Presque Isle houseboats: Good life, lots of work

Presque Isle houseboats: Good life, lots of work

A houseboat partially sank this week in Horseshoe Pond. In recent weeks, you may have noticed fathers standing with their children in your neighborhood inspecting the trees that sit beside the road with various The power of a simple X. A young girl from Little Rock takes a yearly summer trip to South Carolina to spend time with her grandparents. The beach is a major attraction but so are the moments around Grandma and Papa, the grandfather who had become a success through construction work. One day the young girl from Little Rock watches her Papa sign a document but he doesn’t write his name and instead puts down the simple X. Coronavirus is impacting small businesses hard. The federal government has small business loans available. See details here. The cataclysmic death of George Floyd has pushed the Southern Baptist Convention’s racial reconciliation efforts back into the spotlight. When 2020 began, the average manager may have supervised a handful of remote workers. Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are having some or all of their employees work from home for the foreseeable future.

A houseboat partially sank this week in Horseshoe Pond.

Houseboat culture at Presque Isle State Park’s Horeseshoe Pond offers a dream summer escape, gorgeous sunsets, magnificent wildlife viewing and countless recreational water activities.

Ownership, however, carries a slew of maintenance and repair responsibilities.

“An hour’s work for an hour’s pleasure.”

Greene Township resident Tom Bloom, 80, has heeded that houseboat maintenance advice for the past 40 years. It was offered to him in 1980, when Bloom purchased his first Horseshoe Pond houseboat from a pair of Erie brothers.

Twenty-four houseboats dot Horseshoe Pond at the southeast end of the park.

Bloom and his wife, Carol, have spent their summers there since 1981 living on two of them, the most recent of which Tom Bloom built from scratch in 2006 – Houseboat 28.

“I have been doing it for 40 years,” Bloom said. “I’m 80, and I do get a little tired of the maintenance, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Sometimes, pond life can make waves.

On Monday, a houseboat about 250 feet north from Bloom’s water residence partially sank.

About half of the houseboat was initially submerged. There were no injuries, authorities reported.

Crews from Erie-based Lakeshore Towing Services Inc. worked throughout the week to raise the houseboat to a nearly level position.

The houseboat that partially sank was built in the early 1990s and is the largest and heaviest houseboat on Horseshoe Pond, said Eric Guerrein, president of Lakeshore Towing Services, a marine contractor business he started in 1988.

Guerrein declined to identify the houseboat’s owner.

“The owner lives on it every summer and lives in Florida the rest of the year,” Guerrein said.

Guerrein believes the houseboat partially sank after one of its eight steel tanks ruptured.

“That tank ruptured following high winds and all of the air leaked out and water came in,” Guerrein said. “The tank next to the tank that ruptured had an air vent in it, and that went under water. It pulled the structure down low enough where water got in the vents for the other tanks.”

Bloom was at his houseboat on Monday afternoon. As he prepared to leave, he noticed the southeast corner of his neighbor’s houseboat sinking into the pond.

“By the time I got home, it was already on Facebook with a photo of the houseboat down in the water on its south side,” Bloom said.

Heavy rains and high winds swept through the area on Sunday, Bloom said.

“We had a vicious blow on Sunday. It was raining sideways,” he said. “There were whitecaps in the pond. I feel that probably had something to do with what happened. There was a west wind cutting across the bay, and that houseboat was taking it head-on.”

Guerrein said the tank likely ruptured and that Sunday’s storm “stressed the tank enough to where it allowed the water to come in from the wind and waves.”

The houseboat lost flotation on its southeast corner and partially sank in about 10 feet of water, Guerrein said.

Lakeshore Towing crews winched up the houseboat, which is being supported by a barge that can hold up to 90 tons, the largest in the company’s fleet.

Guerrein has owned a houseboat at Horseshoe Pond since the early 2000s.

“This is the third or fourth houseboat over the years that we’ve had to save that was sunk or partially sunk,” Guerrein said. “We have a long history of doing work out there.”

Guerrein said his crews will tow the houseboat that partially sank to an area near East Dobbins Landing, remove and repair the ruptured tank, re-install it and tow the houseboat back to Horseshoe Pond.

“The biggest thing with houseboats is the anchoring system,” Guerrein said. “Over time, anchoring chains wear and break, and houseboats can get out of position and drift.”

