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Saturday, January 31, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party: Jesus Shows Up Edition

Good morning, preachers!

What's going on today?

I know what's going on in tomorrow's text: Jesus is showing up where the people worship. Can you imagine the disarray we'd experience if he showed up at one of our churches? And not only does he show up, he preaches! With authority! Not like the regularly scheduled explainers...

It's delightfully unsettling.

But before we go there, how about some coffee? Let us know in the comments if you're preaching, where you're headed, and if you have a great idea for the Children's word. We always love to share those!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Election Time Again!

Well, here it is, quite a bit later than we had planned, but it's time to elect new members for the Board of Directors of RevGalBlogPals, Inc.

As per the post on this site of October 22, 2008, a proxy ballot will be sent by e-mail to all members who have paid dues since September 2008 - either by joining RevGalBlogPals, Inc. with a payment of $25, or by making the first payment for our RevGals Big Event 2.0 in Arizona this April.

I am sending out the ballots as soon as I post this message. If you do NOT receive an e-mail ballot and believe you should have, please notify me at

You may return ballots via e-mail to the main address:

Thank you for your participation!

Revgalblogpal Friday Five: HGTV Edition

Greetings all!

As some of you may know I am in the midst of my first home purchase. It is a new-build and so some of the fun was picking out upgrades and major decor items to my taste rather than walking into a previously owned home that needed to be upgraded room by room (pink and teal tiles in the bathroom, anyone?). As much as decorating is not my thing, I did try to embrace the moment because just how many times do you get to have a do-over on kitchen cabinets/floors/countertops?

And so, my questions to you this fine Friday involve your home past, present or future...

1) If you could, what room in the place you are currently living would you redo first?

2) What is the most hideous feature/color/decor item you have ever seen in a home?

3) What feature do you most covet? Do you have it? If not, is it within reach?

4) Your kitchen - love it or hate it? Why?

5) Here is $10,000 and you HAVE to spend it on the place you are living now. What do you do?

BONUS: Why do you think there was such a surplus of ugly bathroom tile colors showcased in all homes built from the 1950's right through the early 80's?

Be sure to let us know if you play in the comments and I'll try to stop by!

For a complete how-to on how to link your post in the comments , CLICK HERE.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ask the Matriarch – Preaching Unbecoming Edition

As an Associate Pastor, what do you do when the Senior Pastor is preaching things that are blatantly opposed to the theological tradition to which you belong? Particularly when this preaching is exclusionary AND is causing uproar and conflict in the congregation?

~pastor not sure of the proper channel~

Our matriarchs were all quite sympathetic to your plight. Both “Wise Layperson” and “Sally Deo Gloria” expressed some hope that you might be able to have a constructive conversation with your colleague laying out the concerns his preaching is raising…with the following caveats:

From Wise Layperson:

1) If the Senior Pastor has hiring/firing authority you could be putting your job at risk in doing this-- only you can decide if you can take that risk.

2) I firmly believe in talking directly to someone about a problem rather than talking to everyone else around you about the other person. However, that does not rule out having your own support network (though it would be good if your support network were from outside the particular church). Spend some time figuring out what you would say to this person given the chance. Talk to trusted sounding boards and get the venting out of your system before approaching the person.

Then set up an appointment to speak to the person directly and make certain that enough time is set aside to actually discuss the issues. Use "I statements" when explaining your concern. Lay it all out there and see what the response is. (WL followed this protocol when a priest preached an offensive sermon regarding HIV-AIDS, and reports that he appeared to listen, and that she never heard him preach a sermon like that again.)

3) Review the legal structure of your denomination-- they all have different by-laws and reporting requirements. There may be rules in place that you are expected to follow in such situations.

4) Document what is going on around you-- start keeping some sort of record that will help you explain the situation to other people.

5) Find out who should be talking to whom. If congregants come to you with concerns/ complaints then it behooves you to know who they should be talking to in order for their concerns to be heard. I am assuming that you have no authority over the senior pastor-- so don't let yourself become a mouthpiece. Raise your concerns as directly as possible and encourage your congregants to do the same.

