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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Prayer for World Communion Sunday

Wondrous God of Infinite Grace, today we gather as a global community around the Table you have set for us. The bread is broken, the cup is poured, the prayers and praise are offered...and in faithful obedience we remember Jesus. This table is his, after all. He calls us here and by the power of the Holy Spirit, gathers us in to share in the feast.

As we join our hearts and minds and spirits together in prayers of thanksgiving for the gift of the Eucharist, remind us that in the bread and the cup, we might just glimpse your realm. Holy One, bless us as we enter into the deep Mystery of the sacrament; that we might see all of your goodness reflected in the garnet pool of the cup, and all of our brokenness redeemed in the beautiful simplicity of the bread.

Help us to taste your compassion and live Jesus' passion for love, justice and peace. Send us into every part of this world with hearts that have been kneaded into the softness of tolerance and care. Send us, God. Refreshed, nurtured, blessed and always thankful.


Don't forget the Wednesday Festival: it's easy! Anyone can play!

All you have to do is click on the hyperlinked words: RevGal Wednesday Festival to create a mail message to the Festival team.

Nominations should be from your own blog or another RGBP ring member's. Please include a brief description of the post (a sentence is fine!) and the URL for the post, too!

Saturday Preacher Party: Live Meet-Up Edition

Several RevGals have had the chance to meet or visit with each other this week. I've had the pleasure of hosting Cheesehead since Wednesday and will bid her a fond farewell this afternoon (after which I will be starting my sermon virtually from scratch, but I know you will all be pleased and probably unsurprised to hear that hers is mostly written already! And Cheesehead's new blog design has nothing to do with my lack of sermon, I swear!!!)

In the Washington, D.C. area, Jan of A Church for Starving Artists will be welcoming Teri of Clever Title Here not only to her church but to her pulpit tomorrow morning. I assume all their work is complete, because they are hoping that D.C.-area RevGals might like to meet them for dinner. To get in on the fun, please e-mail Jan directly.

But not everyone can be having fun meeting up in person, and that's why we gather here electronically to support one another in the creative process of finishing (or starting) our sermons each Saturday. The virtual coffee is on, fairly traded beans having been ground in the Ceremonial St. Casserole Coffee Bean Grinder. There is a fairly fresh Chocolate Cake for the Apocalypse on the counter. And I'm sure other treats will appear before the day is over.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I'm preaching about Esther. I have a storytelling format in mind, building on the idea that a young girl might have been told "Pretty is as pretty does," and be afraid of causing trouble by speaking up as Uncle Mordecai has asked her to do. But perhaps the injunction, "Make yourself useful as well as decorative," will win the day?

What are you preaching about this week?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Five: Groups

Reverendmother here...

Last night was the second meeting of the Night Owls, a new women's circle at the church I serve. It's a nice group--we're getting to know one another and figuring out the format and flow of the evenings.

And speaking of groups...

1. Tell us about any group(s) you currently belong to. (e.g. book club, knitting circle, walking buddies, etc.)

2. Do you feel energized or drained by being in a group situation? If the answer is "it depends," on what does it depend?

3. Is there a role you naturally find yourself playing in group situations? That is, do you naturally fall into the leader role, or the one who always makes sure the new person feels welcome, or the quiet one who sits back and lets others shine, or the host?

4. Handshakes vs. hugs: discuss.

5. Ice breakers: a playful way to build community in a lighthearted manner, or a complete and utter hell of forced fun and awkwardness?

Bonus: If you answered "playful and lighthearted," share your favorite ice breaker.

As always, let us know if you played, and a big group hug for all those who link directly:
<a href=>what you want the link to say</a>

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ask the Matriarch: Web Tangles

Today's just been one of those days. I've been coping with a migraine for the past 24 hours, and it's *finally* abating, so I apologize for not infusing this week's AtM with my usual gallycat flair. But we have a couple of internet-related questions that bear sharing.

What Would Jesus Forward?
I receive email letters from unwitting (offering the benefit of the doubt) friends that make me shudder sometimes. For example, an email that wants us to stop help to immigrants in order for veterans get their money. It makes immigrants look bad, though the government has made promises to both immigrants and veterans. It's the government that we ought to go after, not the individual immigrants, as usually happens. We invite people to our country, then make it pretty hard for them in many ways.

What is sad is that this spreads a type of discrimination and prejudice that we don't need more of in this hurting world. It seems like another type of computer virus which is even more harmful. Some folks will get comments, and not even know where they stem from.

So, where is the love of God, in Christ, in this? I cannot see it. We need to be more aware of how to deal with these emails and let our congregation be aware...and the young people, what action WE can take. I replied back to my friend that I could not send the email on and explained why.

"Our small corner" is now world-wide. That means hate is spread a lot quicker and a lot more people are affected. Since email and the internet are here to stay, we can actually erase something before we do send it. In other words, you can take what you say before it's said. And not forward things that diminish others.


Email "forwards" are often hoaxes or propaganda, and any time I get something that says "Send this to everyone you know!" I make a conscious decision to make "everyone I know" equal to "deleted items." Even when I agree with the message, chances are, I know I could get the message out more effectively by gathering my own facts rather than relying on a spin doctor or heaven-knows-who for those facts. And those of you with pulpits--I envy you sometimes, because a forward I got recently from one of my friends would have made a lovely sermon talking point.

But truth is, most of these internet forwards really are fiction. "I'll often take a moment to check, which is an urban legend research/debunking site," writes Karen. "They actually track down the history of internet rumors and assess whether there is any truth to them at all. About 90% of the SEND THIS TO EVERYONE ON YOUR E-MAIL LIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!! e-mails that I get are on Snopes--albeit sometimes in a slightly different format. Once you've found the Snopes article that debunks or explains the rumor/hoax in question, there is a button you can click to email the article directly to someone. I've often sent the e-mailer of a mass-panic-type note the very Snopes article that explains why what they just sent me is complete hooey."

One funny one that I got not too long ago was a revisitation of an email that was true three years ago--you might have seen it, too, that Mars was going to be closer to the Earth than it had been for hundreds of years and zOMG SEE IT NOWZORS!!!!11!!1 It was being passed around in August of 2006, but that approach had happened in 2003, and the reason I remember it so clearly was that I had snapped a photograph of Mars from the parking lot of my apartment complex. So I like passing people back to that photograph and making the reference to the "billboard in the sky..." it usually, as intended, gets a laugh.

But on a more serious note, some people use the relative anonymity of the internet to create messages that they can send without worrying whether they are violating a social norm. And it is a virus: a cross between those lovely cultural transmissions we call "memes" and that tactic that in business that's known as "viral marketing." Sounds like this note about immigrants is up there. Peripatetic Polar Bear, who works with students, offers a brilliant suggestion: "For what it's worth, this is my policy on email forwards at work. I write:
Dear Susie, Thanks for thinking of me. As you can imagine, I get a lot of email forwards in my line of work. In order to be fair to all congregants, I make it a policy to not participate in forwarding emails to others. I hope you will understand. I am, however, very interested in speaking with you about x topic in person. Please let me know what time might be good for you to meet. Hugs and Smooches, Your Pastor.

I find that only about 20 percent of these folks will meet with me face to face, and of those, I've had very, very fruitful discussions."

That's a good place to start, anyhow.

On to the next question...

What Would Jesus Blog?
I find myself in a bit of a quandary thanks to my recent new status in a
new church setting. From time to time I notice things in the church that I want to blog about: some things that can be used as springboards for other topics of exploration (such as the fact that most, if not all, of the Sunday School teachers are women), and some are conversations with members that make me think seriously about things (like why do we really need altar flowers, and why to they always have to be freshly cut and professionally arranged?). Normally, I wouldn't have a problem blogging about these things (with no references to names, of course) but I know that a member of my congregation is aware that I have a blog, and most likely reads it. (This member actually googled me before I came). In the interest of discretion, but at the same time wanting to share my thoughts, how do I negotiate the line of sharing my experience to illustrate a point I want to make?

--To Blog or Not to Blog

This is something that's come up numerous times among the matriarchs as we've seen our number occasionally shrink for someone's having been "outed." It's why we take your anonymity seriously, for one, if you've chosen that on your blog. I wrestle with it, because on the one hand, I'm a journalist and already eminently Google-able, and the kind of work I want to do is relevant enough to my blog journey that I have my RevGals work listed on my resume. But on the other hand, I've disappeared further and further into my gallycat identity, in some ways hoping that when I go in for the job interview, the fact that I keep "Helen" and "Gallycat" fairly distinct will prevent my blog work from being a liability.

