Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bishop Arichea to preach at Foundry

Retired Bishop of the Philippines and Biblical Scholar to Speak at Foundry March 3

Bishop Daniel C. Arichea, Jr., of the Philippines will speak at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, DC, Sunday, March 3, at the 9:30 and 11 a.m. worship services.

Bishop Arichea was elected to the episcopacy in 1994 and served as bishop of the Baguio Episcopal Area in the Philippines until 2000. He was recalled to active service as the bishop of the Middle Philippines Annual Conference in January 2010, an assignment he has just completed. In addition to his recent recall to active service as a bishop, he is  bishop-in-residence at Duke Divinity School in Durham, NC, and Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines where he also teaches New Testament studies.

Before being elected a bishop, he served churches in Bataan and Manila and then joined the faculty of Union Theological Seminary. He was later a translation consultant for the United Bible Societies , and served in that capacity in the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, and Indonesia and Malaysia. In 1987 he moved to Hong Kong to assume the office of Regional Transition Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific Region.

The schools he attended include the University of the Philippines, Union Theological Seminary and Duke University  where he earned a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies. He also studied linguistics at Ohio State University and was a visiting scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary.

He is married to Ruth Cabralda Mandac, and their marriage is blessed with three children, Miriam, Stephen, and Michael, and three grandchildren.

His son Michael Arichea is a member of the Foundry Church choir and often enhances worship at Foundry with flute solos.

Foundry United Methodist church is located at 16th and P Streets in Northwest Washington, DC. Reimbursed parking is available for visitors at the Colonial Parking Garage on P Street between 16th and 17th streets.

Too much equality?

An article entitled "I've had enough 'equality' for now" by Kristen Rudolph on the Institute for Religion and Democracy blog argues:
Women are (were) not kept from combat out of discrimination, but for myriad practical reasons, and in recognition of their unique feminine nature and dignity.
She acknowledges that for those who don't believe there are "unique, inherent differences between men and women," this will sound like "offensive, exclusionary nonsense."

Is equality in military combat too much equality, as Ms. Rudolph suggests?

Somehow I am reminded of a conference one of Art Brandenburg, one of my mentors (now in heaven) organized decades ago. The topic was GLBT inclusion in the church.

Because he wanted to be fair he invited a United Methodist district superintendent who was an opponent of the inclusion of gay people in the church to be one of the speakers.

The superintendent said something like this:

I think this all started with Martin Luther King. He convinced Black people that they ought to be equal. And that's okay. They should be equal.
But then women decided they should be equal too. And that's okay, too. They should be equal.  
Now gay people want to be equal too, and I guess that would be okay. 
But has anybody thought about this? If this continues everybody will want to be equal. What will we do then? Has anybody really thought through what we would do if everybody wanted to be equal?
 Every time we debate equality, I think about the assumptions behind that speech.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Guns and our Higher Power

I am honored to have been invited to offer the invocation and say a few words at the March on Washington for Gun Control on Saturday, January 26.

The goals of the march are hardly very radical.
  • Reinstate the assault weapons ban 
  • Ban high-capacity ammunition magazines 
  • Enforce a 28-day waiting period, as well as required background checks 
  • Require gun-safety training 
  • Outlaw bullets that shatter in the body
I have been pondering how to pray about guns.

My first impulse is to admit to our Higher Power that we as a society are addicted to guns. To admit we are powerless over our need to possess guns - that our lives as a people have become unmanageable. (Step One)

To admit that our addiction goes back to the days when the Constitution was being written and is deeply entrenched in our national character.

To admit that we are powerless over our addiction and we need the help of our Higher Power.

To ask for the grace to come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. (Step Two)

What do you think?

How would you pray?

(My thanks to the organizers of the march Molly Smith and Suzanne Blue Star Boy for the invitation to participate. Watch their video here.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Foundry kids

Sympathy cards from one of Foundry's Sunday School classes awaiting me on my office chair. I have no words.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Death notice -- Nevin D. Snyder

Chaplain, Lt. Colonel, Nevin David Snyder ( Ret.) , 84, formerly of Melbourne, FL
Passed away on Jan. 2, 2013 in the Fellowship Manor, Whitehall, Pa. 

