Posted by: brampey | March 17, 2009

I Love the Next Generation – We Need You

I received the following note from a youth pastor when I requested programming suggestions in preparation for The Pastor’s Gathering ‘11 Advisory Council meeting:

Hey Pastor Buddy,

The only thing that I can think of is how the church is under attack right now. You know the situation going on with us; but there are so many churches in the district, around our community, and around the world that Satan is just doing whatever he can to move in and tear it apart. I am so frustrated right now to hear about all of the arguing and fighting going on inside of the church. We are so worried about how our government and our nation is falling away from God, but maybe it’s because our churches are being tore apart from the inside. How do we expect to reach a dying world with a dying church? If a kingdom at war within itself is sure to fall, where does that put the Bride of Christ?

Are we setting up God’s kingdom to fall with the wars we are allowing to go on inside of the church? We have become so selfish! The people of this world see the church as something they can possess. It’s their own country club, their means of control to meet their desires. Not just the people of the congregation but the pastors as well. Who has more control and influence in a church than the pastor? Who else can stand in front of the entire congregation and speak for an hour to either torture the people or bring about the love of Christ? I’m sure there are plenty of pastors who feel that the church is theirs to own and control as well.

We desperately need something to spark a fire inside the hearts of the pastors and congregations that will break us to see the love of Christ poured out no matter what the cost. What ever happened to the believers that were of one heart and one mind? Where are the ones that felt that what they owned was not their own? Where are the ones who shared everything and gave everything away? Even their very lives.

I can’t think of a single church like that, and it breaks my heart. Maybe the event could offer something for pastors that want their congregations to be the pure and loving Bride of Christ that it is supposed to be.

Here is my response:

Dear ______,

What an awesome letter!!! I hear your heart and feel your pain and disappointment with the church as you are seeing it and experiencing it. I know it springs from you personally being hurt and under attack in your situation and experiencing things that a young pastor should never experience. I encourage you to keeping forgiving and to not allow bittnerness any place in your heart.

Please do not give up on the church, Christ hasn’t. You do not sit where I sit and see the signs of renewal and revival in some places. Since you are a part of this coming generation, you cannot fully appreciate the difference I see in you and in my generation that provides hope that indeed the church can begin to reach its full Kingdom potential. The passion that I have sensed in your lives and that comes through in this letter is what the church desperately needs. May God help us to hear your heart, listen to your ideas and include you in our discussions and decision making processes. You and your buddies represent our best opportunity to see the church become truly missional. It is my opinion that if church renewal does not happen with your generation, the North American church is going to resemble European church in the next generation. I challenge you to let your experiences serve as motivation to do all you can and rally your friends to make the difference that you desire to make.

May I have permission to use your letter as a challenge to our SC (and other) churches?

Please know that I love you, respect you and believe in you!!! More than ever!!!

Your friend,

Pastor Buddy

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Posted by: brampey | March 5, 2009

Special Visit to Eden

On Saturday, Febuary 21st, we made the trek to Eden, NC–the place of our first pastorate. This day would prove to be a remarkable trip down “memory lane.” On the way, we stopped by the cemetery in Colfax, where Joan’s parents are buried, and thanked our Heavenly Father for them and their lives–lives which helped shape Joan into the Godly woman that she is, and lives who came to mean so much to me.

The visit to First Wesleyan Church in Eden was prompted by a Christmas card from a precious friend in that congregation, Margaret Reeves (pictured at right). She wrote in her card, “My health is failing and I would love to see you one more time before I go to heaven.” Margaret is one of those unforgettable people because of her deep love, kindness and thoughtfulness. She was a pastor’s friend–ours and the ones who came before and after us. When we arrived in Eden in September 1975, she was unable to come to church most of the time because she was caring for her mother and her mother-in-law who were in her home. Nevertheless, invitations to Sunday dinner in her home were frequent during that time. (Remember Sunday dinner?) Eventually her mother moved back to her own home and care was shared amongclip_image002 the family members and Margaret became more active at church, and the dinners (or snack times after church on Sunday night) didn’t stop. She was such an encourager and prayer warrior. Margaret prayed for her husband, “Red”, for over 40 years and I remember the Sunday he came forward to receive Christ while a saxophonist played, “He Touched Me.” One night less than two years later, Red went to heaven, dying in his sleep. Following his death and her retirement, Margaret took advantage of the opportunity to travel, including an extended trip to Oklahoma to visit with us. When we moved back to Greensboro, we saw her quite often since Eden was less than an hour away, and looked forward to the homemade lasagna that she would bring us at Christmas time.

