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Friday, October 31, 2008

Revgalblogpal Friday Five: Positive Potpourri Edition

Greetings friends! It's been awhile since I've contributed to the posts here at the revgalblogpals website, but I agreed to step into the Fifth Friday of the Month Friday Five slot.

So here I be.

As I zip around the webring it is quite clear that we are getting BUSY. "Tis the season" when clergy and laypeople alike walk the highwire from Fall programming to Christmas carrying their balancing pole with family/rest on the one side and turkey shelters/advent wreaths on the other.

And so I offer this Friday Five with 5 quick hit questions... and a bonus:

1) Your work day is done and the brain is fried, what do you do?

2) Your work week is done and the brain is fried (for some Friday, others Sunday afternoon), what do you do?

3) Like most of us, I often keep myself busy even while programs are on the tv. I stop to watch The Office and 30 Rock on Thursday nights. Do you have 'stop everything' tv programming or books or events or projects that are totally 'for you' moments?

4) When was the last time you laughed, really laughed? What was so funny?

5) What is a fairly common item that some people are willing to go cheap on, but you are not.

Bonus: It's become trite but is also true that we often benefit the most when we give. Go ahead, toot your own horn. When was the last time you gave until it felt good?

Let us know in the comments if you played and I'll come around and visit. The first 50 are entered into a drawing for a new car (sorry, that's a lie. We are immersed in political attack ads here in the US that lie and so I thought I would join in). Seriously, go ahead and let us know if you play. I will visit. And buy you a new house (lie). The last person to do the Friday Five is a socialist and hangs out with computer viruses (STOP!).

Still need help in posting a link? Copy and paste <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> Click here. OR, while you are making your post, make the link and cut and paste it into the comments.

As always, comments and programming on this station do not necessarily represent the view and values of the revgalblogpals website or its associates. If you are an American citizen please vote by Tuesday or your computer will self destruct in 5 seconds...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ask The Matriarch: I'm dreaming of ... Christmas

Only 50+ days until Christmas - today's question is about how to have family traditions when Christmas falls on the weekend and family lives at a distance. A pastor's dilemma.

I've been at this a while, but my family and I have yet to come up with a satisfactory solution: how to celebrate Christmas. Not the church part. Our extended family lives about 5-6 hours away. In a year when Christmas falls conveniently, like on a Monday, say, we'll go and spend the week with them and return to preach and lead worship the following Sunday. In years like this, when Christmas falls on a Thursday, well, what do you do? I think I'm craving a family tradition but have been unable to come up with something. Any wisdom?
Dreaming of Christmas

We make Christmas a moveable feast! I always like the idea of the 12 days of Christmas - so when the 25th conflicts with our family celebration - we move it to another day. Being from a Norwegian immigrant family, our tradition was that the table is spread from Christmas Eve to Epiphany on January 6. Here are some other ideas from our Matriarchs and Panel of Experts:

Matriarch earthchick responds:
The only answer I have found is to schedule some vacation time. I always save a few days of vacation to begin the day after Christmas and to continue at least through the Sunday after Christmas. This includes when Christmas Day falls early in the week - I find it hard to celebrate with family if I am still having to plan worship and a sermon for the following Sunday. Our family all lives 800 miles away, so the only way to have any time with them is to take vacation - but I would probably do it even if they were only a few hours away. I know of some churches that close the offices for the week between Christmas and New Year's, and give the whole staff those days off. This doesn't address the issue of Sunday worship, but I do think it's a very humane way of treating staff who have put in many hours during Advent and don't usually have the freedom to travel until Christmas Eve services are over.

Jacque came upon a solution after years of struggle:
I have struggled with this for my entire ministry. There have been times that we did the Christmas Eve Service and then hit the road to travel to my Mom's home (5-12 hours, depending on the location of the church I was serving). Or we drove it all on Christmas Day which was not very satisfying. Or we just did not see each other at Christmas.

However in just the last 3 years, our family has found a wonderful solution! It started with the realization that we ALL like to spend Christmas Day at our own homes. For my sister with young children, home is best. For my Mom, staying at home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, makes it possible for her to participate in her own church services. For my husband and myself, it makes Christmas Eve and Christmas Day more peaceful if we are able to focus on Church services and our community here. THEN on the day after Christmas, we all travel to our cabin in the Arkansas Ozarks. Mom comes from Memphis. My sister and family come from Kansas City. We come from St. Louis. We fire up the woodstove, and have several days of playing games, reading, working puzzles, talking, exchanging gifts, fixing simple meals -- no huge Christmas spread -- just our favorite things. Last year as we all arrived around the dusk the day after Christmas, the snow was just beginning to fall. The kids had a great time in it while we hung stockings on the mantle and put up a small tree.

We've decided that the day after Christmas is our solution. I get someone else to preach the Sunday after Christmas and the congregation doesn't mind. They're all ready to relax, too.


NJ Soprano for Jesus writes:
Years ago, when the kids started to get married, we said to them, "Look, here's the deal: You can be anywhere you want/need to be for Christmas, but EVERYONE comes home for 'Little Christmas' aka 'The Epiphany' on (the Sunday nearest) January 6th."

Now that there are grandbabies, it works even better. We get to say to the kids, "Stay home. Be with your babies on Christmas morning. Come and be with us after the madness and the pressure on (the Sunday nearest) January 6th" The bonus is that we don't have to shop for them until AFTER the Christmas rush and get things at 50 - 75% off the pre-Christmas mark up.

The additional benefit is that our kids are deeply grateful that we don't add to the pull and tug of family holiday insanity - and, in the NE Corridor - the additional threat of driving in bad holiday traffic and in bad weather. It's like the best Christmas present we could give them - But wait! There's more! There's actual presents (albeit ones that have been bought during the after-Christmas sales)!

It's win-win all around.

Wise layperson celebrates for weeks!
We have up to four Christmas celebrations each year.

In mid-December we get together with friends and have our annual holiday party (complete with tree, food, gifts, storytelling, music, and generally goofiness). Some combination of these friends have been getting together every year for coming up on 20 years.

Christmas eve we usually have our housemate's extended-blended family over for more food, more people to admire the tree, presents for the kids, stories (the Grinch who Stole Christmas makes an annual appearance in a reading by our housemate's brother, with the kids acting out the various parts while wearing their new pyjamas).

Christmas day is usually just the four of us, but sometimes we have my brother and his family and my husbands brother over for brunch.

Then, sometime in January, we open the last few presents-- if weather permits, my husband's parents might come over the mountains and visit (usually we have a family gathering in October that serves as our Thanksgiving/Christmas/Birthday dinner since all the 'kids' have fall birthdays and any later than that and the weather on the passes becomes too unpredictable).

