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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve Wednesday Festival

As we bid adieu to the old year today, and turn to the new year of the calendar year, this is the last of Wednesday Festival's for the year. Join us today for some profitable reading, thoughts, poems, sermons, essays, you name it from our talented writers. And may I say I hope that this last year has been overall a good year for you. And if it has not and instead has been full of pain and suffering, I hope this next year looks up for you. And remember you are not alone as you are a part of the RevGalBlogPals.

So here we go; Eternal Echoes invites you to read Poems inspired by another blogger's photos . The photos and poems are quite good. She also invites you to take a look at her reflective pictures of Norfolk, and of a Winter sunset. They are beautiful pictures. And she invites you to pictures of Winter walk at Wells-Next -the- Sea. Thank you for having us along on your winter walks and thoughts.

Have you ever aspired to be the Hostess with the Mostess? Well Quotidan Grace offers her tips for Aspiring Hostesses with the Mostess. I'll remember these next time more show up for the dinner than I planned on.

Quantum Theology invites you to read their reflection they wrote for their diocesan paper. It was written after they began to wonder just what things Mary might have been pondering in her heart (as Luke's gospel would have it). There's a sequel about the snarky teen-ager in the temple coming, they suspect! Go have a read of the well written Poor Gifts.

Reverend Mom actually had her Christmas sermon done early this year! She preached it at St. Luke's Episcopal, Franklin Square in Baltimore at 5:00PM on Christmas Eve. The sermon is titled God Through the Back Door. Go let her know what you think, and maybe it will be a inspiration to us for next Christmas. Well done Reverend Mom.

Scott Johnson has written an interesting piece about books that mess with your head. He had been doing some good reading lately, but it’s stuff that plays with your head a little bit and he wanted us to know about it. M-m-m maybe these are books we need to consider for our book club or maybe some of you have already read some of these books or will add them to your books to be read list. Either way go let him know what you think.

I have written a post about some of my thoughts on the Golden Canon of Christianity Today highlighting their top 10 Leadership books. I have some questions and ask for people's thoughts on these books. Go have a read and let me know what you think.

Now I bid you adieu last year and look forward to the new calendar year.

You can add your own entries in the comment section as well. And as always you can email us your entries for next time to
Editorial Cartoon by Steve Breen at Darry Cagle's Professional Cartoonists

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings, Word and Kings edition

For Sunday, January 4, 2008    
Jeremiah 31:7-14  
Psalm 147:12-20
Ephesians 1:3-14  
John 1:(1-9) 10-18     

Epiphany Readings: 
Isaiah 60:1-6 
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 
Ephesians 3:1-12 
Matthew 2:1-12     

Where are you this Sunday?  

Will you be talking about the Word made flesh?   

Will the kings be arriving in Bethlehem?   

My favorite pairing with the John text is the classic quote from Albert Schweitzer, the end of his book The Quest for the Historical Jesus:
He comes to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old by the lakeside, he came to those men who knew him not. He speaks to us the same words, "Follow thou me!", and sets us to the tasks which he has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey him, whether they be wise or simple, he will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in his fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience who he is.   

And here’s a thought for Epiphany: (Author Unknown) 
“If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things;  if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi?  Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds?  Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary?  For each one of us, there is a desert to travel.  A star to discover.  And a being within ourselves to bring to life.”    

Who was Jesus?  

What does it mean to us to have the Word made flesh?  

For God to have pitched a tent in our midst?   

How did the wise men have the time required for such a journey?  

What about their families?    Their responsibilities?    

Where are you journeying this Sunday?   

Peace to you, Listing Straight   

(P.S.  This is my last Lectionary Leanings-  thank you for all of your words of encouragement and insightful thoughts that have been so helpful to so many people in this crazy thing called preaching.  You will continue to be a blessing to many).  

Monday, December 29, 2008

Meet and Greet: The Exhausted Version....


This Monday, following a very busy week of Christmas services and family events, I find myself exhausted. What about you? Regardless....we have some new wonderful folk to welcome to the, as you (hopefully) rest this day spend some time welcoming our newest members!

I am Mum to three girls, ages 9, 7 and 4 - actually Mum-mum, so hence the name for the blog. I am also pastor many years in the making, graduated seminary in 2003, and as of 8/15/08 a licensed local pastor. Being Mum is also a state of being - I learn much more from listening than from talking. I think mum (as in not speaking, as well as being a parent!) a good way for a pastor to be.

turtledoves and tofu
biologist, mom, Franciscan novice & EFM student mulls over a gemish of scripture, science, the sacred feminine (bonus! I'm a PK all grown up!)

Welcome all! and Many Blessings to all Revgals, resting, working, or playing this week.

Monday looking forward...

Friends, I don't know if a Monday post has been scheduled, but in the meantime, I encourage you to drop an email to and share your favorite RevGalBlogPal posts from the holiday season.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Video - Coventry Carol

The Coventry Carol is a sixteenth century carol beloved by many. This one is sung by Loreena McKennitt on her A Midwinter Night's Dream album. For many this Sunday and next are the two Sundays where we sing Christmas carols for the church year.

Share with us the hymns you sung or heard this day at worship. Are you hearing Christmas music anywhere else right now in your world other than in church?

Sunday Prayer

Gracious God,
God of light,
God of life,
God of all that is

You come to us
in the darkness
of the night
and call us by name

Give us, we pray
the grace
to hear you -
the hope
to see you -
the love
to mend
a broken world.

Help us
to be your
hands -
your hope.

Be with us, we pray
with those
who suffer,
with those
who weep,
with those
this night/day
and give us, we pray
your peace.


Crossposted on the Revgals prayer pals blog

Saturday, December 27, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: "Wait! We Don't Have the Day Off?" Edition

Friends, I'm sitting at St. Casserole's kitchen island, trying to adjust to a different time zone, which is no excuse, since I ought to think it's later than I do. We're drinking coffee with Fat Free half-and-half and eating biscotti.

I'm on vacation, but not completely, as I have a sermon to -- cough, cough -- "finish" for tomorrow, to give at her church. I'm going with Anna and Simeon. You? If you have the day off, good for you! If it's Lessons and Carols, good for you! If it's your turn to preach, FINALLY, then GO YOU!!! (You know who you are.)

