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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ask the Matriarch—It's Interview Season

Ah, yes. Actually, it's graduation season, and we anticipate many recent seminary grads might be facing this exact question.

Dear Matriarchs,

Sometime this fall/winter, I will be officially "in the call process." In my denomination, my name will be given to several congregations and I will interview. If the congregation and I agree that we are a good match, they issue a call. I can accept or decline. I have a series of related questions—read on.


For what types of things should I be on the lookout?
PPB: Sheesh, it seems like I'd have an answer to this. My bottom line advice is this: if something feels funny, it probably is. If something feels right, it probably is. Pay attention to who is and is not on the interview team. Do you meet any youth? Any senior citizens? Any fairly new members? If not, why?

Google the church. Go back more than the front page. What are they known for in the community? If it's an associate position, google the pastor. Pick up some local papers on your way out of town. What can you tell about the community? Most call systems list references for the church. Check them.

Ask what they hope to be doing in 5 years, 10. If they have no idea, or if they want to be doing the exact same thing as they're doing today, note that. If they want to be a mega church with a staff of 300, note that, too. Be a sponge.

Interviewing is a wild ride,and it will eventually leave you to two things: a bunch of really great war stories and a fabulous job!

Jan: You don't want to go to serve a church you are not called to serve. Be yourself and enjoy. Remember our RevGal sister: You've really got to love your people. Try to discern if you could love them.


Any super big red flags?
Singing Owl: See my story, below.
Jan (and this ties back to last week's question): One of the best questions I've heard asked by a candidate is this: "Can you tell me about the skeletons in the congregation's closet?" (Just their reaction alone will be worth asking this. You can catch a glimpse of their ease in talking about conflict. Or you'll see their sense of humor.)

How many interviews should I expect?
PPB: This is very largely denominationally based. I probably did 10-15 phone interviews and 5 fly-outs before I got my first job, but I'm not necessarily typical. Some people get lucky with just one. Some spend a long time on the market.

Can I/should I bring my spouse to meet the call committee/congregation?

Singing Owl: Bring the spouse, if at all possible. And then listen to his opinion afterwards. He may have a "red flag" or a green one, for that matter, that you missed in the nervousness of the moment.

On the other hand, PPB: No. Not unless you are specifically invited to, and even then, I'd tend to hold off until you've been offered a call. By doing this, you're setting up the expectation that the church is "getting" your spouse, too. And unless your spouse hopes to be the unpaid associate, I'd avoid this. BUT this is denominationally contingent. In the Presbyterian tradition, for example, there is usually an in-person interview, followed by a weekend where the congregation hears you preach and then votes. That second weekend might be a perfectly fine time to bring the spouse. The first one: not so much IMHO.

What should I wear?

PPB:I would opt for a suit in most cases, especially if you are young. No one will ever fault you for over-dressing by wearing a suit. It need not be a skirt-suit (trousers are fine), and it need not be a blue or black suit (pick a color you like), but that's my vote.

You might check out this blog post out of Yale Divinity School's Career Office for some denomination specific advice (not all denominations are represented, but you can estimate).

Singing Owl: As for what to wear, I suggest dressing as you would for a secular job interview. Not too flashy, not loaded with jewelry, but also not too casual, no cleavage ;-) ! No flip flops for shoes, but maybe not a suit and heels, unless you know the congregation is that kind of place. Professional, but comfortable. You want to look like you are not to be trifled with, but you also want to be reasonably relaxed and comfortable.

Can the matriarchs share any funny stories about interviewing?


PPB: Oh, let me count the ways. We can start with the college in a very rural area where a small group of students picketed my interview with "No girl preachers!" Once, I brought one blue shoe and one black one. Another time, I forgot an iron and tried to de-wrinklify my clothes by "steaming" them with scalding hot water in the bath-tub—and then ending up scalding my hand while I tested the water. I was so embarrassed that I told people it was a rash. I've been asked a slew of crazy questions.

Jan: When my husband and I were interviewing to be co-pastors, the first question was about our names. (We have different last names.) Search Committee Member: Have you noticed that you have different last names? (Yes, she really asked this.) My husband: Oh my gosh! That must be why the mail's so screwed up. (Good-natured laughter, but then serious again) Search Committee: Will you (meaning me the wife) be changing your name if you are called to be our pastor? Me: No. They still called us.

Singing Owl:
My husband, not I, was the prospective pastor at that time. The interview took place about six hours from where we were still living in our little campus housing mobile home. We had been hoping and waiting for "the call" for some time and were getting a bit desperate to get moved somewhere and start bringing in a paycheck. We were broke, idealistic, fresh-faced innocents, and we were VERY nervous. Summer was turning into fall and we would soon be forced to move—but where?

The interview was to take place at the church. A parsonage was next door, and the board had mailed us a key, telling us we would be sleeping there that evening after the interview and dinner. They suggested we let ourselves into the parsonage and unpack and clean up and then meet them next door at the church at 5 p.m. A little odd, but okay. We drove an ancient Ford Falcon (air conditioning? What is that?), with our two kids in the back. Someone was going to watch them while we interviewed. They were sweaty and irritable, and so were we. We were wearing tee shirts and shorts; our suitcases with appropriate attire were in the trunk. We left with plenty of time to spare, we thought.

But a flat tire, a horrendous accident involving cars backed up for two hours, and one car sick child took care of that. We stopped to call and say we would be delayed and could the interview be postponed one hour? The board chairman agreed, but either forgot or neglected to pass that message along. So we arrived in town, hot, miserable, nervous—but consoling ourselves that a quick but cool shower awaited. After more delay getting lost following the truly terrible directions we had been given, we pulled up to the glass doors of the church.

To our horror, on the other side of the doors were five men lined up watching for us, dressed in suits and ties, two with arms crossed and all wearing expressions of irritation. We piled out, straightening our rumpled clothes and glancing at each other with dismay. The babysitter had left. We had the interview on straight-backed chairs in the office, them in suits and ties and us in rumpled shorts, our kids noisily playing across the hall in the nursery. They actually extended a call, and we accepted. It turned out that we wished we hadn't.

When I started typing this story I did not realize it would be about red flags. Was there a red flag? Looking back, yes. They should have seen our distress and urged us to "freshen up" and they would meet with us in 30 minutes or something. Perhaps the shower was out, but it would have been nice to wash my face! Their disregard for our comfort and for courtesy did extend into our time there. So perhaps a suggestion would be to note how they treat you. Is there kindness, humor, flexibility? How they treat you in the interview will likely be how they treat you later.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wednestival: Pentecost Ponderings

Pentecost
Rainbow Pastor shares her Pentecost sermon...which is actually a Star Wars Sermon. Props to Gord for the idea...

Mother Laura's Pentecost post, "Let the Fire Fall," was about memories and dreams.

Sally shared a very powerful Pentecost post, too, about an unexpected visitor. She is continuing to process the experience here.

Liturgy, anyone?
Dylan Breuer, usually of lectionary fame, also has some rejected pop-culture liturgical themes over at Grace Notes. Gallycat couldn't resist adding a few of her own!

How close is too close?
Amy has come to the conclusion that having a door opened for her by a stranger feels like too intimate an action- anyone else have thoughts on doors being opened for you or opening doors for others?

