Destrangling the Vicarage Part 1

Those who have followed “Notes From The Vicarage” will remember that last year at this time our family was living away from the Vicarage as it got much needed surgery for survival into the future.

We had the pipes torn out and replaced; The shingles torn off, new insulation put up and siding put on; The bathrooms were gutted to the studs and remodeled; The floors downstairs were refinished; Eight windows were replaced; The sills were replaced and the trim painted; And the stone porch which was falling down was removed.

As an afterthought we ended up having to replace all the pipes from the house to the street, and then the town had to come in and replace the pipes from the edge of my property to the center of the street..

As it was all happening I kept reminding myself, it had to get worse before and got better. And it did get better. We love the Vicarage and the work that was done inside.

This year we will be working on the outside.

It turns out tearing down a three-quarter- of- a -century old stone porch and digging up your yard not once but twice is not good for the landscaping.

Parts of the Vicarage are barren moonscape and others are…. well….. Strangled.

So as we get ready for upcoming fencing and masonry work to get done. I am starting to destrangle the Vicarage.

This might not look like much yet, but at least now the mason will be able to get to the disintegrating pillar.



I haven’t been able to write much over the last few weeks. Oh, I have had the time. I haven’t had the energy.

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When I came on as lead Pastor of Cornerstone Church there was a lot to do. My task from God has been to renovate. The people of Cornerstone have been walking through a renovation of the spirit, a renovation of relationship and a renovation of our physical appearance.

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WHAT HAS BEEN CONSUMING SO MUCH OF MY ENERGY LATELY HAS BEEN THE PHYSICAL RENOVATION OF THE BUILDING. I told the congregation that I had three initial goals for our physical building. I wanted to deal with the PINK (the dilapidated rug in the sanctuary), the STINK (the plumbing issue in our men’s bathroom that has long escaped diagnosis and makes the church smell bad when there are heavy rains) and the SINK (the parking lot we affectionately call the Cornerstone Himalayas).

We handled the PINK last summer. Our sanctuary went FROM THIS


This year we are dealing with the next two projects, starting withe largest. The SINK.

Our board has been planning for the last couple of months for the special business meeting of the congregation where we would have the vote to move forward with this project.

Sunday was the day.

We presented.

The church voted.

We are getting a new parking lot!!!

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Now the real work begins: the signing of documents, the planning for ministry during construction, the work of communicating all that is going on to the Cornerstone community.

There is a temptation to just keep plowing ahead.

But I think it is important for all of us who are about to embark on this next great congregational adventure to take a moment and celebrate what we have already accomplished!

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A Big Random Weekend

I intended o write sometime during the weekend, but it was a big random weekend and the moments for writing did not coalesce as I wished them to.

On Friday I had a load of washed stone brought for the patio and the end of my drive. Yay! No more two foot drop off the end of the gravel!

Also on Friday I decided to go up to see the progress on The Ingleside property, now the Winchendon Community Park. I was a part of the committee that spearheaded the purchase of this land by the town. It is amazing to see what it is becoming.

Saturday morning I started with another tour around the yard to get my bearings of what needs to be done…. a lot of work lies ahead.

Then I met my friends Ray and Deb and Paul and Dawn to help set up for the “Taste of Winchendon Fair”. This is a multicultural fair that is in its third year in Winchendon.

Once set up was done I headed home to do a few chores.

I went back later in the day to help with breakdown. I caught the end of one of the bands that was playing. Big Random is a band that does a lot of charity work for the town. The drummer is a local lawyer who actually helped me a lot with the decisions concerning Grace’s estate work.

I met my daughter an son-in-law and grandchildren at the fair and we hung out for a while talking with other congregational members who were helping out at the various booths. Then Ray and I helped break the fair down. The dessert table had a left over cake so I brought that home as a Mother’s Day treat for mom.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. The flowers are from my sister Brenda. I got Mom chocolates. We got Wendy’s for lunch and then had naps. Naps are a Sunday necessity after church.

