the van in Rikuzentaka, a fishing village on the coast of the Iwate prefecture in Japan, and everything around us smelled intensely fishy, reeking of saltwater and death.

The tsunami had decimated Rikuzentaka, killing more than 8,000 people, and displacing or otherwise affecting more than 30,000 others. 60% of the area’s medical doctors were affected, further weakening a damaged response infrastructure.

The rural areas affected by the tsunami, generally poorer with a much older population than Japan’s metropolitan areas, face serious challenges in rebuilding their local economies, which often were dependent on the production of factories destroyed in the wake of destructive water.

But as waves struck these factories, it was not only the local economies that were left damaged and vulnerable. Waves crushed a seafood production plant in Rikuzentaka, covering nearby streets with dead fish, waste, and oil. Because the tsunami struck in the winter, the waste was merely one detail among many of a complicated, largescale clean-up effort: but the weeks wore on and summer approached, rotting fish drew bugs, and a district of Rikuzentaka that once housed the livelihoods
of so many became a serious threat to public health.

Through our partnership with Church World Service, Week of Compassion is supporting the Nippon International Cooperation for Community Development (NICCO), which, in addition to providing psychosocial services and other care for survivors, is leading efforts to clean and disinfect the areas where Rikuzentaka’s fish processing plant once stood.

For an afternoon, we joined a NICCO-sponsored team responsible for clean-up, which included an entomologist who studied and cataloged insects infesting the rubble from the tsunami, helping other teams to determine the most effective approaches for clean-up and disinfection. We then visited the station where the rubble was transported and disinfected, before being taken away to be properly disposed of.

In the weeks that have followed my return from Japan, I’ve told as many people as I can about this aspect of NICCO’s work. For one, I was fascinated by how intricate the process was, how attuned to detail the NICCO staff was, and how, while an essential part of the recovery process, public health issues like disinfecting insect-infested rubble are rarely the sorts of things that we focus
our attention, energy, or media strategies on. But such issues are part of a comprehensive strategy that takes long-term recovery seriously, and it is for this reason that I am thankful for partners such as Church World Service, who focus on long-term recovery, invest in sustainable futures for vulnerable communities, and seek out partners with local knowledge, invaluable skills, and the trust of their communities.

As I made my way back to our van, stalking my way through the muck of ocean and factory waste, I found myself feeling as grateful as I was disgusted. The generosity of all of you—those who pray and give and along with the people of Japan—enables us to reach out in Courageous Compassion, to find hope amidst heartache, and to develop solutions that serve so many people left vulnerable in the wake of disasters. In the weeks that have followed, as I have watched your generosity serve the vulnerable in other places -- Joplin, MO; Kenya and Somalia; Birmingham, AL -- my gratitude has not waned. It has only grown stronger.

Thank you for making a difference. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Brandon Gilvin

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Whiteboard: Tell It!

General Assembly may have concluded two weeks ago, but this coming Sunday will be my first time back in the pulpit since the members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gathered for our every-other-year meeting. So I decided months back to dedicate Sunday July 31 as General Assembly Sunday.

Thus the picture on the Whiteboard this week. It is my crude, sketch version of the official logo for this past General Assembly hosted in Nashville, TN.

Here is my attempt....

And here is the official version....

 This Sunday's worship service will draw on the theme of the General Assembly (Tell It!), the scripture of the Assembly (Deuteronomy 6:1-9) and more importantly the stories of the Assembly. With a theme like "Tell It!" there was ample opportunities to hear the wonderful work that Disciples are doing all over the globe in the name of our Lord. I'll try to share a few of those stories while helping us to focus on the stories we have to share at FCC Scottsdale and the God who is inviting us to boldly go forward and Tell It!

The Last Three Weeks

Greetings, friends!

Today is my first official day back in the office after three weeks away. What have I been up to? Glad you asked!

Here are a couple of pictures from the last three weeks that include my adventures in Payson for a week of family vacation, my time in Nashville for the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and my week away in the Midwest for another week of family vacation. Enjoy!

This was supposed to be plan, and for the most part it held true except that we had two unexpected deaths in the church while I was away that brought me back to Scottsdale for 5 days as I presided at the Memorial Services. We miss you, Susan Bland and Phyllis McBride. 

The trip started off in Payson. Here is Susan and Henry sitting at the edge of the rim just outside of town. We had a tremendous time, hiking, eating, and playing dominoes in the cooler weather. As an added bonus Susan's parent's (that's here father at the right of the frame) and her sister and our neice and nephew were able to come down from St. Louis and join us.

 The second leg of my trip brought me to Nashville for our denomination's General Assembly. It was a great time and you can read my other blog posts from the General Assembly just under this post. In a strange coincidence Henry was obsessed with Elvis right before I left for General Assembly, so I couldn't resist taking this picture outside a honky tonk next door to the Convention Center.

