Thursday, February 9, 2017


Ordinarily, driving in the city doesn’t concern me.  After all, I was born and raised in New York - and, as the Sinatra song says (sort of), if you can drive there, you can drive anywhere.   Besides, on the very first day I got my license, I drove through/around major cities like Orlando, Jacksonville, Savannah, Richmond, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark and New York, as I sojourned non-stop from my sister’s house in central Florida to my mother’s home on Long Island. 

Like I said, “ordinarily”.

But fast-forward 40 years, and I’m driving a friend and colleague into the heart of the capital city of the Red Sox nation, in a car with license plates that are positively pro-Yankee.   In fact, so concerned am I for the safety of my car and my passenger, that I even pull into a rest stop off the Mass Pike to buy some New England Patriots paraphernalia to display in the rear window in hopes that it might dilute the venom of my vanity plates.

Despite outward appearances, though, this is not a suicide mission.  Actually, it’s quite the opposite.  You see, we are in Boston on a recruiting trip, looking for divinity students who might bring another generation of life and light to the United Methodist Church in the New York Annual Conference.  

Our recruiting team has three players, each selected with intentionality and purpose.   Heather is a highly regarded young clergywoman who is originally from the Boston area.  David is an African-American pastor who is a proven church grower with a keen eye for green sprouts.  And I, well, I’m the guy with the company credit card.

Because of a prior commitment in the area, David takes his own car and meets Heather and me on the third floor of parking lot K.  This particular lot is attached to some Boston University dorms and is directly across the street from the school itself.  After exchanging hugs and pleasantries, we review our itinerary and see that we have just 5 minutes to get to our first stop.  So we hastily head over to the parking garage elevators, push the “down” button a bunch of times, and wait.

And wait. 

And wait some more. 

We’d probably STILL be waiting there if David doesn’t eventually use his keen eye to read the small sign that said that these particular elevators operate only twice a year – when BU students move in, and when BU students move out. 

As we fly down three flights of stairs, and then dodge four lanes of city traffic, I cannot help but feel profoundly sad..... for those elevators.

Oh, sure, it might sound appealing at first – you only have to work twice a year.   Yay!

But consider this: would you really like to spend 363 days out of the year being unproductive, useless, and unhelpful to anyone and everyone who could really use a “lift”?   Hmmm?

Would you like to be a parent who is disobliging, obstructive, and unaccommodating to your child every single day of the year except two?

Would you like to be a worker in the vineyard who is idle, fruitless, and uncreative more than 99% of the time? 

Would you like to be a church member who worships only on Christmas and Easter?

Would you like to be a believer in God and a disciple of Jesus Christ who reads the Bible, prays, and/or forgives those who trespass against you once every six months?

This might sound harsh, but if you are anything like those elevators in the parking garage, I wouldn’t want to BU. 


Thursday, December 29, 2016


It was the middle of a weekday afternoon, so I won’t blame what I witnessed on some holiday office party gone awry.    And it wasn’t raining or snowing at the time, so weather wasn’t a factor.  And based on the driver’s defiance, this incident seemed not to be the result of any medical emergency.

So, I’m not exactly sure what led to it, but there he was – trying to exit from the Merritt Parkway using the entrance ramp!

In other words, he was going the wrong way.  Despite all the big red and white signs warning him against proceeding in that deadly direction.  Despite all the drivers heading towards him with their headlights flashing and their horns a-honking and their arms flailing outside of their hastily opened windows. 

If this guy had a death wish, it looked like it was about to come true.  I say that because he didn’t immediately pull over to the shoulder.  Nor did he just stop his car and stop the madness.  He just kept driving, right into the oncoming traffic.

It was as if he considered it to be his own Merritt!

I won’t tell you how this scary scene ended, in part, because I got outta there as quickly as possible, and in part, because his errant car was just a “vehicle” for a metaphor.

Here’s the direction I’m headed with this…

There are millions of people in this country who believe that America is headed in the wrong direction.  And for good reason.  You see, over the last 18-24 months, we’ve been force-fed a steady diet of negative news about our economy, our infrastructure, our schools, our health care system, our tax codes, our immigration policy, our trade policy, and our criminal justice system.  Candidates of every ilk were unabashedly vocal this past election cycle about the downward direction in which the U.S. is seemingly headed. 

But it’s not just politics, is it?

I attended the 2016 General, Jurisdictional, AND Annual Conferences of my beloved United Methodist Church, and I heard the same thing over and over and over again - from laity and clergy, from conservatives and progressives: the church is headed in the wrong direction. 

Of course, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we might admit that this feeling of wrong-directionness is not limited to just a national thing, or even a denominational thing.  It’s also a personal thing.

Ask yourself…How is my marriage?  Is it headed in the right direction?  How is my weight?   Is that headed in the right direction?  How is my career path, or my spiritual journey, or my relationship with my parents/siblings/kids?  Are all of these things headed in the right direction? 

If not, then I have one word for you – JANUARY!

Now, I realize that January can seem like the Nazareth of months (“Can anything good come out of January?”), but if we use it responsibly, it can be an amazing once-in-a-yeartime opportunity to turn things around and start heading in the right direction.   

When our calendars reset to triple zero this weekend, we can, relying on the strength and grace of God, resolve to restore our less-than-perfect relationships with our spouses, partners, parents, children, siblings, etc.  And we can resolve to be more intentional about eating healthier, or exercising more, or drinking less.  And we can resolve to get off the parkway and onto our knees as we surrender our keys and our lives to God, through any number of spiritual disciplines. 

