Monday, October 27, 2008

A thought on Crying and Pain

Sometimes in order to help He makes us cry.
Happy the eye that sheds tears for His sake.
Fortunate the heart that burns for His sake.
Laughter always follows tears.
Blessed are those who understand.
Life blossoms wherever water flows.
Where tears are shed divine mercy is shown.

-Rumi (Sufi Poet) , "Mathnawi"

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Promiscuity": A good old Calvinist word?

I can understand why the Canons of Dort are not the object of much consideration in PCUSA circles nowadays. It did, however, come to my attention that some old translations of the render the 5th article of the second main point as saying:
"the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel".
More recent versions read: "without differenciation or discrimination". We sure can use some of that missional "promiscuity" in our congregations today!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Partership for developing new congregations

San Fernando Presbytery, seeking to “relearn the art of starting new congregations,” has teamed up with Evangelical Covenant Church — a denomination with a long track record of successful new church development in its area.

The presbytery is currently interviewing and screening prospective church planters. In the meantime, leaders of the effort say they have discovered some things about successful new churches: they are organized around identity and concern, not around geography; they need visionary leadership more than skilled managers; they need to train disciples more than “provide services for consumers; and contrary to commonly-held opinion, they don’t cost that much money to start. (From Presbyterian News Service)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bilingualism and US Economy

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey, approximately 80 percent -- or 223.2 million people -- of Americans use only English at home.

The remaining 20 percent -- 55.8 million people -- speak a language other than English. Add the millions of tourists visiting the country each year and you have a huge demand for workers who can communicate in more than one language.

Spanish is by far the most popular non-English language spoken at home with roughly 34 million speakers nationwide. Still, there are millions of people speaking other languages -- including French, German, Mandarin, Arabic and lesser known languages -- that also benefit from bilingual workers.

Press here to read the report

Monday, September 29, 2008

Above All, Trust in the Slow Work of God...

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
-- that is to say, grace --
and circumstances
acting on your own good will
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser.


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Minorities expected to be majority in 2050

Census projections indicate that By 2050, 54 percent will be other than non-Hispanic, single-race whites. The working-age population will be more than 30 percent Hispanic as well as 39 percent of the nation's children. Read CNN's report here

CNN on Race and Faith

According to Curtiss Paul DeYoung, co-author of "United by Faith,"The fact that only about 5 percent of the nation's churches are racially integrated, and half of them are in the process of becoming all-black or all-white. Press here to read CNN's recent report on race and churches titled "Why Many Americans Prefer their Sunday's Segregated.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"A Little Picture of Heaven"

Presbyterian News Services features Ray-Thomas Memorial Presbyterian Church, a congregation in Georgia where Brazilians, Koreans and Euro Americans witness together of Christ's reconciling power.
Press here to read the article

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Decently and in Order?

In 1707, Francis Makemie, the father of American Presbyterianism, preached in New York without an official license and got imprisoned for two months. Edward Hyde, then governor of New York wrote that Makemie was "a preacher, a doctor of physic, a merchant, and attorney and...worst of all, a distrober of governments" quoted in Ideas for Church Leaders. Congregational Ministries Publishing. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)

Monday, June 23, 2008

China: The World's Largest Supplier of Bibles?

Founded in 1988, the Nanjing Amity Printing Co is a joint venture between a Chinese Christian charity and the United Bible Societies, a British-based organization with chapters around the world devoted to the translation, publication and distribution of the Scriptures

Since its first Bible rolled off the presses two decades ago, the company has printed more than 50 million copies in 75 languages and exported to more than 60 countries. With the help of a new hangar-sized facility, the company could well be the biggest Bible factory in the world, cranking out 12 million copies a year.

Read the entire Los Angeles Times report

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Great Vacation

It is great to be back after a week in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to doing the touristy thing and drinking a gallon of Starbucks coffee (we went to the very fist location) , Maricela and I visited Regent College in Vancouver, BC; a graduate school designed to help professionals to integrate Christianity with their occupations. In the Seattle area, we spent a good amount of time sharing and praying with a the US team of an great interdenominational missionary organization called OC International that I admired since my Brazil years (It operates as SEPAL over there), visited with Dave Roher a friend that serves as Worship Pastor at University Presbyterian Church and worshiped at an unconventional PC(USA) new congregation called Union Church that is reaching people in their 30's and 40's very effectively. There is nothing as renewing as a few days off!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Can't Blame Everything on the 60's

As noted by Michael Kruse, vice chair of the PC (USA) General Assembly Council, according to Roger Finke and Rodney Stark mainline decline in relation to the population growth can be traced back to much earlier. Growth is not enough to prevent denominational decline. The question is whether growth occurs at a rate similar to the growth in the general population. In their recent book The Churching of American, 1776-2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy, Methodist decline is traced back to around 1850 when circuit riders were exchanged for more settled educated clergy and efforts were made to be accepted by those with status in society.

