What is your only comfort?

Urban God-talk for the church-o-phobic.

Friday, July 08, 2005

"About Me" - in 687 words, 3,147 characters (no spaces) and 3,864 characters (with spaces)

I'm a local church pastor in a developing area of Brooklyn. I grew up in various areas: Holland, MI, Rochester, NY, Oxford, England and finally New Brunswick, NJ. My favorite childhood activity involved collecting an obscenely large number of baseball cards, which now sit in my parent's attic.

This obsession led me to a career on Wall Street. It was the best use of my undergraduate liberal arts available at the time. I bounced around a few firms before September 11th. Having worked in WTC2, I had a closer relationship with the events of September 11th than I would have preferred. This led to a lot of soul searching, and finally to responding to a call to ministry.

I am honored to serve a small, but growing and vital congregation in Greenpoint. When I arrived there were about 10 people in the church. My first sermon was preached to a congregation of 3 people (it was August, a bad month to start one's ministry). The congregation had been served by a pastor for only four of the previous 20 years. There were many moments when I wondered if God had it out for the congregation and for me. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit looks fondly upon old churches with the gift of desperation and foolish rookie pastors willing to serve them. Our congregation has grown to more than 50 people with upwards of 10 children. This has meant a significant increase in donuts at coffee time, and I have found myself traveling to Costco to purchase coffee. God is good - all the time, even at large warehouse stores in Queens on a Saturday morning.

One of my favorite (but most difficult) parts of the being a pastor is attempting to create a children's sermon each week. It's become the tradition of our church to have the kids bring in random items, present them at the beginning of the children's sermon, and expect a grand theological lesson about them at that very moment. Most of the time - emphasis on "most" - we can pull it off together. Humm...just how does that jelly yo-yo relate to God's love?

During my senior year in seminary, I met my partner, Jennifer. Or more precisely, I got to actually speak with her. We had seen each other around church for years, and even worked together at the Trade Center. Oddly, we never actually spoke with one another. After several walks around Rockefeller Center on our lunch breaks, we established that we liked one another enough to go for dinner. A year and a half later, we got married in Northampton, MA.

As many people know, my father officiated at our wedding. He's a kind hearted man, with the heart of a pastor and the mind of a professor. I'm really fortunate to have such a loving and supportive set of parents. It's been particularly painful to watch them go through the pain and suffering of this past year. It never ceases to amaze me just how cruel the world can be, especially the church world.

Never quite the fan of Peale, I nonetheless lean toward positive thinking in my life. And, I can say that an unexpected benefit of Dad's "retirement" is that he and my mother have more time to visit us. Mom is especially drawn to Greenpoint's ubiquitous 99 cents stores where she loads up on pickles. Dad's far more excited about the neighborhood Polish eating spots where one can have anything on the menu for less than $7.

Jen and I both enjoy living in Greenpoint. She's done a wonderful job of teaching me to clean up after myself around the house and encouraging me to eat green veggies. Sometimes, though, such lessons don't really take with their student. Fortunately, she helps make my life worth living, and I'm a kinder person as a result of her presence in my life.

Overall, my days are pretty much a combination of "Archie Bunker" meets "Amen" but in a reality TV kind of way. It's pretty much a delightful sit com frequented by an ensemble cast of some amazing characters.


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