Pastor Darian

Author's details

Name: Pastor Darian
Date registered: June 5, 2012
URL: http://www.blogger.com/profile/11559326733206917353

Latest posts

  1. Pastor Darian's Musings: What I Didn’t Learn In Seminary: How to “Find” A Mentor — July 17, 2014
  2. Pastor Darian's Musings: What I Didn’t Learn In Seminary: How To Eulogize Elmer — July 10, 2014
  3. Pastor Darian's Musings: Let It Go — And Grow — May 29, 2014
  4. Pastor Darian's Musings: An Upcoming Blog-cation — May 22, 2014
  5. Pastor Darian's Musings: Insight From Isaac: And His Tale of Two Walks — May 15, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. Pastor Darian's Musings: The Gospel According to John Coffey — 1 comment
  2. Pastor Darian's Musings: The Duties of a 1913 Preacher in Cleveland, MS — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Jul 17 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: What I Didn’t Learn In Seminary: How to “Find” A Mentor

Original post at http://www.darianduckworth.com/2014/07/what-i-didnt-learn-in-seminary-how-to_17.html


I was looking for a Methodist church closest to the movie theater.

Garden State had just opened at the Midtown Art Cinema in Atlanta, and I had booked a ticket for the earliest Sunday matinee’. If I wanted to attend a worship service, I’d have to find a church in the vicinity that offered an early service. When I did a web search for churches nearby the theater, the first site that appeared was Grace United Methodist Church. A few clicks later, my second Sunday in Atlanta was planned.

Two weeks into my first year of seminary, I had not yet ventured beyond the campus area and into midtown Atlanta. Since GPS was not yet a staple in cell phones or cars, I printed a map and directions down Ponce (a.k.a. Ponce de Leon Avenue—even I knew after only two weeks as a Georgian to call it only “Ponce”). I left the apartment early, just in case I got lost. The good news was that I didn’t get lost. The bad news was that I faced a church visitor’s worst fear.

I was early—for an early church service.

The band was still rehearsing when I walked into the fellowship hall. The greeters were sitting around a table, drinking coffee and talking. Two of them immediately rose from the table when they saw me. I don’t remember their names, but I do remember how naturally, grace-fully, they welcomed me. They poured a cup of coffee for me and introduced me to their friends. Before long, the room filled with people, and the service began. As the pastor stepped forward, I was intrigued.

He had just begun a series on the Nicene Creed, which I had to memorize for Church History class. I didn’t fall asleep during his sermon, but I’d already enjoyed a few naps in Church History.

He spoke with a gentle yet firm authority.

He was passionate about the Word he preached.

When the sermon ended and it was time to go to the movie theater, I was making plans to return the next Sunday.

Six years later, I knelt at a rail on the stage of the Jackson Convention Center. One by one, servants who have survived four years of college, three years of divinity school, three years of hands-on ministry, background checks, psychological examinations, interviews, essays, doubt, celebrations, thinking and re-thinking the decision, stepped forward to hear three words of the bishop:

Take the authority…

The day of my ordination had finally arrived, and the hands upon my head were as heavy as everyone told me they’d be.

Two of those hands belonged to Dr. John Beyers—the minister I’d met because he served a church near a movie theater.

When I left my apartment into the unknown of Atlanta that September morning, I was searching for specific destinations. What found me was a mentor.

I returned to “Grace on Ponce” each Sunday for two of the next three years. I listened to John the pastor as he carried confidence from the pulpit into the kindness of a conversation. I observed John the priest as he reverently poured baptismal water on the head of a child and delicately lifted the chalice of Holy Communion. I came to know him over the years not only as a minister I admired—but also as someone I could call on as a friend.

After graduating, I found myself as the pastor, priest, and “theologian in residence,” to use one of John’s favorite phrases, of a congregation. I did call often on John. I asked him to pray for me during difficult times. I sought his advice. Sometimes we would go for months without correspondence. But when I needed a mentor, he was there. When the time came that I was ordained to “take thou authority” in The United Methodist Church, one of the people I wanted next to me was the one who still spoke –and lived—the authority I’d heard in a fellowship hall years ago.

Seminary taught me a lot about ministry. One shelf in my office contains books on pastoral leadership, and every single one has a chapter about the meaning of “authority.” I learned the Old Testament meaning of “priest” and the New Testament definitions of “pastor” and “elder.” I am grateful for the case studies, conversations, essays, exams, and even the Church History classes that were hugely important in my theological training. The world of academia was not my sole training ground for life in the pulpit and around the table of a local church. Mentors like John taught me by example.