 After the two Memorial Services I flew back out to catch up with Susan and Henry. By now they were on the third leg of the trip in St. Louis -- where Susan is from. Despite all of our trip to StL this was Henry's first time at the Gateway Arch. He looked out the window, saw Busch Stadium and proudly announced, "That is where Albert Pujols hits all those homeruns!" A Cardinals fan through and through.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Up for Grabs

Vanderbilt Divinity School New Testament Professor (and all around Rock Star!) Dr. Amy Jill Levine just brought a powerful word to the General Assembly in the final "Be The Change" Lecture. She had a great story about her own son and how the "significance and meaning of the cross is up for grabs" in today's world. You can expect to hear it retold in my General Assembly sermon when I get back to FCC Scottsdale!

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

From the Vandy Luncheon

The Rev. Dr. Fred Craddock receiving the 2011 Distinguished Alumni award from the Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt. He'll be preaching the sermon at Tuesday evening's worship service. Congratulations, Fred!

"Six More Years! Six More Years!"

The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins has been re-elected to her second six-year term as the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada -- what a title! Let us keep Sharon in our prayers and show her our support by working hard on behalf of the church we all love so much.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Quote: Brian McLaren's "Wow" Line

"We are not called to be Disciples of Christianity." -- Brian McLaren in Monday evening's worship service.

Sent from my iPhone

Quote: Be the Change Lecture

Dr. Harvey Cox's closing remarks after a wide-ranging lecture on the parallels between the early church and today's contemporary world: "If we let go and don't cling to old structures and old things...there is every reason to believe that the Spirit will move with us...and we can all "Tell It!" and we can all be disciples.

Sent from my iPhone

About Last Night

Here I am pictured with our very own Al B. And Daryl M. at the Week of Compassion Event at the Country Music Hall of Fame. An amazing night filled with great music from Gabe Dixon (tremendous talent) and my friend Craig Wiseman (the best live performer in the land). Plus U got to see Elvis' Gold Cadillac. It was the kind of night that could only happen in Nashville...and at General Assembly!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The gangs all here

Good news: The Church Van made it all the way to Nashville! When I hadn't heard from our crew by late Saturday night I figured they had either made it safely (best case scenario) or were stranded in a stretch of New Mexico desert without cellphone reception (worst case scenario). Now I have the photographic evidence to prove that they made it! Jeanne and Jessie rode over in the van. They are pictures in the Plenary Hall with me and Lea (who both flew, by the way). Glad everyone is here!

Quote: State of the Church

From our General Minister and President, the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins in her State of the Church address: "In the midst of this new landscape for missions...with God's leadership we are finding the way. It is an amazing time to be church!"

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday Morning at Vie Street

Guest preacher Dr. William Lee brought a powerful word. Senior Minister Thomas Kleinert welcomed us all to the Lord's Table. The music was amazing. The sanctuary was packed. And glory, glory hallelujah they had veggie sandwiches in the box lunches after worship! It was my first time back at Vine Street since my Ordination there the weekend after I graduated from Seminary, and it was a remarkable day. Special thanks to Rev. Hope Hodnett for making sure I caught the bus to get there and to Al Beasley for taking the picture of me next to Vine Street's sign.

Opening Worship Redux

I grabbed way in the back for Opening Worship (the Pew Ladies at FCC Scottsdale would be proud!) and tried to a picture if the size if the crowd in attendance -- It really us amazing worshipping with several thousand Disciples. Way up there at the front is the Rev. Glen Stewart, the Tennessee Regional Minister. Glen is offering the formal welcome to the Assembly attendees, and many years ago Glen presided at my Ordination to Christian Ministry. Sunday morning I am off to worship at Vine Street Christian Church, where that ordination took place!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Opening Worship at GA

What is that you ask? Well that is FCC Scottsdale's very own Al Beasley playing "Go Tell It On the Mountain" on stage during the opening worship service at General Assembly (I know, I know Mr. Blurrycam strikes again, but trust me Al is there in the upper lefthand corner. It kinda helps if you squint.) I flew over with Don and Kay, and I'm still on the lookout for our group who drove over from Scottsdale in the church van. Expect a picture of them when I see 'em too...hopefully not such a blurry one. We have a great group here representing the church, and it is going to be a terrific Assembly.

Music City Here I Come

Good morning friends! That little, unreadable sign behind me says "Nashville 10:00" and that is my flight out to General Assembly! A direct flight and several timezones later I will be in Music City with several thousand Disciples for our every-other-year big old meeting. Throughout General Assembly I'll be posting short updates here on the blog, so check back often. But a word of warning: I'm doing the whole thing through my phone! So expect some typos, some weird auto-fill changes (my phone originally changed "timezone" to "Toledo Ed"?!?), and some formatting problems. You can also expect all kinds off good news from General Assembly and plenty of great ideas that we can start implementing at FCC Scottsdale!