Guerrein advises houseboat owners to annually check their flotation and anchoring systems.

Erie residents Mike Hirsch, 59, and his wife, Carol, have been Horseshoe Pond residents since 2001, when they purchased a houseboat.

“There’s definitely a lot of work, and most people accept that as part of the plan,” said Mike Hirsch, a retired Erie firefighter. “Bad-weather days make you a nervous wreck. You’re thinking, ’Please, everything hold together.’”

Hirsch said his two most important houseboat maintenance objectives are maintaining the flotation and anchoring systems.

Bloom, president of the Presque Isle Houseboat Owners Association, couldn’t agree more.

“I’ve already scheduled my dive team to check out all of my floats and barrels,” Bloom said. “You do that every year. You have to make sure you haven’t lost any, that the existing ones are there, and that the barrels are full of air and not water.”

Bloom said his houseboat has nine anchors.

“I guess I’m kind of an anchor freak,” he said with a laugh.

Hirsch is the only Horseshoe Pond houseboat owner who has more attached anchors – 11.

“You also have to maintain your electric line,” Bloom said. “You have to remember that when you moor there, the only thing you get is the privilege to drop your anchor. Your electric line and everything else is your responsibility.”

Other high-priority maintenance projects involve roof and window projects.

“You want to make sure the windows are sealed and, when needed, re-caulked,” Bloom said. “On the pond, it rains sideways.”

Bloom said Horseshoe Pond’s houseboats are governed by the state, and no additional houseboats can be added.

When Hirsch and his wife purchased their houseboat 19 years ago, the roof leaked, there was a broken anchor chain, the deck was unsafe to walk on and there was a hole through part of the floor. An extensive renovation and rebuild transformed their summer residence.

Their home living space measures 997 square feet, and the wraparound deck measures 998 square feet, just below the combined 2,000-square-foot limit allowed on the boats by the state.

About 10 years ago, Hirsch had new decking installed. A decade of constant moisture has begun to rot portions of the decking’s underside.

Despite owning his houseboat for nearly 20 years, Hirsch said he’s still learning how to properly maintain it.

“Just when you think you have everything squared away, you get a storm or a gust of wind that proves that you don’t,” Hirsch said.

Hirsch admits houseboat life requires many hours of upkeep, but the payoff materializes at least twice day for him.

“The two best things are the mornings and the sunsets,” Hirsch said. “You wake up and you’re already at the peninsula. If you want to go to the beach, or go biking, or go swimming, you’re right there. At the end of the day, watching the sun go down makes it worth it.”

Contact Ron Leonardi at Follow him on Twitter @ETNleonardi.


Author: Ron Leonardi

Remote work gives fathers more time to help their children with homework over Japan’s summer vacation

Remote work gives fathers more time to help their children with homework over Japan’s summer vacation

In recent weeks, you may have noticed fathers standing with their children in your neighborhood inspecting the trees that sit beside the road with various nets in tow.

It’s more than likely they’re hunting for insects to bolster their children’s school projects over the summer vacation, which are mandatory for pupils nationwide though the third year of junior high school.

Homework over the summer vacation is one of the things that is believed to define Japanese childhood, during which students are encouraged to study subjects ranging from botany and astronomy to analyzing mold and bacteria.

This year, however, summer is a very different experience for children compared to what they’ve been through before. Many of the country’s public schools have limited their summer vacations to no more than 22 days in an effort to make up for time that was lost during the nationwide closures back in April and May.

However, students have still been asked to complete summer projects over the school break and, fortunately for some of them, their fathers are presently a lot closer to home than usual.

With more fathers working from home at least part of the week, they have more time to spend outside with their children hunting for insects. In between myriad conference calls and Zoom meetings, some of Japan’s fathers are with their children looking for cicadas, grasshoppers, praying mantises and the highly prized stag beetle.

Indeed, Twitter abounds with tips on catching cicadas as they come out of hibernation and preserving their cocoons.

At least one father proudly declared that he had caught the coveted stag beetle for his son’s project — a feat that deserves all the praise he received.

But if entomology is not your forte, sites such as NGK have a slew of science project suggestions for your children to participate in over the summer vacation, including collecting soil samples, observing microbes or assembling a device that allows you to communicate to your friends while maintaining social distancing.

Meanwhile, online website gathers information on recommended places that parents can take their children for the day, with safety and social distancing guidelines included.

