Monday, September 26, 2011

This blog has changed its address! Please bookmark the new location

Derek Maul
Please note, The Preacher's Husband blog is now located at

It's tough to post in several places! So please bookmark and visit me there often!

Peace and blessings - DEREK "The Preacher's Husband" Maul

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Too far Under the Radar? This blog needs your vote or it simply goes away...

"The Preacher" with her very happy dog, Scout Labradoodle
It's crisis time for this blog, and I need to hear from any interested readers.

Let me be clear; it's not crisis time for me, it's crisis time for this blog! I write another blog (almost daily) that generates a tremendous level of interest. And, to be honest, my other blog covers a lot of ground this page would address if it was my only space.

So I have to ask the question. If this blog went away, then would the few readers who visit here transfer their interest to"The Life-Charged Life", or will I lose you altogether?

You see, a huge part of what it means to live "The Life-Charged Life" involves my role as a clergy-hubby. So I feel that I'm short-changing this blog when I post on the other... and I feel like my other readers are missing out when I post good stuff over here.

So I'll leave it at that. This is a one-month fact-finding fishing expedition. Do you want this blog or not? Let me know, either way.
Like I said, I'll be posting 6-days a week regardless, over at The Life-Charged Life.

Peace - DEREK "The Preacher's Husband" Maul

Saturday, September 17, 2011

History and more Church history...

Newspaper clipping from Feb 1997 - four months into our Brandon experience
Isaiah 6:6-8 - One of the flaming creatures flew over to me with a burning coal that it had taken from the altar with a pair of metal tongs. It touched my lips with the hot coal and said, "This has touched your lips. Your sins are forgiven, and you are no longer guilty."
After this, I heard the LORD ask, "Is there anyone I can send? Will someone go for us?"
"I'll go," I answered. "Send me!"

Blast from the Past: Just a short post this morning. I'm up to my eyeballs and beyond in a project that's turned out to be huge. A while back I agreed, in a moment of insanity, to write "A History of the First Presbyterian Church of Brandon, Florida" ( Well, now it's time to bring all the research and conversations and factoids together.

Rebekah has been the pastor of this amazing church going on 15 years (see newspaper clipping). Enough has happened in the past ten alone to write a 500-page account.
First, "Note to self": The next time I agree to write a church history, make sure I'm writing about a church where nothing much happens! Good grief, fpcBrandon has a lot going on!
The challenge is how to present the 50-year story of a faith community. The active membership roles have varied from as low as 100 to as high as 600 (on paper). Annual average attendance statistics have been recorded at less than 100 to over 400.

But, over the years and with the fact that people move to other towns... and new people join... and babies are born... and kids grow up.... and people die... it's possible that several thousand assorted Presbyterians have been - at one time or another - a part of this story. In a transitory town like Brandon, we typically have to take in 40 new members every year just to maintain.

So what I have done is to search and interview and listen, and to try to find the following:
  • A single thread of continuity - a strand of DNA if you will - that knits the half-century together
  • The evolving story of the personality of the church, and what particular events contributed to that evolution.
  • Who, now that we're all grown up, have we become? Because the most important element of this historical document is not so much the past as what that past has led to in terms of faithful witness to God's love and care in this community

So today, and over the next two weeks, my primary writing task will be to actually write this history of fpcBrandon. I'll likely share some vignettes along the way. It may be my most interesting book yet.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fun with the Church Pictorial Directory

I love taking pictures of people having their picture taken!
- Photos taken, by me, during Rebekah's official "staff-photo" shoot yesterday.

Ah, it's "Picture Directory" time again. People have been in and out of the church all day every day this week, sticking their heads in the preacher's office, chatting up and down the halls, pretty-much grinding day-to-day operations to a halt. But it's all good, because when else can Rebekah fit in dozens of quality pastoral visits per day for an entire week?

So 3:00 was our turn in front of the camera. A few people asked us why Andrew and Naomi weren't going to be in the picture with us! Seriously? They haven't lived here in years! Then a few others said they don't like doing these directories because their mug-shots always look so different from the time before....

"The Preacher" circa 1997
Personally, I think we all look just fine. This will be the third go-round at this church and the first since the kids left home. But I'm OK with the passage of time. We are who we are, and there are plenty of younger families in the church now who have joined since the last directory was produced.
So I stole a few "behind the scenes" photographs while Rebekah was having her staff head-shot taken. Then I pulled out some pics from when we first moved here (see left). In my humble opinion, The Preacher continues to look better every year.