Paul often wrote to congregations with the command, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” He invited people to follow his example as he followed Christ’s example.* I am immensely grateful for all of the mentors God has brought, and continues to bring, into my life. Sometimes we were “assigned” to each other. Sometimes we “found” each other.

Through each other, God provides what we need when we need it. God provides whom we need when we need him or her. The finding often occurs when we’re seeking something else.

I first went to Grace United Methodist Church in Atlanta because of a movie theater. I went back because of Dr. John Beyers and his hospitable parishioners. I keep returning to church not only because it’s where I work. I keep returning because we need each other—mentors to one another.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

* 1 Corinthians 11:1 (New International Version)

Dr. John Beyers now serves as the senior minister of Hillside United Methodist Church in Woodstock, Georgia. Their website is http://www.hillsideumc.org/ The website for Grace United Methodist Church of Atlanta is http://www.graceonponce.org/

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/07/what-i-didnt-learn-in-seminary-how-to-find-a-mentor/

Jul 10 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: What I Didn’t Learn In Seminary: How To Eulogize Elmer

Original post at http://www.darianduckworth.com/2014/07/what-i-didnt-learn-in-seminary-how-to.html


I was packing up my apartment in Atlanta when the package arrived.

My predecessor at Grace United Methodist Church had kindly mailed me a photo directory of the congregation. I was thrilled to receive the directory for two reasons. Obviously, I could start learning names of my future parishioners. I could also procrastinate packing by trying to memorize those names and faces.

One name that was hard to forget was Elmer Carby. On my first Sunday, I recognized him as soon as he walked into the sanctuary. He looked just like his photo-- only shorter than I expected. As he came forward for Holy Communion, I said to him, “Elmer, the body of Christ given for you.”

Stunned, he said, “You know my name.”

I nodded and smiled. After the service, he asked how I knew and remembered his name. I told him about the photo directory, and said, “Elmer, you just seem like a memorable guy.”

Seven years ago, little did I know just how memorable a person could be. Elmer Carby loved and enjoyed life, and being 90 years old did not slow him down. He would sometimes come to see me on Tuesdays in the church office—but never before 10AM. He had a men’s prayer breakfast at 7, coffee “across the [Mississippi] river” with friends at 8, and coffee with church friends at 9. I had the privilege of being his last stop before he returned home to watch The Young and the Restless while riding his stationary bicycle.

His status as a social butterfly was not confined to the mornings. I probably saw Elmer at more parties than church services, and he was faithfully in church every Sunday. When I would run into him at a social gathering, he would greet me with a question that this preacher was thrilled to hear:

“Can I get you a glass of wine?”

I loved Elmer Carby not only because a pastor loves her church members. I loved him because he was real. I loved him because he was Elmer.

Two years after I told Elmer goodbye as his pastor, an early-morning call told me that he had bid this earth farewell. At the request of Elmer’s family, I sat down to write a reflection for his funeral.

I sat in front of the computer screen and opened my Bible to the book of 1 Corinthians. I didn’t want to read Paul the theologian. I didn’t seek advice from the guy whose words I’d dissected around tables with other seminary students for three years.

I needed the comfort of another itinerant pastor who had learned to love from afar.

I thought of how Paul traveled from one region to another, one congregation to another. I thought of how hard it must have been to say goodbye to people for whom he deeply cared. I thought about the seeds of love he carried in his heart, planted by friends along the way.

The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. *

Seminary taught me a definition of pastoral care. But seminary didn’t teach me how to care for Elmer. Elmer taught me how to love him.

Seminary taught me how to write sermons and eulogies for funerals. But seminary didn’t teach me how to write Elmer’s eulogy. Elmer’s life wrote his funeral. He gave bountifully, loved abundantly, and lived joyfully. Perhaps when Paul wrote these words, there was an “Elmer” on his mind.

On my last Sunday at Grace United Methodist Church, Elmer came forward for Holy Communion. Five years after we met at the Lord’s Table, we said goodbye at the Lord’s Table.

“Elmer, the body of Christ given for you.”

Thanks be to the God who calls us by name.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

* 1 Corinthians 9:6-8 (Common English Translation)

Dearly Beloved Readers, It’s good to be back with you after a month-long “blog-cation.” This morning, I opened The Upper Room devotional to discover that my dad wrote today’s meditation. Check it out here.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/07/what-i-didnt-learn-in-seminary-how-to-eulogize-elmer/

May 29 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: Let It Go — And Grow

Original post at http://www.darianduckworth.com/2014/05/let-it-go-and-grow.html


One year ago, the man I was dating planted a vegetable garden in my backyard.