Sally adds:

You have the choice of speaking to either the lay leaders (elders? congregation president? wardens?) in your congregation or else someone in the local judicatory. That could depend on the relationships you have. If you trust the lay leaders and if they trust you, that's probably a better step, because it will shore up support within the congregation. If you have good relationships with someone in your conference/synod/diocese/ presbytery, then maybe you start there.

Of course, "blatantly opposed to the theological tradition" of one's denomination can be in the ears of the hearer. Perhaps the wise thing is to polish off one's resume and find a more hospitable place to serve, especially if the lay leaders in the congregation are not stepping up to take action.

Ann suggests:

It has probably already been reported to the head of your denomination by some parishioner. If it is a serious breach of your tradition and not just part of differences within your tradition - go to your denominational supervisor and ask what you should do…If you feel it is really worth confronting - follow your conscience. You have to live with yourself forever.

What advice would you readers offer our “pastor not sure”? Use the comment function to share your experience and wisdom.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wednesday Festival: Baby, It's Cold Outside

...but hopefully it's warm where you are reading this! I'm home for now, courtesy of a "severe weather event," which means that we have/had black ice. If we all got out an drove around in it, we'd end up in a big pile of cars somewhere and never move 'em again. And there's quite enough of that already.

How's the weather where you are? Shout out!

Sally shares a great post about calm in the weather, peace in the storm.

Chilly Fingers says, "I've posted about an upcoming workshop for elders that I have agreed to teach. I would love input from others about their experiences and hopes for for elders in the church." Sounds like a great conversation in the making.

The RevGals book discussion on Monday covered Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous: Ten Alarming Words of Faith. Good conversation, and it's not too late! Go see. I wrote about abundance (one of the alarming words) at my own place.

And finally...if you want a giggle (or a growl, depending on how you read it), go over to read about how some people just don't like Mindy.

Let us know what you are writing, thinking, doing today!

Sorry for the late posting - Blogger has been untenable.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "With Authority" Edition

The lectionary readings for the coming Sunday can be found here .

Bech's Mustard, a favorite northern Michigan regional condiment, markets itself as "Mustard With Authority!"

You've got to love that. And you know what the Bech's people mean: This is mustard that makes you sit up and take notice; that has a sting to it; that you'll remember, and appreciate (even as your eyes and tongue are smarting).

Sunday's lessons are about that kind of authority in the faith community -- authority that startles and astonishes us, both because it's neither whingeing and equivocating nor arbitrary and bossy. It's an authority that reflects that of the One who has delegated it.

Our Deuteronomy reading promises the people of God a prophet who speaks and acts with this kind of divinely appointed authority (interestingly, because a direct encounter with the holiness of the Divine Presence is considered too hard for us humans to handle). Our lesson from the Gospel of Mark shows this type of authority in action, exercised in service to healing and wholeness. And our Epistle lesson provides a caution to those tempted to exercise "Do this/don't do that" authority in adiaphoric matters of Christian life where, to borrow a phrase from Kelly Fryer, we're called to lead with our love foot.

Some good stuff here. How will you be preaching, praying and otherwise engaging this theme in worship this Sunday?

Monday, January 26, 2009

RevGalBookPals: Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous

Welcome to our RevGalBookPal's discussion of Joy Jordan-Lake's book, Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous: Ten Alarming Words of Faith.

Milton Brasher-Cunningham of Don't Eat Alone recommended this book a few months ago--he and his wife, Ginger, know the author--and because I found the title captivating, I ordered it.

(I'm puzzled about this book cover from Amazon, which uses the world "Challenging" in the subtitle rather than "Alarming," but like the cover image of standing on a diving board, ready to jump or dive off backwards.)

Though short, this book runs deep. Each chapter explores an alarming word of faith. At the end of the chapters you'll find a section of discussion questions (entitled "Living into Those Alarming Words"), four to ten for each word, which would be useful for personal reflection or for use by a group. I could certainly imagine designing a retreat or a ten session class around Jordan-Lake's material.