How did you spend Memorial Day?
Natty did an amazing thing. On roller blades. Ow.

Gallycat's weekend didn't go quite like she wanted it to, but she did have a humor column published here!

Followup on Festival of Homies
1-4 Grace sends this "Miss Ya!" and question from the FOH.

What's Up with You?
JWD is marking a time of transition as she says goodbye to her church position and anticipates her new academic position next month. She also takes her first dive into painting--creating a triptych she calls Pentecost Trees.

God is doing A New Thing in Deb's life. Go see how.

Jules shares a verbatim conversation - between herself and someone who just doesn't get it!

Almost Rev. Anjel reminisces about hard funerals - especially those for friends.

Hope the FOH was great for everyone! Welcome home!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Geometry Edition

***I apologize for the lateness of this post. I tried to do this at church, but Blogger was oppressing me there. ***

We come today to Trinity Sunday, which for me ranks right up there with T-Fig as one of the difficult-to-preach Sundays of the liturgical year.

True story: I did my neutral pulpit for St Stoic on T-Fig, and my ordination was on Trinity. (I preached my first 'regular' sermon at St Stoic that morning.) And yet, they called me and I am still there, so maybe they aren't as un-preachable as I think...

I have never preached Proverbs before, but I am intrigued by an idea I find in that passage for this week's lectionary.

Proverbs 8: 23 ...before the beginning...

We humans tend to think that reality is what we can see, hear, taste, touch, remember. In that vein, we try to explain the Trinity in concrete human ways. I have always found those to be very unsatisfactory. And so instead of explaining the concept of the trinity, I think I will explore how we can grasp the mystery of what came "before the beginning."

"What did your face look like before your mother was born?"

How about you?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

RevGalBookPals: Velvet Elvis

I was excited to have an excuse to read Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith since Jan at A Church for Starving Artists and I had a chance to see him speak last year and I was officially Blown Away. He went from scripture to quantum physics and back again in a confident yet self-effacing way. He was engaging, biblically faithful, and deeply spiritual.

The very title, Velvet Elvis, is a bit of an inversion. On the one hand, this is a book; this is his theology. This is his Letters To A Young Doubter, his Why Christian?And yet he uses a title that brings to mind a kitschy painting you’d find in a yard sale. The title urges the reader not to put the author or his work on a pedestal to be admired and never critiqued. Such a tactic is both disarming and a little annoying at the same time. Disarming, because it puts his ideas in a context, within a tradition—just another stop on the journey. This is not the gospel for every time and place. This is not systematic theology. Yet it’s annoying for the same reason that some people find Jon Stewart annoying. Jon is smart and on-the-nose and when he gets critiqued for something he says, he will often respond, “What do you mean, you’re taking me seriously? I’m on Comedy Central!” It’s a very convenient tightrope to walk (though don’t get me wrong, I love Jon.)

It’s also a little unfortunate as a title because, as a professor told me in seminary, “Don’t ever give someone a reason not to listen to you.” The hip typeface and panoply of cover designs probably make it more marketable and appealing to people who wouldn’t give two hoots about Calvin’s Institutes, but these hip-looking trappings belie that this is a very intelligent and thought-provoking book.

I’m willing to forgive the kitsch and the hipness, though, because fundamentally, this book wasn’t really written for me. It seems to be written for people outside the church—people who may be intrigued by Jesus a great deal, it’s just “his family” that they have a problem with. So in some ways I felt I was eavesdropping a little. Some of the ways Bell “repaints” the faith are things that many of us have already made peace with—the seeming contradictions of the Bible, the question of how an ancient book with human fingerprints all over it can still be God’s Word—but I could see the right person being completely liberated by Bell’s theology. I especially resonated with the analogy of faith as springs on a trampoline, or means through which we have an experience of the living God, as opposed to a rigid, lifeless brick wall of doctrine that must be built structurally sound or the whole thing crumbles. (p. 22)

How Bell “Repaints”

One of Bell’s gifts is to shed light on some pretty orthodox ideas, or at least, ideas that are already present in our Christian tradition, and to do so in a fresh, engaging way. A couple of examples:

  • Sin has often been described as separation from God. And Karl Barth said that God has done the work of salvation in Christ, but there are people whose eyes are closed to this fact. They are standing in a room filled with light, but they don't know it. And it's not that God will switch on the light once they open their eyes. The light is already there. God has already defeated sin and death. And when they open their eyes, they will see the light that is already shining, that has been shining, illuminating the darkness, all this time.

    But what Bell says is:

    “Heaven is full of forgiven people.
    Hell is full of forgiven people.
    …The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust.”
    Nice.
  • The doctrine of election is problematic, and I don’t want to get into it here, except to say that if that’s how God works, then at least we need to say that we (whoever we are) are elected to service. God’s grace is at work in our lives, not because “I got mine, you get yours,” but because God has called us to be instruments of that grace for the sake of the world.

    But what Bell says is, “If the gospel isn’t good news for everybody, it isn’t good news for anybody,” and talks about a woman who is a Christian, and how this should make a real concrete difference to the people living on her street, and in her neighborhood, and in her city, and in her world. (p. 166-167) I found that to be a very nice way of communicating a pretty old idea.

  • Bell also says, “Mission is less about the transportation of God from one place to another and more about the identification of a God who is already there. (p. 87)” That is basic, good old fashioned missional theology!

He’s Talking to Us, Too

Though the primary audience of this book seems to be seekers, there was plenty that spoke to me directly as a pastor. His call story, in which God tells him to “teach this book and I will take care of everything else,” was powerful (p. 40). (Remember when it was that simple, Gals? [and Guys?] Remember when the call was new and exciting and redolent with things that really mattered?)

But it was the chapter on burnout, and on the need to kill Superpastor, when he won my heart. I love that he knew it was time to start a church when he no longer cared whether it was successful. (p. 96) We could find worse ways to discern what is God’s call and what is purely our own ego!

And the quote from his counselor later in that chapter was so on the nose that I put it on my blog this week: “Your job is the relentless pursuit of who God has made you to be. And anything else you do is sin and you need to repent of it.” (p. 114)

He also speaks with such honesty and humor about the joys and challenges of Christian community. His description of the people grousing about the lack of parking at the church was spot on, and he said what many of us would like to say in such situations:
"If you are here and you aren’t a Christian, we are thrilled to have you in our midst. We want you to feel right at home. But if you are here and you’re a Christian and you can’t even be Christian in the parking lot, please don’t go out into the world and tell people you’re a Christian. You’ll screw it up for the rest of us. And by the way, we could use your seat.” (p. 101)

Questions and Quibbles

The chapter “True” was very thought-provoking. He spends quite some time talking about truth, and if something is true, it is from God, even if it’s not word-for-word from the Bible. I would agree with that. However, he goes a step further and says, “Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth and the life…’ [so] to be a Christian is to claim truth wherever you find it.” (p. 81) I’m not sure how “neighborly” this is in a pluralistic society. I think we need to be careful, in a culture in which Christianity was the dominant force for so long, not to simply co-opt anything that we personally find meaningful or even “true,” lest the dignity of the other person be compromised.

I also have an issue with his “first mention” technique when reading the Bible (p. 156). Bell suggests that when a word or idea comes up, say in the gospels, to see where it first appears in the Bible as a means of contextualizing it. But the scripture was not put together in a linear way. Genesis was not the first book written. And I’m sure Bell knows that, so it’s possible I just didn’t understand what he was getting at there.