Back to the Christmas card . . . I made some phone calls and within a few days, a Saturday lunch was scheduled for us to come and visit with the people of the church and community. It was a delightful time last Saturday and we were honored that people would come by to visit with us. (I commented to Joan that morning that it was certainly nice to go back and see folks and it not be for a funeral.) We arrived a little early and drove around some of the familiar areas, driving by the first parsonage we lived in and then the one that was built while we were there.

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We left there 26 years ago this summer, when our children ranged in age from 10 to 2. The people loved seeing the pictures of the children and their families and enjoyed talking about them. I can’t tell you how many times we heard or said, “Remember when . . .” We did some singing around the piano , and then, before leaving, Joan and I (along with a few others) went to the sanctuary. As I stood there, I remembered so vividly the blessings and presence of God during those eight years in that beautiful old sanctuary where I loved to preach. Especially memorable were the more-than-200 salvations during our time there, and the almost 100 baptisms in that old baptistry during that time. It was an exciting place to be. I took the opportunity to thank those present for their love for, and patience with, this young pastor. Margaret and those present represent some wonderful saints of God to whom Joan and I owe so much. I have included pictures of the church which still looks pretty much the same as it did when we left in 1983.  Here is the link for all the pictures: http://www.dotphoto.com/MemViewAlbum.asp?AID=5761171

Posted by: brampey | December 18, 2008

Christmas Letter 2008

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The link to the Canada Pictures is: hhttp://www.dotphoto.com/go.asp?l=buddyrampey&AID=5662844

Posted by: brampey | December 13, 2008

Christmas Has a Name and a Face

The following was in the Pastor’s Newsletter from the Trinity Wesleyan Church, Central, SC on December 10, 2008. Senior Pastor, Don Milstead, is the author.

It happened this past Sunday night.  You will recall that my message was on the subject, “Christmas has a Name and a Face.”  The main point being that if we’re looking for Jesus, He may show up in an unlikely place and perhaps not even dressed in a way that would make Him easily recognized.  Anyway, I stressed to you that He will come and we had better be on the lookout for him.

     To illustrate the point, I told you about a street lady who happened to drop in on a church one evening.  It seems this poor lady was traveling from Michigan to Florida on her bicycle to find some warmer weather.  Her bicycle chain broke and she made her way to the church for help.  Well, that church was very busy with “church matters” and all but ignored this desperate lady.  Finally, someone reluctantly offered to help her probably just to get her out of the way so that they could continue on with “church business.” Her presence made them all feel very uncomfortable. It seems this encounter illustrated how the mission of the church has been sidetracked for lesser issues than caring for the needy.

     I stressed again how Jesus would be coming to us this Christmas in various forms and fashions.  Those of you who were present Sunday evening know full well what happened next just as the service was dismissed.  Perhaps it was an “angel unaware” or perhaps it was Jesus Himself, but in off the street walked a bag lady named Sarah! (Not her real name.)  I have since heard that some people thought I staged this visit just to make my point clearer.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  I had never laid eyes on this lady until Sunday night.

     I talked with Sarah in the church foyer and found out that she had been on the road for two years having come from Texas.  Her children and her husband were all dead and it was apparent she really didn’t want to talk about them.  She was looking for a ride to Liberty to visit the Employment Office.  However, this was Sunday night and the office didn’t reopen until Monday morning.  I asked Sarah where she intended to spend the night.  She answered, “On the street.”  Upon hearing that, I made arrangements for her to spend the night at the Clemson Motel at church expense.  Bud and Gayle Sexton went by Monday morning and took her to Liberty.  Thank you!