Aside from summer schoolwork, a number of families have expressed an interest in spending some downtime together. The big question: Is it safe? Pediatrician Teruyoshi Kurokawa appeared in an interview on the website, and said there’s nothing wrong with families traveling, provided they take precautionary measures and focus on staying outdoors.

“The long, stay-home period took a toll on parents and children alike,” Kurokawa warns. “Traveling could be a way to alleviate stress, but if anyone in the family is feeling a bit off beforehand, don’t be afraid to cancel your plans and keep your schedule flexible.”

Japanese mothers have long been at the center of their children’s development, but the uncertainty surrounding summer vacation this year could allow their partners to shine.

A blogger who goes by the name of Rika wrote that she appreciated how her husband always employed techniques that are fun and innovative when spending time with their 5-year-old son.

“I tend to tell my son off in order to get him to do things like take a bath, but my husband knows how to turn everything into a game that my son really enjoys,” Rika writes.

Now, as many families continue to spend an unprecedented amount of time together, parents are coming to the conclusion that some aspects of child care are best left to dads.

The website is a platform for Japanese fathers looking for ways to spend quality time with their children. On the site, fathers are posting ideas for projects they can assist in with their children, planning meals in order to help their wives and adding advice for coping with child care issues under the pandemic. The site’s slogan reminds fathers around the world that “there isn’t a whole lot of time in a father’s life to really play and be with your kids.”


Author: Kaori Shoji

Dionne B. Jackson

Dionne B. Jackson

The power of a simple X. A young girl from Little Rock takes a yearly summer trip to South Carolina to spend time with her grandparents. The beach is a major attraction but so are the moments around Grandma and Papa, the grandfather who had become a success through construction work. One day the young girl from Little Rock watches her Papa sign a document but he doesn’t write his name and instead puts down the simple X.

For Dionne Jackson, this event — realizing this beloved person in her life could not read or write — left an indelible mark.

“That’s why I do what I do,” says Jackson, executive director for AR Kids Read, a volunteer-based literacy intervention organization. Founded in 2012, AR Kids Read has a mission to advance literacy education of Arkansas children and families with the aim of having students read proficiently by third grade. AR Kids Read rounds up and sends out more than 200 volunteers to tutor to more than 400 students in 29 schools.

At 7 p.m. Aug. 20, AR Kids Read will hold its annual celebrity spelling bee fundraiser, Spellebration. This year the fundraiser will be virtual as Lisa Fischer will emcee the proceedings broadcast on Facebook and YouTube.

Cathy Tuggle, a former chairman of the AR Kids Read board, vouches for Jackson and notes the former teacher’s passion for the subject of literacy.

“I’ve never seen anybody as passionate,” Tuggle says. “She lives and breathes this organization. She goes out every day and makes a difference. Even during the covid crisis, she keeps AR Kids Read going forward.”

Jackson’s life is testament to the power of reading and how that can propel one through the top ranks of higher education and a life dedicated to sharing knowledge.

“The thought of serving as an executive director of a nonprofit fighting the good fight of making sure all of Arkansas’ kids were reading on grade level just didn’t get any better to me,” Jackson says. “It was like I was going full circle in my life back to my roots of book reports, trips to the library, and serving in a school, but for me, I was coming back to this point with an entirely new skill set and lots of wisdom I gained along the way.”


Jackson is happy to announce to anyone who will listen — “I am a complete nerd!”

As the oldest of three children, Jackson grew up on a cul-de-sac in the Western Hills neighborhood of Little Rock. Her memories of elementary school are happy memories — walking home from school and a first-grade teacher who would invite each of her students to have a meal at her house.

Another key memory of her elementary school days: “We had black and white teachers.”

Jackson recalls how her parents “didn’t let us watch much TV. We would ride bikes. There was a friend with a treehouse. It was a diverse community and we spent a lot of time outside. There were hills and trees.”

There were no computers and thus no video games to divert Jackson’s attention. It wasn’t hard to find something to read, and Jackson was encouraged by her parents to do just that.

“I was raised in church. There were always Bibles around. We had lots of Sunday School lessons. My parents always made sure we had books. I recall the Arkansas Gazette newspaper in the house and we had Ebony and Black Enterprise magazine.”