A Few Other Good Bits

Some things to quote and leave uncommented, at least for now:

Atheism is a belief system—AMEN! (p. 19)

On the mystery and unknowability of God: When God passes by Moses, Moses sees God from the back. Back in this context means where I just was. It’s as if God is saying, that’s as much clarity as you’re going to get: where… I… just… was. Lovely. (p. 25)

On the need for humility in the midst of conviction: in Acts 15, “It seemed good to them…” (p. 57)

Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective. (p. 84)

It is impossible for a Christian to have a secular job. (p. 85)

On discernment: The first thing God does is separate light from dark, and spends the rest of the Bible showing people how to do the same. (p. 86)

The work of the cross is FOR us, but the work of the cross is also IN us. (p. 108)

“You did not choose me, but I chose you”: Jesus thinks we are capable of great things! (p. 134) A nice idea to hold in tension with “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.”

And with that… let the discussion begin! Feel free to comment here, or post longer comments at your own blog and link to them, if you wish.

Sunday Prayer

Eternal God of Fire and Wind,

We come to you in prayer filled with awe at the way you move in our lives. No tongue of fire is too small to spread your goodness, no breath too insignificant to speak your truth. Each day contains its holy moments, a constant reminder of your Spirit's presence.

On this day we celebrate the birthday of all churches and ponder what it means to be your church. In a world filled with differences help us to recognize our common source in you, Creator of all. When we would shutter ourselves against your energy, blow through us and change us as you blew through the crowd in Jerusalem, opening our minds and hearts.

With eyes and ears trained and tuned to you, may we work together to share your love, both in our churches and in the world. May walls and structures never become more important to us than your call to feed the hungry, to house the homeless and to care for the sick and imprisoned. May old ways of being and tired modes of thinking be released into your wind as it blows this day.

We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

11th Hour Preacher Party: Slightly Sunburnt Edition

After too much time spent in the sun planting a charming tree, followed by a Mexican dinner complete with some sort of tequila version of a Cosmopolitan, and the resulting need for a wee hours drink of water, I bring you this Slightly Sunburnt Edition of the Preacher Party.

Whether you are counting the hours until our BookPals discussion of Velvet Elvis (starts Sunday afternoon!) or anticipating a holiday on Monday or recovering from the Festival of Homies or the Left Behind party here, join us today to compare notes on today's busy schedule, seek out a children's message, brag about finishing early (hey, careful there!), or start completely from scratch, all with a healthy dose of humor.

We made it to 220 comments last week; come on May 27th preachers, don't let May 20th outdo you!!!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Five: Hard Habit to Break

As many of you know, I have been experimenting with some severely curtailed Internet usage. I realized that I had gotten into some bad habits, which got me thinking about habits in general. I understand that a habits/random facts meme has already been going around. In the hopes that it hasn't hit too many of us yet, be as lighthearted or as serious as you'd like with the following:

1. Have you ever successfully quit a bad habit, or gotten a good habit established? Tell us about how you did it.

2. "If only there were a 12-step program for _________________!"

3. Share one of your healthy "obsessions" with us.

4. Share the habit of a spouse, friend or loved one that drives you C-R-A-Z-Y.

5. "I'd love to get into the habit of ___________________."

Bonus: What is one small action you might take immediately to make #5 a reality?

Bonus 2: Try it, and let us know how it goes in a future post!

As always, let us know in comments if you play. Even better, get in the habit of posting a direct link to your blog entry in your comment, using the following formulation:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
For a complete how-to, click here.

(Also consider linking directly to your post, not your homepage. Some of us read the F5 days after the fact, and by then it has scrolled down or even off the homepage!)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ask the Matriarch—Who's Interviewing Whom?

As chance would have it, we had another question about intervews come in this week, so I don't want the person asking it to think we're answering the wrong question—we'll feature that one next week.

This one's a little interesting, though—not exactly the question you'd expect from someone about to face her first interview at a small country church very different from the suburban parishes she grew up in:

I am a seminary student and for my supervised ministry (internship) I am considering taking on a parish quarter-time. My intake interview is next week. I have been advised that I need to be be prepared to ask questions as well as being asked questions.

Any advice as to the kinds of things I should ask? Any advice for things you wish you had known entering your first parish?


Singing Owl writes:
The things I wish I had asked firstwere about THEM. I was so anxious to make a good impression and be honest about who I was that I neglected to consider the fact that it was also important that I know who THEY were. The focus was on getting to know me, or us as a couple. There was something very lopsided about that! It resulted in a not-so-good fit, in our case, and we left that parish after a relatively short time.

I'd probably ask questions that would help to reveal their philosophy of ministry--some churches want the pastor to decide everything, others hardly give the pastor room to decide what scripture to preach on...etc.

What are their values? The stated ones, yes, but also the ones indicated by where the time and the money go. Are they at least in the same hemisphere as you? If you are passionate about children's ministry, and the church is all over 50 and happy to be that way, it might not be the best choice. Or if you love contemporary praise music and the church has a pipe organ, period. Or vice versa.

Secondly, I'd ask questions that would clarify expectations. I have a friend who discovered after taking a church, that she was the part-time pastor, part-time secretary, part-time janitor. And I mean she had differing salaries for each, so had to keep track of the time it took to prepare a sermon, print a bulletin, and clean a bathroom. (She stayed for eight years. I would likely not have done that, but it was clear the job description must have been lacking.)

Perhaps an internship is a bit less critical in the sense that if you make a mistake it isn't quite so permanent? If the internship is for six months to a year (as mine was) just chalk anything up to experience and ask better questions next time. ;-)

St. Casserole suggests these questions:
What is this parish known for in this community? (This will let you know how they see themselves in the community.)

Who served this church over the years? (Do they keep up with any of the pastors or interns because of friendships? This points to their relationships with staff.)

Who knows everything about this church? (Write down any names you get, because those named may be information leaders who can give you background info.)

How does the congregation feel about staff serving as I will serve?

Who is the best cook in this congregation? (This is a light-hearted question, but useful.)

Now it's your turn
Imagine yourself having to interview your parish before accepting a call. What sort of questions would you ask? Share them in comments.

And, oh, this is important! We need questions too! Send your questions on entering ministry, coping with transitions, dealing with people, adjusting to change—anything having to do with being a revgal. We're at askthematriarch@gmail.com, just waiting for your call. I mean email. :D

And yes, my arm is getting better, slowly. Thank you for your prayers. See you next week with our next chapter on... "The interview!"

Prayers

Dear members of RevGalBlogPals,

There are two items I want to share with you regarding prayers and our community.

First, did you know that we have a password protected prayer blog, called RevGalPrayerPals? We established it a few months ago, so newer members may not be aware of it. Each day a ring member posts a prayer or poem or image as a tool for reflection, and anyone who has a prayer need may write it in the day's comments. If you would like to become part of that praying community, please send me an e-mail and I will arrange the Blogger invite.

Second, those of you who have joined the corporation, RevGalBlogPals, Inc., already know that a planning committee formed from corporation members has begun its work on our long hoped-for Big Event in 2008. We would like to ask for your prayers for the planning process, that we might discern faithfully what God wants for the future of this organization and how that might best be served in the timing and topics of the Big Event.