     While I was talking to her in the church foyer, some of you came up to me and handed me some money for Sarah.  Thank you!  But may I ask, what did you do?  Did you speak to her?  Did you extend your hand and a warm smile to Sarah? Did she make you feel a bit uncomfortable?  Could it be that many missed a “Jesus encounter” Sunday night?  Could it be that Christmas walked right into the foyer of our church in the person of a bag lady and we missed it or ignored it?  Did some people look at Sarah and think, “Oh, well, we’ll let the pastor handle this one.”  Did some of our people leave the church saying to themselves, “That was a really nice sermon, especially the part about that woman on her bicycle,” and then forget the point of the message even by the time they reached the foyer and came face to face with this bag lady?

      I took Sarah to the motel and talked to her about Jesus and Christmas.  She said she never celebrated Christmas.  Wonder why?  She said she had a Bible and read it occasionally.  I gave her something to read about how to come to Christ by faith.  We embraced (to my surprise she didn’t smell bad) and then I left. Christmas does have a name and a face. This time it was a tired, weather-beaten bag lady named Sarah.  Who will it be next?  More importantly, will we be ready to embrace him or her whenever they appear?  Two thousand years ago many missed Jesus because He didn’t fit into their pre-conceived Messiah mold.  I pray none of us will repeat that tragic mistake! 

     I won’t soon forget last Sunday night at Trinity Wesleyan when a bag lady gave us a sobering reminder of what’s really important at Christmas and all year long. Merry Christmas, Sarah!

                                                                                                  -Pastor Don

Posted by: brampey | December 11, 2008

A Lighter Look at Gift Giving

I hope that you enjoy one of my favorite Dave Barry columns. I wish the quality was better, but it did save me a lot of time. Also, since it was cut and pasted, read through the top half and then move to the bottom half.

On a similar note, you may want to check out the following which takes the importance of giving the right gift to a whole new level:

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/2077360/beware_of_the_doghouse_hilarious/

 

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Posted by: brampey | October 31, 2008

(The following was started back in June, but I never got around to posting. In fact, there are a lot of things I never got around to posting over the past few months. Is it against “blog rules” to post something that you wrote this long ago?)

This morning, Greg Hayes and I went to the Holly Springs store for breakfast. We drove separately because Greg was going on to “town” (“Table Rock-speak” for Pickens, Easley, Greenville, et al). As I turned onto Hwy. 11, I noticed a grasshopper of some variety attached to my windshield. It started moving and I started going faster. It hung on. I continued to go faster and it continued to hang on. I watched in amazement as I reached the speed limit (and a little more) . . . and it was still there. I thought to myself, “How could it do that?” It occurred to me that this little creature was created with a capacity to do just what I was witnessing. And it was doing it!

What amazing things were we created with the capacity to do, but have not done because we thought it impossible? The answer is, “More than we know.” Let’s try stretching our wings or holding on longer than we think we can.

I attended the funeral of Exie Newton (wife of Rev. Lee Newton). She was one of those quiet types that didn’t come on strong, but once you got to know her, you realized that there was much more there. As we sang Abide With Me, there was one phrase that started a train of thoughts that I will share later. The phrase was, “Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes.” I will get back to that.

I did a little research on that hymn today and discovered the “rest of the story.” The author of those words was a familiar figure to the townsfolk of Brixham, England. The town’s parson took his daily walk by the sea for more than 20 years. That was the way he thought out his sermons as he talked with God.

On a Sunday afternoon in September 1847, Rev. Henry Francis Lyte walked with a heavy heart. He was anticipating that this would be his last walk on what was a most familiar path. At the age of thirty, Mr. Lyte had taken the little church at Brixham in hopes that the salt air would bring him improved health. Now at the age of 54, as his lung ailment grew worse, doctors said that he would need to go to the warmer climate of Italy.

That Sunday morning, he administered his last sacrament and took his last walk along the sea. He wrote some farewell notes to friends and wrote a prayer which he gave to a friend. The prayer was put away in a trunk. He died in France two months later having never reached Italy. How fitting that the oft-repeated refrain, “Abide With Me,” would be in his heart and mind as he left his cherished flock, friends and home. He seemed to realize that he was not going on that journey alone, for Christ would be with him “in life and death.”