We set up our Advent candles every year beginning with the First Sunday of Advent I set up my natvity sets (four and counting) and hide the baby Jesus so he can be 'born' on Christmas. We read the relevant prayers each week. I keep them up through the Christmas season so the magi can complete their journey on the 12th day of Christmas.

This year we will be breaking with tradition and visiting my parents in Wyoming (or house sitting their cats, depending on how somethings outside of our control go). Our son asked to have Winter for Christmas-- and while I can't guarantee snow on Christmas day, it is certainly more likely to happen in Wyoming than in Seattle.

Long time rector says her congregations have always expected her to take the Sunday after Christmas off, sounds like a wise tradition:
I always take a week of vacation after Christmas and Easter – in no setting have I had the sense that anyone expected me to be in the pulpit the Sunday following Easter or Christmas – in fact one place saw it at comp time and not even part of my 4 Sundays of vacation! It’s hard not to be with family on Christmas itself but afterward it is always a really relaxing week. I do Christmas morning with my nuclear family and then on the 26th we travel to see extended family and they are kind enough to hold festivities a second time.

PS: keep your questions coming - ATM banks are empty after this question.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday Festival - a little of this and a little of that edition

Sally shares with us a lovely Harvest Festival and service.

In light of the election and the Reverend Mom is working on keeping perspective on what really matters.

And, being that it is the week prior to the big election, Mitch shares this tip for those in Michigan with a post on "How To See the 2008 Michigan Ballot before you vote". He wonders if other states offer the same.

How many of you all have blood drives at your church? Mitch shares this week that he has blogged about a Blood Drive he had at their church. church.

Molly shares an uplifting story of how God is working in her life through her friends and her daughter. Beautiful Molly!

Christine invites us to come join this week's Poetry Party in honor of our ancestors for the feasts of All Saint's and All Soul's.

Shawna has just been confirmed into the Episcopal Church! Blessings on her as she begins this new chapter in her life.

Sally shares a few questions on the value of symbol/ ritual, and then a poem.

Tell us what is happening at your blog, or someone else's blog. May the festival continue in the comments!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- "What's my #1 strength? My humility, of course" edition

For Sunday, November 2

Joshua 3:7-17
Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23:1-12

Once upon a time, I thought it would be a great idea to preach a sermon series on “Bible Stories we should all know.”  I thought it was a great idea.  Noah, Jericho, Job, David, Jonah…  All of these stories that we should know.


Except, most of these stories contain major chunks that I struggled with how to tell.  The Battle of Jericho?  A huge bloodbath with little concern for the innocent.  Seriously?  How do you preach that?


I could go on, but you know the stories. 


As we enter this passage from Joshua, maybe it is a good Sunday to talk about the privilege and responsibility of dominance/leadership/1st world-ness?  What about the people/families/communities who lived in the promised land?


Or in Matthew, there is a little diatribe about the religious leaders of the day.  Are we any different?  How? 


How do we love our “phylacteries broad and their fringes long.”  Christians?  Ministers?


What role does humility play in the life of faith?


And how much of it makes it into the sermon?  Maybe none of it?


What are you thinking?

Monday, October 27, 2008

RevGalBookPals: Jesus for President

(Due to my over-enthusiasm, or inability to read a calendar, we accidentally started the BookPals discussion a whole week here it is again for further comments. Sorry! Songbird)

Maybe you're anxious for this election to be over (Let's just vote already!) Or maybe you're loving every minute of every campaign ad, debate, and editorial column.

But Shane Claiborne - founder of The Simple Way in Philadelphia - notes in this beautifully crafted book that a different kind of campaign is possible. He and Chris Haw are the co-authors of our discussion book: Jesus for President.

Some of us who love the church long for the church to be different. We call ourselves "Loyal Radicals" in that we choose to stay in the institutional church while seeking to change it. And some long for our nation to be different - longing for a day when waterboarding is not possible and Hummers are not parked in our driveways.

And still others see that our nation will not be different until the church is different. We have confused Biblical faithfulness with American patriotism, and our churches have long lost the reality that Jesus' message is a radical shift from the consumerism and flag-waving messages that our congregations regularly hear - even from the pulpit.

Shane and Haw re-tell familiar Bible stories with a radical twist and ask questions that make us squirm. So . . . what do you think?

1. In the section called "When the Empire Got Baptized" the authors write:

"Flags on altars, images of the gods on money...Caesar is colonizing our imaginations. What happened to the slaughtered lamb, the Prince of Peace? There seems to be another gospel spreading across the empire... Two kingdoms are colliding. What is a Jesus-follower to do when the empire gets baptized?"

Is there an American flag in your sanctuary and, if so, what would happen if somebody moved it? Has there ever been a theological discussion about what it means for the flag to be a presence in your place of worship?

2. The Hebrew Bible conveys that, although God was Israel's ruler, they wanted a king like all the other nations. God gave The Ten Commandments and sent prophets to set people straight. But it wasn't working:

"The construction of the set-apart people into a living temple of blessing is going so-so. The solution: God puts skin on to show the world what love looks like. But here is the catch: The Prince of Peace is born as a refugee in the middle of genocide and is rescued from the trash bin of imperial executions to stand at the pinnacle of this peculiar people. A strange way to start a revolution..."

How do you hear your congregational brothers and sisters discussion the pros and cons of Obama and McCain? Is it about self-interest (a tax cut for me!) or are the candidates' policies/experiences/characteristics admired or rejected based on an understanding of what is "biblical"?

3. The fourth section of Jesus for President is called "A Peculiar Party", and it's a description the world's enormous problems according to the ancient biblical stories of the Jewish people. The Israelites were meant to be a people "set apart."

Are we in the church today, in any way, peculiar/set apart/different from our neighbors as followers of Jesus? How do we embody what we believe? Are we "political" in a way that conveys our faith in Jesus and our intentionality in following him?

Enjoy and discuss!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Afternoon music video- being loved and loving ourselves

The scriptures today bring us Jesus challenging words:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Those words in the middle of this short passage "you shall love your neighbour as yourself" call us up short again and again, loving ourselves can be tough, loving ourselves is not about indulging ourselves but about accepting ourselves as God accepts us! I wonder if the crux of the problem is that too often we are too busy... with that thought I offer you this video from Chris Tomlin that speaks about the unfailing love of God. Perhaps it is only when we allow ourselves to experience the unfailing love of God that we are able to love ourselves! ( apologies for the fact that the video comes to rather an abrupt end, I hope you enjoy it anyway!)

What did you sing in church today? Did you sing about God's love for us? As always let us know in the comments

Let It Be....


Although it will be morning when most of us read this prayer, I offer it anyway, as beautiful prayer of letting go and letting God....

Night Prayer (source The New Zealand Prayer Book)

it is night.

