Monday, December 30, 2013

What are you putting in your Christmas Stocking?

My wife told me tonight about a family she heard about who take a moment at the end of the Christmas season to write down their hopes, dreams and goals for the next year. They then take those papers and put them in their Christmas stockings when they take them down and pack them away. The idea being that next Christmas, when they open the box with the stockings, they will also be reminded of their dreams for the coming year and they can discern if those came true.

I think this is a great idea and we will do it with our kids this year. I love it because it is something I have long argued for folks to do each new year. As a coach (one of the hats I wear) I believe in the essential nature of this intentional goal setting.  In fact, last year I posted about my annual goal setting work on New Years Eve and it gained a little Facebook traction. So I shared my goal setting worksheet and encouraged folks to use it if it was useful for them. This is about personal transparency, what do you wish to do/achieve and do you accomplish it.

And the reality is, you won't. You can see below my Goalsheet from 2013 (I break it out into Personal, Professional and then Organizational Goals). Some were achieved, some partially, and some didn't even get close. That is the deal. You won't achieve everything you plan. But you should still plan.

                                                          2013 Personal Goals

Anticipated Outcome
Expected Date of Completion
-Play guitar 3 times/week
-Actually be able to play guitar competently.
Dec. 2013
No: played more, but not as regularly.
-Participate in Summer 5K series and run El Scorcho 25K
-Run fastest 5K in my life
August 2013
Partial: Completed El Scorcho with a PR (despite injury). Ran 23:30 5K in November (not PR)
-Swim once a week.
-Provide alternative cardio/strength exercise with lower impact
Habit formed by Feb. 2013
No: Failed to form habit. Swam more, but not weekly
-Complete weight loss
-Weigh 210 pounds
May 2013
Maintenance: Stagnant on weight loss, no gain, but little loss

2013 Professional Goals

Anticipated Outcome
Expected Date of Completion
-Online Coaching Presence
-Platform to advertise and grow coaching presence.
April 2013
Partial: Plan for January 2014 rollout.
-Build taxonomy of leadership study history
-Beginning preparation for comprehensive exams in 2014
Aug 2013
Yes: Taxonomy developed, comps prep underway
-Blog weekly
-Create a systematic structure and build audience for weekly thoughts on leadership/etc…
Dec. 2013
No: Blogged more, but not weekly

2013 Organizational Goals  
Anticipated Outcome
Expected Date of Completion
-Cooperative Youth and Family ministry program.
-Do at least 4 cooperative events with other congregations
Dec. 2013
Partial: 2 events completed, one cancelled by weather.
-Sell 2017 Vision Idea, Building on culture of growth.
-worship attendance growth of 10%, 10 new members in young-adult demographic.
Dec. 2013
Partial: Worship grew 5-8%. 12 new members in young-adult demo. New small group in that demographic.
-Continue to grow stewardship and connection to TLCC
-2 new families join from TLCC
Dec. 2013
Partial: One new family. Goal for accreditation in 2014 includes more intentional work.

In working towards these goals I have had coaching friends. I am part of a new organization called the nGage Coaching Network. It is three individuals (all ELCA Pastors) who are working together to both coach each other as well as offer coaching to others. We are not a corporation or a real partnership in the legal sense. We are simply a group who believe in coaching and hope to spread the word about this important ministry.

We bring a variety of personal and educational experiences to the table. By working together we hope we can offer a couple things. 1) A variety of gifts to coach individuals and leaders through both personal, professional and family challenges. 2) Geographical diversity for the sake of either face-to-face coaching or more flexibility in time for phone/skype conversations. 

So what does it mean to be a coach or to have a coach? A coach is someone who walks alongside others to help them achieve their goals. Coaching is not consulting. The coach doesn't need to be an expert in the field. They simply need to have the skill set of listening, reflecting and then holding accountable the individual they are coaching for their goals. They help you decide what to put in your Christmas stocking and then walk with you as you try to make that a reality.

2014 will bring you many opportunities. With a coach by your side you might even be able to make it better! If you are interested in coaching, please visit our Facebook site and drop us a line. 

Oh, and if you are interested in my 2014 goals, stop by on New Years day for an update. I can use the accountability partners!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Why Trinity Had Worship Today.

(A caveat: this note is in no way intended to guilt anyone who chose to cancel their church services or who chose not to attend. It is simply an explanation of the thought process of one pastoral leader for why the congregation in his charge had worship. If this induces guilt in you, I would encourage you to engage your pastor in a conversation.)

Due to a significant ice storm and multiple days of freezing temperatures many congregations in the DFW area cancelled worship this weekend. This was an understandable decision given the lack of preparedness and ability to respond to such a storm of our state and local road crews.  