He was predeceased by his wife , Rose Marie (Baron) Snyder in 2006. He was born in Kistler Valley, Lynn Township, Pa., a son of the late David and Mildred ( Kistler) Snyder. He was a 1946 Graduate of Slatington High School, a 1950 Graduate of Muhlenberg College, and a 1953 Graduate of United Theological Seminary. 

He pastored EUB churches in Kempton, Schuylkill Haven, Danielsville, Middle Creek, and Bowmanstown, Pa. Rev. Snyder was a chaplain with the Pa. Nat. Guard. Then he was a full-time chaplain in the U.S. Army, 1st. Cavalry Div., until 1976, serving in Thailand, Vietnam and Germany as well as stateside. Subsequently, he pastored United Methodist churches in N.C. until his retirement in 1993. 

He is survived by 4 daughters, Sheryl (Arvid) Olson, Lincoln, Neb., Carole Milner, Mankato, MN., Lori ( Hank) Berry, Apache Junction,AZ. and Linda Thomas, Kansas City, MO. ; a step-son Steven ( Sandy) Posner of Melbourne FL., a brother, Rev. Dean ( Jane Malone) Snyder, Washington, DC., 2 sisters, Anna ( Daniel) Cooley, Thomasville NC.and Linda ( John) Brady of New Tripoli, Pa., as well as 6 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a granddaughter Serena Rassussen. 

Funeral Service Friday, January 11, 2013 at 11:00 A.M. in the Fellowship Manor , Community Church, 3000 Fellowship Drive, Whitehall, Pa. 18053. Rev. Philip E. Yerrington will officiate. A calling hour will begin at 10:00 A.M.  

Graveside service and interment in Florida Memorial Gardens, Rockledge, FL, Friday, January 18 at 3:00 P.M. The Rev. Dionne Hammond of First UMC of Melbourne will officiate. 

In lieu of flowers , memorial donations may be made to the American League Endowment Fund which supports veterans and their families. Mail to the American Legion P.O. Box 1055, Indianapolis, IN 46206. Please indicate that the donation is in memory of Lt. Col. Nevin D. Snyder (ret). Arrangements entrusted to the Nester Funeral Home-New Tripoli, Pa.

Find some personal reflections here.  

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My brother Nevin

My brother Nevin died Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 2, at Fellowship Manor in Whitehall, Pa. He was 84.

Nevin served as a pastor in Pennsylvania, where he grew up, before becoming a full-time army chaplain.

As a chaplain, his tours of duty included Vietnam and Thailand.

He was chaplain to the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Ia Drang where 72 American soldiers died, the first big loss of American lives in the Vietnam War. This battle was the basis for the movie We Were Soldiers, although the movie distorted the facts of the battle to try to make the story more upbeat.

It was not an upbeat story except for the honor of the soldiers who served and died. Retired General Hal Moore tells the real story in his book We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young on which the movie was loosely based.

The night before the battle, Nevin served communion to some of the 72 men who died the next day. After the battle, he was called upon to identify their bodies.

He told me that he smoked a cigar while identifying the bodies because the cigar smoke masked the smell of death. Otherwise, he said, he would have vomited. Better to look manly smoking a cigar than to break down. 

Nevin once admitted to me that he never expected to come home from his tours in southeast Asia. He talked about a sniper bullet flying so close to his face that he could feel its wake.

After he retired from the army, he served three appointments in the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. I think his favorite may have been the Swan Quarter Charge --four rural churches-- in Hyde County, NC. He got up very early every morning and had coffee with the farmers at the local marina. He felt at home with farmers.

Every summer a student from the Duke Divinity School, sponsored by the Duke Endowment, came and worked with him. He loved having seminary students around during his years at Swan Quarter.

We'd visit him there and go fishing in the Pamlico Sound. If the fish were hitting, we'd stay out in his little boat so long we'd have trouble finding our way back in the dark.

One of the most pleasant memories of my teen years was when he was stationed in Norfolk, Va., early in his career as a chaplain. My parents, sister, and I visited Nevin and he and I went pier fishing overnight, just the two of us. It was the first time I'd ever stayed up all night. I can't remember what we talked about or whether we caught anything, but it was a special night for me.