I am deeply appreciative of the input that came via the last Friday Five and will make sure we take all suggestions under consideration.

Blessings,
Songbird

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wednesday Festival: Pentecost Edition

Preparing
Gord is asking, “What language do we use to tell the Good News to those who are around to hear us?”

Go see the banners that Leah made. Pretty!

Rejoicing
Amy got a fantastic scholarship, and spent the night in God’s room.

Playing
Mary Beth played the “7 Habits” meme, and discovered that she is not afraid of God.

Revem
wants to write a book, What Catholics Assume and Proddys Don’t Get.

Transforming
Sally is preparing for Pentecost, and watching clouds on the beach.

Deb is dreaming big.

Cleansing
Michelle is throwing away 50 things each week until July, in celebration of her birthday.

Reverendmother is taking back her creativity, attention span, and time.

As always, if you forgot to nominate a post, feel free to play in the comments.

Blessings on us all!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Mea Culpa Edition, Part Two

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful:
And kindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit, and they will be created:
And you will renew the face of the earth.

O God, who has taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that in that same Spirit we may be always truly wise, and ever rejoice in Her consolation. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

This Sunday is Pentecost: culmination of the Easter season and birthday of the church. And the options are so many.

Will it be Acts, then Romans?

Or Genesis, then Acts?

Or John and the Last Discourse?

You can click here for some Holy Spirit and Pentecost art to help get your juices flowing. My favorite is Pentecost in Africa.

I'm not preaching this week, but was thrilled to accepted my first, (and undoubtedly last), subbing assignment so Cheesehead could enjoy an unplugged Festival of Homies. I was also excited to be graciously tutored in the intricacies of posting pictures by Michelle of Quantum Theology. (I.e. find the little photo icon on Blogger and click it). So I was going to post my photo of the lovely tongues of fire baldacchino over the altar at the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan.

I got all my links together and wanted to post last night, but was afraid of messing with the space time continuum. And then my life descended into utter happy confidential chaos and I woke up and completely forgot it was Tuesday, and I was on deck, till I was reminded by Songbird at 3 my time, 6 Eastern. So the fancy picture is out and I am posting with no further delay.

I hope that people are still out there and ready to chime in, and that teh Clooney party double post yesterday was some consolation for today's deprivation.

For these and all my other sins I am heartily sorry and ask pardon of God and penance and absolution of you...someone? anyone?

Can I keep my clothes on today, though?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Left Behind: Festival of Homiletics Edition

Password: Any sentence using the phrase 'teh Clooney'.

Monday Meet n' Greet: Left Behind Edition

Pssst. If you have your password ready, go here.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1 - MEET
This, That and the Other
Emerging in the Light
RedHeadRev
RevDari

Chapter 2 - GREET
Mrs. M from
The Kitchen Door

Chapter 3 - READ
Velvet Elvis

WELCOME!!!!
This, That and the Other: The thoughts and musings of a single mom and writer as she makes her way through life. Written from a point of view of complete wonder with the world, with a generous sprinkling of Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim thought -- and lots of cool pictures! Lindsay describes herself as, "a seeker of spiritual truth, a mom, a woman, a vegetarian, a voracious reader, a writer, a traveler, a music lover, a dog lover, surrounded by amazing friends and teachers, an urban hiker, a lover of languages, an ordained non-denominational minister, a woman who believes that G-d cares a lot less about the details than we do, a blogger, a technophile, a person in the midst of redefining my life... "
Lindsay would like to learn 100 things about YOU - but don't forget to check out the 100 things about her.

Emerging in the Light: The journal of one woman planting an Episcopal Church in South Salt Lake County, Utah. Welcome Connie+, "A mom, a wife, a priest, a church planter, a theologian, a dog lover, a bad gardener, a quilter."
I realize Connie+ has a lot going on and a lot going for her but you have GOT to drift your cursor over the links on her page and see the cool snapshots.

RedHeadRev: An honest attempt to think and communicate about the challenges of weekly preaching amidst motherhood, divorce, therapy, and the on-going search for the perfect sandal. Not many posts to go on here, but if her description of the blog can be relied on I think it's safe to say we'll enjoy spending time here.

RevDari: "I am a pastor in a rural community where the hair is white and the ideas are behind the times - usually. I feel isolated most of the time, but am called to this work and most definitely this place. I am seeking a greater intimacy with God as I serve God through the people of GOd. I love to be with people and am trying to see the divine in all things living and non-living."
I wonder if her haven is complete.


Howdy Mrs. M!!!
1. Got blog? (where do you blog)
I blog at The Kitchen Door and very occasionally at , where Mr. M and I share recipes and restaurant reflections.

2. What are your favorite non-revgalblogpal blogs?
I don’t read many non-revgal blogs, but I’m a sucker for the political opinion pages at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ — esp. EJ Dionne and The Fix.

3. What gives you joy?
Sitting outside with God. Really, quiet time outside is the most peaceful and cherished I know how to be. Though blaring the B52s with the windows rolled down while I’m driving is pretty good, too.

4. What is your favorite sound?
I love harmonies. Gospel choirs, good classical choirs, bluegrass singers, doesn’t matter. I’m crazy about the way people sound where they’re holding their own different parts. I like the metaphor, too.

5. Describe a perfect day in your world.
Sunshine and good food. And probably a large body of water. I could add more details, but that’s honestly all that’s necessary.

6. What do you hope to hear once you reach the pearly gates?
C’mon in. The roast is done and the biscuits are about to come out of the oven.

9. What color do you prefer your pen?
Black, out of my fountain pen (I’ve decided that fountain pens combine “fancy” and “reducing waste,” both of which I firmly believe in).

10. What magazines do you subscribe to?
Real Simple and Food & Wine. Well, also Episcopal Life.

11. Why are you cool?
I’m reading biographies of all the US Presidents, in order. I decided that if I’m going to make opinions about our current leaders, I should at least really understand where we started. (Confession: I’m only on John Adams. Caveat: I only started last month.)

12. What is one of your favorite memories?
My first date with my husband. He was so excited and happy, and we had an unexpectedly wonderful evening. He left the pub more than once to get books and CDs that he wanted to show me (they were in his car). He was kind and funny and very, very quirky, and he was clearly thrilled to be there with me. It was a great night.


TUNE IN NEXT WEEK!
Coming up next weeks the Revgalbookpals will be leading a discussion on Velvet Elvis. Our host will be reverend mother. Click on the 'Velvet Elvis' link or the one in the sidebar in order to order your copy from our Amazon store.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sunday Prayer

Gracious and Loving God, in thankfulness and praise we gather our prayers with all the prayers of the faithful on this day. We give thanks for the gift of creation, for our life and for our faith and in praise we thank you for the spiritual journey we share with one another.

God, guide us on our way, and help us to remember Jesus’ prayer that “all may be one” and lead us forward so that the way we live our lives can help to make unity in the faith a reality. Grant that we might step out in faith with tolerance, patience and a willingness to see the face of Christ in each person that we meet.

God of Compassion, be with all who are hurting today. Make your comforting presence known to all in need of your power and grace. Enfold the grieving in your love, give strength to those who are ill or recovering from surgery, and give faith to those who wander in the wilderness of their searching, yearning, spirits.

