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Saturday, June 30, 2007

11th Hour Preacher Party - Plowing Onward Edition

Sorry, early risers - the party's getting started a bit later this week because, well, I just woke up :) The coffee is on and should be ready any minute. That cake fest last week was fabulous for the mind and mouth, but dangerous for the hips, so I've set out some fresh fruit, yogurt, and granola for this week's repast (although I certainly won't try to stop you if you bring something a little less healthy to the table).

Now, on to the actual sermon writing...I don't know about all of you, but I'm feeling that my process this week has been a bit like putting my hand to the plow (a la the Gospel lectionary reading for this week) and trudging forth. But believe me, I've looked back plenty of times. Even this morning, I'm about to ditch the plow and trade it for a guitar for a few hours. In the meantime, I'll be continuing to ponder how to preach these hard sayings of Jesus.

What about you? What ideas or questions are you having as you prepare to preach? Take a seat at the table, preaching pals, and let's plow onward together.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday 5, Gifts and talents

Our Circuit (Methodist) is having a "Gifts and talents day" tomorrow- we have a minister visiting from another circuit who has modified the Myers Briggs personality test and added a few things of his own to run a day where we get to look at ourselves in the light of giftings and of the whole church. The idea is to encourage everyone with the news that there is room for you in the ministry of the church- and perhaps to discover where that ministry might be.....

It should be an interesting day, and one where I hope people will leave feeling encouraged and challenged...

So with gifts and talents in mind here is todays Friday 5;

1. Personality tests; love them or hate them?

2. Would you describe yourself as practical, creative, intellectual or a mixture ?

3. It is said that everyone has their 15 minutes of fame; have you had your yet? If so what was it, if not dream away what would you like it to be?

4. If you were given a 2 year sabatical ( oh the dream of it) to create something would it be music, literature, art.....something completely different...share your dream with us...

5. Describe a talent you would like to develop, but that seems completely beyond you.

Bonus question: Back to the church- what does every member ministry mean to you? Is it truly possible to encourage/ implement?

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.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ask the Matriarch — Whose Discretion Is It, Anyway?

This week, we have a pretty specific question, but it bears exploring because, well, what's the use of a pastor's discretionary fund if the pastor can't use the funds at her discretion?

What makes it particularly thorny is that the suggestions she gets are not frivolous. She just had a slightly different vision for how the discretionary fund should work. Here, I'll let her explain and then open the mike to, first, Jan and Abi, and then the rest of you can chime in on the comments if you want:

The leadership board of my church has set apart a small fund ($200) for me, the pastor, to use when folks come to me with a monetary need. There has never been actual cash provided, just an understanding that if such a need arose, I could disburse some money and get reimbursed through the general fund. I'm okay with that system-- I really don't need that kind of cash lying around the church, and that way of doing things suits how business gets done around here.

Recently, though, some influential members have been "suggesting" ways for me to spend that fund. We have a couple in our church who are out of work, and are over the age of 55, but not old enough to get any kind of benefits. This couple is part of the gang who goes out to brunch after church. (My spouse and I join this brunch group a couple of times a month.) A few of the members of the gang have been dropping hints that I should start picking up the tab for the couple, and get reimbursed through the "pastor's discretionary fund". (Ironic name, don't you think?)

The same folks are hinting very strongly that I should also use the fund to arrange for occasional babysitters for another family in our church with three small children, two of whom have special needs. The parents of these children seldom get time alone, and often look like they've just been run over by a truck, emotionally.

The response I want to give to these Helpy-Helperton members is perhaps not very pastoral: "Gee, why don't we start doing potluck brunch at church? Then everybody could come, regardless of income! Even people with kids!" Gasp! (Somehow I ended up in the only protestant church in the Midwest that is allergic to potlucks!)

And to the second situation: "Shall I give the _____s your phone numbers and let them know you'll take turns watching the kids two Saturday nights a month for them?"

It seems that often the solution to problems around here is money, which many people here have lots of. How can I effectively reinforce the theology that we can take care of each other in ways that build stronger bonds than simply throwing money at a problem?

And am I being silly and proprietary about this money? I pictured using it for a family who couldn't make the gas bill or something like that, or to help someone with groceries. I know that the needs that are being expressed are legitimate, and come from genuine concern, but they are not coming from the potential recipients, so therein lies the danger of embarrassing someone by pointing out a need they might not be ready to acknowledge to others.

Help, Matriarchs!
Potluckless Pastor

First, from Jan:
You are on the right track, IMHO, in wanting to train members to care for this couple. It sounds like they want you to use the discretionary fund for "fairy godmother" functions rather than helping someone who has no one else to help him/her. Clearly these members (the jobless middle-agers and the couple who need a night out) are surrounded by people who love them. This is what a missional church does: reach out to those in their own community who need assistance rather than depend upon someone else to write a check on their behalf, etc.

This could be an awesome opportunity for your congregation. For example, we had a member with two children under 4 whose husband was in Iraq, and every Tuesday night, a different family brought her dinner and/or babysat for her so she could go grocery shopping, etc. It bound her to these church friends forever.

If they take turns treating their friends, it could be amazing. I can imagine the couple in need and the young mom don't want to be considered "charity cases," but this is not what's happening. This is simply what God's people do for each other. It's called grace. (UNLESS you indeed serve people who can't do this without holding each other hostage.)

Sounds like you need to establish the true purpose of this $200 fund. If it's truly discretionary for the pastor, then the pastor gets to decide how to use it. If they have a purpose in mind and you simply get to decide when to use it, then that needs to be established.

Abi says:
If you are going to start helping these families out of the discretionary fund, you are going to need a whole lot more than what you have right now. Even to help people with utility bills now days is costly.

Your two ideas aren't all that bad; maybe you could present it differently. I hate hints, myself; you are expected to make some assumptions by the hints. See if you can get them to clarify your hints first to see if that's really what they are suggesting. I am not sure the members are aware of how little money you have in your fund to utilize. I don't know what denomination you are in, but they are asking you to override the board for how they designated this fund to be used.

I would find myself saying, "that's not what this is set up for at this time. But you know this is great that God has given us/you this opportunity for ministry? How will you answer it? What might God be asking you to do? Asking the church to do?"

And if they don't know, send them home to pray over it and think about it, and when they know to come back and tell you or the board or the Chair of the Board. Now, if they come back and say something about it has to do with money, get them to help you set up people to babysit or pay for a babysitter, helping this couple to find a job of sorts, paying for a resume service. If nothing else, encourage them to set up a new fund for this new ministry.

We have a fund at our church to help members in times of crises. We have even held a fundraiser to raise money for a family with really high medical bills and husband out of work.

One last thing: The fund at the church is at my discretion. But I do check things out before I use it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wednesday Festival - A Wedding Edition

Greetings from the Grace Happens household! We officially welcomed a "new" member into the GH family - Daughter-in-Love! I posted some pictures, here!

Let us see what others have going on this week, shall we?

We had very few unexpected surprises during the wedding worship, but Kate had an awfully surprising Eucharist.

