Sep 132019

Please thank your pastor today

Thank your pastor

This past week a pastor commented to me how tired they were and how they are rarely if ever told thank you. I understand that feeling of tiredness and being unappreciated. I also understand how hard it is sometimes to feel so alone in a ministry field. Please take a moment to read this entire blog post. Your pastor’s life may depend on it.

I and my fellow pastors need you to understand a few things about how ministry works. Take a look at these numbers:

  • 72% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
  • 84% of pastors feel they are on call 24/7.
  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
  • 78% of pastors report having their vacation and personal time interrupted with ministry duties or expectations.
  • 35% of pastors report the demands of the church denies them from spending time with their family.
  • 66% of church members expect a minister and family to live at a higher moral standard than themselves.
  • 57% of pastors believe they do not receive a livable wage.
  • 57% of pastors are unable to pay their bills.
  • 75% of pastors report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses have felt unqualified and discouraged as role of pastors at least one or more times in their ministry.
  • 52% of pastors feel overworked and cannot meet their church’s unrealistic expectations. 
  • 54% of pastors find the role of a pastor overwhelming.
  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once in the last year.
  • 35% of pastors battle depression or fear of inadequacy.
  • 26% of pastors report being over fatigued.
  • 28% of pastors report they are spiritually undernurished.
  • Over 50% of pastors state the biggest challenge is to recruit volunteers and encourage their members to change (living closer to God’s Word).
  • 70% of pastors report they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
  • 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider to be a close friend.
  • 57% of pastors feel fulfilled but yet discouraged, stressed, and fatigued. 
  • 1 out of every 10 pastors will actually retire as a pastor. 

I know that is a lot of statistics, but I feel you need to hear what we go thru. On top of all those, the one thing I hear most from my fellow pastors is that they rarely are told thank you. It may seem like a really small thing, but trust me, it is huge to a pastor.

Right around the corner is Clergy Appreciation Month. We take the entire month of October as an opportunity to thank those clergy people who serve us in ways we do not fully understand every day. And yet, so many people fail to take time to thank their pastor.

Why not start now? Why not take a moment to thank your pastor?

If you would like to show your appreciation in other ways, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Say thank you to your pastor on a regular basis. This is the most simple way to show your gratitude.
  2. Give your pastor a gift. It can be something as small as a handwritten note telling them how thankful you are for them and how they impacted you in positive ways. Or it can be something as elaborate as a gift card to a nice Resturant or their favorite coffee spot.
  3. Donate to the church in their honor. Most pastors spend hours on top of hours worried about their church’s finances. You can help to alleviate that worry by donating and say thank you by doing it in their honor.
  4. Volunteer at church. Most pastor’s end up doing a lot of work at church because there are not enough hands to help. You can help lighten their load by volunteering to help in the parish. You can do something as simple as cleaning the bathrooms or refilling the paper towels. That is one less job your pastor has to do.

These are just a few simple ways you can show your gratitude. This will help to lift your pastor’s spirit and keep them from possibly burning out.

Please join me in celebrating Clergy Appreciation Month just a little early!

Jul 132018

Power made perfect in weakness

weakness

Last week I was struggling to come up with something to say. I spent days working myself to the bone and trying to avoid the elephant in the room. I was depressed and I was feeling very insecure about my abilities. My struggle was with my weakness. I cannot say that I am better this week, but I am trying to find my path through this struggle.

I know you are tired of hearing of my struggles. Everyone has their limits. I have been told time and time again that I need to stop talking about my brokenness and my struggles. However, Saint Paul did just that in last Sunday’s reading:

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Saint Paul talked about his brokenness a lot. And he said that we find strength in our weakness. That God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

I talk about my brokenness not to puff myself up or to make people feel sorry for me. I speak about it so that others know the struggles I have gone through and they too can find hope. It is my desire to help people find hope even when they feel so hopeless.

So talk about your struggle. Share your brokenness with others. Yes, it makes you vulnerable and some may hurt you by rejecting you. But they did that to Jesus too:

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
Are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

(Mark 6:1-6)

Let us move forward in proclaiming the love of God and showing his power through our weakness!