Grant us your peace, O God, and send us out to live in the unity of the Holy Spirit, which proclaims with one voice the Love revealed in Jesus, who taught us to pray together saying…

*************************************************************************************

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, May 19, 2007

11th Hour Preacher Party.....


So many choices this week, some of us would have celebrated/ preached Ascension on Thursday, for others this will be the focus this Sunday.... still others will be stepping away from the lectionary and looking towards Pentecost next week...


So are you going with the Acts readings? ( 1 or 16), with Revelation ( a few were brave last week if I remember rightly) or John???


Right now and if I stick with it I am going with a storytelling/ preach, concentrating on Jesus command to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit.... I've posted a draft here, let me know what you think ( I could do with some constructive criticism). This is such a great group, lets cheer one another on today......


Whatever you are working with pull up a chair, grab a mug- I have green tea and oatmeal cookies here, anyone brewing coffee?


P.S. Songbird will be stepping in to keep the party going when I'm tucked up in bed!!!
Sally

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Five: Big Event Edition

Did you know that the major purpose for forming a non-profit, RevGalBlogPals, Inc., was to be able to attract grant support for a large scale RevGalBlogPal meetup? My dream from the beginning has been attracting financial support that would allow as many of our bloggers to be together as possible.

RGBP, Inc. now has a planning committee, and we are in the early stages of planning the RevGalBlogPal Big Event. What, When, Where and Who are all on the table at the moment. In that spirit, I bring you the Big Event Friday Five.

1. What would the meeting be like? (Continuing Ed? Retreat? Outside Speakers? Interest Groups? Workshops? Hot Stone Massages? Pedicures? Glorified Slumber Party?)

2. When in 2008 might you be able to attend? January? Shortly after Easter? Summer? Fall? Some other time?

3. Where would your dream meeting location be? (Urban Hotel? Rural Retreat Center? New England Camp? Southwestern Fantasy Hotel? Far away from civilization? Nearby Outlets or Really Great Thrift Stores?)

4. Who would make a great keynote speaker? (That's if #1 leads us in that direction.)

5. Did I leave out something you want to suggest?

Dream big for the Big Event!!!

Let us know in comments if you play; post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ask the Matriarch—Baptizing/Confirming the Christmas'n'Easter crowd

Sorry this is late! I'm on the west coast this week, and so 6 pm is three hours later than usual, for me.


One of our readers wrote in with this:

I’ve got a baptism coming up for a 12-year-old boy. In preparation, we’ve been meeting to talk about what it means. Normally, I’d do a pastor’s class, but he’s the only youth considering baptism at this point. All of this has happened at his mother’s request. Yet, this family hardly ever comes to church. They’ve been only once since Christmas because the little boy plays ball. He has games out of town every weekend. I don’t know – I just don’t feel good about this baptism.

How do you approach a situation when the parents want their child to be baptized into a community of faith but they have absolutely no interest in being a part of the community? I know I’m passing judgment – and I feel guilty about that too! But, it bothers me that this child is being baptized into a faith family, and we probably won’t see him again until Christmas Eve. I don’t get the impression that church is a priority for his parents at all. Any advice? An experiences to share?



I have my own thoughts that I'm going to put in the comments later, because I'm not a matriarch and while sometimes I'm comfortable sharing advice in this column, I'm not going to go out on a theological limb in the column itself. But then the matriarch's responses came in, and we got interesting feedback from both sides.


Karen says: Do you know the whole story?
"What else do you know about the family dynamics at work here? It could be that the Mom really wishes the family were more active, but she's fighting against her husband's disinterest.

"We've got a similar situation in my congregation right now. The Mom wants the family to go to church. The Dad isn't interested and plays the "Sunday is my one day to be with the kids" card. "Be with the kids" means being heavily involved in their Sunday sports activities. Not wanting to make an already rocky marriage rockier, she doesn't fight this too hard, thus she and the kids come to church only sporadically. I'm sure when these kids reach confirmation age, she'll want them to do it. And I'd want to support her in that. You may be right on the mark that church is not a priority for this family, but just be aware that things aren't always what they seem."

Abi says: There's an opportunity here
"You know, if you are meeting with him about baptism, then you can address what being baptised means to him and what your denomination understands it to mean into the body of Christ. And when you meet with his parents you can emphasize that too. Perhaps hook them up with a family or a mentor of someone who can get them interested in coming to church and getting involved in the church.

"You say it doesn't mean much, but it must mean something that they want him baptized, so maybe find out why and what is holding them back from their own involvement? Find out if they are baptised or not. Once when I was to baptize a girl, found out that the whole family was not. In meeting with them and discussing baptism with them, was able to get them all baptized. We were able to get the children coming regularly to church, even if the parents weren't. Don't miss an opportunity here. But use your discomfort to move you to be proactive on the part of the child to the family. There is a new study out that states the impact of children attending church that was done by Mississsippi State University. You could use that with them to encourage their involvement in church."

Singing Owl says: Err on the side of inclusion
"On the one hand, I do not think you are being unduly judgmental. Even Jesus said we know a tree by its fruit. It is a very reasonable question to enquire why someone wants to be baptized into the church, into the "Body" if there is no connection. Perhaps the answer might differ depending on denomination and expectations regarding baptism, but if the boy is 12, he can express his opinions and listen to yours, even though mama requested the meetings. (I wonder why?)

"Is it possible that this boy has more understanding, or more faith, or more connection, than his parents do? We have a young lady of 16 in our congregation who was baptized a few years ago. Her family all started attending about the same time, but she was the one of the family who seemed to understand the most, the one who seemed to really want to be a 'disciple.' Her family stayed a short time, and now are pretty much C and E attendees. Except for the daughter. She is an absolute joy. She has grown in her faith, grown as a person, grown in courage...she shines. I did not
necessarily think this would be the case.

"Otherwise, maybe a conversation with mother is in order? Maybe I should mention that once this young teenager decided she was part of our church, she asked to be picked up for church, and when the family left town she often stayed behind because church was important. Not saying that will be the case with this boy, but might it? All that to say, if the boy understands what he is doing and why, I'd err on the side of inclusion."

Peripatetic Polar Bear says: Listen to the kid's reasons
"Does the boy want to be baptized? He is old enough to have a say and take some responsibility in this. At 12, I don't really care how involved his parents are in the church community. At 12, it needs to be about him—about his involvement and his desire, his faith. If he wants to worship but cannot attend due to a lack of a ride, I'd get the session or deacons or vestry or whoever involved in making that happen.

"If he doesn't really want to do this, then I'd be facilitating a nice conversation with mom about this being his decision. Yes, ball games (argh, the blessed, blessed ball games) are a problem—but they are probably not 52 weeks of the year. Is he attending youth group or any other activities that happen outside of Sunday morning during those ball game seasons?

"It is a conundrum. Twelve is not an adult, but it's not really an infant either. In infant baptism, it is the parents and the congregation making the statement of faith. With an adult, it's the individual. With a 12-year-old, it needs to be something in between that. And just because mom wants to have this 'done' doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Likewise, mom and dad's inactivity need not impact the child's potential for membership."

Festival of Homiletics

Are you a RevGalBlogPal and planning to attend the Festival of Homiletics next week in Nashville? You'll find you are not alone!

