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Month: April 2012

Holy Saturday – Waiting for What We Don’t Know

Holy Saturday – Waiting for What We Don’t Know

Reflections on Holy Saturday
April 7, 2012
George Martin

What is it that allows us to have just a hint of hope and the ability to grit our teeth in moments of crisis—those times when fear arises like a tsunami—and to respond in the same way at other times of foreboding doom that creeps ever so slowly like a storm on the horizon? I’m not talking about a kind of foolhardy charge of the light brigade into a thunderous blaze of machine gun fire. It’s rather that there are times when we retain a sense of dignity in the face of something horrendous and when with muscles contracted we’re willing ourselves to find a way through what seems impossible.

There is something in the human spirit that seems to find some resources to hold on to some possibility when the scene in front suggests that there is no possible resolution or success to be had. To speak of the human spirit finding strength and fortitude isn’t to talk about the human animal as if we always respond like other creatures when cornered or attacked. That’s sometimes the story of tragedy, but not always.

Life, as we sometimes know it, isn’t just about instinct or about biological survival. There is a story element at work in the response to certain unfathomable situations in human history. It’s not, however, a story that is necessarily logical or connected. Given the circumstances in which most tragedy occurs the response isn’t always scripted or plotted. Only in the rearview mirror of our history, or from the witness of others, does it seem that the pieces of the story, even though they can be horrific and unimaginable, someone carry meaning—a few words, maybe a touch—something that speaks of some kind of lighted way forward.

My thoughts on this topic are shaped in part by Holy Saturday—a strange day in the Christian story—a day mostly without a script. The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer give this day two prayers, a few rubrics and four scripture lessons to read. I think of it as the “Nothing Day.” There isn’t a table to set for the service. No candles need to be lit. There are no assigned hymns. The rubrics say nothing about the role of the ordained on this day.

Still the last word isn’t about nothing. There are times in the face of great evil when at least a few seem bare a kind of resolve that speaks of something deeper—maybe a truth that overcomes the disaster itself. Their life may not matter, and certainly didn’t to the forces that were about to destroy them, but the way they responded suggests that life does matter. The story that is sometimes told, and one hard to fathom, is that what matters more than life itself, is how we die.

What did matter to those first disciples on day following the day now strangely called Good Friday, was that they’d witnessed a horrific ending to a life that was unlike any they had known. He died on a cross, after doing no wrong to anyone, and bringing life, sight, mobility, and most of all dignity, to all sorts and conditions of people. His silence and his failure to call for any kind of retribution toward those who unfairly accused him and plotted his death stood in stark contrast to the violence imposed on him by the crowds, the authorities, and finally by the conscripted Roman soldiers.

On that first Holy Saturday with a dead Jesus walled up in a cold cave covered by a large stone the story he was telling had come to an end. He who seemed so connected to God and who had breathed God’s Spirit, had proved to be fully human to the point of death. What were they, his friends, to do now? It must have been the question they asked over and over again. Some, we know from the story passed on to us, decided to return to their life back in Galilee. Other’s waited—waiting for what we know not, but maybe waiting in that way that involves this matter of the story that informs the human spirit and which leads us to harbor even the faintest hope for what might yet be possible.

I find myself on every Holy Saturday contemplating some of the hard realities of life—none of us avoids death. There is something tragic about all of life in that no creature endures in this world. Yet there’s some sense of purpose and some kind of direction to be discerned. There a moments of pure joy and times to laugh at the absurdity of all. You sing the blues and strangely you feel better, and know that you’re not alone. Any maybe that’s why we keep our Holy Saturday vigil. The disciples silenced by what they’d seen happen had to be keeping quiet vigil with and for their Lord. And we do the same. For the Lord. And for each other. Breathing God’s Spirit—that Spirit that was stirring in that dark tomb. And always stirs in times of waiting. Amen.