Chime in down in the comments. I'll be in and out today, hoping to breathe in some humid air that feels as good as a vaporizer along the way. Let's party!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day Friday Five

It's Boxing Day!

Whatever that may mean to you, I invite you on this day to simply share five things that today, December 26th, will bring for you. 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 in the comment box: <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.
Many Blesings, and happy Second Day of Christmas!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas tales

At Christmas we try our best to hold services full of meaning and dignity appropriate to the day. In spite of our best efforts "things happen." Here are a few stories from our sisters and matriarchs:
Karen writes:
My first church had several big holly trees planted right outside the sanctuary. Our sanctuary was an old, federal (built around 1820) buidling with big, clear windows. One Sunday right before Christmas, right during worship, most of the congregation could see through these windows that a man had set up a ladder right next to one of these trees and was snipping off small branches and putting them in a big plastic bag. One of the ushers went out to investigate.

"What are you up too?"

"Oh, just getting some holly for our Christmas decorations."

"Those are the church's trees, you know."


"And---well, we're right in the middle of a worship service."

"Uh-huh . . ."

Absolutely no indication that this guy (not a church member) had any clue that anyone might think that what he was doing was in any way inappropriate.

RazorCityPastor writes:
My first Christmas as a priest, I'd been ordained about 3 weeks, and was nervous and excited for my first Christmas. That year, Advent IV was also Christmas Eve. In addition to the late service in one town, I was doing a 5:00 service in another town about 60 miles away. At that point I was quite wedded to preaching from a manuscript and had worked on having every phrase just right. Everything went well in Torrington. It was a beautiful winter drive back to Lusk, but I had not allowed sufficient time to check things over as thoroughly as I should have before the service started. I was simply glad that all the purple hangings from the morning Advent had changed to Christmas white. You can imagine my chagrin when I climbed into the pulpit and looked down to see my morning Advent sermon instead of my great inaugural Christmas sermon. I have no reason to be afraid, because I knew there was a copy from Torrington in the front seat of my truck. I simply told the congregation I'd be right back. They were used to some surprising starts to my sermons and thought it was one of those times. When I went to the office, however, I couldn't find the keys to my truck right away. They weren't in my coat pocket, not in my purse. I stuck my head back into the church and said I'd be right with them. Ah, there they were in the pocket of my skirt. Reaching inside my alb I grabbed them, and began to run alongside the outside of the church to my truck. The sidewalk was solid ice and the congregation could hear my panicked screams as I slid toward and under the pickup. I recovered myself enough to open the truck, grab the sermon, and come back into the church where everyone chuckled a bit and I preached a pretty good sermon for a beginner. Grace abounded. Sometime later I listened to a tape of that night and though it seemed an eternity, the whole search and rescue only took about 1.5 minutes. Funny in a way how Christ is particularly incarnate in the times of chaos.

When our youngest child was not quite a year old we took him to the late Christmas Eve service, Midnight Mass. Before the service musicians would offer a program of carols and instrumental pieces. Our son fell asleep on the pew beside us in the darkened church. During a flute solo, lovely, quiet interlude, he rolled off the bench, there was a moment of stillness and then howls and tears. We grabbed him up and took him out - he was not injured - but the mood was broken for that night! Wonder if baby Jesus would have approved?

What tale do you have to tell?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

ready or not ...

it's Christmas Eve ... and today or tomorrow - come what may - we'll celebrate the miracle of the incarnation - Immanuel, God with us.

In place of the Wednesday Festival today, take a moment to rest in His presence and hear these words spoken to you

My busy Child,

In the midst of the Christmas rush

come to me when you are frazzled and worn out.
I'll give you rest.

Learn from Me
and you won't be overburdened.

I'll show you how to find balance.

Take time
to be STILL
and KNOW that I am your God.

Set your affections on what really matters,
not on the trivial pursuits of life that try to distract you from Me.

Refresh yourself and refocus
for I am your GOD of PURPOSE
I love YOU
with a never-ending love

And if you have time or inclination, feel free to offer up a prayer for all RevGals and pals (and their families) who are so busy over this Christmas period and the comment box is open for you to post a prayer or blessing today, should you wish to do so.

May God bless us all with a beautiful Christmas, full of His light and a reminder of His faithful to keep His promises.

P.S. Wednesday Festival will return again in the New year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- Tradition Edition (December 28)

(Since we have two significant preaching moments in the coming week, 
there are two posts today, 
this one for December 28 and another for December 24,
 which is just below.  
Blessings to you...)

For Sunday, December 28

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalm 148

Galatians 4:4-7

Luke 2:22-40


It is the tradition of the church that on the first Sunday of Christmas we celebrate Jesus’ dedication in the temple.  The dedication would actually have occurred when Jesus was 40 days old, since that would have been the first time Mary, considered unclean after giving birth, would have been allowed in the temple.  It was Jewish tradition for the first born son to be dedicated in the temple by their parents.  It was also tradition that the mother would provide a sacrifice to God to thank God for the gift of a child.  If she had money, she would provide a lamb.  If not, then two pigeons or turtledoves would suffice.  Mary was a woman of meager means, and Luke tells us that the turtledoves were given.

Which is to say, that, Simeon and Anna didn’t have to worry about whether or not the Messiah would show up in the temple, they only had to worry about when.    Tradition dictated that the parents would bring them there.

And so they waited, and depended on the traditions of their lifetime.

Christmas, for so many of us, is a time for traditions.  Christmas crackers.  Gingerbread cookies.  Family gatherings.  And the flexibility (or lack thereof) of these traditions is often the source of great turmoil this time of year…

Near where I live, one institution decided not to post some of the same Christmas decorations.  Their break from tradition suddenly had them labeled as “enemies of Christmas.”  Was it really about those two artificial Christmas trees, or was it about tradition?

What can the church learn from the way in which we handle traditions as a culture?

Have we learned it?  Will we learn it?  Do we need to learn it?

Or, are you off on another text for this Sunday?

Will you sing carols?

Peace to you-

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- Christmas Eve Edition


by Lucinda Hynett

(from Alive Now, November/December 2004)



Can you hear it?

an expectant silence,

a hushed anticipation,

as if the very galaxy

is holding its breath.


There are some truths

even the stars know,

like darkness,

like loneliness,

and how the night

can be a living thing.