Four raised beds of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, and carrots surrounded a square bed filled with herbs. Resting on evenly layered mulch, little Eden caught eyes and tickled noses around the neighborhood.

I gathered recipes and prepared to cook the fruits of “our” labors. But what really thrilled me was learning about gardening from him. He was going to teach me what to prune, when to harvest, and how to turn my two brown thumbs green.

Gardening lessons ended with the relationship.

We tried to share joint custody of the garden. He would come to the house while I was at work, tidy the beds, and leave produce by my back door. With time, our contact went the way of many break ups. The carport became bare of vegetables. The tomato vines grew. His truck’s tire marks disappeared from the driveway.

I was now the sole caretaker of a garden, and I didn’t know how to take care of a garden.

Damn it, I told myself. I would tend that garden on my own. Eden would live on. How difficult could it be?

I gathered information from books and online. Early every morning, I’d inspect each plant and turn on the sprinkler. I watched weather reports. I spent hours trimming and gathering and weeding and tasting.

People would ask me how the garden was doing, and I would tell only half of the truth. I’d say that it was fine, beautiful, blooming, and fun. To the naked eye, all of those abstract adjectives were appropriate. But underneath the bright greens and deep purples and fiery reds were weary roots. No matter how hard I tried to turn gardening into my hobby, it wasn’t. No matter how tirelessly I cared for Eden, I still felt banished from its life-giving joy.

The garden may have been flourishing, but this gardener was not.

I called a friend. Over cups of coffee, I confessed to her that I didn’t enjoy the garden. I told her how tired I was of the overflow of cucumbers and the collapsing tomato cages. I dreaded the time I “had” to spend there.

“Let it go.”

Her voice was soft but confident. I leaned forward.

“Let the garden go and grow.”

I started to protest. How could I let go of something into which I’d invested so much time? How could I walk away from something that I had wanted so desperately to prosper?

I knew she was right. Underneath the rapid thoughts was my desire for permission to let the garden—and him—go and grow.

I did not go to the garden that day. I did not go the next day either. I’d catch a glimpse of it from the kitchen window and walk away. I offered its fruits to anyone who was willing to walk in the yard and take them.

I slowly gave the hours spent in the garden to new priorities. I worked. I practiced yoga. I wrote. I began studying wine tasting & food pairing. I prayed. I lived.

Eventually the temperatures dropped, and the brown leaves fell. I traveled to the west coast to visit my sister and her family. As my niece entertained me with the song, “Let It Go,” from Frozen, my mind returned to a back yard in Mississippi and the words of a friend. By the time I returned, the first frost of an early winter had bitten all the garden’s fruit. Ice and snow soon encased each bed in sheets of cold.

I found out about a teenager with a budding interest in gardening and arranged for her parents to “pick up” the garden. They spent a cold, rainy December morning digging up the soil and hauling off the beds. When they left, all that remained of a past Eden was one big, muddy rectangle.

Spring finally arrived, the ground dried out, and a few green weeds peeked through the empty plot. Blades of grass soon joined them. Before long, green outgrew the brown. When I would look out the kitchen window, I no longer saw what was missing. I saw what was present.

I was outlining a yoga class when the garden’s new owners walked into my office. The teenage girl described to me the flowers, carrots, potatoes, radishes, and herbs they were growing. Her mother told me how two of the beds were helping with an erosion problem.

“Did you know that we’re using the same soil?” the mother asked.

“No. Is it still any good?” I replied.

“Yeah, it’s very good soil. We’re still using almost all of it.”

Other seed fell into good soil and bore fruit. Upon growing and increasing, the seed produced in one case a yield of thirty to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of one hundred to one. (Mark 4:8, Common English Bible)

Sometimes we have to let one garden go in order for a new one to grow.

Sometimes the soil with which we struggle simply needs different hands to dig through it.

Sometimes the harvest is not ours to create.

After the mother and daughter left the office, I drove to the coffee shop. I filled my mug with half dark roast and half decaf. I opened my laptop and started typing. I looked out the window at some large pots filled with white and purple flowers.

I thought briefly about trying to plant something similar in my yard.

I let the thought go.

My non-green thumbs went back to pounding the keys. Black font filled the white page – first quickly, then slowly, then steadily. Thoughts turned to words. Words turned to sentences. Sentences turned to stories about a God who makes all good things grow.

I moved the cursor across the screen and clicked “save.”