What I *do* have is several Livejournals. Any time I talk about anything sensitive, such as work or parenthood, I post it to livejournal using their security functions, so that I know exactly who is reading it. Livejournal isn't the most revgal-ring friendly site around, and that's one of the reasons I have Gallycat's Lounge on revgals rather than Gallycat's Abbey. But I'm curious what other revgals also have livejournals, and could we build a "secure" community there? (Oh! and if you're on LJ, don't miss adding revgals to your friends page through its syndicated feed!)

Peripatetic Polar Bear has some good guidelines on what to post to a public blog, so I'll let her take it from here:

A rule of thumb to use regarding blogging your internship:
a) how would the senior pastor respond if she or he read this?
b) how would the person in question respond if she or he read this?
c) how would the director of my seminary's office of field education respond if she or he read this?

If you can picture any or all of these people exploding, bursting into tears, or moving to Australia in the middle of the night, don't write it, especially since someone in your congregation is probably reading your blog.

That said, obviously church life is ripe fodder for blogging. Your internship is totally where all the theoretical stuff becomes real---of course you want to blog it! The key is to mask it into generalities or to use some heavy duty situation changing (sex changes, age changes, name changes). Most of the things you've mentioned would be totally fine as generalities "Someone once asked me about flowers on the altar....blah, blah, blah" and would probably make for a really, really interesting post. And also, obviously some conversations are so innocuous that you can absolutely blog them.

The to blog or not to blog question is a toughie. I think it's one reason why so many of us are totally pseudonymous with our blogs, and don't even give out city names. It gives us a bit more freedom to blog---but still carefully. It's also an advantage when you've been out a bit, and the lines between what happened last week and what happened in my last parish are much blurrier.

Open Call
Now, if you have something you'd like to share on these topics, let us know in the comments. Also, I'm looking for volunteers to handle questions for an upcoming column: 1. Tips for RevGal dating, and 2. Tips for setting up a men's ministry. If you're interested in contributing, drop us a line at And, just in time, here comes a thunderstorm, so I'll see you next Thursday!

(P.S. I posted this just before the storm came through and took down half a tree in our backyard, came back and found that I had put my "last paragraph" in the wrong place... now fixed. Sorry about that!)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Festival, A Wednesday Festival!

A festival to help you get over your hump day of the week, and smile the rest of week or be inspired or have a new thought or perspective on life. So sit back, click the links to the blogs that were nominated for this festival.

Events in the lives of a few of us
Conjectural Navel Gazing has two posts to share for the Wednesday festival.
First...we survived a
wee tornado. (I didn't know there was such a thing as a wee tornado?)Second, my wife and I are celebrating two years of married bliss. (And by the way there is a lovely photo of the wedded couple.) Stumbling toward divinity got ordained and has pictures to prove it. Don't forget to wish April at Salt for the Spirit get well wishes after her surgery for the broken bones after the bad car accident.

Churchy and Preachy Stuff, but fun too.
Pink Shoes shares a ministry moment about still learning. Did you know there was a contest for the most Absent Minded Pastor, and that Rebel in the Pew won? It must have gone right over my head when it was announced or I forgot it. RevEm asks a good question; How effective is the emerging church?
Bethquick posts about the state of the church and young people. Breathingroom has a rant on inactives that alot of churches and Pastors can relate to.
Psalmist has 2 rants worth the read, 1 ask the question why men bring up the pro patiarchy stance when there is discussion in progressive Christian circles about the place of women in the church and the #2. She posts about the uninsured in the US, including herself. The Kitchen door raises some interesting thoughts about gender language and how it effects us. (Although she calls them dirty words, which they probably are.)

Oh Momma!
Mindy is pondering the role of the Momma in the world of MySpace. I think she is right on! Go check her out. Blanket in the Grove has a wonderful post called moments, where she reflects on A couple moments today she just wants to be able to remember; maybe there are some moment in your day that you toowant to remember.

T. V. and Films
Cathy Knits and more asks; Festival? Did I hear festival? How about a film festival? Have one of your own – we are! What’s your favorite? Whether you are a fan of the t.v. show Survivor, go read In the Open Spaces: God's rant about it.

Seeing Spirituality through New Eyes:
Seeking authentic voice writes about the spirituality of a dog park. Maced with Grace writes about our perspective and how it effects our relationship with God, she has you going there for a minute. If you want to do something different, go do a walking meditation at Another Country, and you will need to follow the link offered in the post. Every voice a Sacred Voice blogs about Shiphrah and Puah. Are you ready to learn about the gospel in a new way? If so Talk to the Preacher speaks to us from the wisdom of the Simpsons family while teaching a small group study on the Gospel according to the Simpsons. While Longing for Home talks about the Kingdom of God according to Disney.

Oh For The Love of Fall
Sacred Art of Living has herself living into the autumnal equinox, and invites us to do the same. Pink Shoes, Ministrare, and Talk to the Preacher, love the fall too, and write about it. Have you seen Owl's Song fall pictures, they are beautiful green and gold.

Do You Know These People?
Have you seen St. Casserole's new look? Where did you get the new do? Inquiring minds want to know. If you want to read some interesting stories go back and read the blog posts on the Friday Five Boo Boo Alert. (Just follow the links in the comment section to all our wounded members.) And if you haven't had a chance yet, check out our new members and meet them as well as greet them.

Now, see don't you feel better all ready? Remember you can nominate yourself or someone else's post. Send your nominations in by Monday at midnight by using the link on the sidebar for Wednesday festival. And for this Wednesday you can add a post in the comment section, just remember to make the link [a href=""]what you want the link to say[/a] (Just change the [ ]into < >. Aslo if you notice something that needs to be corrected let me know or post it in the comment section. Thank you to you all for your nominations this week. And thank you to the Fall for the colors.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful girl named Esther. The King took notice of her beauty and brought her to live in the palace.

Then, all hell broke loose. Esther's people were threatened with death, and her uncle asked her to take up their cause with the King. At first she was afraid to talk to him, but finally she found her courage and spoke up about the life-threatening injustice being planned against one group of human beings just because they were different from the people in authority. And the King heard her.

Part of Esther's story appears in the lectionary this week. As with any books of more than one chapter that are ideally approached as a cohesive whole, it may be considered difficult to preach on just the lectionary text (which may be found here). It requires, perhaps, a storytelling approach, and I believe that is where I am headed this week. It is the focus text in Seasons of the Spirit, the curriculum we use for Sunday School, and I have pledged to be in concert with our teachers and students as much as possible this year.

The New Testament texts before us, Mark 9:38-50 and James 5:13-20. They each have their difficulties as well.

Mark has us cutting off our hand or foot or plucking out an eye if we are at risk of stumbling, as well as other pithy little statements that I have a feeling didn't get on the Jesus Seminar's red-bead list. (Sorry, that book is at the office and I'll have to check it later!)

James assures us that earnest prayer will heal all, leaving open the possibility that lack of healing was the result of ineffective prayer. (Is this kind of like saying "If" the Great Pumpkin comes, instead of "when," and being deemed insincere?)

Which of these tricky texts might you feel called to preach this week?

If you're not a lectionary preacher and would like to use this forum to talk about sermon ideas, please do join us.

And remember:

Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:8)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday Meet and Greet

It's time for the Monday Meet and Greet! We are just going to say "howdy" to our newest members today because there are so many to say "howdy" to....

Being Heidi is a "recovering fundamentalist, progressive christian, interested in buddhism and reformed judiasm, mom of one, librarian, and esl teacher, who happens to be married to a closeted conservative lutheran pastor comes to the table. where's the coffee?" She looks to be a beginning blogger too, starting with the Friday Five last week so join me in welcoming Being Heidi!

Lauren of Pastor's Patches from Lake Village, Arkansas describes herself as: " a Presbyterian minister, with a passion for needlework. I have a quilt studio and a yarn room, which I gladly open to anyone who wants to come and play with me. I share my life with three cats, one of whom has a serious yarn addiction, and a dog. All are certified nap testers of all things quilted, and fiber artists in their own right." She had a great link to a quilting site that looked great ... Welcome Lauren!

Iris is also a PC (USA) pastor from somewhere in the Bible Belt. She blogs at Growing Where I'm Planted and writes some nice things about the RevGals like "I checked it out and was amazed to discover this world where people are talking about the kinds of things I want to talk about: putting faith into action, pastor/mommy stress, how much choclolate one had consumed in the past 5 hours.... " Lauren, you have no IDEA how much chocolate some of us can consume....