As I said a big random weekend at The Vicarage. Now I wonder if we will have a big random week.

Between Bunnies and Ordination

It has been a very busy couple of weeks. This new series we are doing as a church has been taking a lot of prep time and prayer time

I am also finding myself emotionally spent from the preaching and teaching of it. It is really good stuff, but it is also very emotional stuff.

We are also coming up on a very important meeting with the congregation about our parking lot.

And we are in the midst of a relaunch in our town of the council of churches.

Sooo… yeah it’s a lot.

In the midst of it here are two really high points from the last couple of weeks

My daughter Amanda got ordained. Here she is with her mother, Tina, and younger sister, Melanie. She loves the photo ops, can’t you tell?

Here is Amanda at her ordination banquet with friend and missionary Rev. Kim Ferguson.

And then of course the bunnies in the back yard are always a welcome distraction.

Between the ordination and the bunnies my heart is full.

OK folks, it is time for me to go pray. Big meeting tonight to plan for a bigger meeting next week.


Commander Andy, our outpost commander, for Royal Rangers boy’s ministry went out for knee surgery last week, and so I am filling in for the rest of the year. My son-in-law James is now the outpost commander. I am his second and a spare set of hands in ministry.

Last week James and I met to set up the next six weeks of classes for the boys. Last night I was assigned the task of the Bible study. I was to teach from Acts 1:8 and Acts 2:1-4

 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.


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Jesus said “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”

So we talked last night about asking God for the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts so that we could have power.

This afternoon sun my noon time prayers the Lord impressed upon me this thought…


Now that thought gave me pause. How different is this thought from the way most of the world views the acquisition of power?


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My morning routine is pretty rigorous. Mornings are the best time of the day for me to get things done and I find it really easy to habit stack in the morning.

HABIT STACKING- Habit stacking is a special form of an implementation intention. Rather than pairing your new habit with a particular time and location, you pair it with a current habit. This method, which was created by BJ Fogg as part of his Tiny Habits program, can be used to design an obvious cue for nearly any habit.

It seems my mornings are times when I have the most habits which I can easily link other activities to. I make the coffee, walk the dogs, make my bed while listening to my daily Bible chapters. I make breakfast and sit with Mom to do our Storyworth question (although lately we have been having a hard time getting to these as other topics of convo come up). I feed the birds, empty the dehumidifier and check the furnace level.

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Tuesdays are especially in need of the morning habit stacking. Tuesdays are staff meeting days, and so I give two hours of the morning to meeting with the church staff to go over the week at work. This means two things: It means I lose two hours and that a good portion of my brain space is used up by noon. Tuesday afternoon s sometimes not very productive. So I need to get certain things done in the morning. Not just all the things I mentioned, I also need to make sure the finishing touches are put on my sermon for Sunday and I am as you can see trying to make sure that writing and doing my devotional video is part of this morning routine.

Of course that means a few things might have to give as there is only so much morning to go around. I think I will leave the dishes in the sink for this afternoon.

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One of the benefits of being connected with our fellowship is the opportunity for intentional spiritual direction.

Having a spiritual director or a spiritual presbyter, as they are called among us, is a new thing for our network. I have always had a presbyter, but the job descriptions of these pastors of pastors has been so broad and the regions they cover so vast it was always very hard to have deep connection with them.

My section is Western MA. I pastor the eastern most western church in a region that stretches from my town on the New Hampshire border all the way to the New York border and south to the Connecticut border. My presbyter pastors a church about an hour and a half from me in Wilbraham MA. He oversees 18 churches over a large territory with a variety of needs in very diverse communities.

My spiritual presbyter, Pastor Vinnie, is from Lynnfield MA. He oversees two pastors as a spiritual presbyter. His job has nothing to do with the running of our churches. His job is to help us personally and spiritually as pastors.

