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September 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents


Two memories about those first few days after 9/11 linger for me now seventeen years after the attacks.

The first was how the ordinary was pumped full of pure, crystalline miracle. Everything we had previously taken for granted sparkled like a harvest moon. The kids at soccer practice looked like they were dancing before the Lord. Next door neighbors who showed up at the front door were greeted like family we hadn’t seen in ages. Voices that compose the soundtrack of our lives fell on the ear like favorite songs. Sometimes the only thing that kept us from falling to the ground in grief was the hug from a friend. Life suddenly made fragile, became life, beautiful.

The other memory I savor from the days following the attacks is the way it felt to be an American. For the first time in my memory our country was the collective recipient of charity and good will from people around the world. We were no longer the greatest nation on the face of the earth or the big, bad, bully. We were people who needed other people’s help to make it through. A small measure of comfort from the pain of our loss came from the assurances we received from other countries who reached out to us. We were all in this thing together.

We’ve heard a lot lately about American Exceptionalism. But I’m still not sure why it is important to tell ourselves we are the greatest nation in the world. Isn’t it enough to say we are a great nation among other great nations, so often with much to give- occasionally in need of others’ help? Don’t we remember from when we were kids what happened to ABSOLUTLEY EVERYONE who proudly     proclaimed themselves to be King of the Hill. It was only a matter of time.

Let’s hope and pray that we never again need the kind of help we needed seventeen years ago. And if we’re stuck for what we should do to find miracle in the ordinary again, here are two ideas. First, do something for someone you love, but don’t let them know. Second, drive over to Friendship Park by the airport and watch plane after plane after plane gracefully glide to the ground the same way those four planes should have seventeen years ago. Say a prayer for those you love. Say a prayer for those who still grieve.




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June 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents

“I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1)

This may have been the first bible verse I ever knew. I may have had to recite it to get a piece of candy from my Sunday school teacher in the Quonset building that sat across the street from the chapel on Andrews Air Force Base. I may have even gotten it right.

“Very good, Ricky. Now, PLEASE settle down.”

And the verse has been strangely prophetic for our family, as sometimes the line between our home and the church has been blurry. One time we forgot our youngest son when we drove home after worship.

“Where’s Jordan?”

“I thought you had him.”

Not to worry, though. When we got back to the church he was taking his afternoon nap on the floor of the nursery.

Then there were those times when I answered the home phone, “Good morning, Christian Temple.”

I’m aware that we don’t want to get too cozy in comparing the church to a house, or the congregation to a family. Some of us arrive at church from houses that don’t feel too safe. Others don’t necessarily think good thoughts when the word “family” comes to mind.

Still, “home” is such a nice metaphor for what church can be. “House” is where we dwell together. “The House of the Lord”? Maybe it’s where we can drop our car keys in the bowl by the door, kick off our shoes and have a chat for a minute with God about our day while supper’s being placed on the table.

So, if we are the house of the Lord for our community, what kind of house are we?

I remember all the different kinds of houses in our old neighborhood. The Delia house is where everything was just so. There was no play in the Delia house where all the living room furniture was wrapped in plastic and nothing was ever stacked on the dining room table. We had to behave in the Delia house.

Then, there was the Collins house- the one with the mysterious blue Christmas lights. For fifteen years I don’t believe I ever stepped inside. It sat up on top of a hill and was surrounded by an imposing fence. I’m sure it was nice and all, but there was just something imposing about the place.

In a few houses that surrounded ours, the kids had grown and gone. Even though we’d cut through the Mr. and Mrs. Creasy’s back yard to get to the ball field, we’d only knock on their door once a year when we trick or treated. Both of them would come to greet us at the door with such sad smiles. One held the door while the other carefully placed a carefully wrapped popcorn ball in the bag.

Of course, the best house in the neighborhood is the one where all the kids wanted to hang out, right? We had a couple of those. Moms and dads (but mostly moms) would dole out snacks and punishment without regard to whose kid was hers. If we played too late, it was, “Why don’t you stay for dinner?” And when it was time for the graduation open house, those were the parents who sat in our back yard.

Today as I think about the future story of Christian Temple, and as I remember this bible verse that has been so formative for me, I find myself wondering,

“What kind of house, is THIS house of the Lord?”



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May 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents


“Christian Temple Hosts Community Groups in newly purchased Catonsville Storefront”

“Christian Temple Finds Path to Growth by Merging with Other Congregations”

“Christian Temple designs Sunday Evening Dinner Worship for Those Who Aren’t Sure About Traditional Church”

Don’t worry, folks. This is fake news! All of these headlines came out of my head with the help of our newly formed Future Story Team, named by the official board.

These are all hypothetical headlines that may or may not appear in the Catonsville Times in April, 2023. Their purpose isn’t to predict the future, but to help us wonder together about how the church and our community might change in just five short years.

The ancient wisdom, “no one steps in the same river twice” has never been more true than it is now for the church.

Take worship. All of us who used to come to church out of obligation, or because there wasn’t much else to do on Sunday morning, now have tons of options. Soccer games, coffee shops, the garden, or just sleeping in a little on the one day we have to ourselves, have changed the landscape of what used to be the church’s special purview. At the same time, many of us hunger for the kind of connections and community the church offers- being in real time and space with other real people who care that we are there.

