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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ship Sighting: Hudson River Sloop CLEARWATER

Earlier this week, the Norwalk Hour ran a brief piece letting the world know that the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater would be at the Norwalk Cove Marina for a few days for maintenance.  Having crewed on Clearwater for part of a single day, back in the fall of 2006 when Amistad and Clearwater were tied up at the same dock on the Hudson, I was interested in seeing what Clearwater looked like out of the water.  On Thursday afternoon, Kimberly and I took Ian to Cove after we picked him up from school.

Unlike Amistad, which draws 10.5 feet of water, Clearwater is a shallow-draft vessel, with a centerboard that can be raised and lowered to accommodate the waters of the Hudson.  Similarly, the areas below decks are rather scant on headroom and the crew's quarters have the feel of a child's play area, with stringed instruments hanging on bulkheads for easy access by the crew.  Steering is with a large tiller, carved in the shape of an arm with a fist on the end of it, rather than with a wheel.

Clearwater's crew, who are usually busy teaching lessons about the Hudson River's ecosystem, were hard at work replacing planking and caulking seams, so I didn't want to bother them, but here are a couple photos from the afternoon.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bless!: A Retrospective


Rev. Quinn Caldwell speaks
about blessings.  Note the
spiffy tweed vest, similar to
the one I was wearing.  We
were extremely stylish together.

The last couple days in Boston have been fantastic, with several great worship experiences, informative workshops, and shop-talk with fellow pastors and worship leaders, including several that I had gotten to know well in my days back in the Central Atlantic Conference.  Not to give too much away, but I'm coming back with a couple interesting ideas for different celebrations in the life of the church.

The pastoral staff at Old South Church, Revs. Nancy Taylor (Sr. Minister) and Quinn Caldwell (Associate Minister), along with Ron Buford (Minister for Discipleship), and Harry Huff (Minister of Music) encouraged attendees to make the practice of blessing things, people, and pets a regular part of their congregation's worship lives.  At Old South, they bless "anything that moves and many things that don't," including stewardship pledges, animals (from hamsters to police horses), backpacks, hammers, and marathon runners.  They are also extremely intentional in their worship planning, having weekly meetings with the worship leaders to critique the previous week's service and to fully plan out the logistics of the coming week's service.  Often, they try out new ways of doing things at the early service ("First Worship") before incorporating them in the main service ("Festival Worship").

At the conclusion of the conference, there was a live webcast of a blessing service for the fruits of the Mission:1 offerings.  (Video archived here.)  With preaching from Ben Guess and music featuring Old South's magnificent pipe organ, 'cello, and a quartet, we praised God for the ability to share in blessing others.  We dedicated all of the items that had been received and those still outstanding.  At the time of my writing this, the UCC has collected:

  • 1,190,533 items of food collected (Goal of 1,000,000 exceeded 11/10.)
  • 33,792 letters to congress (Goal of 11,111 exceeded 11/6.)
  • $91,802 donated to Neighbors in Need for US hunger relief (Goal of $11,111 met in pledges.)
  • $93,930 donated for famine relief in East Africa (Goal of $11,111 met in pledges.)

A sign along the green line of the MTBA
somewhere between Boston and Riverside.
Click on the picture and read about Charlie.
In other news, it turns out that the distance from Old South Church and the Walker Center, where I stayed, is longer than I had anticipated, with each trip taking 45 minutes or so, which gave me lots of time to read and people-watch.  At one point, as we were sitting at a station, I heard some start humming the MTA song, "Let me tell you a story 'bout a man named Charlie..."  I was amused, as it had been running through my brain ever since getting on my first T train, but I was surprised to see that my fellow traveler had been inspired to sing not by the mere fact that we had used our "Charlie Cards" to pay our fares, but that the song -- and my friend Jackie Steiner -- had been immortalized by a sign along the tracks.  Go ahead.  Click on the picture and read all about Walter O'Brien and the true story of "the man who never returned."

I managed to eat two meals in Boston's Chinatown, one at Xinh Xinh, a Vietnamese restaurant where I got a fantastic bowl of pho, and Winsor Dim Sum Cafe, where Eric Anderson and I gorged ourselves on many varieties of dumplings after the conference ended.

Today, I wandered around the Boston area, with a dead cell phone battery, so I couldn't take pictures of anything or even check in on Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare until I managed to plug in late in the day.  I stuck my head in at Andover Newton Theological School, since you never know when there might be a D.Min. in the cards, though Saturday may not have been the best possible time for a visit.  I also stopped by the Occupy Boston encampment in Dewey Square, where I chatted with some of the folks who were in residence and prayed with some of them  in the Sacred Space Tent.

So here I am, making use of Amtrak's WiFi and 120 Volt outlets, posting even before getting home from my trip.  Isn't technology grand?!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Bless!" Conference in Boston

I haven't taken a train trip in a while, not since the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race back in 2008.  Today, I'm riding Amtrak on my way to Boston for "bless!", a national conference for worship leaders, sponsored by the UCC's Local Church Ministries and hosted at the historic Old South Church.  Tomorrow afternoon, the bless! conference will include a blessing for all of the food and financial gifts that have been raised by all of the congregations of the United Church of Christ as part of the Mission: 1 project, with the blessing service being webcast at 4:00pm here.  If you look carefully, you might even see me in the congregation.

While at the conference, I'll be staying at the Walker Center, which was originally started by a Congregationalist missionary who had returned from Turkey when her husband died.  Her new mission was to start a home for the children of missionaries who needed to stay in the US for either safety concerns or so they could pursue their education.  Over time, the Walker Center shifted from hosting Missionaries' Kids, becoming first a center where students from abroad can stay while pursuing studying at Boston area schools, and then a retreat center.

Over the next couple days, I'll be posting reflections from the conference, mostly via Facebook (friend me) and Twitter (follow me).  I'll post a big-picture reflection here, as well.