Other kids shied away from books and ran toward more physical activities to be the best at baseball or soccer. Jackson found her bliss in quiet libraries and in the pages of various books.

“I still remember to this day getting my library card. One of my favorite days in school was Library Day. I loved the Curious George books.”

For Jackson, her years at Horace Mann Middle School and then Hall High School were akin to a fish finding a large body of freshwater for swimming.

“I absolutely loved school,” says Jackson with no hesitation. “I have always loved school. There are times when school was socially difficult but I enjoyed school work. I had great friends, great teachers and great clubs. It was a fantastic experience.”

How much did Jackson take to school? It didn’t stop when the bell rang and it was time for all the students to go home.

“I made school-like worksheets for my brother and sister to do. I played like I was the teacher.”

Dedication and focus on education were reinforced in Jackson’s home.

“We could watch the news during school week,” Jackson remembers. “We would sit together as a family to watch ‘The Cosby Show’and ‘A Different World’ — that was it. My parents were adamant that we would be doing schoolwork or going to church.”

In high school, Jackson played the bassoon in the band, which she sees now as giving her a lot of confidence. She gravitated toward and did well in her science classes. Her science class in 10th grade was particularly memorable for how thorough it was.

“I think I took every AP class,” Jackson says. “That is how much I loved science. I really enjoyed biology.”

Jackson thrived in high school but wasn’t quite sure that going to college right away was what she wanted to do.

“When I was in the 11th grade, my friends were talking about going to this college and that college. I finally told my parents that when I graduated, I wanted to take a year and travel. They looked at me and said we are not the Cosbys and you are not traveling the world.”

When it came time to apply for college, Jackson looked closer to home than her friends. Hendrix College, just up the road in Conway, checked off major requirements on her list.

“I had classmates going to Washington University in St. Louis and Rhodes in Memphis. I thrived in small settings and I knew I wanted to study science. I like to be close to my family. … I have never regretted that decision.”

Jackson was fully aware that college acceptance was a monumental step for her family.

“I was a first-generation college student.”


Though Jackson made a more or less run through various levels of higher education, her courtship with her husband, Troy, took some time to develop.

“I met him at a high school graduation party,” Jackson recalls. “He was from Camden and graduated from Camden Fairview. He is my best friend’s cousin. We both went to Hendrix. We met in 1992 but didn’t start dating until 10 years later.”

Jackson and her husband are an example of opposites attracting.

“I can talk. You might have figured that out. [Troy] is a quiet person. What attracted me, he always seemed to have an interest in what I said and what I’m involved in. My mother said one thing about Troy is that he has a kind heart. He really does. His compassion for others and our family is very strong.”

At Hendrix as an undergrad, Jackson steered off a pre-med path and toward a post-college career as a high school teacher. Jackson credits her mentor, the late Dr. James Jennings, professor of education at Hendrix, for this change in direction. After earning her college degree, Jackson landed a full-time job as a science teacher at her old school, Horace Mann.

Not content to settle with a bachelor’s degree, Jackson set out to earn her master’s from the University of Central Arkansas. This ended up being an exceptionally busy time in Jackson’s life.

“I was single, worked a part-time job, went to school at UCA and was full-time teaching at Horace Mann,” Jackson says. “My part-time work was as a cashier at Tuesday Morning. My parents put a great work ethic in me. I wanted to pay for my education and I had to work a lot to do that.”

Before stepping in to lead AR Kids Read, Jackson picked up a doctorate in education from Baylor University. Though she says she’s not a “big school person,” Jackson says the move away from home in Central Arkansas widened her perspective in a number of ways. After Baylor, Jackson became a tenured faculty member at Hendrix. In her last three years at Hendrix, she was in an administrative role as vice president for diversity and inclusion.

“During the first three months of my time here [as an executive director of AR Kids Read], working with my board of directors, we made the decision to make significant changes to how we operate fiscally and programmatically. It was not the easiest decision, but it was necessary.”

Under Jackson’s direction, AR Kids Read has started to better reflect the Arkansas in its title — expanding its services to Jefferson, Garland and Faulkner counties.

“She has taken AR Kids Read to the next level,” says board member Sheridan Richards. “She has helped grow and expand the footprint of the organization beyond Pulaski County. We are looking to do what we do more efficiently and to help other organizations help their districts.”

While AR Kids Read sends out a veritable army of volunteers, Jackson is the only full-time, salaried employee of the nonprofit.