Since I'm a pastor, I usually have a biased view of weddings, brides and mothers-of-the-bride-and-groom. As Mother of the Groom, I've learn a great deal about the groom's side of the wedding! Praying on the Prairie, who is celebrating her 200th post, posts for us 100 things she's learned since being consecrated. Congrats on your 200th post, T!

Weddings give families official "adoption" of new members. The members of the Quoditian Grace family have been busy in court on an adoption case of their own. Looks like Bunny Fu Fu has finally found a home. Will you be making up a new song to celebrate, QG?????

I'll be posting wedding cake pictures later, but Presbyterian Frog has the recipe for Red Velvet Cake. She says you may need to make two batches of frosting however.

I agree with Amy at Faith Musing that motherhood and ministry always make for interesting and often delightful combinations. Pop over to her blog and see what her son has been up to.

Our Son has always been a pretty good kid - for a double PK. As far as I know, he hasn't gotten into any legal entanglements, but the KnittinPreacher - well, you better check out what happened to her!

Son and DIL have had a storybook romance for the last four years. Presbyterian Gal has started a new story. She calls it, "A strange romance that plays with the question: What is real and what is 'here'? perceptively speaking. It's called 'Que Sera Sera' and there are two installments so far." Part three comes today. Can't wait to read it, Gal!

Son just graduated from Graduate School in a Midwestern State. It was a pretty far drive from where we live. Reverendmother points out that there has been some good discussion and comments about the value of distance learning in a seminary education as a result of this post. And for a BONUS, check out the Holy Toast. Son and DIL did NOT receive one of those for a wedding gift!!!!

For DIL's Bridal Shower, the guest were asked to bring along their favorite recipe so she can start a recipe box. Reverend Mommy's been thinking about spiritual food, recipes and Christians. She wants to know - "Is there a recipe for a 'Christian?'"

We live near Chautauqua Institute and it's good to read Gannet Girl's writings about the original Chautauqua Institution with links to old posts and images here. And she blogs about their visit this past Sunday here. If you haven't been to CI, you really should try to get there! It is AWESOME! And the concerts aren't bad either.

After taking some vacation to prepare for the big day, I've got to get back into the swing of things and get some pastoral visits in. Just Jill writes about a pastoral visit that moved her tremendously. Pop over and check it out! Good stuff!

Thinking back to Chautauqua, it would have been cool for a RevGal meet up with Gannet Girl - if we would have only been home. Quaker Pastor and Lady Burg had just the opportunity when LB and her youth group stopped by on their mission trip. Lady Burg was also planning another meet-up. Can you guess which other RevGalPal she was planning to visit?

DIL's three year old niece was the Flower Girl and she thought DIL looked just like her "Barbie Bride" doll she has. She also thought she looked like a "Disney Princess!" She said a lot of cute things about the wedding. Cpclergymama had an interesting conversation with her two year old daughter in the car. Art Linkletter was right - kids say the darnedest things!

I wish I could tell you everything that happened at the reception, but that would take too long. Here are some other nominations you might like to read instead of my boring stories. There's one about the semi-official perfume of the RGPB from Cheesehead's blog. Sally's Double Rainbow (Not what you think!). We offer up prayers for Bad Alice. Mary Beth has some fab photos. And Lorna asks, "Can you see Him?" Princess Mindy needs our help!

And last - but certainly not the least among us - a big CONGRATULATIONS to our very own Gallycat
for winning a very prestigious publishing award.

One of my very favorite wedding songs is by Michael Card, simply entitled, "Wedding Song." It goes like this:

Lord of light, oh, come to this wedding
Take the doubt and darkness away
Turn the water of lifeless living
To the wine of gladness we pray

Mother Mary's gently requesting
That you might do whatever you can
Though she may be impatient she loves you
And so she asks what she can't understand

So amidst the laughter and feasting
There sits Jesus full with the fun
He has made them wine because He is longing
For a wedding that's yet to come

And as the Church United, we say, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"

Party on!

Be blessed!


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Follow Me Edition

Yesterday when I began looking at the texts for this week, I couldn't help myself but start singing "I will follow him, follow him whereever he may go...".

Do you remember that moment in the movie "Sister Act" when the choir starts singing that song? Originally a love song about devotion to a boy, suddenly the song took on new meaning.

There is a lot of calling "Follow me" going on in the lectionary this week. For me, to answer a call to follow involved changing my life completely--or at least it felt that way. For some, the changes that must be made to follow faithfully in the path down which God leads might be more subtle.

In the gospel lesson this week, those who are hesitant to follow Jesus 'right this minute' have really good reasons--burying one's parent, saying good buy to one's family--so clearly it is a complicated thing to follow Christ. The urgency that Christ felt, having turned his face towards Jerusalem, was not yet felt by those he had called. This week I am thinking about the reasons--or excuses--we use for not fully following Jesus.

How about you? What are you pondering this week?


While you are pondering following, don't forget to wander down to the Book Pals post from yesterday and continue the discussion about Walking the Bible by Bruce Feiler!

Monday, June 25, 2007

RevGalBookPals: Walking The Bible

Walking the Bible is more than a travel book. It includes history, geography, archaeology, anthropology, natural history and religion-- all wrapped around the personal spiritual journey of the author, Bruce Feiler. That’s why it was chosen as one of the summer book selections for the RevGalBookPals.

We’ve posted some video clips, courtesy of You Tube, before this discussion today that I hope helped your imagination engage the descriptions of the lands and people Feiler visited. I wish we could sit down together and view the DVD from PBS. That is a wonderful supplement to the text. Most of us will never be able to visit the places Feiler did because of the difficulty of traveling in the strife-ridden Middle East. The armchair journey Feiler takes us on is therefore all the more compelling.

Last week I re-read Walking the Bible in preparation for this book discussion and tabbed many favorite pages with little post-its before realizing that I’d be writing a lengthy essay instead of prompting a lively discussion if I tried to discuss all of them here. So….

To kick off our discussion, here are some questions to ponder.

1. Feiler begins his journey believing that it was “ about me and the Bible, not about me and God.”

Was it?

2. Feiler meets many people who believe that if they could prove the events of the Bible happened by finding Noah’s Ark, or the Garden of Eden, or the Burning Bush, the existence of God would also be proved.

Why do they believe this? Would it affect your own faith and belief if these relics were discovered and proved authentic?

3. Some of the experts the author interviews in the book say that there is no evidence that Moses existed or for the exodus.

Do you think that it is important to prove events chronicled in the first 5 books of the Bible really happened? Why or why not?

4. The premise of the book, and the journey, is that visiting the lands where the Biblical story originated brings a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Bible.

Did the “armchair journey” provided by the book do that for you as a reader?

5. Feiler and his guide read portions of the first 5 books of the Bible aloud to each other that were appropriate to each place they visited.

I would love to read the last verses of Deuteronomy on Mount Nebo, overlooking the valley where Moses was buried:
Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel. Deuteronomy 34, 10-12.
What verses from the Pentateuch would you like to read in their original setting?

6. If I could read a portion of the New Testament in its original setting, I would like to read Revelation on the Isle of Patmos.