The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.

The night is dark;
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and our own lives rest in you.

The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us,
and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
new joys,
new possibilities.

In your name we pray.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Early morning Preacher Party!

It's a chilly autumn morning here in Gloucestershire, UK and I'm feeling rather less than warm about this week's sermon I thought I'd host (and post) a breakfast party for those of us whose time zones are out of synch with the US majority.
I've made a jug of hot chocolate, it's so bleak outside - and there's fresh toast with home made blackcurrant jam.
I'm pondering how to preach Bible Sunday in my congregations...We don't yet know each other well enough, I guess, for me to launch into full on liberalism, but I can't with integrity preach a view of Scripture that I don't actually hold.
I suspect they may get more of a lecture than a sermon, unless God intervenes in my rather frantic preparations.
Tonight I'm singing in my first concert with a local choir - rehearsal this pm so the sermon has to be thought through and writeable in short order.
What about you?
How are your words and your Saturday shaping up?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Five: Location Location Location

My daughter, her husband, and their toddler, Trinity Ann, are moving from Minneapolis, Minnesota to our place. It's a long story, but the short version is that they will be loading a Ryder truck on Saturday, and on Sunday afternoon we will unload it into a storage unit in our town. They will move themselves, their two cats and their BIG dog into our place. Yes, there will be issues, but this Friday Five isn't really about that. (Prayers for jobs for them and patience for all of us are most welcome, however.) This post is about locations. My husband has lived at 64 addresses in his life so far (16 with me) and he suggested the topic since we have moving trucks on our minds.
Therefore, tell us about the five favorite places you have lived in your lifetime. What did you like? What kind of place was it? Anything special happen there?

If you have lived in less than five places, you can tell us about a fantasy location.

Here are the instructions to create a link to your post.. Copy and paste the following: <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, October 23, 2008

Ask The Matriarch: to dream dreams and have visions

Our question for the week comes from a pastor whose congregation is growing and who is seeking some resources for strategic planning:

This isn't an earth-shattering question, but I don't know where else to go to get such a broad spectrum of experience and knowledge of resources. Here's the quick and dirty:

I'm in my 7th year of ministry, so not really a newbie, but at the same time I've only been in this second call for 9 months. My first was as an associate pastor, and this one is solo. I know we need to do some long-range discernment and organization of ministry and mission, but I have no idea where to start and to move forward with it. I am a first career pastor, went to seminary straight out of college, so I don't have business world experience of strategic planning, etc. Sometimes I think that's a good thing, not a bad thing, but at the same time it has left me with no experience in how to do anything even similar to this. I know some of my members have some visioning experience from the business world, and I imagine I can tap them to help. At the same time, I'd like to trust that somewhere in the world of Christian thought and church leadership we have rediscovered and ancient way or developed a new one that can help us along in our process. I've looked at Alban and ordered their Holy Conversations book. The next public seminar is not for another year. We don't have funds to spend on a consultant.

Any thoughts on ways to get started, processes that have worked, resources to turn to.

Our membership will be 240 as of this coming Sunday (receiving a few new ones). We worship around 130 on an average Sunday. We are growing at a fairly good pace, but we aren't unmanageable. There's one worship service, a long established congregation, but a new building (that actually could be added onto for more comfort, but paying down our principal on the mortgage is more important right now). The congregation is AMAZING at pitching in usually, but the session and I are feeling a lull after the initial excitement of my start-up this year. We agree we need direction, but I don't know how to lead the session in discerning what that direction should be. I have an idea or two about unique opportunities to expand our ministry and partnership with and to a non-faith-based organization for youth with disabilities for which we provide almost-free meeting and office space year round. I don't know how to pitch these ideas and (hopefully) garner support and energy around them. I've been praying about it a lot and feel the Spirit's leading in that direction very surely. I talk more and more about it, and have some other folks praying on it, too, so hopefully we're moving that direction, and I'll know how to move us forward.

Anyway, there's a lot in here, and it may not be the most interesting question, but what I'm looking for is advice on how to capitalize on the energy that exists because of my newness and our growing congregation, and how we can move forward in discerning the Spirit-led vision for our congregation?

Thanks for any help you can give if this fits the realm of the feature.

She Rev

Rector in Hawai’i writes
If your presbytery doesn't offer consulting services for what you need, here are a few other options:

1) Connect with one or two or the most successful pastors (women, if possible) in your presbytery and get their better thinking on these questions. You might even consider developing a mentor relationship with one or both.

2) Check out the resources of other Christian judicatories in your location and seek one of their consultants to help.

3) Alban isn't the only game in town. Start googling for other pastoral seminars and workshops.

4) It may sound strange, but the Interim Ministry Network used to have really good and solid foundational training for parish work. Of course it was for intentional interims, but a great deal of the training can be adapted to newly entered settled ministries.

5) Invite other clergy - regardless of tradition -- to do a book study on Holy Conversations. The discussion could be most helpful.

Sally deo Gloria responds –
Dear She Rev,

Congratulations on serving a church with positive energy and forward momentum! That's not to be taken for granted these days. Your quest for the right vision to guide your congregation in the long-term seems well timed. I don't have more specific guidance, other than the Alban materials you've suggested.

Can I make a related suggestion though? Continue to make changes, even now. Waiting for the "vision" to be in place before embarking on new adventures might be a mistake. Perhaps some of your ideas will help broaden the capacity of your congregation to embrace a transformative vision. If you feel strongly that these are good ideas, based on real opportunities, then perhaps you can just ask your lay leaders to trust your leadership. If you have a good relationship with them, they're likely to follow you in these new ministries. There is risk for you (if these things don't work, you'll lose some points). There is risk for them (if these things don't work, people will ask hard questions). However, there is tremendous upside too. Success will mean that your visionary role as a leader is reinforced. Success will mean that your leaders learn that some risk-taking allows the church to do more than it might otherwise do. As I often say to people, the Bible is full of transformation stories, but people are NEVER transformed where they are. There's ALWAYS a change or a journey involved.

These are not long-term vision resources, but I have two suggestions of resources in this transitional time (while you're gearing up for the big visioning process). First, you might encourage some leaders to read Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Church. While many mainline Protestants will disagree with its evangelical theology, it's a fabulous way to encourage people to think about why their church exists -- and what larger endeavors they might undertake. There are lots of good, practical strategies for calling members to be disciples. Second, I suggest Beyond Business as Usual by Neal Michell. It's written for Episcopal vestries, but it could work well for lay leaders in any denomination. There are lots of practical exercises to encourage thoughtful reflection, prayer, and big thinking. The suggested Bible studies alone are worth the price of the book. These resources might help you prepare leaders for the visioning process you're about to enter.