However, despite this storm we had worship at Trinity Lutheran-Fort Worth today and it is important to understand why. First off, we didn’t have worship today because we were trying to show how tough we are or able to handle the weather. Icy roads are a danger and walking on ice can be even more dangerous. So we encouraged people to not come if they were at all concerned about that. Yet we had worship.


The first and primary reason is that Word and Sacrament is our main purpose for existence. The church has too often let its focus drift onto other purposes for existing. Some congregations are social gatherings for youth or adults in which people join to make political, business or social connections. Other congregations exist primarily to provide direct service to those in need or to host a daycare (as Trinity does). These are certainly part of the reason congregations exist. However, our primary purpose is to gather in worship on the first day of the week around Word and Sacrament. Without worship we are just another country club or social service agency. And frankly, we should leave that to the country clubs and the dedicated social agencies we support.

Secondly, it is vital we do this in community. As Lutherans, we believe that the Holy Spirit acts through the preached Word. That the means of grace confer God’s forgiveness and it matters that people receive them. And they should and do receive them in community. We cannot have communion on our own. We need someone to speak those words “Given and Shed for You” to us. The outside voice, speaking the words of Christ, matters.

Thirdly, we often say and we should actually believe that it doesn’t matter how many people show up for worship. Some congregations closed on Sunday because I believe in their business model it doesn’t make sense to have a worship gathering if a certain number of people don’t show up. This is one of the problems with the modern expressions of church in america today. Worship should not require so much technological and musical talent and tools that to have a simple service with 5, 10 or 20 people doesn't make sense. Jesus did not have this problem (Matt. 18:20).

Finally, I fear that when we do not gather for worship because of a storm but other agents of commerce continue to remain open we indicate to the world that this gathering is optional. When I went into McDonald's today to get a cup of coffee the staff there asked me if we were having church today (I go there a lot, they know me). They were shocked when I said we were. And one of the homeless men I talked with asked if he could come, even though he wasn't dressed well. I said of course he was welcome. Sadly, he didn't take me up on the invitation (I am used to being rejected in this manner), but he was invited. 

When McDonald's stays open through the storm but worship is cancelled it sends a message. All too often, especially around Christmas, there is a regularly occurring communal lament from the “Christian” community of how secular our society is. The call is made to keep “Christ in Christmas.” Yet when we have an ice storm and the church closes but the McDonald’s across the street stays open what message do we send about what is important and unimportant to our society?

I am grateful that our attendance today was only about 15% of a typical Sunday. And those who came either could walk, drive just a few blocks or had significant experience driving in tough conditions and 4x4’s to bring them. Those who didn't have those resources or just felt like they were safer staying home did so. We provided our worship bulletin online and on our Facebook page and hopefully some had worship with their family or if they live alone used the texts and hymns as a personal devotional. No one should ever feel they “have” to be in worship if they fear for their safety in traveling. In the same way we would never guilt a home-bound person for their lack of attendance. As a pastor part of my call is to teach our community this truth and reinforce it.

This isn't about it guilt. It is about the vital importance that the church proclaim that we are just as important as McDonald’s. Our business is to proclaim the good news and provide the gifts of God for the people of God. This business is Jesus’ business (Luke 2:49). And it is a vital business whether there are hundreds in the pews or just a handful gathered around the altar. As a pastor, it is part of my call to ensure this business is carried out.

So we were open today for those who came. We will be open again next week for those who desire to come to God’s table. This is God’s simple table of grace. Where in community forgiveness is proclaimed through the Word and demonstrated in the gifts of bread and wine, As always, all are welcome. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What does this mean?

Tuesday night a Facebook post on the election for presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) asked the question "What does this mean?" Good question.What does it mean (or matter), a 25 year old Christian denomination was having an election. "What does this mean?"

My grandfather was in Cobo Hall in Detroit back in 1962. 25 years before the creation of the ELCA. He was there as Lutherans of Swedish, German, Finnish, Danish and other extractions came together to form the Lutheran Church in America. A decidedly eastern flavored denomination with its headquarters in New York City, my grandfather came from the West. He was an outsider. A lay pastor in the Augustana Synod by 1962 he served as the director of a charity for homeless men on skid row in Seattle, WA. And at that convention, in Cobo Hall, an "American" denomination was born.