And how once, long ago,

the night waited in wonder

along with the darkness

and the loneliness,

for the sound of a baby’s cry,


for the miraculous

to come down

to the earth mundane.

What are you preaching this Christmas Eve?  Do you preach?

How do you reach out to those who come to church on Christmas Eve but don't feel called or connected to a church community?

Good children's sermons?

What's on tap for this Christmas Eve?

Do tell...


Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday Musical Musings

I am sure you all have heard plenty of Christmas music throughout the stores, television, church, you name it. Some of the music is quite nice and puts us in the spirit. Some of your fellow bloggers want to share the ones that they have watched (as in the DVD) or listened to during the season. I think there is a little bit for every one here, from Renaissance to classical, to the popular music of today.

Quotidian Grace shares this DVD with us:
Rejoice & Be Merry with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the King's Singers, this DVD has what was shown on PBS for the 2007 year, plus another hour and a half of extra music. Quotidian Grace highly recommends it!

Michelle from Quantum Theology shares this:
I'm listening to Avro Part's Magnificat. It's ethereal, and makes a lovely backdrop for my meditations without being so forceful I end up where the composer had in mind, rather than God!

For the entire CD you can find it here: Pärt: Da pacem
For the Magnificat only: Pärt: Magnificat
Youtube video: Magnificat (Arvo Pärt)


Leah Sophia contributes her preferences for the season.

First, lyrical beauty from Amy Grant, "I Need a Silent Night" from Grant's album The Christmas Collection

Youtube video here.

With our frequent multitasking and sensory overload, still we realize we need the kind of deep peace only the Son of Peace can bring us, yet at times we imagine we can buy it rather than awaiting it as gracious gift; nonetheless, the Savior's birth arrives again and brings along with it an end of fear and the song of the angels, messengers of gospeled good news, and we receive a silent night conclusion to this particular choatically noisy crazy day (and to tomorrow's craziness, too).

I first really discovered "Valley Winter Song" by Fountains of Wayne on the current LL Bean commercial and found a very fitting, sepia-toned winter in New England video
on Youtube.

This song evokes the New England winters I've experienced and endured, with their gray, salted, slushy snow, wind chill temps below zero, trying to write papers, anticipating final exams, lessons and carols at Harvard's Memorial Church, house parties with eggnog and hot spicey glögg along with the assurance "summer's coming soon" because the winter solstice is finally here, coming "to those who wait"...what else to do but to bring to you a creative gift, a valley winter song?

"You know the summer's coming soon
Though the interstate is choking under salt and dirty sand
And it seems the sun is hiding from the moon

"And the snow is coming down
On our New England town
And it's been falling all day long
What else is new
What could I do
I wrote a valley winter song
To play for you

During the course of the season, I do try to limit myself to two albums a year for Christmas music. I mean, one can only listen to so much during a season, right??? Well, I exceeded the amount I intended to limit myself to, but no regrets, as the ones I selected have been what I would terms "keepers".

Enya came out with a lovely album And Winter Came. As typical, her music soothes the savage beast after a long day at work. What I call good "night night" music too! Listen to one of her selections here on a music video of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Mannheim Steamroller usually has good Christmas albums and I found one that was released ten years ago that caught my attention this year. Renaissance Holiday offers the best of Christmas music played so it keeps the beauty of the music from the early music era, but does enough nuking to make it enjoyable for the common listener.

So... what are you listening to this season? Have you found some "you need to have this"!!
Share it in the comments with us. I want to know what you are listening to as this season of Advent comes to a close and brings in the season of Christmas. Bring it on!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Afternoon music video- Gaudete

I offer you this version of Gaudete this afternoon, this will be posted while I am out at an afternoon and then an evening Carol Service; Here in Norfolk tradition is the order of the day. How about you, what have you sung today? Leave a comment and let us know.

Sunday Prayer

Holy and Gracious One,
God of our Mothers and Fathers,
we give you thanks,
this day
and every day.

Thank you
for this gift of life.
It is a precious blessing
from which we hope
to magnify Your Name.

Be with us
as we labor
this life.

Be with us
as we struggle
through pain.

Be with us
in our suffering.

Be with us
through the storms
the ice, snow, wind.
Real or metaphor.

Be with us
this day.

Be with us
as we labor
to birth
new life,
that new life might be.

Be with us
that we can be
your hands
and heart
in a broken world.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Eleventh Hour Preacher Party: Handmaid of the Lord Edition

We are coming up on the 4th Sunday of Advent, only a few short days from Christmas Eve and Day. In just a few short days we'll be eating and celebrating with family and friends, we'll be wrapping presents for the children, we'll be speed-cleaning -- but most of all, we'll be worshiping, hoping and working and praying for a Holy and Light-filled Day.

But before Christmas, most of us still have one more Sunday to preach, preside, pray and prepare. In my tradition, on this day we hear Mary's story -- The Annunciation, and especially her words to the angel Gabriel, "Here am I, the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word." We also hear the God's promise to King David, that God would establish his throne forever. I'm right there, at the intersection of those two texts. Like Mary, I'm wondering and pondering a little this morning, about this sermon and the sermons to come, and about what it means to be favored by God.

Where are you this morning? In the darkness or in the light? Have you been visited by an angel, or a prophet, or someone else entirely? Are you preaching? Do you have special worship plans for this weekend? And what are your plans these next few days, as we approach Christmas?

I have oatmeal with apples and cinnamon for breakfast this morning, fair trade coffee and tea. I have the advent candles lit and hope that you will stop by, share your ideas, your hopes, your frustrations, your prayer requests -- and your Christmas goodies. Please share some special Christmas goodies with us.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Five: Countdown to Christmas Edition

It's true.

There are only five full days before Christmas Day, and whether you use them for shopping, wrapping, preaching, worshiping, singing or traveling or even wishing the whole darn thing were over last Tuesday, there's a good chance they will be busy ones.

So let's make this easy, if we can: tell us five things you need to accomplish before Christmas Eve.