Jorge S├ínchez blogs at The Winged Man. He calls himself "A husband, father, poet, and teacher on the North Side of Chicago going on and on and on . . . " Jorge writes on prayer, feasts and liturgy -- he writes "Liturgy are these beautiful forms which we use to connect with God in communion with each other. To me, it doesn’t matter who presides. It doesn’t matter how perfect the liturgy is compared to the rubrics, although I do think that the way one does things is important. If it were up to me, lay people would preside at the Eucharist and preach the Gospel frequently, the pastor serving more as a spiritual director and guide for the whole congregation, advising the worship leaders of the congregation almost as a worship dramaturg, presiding and preaching much of the time but not most of the time." Beautiful writing and welcome Jorge.

Rantings of the Faithful is a blog for Pastor Peters, who says she was "born not far from the magical city of New York, I still identify as a New Yorker with some of the attitude but none of the accent. I recently graduated from Union Theological Seminary where I successfully mastered the Divine. Now I am praying and hoping for a call into God's service in my beloved denomination, the United Church of Christ. I am reigning champion of the Ha Game (which some believe led me to my call to ministry) who can make a mean latte. And, I paint watercolors." Her profile pictures looks like she's preaching in pastel pink strappy sandals and an off-the shoulder hot pink dress. (Yes!) Welcome Pastor Peters!

Make of Yourself a Light is the blog of katie day who has a "new state, new husband, new church, new name..." She writes "Here we are. I've thought about it and thought about it, and now in an over-caffeinated haze of insomnia I've gone and done something reckless: I've begun a blog. Which is funny, really, as I once ranted and raved over the stupidity of "blogging" (it's a noun! it's a verb!) and the vanity of bloggers everywhere ("really, do you really think people want to read your piddly little thoughts on the internet?), and then, while perusing the latest post on one of the five or six blogs I regularly read, I remembered. It's not about who reads it. It's about the writing." Welcome to the blogosphere katie! (Oh, she's had a bad "boo-boo" and she owns a cat named Esther who now has a nice clean porch to sun herself on.)

Fryer Drew is a blog by, well, Fryer Drew, a fellow UMC pastor from Pennsylvania. He writes "I am a pastor in the United Mthodist church, and was ordained an Elder in the church in 2006. This site is a place for me to post sermons and other thoughts about being a pastor in the Northeastern US as my denomination navigates through the next few years, which promise to be a pretty bumpy ride." Let's join Drew on his ride. Welcome Drew!

Molly from San Diego at Holy Trouble claims "i'm not a troublemaker. i prefer to think of myself as a trouble identifier. i don't make these things up; i just point them out." Molly is a fellow UMC'er as well, whose husband Matt is fresh back from Iraq. At one point she did point out that she does NOT endorse whacking church people with hammers. Actually, uh, I guess it isn't a good idea.... Let's welcome Molly!

And that's all folks! 8 new members ... please join me in welcoming them into our webring.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pray forgive your sister in faith

Sorry folks. I've been at our Fall meeting of Presbytery all weekend and entirely offline. Therefore, the Sunday Prayer was not posted. I should have asked my alternate reverendmother to take care of it in my absence, but I forgot all about it.

My apologies.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

11th Hour Preacher Party

Goooooooooood mooooooorning, preachers!

It's the eleventh hour once again, and here we are, with pens (or computers) in hand, preparing for the culmination of our week. As usual, the coffee is flowing freely - my parents sent me a pound of Caribou Coffee French Roast as a late birthday present - and the accompanying goodies should start arriving shortly.

As for me, I'm dashing out pre-breakfast to help with set-up for our Harvest Festival. I'll bring back some leftover pie later this afternoon. In the meantime, pull up a chair, settle in, and get the ideas flowing. No need to rush; whoever would be first must be last of all. What? Jesus wasn't talking about sermon preparation? Oh well. It's a comforting thought, anyway.

On a somewhat related note, I must take this opportunity to tell you that one of our number, a church nerd, is being ordained TODAY! He's also preaching his first sermon in his first congregation tomorrow. So, if you have a break from writing, stop by and wish him grace and peace in his new phase of ministry.

Alright, now. Time to get down to the matter at hand. Ready...set...write!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Five: Boo boo alert

After a tumble in a parking lot the other day, I'm sporting a lovely abrasion on my leg--so attractive. It's the same leg I hurt when I fell off the same pair of sandals on the same sort of uneven pavement in Edinburgh last month. Will I ever learn to wear less dangerous shoes and/or pay attention to where I am going? As I drove home to take care of it I called my husband and said, "Boo boo alert!" Here is our Friday Five on that subject.

1) Are you a baby about small injuries?

2) What's the silliest way you have ever hurt yourself?

3) Who took care of your boo-boos when you were a child?

4) Are you a good nurse when others have boo-boos?

5) What's the worst accidental injury you've suffered? Did it require a trip to the Emergency Room?

If you play, let us know with a link in the comments below, using this technique:

[a href=The URL of your post]What you want the text to say[/a]

Just substitute <> for []. I usually go around to visit everyone who plays, but I am leaving this morning for a weekend meeting in the mountains where the Internet is unlikely to be available. So visit each other and leave a comment! It's fun!!

And try to stay safe out there, okay? Beware the frumious Bandersnatch and the uneven curbing of the world.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ask the Matriarch: Boundary Waters

Lead Us Not Into... writes:
I have a very rich congregant. The family owns three homes and a large boat. I helped the wife with her husband last year; diagnosis, hospice, funeral. She’s almost embarrassingly grateful. She wants me to use her lake house and her beach house, and I really could use a vacation.

I wouldn’t hesitate except for some of the language she’s used, calling me her own personal priest and asking me to help her go to her financial appointments. It feels like she wants to cross a boundary.

Do I dare use the lake house? Or do you think it could be a slippery slope and she will use it as a hook to get me to do more and more and more personal tasks that really should be done by her daughter (who is a real good-for-nothing, btw)? Can I use the house and maintain my integrity?

How do I turn it down when my family REALLY wants me to say “yes,” and still be gracious?

Is anyone else hearing the Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye” all of a sudden? This is truly one of those situations where ambivalence will lead you around and around in circles worse than the most complex labyrinth. But if there is one thing I have learned in interpersonal relations, it is that I should trust my instincts—and apparently, I’m not alone. “I’d say when you feel like a boundary is being crossed, it probably is,” writes Karen. “The question isn’t whether it is ever permissible to accept offers like this from congregants, but whether accepting in this situation is going to set up a quagmire of unhealthy expectations for the congregant and a feeling of obligation and indebtedness on your part.”

That’s not to say that she’s not genuine, as Jan points out. “It’s quite possible that this parishioner is both 1) appreciative of your ministry and 2) somewhat needy now that her husband is gone. She could be offering her vacation homes to you with pure intentions. Or she could be hooking you subconsciously.”

And there is the count-your-blessings caveat. “It’s wonderful that your congregant is grateful to you for your pastoral care during her husband’s illness and death. Some congregants can’t even spell gratitude, much less express it,” notes St. Casserole.

Be demure
Turning someone down while being gracious about it is certainly a challenge. I’m reminded of a certain out-of-the-blue marriage proposal from a very wealthy but very not-Gallycat’s-type acquaintance. That discomfort can carry well past the actual turn-down, and she may think nothing of it even though it lingers with you. But here are some possibilities that might help ease the moment, at least:
  • “It’s so thoughtful, but I simply can’t accept.” No further explanation is needed.—Jan
  • “What a kind offer! My vacation time is pretty booked already at this point, though. Let’s talk about this again some other time.” Then try saying “no” to some of those favors she’s been asking for and see what happens. If that seems to establish healthy boundaries and the relationship continues to be cordial, you may think about accepting at some point.—Karen
  • Compromise— Would it be better for you to accept an occasional lunch than a vacation place?—St. Casserole

Decline the offer; accept the compliment
Now I’m having another song moment, with “Personal Jesus” rattling around my head—but then, I am a DJ. But you’re not the only one spooked by that choice of words. Jan notes that the “personal priest” comment alone would be enough to make her back off, graciously.

But both Jan and St. Casserole point out your parishioner’s possible loneliness. “You may appear to be just the daughter she wishes she had combined with God stuff—what could be better in her eyes?” writes St. C. “You are wise to wonder about her language of “ownership.” I assume she means well but that language is awkward. What she may be trying to say is that she feels close to you.”

But you can draw that boundary pretty easily without dismissing her out of hand. “If you aren’t a former banker, financial planner or CPA, I don’t think you should go. And even if you had one of these jobs in your former life, it’s still not your place to give investment advice,” writes St. C. Someone with a securities license, who has a membership with a professional association for financial advisors with a code of ethics—now that’s the right person, although I think I’m mixing this up with my day job, now.