The LCA was a decidedly ecumenical and "liberal" (do with that label what you like) denomination. In 1967 it ordained my father and just eight years after its founding it ordained the first female Lutheran pastor in Amerca (1970). The LCA followed that with the first female African American Pastor (1979), first Latina Lutheran pastor (1979), and first female Asian American Lutheran pastor (1982). The LCA also pushed, along with the AELC (a denomination formed out of a schism in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and led by the Rev. John Tietjen) for a merger of the Lutheran churches during the decade of the 1980s. This occurred in 1987. After 25 years of existence the LCA, AELC and the American Lutheran Church came together in Columbus, Ohio. The three bishops of the church symbolically pouring waters together into a single baptismal font. From this, the ELCA was born.

I was ten years old when "the merger" was all the talk. My sister attended the first ELCA National Youth Gathering in San Antonio in 1988 and I couldn't wait to wear my cowboy hat at Atlanta in 1994 to be sure everyone knew we were Texas Lutherans. Over the next decade and a half the ELCA changed. Numbers declined and gravity shifted. In 1988, the ten largest ELCA congregations were in the midwest. In 2012, the midwest is still dominates but the third largest sits in Irving, TX, just 15 miles from my house in Fort Worth, and its primary language of worship is Spanish

Yet despite this change, growth, mergers and divisions something remained the same. The leaders in the pictures of the presiding Bishops. The men at Cobo Hall, Columbus, OH, Minneapolis (ALC in1960) and every assembly since were remarkably similar. Despite effort upon effort to increase the diversity of the denomination the reality was it remained largely white, middle class, relatively well educated. Our presiding Bishops were white men in their late 50's or 60's. Distinguished and learned.

After 25 years in 2013 there was to be another election for Presiding Bishop. The current Bishop, the Rev. Mark Hanson, stated that he would again stand for election after having served two terms (12 years). Bishop Hanson had served admirably in those years. Globally leading, reaching out to youth and continually calling the church to remember the marginalized in our communities. To be the church in the world. Many loved Bishop Hanson and were grateful. I am grateful. But there was a sense. Was anything really changing? Who were the new leaders? Where there any? What does this mean?

Yet by Monday night it became clear that something was happening. As my girls and I watched the assembly in worship on the live stream from our kitchen, we knew that there were new names being lifted up for Bishop. Pastors of the church, willing to stand for election as well to this role of leadership. And the faces attached to these names, did not match the faces of those pictures my grandfather would have recognized so well. 

By Tuesday afternoon things were shifting and on Wednesday something amazing happened. The Holy Spirit acted. A graciously faithful servant of the Gospel, Rev. Mark Hanson, yielded as a new face filled the role of Presiding Bishop of our church. One cannot say enough about how solidly Bishop Hanson led us through the challenges of the first decade of this century. He is deserving of our deep gratitude and thanks and no doubt will receive many accolades and thanks. And hopefully, most of all, deserved Sabbath rest with Ione.
Wednesday, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton (Bishop of NE Ohio) had been elected by the assembly. And while almost 1,000 people gathered in the assembly hall for this election over 2,500 watched on a live stream as the final tally was announced. No longer are assemblies restricted to Cobo Hall or Columbus, Minneapolis, or Pittsburgh. They play out around the world on the internet.

The next morning. My girl's mother, the Rev. Kendra Mohn (Voting member from the Northern Texas--Northern Louisiana Mission Area) was in the elevator. In walked Elizabeth Eaton, Bishop-elect of the ELCA. As they stepped off, Bishop Eaton was gracious enough to stand and take a picture.

In 1962 there were no clergy couples. In 1987 they were a VERY strange novelty. In 2013, two members of a clergy couple (Bishop Eaton is married to an Episcopalian Priest) met in an elevator and snap a picture. These are the new faces of Presiding Bishops. Faces my grandfather might find different but my girls recognize immediately. Faces of two pastors of the ELCA. One just elected to lead our hopefully increasingly motley denomination into an uncertain future. One getting her PhD in New Testament at TCU and serving as teaching Pastor at Trinity Lutheran-Fort Worth. My girls watch all this on the internet and their dad stays home, playing Lead Pastor at TLC and three decades later living into Mr. Mom, so their mom can do the work of the church.

What does this mean? My answer: God is still working on us. We have a future and we will live into it. In the Summer of 2015, Bishop Eaton will no doubt address the youth of the ELCA gathered for a national assembly. Where? Detroit, MI. In the Cobo Center (formerly Cobo Hall). We will be there with youth from Trinity-Fort Worth. With a youth director confirmed by the Rev. John Tietjen, the initial leader of the AELC, who served his final call there.

25 years. What does this mean? We have still much work to do. While we work on issues of gender we still deal with race, language and especially issues of age. We struggle to be the multiplying, growing evangelical body Jesus called us to be. To be relevant and relational in a post-Christendom era. However, as the new face of Bishop Eaton addresses those youth in two summers, I pray she will remember the words she quoted for us, words carried in the pocket of a Liberian pastor from NE Ohio, in her acceptance speech on Wednesday. I pray we will remember them. From Isaiah 43..."Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you."