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 in the comment box: <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, December 18, 2008

Ask the Matriarch: loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength

Today's questioner asks "Who disciples the pastor?"
What have you found that works for you - so that you are also being fed and not always doing the feeding.

earthchick offers three recommendations:
I have found three things that have helped me in receiving spiritual nurture and guidance. The first is a spiritual director. The concept of spiritual direction is not something very familiar in my tradition (Baptist), but I have found it to be an invaluable part of my own spiritual growth. I view my spiritual director as my pastor. I do not see her as often as I would like to, but she is always a phone call away. The second resource is spiritual friendship and group spiritual direction. Over the last several years I have been involved in two different groups of women ministers who gather regularly to listen to each other and provide spiritually-based feedback and guidance. None of us is elevated as the head of the group, we simply rely on the group as a whole to lead, disciple, encourage, and support. The third resource that has helped me a huge amount in the last year would probably not be considered Christian discipleship by some, but for me it has been an essential part of my spiritual life, and that has been my yoga practice. My yoga teacher, though not Christian, has provided a kind of spiritual nurture for me that I wasn't finding regularly elsewhere. The things she says in leading the class are consistent with my own Christian understanding, and each week I feel more spiritually challenged and refreshed than I do almost anywhere else. If I were mentoring a young pastor just starting out in ministry, I would suggest that she find a spiritual director if possible, that she find or create a group of colleagues willing to covenant together in spiritual friendship and direction, and that she also be open to avenues beyond the traditional Christian church structures for receiving spiritual guidance.

Chrysanne says:
The two practices that I have found that best shape and disciple me as a pastor are working with a Spiritual Director and participating in an accountability group

Rector in Hawai'i writes about how she has developed strategies for pastoral well-being:
I go into retreat twice a year -- at the convent of St Margaret's in Boston, where my spiritual director is superior of the order. I also talk with her at least once a month.

I keep my weekly Sabbath day. If I can't, I find another day to "make up" for the Sabbath I lost. I do non-church stuff that day -- like reading mysteries or watching videos or going to local tourist attractions -- like the zoo or aquarium or the beach...

I have an advisory committee that meets weekly and functions as my sounding board along with staying on top of parish activities and issues.

We have a Rector's Warden, which means I get to appoint that person. It's her job to take care of the rector and act as her advocate. I trust that person to tell me when I'm getting tired or cranky or working too hard.

I'm not directly involved in every ministry. I trust parishioners to do what they do best or are interested in with a little guidance. If problems arise, I might step in. But more likely I'll have our associate or a parish leader step in first.

Long time Rector also recommends a spiritual director:
I have found it important to my growth and my ability to look to my blindspots to have always a spiritual director. I meet monthly with that person as a check in. It has been necessary for me that the director have no connection with the congregation - but others may have different experiences with this.

What do you do to maintain yourself - mind, body, spirit, emotions, soul?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wednesday Festival - a week before Christmas Eve edition

It's Wednesday Festival today folks. Several of you have offered your tidbits of coverage in the world of Revgalblogpals. And, here we go!

Lutheran Husker offers a letter to his son on his fifth birthday. I am sure this is one he will treasure has he gets older, along with the music and the pictures.


Gord posted his Christmas message from teh town (via the Dec 22 edition of the local paper). See the promises of Christmas he shares with the readers.


And getting into the Christmas Spirit in Finland, Seethroughfaith has read one of the nicest Christmas books she's seen in a long time. Christmas Promises (LeAnn Weiss) and thinks it would make a pretty nice gift too ..., gone to a Christmas Peace Service for animals ... (there was a star guest too!)

Lorna posts What's more it's clear that Finland is far from being in post-Christendom. "Here''s why I can say this"


Not all of us are in the holiday mood, as the Girl Effect has touched Sally deeply enough to blog about it twice here: and then here:

What might you share for this Wednesday Festival? You can post your thoughts and your links to share with other in the comments. Post a direct link to your blog entry(or another post you find who is part of the RGBP web ring) in your comment using the following formulation in the comment box: <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 Lectionary Leangings, Mary and Jesus edition

For Sunday, December 21, 2008

2 Samuel 7:1 – 11, 16

Luke 1: 47 – 55 or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38


It’s the week for Mary, but it’s also the week for Jesus.  In the unofficial liturgical calendar of advent there are some truths I have learned in the past 11 years:  Even the most hard-core Advent churches tend to sing carols on the 4th Sunday of advent, and on the Sunday before Christmas you’d better hit the story of Jesus just a little ‘cause not everyone will make it to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas day.


Which is all to say that the prime texts for me for this week are the annunciation and Mary’s magnificat. 

For many years I’ve been preaching the cross in the manger, the reminder that we don’t worship the baby Jesus, we celebrate Jesus’ birth because of what came later-
  his ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection.


In the words of Ann Weems:

If there is no cross in the manger,

                There is no Christmas.

If the Babe doesn’t become the Adult,

                There is no Bethlehem star.

If there is no commitment in us,

                There are no Wise Men searching.

If we offer no cup of cold water,

                There is no gold, no frankincense, no myrrh.



Only, this year, I seem to be craving the love of a child a little more than usual.  Yes, the cross is out there, but I don’t want the cross in the manger just yet.  I want to stay there with the Holy Family and visit a while before that horrible truth becomes evident.  I want to watch the peaceful slumber of a child before hearing the words he will speak, words of truth that will cut me to my core and then begin to rebuild me all over again.


I’m ready for baby Jesus.


How about you?  What are you thinking about for this Sunday?



Into the bleakest winters of our souls, Lord, you are tiptoeing on tiny Infant feet to find us and hold our hands. May we drop whatever it is we are so busy about these days to accept this gesture so small that it may get overlooked in our frantic search for something massive and over­whelming. Remind us that it is not you who demands large, lavish celebrations and enormous strobe-lit displays of faith. Rather, you ask only that we have the faith of a mustard seed and the willingness to let a small hand take ours. We are ready.  Amen.

~~Margaret Anne Huffman

Monday, December 15, 2008

Advent Check-In?

Meet and Greet is quiet today, taking an Advent rest. Look for introductions on December 29th!

Speaking of Advent, how is your Advent going? Are you too busy? Or, are you finding some pleasant respite from the hectic pace?

Me, I am in the midst of a little of each....busy preparing for Christmas services and yet, with a massage planned for an hour from now, I am also striving to find some quiet.

One of my favorite resources for Advent reflection is "Night Visions" by Jan Richardson.

I tend to read this book every Advent. I love the daily meditations and art work moving through the days and weeks of Advent. Here is her reflection from day one, week one, called, "Darkness."