I will share with you quotes from selected chapters, as well as sample discussion questions to go with them, but the real riches of the book come in the longer stories from Joy's life, which I cannot excerpt fully here. A Southerner by heritage, she had the experience of living in the Boston area as a graduate student and pastor, and now lives outside Nashville. Having shared her experience of being a stranger in a strange land (in my case a Virginian moving to Maine), many of her thoughts have particular resonance for me.

From the chapter "Resurrection"--

There are ends, but also beginnings.
I believe in all the cracks in my own plaster and the rotting it hides, the moldering holes in my heart.
I believe fair-haired saints can become addicted to meth.
But I also believe in gluttonous worms who gorge themselves drunk on my garden's best leaves, bed themselves down on tree twigs, then wake up in spring with bold, bright-colored wings.

And from the questions for that chapter:

Thinking about your own past, what is appealing about a death of the old life and starting over? Is anything about that idea disturbing?

From the chapter "Abundance"--

It helps me to think of all money as Monopoly tender. As if it's play money, only mine for the course of the game, and not necessarily to be used for buying Park Place, then annihilating other players for daring to set their metal dog on what is mine. Very, VERY mine, as my three-year-old might say.

And from the questions for that chapter:

Read the parable of the rich man with his bigger and better barns in Luke 12:16-21. If you were to set this story in a contemporary context, what would replace the barns?

From the chapter "Holiness"--

Some of us learn about holiness through what we know about the sullied state, learn about purity through shame. It makes no sense that we could come to know holiness, the living God, by excavating the dead, carefully hidden parts of ourselves. Yet Jesus calls out to what's been forced on us, and the fires of goodness, of holiness, burn away the lie we'd put on and belted and buckled: that we're ruined, sullied, worthless.

And from the questions for that chapter:

Does the word holiness have positive connotations for you? Along these lines, if holiness were a person, what would he or she look like?

And finally, from the chapter "Blessedness"--

What are labels for if not to designate and divide and point out? Our mother's linen closet bore labels every eight inches on every shelf: fitted single bedsheets, baby blankets, flat queen bedsheets, pillowcases. Labels were how you knew what you were dealing with, weren't they? A fitted twin sheet or a first-cabin redneck. It was helpful to know.

And from the questions for that chapter:

Describe a time when someone else made assumptions about you that were wrong, and perhaps offensive. What about a time you made assumptions about someone else?

If you've had a chance to read the book, I hope you'll share your responses in the comments, and if not, I highly recommend it. If you click on the title link above and purchase the book through, RevGalBlogPals will receive a portion of the sale.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lord of the Dance

Interestingly, this tune was also played this week on Tuesday in front of millions of people. Arrangement was different, the tune the same, from Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring.
Whether it be known as "Lord of the Dance" or "Simple Gifts", it's beautiful. If you happened to miss the one heard last Tuesday, you can hear it here.

What music did your heart dance to during worship today? Which one sang to you as a gift? Share in the comments.

Prayer for Epiphany 3B

Almighty Compassionate God,
You care for all your peoples, whether they are here around us or in far off places, you care enough to call people to bring the good news to them.

You care about our country during these tough economic times, and times of transition to a new president and his cabinet.
You care about countries like Gaza, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan who have deeper problems and needs than we do.

You care about those who are sick, in pain, in the hospital, home bound and in nursing homes, your compassion extends to them.
You care about those who carry heavy burdens, broken hearts, grieving, lonely and anxious, your compassion extends to them as well.

You care for the great number of people losing their jobs, losing their homes, losing their bank accounts as well as those who have had none of those for a long time.

You care for those of us who answered your call to preach your word, teach your word, Pastor your flock, and lead in songs of praise, your compassion extends to us as well.

Lord we thank you for your compassion, your care, your mercy and the good news of your son Jesus Christ. Amen

cross posted at revgalprayerpals and rev abi's long and winding road

Saturday, January 24, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party: Are We There Yet?

I don't know about the rest of you, but this has been a big week for me. I am ready for Sunday, except for one thing: there has not been a minute to do more with my sermon than choose texts and give it a title.

