Podcasts and History

I came late to the world of podcasts. I still have not listened to Serial. In some ways I am an unusual podcast fan. The selection of radio stations in my hometown of Custer, SD was minimal. On the other hand, my parents and I took many car trips to Minnesota and Colorado and along the way we listened to amazing tape recordings by The Mind’s Eye: children’s classics from Heidi to Treasure Island along with the Baby Snooks Show. We also listened to tape recordings of A Prairie Home Companion.

Friends have given me titles of a variety of religious podcasts but I rarely find myself listening to them. They sound interesting but I spend so much time reading and thinking about theology that when I go to the Nampa Recreation Center or head out in my car, I want to think less about work, if at all possible. (The three church-related podcasts I listen to are are Kate Bowler’s Everthing Happens, Luther Seminary’s Working Preacher’s Sermon Brainwave and the ELCA’s Three Sides.

Turns out that I turn to my first love–history–when I indulge in podcasts. Here are my favorite podcasts right now.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, in which Gladwell takes an event in history and pulls on the thread until you have learned something you had no idea was so important, relevant, and interesting. I have always loved history and this podcast refueled that love for me. If I could only recommend one podcast episode to everyone it would be General Chapman’s Last Stand.

Lillian Cunningham’s Presidential. My sister-in-law Peggy told me about this one, now a few years old but still incredibly interesting. Before the most recent presidential election, Cunningham, a reporter with the Washington Post, produced a podcast a week on each of the United States presidents, starting with George Washington. I was a history major in college and though I studied political history, the classes I loved the most focused on social history (the lives of ordinary people). Cunningham does a masterful job interviewing librarians at the Library of Congress, historians, biographers, and, in the later episodes, other reporters. Her second season is Constitutional. I have not listened to it yet.

Stay Tuned With Preet by Preet Bharara, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Kudos to my nephew Joe for telling me about this podcast. Not surprising if you have read this far, the interviews I am usually most interested in are those that address history, as when he interviewed Bryan Stevenson and talked about the history of incarceration in the United States or when he interviewed Christiane Amanpour and talked about journalism in the bast three decades. Bharara’s podcast has been very well received and he has some incredibly smart and interesting people on. I always learn something new and usually add a book to my Goodreads want-to-read list after listening.

If you are new to podcasts, here is my one and only guarantee–there is something out there for you! Fans of jazz, gardening, good stories, healthy-living, liturgy, the Enneagram, athletics, nature, and accounting can all find a podcast.

What is your favorite podcast and why?

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Storytelling – Congregational Renewal

Our sabbatical task force at Trinity did something wonderful, in my opinion. We sketched out congregational renewal activities which will mirror what I am doing on sabbatical. In this blog post I am also listing our guest preachers, who will, consistent with the theme of storytelling, be sharing their stories.

First, check out what is posted in the upper-elementary Sunday School classroom at Trinity Lutheran? On the left is my schedule and the congregation’s schedule so the kids can follow along. On the right, the kids plotted my travels.

 

June 30 Send-off Sunday with catered meal

While Pastor Meggan is hiking in Ireland, eating in pubs, and visiting Narrative 4

July 7 Hike at Shafer Butte and Pub Night at Crescent Brewery

July 11 Mari Ramos, Community Resource Coordinator at Snake River Elementary and colleague with Pastor Meggan in solving food scarcity issues in Nampa – guest preacher

July 17 “Waking Ned Devine” (set in Ireland) movie night at Metzgers’ home

July 27 Faith Storytelling Workshop with Lutheran Pastor Jodi Houge and Presbyterian Pastor Phil Gebben Green

July 28 Jodi and Phil in worship

While Pastor Meggan is at St. Gertrude’s Benedictine Monastery in Cottonwood reading, hiking, praying the Daily Office

Aug. 14 Holden Evening Prayer

Praying the daily office in your homes

While Pastor Meggan is exploring Prince Edward Island

Sept. 1 “Anne of Green Gables” (1985) movie at Trinity

Sept. 8 Bishop Kristen Keumpel – guest preacher and presider (this will also be Rally Sunday and we will have a Church Potluck)

Sept. 15 Pastor Dan Mangeac of Good News Community Church (Romanian Assemblies of God congregation who used space at Trinity from 2010-2015) – guest preacher

Sept. 29 Juvi Masumbuko, Trinity Member – preacher

While Pastor Meggan is at her childhood home in the Black Hills hiking and learning about Lakota storytelling

Sept. 22 Hike in Owyhees

Sept. 28 Writing as Spiritual Practice Workshop with Susan Rowe

Oct. 13 Welcome Back Pastor Meggan – Church Potluck

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The Table at Buffalo Alice

The first congregation I served is preparing to celebrate an anniversary and they asked me to share some memories from my time there. That had me thinking about the entire experience of first-call, including the group of colleagues who walked with me through those six years.