Last year's Festival served as a first meet-up for some of our members, a time we remember fondly.

RevAbi kindly agreed to be the contact person for a RevGalBlogPal meet-up at what we fondly refer to in these parts as the Festival of Homies. For her cellphone contact info, please send her an e-mail as soon as possible!

And if you're not going, have no fear, we will have our own fun together here!!

Right, will smama?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wednesday Festival: Kudos edition!


We start this week's Wednesday Festival by offering our best wishes to folks who have achieved some special milestones.

Sally Coleman got the letter she's been waiting for, informing her she's been accepted "for pre-ordination training for presbyteral ministry in the Methodist Church." You can drop by at Eternal Echos and congratulate her. (She's also got a blog on "film as part of a mythological tradition" here.)

reverendmommy posted a cap-and-gown picture from her big day.

There's more ...

Galleycat "got the shiny." See it here.

Last thoughts on Mother's Day?

Lorna went off to church on Mother's Day in Finland and got a message from God: "Du behövs!" Don't know what that means? You can find out here. Also, the puppies went off to their new homes; you'll find pictures here and here.

There's more on Mother's Day from Quotidian Grace, who talks about how her church marked Mother's Day in case it helps those looking for more inclusive ways of observing the day.

will smama kept Mothering Sunday generic, speaking about women and how they had impacted our lives, and wrapping it into the commitment that all folks in the church make during a baptism to help raise the person who is being baptized in the faith.

More mom stuff

Speaking of moms, Preacher Mom is enjoying her youngest daughter's imagination—and wondering if it may be rooted in some deep-seated memory. Read about it here.

Other stuff

Meanwhile, Hedwyg has been thinking about the river of life and found connections to ideas about standing up and walking. You can read about it here.

Reverendmother has a good list of things that come in threes.

Kievas Fargo has a recent post encompassing two favorite topics: science fiction and theology.

Speaking graphically

desert spirit shares a pair of graphic design blogs. You can see them at desert spirit's fire. The first is an interpretation of Revelation 22:2 from the second lectionary reading for last Sunday, Easter 6. The other one includes four different but related pairs of sandals, because "as my blog footer insists, "Traveler, there is no road; the way is made by walking" (from Cantares, by Antonio Machado).

In another graphic vein, your humble Wednesday Festivaler for the week (that's me, Widening Circles) ponders family photos and how they might open up a different way of thinking about how God loves us.

Noted in passing

Deb has been thinking about Jerry Falwell since she heard the news about his death, saying he calls up mixed emotions and thoughts and makes her "pray for a gentler, honest voice on the issues he raised." Read more at Another unfinished symphony ... .

Milton Brasher-Cunningham shares thoughts about Falwell, too. In his post here he imagines the late preacher's ultimate meeting with God—and wonders if God didn't have some surprises in store for him.


Well, I'm off to work. If you forgot to nominate or if I got this done before you got around to it, use the comments to let us know what you're up to. And get ready for next week: 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!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Mea Culpa Edition

Friends, If I was a good little RGBP do-bee I would have arranged for a sub his week, since I am not actually preaching this coming Sunday. Instead I will be unpacking/doing laundry/repacking while my Parish Associate(God bless his soul) fill in for me. Later this week I am taking a whirlwind trip the the Synod office for a Synod Permanent Judicial Commission training event. (Never mind that I've been a member of the PJC for almost three year and they are just now training me. Ahem.)

Then Monday I leave for Festival of Homies !!!

Anywho...I wonder if any of you are preaching Ascension this week?

The very first"complaint" I got at St Stoic was from a member who wondered when Presbyterians stopped celebrating Ascension. (Bear in mind, it was several weeks past Ascension when he made this complaint to me.) I listened thoughtfully, reflected pastorally, (As well as I could three days after my ordination) then after he left the office,I whipped out my calendar to see when Ascension was. It's just not part of my tradition. I would love to know more about it from those of you who practice this tradition.

If I were in the pulpit this Sunday, I would be sticking with the Easter 7 texts.

What about you?

Note: I have tried to correct the font on this post about ten times. I have to move on to other things. Sorry it is wonky. I'm not really shouting.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday Meet n' Greet: Outlined Edition

Alright, for those of you who like to know the schedule, here is the outline for this post:

I. Meet
A.
the nun thing
B.
waiting for the day
C.
OPreach
D.
Bowling with the Champs.

II. Greet
A.
Quotidian Grace

III. SPECIAL REMINDER ANNOUNCEMENT!!!
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

PHASE I - MEET!
the nun thing: which would more accurately be called "the sister thing" or my journey and ramblings about possible vocation to life as a religious sister. Written by Sarah who says, "Ah, the 'nun thing'... it's such a benign sounding phrase. I'm joining the nuns. Well, maybe... unless I change my mind. unless I realise I really did lose my mind. unless the nuns won't have me. unless it starts to feel less 'right'. unless I realise I can't. So, this is my journey. My blessed, maddening, daggy, odd, sacred, loved and bizarre journey."

Other descriptors in just her first few posts include: wise, powerful and weird.

waiting for the day: The ho-hum everyday life of someone trying to follow God in the way of Jesus and make a difference in the world. Here is more from the Mollinator, "I'm a follower of Jesus and a child of God. I am also a mom of a 8 year old tornado named Ursula, and a family and youth minister. I am a lay Marianist, trying to live out community, hospitality, prayer, rejoicing, and pondering. I am a native Texan, and really isn't that more than enough?"

I think I spotted a few celebrities and NOW I know what Mondays are for - thanks!

OPreach: OPreach needs to OPost so we can get to know her better. Hop on over and give her some encouragement!

Bowling with the Champs.: The life and times of Carey -- adventures less than those of Davy Crockett, but more exciting than Laura Bush's sex life. Carey fills us in, "Once, on The Next Big Thing, they did a story, titled, “Thirty Second Biography.” Here’s mine – St. Louis (as in Missouri), Watertown (as in Wisconsin), Valparaiso (as in University), Chicago, Boone (as in North Carolina), Chicago, Watertown, Ann Arbor… "

Who knew one could get so upset when ice cream is involved?

PHASE II - GREET!
1) Got blog? (where do you blog)
www.quotidiangrace.blogspot.com - Quotidian Grace

2) What are your favorite non-revgalblogpal blogs?
Skewed View (Spooky Rach), Truth in Love Network (Will Spotts), Kruse Kronicle, A Classical Presbyterian, Gruntled Center, Reformed Angler.

3) What gives you joy?
God. Singing. Reading. Chocolate. Red Wine. Margaritas. Good friends.

4) What is your favorite sound?
Handel’s Messiah

5) What do you hope to hear once you reach the pearly gates?
My father’s voice.

6) You have up to 15 words: what would you put on your tombstone?
Well done, good and faithful servant, mother and wife.

7) What color do you prefer your pen?
Black.

8) What magazines do you subscribe to?
Presbyterians Today, The Layman, Presbyterian Outlook, Christian Century, Forbes, Paula Deen Cooking.

