Oct 20, 2014

Ecclesiastical Mud Slinging

It's hard to turn on the television these days and not be bombarded with political ads. Specifically, negative ads. 

I've always been fascinated with campaign mud-slinging from Willie Horton to Swift Boats to Dukakis in a tank, there have been some classic ones over the years. Granted, "classic" can mean tinged with racism, mean-spirited, half-truths, etc. But, still, it's an interesting window into what moves or fails to move the human soul.

I did play an active role in a political attack piece back in the (pre-seminary) day. Some of you know that I worked on and ran political campaigns for a living for 3 1/2 years after I graduated from college. I worked on the federal, state, and local levels in several states across the country -- everything from city council to U.S. Senate.

After I made the conscious decision to leave politics, I had one last hurrah as a consultant doing "opposition research" for a state senate candidate in Maryland. He was running against a long-serving, do-nothing, back bench incumbent and we knew he'd missed a number of votes over his many years. So I was dispatched to Annapolis to spend a couple of weeks painstakingly researching his record.

It turned out it was worse than we could have imagined -- he had missed literally thousands of votes including ones on key issues. So the campaign sent out a direct mail piece (pre-internet age) in the days just before the election with nothing but an empty chair on the cover. Inside were the details but the message was clear and effective -- and the reformer went on to win the seat.

After the election, the losing candidate sued us -- I had to give a deposition for the first and only time in my life -- but there were no grounds. It was all true and the case was thrown out.

Anyway, this has naturally made me think about what negative ads would look like in bishop elections. So, for your enjoyment, I've written a few scripts. If you're IN an episcopal election right now, consider going negative against your fellow nominees. I'm certain it would be well-received among convention delegates.

Soft on Sacrament

Did you know…

The Rev. Bob Carter never attends church [picture of padlocked church building] while vacationing (in the Virgin Islands)? [blurry picture of someone drinking beer on a tropical beach]

Nearly 1/3 of his baptismal candidates eventually become atheists? [picture of children dancing around a may pole]

Fr. Carter often delegates the early service on Sunday morning to his cadre of curates? [image of cassock-wearing cleric snoring in bed]

58% of the weddings he officiates end in divorce? [picture of bride and groom torn in two]

The Rev. Bob Carter. Soft on Sacrament.

Give it Away Now

Mother Joanne Bond loves to spend other people's money. [background music: "Give it Away Now" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers]

As a parish priest she never tithed, yet pleaded for others to increase their pledge every single year.

Now she wants to be your bishop and has said she'll work to increase the diocesan assessment for all parishes. Why? To give it away to "the poor."

If you consider the diocesan assessment just another "tax," you cannot in good conscience vote for Mother Bond. Keep Bond where she belongs: on Diocesan Council.

Mother Joanne Bond. Just another tax and spend liberal cleric.

Angel of Death

[video of deserted, run down cemetery] In the last 10 years Fr. Bill Simpson has done twice as many funerals as baptisms.

He might call this "pastoral care." We call it killing the church. [ominous organ music]

If Fr. Simpson is elected bishop, churches will die and parishes will become little more than funeral factories. [black and white picture of pre-labor movement, industrial revolution era factory; cut to picture of mass grave]

We need a bishop, not an angel of death. Don't let Fr. Simpson kill your grandmother [picture of sweet grandmother knitting in rocking chair]. Her blood will be on your hands.

Sing a New Song

[grainy video of priest butchering the singing of the sursum corda] It's been said that those who sing, you'll be the one praying twice -- for her to stop singing.
pray twice. If Mother Kim Stanley becomes your bishop,

We expect horrible noises during the Blessing of the Animals when a pack of dogs attacks the lone hamster. But the church is not a zoo [picture of cock fighting] -- screeching from the altar each week kills the soul and defames the sacrament.

Don't let the words of the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil be changed to "This is the night…that will never end."

If Mother Stanley is elected, the money in the diocesan budget dedicated to the poor will instead be spent on ear plugs.

We've come too far to elect a tone deaf bishop who insists on singing.

