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: Bicycle Theology: The Farewell — August 21, 2014
  2. Pastor Darian's Musings: The Gospel According to Sean Maguire: "It’s Not Your Fault" — August 14, 2014
  3. Pastor Darian's Musings: How Not to Get a Date With An Unmarried (Female) Pastor — August 7, 2014
  4. Pastor Darian's Musings: What I Didn’t Learn in Seminary: How To Tell Rizpah’s Story — August 1, 2014
  5. Pastor Darian's Musings: What I Didn’t Learn In Seminary: How to “Find” A Mentor — July 17, 2014

Most commented posts

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

Author's posts listings

Aug 21 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: Bicycle Theology: The Farewell

Original post at http://www.darianduckworth.com/2014/08/bicycle-theology-farewell.html


In June of 2009 I took a risk: I rode a bicycle for the first time since the era of braces & bangs (a.k.a. junior high).

At first I was wobbly and had to re-learn the gears. With careful patience, I was soon cruising up and down hills along the Mississippi River. By the time I climbed off of the borrowed bicycle, I was making plans to purchase my own two wheels.

Later that year, I found a mountain bike that was affordable and versatile. A bike ride left me with the same feeling as a yoga class. Because I had to focus on what was right in front of me, I could easily forget what had weighed on my mind. Worries seemed to blow away with the wind against my back. I would return home with ideas for “Bicycle Theology”—musings that I wrote for this blog about encountering God in the pedaling.

Along came the year 2012. I moved from Natchez’s gravel roads to the delta’s flat soil. The bicycle made the trek north, too, but something had changed. The mountain bike was no longer comfortable. I thought about trading it in for a road bike. I thought about getting different tires. I tried to ride early each morning, but I dreaded the exercise that I once anticipated.

The truth was: I no longer wanted to ride the bike.

I wanted to walk on two feet at a neighborhood trail instead of riding two wheels around town. I put the bicycle in the storage room and laced up my sneakers.

Then my dog, Isaac, appeared. I had to learn to walk him, and he had to learn to walk me. I told myself that one day I would train him to run alongside the bike. But the more I walked with Isaac, the more clearly I could hear God speak. The wind of the Spirit that had whispered to me on the bicycle was now speaking to me at the pace of a puppy.

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:18-19a, New Revised Standard Version)

Change is difficult because it includes an ending and a beginning. As Isaiah wrote, clinging to the old prevents us from embracing the new. God is constantly presenting us with changes so that we can be more honest with ourselves. How often do we avoid risk-taking in favor of what’s comfortable, familiar, and easy?

We tend to think of change as sudden and drastic. Sometimes, change is much more gradual. God gently eases us into the new in areas as simple as our hobbies. Perhaps in these simple changes God wishes to teach us great truths.

I’m grateful that I took the risk of that bicycle ride five years ago. I’m also grateful that this summer I took another risk and said “farewell” to the bicycle that had brought me much joy and “theology.” My old bike has a new owner. What "old" part of your life might God want to use for someone else's new beginning?

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

P.S. Before I bought my bicycle, I borrowed one from the friend of a friend who had a baby. The bike had an baby seat on the back, and another friend dared me to ride around Natchez with a doll in the baby seat. So, I did.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/bicycle-theology-the-farewell/

Aug 14 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: The Gospel According to Sean Maguire: "It’s Not Your Fault"

Original post at http://www.darianduckworth.com/2014/08/the-gospel-according-to-sean-maguire_14.html


It's a blessing to make people laugh.

Healthy laughter is a balm for mind, body, and spirit. When I speak of healthy laughter, I’m not talking about the nervous, jilted, hesitant laughter of politeness we manage when a minister tells a terribly unfunny joke. (Yes, I’m guilty.) Healthy laughter is the sound of a delight-filled response. Healthy laughter is an expression of more than happiness. It’s a manifestation of joy we may not have known existed in our souls.

