Tuesday, September 29, 2009

busy weekend

It has been a busy few days in the Big Easy!

Thursday night we went to usher university. It was super boring but I am now an official volunteer for the Mahalia Jackson theater (only recently reopened). My roommates and I signed up to usher several shows including Cats, Tosca, and Yo-Yo Ma! This means we get to see all these shows for free--although I will probably be standing in the rafters at Yo-Yo Ma.

Friday night Dan and I went to the Seafood Festival. We split a shrimp po-boy (the best I have had so far) and an order or fried alligator. I don't think I will eat any more alligator. There was also live entertainment (because there is always live entertainment in New Orleans) and lots of dancing. Afterward we had some coffee and good conversation. These moments, sitting around talking about faith and theology, are what I love about living in intentional Christian community.

Saturday I managed to talk everyone into going to the beach even though it was supposed to rain all day long. It was very cold and rainy when we got there but after only ten minutes it cleared up. We saw a water spout out over the ocean--very cool--and by the end of the day the sun even came out.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It has been a difficult week for me at work. This will probably be reflected in the scatteredness (that isn't even a word) of this posting. Things are very quiet and not too busy. Being an extrovert, it is draining for me to be in an office all day with only one other person and sometimes by myself. I am tired, but not discouraged. I have always been a very busy person, often putting in 14-16 hour days. I like this lifestyle and it allows me to push aside things that are difficult or not much fun. It probably isn't' the healthiest lifestyle. It is my tendency to want to do things. Part of being in mission is not always doing but sometimes just being. The idea of accompaniment was introduced to me in orientation and is still a concept I think about a lot. I am still trying to decide what it means, especially in the context of my year in New Orleans.

I have spent a lot of time this week playing through music that might be appropriate for a casual/contemporary worship. I came across this song in Faith We Sing. It was exactly what I needed to sing and hear this week. God challenges us because it provides us opportunities for growth.

"Come and Find the Quiet Center"

Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed:
Clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we can see
all the things that really matter, be at peace and simply be.

Silence is a friend who claims us, cools the heat and slows the pace,
God it is who speaks and names us, knows our being, touches base,
making space within our thinking, lifting shades to show the sun,
raising courage when we're shrinking, finding scope for faith begun.

In the Spirit let us travel, open to each other's pain,
let our loves and fears unravel, celebrate the space we gain:
There's a place for deepest dreaming, there's a time for heart to care,
in the Spirit's lively scheming there is always room to spare.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shrimp: From boat to moat.

Every week the YAVS in New Orleans have a family dinner. The girls and boys alternate cooking and cleaning duties. Last week the boys cooked catfish tacos. It was delicious but we had a huge mess to clean up and our house smelled like fried catfish for a few days. Not wanting to be out done, the girls went out on a shrimp boat (actually, Gloria was the only one that went) and brought back fresh shrimp to cook for our Sunday dinner. It was equally as messy as the fried fish. Here is a photo journey through our shrimp adventure.

Notice that I am not in this picture. I went to a movie instead of help clean shrimp...but I did come home halfway through the process, threw on my grubby cloths (the LSU shirt!) and safety goggles and tried to help. It was gross. I think my effort was appreciated but I probably cleaned about one shrimp in the time it took everyone else to do three.

We were all a little grouchy and hungry. There is nothing like cleaning shrimp to divide a household =).

Lisa, like myself, does not clean shrimp. We let her off the hook because she prepared the rest of the meal (and because she is a vegetarian).

We made some delicious shrimp and grits!

The whole process was very exhausting. Shortly after this picture was taken we were all asleep on the living room couches/chairs/floor.

While some people like to save left overs for lunch or dinner the next day, we like to make castles out of ours.

Friday, September 18, 2009

It's Friday!

Perhaps the best part of my experience so far has been all the free meals. The food here is great and life revolves around it. Last night the 20/30's group from St Charles Avenue hosted a bbq with live blue grass and music. It was nice to meet a lot of new people and make connections in the city. Tonight we are going back to the same venue for a dinner with the YAV board.

In other news, all the spiritual discernment we have been doing has really paid off. I have found my calling...I am going to be a calliope player on a river boat in New Orleans. Note: the last pic is actually a video so hit play =)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Worship and Community

I am about to break all the blogging rules--this will probably be long and won't have any pictures (sorry Mom). So grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable before venturing into this blog post =)

I met with Katie for coffee yesterday afternoon. Katie is the new DCE at a Presbyterian church down the road and came to New Orleans around the same time that I did. We were chatting about the involvement of children and young adults in church and she mentioned that a lot of friends had been unable to find a "meaningful worship" experience since being in New Orleans. I think this is something a lot of young adults can relate to and an issue that needs to be addressed in our churches. So, I have been sitting at the coffee shop this morning thinking about "meaningful worship." What is it and how do we find it?