Don't let Evensong become…Evensuck

Oct 17, 2014

Monk in the Midst: Bishop Tom Shaw

Over the coming weeks and months there will be many stories and recollections of the late Bishop of Massachusetts, Tom Shaw. He touched people all over the world with his deep spirituality, humility, good humor, and passion for justice in the name of the Gospel.

All together these memories create a kaleidoscope of a faithful life lived in service of our Lord; a life that impacted thousands in ways gentle and bold, public and private. Some reflections will be shared quietly among friends and colleagues, others will be shared in newspapers and liturgies, still others will be pondered and treasured in the hearts of individuals.

I had the privilege of serving under Bishop Shaw for a quarter of his 20-year episcopacy. There are others that knew him for much longer and with much deeper intimacy. Yet I find myself compelled to share a few thoughts about a man who has been an important part of my own spiritual journey over these past five years in the Diocese of Massachusetts.

A few years ago Bishop Shaw called the church to ask me if I would become a member of the diocesan Commission on Ministry. ("Hi it's Tom" -- panic as I thought "Who the heck is Tom?" and then "Oh, that Tom"). I begged off but offered to help him with any other projects that might "better use my gifts." At a subsequent visitation he told my congregation, with a twinkle in his eye, that he was "stunned" at my response since "no one ever said no to me before."

Well, several months later he called again, this time asking if I would help him brainstorm some ideas to help him better communicate with the diocese. Well, the last thing the internet needed was Tom Shaw tweeting. Just not his thing. At all. So social media was out. But as I thought about it and talked with him it became clear that the bishop was a master storyteller with the ability to perceive the Spirit in unique ways. I mean, he was a monk after all. So I thought a video project would make the most sense. We got diocesan Communications Director Tracy Sukraw on board, hired a videographer, and "Monk in the Midst" was born.

We had several planning meetings -- all at a coffee shop in Harvard Square near his monastery and soon started filming and releasing seasonal and topical videos starring...Bishop Shaw.

The most memorable of these experiences, for me, was going to Copley Square to film an installment a few days after the Boston Marathon bombing. The place was still crawling with news trucks and reporters and police on a beautiful spring day. Before setting up we spent a good amount of time taking in the impromptu memorials comprised of t-shirts, flowers, running shoes, teddy bears, and hand-made signs. And, following his lead, offering silent prayer for the victims and their families, for the city of Boston, for people everywhere suffering from violence.

Tom exuded a prayerful presence in the memorial area as the bustle of Boston swirled around him. People looked stunned, or resigned, or tearful and I just sensed the bishop's love for all of them as he stood in the center of it all.

This is the image I'm left with as I reflect on Tom's life and ministry: a monk in the midst of it all, offering presence and comfort and hope; standing as an icon of sorts, a window into the divine love of Jesus Christ.

These last months of his life have been hard for us all as the effects of the brain tumor ravaged his body and mind. But the one think it couldn't touch was his spirit. Because Tom Shaw himself always pointed towards the Resurrection.

And thus this time in our common life is truly an Easter moment. Easter reminds us that despite the tragedies and trials we all face in this life, rarely as public as with a bishop, death doesn't get the last word. We don't remain on Heartbreak Hill; death doesn't win. Life does. Because when Jesus emerges from that tomb life wins out over death and that false boundary between life and death is breached once and for all. So there remains life in the midst of death; just as there remains in our memories a monk in the midst.

May Tom's soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace and rise in glory.

Oct 10, 2014

Job Perks!

Yesterday, I posted the job description for the assistant priest position here at St. John's in Hingham, Massachusetts.

A few people were surprised that my description didn't include things like anonymously ordering 30 pizzas to my archnemesis Scott Gunn's home on a weekly basis. But there are many "unwritten" perks to this job -- too many to possibly name in a single blog post but here are a few.