"Being here.
Say that you have chosen it.
Say that it was your own hand that
turned out the light, your own mouth that
blew out the candle, your own eyes that
closed themselves against the brightness.
Say it was your doing.

Say you needed the shadows, the darkness,
that your eyes had begun to squint at
the brightness, that the light had begun to
make your head buzz. Say your needed the

Say you asked for it. Longed for it.
Say you didn't.
Say it wasn't you who chose it, wasn't
you who reached to turn off the light,
wasn't you who snuffed out the flame, who
covered your eyse.

Say the darkness stole up on you, say it
overtook you, say it clamped its hand over
your mouth before you could scream, its
fingers across your eyes before you could
take one last look at the light. Say it jimmied
your door in the middle of the day,
say it climbed through your window in
middle of the night and took sunrise
with it.

Or say it simple called to you from
where it stood in the doorway, looking longingly
at you and winking its great pale eye.

Say you followed it home."

She also has two blogs: the painted prayerbook and the Advent Door.

What Advent resources are you using this year?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Comfort ye, My people

Handel may be a Christmas war horse...but it's not the Hallelujah chorus that reaches me at this season, but this movement - which takes its text from the Isaiah pericope many of us heard last week.

Make straight in the desert, a highway for our God.

I drove straight highways in the desert this fall - on the Sinai penisula. And I'm on the brink of my own desert time of "Long Retreat" - 30 days in silence undertaking the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, so the images in text are a bit richer for me this year. What will my path look like through that metaphorical desert?

Origen, in his commentary on this passage offers "....the way of the Lord is made straight in two ways: by contemplation...and by activity, which follows sound contemplation". We are more than halfway through our Advent stillness - what actions will grow from our sound contemplations?

I'm contemplating, soundly (I hope) and sounds!

What sounds did you make, hear and contemplate this weekend? How might they move you to action?

Sunday Prayer

Holy and gracious God,
the giver of light and life,
we thank you for this gift of life.
We thank you for those who come into our lives as prophets,
pointing us toward that most precious gift,
your Son.

We thank you for those we travel with us
as we seek to know more fully who we are
as your people.

Come to us this day
and every day.

Come to us in the trials and tribulations.

Be with us in through the storms of life,
and otherwise.

Come to us in our birthings
and in our dyings.

Come to us
and comfort us.
Come to us
and give us your peace.
Come to us
that we might see the way.

Come to us
that we can be
Your hands and heart.

Come to us
that we might be
the source
of healing
and reconciliation
in this broken world.

O Come, Emmanuel.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: "Shouts of Joy" Edition

Good morning, preachers! It's that festive season of the year when church and family activities may well be at risk of overlapping, even colliding. The things we feel compelled to do compete with the things that might give us a sense of the season as we idealize it. And for preachers, it is the 11th hour, the moment of truth.

What shall we preach?

John the Baptist -- really, would you think of him this way? Not me, but apparently this was DaVinci's vision of him. He certainly looks knowing and pleased with himself. But didn't we talk about him just last week?

You could do something with the Psalm or 1 Thessalonians, but I have to admit, I like the gospel in Advent. The alternative to the Psalm is the Magnificat, so there's another angle to try, though Isaiah gets at the same things.

I'll keep the coffee brewing, and I'm happy to share oatmeal with you. We'll save the M&M cookies for later...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Five: Windows of the Soul

This Friday Five is inspired by my husband's Lasik surgery yesterday....He'd been contemplating it for a while and was pushed over the edge by the fact that we put too much money in our healthcare spending account this year and it would have been gone anyway. (There was only enough for one eye, but the kind people at the eye clinic figured out a way to divvy up the charges between surgery and followup in January=next year's spending account). So please say a little prayer for his safe recovery and share with us your thoughts on eyes and vision.

1. What color are your beautiful eyes? Did you inherit them from or pass them on to anyone in your family?

2. What color eyes would you choose if you could change them?

3. Do you wear glasses or contacts? What kind? Like 'em or hate 'em?

4. Ever had, or contemplated, laser surgery? Happy with the results?

5. Do you like to look people in the eye, or are you more eye-shy?

Bonus question: Share a poem, song, or prayer that relates to eyes and seeing.

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 in the comment box: <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, December 11, 2008

Ask The Matriarch: boil, boil, toil and trouble?

First call pastor has strategy questions about how to deal with potential issues.
I am in my first few months of my first call and I am finding that there quite a few major issues brewing. I could be worrying about stuff that will never happen, but then again... Many of the church issues have a family systems component on the side because my church is dominated by a few families. In fact the newer (grandparents not from here) people call the established families the blue bloods. I find myself wondering frequently how to best address or not address some of these issues. Is it better for me to try to address something in my timing in order to try to frame the question/potential conflict before it erupts or better to wait and see what actually happens? How do you handle problems that would arise in any church but further complicated by family dynamics?

Jan responds:
It might be helpful to have regular free-wheeling discussions - as part of the whole "I'm trying to get to know you" piece as their new pastor - with a question to open meetings (e.g. elders' meeting, etc.) These come to mind:
- What would you say are the sacred cows of our church?
- Who or what are the pillars of our congregation?
- What is the one thing people never talk about?
- What could we not live without in this community?

Your job woud be to ask more questions in hopes to unpeeling the layers of assumptions, etc. Your job would be to call them on how real their answers are:
Q: What could we not live without in this community?
A: The Bible.
Q: Really? If we didn't have the green memorial Bibles in the pews, we couldn't carry on?
etc. etc. etc.

Blessing to you. Sounds like you might be called to be a prophet. It will be more interesting (and dangerous) than being a chaplain.

Rector in Hawai'i steps back a bit from issues to view the overall health of congregation:
I don't know how big this parish is but as a new pastor I wouldn't spend a lot of time looking for problems. As a new pastor, the job is to get to know parishioners on a personal basis -- both the bluebloods and the newbies. Read far back in vestry minutes and the parish newsletter to see if you can learn anything about the internal dynamics of the parish. Look at the church registers; examine the pattern of membership and attendance figures. Bring in a matriarch or two and ask them to tell me parish myths and to educate me about skeletons in the closets. Not because I was nosy but because those things affect a parish on an informal, social level. The pastor needs to know those things to have a better context for addressing whatever issues evolve. Identify the matriarchs and patriarchs as well as potential archs-in-training. Have coffee with some of the newbies. At our church, we've just decided to set aside two vestry seats (out of four available) for new people (with us for less than 18 months). New voices, better integration of new members, and a dispelling of the comment, "They haven't been here long enough to run for vestry."