When talking about conflict in the church (especially in regards to worship) I have said and heard it said we should simply remember worship is not for us, it is for God! Problem solved, right? Well, not really--so I tried to break it down a little. What is it that young adults really want? I want a meaningful community. In my experience, when a strong community of faith comes together in fellowship we all desire to worship! To me this is meaningful worship--to be a part of a healthy community of like minded people that are so grateful for the gifts of God and so longing for the support and healing of Jesus that they want to be together in worship and prayer.

Ultimately, I think most people want to be a part of this kind of church. So where is the break down? Why do young adults have a hard time feeling welcomed and comfortable in the life of the Presbyterian church? How do we connect the generations? How do we facilitate these types of conversations in our own congregations?

There is a huge need in the New Orleans community for young adult ministries. As part of the outreach ministry at Metairie Ridge I am going to start a young adult group. Primarily we will come together to worship. I don't want this service to be a replacement for Sunday morning church. I want a place for young adults to be in community and be a support system for each other so we have the strength and tools we need to go back into our intergenerational church communities and make a difference. It seems crazy to be starting a new service from the ground up but the need is there and I certainly have the time.

So, if you made it this far in the blog, thanks for reading! I would love to hear your ideas on what makes worship/community meaningful to you...

Monday, September 14, 2009

We went on a photo scavenger hunt (created by our site coordinator, Kathy) as a way to learn how to navigate the city a little better. Unfortunatly, it didn't work...I am lost everytime we go out! But, we had lots of fun. Here are a few pics from the afternoon.

In New Orleans, you can drink in the streets and everyone loves to dance. Here is Ben, Gloria, and Lisa having a dance party with some random guy holding a drink.

New Orleans is full of fountains and statues...

and gators...

and cockroaches. Our team won the competition due to the 50 pt picture of us holding a giant New Orleans cockroach. This picture is actually a grasshopper but I like it better than the one of us holding the cockroach =)

A game of leap frog in front of a river boat.

All over downtown there are pictures and statues of this blue dog. I don't actually know what it is for...I think some fundraising thing.

Women's Retreat

One of the first things I was invited to attend at Metairie was the women's retreat. I thought it would be a great way to meet people, a place to share my story and a time to hear stories of others. Then I found out it was a silent retreat...

I was not excited when my alarm went off on Saturday morning, mainly because I didn't get much sleep (we went to hear an amazing trumpet player at the Blue Nile the night before). I also dreaded the retreat because I am not very good at being quiet. To make matters worse, the first thing I recieved at the door was a journal. I am already blogging and now I have to write in a journal too? It was asking a lot.

The retreat was not so bad. In fact, it was truly a blessing to be there. Being still and quiet in the presence of God and a community of strong Christian women was a powerful experience. My journal ended up being a long list of questions. So many times in my life I have been filled with questions and doubts but Saturday my questions were different. Rather than leave me feeling frustrated and lost, they gave me a sense of energy and inspiration. I can not wait to explore all these questions--to grow in my faith! And what better time or place to do this? I am surrounded by people of faith who are ready and willing to walk this journey alongside me. Thanks be to God! Stay tuned for blogs exploring the many questions written in my retreat journal....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Meet the Crew

This is a picture of all the New Orleans YAVS during orientation. There are seven of us and we are all living together in intentional community. Dan, Austin, Ben and Lisa (the bottom row and top left) work as construction assistants for Project Homecoming. Part of their job is to lead groups of volunteers who have come to New Orleans to help rebuild. Gloria (middle right) works at the University of New Orleans with a program called CHART. She will be doing research and developing curriculum on the destruction of the wetlands. Jenna (middle left) and myself are both working a local churches helping them to grow and transform youth and young adult ministries.

First Few Days of Work

I have been in New Orleans for a little over a week now. Last week was orientation to the city. It was a lot of fun and included many free meals. Our site coordinator, Kathy, informed us that most of life in New Orleans is centered around food. The few days of orientation was followed by a four day weekend in which we were able to clean, settle in, sleep, and explore the city. There is so much to see and do around here! So far my YAV experience has been a really nice vacation--orientation at a retreat center in New York, lots of delicious food, plenty of opportunity to rest and reflect. =)

Yesterday the vacation ended and I started work. I am working at a church called Metairie Ridge Presbyterian Church. The church has been through some turmoil due to several things including, of course, Katrina. The church is now on the rebound and there is definitely an energy running through the congregation. I am excited to be a part of the rebuilding process in this community. Primarily I am responsible for the children and youth ministries. Goals for the year include starting a confirmation class, having lots of youth activities, and getting the youth more involved in the church community.

On my first day of work I spent the morning adding all the church youth as facebook friends and spent the afternoon looking at other church websites to get an idea of what sort of youth fellowship is happening in the community. It is now day 2 and I have no idea what I should be doing! This is no doubt going to be a year of flexibility and self-directed work. I pray that I can figure things out sooner rather than later and God will use my gifts and talents in effective ways here at Metairie Ridge. I do find comfort in knowing there are 66 other YAVS, all around the world, feeling the exact same way!

Where can I go from your spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go to the heavens you are there
If I make my bed in the depths you are there;
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.
-Psalm 139 vs. 7-10