What part of the New Testament would you choose to read and where would you read it?

Don’t be limited by these questions! Feel free to share any opinions, insights and reactions to Bruce Feiler’s Walking the Bible.

Unfortunately I have to be away from the computer most of the day today, which just kills me because I’m sure this will be a great discussion. I’ll check back later this afternoon and look forward to reading all your comments.

REMINDER: I will also host the next RevGalBookPals discussion on July 23. Our July book is: A Vision of Light: A Margaret of Ashbury Novel (Margaret of Ashbury Trilogy)by Judith Merkel Riley'. A Vision of Light is the first part of a trilogy about Margaret of Ashbury who discovers she has the gift of healing in medieval England. Follow Margaret as she strives to fulfill God’s will despite the limitations that society and the church placed on women. It’s an easy and fun read that is authentic in historical setting and characterizations. Margaret is a great character! Order your copy through the RevGals Amazon store link on the sidebar and RGBP Inc. will benefit.

And now, on to the discussion of Bruce Feiler's Walking The Bible.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday Prayer

Gracious God, even when our world feels unpredictable and chaotic, we trust that the sun will rise and set each day, and the seasons will turn according to the wonder and wisdom of creation.

In the same way, O God, we know that regardless of who we are, where we are, and how we are – we are yours, and your love is as constant as the sun and moon.

So in thanksgiving and praise, we offer the prayers and concerns of our hearts. As we celebrate the beauty and splendour of the summer season, we do so knowing that we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the bounty all around us.

It is up to us to preserve and care for the earth, sea, and sky. Guide us God, as we seek to be thankful stewards of creation.

We lift our hearts in prayer for those whose needs we have named aloud and for those whose needs are known only to you. We take a moment now to silently ponder your grace and your power to bring strength, comfort and healing where it is needed...

We praise you, God, and ask your blessing this day, and every day, in the name of 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, June 23, 2007

11th Hour Preacher Party: Let Them Eat Cake Edition

In celebration of a birthday at my house this week, I hereby declare this the all cake, all the time Preacher Party (because I'm sure you know that cyber cake cannot hurt you in any way).

Stop in for a piece of coffee cake and a cup of coffee to go with it. Hot water is on for tea, too. Anyone for chai?

Tell us what you're working on today, and share a favorite cake, too!

We'll be here all day. And possibly all night...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Five: Hot Town, Summer in the City...

...or town, or suburb, or hamlet, or burg, or unincorporated zone, or rural area of your choice---pretty much anywhere but the southern hemisphere, it's summer. (Australians and others, consider this an invitation to take a break from winter for a while.)

1. Favorite summer food(s) and beverage(s)

2. Song that "says" summer to you. (Need not be about summer explicitly.)

3. A childhood summer memory

4. An adult summer memory

5. Describe a wonderful summer day you'd like to have in the near future. (weather, location, activities)

Optional: Does your place of worship do anything differently in the summer? (Fewer services, casual dress, etc.)

Let us know in comments if you play. If you're feeling up to it, 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, June 21, 2007

Ask the Matriach: The Biblical Bully

Remember the contagious negativity post? Remember when we talked about Contagious Negativity? It inspired this follow-up.

Hi Matriarchs!

I loved your answer so much about dealing with negativity that I thought I'd pose another one. I know a gifted young woman who isn't going into ministry because she doesn't ever want to have to deal with:

The Biblical Bully.

You know who I mean... the person who squirms through life (usually with a lot of messed-up relationships behind them) but insists that the simplest reading of every quote they know by heart is the only reading God condones. If you've got some good advice up your sleeve that I can pass on, you might just make ministry sound like a possibility for another great woman.

Just the thought of the Biblical Bully makes me put my hand to my head and sigh. At a recent wedding, attendees were blasted by the preacher's repeated exhortations for the wife to SUBMIT TO HER HUSBAND!!! We felt bullied; well, one young lady got the giggles and couldn't stop laughing.

But anyways, I suspect many of us know someone who fits the bully bill. Singing Owl sure does. "Biblical Bully? I know him! In fact, I have known dozens. They probably abound in some denominations more than others." Her tendency (good pastor that she is) is try to fix everyone, figuring that "with enough reason the point will be obvious. That, of course, is wishful thinking! I used to give B.B. more room than I should have, hoping to win the person over."

But over time, she's decided if it hasn't worked to now, it won't. "As time has passed, I’ve given up on reason gaining the victory with a bully. A bully hardly ever responds to either arguments or cajoling. Placating a bully never works! It is like the kid who steals your lunch money. Giving him more money just makes him worse. Sooner or later, the behavior must be confronted."

No more Mrs. Nice Gal, well, not as much anyway
She continues: "So, now I take a deep breath, and I remind myself that God loves this person, and I pray for God’s love to flow in me, since I know that if it were just me I might just want to smack him or her, or at least roll my eyes in disdain." Yay for grace!

On to the practical: B.B's tend to be drama queens—people who thrive on other people's conflict. It's a kind of what some call emotional vampirism: These folks stir it up because they enjoy seeing other people angry. One of the best things you can do is not escalate it. "Any kind of bully must be confronted with calm firmness," says Singing Owl. "I’m not suggesting that reason be discarded, but after stating why I do not agree, I tend to leave it at that. Biblical Bully loves to argue, but don’t get caught in that trap."

You can respect their opinion while not agreeing with it. (Heck, I have to do this with DFH from time to time.) And you can gently suggest that they move on, if need be. "In one case, though it hurt to do it, the leadership of the church had to ask the person to go," says Singing Owl. "Nowadays, I refuse to spend lots of time stewing over it, something I used to do, asking myself over and over how it could have ended differently. Life is too short, and there are too many wonderful people who will welcome the ministry of a loving pastor. If we focus on the bully, he has won. Let B. B. know he or she is loved, but then focus elsewhere and be about the work of the Kingdom!"

Laughter is the best flak jacket
Jan suggests that the best way to deal with a B.B. is with a sense of humor. " Maybe all you need is to start collecting snappy retorts to silly comments," she says, offering the following scenarios:

Biblical Bully on bus who notices Bible in your lap (to you): I see you've got
a Bible.
You: Yes, I'm a seminarian.
Bib Bully: What? My Bible says that women can't speak in church!
You: Interesting. My Bible says "The one who calls you is faithful; he will do this."

Biblical Bully on sidewalk comments on your cross necklace and says:
BB: I see you're wearing a cross. Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior?
You: Uh, yes.
BB: I go to the local Bible Church. Where do you worship?
You: Actually I go to a Bible Church too. It's called First Presbyterian.

For your friend, Jan offers this advice. "Sister—have confidence. You need to be more afraid of God than of any bully out there. If God is calling you, it's important to listen." And while I've never been keen on the "fear God" model, I agree with Jan. My denomination has quite a few bullies (regardless of what point of view I actually hold). But I'm always pleased to see the leadership continuing to listen.

