Ed's Blog

Anglicanism, Bikes, and Random Observations

Here in the Silicon Valley first time visitors to a church will almost always visit the website first.  It is rare for someone not to.  Nationally something like 70% of first time visitors spend time on a churches website before walking through the doors.  In urban centers it is higher, and in tech centers it is higher still.  A church’s website is the first impression a prospective member gets. It is not a substitute for a personal invitation to come to church, but it is important.  Adding sermons to a website requires two steps.  The first is recording the sermon.  The second is placing it on the website.  In this post I’m presenting an inexpensive and simple solution for recording the sermon.  Professor Joel West provided the solution for me.  He uses a similar set up to record interviews and lectures.

At St. James we use a more elaborate setup.  We take a feed off of our sound board and feed it into GarageBand on a Mac Book Pro.  We then export the audio to an mp3 file and upload it to the website.  Pretty simple, but it requires a sound system and a laptop.  A smaller portable church might not have either.  In some respects this solution is even simpler.

Our solution begins with a 1.7 ounce Sony recorder that will record straight to mp3 format.  It is cmpatible with both Mac & PC. It also has built in USB to make transfer to a computer very simple.  This recorder has good battery life, simple controls, and will record over 17 hours of audio at 128kbps.  This is total overkill for speech recording. I would dial this back to 64kbps which is still a very fine recording but produces a smaller file for the listener.

In addition to the recorder we recommend a high quality lavaliere mic.  The Sony ECM-DS70P is the mic of choice.  It works well with this recorder.  Not all mics work with all recorders.  Shop carefully.  This set up works.  Capturing audio for a website simply does not get easier than this.

Adding the sermon to the website is also fairly simple these days.  After an initial setup, it is usually as easy as uploading it via ftp or in some cases email! Ask your webmaster.

Parish Growth

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Why does parish growth happen one month after many months of no growth?  At St. James we have had first time visitors on the first three Sundays of August.   We are delighted of course and thankful for the interest these households have shown in our ministry.  So far two households have asked to join us in August, and it is very possible that more will join as we enter the fall.  Tonight a delighted member of St. James asked “Why now?  What is different?”  It is an interesting question.  We have not experienced a growth spurt like this since we launched in 2009. What is different about now?

First it is obvious that Church Shopping Season is upon us.  I have said for years that the season opens on August 1st and continues through early November.  I have observed that growing churches gain up to half of their annual growth during this 3.5 month period.  I have no numbers to back this claim up.  It is simply an impression I have.  Needless to say I am excited about this great start to August!  This is a natural time to look for a church and indeed most of the households that have visited us moved into the area in the last six months and are now looking for a new church.

What else is different?  We continue to make incremental improvements and these eventually add up to noticeable differences.  Small things like adding a crying room with sound piped in from the service enhance our time together.  Perhaps these continuing improvements are helping us over some invisible tipping point.  Maybe.  I love the changes we have made and are making, but I think there is a more important factor.

I think we are relaxed now.  We are now around 18 months old.  We enjoy our worship and service.  St. James is a stress free environment.  We are enjoying a peacefulness that flows from unity into worship and mission.  This relaxed peacefulness is the environment that visitors experience when they come.  We hope that our visitors will choose to join St. James, but we understand that we are not for everyone and we are relaxed about that.  We are not anxious about the future.  I think we are becoming comfortable in our own skin.  We have attained a state of relaxed preparedness.  I believe this makes us more useful to God.

What do you think?

Part of my work as Senior Pastor of St. James is launching and mentoring new Missions around the Bay Area and into Northern California.  Our goal is to launch between two and five new missions each year.  We launched two in our first year and I believe we will meet our goal this year as well.  I am not doing this alone of course.  There are several people at St. James that participate in this work.  Pat Morse has the gift of administration and provides tremendous administrative support for our missions.  She is also a consulting webmaster for all of our missions.  Our Executive Team, a group of six people, meets monthly to review and guide our efforts.  Pat and I are part of this group.