Or we can continue to head in the wrong direction for yet another year, relying on our own “merit”. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Dear Virginia,

If you are looking to read a blog about your favorite Disney movie of all time, you will be sorely disappointed.  But get used to it, young lady.  Your long life will likely be full of disappointments.  One after another after another.

Even and especially at Christmas.

If you don’t believe me, Virginia, just ask the pastor of a United Methodist church near where I grew up on Long Island.  On Friday, he learned that the oil burner that heats the sanctuary of his landmark church burned out.  Fried.  Kaput.

After just 5 years! 

Admittedly, I don’t know much about mechanical stuff, sweetheart, but I DO know that those things are supposed to last 2 or 3 or even 4 times longer than that.  Whose fault is it that this thing broke, I can’t say for sure.  Maybe there was a fatal flaw in the original design, and the manufacturer should be blamed.  Maybe it was installed improperly by the local company that hooked it up in the first place, and they should be sued.   Maybe it wasn’t maintained well by the congregation. 

Don’t know.  Don’t care.  All the finger pointing in the world isn’t gonna warm the sanctuary on Christmas Eve. 

Now, if you’re thinking that the church should just go to Oil Burners ‘R’ Us down at the mall, and get a brand new one, think again.  This poor church hasn’t even finished paying off the loan for the last one! 

But to be brutally and perfectly honest, Virginia, the church MIGHT have  enough money to buy a new oil burner if they weren’t so busy giving their stuff away.  

You see, this historic church goes out of their way to provide food and clothing for 200+ people in need every single week. In addition to that, they are  always sponsoring dinners, welcoming the poor and treating them as family and guests they gather around the table.

In fact, this Christmas they were planning on serving up to 500 people who might not otherwise have a family meal for the holiday. And every single child who shows up at this very special church dinner, was going to be given a toy.  For FREE!

That is, until the boiler broke last week.   But with no money and no heat, and no prospects to get either in the foreseeable future, I guess the church will have to cancel Christmas this year – unless…

Some area businessfolk heard about the church’s plight and offered to donate enough portable heaters to keep the sanctuary reasonably seasonable on Christmas Eve.  Someone else started a GoFundMe page, which has raised more than $8,000 in just 3 days. 

Moreover, when word got out, another $10,000 was raised from generous members and townspeople and local businesses, all of whom got caught up in the spirit of the season.  And just yesterday, the Catholic church in town showed up at this Methodist church and said they had been praying to God, asking who they should bless with a special Christmas present. 

Believe it or not, God told the Catholics to bless the Methodists, with a check for $2,000.

Yes, Virginia, the sanctuary may be a little chilly at their Christmas Eve service tonight, but I believe that the United Methodist Church and the rest of the beloved community in Patchogue is on fire!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Ya know, Hillary is not the only United Methodist to lose a big election recently.  I, too, came up short in an important ballot count not long ago.  Granted, the office I sought wasn’t President of the United States - but it was Bishop of the United Methodist Church, so it was kind of a big deal. 

Anyway, here’s what happened…

On the day before this summer’s episcopal election, all of the other nominees and I were interviewed by 8 different teams of 20-30 voting delegates. As a way of ensuring that oranges were compared only to oranges, each of the 8 groups was told to ask the exact same questions of each of the dozen or so nominees. 

However, in order to mix things up a bit, each interview group was given the prerogative to ask any additional questions  to which they might want answers.

These extra queries were in the general neighborhood of “As a bishop, how would you dismantle racism, how would you reverse the decades-long numerical decline in mainline Protestant churches in America, and how would you achieve peace in the Middle East?”.  Believe it or not, that was all part of a single question!

And yet, that was not the most difficult question posed to me that day.  That came as I was on my way out of one of the interview rooms, when a woman asked in front of everyone, “Ken, how would you Tweet your legacy?

I didn't share this at the time, of course, but I have never Tweeted anything in my whole life.  Nor have I ever followed anyone on Twitter.  In fact, until right now, I have never typed the phrase "hash tag".

That said, I DO know enough about the Twitosphere to know that a Tweet cannot exceed 140 characters (I guess 144 characters would be gross).  So essentially, the question before me was this: “Ken, would you please sum up your entire 30-year ministerial career in 20 words or less?  Right now.”

What would YOU have said - off the top of your head, in front of several dozen strangers holding clipboards (and your future!) in their hands, with your dream job at stake?  How would YOU have summed up or boiled down more than a thousand sermons, tens of thousands of prayers, and a whole lifetime of discipleship? 

I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and prayed for God to instantaneously fly in front of my mind’s eye a single-engine plane with a banner in tow that bore something profound in 140 characters or less. 

As is so often the case, the Divine delivered.
I looked at the inquiring woman, and then proudly proclaimed to all within earshot that my legacy Tweet would be this: “Keeping the rumor of God alive. 

Unfortunately, neither that answer, nor any of the other thirtysomething answers that I offered that day were enough to garner the requisite votes to be elected.  So I’m not going to be a bishop.  And since I am currently in the last year of my superintendency, I’m not going to be a DS for much longer either.

So what’s next for me?   

Well, starting July 1, 2017, Bishop Bickerton will appoint me to serve as the pastor of a local church in our Conference, where I will spend the rest of my days and years in ministry… keeping the rumor of God alive.

So what’s next for my blog?

Well, starting with my very next posting, the name of my blog will be changed to “KeepingTheRumorOfGodAlive”.