Passion: The Intersection of Communication and Intent

The PNC1 nominated Jason Santos as the next YMM2 Associate Pastor. Last Tuesday (a week ago yesterday), Session allowed the nominee to proceed for a vote. Session wanted to hold the vote last Sunday (i.e. three days ago) because UPC was already having a town meeting and it would be simple enough to vote on the position. However, the Book of Order states that the congregation must be given at least two weeks notice. Thus, May 16th was chosen as the date since that would be the first Sunday after the two week notice given from last Sunday.

It also happened to be the only weekend that Jason Santos could come back out to give a guest sermon (although he’s not required to give a sermon, nor is the sermon linked to the voting in any way, nor do prospective YMM Associate Youth Pastors typically give sermons to the congregation…voting is all that is required) within the next 6 weeks or so because of obligations he already had.

If Session had decided to postpone his visitation until after he calendar cleared, some of the staff would have already left (because they were leaving after the end of the school year) and it would be nice to have some interchange between the outgoing staff and Jason Santos.

So the decision was made to hold the vote on May 16th after the 11:30 am service, which would put voting at 12:45 pm, or so. On paper, this seems like a great plan. Except that The Edge3, of which I am a sponsor4, is going to be at camp. The Edge makes up roughly half the constituents of the YMM, the other half being The Rock (the middle school youth group).

This problem was first brought to my attention by my friend and fellow sponsor, Jesse, on Saturday on the way to a Mariners’ game. She briefly explain her disappointment in not being able to vote to me. I knew about the vote and I knew about the retreat, although I hadn’t connected the dots until now – the retreat started on May 14th, and that’s the day I had in my head. I called my local elder, who also happens to be my Mom, to see if she knew anything about this and to hear what her thoughts were (Mom happens to be very good in these regards). She pointed me in a couple directions and I continued to mull over what the best course of action was.

Later Saturday night, I also bounced the issue off my friend Tad, another great resource and future pastor (he’s starting seminary in the fall).

By Sunday evening, I decided to talk with our Senior Pastor, George Hinman. He was very patient in listening to my concerns and in pointing me to the appropriate people: Tim Snow and Juli Lorton.

I went to join my parents for dinner upstairs at church, and when I caught with them, they were already talking with Juli! How fantastic. I talked briefly with Juli who assured me that the point had been brought up and that a solution was in the works, possibly involving some sort of Skype or Justin.TV solution and a proxy vote of sorts where members who were on the retreat would be able to watch Santos’ sermon and then vote. I also told her what I thought to be a complete lack of communication from the PNC, Session, or YMM on this issue. I let her know that we had a Sponsor meeting on Monday (the next day) and perhaps she or someone else could attend to help explain what was actually going on, field questions, and report back to whomever needed to know.

I also talked with Jennie, the Interim YMM Associate Director, and mentioned to her that I thought it might good if Juli, Tim Snow, or someone else intimately involved with the process to be able to come to our Sponsor meeting, even for just a few minutes.

I emailed Juli later that night:

I believe that this would be a very good opportunity to address some of the people who have a very vested interest in what is going on, to be able to communicate what the scenario actually is (versus what the rumors are, and trust me there are still some rumors), and to be able to interact with the people, many of whom honestly have felt very left out of this important process.

As I’ve stated, and would like to reiterate, communication (and dialog) is key. Can we continue to keep in touch throughout this process?

My biggest frustration up to this point was that there was a HUGE disconnect between what the intent of the PNC/Session was and what they were communicating (or not communicating). The intent was along the lines of: We’ve found an amazing pastor! Let’s get this guy in and going! What was essentially communicated was: We don’t care about you as long as we get our guy.

Dave Hill, another elder (of the YMM, no less) and member of this PNC, was able to come to our sponsor meeting. He spent some time explaining the process and then turned the flow over to us. After a few beats of silence, I tried my best to gracefully lay out what my feelings were of the situation, the great work that the PNC had done so far (they’ve been at this for about a year now), and the seemingly utter failure in this last home stretch to reach out to some of the people who matter the most (i.e. the students, sponsors, and staff of The Edge).