If this parish hasn't done some intentional reflection on its history, this would be a good time.

Long time rector writes:
I would love to be better at family systems. I think I know enough to diagnose the problem - but never feel qualified to actually address it confidently! That being said, I generally do two things in terms of systems work. One is about laying the groundwork in advance and the other is about responding to issues (that sometimes surprise me) as they arise.

On the groundwork side - I often try to see where potential conflict might arise - usually around some change that people are considering. Then I try to process in advance - including as many voices as possible - considering what the "best" solutions might be. When I do this, I have to be pretty open to not getting my way, or pushing my particular idea/agenda, but rather seeking consensus rising from the group. It has always been worth it to me to let go of being the "decider" in favor of being able to hold people accountable because they actually were the ones to make the decision.

On the response side - there are plenty of times that systems conflicts slap me up the side of the face completely by surprise. When this happens and it looks like everything is imploding - I try not to get to worked up, but rather see the occasion as a "Teachable Moment". That becomes sort of an inner mantra to me. "teachable moment, teachable moment, teachable moment" How can we shine light on what's going on right now in a way we can learn something from it? Then, regardless of the potential bad outcome that system conflict can bring - we can feel like we actually "won" because it was a learning time for all of us.

Systems theory overlaps actual family dynamics in this situation or so it seems. If you are in a small community - there are so many land mines between long term relationships and feuds as well as the added interpersonal blood family stories. As others said - listening is your best ally at this point. Advent and Christmas and Epiphany and the New Year often exacerbate issues in churches. What do you want to add to our Matriarchs' thoughts?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wednesday Festival: We're Waiting!

In this Advent season we find ourselves waiting...for many different things. A Savior. A change of weather. A change of heart.

Lorna has finally found her camera! She shares some snowy pictures of Cliff College, Derbyshire, England. She also tells us about the most useful machine ever invented, and her adventures with same.

Quotidian Grace is inviting everyone to come join in her Third Annual Sappy Christmas Song contest! You can check out the merriment here. The theme this year is Santa's Bailout.

Sally shares reflections on self-doubt and God's place in it. She also gives us a narrative reflection on Mary's story.

One of my favorite posts from the past week is this one from Shawna about routine, ritual, and depression. It helped me, and I keep coming back to it.

I am thinking about change and not liking it much. Maybe there's an Advent/Mary tie-in? :)

Songbird reflects on those Things That Are Good For Us, whether we want them or not.

What are you thinking and writing about? What's the best of what you've seen around the ring this week? Please share with us 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> For a complete how-to, click here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- Abundant Options Edition

For Sunday, December 14, 2008

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Psalm 126 or Luke 1:47-55

I Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:6-8, 19-28


This Sunday, there are lots of viable options for sermon scriptures.


The Isaiah reading includes, “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a garland instead of ashes.”


What would that look like in our world?   What does it mean to release prisoners?  

Would we be the ones being released or would we be the ones releasing?  Or both?


The Psalm includes this passage: “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, ‘The LORD has done great things for them.’  The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.”


Interesting, isn’t it, that the alternative reading for the Psalm is The Magnificat, which includes these words: “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”


How do these two readings fit together?  Has anyone ever preached on these two passages together instead of choosing one?


1st Thessalonians asks us to keep praying, and to give thanks in all circumstances.  It also calls us to test things.  Who’s going to write that test?


And John.  John reminds us of the light, and how John the Baptist is NOT it.  Do we ever get a Jesus complex and think that's the job for which we are applying?  Do we ever expect that of our congregations?

So.  What are you thinking for this week?  Or are you one of the many congregations, like the one I serve, that will be worshipping with Lessons and Carols this Sunday?

                Christ is still knocking. It is not yet Christmas. But it is also not the great final Advent, the final coming of Christ. Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate goes the longing for the final Advent, where it says: "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5).

                Advent is a time of waiting. Our whole life, however, is Advent - that is, a time of waiting for the ultimate, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, when all people are brothers and sisters and one rejoices in the words of the angels: "On earth peace to those on whom God's favor rests." Learn to wait, because he has promised to come. "I stand at the door?" We however call to him: "Yes, come soon, Lord Jesus!" Amen.                                                                        ~~Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Monday, December 08, 2008

RevGalBookPals: Run, Shepherds, Run

The book "Run, Shepherds, Run: Poems for Advent and Christmas." is a collection of poems selected and presented by L. William Countryman. He is an Episcopal Priest, and is Sherman E. Johnson Professor in Biblical Studies at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California. He is also an associate priest at Church of the Good Shepherd in Berkeley. He is a popular speaker, and the author of many books which are listed on the book's cover.

L. William Countryman has assembled this collection of poetry for devotional reading for Advent through Epiphany. His selections include the expected (Christina Rossetti, George Herbert, Emily Dickinson) and some perhaps less expected (Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame, Australians Elizabeth J. Smith and Bruce Dawe). He includes one of his own poems; Going to God with the Shepherds which is used on Dec. 30(page 69). Countryman offers one poem per day and provides a brief introduction for each. He provides Footnotes which aid understanding; for readers previously uncomfortable with poetry, he suggests ways to increase enjoyment. The end material includes brief biographical sketches of the 25 poets whose works he presents.

The title is taken from "The Nativity" by Scottish poet William Drummond (1585-1649). It begins with angelic voices: “Run, shepherds, run where Bethlehem blest appears! We bring the best of news." This poem appears on page 63 for Third Day of Christmas, December 27. The title is enough to draw one in to reading this book and using it on a daily basis.

His thoughtful collection of poems all build on the themes of reflection on the human condition and a deep hope rooted in the birth of Jesus. Through the use of these poems he leads us closer to the real understanding of the seasons – especially as that contrasts with our busyness in life and during this season. And in fact he issues an invitation to read these poems in contrast to what the season has become in order to follow a different more rewarding path as you prepare for the celebration of Jesus' birth.