My favorite preacher!
And, if aging a decade and a halfat First Presbyterian of Brandon adds up to:
  • Increasing in beauty...
  • 15 years of additional wisdom...
  • Finely tuned preaching skills...
  • Developing a cutting-edge staff...
  • Plus all this experience as senior pastor at a vibrant faith community...
...Then I'd have to say, "Bring on the next decade, because the best is yet to come!"

I'm looking forward to it - and to the next church picture directory - DEREK

Friday, September 2, 2011

Architecture As Witness

I believe doors are a great symbol for what church is all about as a entry point for "Kingdom Life"
A flurry of activity over the past few weeks led to a key moment in the construction of our new facilities at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon. The general contractor threw his "Topping Out" party and we're officially down to the fine details.
The fine details, of course, will take the best part of a month to complete, but it's all downhill from here.
Officially, "topping out" is supposed to celebrate a building that is dried in and secure from the elements. In reality, this milestone means that we also have electricity, air-conditioning, windows, doors and that the plumbing is pretty much finished up too.
Flooring is going down, there's paint on the walls, appliances are moving in to the kitchen. They're working on the landscaping as well, along with the new entrance and sidewalks and such. Exciting stuff all around!

Rebekah picking up lunch from the new kitchen
"Topping Out" is a contractor party. It's thrown by the construction folk for all the people who have been working at the site. Employees, sub-contractors, inspectors etc. If they want to - and this isn't always the case - they invite the people who are paying for the work, too. Our contractor graciously invited a handful of folk from the church that included Rebekah and me, so I thought I'd share a few pictures in this blog.
A whole bunch of doors - above - were set up in the hall for finish work. I thought they made great ecclesiastical art. One of my favorite scriptures is the John 1o passage where Jesus talks about being the gate, the entry point for the Kingdom of God. I like the image of our church serving that role for so many people who are exploring their spirituality and what it means to live in relationship to God.

Builder Jim
Our builder used the opportunity to share his testimony with the assembled workers. What he actually did was provide an excellent barbecue lunch and preach a ten-point sermon while everyone was eating. It's definitely one approach to telling the Gospel story.
But what really gave me pause, as I walked around the facility, was the fact that this building is a profound statement of faith. The quality of the work, the way we are committed to making the facilities accessible to so many community groups, the training in discipleship that will take place, the evidence that First Presbyterian of Brandon is active in this community and working to raise the standard of life in Brandon.
It all speaks to the transformational love of God that has so taken hold of us all here.

Coffee/refreshment bar area in the middle
One element I'm very pleased with is the "Coffee Bar" area, right in the middle of all the downstairs classrooms. The design of the structure is built around our recognition of the value of community-building as a key building block in discipleship. The hallways, the stairwell landings, the entry points... these are all larger than minimum code requirements and conducive to gathering.
The Campbell Discipleship Center is beautiful, yes, but it's very much a practical design that facilitates community. Some of the key attributes, for me, are:

  • The new nursery

  • Airy

  • Inviting

  • Natural Gathering Points

  • Community-friendly

  • Top-quality

  • Accessible

  • Flow

  • Practical

View from the parking area
I really love the fact that it doesn't have any of the "Don't touch this it's too nice" feel that many church projects often come with. It fits the personality of our congregation and the thrust of our witness.
This last picture is of the new north entrance, being carved out as we speak. One more interface with our community from a church campus that is improving constantly. I pray that the way we live out our discipleship will also continue to move forward; bright, airy, inviting, accessible, community-friendly - telling the truth about JESUS.

Laying out the new FPCBrandon entrance from the north

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Ridiculously Good" Church Staff

Now that's a great-looking collection of church staff (minus Earl, parish associate)
Did I ever mention the "utilitarian" function of the preacher's husband? I'm sure I did. We've already discussed the pure joy found via freedom from stereotypical "Preacher's Wife" expectations. The church is pretty-much happy I even show up, and that's wonderful! But then, over time (and especially if you do show up on a regular basis), people will eventually find out what your particular skill set is and - Bingo! - you're busy.
Hence the designation of "utility player." I've confessed before in this space how much I enjoy photography, so I shouldn't have been surprised when I was asked to shoot the church staff for the new directory. Fortunately it was an easy assignment, as we have a naturally photogenic group who A) do not suffer from vanity, B) are cooperative and C) get along well.

Don (left) and Mark run our music ministry
So I thought I'd share the results in this week's "Clergy-Hubby" post. I'll start with the music guys. Mark is music director. He plays the pipe organ beautifully, he directs our most excellent choir, he leads a top-notch handbell ensemble, and he plays piano for the Praise Band; he is also an accomplished trombonist and puts together an occasional low-brass choir that makes truly remarkable music. Everything he touches is enhanced by his grace and quiet faith.
Don (who also plays trombone in the Florida Orchestra) is in charge of the Praise Team. Every week he crafts a multi-layered sound from a surprisingly talented band composed of guitars, brass, woodwinds, percussion and keyboard. Don brings a deep spiritual sensitivity and cutting edge musicality that is the perfect accompaniment for worship.

