Reflection on My Time at First UMC El Dorado

Last Sunday there was a farewell event for our family after the 11 a.m. worship service. It was a wonderful time – heartfelt thanks, earnest wishes, and blessings were shared from one to the other. I shared a few things to those that were there and share them with you here.

Thumbnail Sketch

If I were to give a thumbnail sketch of my time as the preacher at First UMC El Dorado, this is what it would be:

As the preacher at First UMC El Dorado, I led the congregation to design and execute a multi-year strategic plan which resulted in the development of a discipleship pathway to more deeply engage people in the life of faith, a capital campaign for 1.75 times our annual operating budget to renovate of our 1920s era sanctuary, and increased our organizational health through volunteer and staff development.

Clearly this is written in the most positive light, yet I believe it captures some of the most significant highlights of ministry over the last six years.

Three Memorable Days as Pastor

Sunday, August 12, 2012

We had just arrived to town and our daughter, Anne, was a few months old. It was time for her baptism. My father, Mark Conard, baptized her during worship. Baptism is a significant moment in the life of a family and this was particularly meaningful because my father was able to officiate. I remember watching him walk her down the aisle to show the congregation and the love and care in his voice as offered God’s grace in the act of baptism. It was a meaningful day in the life of our family.

Final Week of October 2016

My father died on October 18, 2016. As we were with family during the days that followed, someone from the Staff Parish team asked what would be helpful for us. I sometimes struggle with asking for things, though in this case I managed to say that basics around the house would be helpful for us – mowing the lawn and cleaning a bit inside our house. I remember pulling back into El Dorado after my dad’s service of death and resurrection and graveside service – the lawn looked great. When we walked inside our home was fresh and clean. The care and love that these simple acts demonstrated was overwhelming.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Near the end of the school year, I received an email from one of the staff at Skelly Elementary School that they had something for me in the office. So, when I picked up my son, John, from Kindergarten I went into the office and was greeted with boxes filled with May Baskets! We had launched our partnership with the school at the beginning of the year. This was an amazing gift and a symbol that the partnership between our congregation and the school was taking shape. There was both mutual interest and effort to be a blessing to one another.

Three Things I received during Pastorate

Space to Become a Preacher

When I arrived, I had preached less than ten times in my entire life. The practice of weekly preaching was foreign and intimidating. This congregations has provided the opportunity to learn how to be a preacher. There are some moments in preaching where my internal monologue is wondering “What am I saying?” as I continue to preach and I have taken away 15 minutes you can’t get back in your life. Other Sundays, hopefully more, I have felt used by God to share a word of encouragement, conviction, and vision. I am grateful for space to become a preacher.

Grace Offered in My Leadership

While I like to think otherwise, I know that not every idea that I have had in ministry has been great. There have been days that I have fallen down on the job as your pastor. Throughout my time here, the overarching response to my ministry has been a willingness to follow and discover together where God is leading us. I have learned what it means to be a pastoral leader in this place. I am grateful for grace offered in my leadership.

Gray Hair

I still remember when my hairdresser noted so gracefully, “It looks like your hair is losing some of it’s color. Do you want to do anything to address that?” I said, “No.” So, here I am at the end of my time here with much less color in my hair than I had six years ago.

Pros and Cons of Webcasting a Funeral

A few months ago, I read the article More families choose to have funerals webcast from USA Today. I commend the article to you and wanted some pros and cons of this practice from my point of view.

Pros of Webcasting a Funeral

  • Physically distant friends and family are able to see and hear
  • Emotional closure for people unable to be present

Cons of Webcasting a Funeral

  • Enables people to not be present at this sacred time
  • Disconnects the experience from a physical community
We have webcast several funerals at Resurrection, particularly those that we are hosting that have a large community impact. What would you add to these lists?

Online Memory of Life at 1000 Memories

Image representing 1000Memories as depicted in...
Image via CrunchBase

What is an appropriate way to remember someone online after they have died?

You find http://1000memories.com to be a useful tool to recommend to others. Here is a bit from their website:

1000Memories is a new way to remember the life of someone you love. We help you build a space to share photos, record stories, and memories with family and friends. Everyone knows a person in a different way and together, we can create a truly special place to remember a life. It’s absolutely 100% free to use and your memories will be stored here forever.

How do you feel about this?

Is Jesus’ resurrection true?

The Resurrection—Tischbein, 1778.
Image via Wikipedia

Jesus, the one who died, lives! Belief in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is one of the central beliefs of Christianity. Jesus resurrection is true and historical fact. Paul addresses this question in 1 Corinthians 15:12:

“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

I agree with what my current senior pastor, Adam Hamilton says in response to a question about whether he really believes in the resurrection, I don’t just believe it. I’m counting on it.

Jesus’ Pastoral Care (1 of 2)

What kind of pastoral care did Jesus provide?

I was challenged to consider this question by a co-worker last week who used the story of Lazarus as an example. Here are the opening lines of this narrative from John 11, TNIV:

1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)

3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

Mary, Martha and Lazarus may have been some of Jesus’ closest friends outside of the twelve men who traveled with him. Jesus receives word that Lazarus is sick (in the hospital or hospice, if it were today, as we know from the story that he is near death) and Jesus proceeds to respond by staying where is for two days.

Two days is a long time when your best friend is near death.

There is little that is truly urgent in pastoral care.

What do you learn about Jesus’ pastoral care from this story?

A Big Day

It has been a crazy day. Here’s the run down…

  • Phone call from my dad letting me know that my grandmother on my mom’s side died early this morning. This was not unexpected, but that does not necessarily make it any easier. Funeral will likely be Monday or Tuesday in Plains, KS.
  • Went to the grand opening of the Apple Store, Leawood, picked up a free t-shirt as one of the first 1,000 there and played with the new iPhone 3G.
  • Picked up a patio table, chairs and sun shade as well as some other miscellaneous from the church rummage sale.
  • Had a sloppy joe for lunch
  • Spent time with God using the Grow. Pray. Study Guide. That has really been an excellent tool and I have used it every day.
  • Getting ready to put a third and final coat of paint on our master bedroom and then headed to our apartment to get everything packed up for the moving extravaganza bright and early tomorrow morning.

A Digital Legacy

For generations, a death in the family has brought many transitions – grieving, funeral arrangements, wills, estates, etc. Among these are the physical possessions of someone who has died. This is often the responsibility of the family or descendants to determine what is to be kept and what is to be sold or otherwise disposed of. For physical possessions it is often quite clear what there is to be dealt with, but what about online?

What do you do with someone’s blog, facebook profile, twitter page, online identities Amazon and other online retailers? Would I want someone to look back through one’s blog after their death? Would it be healing or hurtful in the grieving process? What about the online community? Is there a responsibility to make contact with those with whom a person had contact with? An obituary in the local paper would not be sufficient for such a task.

This is an issue which I just started thinking about today. I wonder in a few years if this is the first generation that will begin to deal with such issues. What do you think? Should someone leave or clean up a digital legacy? Why or why not? If so, how would this happen?