Jun 152018

Change is needed

Change

The world seems to have gone crazy lately. In fact, many people seem willing to exchange the truth for a lie and to exchange compassion for hatred, bigotry, and violence. Change is considered to be a dirty word, and yet, change is exactly what we need!

We have been warned throughout Scripture that such times would come. Many people think that these are the end times, but I believe we are merely at the end of an age. We are at a point where the pendulum will swing back to a more compassionate and caring place.

That said, we must be willing to be the instruments of change in the world around us. We cannot bury our head in the sand and expect things to improve on their own. Throughout history good men and women chose to hide their eyes from the horrors around them. And by doing so they, at very least, allowed bad things to happen, and at worst, approved of those acts.

For years I have preached about walking the middle of the road and now I see now the error of that teaching. By walking the middle of the road, I have allowed the evil the world to triumph. Rather than walk the middle of the road, we need to be willing to speak up against the horror of hate, bigotry, anger, and violence that has taken over our society.

Make no mistake, you will loose friends and family if you choose to speak up. People will label you as a troublemaker or worse. They even treated Jesus this way. Everyone abandoned Jesus. You are in good company.

Now is the time to stand up. It is time to stop hiding from the darkness and to confront it. It is time to live our faith. And our faith calls us to love others, to take in the stranger and refugee. Today is the day to be Christ to the world!

And if that cost me everything, I will give it all up to serve others and to follow my Christ!

Jun 022018

Dark and Light

Dark

They say the night is darkest right before the dawn. Given the struggles I have experienced in my life, I believe this to be true. But the dark can never truly overcome the light.

The last two weeks have been difficult. Today is day 16 of my life without my pain medication and my anti-depressants. The worst of the withdraw is behind me. And now I begin the process of finding my new normal. It has been tough, and the last week has been the darkest by far. But now the light is beginning to shine over the horizon.

One the interesting parts of the journey through PTSS and depression has been the rediscovery of my emotions. This means that I am experiencing a full range of emotions where in the past I had a rather muted range of emotions. That process of discovering my new emotions and normalizing them can take months or even years.

Father Rick reminded me today that in life “sorrow and joy walk side by side.” This is so true. We cannot experience light without the darkness. Sorrow helps us understand joy. Unrest helps us know peace. And doubt helps us know what true faith is all about.

When life is its darkest, we must remember that Christ is right there with us. He experienced all the pain, sorrow, frustration, joy, peace, love, and even darkness that we do. Christ comes to us in the moments to walk with us and provide us with the strength and love we need to survive and flourish.

And the church is here to provide you with the support and love you need to move forward. Without my brothers and sisters in the church (especially my fellow clergy in the OCCI) I would not have made it this far. It is our goal to provide a church family where you can find strength, love and support through the struggles of life.

Come and experience a different way to be Catholic!

May 252018

Life can be hard

life

Life can be hard. At times it seems like no matter how hard we try, things remain difficult. As a clergy person, I experience people at the worst moments in their lives. And sometimes that occurs when I am dealing with a difficult time myself.

God did not promise that life would be easy. In fact, we see story after story in scripture about how difficult life can be. Matter of fact, the entire book of Job is one long story about how difficult life is. Job was a man that worked hard to follow God. And still he suffered from some very sad and disturbing things. He lost his family, his money, his possessions, and then his health.

Despite it all, he did not give up. Yes, he felt upset, angry, and even depressed. But he never walked away from God. He trusted that God would bring him through all these sorrows to a better day.

We are called on to stand firm on our faith even in the darkest moments of our lives. You are not alone in your struggles. Too often, people think that they are alone and that no one understand what they are going through. But that is wrong. So many people struggle everyday too. We must not isolate ourselves, but instead, we need to reach out to those around us for encouragement and strength in these difficult times.

And the church can be an outlet to help you through those times. We are not perfect people, which means that we have been through similar things to what you have been through. It is our hope that we can be there to help you through your struggles too.

And together we can work toward a brighter day!

