29 Sep

GOD GAVE YOU BRAINS. USE THEM

By Rajmund Dabrowski — Imagine Mona Lisa. Have you looked at her half-smile and imagined what she was thinking and what it was all about? Perhaps no extravagant imagination is needed when hearing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” And what were Joan Osborne’s One Of Us lyrics saying to you?

I will tell you that her song turned my imagination into an endless spin. If God was one of us, as she sang, and visited church on Sabbath, would He be surprised to discover how different we are on Sunday–Friday, or even just a day later? Yes, the Sabbath is the Sabbath. Christianity is not a one-day affair, He would remind us.

But there is more.

Imagine what your neighbors know about you. There was and there continues to be an issue with seeing God as someone who looks at us in a limiting way. And we think He thinks like we do. Right? Wrong.

Oh, how often I think like Nicodemus did. He could not grasp what it means to be born again. Many of us are grappling with a limited approach to what it means to be a child of God, trusting Him in . . . everything.

I was chatting with a fellow believer about letting Jesus lead us as if we were blindfolded. I said, “Pray that He takes you where He wants, even if that messes up your plans.” He responded, “What if He takes you where you do not want to be, or if your religious practice would make you uncomfortable?” I said, “So be it. He either leads or I lead. He told His disciples, ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am’” (Matt. 16:24 MSG).

Imagine the consequences. There was a moment in my past when I needed a push, but then, I could not imagine where I would land after being pushed. After a midterm test, our theology professor called each of the students to review the results. Mine offered me a simple but poignant comment: “Ray, try harder,” he said. I did know what I needed to improve at that moment to stay on course. But I did not know that this simple admonition would lead me to life-changing results.

Many things have happened over the decades of going beyond many frontiers. One such moment arrived soon after I “tried harder.” It was a concert in London where I would not be squeezed on the floor with hundreds of fans. Being in a crowd made me feel insecure. I went to one of the boxes overlooking the stage and asked if I could hang out in a corner. I ended up being among the concert organizers “backstage” but without a VIP pass and . . . looking from above. I met a dozen people with “names.” This led me to practicing the art of communication beyond textbooks. A realm of imagination is required to express what one discovers, learns, and practices when the new and worthwhile lessons come from such an encounter.

I tried harder. I used my brains.

The same goes for spiritual life, a changed life, when you don’t take everything for granted, when you stop taking shortcuts or cutting the corners, when there are no excuses masquerading as forgiveness, when you are not telling the Lord to follow you rather than trusting his leadership in your life. All you are and how you are starts with changes and is fulfilled by Jesus.

The same goes for my faith community. God told us what to do and promised that He would equip us with skills and talents. He gave us brains. My professor was right. He did not make me guilty for not using my gift of learning (or studying diligently). He just told me to make use of it.

When our religious life becomes a routine of “doing” things, He patiently waits for us to make a change. That’s my dream for my church. As He says: “I am after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings” (Hosea 6:6 MSG).

–Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director and editor of “Mountain Views.”. Email him at: [email protected]

12 Aug

WESTERN SLOPE CAMP MEETING FOCUSES ON SPIRITUAL CULTURE

By Rajmund Dabrowski – Montrose, Colorado … Under the theme “Love of God,” the Western Slope camp meeting, August 4 through 8, brought more than 200 church members many representing congregations from the region.

The seventh annual gathering convened at Mountaintop Retreat in Montrose, Colorado.  “It’s so great to be back experiencing the joys of visiting [with] the old and making new friends,” said Ron Johnson from Grand Junction, whose connection with the event goes back to their inception.

Choosing the special guest speaker required “a lot of prayer. We were looking for God’s leading,” said Nate Skaife, pastor of Grand Junction church, who helped organize the camp meeting.

The 2021 invitation went to Dr. Joseph Kidder, professor of Pastoral Theology and Discipleship at Andrews University. Skaife explained that the organizers were looking for someone relevant, who’s able to challenge us, to take us deeper in terms of our understanding, but also in terms of how we implement our beliefs, how they impact our lives, how we’re able to minister to our communities.

Dr. Kidder’s evening presentations primarily dealt with relationships with God, which ultimately leads to worshipping God. During the afternoon seminars, he dealt with practical aspects of church members engaging within their own communities, drawing closer to Jesus, and help others to know Him and love Him. “Spiritual amnesia is one of the challenges today,” Kidder said. He added that “the most effective evangelist is … you.”