Perks to Serving with Tim at St. John's 

1. Being at the epicenter of Lent Madness (it's always Lent in Hingham!).

2. Fetching the rector's coffee every morning will not be surreptitiously inserted into the letter of agreement. 

3. The curate's residence is walking distance to the church but more importantly to both Nona's Homemade Ice Cream and Redeye Roasters Coffee Lounge & Espresso Bar.

4. You can take the ferry to Boston. Seriously -- there's a Hingham commuter ferry.

5. Walking distance to Hingham Harbor; five minute drive to the Atlantic Ocean (Nantasket Beach in Hull).

6. While we drove the Redcoats out a few years back, there are still some Anglicans living around here.

7. The rector is not a sociopath.

8. You can bring your dog to work (as long as he/she gets along with Delilah).

9. The weather in Hingham is always sunny and a balmy 78 degrees.

10. There's no nautilus on the fa├žade of St. John's.

So if you're considering applying for the position, please prayerfully consider these little extras that more than make up for having to work down the hall from me.

Oct 9, 2014

We Want You! (perhaps)

Alert the media! Hire a skywriter! We are now accepting applications for the full-time assistant priest position at St. John's in Hingham, Massachusetts. 

You may know that my current-but-soon-to-be-former curate/assistant, Anne Emry, has accepted a call to serve as rector of St. Paul's Church in Salem, Oregon. This is a terrific opportunity for her after being with us in Hingham for four years.

Please take a look at the position description posted below along with some basic background information about the parish. If this sounds like you, please be in touch. If you know someone who fits the description, please forward this link. I think this would be a terrific opportunity for the right person. There are some incredible lay leaders at St. John's and I'm truly seeking a colleague whose gifts for ministry complement my own.

Position Description for Curate/Assistant Rector
The Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist
172 Main Street
Hingham, Massachusetts
The Rev. Tim Schenck, Rector

Position Background
St. John’s is a healthy, program-sized church on the South Shore of Boston located in Hingham, Massachusetts. A parish with a history of two full-time priests, our previous curate/assistant rector was recently called to serve another church as rector after four years among us. St. John’s is a parish full of creative, gifted parishioners and the potential for new ministries and drawing people into renewed relationship with Christ is tremendous.

Parish Mission Statement
We seek to share the Good News of the Gospel through engaging worship, faithful service, and life-long Christian formation while joyfully living out our faith in this community and the world.

St. John’s offers two Sunday morning services at 8:00 am (Rite I) and 10:00 am (Rite II) and, from September to June, a contemporary, informal Saturday evening Eucharist at 5:00 pm. Our Average Sunday Attendance is about 235. In addition, there is a weekly mid-week eucharist at 10:00 am on Wednesdays followed by Bible Study and daily morning prayer is said at 8:45 am Monday through Friday.

We also hold a number of special worship opportunities throughout the year including Advent Lessons & Carols, Choral Evensong, the Blessing of the Animals, and Mass on the Grass. Liturgically, St. John’s is traditionally “Broad Church.” There is a fine music program, a strong adult choir with paid section leaders, as well as a small Junior Choir that sings on selected Sundays.

At St. John’s we value strong life-long Christian formation for all ages. Adult Education programs are offered at various times throughout the year, and we regularly feature foundational courses such as “Episcopal 101” and “Bible 101”. Regular programs include our annual Lenten Series, Wednesday morning Bible Study (following the 10:00 am Eucharist), and a monthly book group. We have recently offered programs on spirituality, the Christian response to poverty, parenting, and a variety of seasonal classes.

Sunday School is a big part of life at St. John’s and we have a vibrant community of families who contribute to helping our youngest members of the parish feel important and cared for. Our teachers are volunteers from within the church who follow a weekly curriculum that teaches pertinent stories from the Bible as well as lessons on liturgy and ethics. Sunday School begins at 9:45 am, and the children join their families in church in time for Communion.

Sunday School starts with three and four-year-olds in the Pre-K class and continues through grade 6. There are currently 120 children registered in the program with an average Sunday attendance of 50. Paid daycare professionals staff a nursery for infants and toddlers. We also offer a Special Needs Class that meets on the first Sunday of each month, and we have parishioners involved in the regional Rhythms of Grace program, a monthly Eucharist for children on the autism spectrum.