May 112018

Love is our only commandment

love

We have struggled for many years now trying to build up a parish here in the Augusta, GA area. It is even harder to build one based on love rather than judgement! It has been a long and difficult road and I cannot thank those who come to our parish enough for giving us a chance. I wish more people would give us a chance!

Here is the thing, we are trying hard to build a parish where everyone is loved and respected. We want you to feel safe and loved in our parish. This is not an easy thing to do, especially in our world today. But we believe that we are on the right track to do just that.

Saint Francis is about building a place where you can be you and find God through the Sacraments without judgement. We believe that God creates all people uniquely and that we should respect the spark of the Divine in each and every person. It is not our place to judge you. It is our job to love you!

However, all too often the church allows itself to fall into this place of judgement. People judge others based on who they love, where they came from, the color of their skin, their gender, their social or economic status, or other arbitrary statuses. They forget that we are called to love, without judgement and without conditions.

We must not forget that Saint John tells us, “And this is his commandment: that we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” (1 John 3:23 CPDV) He does not say that we should only love those who love us or fit into our acceptable mold. No, Saint John tells us to love one another. It is not a suggestion, but a commandment!

As a result, the time for judgement is over. We must start living the commandment of Christ, “For the first commandment of all is this: ‘Listen, O Israel. The Lord your God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God from your whole heart, and from your whole soul, and from your whole mind, and from your whole strength. This is the first commandment.’ But the second is similar to it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 CPDV)

Join us at Saint Francis as we strive to build a church based on these two commandments.

Apr 202018

Say no to racism

Say no to racism

I find it very disturbing the level of hate and racism that exists in our nation. It is likewise disturbing to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said, “We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic. Nobody of honesty can overlook this.” While many churches, ours included, have taken steps to resolve this issue in our churches, many are still segregated. They may not be doing so by conscience choice, but they do so by their actions towards others.

This becomes most obvious when we see people who claim to be Christian using racial slurs towards others. When people who claim to be Christians write Op-Eds that say that African-Americans should observe curfews to avoid issues with the police. It is obvious when Christians demand that others speak English. They show their lack of Christianity when they shout that immigrants should go back to where they come from. It is obvious when people call the police on people waiting in a coffee shop for a friend.

It is time for the church to find its voice again and speak against this tide of hate and racism. As Dr. King continued in that same speech, “The first way that the church can repent, the first way that it can move out into the arena of social reform is to remove the yoke of segregation from its own body. …. Now that the mistake of the past has been made, I think that the opportunity of the future is to really go out and to transform American society, and where else is there a better place than in the institution that should serve as the moral guardian of the community. The institution that should preach brotherhood and make it a reality within its own body.”

We as Christians should stand up against the racism and hatred that has infiltrated our nation. It is our job to stand with the oppressed. We need to be Christ to everyone.

As we approach Good Shepherd Sunday, we should keep in mind that sheep come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and genders. The Shepherd does not care about any of that when he is protecting the sheep. His only concern is to protect them. And the Good Shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. It is time that we follow the Good Shepherds example. We must stand up for our brothers and sisters who are enduring oppression and attacks.

As a church, we resolve to stand with all people who are oppressed. We resolve to stand against racism, hatred, and bigotry.

And we will welcome everyone into our church with open arms.

Apr 122018

Radical Mercy

Divine Mercy

I want to start out by apologizing for the lack of a blog and newsletter last week and ask for your mercy. I had to take a trip to Massachusetts and Pennsylvania for a funeral. Bishop Mel Borham, OSFoc, a Bishop in our denomination, passed away suddenly in March.

With all the long hours of drive time I had, my mind was able to wander down various roads. Most of the time I was considering my own end and the mercy I hope that God will show me when I see him face to face. This led to me thinking about the level of mercy we show to one another while we are still alive.

Bishop Jim asked me to preside and preach at the 9:00 AM Family Mass at Saint Miriam Parish and Friary in Flourtown, PA. Saint Miriam is one of the largest parishes in our church. Being Divine Mercy Sunday, I took the opportunity to share my thoughts on mercy. Thankfully, Saint Miriam records their sermons! You can listen to the sermon by visiting: Sunday Sermon.