His message challenges the church. “Be contagious, and others will follow,” he stated.

Also speaking in the afternoon was Gary Force, pastor of the Durango district. He dealt with the relevancy of the messages of the three angels of Revelation 14:6-12. He explained how the messages are just as relevant today as they were throughout the course of history.

“The fellowship was golden,” said was Mickey Mallory, RMC ministerial director, who represented the Rocky Mountain Conference at the event. He commented that “after taking a year off due to the pandemic, it was great being back together again.”

“On top of that, Pastor Joe Kidder, our guest speaker, enriched the participants with his presentations. He shared a personal story about becoming a Seventh-day Adventist Christian while being persecuted by his family. He demonstrated that Jesus is just as much with His followers today as He was with the three Hebrew worthies in their fiery furnace trial in the book of Daniel,” Mallory explained.

Several attendees expressed their appreciation for meeting at Mountaintop Christian Retreat. According to Ron Johnson, the camp facilities are being continually upgraded, the results of which will be seen in the future.

“We had your group up here for about the past six years or so. And every year is the same as this year. You guys are excellent, probably the cleanest group I ever have up here. They produce almost no trash, and they’re just respectful and kind and generous people,” commented Kenny Easton, Mountaintop Christian Retreat director.

“I love having them up here, and that’s in addition to the music being wonderful and things being scripturally based. Just in general, you guys are a joy to have up here, so I appreciate you being here,” he added.

On the final two days of the event, musical appetites were filled with performances by the King’s Heralds. “I would listen to their songs at every gathering,” said one attendee.

The organizers recognize that the gatherings of the future will need to attract more young people. Camp meeting in the Adventist church has a long tradition and needs to be attractive to young people.

Dr. Kidder expressed this sentiment. “Churches have to be very intentional about attracting young people. They have to change the way they do things. A lot of young people are not finding fulfillment in the church in the way it is done. I think sometimes church has to be done in a different way,” he said.

–Rajmund Dabrowski, RMC communication director; photos by Rajmund Dabrowski

06 Aug

MIC THURBER IS THE NEW PRESIDENT OF RMC

By Rajmund Dabrowski– Denver, Colorado … Accepting the nomination, by a special executive session on July 28, of the Rocky Mountain Conference Executive Committee, Mic Thurber will serve as Conference president, replacing Ed Barnett who will be retiring at the end of August.

Announcing his decision today, the new RMC president said, “Jana and I are both thrilled to be invited to be part of the Rocky Mountain Conference. We’ve met so many kind and gracious people from Rocky Mountain both in the past and recently through the decision process. We feel that the Lord has led both us and your conference leadership team in making this possible.”

“We are very excited to see what God will do with our time together in this beautiful place,” Thurber added.

The outgoing RMC president, Ed Barnett welcomed Thurber’s decision. “It has been a privilege to know Elder Mic Thurber for many years. A man of God, he will be a great President for the Rocky Mountain Conference. I want to thank our Executive Committee for a job well done!”

No stranger to RMC, Thurber has served as the ministerial director for the Mid-America Union Conference since 2013. Mic is the brother of former RMC president Gary Thurber.

Doug Inglish, RMC vice president reflected on the news. “I am very pleased that Mic Thurber has accepted the call to be our president. I have always respected his leadership, and the time I have recently spent with Mic and Jana as I have provided information about Rocky Mountain to help them reach an informed decision has been very enjoyable.”

He added, “I believe that with Darin Gottfried, our incoming VP of Finance, we have an administrative team that I am honored to be a part of.” Thurber will assume his duties on September 1.

Following the special session of the Executive Committee, Hubert Morel Jr., Mid-America Union Conference executive secretary, who chaired the nominating committee on July 28, said, “I was very impressed by the way the Executive Committee functioned in selecting or recommending the person they want as their leader–Mic Thurber.”

Nate Skaife, pastor of Grand Junction church, commented, “It was evident it was God’s will to extend a call to Elder Mic Thurber to serve as our new RMC president. It was a unanimous vote. I am very excited to see how the Lord will work through Elder Thurber’s leadership.”

Thurber, a family man, is known for his support of the church’s ministry and is a preacher of Jesus and His grace. Apart from his outstanding engagement with pastoral service, his skills match the age of technology, as he writes software, and is known for his photography.

