I’m not much for resolutions: I rarely start well, forget them quickly and then late in the year reproach myself for failure. Why bother?
But I will make plans for the blog. I mean it both as a notebook for me and (more importantly) a resource and commentary for you, the readers. A review of blog traffic, feedback and my own thoughts lead me to focus on:
practical, ready-to-use resources for churches and individual believers
fresh interpretations of Universalist Christianity
skills to cope, survive and thrive in a changing world without snark or finger-wagging
I’ll also work on building readership, and would appreciate you help though referrals, plus links on blogs and in social networks.
Ah: I could write on boy bands, as so many seek them here, but I won’t consider that right now.
While I’m mulling on whether or not to blog on the recent reportage about the Starr King School for the Ministry — it won’t be nice-nice-sweet-sweet if I do — I thought I would review a helpful bit of office equipment of particular use for ministers: the small three-hole punch, meant for 8.5 x 5.5 inch paper.
Over the years, I’ve written how-tos related to 8.5 x 5.5 sized print jobs. This is the size often used for orders of service, and is a good size for a DIY minister’s special services book. These days, I even put sermon notes and manuscripts in a 8.5 x 5.5 format, and into an appropriate binder. Why? It carries better, looks better and (for travel) packs better than a full-sized binder. It reads “book” more than “binder”.
You can print two 8.5 x 5.5 pages on one piece of 8.5 x 11 paper, and fold it into a small page protector, but they’re not always available, but once you have the hole punch…
This is what I bought, and despite what that page says, I got it in-store and there was a small variety of colors.
I’ve signed up for so many accounts to manage my business relations with companies lately that I wonder what services a church — say, program-sized or larger — might offer online. I’m not suggesting that this suite of services already exists, or that everyone would find it desirable, but the such online services might expand utility to members (perhaps) with little or no added cost in staffing or facilities.
This list is far from exhaustive; just a few possibilities that occur to me over the course of about a half hour, in no particular order.
make financial pledges and special gifts
set up auto pay from credit card or checking account
download charitable donation letter
call for donations for affiliated charities
take online trainings
register for space-limited events
download coloring pages for children
manage prayer circles
sign up (and get reminders) for church volunteer roles
get emergency alerts from authorities
offer feedback for quality improvement
apply for (and resign) membership
share alerts for road closures or public transportation re-routings
provide workflows to access public services
prepare and record special ceremonies (weddings, funerals)
So, this hasn’t been a weekly Thursday feature as I intended. Nor is this, properly speaking, a Ubuntu Linux-only feature, as it’s uses LibreOffice Writer, and that’s available for Windows and Mac OS X, too. (It is free and open-source software — FOSS — and you can get it here.)
A small thing — making it easy to put the information in an order of service (or a theater or music program) flush left and flush right respectively. Years ago, I would tab, tab, tab the biblical citation, or hymn name or the anthem composer over. Then I’d shim in extra spaces until the right margin wrapped to a new line…then I’d remove a space to pull the line back. It’s hacky, and never quite even. Here’s the right way.
Let’s start with a 5½ by 8½ inch page, as that’s letter paper folded in half and a common size for orders of service. And, for the sake of argument, half-inch margins. (Click the images to see them full-sized.)
To set the page size, use these menus. Format > Page > Page tab
Now, the idea of using tabs to set the left-hand information flush left and the right-hand information flush right isn’t entirely wrong. But the correct tab will be a “right tab” setting on the right margin. 5½ inch width, less a ½ inch margin on each side, and that means the “right tab” needs to be set at 4½ inches.
To add a tab, use these menus. Format > Paragraph >Tabs tab
As you see, you can use a “fill character” — like dots — to guide the eye. But that seems a little old-fashioned, so I didn’t; you may feel otherwise.
Which means in this example, you can type in “Opening hymn” and tab once to give its name.
In my experience, attempts to introduce technology lessons for lawyers means an opportunity for clergy, too. Small-firm lawyers and clergy very often have this much in common: a need for technology, perhaps more than is currently thought, and few opportunities to learn about it, even though they have a deep educational background. I mentioned this resource for typography, later generalized. (Bookmark that second link; you can thank me later.)