Launching a new mission is quite simply a lot of fun.  My greatest challenge has been finding the first one or two households willing to consider trying.  As each new mission starts and begins to develop our credibility grows a bit and it gets easier to convince people that launching a new mission is very doable.  It also helps that our two existing missions are happy, optimistic, and excited about what God is doing.

I feel like a gardener looking at a the first sprouts peeking through the soil and wondering where the next sprout will appear.  Currently I am talking with 7 potential church planters who are at various stages of discernment.  Some of them will possibly team up, and together they represent 5 potential new missions.  I think two or three of them will begin sometime this fall.  Each of them needs to discern the what, when, and where of God’s calling but I am hopeful that some will begin this fall.

It has been interesting to watch each potential planter wrestle with this calling.  I count it a privilege to be with them as they work through the unique challenges this calling places on their lives.  I look forward, when it becomes appropriate, to celebrating each of these new missions here on Edsblog.

The meeting of the Standing Committee of The Anglican Communion ended yesterday.  Today the daily log for days three and four were published.  Day five is yet to be published.  It appears that the members from The Episcopal Church got an earful.  Here is an extended quote.

As agreed, the Committee revisited Saturday’s discussion. Dato’ Stanley Isaacs delivered a frank and passionate presentation about the distress felt by some parts of the Communion about The Episcopal Church’s decision to breach one of the moratoria. He concluded by proposing that rights to participate in discussions of matters of faith and order at the Standing Committee and the ACC be withdrawn from The Episcopal Church.

In the subsequent discussion Archbishop Philip Aspinall reiterated that the Standing Committee did not have the power to undertake such an action. He reminded the Committee that the Covenant had been drawn up to address just these kinds of points of disagreement. It was also stated that the Standing Committee did not have all the powers of the ACC, especially when it came to the Membership Schedule.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori questioned why the proposal was singling out The Episcopal Church. Bishop Ian Douglas stressed he was present in his role as an elected representative of the ACC, not a member of The Episcopal Church and he desired to always be responsible to the Council. He thanked Dato’ Stanley Isaacs for attending the Standing Committee meeting despite his [Isaacs’] feelings about recent events in the Communion. He said that having other elected representatives present who represented a genuine segment of the ACC helped him [Bp Douglas] to be a better member. He added that he missed having Bp Azad’s voice at the meeting.

Dr Tony Fitchett agreed that the Committee needed as full a range of views as possible. “I’m conscious I’m not here representing my province,” he said. “I’m here because I was appointed by the ACC. My accountability is not to my Province. I expect to continue to serve on the [Standing Committee] even if my Province were ever to be unacceptable to other churches because of its actions.”

After what Canon Elizabeth Paver described as “the time, prayer and space necessary for everyone to be heard on this matter” the Standing Committee agreed a resolution that it: “regrets ongoing breaches of the three moratoria that continue to strain the life of the Anglican Communion; regrets the consequential resignations of members of the Standing Committee which diminish our common life and work on behalf of the ACC and the Primates’ Meeting; recognises that the ACC and the Primates’ Meeting are the appropriate bodies to consider these matters further.”

There is much that is fascinating and important in the entire report. The last paragraph above contains the punt to the Primates Meeting and the ACC.  The Primates Meeting is up first in January of 2011, but the big question is who will attend.  Will the Primates from the Southern hemisphere who have said they would not attend if The Presiding Bishop is invited now attend anyway?  Will they now turn out in force to bring some discipline to bear?

I was wrong.  I thought the Standing Committee of The Anglican Communion would censure The Episcopal Church in some manner.  An attempt was made and failed.  For some time now there has been a perception that the Standing Committee of The Anglican Communion lacks credibility.  In the past year there have been several high profile resignations among the Primates.  Each resignation highlighted the inescapable fact that the membership of the Standing Committee does not reflect the opinions of the wider Communion.  It has never been more clear that The Standing Committee of The Anglican Communion is badly in need of revamping.  In the words of The Archbishop of Canterbury,

Archbishop Rowan Williams questioned whether the ACC’s committee structure was appropriate for this new century. He said questions needed asking about whether revised Instrument structures were required to better foster the relationship-building parts of the Communion’s life, “so when it comes to looking at the complex questions of the Communion we have a better foundation upon which to build.”