Or how about Christian Education?

While traditional Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, mid-week evening Bible studies and youth groups are being squeezed into small compartments of our kids’ busy schedules (somewhere between Japanese lessons and Yoga for Kids!) parents are saying now more than ever how they want their kids to know the stories of Jesus- how they want their kids to hang out with other kids they can trust.


Once upon a time we enjoyed stories of people serving God in faraway places and could be counted on to give money to those efforts. Now we want to make a difference right here where we live. “Making a difference in the world” ranks right up there at the top of the list of reasons people choose their faith communities- right next to meaningful worship services.


I remember carrying cassette tapes (along with the tape recorder) to homebound members so they could enjoy the audio version of the worship service- and that was cutting edge! Now, streaming and Youtube bring the whole sanctuary to us. And what about all that technology available to us in other ways. Are we more likely to read mail that arrives in the mailbox by our front door or the mail that lights up our screens? When it’s time to remind people of a meeting, do we phone, email, text, or send a PM message on Facebook.

Life is coming at us fast, and the word on the street is “be nimble”. If the church wants to be as important in the future as it has been in the past we need to be keenly aware of how the world is changing. In order to share the message of God’s promise of grace and requirement to do justice in the name of Jesus, we have to be light on our feet.

So, I invite us all to join together with the Future Story team to help us envision ministry emanating from Christian Temple five years down the road! Together we can turn what might otherwise be a scary future into an exciting adventure!



Contact any member of the Future Story Team with thoughts and suggestions The team is: Jimmy Sweet-Laughlin, Chair, Pat LaFon, Michael Stone, Bob Gerrett, Deb Kruse, Matt Bloedorn, Lexi Wick; Rick Powell and Cindy Wagner, Ex-Officio.

April 1, 2018, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents

This year our Every Member Commitment will present us with two important opportunities.


This critically important financial promise to Christian Temple is the engine that drives our ministry. When our members are generous, AND willing to say ahead of time through this pledge, what we plan to give over the coming year, our congregational leadership is able to gather those promises and make ambitious, but also fiscally responsible, plans for our ministry between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019.

We will receive these commitments between April 8 and May 6th. And, we will celebrate our generosity with an after worship Cinco de Mayo happy hour on May 6th in the gathering!


The Horch family lived around the corner from Christian Temple for many years. We got to know Tracy (the mom) when she brought her kids to the play group that met in our old nursery, and would stop on the way in and out of the building to visit. Since then the Horches have been active in our neighborhood.

Late last winter, Keely, the Horch’s youngest of three kids, suffered a massive stroke after contracting an aggressive bacterial infection. Thankfully, the stroke didn’t affect Keely’s cognitive function. But the twelve year old girl who loves to bake and play soccer is now a quadriplegic with many special needs.

We know that the needs of the community are many. But we plan to offer us all an opportunity to make a gift to the Horch family- along with our annual commitment-to help them defray their enormous expenses and to make sure they know Christian Temple still cares for them.

Click here to learn more about Keely’s story:

Generosity makes everything possible and makes our hearts sing! Please be generous in your support of Christian Temple and the community that graciously receives our ministry.




March 2, 2018, 10:44 AM

My Two Cents

Back in the day Jesus got angry at the disciples for whining about what was coming next, when the realm of God would finally be established, and who got to sit at the head of the table. But, I think if Jesus were alive today, the phrase he would most despise is this one,

“Sorry Jesus, that’s just the way it is.”

We say some version of this phrase often as we try to teach our kids the ways of the world, or help a newbie get acclimated to the organization we’ve known for a while. The words have their place and can save some frustration.

That’s just the way it is.

But think about how wrong these words have proven to be just in our lifetimes.

“Hey, Dad, how come you don’t wear your seat belt when you drive?”

“I’ve been driving for a hundred years, and I’m fine. It’s just not worth the trouble. I’ll take my chances.”

That’s just the way it is.

I remember being fascinated by the blue smoky haze that hung thick in the cocktail lounge at the Base Officer’s Club as we walked to the kids TV room. The bar was where people went to smoke, right?” Would the day ever come when it was no longer allowed? No.

That’s just the way it is.

When I was in seminary the big debate of the day was whether gay and lesbian men and  women would ever be allowed to be ministers.  “That kind of thing is fine by me, but the church will never come around.”

That’s just the way it is.

Sometimes, praise God, the way it is- isn’t anymore. And, together as a people we move forward. This is what I keep telling myself in light of the Parkland carnage where military bullets shot from a military gun tore through the tender flesh of children who bled to death next to desks where their backpacks were packed and ready to take home.

When I get discouraged I imagine the day in the not too distant future when a tenth grader will come home from a history class and ask, “Grandma, this week we’re studying mass shootings. So, let me get this straight. People used to be able to buy military weapons from a store and take them into their private homes just for fun?! How can that  possibly be?”

“Well, honey, I guess we all just figured, “That’s just the way it is.”

Shalom, Rick


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