Among the rich experiences of a travel/study trip to the Middle East this spring are two encounters—both of them painful, both a mix of hope and sorrow. Israel and Palestine and the Middle East in general are not places we associate with hope. It takes only a cursory glance at the evening news to know that this cauldron of fear and anger, injustice and hopelessness continues to boil over—Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya—in addition to the land we call holy.
It’s true that we visited many of the places where Jesus’ ministry took place and we had multiple conversations about politics and religion, geography and history. But it’s really hard—I would say impossible—to feel a sense of optimism and hopefulness in this ravaged part of the world.
The deep roots of injustice have imbedded themselves in the very fabric of the land. The effects of despair and desperation are evident everywhere one looks. Again and again, the people in our group would say to us, “I had no idea what it means to live in the West Bank. I had no idea of such injustice for the Palestinian people. I had no idea. I had no idea.” And then, “Why is our American take on the Middle East so one-sided? Why does the news media NOT report the confiscation of land? The effects of the wall? The destruction of villages? The humiliation of a people? Where is hope? What can we—as Christians, as Americans—do?”
So we took the time to meet with several people whose lives and work embody hope and God’s presence in so many ways. Not hope as optimism or hope as an experience of expectation or a way of feeling good. No, the hope we heard about is excruciatingly hard work:
I have always loved reading and talking. Whether the genre is story, poetry, non-fiction or novels—if it’s on a printed page or catalogued in a library– then I’m likely to be interested in it.
With my love for reading, writing and talking it’s no wonder I’ve come to use those skills daily in my work as the Manager of the Regional Media Center (RMC). The RMC is part of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and we serve churches in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska by providing Media for Ministry. The RMC covers three UMC annual conferences (regions) and is open to churches ecumenically. Although most of our member churches are United Methodist, we also serve Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Disciples of Christ and non-denominational churches. Approximately 642 churches comprise our database; about 16%–slightly over 100 of them–are denominations other than United Methodist.
Our Media for Ministry program is comprised of two major activities: operating a lending library of curricula, videos and publications for use in churches and producing our own video stories of ministry happening in our local churches. We also support the technical and media needs of our Annual Conference when all our churches gather for Holy Conferencing, worship, fellowship and administrative decision-making.
Churches are not required to be members of the Regional Media Center, but it is more cost-effective and beneficial to everyone if they choose to pay annual membership dues. Membership dues are based on the congregation’s size and usually range from $40-$90 yearly. Member churches receive discounted rates on Christian Video Licensing International (CVLI) licenses and on shipping/handling rates when borrowing resources. Additionally, membership income is used to purchase more resources for the RMC.
Worshiping communities around the world come together weekly to worship. It is common, perhaps even expected, that worship will be assisted by a pipe organ.The prelude can be soft background music that allows us to meditate, and prepare for the coming worship, or the music can change our mood and the atmosphere around us using music that is dark, in a minor setting with long sustaining tones or lifting us up with the use of brighter light quicker tempos and familiar hymn tunes. The organ can create a triumphant sound such as during the processional of pastor, lay assistants, banners and the Word. Why the organ? How did the first pipe organs function and sound?
The very first organ was the water organ or hydraulic organ is a kind of pipe organ. It was created by Ktesibios (285-222 B.C.), A Greek inventor, who gave this particular organ its name. He called his invention “Water Aulos”, or Greek “Hydraulos”, of which the word “hydraulic” is derived. The “Aulos” was a double reed instrument like the modern oboe.
As in the pipe organ, the sound is made by air blowing through the pipes, but power to make the air blow does not come from bellows or from electricity as in the modern organ, but from water, for example from a waterfall. The water would fall onto a barrel with raised areas, as the water hit them they produced sound. Their barrels are similar in appearance to those found in a player piano, however, in player piano the barrels sound by being plucked. The water organ works by having water and air arriving together in the camera aeolis (wind chamber). Here, water and air separate and the compressed air is driven into a wind-trunk on top of the camera aeolis, to blow the organ pipes. Two perforated ‘splash plates’ or ‘diaphragms’ stop the water spray from getting into the organ pipes.