How about you? Ever deal with a Biblical Bully? Share your amusing anecdotes and how you dealt with this common problem in the comments!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wednesday Thunderfestival Edition

Hello folks - we have had quite a bit of thunder around here, with a little rain to boot. More rain would be appreciated so if you have any to spare, send some our way.

On to the Wednesday Festival participants.

1-4 Grace has a quiz that I double dog dare ya to take -- because those questions - I did GOOD - but I won't win the prize - see if you do.

Junia's Daughter presents a trilogy of posts of her celebration, conflict, and resolution.

911 ! Reverend Mother's little one takes a trip to the emergency room!

Inner Dorothy has a most interesting photo on her blog -- and she has a challenge -- are you up for it, twinkle toes?

Let's hope we don't have to go to the drive thru for this - Deb posts an alert! and asks we take action on it!

Sally is looking for women's equality throughout the world and then offers us some calming pictures.

Hey! Did you know that there was not only a RevGalBlogPal meetup, but a RevGalMOMPal meetup at the Wild Hog Restaurant - check it out here.

Happy Birthday to the birthday girls! Across the pond from each other here and here.

What do you do when you come to your ? Help out Clever Title with her milestone post.

Need chill bumps or tears? Watch this on Quotidian Grace's blog as she has been tracking this diamond in the rough.

The County Fair strikes!!! We have a winner with ribbons to prove it on Shekinah Jubilee's blog.

You are invited to share other posts in the comment section. And remember to send your nominations to You can nominate yourself or others. Thanks for those who did send in their nominations. Now go tattle tale on your RGBP neighbor!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Back to Reality Edition

Vacay was wonderful, but now it's time for me to roll up my sleeves and get back to work! Many thanks toReverend Mommy for filling in right before her medical episode! Having been on the nursemaid end of that drama only seven weeks ago, I understand how frightening it can be. Speedy recovery, Reverend Mommy!

I usually take my first peeks at the Lectionary here. Sometimes I find a text that does not appear in most RCL (Revised Common Lectionary) lists. This week was one of those times. I am concentrating this week on theIsaiah 65: 1-9 text. When I read the text, the phrase "wine in the cluster" is what "shimmered" (to use a $3 seminary word).

Wine in the cluster speaks of great potential, great hope, to me. When God could give up on us, God does not, for God sees the wine that is still waiting, still growing in the cluster of grapes. God sees what we are yet to be, even when we feel as if we are dying on the vine.

I'm also thinking of the amazing story of Paul Potts (not to be confused with Pol Pot) this week. If you do not know this story, you can see it at Quotidian Grace's place here and here. Even if this story does not make it into my sermon--and who knows, it's only Tuesday--it makes me smile.

What about you? Any shimmering going on out there this summery day?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Meet n Greet: Country Cable Edition

Greetings Meet n' Greet fans!

Apparantly here in the country the mouse keeps falling of the wheel and the internet stops working. Hopefully I'll get this finished before it slips off again.

Here are today's Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 - Meet
Servant's Quarters
A Year Acceptable
Meaning and Authenticity
Chapter 2 - Greet
The one and only... Songbird
Chapter 3 - Book Tease
Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses


Servant's Quarters: This blog is about my thoughts - I'm a minister in a small New Jersey church, mom to four sons, wife to a great husband, and trying to be an agent of the kingdom of God. Head on over and see if you can get Susan Gillespie to post again... then again she does have 4 sons.

A Year Acceptable : In the Judeo-Christian tradition of the Sabbath and Jubilee years and Jesus' first public proclamation, I am attempting to live 2007 as a year acceptable to self, others, and God. Here is more about the author, "Born in a small midwestern town, I have fondness for forests and lakes but have recently taken to the intellectual and spiritual delights of Boston and England. I work for a church-related institution in a mid-size, mid-atlantic city which is a pleasant-enough-non-place."

A Year Acceptable could also use a gentle nudge to return to the world de blog. Pentecost and fame take up her late May/early June musings.

Meaning and Authenticity: Blogging ministry, psychology, politics and other things that count in Katherine's world. Ministry, pastoral counseling, spiritual direction. Written by Katherine E. who shares these words about herself, "Second career minister. Married late in life. Three great stepchildren. Becoming authentic, learning to love. Ph.D. in pastoral counseling and theology. A good life."

Join Katherine for a thoughtful Susan Howatch quote and a powerful post about Iraq.


GREET - Songbird

1) Got blog? (where do you blog)

2) What are your favorite non-revgalblogpal blogs?
Phantom Scribbler
Birmingham Blues
Evensong Martini Club (

3) What gives you joy?
Seeing my whole family together; hearing beautiful music; feeling the Spirit move.

4) What is your favorite sound?
My dog Molly's greeting: “Wroo-wroo!”

8) Write the first sentence of your own great American novel.
The sidewalks in her hometown were old and made of bricks, and in those bricks, disarranged by the roots of ancient and enormous trees, she found her strength.

9) What color do you prefer your pen?

10) What magazines do you subscribe to?
The Christian Century and formerly The New Yorker, but no one gives it to me for Christmas anymore. Boohoo.

11) Why are you cool?
Because I listen to Kanye West and know how to do html coding at age 45.

12) What is one of your favorite memories?
Being in the water at Virginia Beach in my dad’s arms, moving up and down with the waves, while he taught me the names of the states that began our country. I was probably three or four.

14) What is something you want to achieve this year? This decade? This lifetime?
I would like to write a book (on one of those timelines).

Would you like to be featured in the Meet n' Greet? For a free survey please email: preacherbloggerprocrastinator (at)gmail(dot)com.
No purchase necessary. Offer void in Hawaii, Alaska, and Tibet. Any likeness between the writer and Brooke Shields is entirely in the head of the writer. All characters contained in her blog are fictional except her husband, her child, her friends, her family and basically any one else she mentions. The rest are fictional.

NEXT WEEK: REVGALBOOKPALS WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN!!! (and Mesopotamians and other people of God)

Join in the conversation next week as we discuss such riveting questions such as...

Would Jesus create a video montage of his life using MTV editing and the Lion King soundtrack?

When 'Walking the Bible' does it still count if you are wearing hiking boots or does it have to be sandals?

And of course: Why did God have to choose such an ass-hot place to be the Holy land?

Thanks. You've been great. Please don't forget to tip your waiter.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Walking the Bible-Video Introduction

For those of you reading Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses for the RevGals book discussion that I will host a week from Monday, here's a 10 minute video overview of the book that features some spectacular photography of the places Feiler visited and wrote about!

If you haven't started reading the book yet, there's still time to get it and join in our discussion here on Monday. You can order the book from the RevGals Amazon store by clicking on the sidebar link.

Sunday Prayer

Holy and Wondrous Creator, in an act of love so powerful as to be beyond comprehension, you created all that was, is, and will be. This is another day that you have created, and you have filled it with beauty and possibilities. We thank you, God, for the promise of another day and another opportunity to live for you and incarnate the peace, love and justice to which we are called.