We have resistant Jonah finally bringing God's warning to the Ninevites, and the citizens of that not-so-fair city taking a chance on God's forgiveness. We have the first four disciples abandoning family and commerce to follow Jesus, and poor old Zebedee left behind in the boat. The epistle warns us that the old ways are passing, while the Psalm gives us some solid and familiar images of the God we follow.

What thread are you following this week? Are you there yet? Anyone leading up to an Annual Meeting? Have a great idea for a Children's Word about leaving home suddenly? And what stands between you and your writing today?

Share your thoughts, inspirations, questions and snack foods in the comments; I promise to keep the virtual coffee going until we're ready for a Diet Coke later!

(That's Jonah, as imagined by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, with a surprisingly small fish.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Cabin Fever Friday Five

Sorry for the late posting! My daughter's car won't start, and I just returned from driving her to work. I think she made need a block heater. Speaking of that...

Here in snow country we are settled in to what is a very long stretch of potentially boring days. The holidays are over. It is a very long time till we will get outside on a regular basis. The snow that seemed so beautiful at first is now dirty and the snow banks are piling up. Our vehicles are all the same shade of brownish grey, but if we go to the car wash our doors will freeze shut. People get grumpy. Of course, not everyone lives in a cold climate, but even in warmer places the days till springtime can get long. Help! Please give us five suggestions for combating cabin fever and staying cheerful in our monochromatic world?

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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, January 22, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - We are Family Edition

It is not unusual to hear pastors ask, "Who is pastor to the pastor?" Our question today is a bit different - how are we, or are we to provide pastoral care for our family members?

Dear Matriarchs:
My aunt, who lives in a local nursing home, is nearing the end of her time here on earth; that may be tomorrow or next week or next month or longer, but it's coming. I'm pretty much her only close relative left. She was never a regular churchgoer, for a variety of reasons, and is rather reticent to talk about her faith in all but the broadest, briefest ways, but she is a person of faith who has been open to chaplain visits and religious services at her care facility.

I am finding it nigh unto impossible, emotionally, to provide any sort of spiritual care for her other than to ask her if she'd enjoy a visit from my own pastor and to ask her if there's anything else I can do for her. And this discomfort bothers me, as a lay minister who, if asked to provide spiritual comfort like prayer, Communion, etc., to someone in my parish or to a complete stranger, would be happy to do so. Among other things, it also reminds me that I wasn't able to provide very much in the way of spiritual comfort to my mother in her last days other than to, again, enlist the services of my pastor to do the "heavy lifting." And I don't want to seem like the Angel of Death hovering over the hospital bed wanting to talk/do Godstuff more than what my aunt would be comfortable with normally.

What is your experience in this type of situation, Matriarchs? Is it analogous to physicians who refer their own family members to other health care professionals? I'm starting to beat myself up about this, but on the other hand I know that my pastor's own standard pastoral-care question to me -- "Is there anything I can do for you right now?" -- is what I've been asking my aunt, and respecting her responses.

Our matriarchs were of one mind on this question - when it comes to our families, we are their family, first and foremost. Ours is to provide support and care as a niece or a daughter or a sister. That care may include prayer with our family member, but only if that is something that we would naturally share as a niece and an aunt.

Rector in Hawai'i suggests:

If your aunt has been open to chaplain visits, then talk with the chaplain about your concerns and have the chaplain do the pastoral care. And then talk with your own pastor about your concerns. The question, "Is there anything I can do for you right now?" often calls the 'patient' to have to think too much about what she might want. So if there's not an immediate response, make sure she's comfortable, hold her hand, be present, read some psalms, tell some jokes, let her know how much you care....not as a pastor but as her niece. After all, that's your primary relationship with her and that's where your history with her is. So be her loving niece and let the chaplain be her pastor.

From Jan, who blogs at -
Your aunt is lucky to have you and I'm wondering if you could indeed pray with her at some point. Maybe it's best to have another person be "her pastor" most of the time, but you could also have a precious, holy moment with her before she passes away. Imagine praying with her, thanking God that you get to be her niece. Make it about you in that she is a blessing to you. (You aren't "blessing her" by praying for/with her - which may sound overly pious to her - although you will surely bless her by this kind of prayer. Does that make sense?)