This opinion highlighted the blunt opinion of The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon who said,

the credibility of the Primates’ Meeting and the ACC was being openly questioned by some and this criticism was increasingly focused on the Standing Committee itself.

How very true, and never more true than today. The official structures of the Anglican Communion, the Instruments of Unity, are rapidly losing the last vestiges of credibility.  Just over a year ago The Anglican Consultative Council passed the moratoria.  The Episcopal Church in The United States broke the moratoria blatantly and without regret.  Dato’ Stanley Isaacs, a member of The Standing Committee proposed that The Episcopal Church be separated from the Communion.  In the words of the daily report of The Standing Committee, this

led to a discussion in which Committee members acknowledged the anxieties felt in parts of the Communion about sexuality issues. Nevertheless, the overwhelming opinion was that separation would inhibit dialogue on this and other issues among Communion Provinces, dioceses and individuals and would therefore be unhelpful. The proposal was not passed, and the group agreed to defer further discussion until progress on Continuing Indaba project had been considered.

Wow. Just Wow. I’m not sure when the Standing Committee is scheduled to consider “progress on Continuing Indaba project”.  Perhaps this week, but I expect that this was a punt down the road. This failure to address the breaking of the Moratoria will have significant repercussions in the Anglican Communion.

These repercussions include the boycott of The Primates Meeting by a large number of Primates of the South who are on record as saying they will not attend if The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church is invited.  A similar boycott is possible for next years meeting of The Anglican Consultative Council. We are facing the very real prospect of a boycott by representatives of up to 80% of the Anglican Communion.

There is still time for The Standing Committee to act in a way that will provide some credibility, but we are late in the day and it does not look good.

In the past few weeks there has been quite a bit of blogging about the makeup of the Standing Committee of The Anglican Communion.  There have been appointments that may or may not be legitimate, and under much of the blogging and commenting is a fear that The Episcopal Church is working hard to shape the membership of the Standing Committee to avoid being removed from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting.  I expect this is true to some extent.  I think it is fruitless task though.  This boat has sailed.

It is remotely possible that The Episcopal Church will not be censured by the Standing Committee at this weekends meeting.  If this does not happen The Primates Meeting in January will take care of it.  Why do I think this you might ask.  The answer is simple: North American Revisionist place a high value on Independence.  Other Revisionist provinces around the world place a high value on Interdependence.  As long as TEC did not blatantly violate the moratoria they could claim that TEC was still acting in an interdependent manner.  They can no longer hold this line.  Consider this overly simple graph.

In this graph I’ve plotted some groups within the Anglican Communion along two axis.  The Provinces of the Southern Hemisphere are almost all orthodox and interdependent.  All most all revisionist provinces are interdependent as well.  The Episcopal Church and some dioceses within The Anglican Church of Canada are both revisionist and independent.

The mistake that many bloggers and commentators are making is not placing enough weight on many revisionist provinces commitment to interdependence.  Not all revisionists are the same.  I suspect that this is the same mistake that leadership in TEC has made.  Projection is a very easy mistake to make.

I expect that TEC’s revisionist friends in The Standing Committee of The Anglican Communion will very politely and with genuine sorrow censure The Episcopal Church.  I don’t think they will be happy to do so and might in fact be a little resentful towards TEC for placing them in the position of having to censure a Province for something they are sympathetic towards.

I’m starting a new category on my blog for portable church stuff.  St. James is a portable church and we have a nearly obsessive habit to identify best practices for the portable church.  This post is about the best stapler for portable churches.  Of course anyone whose office fits in their laptop bag will find this a helpful referral as well.  A great stapler for a portable church has to be light, powerful, and dependable.

The Nano  by Paperpro weighs 3.2 ounces! It is spring powered like a staple gun and easily staples up to twelve sheets.  It is very cool! This is a wonderful light and effective stapler.  It comes in a variety of colors and uses standard staples.  It is ideal for tossing into a back pack pocket and forgetting about until you need it.  At 3.2 ounces it is a convenience worth carrying around.  Place your cursor on the image to see the current price on Amazon.