Mic Thurber was born in Collegedale, Tennessee, when his parents were students at Southern Missionary College. Mic met his partner in ministry, Jana, 45 years ago and they have worked closely together ever since. They have three children and three grandchildren. Prior to serving at Mid-America Union Conference, he served as pastor of the Keene, Texas church. He was also the ministerial director for the Southeastern California Conference, pastor at Pacific Union College church and Calimesa Adventist church in California. Thurber also taught Bible and music at Sunnydale Academy in Missouri and Mount Pisgah Academy in North Carolina, his alma mater.

 

–Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director; photo by Rajmund Dabrowski

23 Jun

FAT AND UGLY EMI IS LOOKING FOR LOVE

By Rajmund Dabrowski … A story from our own church courtyard can offer a lesson to ponder.

Many of us remember the pre-Internet era when classifieds were prominent in printed church magazines. They offered fascinating reading. What follows was sent to such monthly magazine I was involved with in the seventies. Emi wrote:

I am ugly, fat, badly built, and an unattractive 30-year-old widow with three children. I am an Adventist, too. I am wondering if women like myself can still have a chance in life. Believe me, I am not interested in receiving letters that only include good advice. Authors of such should not bother. What I am looking for is acceptance, not a slimming diet. Neither am I looking for a guidebook for those who have been knocked about in life. Write to me. EMI.

Whew! Emi revealed much about herself in those few lines. She also painted a picture of her fellow churchgoers. She was looking for love. She was seeking acceptance. She was very candid with us, her readers, about her very low self-esteem. How many of us would admit that we look . . . ugly? And say it so publicly?

Of course, Emi was looking for a husband and a father for her young kids.

But where the problem lies is her statement that she is an Adventist Christian and a member of a faith community. She belongs, we believe, to a caring, accepting group of people! However, she sees it as frozen. Her experience puts the words and deeds of this group at odds with each other.

I am sure her fellow church goers offered to pray for her and even made what they considered as helpful suggestions. She needed more than that. She was looking for something deeper. She was seeking acceptance.

Emi was looking for answers. In her own church. In her own community. Could she find a solution? Will she meet you or me, who can give her a hug of acceptance, saying: This is what I believe, and this is how I believe.

The meaning of all this is: Let’s talk and put a strut to our beliefs.

Will the sermon of your life and mine help Emi find a place in life?

There may be an Emi looking for love in your world, in mine. Let’s begin with giving her a hug.

Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director. Email him at: [email protected]

20 Apr

INTERVIEW WITH DOUGLAS INGLISH: ON ADMINISTRATION, MINISTRY, AND VWs

Not altogether unknown in his ministerial role for the Rocky Mountain Conference, Douglas Inglish was invited to fill the position of vice president as of April 1, a vacancy left with the retirement of Eric Nelson. 

A Hoosier, Inglish was born in Michigan City, Indiana and graduated from Andrews University in 1982 with a major in history and a minor in political science. After college, he served as boys’ dean at Ozark Adventist Academy for two years. He then left church employment to pursue other work opportunities but returned to teaching a few years later. After a year of teaching, he was given the opportunity to go into full-time ministry as a pastor where he spent the next 25 years serving rural, multi-church districts, multi-pastor metropolitan churches, and churches associated with Adventist institutions, including Sunnydale Academy and Minnetonka Academy. He has a Master’s Degree in political science from the University of Arkansas. Prior to joining the RMC team, Inglish served as the property manager and director of trust services, stewardship, and personal ministries for the Minnesota Conference. He has served as RMC director for planned giving and trust services since 2016.

In an interview with NewsNuggets, Inglish shared a few glimpses into his roles and personal experiences serving the Adventist church in several regions of North America.

Rajmund Dabrowski: How has your life-long ministry as a pastor, teacher, and conference departmental director, including trust and stewardship in RMC, prepared you for this executive leadership role?

Doug Inglish: It’s been good to have been involved with many of those different areas of church and education work, and it was important for me to understand the different positions that our own employees are involved in.

Of course, it’s not always possible to have done something on every church level, and I certainly haven’t, but getting a breadth of experience is important. My experience came from the fact that I’ve not spent my entire church career in one or two conferences. Working with committees at the conference and union levels gave me a familiarity with [administrative] processes, and with different ways of viewing those processes, as well as different philosophies of leadership and functions. This makes [it] possible for me to work with people who have different viewpoints. That background of working with different people gives me a level of comfort in working with pastors and churches.

RD: What are your strengths as a leader? 