It will also bless her to hear you pray this prayer of appreciation. I hope you'll give us an update as time goes by.

Jacque writes...
I certainly understand and have experienced your struggle with your role in the midst of your family member's process of letting go of this life. I believe that you can and do provide spiritual support. However, it is the spiritual support of a niece -- not a pastor. Your aunt needs both. With both your mother and your aunt, you are able to share love and assurance, and to talk about your faith and their faith, when appropriate. You named your pastor's often used question: "Is there anything I can do for you right now?" My guess is that your aunt's answer to that question would be different when the question is asked by you than when the question is asked by the chaplain or by your pastor. Please don't beat yourself up about this. It is most important that you bring yourself to her in such a way that you are able to be open in the moment.

Our sympathy is with Singing Owl who very recently faced her mother's death:
Oh dear questioner…how I can relate! I felt very much this way too, as I watched my mother fading and then dying. Perhaps it is not so for all ministers, but I do think that it is very much like the doctor who a family member to someone else. I have now lost both my in-laws, my father and now (two weeks ago) my mother, and in none of these situations was I "pastoral" even though I wished to be and felt I "should" be. Stop beating yourself up, and I promise I will do the same.

And Wise Layperson offers:
My advice would be to continue to be yourself. Visit her, talk with her about what she wants to talk about, leave pauses in the conversation to allow for deeper expression. Not everyone needs defined 'spiritual care'. If she is not a regular church goer and doesn't have a current pastoral relationship with her own priest, then perhaps all she needs is company. Someone to spend time with her without conditions. If 'spiritual care' is important to you-- then bring it up to her, using I statements so that it is clear that this is your issue and not hers, and listen to what she has to say and do what she tells you. (Which is what you say you've been doing.) It sounds like you want to make certain that she has everything she needs, but you are not a mind reader, you can only do what she tells you needs doing. If you have asked what she needs and she has told you then be content with that and don't worry if it doesn't match up with what you "think" you should be doing for her.

In summary: separate your needs from her needs, check that communications is clear from your end, and be present for her. A side note: it might be possible to get your Aunt talking about her spiritual needs by setting up a time to talk to her about practical planning issues. Things like: does she have a will? Who is her medical guardian if she should lose consciousness? Does her medical guardian know her wishes should that happen?

What wisdom would you offer to this loving niece? Share your comments and insights with us.

May you live today and every day in God's amazing grace+

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday Festival: Life and All That

Good morning all! Sorry for the lack of a Wednesday Festival last week - I am responsible for this feature, and haven't gotten a schedule for the new year done yet! :P

We do have some great submissions, so on to it now!

Mrs. M. is reflecting on how she uses her home, and her ponderings brought up a corresponding post from Gannet Girl. She would really enjoy other Rev Gal and Pal reflections on the topics of liturgical and home space, so please share them in the comments (or at your own blog, with a link back here).

Singing Owl is in the middle of a week of prayer and fasting (so sorry that this wasn't posted earlier!). She invites you to read about it at her place and leave a one-sentence prayer request for yourself in the comments. She'll compile them and then pray for each one each day during that week. I hope it's not too late!

Sally shares some icy photos and news of her stationing (new church assignments!) Great news.

Pinkhammer posted "Another First for the Nation," about Rev. Sharon Watkins being selected to give the U.S. Inaugural Sermon. Great to read about how this intersects with her story as well. In another Inauguration piece, Sally is thinking about it from "across the pond."

Christine kindly invites us to the latest Poetry Party at the Abbey of the Arts.

Many blessings on you this day. If you have other great posts to share (your own or those of other RGBP ring members) please let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Change is Coming" Edition

Lectionary readings for this coming Sunday can be found here .

I am writing this as I watch Inauguration coverage on TV. It's a day of profound change on many levels.

