Chris Yaw

I am a Christ Lover

Chris Yaw

I know, I'm kind of messy - but here goes... I’m an Episcopal priest serving a congregation in Metro Detroit... With a passion for gun safety... A zest for online Christian formation... A zeal for video blogging... A constant writer... A heart for those who have unintentionally harmed... A commitment to workforce housing... A love for marrying people... And an amazing wife, three kiddos and a cat named Sparrow... If you have interests in any of these areas I'd love to connect with you.

Me

Contact Details


  • St. David's Episcopal Church, 16200 W. Twelve Mile Road, Southfield, Michigan, 48076, USA


  • +011 248-557-5430


  • chris@stdavidssf.org

St. David's

I have served as rector of St. David's Episcopal Church in Southfield, MI for 16 years, join us Sundays in person or via zoom.

Trinity Gun Disposal

Working on the issue of unwanted gun disposal, we've made some real progress in helping rid the U.S. of unwanted firearms.

ChurchNext

Since 2013 we have been helping people learn more about faith through our online learning courses at ChurchNext.

Oakland Housing

Helping middle income families get better housing is a challenge that Oakland Housing has been addressing for 75 years.

Hyacinth Fellowship

Because hurting others hurts us, the Hyacinth Fellowship organizes support groups and reminds us that we are not our worst mistakes.

Yaw Wedding

I have been officiating weddings for more than 20 years and continue to find joy in helping couples build lifelong relationships.

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U.S. Guns Produced Today
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Americans Accidentally Killed Today
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Weddings Performed
  • The Most Adventuresome Day

    The Most Adventuresome Day


    Easter and Pentecost are gone and while we may have earned a well-deserved summer vacation, Mother Church is saying, ‘Not so fast…’ Hey, the temperatures are warmer (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) and we’re downright tempted to do what the mice do when the cat’s away (leave at 3:15), but that’s just not going to happen yet - we’ve got Trinity Sunday this weekend.

    For the uninitiated, Trinity Sunday may seem like the Church’s annual exercise in futility – it’s when preachers mount pulpits and take their best stab at explaining the unexplainable: who is God? The best two thousand years of Christendom have been able to do is come up with an idea we call ‘The Trinity’ – one God in three roles or offices or persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What this means is that Sunday’s feast is the only day of the year when we ponder a teaching of the Church rather than a teaching of Jesus (the word Trinity is actually not found in the Bible).

    And while taking a stab at answering an unanswerable question certainly seems pointless, I think this is actually one of the more important feasts of the year. After all, if we never attempted to climb unclimbable mountains, build impossible buildings or swim impassable rivers we would not be all that we were created to be. This is the most adventuresome day of the year for Christians as we ponder the “Is-ness” of God – the very being of God.

    Like our Jewish ancestors, we realize this can be dangerous. We resist making images of God (statues and the like) because we don’t want to violate the second commandment. So we go for metaphor, ‘God is like…’ which can be helpful (God is like a chord made up of three individual notes...). However, we soon realize that whatever proofs, formulas or explanations we can drum up fall short. If God exists outside of Creation then how can we attempt to understand Him (or Her) by using only those things available within Creation? What’s more, for any ‘proof’ to be valid necessitates the neutrality of the observer, which is simply not possible.

    One thing we often learn from this exercise is the utter complexity of God. We look at the evidence that surrounds us – the natural world of ocean rhythms, interstellar order, and the incredible intricacies that make up the simple beauties found in budding plants and the eyes of a newborn. And while Trinity Sunday may remind us of our inability to understand God, it also reminds us that we are able to know God. Just think about how many things you and I know but don’t understand (I know my car works but will never understand how). We also remember what scientists tell us – that most discoveries are preceded by hypotheses; a belief in what’s happening before it is actually proven. Don’t we sell ourselves short (and display no small amount of hubris) when we conclude that we can’t believe in God because we don’t understand God?

    So this Trinity Sunday, when we contemplate the adventure of going deeper into the unknown of God, we know that it involves doing nothing more than taking the hand that is reaching for us. It is the One that beckons us to forgive that wrong, reach out to that needy neighbor, and take a stand against injustice. In doing this we are saying what we believe. May we be granted faith so to do, in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


    Reading
    The Great Emergence – Phyllis Tickle
    The Slate Roof Bile – Joseph Jenkins
    Governance and Ministry – Dan Hotchkiss
  • Holy Comforter

    Holy Comforter


    In the Bible there are many names for the Holy Spirit and his (or her?) ministry to the world. This Sunday our translation will render this third member of the Trinity as 'Advocate.' Other Biblical references include Holy Ghost, Spirit of God, Spirit of Truth and a favorite which is Paraclete (loosely: 'one who comes alongside'). What I like about this translation (which is really no translation at all) is the underlying assumption, 'Well we don't really know exactly what it means in Greek so we'll transliterate it into English and let you figure it out...'

