Monday, January 31, 2005

Robert Penn Warren is the man!!

  • Who had I, Amantha Starr, been before that moment? I had been defined by the world around me...But now all had fled away from me, in the deserts of distance, and I was, therefore, nothing.

  • The previous words come from Robert Penn Warren's Band of Angels. They are spoken by a young woman who has been removed from all she knows...all that has meaning for her...all that has defined her. These words struck me as rather profound for some reason. It made me wonder whether I am likely to define Alan Bancroft by talking about the world around me. I'd like to think that I would be able to say something about myself without talking about my schooling, my hometown, my family, or whatever it is I'm involved with at the time, but that might be kind of tough. I mean, isn't who we are tied to the world around us, as well as the people around us? Anyway, I continue to be impressed by Warren's ability to capture humanity in ways that just make sense.
  • I'd like to go on record as saying that cell phones suck when you live in a wooded neighborhood and in a house that has lead paint. I've had to sign up for landline service so I don't drop a ton of calls as I'm talking to churches. It was either that, or conduct all of my business in my car. Lame.
  • The fall semester has begun here at Columbia Theological Seminary. My first class was Pastoral Care and Theological Anthropology. Quite a mouthful. It looks to be a good class. It's a fun/jovial group at least. We watched Wit today. This is the third time I've seen it for a seminary class. It raises great issues about death, dying, and how we live our lives before we face death. This time I was particularly struck with the huge difference between studying/thinking about something abstractly, and actually encountering/experiencing the reality. I'm not sure yet how to make sense of seems like a balance needs to be struck between the two. I should hope that I can still be an effective pastor, and provide good pastoral guidance to people, even if I haven't experienced exactly what they are experiencing at any given time. I hope so.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

There and back again

  • No, I haven't been to the top of a mountain with a dozen dwarves to fight a dragon named Smog for a whole lot of booty, but I have been out west to California to see my dear friend Kate. Last Friday I flew out to San Francisco, CA and then took the train to Berkeley, CA. It was a great 4-5 days of putzing around in the bluest state of them all (blue as in political, not blue as in sad). While I was there I got to eat some great food, see some fun sights, catch up with high school friends, and hear some great speakers...more on the speakers below. I have now returned to Decatur, GA and am about to begin a new semester while also beginning the call process. Exciting times.
  • So, the speakers...The first person I heard speak was Sister Helen Prejean, of Dead Man Walking fame. She is a scrappy, spunky lady. She told stories of men who have been put to death who were clearly innocent. She continues to fight to abolish the death penalty in all its forms in our country. I loved her point that right now, society as a whole is very comfortable with placing judgments on human life, as in deciding who has worth, who is worthless, who is good, who is evil, and by making those judgments, somehow, we can also decide who should live and who should die. It accounts for this debacle in Iraq, it accounts for the death penalty, and it accounts for our willingness to allow atrocities to continue in Africa. After reading her book and seeing the movie, it was great to see Sister Helen in person.
  • I also heard Bishop Eugene Robinson speak. His lecture was fantastic. He attacked the resurgence of a belief in mind/body dualism, and reminded us that this is a Greek notion, and not a scriptural one. You know, he's right. That view is so pervasive. It's like, "If I just believe enough, or pray enough, or if I'm spiritual enough, I'll over come these desires of the flesh and be right in God's eyes." People can say they aren't trying to earn their salvation, but I'm not so convinced. He made a variety of wonderful points, but in the interest of keeping this brief, I'll move on. You might be able to check out his words at the Pacific School of Religion's website sometime soon.
  • Well, it's getting late, and I'm pretty tired. I think I'll put out one more plea for people to help me out with the free ipod thing. If you have an e-mail account for junk stuff, or a good filter, you can help me by fulfilling an on-line offer and then cancel it as soon as possible. Just click on this link and follow the directions. Hey, even if you already have an ipod, maybe you could make a $6 donation toward mine. :) Here's the link:
  • Happy February to everyone. Peace out!