Some Reviews written by others:

"Here poet/priest William Countryman has forged his two passions into one remarkable volume. He has breathed into Christmastide, from Advent to the Epiphany, an aesthetic reverence that makes of them a sustained whole, a complete oneness of spiritual experience relieved of the emotional ups and downs that all too often distract the heart with the mind's seasonal busyness." -Phyllis Tickle, compiler of The Divine Hours

" This volume contains such a wonderful collection of poems that you're sure to find many to deepen your appreciation and understanding of the Seasons of Advent and Christmas."--Episcopal Life


In the first week of Advent he begins with an old Advent tradition of meditating on the "Four Last Things": Death, Judgement, Hell and Heaven---all themes associated with the Second coming. I have to admit, when I read that and started reading the poems, I about choked, and wanted to stop reading the book. Having had the four stuffed down my throat as a child, especially the Judgement and Hell, it was a turn off to me. But since I was reviewing this book for us, I made my way through these poems. He does say "It reminds us that we humans are still far from being in a world of enduring peace, justice, and good will."(page 1) He also in his thoughts on reading poetry tell us to Accept that you'll relate more easily to some poems than others." (Page xi) I will now tell you it was worth pressing on and getting through the titles to read the poems. It helped with my own devotion time and with my sermon prep time.

On page 15 he gives the introduction to week two of Advent where he tell us we will be revisiting again the "Four Last Things". He also says we will turn our gaze a little more to the birth of Jesus. If you are writing your sermon this week on the John passage about John the Baptist, page 24 has William Drummond's poem; For the Baptist. Today's poem is actually a hymn written by Elizabeth J. Smith. It is a very lovely hymn that sings to "the God beyond our Knowing" to come and renew us.

I am glad this book was selected for our book discussion, just for the simple pleasure of reading it. Maybe you are just following through with reading it on a daily basis or maybe you have read it all the way through for this discussion. I invite you to tell us your thoughts as you have been reading this book. Perhaps you are lover of poetry of a writer of poetry, I invite you to express your thoughts as well, maybe even offer your own poem in response.

Here are some questions to begin our discussion:

Which poem touched you the most and why? Which one did you not like and why? Were you glad you bought this book to read and discuss or were you not and if so why?

Did you follow his thoughts on reading poetry? Did you find someone to talk to about what you read? Did you find introductions to the weeks helpful in reading the poems? Were his own thoughts for each day helpful to you or a hinderance and if so why?

Does this book accomplish what he set out as its goal? Would you recommend it to others and if so why or why not?

Is there something in particular you would like to discuss or comment on about the book or poems?


An After thought question came to me this morning; What poem did he not include that you wish he did and why? What poem did he include that you wish he had not and why?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sunday Music Video: Come, O, Come, Emmanuel

What did you sing in worship today? What music is filling your heart?

Sunday Prayer

From Compline, The Book of Common Prayer

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love's sake. Amen.

And from my heart

Gracious God, be with us as we move through this day. Be a strong arm to hold us, a comforting shield to protect us, a loving embrace to enfold us, a gentle hand to lead us. May we know your transforming presence in our lives. Through the darkness, lead us to light. Through the sorrows lead us to hope. Through the fears lead us to peace. Lead us through these uncertain times. Help us do all this in the sure and certain hope of you. May we wait expectantly for you. May you be born again in us. Amen

cross posted at the RevGals Prayer Blog

Saturday, December 06, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: Road Construction Edition

Time flies! We are already approaching the 2nd Sunday in Advent, and I don't feel like I am any where near prepared for Christmas. All the valleys have not been lifted up; all the mountains have not been made low; there are many roads still under construction in my neighborhood, and in my life, as well.

So here I am, setting the Advent Table, lighting the candles, and listening to John the Baptist, crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord!" Or, if you like, you can listen to the prophet Isaiah, crying out, "In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord." It's subtle, but there is a difference. I am contemplating the difference.

So, which road are you traveling down this advent weekend? Which roads are under construction and which ones are completed? And, oh, tell us a little about any special traditions your church has for Advent. I'd love to hear them!

I have fair trade coffee (Toffee Caramel today) and Good Earth tea today. I also have some cinnamon scones and blueberry muffins. What do you have? Because it's nearing Christmas, I have some of my mom's lefse and kringla. And would anyone light some eggnog? No calories! I promise.

Hope you will stop by sometime. If we all work together, we'll get those mountains bulldozed, and we'll lift up those valleys, too.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Advent Simplicity, light and beauty- Friday Five

"Imagine a complex, multi-cultural society that annually holds an elaborate winter festival, one that lasts not simply a few days, but several weeks. This great festival celebrates the birth of the Lord and Saviour of the world, the prince of peace, a man who is divine. People mark the festival with great abundance- feasting, drinking and gift giving....." (Richard Horsley- The Liberation of Christmas)

The passage goes on, recounting the decorations that are hung, and the songs and dances that accompany the festival, how the economy booms and philanthropic acts abound....

But this is not Christmas- this is a Roman festival in celebration of the Emperor....This is the world that Jesus was born into! The world where the early Christians would ask "Who is your Saviour the Emperor or Christ?"

And yet our shops and stores and often our lives are caught up in a world that looks very much like the one of ancient Rome, where we worship at the shrine of consumerism....

Advent on the other hand calls us into the darkness, a time of quiet preparation, a time of waiting, and re-discovering the wonder of the knowledge that God is with us. Advent's call is to simplicity and not abundance, a time when we wait for glorious light of God to come again...

Christ is with us at this time of advent, in the darkness, and Christ is coming with his light- not the light of the shopping centre, but the light of love and truth and beauty.

What do you long for this advent? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? What is your prayer today?
In the vein of simplicity I ask you to list five advent longings....

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.

The picture came from One Exposure and the thoughts were inspired by a sermon in Iona's book Candles and Conifers

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Ask the Matriarch: I do, I don't

Junior Pastor asks for help on questions of weddings and blessings and her role and ability to choose whether or not to do the ceremony.

You may have answered this before... but I am in a dilemma.

I work at a very young church (as in young in age group, median age of 33). We have a spate of weddings coming up this summer. I am supposed to take a turn at them, which is fine. BUT... I am uncomfortable with one of the couples I have been talking to. (They were "assigned" to me.)

He has mental health issues (as in unstable bipolar disease)
She has a family who is prejudiced against him because of his race. (Note - he is Caucasian!)

