Oct 4, 2018

In Good Faith: No Parking Zone

In my October In Good Faith column, I find spirituality in walking a puppy through a church parking lot. No, seriously.

No Parking Zone

I spend a lot of time wandering aimlessly through the church parking lot. It never used to be this way. My general philosophy had always been that parking lots were designed for cars, not people. But then we got a new puppy, and suddenly I find myself walking around the parking lot like a lost itinerant preacher holding a leash rather than circuit riding atop a horse.

Cooper is now five-months-old, a curiously adorable mix of basenji, German shepherd, and
chihuahua. We’ve been doing puppy classes (which, apparently, are no longer referred to as “obedience school”), but in the months before figuring out leash walking, Cooper and I have spent a lot of time strolling through the church grounds, with particular emphasis on the parking lot. For some reason, he has an affinity for it. 

One lesson this has revealed, besides the fact that he’s no longer motivated by the cheap training treats, is the joy of exploring familiar spaces in new ways. I mean, if someone had asked me a few months ago about the church parking lot, I would have been able to sketch it out on a napkin. I know its basic shape, the upward slope of the driveway, the proximity of the church, the Memorial Garden, and playground. 

But I didn’t really know it. I never paid attention to the way the light hit the pavement through the trees at different times of the day or how particular angles of church architecture stand out from different vantage points or the beauty of the wild vegetation that forms a natural barrier around it. Forced intimacy with the familiar brings new perspective, opening fresh insights and inviting wonder. That’s an unexpected gift that can arise even through someone as seemingly mundane as walking a dog through a parking lot. 

And it leads to reflection upon what other newly revealed joys we may be missing that exist in our midst. It may be someone in our lives with whom we’re familiar but never really taken the time to truly know. Or a daily ritual like a commute or a walk around the neighborhood that we no longer fully see because we’re too distracted or we find ourselves staring at our phones or it’s just become too familiar. 

People often have this experience with the Lord’s Prayer — it has become so rote, so familiar, that we fail to hear the power behind it. When we put it in context, we recall that Jesus teaches it to the disciples after they ask him how to pray. Think about that! If you were allowed to ask Jesus one question, this might not be at the top of your list, but it would likely make the top five. And he gives us a simple, poignant, direct, example of how to converse with the divine. 

Fall is a wonderful time to open your heart and mind to the wonders of the familiar. Unlocking the potential beauty of that which surrounds us, invites us into the world that exists beyond first impressions. It gives us the opportunity to break through the familiar in order to experience things with fresh eyes. I encourage you to discover your own parking lot moment. 

Sep 5, 2018

In Good Faith: Learning the Ropes

In my September In Good Faith column, I write about being in unfamiliar situations and how sometimes we're the regulars and sometimes we're the extras.

Learning the Ropes

Last week I felt like an idiot. It’s not that I did anything particularly stupid, though that’s never
out of the realm of possibility. But I walked into a coffee shop in Boston I’d never been to before, to meet a friend, and I did everything wrong. I got in line at the wrong end, I went to the wrong counter to order, and I went the wrong way after picking up my coffee. I did make it to a table without spilling hot coffee on a fellow patron and getting sued. Fortunately, there’s a distinction between feeling like an idiot and acting like one.

Now, I spend a lot of time in coffee shops, as anyone who knows me can attest. Most of this time is spent in my self-proclaimed “satellite office” at Redeye Roasters in Hingham, but wherever I travel I’m always seeking the best coffee in town. So generally I know what I’m doing — I even know the difference between a macchiato, cortado, and cappuccino. That’s how well I know coffee shops.

But every coffee shop does things slightly differently. Well, maybe it’s all the same at a chain like Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, but each independent coffee shop has a slightly different traffic flow, ambiance, and decor. That’s half the charm!

As I bumbled my way through the ordering experience in Boston, I could feel the regulars giving me the stink eye. “Who is this clueless fool?” I imagined them thinking to themselves, as I accidentally cut off the woman ahead of me. 

If I’m honest, I can’t blame them for thinking this way. I’ve had the same thought when I show up on a Saturday morning at Redeye, or what I like to refer to as “amateur hour,” when the place is full of interlopers on their way to Nantasket Beach and other weekend coffee warriors. “Look at that guy! He doesn’t know the line forms to the left. Hahahahaha.”

It’s embarrassing how judgmental we can be when we’re the ones in the know. It makes us feel superior to be part of the in group; to be the Norms and Cliffs at Cheers rather than the endless parade of extras. But inevitably the tables are turned and we find ourselves on the other side, needing assistance and direction, compassion and understanding.