Other people brought up some great points as well, including the fact that if you look at the demographics of the people who probably care the most (i.e. students, parents of students, sponsors, and staff), most of them trend toward going to the evening services, not the morning service. Dave held a belief that if people really cared about voting they would show up to the morning service, to which I paraphrased an interesting observation about organ donations:

When organ donations are a check box on a form where you opt into it, the rates of opting in are 25-30%. There’s an asymmetry here. If you start where the default is to opt out, then the organ donor percentage is 85-90%. We’re not sure why, but it’s completely different. It’s opting in versus opting out; in-group out-group distinctions.

My point was this: yes, people do care about being able to vote. Will they care enough to change their schedules? Probably not as much as we’d want them to.

By this point, it seemed like the best option would be to hold a second vote after the 7pm service. The idea of having a remote broadcast and proxy vote seemed unviable and overly complex. The third idea of post postponing the vote until another week also seemed more like the first idea, but more complicated.

I asked Dave to keep us in the loop, wanting reemphasize that communication is key. We prayed and that was that.

As I write this, the official word is that a second vote is going to be held after the 7pm service:

Dear UPC Family,

As you know, our candidate for Pastor of Youth Mission & Ministry, Jason Santos, will preach at the 11:30 am and 7 pm services on May 16. The original plan to hold one congregational meeting after the 11:30 service to elect Jason would have left out UPC members–YMM staff, sponsors, and students–attending the Edge spring retreat that weekend. In order to welcome their participation, we are expanding the congregational meeting into two parts.

Apparently, this may not be the kosher solution. But I think it’s the best solution, and I think this is a great solution that works for everyone. I just wish it had started out this way.

I debated whether it was even worth posting this. I decided it was, because it’s a great example of how something that had great intentions had some poor execution. I want this to be an example of why communication is so important. I want this to be an example showing that if people have passion, things can change, but someone has to speak up. I want this to be an example of how we can do things better next time.

Finally, to be clear – since we’re talking about communication – this was never about whether I (or anyone else) thought Jason was a good candidate or not. From the cursory research I’ve done so far, I think Jason is an excellent candidate and when I vote, I will be voting to affirm him. This was about making sure that everyone had a chance to have their say in the matter, regardless of what their say was.

Pre-emptive snarky comment: If only wishes were horses.

  1. Pastor Nominating Committee 

  2. Youth Mission and Ministry 

  3. The high school youth group 

  4. basically a mentor/Bible Study Leader 

Dateline: Athens, Day 1 – Athens in 4 Hours

Athens, Greece
4 July 2009

With the assistance of last nights mid-voyage Internet connection, we were able to find what we thought would be a good chance at a bed. Unfortunately, we couldn’t actually book anything. After talking to Mom and Dad on Skype and explaining the 14 second audio delay because of the satellite connection I was using, we made out way to the hostel.

The downside of arriving anywhere past midnight is that there is no guarantee of a working metro system. Many places shut down their metros at midnight and also reduce bus service. Athens is one of those cities. We ended up sharing a cab with the American couple, since they were staying at a hotel near us. We paid €5/each and were on our way.

We got to the hostel and low and behold, they had one room left. So, the good news is that we had a bed. The bad news is that we had a bed, singular.

Whatever, we took it and went to bed.

Exploring Athens in 4 hours was pretty exiting. We had three goals: National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Parthenon, and catching our boat in Patros1.

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is quite amazing

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…and yes, that’s a guy giving himself a tittie twister2.

