Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bless Those Assembled Here

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©

When I pastored at Wesley UMC in Charleston, IL, at the campus of Eastern IL U, I had an easy ride in worship. We had both a lay liturgist, who basically read scriptures, and a pastoral liturgist, one of the other ministers on staff, who did prayers. All I had to do was preach. [1]

One of the pastoral prayers followed the sermon. When George Loveland had that prayer, he used the occasion to correct all the heresies I had espoused in the sermon. “Oh, Lord, Thou who knowest that what we have just heard is a bunchy of baloney…” Well, not quite that clear, but close.

Don Lemkau was thoughtful and scholarly and wrote out his prayers ahead of time, with careful consideration for the concerns of the congregation and the world and the scriptures of the day.

Bob Morwell… well, no one had any idea what would happen, but Bob was, and is, such a creative thinker and skilled wordsmith that you knew it would be interesting.

Max White saved his corrections of my heresies until it was his turn to preach, at which point he would take them all on at the same time. When he did the pastoral prayer, though, he always started with, “Bless those of us assembled here…”

I can’t remember when, but at some point I began to hear the double meaning of that phrase. Not only those of us who have come together from separate lives to worship here, but bless those of us who are being put together here, who are being made whole here.

We were the church of choice for a lot of addicts, drugs and sex and alcohol in particular, and also for people who had been damaged in meat-grinder churches and needed an oasis for recovery. I loved when Max prayed, “Bless those of us assembled here,” for I could feel those ground down and ground up folks being put back together into wholeness.

All our staff members were good friends, loyal and faithful to me and the congregation and one another and to God, even when they disagreed with me. I loved them all, even when they misunderstood the situation and thought I might be wrong about something. George and Don and Max are now on the heavenly staff. I rejoice and give thanks when I think about them assembled there.

John Robert McFarland

1] The best thing I did for that congregation was hiring staff. Most of the folks I brought onto the staff, pastors and musicians and program people and secretaries and custodians, did such good jobs that they stayed on for decades.

2] Meat-grinder churches stick each individual into the grinder and turn the crank until you come out on the other end as a wiener that looks just like all the other wieners. If you can’t be ground down to be like all the other wieners, you’re discarded out the back as offal.

The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]

I used to keep a careful index of all the things I told in this blog so that I would not repeat. That has become unwieldy. Now I just trust to… what’s it called… oh, yes, memory. Sorry about repeats.

I tweet as yooper1721.

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