“Most people do not know that I am the only full-time employee at AR Kids Read, but I am,” Jackson says. “I am blessed to be able to work with an extraordinary team of individuals and a group of volunteers that are second to none. AR Kids Read couldn’t be what it is without them.”

When not helping AR Kids Read move forward, Jackson is taking care of the various duties that come along with raising two kids. She likes to spend time in her garden. She is a proud member of Saint Mark Baptist Church.

“It’s been my church home since I was a child,” Jackson says. “It’s so special to me because my children represent the fourth generation of my mom’s family to be members there.”

Education is one of the foundations of Jackson’s life. Jackson challenged her father, a longtime employee of the post office, to go back to college and earn his degree. He accepted the challenge.

Jackson’s life has been enriched by the basic skill of being able to read. She thinks of her Papa, his simple X signature, as a continual motivation.

“I don’t want any child to experience that,” Jackson says.



How to Apply for a Coronavirus Small Business Loan

How to Apply for a Coronavirus Small Business Loan

(This article covers Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs). Read our explainer on Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.)

UPDATE JULY 9: On July 6, the PPP resumed accepting applications. The updated deadline to apply for a loan is August 8, 2020.

UPDATE JUNE 17: On June 15, the S.B.A. announced that is has resumed accepting applications for EIDL loans and EIDL loan advances from qualified small businesses and agricultural businesses.

UPDATE MAY 8: The S.B.A. reduced the maximum loan amount from $2 million to $150,000 and will now only accept EIDL applications from agricultural businesses. If you’ve applied previously, prior to April 15 —when the application portal closed—you’ll be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis.

UPDATE APRIL 29: Funding for this program has been exhausted and the S.B.A. is no longer accepting new applications. Applications that have already been submitted are being processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

As we all do the best we can to protect our communities from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, daily life is changing due to social distancing and lockdown in many cities. Measures like these, though necessary, inevitably damage the American economy, with small businesses hit especially hard. To mitigate the economic effects of the disaster, the federal government has announced a series of measures including offering affected small businesses low-interest loans of up to $2 million.

This program is designed to help small businesses (and small agricultural cooperatives) who have suffered substantial economic loss due to the pandemic. An important qualification is that these businesses must be unable to secure alternative funding. Businesses cannot apply independently—first, local county and state officials must work with the SBA to declare a disaster in their area. Only then will businesses have the opportunity to seek these emergency funds.

While the specific terms and conditions are dependent on a company’s ability to repay, the repayment period cannot exceed 30 years. The interest rate for PPP loans are 1%.

  • Those affected can describe their losses
  • A territory must declare a disaster
  • The SBA will then issue an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration
  • Work in partnership with the SBA
  • For more information on the application process, visit the Small Business Administration website. Though the urgency of the situation may prompt an expedited process, applications for EIDL have historically taken weeks or months. You may also want to investigate the option of a SBA 7(a) loan, underwritten by the organization but provided by an approved network of lenders.

    Paycor gives small business leaders the technology and expertise they need to better manage their people and to face challenges with more confidence. To learn more about Paycor, contact a member of our sales team.


    Southern Baptists confront the church's history of racism and slaveholding. For some members, it's not enough.

    Southern Baptists confront the church’s history of racism and slaveholding. For some members, it’s not enough.

    NASHVILLE — The Rev. Rolland Slade says it is humbling to be the first. 

    For more than a century, a white man has led the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee — the board of leaders who manage the day-to-day operations of the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. 

    But that changed in June 16.

    As an anti-racism movement swept across the country, the committee unanimously elected Slade, a Black Southern Baptist pastor in California, to serve as its new chair. 

    “It’s an honor, but I know that I stand on the shoulders of men,” the 62-year-old Slade said in a recent interview with The Tennessean. “There is a long list of guys who have been behind me, pushing me.” 

    Slade’s election is a personal milestone, but it also represents the seismic shift the evangelical denomination has made since its pro-slavery origins.

    Views on race in the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention did not change overnight. For decades, racial reconciliation has been a work in progress, but for some it is too slow and the advancements made are not enough. 

    Now a cataclysmic police brutality case has pushed the convention’s racial reconciliation efforts back into the spotlight. 

    The shocking May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police prompted many Americans to take a hard look at the country’s racist history and the systems still in place today that continue to disproportionately discriminate against people of color. It spurred nationwide protests and calls for change.

