Monday, August 29, 2005

Three-Day Tour

On July 9th Michelle, Cyndie and I went to see Wicked at the Pantages.

The biggest news I have since last writing is probably my mini-road trip with Ben and Nick last weekend. We had such a great time — my throat was sore from talking so much I think. That or the drier climate. This is just a straight run-through of what we all did so it might be quite banal but here goes.

On July 15th Jill visited San Diego for a job interview.

First, on Saturday night I went to George & Kim's wedding with Christena. That was a lot of fun. A lot of the old crowd was there from eAssist. Good memories. Apparently Gary, Jeremy, Alex and Sashi are heavy into the Goowy thing for now.

The classic Yosemite photo.

Nick and I were going to head out that Saturday night but I got home really late so we decided to wait until morning to leave. We dropped off his friend in LA and then headed to Fresno to pick up Ben, who had gone up there the day before for a big family event. We picked up Ben and headed to Yosemite.

Me, Ben

We only spent a few hours there but managed to spend some time wading in a cool stream and catching sight of El Capitan and Half Dome. We tried to figure out whether moss really grows on the north side of trees or if that was just an urban legend (it's true) and also spent time talking about ghosts, absolute morality, feral children, and deciding whether to attempt a real hike (we didn't). By the time we got our bearings it was time to head to Joel & Joanne's.

El Capitan (the mountain, not Ben)

We arrived at the Leongs' place around 11pm and spent the next four hours debating John's baptism and listening to Joel's crazy ministry stories. To clarify, that's "crazy ministry stories," not "crazy ministry stories." Fun stuff. The next morning we goofed off a bit and tried to keep Ben off Diablo II long enough to meet Adelaide for lunch in Oakland.

Joel, late-night stand-up

From there we dropped Joel back off at home and headed down to San Jose to the Winchester Mystery House. We endured the 65 minute tour as we tried to decipher exactly what our tour-guide was trying to express to us. She kept putting the em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-LA-bles and it was really throwing us off. My favorite part was the stairs that led to nowhere. Super creepy. In fact when my mom reminded me that I had been there when I was young I seemed to remember getting creeped out by that. Or maybe I just manufactured that memory. Also Ben whooped me at Street Fighter. I guess I'm a bit rusty.

Adelaide at lunch

After that we ate at a nice italian restaurant and debated what the word "gambit" meant. I really like Santana Row, which is the mall where we ate. Later on the way to my folks' place Ben was trying to find out the exact constraints of Fischer 960 that create 960 possible starting positions, which I had mentioned earlier at dinner.


At home my folks have this screen setup with a projector and surround sound so you can enjoy the whole movie-going experience. I was quite impressed actually. We ended up watching "Spartan" and "Bringing Down the House," both of which Joel had lent to Ben, which probably explains their dubious entertainment value.


The next morning I had setup breakfast with Carrie in Los Gatos while the guys slept in. It was great catching up and of course I had some theological questions for her. Fun fun.

Carrie at the Iron Skillet

Back at home mom loaded us up as usual, we said our goodbyes and headed out to the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz. Along the way we managed to discuss information theory and the tracing back of a train of thought. During the tour we of course couldn't help but debunk everything that the tour-guide was spewing forth. Ben seemed the least willing to concede but I think everything was pretty well explained. It was very entertaining at any rate.

Mom, Chuck

On the way back to Fresno we discussed a bit more about my current spiritual situation and also the idea of ubiquitous, unlimited energy. And after we dropped Ben off Nick and I talked more about biblical inerrancy and eschatology. Finally I arrived home around midnight and our trip was over. What a crazy three days, haha! Thanks again guys, I had a blast.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

Winslow's Congregational Email

My apologies to any unlucky reader expecting to see signs of life here over the past few months. I have been making quite a few changes of late, some of which are detailed below. At any rate I am authoring this post mostly to make a record of an email I sent in response to a broadcast made by Winslow to the entire San Diego Church of Christ. I won't post his actual email here since I don't have permission, but suffice to say it was basically state-of-the-congregation-type address, which it turns out is not very good. He showed some statistics on how much the congregation has been shrinking over the past five years, and some plans to combat it. He ended his email with a humble plea to anyone thinking of leaving the church to reconsider and to please speak up. I was moved enough to write back:

Thank you for your heart-felt email. I will share with you some of my thoughts since you took the time to share your heart. Hopefully it will give you some perspective and may help you in your quest to help the church in its current condition.

For the past 12 years I have been a member of the San Diego Church of Christ. However, over the past month-and-a-half I have made the decision to start visiting other churches, doing some soul-searching and trying to get perspective. So far I have gone to a Presbyterian church, an Evangelical church, and a few non-denominational churches. When I first made my decision, I wasn't quite sure all of my reasons — I just began with the realization that although I was attending Sunday church and other meetings regularly, inside I really did not have the desire to go. Since that initial decision I have thought a lot about why I made the choice to step away and have been able to clarify what I have been feeling.

I have been in the singles ministry for the past eight years or so and I think that this fact has a lot to do with my decision. Without ministry growth for the past few years, the dating prospects become pretty hopeless. More than that though, is that without a feeling of investment in the singles, there isn't even much hope for the situation to change. Any investment of staff at this point is probably going to be geared towards the campus ministry, which is completely understandable. Unfortunately I don't think I have another five or ten years to wait for that influence to trickle into the singles ministry. While the Fosters have admirable hearts for the singles ministry and have done a great job overall, their work has been at such a high level and so broad that their influence has not been able to really take hold anywhere, in my opinion.

That is my feeling from the ministry perspective. From the regional perspective, I felt a certain stagnation. Specifically — my region has strengths and weaknesses, most of the pretty obvious. The characteristic strengths would be things like: educated, strong-charactered, influential, eloquent. The main weakness would be: lack of warmth or heart. Now in my mind, this is all completely acceptable — every region, every person, has a personality and character. But if we go so many years without even some kind of plan of growing in or even acknowledgment of these weaknesses, I begin to feel like things will not change, at least not very soon.

At any rate, after doing my best to champion these causes for a few years, I have come to a point where I feel like I am not getting my own needs met sufficiently to continue serving in a sustainable way. So I have decided that for myself, I need to take an active role in my own decisions and find a place that I feel has the resources and potential to help me where I am at. And who knows; I may get to a point someday where I feel strong enough and have been able to incorporate what I've learned and bring it back to the San Diego Church of Christ.

In summary, here are my suggestions, if I may be so bold.

  • Focus on finding a way/learning how to inspire people to desire church growth. For a while I did not think this was important, mostly as a response to feeling forced to for so many years. And unfortunately I think the leadership has shied away from it first because of the backlash, but second and more importantly because I think it doesn't really know how to truly inspire people without control tactics.
  • Humility has not been our church's strong suit especially with regards to other churches. I think that the time has come to swallow our pride and look to grace outside of ourselves and find help and direction from other successful churches. All forms of redemption require a point of realization that we cannot do it by ourselves — why not for the church also?

I am not sure where my steps will lead me at this point in time but for now I consider anything a possibility. Also I hope that in no way has this email been patronizing or condescending or offensive to anyone. Thank you for your time.

Well, we'll see what happens.