We grabbed a quite bit to eat before racing off to find the Parthenon. As we started to climb the steps leading to the Parthenon, the clouds began to roll in. Although I think it made for rather excellent lighting in the end…

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Athens, Attica, Ελλάδα

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Athens, Attica, Ελλάδα

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Athens, Attica, Ελλάδα

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Athens, Attica, Ελλάδα

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Athens, Attica, Ελλάδα

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Athens, Attica, Ελλάδα

As we were leaving the Parthenon, the drops started to fall. By time we made it down the small ridge the Parthenon was on, it was pouring down rain. We made a mad dash for the hostel were we grabbed our bags. Already running late, we hailed a cab (the second in as many days) and raced to the bus terminal. We made it with, I swear, only five minutes before the bus left. But we were on, and that’s what mattered at this point…even if we were soaking wet.

The bus ride, like all the bus rides before it, was uneventful.

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Aktaio, West Greece, Ελλάδα

We got to the bus terminal and ran to the ferry terminal, which sucked because we had to go all the way to the ticket counter on the far side of the terminal before going back to ferry. By time we got to the ferry, they had already started to pull up the car ramp…so we just barely made it.

This ferry, the Superfast Ferry, was quite a bit nicer than the other ferries we had been, which is saying something because the other ferries were pretty nice. I’d actually call this ferry more of an ocean linear.

We made our way to the foyer and sat down. It wasn’t long before I was scouting out a place for out “instant upgrade.” The place I selected was the airplane-style seats. It seemed to more or less be a free for all, and there were plenty of extra seats. I would suspect that less than half the people actually had tickets for the airplane-style seats. We managed to snag a couple and settled in for our night ride to Bari, Italy.

Around midnight, there was a commotion that aroused me from my sleep. We were being kicked out. We had just pulled out of port in Igoumenitsa and someone actually had a ticket for our seats! What luck!

We tried finding a place to sleep somewhere else, first in the foyer (no place to lie down), and then in the dining area. However, some official actually kicked us (a bunch of people actually) out because the area was for people who were eating. Problem was, the restaurant wasn’t open. I guess he didn’t care.

So it was back to the foyer. However, I was determined to get back to our plush aircraft-style seats. After waiting a bit, I made by way back in to the cabin and scouted our another spot. I found a guy sitting with two bags taking up two extra seats. I asked if he was using them, to which he prompt got up and left. So I took them. And all was good with the world again.

Happy Forth of July!

  1. Charlie figured out that it was faster/easier to catch the boat in Patros, rather than four hours later in Igoumenitsa. Not to mention that buying a ticket for Patros is easier… 

  2. Check that one off the list of words I didn’t think I would ever write on this blog 

Dateline: Samos, Day 1 – Down Day

Samos, Greece
29 June 2009

Well, last night I ended up not going straight to bed. First, I wanted to get some blogs posted (still playing catch, ugh). Second, Charlie needed to call his bank to get his withdraw limit changed. And then Caitlin1 called on Skype, so I had to let the two love birds talk.

In any event, I got to bed around 3am, just in time to get four hours of sleep. We woke up, packed, had a quick breakfast, and walked down to ferry. We went through customs easily enough and were off on the ferry to Greece.

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Kuşadası, Aydın, Turkey

I spent the first part editing photos on the outside desk, before getting tired and dozing off. I spent the last half wishing I had something more to eat. I did “splurge” on two sandwiches, a €1.80 ham and cheese toast sandwich for breakfast, and a €3.80 ham and cheese and lettuce sandwich for lunch. Neither were filling.

Meanwhile, Charlie had found Finn and Cecilia elsewhere on the ferry.

We disembarked in Samos and promptly found food and, with the help of Anthony and Pedros at ISTA, a hotel.

I ended up calling in a down day and spent the afternoon in the hotel room recharing my batteries, so to speak, while Charlie, Cecilie, and Finn went exploring.

We met back at the hotel for an amazing sunset dinner before heading to the roof to enjoy the evening. Charlie thought that we should come up with a name for our group. After some discusion, it was settled: Cecilie and the Three Musketeers (Finntaro, The Hawk, and Ferg).