He calls me about once a month to check in. Our calls focus on how my spiritual life is going, what my personal struggles are and how I am doing with the work of God. I love talking with him and praying with him. We are building a relationship of trust and conversational confessional discipline. It is good for my heart and it is new to me as a pastor. I have not had this connection with a pastor before and it feels good. It feel healthy. It feels….hopeful.

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God loves irony.

I never thought I would be a lead pastor. I was very content as an assistant. I always felt called to the pastoral lifestyle…the prayer ministry…the study….the preparation of sermons…the visitation and actual pastoring of the flock…navigating the supernatural move of The Holy Spirit… spiritual warfare. All of that felt like a natural fit for me. As an assistant those were the focuses of my work.

As a lead pastor I knew I would also have to assume leadership in the business end of the church’s work….The managing of staff… the balancing of budgets…the care of the building and property of the church. These felt like less of a fit. In spite of that I knew that when our last lead pastor left, I was being called to let my name stand for the position.

I let it stand.

I became the lead pastor.

It came with increased spiritual work.

It also came with three building projects which had been waiting in the wings for some time. The time has nowcome to address these projects as I reach my second and third year….the time when, according to my mentor, ministry really begins for a lead pastor.

The projects, we at Cornerstone, have affectionately named:


A tip of the hat to our Pepto Bismol-colored and very worn sanctuary rug.


A longstanding and undiagnosed smell that comes seasonally to our church building.


The term we use for our pothole ridden parking lot.

THE PINK, we dealt with last summer with the help of a congregant who is a contractor.

Well, the chairs are still pink but the carpet is no longer a tripping hazard.

THE STINK, has a diagnosis in a rotted and pitted pipe in the floor beneath one of our bathrooms and soon will be dealt with.

THE SINK is a bigger need which we are beginning to deal with as we gather the quotes and prepare to contract with a paving company.

God is funny. He has chosen me to lead the church through this work. I have no inherent ability in running a business and certainly no ability in the building trades (in fact my inability is legendary among my parishoners). Nevertheless, here I stand!

Here is what I am learning about this end of pastoring:

  1. Prayer is as helpful in directing the more earthy matters of the church as it is in directing the spiritual matters of the church.
  2. I do not make any of these decision alone. God has made us a church and He has raised up a very talented leadership team in this church. He has placed voices schooled with the wisdom we need for each of these works.
  3. Absolute agreement is not needed to move forward in the work of God. What is needed is unity and those two things are very different.
  4. Mistakes can and will happen along the way. They are as important as the successes and have much to teach us as a church body.

God loves irony. He also loves putting His people in positions where they learn that what seems like irony is really just spiritual growth potential.


Here we are! The beginning of Holy Week. It feels like we have officially moved into Spring. Even the world seems to know it.

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I had a board meeting with my deacons yesterday and one of our talking points was about the work of preparation God has been speaking to all of us about especially in light of what some of our sister churches are facing this Spring throughout the United States

Here Spring is coming in gently. I cannot imagine what it is like to pastor this Spring in Rolling RockMS Or Little Rock Arkansas or Nashville TN. My prayers are with those congregations as they face their incredible challenges. I am also praying that God helps us in, this gentler season for us, to prepare for whatever difficulty may lie ahead.

Our own thirteen hours blackout a few weeks ago during the ice storm showed me the need for us to obtain a secondary heat source for The Vicarage.

And the need for emergency packs has also begun to speak to my heart.

All those things aside, I am turning my eyes away from those things today to Sabbath myself (another very important aspect of personal preparation for what lies ahead). So today I am watching the Spring birds. Flocks have come to my feeders.

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Redwing Blackbirds

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These Spring birds have returned enmasse.

I have two flocks that visit daily on opposite sides of the property. The morning flock is between twenty and thirty birds and the afternoon flock is between forty and sixty birds. My soul is refreshed as I watch these troops converge on the house as I read the Scriptures and write down thoughts that have been waiting days to meet the page.