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Oxford Day 8: Adaptive and Technical, Standing in Two Hemispheres

Today we did a little London sightseeing after a week of seminars and learning. Although even a sightseeing day turns into learning when you are with Dr. Stookey. First we stopped off at the Wesley memorial at Aldersgate in London. That was the place that he had, at age 35, his spiritual awakening. In study of 2 Peter 1:3-4 he realized he needed to help revitalize the faith in the 18th century. 

In honor of England, here it is in the King James..."According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises."

Funny thing, when Welsey was having this epiphany at Aldersgate he was but about 100 yards from some of the original wall of the city of London. Wall that dates back to the 1st Century AD, ie. the time of Jesus. London is an OLD city.

From there we walked down to St. Paul's Cathedral (this is a pic taken a bit later from the millennium bridge but gives you a sense of the place).

It is a magnificent example of Christopher Wrens architectural genius coming in the wake of the devastating London fire of 1666. Rather than post a lot of pictures of it, I will just direct you to their website.  However, I will post a picture I took from the top of the cathedral. After climbing 560+ steps, you get to the top and can look through a porthole down to the Eucharistic Altar below. They were preparing the altar for the ordination of deacons this afternoon so it was fun to see all the chancel prancers getting things ready.
 The picture I wanted to show you was from the top of the Cathedral. Looking East you see the expanse of London, including the new developments of East London and Canary Wharf. Many Londoners don't like these new high rises as they aren't "historic". But the reality is, when Wren's building was constructed, it was new also. If this city didn't have that new development, it would be a place about history, not the future. Like the church, we give thanks for the beauty and tradition of the past, but we cannot stay there.
 Leaving St. Paul's, we crossed the Millennium Bridge (see above). For you Potter Fans, that is the bridge destroyed at the beginning of Half Blood Prince. I looked for any Death Eaters before I crossed. Thankfully, it was too beautiful a day for such darkness.
 The Thames River is a tidal river. And the tide was out. So I climbed down into the river bed. This is your rock from London Ms. Diana. Just so you know where it came from.
 We hopped on a commuter ferry (fast ferry) and headed down the Thames to the east towards Greenwich. Great views of the city including the Tower Bridge (which is NOT London bridge). The reason to go to Greenwich was two-fold. The first reason was to see the Cutty Sark and the second, the Prime Meridian.
 This is the Cutty Sark. A technological improvement that revolutionized 19th century shipping. It cut the travel time from Melbourne to London to just 75 days! Amazing. I think it takes about 15 hours by air now. Technological solutions to problems, they are great and a needed advancement. At the Royal Observatory we saw another technological solution. The institution of measures, prime meridian and the Longitudinal clock.
 Above is the official Greenwich clock. As well as the official measures of the foot, yard, inch and a couple other British measures. For commerce to work, they had to have official measurements and some place that makes them official. For honest commerce, official measures must be agreed upon. The other technological innovation was the Longitudinal clock that John Harrison developed in the 19th century. The nation had a shipping problem, no way to determine longitude while at sea. They needed techonology. So they used an adaptive solution. They offered 20,000 pounds to whomever could come up with the solution for a clock that could help navigators pinpoint where they were north to south. It took almost forty years, but John Harrison came up with the solution. The leaders needed a technical solution to the problem, and used an adaptive means to motivate those with the skills to achieve it. Great leadership. (for more on adaptive and technical solutions, see this link from Dr. Ron Heifetz of Harvard).
Fun last day in London. For fun the group of my cohort who was up in Greenwich took a picture of us. There we are, just a bunch of guys, with one foot in one hemisphere and the other in the other hemisphere. Adaptive, right there!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Oxford Day 7: Cambridge in the Rain: The American Cemetary, Reformation, Rowan Williams and John Bunyan

Our day started early here, bus pulling out at 7:30am here (that would be 1:30am Texas time). We headed west from the relatively civilized environs of Oxford out to the hinterlands of East Anglia, to Cambridge. For those who don't know, Cambridge is to Oxford what Yale is to Harvard. The second school, founded because folks thought the original was getting too secular. Of course for Cambridge, that happened in the 15th century. Man, stuff is old here...

We stopped on the way at the Cambridge American Cemetery. This is the final resting place for over 3,500 American soldiers and the memorial for another 5,000+ whose remains were never found. Most of the bomber crews who flew missions over Europe and never came home are recognized here. It is a powerful place to visit, especially on a rainy morning. (Btw: for y'all in Texas, the daytime high here was 66 with a partly cloudy sky, I hear it was a bit warmer down there for y'all). 