Nevin was 19 years older than I am. He was such a rascal growing up that my parents had become quite mellow by the time I came along. He made things easier for me.

When Nevin was a boy, our family did not yet have indoor plumbing. Once when my mother was using the outhouse, he opened the door a few inches and put a skunk he had tamed (he loved animals and they tended to love him; apparently this baby skunk followed him everywhere) in the outhouse with her. She was not happy.

She was even more upset another time when she found out a few days after the fact that Nevin had washed the farm dog in the spring that was the source of the family drinking water. Years later my mother would still get sick to her stomach whenever that story was repeated.

Against my mother's preferences, he decided he wanted to make some money by tending bees. He showed up at the backdoor of the farmhouse one afternoon covered in bees like an extra layer of clothing. My panicking mother had no idea what to do. Thinking about it still upset her years later. No bees for me.

A teenaged Nevin sneaked out of the house after dark one snowy night to go sledding. He had to confess when he had a broken arm the next morning.

He attended Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. He did not get good grades his first semester. My father claimed it was because he was playing around too much. During semester break, my father assigned him the work of cleaning all the manure out of all the stables in the barn. About the third day of cleaning stables, my father said he overheard Nevin muttering that he wasn't going to do this the rest of his life. The next semester his grades were excellent.

He made spending money in college posing as a male model for art classes. He never would admit to me whether or not he posed nude. I wouldn't be surprised. 

He was studying to be a lawyer when he experienced a strong sense of call to ministry during an extended revival at the Salem Evangelical United Brethren Church in Slatedale, Pa., our family's home church. Instead of law school, he enrolled in Evangelical Seminary on the campus of Albright College that later moved to Dayton and merged with another seminary to become United Theological Seminary.

As a seminary student he served a small country church in Kempton, Pa. While he was preaching, the farmers would sit around the potbellied stove at the back of the church and squirt their chewing tobacco into the stove. His sermons were punctuated with the sounds of spits and hisses.

He once invited a Jewish college friend who was visiting for the weekend to a Sunday evening service at the church. Perhaps assuming he was also a seminary student, the lay leader presiding at the service called on Nevin's friend to pray the pastoral prayer. Nevin's friend had never even heard a pastoral prayer before. He'd never been to a church service and not very often to a synagogue service. After a long pause, Nevin's friend stood up and thanked God for the sunshine (pause) and the rain (pause) and for people (pause) and for animals (pause) and for anything else that he could think of. He finally just sat down. It was the sort of awkward but harmless circumstance Nevin found very amusing. Nevin laughed for decades about the look on his friend's face when he was called upon to pray in public in a Christian church service.

Nevin had four daughters: Sheryl, Carole, Lori, and Linda. The death of his granddaughter Serena in a car accident was a great grief for Nevin. He kept her picture in his living room. Visiting him during his later years in Florida when his health was weakening, I would sometimes see him pick up the picture and stare at it.

Nevin came to stay with us in Washington once when there was a reunion of the soldiers who had fought in the Battle of Ia Drang. Early one morning, we stood together at the Memorial Wall where the names of the soldiers who died in that battle are engraved. A survivor of that battle who'd sung often for Nevin at chapel services in Vietnam sang Amazing Grace. General Moore spoke a few words. There was a trumpet.  Mostly we stood together in silence without words.

Nevin told me that he had not let himself feel anything for many years after his time in Vietnam. It took him almost a lifetime to realize how much grief, pain, and survivor's guilt he carried inside.

After his retirement from the North Carolina Conference, he moved to Florida with his wife Rose where he was active at the First United Methodist Church of Melbourne. He helped organize the church's Stephen Ministry. However, most of his time in Florida was spent with veterans. He was the chaplain of several veterans' groups. He wrote a column for a veterans' publication. He did weddings and funerals for veterans who had no church they were comfortable going to.

Perhaps the best tribute to Nevin's life I've read is this email that one of the veterans he worked with in Florida sent to the members of one of Nevin's groups:
Gentleman...would you please get the word to !st Cav Trooper's that Chaplain Nevin Snyder,my old friend, and 1/7th Chaplain during the First Shift in Vietnam has a new home in heaven....A gentle and kind man of God.  He'll be missed.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Praying for Congresspeople to be nice ...

