Thursday, January 31, 2008
I am a seminarian doing field work in a church located in a very affluent urban neighborhood. I have seen and heard things here I never imagined I'd encounter: children getting picked up from their after school programs in limos, debate over whether to schedule Lenten programs around the curtain time for the opera and the theater, women who are given the gift of a $13,000 channel ring at the birth of a child or a promotion, a children's choir for 5-8 year olds being treated like it means the difference between getting into Harvard or not, etc., etc.
I chose this congregation because they are politically liberal and do lots of good work, but I am really struggling with their affluence. I have always believed that I could love the people that God placed in my path, but now I'm wondering if that is naive. I'm having trouble really caring about these folks and the issues in their lives. I feel like a terrible person and clergymember-in-training. I know that when it comes down to it, these folks are really no different than parishioners at the middle and working class churches I am familiar with. I also know that the ordination vows will ask that I care for all of God's people. Has anyone ever experienced this before, and what do I do about it?
St. Casserole suggests that it can be just as difficult to be affluent as it can be to live in poverty.
First, try not to be so hard on yourself. Second, try not to be so hard on them. It's not easy to be poor, but nor is it easy to be wealthy. Money allows one to choose medical care and live with comfort, but the worries of the poor and the wealthy are not dissimilar. Both groups want meaning and a good life. When it is a struggle to put food on the table one hardly has time or energy to "think green" or reflect on one's spiritual disciplines. A wealthy person must continue to be "wealthy" in order to understand herself. Identity becomes caught up with material goods. The poor do this, too, but in other ways, with other standards. Enough of the sociology lesson.
Your concern about your ability to love and minister to the very wealthy says a great deal to me about your integrity in ministry. Learning to love all those in our path is a life time's work. Anyone who says it is easy is lying. I suggest that you look beyond the material goods into the hearts of the wealthy folks. Like everyone else, they will be hesitant to show you. What if you don't like them or approve of them? If so, since you are a priest/pastor/minister, if you don't like them maybe God doesn't like them either. Listen beyond the lunch plans and tennis games, the trips and new homes until you hear the panic, anxiety and grind of their daily lives. If you are accessible, interested and loving, you may get to know the members. They hardly know what to make of you probably. You've chosen work that will not make you rich. You can't go to work wearing your Grandmother's 5 carat diamond earrings as they can. You don't pay $225 for a hair trim and your sofa didn't cost $7500. They may wonder how you live. Give them the treat of getting to know you and loving you. Both of you will find this fascinating and enriching (in the non-material sense).
Finally, yippee that you are in a church with politically liberal members who do lots of good work! Help them spend that money and their talents to help the community and world. Give them opportunities to do more than write big checks. The Christian understanding of stewardship is a radical and healing response. We address our woundedness as a community and as individuals when we focus ourselves on giving to God. Again, don't beat yourself up on this one. You are in a great place to learn about yourself. I'm excited for you.
Ann shared that she'd been in a place where members of the church either had 3 homes or needed 3 jobs to live there at all.
This such a great question. The core for me is my whole relationship to wealth, personally. Working with the really rich brings everything I have unresolved about class and economic status to the fore. I like to view myself as nonjudgmental, but oh my do the tapes run in the presence of extreme wealth. Looking at the world or even the US - I am very well off but not at the level of this community as related in the question.
Being raised with one side of my family being immigrants and the other "first family," I can fit in most places, but the class stuff is still hard to deal with. One question to myself is "am I more comfortable with people who are more like me or who look up to me?" So first I have to come to terms with my own "demons" around these issues. It is very difficult to minister with this community if I am resentful about what they have and don't seem to be using for the glory of God.
The thing that worked for me when I was the priest at a church in a very wealthy community is to focus on the person and to try to listen to what was on his/her heart and meet them where they are. We can't beat up on them in sermons--after all, the scriptures speak pretty loudly for themselves: just tell how the scripture confront me in my faith journey rather than "you should be......". Offer praise for the things they are doing and encouragement to step out in faith even more.
For every visible sign of wealth there are are many who think they don't measure up or that they are only loved for what they have materially.
And since this is a liberal congregation, you do have an opportunity. Focus on empowering these people for good. Their resources are not merely financial, but they also have influence and connections. The gospel mandate is for grace, justice and compassion. People with resources can often be converted to those issues when they can use that influence to enact change.
If nothing else you will learn more about yourself and be stretched - before settling into a more comfortable venue.
How do you empower the affluent to do good? Is there a particular ministry that you've found really helps engage these folks on the spiritual level? Share your thoughts in the comments.
And with lent coming, we invite your questions on ministry for upcoming columns. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Well, we just celebrated 100 days of school, but Quaker Pastor is celebrating her 100th post! Go celebrate with her!
Here is a post about Inner Dorothy's recent MRI for my chronic daily headaches. Thanks to everyone who prayed that day. It turned out that she channelled by partner's deceased Grandmother and sang her way through it with some favourite old hymns. They always work, don't they?
Here's a graphic of one of Leah's texts she did a while back; in the midst of everything she's trusting this verse.
Pictures of a sunshiny, snowy day in Chicago is a dose of medicine for those who find gray days gloomy. Check Shawna's picture out here.
Sally's son, Christopher, shares his story from his perspective, and it made his Mom cry. She shares it with you here.
You can continue Wednesday festival in the comments. 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>
Don't forget you can email your submissions for upcoming festivals to email@example.com
Monday, January 28, 2008
The January Book Discussion centers on this phrase from the book, “Believing is not the hard part; waiting is.” (page 113).
The books we choose to read and discuss do not usually follow a theme nor do they necessarily have a direct connection. However, our December book discussion focused on L’Engle. The quote that follows is from a different L’Engle book, but nonetheless offers us a perfect segue from one discussion to another, as well as taking us right to the heart of this wonderful book by Weems.