Below is the memorial wall on your left, a reflecting pool and the American flag. This is taken from the chapel which is under some renovation. A truly beautiful place. Cambridge University donated the land and the cemetery was dedicated in the 1950's. To the right you can see the beginning of the many acres of crosses and stars of David that cover this field of green. 
 As I walked the wall to look at the names the 10am bells began to chime a hymn. "For All the Saints..."

Along the wall are many, many names. For example, lest we think Latino surnames are new phenomenon in America, I came across three Gonzales'. They were, in order, from Iowa, Texas and Pennsylvania. Men who died in service of our nation, 70 years ago.  I also came across the name of the one who was to be the Kennedy boy to be President, Joseph Jr. Although written about another war and boys who died for the other side, I think these words are appropriate..."Academia Harvardiana: Non Oblita est Filiorum Suorum." I am grateful that Cambridge does not forget as well.
 Leaving those hallowed grounds, we traveled into the college town. We walked around and found this plaque (or rather our Baptist professor who loves Luther made sure we found it). Here, on these grounds stood a tavern where Luther's works were discussed in the early part of the 16th century and the beginning of the English reformation (the actual theological reformation) began.
 From that old Tavern site we went to the church in which the first Evangelical (in the Lutheran sense of the word) sermon was preached in England in 1525. From this very pulpit below in the church of St. Edward, King and Martyr. This church, by happy coincidence, was put under the control of the principle of the college, rather than the bishop. As such, when the preachers began to proclaim reformation doctrines the bishop could do nothing to stop them. From Cambridge then began the English Reformation.
 This weekend also is commencement time at Cambridge. So we were able to see many students and families about enjoying the festivities in their robes and regalia. Fun to see the joy and excitement in their lives. One of the most beautiful places we visited was the chapel of Kings College. The largest Fan Vault ceiling in the world. It is a spectacular site, even on a cloudy day.
 As we were walking about the city, we happened upon a procession of one of the colleges, led by their principle on the way to commencement. I looked twice to realize that the principle leading the way was none other than the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev. Rowan Williams. Dude, I was like 5 feet from Rowan Williams! Gotta be a church nerd to care, but it was pretty cool. He even smiled at me before I took his picture. Graduation day even brings a smile from the calmest of Brits.
 After seeing Rowan (I feel we are now on a first name basis) we walked around to the River Cam and took pictures from the "Backs". This is the most beautiful views of the colleges. Here is the King's College chapel, taken from the River bank. BTW: Ms. Diana, I got a rock from here for you.
 Leaving Cambridge, we discussed leadership, Reformation history and also stopped in Bedford to see the site of a man who had no formal power, but amazing personal and individual leadership. John Bunyan. We saw his tomb in London yesterday, today we saw his church. The Bunyan Meeting, founding in 1650, still operates today. This lay preacher took on the church authorities, spent more than a decade in jail because of his beliefs that he, even though not educated, should be able to preach and teach the word. A tinker by trade (basically a pot fixer), he had barely any education yet wrote one of the seminal works of Christian literature, The Pilgrims Progress.
The freedom of the Reformation was, to me, not a rejection of the authority of the church so much as a reminder to that authority that leadership is about the people, about the followers. John Bunyan was a leader of a worldwide movement of people who had been trapped by the formality of the church, unable to feel the joy of God's presence in their lives. While I have fun watching the formality and traditions of the Cambridge graduation, it is a leadership lesson to be reminded that those things should be fun. They should not trap us into undo formality. We should not begin to think that those traditions are God's will for us and by honoring them exclude others. Recognizing the gifts of all the people of God does not require rejecting the office of Bishop. But it does require that we recognize that a tinker just might be gifted to serve God and proclaim the good news.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Oxford Day 6-A real crapper! Some Wesley, a Bunyon and a little Investment talk about the multi-national church

We begin this blog with an authenticated reality. A toilet is called a "crapper" because in Victorian England, the Crapper family made toilets. Let any of you who ever got made at someone for calling a toilet a crapper be ashamed...

That said, I found said toilet in the basement of the Wesley House and Foundry Chapel building. Here we learned more about the founder of Methodism, Rev. John Wesley and his work as an Organizational Leader of a community. Wesley, an ordained Church of England pastor, worked to reform his church and organized a system of discipleship built around small group gatherings focused on preaching the Gospel and sharing together in ministry. Banned from many pulpits, he went outside into the streets and the gardens to proclaim God's grace. Ultimately building (at age 65) the Foundry Chapel building. In this building was the pulpit below. Which I was privileged to stand in today. Behind me is a picture of George Whitefield, a fiery preacher of the era who Wesley both loved and parted ways with eventually due to doctrinal differences.