This time of year, many among us are considering going back to church for the first time in awhile or thinking about trying out a new church. This can be a daunting experience and you can’t help but feel self-conscious about the possibility of doing things the “wrong” way. But I do hope you’ll lay those anxieties aside and dare to walk into a faith community this fall. 

Here at St. John’s, as I’m sure is the case at other local congregations, you will be welcomed without judgment. No one will roll their eyes if you can’t find the right page in the hymnal or if you’re two minutes late to the service because your toddler couldn’t find her cape. We’re all in this together and there is no wrong way to approach the God of unconditional love. And anyway, what’s the worst that can happen — standing when you’re supposed to sit or kneeling when you’re supposed to stand? If God can’t handle that, I think we all may have greater problems. 

In the end, no matter how much I may have unintentionally bucked the norms, I still ended up with a great cup of coffee that day in Boston. That’s my hope for you — that no matter the initial discomfort, you’ll find a place to nurture your soul and live out your faith.

Aug 30, 2018

Fair Trade Coffee Companies: A List

Yesterday, I shared some information and background about a convention resolution I'm submitting to the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts encouraging parishes and the diocese to use fair trade coffee at all church events. Today I'm sharing links to fair trade coffee companies that are making a difference in the world.

The thing about the fair trade world, is that it's confusing to navigate. There are various labels out there (Fairtrade International (FLO), the World Fair Trade Organization, Fair Trade Federation, and Fair TradeUSA, etc), but many have been coopted by corporations using this as little more than a marketing scheme. Perhaps a small percentage of their coffee is fairly traded -- enough to garner a label -- but the vast majority is not. That's not in the spirit of the initial fair trade movement and it's why it's critical to support companies that engage in what we'd call "authentic" fair trade.

As Daniel Jaffee puts it in his book Brewing Justice, the primary goal of the authentic fair trade movement is "to create more direct, socially just, and environmentally responsible trade relations — mainly between disadvantaged farmers in the global South and concerned consumers in the North…In practical terms, the fair-trade system accomplishes this objective by cutting out many of the intermediaries or middlemen, such as exporters, importers, and brokers, who typically take a cut at each step along the route from tree, field, or farm to the coffee shop or grocery shelf.”
Here are some of the mostly commonly used criteria for determining whether products are produced under authentic fair trade conditions:
·      Guaranteed minimum (floor) prices to producers; 
·      Fair wages to laborers; social development premium
·      Advance credit or payment to producers
·      Democratically run producer cooperatives or workplaces
·      Long-term contracts and trading relationships
·      Environmentally sustainable production practices
·      Public accountability and financial transparency
·      Financial and technical assistance to producers
·      Safe, nonexploitative working conditions. 
Finally, here's a list of such companies compiled by Susan Sklar, Interfaith Manager at Equal Exchange, from the Fair Trade Federation and the Fair World Project. I've had the pleasure of getting to know Susan and her team and continue to be impressed by their passion for justice in the coffee world.

Bongo Java Roasting Company (Nashville, TN)
Café Campesino/Sweetwater Organic Coffee Company (Americus, GA)
Conscious Coffee (Boulder, CO)
Dean's Beans (Orange, MA)
Desert Sun Coffee (Durango, CO)
Earth Friendly Coffee (Denver, CO)
Equal Exchange (West Bridgewater, MA)
Just Coffee Co-Op (Madison, WI)
Larry's Coffee (Raleigh, NC)
Peace Coffee (Minneapolis, MN)
Mt. Meru Coffee Project (West Bend, WI)
Sustainable Harvest Coffee (Portland, OR)
Twin Engine Coffee (Malden, MO)

I encourage you to support these companies who continue to keep economic equality and the interests of small farmers in the global marketplace as a key part of their mission. Again, it makes a difference.

Aug 29, 2018

Talkin' Bout a (Fair Trade Coffee Hour) Revolution

I'm about to do something I swore I'd never do. For the first time in 18 years of ordained ministry, I’m submitting a Diocesan Convention resolution. When the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts gathers on November 3rd, it will consider an issue about which I am passionate, as it has now become personal. 

Based on my sabbatical experiences, I’m offering a resolution encouraging the diocese and parishes to commit to using fair trade coffee at all church events. To me this is an issue of economic and social justice and an easy way for churches to use their purchasing power to better align with our Christian values. 