So I intend to follow Coding for Lawyers the same way. Using Markdown (lesson2) for sermons — I do — is something I’d recommend for those who just need to “get it on paper” with a minimum of fuss.
With all the talk about student debt, low salaries, missing employment, unwanted bivocationality and plain-old poverty in the ministry, it makes some sense to address ways of saving money as a way of making-do, because structural change (and success is not guaranteed) takes time.
That’s a good reason to put free-of-charge Ubuntu Linux on an old “obsolete” computer, to give it modern utility.
With concerns about online privacy invasion, copyright overreach and vendor lock-in, it makes sense to use an operating system that is backed by a community that takes your concerns seriously.
That’s a good reason to use free-to-use Ubuntu Linux, which has a community that takes these concerns seriously.
With brand-consciousness trumping utility, and the work of the ministry still being an under-served market, it makes sense to seek out an operating system that is easy (or easier) to build upon and responsive to active, if unprofitable, groups that create tools for their own use.
That’s a good reason to use free-to-adapt Ubuntu Linux, which has deep communities that address very specific needs, including those of congregations and ministers.
But Ubuntu, like all Linux versions, have a reputation — no longer fair — of being difficult or esoteric to install, maintain or use.
If you used a Linux version before, I recommend you try one again, as a group of more user-friendly versions have developed and improved in recent years.
And that’s a good reason for me to start a weekly feature — each Thursday — demonstrating a feature or tool on the current long-term support version of Ubuntu Linux, probably the best used and most generally useful member of the desktop/laptop Linux family.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned a set of nicely-formatted orders of service/bulletins from First Church (Unitarian), Boston, that I found in the archives at the Andover-Harvard library. They were preserved in a file about coordinated opposition to the consolidation of the Unitarians and the Universalists because the minister’s message in them. But I recognized its good taste and yet was hesitant to post the photos of the order of service. Unless something is plainly public — websites and reported statistics come to mind — or of historic interest, I won’t discuss the business of a congregation. Is this too recent? We are talking about 1960: the matter is old (and decided) news and it’s very clear that I’m not going to get around to making a mockup of it.
So here are the photos. Click through to see enlargements. Lean but elegant stuff, this.
I ran across an American Unitarian Association booklet “Church finance and accounting” — undated, but having internal examples suggesting 1914 — that makes for fun reading.
On the one hand, some things were very different then. It includes a review of the proprietor (pew owner) and pew rental system, and deprecates both to the free-pew (not that we call it that) system we have today, “the most modern and democratic way of financing a church, and is the system adopted in most new churches.” I can’t imagine the first two options today.
On the other hand, more seemed very familiar. I’m a member of Universalist National Memorial Church, Washington and we had a congregational meeting last Sunday. We reviewed financials that were more like those suggested than not.
The booklet was also full of candid advice. One good example:
Business-like methods in the financial administration of a church are of vital importance to the welfare of the society. Inefficient administration, hand-to-mouth ways of raising money, carelessness or tardiness in the payment of bills, usually indicate low vitality in a church, and are a constant source of danger and invitation to financial calamity.
And also a set of worked examples with charming fictitious churches. I might have to revive a couple for my own work:
Church of Our Father, Hope City, Colorado (a mission church)
Unity Church, Winterboro, Mass.
All Souls’ Church, Washington Square, Oakwood, N. Y. (obviously old and wealthy)
I was chatting with some parish ministers; one complained about having to go back to finish a newsletter column, to the moans and commiserations of the others. (The weekly newsletter-meditation implied by the order of service-themed blog post yesterday only raises the demand.)
I lightly chuckled, since I don’t have that responsibility anymore. And funny, as I was already blogging in my last pastorate, it was always easier and more pleasant to blog than write newsletter columns, so it isn’t the act of writing, per se. (The only thing worse was coming up with suitably vague but interesting blurbs for sermons I hadn’t written yet.)
why is this task so awful?
what can be done to make it less awful?
would anyone notice if we stopped?
And by “we” I mean “you.” I’d love to hear from you. I’ll allow anonymous comments for this post, for obvious reasons.