9) Why are you cool?
Because my daughters’ twenty-something friends have told them that I’m “hot”

10) What is one of your favorite memories?
Very recent memory — my daughter’s wedding
A couple of years ago — the Lessons and Carols service at Sewanee
Childhood — family Christmas dinners and singing

PHASE III - ANNOUNCEMENT!
Coming up in just two weeks the Revgalbookpals will be leading a discussion on Velvet Elvis. Our host will be reverend mother. Click on the 'Velvet Elvis' link or the one in the sidebar in order to order your copy from our Amazon store.

Questions discussed may or may not include:

How come the book I ordered didn't look like this one?

Does the name 'Mars Hill' make anyone else hungry for a candy bar?
and of course...

Would Jesus have his photo printed in blue & white?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sunday Prayer

As always, this is cross-posted over at my place.

Gracious God, we thank you for this day and the beauty we may find in it. Even if this is a painful day and our hearts are grieving, you show us glimpses of holiness. A child’s hand reaching up to show us freshly picked dandelions, a smile from someone who cares, or an embrace from a loved one...in all these, we see you, O God.

On this special day, we thank you God for the people around us who provide nurture and care and love. In every gesture of love and encouragement, we see a reflection of your grace shining in our lives. In thankfulness, we praise you, Mother God.

We pray for all whom we have named aloud and for those whose needs are known only to you. We ask your blessing and comfort for all who suffer this day. God, take them under your wing like the Mother hen nestles her chicks close to her. Bring solace and strength, and may the peace that only you can provide be shared by all your people, for we ask in the name of the One who came to show us the way, Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray together saying....

*************************************************************************************

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, May 12, 2007

11th Hour Preacher Party: "Mother, May I" Edition

Last night, after a church event, I heard those words I did not want to hear:

"Shall we give out the carnations before church or after?"

The dear ladies asking the question treasure being recognized on Mother's Day, giving me the impression that in their lives of quiet service to family and church this is a *very* special day, an unusual day of appreciation.

Some of you will remember our conversation earlier in the week here. I thought I had a way around it all...until I heard about the flowers.

So, my work today is clearly laid out for me. Find a nice way to make everyone feel okay in the midst of what I had hoped would be a carefully crafted sermon about showing God's mothering love whether or not we are mothers. I guess it fits. But the flowers raise the stakes. (I said after, by the way.)

But right now, I'm thinking coffee and donuts. Can someone keep an ear out for the kids while I go to Tony's and get the molasses glazed? Anyone for Boston Cream? What's on for you today and in the offing for tomorrow? Come and share both goodies and concerns, ideas for Children's sermons and anything else on your minds today!

Revisingly yours,
Songbird

Friday, May 11, 2007

Results of Directors' Election


The first board of directors for RevGalBlogPals, Inc. was elected at the meeting held at 10 am this morning. They are:

Mary Beth Butler (Terrapin Station)
Reverend Mommy
Cheesehead
Reverendmother
Songbird
Quotidian Grace
St. Casserole

At the meeting there was a drawing to assign the length of the term for each director, as provided for in the By-Laws. Cheesehead, St. Casserole, Songbird and Quotidian Grace will serve a one year term, while Mary Beth Butler, Reverendmother and Reverend Mommy will each serve a two year term so that the terms of the directors will be staggered in the future.

There were 49 members eligible to vote and 47 proxy ballots were received by this morning's 10 am deadline. What a wonderful turnout! Thanks to you all.

If you have not joined RevGalBlogPals, Inc, it's not too late! New members may join at any time. You do not have to join to be a member of the blogring, but you must be a member of the blogring to be eligible to be a member of RGBP Inc. Check out the link on the sidebar for more information.

Edited to Add: Due to reverendmother's resignation for family reasons, we turned to the next highest vote-getter in the original election. RevAbi was asked to fill the unexpired term and graciously agreed.

Friday Five: Potato, Po-tah-to Edition

I am out all day Friday, so I beg your indulgence once again as I post an early Friday Five. Don't miss the absolutely marvelous Ask the Matriarch below--color coded, no less!


There are two types of people in the world, morning people and night owls. Or Red Sox fans and Yankees fans. Or boxers and briefs. Or people who divide the world into two types of people and those who don't. Let your preferences be known here. And if you're feeling verbose, defend your choices!

1. Mac? (woo-hoo!) or PC? (boo!)
Why yes, the Friday Five author reserves the right to editorialize!

2. Pizza: Chicago style luscious hearty goodness, or New York floppy and flaccid?

3. Brownies/fudge containing nuts:
a) Good. I like the variation in texture.
b) An abomination unto the Lord. The nuts take up valuable chocolate space.
[or a response of your choosing]

4. Do you hang your toilet paper so that the "tail" hangs flush with the wall, or over the top of the roll like normal people do?

5. Toothpaste: Do you squeeze the tube wantonly in the middle, or squeeze from the bottom and flatten as you go just like the tube instructs?

Bonus: Share your favorite either/or.

Let us know in comments if you play; post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ask the Matriarch — Contagious Negativity

A reader asks:

What are some ways of creatively dealing with a perpetually antagonistic, negative parishioner/lay leader/fellow staff member -- someone for whom "the answer's always NO!", and whose negative attitudes have a tendency to rub off on others?

Hmmm, bury your head in the sand? No? Perhaps that’s not helpful. Let’s turn to three of our beloved Matriarchs and gain the benefit of their experience in these difficult matters.

St. Casserole gives us a healthy and humorous perspective:

God gave us a sense of humor for just this circumstance. These negative folks abound! And, they are hilarious! We'd miss them if they left us for more fertile crabby territory!

Several strategies: make sure you know their spiel thoroughly. After paying rapt attention either in a group or asking to visit with them in private (pay them healthy attention! you aren't afraid! you are fascinated!), repeat their miseries back to them. This does several things: you are acknowledging their perspective in a respectful manner and you will be able to think through their objections. You don't argue with them. You listen and reflect what they say back to them.


In an affectionate way, tease them about their tendency to be negative. Don't feel affection for them? Pray for them until you do. Ministry is hard work.


When I see “Ann” (the poster child for "I Despise Everything this Church Does but I Am Here Everytime the Doors Open") at the church across the street, I ask her how she is. I want to know. If I begin giggling with delight about her complaints, she smiles with me. I'm not dismissing her complaints but laughing with her at her world view. She hasn't liked a pastor, church secretary, church member etc. etc. in the 15 years I've known her.


Careful with your irony here. It's cruel to taunt people. The genuine affection developed by prayer for and attentiveness to the "Ann" in your midst, gives you the light touch to laugh and enjoy the "Ann" without hostility.


All this takes time and for people-pleasers, like many clergy, we feel rejected or down-trodden by the nay-sayers. Mais non! Come at them from a different angle and be their loving preacher. You don't have to agree with them, support their negative junk or get sucked into their world view.


Ministry, as I mentioned, is hard work. And, funny.

Jan of A Church for Starving Artists starts by admitting that none of what she suggests is ever easy and is probably impossible except by the grace of God:

*Pray for them -- that they will 1) not damage the church, 2) go away, and/or 3) find themselves on the road to Damascus.

**Pray for yourself -- that you will 1) be protected from the negativity, 2) be your best self even in the presence of their antagonism, and/or 3) always be able to afford regular therapy/pedicures/massages/vacations.


***Always take witnesses when you confront them. Confront in love and truth. And if necessary, ask them why they are there if everything is so terrible/wrong/disturbing to them.