“I have often been told that when one first turns to God, one is greeted with brilliant Yes answers to prayers. For a long time that was true for me. But then, when he has you hooked, he starts to say No. This has been, indeed, my experience. But is has been more than a No answer lately; after all, No is an answer. It is the silence, the withdrawal, which is so devastating. The world is difficult enough with God; without him it is a hideous joke.” (Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season, quoted on page 11 of Listening for God)
“Listening for God” was referred to me last summer when I was going through a particularly dark time. After a few years of wondering where God was and trying to maintain hope, I had finally collapsed into doubt and despair. Yet, even as I did this I knew I was not alone, I understood that it was a common experience. As always, what one knows intellectually is often not a comfort emotionally. I felt alone and abandoned, and, I was even getting tired of myself.
So, one of our RevGal Pals suggested I read this book. It was the opening sentences that convicted me. Weems writes: “Some years ago when, as a minister, I was feeling that God had withdrawn from me and I was going through what I can only describe now as a spiritual breakdown – questioning seriously my belief in God, prayer, religious texts, and rituals to such a degree that I couldn’t bear to talk or read anything having to do with the sacred – it never dawned upon me to retire my clergy stole and leave ministry.” (page 15)
Yup. My sentiments exactly. Even as I faced the darkest time of my life I continued, day in and day out, to practice my ministry as a priest in the Episcopal Church. I cared for others, broke open the Word each Sunday, presided at the Eucharist, shared the Good News. I did all this even though I had no real sense of it, the Good News, in my own life. Here at last was a book that spoke of a grief I now knew intimately. I read this book as if it were the nourishment my starving soul most needed.
Many parts of this book provided me with spiritual comfort food. Here are few excerpts that stood out for me:
“It never occurred to me, because no one ever told me, that I would one day as a minister stop believing – stop believing in God as I once had…” (page 38). A few pages later Weems is having a conversation with a woman who is a religious skeptic. In the conversation Weems shares that she too has doubts. The woman says, “So, why the hell don’t you just walk away from it and stop being a hypocrite?”
Weems replies, “For the same reason I don’t walk away from a myriad of things I’ve committed myself to. I don’t want to live my life based solely on my feelings. Feelings change from one moment to the next...I continue to pray until the belief returns.” (page 44)
Reflecting on this conversation she later writes (page 46), “I remembered... that whatever spirituality is, it is not something to be discovered. It is something to be recovered – something you misplace and recover a thousand times in a lifetime. Nor is belief in God, mystery, or prayer something one either possesses or doesn’t. Rather, belief is something one tries continually to keep oneself open to, accessible to, or something one continually refuses to open oneself up to. The only difference between me….and the young corporate executive (skeptic)…is that I still wanted to remain open.”
Weems breaks the book into sections looking at the mystery of belief in God. Chapter One is The Mystery of Silence and Prayer. Other chapters focus on ministry, marriage and mothering, and miracles. In each of them she shares a very personal story. This is her journey through darkness and doubt, but through it she speaks of a universal experience.
So, some questions to get us going:
1. Have you ever had an extended time in your life of feeling like God was silent?
2. How did you manage to move through that time?
3. What sections of this book spoke to you most fully?
a. Silence and Prayer,
c. Marriage and Mothering,
e. And why?
4. Were you compelled by her experience of hearing God again in the voice of her father and the idea that God was now speaking in a new way? How did you respond to, “So, what exactly have I had in mind all these months and years when I’ve complained about God being silent? What exactly did I want God to talk with me about?...American slavery? The Holocaust? Why newborns die? It’s as though God pulled up a chair in my kitchen and said, ‘Why don’t we begin with forgiveness?’….I wanted God to speak to me, but I didn’t want God to confront me.”
5. After a long period of silence were you prepared for the way God began to speak to you, once you recognized that voice in your life?
6. What else stood out for you in this book?
Sunday, January 27, 2008
When I go searching for a music video to place on Sunday afternoons, I usually begin with the hymns recommended for the particular Sunday in the lectionary. As Youtube is forever adding new videos, it's always interesting to see what is out there. Well, on the side of the videos there are related videos you can visit, which may be something you would be of interest. Well, being that I did no sit in any pew this Sunday, but the BENCH with the ivories in this case, I gravitated to the organ selections.
Please, believe me, I am only an imposter when I sit in front of the 2 manuals. And the manual at my feet? Mercy. I don't do feet. (oh how I wish I did!). Anyway, I share with you a video of a Bach Fugue and keep your eyes on this video as Alison Luedecke plays, especially towards the end - how DOES she do it(and my goodness, she does do feet!)? You can also find this in a recording here (support her and RGBP!)
Needless to say, this is NOT what I played for this Sunday, though I did play a Handel Voluntary (which I could not find on the video scene), so I leave you with this. Again, this will be one you will want to watch - she is very talented.
So, with that being watched and said, what did you sing, play, or hear in worship today?
Help us to pray without ceasing for a coming together of all the friends and followers of Jesus, that we might together make all the difference in the world.
May our prayers take the form of peaceful living, lack of judgment against others, and shared celebration of our faith in you, O God. May we never cease to pray for those who seek to live in relationship with you as believers in your Way of peace, love and justice.
Bless those who need your holy, healing touch this day. For the wounds, visible and unseen, that we all carry – God, bring healing and hope. Bless us with your power and your presence, most Wondrous God, for it is by your grace that we live, love and follow in faith the One who calls us forward, Jesus Christ, who taught his friends to pray together saying…
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Is it too early for cheery greetings and colorful nets? Then come sit down and have a cup of coffee or tea, and we will try again in a few minutes.
We'll be fishing for people at my church tomorrow and contemplating what we have to leave behind to do so. What's on your mind, homiletically speaking?