May you and your congregation be blessed in your journey.
Sally Deo Gloria

It does seem that the Spirit is alive in your congregation. Plans and strategies are great but so is moving with the Spirit. Appreciative Inquiry is a way to move with the Spirit. It builds on what is already working and encourages dreaming about what can be. Google Appreciative Inquiry for more resources but here is one that offers coaching and education and ideas for how to use AI.

What other ideas do readers have for SheRev?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

November 1 is coming fast!

And why do you care?

Well, it's a very important deadline for more than one thing in the RevGals world!

I hope that many of you are planning to join us for the Big Event 2.0 in Arizona (look to the right sidebar for more info). We do need a minimum number for the event to go forward, so if you plan to go, it's imperative that you get your application and deposit in by November 1 (next Saturday).

Event cost includes a year's membership (new or renewing) in RevGalBlogPals, Inc.; if you want to vote in our upcoming Board election and you are NOT planning to come to the Big Event, we also need to receive your membership fees no later than November 1. (Info on joining or renewing is also in the sidebar.)

Any questions? Please comment here or email me: marybeth AT unt DOT edu.


Wednesday Festival: Reading and Smiling and Praying and Doggage

Leah Sophia has a book recommendation for us (maybe it'll be a BookPals selection one day!) It's Sin Boldly by Cathleen Falsani. (I just picked this up at the library this weekend on her recommendation, so I am excited to read it!) She says the Amazon reviews are all good too.

Speaking of reading...we got a little ahead of schedule with yesterday's BookPals discussion of Jesus for was originally scheduled for the 27th of October. So, thanks to those of you who commented; keep it going...and we will expand that discussion through to next Monday for those of you who are still reading!

Mitch (the Pastor's Spouse) shares a great story about why his wife is the pastor, not him. I think this stroke of genius on her part deserves great accolades!

Elastigirl has an amazing possibility on the horizon! Prayers sought!
Over at Quotidian Grace's place, Beatrice blogs her concern for cousin Olivia. Get better soon, Olivia!

In other doggy news, the Dog and God blog relates a family trip to a dog-friendly B&B and a dog-blogger meetup! Wonderful!

What's up with you this week? Share with us, won't you? The comments await.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- are we in the promised land yet?

For Sunday, October 26, 2008
Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

In the reading from Deuteronomy, Moses sees the promised land, and then he dies.  He does not get to live in the land which God has promised God’s people.

Is the promised land a place or a condition?  Is Jesus living in the promised land?

In the reading from Matthew, Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees.  He’s already been questioned by the Sadducees and won that round, but the Pharisees aren’t ready to concede defeat.  And so they ask him some questions specifically designed to trick him into saying something damaging.

The questions don’t trick him, and Jesus comes back with an answer that has become one of the central verses of our faith. 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39and a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

And then, the tables turn and Jesus asks the people some questions, questions so well designed that Matthew tells us they end this kind of “gotcha” questioning.

And that’s really the point of this passage, the questioning and Jesus’ inability to be out-smarted.

Is Jesus living in the promised land?

What does it mean to live in the promised land?

I’m also thinking about the election, and how many supper tables have declared politics off-limits-  too decisive and a topic too difficult to navigate safely.  

Are we like the Sadducees in our questioning and taking answers out of context when it serves our beliefs and chosen candidate?

Is being able to talk and listen connected to neighborly-ness?

Are our enemies our neighbors?  How are we doing on that count?

Paul Tillich wrote, “The saint is not a saint because he is good, but because he is transparent for something that is more than himself.”

Just some thoughts for this week.  What are you thinking?



Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Video - Cwm Rhondda

It was a great day for hymns in our church - but the last one is a good old chestnut and was sung with about as much fervency as our little church can give.

Share with us a little about your music at church. Is your congregation a "frozen chosen" when it comes to singing, or does it give all it can, or somewhere in between?
What did you sing today in worship?

Sunday Prayer

Holy and Gracious God, We give you thanks for this gift of life; for those we love and those love us, especially for the gift of your Son. We thank you for this new day, for the unchanging gift of your presence in the sunrise and the sunset, and all the hours in between. We thank you for those occasions when your presence is made known to us, and especially when we have the eyes to see you, the ears to hear, and a heart open enough to receive you. Help us to not be sidetracked by the distractions of this life. Help us to understand that all that we are and all that we have is of you.

Tender love of God, be with those who weep this day, who are in the darkness of despair and all who cry out for justice, for hope. Help us, guide us, to an awareness of your open arms, and in that embrace may the suffering find solace and peace. We pray that your mercy will be our mercy. Help us to give as you give, with gratitude and joy, help us to love as you love, with a radical graciousness. Be with us this day, and every day, that we may be the face of Christ and the means through which your love is poured into the broken places of this world. Amen.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: Render Unto Caesar Edition

Good morning, gals and pals! I'll be posting this automatically when I go to bed tonight for all of you across the seas (and some who can't sleep.) This weekend some of us are continuing through Exodus; others are starting out in Paul's letter to the Thessalonians; and still others of us are with Jesus as he deftly deals with questions from the Pharisees and the Herodians. You can check out this week's texts here.

But all of us (well, almost all of us) are getting closer to Election Day, listening to debates, negative ads, news about the world economy, and fears about security. The exchange from Matthew sounds somehow eerily familiar. (Who's going to lower your taxes? Who's going to tax you more?) And does anyone here have plans to call upon "Joe the Plumber?"

This morning, I'll have blueberry pancakes for a change, with orange juice, as well as the familiar fair trade coffee and Good Earth Tea. If you are hunger, have a set. If you have something to share, you are also welcome. If you need to unload, complain, beat your head against a wall -- well, you can do that too. All are welcome. No matter which way you vote. Really.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Five: Coin Toss Edition

Well, Gals and Pals, this weekend we'll be rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and that has me thinking about coinage.

1) When was the last time you flipped a coin or even saw one flipped in person?

2) Do you have any foreign coins in your house? If so, where are they from?

3) A penny saved is a penny earned, they say. But let's get serious. Is there a special place in heaven for pennies, or do you think they'll find a special place in, well, the other place?

4) How much did you get from the tooth fairy when you were a child? and if you have children of your own, do they get coins, or paper money? (I hear there may be some inflation.)

5) Did anyone in your household collect the state quarters? And did anyone in your household manage to sustain the interest required to stick with it?

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, October 16, 2008

Ask The Matriarch: where your treasure is there also will be your heart

Active involved and caring member of a parish wonders about how to raise the church's consciousness about paying fair wages to parish staff.

Dear Matriarchs:

I am a layperson and a member of my church’s governing body (as of the Spring this year). I have been an active, involved, voting member of the parish for 5 years. I have been horrified to learn in recent Vestry discussions that all of our staff are currently paid at about 75% of replacement value. We have had the same Rector for many years; most of the other staff members are also long-term members of the parish (another and different issue!) and are very dedicated and devoted.