For over a cen­tu­ry, the bells of his church at All Saints in Low­er Brix­ham, De­von­shire, have rung out “Abide with Me” daily. Lyte’s prayer-poem was published as a hymn. Other hymns penned by Lyte include “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken,” and “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven.”

Back to my thoughts that afternoon. That phrase, “Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes,” arrested my attention. Why would you want this to be your last thought before you died? I have read accounts of the deaths of some of the great saints. While victorious in the hour of death, the awareness of our unworthiness of Christ’s suffering and death and the realization that in the end it is our only hope of a personal resurrection seems to be a prominent theme.

“O God, help me to live with my heart and mind focused on the cross so that I can die with the cross before my eyes. It’s my only hope for a resurrection morning.”

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Posted by: brampey | June 19, 2008

2008 General Conference Reflections

2008 General Conference Reflections

I am not sure how many General Conferences I have attended (ten, I think), but this was my fourth as a delegate. Here are my reflections:

  • As a child, I stayed in tents at the Fairmount (IN) Camp and Houghton College (NY) general conferences. Shingle Creek Resort was a long way from those tents!
  • At those GC’s as a child, my parents drove and took care of me. At this one, Joan and I drove and we took care of my parents. I did not do a very good job because I let my mother trip over a parking block in the Publix parking lot and we spent Saturday afternoon in the emergency room. She had a cut above one eye and some fractures in her cheek. But being the trooper that she is, she attended all the evening events except for Saturday. We are so very thankful that her injuries were not any worse than they were.
  • This was the first GC in around 60 years without Dr. Virgil Mitchell as a delegate. I remember four years ago in Grand Rapids how be “bounded up the steps” when called upon to give the opening prayer. He was sorely missed at this one. It was great to have Mary Mitchell and daughters, Marilyn and Martha, present for the conference.
  • We were well represented by our Gen Conf 08 Delegates delegates that included: Fred Andrews, Joy Bryant, Tony Casey, Jonathan Catron, Orvan Link, Mark Payne, Sue Rickman, Steve Stanley, Charles Tegen, and myself. (Pictured right)We were less than 50 members away from having two additional delegates.  We had a total of more than 50 persons from SC who were present for the GC. We enjoyed a wonderful time of fellowship at a local restaurant on Monday evening. (SC attendees pictured at bottom of page)

Election of JoAnn Lyon –

The election of Dr. JoAnn Lyon as our newest General Superintendent stands out in my mind as a highlight of all the General Conferences I have attended, whether as delegate or attendee. This election is historic in that it represents a huge step in our continuing struggle to confirm the call of God to women in ministry. It is significant because of the passion and perspective brings to this office. She has demonstrated tremendous visioning and leadership capabilities in the founding and remarkable success of World Hope. Her passionate acceptance message filled the room with a fresh wind and gives hope for some forward momentum at the highest level of leadership. This election was most remarkable when you consider that the other nominee had previously served five years as a GS and in his 2004 affirmation vote had received the highest percentage of any GS elected that year.

It is my opinion that as a result of this action, we are going to see a spike in women being called to ministry. The challenge has been and continues to be placing these extremely gifted and competent leaders in places of ministry in the local church.

I encourage you to pray and support all of our elected leaders. It is the right thing to do and we prayed especially for them Sunday morning on our way to church. It felt good!

Memorials (The Memorial # is in parentheses)

(#367) Position Statement on Immigration – This was an outstanding document that was produced by a commission chaired by Rev. Phil Stevenson (Director, E & CG). We can be proud of this statement that can be extremely helpful in guiding us through this very current and highly-politicized issue. This passed with a 96% vote. These and the other position statements will be available for distribution.