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Rites of Passage

Today, I met with my CPM (Committee on Preparation for Ministry) for final assessment. this was the committee's opportunity to ask me questions that I can expect when I'm examined for ordination. It was a helpful experience. I got to talk about the reformed tradition, sacraments, the church, missio dei, God as father/mother, and various other theological topics. The only time I was kind of surprised was when a committee member took offense to the word, "mystical." it seems sad that people no longer think of the gospel as mystical, or at least, don't think we have room for mystics in the Christian tradition. I was thankful for a spunky older woman on the committee for saying that we've abandoned the word mystical and saying she wished we would reclaim it. I do think there's something mysterious about the gospel we preach. I mean, just how do humanity and divinity reside in the person of Jesus Christ? Three in one? Huh? I wonder if we've become so comfortable with the gospel that it no longer carries a sense of awe and amazement. I mean, do we have it so figured out that there's no more mystery? I hope not. Anyway, others backed me up that mystical is an OK word to use.
So, the next step is to enter my PIF online and get started looking for a call. I have to admit that my stomach gets kind grumbly when I think about the realities of that. I'm totally excited about finding out where God is preparing for me to go, but it's kind of scary too. I've trusted God to bring me this far, so I suppose I should keep that up and trust God to take me to the next place.
I'm headed back to Hotlanta on Monday, and thank goodness, because it is freakin' cold here. I mean, it hasn't been above freezing for two days. I know, I know, I've been spoiled in the south, but geez. I suppose I should really think about this as I consider the possibility of living and working in Chicago. Anyway, I'm headed back on Monday and then I'm flying to California on Friday. I'll be hanging with my good friend Kate Holbrook. I'm looking forward to fun adventures.
I'm listening to Norah Jones's new CD right now. It's great. Her voice is so soothing. I'd love to meet a girl who can sing like Norah Jones, and maybe even write music like her. She could serenade me at the end of the day.
Well, all three of you who read this, I hope all is well in your worlds. I look forward to seeing all of you Atlanta peeps soon.

Peace and Love and Grace--Alan

Friday, January 07, 2005

Car shopping

Today I spent some time shopping for cars with my Dad. I'm thankful I'm not a car salesman. I don't think I'd be very good at it. Anyway, I'm comparing various mock-SUVs as I like to call them...stuff like the Subaru Outback, Saturn Vue, and Ford Freestyle. I think I have this delusion of grandeur that I'm a total outdoorsman who needs a bunch of cargo room, you know, for hauling my tent and stuff like that. I don't even own a tent, although I kind of wish I did. I do love the camping...why is it that the meaning of something changes when you put a "the" in front of it. I think I picked that one up from Laurie Taylor and Lindsey Wade.
Anyways, back to the car shopping. I had to give my name and address to everybody before we could even talk about prices and sit in the vehicle. I mean, chances are I won't even buy the darned thing here. For what it's worth, I enjoyed the Saturn Vue a good bit.
Yesterday I babysat for some kids named Sam and Sophie. They are really fun full of energy. We sat down to "watch" Return of the Jedi, but one or the other of them was talking through the whole thing. Yes, that's right, I allowed someone to talk while I was watching a Star Wars movie. It's amazing how much kids will trust an adult. I mean, these kids just met me but they're telling me all kinds of stuff. When do we lose that?
I think I'm gonna head to Kansas City to hang out with Anna (my sister) tomorrow. I'm interested in going to church with her on Sunday. It sounds like a cool place to worship. I'm still pretty frustrated that the minister made her get re-baptized in order to become a member...actually, frustrated is a mild outright pisses me off. He gave some explanation of authority or some other evangelical nonsense. Anyway, I'm eager to check it out. I'm sure we'll spend some time with Jimmy while I'm there. If Anna's up for it, I might call my friend Emily as well.
I'm getting a little antsy about the call process. I'm so eager to jump into the mix and see what God has in store for me. I want to get out there and find a church to serve. I love school, but it's so great to be a part of the regular life of a church. I'm finding that I miss the Shandon folk more than I had anticipated.