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/05/let-it-go-and-grow/

May 22 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: An Upcoming Blog-cation

Original post at http://www.darianduckworth.com/2014/05/an-upcoming-blog-cation.html


Dearly beloved readers,

The post that I had hoped to publish today needs more time and revision. I hope to share it with you next week. Instead of trying to come up with another idea and write a separate piece, I'll share with you what's ahead for the blog this summer.

Last year around this time, I took a sabbatical from the blog. This allowed time for me to make some changes to the format of the site and to work on some other projects. I plan to do the same this year, but I'd rather call it a "blog-cation." Why? Well, I like to combine words and create new ones--especially using the word, "vacation"!

Next week I plan to publish the post that I'm working on now. After that piece, I will not be posting to the blog for the month of June. If you subscribe over email, you'll start receiving emails again when I resume posting in July.

As always, please know how grateful I am for each of you. Thank you for reading & listening with me. My prayer is that you will hear God speak in the everyday-ness of life. My hope is that we will all dare to obey him.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/05/an-upcoming-blog-cation/

May 15 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: Insight From Isaac: And His Tale of Two Walks

Original post at http://www.darianduckworth.com/2014/05/insight-from-isaac-and-his-tale-of-two.html


When Charles Dickens wrote, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times," I wonder if he had an energetic dog who loved to go for walks.

The majority of blog posts I write about Isaac the Insightful revolve around walks with my Labrador-Eskimo-Collie. Perhaps God speaks most clearly when I'm (a) enjoying His outdoor creation, (b) engaging in physical exercise, and (c) letting a little dog "lead" me. Or is that I can hear him more clearly in these circumstances of self-care?

This time, it's a tale of two walks that gave me pause.

On the first walk, Isaac and I were running later than usual, and traffic was heavier. I had to change the route and keep Isaac on a shorter leash as cars flew by. Understandably, he was frustrated with these changes. Frustration can lead to disobedience, for both canines and humans. For Isaac, disobedience usually occurs in a public setting. At one of the busiest intersections in town, at one of the busiest times of day, Isaac decided he'd had enough. He sat down in the middle of the street. He glared at me. He would not budge.

Equally frustrated, I also slipped into disobedience. I broke every rule that his trainer taught me. I yelled, "NO!" I jerked on the leash. I dragged him to the nearest yard, pointed my finger at him, and lectured him on obedience. Yes, I know. My name is Darian, and I'm a hypocrite (Hi, Darian!). He sat down in the middle of that lawn. He glared at me. He would not budge. I said, "let's go" with the enthusiasm of someone headed for a root canal. I stepped forward, only to be pulled back by a dog who looked like he would rather have a root canal than be with me.

I pulled on the leash with enough force to get him next to me, and we eventually made our way home.

On the second walk, we left at our usual time. While there were few cars out, we did run into other distractions. Squirrels, birds, other dogs, and various scents tried to lure Isaac away from me. He tried to pull me into various yards. After the "worst of times" walk, I'd decided to take a different approach. I was going to adhere to the trainer's rules again. I would try to keep a positive attitude. I would avoid using the word, "no," and I would try not to jerk on his leash. When a scent would distract him, I'd stand still and say happily, "Come on, Isaac! Leave it, and let's go!" and walk on. Eventually, he would leave the scent and follow me. Sure, there was resistance. Frustration tried to creep in. But I still used my high pitched voice to lure him along.

We reached "the intersection." Isaac wanted to travel north. I needed to head south towards home. He pulled one way. I faced the other. He looked at me, not with a glare but with a plea of, "Please, can't we go where I smell a cat on the other side of town?" I knelt down, opened my arms, and said with a smile, "Come here, bud."

Tail wagging and tongue hanging out, he ran over and pressed his snout against my shoulder. It was a Kodak moment.

Then I stood up, and he tried to pull me north again.

I knelt down again. Repeat the Kodak moment. This time, when I said, "let's go," I jumped up and started running south. Isaac ran after me. The northern scent of cat was forgotten, and we found our way home.

It's no wonder that Isaac wouldn't follow me on that "worst of times" walk. I was not cool. I was not enjoyable. I was negative. Who wants to be around such a downer?

What Isaac did want to follow were a voice of anticipation and arms that were open to loving him.

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15, New Revised Standard Version)

Questions have swirled for years about why our churches' memberships are declining and why people are turning away from God and the Church. These complex questions have a variety of complex answers. I won't attempt to answer them. But I do think some solutions can begin with simple changes in us as disciples.