    This Pentecost Sunday the most helpful understanding of the Holy Spirit's work and ministry in my life is 'Comforter.' The Gospel text assigned to us, John 14:8-27, has the disciple Philip sitting in for you and me as he asks, 'Lord, show us the Father!' And a somewhat frustrated Jesus (I'm sure) chiming in to say, 'Have I been with you all this time (insert your name here), and you still do not know me?' We, like Phillip, are often in places where we simply cannot recognize God. We live in an age where anxiety disorder diagnoses are through the roof, worries about a dwindling middle class are well founded, a slushy and unpredictable economy keeps us awake at night, and a worrisome national security landscape haunts us (did someone really plant a car bomb in Times Square?).

    Yet in the middle of it all, Jesus calls us to go out into the world to continue His work - not just healing, restoring and reconciling, but smiling at the busboy who brings us water, letting the jibe from that passive aggressive co-worker go unanswered, and taking a moment to stare deeply into the eyes of our beloveds to say, 'Ya know, I really love you.'

    But in order to do this, we need to find a place to put all that crappy worrying.

    And this is where the Holy Spirit - the Comforter comes in.

    When my 9 month old is in his activity saucer near my desk (that's him in action, above), furiously rattling rattles, pushing buttons and ringing bells every once in a while he'll suddenly stop and look over at me - as if to say - 'Are we cool?' I look over at him and smile (like, who cannot smile at a smiling baby?) and let him know, 'Ya, we're cool.' And off he goes again, in a tornado of fury. If I don't look at him he'll speak up to grab my attention and when I leave the room there's usually a wail. He wants to know I'm nearby and everything's cool.

    Pentecost is like that. Jesus tells us, relax, keep up the good work. The Comforter is here and never leaves.

    Everything's cool.



    Reading
    Governance and Ministry - Dan Hotchkiss
    Giving it Up - Maggi Dawn
    The Fidelity of Betrayal - Peter Rollins
  • Book Review: Change Your Church for Good

    Book Review: Change Your Church for Good


    For churches with fundamentalist convictions this is an interesting testimony of church growth and offers useful tips for 'transitioning' your church from small and declining to big and growing. However, for the rest of us it offers much less.

    Mega church pastor Brad Powell tells a glossy and rather simplistic rags to riches story of church growth, insisting that the growth he piloted (his church now hosts thousand of people each Sunday) is something every church can do; 'He (sic) just needs His people like you to believe in His power and to embrace His purpose and passion for your church.' Brad begins with an archtypically evangelical story of being brought to his knees at a pastor's conference and, all alone, hearing from God and having the Bible speak directly to him as he received his marching orders.

    Brad tells us about his church, Temple Baptist Church in Detroit, one of the largest Baptist churches in the country in the 1950's. He mentions several times that the congregation had lost two thirds of its membership in the ten years before his arrival. He blames it on irrelevant music and worship and tells how he did the difficult work of transforming it into NorthRidge Church. What Brad leaves out is the fact that racial division played perhaps the biggest role in Temple's decline, and that the decision to leave its historic location meant moving out of a declining neighborhood into tony Plymouth, a white middle to upper class suburb where his particular brand of theology would be better received and much better funded. Thus leaving behind a declining area, and its residents, and adding to the Balkanization of the Detroit metro area.

    Brad, like other mega church pastors, gives us the impression that his congregation's growth came mainly through new converts, whereas church growth statistics show that more than 90% of mega church growth comes from piquing the interest of other Christians who have either stopped going to church or who, more often, have simply switched churches - which is very common in his evangelical world. Brad rightly points out that there are a lot of Baptists in the Detroit area. His church has had obvious appeal to many of them.

    Also common in evangelical circles is the overuse of anecdote and the underuse of academic and outside sources. This book has no footnotes, bibliography or even suggested reading. Like Rick Warren's 'Purpose Driven' best seller, the only go-to literature it commends is more of the author's, in this case, Brad's blog, church website and church address. I expected something with more academic rigor, but again, the tradition isn't known for commending it.

    Brad hits home when he talks about church governance models, and the importance of updating them to meet current trends. This is one of the significant reasons dying churches continue to decline. 80% of America's churches are not growing, many of them because they continue to use antiquated organizational models that promote navel-gazing and inhibit change and newness. Temple's transition is a testimony to Brad's leadership and a willingness of its deacons to embrace a new kind of organizational leadership that empowers the laity and gives permission to members to get involved in ministry. NorthRidge members believe they have something vital to share and deserve kudos for allowing that conviction to drive their decision to embrace its leadership model. Would that every church would share the conviction that what they have to offer is worth this kind of sacrifice!

    Brad also offers credible advice when he explains how he rooted these changes in mission - to reach the lost. He tells of how he reminded the congregation of the important paradigm that the Church is the only institution that exists primarily for those who are not its members and that doing this kind of mission requires change. He gives a helpful tip when he urges congregations to use 'testimony' of changed lives during the transition - to remind the congregation that the changes they are making are bearing fruit.

    However, Brad leaves many of us (me and my more liberal churchmen and women) out of his equation when he implies that a conservative approach to theology must stand at the heart of church growth, as if the only way to grow a church is to embrace his slant on Christianity. Certainly he is aware that many liberal churches are growing and that they also have much to offer in leading others to Christ (by liberal I mean those that read Scripture more flexibly, do not claim a monopoly on salvation and believe, as the United Church of Christ advertises, that 'God is still speaking’).