Last week, I received a number of emails, texts, and calls from folks who read the blog post, “How Not to Get a Date With An Unmarried Female Pastor.” Every single one had the same, bottom-line message:

“I laughed.”

I appreciate any and all feedback to this blog, but a resounding message of laughter blessed me in a way that’s hard to describe. Creating something that brings joy to the surface is humbling and special.

On Monday, the entertainment world tragically lost an artist whose career blossomed out of his ability to elicit laughter. Robin Williams’ name is the headline of the evening news, the most-searched on websites, and the topic of many conversations. Questions accompany any death, but they multiply in the wake of a suicide—especially in the suicide of someone who seemed to “specialize” in laughter.

A question that tugs at many souls is one of blame—whose fault was this tragedy? The question of fault not only arises in suicide but also in the illnesses of depression and addiction, with which Williams struggled. It is human nature to wonder whom or what we can blame for the unexplainable.

Could I have prevented this? Is there something I could have done?

If only I had called her more often…

Did Mom and Dad divorce because of something I did?

This diagnosis is all because I haven’t been eating right….

Blame leads to guilt. Guilt leads to regrets. Regrets plant us in the past to the point that we can’t move forward. We don’t know the darkness that Robin Williams, or any victim of suicide, experiences. All we know is that it’s a tragedy when the laughter is swallowed in darkness. Sometimes the easiest persons to blame for the consequences of darkness are ourselves.

In his Oscar-winning role for Good Will Hunting, Williams played a counselor and professor named Sean Maguire who tries to help the title character, played by Matt Damon.  Sean spends hours sitting with, and sometimes listening to, this young, brilliant, troubled young man. Their friendship does not happen immediately. Trust has to build over the course of the film. When Will finally opens up about his troubled childhood, we begin to see that Will has blamed himself for his father’s alcoholism for years. We realize that Will thinks his abandonment as a child was his own fault.

Sean holds up Will’s file, filled with papers about his life, and says , “This is not your fault.”

Will shrugs and smugly says, “I know.”

Sean leans toward him. “It’s not your fault.”

Will nods. “I know.”

Sean’s voice grows quieter as he moves towards Will. “It’s not your fault.”

Will, restless, repeats, “I know.”

Sean gets closer. “It’s not your fault.”

Will moves away from him. “I know!”

Sean moves closer and closer to Will, saying, “It’s not your fault.” Will curses, then begins to cry. Sean reaches out his arms, and Will eventually reaches for him, too. They embrace. Will sobs. If we listen closely, we still hear Sean’s gentle mantra: “It’s not your fault.”

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17, New King James Version)

Yes, we are all sinners. Yes, we all make mistakes. Yes, we need to look within our hearts to see how we need to change and whom we need to forgive. There’s always room for improvement in all of our lives. But why do we fill the rooms of our souls with unnecessary self-condemnation when Christ is walking towards us with salvation?

As Sean walked towards Will, Christ walks toward us. He asks us to let go of the blame and guilt and regrets we’ve nurtured for too long. When there is a void where the laughter once resounded, let us reach for the arms that are already reaching for us.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian



Here is the clip from Good Will Hunting, which contains language that gave it an R-rating.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/the-gospel-according-to-sean-maguire-its-not-your-fault/

Aug 07 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: How Not to Get a Date With An Unmarried (Female) Pastor

Original post at http://www.darianduckworth.com/2014/08/how-not-to-get-date-with-unmarried.html


After a three-week series of reflections on “What I Didn’t Learn In Seminary,” I hope you enjoy this slight departure from theological reflection.

“You got a husband?”

“No,” I said, sliding my credit card through the machine, approving $9.80 in light bulbs.

The salesman punched a few buttons on his cash register. My head was down, my eyes on the tiny PIN keypad. I could feel him looking at the top of head.

“You got a boyfriend?”

I am rarely tempted to lie. I believe in following the Ten Commandments. But if I said, “yes,” the conversation would likely end. I could get my light bulbs and go home. Perhaps I could get away with bearing false witness just this once.