To start the Hydraulos organ (see video above), the tap above the entry pipe is turned on and, given a continuous flow of water, the organ plays until the tap is closed again. The Hellbrun Palace and Water Gardens provide an example of animated figurines and music, water of animated figurines and music, water powered garden displays, sights and sounds – all created by water:
During the Renaissance many Italian gardens had water organs. The most famous water organ of the 16th century was at the Villa d’Este in Tivoli. It was about 6 meters high and was powered by a beautiful waterfall. It could play three pieces automatically, but there was also a keyboard.
The first organs probably had a strong, close, very direct sound like our current tongue pipe stops (e.g. “Trumpet”, “Crumhorn”, and “Shawm”). Later flute-like stops were added with open and covered pipes, sounding one octave lower. It contained up to eight pipe rows (stops), which could be switched on separately or together alternatively. Because more wind was necessary, the instrument had now two piston pumps. These operated alternately, in order to keep the wind pressure stable.
The organ at St. Munn’s Church, Kilmun is one of the few remaining hydraulic driven organs left working in Scotland. Made by Norman & Beard in 1909 and refurbished in 2006, the organ can be seen and heard in all its glory in this video with views of the bellows, the water engine and the unique placement of the organ console.
The Hydraulophone, a more recent invention, is a water fountain that’s a highly expressive musical instrument. It is played by blocking the water jets in various ways, which forces the hydraulic fluid (water) into the sound-producing mechanism in various ways. It works a lot like a pipe organ, except that it uses water instead of air.
In the last few centuries the organ advanced to be the main accompanying instrument for church services – and this is how it all began!
The Self-Elected Learning in an Educational and Committed Team (SACEM) Annual Meeting, a gathering of church-wide continuing education staff members, sponsored by the National Council of Churches, met in Dallas, Texas, in early 1980’s. Among this group were Pastor George Keck (LCA; Professional Leadership) and Pastor William Behrens (ALC: Office of Support to Ministries). Dallas is also the city in which the Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist Church is located. This occasion offered the possibility of visiting the Office of Continuing Education, which initiated the Group Guided Study Program for Ministers and Laypersons of their denomination in 1965. A quote from the brochure reads: “The Group Study Program is planned to provide a structure and resources for groups of ministers and laypersons who wish to seriously study the Christian faith and its implications. It is designed for personal enrichment and
We give you thanks, most gracious God, for the beauty of earth and sky and sea; for the richness of mountains, plains, and rivers; for the songs of birds and the loveliness of flowers. We praise you for these good gifts, and pray that we may safeguard them for our posterity. Grant that we may continue to grow in our grateful enjoyment of your abundant creation, to the honor and glory of your Name, now and for ever. Amen. 1979 Book of Common Prayer
Another Earth Day (April 22) has come and gone. It is now May, the flowers are blooming and the trees are thickening each day with shades of green foliage. Robins hop around my front lawn in search of fresh worms after the recent spring shower and the finches are rebuilding their annual nest in the straw wreath that hangs by my front door. I can easily sit back and watch Mother Nature unfold. But I also realize that the seasons during this past year have been unusual. In 2011, Connecticut had over 4 feet of snow, in 2012 we had a few dustings. We had a week of 80-degree weather in March and the forsythia, magnolias, tulips and daffodils all blossomed 6 weeks earlier than usual.
Our environment is changing. Whether this is all God’s plan or not, we humans have responsibility for the care of the Earth, our garden home. We are currently facing extreme climate variability – the earth’s warming is occurring 10 times faster than had previously been estimated and the polar ice sheets are dropping at 10 meters per year. One of the qualities of leaders of the future will be to have “bio-empathy” – the ability to see things from nature’s point of view; to understand, respect and learn from nature’s patterns. Nature has its own clarity, if only we humans can understand and engage with it.
I believe it is the responsibility of our faith community to lead the way in teaching how to be good stewards of our environment. And it can start in our own churches, modeling good practices: recycling all bottles, cans and paper; not using Styrofoam coffee cups (better yet – use real dishes); using electronic means for communication;
It was a plain, white piece of copy paper tacked on a bulletin board with this simple message:
This is a safe haven. If you are in an abusive or dangerous situation you can use our telephone to contact the local sexual assault and domestic violence hotline.
My reaction as I hurried past the church bulletin board was one of thankfulness, hope and pleasure mixed with a brief memory of sadness, loss and regret.