I work for my state government, so I am well familiar with being underpaid and staying with it for the benefits (tangible or intangible) as well as intense belief in and support of my vocation.

The problem has only come to attention because our wonderful organist has left, and to get a new person of the caliber we have come to expect over the last years, we would need to pay that person…an amount that would stretch the budget…and would also mean that our Music Director would be paid approximately half of what the organist would be making. The inequity, and his inability to live on his current small salary would probably mean him leaving, at the same time that he is recommending and supporting the higher salary for the organist!

The rest of the vestry has been aware of this and doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. I am trying to learn from my rector: why as a congregation we are not aware of this; why as a vestry we are not actively addressing it and making it a major priority of our stewardship campaign.

I hope that someone else can shed some light on whether this is common (I fear so), and how it might best be addressed.

From Matriarch Jan:
Dear Beloved Saint of the Church and Vestry -
How incredibly blessed your congregation (and staff) are to have you among them. It is a gift to have someone who is concerned about equity and paying staff fairly.

Having said this, I just don't know what the answer is, especially in this particular economy. We pay our own choir director and organist much less than they are worth, but they serve only limited hours and earn their primary income elsewhere. I frankly believe that this could be the future for clergy too, for better or for worse.

If you can't afford to pay your staff either you won't have any staff and you will have to get by with what you can afford. Or you will perhaps find volunteers who - out of passion for gorgeous worship for example - might serve for free or for minimal compensation.

This is indeed a common problem and it's probably going to become more common in the next decade. My own denomination's required health/retirement package is forcing many congregations to get rid of their association pastor positions. They just can't afford to keep them.

Jan - A Church for Starving Artists

Rector in Hawai’i writes:
One of the priests in our diocese sends out a survey every fall asking what the salaries of our parish staff are. This helps him to make sure he is at least keeping up with other parish staffs. But paying staff fair salaries has been a chronic problem in churches. It's a matter of justice for us. It's the staff who keeps the day-to-day operations of the parish going and it's the staff who support the ministries of the parish. But the staff must be paid a livable wage in their location. It would be pretty embarrassing to have staff live on food stamps and other welfare benefits. But the vestry must be educated about compensation as a justice issue and must be given the opportunity to figure out how each of them could live on the salaries paid their staff. Often one of the biggest problems in this issue is the rector who doesn't push for a fair wage him or herself. If the rector isn't paid based on experience and education, then it's hard to make the argument that the staff should.

There also needs to be a compensation schedule in the diocese for minimum salaries. This gives more strength to those who are trying to give fair compensation.

The vestry isn't addressing the issue and the congregation isn't aware of it often because no one wants to be the thorn in the side of the way "its always been done." Someone needs to speak up and challenge the vestry and make the information available. This doesn't mean that the vestry will do the right thing re compensation, but they will be forced to decide publicly and intentionally on the issue of compensation.

Just as an aside.... I hired a musician who wanted twice what our choir director was making. I said no, that I couldn't let our choir director be paid less than the church musician. We found other ways to give her support, like mileage and continuing ed money. My own goal for the next couple of years is to bring the salaries of the choir director and musician in line with American Guild of Organists (AGO) recommendations and with what I see parishes of a similar size being paid in urban areas on the mainland. I've told both individuals that I would be doing that. It took 6 years to get our parish administrator at a respectable level for salary and compensation; now it's the turn of those who supply our musical prayer and worship.

Rector from New Jersey had a surprising discovery when work hours were studied. She also recommends the AGO web site for help with fair wages and contract suggestions:
Just last year we went through a very similar situation. We did a very careful time study and slowly began to realize that while our organist was at the church for more than the number of hours we paid him, he was, in fact, teaching students in the choir room. So, in fact, we were subsidizing his private teaching practice. We cut the position from 3/4 to 1/2 time and kept the salary the same. We were able to attract many wonderful, talented, creative musicians who considered the job at remuneration consistent with AGO standards.

One learning we obtained from that process, besides the importance of a time study, was to go to the AGO website and look at the suggest rates as well as the suggested format for contract. Print out the information and bring copies to your wardens and vestry as well as every member of the choir.

AND, post it on the bulletin board in the back of the church. Stand up on Sunday and make the announcement that the information is available in the appointed space. That way, everyone gets educated.

If you think there will be resistance to that, stand up in church at the announcements anyway and let people know the web site url and/or let them know that you have copies of the print out.

In these times of economic worries - what do you recommend? What is happening to wages for the staff at your church? What about health insurance, pension, and other benefits? What other ideas do you have for active layperson?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wednesday Festival: To Thrive

This week, I wrote about the first time I heard God's voice. The more I listen to God, the better off I am. Funny about that!

Deb says: "I’m doing some intense thinking, reading and writing this week on sexual violence and the attending issues for pastoral care. My reading list is huge and the questions immense. I’m working primarily from the position of the needs of the “thriver” (aka victim or survivor). At the same time, I want to recognize the societal ills that cause “rape” to be under-reported. I don’t want to give perpetrators a pass… but neither do I want to treat them any less humanely than they treat those they rape. Somehow, I don’t see Jesus being vindictive…"

She has created a Zoomerang survey here. Please help her if you are able.

This is the first time I've heard the term "thrive" used in this way and it fascinates me.

I pray that all of us are focusing on thriving in God, in the weeks that surround us. It seems (from this seat) that most of the big and temporal things one could name are in chaos right now. The markets. The wars. The US elections. And that's just taking it from one USAmerican's perspective, admittedly a place where even our big problems can seem awfully privileged. (Though not to those worrying about making the next mortgage payment...etc.)

May we turn ever more to the source of our Being in these days, and to the comfort we find in our communities of faith, including this one.

Please share with us in the comments what you are writing, thinking, praying about.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- Whose money is it anyway?

For Sunday, October 19, 2008

Exodus 33:12-23
Psalm 99:1-99
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

In this Sunday’s readings, Moses talks about seeing the glory of God.   The letter to the church in Thessaloniki offers prayers and some insight into what is ahead.  And Jesus in Matthew?  It’s time to render unto Cesar what is Caesar’s.


How are you handling stewardship this year?  The market was up 11% today, down much more last week. 

It’s tricky, isn’t it?  On the one hand, when the economy is struggling the church is needed more than ever.  The food pantries where I live are struggling Much more than usual to keep up with demand.   We’re trying to find ways to give more, help more.


On the other, many in the congregation can’t afford to give as much, much less more.  Some of them are on fixed incomes.  Others are newly unemployed.