Youth in grades six through twelve have the opportunity to participate in Youth Group programs organized by a part-time Youth Minister and parent volunteers. We encourage young parishioners to participate in worship services as acolytes, junior ushers, choristers, and readers. Confirmation is led by the parish clergy and is available for students in 10th grade and above.

St. John’s traces its beginnings in Hingham to 1879 and celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2013.
Curate's Residence
Land for a church building was purchased in 1881, and a wooden structure was completed in 1883. In 1906, the church building was moved across the street from its original location on Main Street. The new site, high on the hill at the corner of Water and Main streets, also contained the current rectory, built in 1789. In 1921 the current church structure, made of Weymouth seam-face granite, replaced the old wooden church.

The parish has had remarkably stable clerical leadership – unusual for any congregation. The Reverends Daniel Magruder (1921-1951), John Gallop (1951-1979), and Robert Edson (1981-2007) served for nearly 90 years combined. After a two-year interim period, the Rev. Tim Schenck was called as the parish’s eighth rector in August 2009.

Since the late 1950s, St. John’s has had a second priest serving as curate/assistant, including the current Bishop of Massachusetts, the Rt. Rev. Alan Gates (1987-1990). Most recently the Rev. Anne Emry served in this capacity for four years before being called as rector of St. Paul’s in Salem, Oregon.

The Person We Seek
We seek an energetic, gifted, outgoing, engaging, and creative priest who will share our ministry with passion and devotion. We seek a person who will bring particular gifts and leadership in faith formation for all ages but especially with children, youth, and families. We seek someone who will share in the liturgical, pastoral, and administrative ministry with the rector. We seek someone who takes ministry but not him or herself too seriously. In other words, a sense of humor is essential.

Skills, Gifts, and Passions for Ministry
  • Passion for the spiritual development of youth and children
  • A heart for pastoral care
  • Ability to work collaboratively and creatively with other worship, pastoral, formation, and administrative leaders
  • Strong preaching skills
  • An understanding of his or her particular gifts and the desire to support others in discovering and using their unique gifts for ministry
  • Willingness and ability to take initiative and lead while collaborating with other clergy, staff, and lay leadership is vitally important
  • Desire to include people of all ages in ministry: children, youth, adults, older adults
  • Comfort with the ability to communicate using various technologies and social media
  • Ability to plan ahead and be flexible at the same time
  • Recognition of the importance of building and maintaining relationships in ministry, as well as building and maintaining programs
Responsibilities and Expectations
  • The Assistant Rector is appointed by and is accountable to the Rector, and extends and supports the Rector’s ministry in the parish, community, and diocese. Under the Rector’s supervision and authority, the Assistant shares in the responsibilities of pastoral care, faith formation, and administration of the Sacraments. The Assistant works with other paid and volunteer staff, exercising lead responsibility in tasks and areas assigned by the Rector. 
  • Take an active role in the Youth Ministry program helping to lead and design programs for youth. Assist, advise, and engage with our Youth Minister and adult volunteers in providing middle school and high school youth with opportunities for formation, fellowship, and service.
  • Serve as staff liaison to the Sunday School and the volunteer leadership team, offering spiritual guidance, direction, encouragement, Safe Church support, and training to volunteer leaders and teachers. Support parish families in their spiritual lives through online resources, seasonal programs, baptismal preparation, and face-to-face interactions.
  • Serve as staff liaison to adult education committee. Facilitate weekly Bible study, work with Rector to develop and teach teaching Inquirer’s, Confirmation, and Lenten series classes.
  • Develop small group ministries, many of which could ultimately be led by lay leaders.
  • Work with other clergy and lay leaders on the Pastoral Response Team to develop a program to offer excellent pastoral care to our elderly members.
  • Share presiding/preaching responsibilities at the Wednesday 10:00 am eucharist and monthly nursing home liturgies.
  • Participate in the diocesan Fresh Start program and other diocesan ministries.
  • Attend monthly Vestry meetings, submitting a written ministry report one week in advance.
  • Participate in regular weekly staff meetings.
  • Lead us into new ministry, inspire us to use our imaginations, encourage us to reach out beyond ourselves, and help us to deepen our awareness of God’s presence in our lives.
  • Maintain a pattern of life that sets a wholesome Christian example.
  • Communicate to the parish via printed newsletter, weekly e-mail newsletter, and other channels.
  • An annual ministry review will be conducted with the Rector.
  • The Assistant will work full-time. The Assistant will be available for pastoral emergencies. Like other professionals, he/she may occasionally be asked to work on customary days off.
Compensation & Benefits
  • Total clergy compensation is based upon diocesan norms and experience, some of which may be allocated as housing (per IRS guidelines). TCC includes professional expense allowance and provisions for continuing education.
  • Four weeks paid vacation.
  • Two weeks paid continuing education time
  • Eight weeks paid parental leave in the event of birth or adoption of a child.
  • Health insurance and dental plan, per Diocese of Massachusetts policies
  • Church Pension Group plan.
  • Church-owned housing is provided; curate’s residence on Water Street is walking distance to the church and downtown Hingham.
  • Two-year minimum commitment, renewable on an annual basis at the discretion of the Rector and in consultation with the Assistant.
All compensation and benefits are offered according to relevant IRS, Episcopal Church, Diocese of Massachusetts, and parish policies and procedures.