Steve and Debbie handle facilities
Next we have Steve and Debbie. Steve is facilities manager. Believe me, that's no small assignment in a rambling set of  buildings that have been stitched together over 50 years. This year, or course, we're in the process of updating the physical plant and pretty-much doubling our usable space. The other side of that coin is Debbie, who gets to keep it all clean and ready for whatever is going on. Between them (and with the help of God) miracles occur on a daily basis!
The next grouping is the office staff. I don't have space here to begin to do them justice. Joyce (front right) is our office manager; or, as Rebekah often says, "The Boss." How critically important is Joyce? Well, let's just say that, sometimes, I have to buy her chocolate... really expensive chocolate. Yeah, that's how it is!

Did the office staff coordinate their outfits for today's photo? Sure looks like they did....
Kathy (front left) wears two hats. She is pre-school director for probably the best program in Brandon. Then, having filled the church with love and light and enthusiastic two, three and four-year-olds all morning, she spends the afternoon bringing her positive energy to the front office. Tisa (back right) is the first warm greeting for those who walk in or call, and has revolutionized the church web page at Andy (middle) and Sue work magic with money and accounting and payroll and receipts and a thousand details I couldn't follow if they explained it to me all day. They are all awesome folk who make the work of ministry at First Presbyterian possible via their faithful service.

Kelly and Lynn, our youth are in good hands!
I didn't get to photograph our Youth Director, Kelly, other than the group picture (center back, dark hair). But I did capture this fun image last night at the staff party (we party a lot) at our house, when the mantle was officially passed from Lynn. Lynn ran the youth program for nine years, covering our young people with a quality of love and encouragement that is legend around here. This may not be the "official" portrait, but I believe it captures the spirit and the passion they both share.

Tim and Rebekah: "ridiculously good" ministers. Earl - our parish associate - makes three.
Last but not least, Rebekah and Tim. There's not enough space, but I think a quote from one of our Sunday school teachers fits best here. A week ago, Tim was teaching a discipleship ministry workshop for educators and small group leaders. He handed out some material that described several important factors in making church work. After a while, one of the teachers raised her hand.
"When I read about the qualities people look for in the ideal church setting," she said, "the first thing that came to my mind was, We have ridiculously good ministers at this church...."
Nice one, Sandy - "Ridiculously Good" it is. But then I could say the same about the rest of the staff, too.
Peace and Blessings - DEREK

Monday, August 15, 2011

Picture Perfect

Children leafing through their new treasures while one more comes forward
SOMETIME, BEING “THE PREACHER’S HUSBAND” MEANS BEING READY TO RESPOND to requests (made during the first hymn) such as, “Derek! My camera is at the bottom of my purse – I think – under the desk back in my office. Can you get some pictures of the kids getting their Bibles?”
And so it’s walk – with dignity – out of the sanctuary; run – as fast as I can – to Rebekah’s office; dig – frantically – for the camera; run – super-fast – down the hall again; ease into church – casually – trying not to pant loudly from being out of breath; take a few photos – unobtrusively; return to seat – gratefully.
"God's Word for you!" This is good stuff!
Of course I should have been prepared and with my own camera, because it was Christian Education Rally Day after all, and it’s no secret that handing out Bibles to the rising 2nd-graders is just about Rebekah’s most favorite thing in the whole church calendar. But I’ve been trying hard not to be “The Paparazzi” or, as our son Andrew says with characteristic lack of political correctness, “Dad, when are you going to stop being a Japanese tourist all the time?”
However, and I know you’re wondering, I did manage to get a few good pics. It really is a wonderful moment when a bunch of seven-year-olds come forward, one at a time, and stand mesmerized as Rebekah offers each individual child their own special word of encouragement before handing them the life-charged text.
Sam Sutherland encouraging the children to be "Imitators of Christ"
Later, Sam Sutherland did his classic Children’s-Moment story about “The Tater Family”, sharing with the kids how important it is – if we’re going to be any kind of a Tater at all, to be an “Imi-Tater” of Christ.
Sam’s other characters – and he bought in the vegetables to go along with the story – were “Dick-Tater”, “Agi-Tater”, “Common-Tater”,”Spec-Tater” and – if all else fails – “Be a Sweet-Tater.”
Good words for this Monday morning, I’d say – DEREK