DI: There are evangelistic pastors, pastors-builders, and pastors who are peacemakers, but in my pastoral ministry, I was an administrative pastor. We don’t always choose what gifts God gives us, but I discovered that I enjoyed being an administrative pastor.

Sometimes, I would come into a church that had some processes that needed tweaking. For example, almost every church I ever came to, I would ask who’s on your worship committee? And their answer was, “Well, we don’t have one.” So, I would say, “I don’t like being the only one who decides how we worship. Let’s get process to make group decisions.” Or it might be a wedding policy, or streamlining officer selection. Whatever we could do to improve function and further the mission.

NN: How is this going to apply to the church diversity we have in the Conference?

Doug Inglish: I recognize there are different kinds of pastors and congregations out there and it’s important that we figure out their strengths, and the needs of a particular church. Whenever I came to a new church, it took me the better part of two years to really understand what that church’s strengths were, what the community’s needs were and how we line those up.

I’d like to think that I will be including the same approaches when it comes to pastoral placement. It is helpful to understand the church’s needs at that particular time. Are they primed and ready to do some serious evangelism? Are they struggling to get along with each other? Or do they need someone who can organize a capital expenditure, like putting up a new building, or an addition to the church.

NN: When reviewing your weaknesses, what needs a little bit of fine tuning?

Doug Inglish: You know the classic answer, I just give too much of myself. That’s always a hard one to be able to articulate, but I’m aware of it. You know, there are things that I need to address. And one of them, frankly, is a core need of this position. This is a record keeping position. This may sound funny from somebody who’s been working in trust [services] for as long as I have, but details are something that I prefer leaving to somebody else. I will need to work on this and like having someone to keep me on track, keep me focused.

To accomplish all this, and more, there is a need for prayer, and this isn’t the first job that has required that. You need that on two levels. I need time with God. But it’s also gratifying to know that other people are praying for me. I’ve had pastors who have reached out to me since I’ve come into this position for no other reason than to say: I’m praying for you in this new challenge.

NN: We live in a very picturesque area of the United States. In RMC we enjoy the nature in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico. In your administrative role you will travel, travel, travel. Are you scared of such a prospect?

Doug Inglish: I love traveling. One of the reasons that my wife, Susan, doesn’t want to be employed full time is that she can travel with me. Of course, the Rocky Mountain Conference is the ideal place if you enjoy that kind of thing. We drive around and look at each other and say, “What took us so long to get here?” But more than just, you know, enjoying the ride, is when we get there.

When I go to a church I visit the area around it every opportunity I get. This is a beautiful part of the country. We’ve got park passes. As far as the diversity of the region, we are enjoying different cultures and food, as well as typography and climate, and everything else. It’s just an adventure to be able to discover all those wonderful places.

NN: One could say that your predecessor was a walking RMC encyclopedia…

Doug Inglish: That is intimidating because I am not. I have been in this conference in a narrower role, and for not very long. That’s going to take some getting used to for me and the conference. I don’t know everybody. And I don’t know all the situations like Eric did. And I think that was one of the great strengths of his work here for a very long time.

NN: … but being a newcomer to this has some advantages.

Doug Inglish: It gives you a fresh perspective. It gives you a fresh start. I followed some good pastors, but there were always people in those churches just waiting for change, just as some people were ready for a change when I would leave a position. But you have to keep it in perspective; change for the sake of change is seldom worth the effort, and even when changes are needed it’s usually tweaking, not a complete overhaul. I would say that no one should expect a revolution in this department. It isn’t broken, so big and obvious fixes aren’t necessary.

NN: Looking ahead, what are some of the goals you can identify at the beginning of your journey?

Doug Inglish: The answer a year from now will probably be different than what I say now. Because my goal right now for the next six months is to understand my position better so that I can serve better and to learn better the situations that need to be addressed. Currently, there are ongoing situations that I’ve had to jump into the middle of, and my colleagues, Ed Barnett, George Crumley, and Mickey Mallory have had to say, “Well, let’s give you some background.”

NN: Is there such a concept for Doug Inglish as having free time? How do you spend it? How do you recharge yourself?

Doug Inglish: I love working on the house, and you know, I’m a VW freak. Everybody knows that about me, it’s kind of a part of my identity. I spent a better part of 16 years rebuilding an old VW because it was such a basket case. And it took that long because you can only give so much time. While I no longer own it, it’s out there with a plate on it being driven right now. But what I discovered was that doing mechanical things can stress me more than relax me. Doing carpentry relaxes me. So we bought a house that needs some upgrading. And I’m having the time of my life.

