10 december 2015: mishmash. plus michigan state.

Know how sometimes the clutter just gets to you, and you finally have to do something with it all? That’s how my brain is today. Things I’ve meant to tell you. Things I’m thinking. Things that have been passed along to me. So, today I’ll try to get it all in here, in no particular order.

Yesterday I saw Claire McClinton, co-chair of the Flint Democracy Defense League, and panelist for our fall festival in October. We talked at length about water and such. About the way the water crisis is related to the ongoing democracy crisis that is the emergency manager law. I mentioned I had been approached by an attorney about joining a class action suit, but had hesitated. Since I hadn’t experienced any of the obvious effects some others have endured, I wasn’t sure I met the parameters of the “class.” (And I hate to be a bother or take away from folks with real issues.) Claire asked: Do you live in the city? Did you buy bottled water? Did you buy a filter? Did you use water that you didn’t realize was lead-poisoned? Might there be effects in your future you can’t predict today? I said yes, yes, yes, yes, perhaps. She said “then you fit the class.” She pointed out that, by joining the class, I was lending weight and voice to the struggle; larger classes get more attention. So I called the attorney, and I’m signing on. If you live in the city and used lead-poisoned water for any period of time, I encourage you to lend your name, too. It’s the least we can do for the cause of justice in our community. You can find out more at flintwaterclassaction.com or callthe office of Pitt McGehee Palmer and Rivers, 248-3989800. They promise to call you back!

Social media has put a new wrinkle in ‘relationship standard operating procedure’ for clergy, especially clergy of a certain age, ordained in the days before such a thing. Pastors have always been urged and/or required to live by particular standards in developing relationships with congregation members. Among those rules for healthy pastorates, the need to keep clear boundaries between professional/pastoral and personal relationships. Pastors have individually been somewhat free to figure out what that meant, but all of us have had to reflect and determine what seems best to each. My practice for these nearly 30 years has been to avoid overlap between my congregation and my social circle. This has worked quite well. So, with the advent of social media, I and other clergy have had to set parameters for connections such as Facebook friendships. My own approach is not to have Facebook friendships with members of my congregation, with staff or interns currently working with me, or with anyone under the age of 18. I know some other pastors have different approaches; I respect that. But this system works for me. I just wanted you all to know, so that no one of you thinks I’m singling you out for rejection. Thanks.

Unrelated, (as I assured it all would be), the Personnel Committee is required annually to evaluate my service to the congregation and determine whether we are on a healthy and productive track together. The committee accomplished this back in the spring, but it occurs to me and the committee that we never told you it had been done, never fulfilled the “report to the congregation” part. So, I have been asked to tell you that the review is complete and they’ve decided to keep me around a while longer. I’m appreciative! And I thank those of you who offered thoughts and reflections in the surveys that were part of the process.

And while we’re talking personnel, this update: it is my job to evaluate the rest of the staff annually. I spent November doing that and have identified tasks and areas where we can make adjustments to serve more efficiently. (I have reported in more detail to the Personnel Committee.) It was a good process, and I’m confident it will strengthen the mission and ministry here.

Finally, I owe the whole lot of you a giant ‘mea culpa.’ In my sermon this week, I made reference to the Big Ten Championship won last week by Michigan State (go Spartans!). Problem was this: when I was actually preaching the thing out loud, in my zeal and energy and passion, I said Michigan had won the conference. No one threw anything, but Jo Lichty apparently had to be restrained by Clif Turner (thanks, Clif, I owe you one). Please accept my apologies, and know that I really do know the difference. I swear.

With you on a sometimes meandering journey,
-pastor deb