And what nets of daily life might you have to drop to finish your preparation today?
Share it all with us in the comments: your topic, your trials, your lack of a children's message. (Wait, that's me this time,) We are here for each other, and we will all meet our deadlines. I believe it!
And if you have the day off, or you're already done, break it to us gently, okay? Thanks!
Friday, January 25, 2008
The picture is out a window at my place, complete with screen. ;-)
Brrrr! Baby, it’s COLD outside! At least that is the case where I am this morning. We are in a January deep freeze. Have a cup of hot tea and tackle five easy seasonal questions.
1. What is the thermometer reading at your house this morning?
2. Snow—love it or hate it?
3. What is winter like where you are?
4. Do you like winter sports? Any good stories?
5. What is your favorite season, and why?
Bonus: Share a favorite winter pick-me-up. A recipe, an activity, or whatever.
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, January 24, 2008
I have a question that is bothering and, because my church has far more men in ministry than women, I am at odds as to who to turn to and am hoping that you have something to offer.
Recently I have had two conversations with women at church who are having sex with their boyfriends. Both have been committed Christians for some time and both know the biblical basis for why this is not acceptable. In fact, I had difficulty telling them that they shouldn't be as I have never considered myself a prude but feel prudish for saying it. I am concerned that saying anything to them gives away more about me rather than their choices. To put it bluntly, I don't know if I should say anything to them and, if I do speak to them, what do I say? How do I support them in continuing their relationship but within safe parameters? - even that questions sounds trite. What right do I have to tell people how they should choose to live their lives? After all, they have made a personal choice after weighing up the biblical facts so do they need me coming along and rehashing it all for them?
Your instincts are serving you well, here. You know you have your feelings on it, but that's not going to help the person in crisis or even the person who's just concerned.
The matriarchs agree that your best course of action is to find out what's going on in their hearts, and talk about their relationships in the context of their relationships with God.
it is certainly hard when we believe something strongly and feel that it may get in way of our pastoral relationship with someone. Or it seems that the essence of what you're asking is "What is my pastoral responsibility and appropriate response?"
Though the issues may differ, I know what it is to strongly disapprove of something that someone in the congregation is doing. I try to bring myself back to the very heart of our faith. Is the issue that threatens to separate us TRULY the core of the gospel of Jesus the Christ? For me, the core of the gospel of Jesus the Christ is the love, compassion, and forgiveness that transforms lives. Therefore, the issue that drives me crazy must be approached from that perspective. Understandings, interpretations,and actions can only be formed and transformed through love, compassion and forgiveness.
Second, I most often find that if we are going to talk about an issue, a discussion of our faith perspectives, of what God is doing in our lives is more productive than MY telling someone that their behavior is unacceptable. There are, of course, exceptions—for instance, the issue of abuse. In the situation our sister describes, it could be very helpful her to hear how these parishioners experience God in their relationships. And for them to think about what constitutes a healthy relationship for them.
I always though I was crazy liberal about sex until I met the parishioner who told me she was sleeping with four different guys. I felt like a humongous prude just saying, "Do you think that's a good plan?"
I would ask these Christian women if their relationships are glorifying God. (How's that for sounding conservative?) Seriously, that is the big issue. I frankly know that sex before marriage is not necessarily the sin-of-sins that many of us have been taught in certain circumstances. Maybe this is one of those situations. Or maybe not. Do they feel closer to God in these relationships?
Does this relationship make them the people God created them to be? Or do they pretend God's not in the know?
There are really good reasons why premarital sex can be scary (pregnancy, disease, etc.). You are their pastor, and it's okay for you to say this if necessary/possible.
Ann, who in the true sense of matriarch often uses some week's questions to engage in a conversation with her 30-year-old daughter, got this from her discussion:
Sex between consenting adults that is not abusive is a private matter. The women know what your church teaches and have made their own decisions. The Bible is unclear on rules for sexual behavior. You often hear "no marriage, no sex" but throughout the history of Christianity practice has varied. For most of history marriage was only for people of property - as the woman was a part of that property and the church was the guardian of the community property. e.g. The rogation rites of "beating the bounds" was a way of communal remembering property boundaries.
As to marriage - often people just lived together with no church blessing. Sometimes, once children were born - people got married. Marriage was also a way of protecting the male's bloodline since he could not be assured that the children were his until recently with DNA testing. (Here is an interesting sidebar that talks about the history and the future of marriage.)
If the woman comes to you with questions or concerns about her relationship then I would listen and try to determine what she needs and what sort of help she needs - referring her if necessary to people who can help - doctors, domestic violence experts.
Overall, it is good if the church has courses or workshops on healthy relationships, safe sex and concerns about promiscuity: to start the conversation. It can help them guard against the state of being overwhelmed by attraction in the moment. It also allows you to be seen as someone trustworthy to talk to about these issues. These kinds of programs can also help model to young people—who are often overwhelmed with their feelings and drowning in questions about sexuality—that adults should take relationships that involve sex seriously, and that intimacy with another person is a gift not to be taken lightly.
So, RevGals, what say you? There are infinite issues on which we might have strong beliefs and discover that a parishioner in need of pastoral help that requires us to set aside that belief--at least until we get through the situation. Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
Keep it up! What have you purchased through Amazon lately??
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Sally shares "New Name, New Voice," a reflection on John 4.
I know you all know Leah Sophia, who joins us frequently from her blog, Desert Spirit's Fire. She is an amazingly talented graphic designer, and at her testimony blog, This Far By Faith, she shares a graphics series of Bob Dylan's song, "Father of Night." She says, "I'm also entering it in the spring liturgical arts exhibit and competition at one of our local churches." Good luck, and we will enjoy it in our far-flung blog locations, too. It's a series of eight posts; view them in order here: Father of night, day, darkness away; birds, rainbows, loneliness, pain; father of love, rain, day; father of night, black, white, mountain so high; cloud, time, dreams; rivers, streams, grain, wheat, cold; father of heat, air, trees; hearts, memories, minutes, days, praise.