How appropriate that Sunday's texts also speak to the process of change. We hear the story of Jonah (one of my very favorite books of the Bible), where the Ninehvites change their ways...and God changes his mind. (Who's up for tackling that concept in a sermon?) Our epistle lesson exhorts us to change our relationship to the world, even to the people closest to us, in the wake of God's inbreaking in these "last days." And our Gospel lesson recounts the calling of the first Apostles; the end of their world, as they'd known it.

What kind of changes will you be preaching and praying this Sunday? And are you also recognizing the Week of Prayer For Chrisitan Unity, and/or remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the context of your worship service? Please share your ideas and inspirations here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Meet and Greet....

in Scottsdale, Arizona for the Revgals and guys Big Event 2.0!!!!!

April 16-19, 2009 we will meet at

The Casa in Scottsdale, Arizona for a Continuing Ed event. Our facilitator will be the wonderful Wil Gafney, Ph. D, an Episcopal Priest and Associate Professor of Hebrew and Hebrew Scripture at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

We will begin on Thursday evening, April 16, 2009, and conclude on Sunday morning, April 19, 2009. The cost of the retreat will be $385 to share a double room, or $475 for those preferring a single room. A deposit of $100 made by Feb. 1, 2009 will reserve your room, the balance will be due on March 1, 2009. Email RevGalBlogPals for a brochure and registration form.

Rate includes three nights at the retreat center, all meals, a t-shirt and RevGalBlogPals, Inc. membership for 2009. Transportation to Phoenix, Arizona, Sky Harbor International Airport is in addition.

Shuttle rides from the airport to the renewal center are available from Super Shuttle. You will need to call Super Shuttle ahead of time and reserve a place on the van - 1-800-258-3826. The estimated cost is $16.00 each way.

Once you know when you are arriving and have called Super Shuttle we can try to organize people in groups of 7 to take the shuttle. (Up to 7 people plus luggage can fit in each shuttle). If we fill the shuttle it can make a direct trip to the Renewal Center and prevent additional stops and delay in arriving. Therefore when we are closer to the date, we will try to set up a process to collate data on arrivals and connect these groupings of 7 (or less). It will take about 25 minutes to one hour from the airport to the renewal center, depending on the number of stops.

The Rev. Dr. Gafney's book, Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel, will be available for purchase at the retreat. You are encouraged to purchase it and read it ahead of time, through the link on the RevGals sidebar to Amazon.

AND - BONUS side trip: those who wish can stay longer and take a side trip to the Grand Canyon. We will leave the retreat center about noon on Sunday and arrive at the Grand Canyon about 4:00pm. (Sunset at the Grand Canyon)

It seems at this time we will have two cars to make the trip up to the canyon, maybe a third, depending on how many and who are going. The drive to the canyon is about 3 hours and 45 minutes from Scottsdale. We can stay at the rustic but clean and comfortable Maswik Lodge (assuming reservations are available). This lodge is about 15 minutes from the rim. The night of our arrival we can watch the sunset and have dinner at the Bright Angel Restaurant. Then we can rise early, watch the sunrise, have breakfast and take a walk along the rim before heading back to Phoenix mid-afternoon Monday. This time schedule will allow for those who need to fly home on Monday, assuming a late afternoon or evening flight is available. It may be possible to secure an extra night at the Renewal Center for those who will fly home on Tuesday. Let us know and we will inquire about room availability. Otherwise there are hotels near the airport. OR one car could head back to Phoenix on Monday and another on Tuesday, with two nights at a Grand Canyon Hotel...

To sign up for the Grand Canyon Side Trip email RevGalBlogPals. Let us know if you want to stay at the Grand Canyon for one night or two...and we'll start to coordinate the groupings.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Afternoon music video-Were I to cross from land to land- Psalm 139

I really enjoyed browsing You-tube in search of a version of my favourite Psalm, Psalm 139. This was so different that I felt I had to share it with you. Psalm 139 one of today's lectionary readings has inspired many songs, poems and pieces of art work, I guess it is the extraordinary comfort it conveys of being known inside and out and loved any way!