Below is a picture of Wesleys "prayer closet". Lest we ever forget the importance of prayer in the life of leaders, Wesley is a good reminder. While I do not plan to emulate his 4am wake-up for an hour of devotional time (I would be asleep in 4 minutes) I do admire his dedication and the importance of prayer in the life of a leader. This room, a small closet, was called the "Powerhouse" of the Methodist Movement.
We went quickly across the street and found the grave of John Bunyon (of Pilgrim's Progress fame). More on him tomorrow.
After visiting Wesley House we went over to the British Library. Where I got to see a Gutenberg Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus and also an interesting exhibit on Propaganda. Fascinating stuff on how the printed word and visual word have been used to move people and nations. Below is a copy of a printing press. Interestingly, they placed the Gutenberg Bible in a case with a copy of a printed Indulgence above it. While the Gutenberg press enabled Luther to more quickly share his pamphlets and writings, it also simplified the production of the Indulgences he railed against. Technology works both ways.
After the Library we adjourned for an afternoon meeting with the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church of the UK. This board is responsible for managing 1.25Billion Pounds of resources entrusted to ministries of the Methodist Church in the UK. These are congregational endowments and other resources that are pooled to be invested ethically and responsibly. We were privileged to have the ear of the CEO of this organization for over an hour to hear his understanding of stewardship and leadership of an organization that is committed to managing funds in a way that both honors God as well as earns a strong rate of return. It was inspiring and challenging to hear about the work that they are doing and their future challenges. To be faithful to Biblical principles of stewardship as well as to faithfully increasing the resources of the Church is a challenge. The most interesting line from the CEO was "The church is the only other multi-national than the corporations. It must claim its role there." Strong and challenging words given that so often I think we only think of the church as our little congregations.
After that time we departed London to come back to Oxford. On the way, for you Potter fans, we drove by King's Cross station. Home of platform 9 3/4's. Of course, you should note, that due to the success of the Potter films and the increase of tourism there. The facility is under construction and renovation and they actually didn't use Platform 9 and 10 for the filming. But then again, it is film right, it is all magic!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Oxford Institute Day 5-Look Kids, Big Ben, Parliament

Can't help but say it every time I see Westminster. Hey look kids, Big Ben, Parliament!

That said, there is a heck of a lot inside. We had a fascinating tour of the Parliament building. Beginning the Westminster Hall which is just an amazing place (you know they have found tennis balls in the rafters dating from Henry VIII!). We took the tour of the House of Lords, were shut out of the House of Commons due to some commotion. But we did meet a member of the House of Lords (his line..."You ever met a Lord before"...the response of one of my Baptist friends (tongue fully in cheek)..."Certainly, I know my Lord").

In so doing it was further brought home the folly of Charles the First, who thought his positional authority would simply give him leadership. So he stormed into the Parliament hall (House of Commons) and demanded the heads of five members. Luckily for them, they had sailed down the river to safer environs. Charles threw down the speaker of the house, who then rose up and, citing the Magna Carta, told Charles he had no place there and needed to back down.

Confronted, the bully did back down. Ran off to Oxford and eventually was brought back to Westminster by Cromwell, tried in Westminster Hall and ultimately beheaded in 1649. As a result, since that day, the Queen or any other Sovereign ruler of the UK is not permitted to go any farther than the House of Lords. The followers spoke up and the leaders were changed. Good example of Followership on display. After the tour and our meeting with the Lord (who actually is part of a trend, he started in the House of Commons and was appointed a Lord later. The House of Lords is being systematically depleted in membership overtime to make room for more commoners as England grows and modernizers) we headed over for some touring of Westminster Abby.

What a beautiful church. But basically a graveyard inside. What a sad place in so many ways for Kate and William to be married. Unless of course, you consider the role of tradition and position in the royal line and that sense of being part of something greater than yourself. When you are in a building, begun in 1065, that has been the site of every coronation since 1065 in the British Realm, you are humbled. While certainly monarchy revolves around the concept of the Great Man, it also is an authentic part of the British identity and the sense of who they are. Authentic Leadership requires this clear self-assurance.