If you want to hear Bob Dylan singing the song, "Father of Night," check this out. The movie has nothing to do with LS's designs but is charming on its own.
And further to stretching your creativity, you are cordially invited to join Christine at the Abbey of the Arts 11th Poetry Party!
The Wingéd Man is back, with a new post titled Solitude in the City: Merton, Silence, and a New Cell Phone.
Here's a shout out to last week's Friday Five! Mother Laura says, "I was completely inspired by last week’s Friday Five and have made available on the web two of the expansive language liturgical resources I hope to eventually publish. Sophia’s Rosary is explained here and Sophia Compline (Night Prayer) here.
A thousand thanks to RevHRod for the bonus question and to Mrs. M., Diane, and Presbyterian Gal for their eagerness to see the works…"
Finally, many of you will remember Bad Alice and her husband Jeff (Still Jewish), They have had several serious health problems over the past few years, and now their daughter Firecracker is having even more problems, a serious and scary diagnosis of Tuberous Sclerosis. She will be having brain surgery on February 8, one day before her birthday. Please visit their Caring Bridge site; I'm sure they'd appreciate knowing that the RevGals are holding them up in prayer.
What are you doing today? what posts would you like to share? Please let us know in the comments.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
This week's Gospel lesson juxtaposes the Old Testament promise of "more light" with the person of Jesus -- God With Us, hanging out with other working folk around the docks, something in his words and bearing so profound, so riveting to some of the people he encounters that they literally leave everything to follow him.
But we also learn that there's something about this gentle, compelling light that others find threatening -- so much so that in our lesson, as seems to happen frequently during Jesus' ministry, Jesus needs to retreat from those who seek to eclipse his presence in the world.
And our Epistle lesson reminds us that even those of us who claim Christ have a disturbing tendency to ignore the inbreaking light of Christ enfolding and embracing us, and instead seek to ground our faith primarily in whatever spark of attraction we see in a particular faction within the Christian community.
What texts do you find particularly enlightening this week? Is there another connective subtext in the lessons that's speaking to you? Or are you preaching on/teaching on/praying something completely different? Share your thoughts here!
Monday, January 21, 2008
Yesterday our scripture reading from the Gospel of John has Jesus saying to the disciples, "Come and See." Well, that's a good phrase for the RevGals today - we have a lot of new folks to welcome. So - Come and See!
First up:Reflectionary. Where real life meets the lectionary, a new blog by Songbird. She has this to say about it: "I'm re-purposing my old 365 blog as a different kind of writing discipline. It's my hope to write about one lectionary passage per day, Monday through Thursday, as part of my sermon preparation. We'll see how it goes. I expect most of the entries to be free associated. If you see research here, you'll know I'm desperate."
Second:preacher1. This blog is also called "Good News in the Wilderness" sermons and reflections on the Episcopal Church.
Next: Brittany. A friend, child, student, Youth Director, Worship Leader, amature blogger, music lover, introvert and compassionate Christ-follower. And I'm pretty passionate about helping the residents of Pearlington, MS recover from Hurricane Katrina.
Fourth up:Tiffany. Her blog says "life, ministry, family, thoughts, rants, loves and happenings..."
Fifth: Althea Agape. Her blog says "I haven't the foggiest idea what I'm doing here..."
Sixth: crimsonrambler. She describes herself "Mother of three grown kids, two of them married (to great people--I'm so blessed); 'late vocation' after first life as a university instructor in English..."
And - (drum roll please) Number 7: Swandive. "The name comes from my dream of opening my own dive bar - The Swandive. Until I do - I'm serving the Lord, instead of beer."
Let's give 'em all a great big welcome! Now, go and see what they have to say!
Sunday, January 20, 2008
This was one of our Communion hymns during church today. What music did you hear and sing at worship today?
Thank you for this warm place to protect ourselves from winter’s harshness. Thank you for this sanctuary of our faith family, in whose warmth we are comforted, supported and challenged.
Bless our congregation, we pray. Guide us forward into our future, whatever that may bring. Bless all of your people, O God, who live and work for your church in the world. Help us to always keep our eyes and spirits focused on your invitation to serve in the name of Jesus. May we serve with honour and integrity at every turn.
God of Compassion, bless those who need your warm and healing touch upon them. Bring peace, comfort and strength to your children who suffer right now...
...the grieving, the lost, the angry, the lonely, the hungry, the homeless, the cold, the abandoned, the desperate, the despairing and the dying...all these and so many more..are in need of your hand upon them. May they know your presence and feel your power.
Bless us God as we lean into the days and weeks ahead of us, for we do so at the invitation of the One who calls us forward in faith, Jesus Christ – who taught us to pray together saying…
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Are you ready to party?
Let's hope it doesn't turn out the way things did in Cloverfield, which various members of my family took me to see last night.
There is lots of love in these lectionary passages, for those of us who use them: God's love, our love for God, our encouraging love for one another, and the instant connection that Jesus makes with Peter.
Where are you headed today? What is the Good News for God's people in your particular setting on this particular Sunday?
(Do you get the feeling I may need to answer these questions myself?)
We have fruit and cereal and really good coffee and, as ever, the possibility of tea. Bring something to share, be it food or ideas or perhaps the kind of encouraging word Paul sent to his friends in Corinth. Let us know what's up today, or how we can help, in the comments below!
Friday, January 18, 2008
Well, pish posh! I think that some books ARE better than others! How about you?
- What book have you read in the last six months that has really stayed with you? Why?
- What is one of your favorite childhood books?
- Do you have a favorite book of the Bible? Do tell!
