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”. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016


Because I live too far from White Plains, N.Y. to commute back and forth during our two and three-day Cabinet meetings, I typically stay overnight in a hotel near the NYAC  conference center. I’ve been doing this for years without incident.  

Until recently.

Following a long day in Cabinet, I drove to my hotel nearby and checked in at the reception desk.  In exchange for an imprint of my credit card, I was handed a tiny envelope with my card key inside and my room number on the outside.

On the way to my room, I tried to decide how I might treat myself on this hard day’s night. Should I do some laps in the swimming pool?  Should I sweat it out in the steam room, or chill out in the hot tub?  Or should I just put on my PJs and watch what was left of the Monday Night Football game?

After I reached the place where the number on the room matched the number on my tiny envelope, I slid the plastic card into the slot and entered the room. Imagine my surprise when I found several lights already on, the television blaring, and a shirtless man in my bed!


While stammering something about it being “MY ROOM”, I did an about-face that would’ve made Oliver North proud.  Keeping with the Marine theme, I then marched down to the hotel lobby to tell the receptionist that there was a strange guy in my hotel room. 

Believe or not, here’s where things got really weird!

When I told her what had just happened, she acted as if this sort of stuff took place all the time - like I had just complained that the television remote didn’t work, or the shower dripped, or the last sheet of toilet paper wasn’t fanned out to look like the tail of a proud peacock.  Without so much as an apology or an upgrade, she handed me another key card for another room. 

This second room was dark and vacant when I entered, thank God, but the damage was already done.  I realized that if the unreceptive receptionist gave me a key to someone else’s room, she could easily give someone else a key to MY room.

Immediately, I looked through the peep hole to make sure no one was standing there, triple-locked the door 10 or 20 times, and then closed the drapes extra tight.  Before getting into bed, I grabbed the letter opener from my computer bag so that would have a weapon within reach while I slept (fyi, I didn't sleep).

As I tossed and turned all night, I wondered…is this how my wife feels whenever she travels alone?  Afraid.  Vulnerable.  At risk.  Open to attack. 

Is this how my diminutive daughter feels when she walks home from the campus library after dark?  Is this how my sister feels when she leaves the mall at closing? 

Is this how innocent civilians feel when ISIS or the Taliban takes over their village, city or province?  Is this how political refugees feel when they leave their war-torn homeland with their worldly possessions on their backs? 

Is this how my black brothers and sisters feel whenever they encounter a cop? Is this how homeless folks feel whenever they sleep on the streets or in shelters? Is this how my friends in the LGBT community feel whenever they go to school, or a club, or a church? 

Last question – have I done all that I can to assuage the fears of these beloved children of God? 

I’m afraid…not. 

Unhappy Halloween.