    The conversations about racism happening in the broader culture have spilled over into Southern Baptist life.

    Most recently, Baptist leaders in Alabama found themselves denouncing a pastor’s decision to give an invocation at a birthday celebration for Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest. 

    Their response to the controversy is bookended by dozens of the congregational denomination’s top leaders publicly grieving Floyd’s death and the misuse of authority that led to it. They said equality is a biblical issue in a May 30 statement signed by all convention officers, its entity heads and the executive directors of state conventions: 

    “As a matter of Christian obedience and devotion, followers of Jesus Christ cannot remain silent when our brothers and sisters, friends and/or people we seek to win for Christ are mistreated, abused or killed unnecessarily.” 

    Some also did not let the moment pass without taking stock of the work still ahead for Southern Baptists. They say progress has been made, but there is still much to be done. 

    Top church leader:Southern Baptists must stand against racism and ‘work with compassion until justice is served’

    Controversial protest remarks:Petition seeks firing of Southern Baptist seminary president Mohler

    Racial reconciliation requires more than a few pronouncements and apologies, said the Rev. J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in North Carolina. 

    “It can only be achieved by really entering into the experiences and pain of our brothers and sisters, understanding the trauma left by years of slavery and discrimination. As we do, we must build intentional relationships where we talk about present struggles and future solutions as peers,” Greear, who is white, said in an email to The Tennessean. 

    “We also must make absolutely clear that we stand against all injustice and discrimination. Any vestige of racism or white supremacy will not be tolerated among us.”

    For Southern Baptists, it also means continuing to contend with their denomination’s original sin. 

    The Southern Baptist Convention, founded in 1845, formed after Baptists in the North did not want to allow slaveholders in the South to serve as missionaries, said Barry Hankins, chair of Baylor University’s history department and co-author of “Baptists in America.”

    Segregation in the church followed the Civil War, he said.  

    Up until the last 40 years, Baptist historians downplayed slavery as the key issue for the creation of the Southern Baptist Convention, Hankins said. Now it is just acknowledged, he said. 

    “White supremacy is still in the DNA of America. It’s still in the DNA of the South. It’s still in the DNA of the Southern Baptist Convention. The best leaders acknowledge that, face it head on and work with it,” Hankins said.

    “There are those that don’t want to acknowledge it, don’t believe it and want to ignore it. So you just have this sort of tension, even among white Southern Baptists, as to what to do about this.”

    Earlier:Alabama lawmaker Will Dismukes resigns as Southern Baptist pastor after KKK leader celebration

    ‘This is not just about symbols’:America’s reckoning over Confederate monuments

    Hankins thinks tensions have increased since President Donald Trump took office. The brash and polarizing nature of this era has made cooperation and relationship building between Black and white Southern Baptists harder than it was a decade ago, he said.  

    But 25 years have passed since the Southern Baptist Convention made one of its strongest statements to date addressing its pro-slavery roots. In 1995, the convention passed a racial reconciliation resolution that repudiated the evils of slavery, the sin of racism and apologized to African Americans for harm done.

    Ahead of the sesquicentennial annual meeting in Atlanta, a group of Black and white Southern Baptists met to hash out the language of the resolution. 

    They came together in Nashville. Tennessee’s capital city, referred to by some as the buckle of the Bible Belt, was a catalyst in the civil rights movement. Its landmarks and institutions not only carry reminders of the racial division in society, but in the church as well. Both the predominately white Southern Baptist Convention and the historically Black National Baptist Convention are headquartered in the city. 

    Southern Baptists still talk about the 1995 resolution. Some viewed it as too little, too late, while others thought it was laudable, Hankins said.

    The Rev. Fred Luter Jr., senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, remembers the day it passed. 

    “It was a huge, huge move for this convention to pass the resolution apologizing for the past,” Luter said in an interview. “It was a proud day for me as an African American to be a part of the Southern Baptist Convention.” 

    Seventeen years later, Luter, the great-great-great-grandson of slaves, would be elected the first Black president of the convention.

    Luter, who ran unopposed, said his peers supported him not because he was Black, but because of the work he has done in his church, his ministry and through evangelizing.  

    “There’s nothing that we can do about our past, but there’s a whole lot we can do about our future,” Luter said. 