(#368) Position Statement on Global Poverty

(#368) Position Statement on Global Human Trafficking

#366) Position Statement on Domestic Violence – 100% vote

(#78) Changes and elucidation in Special Directions of The Wesleyan Church

In my opinion, this was another very helpful memorial that originated with the Board of GS’s. Updating of language, better statements including but not limited to: “Care of the Body and Substance Abuse; The Lord’s Day; Public School; and Use of Time and Entertainments.” Removed was the statement related to Social Dancing. This passed with an 85% vote.

(#116) Response to community membership changes –

For those of us who made the decision to be open in our support of this memorial, it was a struggle. Almost none of us relish disappointing people. I am fully aware that my decision and position would disappoint some people whom I love and respect deeply.

This issue has been on the radar for more than 10 years and is not going away. I felt that this proposal (very similar to the one proposed by a Task Force headed by Dr. David Holdren in 2000) was a good compromise position. The GS’s are to be commended for giving us leadership that enabled us to move forward.

As I have reflected, I am especially grateful for the spirit in which this memorial was debated. In the end, that is what matters most. As a holiness denomination, being set apart has been at our core. It should continue to be nothing less. This memorial reflects a continuance of this by keeping our membership commitments as a standard for those who would provide leadership. The intent of this memorial, as I have processed it, is to enlarge the embrace of the church while remaining unchanged at the core. From its inception, the goal of community membership has been to take new and immature believers and help them become fully-devoted followers of Christ. This process has been Christ’s mandate for the church as presented in the declaration to “go and make disciples”.

Unfortunately, much of the debate and discussion centered around the requirement of total abstinence for covenant membership. That is unfortunate because the challenge of being a holy person and living a holy life involves much more than our traditional standards. It is also unfortunate because a clear-cut case for total abstinence is not defensible from Scripture. It will continue to be one of those areas where sincere and committed Christ followers disagree. However, at this point, our church is committed to this being the best position for those of us in leadership. On a personal level, I am also committed to the same. It is totally Biblically to have a different expectation for leaders within a Christian community. In this area (and others), we must go the “extra mile” of living by the standards that represent our collective conscience without a hint of elitism or legalism.

A very welcome provision that is a part of this resolution is the reinstatement of a Student Membership category. (This is similar to the former Junior Membership)

Other Memorials –

Related to Established church status:

(#102) Covenant Membership Requirement for Established Church Status

Number of covenant members needed to organize an established church changed from 10 to 25; and for reclassifying an established church to a developing church changed from 10 to 20.

Passed – effective immediately

(#103) Evangelism requirement for Established Church Status

Effective evangelism in place for established church status by amending ¶ 518.

Passed – effective immediately

(These changes will help us at the district level as we continue to work with churches that are at risk as we seek to bring about revitalization.)

Symposiums –

When I saw that doctrinal symposiums were scheduled for the Sunday afternoon and the Monday and Tuesday evening time slots, my first thought was, “I will be surprised if this works.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. These times of worship were characterized by powerful witness, thought-provoking theological insights, and punctuated with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Of particular significance to me was the Tuesday evening focus on “Community Holiness.” I would highly encourage your visiting the Education and Ministry portion of the www.wesleyan.org/em

website where these sessions will be available for download.

Trends –

On Tuesday morning, I read with great interest Keith Drury’s blog entry, “13 Reasons Why the Votes on GS’s Were Low.” I concur with almost all of his observations. For the most part, the voting was a further reflection of the “anti-institutionalism” atmosphere. I believe this is a sign of increased health and shows the potential for our denomination–which like all denominations, began as a movement–to once again be influenced more by the missional elements rather than institutional hierarchy. While this type of “reinvention” is rare, it is possible.

I am delighted to report that overall there is an increase in diversity among both delegates and leaders. But, as has always been the case, if you are not Anglo, male, and 60+, you have a greatly-reduced chance of being a delegate. (The sobering thought for me is that “I am one” of those.) However, we must be intentional in our local churches, districts, and at the general level to include those who are younger and may be quite different from us in order to further engage our culture.

