Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church

Faith, Hope, Charity … these three — in a garden

Back in June I wrote several posts about my trip to Spokane, WA, to take a class at Gonzaga University as part of the Master’s in Communication and Leadership degree that I am taking. I spent a lot of time talking about Spokane, and Gonzaga. What I didn’t do was say anything about the class itself.

The class was a multi-media practicum. We came on-campus and did a mini-project creating a website profile of a community organization or activity. It had to involve a short video clip that we shot and edited, pictures, and a feature article. We worked in teams of 3-4 to do this.

We also had classes on writing, speaking, and introductory web and video techniques. Why? So we could learn from each other before going home and designing an even bigger project, all our own, on a worthwhile community effort that we are familiar with and believe in.

I had an immediate thought about what I could do my project on, and then had to refine it into something small enough to actually be able to complete. I thought of all the things done by my church, as a community church (not a commuter church), and then had to decide which of those many things to feature.

I don’t think these projects/websites were necessarily meant to be anything permanent, but I couldn’t do such a project without thinking of a something meant to live and grow.

So today I am introducing Avondale Enterprises, a website about the living, growing community that is “greater Avondale”. The first feature is on the Avondale Community Garden — thus all the thematic content about growth and growing. I spent a lot of  time doing video, interviewing, and even getting my own fingernails dirty, as they say, to put this together. It took a lot of thought to find the right focus to tell the story within the story at the garden, but I think you will agree that “Faith, Hope, Charity” really shows that the garden is more than about just growing vegetables — it is about growing a community.

Eventually, slowly, I intend to do more features about other Avondale activities, not solely related to my church, though due to my bias much of it will obviously center there. So people can feel free to suggest ideas to me, just don’t expect swift action. Doing this one feature has impressed on me just how much work it is to do this right. It has also impressed on me how doable such an ongoing project is.

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church, Music

Scorecard — Encouraging the church to sing

I read this blog yesterday when it came out, and thought it was good enough to share, but I didn’t want to just reblog it. So instead, follow the link above, and then follow my comments below on the 13 steps.

One of the reasons I enjoy attending Avondale United Methodist Church is because it is a church that sings. Sometimes I wish the congregation would sing out more, but it is a place where they do sing. So I am going to look at these 13 steps and give my quick evaluation on each:

  1. Teach why we sing as a church. I’m not sure I’ve seen this one outside the choir, so I’d give us a little credit, but not enough to count this one.
  2. Dust off the organ console. Our organ never got dusty — in fact in has been used enough that it needs continual repairs and maintenance. But this point is more than that. This means the organ is being used to support the congregation in its singing, not just as a performance piece. If the organ shows off too much, it isn’t doing its part to help the congregation sing. So I will give us a point for this one — though I think with our recent organists being all graduate-level organ majors we do get more showing off during the congregational singing sometimes than we need.
  3. Bring the choir back. Okay, our never went away. And we remind the choir that they are there to lead and encourage congregational singing, not just present an anthem. So point for this one.
  4. Make it obvious that your congregational singing isn’t supposed to be a performance. Point given.
  5. Get rid of the lead soloist, if possible. Point given. What we probably do need is someone to be more of a song leader as described in this point — someone who can model a warm, pure, neutral tone, without affected vocals or ad-libbing.
  6. Don’t sing so much. Point given. We don’t have long song-service sections to the worship service, but interspersed where it fits liturgically.
  7. Sing all the time. Point given, qualified. We sing in service, at men’s club, in Sunday School, to bless meals. We could sing more. We should sing more in our homes, in the car, etc.
  8. Build a resonant sanctuary. Point given. The acoustics of the sanctuary are very live. They let you hear yourself and the congregation around you.
  9. Encourage and support the arts in the community. Point given. The concerts and groups that AUMC has promoted over the years, and that its members do individually, says we are a musical church.
  10. Bring the kids back into corporate worship. Point given, with qualification. We have the kids in worship, we need to do more with them musically (I know, that takes a lot of effort). I’m pleased with the youth chime choir we got started recently. It isn’t singing, but it is music, and that has the same impact overall with involvement and music.
  11. Use hymnals. We have them in the pews to use, so we might get partial credit, but we don’t really use them, so I won’t score us for this one. People can look for them and use them, but broadcasting the words on the screen takes away from the musical literacy and makes us lazy as a literate congregation.
  12. Make the music worth singing. I’ll give this point to us, but with a caveat.  I think music is chosen to fit the message and tone of the service. But sometimes I think it is tailored too much, edited too much instead of letting the music say what it was originally meant to say, as uncomfortable as that sometimes might have been.
  13. Stop doing the same songs over and over and over. Point given.  We never did do the same songs over and over. We have gone to using the same introit and call to prayer for a month, but that is a short time, and only once per service, not perpetual repetition in the same service.