Guide us through this day, O God, that we might create spaces of safe refuge for those who especially need to hear a word of hope spoken with genuine compassion. May those who live in the chaos of illness of body, mind or spirit, find the peaceful order of someone who cares. May the lonely hear the friendly words of a companion that will break up the monotony of hours spent alone. May the grieving feel your arms wrapped closely around them in their pain, and may they see the face of Christ in friends who care.

God, we pray for all the creatures of the earth. We ask forgiveness for our neglect of the sacred gift of our planet and ask for guidance as we learn how to better care for its needs. Bless our winged and four-footed friends, as well as the fish and reptiles. Bless our pets God, for they bring such joy to our lives.

God, with you nothing is impossible, and so I pray for an end to war and conflict. Help us, each of us, to make all the difference in the world, simply by living as Jesus taught us to live. It is in his name that we pray. Amen.


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, June 16, 2007

11th Hour Preacher Party

I've spent the last week at my denomination's annual conference, and my brain is deep into themes of unity and reconciliation. In one of our worship times, we were asked to turn to the people next to us and say, "I need you." The same is true here; without you, my Saturday sermon prep time would be much less hopeful and entertaining!

At General Synod, we welcomed each other with loving words (sometimes the first spoken between us in years). Here, I welcome you with the great virtual table, spread with nourishment of all kinds: an egg casserole, cranberry muffins, and of course, the required endless flow of coffee. Come in, sit down, relax, converse; our house doesn't always look like this - sometime it's even worse! Oops, that was a sign on the wall of my family's cabin. Come in nonetheless, and join in the weekly discussion. We're here, to lend assistance, encouragement, and humor, and most of all to listen.

Come, Holy Spirit, and meet us as we prepare.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday 5, books, books, books....

I've just returned from a meeting in Cambridge so I'm posting this late here in the UK (it is 3:45pm).. because I took the opportunity of a free afternoon in Cambridge's wonderful book shops... I only bought a few- and they were on sale- very restrained for me!!!

So with my head full of books I've seen and a long wish list in my mind, I bring you a Friday Five on books!!!

1. Fiction what kind, detective novels, historical stuff, thrillers, romance????

2. When you get a really good book do you read it all in one chunk or savour it slowly?

3. Is there a book you keep returning to and why?

4. Apart from the Bible which non-fiction book has influenced you the most?

5. Describe a perfect place to read. ( could be anywhere!!!)

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.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ask the Matriarch — On Starting Discernment

I completely sympathize with the person who submitted this question, because I could ask the same thing. And the best part is that the second part of her question needs your input, because we focused on the first.

As a single woman who has my own household, bills, etc. I am finding the idea of uprooting all that and becoming a student again rather frightening.

(a) How does one do this? I need practical advice on selling a house, paying off a car, saving, wrapping up all the regular life financial stuff so I can go back to school. Heck what do I do with my lawn mower, my furniture, my CATS! I'm not even entirely sure what the question is, it's so large!

(b)If you could recommend one (and only one) book to a youngish woman starting her discernment what would it be?

OK, everyone, we're opening part B (and a good chunk of part A) up to all of you; please recommend one book for our questioner. After all, if all of you do, she'll have to read more than four books a week to get through all of them in one year.

But as for part A, let me start by reassuring you it can be done. It's not easy, and you may have to make some sacrifices—I know this because I've looked into it as well, and wound up taking a slightly different route for the time being since I'm still raising kids and the primary breadwinner for my family. But even with that the case, I've found something that works for me. I'll share that in a moment, but first, hear what our matriarchs have to say.

First off, it's hard to give specific information without an idea of which denomination you're in and what options you have. That said, says Peripatetic Polar Bear, "If you are from a denomination that allows you to choose your own seminary, I'd encourage you to start out your seminary experience near home. There are intensive courses at various seminaries (check out Marie at Loud, Brash and Dramatic--she's done this a couple times) or commute. This would allow you to stay in your home longer."

PPB continues, "If you must or wish to move to go to seminary, remember you will most likely live in an apartment there, too--the cats can come, some of the furniture will be needed! You'll have to weigh out what to do with the rest--remember it's a relatively short time and you may want all that furniture later! You might look into storing it."

Abi adds, "If you can't afford storage and your family can't keep things for you, have a major yard sale, and then whatever you don't sell, give away. Except for the cats! Try to live somewhere that allows cats. They are your family in a way, take them with you if you can, you will need them and they will need you."

A big undertaking
More from Abi: "It is huge what you are doing. Take a deep breath, and take it step by step and one day at a time. Make a list of what you don't need and what you will need, what you can do with out, and then go from there." At the same time, there is the question of how you will maintain yourself in the meantime. Do you have a financial advisor? As it happens, I presently work for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, and I know quite a few. Or, as Abi notes, there might be someone at your church you can talk to, or perhaps your minister or someone from diocese/conference/etc. office could recommend someone.

Also, says PPB, "Sit down with the financial aid officer at a few of the schools that you are considering. Find out if selling your house is going to help or hurt you. (You may be better off keeping it and renting it out.) My experience has been that most financial aid officers are a wealth of a information about the ins and outs of financial aid. They are on your side, remember! Lots of seminary students are still paying on cars. Pay it off if you possibly can, but it's not an entrance requirement!

And while PPB adds that she's no financial expert, "the financial and logistical stuff will resolve itself. There are lots of people who can and will help you with that stuff. I'm guessing that seminary in and of itself is probably freaking you out a bit. I'd spend some time with that question--do some visiting of schools, meet with students similar in age and life-circumstance to you--ask how they did it--not just financially, but major change of life-wise! Sit with the discernment questions. Sit with the what would it be like to go back to school again questions--money is scary but it is probably the easiest piece of it. My sister always says that any problem you can throw money at is not really a problem. That's easy for her wealthy self to say, but my poor self has figured out that there is some truth in it. When I'm most freaked out about money and logistics--it's usually not about the money or the logistics."

Jan shares a story on how far some people have gone to make it work, and you can consider this a cautionary tale. "We have supported several seminarians through the years and all have been single women. Unfortunately, one seminarian left with the expectation that our congregation would support her in ways that we found difficult to manage. She wrote letters to the church newsletter and to individual members which almost always 1) reminded us that she had sold all she had and this was really hard, and 2) we, as her congregation were responsible for her now. Well, yes . . . and no. We have a fund to support seminarians, but she also sent us bills for other expenses from plane tickets to groceries. Over-the-top stuff. She expected members to pay for hair cuts when she was home, for example. She sent us her papers, her sermons, her tests, her schedules saying that because she was going to seminary, 'we were all going to seminary.'

"This is an extreme example, but I share it because your relationship with your home church will be important," Jan continues. "Appreciate them. Let them know how things are going. Share details as they seem interested. But remember that this is your decision (with God's prodding, and I hope with your congregation's encouragement) and there are certain things they will not be able to do for you or with you . . . just like the congregation you will one day serve.It's important to establish good boundaries now, while also figuring out where to get the variety of support (financial, spiritual, emotional) you'll need. God-speed to you!"

