Monday, October 27, 2014

Pizza Crust, a recipe

I had a brief pizza crust crisis yesterday. I had planned for us to make our own pizza at youth group, but my cookbooks are now divided between two houses and the pizza crust recipe was in Omaha, not Lincoln. I did some research, and this is my working version of pizza crust. 

Stir one package of yeast into one cup of warm water. 
Add some honey, and let sit a bit.
Remember to turn on the oven, probably to 400 degrees. 
Stir in 1/2 cup flour with a fork. 
Add a tablespoon of olive oil.
Add another 2 1/2 cups flour, perhaps a cup at a time. 
When stirring doesn't seem to work any more, start kneading the dough.
Stop kneading once the dough seems elastic-y. 
Shape dough into a lump, set in a bowl in the back seat of your car, where it will remain while you do your errands. This works best on a warm, but not scorching, day. 
A couple hours later, divide the dough into two parts, spread out onto a pan (check to be sure baking sheet fits into your oven)(sadly, not all baking sheets you find in the parsonage actually fit in the oven).
Bake about 7 minutes, enough to get the dough to a place it won't absorb all the tomato sauce while you continue baking. Proceed with topping pizza, and bake about 10 minutes, maybe more depending on how reliable the temperature setting on your oven really is. 

The petunias and snapdragons on 33rd St are holding up well this fall. I like mixing peach and pink together in planters.

UNICEF Sunday - best Sunday ever!

Ahhh, UNICEF Sunday. My favorite Sunday of the year. 

My own giant UNICEF box = ministry highlight

My passion for UNICEF in general and Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF in particular began in the 1970s. I grew up in a household that did not believe children should “go begging for candy,” so we did not trick or treat on Halloween. I did, however, grow up in a household that believed it was important to learn about the global community and that children could make a difference in the world, no matter our age.
So, my brother and I would go trick or treating for UNICEF. On a sunny afternoon. Several days before Halloween. In our costumes. I think after a year my brother made the choice to avoid the humiliation of daylight trick-or-treating on the wrong day in costume for pocket change, but I persisted, motivated by the illustrations on the back of my UNICEF box that documented just how far a nickel or a quarter could go in the world of global public health.
One year, I had a revelation. What would happen if I took my UNICEF box around on the actual night of Halloween? Perhaps people would be more ready and willing to donate if I made my rounds at a time and on a date the neighbors were expecting children to come by and ask for stuff? I presented my case to my mother, who was wary until my father spoke up and volunteered to go with me. It would be dark, after all, and it would be reasonable for me to have an adult nearby.
We set out that night, and I remember returning from the first house to my father – UNICEF box clinking and my hands full of candy. “What do I do with the candy?” I asked. I was unprepared for the sweets, having set off with only my UNICEF box in hands. He replied, “I happen to be wearing a coat with very large pockets.” And so I learned about grace, care, and teamwork. We went door to door that night, bringing home the heaviest UNICEF box of all my years and my first-ever haul of Halloween candy, which of course was shared with the man who carried it in his pockets for me.
I remain a huge fan of trick-or-treat for UNICEF. I’ve convinced the last two churches I’ve served to join me in an annual tradition, celebrating a day when kids make a difference by advocating for other kids and raising funds to provide for basic personal and public health for our youngest global citizens. At South Gate, we hand out boxes on both of the Sundays before Halloween, and during the Children’s Message our organist plays “scary” music while they trick-or-treat up and down the aisles. Our congregation enjoys helping our kids help other kids, and they come prepared with plenty of change to fill the boxes. I usually tell the story of trick-or-treating for UNICEF with my father, explain the importance of kids helping other kids, and on the way out of worship everyone receives a reverse trick-or-treat fair trade mini chocolate from Equal Exchange.
It’s a great day, both in terms of generosity and advocacy, and hopefully helps reframe our traditions around Halloween to include care for our neighbors around the world. 

 Church kids and parents agree - my UNICEF box costume is the best!

Trick or Treat for UNICEF information and order forms can be found here:

Equal Exchange offers reverse trick-or-treat kits in season:

Friday, October 10, 2014

GPUMC health insurance - questions for the longterm

I could also title this: why we don’t have to meet in person

The Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church is working on deciding how to care for clergy health insurance in 2015. A number of resources have been made available this week, including details of a proposal to move away from group insurance to individual coverage. The decision about whether to make this change will be made by the Annual Conference, comprised of lay and clergy members. Which brings us to a pre-question: Should we insist on meeting in person to make this decision, or is it acceptable to utilize an e-ballot with a mail-in option for those without access to email?

My first instinct was to think that such a significant change absolutely demanded an in-person meeting. An inconvenient, likely-resented ritual gathering of the Annual Conference seemed appropriate for an inconvenient, likely-resented change to clergy health insurance custom and practice.

I’ve moved away from that first reaction for two reasons. First, I think people will have already studied the issue as much as they want to before the meeting, and will not be swayed during a mid-morning meeting. Related to this, I don’t think it will help our new history together to have a meeting of the Annual Conference that is either poorly attended or accompanied by participant schedule and travel stress.  
My second reason is the one that convinced me it would be ok to meet via email. As I started to think about the topics I would want to discuss related to clergy health insurance, I realized that very few of them related directly to the short-term problem of how to insure clergy in 2015. My questions and concerns have to do with longer-term process questions. Questions that deserve a richer conversation and a longer time for pondering than a single Saturday morning. 
Here are just a few of the things I think it would be interesting and good for us as a Conference to discuss, but not for just a morning:
1) What is our theology related to health and healthcare?
2) What is the role of the Church as we seek to find and bring wholeness to the communities we serve?
3) To what degree does the overall health of clergy relate to the overall health of our congregations and faith journeys?
4) If it is true that over time it has always been “hard” to insure clergy, what interventions (such as Virgin HealthMiles) might we create so that both clergy and church members might be more healthy?
5) How might we learn to have conversations regarding health and healthcare in ways that move us from blame and individual benefit to a view of the world that embraces community and benefit to the group?
6) How does the stress some clergy are articulating over this proposed change relate to national stress over healthcare, and how are we as a Conference called to address the right of people to healthcare, both in the United States, and globally?

I am hopeful that after we get through the next few weeks of stress over the immediate decision regarding how to care for clergy health insurance in 2015, we will remember to address the systemic and long-term issues that accompany the short-term decisions. 

October roses in Omaha
 (In other news, the roses are outlasting the tomato plants on 33rd St in Omaha)