Overall, I have a new optimism about the future of The Wesleyan Church. I continue to have a great love for and loyalty to the denomination of my birth. It is not a blind loyalty, but a loyalty that spurs me on to be a part of the future as well as the past. The inclusion of our mission stats has made the overall picture of the church look more positive than it actually is. The North American church is essentially plateaued. And we must refuse to comfort ourselves with the notion that this is the pattern of most evangelical denominations. This trend is unacceptable at the local, district and denomination level.

Much of my optimism comes from the passion and commitment of new generations emerging. We must bring them to table at every level.

Additional Reflections and Responses to General Conference:

www.wesleyanstuff.blogspot.com (Real-time reporting and responses by Keith Drury)

http://kenschenck.blogspot.com/ (Insightful and thought provoking writings by the IWU prof)

www.wesleyan.org (official website where earlier I found posts, but there is not much this a.m.)

Gen Cong 08 Group (Cropped)

Posted by: joanrampey | April 24, 2008

THE CONNECTION

As I stood by the open casket, my eyes were focused on the well-worn hands resting on the equally well-worn Bible. I was asking myself, “Did those hands rest on her shoulders, or give her a gentle embrace, or simply reach out and shake her 12-year-old hands? What did he say to her? What did she say to him?” The memories, the connection, were creating an indelibly poignant moment . . .

Almost four years earlier, on June 27, 2004 my mom went to sleep . . . and then to heaven in the early hours of June 28.  Later that day, I was going through some of her things in search of material I might use in preparing the tribute my siblings had asked that I write for inclusion in the service bulletin that would be distributed at her memorial service later that week.

I found three pages of writing . . . a devotional she had prepared for sharing with her ladies’ prayer group many years before. I began to read the story of her faith journey that had begun back in 1930 when, as a 12-year-old girl, she had “come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ under the ministry of Rev. Arthur Calhoon.” In those moments, I silently thanked God for this man who had been a part of bringing my mother into the wonderful family of God seventy-four years earlier. I thought of the reunion in heaven he and my mother had certainly already shared earlier that morning.

The next day, I included that portion of her testimony in the written tribute for the bulletin.  Two days later, following the service, I stood with others of my family as those who had attended the service took the time to pass by and offer their words of comfort, assurance, and support. Dr. and Mrs. Paul Faulkenberry approached and Ruth gently put her hand on my arm and spoke these words that caused me to experience one of the most profoundly, awesomely breathtaking moments of my life: “Joan, I’d like for you to meet Rev. Arthur Calhoon!” Immediately overcome with emotion, I threw my arms around this precious little man and began whispering to him, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” The person who, as a young pastor, had led my mother to the Lord seventy-four years earlier was still alive . . . and standing in front of me!

Only a sovereign and kind God would have created this moment–a moment that spanned more than seven decades and covered the distance of more than half a continent to bring us together! 1930 to 2004 . . . a small town in South Dakota to a small town in South Carolina.

And so it was, that just a few days ago, standing beside the casket of Rev. Arthur Calhoon, who at the age of almost 102, finally had that reunion with my mother–and so many others–in heaven, I again found myself whispering, “Thank you, thank you, thank you . . .”

Joan Rampey

April 2008

Posted by: brampey | April 11, 2008

Lessons From Hiking Table Rock

Since we arrived here in SC 3 years and 9 months ago, it has been my intention to hike Table Rock. Yesterday it was accomplished. Here are some lessons that I learned.

As I said, it has been my goal to hike that mountain that dominates the landscape of where we live. It is so therapeutic to live in the surroundings of Table Rock Wesleyan Camp and I have enjoyed the hikes that have not been so strenuous. But hiking the mountain was always in the back of my mind. You do only what you have a vision to do.

My friend, Don Milstead, and I have taken some hikes together when he lived in Brevard. Before and after he moved to SC, we started talking about hiking the mountain. In fact, yesterday’s hike began as our plan to go before it got too hot and while the trees were still bare. (You will understand if you have ever lived in a mountainous area.) As we continued to talk about it, it was suggested that it be opened up to others. We will usually do extraordinary things only if others are engaged with us.