    The convention has taken additional steps to move toward racial reconciliation since Luter’s presidency.

    The convention passed a resolution in 2016 calling on Christians to stop flying the Confederate battle flag. Although its first attempt failed, Southern Baptists also disavowed white supremacy in 2017. The next year the executive committee, the 103-year-old panel that acts on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention when it is not in session, expelled a Georgia church on charges of racism.

    The convention is in the process of making constitutional changes to state clearly that Southern Baptist churches must address discrimination as well as sexual abuse. This effort began in 2019, but the second and final vote was delayed after the denomination canceled its annual meeting due to the coronavirus.  

    This summer, Alabama state lawmaker Rep. Will Dismukes resigned as pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church following backlash for attending a birthday celebration for a slave-holding Confederate general who oversaw the massacre of hundreds of surrendered Black Union soldiers. The Nathan Bedford Forrest event occurred on the same day the state was honoring the late civil rights icon John Lewis. 

    In response, local Baptist leaders publicly reaffirmed their opposition to racism and grieved Dismukes’ actions. The lawmaker stepped down as pastor after meeting with church leaders. 

    These advances are not happening fast enough for some Southern Baptists, and they  decide to leave the convention.

    Recently, the Rev. John Onwuchekwa, a Black pastor who leads Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, announced he was leaving the Southern Baptist Convention. In a lengthy July 9 online post, Onwuchekwa said the convention was failing to address racial inequality and was too closely aligned with the Republican Party.

    “I trust God that none of our labor was in vain, but I do not see the utility of our church made up predominantly of ethnic minorities remaining in the SBC,” Onwuchekwa said. “Because rather than being an agent of change, I fear our presence has largely been an advertisement for other churches of similar makeup saying ‘Come in … the water’s fine.’ The sign I’d rather hold up is ‘Enter at Your Own Risk!’ “

    Greear said he will never know how hard it is for a leader of color to stay in the convention, but it is important to listen in these moments in order to better understand the pain and confusion of their experiences. 

    “We can’t be part of the solution until we understand the problem,” Greear said. “I am grateful for courageous members of color — pioneers — who have chosen to stay with us, clinging to the promises of Jesus for his church, and to fight for the unity Jesus has called us to.” 

    Calls for more progress are coming from leaders who choose to stay.  

    One change that can advance racial reconciliation in the convention is elevating a more diverse group of leaders to positions of authority, Luter said. He is not alone in that view. 

    “One of the things that lets me know that not only a convention, a church, a denomination, a company is interested in leveling the playing field is when people of color or different ethnic groups are elected or appointed in positions of leadership,” Luter said. “That says to me that we’re serious about dealing with racial reconciliation. We have a long way to go, but we’ve come a long, long way.” 

    Slade also wants to see more diversity among leadership. 

    “It’s something that we should be doing intentionally without being condescending or patronizing,” said Slade, senior pastor of Meridian Baptist Church, which is the home of a small congregation in El Cajon, California.

    Slade, previously part of a National Baptist congregation, has served at Southern Baptist churches for more than a quarter of a century and said it has been a great experience.

    He was particularly drawn to the denomination’s Cooperative Program, a funding initiative that supports work across the convention through the financial contributions of its autonomous churches. He joined the executive committee in 2014 and has held various leadership roles in addition to his new position. 

    Slade, who grew up watching his parents fight for civil rights in San Diego, wants to help open up paths to leadership. He benefited from the mentoring of other Southern Baptist leaders like Luter and wants to pay that forward to the next generation.

    This work must be intentional and ongoing, said the Rev. Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the convention’s executive committee, which has added three full-time staff positions focused on diversity. As the larger society grapples with police brutality, Floyd is among the Southern Baptist leaders to bring racial equality issues back to the forefront within the convention. 

    “Until minority leaders and believers in the SBC sense true equality, then our work is not done,” Floyd, who is white and not related to George Floyd, said by email. “We have a need for more diverse leadership, more diverse churches, and more diverse voices within the SBC.”

    Greear, who is currently serving an unexpected third term as president of the convention because of the coronavirus pandemic, purposefully has made leadership diversity a priority. He wanted the people who sit on Southern Baptist boards to better reflect the makeup of the convention. Only 32% of his first-year appointments were white men, he said.

