Wednesday, July 25, 2007

One Year Later

It has been over a year since the mess at the News Press, the local newspaper in Santa Barbara, began. Some 70+ employees including over 50 in the newsroom alone have been fired or resigned over the practices at the paper. One response was the formation of a website - Santa Barbara Newsroom which was an attept to keep the news coming. It was run by a number of former News Press reporters who were fired for union activities. Well Santa Barbara Newsroom is no longer live (they ran out of money) but their swan song is a documentary that shows what has happened in Santa Barbara.

The documentary teaches us some important lessons regarding the role of a newspaper, the necessity for unions to regain their strength, and the disaster that occurs when wealth and power run unconstrained. It runs about 29 minutes, but it is worth watching.

It also reminds me that the battle is not over and that we must not forget it and move on to the next thing... if you live in Santa Barbara and have not cancelled your subscription to the News Press, do it today. If you have friends or family here, ask them to do so. If you visit stores in Santa Barbara, encourage them to find other venues for advertising and patronize those businesses that do advertise elsewhere. Fight the good fight!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I miss apples. I know, they grow apples in California and every grocery store sells apples but they aren't the same. There is something about an Empire that you pick off a tree in upstate New York, wipe on your shirt, and then eat. There is something about a Winesap from Pennsylvania... you get the idea. Just like the grocery store tomatoes don't taste like real tomatoes, those store bought apples don't quite cut it. You can't buy real apple cider here and nobody even knows what a cider donut is.

Moving to the central coast in California, I have learned that the same thing is true for all produce. We get the most amazing vegtables here... straight from the fields, strawberries to die for all year round, oranges and lemons... but I'm told that grapefruit don't like the climate and don't grow well. Now I've had those grapefruit shipped from Texas and they are good. They are amazing compared to what I've tasted from grocery stores in the northeast but we found out they just don't cut it compared to the real thing. My son John works for an agency that helps elderly and disabled folk with maintenance issues at their homes. Last week he helped at a home where they had a grapefruit tree. The owner told him to pick a few and take them home. He picked some at random (he had know idea which to pick), threw them in a bag and brought them home. Well, well, well... the kitchen filled with this wonderful fragrance - grapefruit (as I knew it) but sweeter. Then we cut one and ate it. It didn't need added sugar or honey. It was amazing!

So I learned the lesson again... buy fresh. Buy local. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Some of you know that I had a very frustrating time trying to put together a funk project with my good friend (and amazing vocalist) Stephanie - working title The Broken Hipsters. We found a great bass player in Johno Dunn and had problem after problem finding a drummer. It began to feel as if they were exploding like in Spinal Tap! Every time we found a good drummer something would go wrong. Finally we found one and it felt as if things were finally going to work. Then we tried to find a keyboard player and had more difficulties. Then the drummer quit the project and we were back to square one. We found another drummer who was very good and clicked extremely well with Johno and then other personal issues got in the way and I tore the tendon in my finger. Needless to say, the project never got off the ground in spite of showing lots of promise.

Just as the Hipsters were disintegrating completely, a great drummer friend of mine, Mike Golden, called me. He had met a singer/songwriter named Jamie Green who had recently moved to Santa Barbara from LA and was looking for an acoustic guitar player. I had been playing mostly electric for a while but Mike was so enthusiastic I thought I should make a contact. We connected and things clicked nicely.

It has been an interesting experience. Jamie is extremely professional and knows exactly what she wants. She played with the same guitar player in LA for about 5 years so it has been an adjustment for her to deal with a new player.

All of this is to say that we have three gigs scheduled over the coming days:

Friday July 13, 6-8 at Borders Books in Goleta, California
Sunday, July 15, 4-6, Northstar Coffeehouse, 918 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA
Saturday July 28, 8, Northstar Coffeehouse, opening for John Cragie.

If you're in the area, stop by and give a listen. If not, check out Jamie's music at the link above.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

ABC Biennial

It's been a week since we got home from the American Baptist Churches Biennial meeting... I wanted to write seriously about it but by now, a lot of the meeting has receded into that area of my brain where cobwebs outnumber synapses so you'll get some impressions only.