****Last resort: I have a colleague who finally confronted a negative member and said, "You seem very unhappy. Maybe you would be happy in another congregation." (Or maybe he/she would also be unhappy in another congregation.)

Finally we hear from Abi, who has both advice and resources. Thanks, Abi, for the book list!

Aye, yi yi yi! Now that is a difficult one.

If it is a fellow staff member it would seem the Senior staff person needs to deal with this person, or the committee that deals with staff positions. It may be this person is depressed or it may be this is a chronic problem. As a leader the Senior person might want to deal with them. If they are under you, you might want to spend some time with them. Gently asking them about their attitude, their feelings, what's going on? How can you help them? Perhaps they don't want the position, but can't or won't say no, and may need some assurance that it is okay to step down.


If it’s a lay leader then maybe one of the lay leaders needs to deal with them in a loving yet firm way.


Sometimes we don't know how negative we are, and sometimes we do. Either way, it needs to be lovingly confronted and dealt with. I think if the person refuses to admit their feelings or dilemma, then you as the leader might have to say, you know you are just not the leader for this committee or this age group or whatever it is, perhaps there is another place your gifts and graces can be used.


I don't think we at the same time want yes people all the time or Pollyanna positive, we need the truth, and the truth spoken in love. Perhaps they need to know how to say “no” themselves in a loving and caring way.


If things can not be resolved, i.e. the staff person doesn't get help or improve, then they may need to be let go. Lay leaders or committee chairs may need to be removed from their leadership positions.


Parishioners, you will have those who are negative. I have them talk to me. And then I say okay, you have had your say now. Let it go. Or that's a good point let me deal with it.

The bottom line seems to be making sure the negative person has had an opportunity to be heard and to know it, to be clear about our own approach rather than clouded by our frustration, then to take appropriate steps if continued negativity impacts ministry. Your polity and mine may vary, but there is almost always a means built in to address those who clearly ought not be in their positions anymore, whether those are lay folk, staff or other ordained clergy. The hard part is discerning when that moment has come and having the strength to use whatever our process is correctly rather than being dragged into negative patterns ourselves.

Also, remember to pray!

If you have a question for our Matriarchs, please send it to Ask the Matriarch, along with prayers for Gallycat, whose medical difficulties continue.

Now, here’s the Booklist:

Antagonists in the Church: How to Identify and Deal With Destructive Conflict

Speaking the Truth in Love

How Your Church Family Works: Understanding Congregations as Emotional Systems

Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What

Hope in Conflict: Finding Wisdom in Congregational Turmoil

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wednesday Festival: Finals Week!

I know it's not finals week for most of you, but for those in traditionally-scheduled US school or seminary, it's around about that time. And I work on a college campus, so we are definitely feeling that pain 'round here!

And no how matter long you might have been out of school...doesn't the end of Spring just feel like SOMETHING is about to happen!?

Well, it is. The Festival. Without further ado:

Student-y
Talking about the end of the semester...Deb is working on grading herself on a curve. Stop by and give her some encouragement!

Sally's dining room table is Student Central!

The Work of the Church
Lorna went to help clean-up the Methodist camp site. It looks gorgeous! She also shares thoughts and photos from her recent trip to the UK, including some Beatlemania!

Sally is thinking about humility as she works on Sunday's sermon.

Mother Laura shares about some brilliant pastoral counsel she received, and I write about some brilliant pastoral counsel that a friend of mine received from another friend. Oh, and it helped me, too!

Kristen has just returned from her first full annual conference. Read about it here and here.

Inclusivity
Inner Dorothy writes about a wonderful service at her church this past Sunday celebrating the congregation's membership in Affirm United.

Mother Laura has a sermon calling for full inclusivity for LGTB people, and PamBG gives us a sermon in a similar vein.

Techno
Sally is standing in the gap between one generation and the next.

Booky
Over in the Lounge, Gallycat has persuaded her local public library system (Virginia's largest) to add a book to its collection! Go find out what!

And speaking of books - don't forget that our May book discussion will be on Monday, May 28, and will cover Velvet Elvis, led by ReverendMother. (I don't think it's really ABOUT Elvis...but I need to get buying so I can find out!

If you buy it through our Amazon Store, our non-profit corporation will get a little dinero!


Blessings on your days! If you forgot to nominate, or just want to jump in, holler at us in the comments!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: High Holy Church Day Edition

Friends,

The above subtitle is completely tongue-in-cheek. Do any of you belong to traditions which hold Mother's Day high and lofty as a church holiday? How do you handle the challenge of Mother's Day expectations? I have been thinking about the British tradition of Mothering Day, which sounds to me a little more inclusive than our tradition here in the states. "Mother" means something rather specific. Mothering, on the other hand, may be done by just about anyone.

I may touch on mothering in my sermon for this week. How I will do that, I'm not sure, since the lectionary for this week doesn't give us much to work with in that regard.

What about you?

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While you're pondering the lectionary, take a break now and again and go to a new RevGalBlogPals feature:Musical Musings, hosted this week by Cathy!

Musical Musings on the RGBP Front


It seems that there is a recurrent theme on Friday Five that runs through so many postings.

HEY! It's not Friday! It's Tuesday! That's ok, we are going to give a run on this and see if you all like it.

Anyway, back to the recurrent theme.... it seems that music seems to be an integral part of our lives - in our work and our leisure. Some of us sing in choirs, some of us are the ministers of music, while others of us make a joyful noise.

I have seen some folks who post on their blog the words to the hymns that speak to them -- others of you share what's in your IPod. We have such a diverse group of folks from so many traditions of the church that there are tons of types of music that you all find spiritually uplifting.

If you are a musician or really in tune with music (ahem that was a pun), you might even be interested in posting in our "Music Musings" (hmmm I like the name of that... I just thought of it). If you think it is something you would like to do, either post it in a comment or email revgalblogpals@gmail.com and let us know where either your expertise lies or what you would like to delve into to share with us. We hope to have different themes of music from the earliest chant to contemporary music in the church. And... we know we don't always listen to sacred music - we can have months where we post other types of music too. We plan on this being a posting once a month, so let us know what you think.

What music do you have right now in your CD player, whether it be in your car or home or work that is a favorite of yours? If you post a favorite CD --- we'll put it in the Amazon Store - maybe someone else will want that CD also.

So, I share with you the CD that is one of my favorites and one that I posted on my blog recently. Maddy Prior, who also sang with Steeleye Span, has a Cd that I really like because of its earthy, upbeat folksy sound of the 18th and 19th century hymns. It's unlike any other rendition of hymns I have heard. I. LOVE. WALKING. TO. THIS. CD. Sing Lustily and with Good Courage, which is quoted from John Wesley, is the name of the CD. Accompanied by lute, recorder, violin, clarinet, guitar and tabor, the hymns are sung more in the style of someone singing them in a Irish pub with a festive kick to them. If this doesn't get your toe to moving and put a little lilt in your step, I don't know what will.




My biggest regret for recommending this one is they don't have any exerpts of this CD that you can sample.

Let us know what CDs you find spiritually uplifting that is in your CD player or IPod Shuffle - we'll put it in our Amazon Music Room to share with others. If someone has a CD that you have, chime in and let them know!

And don't forget, if you want to be a poster on Musical Musings to share your knowledge in the music world, let us know!