While fair trade coffee costs slightly more (generally only 3 or 4 cents per cup), this is an investment in thousands of unseen people in the $100 billion global coffee industry, where 80% of the world’s coffee is produced by 17.7 million small-scale farmers, often living well below the poverty line. I met a few of these folks on my travels to Nicaragua and El Salvador this past spring and I've seen first-hand the effects of unfettered globalization.

I've pasted in the resolution below -- this wasn't written in isolation and I'm grateful to a number of folks who helped me craft this (did I mention I've never done this before?). If you're a convention delegate in Massachusetts and you have questions, please be in touch. Or let me know if you'd like to co-sponsor this resolution. If you would like to present a similar resolution in your own diocese or denomination, please feel free to use this language. I would love to see a fair trade movement blow through the Church!

And in the end, I’ll just be happy if this resolution raises awareness and encourages a bunch of parishes to look in the mirror and start using fair trade coffee (did you know there's a fair trade partnership you can join through Episcopal Relief & Development?). 

Buying fair trade coffee is a small act that makes a huge difference. And it really doesn't cost you much more. Check out this incredibly helpful chart from the folks at Equal Exchange.

A Resolution Calling for the Use of Fair Trade Coffee at All Church Events submitted by the Rev. Tim Schenck, the Rt. Rev. Bud Cedarholm, the Very Rev. Amy McCreath, the Rev. Diane Wong, the Rev. Jeff Mello, the Rev. Deborah Warner, the Rev. Sarah Brockman...

Resolved, that the 233rd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts calls upon all congregations, ministries, and diocesan bodies, to use fair trade coffee at all church events; and be it further

Resolved, that the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts aligns itself with the goals of the fair trade coffee movement, which include: raising income levels of small-scale farmers and farm workers; more equitably distributing economic gains across the industry; encouraging environmentally sound and sustainable farming methods; promoting ethical working conditions; and increasing consumer awareness of the economic forces affecting farmers and the exploitation of workers.

Coffee has long been an integral aspect of hospitality and fellowship in our communities and fuels much church business. This resolution encourages parishes, missions, chaplaincies, and the diocese to commit to the exclusive use of fairly traded coffee. While fair trade coffee costs slightly more (generally only 3 or 4 cents per cup), we feel this is an investment in thousands of unseen people in the $100 billion global coffee industry, where 80% of the world’s coffee is produced by 17.7 million small-scale farmers, often living well below the poverty line. 

The goals of the fair trade movement are consistent with the Christian faith, and this resolution reveals a small but impactful way our purchases can better reflect our Christian values in the global economy. Fairly traded products help make our sisters and brothers on the other side of the supply chain more visible to us, connecting us to the people behind the products we enjoy. Fair trade coffee is also organic – grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides – and of higher quality, which improves taste, positively impacting the impression made on visitors and newcomers.

Our denomination has already made access to fair trade coffee both easy and affordable through a partnership between Episcopal Relief & Development and Massachusetts' own Equal Exchange. In addition to facilitating easy ordering and providing quality products, when congregations join the partnership (which is free), 15 cents is donated to Episcopal Relief & Development's General Fund for every pound of fairly traded products purchased. The sponsors of this resolution are happy to provide a list of other fair trade coffee organizations upon request. 

Statements Against
·         Fair Trade coffee costs more per pound and would place an undue burden on economically struggling parishes.
·         Navigating the world of fair trade coffee is complicated, and some corporate entities have sought to coopt and dilute its impact.

Implementation Requirements
·         Diocesan staff, parish vestries, and other local ministry leaders will be required to spend time exploring fair trade coffee options for their particular ministry settings.
·         Oversight of the implementation of this resolution will rest with the bishops of our diocese, in their ministries of parish visitation and oversight of diocesan staff.

Aug 25, 2018

We Want You! (well, maybe)

Alert the media! Hire a skywriter! We are now accepting applications for the full-time assistant priest position at St. John's Church in Hingham, Massachusetts. And, while you'd have to work with me, who wouldn't want to serve at the ground zero of Lent Madness?! (Note to Scott Gunn: Archnemesis need not apply) 

Why are we hiring? Because my current-but-soon-to-be-former curate/assistant, Noah Van Niel, has accepted a call to serve as associate rector at Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. After serving among us for over three years, this is a terrific opportunity for Noah and an exciting move for the Van Neil family. And it leaves us seeking another rock star priest to join us on our continuing journey of life and faith.

