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A Response to the Continued Membership Decline

As the church continues to focus on the shadow of the circling "membership" vulture, I would make a radical but potent proposal dealing with growth:

1. Focus on average attendance, rather than membership, for appraisal of growth or decline.

In the Big Inning

Baseball is, of course, a biblical game because we are taught "the homer shall be the standard measure" (Ezekiel 45:11, RSV).  Jesus was looking for the diamond when he asked, "Where are the nine?"  (Luke 17:17)  Baseball is congenial to Christians because it is played in green pastures and often beside still waters (in Pittsburgh, however, we can cross three rivers to get to the park).

Throwing in the Towel

Our son Gary was born in a hospital connected with the prison where his mother was serving time for grand theft.  With a birth weight slightly more than three pounds, Gary could whimper softly but was too weak to cry for his first year on Earth.  We were told Gary would never walk because to his mental retardation was added cerebral palsy affecting all four limbs.

The Center Findint Its Voice

Is the center -- the 75-80 percent of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) between the theological/ideological ends of the spectrum -- finally finding its voice? The actions of the 212th General Assembly which recently concluded in Long Beach, Calif., indicate a new self-consciousness on the part of the great majority of Presbyterians and new possibilities for moving forward in faithfulness to our calling.

A Chest Hair Named Fred

When he was a teen-ager, my son, who was not wearing a shirt, approached his mother and said,

"Look, Mom."  "I'm looking."  "What do you see?"  "I see your chest."  "Yes, but what do you see on my chest?"  "What am I supposed to see on your chest?"  "You're supposed to see a chest hair named Fred."

The Gun Lap

I am often, and rightly, described as an athletic supporter.  I love all sports but especially track and am proud to say that I am one of the few persons in the world to see Bobby Morrow (1956 Olympic gold medals at 100 and 200 meters and the 4-by-100 relay) run a full quarter mile.

On Barking Dogmas

Fundamentalist and Modernist; Liberal and Conservative.  Sadly, these clumsy assignations are still made by Presbyterians.  I regret to say that I am myself victimized by this distinction, and I regret even more that I perpetuate its use.  The Apostle Paul discusses the broader problem of "we" and "they" (or to be more objective -- "us" and "them") in Philippians 1:15-18, coming to the remarkable conclusion that we should rejoice because Christ is being proclaimed, whether by "them" in pretense or by "us" in truth.

Ardor vs. Order

As a lifelong student of muliebrity, I have learned that Earth has few intellectual delights to compare with the satisfaction of embarrassing the woman you love.  Although I. Kant say it out loud, an axiom of both pure and practical reason holds that a woman will never get angry at you if you are trying to express your devotion to her.

Panic in the Pulpit

Most of us learn to preach by imitation and we imitate what we admire.  When I was in seminary, the preacher I most admired wrote his sermons in a black, 6 b 9 notebook -- so I bought a 6 by 9 notebook.

Moreover, I noticed that when he was ready to turn a page, he made a dramatic gesture toward heaven and while everyone was looking up, he flipped the page.  I practiced that maneuver too.

Squirrels in My Attic

On August 11, 1991, after 37 years of devoutly offering burnt offerings to heaven, I smoked my pipe for the last time, quitting, as they say, cold duck.  I had taken up pipe smoking because I thought it denoted a kindly, reflective, manly person such as I considered myself to be.

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