But it’s not just about the advice. It’s also the time, the implied quid pro quo that might tie you to her beck and call if you do cross that boundary. “You are first and foremost her pastor, not her driver/nurse/friend/granddaughter,” writes Jan. “There are many others who can serve this purpose, and if not, she needs to discover others who can provide such a role. She probably feels comfortable with you since you’ve gone through a difficult milestone together, but your role is to be her spiritual leader.”

And there are other things to consider, as St. C. writes: “Would we have the opportunity to pay for the maid service? What if I broke a dish or the dishwasher? Would I be allowed to pay for the repairs and how would I feel about the long distance repair arrangements? Would I be comfortable if the congregant dropped by during my visit to stay a few days with us? What if one of our children poured red soda on a $300 bedspread she’d ordered from a catalog three years ago and that matched the drapes and was therefore, not easy to replace?”

Uh-oh, St. C., I think I’ve been that child. Except it was butter. And my uncle’s favorite chair. And it was some years before our family was invited back to his West Palm Beach house.

What to do
Ultimately, it’s probably best to take the offer at face value as if it’s genuine, but decline with a smile and perhaps suggest an alternative but less extravagant thank you—coffee, lunch. St. C mentions that continuing to call on her to see how she’s doing is one of the most helpful things you can do. As Karen notes, you can turn down some of the above and beyond requests and then see what happens. “If she withdraws or pouts or keeps pressuring you to do stuff, you won’t have put yourself in the awkward position of having accepted a major personal gift from her.” Or, as Jan says, “If, after you leave that parish, you find that you are still close to this woman, then it would be fine.”

For now, Jan adds, keep clear boundaries and remind her that there are others depending on you for pastoral care too. As St. C. notes, “It's flattering when congregants think we are the best priest or pastor they've ever known. Our response is to not fall into thinking we are special while offering them the same loving attention we give to all of our congregation, even the difficult members.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Prayer Request

Gals and Pals, I've just learned that April of Salt for the Spirit has been in a car accident. Please visit her blog to hear more about it and keep April, her husband and family in your prayers.

Wednesday Festival

Have you had a busy week? Slightly overwhelmed by the number of blogs in the ring? Well, your fellow ring members have sent in a list of posts they think are must-reads.


Kate had a powerful experience going to worship at seminary.

Rebel Without a Pew ponders the Day Off. And Jeff shares his experience being treated as a pastor at social events.

Church Lady ministers, and writes, beautifully.

Mompriest is one of our newer ring members, and I think you will appreciate her reflection on chin stubble. :-)

In other amusing posts:
Quotidian Grace keeps us posted on an, ahem, entertaining confluence of politics and religion. ppb wonders what's up with men? Sue has a conversation in her refrigerator. And jo(e) is learning from her son about super powers.

April at Salt for the Spirit has a fan who nominated three of her posts, on motherhood, arrogance and the dreaded word literal.

BK Hipsher writes about call. And so does chartreuse ova. And Linda (FM) shares her clerical identity crisis. Gord, meanwhile, wonders about leadership. And Sarcastic Lutheran considers that being in leadership can make as_es of us, referring us to Martin Luther for a reality check.

At Calacirian, read some hard words about hope. And A. Lin goes deep about conversion.

You've heard of Friends of Bill; now read Melissa on Hanging Out With Will.

And in one last nomination related to 9/11, did you read RevAbi's reflections on Gandhi?

On a lighter note, go see these cute pictures of Gord's family.

Apparently we aren't keeping Gallycat busy enough, because she is working on two *new* blogs in addition to the ones that were already on her list. Go to Gallycat's Lounge to read all about them.

Maybe she should talk to Lutheran Chik, who advises us on things we can do if we step away--gasp!!--from the computer! (Recipes included, so don't miss it!)

This feature depends on your nominations. If you read something inspiring, thought-provoking or amusing, please send an e-mail to Wednesday Festival. And feel free to leave a comment here to point us to something great today!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings

Proper 20, Year B
If there were a list of "scriptures I would never preach," Proverbs 31 would be on that list.

I suppose I really have never heard Proverbs 31 preached, anyway. I have heard it time and time again in two different venues: every year on Mother's Day and then at funerals (mostly of grandmotherly types). I have heard it read, always from the King James Version (because it's traditional) but never really preached.

After several years of hearing it read in worship on Mother's Day in either a stenorous or sappy voice, I tuned it out. Then it started to rub me the wrong way, rather like this article which makes the rounds on the internet quite often. (Click on the picture to read the full article.)

However, I heard this with fresh ears at a funeral recently that I participated in with Joanna Adams. I hadn't the foggiest idea who she was at the time, but hearing a woman read this, gracefully and well, from something other than KJV was ear and eye opening.

I was listening and it struck me -- this passage is more about the nature of wisdom than the oppression of women. When read with the other lections this week, it becomes clearer and more vivid.

Last week the lectionary included Proverbs 1 which starts with a description of "wisdom crying in the streets and in the square she raises her voice." Wisdom is a woman! When searching for that "perfect wife" what humankind should be looking for is wisdom -- wisdom that is more precious than jewels, that buys and provides nourishment for her family, that girds herself with strength, that works long and hard for the necessities of life, that reaches out to the poor and the needy.

How else can we read this passage? How else the idea of wisdom be seen?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Giant Monday Meet and Greet

Greetings from the deep south -- this is my first RevGals posting in quite a while. Hopefully, I'll be able to post more frequently since I'm am offically finished with CPE.

We have a lot of new members this week and a dozen or so in the queue to join our group. As of this morning we had 214 active blogs! So let's welcome offically our 12 newest members.

First is PansyLiz Plus who is a Director of Christian Education and Formation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She writes that she is a “Cradle Episcopalian that went to Episcopal Day School, Episcopal High School, and now work as a lay member staff in an Episcopal church. i have 3 cats and they all have a friend. (Well that is the nicest way i can say i have six wonderful cats.)
Welcome PansyLiz!

Search the Sea is written by Gannet Girl, a Midwest “attorney turned educator turning -- with astonishment -- into Presbyterian Inquirer. Writing about college kids, nature, travel, church, spirituality, books, whatever -- and taking lots of pictures!” And beautiful pictures they are. As one who posts lots of pictures on my blog, I really enjoy seeing other people’s photography.
Welcome Gannet Girl!

Prisca and Aquila is a blog for Prisca who is “processing life as a clergy spouse as honestly as possible.” She writes, "In 2000 I married a wonderful man who happened to be a United Methodist Pastor and embarked on a new life with him and with the church. I'm a cradle UM but marrying into the life of a clergy spouse has been daunting. I thought I knew what to expect and yet the role and our life together continues to surprise and challenge me. There are wonderful and horrible days and yet we persevere."
Visit her and leave a comment -- Her last posting poses a boundary question for us to ponder….

Life and Love and Why is a blog by Megan Methodist who is a youth director in Maryland. She writes, "I work in youth ministry and like to spend time outside. I am currently obsessed with Camp... ok I've always been a little obsessed with Camp." Here is an interesting fact: Amy of Faith Musing is her senior pastor. Just imagine -- a church staff family who blogs together!

Peace Pastor is "thoughts (and feelings) on ministry, life, politics and occasionally a little something weird. The semi-official weblog of Abiding Peace Lutheran Church, North Kansas City, and the official site of its pastor, Donna Simon." Donna seems to be a Lutheran convert; she said she’s a baby Methodist. (The UMC in me muses that you win some, you lose some....) Welcome Peace Pastor!

Even you: Thoughts along the road of faith is written by Elane O'Rourke, a UCC pastor form Campbell, California. "I'm hoping that blogging will force me to get thoughts out of my head before they get lost in all the flotsam there.__I'm also hoping that doing this will open conversations that I'd never have otherwise, with people I'd never talk to otherwise. (And probably at a time of day that I never see anyone except the newspaper guy and stockbrokers hitting the gym before the market opens.)__I love being a pastor. I love talking with people about stuff that actually matters -- and a lot of stuff actually matters.__Like the play I'm about to go see, starring one of my 10-year-olds. What better thing could I do with my free evening than show her she's loved? Even her. Even you."
Welcome Elane!

seekingauthenticvoice is a blog by mompriest from the Chicago area, Illinois. "Almost 50, and I have no desire to be any younger...married 21 years with two teenagers. I am an Episcopal priest ministering with a small parish. I get energized when we (parish, communities, individuals) can take risks, be creative, work with others, strive to make a difference in the world, care for ourselves and others. I love to get massages, manicures and pedicures, wear jeans and teva's, spend time in the country to restore my soul, have dinner in the city to embrace humanity and culture. There are few places in this world like Chicago! I am seeking my authentic voice in the pulpit and in life; both the ability to tap into, listen, and preach is the best kind of work, one that I suspect lasts a life time."
Welcome mompriest!