The authors also point to the little recognized fact that America is NOT becoming less religious.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Presbyterian Heritage and Missions

If there is a single trait which serves to give to the Presbyterian Church in the United States a distinct character it is that of a Spirit of Missionary Enterprise which it has possessed from its very origin.
Unpublished history, “Standing Committee of Missions,” c. 1827.

According to the denominational the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. was the first Protestant denomination in the United States to organize a missions committee at the national level. In 1802, the General Assembly appointed seven members to the initial Standing Committee of Missions. The success of the committee and subsequent growth in mission work led to the organization of a permanent Board of Missions in 1815 and a separate Board of Foreign Missions in 1837. From age to age, Presbyterian mission work has touched the lives of people throughout the United States and the world. The statistics to the left show how in 2006 the PC(USA) had less than one-sixth the number of missionaries than in 1965. (From the April 08 edition of Presbyterians Today)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A simple and great thought on prayer

"Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?"
Corrie Ten Boon

Friday, May 02, 2008

Um terço dos espanhóis admite ser xenófobo, diz relatório

According to the report: "Immigrants, new citizens: on the road to an inter-cultural Spain" released by the Spanish Federation of Banks, one third of Spanish people admit to being xenophobic.

Os espanhóis estão cada vez mais intolerantes com a imigração, segundo um relatório recém-lançado pelo governo da Espanha.

De acordo com a pesquisa, nos últimos oito anos, o índice de rejeição aos estrangeiros triplicou, e um terço da população agora admite ser xenófoba.

O relatório "Imigrantes: Novos cidadãos. A caminho de uma Espanha Intercultural" elaborado pela Confederação Espanhola de Bancos indica que parte dos espanhóis associa imigração com delinqüência e outros problemas.

No ano de 2000, o índice de rejeição era de 10%. A última pesquisa revela que, nos primeiros meses de 2008, um terço dos espanhóis (30%) confessou ser xenófobo em ao menos alguma resposta.

Quatro entre dez entrevistados, por exemplo, prefeririam não ter um vizinho imigrante ou cigano. Seis entre dez afirmam que a insegurança aumenta por culpa dos estrangeiros.

"Níveis de racismo"

O relatório estabelece quatro níveis de racismo e xenofobia. O primeiro é o radical, dos que mantêm o discurso de superioridade e defendem a expulsão de todos os imigrantes.

O segundo, chamado de inserção subalterna, inclui os que reivindicam prioridade para os espanhóis diante dos estrangeiros.

O terceiro nível é o de integração formal, em que entram os moderados que concordam com condições de igualdade de direitos e deveres entre moradores locais e imigrantes.

Leia a noticia da BBC Brasil

The Wall Street Journal: "Surge in U.S. Hispanic Population Driven by Births, Not Immigration"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Pope to US Bishops

"I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrow and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home. This, indeed, is what your fellow countrymen have done for generations. From the beginning, they have opened their doors to the tired, the poor, the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." These are the people whom America has made her own"

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Clapton on Prayer

"I was in complete despair...In the privacy of my room, I begged for help. I had no notion who I thought I was talking to, I just knew that I had come to the end of my tether … and, getting down on my knees, I surrendered. Within a few days I realized that … I had found a place to turn to, a place I'd always known was there but never really wanted, or needed, to believe in. From that day until this, I have never failed to pray in the morning, on my knees, asking for help, and at night, to express gratitude for my life and, most of all, for my sobriety. I choose to kneel because I feel I need to humble myself when I pray, and with my ego, this is the most I can do. If you are asking why I do all this, I will tell you … because it works, as simple as that."

From "Clapton: The Autobiography"

Friday, April 04, 2008

MLK Jr's Memorial at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis

"They said one to another 'Behold, here cometh the Dreamer. Let us slay him and we shall see what will become of his dreams.'" Genesis 37:19-20

(From Michael Kruse's Blog)


From Brian McLaren's blog...

May God bless us with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that we may live from deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God's creations
So that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with just enough foolishness
To believe that we can make a difference in the world,
So that we can do what others claim cannot be done:
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbors who are poor. Amen

Monday, March 31, 2008

German town in Brazil; A case study on "Cultural Freezing"

Are Brazilian of German ancestry "more German" than the actual Germans? Der Spiegel offers a four-page report on the interesting phenomena of "cultural freezing". I would say than a similar phenomena occurs within immigrant churches in the US. (The picture to the left shows a home in the German town of 24,000 in Brazil)

Em sua edição desta semana a Der Spiegel, principal revista semanal da Alemanha, diz que quem quiser saber o que é típico alemão deve ir a Pomerode, em Santa Catarina.