Your input?
Our matriarchs note that this is one area where their experience fails them, because, as Abi puts it, "Its been too long ago for me. And I went right out of college with nothing to Seminary.I hope some of you who have done this will speak out. And I hope some of you who are presently students will speak out too." Again, audience participation is a key on this AtM!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wednesday festival: Fun in the Sun

Greetings and welcome to the fun in the sun with Wednesday Festival,

Time for a revgal meetup
We have had a revgal meetup with Mary Beth and Cathy, all because of St. Teresa. Read all about it at Cathy's Grace Notes, and also, there's a picture of the two revgals! (I for one am jealous. Where oh where art thou St. Teresa?)

Ideas for Worship
Snow on Roses has written a liturgy for Seekers based on the Episcopalian Compline Service. She would like for you to give her some feedback on what she has written. So go read it and giver her some feedback on a Seeker's Compline.
Frodo has also written a thoughtful liturgy on Risk taking and Forgiveness. ( I see a revgalblogpals book or worship in the making, mmm.)
Miapappi at Kaikesta huolimatta / No matter what writes "I don't wed people unless I meet them at least once and the same applies to a blessing of a marriage." (What about you?)

Time for some fun quizes of the day.
Frodo asks the all important question? Are any of us destined for world domination?? Go see the new quiz from blogthings about my destiny at his blog. ( I suspect our answers will be a lot like his.)
Eternal Echoes also has some quiz questions for us:
So readers a quiz: Is P male/ female?
Did or didn't P get in touch again?
from the new-age fair , are answered here. (Did you get it right?)

Something to celebrate
Get ready to rumble; Unfinished Symphony has written her, drumroll please, POST NUMBER 300!!!???. So go congratulate her on her 300th post!. (I haven't counted mine, but I think I have a lot less than her, but congrats.)

Be Careful out there
On another note, Cheesehead had a run-in with a tree, and writes about the event here. ( I think there are quite a few of you who can relate to her.)

A word from God
While in exile, Lorna at See Through Faith hears a word from God to build houses, plant gardens. It is a very beautiful post to read. (Gee, I think I hear Clean toliets, pick up trash....)
Lorna was also, kind enough to let us know what she has been reading by nominating a few of you, thanks Lorna.

Sermons and artwork
Shawna R. B. Atteberry brings us her sermon on Mary and Martha. She has a different take on Mary and Martha, relating it to Ordinary Time. Go see how she does it, she has a painting included too. ( I like the different view.)
Anglobaptist also brings us a sermon on The Unexpected Guest in only way he does. ( Hey, maybe we could write a book with our sermons in it, and be invited to preach at the Festival of Homiletics?)
Eternal Echoes brings us her narrative musings on Luke 7:36-8:3. Go and muse with her. ( I enjoyed the artwork she included.)

More Artwork
And last but not list Eternal Echoes brings us another picture and some thoughts on Missional pneumatology. (I have got to read this one, because I don't know what this is, and nor do I know who is in the painting, maybe you do.)

You are invited to share other posts in the comment section. And remember to send your nominations to You can nominate yourself or others. Thanks for those who did send in their nominations.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings

There are certain passages in the Gospels that are really hard for me to understand. I like this passage from Luke 7: it features the devotion and gratitude of a woman redeemed, but I must say that for a long time now, I just don't get the hair thing.

It's not a hang up or anything (or maybe it is), but I just can't get around it being her hair. In 1 Cor 11, Paul calls a woman's hair her crowning glory. In these stories of Jesus' feet being anointed with oil or tears and wiped with a woman's hair is bemusing to me -- what are they really to mean?

In the other Gospels the incident occurs just before the Passion -- actually as a part of the Passion narrative and has overtones of a priestly action. I like that -- a woman anointing as a priest would the feet of Jesus. The focus is on the sacrifice of Jesus and the humility of the woman.

In Luke, however, the focus is much more on the woman's "sinner's" nature -- and her gratitude to Jesus for her redemption and forgiveness.

But I still end up thinking about the hair. There is a sensuality that is undeniable here and an extravagant outpouring of love. I know how my hair will catch scent: I wonder how long she was haunted by that odor? Of course that points out another difference between Luke's account and the other Gospels -- in this account there is an emphasis on the tears of the woman. Is that significant? Should we view them as completely different stories? First because this story in Luke occurs in the middle of Jesus' ministry and the others nearer to the Passion narrative; second because in Luke there is mention of tears and then the oil or ointment or perfume.

This wiping with the hair -- it's disturbing. It's totally out of character for a first century Jewish woman to let her hair down in public and then it has definite erotic overtones. It's so intimate. What is it with the hair??

But it is an extravagance of love being poured out. And maybe a form of complete dedication -- as is pointed out in the Galatians text "and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Perhaps these passages are about complete devotion.

What are you thinking about this Tuesday morning?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday Musical Musings: The Ministry Mixed Tape Edition

Ah. The mixed tape. I remember staying up sooo late in the 90s painstakingly dubbing songs onto blank cassette tapes for friends. Every song had to say something, you know? The advent of personal CD burners and iPods changed the form of the mixed tape, but the craft remains the same: someone handpicks music for someone else. Today, I get to be the someone and y'all get to be the someone else!

I hereby present my RevGalBlogPals with this virtual Ministry Mixed Tape (otherwise known as the Pastoral Playlist), with commentary included.

1. The Lord's Prayer: from Aaron Neville's CD The Grand Tour

One of the cardinal rules of the craft is that the first song has to be really stinkin' good. You can't mess around with #1. It sets the tone for the whole project. I'm taking a risk here with a "slow song," but you can't go wrong with Neville, and you sure can't go wrong with the Lord's Prayer.

2. The Gathering of Spirits: from the CD Betty's Diner: The Best of Carrie Newcomer
Song #2 also has a lot of responsibility. It has to sustain the energy the preceding tune, plus it should have something to say about the relationship at hand. Even though this song has been around a lot longer than RevGalBlogPals, it's like she's writing about us! We are a "gathering of spirits, a festival of friends"! And we are certainly "standing in the center of something rare and fine." I first heard this song performed live by Carrie Newcomer at a conference for United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ women. It's gorgeous and revelatory, and that's even before Allison Krauss shows up to sing backup.

3. Beautiful Change: The Innocence Mission from the CD Befriended

This is the song from which the title of my blog was borrowed. It's about hoping for that much-needed quiet transformation, especially on the days it seems most far off. "Oh, I am going to find some peace of mind. At any time I could change, any day, a beautiful change." The Innocence Mission is in my personal pantheon of glorious bands. Their lyrics are simple but powerful, and they've deconstructed their former 90s alt-pop sound into shimmering folk music.

4. Sign on the Door: Kasey Chambers from the CD Carnival
I love to listen to this in the car, turned up way louder than what would be considered appropriate. Gotta do something to drown out my singalong! This is all energy and celebration and, though Chambers doesn't bill herself as a religious artist, praise. The chorus is catchy as all get out: "Open up the up the sky/ All gather around/ Praise the lord and/ Take a look at what i found/ (I got a) love thats as big as raging storm/ I got walls coming down that I need no more/ I got a sign on the door that says/ Lonely don't live here anymore." The only catch to all that catchiness is that it'll get in your head and loop indefinitely.