Walking Wet because "Baptism complicates your life." Blogging from Somewhere in the Middle of the US, CoG is "one woman trying to combine vocations as wife, mother, ordained minister, daughter, sister, friend. I am an M.Div. graduate of a seminary of the ELCA, but I have been waiting a couple years for a call b/c as the mother of two beautiful children who are still under five, I would like a call that is part time, and I would like my husband to not have to move/change jobs. So, in the mean time I serve in a very limited capacity at the congregation where we worship, and I get to enjoy my children's growing up."
Welcome CoG!

onehandclapping is the blog of Julie Clawson who is a self described Homemaker/ Church Planter in Yorkville, Illinois. "I'm 28, married to Mike and have a baby named Emma. I'm learning how to be a mom now. We are starting a new emergingish church in the Yorkville area. I am an introverted intellectual, cynical but hopeful, and a seeker. Too often I find myself wanting to express ideas but have no outlet to do so. I hope this will be such an outlet --- if I can manage to actually find the time to post! What will I post about? Books, faith, the Emerging church, family, random stuff - basically whatever I want."

to the nines by pastornines who describes herself as: "a pastor of a medium-sized, fast growing PCUSA congregation that describes itself as suburban/urban, or urban/suburban depending on the day and the direction of the wind. The church is a multi-staff organization, more multi than staff. I'm dad-gummed blessed and know it every day. I'm married to the world's nicest guy, have two children who are our joy, one dog who's a goofball and live in a manse which is another long and terribly boring story."
Welcome pasternines and it's really not like writing into a black hole -- it just feels that ways sometimes.

Also, you might want to check out two different group blogs:
First is Every Voice a Sacred Voice. This blog is a “gathering of women exploring the biblical narrative, listening to the various voices and looking for a place to see one's own story emerge. The women of Generations Quest invite you to join our conversations that take a woman’s view of the personal stories of the women of the Biblical narrative. Some of them are voiceless, some are nameless, and some are both...yet these women play an important and fascinating role in the history of God’s journey with His people.
Come, take a risk of faith, accept Lady Wisdom’s invitation, be His guest and join Jesus in conversation with us.

Second is: Emerging Women "This blog is a space for women involved in the emerging church conversation to use their voice. This is a space to voice your thoughts, express your opinions, and practice your theology. This is a safe community where we can complain, deconstruct, brainstorm, network, dream, and encourage. Let your voice be heard." This is a 42 member blog, with some very some familiar names. You might want to surf over and check out the gathering they are having on October 1 to 3, 2006 in Virginia Beach.

That's all for today -- please surf on over and welcome our new members.

Monday Mission Moment: Computer Core

Today's Monday Mission Moment was suggested by Jan Edmiston of A Church For Starving Artists.

Jan wrote us about a project at her church that trains residents of a local shelter in computer skills that enable them to have jobs that provide both income and benefits for their families. Here is the story in her own words:

Several years ago, a church member who had recently served dinner at a local shelter commented "Wouldn't it be great to teach the residents of that shelter job skills so they could sustain themselves in a home with a job, etc." The whole "teach a person to fish" idea.

She was a computer science major who drew up a plan to open a computer lab in our church building for low income residents. The elders voted to give her a chunk of money (the first miracle) and several rooms. She quit her regular job and now -- five years later -- we have an award-winning mission that involves:

- adult students invited via the reduced-lunch list in schools (they are parents of reduced-lunch kids in local public schools)

- 6 months of computer and employment skills and mentoring for $100 staffed by over 60 volunteers

- presentation of computers six weeks into the program to take home and keep, (which means that their children now have computers for homework, etc.)

- graduation at the end of the course in what has become the most inspiring event in the life of our congregation. Better than Easter. More inspiring than ordination!

Students come from many countries and arrive with no skills but leave with jobs, dental benefits, etc. It is awesome. Check it out at:

Thanks, Jan, for sharing this unique and exciting approach to job training and mission. If you have a suggestion for the monthly Monday Mission Moment feature at RevGalBlogPals please email us at Mission Moment--click the link on the right sidebar of the RGBP blog.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sunday Prayer

Source of Life, Maker and Author of all that is Good, call us into your embrace once again. Pry us away from life's distractions and connect us spirit to Spirit in our ongoing conversation with you. Help us to be still for a time and feel the holiness that is all around us. Guide us to a depth of living that draws us toward the Things that Matter without fear or hesitation.

You know us, God. Every part of us. And yet you love us fiercely and passionately. This Love is almost incomprehensible. In this life, I know I will only catch a glimpse of the depth and breadth of your Grace -- but for even that glimpse I am thankful.

Bless us, we pray. Rest your peace, your power and your strength upon those who have need today, and every day. This I pray in the name of the One who came to reveal your Grace, Jesus Christ. Amen.


A reminder from Mary Beth about the Wednesday Festival: it's easy! Anyone can play!

All you have to do is click on the hyperlinked words: RevGal Wednesday Festival to create a mail message to the Festival team.

Nominations should be from your own blog or another RGBP ring member's. Please include a brief description of the post (a sentence is fine!) and the URL for the post, too!

11th Hour Preacher Party: Concert Edition

Fellow preachers, my Saturday morning is usually a quiet one, filled with nothing more exciting than a walk through the woods with dogs and spouse. But today I am off to the local mall to chaperone two excited 6th-grade back-up singers making their debut at a fundraising concert. My sermon, meanwhile, is a couple of paragraphs long, although it has been the subject of great thought this week. I'm approaching the gospel lesson, Mark 8:27-38, through a song by Sia called "The Church of What's Happening Now."

Throw away yesterday
Today is a brand new day
Throw away yesterday
Today is a brand new day

Welcome to
The church of what's happening now
Head straight through
It costs nothing but change

That's about right, isn't it? Thanks to hipchickmamma who shared a story on her blog from her own life that helped my thinking. (Scroll down to September 13th.) Who hasn't been shocked or disappointed by something that happens in church, or for that matter been slapped down unexpectedly or had a sudden urge to flee? I'll be talking about Peter, I think, his mistakes and his misunderstandings and his utter failure at a crucial moment...and the fact that it wasn't the end of his story. Nor are those moments the end of ours.

Wow, maybe I have something! How 'bout you?

Meanwhile, can I pick you up anything at the mall? I need some curtain rods and a set of queen size sheets for our new sofabed. We're expecting a RevGal guest soon!!!

Coffee is on, and I'm sending Pure Luck out for donuts. Find a place to plug in and let's talk about how it's going today.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday Five: Brushes with Greatness

Reverendmother here...

In the coming days, I'll be meeting my creative/artistic role model--a singer-songwriter who has been a part of my spiritual journey for some 10 years now. I'm psyched!

David Letterman used to have a feature on his show called "Brushes with Greatness." Members of the audience would share stories of encounters with famous people. And so...

1. Tell us about a time you met someone famous.

2. Tell us about a celebrity you'd like to meet.

3. Tell us about someone great who's *not* famous that you think everyone oughta have a chance to meet.

4. Do you have any autographs of famous people?

5. If you were to become famous, what would you want to become famous for?

Bonus: Whose 15 minutes of fame was up long, long ago?

As always, let us know if you play. Here's the code to link directly:
<a href=>what you want the link to say</a>

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ask the Matriarch: In Search of Structure

ISO asks...
I am just finishing the 5th month of my first call as a solo pastor. How do you structure your days to get the most out of them? I find that I still don't have a rhythm or routine, and it makes it hard to get things done. Granted, every day is different depending on who drops by or is ill, etc., but is there a basic outline that works?

Rev Abi answers:

This is a great question that some of us are still trying to answer 10 or more years down the road. Good for you asking! The problem I have is that is my personality lends itself to responding to whatever needs to be responded to and not setting up any kind of schedule and sticking to it, so I feel your pain. But now that I am in my present church, I am becoming more intentional and yes, seeking structure, as much as I am able to.

Monday morning, I will reflect back on Sunday, pray about it, and let it go. Then, I begin research for bible study, and sermons—that is, if there is no hospital visit or surgery on the calendar. I also spend some time laying out the week ahead: Meetings? Visits? Conference or district paperwork to be done? Staff issues? Staff meeting? Newsletter? Bulletin?
On Tuesday, I have a fresh mind and start on the detail work from Monday's planning.
Wednesday, I finalize preparation for Bible study.
Thursday, I write the rough draft of my sermon if possible—and I try to minimize interruptions during that time. Friday is my day off.
Saturday, I finalize sermon, spend time with my family.
Sunday—well, you know the drill.