California has a major budget problem. Balancing the budget in a recession like we are experiencing is causing politicians everywhere to look for new sources of Tax Revenue.  It is in this kind of climate that we find out what our values really are.  What is our price?  We also find out what our real principals are.  In the past ten years we have seen a proliferation of Casinos in California.  The social cost of large scale organized gambling is well known and was resisted for years, but the foundation of that resistance was largely religious and as our culture becomes more secular the command to “love our neighbor as our self” is displaced by balancing the budget as a core value.  The new great commandment is “Live and Let Live” and tax it!

In San Jose we have had Card Rooms for years.  Card Rooms are not casinos, but are regulated and taxed places of gambling. Mostly they are poker rooms.  They are limited to a certain number of tables and have a maximum bet.  These regulations were established to limit the social damage.  But we have a budget problem and so Measure K was placed on this spring’s ballot. Measure K increased both the wager cap, number of tables, and number of games available. Measure K overwhelmingly passed despite opposition from the police.

Gambling as a source of revenue is now happily ensconced in our culture.  The next taboo is Marijuana. There may be good reasons to decriminalize Mary-J, but I don’t think “balancing the budget” is a good one.  For as long as I can remember, Marijuana has been California’s Number 1 cash crop.  And it is untaxed.  So the temptation has been to legalize and tax it.  The feeding frenzy is now fully in process.  “Pot Clubs” or Medical Marijuana Dispensaries are popping up in strip malls throughout California.  They are not legal, and yet they are not being shut down.  Regulations are being drafted, business models are being crafted, and the opportunity to laugh or cry at our culture’s mores is increasing exponentially.  Lets have a look as some of the possibilities.

Recently in San Jose a Medical Marijuana dispensary opened up a few doors away from a Preschool.  This has hurt the Preschool’s business rather dramatically.  Regulations governing these clinics are still being drafted.  So one of the business models being proposed is Free Home Delivery! People formerly called pushers now have websites offering free muffins with a delivery. Now it is true that you must have a prescription to buy Marijuana from a delivery service or a clinic.  This is a joke of course, as it is widely known how easy it is to get one.  The “Clinics” will of course help you get a prescription so that you can buy your legal herbal remedy.

Now someone is going to have to actually grow the herb for the clinics and we have a new urban farming industry taking off.  It is no longer necessary to go farm plants in a redwood forest.  You can do it in your garage. GrowOp Enterprises manufactures self contained hydroponic growing rooms.  These are trailers.  They currently offer three…insert drum roll…The Big Bud…The Little Bud…and The Bud Light! The Little Bud is a Trailer you can pull into your garage, plug into a 220 outlet and start growing. Now I don’t know how long a cycle is but The Little Bud will produce 20lbs of Marijuana every cycle. This is not a joke friends.  This is a company in California catering to urban farmers of medicinal herbs.  I won’t link to the website as I do not want to help their SEO.

There is an obvious problem with legalizing Marijuana to raise taxes.  It simply will not work.  Especially in California it won’t work.  It won’t work for two reasons.  First the price of Marijuana is now estimated to drop from $375 an once to as little as $38 an once.  In order for this to work for tax purposes the number of people smoking Marijuana will have to grow exponentially.  No one is questioning whether there will be an increase is usage.  The real question is whether there will be a big or small increase.  The second reason it won’t work is that it will also be legal for people to have a pot garden at home.  It could be in the side yard or in the garage.  This is California.  People will grow their own and give it to their friends the way we currently share our extra fruit.  You can already buy seeds by mail and in a few months I imagine we will see seedlings at the local green houses.  How long before we have annual awards for Cannabis the way we have awards for Roses?

My concern isn’t about whether Marijuana should be legalized.  I don’t think it should be, but I am not informed enough to comment on the question.  My concern is about the basis on which we make decisions in our culture.  As a Christian I am more concerned about the Great Commandment than I am about balancing state and city budgets. Increasing the footprint of card rooms and legalizing a drug to balance a budget and knowing at the same time that a very human price will be paid for those tax dollars bothers me.  It bothers me a lot.