And, uh, the bane of my existence currently is Pinterest because once it came out, my wife has some wonderful ideas for what I ought to be doing. My usual initial reaction is I don’t have that skillset, but with her encouragement I’ve done things I never would have tried otherwise. It’s something that we do together that we both really enjoy.

Susan is the idea person. She says, this is what I want to see happen. And I say, I think I know how to make that happen. That’s actually one of my strengths in office, I believe.

NN: Many of us want to know about your family?

Doug Inglish: I will begin with my wife, Susan. We met on a double date. My best friend was taking her out. We’re still friends now, by the way. It was one of those things where from the moment I took her out the first time, there was never any doubt. I was in over my head. It was just the easiest thing in the world to get to know her and make a decision [to marry her]. This is a lifelong partnership. We’re coming up on 39 years this year. We have a daughter, Chelsea, who is the youth pastor at the Madison campus church in Nashville, and a son, Joshua, who is a graphic designer, and his wife teaches third grade at Collegedale Academy.

As for my family background, I’m the son of a pastor and I have two brothers. We’re all close. Family is important to us. It means a great deal. Family, that’s where I give lot of my spare time.

NN: What is your message to the church?

Doug Inglish: We have a mission and when we are fulfilling it, there is joy.

–Rajmund Dabrowski, text and photos

29 Mar

STANDING ON ONE’S HEAD

By Rajmund Dabrowski … I liked standing on my head because it made me see old things in a new way. I liked it because it made life seem exciting and unpredictable. —Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine, p. 159

It was just about the end of February 2004 when my cardiologist strongly recommended that I should change my lifestyle. If you are to live with no hiccups, you need to slow down and apply breaks to the speed you are living.

I thought I knew what he was saying. Among my initial thoughts was a strange notion—for a person who was engaged in a “healthy religion,” could this mean becoming less religious? How can this be when my church promotes healthy living, yet my heart was not working according to its required tempo? What had to change?

What happened next may not be the prescription for everyone. I, however, needed a radical change.

I went home straight to a filing cabinet. On the way, I grabbed a black Husky drawstring trash bag, the “nothing’s tougher” sort and began emptying sermon files, some of them dating back to 1972. I looked (with nostalgia, I suppose) at the early dates and yellowing sheets of notes, most typewritten, and said goodbye!

I was responding to my need for a radical change, inspired by a haunting admonition: “I am after mercy, not religion.” I needed newness even in the way I approached being a Christian. I reclaimed my Bible study by joining a “discipleship class” with a group of fellow believers from Sligo Church (thank you, Dave Brillhart!). This simple decision was instrumental to reform my thinking and understanding of what it means to walk the talk.

The biblical-times prophets are a group of God’s communicators. They had two challenges—understand the message and know how to deliver it. Take Jonah. He was sent to a city to deliver the message of a needed repentance, but in his view, it was a useless exercise. He was even angry at God, but as it usually happens, the Source of messaging did not budge. God did not mind Jonah’s anger. It was Jonah who was “greatly displeased and became angry” (4:1) and opted to see Ninevah’s destruction rather than its salvation. But God was not the one who gave up. It was Jonah who was ready to die and win the duel with his “Employer.” However, God had a better plan and helped him to see that His missionary had a job to do, by hook or by crook.

Message delivery was a challenge for another prophet, Isaiah. Abraham Joshua Heschel comments about Isaiah’s challenge: He [Isaiah] is told to face his people while standing on his head. Did he not question his own faculties of seeing, hearing, and understanding when perceiving such a message? (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets, p. 89)

Isaiah’s dilemma was in dealing with the message he is to communicate by framing it by a method of delivery— hearing, but not listening, seeing, but not perceiving. We are continually challenged to tell the truth in a new way.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19, NIV).

We are also challenged to turn the world upside down, seeing the people but flipping the script, seeing the people but from a different perspective. We are challenged to not do church the same way we have been doing, on and on and on. It forces us to see our mission differently.

Jesus constantly reminded His audience that if you have eyes, look, and if you have ears, listen.

Are you listening to me? Really listening? “How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riffraff. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating” (Matthew 11:15-19, MSG).

Change. Could we consider the option of seeing our Christian mission by looking at the world upside down? The world looks funny upside down, but maybe that is just how it looks when you have got your feet planted in heaven,” writes Barbara Brown Taylor. “Jesus did it all the time and seemed to think we could do it too. So blessed are those who stand on their heads, for they shall see the world as God sees it. They shall find themselves in good company, turned upside down by the only one who really knows which way is up (Gospel Medicine, p.163).