Books and Articles by George Martin

Books and Articles by George Martin

Publications List: George Martin

What is Coming Next: I am writing a book about the St. Paul you’d never thought you’d find. You are going to be surprised and I think a great many people are going to enjoy meeting this St. Paul. It’s actually the Paul who was always there, but who has been mis-read for at least 1500 years or more. I’ve been a serious student of Paul for over four years in which I’ve read the serious work of many Pauline scholars. It’s the kind of material that can put many people quickly to sleep. I have, however, found much of it exciting, challenging, and refreshing. It’s just not easily accessible. This work needs to be put into a short book that will help anyone interested in the Christian story know it as Paul lived the story. I’m at work on writing this book in 2015! Stay tuned!

Books I’ve Written

Advertising the Local Church: A Handbook for Promotion, 1978 (revised 1990, 1998, 2002), originally published by the Church Ad Project. (Out of print)

Door-to-door Ministry, 1993, originally published by the Church Ad Project.
NOW Available as an ebook . GO TO: Amazon.com or the Kindle Store look for
“Door-to-Door Ministry: The Easy Way to Make Friends For Your Church” for $4.99
(I thank you for reading this and THEN letting me know what you think. Reviews on that site are always welcome and helpful to an author like myself.)

AND NOW: It is in print. Also on Amazon.com

From Disciple to Apostle: A User Friendly Manual for Church Membership, 1996, originally published by the Church Ad Project.

 (Out of print)

Right Start: Starting New Congregations. A training manual used by the Seabury Institute. Evanston, IL. 2000. 

 (Out of print. Contact www.georgemartin.org for more information.)

“Why Things Can’t Stay the Same,” A chapter I wrote in Transitional Ministry, ed by  Mollie Smith. New York: Church Publishing, 2009.

Three articles, Pastoral Reflections, for three Sundays in Epiphany for Feasting on the Word. Louisville KY; Westminster John Knox Publishing, 2008.

 

Articles Published

Contributing Editor: Net Results  (A monthly column 1995- 1997).

“Rectors and Wardens Working in Harmony” The Living Church, January 3, 1999

“Clergy Sabbaticals: For the Health of the Whole Church” The Living Church, June 3, , 2001

“Emily Dickinson: Reflections of A Recluse for Holy Week” The Living Church,  Feb. 17, 2002

“Are they Visitors or Guests?” The Vestry Papers, The Episcopal Church Foundation, September/October 2004

.

“Reflections on Holy Saturday”, The Living Church, April 9, 2006



Sermons published in various issues of The Clergy Journal (2001-2006) and in The Minister’s Annual Manual 2001-2002 and The Minister’s Annual Manual 2002-2003.

Door-to-door Ministry Notebook Republished as an eBook

Door-to-door Ministry Notebook Republished as an eBook

The following post is taken  from the Introduction to the Door-to-door Ministry Notebook. This book is available on Amazon.com in print for $9.95 and it is an ebook (kindle.com) as well. I’m convinced that this is a methodology that is still relevant for ALL churches to consider, especially those who want to return to the vision that most likely was functioning in their early days. By George Martin

…….

From the Introduction

 

Introduction

Door to Door Ministry: A Lifesaving Ministry

 

The notebook that you are reading is most likely not going to end up on any best-seller list. More than once I’ve told people that this is “The least read book ever published.” It’s narrow audience is also why it is a self-published book. The reason is fairly obvious, since this ministry is something akin to that described in the previous parables. Many existing churches were actually founded on the principles and practices described herein, but as the external focus on evangelism has sadly faded from the picture many of our congregations became more like clubs rather than mission stations..

The hope in putting this notebook together and making it available is that there will be enough adventurous souls who see the need and are willing to respond. I’m hopeful that some of our churches return to their original mission.

I’ve included in this notebook many practical details related to door-to-door ministry as well as a clear rationale for entering into this ministry, in the hope that a few teams of people will step out from their local church communities to continue the ministry of invitation. I have no doubt that there will be blessings for many in that process.  As will be pointed out in this work, this life-saving activity was part of the plan of Jesus and one of the first missionary efforts of the early disciples. Those who keep this ministry going are following in the footsteps of those first disciples.

