Author Archives: ricshewell

ricshewell

I'm a youth pastor, and I'm half-korean. That should clear up a lot of your confusion.

A Thanksgiving Prayer by Walter Brueggemann 

At Thanks Giving

Amid football, family and too much food, we pause quickly and without inconvenience

to remember and to thank.

We remember ancient pilgrims

who followed dreams of alabaster cities and financial opportunity;

We remember hospitable first nation people

who welcomed them, and then lost their land;

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My Address to St. Paul’s UMC, Church Conference 2015

Every year, each United Methodist Church conducts a Charge Conference or Church Conference to go over some business of the church. It’s also a time to reflect on the past year and dream about the future. Instead of having every committee share what they’ve done this year, they asked me to summarize the work of the church and share it at our Church Conference. This is what I said:

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What Happened This Weekend

         Well, my daughter got her first hair cut, the Patriots won the Superbowl, oh yeah, and TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE READ MY STORY OF LEAVING THE CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE.

         Let me just say that having your story read by thousands of people you don’t know is nerve racking. At a certain point, you have no control of what people will do with you. Most people sent words of care and comfort. Some have shared their stories of staying or leaving. Some have questioned my story. A few have questioned my motives. As the number of views and comments grew, I prepared myself for some negative comments. But, you know, it’s still nerve racking.

I want to quickly say a few things and then share something that happened because of that post. read more »

Why I Left the Church of the Nazarene

          Thank you everyone for reading and sharing my story. The reach and response have been absolutely overwhelming! Thank you for all your comments on this page, on Facebook, and through private messages. I read all of them, though I may not be able to respond to all of them. Thank you again. I have also made one correction below: the church that I served and worshipped at while I was in college was an Evangelical Methodist Church, not a Free Methodist Church as I had thought. 
____________________

          About 5 years ago, I left the denomination that introduced me to Jesus. I didn’t walk out of the Church of the Nazarene with fanfare, fireworks or middle fingers. My relationship with the CotN had more of a soft closing. But I did leave. I let my credentials lapse.  I’m currently serving, preaching, and pursuing ordination in the United Methodist Church. When I first left the CotN, I got emails left and right from different pastors and friends wanting to know if it was true that I left, why I left, and if I’ll consider staying. Eventually, those kind of emails stopped. Now, I get emails from young Nazarene ministers asking me why I left, if they should leave, where they could go, and how to leave gracefully. I haven’t been shy about this conversation in person, but I haven’t Facebooked or said anything publicly about leaving the CotN, mostly because I love the CotN and I don’t want to hurt my friends there or somehow appear bitter. But I think it’s time I shared my story because I am entirely uncomfortable caring for so many ministry hopefuls who feel like they can’t serve in a church they love.

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My Address to St. Paul’s at Church Conference

Every year, each United Methodist Church conducts a Charge Conference or Church Conference to go over some business of the church. It’s also a time to reflect on the past year and dream about the future. Instead of having every committee share what they’ve done this year, they asked me to summarize the work of the church and share it at our Church Conference. This is what I said:

I’ve been the pastor here at St. Paul’s for just over 16 months, and a lot of things have changed over those months. 

When we arrived to St. Paul’s in July of last year, our daughter Clementine was only 6 months old. She couldn’t say a word. She wasn’t crawling yet. We were still combing her hair in ways to hide her bald spots. Today, Clementine is different, and that’s a good thing. She has a favorite song, a favorite color, she goes down slides by herself, and this week she formulate her first sentence all on her own. She said, “I see snow.”

Before coming to St. Paul’s, I had no experience in being a lead pastor. I had been a youth pastor for 8 years. If you’re doing the math, that means some crazy pastor hired me, to be a youth pastor when I was only 20 years old. Before coming to St. Paul’s, I was only used to preaching at most, once a month. I had only ever done 2 memorial services, and one of them was for a gathering of 3 people. Today, I am different, and that’s a good thing. In my first year at St. Paul’s, I’ve performed 5 memorial services. I’ve formed sermons and sermon series that I pray God has used to inspire, move, and direct you to our loving Christ. I’ve held hands with people as we’ve listened to last breaths of their loved ones. I’m changed by St. Paul’s, and that’s a good thing. 