- What is one book you could read again and again?
- Is there a book you would suggest for Lenten reading? What is it and why?
And because we all love bonus questions, if you were going to publish a book what would it be? Who would you want to write the jacket cover blurb expounding on your talent?
It's supposed to snow here this weekend, so I think I'll just check out your answers and hope to find a good book! Please let us know that you've played by creating a link to your blog. The secret code is <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Every year, my salary is reviewed by the Pastoral Relations Committee with me. The upshot is they leave that discussion with an idea for a recommendation for a raise, or not. I am not at all comfortable with these discussions: I never know how to approach the discussion of my salary and any potential raises. So, do you have any advice?
From Jan, notes about knowing what you're worth:
Salary negotiations are always awkward, but be glad that they address it. I once went over 4 years without even a cost of living adjustment and I was too afraid to speak up.
It's tempting for those of us in small/smallish churches to forgo any increase, even a cost-of-living adjustment, because it seems to mean that Vacation Bible School will not get new craft materials or something if we gain a raise. If we love our churches, we want to make sacrifices for them and not "cost them" enough to negatively impact the ministries of the church.
However—you are one of (if not THE) best asset and tool of ministry. If they value your contribution, they should pay you for that contribution. It negates your ministry and frankly it adversely affects their ability to serve the community if everyone has the attitude that "giving the pastor a raise means giving the education budget no raise." Wrong.
Church consultants say that a congregation should first budget for program: (personnel, outreach, mission, education, etc.) and the last thing to be budgeted should be the utilities, insurance, etc. Believe me, if the heat isn't working someone will come forward to help pay for heat. They won't come forward to pay for new books for the small groups.
You are called to equip others in your congregation to do ministry. You are the minister to ministers, if you will, and that role is so valuable. They should pay you accordingly.
Karen emphasizes "knowing your field":
I think it is helpful to come to these discussions fortified with the knowledge of what salary and benefits are for pastors in positions/churches similar to yours. In my denomination, this info is public knowledge: each year the Presbytery distributes a list of what each church within its borders pays its pastor(s). What are pastors with similar years of experience serving in similarly sized congregations being paid? If what you are being offered is way below average, you can make your case for a raise based partly on sharing this information. If, on the other hand, what you are being offered is average or above average, you may want to hold your fire.
Also FWIW, the Executive Presbyter for my region commented to me the other day that she finds that RevGals are much more hesitant than their male colleagues to be assertive and clear about their expectations in salary/benefit/contract negotiations.
Ann echoes this, but also says to look at the whole package:
Does your judicatory have any guidelines: What are other clergy being paid with similar jobs? Often there are set minimums at least in a diocese or synod or whatever yours is called. It is helpful when an outside group gives some guidance. What are people in your community with similar responsibilities and education being paid? Does your package include housing, mileage, pension, health insurance, etc? "The laborer is worthy of her hire" (it is in the Bible!!) so don't feel you are doing something wrong.
There is a feeling out there that we work for God so should be satisfied with a chicken once a week or some other pittance. The reality is that you have to live as well as work for them and God. An underpaid clergyperson is soon a bitter clergyperson. Women clergy are still paid at a much lower rate than men for the same position. Don't sell yourself out. And don't feel guilty about stating what you are
worth. It is harder for us to talk about money than it is to talk about sex.
....SO, what about the rest of you? This is tricky for laypeople, too! Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences with us in the comments.
Now--believe it or not, Lent is right around the corner. Send your Lent related questions (or any questions about your ministry) to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I waited patiently upon the LORD; *
he stooped to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay; *
he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
So many of us are waiting on the Lord in different ways. May we soon feel that promised lifting up out of the pit.
EDITED TO ADD: Something that is totally lifting ME up out of the pit today is an opportunity (at last) to help St. Casserole's Little Church, which STILL has not been repaired since it was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. If you are interested in this project, please see this post at St. Cassie's place for contact instructions. You may recall that our concern over St. Cass during and after the storm was a major event in the life of this group, and really galvanized us as a community of fellowship and prayer. Thanks! Your Editor!
A variety of great stuff to read this week!
Kievas Fargo is inviting comments and discussion on how we see God's interaction with creation. God: Eternal creator or eternal meddler?
Law and Gospel shares a heart-touching post about a friend.
A beautiful post from Silly Weepy Mom (er, Inner Dorothy) about her sons who are all grown up.
Kathryn's daughter has turned 21! Go read the proud mama story. And Kathryn was profoundly blessed by her visit to The Home for the Decidedly Confused.
Katherine shares from her Ten on Tuesday. Number one: "I'm still pregnant." Ok, Katherine, we're waiting and praying!
In a different-kind-of-mama note, please pray for Zorra's Amie.
What's up with you? It's not too late to let us know, in the comments, what you or your favorite RGBP bloggers have been posting this week. Here's the formulation for linking:
<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.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
What does the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, look like? This coming Sunday's Old Testament reading gives us the portrait, not of a military conqueror, master statesman or cosmic superhero, but rather of a servant -- a servant dedicated to drawing all of God's wayward children back into the divine embrace...even when it's difficult; even when it's not popular; even when it's not always obvious that God's Reign has broken through into our world.
Witnesses to God's inbreaking give us the eyes to see it. Our Sunday Psalm reading is the psalmist's grateful testament to God's saving power. Our Gospel lesson relates John the Baptizer's witness that Jesus is the expected Messiah, and the chain of events that lead future Apostles to "come and see" for themselves. And Paul's letter to the church in Corinth gives us a snapshot of Christ's followers in community -- not a perfect community by any means, but one where, as Paul points out in his salutation, "God things" are happening.
Lots of meaty sermon-worthy material here. If we were to "come and see" you at the pulpit this coming Sunday, what would we find?