No photos are allowed in Parliament or the Westminster Abby, so I leave it to you to Google some if you are interested. However, a couple high points for me (other than all the graves of the monarchs, you know what I think of royalty) were...
1) the grave of William Wilberforce, great advocate against the slave trade.
2) the grave of Charles Darwin, not the enemy of religion many think, but a great inquisitive mind.
3) the temporary grave of George Peabody, a native of Danvers, MA. Not a Harvard man in the pure sense, but a great philanthropist of the natural sciences, including the Peabody Museum and the Peabody hotel in Memphis is named for him. Interred briefly in Westminster before returned to Danvers via the HMS Monarch. He was also a Unitarian for those scoring at home.
4) the memorial to Florence Nightengale in which her husband is attempting to beat back the coming scourge of death from this young mother.
5) The grave of Elizabeth the First who is buried with her half-sister Mary the First. Divided by faith in this life, they have been put to rest together with this inscription on their tomb. "Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of the Resurrection."
6) and finally, on the west entrance, the statues of the martyrs of the 20th century. I must admit, I don't know all their stories, but I do now and so should you...
 Of course for me, the most profound of these stories are the ones I know. Clumped together as they are. Dr. King, Bishop Romero and Dr. Bonhoeffer. All three champions of the faith in the midst of oppression and violence. Undeterred in their work. Certainly deeply flawed leaders. Yet, they are rightly remembered in this place and in this prominent place. Millions pass by these statues each year. I can only hope they take the time to learn these stories as I pray you will.
From Westminster we headed over to the Churchill Museum. This is housed in the War Rooms under a government building near Parliament. It was here, in this fortified room that Churchill and his staff worked throughout the Blitz from Sep. 1940-May 1941. They prepared for an invasion, kept the spirits of the people alive by casting a Vision of success and hope in the midst of trial. Below is the meeting room in which they held over 150 meetings during the blitz.

Below is a picture of Churchill and a quote of his which I think is important for leadership, especially authentic spiritual leadership. You must know who you are, but you also must hope that you can be used for great things, that you might glow with a light. Churchill was not a religious man per se. But I believe he understood that he was gifted for this time and place and he, warts and all, worm and all, was to glow with light.

This so contrasts with the theology of "being a worm" that I remember hearing in seminary from some of my colleagues. The "I am a worm quote" from Psalm 22 being twisted into a sort of pseudo humility and frankly, used as an excuse for mediocrity. Instead, we should claim that we are that, but that the light of God in us calls us to glow, and glow brightly!!! Thanks be to God that Churchill stood firm and cast his visionary leadership in the midst of darkness.
 The day ended on a fun note. We took the rail into Paddington Station (again, why no rail in the states! 125 mph we went today, less than an hour from London to Oxford, argh!!!). And of course in Paddington station there is a shop about a certain bear from Peru who was once found there. I think a little toddler in the states might be meeting such a bear soon. I hope we have enough Marmalade in the house. We shall see...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Oxford Institute Day 4-Seminars and Hogwarts

Lest you think all we are doing here is traveling around and having fun, today we had an intensive seminar time in the morning to focus in our learning about both global and future leadership. It was a good conversation building on the texts we have read for this summer. Texts about leadership and helping move communities forward with principle and purpose. Particularly we focused in on the reality that leaders must be involved in change. Kotter, Collins and Heifitz are some of the best authors on these topics, I certainly recommend them.

After our seminar we headed over to the main Oxford Library, the Bodleian. Because of our status as residents at Regents Park College we were given special access to the library. Although they did not let us take any pictures. Sorry. But it was a nice late morning opportunity to visit and spend some time in one of the oldest and largest (11 million volumes) libraries in the world. 

Below is one of the rooms in the Bodleian we were allowed to take pictures in. This is a room in which the faculty meet as well as where Charles the First, when he had been forced from London by Cromwell, held his parliament. It dates back about 500 years, which is something to think about. Additionally, when Nelson Mandela received his honorary doctorate from Oxford, he did so in this room. So lots of history here and thoughts to have about leadership in the midst of crises.

The Bodleian also marked the first Harry Potter site we saw today as the old Divinity school is the site of the infirmary at Hogwarts.

After lunch we went for a tour of Christ Church College. One of the oldest and most well established of the colleges at Oxford. For those who are Harry Potter fans, you will also recognize some of the places there as well. It is a beautiful and picturesque place.
 This is in the cloister of the college, just outside the cathedral (Christ Church college houses the Cathedral church of Oxford town). The tree in this picture is an olive tree and around its base is an inscription from Revelation 22:2 about the leaves of the tree of life being for the healing of the nations. This tree and later, Bishop George Bells tomb, will speak to the challenge of courageous leadership.
 Potter fans will recognize the sense of this space. The dining hall of Christ Church was the inspiration for the great hall in Hogwarts. You can certainly see the resemblance, also the Christ Church hall only has room for three sets of tables.
 But it does have lots of pictures on the wall, which no doubt inspired the idea of the Ghosts and the portraits at Hogwarts. All of the portraits are of famous Christ Church alumni including the folks below. The lower picture is of John Wesley (the founder of the Holiness movement that became Methodism) and the upper photo is of William Penn (Quaker and founder of the state of Pennsylvania).
 What I find interesting about these portraits from a leadership perspective is that they specifically positioned to remind the students of their heritage. Christ Church College is over 600 years old. These are your forebears. You are to build on that legacy. Also, although a Church of England college, it is not surprising that over the time Christ Church has existed it has had many alumni would went on to other faiths and traditions. Penn and Welsey illustrate that. If your mission is to educate and enlighten, people will come to different conclusions. And that is OK!
 More for the Potter fans. The steps at which the first year Harry comes up before entering the great hall. I looked for Neville's toad, but couldn't find it.