Our discussion and the subsequent decision to invite a larger group into our plan created the necessary accountability. I can tell you that if a hike to the top of Table Rock had been on my calendar only and I had told no one, it would not have happened. A decision made yesterday morning would have been, “No.” There was too much to do and I knew that I was not adequately prepared. It is much more likely that a goal will be reached when we let others know about it. This creates accountability.

About two months ago, I started walking more regularly, including some hiking. I did much better the first month than the last. While I was grateful for what I had done, I was still incredibly unprepared for what I put my body through yesterday. A task outside of your present realm of living requires preparation.

A life journey challenge needs the encouragement of others. Yesterday’s trek was made possible because of the encouragement (“putting courage into . . .”) by others both before and during. A journey shared is a lot more enjoyable.

TR Camp half way up mtn I was relieved to see the halfway shelter. It represented a measurement along the  way and an additional opportunity to rest. The view was wonderful. I could clearly see the sights that have become such a familiar part of my surroundings . . . the camp, the lakes, the park. I took some pictures. Honestly, it was tempting to just stop and stay there, especially when I felt my pulse and looked up at how much of the journey still remained. But the goal was not to hike half of the way. (That probably would have been a good idea for the first time!) I knew that there were others ahead. Along the way, I had to recommit to the vision of getting to the top of the mountain.

The reason that I had to recommit is that the journey was harder than I thought it was going to be. That is usually true of anything that we attempt that is beyond our normal sphere of activity. We are usually surprised by the “push back.” We shouldn’t be. It comes with claiming new territory.

At our last pastorate, twin mountains (Crowder’s Mountain and Kings Mountain) dominated the landscape. I hiked each of those. I had forgotten this fact: I never looked at those mountains the same after I had climbed to the top. And I will never look at Table Rock Mountain the same again. It looks different from the top than it does from the bottom. It is almost as if in the climbing of it you are embracing it. There are serendipity experiences that come with venturing outside of the comfort zones of life.

It became apparent very quickly that I was ill-prepared for what I was getting readyDale @ Summit to put my body through. What little bit of hiking I had done was very elementary in comparison with the challenge of an advanced hiking trail. Muscle aches turned into cramps as I was trying to put one foot in front of another. My hips throbbed as they moved legs that felt like noodles. To make matters worse, I continued to have the muscle spasms after the hike was over, and today I have some very sore legs. However, it was worth the pain, but the severity of the pain could have been avoided with adequate preparation.Camp fr

Too bad that it has taken me almost four years to do what I have wanted to do all the time I have lived here. “I had stuff to do,” I told myself, as I planned my days, weeks, and months. As I look at the mountain writing this, I realize today what I have missed. The time that could have been spent enjoying the presence of the Creator in His creation and giving adequate attention to the needed physical activity to maintain health and stamina, was sacrificed to get something else done. The “urgent” things that arrest our attention for the moment are often not the most important things when we take the long view.

Group on MtnThanks to my colleagues and friends–Arnold Beard,  Larry Burke, Dale Link, (BR), Bob Broome, and Jon Brady –for helping me create a memory and for your encouragement (and even checking on me this morning).

My friend Don had to go to NC due to his mother being hospitalized Wednesday evening. Looks like another hike is in our future.

 

Pictures:
1. Camp from the “Half Way” Shelter.  (Worship Center is visible in the right side of the picture.)

2. Dale Link at the summit.

3. View of camp from the summit.  (Worship center is framed by the trees.)

4. Hiking Group (Listed above)

Posted by: brampey | March 27, 2008

GS/DS Institute and General Board Meeting

It is always a delight to gather with our colleagues who share in the ministry of being district superintendents. The camaraderie and fellowship are always enjoyable and, as we exchange victories and challenges, it is a time of growing as well. We gathered in Orlando last week as a group to share in a time with the General Superintendents and then, at the invitation of the General Board of Administration, to be a part of the presentation and discussion of memorials (resolutions) for the 2008 General Conference.

I sent the following email to the General Board Members on Monday:

I wanted to thank you so much for the opportunity afforded to the District Superintendents to be a part of the General Board of Administration meeting last week. This gesture made all of us feel valued and I believe gave you further sensitivity to the feeling from those of us who are working more closely with our membership at the local church level.