Prior to approval to hire by the Bishop, Rector and St. John’s Vestry, candidate must pass required Driver’s License, criminal, and credit background checks.

To apply, please send cover letter, resume, OTM Profile, and three sermons to: 
The Rev. Tim Schenck at frtim@stjohns-hingham.org (electronic submissions only)

Oct 7, 2014

A Dozen Dire Consequences of Not Pledging

Cooler weather and leaves turning resplendent colors can mean only one thing: stewardship season. As you prayerfully discern your financial pledge for 2015, I wanted you to be aware of several dire consequences for refusing to support your community of faith.

Here are a few consequences for taking a miserly approach to giving:

1. The rationing of wafers at communion means that every other person at the rail receives a Necco wafer. You got skipped? Better luck next week.

2. Ushers are stingy with the bulletins. Thus you may find yourself having to share with the stranger in your pew. Egad! 

3. The organ cuts out during the singing of the communion hymn leading to that awkward moment of bizarre theology and empty spiritual questioning when the congregation sings, "Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand; ponder nothing…"

4. Since the priest's salary has been cut in half, he or she will only preach half a sermon (Wait, that's a lousy motivator…).
5. The flower guild only has enough money in the budget for dandelions. 

6. The church can only afford for the sexton to clean half the church every week. So you may end up in that pew where the family with the two-year old triplets sat the week before. Which would explain the crushed Goldfish on the kneelers, sticky week-old grape juice on the pew, and that dirty diaper in the hymn rack.

7. There's only enough coffee after the service for the people who dash out the side entrance and race into the parish hall without shaking the priest's hand (and, yes, we know who you are).

8. With a lack of money to pay the oil bill, the baptismal font freezes over making winter baptisms impossible. Would you really want to deny a child entrance into the Church because you decided to spend more on your annual coffee budget (guilty as charged) than what you give to support your community of faith?

9. Not being able to afford matches means starting the New Fire at the Easter Vigil by rubbing two sticks together. This turns the service into a five-hour liturgy.

10. Since the water bill couldn't be paid, resulting in the town shutting off the water, the altar guild can't properly wash the chalices. Say hello to globs of lipstick being shoved in your face by the chalice bearer.

11. If the lights can’t stay on, the church must use more candles. When the acolyte knocks over the candelabra set up so the readers can find the lectern without breaking their necks, the church will burn down. 

12. Yes, Joshua fought the battle of Jericho but if you don’t pledge, the walls of the church will “come a-tumblin’ down.” 

So please be generous when that pledge card arrives in the mail. Otherwise the church will fall apart. Literally.