“No,” I muttered, led not into temptation.

He was quiet, and I thought that maybe God was rewarding my truth-telling choice. He handed me the paper receipt and the plastic bag. I looked up from the machine, and he was smiling.

“You got a phone number?”

Forget truth telling.

“No.”

Gentlemen, I realize that it takes a lot of courage to ask for a woman’s phone number. I’m sure that there are a number of blog posts that you could write about the awful things that girls have said in response to your interest. I appreciate the risks that you take in asking us girls out. I even give Light Bulb Dude an A for his effort.

Well, maybe not an A. But at least a B. Or a B-minus? I'm being too generous, right?

Every relationship begins with a first impression. First impressions can also end a relationship before it even begins. Driving home from the hardware store, I reflected on similar encounters I've had over the years. With the help of some old diaries and notes, I remembered that these first impressions had me fibbing, looking for the nearest exit, or both. If you or someone you know is looking for a date with an unmarried female pastor, I highly recommend thinking twice before trying these tactics.

The stories you are about to read are 100% true and happened to me. Names and locations have been somewhat changed to protect the innocent.

1. In the parking lot of a certain superstore that begins with the letter “W,” I return my cart to its designated spot. A man says to me, “Hey, girl, you single?” I say nothing and walk back towards my car. He calls after me, “Guess you ain’t. Sure wish you was.”

Since being a minister involves a lot of writing and speaking, correct grammar goes a long way in a first impression. Complete sentences do, too. Location is important. Try to avoid any part of anonymous superstore beginning with “Wal-” and ending in “Mart” to find a date.

2. On a quiet, sunny, cool day, I’m riding my bicycle through a beautiful, historic cemetery near the Mississippi River. Suddenly from a grave comes a whistle—the whistle of a man who sees a woman he finds attractive. Given that this is a cemetery, and the noise came from the ground, I scream and pedal away. Glancing back over my shoulder, a gravedigger climbs out of a hole in the ground – shovel in hand and eyes searching for girl on bike.

I always appreciate an opportunity to think about what “resurrection” means. I had to write a whole essay about death and resurrection for my ordination, and perhaps Whistling Gravedigger had some insight from his job to help me. Who knows what I could've learned from him if he'd made a better first impression? Next time, consider stepping out of the grave before whistling. Also, a greeting of “hello” or “hi” or “nice bike” is preferable to a high-pitched noise.

3. I’m debating between two brands of turkey bacon at the local grocery store. A man is standing nearby. He clears his throat. I look up. He says, “How come you ain’t got no ring on that there left hand?”

See response to #1. What goes for the parking lot of "W store" also goes for the meat aisle at the non-W store.

4. An organ recording of “Just As I Am” is playing. The funeral home directors have rolled the casket into the chapel. The pallbearers are lined up two by two, awaiting their turn to enter. Robed with Bible in hand, I stand behind them, the end of the modest procession. The last pallbearer on the right turns to me and whispers, “So, um, what are you doing after?”

Grief makes us say and do some crazy things at inopportune times. As a minister, I try to believe the best of people, so I’m giving Last Pallbearer on The Right the benefit of the doubt. I’ll tell myself that he was sad and in need of listening ear. However, timing is still key when it comes to a successful first impression in any kind of relationship. Before asking her out, ask yourself, “Is this a bad time?”

Single Gentlemen, thank you for hearing my suggestions.

Married Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd appreciate it if you passed along these suggestions to your unmarried friends.

Single Ladies, if you need a gold band to wear on “that there left hand” while shopping, there’s a lovely selection at the “W” store.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/how-not-to-get-a-date-with-an-unmarried-female-pastor/

Aug 01 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: What I Didn’t Learn in Seminary: How To Tell Rizpah’s Story

Original post at http://www.darianduckworth.com/2014/08/what-i-didnt-learn-in-seminary-how-to.html


It was the beginning of my sophomore year at Vanderbilt University, and I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had confessed that I did not want to be a doctor or study pre-medicine anymore. It was the perfect time to have some academic fun while fulfilling liberal arts’ requirements. I signed up for classes in Religious Studies, Creative Writing, and 17th Century Poetry.

