Creating a top 10 blog list for the year 2011 helps me reflect on the connection between good content in general and what I actually write. Good content is not necessarily popular content, but I believe good and popular should have some kind of relationship. I've never figured out that formula. Based on statistics of my most popular posts in 2011, I see a few things that touch nerves and lives. However, this list goes to 11, because Spinal Tap is sometimes a good example.
11. A belated, yet incarnational review of Carol Howard Merritt's "Reframing Hope" Carol is an excellent colleague in the best sense of the word. She's also a fine writer, a champion of encouragement for the church, and a visionary. Her writing is well worth your time investment.
10. Place matters--how do your surroundings affect how you see the world? This topic is raises passion in my blood--I think place affects faith and church in a significant way. How place affects faith and church is a big question. Scholars who study religion in the American West have been wrestling with distinctive nature of the West and religion intentionally in 2011, and will continue to do so. I hope to contribute.
9. Overrated in Congregational Life: Mission Statements In the past 2-3 years, I have gone almost completely sour on congregational mission statements. I'm not sour on congregational mission. The statements were all the rage in the mid to late 90's. I suppose the bigger issue is that congregations are looking for magic bullets for what ails them, and mission statements were the silver bullet du jour at the time.
8. My Experience with the Invisible Denominational Ladder I'm surprised this received so many hits. Maybe not. Some denominations (including my own ELCA) have an uncharted expectational flow for the vocational trajectory of its clergy. Move them up a ladder to congregations with bigger budgets and programming schedules, should they meet the unwritten expectations and requirements. After 10 years of watching call processes in interim ministry, I decided I didn't want to spend my life climbing. I may be striving, but I'm not climbing.
7. Still Interpreting a Teacher's Comment--15 Years Later I think a common desire of teachers is to learn in some way that they had a positive impact on a learner. Even when I don't always understand those interactions, relationships with teachers are some of the greatest of life.
6. Overrated in Congregational Life: Politics, Relationships, and Moving Forward with Church Office Space: Church consultant and master coffee roaster Kirk Jeffery writes about a sensitive topic for many pastors--office space. How much time should the pastor spend there? What is the best use of office space? How do these questions affect congregational relationships?
5. What Happened to Casting Lots? Sometimes the church is engaged in chronic over thinking. Maybe a biblical practice should be renewed.
4. Navigating debt and gratitude: a student loan milestone I have some colleagues and friends who are really hurting with student loan debt. We made decisions about student loans. They weren't necessarily the best ones. I know the pain--intimately. But I also made it through, with the generosity of many people. I hope my story can help others. It certainly hit a nerve.
3. Overrated in Congregational Life: Office Space This was my opening salvo about church office space, especially for pastors. For more on the subject, see #6.
2. The Interpretive Challenge of UNCO11 UNCO (unconference) is a literally wonderful concept and activity on so many levels--it cultivates creativity in the church and it builds strong relationships with God and neighbor, Holy Spirit and friends. The people I met at UNCO11 are some of the highest on my list for go to people for vocational life. I'm thankful my wife, Melanie tops that list. But UNCO people are up there.
1. A Litany of Farewell--A Ritual for Celebration and Forgiveness in Community Life I like to think I have a balanced understanding of ritual. I don't rely on it too much, but I respect it's mysteries. I think this is the number 1 blog post for 2011 because it recognizes the power of ritual in addressing something needed in congregational life--the need for confession, forgiveness and healing. These rituals in worship can become rote. In the context of saying farewell to a pastor, one of the central tenets of the Christian faith, forgiveness comes to life. If only pastor and congregation could confess and forgive more often, maybe the goodbye doesn't have to be premature.
Thank you for reading in 2011. I appreciate your time investment in my words. God's peace be with you.