It’s worth risking standing on our heads. It’s also radical, and it may just bring the needed change. That’s God’s way forward.

–Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director. Email him at: [email protected]

11 Mar

WHEN BAD MEANS GOOD

By Rajmund Dabrowski

There are many phrases we use that are only abstract concepts. Abstract art is abstract expressionism. Can one’s spirituality be propelled by an abstract view of the world, or simply interpreted in abstract terms? How about being drawn away, as when one is affected by a religious experience, a thought, or a feeling? Perhaps.

As a photographer, I deal mostly with reality. Light creates moments of awe or wonder. I’ve often found myself gently prompting someone not to take pictures against the sun, but to take a cue from the camera they are using. Backlight options on more sophisticated cameras take care of the situation if you do not desire to have an abstract image. Photography as an art form, and personally I love photographs the way they are taken. They are real, even if one is reckless with the aperture settings, and so forth.

What about freezing a movement using a fast shutter speed? How abstract will your result be if other options are considered. How about adding the pulse of your heart into what you are seeing and experiencing? Consider photography as an art form.

The Bible does not condemn genius or art;
for these come from the wisdom which God gives.
–Ellen G. White [R&H May 16, 1882]

Consider Lomography, or re-consider it, where “the future is analogue.” So, got film? Branded in Austria in 1991, the approach emphasizes a casual, snapshot with over-saturated colors, off-kilter exposure, and blurring, “happy accidents,” charmed by the unique, the colorful, and sometimes encouraging a lighthearted approach to photography. Did you ever experience a phone call from someone whose phone called? Heard their footsteps? Heard the sound of leaves being walked on? Abstract? Perhaps. And more.

Being born in a post-WWII era, I was able to appreciate a “trendy” development of abstract expressionism, an art movement that emphasized spontaneous self-expression with an application of paint in creating nonrepresentational compositions (That’s pretty good for a dictionary explanation). In photography, I found my own abstract expressiveness in my intentional approach to my camera being in motion, in taking images out of focus, and in finding beauty in detail, shapes, colors.

A fellow-photographer remarked once, I had no idea that such details and things existed, let alone could be photographed. Obviously, he was in love with his landscapes and sunsets. Today, most of us use our iPhones or similar gadgets, and most of what is taken by them need adjustments for brilliance, color, sharpness, saturation, and highlights, among many other options. The bad becomes good! At least in photography.

In Simply Christian, one of my favorite theologians, N. T. Wright, articulates the role of the arts in the Christian life. He challenges the contemporary church when he says that the church should reawaken its hunger for beauty at every level. He refers to God’s creation as being a root of beauty. Art, music, literature, dance, theatre, and many other expressions of human delight and wisdom can all be explored in new ways.

 In the words of Jo Ann Davidson, God is potter, poet, sculptor, composer, musician, liturgist, architect, and author, even a Nazarene carpenter. He commissions artists and artworks and inspires profound literary masterpieces.

Being a person of hope, I resonate with Wright, who wonders if art can help us to look beyond the immediate beauty with all its puzzles, and to glimpse that new creation which makes sense not only of beauty but of the world as a whole, and ourselves within it.

Actually, beauty is an abstract word, and is … in the eye of the beholder.

Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of NewsNuggets.

04 Jan

MY MOTHER WAS A SOCIAL ACTIVIST

By Rajmund Dabrowski — Go figure out what this Scripture means: “I’m after mercy, not religion.” —Matthew 9:13

Let me take you on an experience I had in 1982. Walking back to my editorial office after lunch, my assistant said, “Brother Rajmund, you will have a visitor in a few minutes. He is a well-known journalist and I recognize his name.” She didn’t tell me the name.

Who was it, I wondered? In those days we had no iPhones and appointments were a luck of the lottery. But, sure enough, a few minutes later, he walked into my office and I recognized him from meetings at a journalist association group as both of us were members. He was a known commentator on science and society. And he was blacklisted by the state as a dissident who publicly opposed martial law.

He shared his difficult situation of being unable to be employed. A baby had arrived a few months previous to this and he had no money for milk to feed him, he explained. “As I was walking on the other side of the street,” he explained, “I looked over and saw the name of your publishing house and it hit me: That’s a religious publisher. Perhaps they can publish something I can write for them. Signs of the Times is less scrutinized by the state than the main media is. Can you help me?” he asked.