    What left me wanting is any mention of how NorthRidge is making a significant dent in improving Detroit. The biggest challenges this geographic area faces are racial reconciliation, unity among churches and social justice. Half of Detroit's children live at or under the poverty line. What would it look like for a church of this size and influence to partner with an inner city community organizing group and work not just at feeding the homeless (as NorthRidge certainly does, out in the suburbs) but, as Jesus did, taking on a corrupt power system that enables the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer? Mega churches emote images of comfy suburbanites sipping lattes, being entertained by upbeat music and ‘challenged’ by Dr. Phil messages. Sadly, Brad’s story left me with little evidence to the contrary. Shouldn’t growing churches like this provide the leadership and challenge to do the gritty work of reconciliation in the most racially divided region in America?

    I received a free copy of Brad's book as a member of a scheme called 'Booksneeze,' that gives away books to those who will review them and post them on their blogs. We can assume that the books made available will be those needing blog publicity because they're not able to carry much weight on their own. This book, at the time of this writing was ranked around 400,000 on amazon.com, and hence, certainly qualifies.
  • I Can Be a Christian All by Myself

    I Can Be a Christian All by Myself


    Years ago a Christian singing duo named Avery and Marsh penned a musical parody about American Christendom called, ‘I Can Be a Christian By Myself.’ Here’s the first verse:

    I can be a Christian by myself.
    Leave my dusty Bible on the shelf.
    I'll sing a hymn and pray a bit.
    God can do the rest of it.
    My heart's the church, my head's the steeple.

    Shut the door, I'm all the people.
    I'll break some bread and drink some wine.
    Have myself a holy time.

    Of course this would be much more amusing if it didn’t hit so close to home. As someone who prides himself on his independence, and is equally proud to live in a country founded by (and loaded with) rugged individualists, my sense of discomfort is widely shared. I feel a tug of competing loyalties – to a heritage and lifestyle of individual freedom and the pull of a Savior who is constantly calling me into selfless relationships with others.

    This Sunday many Christians will hear a famous reading from the Bible - a portion of Jesus’ last prayer before his crucifixion. On the eve of his betrayal, punishment and death Jesus takes a moment to pray for you and me. And what he prays is for us to take our relationships really seriously. What I find so fascinating about this prayer is not the ‘what,’ but the ‘how.’ We are not asked to unite around a football team, ethnic heritage, profit-making venture, or even a form of altruism (although those might be infinitely easier!) but we are asked to unite around Him.

    Jesus goes all New Age on us - asking us to imagine Him in us, and us in Him, then us and Him together emptying ourselves for those who don’t know Him. It’s pointed, direct, and more than a bit eclectic. And who would ever have guessed it would become the foundation of the largest and most influential religion the world has ever known?

    At the heart of Jesus’ final words is an imploring for us to get rid of all the distractions and focus on Him. In this time of Ascensiontide (these ten days between Ascension Day last Thursday and Pentecost next Sunday), which Karl Barth called, ‘The Significant Pause,’ how might you and I renew our focus on the valued relationships around us - our Lord, our family, our friends? How might we use this hour, this day and this season of significant pause, to revive friendships, renew significant relationships, and reach out to those to whom we are called?


    Reading
    Governance and Ministry – Dan Hotchkiss
    Can Your Church Live? – Alice Mann
    The Five Most Important Questions – Peter Drucker
  • The Sniff Test

    The Sniff Test


    Like many people, I watched with great interest as the head of the Wall Street class, Goldman Sachs, was hauled into the principal's office last week to answer for its part in The Great Recession, and more specifically, the housing market collapse that triggered it all. Goldman is being accused, in a civil suit filed by the S.E.C., of essentially misrepresenting a mortgage-based product it was pushing. Apparently it involved a heavy investor who helped construct the product - and he was betting it would fail. One commentator likened it to helping a bookie pick the horses and jockeys allowed in the race.

    Whether or not Goldman violated the law - we suspect that had the company done so we would see criminal charges versus a civil suit - the spotlight is on the propriety of it all. What sorts of ethical frameworks are at work here?

    Years ago Augustine of Hippo posited a simple axiom to help Christians maneuver an increasingly complicated world. He famously instructed; 'love God and do as you please.' As the reasoning goes, in loving God one will engage in the sorts of behaviors that would be pleasing to God - honesty, integrity, self-denial, charity, peace-making, etc. Last Sunday those of us who attend liturgical churches heard Jesus say, 'I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.'

    What would Wall Street, or our street, look like if we approached ethical questions from this vantage point? Can I love God and make that comment, purchase, or business deal? What ethical decision am I facing today in which this advice would be good advice? Would that decision pass the sniff test?

    Reading
    Empire Falls - Richard Russo
    Blood and Thunder: The Story of Kit Carson - Hampton Sides
    Governance and Ministry - Dan Hotchkiss
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    ADDRESS

    St. David's Episcopal Church, 16200 W. Twelve Mile Road, Southfield, MI 48076 USA

    EMAIL

    chris@stdavidssf.org

    TELEPHONE

    +011 248-557-5430