God calls us to show each other mercy. It is part of loving others. If we cannot show each other mercy, then we do not really love them. When you say that you love someone, but refuse to forgive them their faults, you are a liar. When you choose to hold on to grudges, you do not love that person.

God calls for us to remember that there are reasons why people do the things they do. We are asked to look at each person and to assume that they are acting out of love. This is instead of assuming that every act they commit is out of anger or hostility. It calls on us to assume the best in others until we know otherwise.

And when all is said and done, the mercy we show to others will be shown to us! If you want mercy for your failings and shortcomings, then you must first show mercy to others.

Visit us this Sunday and experience the mercy of God!

Mar 312018

What is Old Catholic?

old catholic

As with every major feast of the church, I have received a number of phone calls asking about Mass times. They always ask what the difference is between Old Catholic and Roman Catholic. So I thought I would dedicate this week’s posting to discussing those differences.

What are the major differences between Old Catholic and Roman Catholic?

The major differences between our churches are in how we live our faith. For example, we allow our clergy to get married and have families. Our church ordains women to the all ranks of the clergy. We welcome LGBT individuals to participate fully in the life of the church, including seeking Holy Orders if they feel called to the priesthood or diaconate. Our churches practice an open communion which means that anyone can receive communion at our Mass. If you have been divorced, you too can receive communion.

Are you under the Pope?

No. While we respect the Bishop of Rome (often called the Pope), we are not under his authority. Old Catholics were granted autonomy from Rome in 1122. As such, we are a separate Catholic church with our own unique history.

Since you are not under the Pope, how can you still be Catholic?

That is a very good question! The term Catholic means universal. All Catholic churches hold to several universal truths that make them Catholic. One of those truths is the Holy Eucharist. All Catholic Churches participate in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in one way or another. They have a defined leadership of clergy in Apostolic Succession. This means they can trace their linage of Bishops all the way back to the early church. And all Catholic Churches uphold the one of the three major creeds of faith: the Nicene, Apostles, or Athanasian Creeds. As Old Catholics we hold all three of these major points!

What is your liturgy like?

If you have ever gone to a Roman Catholic or Episcopalian church for Mass, you will find that our liturgy is very familiar. Our liturgy has many of the same elements that those liturgies have.

At Saint Francis Old Catholic Church we strive to practice radical love. We welcome everyone and turn no one away from our church. It is our hope that you will find a home where you can be you. And along the way, we hope that you will find a deeper connection to the Divine.

So won’t you join us and experience a different way to be Catholic?

Mar 242018

We must change our view of each other

change

Today, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people gathered throughout the United States to demand a change in our nation’s policies on guns. This March for our Lives is a long overdue process toward better accountability when it comes to such lethal weapons.

However, it is only one side of a multi-faceted problem. One of the major problems we face in our nation is a lack of respect for each other. Once you begin to devalue other human beings, it becomes easier to kill them. This goes hand-in-hand with the continued us versus them mentality that has consumed our way of life and our politics.

It is our calling as Christians to love our brothers and sisters as well as those who are strangers. The Holy Scriptures repeatedly tell us to respect one another, to love on another, and to accept one another as we would Christ. Sadly, many Christians today engage in devaluing of our fellow human beings for many reasons. Some Christians use race, gender, sexual identity, nationality and social status to separate people from the Body of Christ.

And even more disturbing is the continued use of the term “illegal” to refer to our fellow human beings. No one is illegal. And we as Christians must stop using this divisive and demoralizing term to refer to our brothers and sisters.

Saint Paul tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 NIV.) Scripture reminds us that, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:34 NIV.)

And further more we are warned, “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things (Note: Refers to idolatry in the Hebrew) before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.” (Ezekiel 16:49-50 NRSVCE.)

If we do not want to have Sodom and Gomorrah rise up to accuse us before God, then we must value each human being. We must respect each other, treat those who are different or foreigners as part of our family. It is important that we show everyone the love of God. We must give them the respect they deserve as bearers of the Spark of the Divine.

Let us resolve to respect each other and to shine the light and love of Christ to all those we meet!

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