Note that each of these is my morning roadmap. I'm not an afternoon thinker, so I use afternoons for visits and phone calls.

What's your personality?
Are you familiar with the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator? I'm an ENFP. You might want to find out what yours is, to see what you will need to do to help yourself as far as planning, setting a work pace, being intentional. There are many "models" of the MBTI online that you can use to get a taste of it, although the official test is here. (Gallycat pipes in with, "And if you haven't heard of the Kolbe, it may look pricey but it's actually cheaper than the official MBTI, generally, and very insightful with regard to your work style. Organization is a struggle for me, too, but the better I understand how I work, the more able I am to follow through on details, like getting Ask the Matriarch posted in a timely fashion on Thursdays... sigh!")

It takes time
You're five months into it, and it's your first time, so give yourself a break and don't be hard on yourself. You are definitely not alone. If you have a committee such as the Pastor Parish Relations Committee, they may be able to help you by being clear with their expectations and guidelines. Maybe someone on there is good at scheduling and structure—ask them to help you. Or, find a peer who is good at it, and ask them for help and recommendations. You might be able to "buddy up" with someone to be accountable with you. There are plenty of workshops out there as well that teach those sort of things. Perhaps some of our other revgals and blogpals can make their recommendations in the comments. (Gallycat, here, again piping up with--"If I don't make a list, twice a week, of things I have to do, something won't get done. And I always run that list by whomever is the most detail-oriented person in the place to make sure I haven't forgotten something.")

Some people also follow a lot of what Stephen Covey (author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People") says about knowing your vision, your purpose, and your mission—then plan your work and day from that.

Abi's Reading Room
* Getting Things Done by David Allen
* Ministry is a High Calling (Aim Low): Reflections of a Parish Novice by Kurt R. Schuermann * Surviving Your First Year as Pastor (What Seminary Couldn't Teach You) by Angie Best-Boss
* Organize Your Work Day in No Time by K.J. McCorry
* Minister's Little Instruction Book by Stan Toler
* First Things First by Stephen Covey

* Taking Care of Busyness by John Ortberg at Leadership Journal of Christianity Today.
* Time Management for Pastors: Key Points for Living a Balanced, Productive Life and Avoiding Burnout by John R. Throop
* Time on Your Side: Ten Ways to Take Control of the Clock by Carolyn Campbell

Hope this helps!

(A note to everyone: If you have submitted a question to the queue, don't worry, it will be published here! We've had great questions so far and we look forward to the next round. If you have a great time-management tip you'd like to share, please post it in the comments, and as always, if you have a question, please send it to

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wednesday Festival, Part One

Dear Ones,

Welcome to the Wednesday Festival! This week's nominations were varied and fabulous, of course. Thanks to all who nominated, and of course to all who write such wonderful pieces for us all to read. Don't forget to send in nominations for next week's Festival -- we've done away with the categories for any given Wednesday, so anything goes as long as it's on a RevGalBlogPal blog!

Pink Shoes

Revem has helped start a new worship that reaches out to young people! Go give her some encouragement. Tripp posts about his installation service! Huzzah! Melissa blogged about her first Sunday as a Student Assistant Pastor over at Going on to Perfection.

Walking his Path is blogging about her experience, good and bad, at Drew Seminary. Reverend Mommy was the smarty-pants seminarian. Love it, love it, love it. Sally asks about the wisdom of state universities (in the UK) of giving expensive freebies to potential students. Rev-to-be-Mibi is sick but is really doing well with her Hebrew in seminary.

Grace and God
Sojourner's journey has had surgery and posts her thoughts about going through the experience, and about finding God in the midst of trials. Recover quickly and well! Swan Dive writes about finding her voice by listening to God. The Sacred art of living finds grace in the limits and Mrs. M at The Kitchen Door writes about learning to let go.

Sunday's Child writes about her feelings of trying to help a woman in need with limited resources on her own end. Psaltery has an interesting take on the what they are teaching young women these days. On the other hand, Owl's Song discusses Iron John/Iron Jesus in the church, but you have to follow the link in the post as well.

Are you ready for some football?
An Ohio State fan who is transplanted but doesn’t forget to cheer for her team. Wide-Eyed and Laughing was watching the same game only with a snowy tv screen. Smallest Angel has a picture of a future football player and writes about her team as well.

Rebel Without a Pew entertains us with beauty tips from a very smart 3rd grader. Have you seen the Vicar of Hogsmede’s new shirt?

Walk Humbly has a new kitten that they still haven't named. The Mercy Blog has a new cat named Lulu that was once an abandoned. PPB continues to blog about her kitten littleman's life in her apt and life. Will you be his friend if he gets his own facebook page? What a diligent kitten -- writing thank you notes... I should take lessons!

Rev. Stacey talks about her dog coming to church, and what happened next. Stumbling Toward Divinity blogs about a particular dog that has stolen his heart.

In a category all their own.... or at least not with any others!
Musing Disciple has a poignant poem about forgiveness. Greetings from the Deep South! In the Open is thinking about bridges and embraces. Chartreuseova is spending the week thinking about her brother. Jan jas a funny, light post that hits the spot about dream jobs.
Brash, Dramatic and Outspoken has found God on her computer! Go have a look at the image she created!

Wednesday Festival Special Focus: September 11

So many folks blogged about September 11, 2001, this week (and Rev. Abi was kind enough to catalog many of them!) that I've created a special post for those entries. We all have a story about that day and perhaps you'll find a common thread with someone else's story as you remember with those who have shared on their blog.

Carmen blogs about the hour that changed her world. Rev Abi weighs in on the day, too. Bad Alice had a positive pregnancy test which causes her reminisce. Micah Girl blogs about 9/11 also.

Net asks where were you? Longing for Home shares where she was.
Breathing Room was living in Western Kansas. Journey Mama was on her honeymoon.

Talk With the Preacher uses pictures to remember. The Sacred Art of Living hearts NY. Princess of Everything (and then some) posts her memories of 5 yrs ago; Cheesehead writes her memories of that day, also. Girl Gone Great does not want to remember. Walking Wet posts about the vulnerability she feels.

Church for Starving Artists has a chilling post on the 5th anniversary.

A prayer by Another Unfinished Symphony; Peace Pastor suggests we take a moment of silence. Quotidian Grace gives blood.

Amy has a different perspective on the event.

In the Wilderness writes about one person's story who died that day and so does Maced with Grace. Transplanted Buckeye remembers Kenneth W. White.

Philosophy Over Coffee blogs about impact on his seminary experience. Big Dunk talks about God's grace in the midst of it. Smallest Angel blogs about what we have learned . Come to the Table talks about how much more we have to do.

And, finally, MMB went to NYC and wants to know what you did to commemorate the day.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings

It's fascinating to me how the ideas I begin with on Tuesday are seldom what I walk into the pulpit with on Sunday morning. Is it that way for you, too?

This week I'm looking seriously at the James passage, mainly because I feel as if I spend so little time in the pastoral letters, and also because I think the message therein is so important.

Yesterday there were many opportunites to hear "talking heads" on television. After watching a short segent of the tributes to the losses on Sept. 11, 2001, I went on a media diet. I just couldn't listen to any more.

I learned, along with everyone else, "Stick and stones can break my bones, but words can never harm me" and I suppose our well-meaning parents taught us that to toughen us up against playground bullies and middle-school taunts. But the truth is, words can hurt, and the tongue can be a sword. A double-edged one.

I'm glad Scriture reminds us of that.

What is on your mind, homiletically speaking? And those of you who aren't preaching this week, or are off-lectionary, what are your thoughts this week?

Monday, September 11, 2006

RevGalBlogPals in Christian Century

In the 9/5/2006 issue of Christian Century, our webring is mentioned in a wonderful piece by Susan Olson about finding authentic community in the blogosphere. Blogging is a new topic for the magazine; if you like the article, let the magazine know!

If you got here via the web address in Christian Century, welcome! Look in the sidebar for links to information about joining the webring and/or RevGalBlogPals, Inc. There is also a blogroll listing all the blogs in the webring, a link to our CafePress store, where you may find the mug mentioned in the magazine, and a link to our recent book. Just below this post is one of our weekly features, Meet the RevGals. May you find community here, too!

***Many of our bloggers maintain their anonymity by the use of blogging nicknames. Please respect Susan's online pseudonymity by not speculating on her blogging identity in this forum. Any such comments will be cheerfully deleted!***

Greet AND Meet!