In talking with them, they are at odds on many things, not the least of which is how they will live in this area... he has not been able to keep a job. She has steady employment... This is his first marriage. This is her second. He is a "you will submit" kinda guy and she is a "puh-leease!" woman. I ask them why they want to get married. She says "he has a good heart." He says "she is so beautiful." She has a child who is 8.

They decided to go do a courthouse wedding on Valentine's Day because they are in LoooooVE, and want a "real" wedding next summer. I am not comfortable with officiating it. My boss - the senior pastor - says I am being a stick-in-the-mud.

SO... here's my question...
How do you do premarital counseling?
Do you ever decide after completing premarital counseling not to marry a couple?
If you are a "junior" pastor, do you have a say? Or do I just say "yes boss" and collect my check?
The ethics of this bother me...

thanks for any help

Befuddled "Junior" Pastor

From Matriarch Jan:
I do the Prepare Inventory which pretty much spells out "strengths" and "growth areas." And while they would not be able to keep the results (meaning the paper report), you could show it to them - assuming those results show the same concerns you've picked up - and then simply ask questions. Lots of questions. One of the categories that Prepare breaks down is "Realistic Expectations." Sounds like this couple doesn't have many of these.

Nobody can make you officiate at this wedding. Possible comments you could make to them:
- I don't feel comfortable officiating at your wedding until you resolve some of your conflicts.

- You deserve a strong marriage and that doesn't happen without steadfast commitment. What are you willing to do to make this marriage work? Give up the "obedience" piece? Get help for your bipolar disorder? Confront your family about their concerns?

- And my favorite: It's better to be alone than to wish you were.

Stick to your guns, Pastor.

Another matriarch, Jacque writes:
I really do feel for our sister in the wedding dilemma. Many years ago I was in the position of an Associate in a very large congregation. There were many weddings -- some church members and some non-member requests. The Associate Pastors 'got' the weddings for folks who were not members or those the Sr. Pastor could not do for some other reason. In that setting, we were expected to do the weddings unless there was a fairly significant reason not to. Some of that had to do with the fact that this particular huge beautiful gothic edifice was in high demand for those who church shopped for wedding space. ("I've always wanted to get married in that church!" (even though I don't worship at that church or any church and don't intend to)) The leaders of the congregation wanted the church to have that reputation and role in the community, and the Sr. Pastor seemed to feel it was important to maintain. The financial benefits to the church also played a part.

If our sister is in that kind of situation, her objection to doing the wedding may fall with a thud. If, on the other hand, the Sr. Pastor is concerned with the integrity of the weddings performed there and/or the right of the Associate to follow her own conscience, then there may be more understanding.

Over the last 23 years of solo pastorates, I have required a minimum of 4 sessions of premarital counseling. I am always clear with couples that I will not make a commitment to officiate their wedding until I have met with them in counseling and we mutually conclude that I feel it's appropriate for me to do their wedding AND they feel comfortable with me.

I have only twice told a couple I could not do their wedding. I talked with them very honestly about my concerns for their relationship. I expresssed my care for them and my desire that they both be in a healthy relationship.

There are those who say, "Well, they're going to get married, so I might as well perform the wedding. Maybe I can do some good in relationship with them." If I truly believed that I could make a difference -- that our time together WAS making a difference -- I would do the wedding. However, I take my ministerial role in the covenant of marriage seriously enough to say "No" when I am not the appropriate person to officiate someone's wedding.

I think this is most difficult when the couple is in the church. Whereas church members, or other ministry staff, may understand when we draw a line with non-church folk; it is not so easy with beloved church members. I had a couple this past summer, who completely blew off their premarital counseling -- canceled sessions, came to sessions unprepared, "lost" the forms they were to complete together and individually for our discussion, etc. They had no intention of discussing anything significant with me. I was disgusted and wished I could have stopped it or gotten out of it. On the other hand, the brides mother was Chair of the Elders, and a 'rock of the church' member. The bride was 'loved by everybody'. I did the wedding.

Well, I've rambled on ... maybe I'm still seeking answers to this one too!

earthchick offers this wisdom:
I can certainly understand your discomfort with the situation, especially since you don't seem to have much choice in how the "assignments" of weddings are doled out. You may need to clarify with your senior pastor whether or not you have any right of refusal for any grounds.

I have done weddings that I haven't felt all that comfortable about and will likely continue to do so. I have never refused to marry a couple, and would probably only refuse to if I suspected abuse. Otherwise, my feeling is that I am not really in a position to decide who is capable of creating and sustaining a healthy marriage. I see my role as simply doing what little I can to help them find the tools for nurturing health in their relationship. In premarital counseling, I focus on communication issues and on helping them identify sources of potential difficulties/conflicts in their relationship. We talk about how they currently handle such conflicts and what they each need in order to move forward in healthy ways. I only do 3 sessions with couples, and a good bit of that is focused on planning the ceremony, so I don't really see myself as a couples counselor. If I feel they need more help than I can give, I refer them out to a professional counselor or to a local premarital counseling group.

In your position, I would be asking myself what I would be accomplishing by refusing to officiate, especially since they will already have had a legal ceremony. They are not likely to reconsider their commitment simply because a minister doesn't think they're fit. They may, however, end up with less inclination to attend a church after their wedding. My own conscience might feel better because I refused to officiate - but what good would I really have accomplished?

It seems to me what you are being asked to do is a "blessing" of the relationship not a wedding. In the Episcopal Church, anyway, if the couple is already married at the courthouse, the clergyperson performs the blessing of a civil marriage. They will already be married so your role would be quite different. Maybe your denomination has rituals that meet this need. You might want to discuss this with them and see what it is that they are really asking of you. It seems to me that praying over a couple that is already married and asking God's blessing on their relationship is very different from being the one who declares it to be a marriage. In any event no one should be required to do a ceremony against one's conscience, so as others have said, stick to your principles. You are not for sale in this situation. As for counseling, I used an inventory of about 100 questions that each fills out separately. Questions range from having children, handling finances, drug and alcohol use, feelings about each other parents and their parents relationship or lack thereof, to what the couple does together and how they feel about pursuing activities separately. I then look for disconnects and ask them how they will resolve these areas. Often they come to their own conclusions. In this case, maybe by next summer and being married for 3 months before the blessing ceremony, they will have sorted it out one way or another.

What do you say from your experience with these dilemmas?