So, in making us a congregation that sings, I give our church 11 out of 13 points (some qualified). So I think we are in good shape, but could always do better.

What do you think? About AUMC if you go there, your own church if you don’t. I’m curious about people’s perspectives. As the blogger for Ponder Anew notes in his other posts, we shouldn’t be doing music for music’s sake, but for the purpose of supporting worship and the life of the congregation. This is a sensitive subject for many, but one me must be willing to talk about and stand up for what is needed.

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church


Today’s post is just a compilation of some blurry pictures from our church children’s Christmas Pageant. The tall king in red with long hair is my son. Taking pictures with a hand-held camera from the choir loft requires a little more resolution than I was using to get the best pictures.

DSC05079 DSC05093 DSC05095 DSC05096 DSC05104 DSC05111 DSC05112 DSC05114 DSC05118 DSC05132 DSC05135 DSC05145 DSC05146

P.S. — For the person who asked in church today — I will be uploading and adding  a sound file of “Grandfather’s Clock” to yesterday’s blog before the end of the day today.

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Writing

Witchfinder — characters shock the writer

(This is part two of a blog series on the discussion between Sarah A. Hoyt and the Avondale United Methodist Church Book Club about Hoyt’s book Witchfinder, the art of writing, and what it is like to publish a book as both a traditional and “indie” author.)

Sandy: So how you keep all of these characters and plot points straight – do you have index cards or something?

Sarah: I tried cards, and notebooks, none of that works for me, because the characters are just themselves. They just show up and do their thing and if I don’t get in the way they are amazingly consistent in themselves.

Another writer said you have to do it this way, find out things about the characters. So I did it, but I wasn’t writing the stories because I was talking to the characters. What I was finding out wasn’t what I needed for the book.

There are things, like when Jonathan reveals himself, takes action and reveals himself, that shocked me, which I think works very well, because it was a shock for the readers too.

I feel very responsible and non-professional doing it that way. Should I pretend I do index cards?

Sandy: No’ I think that is actually fine, I have seen articles and other interviews that say similar things. Everyone has their own style, and whatever works for anyone is great.

Sarah: If you think about it isn’t quite the sane thing to do for a living. I sit down and create elaborate lies.

Sandy: And talk to my imaginary friends.

Sarah: Yes!

Jonathan: You mention Jonathan Blythe several times, and one of my favorite lines was about him near the end of the book. “We’ll send Jonathan Blythe to them, and they’ll end up thinking this was all their own idea.”  I take it that this idea of Jonathan Blythe is where Rogue Magic spins off of. I didn’t exactly see him that way, but it sparked such a wonderful idea is my mind when I read it.

Sarah: Yes, he is like that, although inside his head – because in rogue magic we spend a lot of time inside his head — and oh, is it a messy place! He is not as nearly as suave as he comes across on the outside. There is a lot more hesitation and stuttering, but what comes out of his mouth is very polished.

(From here Sarah segued to a story about the fastest she ever wrote a book – 3 days – in writing Plain Jane – a novel about one of Henry VIII’s wives. The publishing house asked her to be one of several authors each writing about a different wife.

Sarah: They gave me Jane Seymour. This is somewhat of a problem because I have no interest in the woman. She lived a life no one recorded and died giving birth. How do you write a novel about this? So I put it off and put it off. For the first time in my life the publisher was calling.  We have a cover, can we have the book. So I sat down and I just rushed through it in three days and I actually had no clue about what I had just written. But I thought, hey, it’s not under my name (the publishing  house was giving her a Pseudonym). So I sent it in and fully expected them to say what about these chapters in the middle? They never said anything, they published it. It did well, it is still doing well. And about a year ago I actually picked it up and read it. It makes perfect sense – probably one of the best things I have written.

I’m seriously considering writing all my books in three days. Only it almost killed me. When I got done writing it I felt 80 years old. My fingers hurt, the joints on my fingers were about pounded to death. I felt and looked 80, looked like I had just been drained, pale. I came up with all sorts of things, like dividing it into sections, having cool names for the sections.

Sandy: I notice you have a whole wall of books behind you. I have to ask, what is your favorite.

Sarah: The books behind are mostly research. But as an author who I like most everything he writes, that is Pratchett.

Sandy: Yes, he’s my favorite as well.