Today, St. Paul’s is different, too, and that’s a good thing. read more »

A Break Up Note: With Certainty

You just think about what you've done, Certainty.
You just think about what you’ve done, Certainty.

Dear Certainty,

Sorry to do it this way, but it’s over.

     We had our time, and it was good. You really strengthened me over the years. You gave me courage to say and do some pretty awesome things. Because of you, I–more or less–stayed out of trouble when I was young. You helped me in college, and that was nice. Because of you, I was never really unsure of where to go with my life. I really need to thank you for that.

     But let’s be honest, Certainty, you’ve gotten me into a number of fights, too. read more »

The History of Rap ture

Oh, there's a video game, too? This just got real.
Oh, there’s a video game, too? This just got real.

“Ray! Their shoes, their socks, their clothes, everything was left behind! These people are gone!”

-Hattie Durham in Left Behind

Apparently there’s this movie coming out this weekend about the end times from a “Christian” perspective. I know this because a lot of people are blogging about how Rapture teachings are not biblical. Rather than arguing about the bibliosity™ of rapture teaching (the kind of teaching found in books and movies like “Left Behind,” “A Thief in the Night,” and “Late Great Planet Earth”), I thought I’d just make a timeline that shows how we got to thinking like this.* Enjoy!

. . .

years 27-37 ad:  

A peasant, pedestrian, preacher, named Jesus, announces the Kingdom of God, is crucified and resurrected. Implications for the next life are established. (might as well start at the beginning.)

years 70-90ish:  

“The Revelation” is written, the coming of Christ and the end of evil, in an apocalyptic style.

year 100:

Everybody starts predicting the date when Jesus will come back, even though Jesus basically said, “don’t bother.”

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30 Goals For My 3rd Decade (apparently this is my 4th decade)

I turned 30 last Saturday, and when I showed my ID to the woman handing out wrist bands as last week’s Zoo Brews (beer festival at a zoo = awesome), she burst into tearful laughter and told me I look way too young. I guess I’ve still got it.

Anyway, thinking about this next decade made me want to put together some goals, and I’m happy to share them with you. I broke them down into 3 areas of my life: career, ministry, and life. Here you go:

Career

1. Finish my Doctorate of Ministry (D. Min). I’m about a 3rd of the way through.

2. Receive ordination in the United Methodist Church. Pretty much just waiting on my D. Min.

3. Clean my office. I’m about a 3rd of the way through. read more »

My Work Week

What’s a Sabbath with you?

sabbath permission

God gathered up a people who only knew slavery in Egypt. As God started to shape them into a people that would bless the world, God gave a commandment to this group of former slaves: rest from work for a day each week. Imagine what it means to a group of former slaves. Their God is commanding them not to work. Beautiful. They are truly free. When Moses reiterates the 10 commandments in Deuteronomy, he adds this reminder to the Sabbath commandment: Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day (Deut 5.15).

In short, my sermon yesterday was this: Sabbath is a gift from God to proclaim our freedom and God’s provision. You are not a slave to anything. God has set you free. You don’t have to work non-stop. God provides.

We also passed out Sabbath permission slips, which I thought were pretty cute. You can have one too.

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Religion Recovery

religionrecovery      It got in my head last January to do a sermon series on the ways people have been hurt by religion. Not a real novel idea. Move on over to google and you’ll find millions of posts about how religion, specifically Christianity, has let people down, done damage, and is making our world a mess. But what really got me thinking about doing this were all the conversations inside and outside of the church that I had will people. People who want to connect with God but won’t bring their children to a place where they are vulnerable to assault, people who want to connect with God but have been told by religious leaders that they won’t be joined with their dead children in heaven unless they change their lifestyle. You know the stories. You know the people.

      I thought, okay, let’s just address the ugliness head on. Let’s just call evil evil. Not in a way to disparage the church, but in a way to let the people we’ve wrong heal. Let’s talk about hypocrites, let’s talk about exclusion in the church, let’s talk about judgement and condemnation, let’s talk about abusive leaders. read more »