On still another hand, most of us still have a way to go on tithing.  What is the average person of faith in the United States giving away?  3%?


 Consider Richard Semmler:

Semmler, a 59-year-old mathematician, teaches calculus and algebra at Northern Virginia Community College. He can explain how to find the derivative of a polynomial… [and all sorts of complicated equations].  But in his private life, Semmler has reduced his existence to the simplest equation. In the last 35 years, by working part-time jobs and forgoing such everyday comforts as a home telephone and vacations, by living in an efficiency apartment and driving an old car, Semmler has donated as much as half of his annual income or more to charity.  His goal: $1 million before he retires.

‘If I didn't do all of the things I was doing, I would probably have a new car every two years and I would have a huge house with a huge pool,’ Semmler said this week as he took a break from pounding nails on a Habitat for Humanity house in Vienna. He donated $100,000 to this house, most of the money required to build it. He stared determinedly up at the half-finished house, his T-shirt streaked with sweat and sawdust. ‘But I would not do it that way,’ he said. ‘I want to do it this way.’

Percentage-wise, Semmler's generosity is exceedingly rare among the middle-class -- or the rich, for that matter, say those who study philanthropy. Each year, U.S. households give away an average of 2 percent of their income to nonprofit and religious organizations, according to Giving USA, which tracks donation trends. A household with Semmler's annual income, $100,000, donates an average of $2,000 annually to charity.

Last year, Semmler gave away $60,000.  ‘Life isn't always about multiplying what you get, he explained. Sometimes, it's about subtraction.’”

Jacqueline L. Salmon.  “The Washington Post.” Professor Finds Fulfillment in Emptying His Pockets. Saturday, June 11, 2005.



So.   Is it stewardship season where you are? 

What word do you have that comforts, challenges, and encourages, all at the same time?

Musical Musings - Labyrinth Music

The other day, I blogged about praying the Daily Office, and trying to find ways which helped to make it work for me. I received a comment from someone who mentioned that another RGBP blogger had blogged about something similar on the same day. In addition, she recommended a web site in which she used at work to pray the Divine Hours.

However, it led me to another place on the web site (and that is what surfing is all about, right?), which caught my interest and landed me here. They had a labyrinth link, so I followed the link. I'll be honest, I have only walked a labyrinth a few times. However, the times that I did, I felt like I needed music to accompany me on my journey. On this particular page, I heard some peaceful, calm music which caused me to relax and feel a sense of tranquility. I needed to find out where to hear more of this music. A link on that page landed me here. Martin Gregory offers meditative music to calm the soul, to reflect, pray, or walk.

There are a few resources for music specifically for walking the labyrinth. Music to Walk the Labyrinth offers 47 minutes of calm synthesized music to accompany you on your walk, or quiet time.

I found this labyrinth walk on Youtube and thought I would share it with you.

Is there a labyrinth in your area? If so, do you use music to accompany on your walk? Share with us your labyrinth experience(s). Share with us the music you find gives you that sense of calm, peace, and tranquility.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Video: Rejoice!

Here are two very different treatments of the text from today:

"Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say, rejoice!"
This one is in Wolof, shared by a missionary in Dakar, Senegal:

This one from the Royal Festival Hall, by Unexpected Harmony - the UK's most famous gospel choir. (They do baroque well, too!)

This text always reminds me of that old camp song...where you jump up and down on the word "rejoice." What did you sing in worship today? What are you singing now? Let us know in the comments!

Sunday Prayer

(Photo from the files of mompriest)

Collect for Purity (From the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, page 355)

"Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen."

Gracious God, in these anxious times, pour your love into our hearts, even when we are unable to fully open them to you. Reach into our desires and help direct them toward you, that we may ground our fears in your love, focus our anxiety through your compassion, rest our fears in your mercy. In so doing may we become your hands and heart in the world even when we have no idea how to do this. Guide us with your peace, your love, your grace, that we may do the same in the broken places of this world. Amen.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: Banquet Table Edition

In a week in which economic and election news donimate, in a week in which fear and scarcity seem to be the Truth, I invite you to consider God's banquet table: the one on the mountain, where all the nations will be invited, and where death will be swallowed up. Or, how about the wedding banquet given by a rich and generous king, by any stretch of the imagination an elaborate affair, but one the guests don't seem interested in going to? Or, how about the banquet of rejoicing in Paul's letter to the Philippians? "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice," he encourages us today.

So, how are you preaching this weekend? How will you deal with the economic and election news? (Is this going to come up in your preaching?) Is there a banquet table being prepared for your congregation? If so, what will it be?

This morning I invite you to sample my famous homemade apple-cinnamon oatmeal, along with fair trade coffee and tea, or course. Bring along anything else you would like to share, as well. And as we share our real ideas and our real hopes and our virtual goodies, I hope we catch a glimpse of the abundance of God.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Five: Business Trip

I spent a good bit of time today registering and making travel arrangements for the American Academy of Religion meeting in Chicago at the beginning of November. (Anyone up for a meetup? Shout out, okay?) I'm not presenting this year, so I'm busy sending out resumes and cover letters, but at least I'm not stressing about getting a paper written.

I'll see friends and teachers from grad school, try to resist temptation in the book hall, attend some presentations if time permits, and, God willing, have some preliminary interviews in the everlasting college-teaching-job-search process--prayers welcome, as always. And, thanks to my dear Mom who agreed to babysit and donated some frequent flyer miles, it will also be a busy-but-happy getaway with my sweetheart.

So for today's Friday Five, you're invited to share your experiences with the exciting, challenging world of business travel....

1. Does your job ever call for travel? Is this a joy or a burden?

2. How about that of your spouse or partner?

3. What was the best business trip you ever took?

4. ...and the worst, of course?

5. What would make your next business trip perfect?

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, October 09, 2008

Ask the Matriarch: new occasions teach new duties...

Questioner in California sends in this question for our Matriarchs. The weddings were in August and now it is October but hopefully our answers will help others facing this “new occasion” and we can hear how the August weddings came out.
Dear Matriarchs,

Since the California Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal there has been a mad dash to the altar. Because my church is Open and Affirming we are delighted to have the opportunity to join couples who have been denied this right for so long. I have 3 same-gender weddings coming up between now and the end of August. One of these couples just celebrated their 25th anniversary together and is overjoyed at the prospect of being legally married.

I've adapted the church's wedding application and contract to be gay and lesbian friendly, but when it comes to the actual service I need some advice from anyone who has experience with same-sex weddings. How do 2 brides process in? Or two grooms? And then "I now pronounce you wife and wife" seems a bit awkward...

Please, can the Matriarchs help me? Or direct me to someone who might be able to give me advice?