É assim que começa uma reportagem de quatro páginas sobre a cidade do sul do Brasil publicada na revista que é lida por 1 milhão de pessoas na Alemanha.

O longo artigo conta a história de Pomerode e mostra como as tradições alemãs continuam vivas mais de 200 anos depois da chegada dos primeiros imigrantes.

Segundo a Der Spiegel, em alguns aspectos Pomerode chega a ser até mais alemã que a própria Alemanha.

Por exemplo, os pratos alemães servidos em restaurantes são fartos como no passado, enquanto a cozinha atual alemã prefere evitar gorduras e calorias, seguindo tendências internacionais.

A revista aponta também para o fato de a pequena cidade em Santa Catarina ter cinco grupos de dança folclórica e 16 Schützenvereine, clubes de tiro com costumes tradicionais alemães.

Confira o reporte via BBC Brasil

Monday, February 25, 2008

A "New" Kind of Congregation in New Orleans

With the title "Blacks and Whites Merge to Forge New Future", beliefnet features the story of two united methodist congregations that "before the hurricane worshiped one mile- and a universe - apart.
The dynamics at "First Grace" today are shaped not only by the collaboration of the two root congregations, but a sizable third constituency -- new, post-Katrina members, many of them young, some with children, some Hispanic -- who are eager to build a new community without the pull of memory from either First or Grace.

Click here to read the article

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

U.S. Hispanic population to triple by 2050

USA Today highlights the projections of the Pew Research Center according to which The U.S. population will soar to 438 million by 2050 and the Hispanic population will triple.

The latest projections by the non-partisan research group are higher than government estimates to date and paint a portrait of an America dramatically different from today's.

Some of the insights of the research are:

  • Nearly one in five Americans will have been born outside the USA vs. one in eight in 2005. Sometime between 2020 and 2025, the percentage of foreign-born will surpass the historic peak reached a century ago during the last big immigration wave. New immigrants and their children and grandchildren born in the USA will account for 82% of the population increase from 2005 to 2050.
  • Whites who are not Hispanic, now two-thirds of the population, will become a minority when their share drops to 47%. They made up 85% of the population in 1960.
  • Hispanics, already the largest minority group, will more than double their share of the population to 29%.
Press here to read the USA Today feature

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Insights into the mind of the Unchurched in the US

America’s unchurched are willing to hear what people have to say about Christianity, but a majority also sees the church as a place full of hypocrites, according to a LifeWay Research study. Seventy-two percent of those interviewed think the church “is full of hypocrites.” Yet 71 percent said they believe Jesus “makes a positive difference in a person’s life” and 78 percent would “be willing to listen” to someone who wanted to share what they believe about Christianity, while 64 percent think “the Christian religion is relevant and viable for today.” Seventy-two percent of unchurched adults believe God, a higher or supreme being actually exists.

Only 48 percent agree there is only one God as described in the Bible, and 61 percent believe the God of the Bible is no different from gods or spiritual beings depicted in non-Christian religions. Up from 17 percent in 2004, 22 percent of Americans say they never go to church – the highest ever recorded by the General Social Survey. Seventy-nine percent of unchurched Americans think Christianity today is more about organized religion than about loving God and loving people; 86 percent believe they can have a good relationship with God without being involved in church.

Forty-four percent say Christians “get on my nerves.” Yet, 89 percent of the unchurched have at least one close Christian friend. While turned off by church, 78 percent are willing to listen to someone who wants to talk about their Christian beliefs. The number rose to 89 percent among adults ages 18-29. Additionally, 78 percent say they would enjoy an honest conversation with a friend about religious and spiritual beliefs, even if they disagreed. Only 28 percent think Christians they know talk to them too much about their beliefs. (Baptist Press 1/9/08, via Preaching Now)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

On Prayer and Listening

A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening.

Søren Kierkegaard
Christian Discourses

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A vantagem de não ser nada. (The adventage of not being anything)

Posso imaginar-me tudo, porque não sou nada. Se fosse alguma coisa, não poderia imaginar. O ajudante de guarda-livros pode sonhar-se imperador romano; o Rei de Inglaterra não o pode fazer, porque o Rei de Inglaterra está privado de ser, em sonhos, outro rei que não o que é. A sua realidade não o deixa sentir.

Fernando Pessoa in "Livro do Desassossego"

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

On Ministry

Too often I looked at being relevant, popular, and powerful as ingredients of an effective ministry. The truth, however, is that these are not vocations but temptations. Jesus asks, "Do you love me?" Jesus sends us out to be shephers, and Jesus promises a life in which we increasingly have to stretch out our hands and be led to places where we would rather not go. He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life of prayer, from worries about popularity to communal and mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us and our people.

- Henri Nouwen
In the Name of Jesus