5. Man in Black: Johnny Cash from the CD Life

This is the song I hear whenever I wear my black preaching robe. It's the most amazing song about prophetic witness I've ever heard. Johnny Cash explains the reasons why he lived and died in black - for the poor, the hungry, the prisoners, the "sick and lonely old." It's a pastoral prayer for justice in the form of a country song.

6. Long Lost Brother: Over the Rhine from the CD Ohio
You can call me biased, you can call me mildly obsessed. But Over the Rhine is the best band in the land, period. I could go on (and on and on), but for the purposes of this post, I'll try to keep my enthusiasm directed toward the song at hand. Long Lost Brother is the song I turn to when it's my fault and I know it. When I've messed up and there isn't a thing to do but seek forgiveness. When I'm scared I'm not good enough and know I need help. "I wanna do better/ I wanna try harder/ I wanna believe/ Down to the letter// Jesus and Mary/ Can you carry us/ Across this ocean/ Into the arms of forgiveness." This song unravels me, but when we get all knotted up it's good to have some help getting untangled.

7. Mercy Now: Mary Gauthier from the CD Mercy Now
This song is slow and goes on for a long time, but praying for mercy can be like that. There are a lot of people to pray for, and you can't leave out the broken institutions. "My church and my country could use a little mercy now/ As they sink into a poisoned pit/ That's going to take forever to climb out/ They carry the weight of the faithful/ Who follow them down/ I love my church and country, and they could use some mercy now."

8. Rock of Ages (When the Day Seems Long): Sandra McCracken from the CD The Builder And The Architect
This original song is beautiful, orthodox, and haunting. It's a modern folk lullaby that feels ancient, because it's full of traditional theological language. But it's hard to argue with, as it's every bit as incarnational as the "moldy oldy" hymns that have sustained Christians for centuries.

9. So Much Grace: Allison Sattinger from the CD Vox
I happened upon Allison Sattinger's MySpace page a couple years ago when I was looking for artists influenced by Over the Rhine within ten miles of my zip code. (This is a very cool way to find local artists, by the way). "So Much Grace" started streaming, and so did my tears. It's just lovely: a capella gospel at its finest. I was none too surprised when the song was named a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition last winter - I know 'em when I hear 'em! Bonus: since Allison is local, we've since become friends. She's brilliant in every way; check out her leatherworking store at Etsy, too.

10. Take to the World: Derek Webb from the CD She Must and Shall Go Free
Derek Webb (the husband of Sandra McCracken) is making some of the most innovative Christian music around. After he left Caedmon's Call a few years ago, he started writing theologically and politically provocative lyrics. We'll leave his challenging stuff for another day; we need a benediction to make this a proper Ministry Mixed Tape. "Go in peace to love and to serve/ let your ears ring long with what you’ve heard/ and may the bread on your tongue/ leave a trail of crumbs/ to lead the hungry back to the place that you are from." Such a delicious, invitational Communion image!


I wish I could burn 300 CDs and send them off too every corner of the earth, one for each RevGalBlogPal. But that wouldn't be practical, or legal. So you have a couple options if you're interested in hearing the music gushed about today. You can visit the RevGalBlogPals Book Store at, where Cathy made a room for all the CDs these songs came from. Or, if you're into iTunes, you can check out the debut RevGalBlogPals iMix. (Note #1: clicking on that link will open iTunes. Note #2: I had to make a switcheroo on one song due to availability, but the replacement is just as good.)


-=Katherine @ any day a beautiful change =-

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday Prayer: Church Picnic Edition

Today is a special day for our congregation. We are sharing in a church picnic with the four other United Churches on this end of our fair city. It may not sound like much, but this coming together is a huge deal. It is a sign of the good work we have done together as people of faith seeking to work more closely in community. It is, hopefully, just the beginning of the new and exciting times ahead of us.

Gracious God, we often say, "Life is not a picnic" but today, I would like to think that perhaps it is a picnic. Or at least, it can be if we want it to be. It can be if we intentionally choose to embrace the joys and wonders of it.

We ask your blessing on our gathering this morning, rain or shine, sun or cloud. Bless the children who can't wait for the games and the fun and the good food. Bless the child in all of us who feels the same way. Bless our elders who seek out the shade and remember fondly the church picnics over the years.

Bless our singing and the feel of grass beneath our feet and bless the grandest cathedral of all - the sky above us. May we hear your word in a special way this morning as the birds sing out the prayer response, and may our worship together bring you joy.

God of Wonder, send us away from our worship and picnic renewed in our faith, and assured of your guiding presence, for we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.


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, June 09, 2007

11th Hour Preacher Party: Going to Arabia Edition

Good morning, fellow travelers! It's Saturday, time to get your plans together for tomorrow's journey into the pulpit (or to the microphone, as the case may be). Do you have your passports? If not, limit your travel to Canada or Mexico, and you can get across the border with a photo ID.

My destination is Arabia and some thoughts about Paul's mysterious journey there in Galatians 1. I'm going with the idea that he undertook a pilgrimage, not an evangelism tour, and this may be in part because I am ready for the vacation that is still four weeks away.

Where are you today? Ready to embark? Already in the desert? Left us behind to (sob!) take your vacation? (Might be better not to tell us that.)

Come right in and enjoy the breakfast buffet, along with Fair Trade coffee and herbal teas. We'll keep each other moving today, I promise.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday Five - Getaway Island Edition

We snitched a bit of time on an quiet island nearby this week. It was a last minute plan, escaping with a minimal amount of preparation. One must have essentials that make it a relaxing time. Perhaps you have had this opportunity to escape, or maybe it's only been a thought to get away. However, suppose you were told to pack some essentials for a trip to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Describe your location, in general or specific terms and....

1) What book(s) will you bring?
2) What music accompanies you?
3) What essentials of everyday living must you take (as in the health and beauty aids aisle variety)?
4) What technological gadgets if any, will you take with you or do you leave it all behind?
5) What culinary delights will you partake in while there?

As a bonus question, what makes for a perfect day on vacation for you?

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.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ask the Matriarch — The Manse Show

Thanks to all the matriarchs who weighed in this week. You'd be amazed to learn that I only sent this question out yesterday, and we have a nice meaty feature for you this week!

How do y'all feel about living in a manse? My young friends tell me that "heck no, they won't go" if it involves a manse. My older friends tell me "don't even think about it." If no one wants them, why are churches hanging on to them as if they were the Holy Grail(s)? My church is in the throes of manse/no manse, so I'm wondering what others think. Is a manse an asset to the church or not? Is a manse an asset to the pastor - or not?

Our matriarch come back with the ambivalent-sounding, "Well, it depends." There are advantages and disadvantages. Your personal preferences can come into play. Your economic realities may also come into play. For instance, I'm not a minister, but let me tell you about buying my house. I can sum it up in one word.