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Samos, North Aegean, Ελλάδα

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Samos, North Aegean, Ελλάδα

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Samos, North Aegean, Ελλάδα

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Samos, North Aegean, Ελλάδα

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Samos, North Aegean, Ελλάδα

  1. Charlie’s girlfriend 

Technology on the Go

Dateline Florence, Italy.

Most people were surprised that I wasn’t taking my computer with me, but the reality of the situation is that I don’t really need my tablet to check email, update my blog, check my RSS feeds, or chat online.

What I took with me:

Firefox Portable extracts straight to the thumbdrive.

You can install Skype straight to the thumbdrive too (or just copy Skype.exe from your existing installation), however you will also need to create a BAT file to make sure it loads your profile. On my thumbdrive, I have a folder called Phone with Skype.exe inside. I also have a BAT file called skype.BAT. In skype.BAT, copy and paste this code:

skype.exe /datapath:"Data" /removable

Then create a new directory in Phone called Data. Skype will now use that location to store your profile. This is very important when you start using computers in places like Italy where the computer language is set to Italian.

PuTTY is an open source SSH client I use to connect to various computer systems, such as my site.

Flickr Uploadr is what I use to upload my wonderful pictures. The downside of Flickr Uploadr is that I have to authorize on every computer I use it on. This is not that big of a deal as I just deauthorize when I’m done. But it does beat using the web interface every time.

There are also a number of websites I use:

Easy. Simple. Free.


Situation Room

So I found this number on the Internet, it’s the White House Situation Room number, (202) 456-9431 in case anyone is interested. Although, please just don’t go randomly calling it as it is the real number. I originally came across it on (“Huge list of random but useful phone numbers“). The list1 contains “ANAC, diverters, credit card validators, hotlines, fax backs, PBX and dial tones, interesting recordings, test numbers, phone companies, relays services, and more.” I bookmarked it and came back to them a few weeks later during a lull in school (history has shown lulls in school always provide the best stories). I spent quite a bit of time on Skype calling various numbers and then I get down to the section called “Other”. The very first number is the listing for the “White House Situation Room”. Yea, that White House and that Situation Room.

For those not in the know (i.e. those who don’t watch The West Wing), “The White House Situation Room is a 24-hour watch and alert center. Its mission is to provide the President, the National Security Advisor and the members of the NSC staff with current intelligence and open-source information in support of the formulation and implementation of national security policy.” (Source:

I called the number (on Skype), mostly because I was curious and a little because I was doubting. All doubts were erased when a woman picked up on the other end: “White House Situation Room, this is Nancy”.


I put the number into my cell phone, for a rainy day…much like tonight. I was at Andy and Julia’s tonight for our DualBS Secret Santa Extravaganza and casually brought up the fact I had the White House Situation Room number. Jeff Staples didn’t believe me and without the need for any prodding offered to talk to the person on the other end.

We dialed (on my phone…which may have been a mistake). This is the actual conversation:

Ron: White House Situation Room, this is Ron.

Jeff Staples: Yes, this is Josiah Barlet. Can I talk to the Joint Chiefs.


Ron: Which one would you like to talk with?


Staples was stunned. I handed the number out to those who wanted it. I’ll probably never call it again, but I’m still going to keep it in my phone book; mostly so I can say, Yea, I got the direct line to the White House Situation Room.

Update: Here’s a follow-up crank call I made to Jeff a few months later, inevitably during another lull in school:

  1. Archive: PnG-spring05 

Skype Me

Skype is an up and coming VoIP (Voice over IP) program that I first heard about from Make you go hmm‘s TDavid. A short while after that, Phillip from Germany (he attended SAAS my Juinor year) IMed me on AIM wonding if I had Skype. And today we finally talked! It was sooo cool! It’s really just like talking on the telephone. I couldn’t detect any lag and the sound qualaity was excellent, better then a telephone. So, head over to and download it! My username is fergbrain. Give me a ring!