“We have a call for you in a rural congregation about an hour south of Sioux City.  There is this great group of pastors that gets together every Friday for pizza in Sioux City.”  That is what I remember from my first conversation with the Western Iowa Synod Bishop’s Assistant.  Western Iowa was not my first choice of geographic locations for my first call as a Lutheran parish pastor, but the people of that rural congregation and those Friday afternoons made it a great first call.

At my first annual Bishop’s Fall Convocation of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod, where I serve now, we rostered leaders heard two times the stories from a pastor who had been mistreated by his/her congregation.  After hearing the story we gathered around tables and had small group discussions.  In one of the conversations I asked a question about peer accountability–how do we pastors keep one another accountable for how we behave in our congregations and for our development as pastors.  The reaction was not what I expected, “Accountability?  How about support?”  As the conversation continued, I listened intently and was reminded how fortunate I was in my first call.

The first person I talked to in that Iowa Friday pizza group was the pastor of Augustana Lutheran.  I needed to find out about the weekly text study (where pastors discuss the texts they will all preach on the following Sunday) so I opened the Sioux City phone book and decided to start at the top, hoping the pastor attended the study.  The pastor told me where the next Tuesday text study would be held and said he hoped I would attend.  It turned out that earlier in the summer two other first call first career pastors had been placed in the same geographic area–an unusual occurrence–and they would be there too.

The seasoned pastors could not believe their luck.  Not only did they have three new pastors, they had three brand new pastors.  I took their enthusiasm for granted until much later when it dawned on me that things could have been much different.  Instead of nurturing us, encouraging us, asking us about our pasts, listening as we told stories about our current ministries, they could have looked down on us, assumed they had everything to teach us and nothing to gain or, worst of all, they could have flat out ignored us.

The word gets misused and overused all the time and yet it is the only word that sums up their gift to the three of us–love.  And though that gift was free, we didn’t do anything but show up to text study and Friday lunches at Buffalo Alice (BA), it didn’t take long until we wanted to contribute, to be worthy of having a place at the tables we gathered around.

Each of us remembers the first time we led a text study.  These were not show up and be ready to discuss the Sunday texts as a group studies.  When it was your turn to lead, and we had a leader every week, you spent hours first thinking about the texts themselves, then reading commentaries, and finally typing up the best of the best for the whole group to read and discuss.  You did this for at least three of the assigned texts and sometimes the Psalm too. The three of us first call pastors cheered one another on when we finally led a text study.  I am a better preacher after my time around those tables.

And yet it was the lunches at BA that were most important in my formation.  As an introvert, one of the things I grew to appreciate was the way I could lean into and engage in the group conversation for a while and then turn to the colleague next to me for an in-depth one-on-one conversation.  I brought my joys to the table.  I brought my disbelief in the behavior of others and the disappointment in myself.  I brought questions about pastoral care and preaching and worship and stewardship and budgeting and weddings and funerals.  And someone always had the time to listen, to laugh with me, to tell me a story of his own failures, to cheer me on.

Here are my take-aways from lunches at Buffalo Alice:

Keep reading theology (both classics and contemporary), novels, nonfiction, poetry, articles and be sure to read for fun so that you continue to enjoy reading.

Being an introvert does not need to stop you from being a good pastor, you just have to learn how to care for yourself.

It is almost always appropriate to talk about the sacraments in your sermon.

You do not spend time with colleagues only because you might gain something.  You also show up because you have something to contribute.

 

 

 

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Ministry in Daily Life

Pastor’s Column for May, 2019 Epistle

Dear Friends in Christ,

In May, we are lifting up ministry in daily life. In truth, this is what we do all year long. There are many quotes out there on the internet falsely attributed to Martin Luther on vocation and calling. Here is something we know Luther said about work, whether the work of the prince or the work of the laborer: “The prince should think: Christ has served me and made everything to follow him; therefore, I should also serve my neighbor, protect him and everything that belongs to him. That is why God has given me this office, and I have it that I might serve him. That would be a good prince and ruler. When a prince sees a neighbor his neighbor oppressed, he should think: That concerns me! I must protect and shield my neighbor…The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor. (Sermon in the Castle Church at Weimar).