On that note, says Karen, who has lived in two manses so far, "If your church is in a place where housing is really expensive, a manse may alllow you to live in that neighborhood even though it would be totally beyond your buying capacity otherwise. My new community has astronomically expensive housing. We are currently renting and trying to figure out if we can ever even hope to buy in town. If not, we'll be living and sending our kids to school in a whole different town and community than the one in which most congregation members live and send kids to school. I think in the case of a town/community with very high housing costs, a manse can be an important asset for the church and the pastor."

Jan also notes affordability as a major factor in evaluating whether to take up in a manse. "The manse of one church I know is in an impossibly expensive neighborhood and it's the only way most pastors could afford to live anywhere near the church building," she says. "Some churches insist on having the pastor live in the neighborhood which can be either very thoughtful or very controlling, depending on the congregation."

It can depend on where you are in your life, too. "Manses are usually quite close to the church. When I was young and single, I hated living next door to the church. When I had infants/toddlers/pre-schoolers it was WONDERFUL to be able to leap up from the dinner table three minutes before a meeting was supposed to start and walk the two blocks to the church," writes Karen. "Also. it can depend on whether you are a house proud/decorating nut kind of person. I'm much more into the vibe of a neighborhood than I am into my particular house. I hate decorating. I'm not that into gardening though I love a good veggie patch out back. Remodeling would send me right around the bend. I'm actually happy to have some of those things out of my hands, so I didn't mind living in a house where I did not have total creative control. But that would drive other people nuts."

Peripatetic Polar Bear lived in a manse for her first call--6 years. "I'm single, minimum paid. The only chance I have of living in an actual house is to live in a manse, so I loved it. I miss it. I loved being right next to everything. I loved not having to spend "my" time commuting; I loved being able to pop home for something in the middle of the day." Other benefits over renting and buying a home she mentions: You might not be responsible for big repairs, you don't have to come up with a downpayment or a security deposit, it's just plain easier...

Does it fit you?
What are your options if you don't live in a manse? Does it accommodate all of your housing needs? "If you're choosing between renting a crummy apartment in a building with a dozen grad students [or any number of other perhaps less desirable neighbors], or living in a manse, it's not a hard decision," writes PPB. "I think, though, that many clergy have spouses and partners who may work, and they may prefer to live in a nicer place than the church manse, or may prefer a different location/number of bedrooms, different school district, etc."

One of PPB's colleagues just took a call as an associate for youth "in a super-rich community that provides her with a manse that is actually a condo in a really lively development, with lots of singles and young couples around--a pool and tennis membership, and all the yard work covered by the condo association," she says. "They also buy an annual maintanence plan that covers all the repairs, including appliances. What a great decision on the church's part! (They bought the condo outright after selling a manse that was next door to the church.) It's perfect for most younger pastors, and if it isn't--renting a condo is a snap."

There's also a certain amount of convenience in having a manse available, says Singing Owl. "It was also a big advantage that, when moving to a new church, we knew that at the end of the road our home was waiting. So we could simply unload the U-Haul and get settled. It's very much less stressful than trying to rent, then look for a house, or whatever. Neither home was particularly nice, but not horrible either," she says.

So what's the bad news?
With all these perks of living in a manse (or parsonage, or rectory, or whatever it's called), why on earth would anyone have reservations?

PPB notes that the biggest challenge with a manse is that "it's 'the church's house' —hence the women's guild can meet there, committee meetings should be held there, and of course the Sunday school can use the swingset. I think churches need to be really intentional about not letting these things happen. The manse is part of the compensation, and you shouldn't be able 'use it' any more than you can 'use' $10,000 of the pastor's salary."

Just the same, it happens, and privacy can be a real concern. "One issue with a manse—especially if you are a single woman—is that this means that someone/several someones in the congregation has a key to your house which, of course, is 'their house' and, depending on the culture of the congregation, you might find someone in your kitchen repairing the sink when you come home for lunch," says Jan. "I found that there was more of this when I was single because I was considered more helpless or something, and they weren't going to walk in on me and my husband if they 'dropped by' to check the water heater. Be careful of this."

Singing Owl has a funny story about this. "At our first church there was actually a short tunnel that led from the basement of the house to the basement of the church. This was actually a wonderful thing because it was the "northwoods" of Wisconsin and often bitterly cold. On a nasty day, it was possible to go to work without even stepping outside. Once, however, I was standing in the kitchen in my slip, doing a last-minute ironing on my dress. The basement door popped open and there stood an embarrassed and very confused teenaged boy--a visitor no less. He had gotten separated from his friend and had no idea he was about to open a door into a house and not into a church."

A home of your own
Manses seem to be disappearing of late. In my new church, the rectory is on the market and being used as a transitional shelter for a few homeless men in town. The equity of a manse can be leveraged for a capital campaign, or it can be rented out for ongoing income, either residential or commercial (I've seen several churches renting property to nonprofit health-care entities such as Hospice or a women's counseling service.) Jan writes, "Many congregations through the years have sold their manses specifically for the sake of the pastor's financial health. They sold the manse and used the proceeds to build a "housing fund" to help the pastor buy a home to build equity. Again, in expensive areas, some churches are regretting that they sold their manses because, even if they can help their pastor a little, it's not enough to live in the church neighborhood." But, as Singing Owl writes, "If you live in a manse all your ministry days you never develop equity in a home."

Keep telling me that. I just found out I need to do the $10,000 improvement to my driveway NOW instead of on my five-year plan...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Wednesday FESTIVAL!

Happy Wednesday dear friends!

Amy is compiling a list of Christian colloquialisms like "God does not call the qualified. God qualifies the called." She invites you to come over and share your favorites.

Lorna asks for your prayers while she is finding her way to rekindle the love that's faded.

Kievas is discussing ways in which we perceive God, and how he/she may be like a Star Trek character.

Another Amy shares her excitement about being published, she contributed a chapter to an IVP book on Angels and Demons, so head on over and congratulate her!

Melissa is asking for help with discernment -- she'd like people to help shed some light on a current struggle about whether or not she should sumbit her name as a floor nomination to be elected to General Conference.

Sally has two posts from New Age Fairs - the strange place her ministry is based -- one about the problem of discernment and in the other she shares an interesting exchange.

And over at the Abbey I am inviting folks to come to the Northwest in November for a spirituality and art retreat and also doing a little self-reflection.

Thanks to all who submitted their posts! Remember to send in your nominations via the link on the sidebar and if we missed you this week, feel free to share other Festival posts in the comments.

-Christine @ Abbey of the Arts

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: School's Out Edition

Schools in Snow Belt are ending the year this week. That means that church attendance takes a noticeable dip, as families spend weekends in their summer homes "up north". Although my administrative schedule doesn't really slow down in summer, with the big, labor-intensive activities that happen then, worship does take on a different feel. I feel more like preaching obscure texts, or spending more time in the Old Testament, or trying different things.

This Sunday's Old Testament saga might end up some day on a list of "Stories that Tick Me Off." Honestly, Elijah's got some nerve asking a poor widow with a sick son to give him her last morsel of food. I've half a mind to start with all the details of this text that really bother me, and see where that takes me.

Maybe this is the start of a sermon series for me: God's Audacity.

What are you preaching this week?