The Standing Committee of The Anglican Communion is going to meet July 23 – 27.  At this meeting several threads within the Crisis in the Anglican Communion will converge into an event.  Meetings sometimes achieve nothing and other times are watershed moments.  This meeting will be something of a watershed.  There are many questions that need answering.  Here are some of them.

Who is actually on The Standing Committee? Over the last six months several orthodox Primates and bishops have resigned from the Standing Committee arguing that their presence is a waste of effort.  These include Bp Azad Marshall, Bishop of Iran, and Archbishops Justice Akrofi and Mouneer Hanna Anis Then there is a question of Abp.  Henry Orombi.  It is being reported that he has resigned and will be replaced at this meeting but it is not clear that publicly offered his resignation. So we have resignations.

We also have the question of The Episcopal Church.  The Archbishop of Canterbury removed members of The Episcopal Church from Committees of The Anglican Communion engaged in ecumenical conversations.  He also wrote a private letter to the Presiding Bishop asking her to absent herself from the Standing Committee of The Anglican Communion and the Primates Meeting.  A request she has rejected. You can read about it here. If this were not enough we have the further question of Bishop Ian Douglas’ continued membership on the Standing Committee. Bishop Douglas was elected to the Standing Committee as a priest representative by the Anglican Consultative Council.  When he became a bishop his appointment should have ended but he is maintaining that his membership on the Standing Committee is unchanged.  Why does this matter?  The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked the Presiding Bishop to absent herself from this and future meetings.  This was an exercise of Moral Authority. This request was rejected.  The Archbishop of Canterbury does not have the positional authority to insist.  The Standing Committee of The Anglican Communion does.  This explains why it is The Episcopal Church News Service that is busy publishing the list of members of the Standing Committee.  One would expect such a list to be provided by the Anglican Communion News Service, but one can imagine that The Episcopal Church Leadership wants to get their list out there first.

What will they be dealing with? According to the Anglican Communion News Service they face

a packed agenda for their July meeting that includes reports on finance, mission, the Anglican Relief and Development Alliance, evangelism and church growth, and unity, faith and order including the progress of consideration of the Anglican Communion Covenant by the Provinces.

They will also be discussing Standing Committee membership issues including electing a successor to Bp Azad Marshall, Bishop of Iran, and noting the resignations of Archbishops Justice Akrofi and Henry Orombi. (emphasis added)

Faith and order groups include the Instruments of Communion particularly the Primates Meeting and The Anglican Consultative Council, and by extension The Standing Committee of The Anglican Communion.  Here is where things will get exciting.  The Standing Committee will have to decide whether their members from The Episcopal Church can participate on the Instruments of Communion. We know that the Archbishop of Canterbury has requested them to voluntarily withdraw.  They refused.  So now we face the spectacle of the Standing Committee having to make this decision. This could be the moment when The Episcopal Church is formerly placed on the second tier of the Anglican Communion.  It is easy to understand why, with all of this at stake, Presiding Bishop Schori is on a round the world visit of liberal provinces leading up to this meeting.

Finally there is the question of the future of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. The Primates of the South want to abolish it and return its authority to the Primate’s Meeting.  They are also displeased by the regional make up of the Standing Committee.  One Primate is elected for each of the five regions in the world.  This results in grossly disproportionate representation on the Standing Committee.  The result is that small and shrinking revisionists provinces effectively control the Standing Committee. This is why orthodox Bishops and Archbishops from the south are resigning.

It is very possible that this meeting may be the last or next to last meeting of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.  The Primates Meeting in January of 2011 will no doubt consider the wisdom of its continued existence. It is also possible that the Standing Committee will continue with a very different mechanism for determining membership.

My Prediction is that the Standing Committee will meet and vote to remove the members from The Episcopal Church from its membership but invite them to stay as consultants.  They will not have a vote, but may have a voice.  They will also vote to remove the Presiding Bishop from the Primate’s Meeting. If they fail to do this I do not think there will be a Primates Meeting in January.

My Friend Christopher Seal posted this on Face Book.  Turn up the speakers and enjoy!