 When I speak about courageous leadership. Bishop George Bell certainly comes to mind. This is an altar in Christ Church Cathedral dedicated to Bell's memory. For those who don't know, Bishop Bell was a good friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a strong part of the ecumenical movement that attempted to help Bonhoeffer and the conspirators. His attempts to connect the German resistance to the British military were roundly refused by the British government.

Bell also had a hand in rescuing many Jews from their fate at the hand of Nazi fascism. And finally, Bell argued against the bombing of German cities and civilians. Stating it was not humane to target civilians. This did not make him popular in his time. But his moral voice was essential and without him, the memory of Bonhoeffer would likely have been forgotten. In fact, Bonhoeffer's famous last words "This is the end — for me the beginning of life" were in fact addressed to Bishop Bell through a fellow prisoner, an Englishman Payne Best.

The inscription on the tomb stone reads...
"No Nation, No Church, No Individual is guiltless. Without repentance and without forgiveness there can be no regeneration." Blessed be the memory of Bishop Bell and his leadership.

Lastly, a couple pictures from the grounds of Christ Church. Just beautifully maintained and kept.
 Pleasure boats on the river.
 Young boys learning to play that incomprehensible game Cricket.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Oxford Institute-Day 3 Windsor

So to be honest, today was not my top day on the itinerary. Windsor Castle sounded to me like a tourist deal. Kinda like a sort of really real Disney castle. Not a place to do much learning about leadership. But whatever, I didn't make the itinerary so I figure, maybe I can still learn something.

We took the train to get there. Once again, why don't we have train service in the states? Seriously, it was amazing, pop-on, pop-off, on-time, all of us comfortable, trains going about 100 miles an hour, took us less than 45 minutes from Oxford to Windsor. We got there, and of course, it is the Disneyland I figured it would be. Tons of tourists running around and then it is 11am, time for the changing of the guard. In marches the band and the guard through the Henry 8th gate (remember Henry the 8th? Kinda important dude in the history of the church fyi)...
 The band marched in walked around and the soldiers followed. The new guys to replace the old guys yelled a lot at each other, walked around in circles for a while and slapped their weapons around. Seriously, this thing should take 3 minutes, but I guess the English are a lot like some churches I know. If something can be done in 5 minutes, I am sure 45 minutes would just make it better. The best part of it was the band, who played all kinds of music, including the theme to "Pirates of the Caribbean" at one point.
 The most interesting thing for me about this picture and relevant for leadership are the people. Look at all the camera phones. Like that picture of the pope's selection, the world has changed. As an article in the Guardian newspaper today talked about. Leadership has now become democratized through the use of social media and phone cameras etc... Everything is live and everyone wants a say.

Which is the relevant thing about leadership for my learning today. Windsor Castle was built west of London on the top of an outcrop so that opposing armies could be seen (up to 3 days away). In those days, being at the top of the hill gave you a special outlook, special knowledge. Being a King was something given to you because of an assumption about your Traits for leadership. Just cause you were of the bloodline, you were given authority and you then had special knowledge. Today, Twitter would let you know someone was coming days before it happened. No need to be up on a hill.

Above is the view from the castle. You see the advantage. Below you see the special entrance for all the dignitaries. Even today, the Trait of being royal matters. But it has morphed. Windsor is a symbol now, it isn't a strategic advantage. Leaders there have to be Adaptive and savvy. Being Queen isn't just about given authority, it is about living into the role and being able to Adapt to situations and read political winds. Charles the First didn't do that we were reminded today. He thought the trait of being King could be enough and as a result, Oliver Cromwell took his head.

Tried out the Sepia filter on my phone for the picture below. Thought it was kinda cool. The flag at the top is the Queens standard. Lets us know she is there, although we didn't see her of course.
 And just so y'all know I am having some fun as I learn. A lunchtime visit to the Blarney Stone restaurant just down the hill from the castle. A pint of protest for the Irish. Visiting a castle reminds me yet again, I am such an American. Leadership/Authority is earned, not given by blood. To that I say cheers!