Sunday, November 22, 2009

Volunteer Hospital Chaplaincy

I don't think I've ever written previously about one thing that I've been involved in for the last two or three years--serving as a volunteer hospital chaplain. When the St. Luke's Hospital chain opened a local hospital here in Lee's Summit a few years back, they hired a former IMB missionary as a chaplain. John Murphy and his wife served in Venezuela before working in the home office in the area of support and scheduling for missionaries on stateside assignment (if memory serves me correctly). Two or three years ago, John contacted several local pastors and staff members to ask if we would be willing to serve as volunteer chaplains to help pick up the slack when he isn't there. Since John typically works "normal hours," the calls for assistance usually come in the wee hours of the morning.

I sleep with my cellphone nearby and it's not unusual to get a call at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning when there's been a life-threatening accident or a patient has been admitted who's near death and the family requests a chaplain. I received another one of those calls this past Thursday morning just before 2:00 a.m. and went to meet with the family. Their mom/grandmother had been hospitalized for a few days but had taken a sudden turn for the worse and they wanted some prayer support. I was able to spend some time visiting with them, offering some comfort and had prayer with them before leaving. I stopped back by the next morning and she was still lingering, though breathing much more shallowly. I stopped by and gave John an update and he followed up and visited with them during that day before she passed away in the afternoon.

I received a call yesterday and was asked if I would be willing to officiate at the funeral for the woman and I gladly consented. This is the second time I believe that one of these volunteer chaplain's visits has resulted in the additional opportunity to minister to a family in the time of their loss by conducting a funeral service. While the calls in the middle of the night can sometimes startle me awake and cost me some sleep, I appreciate the chance to demonstrate the love of Christ to someone who requests a chaplain to come and hold a hand, offer a shoulder to cry on, or say a prayer on behalf of a family member. I'm convinced that this is one further way that I can seek to be the presence of Christ in the midst of a hurting world.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A New Pastor for our Church

This weekend was an exciting time in the life of our church. We hosted our prospective new pastor, Dr. Blake McKinney, in a series of get acquainted meetings with different age groups in the church on Friday and Saturday and then heard him preach yesterday morning. He chose 1 Samuel 17 as his text, using the familiar story of David and Goliath to stress the basic message that God is bigger than our problems and our challenges. It was a good, biblically-centered sermon that was engaging. What I appreciated the most was his introduction to the sermon, saying that while it was a bit awkward with the sermon in a sense being part of a job interview, he wanted us to lay aside those concerns and hear what God had to say through the Scriptures.

We had good turnouts for the different age-group meetings and a great crowd in each of the morning services yesterday and again last night for the vote. The church clearly was overwhelmingly convinced that God had led our pastor search committee to Blake and the vote indicated that. 98% of those present voted to call him as our new senior pastor. He will move his family here after the Christmas holidays and begin his ministry in January. His first sermon (other than the yesterday's trial message) will be January 10th.

I think our entire church body is excited about this new page in our church's history and looking forward to the challenge that comes with new leadership. It promises to be an exciting new year for the congregation as we welcome a new pastor and gear up for our 150th anniversary celebration in April.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Big Weekend for our Church

After being without a pastor for a year now, our church is hosting a prospective new senior pastor this weekend. He's got a busy line-up of activities ahead of him for the next three days, beginning with a meeting with the staff this morning as a group and then with us individually afterwards. After lunch, he will meet with our wonderful senior adults among whom I have the privilege to minister. Tonight it will be the youth and their parents and collegiates. Tomorrow morning he will meet with the children and their parents, followed by deacons and their wives in the early afternoon. Tomorrow in the late afternoon is a chance for anyone who missed one of the earlier sessions to meet with him and ask questions, etc. Sunday he will preach in both morning services and then we will vote in the evening service on whether or not to call him as our new pastor.

The pastor search committee has been diligently working for many months now and feel convinced that this is the man that God would have to lead our congregation into the future. We've been praying much for them in this entire process and a good-sized group gathered last night for about an hour and a half to pray for the weekend's events. I'd be very grateful for your prayers for us as well as we seek the Lord's will together concerning our future pastor. I'll try and share an update late Sunday evening after the vote has been taken.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Progress on History Project

I've not been cranking out the production too quickly on the history of our church in preparation for next spring's 150th anniversary celebration, but I have been making steady if slow progress. I'm up to 1975 in the writing of the first draft. That was the year that the church's longest tenured pastor announced his retirement after 27.5 years. He led the church through the Baptist heyday that so many experienced in the 1950s and 1960s. I'm also still doing some further checking on printing options and have a couple of good possibilities I believe.

This really needs to be a fulltime job almost, given the extensive nature of the research and writing, but I don't have that luxury. Life and church ministry both go on, including a funeral this past Tuesday for the 102-year old mother of one of our church members whom I had visited on several occasions in one of the local care centers. I'm also staying fairly busy with my part-time job with the BGCM as we've been working on a strategy planning process for a new strategic focus for the next five years. I've also got trips to Guatemala coming up in January and February, so there's the preparation for those as well. I'm still targeting February 1st or so as the target date to have the history finished by so as to have it available in time for our anniversary in mid-April.

The other big event on the horizon is the visit of a new prospective senior pastor for our church. We've been without a pastor for a year now and are looking forward to his coming in view of a call the weekend of November 13-15. There's a lot of excitement and interest needless to say. I'll have more details following that weekend.