It always pleases me to find churches willing to engage in creating communities free of violence and abuse. There is much to be gained when churches partner with community agencies to prevent domestic violence. Although coordinated community responses to violence are more common now, it wasn’t always this way. Many faith communities still believe the old adage “not in my church” which translates into denying the reality and presence of serious problems like domestic violence and sexual assault. It’s time to take that phrase “not in my church” and transform it from a statement that implies “those things don’t happen here” to a passionate declaration of our desire to create safe places starting with The Church.
My sadness from viewing that small poster came as I wondered what might be different today if that poster had been available in my church more than 30 years ago. At that time, I was in college and my dad sent me a newspaper clipping that completely shocked me.
“In the beginning…God created…and God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” (Genesis 1:1, 26)
Our synod is sponsoring a first -time ever “Celebrating our Faith through the Arts” event in April. It came about as a result of a retreat with our synod’s Faith Formation Resource Team. For years members of this team have led workshops on Christian basics and everything related to Christian education (teacher training, choosing curriculum, discipline, using a teacher’s manual, etc.). Our retreat leader – during one reflective time together – asked us to share our passions as we went around the room. I was surprised and delighted to learn some new things about my colleagues. Some of their passions included drama, art, music, and writing. If this is where our passions are,
Are you feeling alone in your work as a resource center director? Are you looking for ideas to improve your center? If so, allow me to share this suggestion: meet with resource center directors (of different denominations) in your area. Start with one, add another and then expand the invitation to as many as feasibly possible.
A few months ago, I met with directors from 5 other resource centers (9 were invited) and found it to be an energizing experience. During our time together, we discovered that we had a lot of similar concerns and issues. For example, we gasped and laughed about our horror stories of trying to retrieve overdue
(Sharon has been serving as the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated /Morehouse Education Resources since November 2007. Prior to that, she was the Resource Center Director at Yale Divinity School’s Ministry Resource Center as well as the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. She is also an author and has a blog, Rows of Sharon).
The last two decades have seen dramatic political, economic, social and cultural changes affecting virtually every dimension of American Christianity. This new environment has definitely had its impact on Resource Centers and will demand new thinking and new models, practices and technologies in order to support and address the needs of the congregations and judicatories we serve. Addressing the spiritual needs of all generations will continue to be a challenge as we have also been impacted by lower budgets, increase of the cost of goods and more dependence on digital technology.
Many of us have seen fewer visitors to our Resource Centers. We are called upon to be out and about with those we serve, bringing resources (and our expertise) to the local congregation. We are learning how to put our collections online, develop more comprehensive websites, and engage in social media. And more of the resources, especially curricula and faith formation materials are available digitally – either downloadable or totally online.
In September 2009, CNN published a story, “The Future of Libraries: With or Without Books”:“Books are being pushed aside for digital learning centers and gaming areas. ‘Loud rooms’ that promote public discourse and group projects are taking over the bookish quiet. Hipster staffers who blog, chat on Twitter and care little about the Dewey Decimal System are edging out old-school librarians.”
The Digital World
The relevant Resource Center of the future will be a marketplace for ideas. Forward-looking directors (and their judicatories) will create a conversational loop with its clientele. Being active on Facebook, Digg and Twitter they will
A new year always brings a sense of adventure, newness, and a change of pace to the soul. Isn’t it exciting to think that as we step into a fresh new year, we enter a season of renewal? We have hope for the year, and pray for a good one! We have just celebrated our Savior’s birth.
Now we take down our lights and pack our beloved Christmas treasures carefully and lovingly into boxes, to store for next year. The time has come for us to huddle down and experience some introspection: Where do I see myself in the next New Year?
A wonderful blank canvas has been laid out before us- just waiting to be filled. This year I challenge you to walk closer to Jesus, for Christ’s birth dramatically changed the world as we know it.
When Christ entered the world, the Gospel was proclaimed to the ends of the earth. Celebrating Christmas therefore, is celebrating the wonder of Incarnation, something that Christians cherish and hold close to their hearts. Jesus Christ and his life on earth was dedicated to expressing the fullest possible way humans could unite with God.
Christmas changed everything. God is reachable, through the power of Christ when Jesus took on flesh. So ask yourself, is there room in your hearts for Christ today? This year? To the end of time?
May his love shine bright for you and upon this world as we begin anew.
(Cindi has been the Director for the Sierra Pacific Synod for three years. Cindi sees Resource Centers as valuable and important assets for congregations. She believes Resource Centers serve as a nexus between the technology of today and the timelessness of our faith.)