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Church for a new era

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Those of you following the life of New Oaks Church may find this story encouraging. Here’s Donnie Miller (pastor of the Trinity Family Church in Gardner, KS) telling of a change of direction:

A New Era begins for TFC

Donnie Miller

There was an energy level among the congregation on Sunday that I haven’t experienced for a long time. People kept telling me, through smiles and hugs, how much they love the changes that have just happened.

These changes have been a long time coming. Last spring, we began a numerical slide that has resulted in our Sunday morning worship attendance being between 2/3 – 1/2 of what it was a year ago at this time. Toward the beginning of that slide, after a very lowly attended Sunday in March, I spent a sleepless night talking with God and wrestling with my fears and hopes. My fear was that if we continued to “do church” as we were at the time, we might not continue to exist. That fear lead to a hope, a hope that TFC could stop focusing on “doing church” and become more intentional about “being the church.” At about 4 AM, I got a pretty clear picture of the changes we could make.

I began sharing those changes with staff, the board and then ministry leaders; everyone was on board with the ideas. Last summer, we polled the congregation to find out approaches were working and to gauge their openness to the potential changes. The surveys revealed an almost unanimous support of the structural changes our leadership was considering.

Discussion groups

In August, we took a big first step in introducing Discussion Groups to Sunday AM worship. To say these groups have been a success would be the understatement of the year. Every Sunday, over 90% of the congregation participates in discussion groups. This past Sunday, only ONE person skipped discussion groups and that was because of a family emergency. It was almost hard to hear the other members of my group over the dull roar of the conversations happening all over the commons. The introduction of Discussion Groups, as well as “Ask Anything” Sundays, have all been a part of our effort to take a more dialogical approach to Sunday morning worship.

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A little nuclear sanity

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“For me, it is a different world”
—Mohamed ElBaradei (Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency)

Ikata Nuclear Power Plant

Image via Wikipedia

This is change. And very good news.

I never have quite understood the logic of the USA’s stockpiling enough nukes to destroy the world six times over while insisting that nukes are bad and no one else should have them.

Nor have I understood how countries who sign treaties allowing  development of nuclear power stations have to endure threats of missile strikes from the USA or Israel for building them.

Good news is that it looks like Mr. Obama has decided fair deals and keeping our promises might be good policy, along with tightening up the rules by which all of us play.  Here’s what he’s proposed in Europe:

clipped from www.nytimes.com
Mr. Obama was embracing a concept that the Bush administration had repeatedly rejected: That to counter proliferation, the United States could no longer simply ignore the fact that some countries — like Iran — were signatories to international treaties and could correctly claim a “right” to produce their own nuclear fuel.

SHARM EL SHEIKH/EGYPT, 19MAY08 - Mohamed M. El...

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Mr. Bush’s approach was to declare that some countries could simply never be trusted.

Mr. Obama’s approach is to tighten the web of treaties, and amend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to make it harder for nations like Iran to limit inspections or refuse to answer questions about suspect documents.

Mr. Obama even embraced two controversial treaties that many in Congress will oppose because of the limits they put on American nuclear strategy: One would ban nuclear testing, they other would cut off production of new fissile material.

“For me, it is a different world,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian-born director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told a visitor to his office in Vienna on Monday, as Mr. Obama was finishing up his trip.

“When was the last time you heard a president talk about moving toward zero nuclear weapons? Or fixing a nonproliferation system that is clearly falling apart?”

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Indeed.

Showing some exemplary restraint of our own while putting some teeth into the mutually-agreed rule of law, might just be a step toward a world of greater sanity.

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N.B.: The leave a comment button has moved to the top of each post.

EPA returns! ‘Hold’ on mountaintop removal mining

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Good news! After years of forced inaction, the Environmental Protection Agency has come back to life—for the moment, at least—to slow the rapacious practice of “mountaintop removalcoal mining.
clipped from thinkprogress.org

A picture of a mountaintop removal siteWork co...

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In a major reversal of Bush policy, “mountaintop coal-mining permits are being put on hold until the projects’ impacts on streams and wetlands can be reviewed,” the Environmental Protection Agency announced today: […]

Citing its regulatory role under the Clean Water Act, the EPA said the letters stated that the projects “would likely cause water quality problems in streams below the mines, would cause significant degradation to streams buried by mining activities, and that proposed steps to offset these impacts are inadequate.” […]

A midnight regulation by the Bush administration attempted to make permanent its policy of permitting coal companies to strip the tops off of Appalachian mountains and bury watersheds with the waste. […]

Update: “Lax rules by the Bush Administration have made mountaintop removal an American emergency,” JW Randolph of Appalachian Voices tells ThinkProgress. “Today, the people of Appalachia are celebrating.”

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“[T]he EPA said the letters stated that the projects … would cause significant degradation to streams buried by mining activities […]”

Gosh, ya think?

The process, you’ll recall, involves ripping off the head and shoulders of an Appalachian mountain.  On this mountain lives a host of wildlife along with the descendants of Scotch-Irish pioneers who have never known another home, and have little power to prevent the theft of the one they have. The “removed” mountain gets dumped—believe it or not—into Appalachian ravines and streams; they are simply gone forever.

The holy grail of this mountains-to-mudflats search (thoughtful ad-men will want you to know) is “clean coal.”  Coal barons can hire said pretty much whatever they like; they’ve funded generations of Appalachian politicians.  Of course coal is not really the goal, nor do coal barons likely give a rip about how clean it is.   Scraping Appalachia flat – destroying national treasures and poor peoples’ homes – serves one sine qua non:  it makes a few rich people richer.

Even more then, say a bravo! for the EPA.  The permanent destruction of our lands is too great a loss to be ignored.   More millions for millionaires is a miserable trade for a mountain.


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Here’s what Canada’s tar sands oil production looks like

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clipped from www.treehugger.com

tar sands before after national geographic march 2009
Before and after: the Alberta tar sands in the March 2009 issue of National Geographic (Photo: Peter Essick)
Oil sands represent a decision point for North America and the world,” says Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute, a moderate and widely respected Canadian environmental group. “Are we going to get serious about alternative energy, or are we going to go down the unconventional-oil track? The fact that we’re willing to move four tons of earth for a single barrel really shows that the world is running out of easy oil.
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Good point.

[h/t Deb2012]


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Written by Monte

March 3, 2009 at 8:53 pm

Stimulus bill includes hi-speed rail! But where?

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Not to Iowa, unfortunately (reasonably, though, since Iowa has no multi-million-person population centers). But just imagine the tens of millions of people who could be served! Compared to auto or air, it’s a huge environmental savings.

And on weekends, think of, say, the football traffic on the Chicago Hub Network.

clipped from www.huffingtonpost.com

High-speed rail corridors

High-speed rail corridors

After much clamoring by energy hawks, who knows what it was that finally brought high-speed rail to the stimulus — perhaps a little nudge from ol’ Amtrak Joe? — but it got in, to the tune of $8 billion.
And now the question is, where will the expansion be?
the areas that will get a leg up should be the Federal Railroad Administration’s officially designated high-speed rail corridors
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What possibilities do you see?


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