“Hebrew Bible and Its Interpreters” was the first class I’d taken on the Bible outside of the Church. Our main textbook was the Old Testament, but I couldn’t call it the Old Testament. It was the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible. The professor, Shai Chery, wore a kippah and asked to be addressed as “Rav” instead of “Professor” or “Doctor.” The only teachers I’d had on the Bible until then had been “Pastor” or “Reverend.” I was used to reading footnotes in my study Bible for interpretation. Now, I was sifting through commentaries of the earliest Jewish scholars.

On the first day of class, Rav Cherry defined the word, “exegesis,” for us. Until he actually wrote “e-x-e-g-e-s-i-s” on the board, I was confused. I thought he was saying, “Exit Jesus.” When I realized my mistake, I sank into my seat and laughed in relief that I had not asked why Jesus left the building.

I had learned a new word, and it was a word of curiosity. Exegesis is about digging for truths, excavating ancient words, and interpreting sacred pages. It was not easy. The old texts were challenging to read, and I didn’t agree with a lot of the interpretations. But I loved what we were finding – because we were searching.

For our final assignment, we were to choose a story from the Hebrew Bible and incorporate the different methods of interpretation we’d learned. I remembered a sermon on an obscure passage in 2 Samuel—the tragic story of Rizpah. She was a concubine of King Saul whose two sons were executed. I became obsessed with trying to answer the question that had led to the writings of all those rabbis and scholars we’d studied: why is this story here?

Seminary did not teach me to love the Scriptures. I loved the Bible long before sophomore year of college.

Seminary also did not teach me the joy and mystery of Scripture interpretation that leads to a sermon. I learned that through telling Rizpah’s story. We never hear her voice, so I felt a responsibility to give her a voice through study, research, reverence, and prayer.

Every Sunday that I step into the pulpit, whether I’m preaching on Abraham’s calling or Rizpah’s tragedy or Jesus’ feeding of the 5000, my desire is to tell God’s Story through these stories. Sometimes those stories are tough to swallow. At other times, we know them by heart. Each part of the Word matters, and it is our blessed duty as children of God to find out why.

Seminary provided me with many tools to become a preacher. An undergraduate course in Religious Studies taught me how to ask questions, how to listen for the voices on the page, and how to revere the Breath of Life behind the words. I learned to tell Rizpah’s story by listening to Rizpah.

God is speaking in and through the Word. Will you listen with me?

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

The following is a poem that I wrote as part of my final paper from Rizpah’s point of view. Please be advised that the content is difficult as it tells the story of a mother witnessing the horrific death of her sons.

Rizpah

II Samuel 21:1-14

That early morning, I stood and watched the life
I gave my boys seep out in scattered breaths,
first quick then slow, as they began to die.
As they grew still, I grasped their skin and clung
as if my warmth could resurrect their souls.
But they were gone, two corpses left behind
to rot in open air as food for birds
and scare the passers-by. I could have left.
I could have walked away like others did.
Instead I stayed behind for seven months
and beat away the beasts of day and night.
I lived with death, with remnants of my flesh,
and cried to gods of earth and air for strength.
One day my sons received their burials;
a king had heard how I, a mourning mother,
refused to let the earth consume her sons
in wild and open air. I let them go
at last, but scripture also let me go.
And now I’m just another concubine
who pleased a king for years and bore him sons.
I’m just another woman of the text,
who has a name and place but never speaks.
I’m just another mother cursed to watch
her only two ascend a hill and die.
My name is Rizpah, concubine of Saul,
a mother left with only wind and rain,
a woman living only here in words.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/what-i-didnt-learn-in-seminary-how-to-tell-rizpahs-story/

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/

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