I also want to express appreciation to the Board of General Superintendents for your leadership in the extremely crucial area of membership by presenting the statutory memorials. While some on both edges of this issue may not be happy, I believe that your action does bring us to a stronger place of commonality. Had you not “stepped up to the plate,” it is my opinion that we would be leaving another General Conference with much unrest.

We will continue to pray with you that God’s will be done in all the matters before our General Conference this summer.

Most of our time was spent examining Memorials that will be presented to the General Conference, with the most prominent of those items being the ones related to membership issues. Before I get into some particulars about the Memorials, I want to share some statistical information that serves as a good backdrop for the entire discussion on membership.

Some interesting statistics for The Wesleyan Church include:

  • Ten-year Change in Churches by Ethnicity (1997-2007)

White (92% – 87%)

Integrated (1.7% – 3%)

Asian (1.6% – 1.1%)

Black (1.8% – 2.5%)

Hispanic (1.9% – 6%)

Native American (1.1% – .4%)

  • 44% of Churches average between 1 and 50 in attendance but represent only 11% of overall attendance.
  • Only 10.1% of Churches average more than 1000 in attendance but they represent 20% of overall attendance.
  • Assessable income from the 1-50 Churches is 10% of denominational income and the income from the 8 churches that average over 2000 is 14%.
  • 901 Churches use Covenant Membership only (53.28%) and 790 Churches use Covenant and Community Membership (47.72%).
  • 6 Churches that are larger than 500 in attendance have more Community Members than Covenant Members.

As we reviewed some of this information we were assigned these two questions:

  1. What is this information saying?
  2. What kind of questions should we be asking?

(How would you have responded?)

The Membership Memorial presented by the Board of General Superintendents was discussed at length by the General Board (with input from the DS’s) and will be presented to General Conference as recommended. I will share what I understand to be summary changes of this and related memorials: (Please understand that this represents personal recollections and does not represent the official minutes of the meetings. Also, any changes approved at General Conference will not be effective until the publication of The 2008 Discipline.)

  • Denomination Membership Structure will be: Covenant Members, Community Members and Junior (or Student*) Membership.
  • Covenant Membership is the standard for all elected leadership positions in The Wesleyan Church at local, district and general church levels and these persons would be required to affirm and follow the Articles of Religion, the Covenant Membership Commitments and the Elementary Principles.
  • Community membership is changed as follows: Community members must affirm the Articles of Religion (in addition to salvation and baptism); they will have the privilege of voting on issues presented to the Local Church Conference except votes on the receiving of Covenant Members; the right to be transferred to any other Wesleyan Church upon approval of the receiving church.
  • Junior (or Student*) Membership will be for those children and youth who have been saved from sins; they will be received in a formal ceremony and must either become Covenant or Community Members by age 19. The local church is to also provide for their training toward spiritual maturity and the understanding of the importance, privileges and commitments of membership.

*This document was amended to change the name from Junior to Student Membership.

(Interestingly, this memorial contains most of the recommendations that were presented to the 2000 General Conference by a membership study commission. That proposal was essentially gutted and our present Community Membership structure is what was left following that General Conference. You may want to reference again my response to these proposals in the letter to the General Board.)

Another Memorial submitted by the Board of General Superintendents and recommended by the General Board was in the area of Special Directions. (These are not Membership Commitments; they are official admonitions to the members, ministers and officials of The Wesleyan church.) This memorial includes some significant, and in my opinion, much-needed rewrites in some of the areas. Most notable include: An excellent (opinion again) introduction; Care of the Body and Substance Abuse; The Lord’s Day; Public School; Use of Time and Entertainments. (When these are available electronically, I will share them. At this point, it would require a lot of entry.)

The delegates to the General Conference will receive the official version of all the Memorials in a timely way. I encourage you to begin praying for God’s will to be done in the election of denominational leaders and in the discussion and decisions of this body. As time allows, I may be able to share some additional memorials and items of discussion. I hope that this is helpful for you and gives you a greater sense of being “in the loop.”

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