First, we'll greet! Be sure to check out these blogs and leave a comment or two!

Holy Grounds: Once upon a time a young pastor headed toward the northwoods wilderness to begin her ministry. Laden with coffee, a computer and a Bible she began her work... Often in ministry I have found myself drinking holy grounds and standing on holy ground. So when I encounter the surprising presence of God, I take off my shoes, enter that holy place, accept the cup of coffee and listen to God speaking.

Another Unfinished Symphony: Life is an unfinished symphony. God holds the score in His Hands. Sometimes my life is a cymbal crash, and sometimes it is pages of counting rests. But always, He is the Conductor. (...and I hear the Coda He's written is out of this world!)... Mom of 2, wife of 1. Sibling of 6. Full time seminary student (that only proves I'm crazy!) Friend of many. Quirky sense of humor (but you knew that). Above all, passionate about becoming the person God has designed me to be.

Irrevent Reverend: Life as a pastor . . . full of surprises... First call pastor in Western Minnesota trying to figure it all out.

Confessions of a Church Hopper: I spend too much time at church. Some of my friends call me Church Lady, others say I'm addicted. But I think everyone's been put on this Earth for one thing, and for me that's teaching kids about God through music...But maybe I was put on this Earth to bake cookies. I make a mean cookie.

Stories from the Red Tent: I hope this blog can be an exercise in writing, sharing my story, understanding my history and maybe creating a story for my children that will shape and influence their future. Lofty ideals, right? Probably. Maybe that's too much to ask from a blog. I guess I'll just have to see.

We all need room to breathe and space to grow. This is a place to share freely whatever's on your mind... I'm the parent of two wonderful kids, both teens. I pastor a congregation in Washington state. I love to discuss all kinds of things but especially religion and politics! I love to read. I have a fun sense of humor and enjoy a good laugh, a good book, and a good drink. Not neccessarily in that order...



It is my hope to introduce both a veteran member of the group and a relative newbie in these Monday posts. Since they have already posted these on their websites here are:

reverend mother and RevKerryK:

Got blog?

What gives you joy?
Simple joy: Browsing the drugstore--they have the best stuff there
Profound joy: Finishing a long and difficult project
Vocational joy: Preaching
Avocational joy: Poetry
Vicarious joy: Seeing my girls discover something new and delightful
Quotidian joy: The beauty of ordinary days upon days with my spouse

What is your favorite sound?
really tight harmony, especially with an interesting alto line

Describe a perfect day in your world.
Sleeping as late as I want. A leisurely breakfast involving lots of simple carbs: pancakes, biscuits... Lounging around the rest of the morning reading the paper, magazines, or books. Lunch in a funky bistro with great soups, salads and desserts. Spending the afternoon immersed in creativity--my own or someone else's (gallery, film, theater). Dinner on an outdoor patio where a cool breeze is blowing: wine and conversation

Or: Any day R and I spent in Hawaii, August 2000

What do you hope to hear once you reach the pearly gates?
Well done, good and faithful one. Nap as much as you'd like here.

You have up to 15 words: what would you put on your tombstone?
She lived life to the fullest, although she usually tried to cram too much into

What color do you prefer your pen?
blue or purple, medium point

What magazines do you subscribe to?
New Yorker, Christian Century, Brain.Child,, Presbyterian Outlook, Presbyterians Today, Working Mother, Parents, Family Fun, Atlantic Monthly, the Hightower Lowdown, Sojourners, National Geographic, Poets and Writers, Books and Culture

Why are you cool?
Objection, assumes facts not in evidence.

What is one of your favorite memories?
R and I touring around the Anderson Valley, California, in October 1999 in a convertible, during their Halloween festival; sampling wines and enjoying elegant finger foods, the hills, covered in fall foliage, dinner at Cafe Beaujolais that evening

Got a funny story?

What is something you want to achieve this year? This decade? This lifetime?
Year: 1. to write and be read, 2. equilibrium
Decade: 1. to settle somewhere, 2. simplicity
Lifetime: 1. deep and abiding relationships and meaningful work; 2. joy


Got blog?

What gives you joy?
Simple joy: Poetry
Profound joy: Hearing my kids laugh or sing
Vocational joy: Preaching
Avocational joy: Reading
Vicarious joy: Other people's babies...
Quotidian joy: A cup of hot tea or a mocha

What is your favorite sound?
The ocean; hearing my kids laugh or sing at the ocean, priceless!

Describe a perfect day in your world.
Sleep as late as I want. Read as long as I want. Watch old movies or musicals.

What do you hope to hear once you reach the pearly gates?
The repeated phrase echoing around: "what are 'they' doing here?"

You have up to 15 words: what would you put on your tombstone?
She lived well, laughed often and loved much.

What color do you prefer your pen?

What magazines do you subscribe to?
Christian Century, Disciples World

Why are you cool?
Because I embrace my dorkiness

What is one of your favorite memories?
Being with my family this summer in Hawaii.

Got a funny story?
Preaching a trial sermon in seminary at a small, rural church and having an older man point out to me as I shook hands afterword that my shoulder pad had worked its way from my shoulder into the front of my v-neck dress, so it looked like I was trying to pad my bra or something!

What is something you want to achieve this year? This decade? This lifetime?
Year: Independence
Decade: Entering a creative, spiritual writing program
Lifetime: To own my home

Be sure to check this spot next week when a mission idea will be highlighted. If you have a mission idea you would like to share please email it to:

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday Prayer

"Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me"

Holy and Mysterious One, you breathe life into creation and there is vitality, potential, and always...hope. None of us escapes life's rollercoaster of sorrow and joy, of laughter mixed with the bittersweet tears of grief. And yet, your Spirit inspires us to rise to another day and face whatever may come. Some days that action of leaning into another day is not a simple one.

For some, leaning into the day means leaning into pain, or loss, or despair. God, I think of people who are caregivers of their loved ones, now in their own physical and emotional pain as they lose their independence along with their wellness.

For others, leaning into the day means greeting new joys and adventures. Surely your Spirit rejoices with those celebrating all the best that life has to offer -- love, a sense of vocation, and beauty itself.

Gracious God, may your Spirit breathe upon us all, whatever we may lean into this day, bringing new life and refreshment of the spirit where it is needed most. Strengthen and enliven our relationship to you, O God, and in doing so, bring us closer to one another. Amen.

*Don't forget to nominate yourself or someone else for the RevGal Wednesday Festival. Send in your favourite posts by midnight Monday for this week's festival.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

11th Hour Preacher Party

While you're all partying away in here and enjoying each other's splendid company, I'll be heading off for that most thrilling of all events: Church Clean-up Day! So, in honor of all the physical cleaning that will be going on in my little church, I invite you to brush the cobwebs from your brains, blow the dust off of some of those old ideas you'd filed away and forgotten, toss out the clutter, and polish up those words until they shine.

I've brewed the coffee as usual, on the strong side. I was in the mood for quiche, so there's one on the counter if you like spinach and mushroom. Anyone bring a little something sweet? I will need chocolate when I return...

...and I will return, for I will still have a sermon to write after the great church scrub-down. Let's keep the coffee and the inspiration flowing! Blessings on your preparation.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fairly Simple Friday Five

It's been a crazy-busy time at my house as all three children went back to school. In a crowded week we must grab our pleasures where we can.

This Friday Five is Fairly Simple. Name five things you have enjoyed this week.
Let us know in the comments if you play.*

*Please link if you are able. Instructions may be found at the end of this post.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Ask the Matriarch: In Sickness and in...

One of the things I absolutely adore about editing Ask the Matriarch is that the insights our beloved Matriarchs share are so comprehensive. I learn a tremendous amount from them even as laity, and lately there have been calls from my home parish about becoming a Lay Eucharistic Visitor. Perhaps, I think, when life slows down a little—but the more I learn, the more I am called!

So I'm doubly sorry to have missed last week for having been swamped—literally—by Tropical Depression Ernesto, who kept me offline upon my return from San Francisco. And this is the question you should have seen then, submitted by Bedside Manner Pastor. Jan, St. Casserole, and Rev Abi all stepped up to share their wisdom, and what wisdom it is. I have other questions that came up as well, but you can rest assured that they will be published in future editions, with equally insightful answers.

Also, look for Ask the Matriarch to be posted earlier in the day in future editions, now that our introductions have moved to Monday.

Onto the question! Here's what Bedside Manner had to ask:

I would like some guidance on doing a hospital visit. I've done them and I know there's no blueprint, and you have to be responsive to the person's situation and needs, but there are some basic guidelines that I somehow managed not to get.

Do you call first?