Please take a look at the position description posted below along with some basic background information about the parish. If this sounds like you, please be in touch. If you know someone who fits the description, please forward this link. It would be a terrific opportunity for the right person. There are some incredible lay leaders at St. John's and I'm truly seeking a colleague whose gifts for ministry complement my own.

The one non-negotiable here is the person we're seeking must have a heart for youth ministry along with recent or current experience in this area. Please don't apply if this isn't you.

Position Description for Curate/Assistant Rector
The Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist
172 Main Street
Hingham, Massachusetts
The Rev. Tim Schenck, Rector

Position Background
St. John’s is a program-sized church in Hingham, Massachusetts, a beautiful coastal town on Boston’s South Shore. A parish with a long history of two full-time priests, St. John’s has experienced rapid growth in recent years. Our previous curate/assistant rector has been called to serve another church after three years among us, and we are eager to find another dynamic priest to help lead St. John’s into its next exciting chapter. The parish is full of creative, gifted parishioners and the potential for developing new ministries and drawing people into deeper relationship with Christ is tremendous. 

Parish Mission Statement
We seek to share the Good News of the Gospel through engaging worship, faithful service, and life-long Christian formation while joyfully living out our faith in this community and the world. 

St. John’s offers three Sunday services, 8:00 am (Rite I) and 10:00 am (Rite II) and, from
September to June, a contemporary, informal Saturday evening Eucharist at 5:00 pm. Our yearly Average Sunday Attendance is over 250. In addition, there is a weekly mid-week eucharist at 10:00 am on Wednesdays followed by Bible Study and daily morning prayer is said at 8:45 am Tuesday through Friday. 

We also hold a number of special worship opportunities throughout the year including Advent Lessons & Carols, Choral Evensong, the Blessing of the Animals, and Mass on the Grass. Liturgically, St. John’s is traditionally “Broad Church.” There is a fine music program, a strong adult choir with paid section leaders, as well as a Junior Choir that sings on selected Sundays.

At St. John’s we value strong life-long Christian formation for all ages. Adult Education programs are offered at various times throughout the year, and we regularly feature foundational courses such as “Episcopal 101” and “Bible 101”. Regular programs include our annual Lenten Series, Wednesday morning Bible Study (following the 10:00 am Eucharist), and a monthly book group. We have recently offered programs on spirituality, the Christian response to poverty, parenting, and a variety of seasonal classes.

Sunday School is a big part of life at St. John’s and we have a vibrant community of families who contribute to helping our youngest members of the parish feel important and cared for. Our teachers are volunteers from within the church who follow a weekly curriculum that teaches pertinent stories from the Bible as well as lessons on liturgy and ethics. Sunday School begins at 9:45 am, and the children join their families in church in time for Communion. 

Sunday School starts with three and four-year-olds in the Pre-K class and continues through grade five. There are currently 150 children registered in the program with an average Sunday attendance of nearly 60. Paid daycare professionals staff a nursery for infants and toddlers. 

Youth in grades six through twelve have the opportunity to participate in Youth Ministry programs, led by the curate/assistant rector with support from the parents and adults of the Youth Ministry Leadership Team. We have over 75 youth participate in these programs throughout the year. We also encourage young parishioners to participate in worship services as acolytes, junior ushers, choristers, and readers. Confirmation is led by the curate/assistant rector with assistance from lay leaders, and is available for students in 10th grade and above. 

St. John’s traces its beginnings in Hingham to 1879 and celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2013. Land for a church building was purchased in 1881, and a wooden structure was completed in 1883. In 1906, the church building was moved across the street from its original location on Main Street. The new site, high on the hill at the corner of Water and Main streets, also contained the current rectory, built in 1789. In 1921 the current church structure, made of Weymouth seam-face granite, replaced the old wooden church. 

The parish has had remarkably stable clerical leadership – unusual for any congregation. The Reverends Daniel Magruder (1921-1951), John Gallop (1951-1979), and Robert Edson (1981-2007) served for nearly 90 years combined. After a two-year interim period, the Rev. Tim Schenck was called as the parish’s eighth rector in August 2009.

Since the late 1950s, St. John’s has had a second priest serving as curate/assistant, including the current Bishop of Massachusetts, the Rt. Rev. Alan Gates (1987-1990). Most recently the Rev. Noah Van Niel served in this capacity for three years before being called as associate rector of Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 

The Person We Seek
We seek an energetic, gifted, engaging, and creative priest who will share our ministry with passion and devotion. We seek a person who will bring particular gifts and leadership in faith formation for all ages but especially with children, youth, and families. We seek someone who will share fully in the liturgical, pastoral, and administrative ministry with the rector. We seek someone who takes ministry but not him or herself too seriously. In other words, a sense of humor is essential.