Monday, January 14, 2008
I can't wait to show my kids (who love this song during bedtime prayers) the second, which is a rocked-out version as I have never heard it done before.
OCP, which has a plethora of excellent Spanish and bilingual resources at its website, has a cd of music from Spain which includes this title track, as well as an accompanying songbook. As with all of its offerings, you can click to listen to a brief sample of each song on the cd, making purchasing a low-risk option.
OCP also offers an MP3 download and sheet music for a bilingual version of the song.
You can spend a lot of time choosing your own favorites from their alphabetically arranged bilingual section, but I will highlight a few more to get you started. All have songbooks available along with the cds.
For Anglo communities wishing to branch out a bit, an excellent starter cd and songbook is the thoroughly bilingual Cantemos Unidos/United in Song. It contains bilingual versions of both Spanish classics like Alabaré, Entre tus Manos, and El Viñador and as well as English traditional and contemporary ones (Amazing Grace side by side with Here I Am, Lord and I am the Bread of Life).
Another very accessible and ecumenical collection is the bilingual collection of psalm settings, Cantaré Eternamente/For Ever I Will Sing. Volume I contains psalms for Advent, Christmas, and Ordinary Time, so you might want to start with Volume 2 which covers Lent, Triduum, and Easter.
Well, that's only the C's so I will stop lest I overwhelm you--or be here happily listening all night....Happy hunting!
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Today my community celebrated the Baptism of the Lord, complete with an asperges - a blessing of the water in our baptismal font and a sprinkling of the congregation with the new water. (My oldest, newly an acolyte, was shocked to discover that the water in the font comes from the tap in the back sacristy! Was I baptized in blessed tap water? Yep! )
This video, of thousands of people gathered to praise the Lord, made me wonder what the scene must have been like at Jesus’ baptism. A crowd, come to see John, and finding themselves simultaneously confronted by both God incarnate and God incarnator. Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes, alleluia! Praise the Lord, all you nations, alleluia!
The piece is a Taize chant. Taize is an ecumenical monastic community in France, found in the 1940s. The community’s charisms are service to the poor, as well as sung prayer. The prayer songs composed for the community are marked by their simplicity and meditative qualities. Many (including this piece) are structured as canons. It is music meant to center the soul. Taize’s music has a broad appeal, you can find their chants in hymnals both conservative and modern. The Episcopal Church about a mile from me has even a weekly Taize prayer service (to which I’ve never been, but maybe it’s time?).
How is your community marking the transition from Christmas to Ordinary Time? And are you relieved to be back to the plain times, or, as my spiritual director annually bemoans, does it arrive with a clunk?
Father Mother God, thank you for your presence during the hard and mean days. For then we you to lean upon.
For those whose names and needs we have lifted up in this place today, God we ask for your strength, your comfort, and your grace.
Thank you for your presence during the bright and sunny days, for then we can share that which we have with those who have less.
Fill us, God, with a desire to share the bounty of our living – the generous abundance of all the gifts we have around us. The gift of material things as well as the gift of friendship and caring. May we share these in the spirit of deep gratitude.
And thank you for your presence during the Holy days, for then we are able to celebrate you and our families and our friends.
For those who have no voice, we ask you to speak.
For those who feel unworthy, we ask you to pour your love out in waterfalls of tenderness.
For those who live in pain, we ask you to bathe them in the river of your healing.
For those who are lonely, we ask you to keep them company.
For those who are depressed, we ask you to shower upon them the light of hope.
Dear Creator, you, the borderless sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the world that which is needed most – Peace.
These and all the prayers of our hearts we offer in the name of and for the sake of the One who calls us to transform all that is into your vision of peace, justice and love – Jesus the Christ – who taught his friends to pray in this way…
Saturday, January 12, 2008
It's been a busy week here, and my mind has been on other things, so I really need the encouragement of community today. How about you?
This picture from the Gulf Coast (before Hurricane Katrina) reminds me of the Isaiah passage in the lectionary today. If we look at tomorrow's texts not only as a story about Jesus but as a call to all of us, as individuals and as churches, what justice might we be expected to bring, what teachings might the coastlands await?
But first, coffee, and lots of it. May I pour you a cup?
Whether you are an 11th hour regular, or a first-time visitor, or anything in between, please join us in the comments today. Let us know what's on the schedule today, what you are preaching about, what else might be going on in church tomorrow. Anyone looking for a Children's Moment? Anyone have one?
And friends, if you've already finished your sermon, try not to rub our noses in it too early in the day, okay? ;-)
Let the Party begin!
Friday, January 11, 2008
Que cantaba el Rey David, That King David used to sing,
A las muchachas bonitas To the beautiful young ladies,
Se las cantaba así. He would sing them like this.
(The Mexican birthday song, sometimes sung as a dawn serenade).
Youtube Mariachi version here. Piano music and eleventy-zillion more verses here.
My forty-third birthday next Wednesday will inaugurate the "Birthday Madness" season in the Grimes-Honkanen household. The next day Katie will turn five and just over two weeks later, on Feb. 3, Nicholas will be eleven. In the middle, on January 30, we celebrate the gift of Grandma Di; Nicholas and I were both due on my Mom's birthday but I was uncharacteristically early and he was little late. We will be doing a trip to Disneyland to celebrate them all in a couple weeks; in the meantime I offer this birthday-inspired Friday Five.
1. When is your birthday? Does anyone else (famous and/or in your own life) share it?
2. Do you prefer a big party or an intimate celebration for the chosen few?
3. Describe your most memorable birthday(s)--good, bad, or both.
4. What is your favorite cake and ice cream? (Bonus points if you share the cake recipe). Or would you rather have a different treat altogether?
5. Surprise parties: love 'em or hate 'em?
Bonus: Describe your ideal birthday--the sky's the limit.