Sarah: I read Pratchett, I read Agatha Christie, obviously with this book I read Georgette Heyer. Although I didn’t read any of her (Heyer’s) stuff until I was 37. I met my publisher Toni Weiskopf at a con and said I know my plotting needs help — there are cultural reasons for that —  plotting of Portuguese novels are much slower, and that is what I grew up with.

So my novels had these very slow, very inside your head rhythm. And she said: Read Heyer. And I found I liked her romances. Her mysteries are atrocious. There is no life in them. They are like set pieces, just figures moving around.

The ones (authors) I reread are Terry Pratchett, Agatha Christie, Heyer, and Heinlein, but Heinlein is more when I am in a science fiction mode, which I should be right now.

Betsy: (Referring to something on a bookshelf behind Sarah) I was wondering if that was a Lego Batman up there…

Sarah: No, no, this, my younger son, at 4, came to me with this.  The way I bought time to write was have them play on the floor in my office. So he came to me and told me “this is an attack duck. It will protect you when you are writing.”  He is embarrassed that I have kept it all these years. It talks (she moved its mouth and it fell apart, she put it back together). I told him we should have it dipped in resin or something so I don’t have to put it back together. That is my guardian duck, he protects me, which is good because the critters I write about are dangerous. So I have an attack Duck, and have all sorts of things the kids have given me. An origami crane from his Japanese culture class… the one thing I do collect in the junk.


(Next time – more on the “junk” Hoyt collects)

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church, Family

Community Meal — a Taste of Christmas

Avondale United Methodist Church had its monthly community dinner, free to all, Wednesday night. And as a regular part of the evening, there was the monthly craft for kids.

This month’s used discounted Halloween candy on sale after Halloween and graham crackers to make easy “ginger bread houses”.

Both my kids took part in the craft. Carly in particular made some unique designs that can be seen in the accompanying pictures.

Carly drew the symbols of the characters Demo and some Goopas on the one side of the roof of her house.
Carly drew the picture of raocow on this side. raocow is an online “lets play” er that they read and follow his video blogs.
Carly created minifigures – a king a queen, and the little prince.
Nathan attempted a pixel sprite art that didn’t quite have enough supplies to complete the design, but gives a good sense of the intent.
Another angular view of the pixel sprite art project.
Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church, Music

Service Music — 100th Anniversary Celebration

The 100th Anniversary Service was preceded by a lot of musical practice. The musical ministries of the church chose large thematic numbers to practice and feature for the day. Today’s blog is an audio blog, featuring sound clips from the service.

The service started off, as always, with the prelude.  Matt Gender, organist, chose “Festive Trumpet Tune” by David German as his opening.

The next number I wanted to mention was that of the Jubilee Handbell Choir, that did a rendition of “It Is Well With My soul” by Bliss/Moklebust, that included the playing of an excellent violinist, Omari Abdul-Alim.

The choir did a rendition of “Now Thank We All Our God”, arranged by Mark Hayes, with soloist Ellen Garret and Jonathan Lightfoot.

Matt Gender finished with a postlude of “Carillon-Sortie by Henri Mulet.


Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church, Music

Reflections on choir

1 Timothy 4:12Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.


I remember when I was young(er) taking especial note of the passage above. I taught me to be bold, but also to be sensitive, to others who might be tempted to despise my youth to their experience. I mention that to mention the latter …

It has been a little more than a years since we at Avondale United Methodist Church brought in a new choir director.  A very young choir director compared to many of the members of the choir (myself included, I suppose I must admit). I know there were questions about how well such a young director would understand and be able to work with such a mature adult choir. And while he came with heavy credentials and loads of experience, especially for one of his youth (A prodigy of sorts), this would be his first experience in a church setting. Would he be too technical for us?

Well, now that we are in his second year, the second season, I can safely say that all those concerns were certainly put to rest. He was stiff at first, it took him awhile to learn to relax and how to interact with people, but he has settled in nicely. He is already on the third organist he has gotten to work with, learning to handle change. But what I chiefly wanted to mention was the spirituality and musicality he has brought to us.

Avondale has always had an emphasis on good music, well done, from the entire congregation, with an emphasis on worship and ministry. Aaron came in following a director of more than 10 years. And in this one year he has brought us further than we have been previously in the time I have been attending AUMC. He is challenging us to be better — musically and spiritually — with our music. We want to do the best musically, and we want to do it with a conviction that the congregation can feel. Each week I can see the members around me learning something new, rising to new levels — of both musicality and conviction.

Today we did a version of “Abide with Me”. It was a simple piece. Which made it the most difficult to do. Doing simple things well is the real challenge in anything.

And well we did — even with the hornet that was flying around the choir loft. To God Be The Glory.