We didn't sing this we stuck to more traditional Methodist Hymns, how about you, what did you sing this morning, what touched your heart or lifted you spirits?

Let us know in the comments

Prayer for the 2nd Sunday of Epiphany

Beloved God,
You know us inside and out and you still call us to serve you.
Lord, honestly we are often hesitant, afraid, and wish to remain hidden.
Empower us to listen for and to hear your call
Empower us to answer your call with “Here I am Lord”
Empower us to follow you when you call us to follow you.

Lord of mercy and justice,
So many have gone before us working to bring
Justice and peace to our country and our world.
Their footsteps seem to big to step into to continue the work you have called us all to;
so we hesitantly step one step at a time, bringing your seeds of hope, justice and peace in a world crying out for them.

Lord of hope,
We pray for our country, our leaders and especially our new president as he is inaugurated into leading our country in tumultuous times. We pray for healing of our country, reconciliation, forgiveness and peace.

Lord of peace,
We pray for your compassion and healing for those individuals in our congregation who need it. We pray for your comfort and presence for those who are grieving lonely and oppressed. We pray for warmth, shelter, clothing and food for those who are without.

Lord we say to you this day,
“Here we are your servants willing to preach your word, offer care where care is needed, presence where presence is needed, your and love where your love is needed.”
Lord, strengthen us for our ministry today and everyday.
In the name of the Father, son and the Holy spirit amen.

cross posted at revgalprayerpals and rev abi's long and winding road

Saturday, January 17, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party: Listening Servants Edition

Good morning, gals and pals! We're coming up on the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany here, and the lamp of God has not quite gone out. I'm listening for God's voice -- or is it Eli, or Andrew, or someone else entirely? I've got the radio on in the background as I write this; I wonder if that makes it harder to hear God calling me?

What about you? Is the word of the Lord rare for you right now? How is the lamp of God burning for you? Are you hearing God call your name in the night? Or is it more like an invite from a friend, saying, "come and see"? Or, maybe you have your fingers in your ears, and you're saying, "Lalala, I can't Hear you!" God's call is always good news, but it's not always easy news.

I'm looking forward to a lively conversation. I've got fair trade coffee (french vanilla today) and Good Earth Tea. I've got the famous banana chocolate-chip muffins (I promise, no calories!), and a nice bowl of clementines to peel and eat. I'll turn down the volume so that we can hear one another, and discern God's call, no matter where our preaching leads us.
Image is Georges de la Tour, Samuel Awakening Eli

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Five: Take Me, Baby, or Leave Me

Although written by a young man, this song from "Rent" became an anthem for women of a certain age ready to be taken on their own terms. Maureen and Joanne love each other, but they are *very* different.

Whether it's new friends or new loves or new employers, what are five things people should know about you?

Let us know in the comments if you play. You can 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.

(Video from the 10th Anniversary performance of "Rent" on Broadway, with original cast members Idina Menzel and Fredi Walker.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - The Gifted Minister Edition

Our question this week is a timely one...

I receive so many lovely, thoughtful gifts from parishioners. Some bring baking and special treats, others buy gifts (usually something small but meaningful) - all of it is quite delightful. Also, there is always a package from "Santa" at the door of my office when I arrive for the first service on Christmas Eve.

Over the years, I have sent cards of thanks to everyone who has gone to the trouble of giving me a gift. No one has given anything that I felt was inappropriate in cost or content, so I really just want to acknowledge that I appreciate their thinking of me.

This year, I received a LOT of stuff from my folks. I've had to keep a running tally of who sent what to our home. It's great. Now I need to keep up my end and send the cards (I would hate to seem ungrateful, or God forbid, have anyone think my momma didn't raise me right!)

What are your thoughts on gifts from parishioners and the appropriate response to them?

A "Gifted" Minister!

Singing Owl was the first to respond:

My thoughts on gifts from parishioners are HALLELUJAH and PRAISE THE LORD!