The meetings took place in the Washington DC Convention center... it s a cavernous place that really requires many more people than we had (about 2500) to feel "alive." Even the opening night which we shared with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, who were ending their convention, wasn't full. (they numbered about 3000.) The space made it difficult to feel connected and all of the meetings felt smaller than they were.

THE CBF is a lively group. Their display area was wonderful to walk through. The downside of them is that they seemed pretty homogeneous - white and southern.

The joint ABC/CBF worship began with a presentation from the pension/benefit board. Huh? What a silly way to celebrate our relationship even though it is a way that ABC has helped out the CBF.

ABC did a better job with media this year but still was not as good as many local churches.

The worship services leaned towards the "Swiss army knife" style that happens when you try to make an extremely diverse group of people happy. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it felt just like a Swiss army knife - lots of little parts that aren't big enough to do what they're meant to do while at the same time making the whole thing a less than useful monstrosity (yes, that is an exaggeration but I liked the word).

The preaching was less than I hoped for. Lauran Bethell was probably the stand out for me. She was the individual least likely to be known for her preaching but the genuineness of her presentation really worked for me. There was some wonderful music - a few of the choirs were amazing - and some that did nothing for me at all - enough said there. A number of the African American churches brought dancers as did a southeast Asian congregation. Fun.

Walter Shurden spoke at the Association for Baptist Principles meeting and was wonderful at laying out the foundation for who we are as baptists.

The best part of the meetings is getting together with friends, many of whom I get to see only at the biennials. We had some reasonable beer and some great conversations.

I was happy to see the racial diversity (we do this better than anyone else in the US) but saddened that the full breadth of who we are wasn't visible. The anglo conservatives didn't come. In addition to the folk from PSW who weren't there (and most would not have attended anyway), I didn't see any of the conservatives that I know from around the denomination. This lack of theological breadth made for less contention but it also made for some boring meetings and didn't feel quite "Baptist." For me, the diversity of theological stance is crucial to who we should be. There was also an awful lot of gray hair present...

The next biennial will be in Pasadena. I hopeful that the location will draw some new folk to the meeting and that the planners will build on what was done well... two years will tell.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

always a parent

While we were back east, our daughter Alexis left for 6 months in India. She will be doing an internship at the Nelson Mandela Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution at the Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi. Her interest is how interfaith relationships contribute to the formation of a civil society (or not).

We are very proud of her and excited about her work as she moves forwarded in her scholarship and eventually career. BUT (and it is a huge but), I can't help but be more than a little nervous about her being so far away in such a foreign place. She is 24 years old! She is extremely capable! She has spent time in Central America and Hungary and has traveled to places that made me really nervous in the past. But she is still my baby.

She'll be blogging about her experiences in India at her blog. Check it out... think of her... and pray... for me.


I just got home from a 3 week trip back east that included the ABC Biennial meeting (more about that later) but the meetings got me thinking about freedom.

Walter Shurden spoke at the Coalition for Baptist Principles gathering and told a wonderful story... while pastoring, he invited a number of leaders from their faith traditions to share their traditions in an adult Sunday School class. At the end of one of those meetings, Shurden asked the Catholic priest who had been sharing what he understood to be the central characteristics of the Baptist tradition. Without a blink, the priest replied, "freedom."

Shurden went on to talk about freedom as central to not only the Baptist tradition, but also to the ways in which God relates to humanity. God gives us freedom for faith or not, freedom to follow or not, freedom...

I have to say that I bristle whenever folk talk about the US as being a Christian nation or even that it is founded on Christian ideals and then argue and work towards a theocracy. It seems to me that working towards a theocracy is precisely the opposite of what God wants and a nation where freedom, including absolute freedom of religion, is the distinguishing characteristic, is exactly what God does want. It is a wonderful irony isn't it? God has given us the freedom to not believe, the freedom to not follow. From the positive perspective, God has given us the freedom and responsibility to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling and nobody, including God's self, can impose faith upon us. It is only when we have that freedom that we are living in the kind of society God envisions for us all. God wants us all to be in relationship with God but it is more important that we be able to choose than what we choose.

Happy 4th of July! Let Freedom Ring!