J: Probably not. If you make an appointment (“I’ll be there about 4”), that doesn’t mean technicians and others won’t drop by and whisk your parishioner off to x-rays or something. The only reason to call might be if you hear that no visitors are permitted and you want to check on that.

St. C: I show up at the hospital unless I do not know the person I am to visit. I may call the unknown patient’s family (whoever appears to have the closest relationship with the patient, if possible) if I feel I need more information.

Do you have to check in at the nurse's station or just walk in like you own the place?

J: If the patient is in ICU, CCU, NICU, or the ER you probably have to get past a nurse or even a guard before you can enter that unit. Most nurses will let a pastor enter unless the patient is in the middle of some highly embarrassing procedure. Otherwise, you can venture on in, assuming you know which room your patient is in.

St. C: If I am going to an unfamiliar hospital, I will introduce myself at the nurses’ station as a courtesy. Otherwise, I just go to the room. If the door is closed, I may go ask a nurse if the patient is in the room, off for tests or sleeping. If the door is open or cracked, I stick my head in and announce myself. If the room is loaded with family members, I ask if they would like for me to come back at a later time. Most want the preacher to come in for a visit.

Rev Abi: Some hospitals enforce the HIPAA Act in such a way that the patient has to put you on the visitation list, but when they are traumatized or there is an emergency, that is not always possible. I bring a card for the nurses if they don't know me, or I am new in town, and as well as one for the patient, as sometimes they are sleeping or gone to a test of some sort. That way I can leave a note if they are gone to let them know I was there.

Visiting hours only?

J: It’s kind to visit during these hours so patient can attempt some rest during non-visiting hours, unless you’ve been called in the night, it’s a life-threatening thing, etc. Again, most nurses and doctors are happy to have the pastor there, especially if there’s something critical going on.

St. C: I don't pay much attention to visiting hours unless I’m forced to do so. Intensive Care and similar units control all of the visiting time. If you want to see the patient in Intensive Care, go open the unit door, identify yourself and ask to visit the patient. In some situations, this will be fine. If the patient is "out of it," put your hand on their arm—probably the upper arm where there aren’t any tubes—and tell them who you are. If you don't get a response, pray for them in a POSITIVE way so that you do not add to their anxiety or give the impression that you are doing a stealth version of Last Rites. If they are responsive, visit briefly.

Rev Abi: Visiting hours are to protect the patient. But I have gone early morning and late night if that was the only time I could go. Usually those are short visits, maybe before surgery or after as well. Interestingly those have been some of my best visits with patients.

How long do you stay?

J: Don’t stay long—maybe 10 minutes? So much depends on the situation. Patients need their rest. The exception would be the rare times when a patient or family has asked you to stay because of special circumstances. I was once asked to stay all night with a dying man because his family couldn’t get there until morning and they didn’t want him to wake up and find himself alone.

When my mother was dying, the pastor (whom she didn’t even like much) stayed way too long, which was difficult for family and close friends who wanted to say good-bye with a little privacy.

St. C: All hospital visits should be brief. Unless the patient is chatty, don't stay long. A few minutes is enough time to show your support and pray. Do not sit on the patient's bed. Do not kick the pee bag. Do not ask to eat their treats or pick a few flowers from their floral arrangement. Be aware of how comfortable they are—that if the patient is gassy, he or she will do their best to refrain from pootage while the Holy Preacher Of God is in the room. Do not stay long. Gas held in hurts; gas released produces shame. Abdominal surgery means gas. So does most else.

Rev Abi: I try to keep the length of stay to a minimum, but sometimes I stay longer. You can ask or sense that, or tell them.

Do you bring a card, or anything else with you?

J: A business card is handy, especially if the patient is asleep when you arrive to visit. You can write a note on the back and put the card in a place where someone will find it, such as by the phone. Also, that way the family will have your number if they need it. I also bring a small Bible if I think someone will want scripture. And I bring communion, especially if it’s Sunday and the rest of the congregation just celebrated communion.

St. C: You don't have to take the patient anything. You are the gift. For children, I take a gift because as a child, I received gifts in the hospital and I loved them.

How and when do you pray?

J: Don’t wait until the end of the visit to pray. Sometimes a heartfelt prayer opens up the discussion and frees people to address fears/hopes/needs that a simple “friendly visit” wouldn’t. If you wait until the end of your visit, you might not have enough time before your next appointment to address things that it feels easier to say having prayed together.

I generally begin by asking, “Could I say a prayer with you?” or “Would you like me to pray?” Sometimes they say “No,” which we need to respect (especially if patient is ticked off at God). That’s okay. Also, I’ve found it helpful to ask them, “What should we pray for?” It gives you a window into their issues. (Are they most worried about dying? Their kids? Pain?) I always touch them when I pray. (Gently—and not near the sutures! )

St. C: I do not leave a patient’s room without offering to pray or leave a blessing. I give the patient a choice because I am aware of how emotional a hospital stay can be for the patient. I ask, "I’d like to pray for you. Is this a good time or would you like me to pray later?" Pause for a second. If they are unsure if they can maintain their dignity or control if you pray for them, then you’ve allowed them to refuse prayer gracefully.

Rev Abi: Prayer is such an interesting thing. Too many of us, including myself, use it as closure, but people seem to be okay with that. I do tend to ask if I can pray, but I have had people say, "Pastor, can we have prayer before you go?" Sometimes I ask for what they need prayer for, and sometimes I don't if I already know they are going in for or the surgery was completed.

How often should you visit?

J (and echoed by Rev Abi): Since hospital stays are notoriously brief these days (barely 24 hours for a mastectomy; 2-3 days for open heart surgery), one visit will probably be all you need. If someone is seriously ill and in for a lengthy stay, once a week or once every 10 days might be appreciated. If someone is literally on the cusp of eternity, you can probably sense if the family or patient wants you to check in every day.

Is it better to visit a new mom in the hospital or at home (or both)?

J: Moms seem to prefer a brief in-hospital visit, maybe bringing along a treat not available in the hospital cafeteria (such as a really good decaf latte). Once home, the baby’s adjustment and the presence of others in the house make things so hectic, it seems best to let mom and family get used to each other in peace. Just visit briefly, say a prayer of thanksgiving for a healthy baby, and offer lots of comments on the little one’s cuteness quotient.

The exception would be the situation of a sick/dying baby. Still bring the treat to the hospital (and maybe something for dad), but be prepared for a slightly longer visit with some theological discussion: “Am I being punished for something?” “How could this happen?”

Be prepared to baptize a sick baby. Nurses can get sterile water for you. (I’ve even baptized a dead baby.) These moments are clearlly not the time for a theological debate on the efficacy of baptism for a dead or dying child. Just bring comfort and a shoulder and keep reminding mom and dad how much that baby is loved.

St. C: As a woman, you can visit a new mom in the hospital with more ease than I think a man is able to have. Then visit her at home, too, after reassuring her that she is not to prepare ANYTHING for your visit and that you do not care if she hasn't had a bath in 5 days!

Anything else I should know?

J: Just love your people, especially in these weakened moments as patients. It is extraordinarily holy to be the one called in for such milestones: the births, the deaths, the life-altering surgeries. It is an enormous privilege. Oh, and it’s okay just to sit and say nothing. Be real.

St. C: It may be helpful to wear your clericals. The clericals identify you as a person who is authorized to be in the hospital. Try to avoid wearing perfume. Put out your cigar before you go into the room and keep a breath mint in your pocket. If you see gushes of blood and guts, ask God to keep you from reacting with a dead faint or nausea. When a patient tells you that her boyfriend's "thing" untied her tubes, try to keep a straight face. This happened to me and I was dying to see the boyfriend! I can recall every person who every visited me when I've been hospitalized. That's how important these visits are. God bless you for going to see the sick.

Rev Abi: Dress comfortably but look professional. There have been times when it was a crisis and I had to drop everything to run to the hospital—in shorts! It's not a problem—just bring your nifty card. Wear comfortable shoes, you are going to have to walk. If hospital visits are hard on you, take deep breaths and visualize yourself being able to visit this person with ease. Or, take someone with you. Go see your patients, sit down, touch them, hold their hand, listen, pray and then leave. But leave your anxiety at the door. Bring your presence. If you haven't had Clinical Pastoral Education, go take it, you will learn a whole lot about hospitals, visitation, facing your fears, and be more comfortable with yourself, or not, and then do more CPE or get some counseling to face you.

Me: I've asked RevAbi to share her handy "Guide to Hospital Visits" over at her blog, too! You are welcome to use them for your congregation, yourself, or to share with others. Thanks to revabi, and her friend Rev. Amy Raser.

Happy Thursday, all!