We chatted for a few minutes and I asked him to come back the next day.

It was a test of my convictions and what I had been taught since I was a small boy at home. Until then, most of our authors were either members of the church or known Christian writers.

Memory takes me to my pre-teen years and to a Bible text which was often referred to and commented on at our dining table. It was a statement made by Apostle James that “pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for the orphans and widows in their troubles” (James 1:27).

I could not understand, at that time, why Christians should single out people to be worried about. I didn’t know any orphans, and my grandma tried to explain what a widow is. “I am a widow,” she said. She explained what widow’s trouble might mean, and that an orphan could be in trouble if left alone.

In our household, we were frequently reminded that being a Christian means looking after those who need help.

“You should be known for who you are rather than what you have,” my mother often said. “We may not have a lot, but we have enough to share with others.”

I also learned what her passion was. My mother was a social activist. She was a coordinator of social action at her dental co-op, helping those struggling with their livelihood. “I know what poverty is,” she explained. To me, being a Christian means to stand for the poor and walk through the experience of someone else.” She shared her recollections from WWII, speaking about a need to stand against any kind of injustice. I learned that my generosity returns unbeknownst to me.

Another lesson I learned about was my mother’s engagement with many more people than our own church family. There was the obvious need to serve others and the recognition that every human being is a child of God.

The next day, I was ready to ask the commentator to write on a topic which would fit the profile of the magazine, and we even prepared a pre-payment for the material. For me, the message was always more important than the name of the author.

These days, I am reminded of that story whenever I hear or share a blessing repeated weekly in my church: May Jesus bless you with compassion and care for all people. May Jesus bless you with courage, that you will dare to be who you are. May Jesus bless you with openness, understanding and respect.

Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director. Email him at: [email protected]

29 Oct

MAKING YOUR LIFE PLEASANT TO NEGOTIATE

By Rajmund Dabrowski — In the era of social distancing, we are encouraged, even regulated, to keep our distance in social gatherings. Going back to the days when we were meeting left and right and enjoying each other’s company, we travelled in busses, trains or trams, packed to the rim. We went to camp meetings, church worships and other events or concerts, and sat next to each other.

I also remember print newspapers, which now are replaced by their digital versions. While in Washington, D.C., I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Washington Post.

One day, a picture caught my attention–an evening scene with a man kissing a woman’s hand. She was full of happy laughter. The caption was not an example of imagination nor erudition. It said, “Ron Miller, aka the Compliment Man, kisses the hand of Lyn…”

The story caught my attention. It reminded me of days when men let women go through doors first; when women would be served first at a dinner table; when they would be offered seats on a crowded bus or metro car.

Ron Miller, who then was 36, had a story to tell. He was known as the Compliment Man and spent years walking Washington’s 18th Street “offering rapid-fire flattery for masses,” as the Post reported.

A description of Ron’s vocation made me stop and read again: “He works a crowd like an evangelical minister, pacing the sidewalk, waving, trying hard not to let a young lady go without hearing she’s got on one smart outfit.” The locals know him well. Those who watch him work the street testify that it would be hard to dispute his presence, considering the traffic jams he creates.

“Drivers stop to wave and call out his name. Women converge on him two or three at a time, waiting for a greeting or, in many cases, a kiss on the hand.”

Panhandler, you say. Well… Ron spends many hours making people feel better and happier, and he doesn’t ask for money. He is employed and has time to volunteer at a local church. The Post again, “Miller insists he wants only ‘to meet and greet’ — his way of paying back to the community that supported him when he was broke and jobless several years ago.”

The Compliment Man. A hand-kissing-icon. A man who is paying back in kisses and smiles because someone cared for him.

This reminder makes me pause today and review my own compliment routine. Let’s consider a practice route first — a spouse, a daughter, a secretary.

The other day someone commented: “Ray, you are such a European!” Yes, I am, of course. For in Europe, we still greet women by kissing their hands, though such a custom is slowly disappearing there also.

This might not be a big deal, but at least it makes our ives more pleasant to negotiate.

Taking Scriptures as a guide, we can easily interpret the Pauline admonition: “Build each other up,” we read in 1 Thess. 4:11 [NIV]. Our homes, churches, and communities will be well served, will become kinder, and we might even find a way to make our social distancing more bearable.

Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of NewsNuggets.