Religious leaders, facing the Capitol, praying at the United Methodist Building.
I believe in miracles. This is why I am joining in the 18-day prayer vigil to pray for Congress to be civil and constructive towards one another.

(Is the miracle comment too snide?)

The ecumenical prayer campaign is sponsored by a wide range of religious leaders who want political leaders to be "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry,” and to “avoid attacking the character of others or falsely impugning their motives,” according to Lauren Markoe of the Religion News Service.

Kevin Eckstrom
In RNS's daily round-up, our friend Kevin Eckstrom was a tad snide himself today. This is what he wrote:
 And in the wake of House Speaker John Boehner reportedly telling Senate Majority Leader to “go f*** yourself,” an unusually broad array of religious leaders is launching a three-week prayer campaign in the name of civility and decorum. Best of luck with that.
 The prayer vigil initiated by The Faith and Politics Institute  began yesterday but you can sign up to participate for the remaining 17 days here. You can even write your prayer on the website.

You can read the prayers that others have offered here.

My prayer says this:
For members of Congress, the White House, staffers, and all those who work for the federal government: Theirs is a holy calling and a sacred trust. May they always be biased toward the poor and the most vulnerable. Protect them from the poison of personal greed and ambition. Give them hearts to truly serve the common good. Help them to listen to each other well so that they can increasingly understand one another. Help them to care about people more than party. Grant them each night good rest and enough energy throughout the day to serve graciously and to extend grace to one another. Grant them joy in their service. Amen.
Prayers work better, I think, if you can avoid an attitude of snideness or cynicism as you pray them ... especially prayers for others not to be snide or cynical toward each other.

So I repent of my cynicism and hope Kevin (whom I know to be a praying man) does too.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Writing for church bulletin boards

Church outdoor bulletin boards, the ones with the changeable letters, can be lots of work. Thinking of catchy and interesting things to put on them can take lots of thinking.

A friend sent me a link to the Reader's Digest's 11 Funny Church Signs. This one was the most subtle.

Unintentional humor is worth a chuckle, but writing intentionally amusing or attention-getting titles and quotes is work.

CNN's Belief Blog has a feature called Your Church Signs. Readers send in photos they have taken of church signs they think deserve a larger audience than just those who happen to pass by.

United Methodist churches seem to score a pretty good market share of the signs chosen by CNN. For example, here is a sign from our friends at Old Otterbein UMC in Baltimore located a block or so away from Camden Yards.

Here is a sign from Campbelltown UMC in Campbelltown, Pa., that made CNN's blog.


The Baptists get their share of hits as well, but I am not always sure whether CNN is laughing with them or at them.

I used to be the pastor of a downtown church in Philadelphia, right next to City Hall. We had two outside bulletin boards -- one for the sermon topic and the other for attention-getting quotes. Putting amusing, thought-provoking, or catchy titles and quotes on the boards was a tradition that went back at least 20 years, maybe longer.

It was part of my job description to come up with the quotes.

Because we were right next to City Hall, reporters passed our building every day. One of my sermon titles made it into the Philadelphia Inquirer. The title was  "Jesus' Chutzpah." I recall that it was the title of my Palm Sunday sermon that year. I did a version of that sermon once at Foundry.

A number of our sermon titles and quotes made it into the Inquirer, which was always a thrill. I can't remember all of the quotes that the Inquirer used but I do remember the one I am most proud of. It was a paraphrase of something Frederick Buechner had written.

The bulletin board said: "Sex isn't sin, but then it's not salvation either."

When you come across a church bulletin board that you find interesting, amusing, or provocative, remember that someone probably did a lot of thinking to figure it out. Back in Philadelphia, there were weeks when it felt like coming up with a quote for the bulletin board took more time and energy than preparing that week's sermon.

At Foundry we've come up with a message that we like (although it is a strange thing to have to advertise). It is on the bulletin board by our main Sunday entrance and it has remained the same since 2005 when a pastor in Virginia denied church membership to a gay man who sang in the church's choir.