    The denomination remains overwhelmingly white — 85% according to a 2014 Pew Research Center study — but Greear said people of color are pastors at nearly 20% of Southern Baptist churches and planted 63% of new churches.

    “Our leaders should reflect the diversity of our communities and proclaim the diversity of God’s kingdom,” Greear said. “But the real solution to racism runs deeper. The Gospel contains the power to eradicate racism, by teaching that all people belong to a common race — the human race; are plagued by a common problem — sin; and are saved by a common hope — the death and resurrection of Jesus.”

    In addition to increasing diversity in leadership, some Southern Baptists also want the convention and its entities to reconsider how they honor their early slave-holding leaders.

    While calls for the removal of Confederate symbols intensified in communities across the U.S., Greear pushed for the convention to retire one of its own — the Broadus gavel.

    It was one part of Greear’s efforts to bring racial equality issues back to the forefront after George Floyd’s death. Greear also declared in his online presidential address in June that Black lives do matter, but he does not support the Black Lives Matter organization founded in 2013.

    Used by the convention president while presiding over the denomination’s annual meetings, the gavel is named for John A. Broadus, the slave-holding, Confederacy-supporting second president of the convention’s flagship school, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

    Greear suggested the Broadus gavel be returned for good to the display cases in the executive committee’s Nashville offices, saying in a column published in the Baptist Press that it would send a “symbolic yet tangible message that we are a convention of all people, made in the image of God, and who matter deeply to God.”

    The Rev. Dwight McKissic, a Black senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Texas, also wants Broadus Chapel at the Southern seminary renamed and the other honorary references to its slave-holding founders. He suggests renaming the chapel for the Rev. T. Vaughn Walker, the first African American to become a full professor at the seminary.  

    “How do you invite Black people to sit in a chapel that is named after a blatant racist?” McKissic said. “The world is ahead of us. The world recognizes the hypocrisy of the fallacy here. The world wants to remove all those vestiges of racism and white supremacy construct.” 

    The seminary released a report in 2018 detailing the racism in its history. Seminary President the Rev. Al Mohler has said he does not plan to remove the names.

    But Mohler said he will do what he can to make sure the name of Joseph Brown, the Confederate governor of Georgia who gave money to the seminary, is no longer used in an honorary fashion. 

    “There would be no school and none of those buildings would exist but for the commitment of those original faculty members. That story not only comes with commemoration and glory, but also with a burden — a burden to tell the truth,” Mohler, who is white, said in a June 29 statement on his website. “Maybe part of God’s judgment through history comes down to just how difficult these stories can be. But we must tell them.” 

    In addition to owning up to its past, the church, Floyd said, also has a role to play in shaping what is to come. 

    “We must resolve that the sin of racism will stop now and not be forwarded to generations in the future,” Floyd said. “You cannot just hope something goes away and it happens. Nor can you sit passively in the church pew and believe it is enough. Passivity has never been and will never be a prescription for healing. The church must answer this moment in America.” 

    Follow Holly Meyer on Twitter: @HollyAMeyer. 


    Managing Remote Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic -- Occupational Health & Safety

    Managing Remote Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic — Occupational Health & Safety

    Managing Remote Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic


    When 2020 began, the average manager may have supervised a handful of remote workers. Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are having some or all of their employees work from home for the foreseeable future.

    Working remotely, also known as working from home or telecommuting, is performing work at a location other than an “official duty station.” With laptops, high-speed telecommunications links, and ever-present pocket communications devices, many employees can work almost anywhere at least some of the time.

    Employing remote workers also creates flexibility in hiring. If the company is restricted by location, it can hire the best and the brightest individuals from just about anywhere.


    Remote workers pose unique challenges. For example, how does the company make sure remote workers are on task, on schedule, and performing up to par? These types of issues almost always come down to communication.

    Before allowing an employee to work remotely, there are a number of questions to consider. How will they contact supervisors and coworkers? How frequently should such communication occur? When are remote workers expected to be available? When contacted, how quickly are remote workers expected to respond? Addressing these questions at the start of a remote relationship will make sure everyone is on the same page.

    Since remote workers may be in different time zones, everyone may need to be flexible about meeting times. Establishing a routine for communicating with remote workers can help. For example, a weekly phone conference may keep everyone in sync, even if it’s just to check in.

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    Author: By Ann PotratzAug 09, 2020

    Presque Isle houseboats: Good life, lots of work

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