Skills, Gifts, and Passions for Ministry
  • Passion for the spiritual development of children and youth
  • A heart for pastoral care
  • Ability to work collaboratively and creatively with other worship, pastoral, formation, and administrative leaders
  • Strong preaching skills
  • An understanding of his or her particular gifts and the desire to support others in discovering and using their unique gifts for ministry
  • Willingness and ability to take initiative and lead while collaborating with other clergy, staff, and lay leadership is vitally important
  • Desire to include people of all ages in ministry: children, youth, adults, older adults
  • Comfort with the ability to communicate using various technologies and social media
  • Ability to plan ahead and be flexible at the same time
  • Recognition of the importance of building and maintaining relationships in ministry, as well as building and maintaining programs
Responsibilities and Expectations
  • The Curate/Assistant Rector is appointed by and is accountable to the Rector, and extends and supports the Rector’s ministry in the parish, community, and diocese. Under the Rector’s supervision and authority, the Curate/Assistant Rector shares in the responsibilities of pastoral care, faith formation, and administration of the Sacraments. The Curate/Assistant Rector works with other paid and volunteer staff, exercising lead responsibility in tasks and areas assigned by the Rector.  
  • Take an active role in the Youth Ministry program, leading and designing programs for youth including the Middle School and High School Youth Groups. Assist, advise, and engage with adult volunteers in providing middle school and high school youth with opportunities for formation, fellowship, and service. Lead Confirmation Class for teens with assistance from lay leaders and support from the Rector.
  • Serve as staff liaison to the Sunday School and the volunteer Sunday School Leadership Team, offering spiritual guidance, direction, encouragement, Safe Church support, and training to volunteer leaders and teachers. Support parish families in their spiritual lives through online resources, seasonal programs, baptismal preparation, and face-to-face interactions.
  • Serve as staff liaison to adult education committee. Facilitate weekly Bible study, work with Rector to develop and teach teaching Inquirer’s, Confirmation, and Lenten series classes.
  • Develop small group ministries, many of which could ultimately be led by lay leaders.
  • Work with other clergy and lay leaders on the Pastoral Response Team to develop a program to offer excellent pastoral care to our elderly members.
  • Share presiding/preaching responsibilities at the Wednesday 10:00 am eucharist.
  • Participate in the diocesan New Call program and other diocesan ministries. 
  • Attend monthly Vestry meetings, submitting a written ministry report one week in advance. 
  • Participate in regular weekly staff meetings. 
  • Lead us into new ministry, inspire us to use our imaginations, encourage us to reach out beyond ourselves, and help us to deepen our awareness of God’s presence in our lives.
  • Maintain a pattern of life that sets a wholesome Christian example.
  • Communicate to the parish via printed newsletter, weekly e-mail newsletter, and other channels.
  • An annual ministry review will be conducted with the Rector.
  • The Curate/Assistant Rector will work full-time. The Curate/Assistant Rector will be available for pastoral emergencies. Like other professionals, he/she may occasionally be asked to work on customary days off.
Compensation & Benefits 
  • Total clergy compensation is based upon diocesan norms for a parish of this size and 
    vitality, and the priest’s experience, some of which may be allocated as housing (per IRS guidelines). TCC includes professional expense allowance and provisions for continuing education.
  • Four weeks paid vacation.
  • Two weeks paid continuing education time
  • Eight weeks paid parental leave in the event of birth or adoption of a child.
  • Health insurance and dental plan, per Diocese of Massachusetts policies
  • Church Pension Group plan.
  • Church-owned housing is provided; curate’s residence on Water Street is right next to the church and in walking distance to downtown Hingham and Hingham Harbor. 
  • Three-year minimum commitment, renewable on an annual basis at the discretion of the Rector and in consultation with the Assistant.  
All compensation and benefits are offered according to relevant IRS, Episcopal Church, Diocese of Massachusetts, and parish policies and procedures.

Prior to approval to hire by the Bishop, Rector, and St. John’s Vestry, candidate must pass required Driver’s License, criminal, and credit background checks.

To apply, please send cover letter, resume, OTM Profile, and three sermons to: 
The Rev. Tim Schenck at frtim@stjohns-hingham.org (electronic submissions only).