05 Oct

TWO ETHNICALLY DIVERSE CHURCHES WORSHIP TOGETHER IN DENVER

By Rajmund Dabrowski – Highlands Ranch, Denver, Colorado … When two pastors became close friends, they decided to bring their churches together in a joint worship.

Aware of COVID pandemic regulations, the attending believers registered ahead for the worship service, and more than 300 of them from Littleton and Denver Park Hill churches gathered on the Mile High Academy sports field on Sabbath, October 3.

The church service bulletin explained the reason for the gathering. Pastors Andy Nash, Chris Morris, and Alise Weber from Littleton church and Kelby “Mac” McCottry from the Denver Park Hill congregation talked with their church leaders about a joint service and “the response to the idea was overwhelming among all ages. If our Savior Jesus Christ prayed for us to be together, and if we’ll be together in heaven, why shouldn’t we be [together] on earth?” they asked.

Many congregants sported “Together, John 17:23” T-shirts, distributed to registered worshipers, and you would have had no problem witnessing the joy on their faces, a mosaic of ethnicities worshiping together.

The worship featured a 20-minute sermon by each pastor, their theme based on 2 Timothy 1:1-14. Each congregant received a vintage booklet provided at no cost by Thomas Nelson Bibles. “When Thomas Nelson heard about our event today, they immediately said they wanted to be a sponsor,” Andy Nash informed the congregation.

A livestream of the event began with a welcome message by Ed Barnett and Roger Bernard presidents of Rocky Mountain Conference and Central States Conference respectively. They expressed their joy at seeing believers from both territories of the Seventh-day Adventist Church come together.

“Our Littleton church joining with the Denver Park Hill church from the Central States Conference and meeting at Mile High Academy for all-day services was fabulous,” Ed Barnett commented to NewsNuggets.

“I felt bad that I was out of town and not able to join the celebration. Having heard comments from several of our members, I would say that it was a tremendous day. Praise God for the comradery between our brothers and sisters from two different conferences and ethnic backgrounds that are ministering in the same territory. Truly a picture of what heaven will look like,” he added.

This was long overdue, several church members commented. “It’s up to us not to do it in a symbolic manner only, but also to cooperate in joint projects. We are neighbors, serving our community in Denver, aren’t we?” commented George Pelote, stewardship director from the Park Hill church.

Among the most welcome outcomes of coming together to worship was the feeling of being like a family, a community in need of camaraderie. It was not difficult to meet students from the school, past and present. Among them were two former students, James Harris from Park Hill, and Kyla Dixon, a member of Littleton Church.

James commented that it was nice fellowshipping outside with everybody. The area churches should also come together in the future, he said. “I know Park Hill has been on its own and it’s nice to see [us] coming together with everybody as well,” he said.

Kyla agreed. “It was awesome meeting everybody and intermingling, meeting new faces. It was pretty cool,” she shared.

The gathering of fellow Christians more than met the expectations of both pastor-friends. Following the Sabbath service, they shared their personal comments. Kelby McCottry commented: “Oh, yes. Way more. Way more. Just to see people coming, worshipping and fellowshipping together, regardless of membership, regardless of color of skin. This is what I wanted to see.” Andy Nash said that the days of preparation were worth the effort and shared what many people said most: “We should do this more. Why haven’t we done this more?” This began out of friendship for pastor Mac and me, and now we see other friendships forming. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.”

As pastors, they recognize a need to encourage and bring people together, not just for one worship event.

“God brought us together for such a time as this,” said Pastor McCottry. “To see what’s happening in the world, in the United States, but to know that we can be a model, that we can still love each other. We may worship in different places, may have different preferences and different styles, but still we are God’s children together. The whole purpose was [coming together] to show that this is how it can be; this is how it’s going to be in heaven, so let’s do it now.”

Andy Nash believes that what they did together could be done elsewhere in the church. “People are desperate for something to be hopeful and positive about. What’s missing in many of the conversations in our country is Christ. As humans we cannot solve problems, but in Christ, there is, as we said today, there is dunamis, dynamite, and power in him, as we look to him together.”

The day continued with a picnic lunch together, followed by a shared service project packing food boxes, and ended with everyone’s favorite food—smores. “We will have vespers, along with smores, glowsticks, and a huge Capture the Flag game, which I think should be kids versus adults. Timothy vs. Paul,” Andy Nash announced. More than 100 believers accepted his invitation.

–Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director; photos by Rajmund Dabrowski