If you have some money, give

To make the most impact, I give to only a few charitable organizations, and one is the Friends of the World Food Program. The World Food Program has a good history of food relief, with an excellent record of efficiency and the capacity to make a real difference. The Friends is the US support affiliate.

With the cost of staple crops pushing essential yet modest foodstuffs out of reach for so many people — this BBC news story gives some background — food relief giving is going to be a major need this year and (I’m worried) years to come.

Uniting Church of Australia "patrol ministry"

I’m looking at some major Christian united-uniting churches to see how they define church membership and turned to the ever-interesting Uniting Church of Australia. More about that later; I found something even more interesting.

As you may know, the Australian interior is multi-ethnic but very thinly populated, making for special social accommodations — like radio schools and flying doctors — and the Uniting Church has long been a part of that network, both in social services and worship opportunities.

Their spiritual and pastoral support services are organized as geographic “patrols” and you can read more about there here.

Old lay liturgy resource

There’s a truism I heard at seminary of the ol’ days — Victorian, Edwardian eras — when women weren’t widely ordained that they could do overseas what they couldn’t do at home. Lay ministry meant more if you were a missionary.

A bit closer to North American and European shores — but not too close — you found respected lay ministry in the form of shipboard worship. Presumably every cruiser and fishing boat couldn’t have its own chaplain aboard, so the skipper or someone delegated would take over the duty, an image carried over in shipboard Hollywood pics where the captain would bury or marry someone at sea. Lay ministry is also alive in the U.S. seagoing services today. (I’ve written about this before; one such posting.)

See then this 1903 resource from the Church of Scotland Prayers for sailors and fisher-folk available for download in different formats at Archive.org

Gift to the future says something about today

The gold-plated record we sent into space in 1977 said more about the the people who sent it than any realistic hope that it would be found and interpreted.

Now we have coming a seed vault on Spitsbergen, in the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago, to preserve the world’s agricultural genetic heritage, a.k.a. the “doomsday seed bank.” What does that say about us?  (BBC news story)

Of course, Bravo’s playing Waterworld, and that speaks badly of everyone, especially Kevin Costner.

Related blog entry: “Growing Hope

Thule, part two

I have written before about Qaanaaq, the palindrome formerly known as Thule, in Greenland. Last night I found this website for the Thule (United States) Air Force Base “next door” to Qaanaaq. The base command has a “lifestyle” suite of pages on its site, including information about accomodation, dining, shopping and the chapel. Nice to see they recognize that some people are simply curious about how they live and what they do, in case you feel a bit voyeuristic about it all.

Candid lay leadership plan from Episcopalian chaplaincies bishop

Another reason I like out-of-the-way churches (if not so out of the way as Tristan da Cunha or South Georgia Island) is that they tend to cut through to essentials. If there are only a scant number of English speaking Christians in Country X, you had better not appeal to a strict form of churchmanship or nationalism, even if your church is the American Church of Y, or the Scots Church of Z.

This is also why I like looking at military models of doing church: the leadership seems to value getting the mission accomplished. Go figure.  Since chaplains can’t be deployed everywhere, lay leadership (for one) is important. One of my favorite sites — not the most exhaustive, but oddly endearing — is for lay leadership aboard submarines.

When US denominations talk about training lay leaders, the program information gets very bureaucratic and initially quite theoretical, as if these lend a cache of “real ministry.” (Insert mocking laughter here.)  So I was delighted to run across the one page description of the lay leadership “program” supervised by the Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies (US Episcopal Church). It involves self-reflection, a distributed mentorship, and three book study and testing. Not a replacement for seminaries or holy orders, nor is it billed as such.

But the sweet part is the justification for the three books selected:

  • have a good grasp of what it means to be a Christian in the Episcopal Church tradition (book A.);
  • be a person who is growing in his/her devotional life (book B.); 
  • be proficient in the craft of leading appropriate services in the absence of a priest, (book C.).

That brings it back to basics. If we create lay leadership programs, I hope we can be as plain.
Lay Leader Study Course

A South Georgia church, uh, the further, colder one

Tristan da Cunha is a veritable metropolis next to South Georgia Island, which has no permenant residents but a museum and research station, yet more tourists, and countless penguins. The only settlement — if you can call it that — is Grytviken.

Church at Grytviken
It has a little church of Norwegian origins, and remarkably enough, witnessed its first wedding just a couple of months ago. The bride was named Georgia; her father visted the remote outpost years before. The church has at least once service a year: Christmas, which at least would be in austral summer!

News from South Georgia Island (includes stories about the wedding, a visit from the Falkland’s Catholic priest, and a concert in the church)

Image: Wikipedia. Released into public domain. See first two links above for source.