As always, 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, January 10, 2008
Okay, so I know stewardship season is past for most of us. We are finishing a tally and discovering that we are well below last year's numbers. I have not turned in a pledge card yet because it feels a little bit awkward—knowing precisely that my pledge is one that could make up some of a gap in basics (like, say, my own salary). Should pastors pledge to their churches? Should we be a leader of the giving in our churches? (a tricky question, since no one will know where the money comes from!) I can't make up my mind about how to approach this, since I know that I'm basically paying myself when I pledge to my own church. I have other charitable organizations to which I give during the year, and another church (where I used to be a member before the whole being-a-pastor thing) to which I contribute, but I'm just not sure how to approach this pledging thing, especially this year when I'm so aware of the gap we have in current pledges and budget needs. Help!
Several years back I was in a similar uncomfortable position. The church board was discovering that actual money received was lagging a certain amount behind what had been pledged. A quick mental calculation on my part told me that my household's unpaid pledge balance made up for nearly half the gap. We had sustained a financial blow midyear and were not able to give what we'd planned. Only I and our treasurer would have been able to connect those dots, but still it felt very weird.
Regarding pledging to your own congregation--I do know several clergy who pledge to our denomination's general mission fund directly rather than to their own church, for the reasons you state. I feel differently. Rather than seeing our family's pledge as "paying my own salary" I look at it as contributing to the overall mission of the church--only part of which is paying staff to facilitate that mission.
Ann says(note: I'm paraphrasing her slightly):
I think the pastor should pledge a percentage to the church where one is the pastor. It should be for your own spiritual health, not for other reasons, such as the budget gap—otherwise it's not stewardship, which is a year-round thing that is entrusted to you: Time, talent and treasure, as the saying goes. Decide the percentage first, rather than when you see the gap that exists.
We're looking for questions for upcoming weeks, as well. Send them to email@example.com.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Back to Wednesday Festival!
How does it keep getting to be Wednesday so fast!? I suppose there's one every week...but still! Gosh. "Listen closely...time is fleeting! (Madness...takes its toll!)"
Many of us 'round the ring are taking the "what cocktail are you" quiz, making New Year's resolutions, and participating in Besomami's Book Challenge.
Mitch has such an unique perspective on clergy life, being The Pastor's Husband! He shares with us this week two gems: "Hi, I'm here to argue with the Pastor" and a new kind of candles for kids in church. Thanks, Mitch...Altar Guilds everywhere will bless you!
Leah Sophia shares a graphic representation of the Isaiah 60 passage from this past Sunday, and it will gladden your heart!
She has also received, again, a Church Prayer Rug, and shares her commentary on that. I am in awe at such an elaborate...item.
Songbird's preparing for (considering?) a class reunion and shares some sad news of a friend.
Sue at InnerDorothy shares a thought on dancing (even when you can't dance) and invites us all to dance today.
Betsy from Fasting from TV, Feasting on Life has had THE TALK with her kids. You know, that one. Go, Betsy!
Splendid! A new year, a new Poetry Party at Abbey of the Arts! Go play!
Sally shares a grand reflection on the Methodist Covenant Prayer, and a poem titled, "Questioning Mary."
Gallycat shares the great news that Dylan's Lectionary Blog is back in business! Go take a look!
Mother Laura has made some changes due to new opportunities, and has processed out of her CPE program with a lovely woman-centered liturgy shared with the group.
and as for me, I have big plans for the Spring. I'm excited!
What are YOU up to? Share with us in the comments, and if you link to your post, we will all try to come and comment! Here's the formulation for linking:
<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.
I do promise to get a new schedule for Weds Festival posters (returning and new!) out THIS week.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
The Readings for this week can be found here: I Epiphany - The Baptism of Our Lord
For some of us this Sunday is one of the primary Baptismal Feast Days in the Church calendar. (The others include All Saints' Day, The Great Vigil of Easter, and Pentecost). Some churches only baptize on these days...
Regardless of whether your church has a baptism on Sunday, or not, this feast day offers us an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of baptism in our lives. This is particularly relevant for those of us who baptize infants, as well as those of us who were baptized as an infant. It is an occasion to "remember" our own baptism.
John Shea, S.T.D., In his book, "The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers: On Earth As It Is In Heaven, Year A" has this to say about these readings:
"Jesus' baptism with Spirit does not substitute for John's baptism with water. Both are needed. The revelation of Jesus includes the revelation of John even while it transcends it. John is the forerunner and essential preparation for Jesus. John clears a path. Without this cleared path Jesus will not arrive. There must be both repentance (baptism of John) and the coming of the Spirit (baptism of Jesus), a disidentification with sin and an identification with the Spirit-infused Child of God. This carefully reflected exchange reflects this nuanced position: the ultimate goal of John's baptizing activity in Jesus, but the advent of Jesus does not make obsolete the work of John. John and Jesus are fundamentally linked, and they symbolize the essential relationship between the forgiveness of sins and the new life in the Spirit. (pg 50).
Where are your thoughts, reflections, ideas, leading you this Sunday?
More on John Shea: he is a theologian and storyteller who lectures internationally on storytelling in world religions, faith-based health care, contemporary spirituality, and the spirit at work movement. He has published eleven books of theology and spirituality and two books of poetry.
Monday, January 07, 2008
It's a heatwave in the Midwest with record breaking temperatures in the uppper 50's in January! And for other "hot off press" news check out....
Julie: My claim to fame is that I'm Sid's wife and Emily and Keith's mom. I'm also an ordained clergyperson in the UM church serving an appointment at a non-profit agency.
And Greet: Quantum Theology and her other blog Culture of Chemisty.
What are your favorite non-revgal blog pal blogs?: Whispers in the Loggia, Stratoz, logoi and scienceblogs.com/moleculeoftheday(definitely a split personality!) (I can't get a direct link to molecule of the day to work; sorry)
What gives you joy?: Music. My family. A magnificent thunderstorm.