Do you walk through life in the "clothing" of Colossians that catches people's attention? Or have you been hanging your head for so long in frustration that you ignore the needs of others?

Does your church have a spirit of joy so evident that people want to come and worship as eagerly as Isaac ran into my arms? Or are you pushing people away with negative tones?

Isaac was happy to follow the voice of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. That's the voice I want to follow. That's the voice I want to be. That's the voice I desire my congregations to be.

How about you?

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/05/insight-from-isaac-and-his-tale-of-two-walks/

May 08 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: Yoga Theology: From "Corpse Pose" To Resurrection

Original post at http://www.darianduckworth.com/2014/05/yoga-theology-from-corpse-pose-to.html


In my first five years as a minister, I officiated at 40 funerals.

Pause. Crinkle your eyebrows in thought. Do the math in your head (forty divided by five divided by twelve...). Then say one of the following:

1. "Wow, that's a lot, isn't it?" (said mostly by laypeople)
2. "Only 40? I had at least 50 in one year!" (said often by clergy)

No matter how many or how frequent they are, funerals are emotional, overwhelming, exhausting, and mysterious. In the face of each one, we encounter the wonder of how short this life is--and what awaits on the other side. Families have to live to with new absences. Drawers and closets and homes are opened only to be emptied of the contents of a loved one's life. Psalm 23 and a declaration of "ashes to ashes" echo in mourners' ears.

And the minister tries to think of something to say -- not in explanation but in assurance.

During the times that I had multiple funerals within a few weeks of each other, people would say to me, "You must be exhausted," or "This must be so hard on you." Yes, whether I'd known the person for years or had never met them, walking alongside God's children in the valley of the shadow can leave me with slumped shoulders and sore feet.

What helps to cushion my ankles and lift my heart is to go to the yoga mat first.

Soon after I moved my yoga classes to the church in 2009, there was a death in the congregation. Before a formal group had even gathered in the upstairs' room, I went in for my own "class." I sat on the mat with no thought to correct posture, alignment, or forethought. I turned on the music. I breathed. I probably cried. Eventually I moved to child's pose. Then to down dog. I moved through a few poses, slowly breathing into each one. My mind calmed, and my body lengthened. By the time I rose back to my feet, the sunlight seemed brighter, and I was breathing more easily.

Ever since then, I've prepared for each funeral with yoga. Even if I only have time to get in child's pose and breathe, I go to the yoga mat.

I am not qualified to conduct psychological or scientific studies on the benefits of yoga for those who are grieving or those who assist in caretaking/pastoring. The only testimony I can share is how yoga has helped me to proclaim life in the middle of death and hope in the midst of despair. Here are some parts of that testimony.

1. In stopping to focus on breathing, I remember Who is the Breath of Life.

Even though my pastor's voice is what people will hear at a funeral or memorial service, I want for the breath powering that voice to come from beyond me. Pausing on the yoga mat to breathe reminds me that I, too, am dust, and without the Breath of Life, I will wear out. I need the strength and stamina that comes from the wind of the Holy Spirit--not just my own energy.

2. In stretching my body, I try to release unnecessary tensions.

At funerals, conflict emerges as families gather under anxiety. From regrets to finances to estrangements to plain-old grief, tension is present in one form or another. Sometimes there's an undercurrent, and sometimes there's a tsunami of emotions. I can't "fix" a lot of these problems, but I can ask God to help me release and relax. This is also an opportunity for self-care in the midst of chaos.

3. In savasana (literally translated "corpse pose"), I rest in Peace.

I try not to use the Sanskrit terms in Christian yoga classes, and savasana can especially make people nervous. "A dead pose?" people will ask. "That's so morbid." Often the final pose of yoga classes, savasana involves lying on one's back on the floor. Sound too simple? Stillness and simplicity can be so difficult for some of us. Dying, too, is difficult. At the end of stretching and strengthening and lifting and bending and balancing, savasana is the opportunity simply "to be." When I rise from the floor after "being," I remember that the practice doesn't really end with a "corpse," but with rising to go back into the world. In that final pose of the class, I can leave with hope of resurrection.

While practicing yoga before a funeral does not immunize me from making mistakes or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, yoga helps me to be more centered, grounded, and focused than I'd be otherwise. Yoga is not a cure for grief, but I think it can be a tool to help us "move" through the valley. When we find ourselves in challenging circumstances, what if we made a little space in the chaos for a mat, and on that mat invite God to whisper to us:

Be still. And know that you are Mine.


all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/05/yoga-theology-from-corpse-pose-to-resurrection/

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