There was a time when my father was not a camp director or the head of camping for the American Lutheran Church (ALC, a predecessor to the ELCA). During that time he wrote a newsletter for the ALC called Salt and Light (based on Matt. 5:13-15 where Jesus tells the crowds that they are both salt and light). The language used around the evening dinner table, because of my father’s work, was Discipleship in Society. I still love that phrase because it names so clearly that the way we care for one another out in society (workplace, nonprofit agencies, schools, playgrounds, recreation) is as important as anything we do inside the walls of our sanctuary or church building. On Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday we asked you to name some of the ways you live out discipleship in society. In May we will share back with you a sampling of what we received in written form. I am looking forward to lifting up and celebrating the many ways our members and friends are already salt and light for the Nampa community and world.

Peace,

Pastor Meggan

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Giving Thanks Easter Monday

Thankful on this Easter Monday for everyone who

served as a lector,

washed hands or feet on Maundy Thursday,

played an instrument,

lit candles,

served Holy Communion,

stuffed a plastic egg with candy,

made deviled eggs,

vacuumed,

polished,

cleaned the sidewalk,

filled a soap dispenser,

made the coffee,

set the tables for Easter brunch,

prepared the altar for Easter worship,

greeted,

ushered,

made guests feel welcome,

joined us for worship.

Everything always comes together because we have amazing volunteers.

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Storytelling-My Renewal-Preview

“What makes your heart sing?” That’s the question everyone is asked when they apply for a Lilly Grant to fund his or her sabbatical. For me the answer was stories–novels, a story by a parishioner or friend or family member, a podcast, a movie, or the stories of scripture. That helped me think about the adventures I wanted to have during my 14-week sabbatical (July 1-Oct. 6).

Where can I hear better stories than Ireland? (There’s even more to why I chose Ireland but I’ll save that for a future column). My friend Joy and I are going to see the Book of Kells and Dublin Writers Museum, then head to County Claire and the Aran Islands where we will hike from bed and breakfast to bed and breakfast for eight days. We will spend a few days in Galway, in the middle of the International Arts Festival (hopefully we’ll get to visit Moth and Butterfly) and end in Limerick, home of Narrative 4, a nonprofit that uses storytelling as part of the peace and reconciliation process.

Three weeks of August I will be at the Monastery of St. Gertrude’s Spirit Center in Cottonwood, Idaho, saying the daily office with the Benedictine sisters and reading and hiking.

At the beginning of September, my friend Jennifer, her daughter/my goddaughter Celia, and I will spend a few days seeing the Anne of Green Gables sites on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

My last trip will be to the home I grew up in outside of Custer, SD. A family friend, Pastor Larry Peterson, has dedicated much of his ministry to the Lakota people and with him I will spend some time on the Pine Ridge Reservation and the new Woyatan Retreat Center in Rapid City.

– Pr. Meggan

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Spring in Many Forms

Pastor’s Column for Trinity Lutheran Church, March 2019 Epistle

Dear friends in Christ,
I love this time of year. I love that the days are getting longer. I love the season of Lent—the journey, the ritual, the disciplines, the hymns in minor keys. I love preparing for the great three days—Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil. Taken on their own or collectively as one continuous worship service, they remind me of why we keep trying to live as faithful disciples. The commandment Jesus gives on Thursday (and then demonstrates with foot washing) inform so much of the servanthood embraced by Trinity members. The story of the crucifixion and the veneration of the cross on Good Friday remind me of what resulted in Jesus’ bringing in the new reign of God and of God’s great love for the world. The Vigil on Saturday ties us to all of God’s people through the reading of scripture and the sharing of the Lord’s Supper.

 A Palm Sunday at Trinity

While I give thanks for the great Triddum and its place in the liturgical year, this year I also give thanks for time spent with the new members we will officially welcome on Easter Sunday. Our three sessions together during Lent reminded me of some of the gifts of our ordinary Sunday worship. In particular, people new to our tradition recognized two things. In our tradition, Holy Scripture is a living breathing word that is interpreted each week in our particular context. The cross and resurrection are the interpretive lens we use to interpret everything else in the Bible. The second part of the Sunday assembly lifted up by new members was our Prayers of Intercession. Turn to page 105 in the front of Evangelical Lutheran Worship and you will see the pattern we use each week: for the church universal; for the well-being of creation; for peace and justice; for the poor, oppressed, sick, bereaved, lonely; for all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; for the congregation. Praying those prayers weekly is transformative, I was told. Indeed. Sometimes I want the people of Trinity to be assured that they can speak with God without beautifully worded prewritten prayers. And yet I know for myself that hearing our prayers of intercession together each week has shaped my personal prayer life. I loved getting to know our new members during our time together after worship in March and I anticipate them enriching our community in the months and years to come.

Peace, Pastor Meggan

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