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Installation Sermon

David Swanson:

It was about this time last year when our church installed me as their pastor. The following is the sermon I preached that day, in which I did my best to articulate my understanding of the role and call of a pastor.

Originally posted on signs of life:

On Sunday I was installed as the pastor of New Community Covenant Church in Bronzeville.  As a church planter I’ve functioned as the pastor, but the church decided this was an appropriate time to affirm their call to be their pastor. It was a special service and I was reminded of God’s faithfulness and this church’s commitments to following Jesus.  Here is my sermon (lightly edited) along with some photos taken by our friend Esther.


So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. -Ephesians 4:11-13

Thank you for calling me to by your pastor. I wouldn’t be…

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How to Care

Our friend Esther Kang has written about the recent ferry disaster in South Korea.

On Wednesday, a South Korean ferry carrying 475 passengers—mostly high-school students on a class trip—capsized off the coast of the peninsula. As of this afternoon, the families of about 300 victims were still waiting to hear the fate of their loved ones.

A few days ago, a friend posted an article about the Nigerian bus station blast on Facebook. It was a devastating attack that left more than 70 people dead. I remember thinking how particularly sad the news must be for my pal, who is Nigerian. I said a quick prayer for the blast victims and their loved ones and mostly forgot about the story—until this morning.

I’ve been reading about the Korean ferry accident for a couple of hours now. It’s not the same situation, but I felt what I imagined my friend felt as I watched videos of the victims’ loved ones camping out in a gymnasium in Jindo, anxiously waiting and angrily demanding answers from authorities. I watched the clip of the ferry captain apologizing to victims’ families. “I am sorry, I am at a loss for words,” he said quietly, hiding his face in a dark hoodie. Regardless of how the accident happened or whether he was at fault, I felt for him very deeply. For the past hour, I’ve thought about calling my parents to comfort them; I’m certain they are grieving as much as I am—maybe more.

She covers a lot of important and surprising ground in this article and I hope you’ll read the whole thing. She talks about our church toward the end and describes better than I could why this young congregation has become a family to us.

Readers on Reading: Brandon Wrencher

Brandon Wrencher is a Master of Divinity student at North Park Theological Seminary, editor of the CCDA Theological Journal, intern pastor of Blackburn’s Chapel United Methodist Church and a resident of The Blackburn House, a Christian intentional community which serves Blackburn’s Chapel and the town of Todd, North Carolina. You can read more from Brandon on the Blackburn House blog.

Brandon WrencherWhat books are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Making Peace with the Land by Norman Wirzba and Fred Bahnson, Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by Willie Jennings, Surprised by Hope by N. T. Wright, The Meaning in the Waiting by Paula Gooder, and The Search for Common Ground by Howard Thurman.

Where is your favorite place to read?

I enjoy reading in the car as well as in a space with white noise in a comfy chair, with back support!

E-reader or codex?

Codex all day!!!

What book have you recommended the most in the past 12 months?

Life Together and The Christian Imagination are probably tied for the books I’ve recommended the most in the past year.

What is most enjoyable about your reading life?

The joy of reading is that I enter another world, a space where my material realities meet the life of how things can be or, better yet, how they ought to be.

It’s Never Only Bad News

I’m en route to the Mosaix Multi-Ethnic Church Conference in Long Beach. I’m expecting to learn some good stuff and hoping to catch up with some friends. I’m also anticipating to hear some bad news: about how segregated our churches remain; about how incredibly hard church planting is; about the many opportunities to offend and hurt those whose ethnicity and culture differ from mine. Those of us who pastor and lead diverse communities need to hear the bad news. We need to be reminded of the complexities and hardships associated with this movement. Without the bad news we are more prone to overlook, oversimplify, and overstep. 

But there is always more than bad news and this past Sunday at New Community provided so many  reminders of this.  Our talented (and diverse) worship team led us very well.  I baptized a beautiful baby girl whose extended family had traveled from Ohio & Hong Kong for the occasion. Pastor Michelle preached a great sermon from Acts 10:1-11:18 and she challenged us to consider how we might say yes to anyone God calls to our church. She and I then served communion to our church, a monthly practice for us and always a favorite moment for me. Before the benediction I invited a family to join me at the front. This family had been with us from the beginning and they have recently moved to a too-distant suburb. I watched members tear up as I thanked them for their faithfulness and then we prayed for them. And then, because it this is what we do on the first Sunday of the month, we moved chairs and tables around the gym and sat down for our potluck lunch. During the lunch I joked around with a table of young people from the neighborhood, spoke with three recent college grads who couldn’t speak highly enough about the welcome they have received by the church, and was taught the basics of candy crush by one of our youth. Around the gym, sitting at round tables full of good food, people talked and listened and laughed.

I point to each of these things – mostly for my own benefit – to remind that there is really good stuff happening in lots of churches like ours all over the country. We’ve got to be sober-minded about hurdles and pitfalls of multi-ethnic ministry. But we’ve got to be just as diligent about rejoicing in the many instances of God’s grace at work among us. It’s not always as spectacular as the bad news, but it’s always good and always worth noticing.

Readers on Reading: Tonya Westervelt

19306_4063033451601_42115390_nTonya Westervelt and her husband Tom are long-time friends and some of the funnest people we know.  Tonya is always reading something interesting and she occasionally blogs about these books on her blog.

What books are you currently reading?

Wild Things by Stephen James and David Thomas and Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd and Margy Tripp.

Where is your favorite place to read?


E-reader or codex?

Codex! Although I, um, had to google ‘codex’…

What book have you recommended the most in the past 12 months?

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, and The Marriage Builder by Larry Crabb.

What is most enjoyable about your reading life?

No one is asking anything of me. (I feel the need to affirm that I love the people who ask me for things and I love the things I do for them… I just also love the breaks…)