Matriarch Jacque offers her experience and wisdom:
Having performed many same-gender covenant services, I would use the same process I've always used -- which is to create the service and the language with the couple. Just as every heterosexual couple does not use the same language to describe their covenant; so it is that gay and lesbian couples differ. I've found that most do not usually speak of each other as husbands or as wives. (For that matter, my spouse and I don't use the husband/wife language very much -- too much negative baggage attached to it.)

So ... There are wonderful resources -- for help in creating services. One that has been around for number of years -- therefore you may have it -- is Shaping Sanctuary: Proclaiming God's Grace in an Inclusive Church, ed. Kelly Turney, published by The Reconciling Congregation Program, 2000. The concluding prayer and declaration in this source is lovely.

Or I have spoken declarations such as:

Sarah and Emily, you have entered into the covenant of marriage in the presence of God of this community. As sign and symbol of your covenant, you have spoken vows, given and received rings, and lit the candle of Hope. It is with joy, that I declare that the love that binds you now make you one in marriage! {Or if the couple prefers, I might just say ... "now makes you one!"}

As to how folks enter the space -- I've found that some like to come in together (just as some heterosexual couples choose to come in together). And some prefer for both of them to process -- one before the other. Some like to enter so that each has a family member or friend who is "presenting" them. The ways are varied. I just explore with each couple what they envision. It is a joy to create it. Sometimes it looks very traditional and sometimes it is something completely new in form and content.

Matriarch Karen writes:
As a fellow Californian, I would suggest … using [our] common energies to defeat measure 8. For suggestions on how you can be involved check here

Rector in Newark writes:
More and more same sex and heterosexual couples are choosing to walk in together, skipping the ancient "presentation of the virginal bride as transfer of property from her father to her husband" stuff for a more egalitarian entrance.

Another way to think about it is to have each person "presented" for the sacramental rite, just as we do for confirmation or in the sacrament of baptism. Their "presenter," (a member of the congregation) escorts each partner up the aisle while the "best people" wait for them at the altar.

In terms of language, the policy in the Diocese of Newark is that the couple and the cleric mutually decide on language. Some options are spouse, partner, Partner in life, Wedded Partner, or Beloved.

Wise layperson offers a place to begin with the couple:
I would start by asking the couple how they would like to customize the marriage service. What have they seen done in other services/ceremonies that they liked? What did they think really didn't work?

From a person who thought about this question during the planning for her own wedding:
My experience with the wedding service and same-gender weddings: it's an opportunity to take those things we have "just always done" and look at the symbolism of them. Why were they done that way to begin with? Do we want to keep it that way or make a different sort of statement through changing them?

With the bride processing and the groom waiting, we have the symbolism of the transfer of goods. The veiled chattel is presented by the patriarch to the new owner. Obviously that's not the message we want to present anymore, in either gay or straight weddings. Changing households, changing status, creating a new social unit -- all those things work. So having both people process individually and meet at the altar to join hands and turn to face the congregation would symbolically indicate this. Where the people have already been a social unit for a while and want to have the relationship affirmed, processing together, arm on arm or hand in hand, makes sense. My partner and I walked up hand in hand with our grandson, who was supposed to be the ring bearer, but who we needed to rescue from a major distraction he'd found just before the procession. It still symbolically worked quite well.

With the pronouncement, again we're looking for the symbolic connection. You have just joined these people in a union affirmed and uplifted by their communities. They've become "legal". You want to pronounce that. "I now pronounce you partners in a union blessed by God and affirmed by the people here gathered" might work. Something more like that.

All the elements of the ceremony have a symbolic meaning that can be made conscious and decided upon. The cake: a symbol of the relationship and what it has to offer the community, cut by the couple together and offered to all gathered. The rings: historic symbol of the ownership of property, which can be transformed, if the community gathered blesses the rings, to a symbol of that community blessing accompanying the couple always.

The above ceremony is one in which I was the presiding priest, in the Episcopal tradition the couple officiate at their wedding. The experience of planning it opened my eyes to what we do in all weddings. How will it best express the commitments of the couple to each other and the community’s commitment to support the couple in their life together? It has improved the quality of my pre-marital counseling and planning with all couples. Here is another web site for resources.

What other elements would you consider?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Slowing Down Wednesday Festival

As we move from summer into fall, I'm definitely slowing down a bit. I think you might be, too, and so this is a sluggish Wednesday Festival Week.

Rev Scott is on the move over at Nachfolge, though. He's doing a CROP Walk this coming Sunday with a group of campus ministry students. Head on over to support them! He also has some good thoughts on the vocation of parenting.

It may be a walking week, actually, because Ciona over at A Thing With Feathers is doing a walk, too.

In completely unrelated news, Cheesehead's haikus made me smile, and they also made me think. Remember Dolly Parton's great line in "Steel Magnolias" about laughter through tears being her favorite emotion? She would have liked Cheesehead.

Don't forget to send submissions to! We're happen to share your posts, or ones you've enjoyed as you wander through our blogring.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Lectionary Leanings- Peace vs. Weddings Edition

For Sunday, October 12

Exodus 32:1-14

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

Philippians 4:1-9

Matthew 22:1-14

For this week, it's hard not to love the Philippians passage.  

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.


How do we practice (rehearse) our faith?  How do we “keep on doing the things that you have learned and received?” 

It is a beautiful passage, but I'm not sure I'd want to build a sermon there.

I do think, however, that this might be a week to talk about the "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding."

The wedding story, on the other hand, is a dicey tale that seems to cry out for a careful reading.  What about those guests?  Why don’t the original guests go?  Are they taking a stand?  Are they too busy?


And maybe it’s a little bit of isogesis, but are we too busy to go to the banquet?


        “Busy, well meaning Christians often complain about how hard it is to balance church activities with everything else.  We want to do it all rather than select certain activities as top priority and let other activities go.  We do not want to sacrifice ‘alone time,’ family time, travel time, or shopping time for corporate worship.  So we forgo worship.  We give God the balance left over when everything else has been accomplished.  God however, does not belong on an equal par with work or recreation. God deserves to take first place in our lives.  This may involve sacrifice, a seemingly harsh word that comfort-loving, convenience seeking people do not like.

            My nine year old daughter was invited to a Saturday afternoon birthday party which was to end at 4 P.M..  Then plans changed, and the party was set to extend through Sunday morning.  ‘The girls won’t sleep all night, of course,’ the mother told me.  My husband and I were left with a dilemma.  Should we let our daughter spend the night, knowing we would need to pick her up before worship and she would be in a foul mood from lack of sleep?  Should we let her spend the night and skip worship just this once?  Or should we risk her displeasure with us and interrupt the fun by picking her up just before bedtime?  In the end we decided to pick her up before bedtime. Ours wasn’t a monumental decision, yet our lives consist of small choices like these, choices that add up over time….