This latest up-dated edition also recognizes that the times have changed since this was first written in the early 1990s. I still believe that the methodology is relevant, however. Witness the Jehovah Witnesses, if you will, who knock on doors still, and how the Mormons keep sending out missionaries all over the world in pairs.

The changes that I’ve made in this up-dated version involve little in terms of the basic concepts of this ministry, and I definitely still stand behind the theological and biblical concepts that I believe are foundational. Having worked in churches where gated-communities abound, and having lived in apartment complexes while doing interim work around the country, I am aware that it isn’t always easy to get to everyone. I’ve, therefore, added ideas for reaching people who are hard to reach in a few places in this workbook.

I also think that social-networking methodologies, which are fairly low-tech (once you’re registered with Facebook, for example, it’s easy to connect with hundreds if not thousands of people), need to be considered at least as a methodology for continued conversations and follow-up with prospects. Whereas I used to offer bringing a VHS formatted video to show someone in their home on a follow-up visit I now encourage the church to create YouTube videos (maybe appearing on the church’s website) that demonstrate what life in their church looks like.  Maybe it’s a Dvd that is sent to a prospect. I also think it is extremely important for the church to incorporate the concepts of “event-evangelism” in terms of their community outreach. I’ve added a special chapter called “Reasons to Reach Out to Your Community” which discussed how event-evangelism can be connected to door-to-door ministry.

Woodcarvings at Pelican Lake

Woodcarvings at Pelican Lake

Guidelines for A Great Consultation

Guidelines for A Great Consultation

Finding the Way ForwardRule One for a good consultation is to never presume that you know ahead of time what will be found or what will happen.  The process involves asking lots of questions, and then active listening, in which stories are told. What matters is the data and trying to be as honest as possible about what has happened, including all the good things, and those things that didn’t work.

A good consultation though doesn’t fuel the flames of nostalgia too much, though. It is marked more by the visions that are planted and the strategies that emerge to follow those visions. Planning is also a key to a consultation. There is an old adage which suggests that our problem is that our plans have failed. Usually we have failed to plan in the first place.

A biblical framework is  a key to good consulting in the church because we can find in those stories examples of courage and honesty that we need to follow in their footsteps. Getting lost and going astray is all part of that story, while getting called back to mission and purpose is also found there as well.

On a few occasions I’ve have consulted in churches which have experienced real trauma. There isn’t any magic pill I can offer. Such consultations usually involve lots of small group meetings, interviews with selected leaders, and even open-air sessions for all in the church.

There are even a few times when I’ve been asked to be a consultant and the presenting issues were all over the place. It wasn’t going to be easy to find a focus. What we do in that circumstance is have an initial meeting to determine the consultant contract, as it were. It is a mutual listening process that creates a road map to follow, and some guidelines for safe travel!

Three Consulting Examples

Three Consulting Examples

What happens in a consultation?

Example 1:
I am thinking about a church in a Southern diocese, which had all kinds of growth taking place around it (e.g. new homes going up), but it wasn’t growing. The bishop of the diocese asked me to meet with their Bishop’s committee and church leaders. We met over a three day period.  Upon my return I sent them and the bishop a long report. I haven’t returned, but have consulted with the Bishop and Canon-to-the-Ordinary. I know that a great deal has happened. They have made many changes to the church to make it more attractive and most important of all they have started a leadership transition that is more oriented toward mission. Their leaders have also attended Start-Up Start-Over and that has helped them a great deal.

Example 2
A medium-sized church was stuck. If felt flat to the rector and to the members. It felt the same to me. I went there on two occasions. We had an “Assets Identification” workshop, and they re-discovered their passion for youth ministry. They also figured out a way through their conflict over contemporary music. At the same time the leaders decided to make some key staff changes. This church has rediscovered their purpose and passion for ministry.

Example 3
After a devastating flood a church faced the question about moving out toward the higher part of town where the growth was, or rebuilding and staying put. I went in about three times. Partly I was working them on their own post-traumatic issues, and then we worked on how to think about mission. They decided to stay and in the process rediscovered vision and energy for mission.

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