What is your favorite sound?: Rain on the roof.
What do you hope to hear once you enter the pearly gates?: Come to Me.
You have up to 15 words, what would you put on your tombstone?: Only 15 words? There is a tombstone in a graveyard I sometimes walk through that has a one paragraph bio of a local doctor on it (it's got to be at least 6 feet wide) -- it's the oddest thing I've seen, in many years of walking graveyards and reading the stones. My stone? Qui bene cantat bis orat. Who sings well, prays twice.
Write the first sentence of your own great American novel.: Glasses fogged, water sluicing off her oilskins, she clambered over a crumbling log and onto a soft, yielding mass.
What color do you prefer your pen?: My favorite pen is a blue Pelikan. My favorite ink color? A pink so deep it's nearly red.
What magazines do you subscribe too?: Real Simple (I keep hoping some elf will crawl out of the magazine and make my house look like the "after" photos) and America
What is something you want to achieve this decade?: Write another book. Make the Spiritual Exercises. Draw more often.
Why are you cool?: My teen and tween would beg to differ - cool?? I can hear their disparaging sighs even as they sleep. I drive a Mini Cooper and can do quantum mechanics?
What is one of your favorite memories?: Learning to bake with my mother when I was 7. She let me pick any cake recipe I wanted from her 1957 Betty Crocker Cookbook. Black Midnight Cake - the most complicated layer cake in the book - was my choice. True to her word, that's what we made. I can still hear the sound her sifter made as I sifted together the dry ingredients. I still make that cake often enough to have memorized the ingredients!
Any other question you've always wanted to be asked?: Not that I can think of!!
Sunday, January 06, 2008
We thank you God for leading and guiding us by your Spirit’s presence. May we be vigilant about listening for your still small voice nudging us along the path of faithfulness. Help us to discern when we are listening to you and when we are listening to the desires of our own hearts. Help us to know when these two are one and the same.
Let our inner Light, which comes only from you, shine into the needs and yearnings of the day. God, be with all who are in need of your grace today. Bring strength, comfort and joy to the hearts of the most downtrodden. Bring peace into our world, food for the hungry and freedom to the captives. And in every way that we are able, make us bearers of your Good News, that your light may shine through us as it shone through Jesus who taught us to pray…
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Friday, January 04, 2008
1. Do you make New Year resolutions?
2. Is this something you take seriously, or is it a bit of fun?
3. Share one goal for 2008.
4. Money is no barrier, share one wild/ impossible dream for 2008
5. Someone wants to publish a story of your year in 2008, what will the title of that book be?
Let us know in comments if you play. And for even more visits to your blog, post a direct link 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, January 03, 2008
Led by Mary Marcotte
What if grace really is true?
We tell those we serve over and over the good news of God's grace – and then behave as if God – or at least the portion of God's people we serve – will love us more if we work harder/ better/faster/longer.
Come away for a time of spiritual reflection marked with laughter – and perhaps a few tears -- as we share our journeys as Christ's servants. We will confront some of the stereotypes that bind us so that we can be free to live into the higher calling and blessings of the gospel. There will be time for group conversations, small group discussions and personal journaling.
The retreat will take place on a cruise out of New Orleans, leaving Thursday, March 27 and returning Monday morning, March 31.
For a brochure with all travel details and a biography of our presenter, please e-mail will smama. There is still space available. The price of the retreat consists of the cost of the cruise and your travel to and from New Orleans, as well as any additional excursions you might choose in the port of call, Cozumel, Mexico.
There is no registration fee. The program expenses are being covered by RevGalBlogPals, Inc. For information on joining the non-profit group, please follow the links in the sidebar.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
We are all out of the habit of nominating posts for the Wednesday Festival, so let's get back to it! For today, of course, you can just share in the comments. In future weeks, please send your nominations from ring members' blogs in by Monday night to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For today, a few choice and lovely items:
Oh what a wonderful Night Visitor Story! You will not be disappointed reading this from Reverenda Rosa.
And if you need a laugh, you should see Natalie's great story of her visit to an Episcopal church. Natalie, it's not usually THAT exciting...in my limited experience.
Songbird is musing over the new year ahead of her, and St. Casserole gives us a New Year Blessing.
How about you?
ps: If you'd like to pitch in to help with Wednesday Festivals this year, please send an email. For those of you continuing on the rotation, the new schedule will be sent out later this week! THANKS!)
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
And today, the week after the murder of the innocents, we go backwards and remember the magi who arrived to honor Jesus and bring their symbolic and extremely impractical gifts.
We don’t know very much, and guesses abound as to the details. There are some who think that the magi might have been women (seriously- not just that e-mailed joke about women bringing casseroles and arriving on time). Others suggest that there would most certainly have been more than three, as a trip of that magnitude for just three people who have been lunacy.
Why did they come? Usually, when I ask that question, I focus on the motivation of the Wise Ones. But this year, I’ve been wondering why from the other direction. What did they do for Jesus? What was the point of their trip? What did it accomplish? Because of their visit with Herod, didn’t it do more damage than good?
But... how do you measure presence?
What is the worth of showing up? Being there?
Just some thoughts- what are you thinking this week?
“The Gift,” by William Carlos Williams, from The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams Volume II 1939-1962 (New Directions).
As the wise men of old brought gifts
of the god of love,
What could a baby know
But the imagination
The rich gifts
of a mother's needs
But as they kneeled
had taken place,
The ass brayed
All men by their nature give praise.
The very devils
and bowed down
(note: I can't get blogger to format this poem the way Williams wrote it- with spaces and indentations. If you plan on using it, it's not hard to google it and find the correct spacing. I apologize...)