          When we place our schedules in God’s hands, however, we are given one day in seven to hold as holy.  How liberating it is to be able to say, ‘No, we can’t attend.  We’ll be at church.’"

Judith Johnson-Siebold in “The Christian Century.”  October 4, 2005, page 19.


Of course, this tale has a rather rough ending.  How does that communicate?  Do we talk about God’s judgment?




Or…given the goings on of this week, are you considering journeying outside of the lectionary?


What are your thoughts?


RevGalBookPals Shout Out!

In this season of campaign shout-outs and put-downs, here's a thought: let's read a book together!

On Monday, October 27th, RevGalBookPals will feature a discussion of Shane Claiborne's Jesus for President, led by Jan Edmiston of A Church for Starving Artists. Jan is a longtime member of our Ask the Matriarchs panel, but this will be her first time posting at RevGalBlogPals.

You'll find a link to our Amazon store in the sidebar. Keep up the shopping! We hope to be offering some scholarship aid to the Big Event 2.0 using our Amazon Associates income for the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2008. Every time you buy from the RevGalBlogPals Amazon store, you add to the scholarship fund.

Hope to see lots of comments on the 27th!

Monday Meet and Greet will return on the 20th.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Prayer of St. Francis

This lovely musical treatment by Sara McLaughlin is only one of the many videos available for the St. Francis Prayer text.

This is another one I love:

Many blessings on this day...

Sunday Prayer

Holy and Gracious God, We give you thanks for this precious gift of life, especially the gift of your son. We give thanks that you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we can imagine. We are humbled by your graciousness, which at times gives more than we deserve. Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, that we might be held in its embrace. Forgive us those things we do that tear at the fabric of your love, whether they are things we do knowingly or things done unknowingly. Guide us into new light, new ways, new hope, for with you all hearts are opened, all desires, known, and no secrets are hid. Help us to love you, our God, our hope, our true desire, with all our heart and all our mind and all our strength. Help us to love our selves as well, and then to love our neighors as you love us. For in your love we will find the way and the truth and the life. Amen.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: Vineyard Edition

Good morning, gals and pals! This morning we're bearing fruit (or not), sharing what we've grown (or not), becoming the people God has called us to be (or not). In my neck of the woods, the chill of autumn has begun, the leaves are beginning to turn, and apples call to be plucked from local orchards. I'm just about expecting to see some plump pumpkins, too.

This weekend's readings are here. There are images of vineyards and fruit; sweet and bitter grapes; there's a building block rejected and an upward call. Where are the stories and the images taking you today? Are you already putting the finishing touches on this week's message? (If not, don't gloat too much!) Or are you staring at a blank page? What else is going on in your church this weekend?

I have my usual fair trade coffee (toffee caramel today) or Good Earth tea, plus huge apple crumb muffins (guaranteed no calories). I have some plums and bananas as well. And tables and chairs, and napkins and placemats. Stop in for awhile. The door is always open.

P.S. As yesterday's Friday Five mentioned, today is October 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. A special welcome to any dog, cat, bird, fish, horse, etc. friends who stop in today.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Saint Francis Day Friday 5

Today is the day that we remember and celebrate the life of St Francis of Assisi, here is a description of his early life:

Often named the Patron Saint of Animals and the Environment, there is much more to St Francis:

Saint Francis is called the little poor man of Assisi. He was born in the year 1182 in the town of Assisi in Italy. His father's name was Bernadone. Bernadone was a very wealthy merchant of Assisi. Francis was a very good-looking boy. He was merry and soft-hearted. So he had many friends. All the noble men's sons were his companions.

Francis was brought up in luxury and gaiety. He spent a considerable portion of his wealth in extravagant pleasures. He used to drink with the young princes of the land.

One day Francis was joking and laughing with his friends. A beggar came along crying for alms. Francis, who was soft-hearted, gave whatever he had in his pocket to the beggar. His companions mocked at him for his charitable act. Dispassion dawned in his heart. The sight of the beggar set him thinking about the poverty and misery of mundane life. He gave much money to the poor. His father thought that Francis was wasting his money and rebuked him.

Sometime after this, Francis was laid up in bed for many months on account of some serious disease. He was about to die. But the Lord saved him as he had to carry out a definite mission in his life. The nature of Francis was entirely changed. Francis prayed to the Lord for light and guidance as to his future. He had a vision of Lord Jesus. He made a strong determination to renounce his old way of living to tread a life of purity and to dedicate his life to the service of humanity.

As soon as Francis got well, he informed his parents of his determination. They were disappointed. They became angry with Francis. Francis gave up his old ways and habits and set up to serve God. He distributed clothes, goods and money to the poor. His father was very much annoyed towards his son. He said, "Is this the gratitude you show to me ? I laboured hard and amassed wealth. You are lavishly wasting it on these miserable wretches".

Francis' friends mocked at him and teased him. His father turned him out of the house. Francis lived like a beggar. His old friends even pelted him with stones and mud. He bore everything with patience. He wore a coarse dress and ate simple food.

Francis went on to travel from village to village preaching the love of God. He invited people to join him in his life of service if they were willing. Bernard, a rich man of Assisi, was very much attracted by the saintliness of Francis. He joined Francis. He was the first follower of Francis. He placed all his wealth at the altar of God. Eleven others also joined Francis. They distributed all their wealth to the poor. Francis and his followers went all over Italy preaching, teaching, healing and blessing wherever they went.

The gospel of kindness and love of Francis soon spread all over Europe and earned for him the name of St. Francis. People called him the little poor man of Assisi. He lived for ever in the hearts of all men.

St. Francis collected many followers and founded the Order of Mendicant Friars or Franciscans. The members of this Order have to take a vow of poverty, chastity, love and obedience.
St. Francis gave up his mortal coil in 1228.

I would like to dedicate this Friday Five to St Francis of Assisi.

1. Saint Francis experienced a life changing call, has anything in your journey so far challenged you to alter your lifestyle?

2. Francis experienced mocking and persecution, quite often in the comfortable west this is far from our experience. If you have experienced something like this how do you deal with it, if not how does it challenge you to pray for those whose experience is daily persecution?

3 .St Francis had female counterpart in St Clare, she was influenced by St Francis sermon and went on to found the Poor Clare's, like the Franciscans they depended on alms this was unheard of for women in that time, but she persisted and gained permission to found the order. How important are role models like St Clare to you? Do you have a particular female role model whose courage and dedication inspires you? If so share their story....

4. Francis loved nature and animals, how important is an expressed love of the created world to the Christian message today?

5. On a lighter note; have you ever led a service of blessing for animals, or a pet service, was it a success, did you enjoy it, and would you do it again?

No bonus question today- this is quite long enough!!!

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