I received two presents from church folks this year, which is about how it usually is, so obviously the church I presently serve doesn't see it that way, and I'm sorry about that. Not because I don 't like presents. I do. Who doesn't like presents? But more because I think that Christmas is an ideal time to remember your pastor…to realize that they are extra-busy, extra-stressed, maybe wondering about the coming year and so on. I love receiving a gift of homemade baked bread or candy because I am sometimes too busy to spend time in the kitchen. Or a nice gift is a book, or a subscription to a magazine. Or a gift certificate to my favorite restaurant is nice too. One church I served long ago had a tradition of a Christmas money tree for the pastor. Considering the salary there, or lack of salary, that money tree was a godsend.

To me, receiving a gift says, "I'm thinking of you." Yes, I could say, "Don't give me a present. I do not need a thing. Put your money in the missions fund." That is fine too, but I personally think that most of us receive all too little encouragement or affirmation. Church folks should think of their pastors, one way or another, and take opportunities to say, "I care and am thinking of you."

As for response, I think that a written thank-you note is important. If I pastored a mega church and received hundreds of gifts I might change my mind on that, but so far that hasn't been a problem.

Our blogging sister from a A Church for Starving Artists adds: Dear "Gifted" -
This is a tribute to your ministry and their love for you as their pastor. Sadly perhaps - but with the encouragement of your mamma - I'd say you still have to send thank you notes. I'd make them uber brief. Like 2 lines on a lovely postcard. And if someone comments on the brevity, say that you were blessed with so many gifts that it would take too much time from your ministry to them to write longer notes to everyone. ("I would love to write longer notes but I really want to spend my time doing my pastoral work.")

You are truly blessed!

And from a Wise Layperson ----

Things that would be good to check:
1) Is your vestry/ church supervising body aware that you receive gifts and do they have any rules you should be following?

2) Do you need to keep a list of all gifts given over time for tax records? Are there tax consequences you need to be aware of?

3) Do you have a plan for what to do with gifts that you feel uncomfortable receiving? What are your personal limits? How would you approach someone who gave you a gift that you felt was not appropriate?

As far as I'm concerned, thank you notes are always a good idea.

As long as the gifts stay small and appropriate, I don't see a problem. Folks like to give gifts to people who are important in their lives.

One thing to watch out for might be 'gift status'-- where gift giving gets competitive about who has given the Rector the 'best' gift. Be thoughtful about what you put on display and avoid making a big deal out of any one gift in public (or really in private). Also, if your momma raised your right, you already know not to compare gifts or gossip about how much you liked the gift from X and disliked the gift from Y.

Good manners can go a long way toward avoiding problems in the future.

So...three in favor of writing "thank you" notes, and my vote makes four. And you, dear reader - do you have any suggestions for our "gifted minister" - perhaps a creative way to express your thanks? Let us know what you think, and what you do!

May you live in God's amazing grace today and every day+


Monday, January 12, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "God Calling" Edition

Lessons for the coming Sunday can be found here .

What is God's call like?

Our lessons suggest that it may come from assorted and sometimes surprising places: a voice in the night; the grandeur of God's creation; an itinerant preacher from the Galilean toolie-weeds.

And the call may come to surprising people as well.

And how do we respond to such a call?

As always, share your preaching/praying/worship planning ponderings here.

Monday Musical Musings: Baptism

Today's Musical Musings in inspired by yesterday's Gospel reading of Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist--for liturgical churches, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

First up is an old video of Dolly Parton singing "Shall We Gather at the River?" My parish sang this yesterday as a new baby, its parents, and the clergy processed to the font.

The hymn was written by Robert Lowry (March 12, 1826 - November 25, 1899) was an American professor of literature, a Baptist minister and composer of gospel hymns.

Next up is a very Catholic video of St. Louis Jesuit John Foley's "Come to the Water." It's based on the beautiful text from Isaiah and frequently sung at Catholic baptisms. We sang this reflectively at my eldest daughter's baptism (while she was being dried and dressed in her white garment after being immersed) but here Matt Maher rocks it out. You'll need to click on the link above as embedding wouldn't cooperate.

Mainline Protestant congregations often sing "Borning Cry" at baptisms and other life transition rituals. (Which means some folks in that setting are sick to death of it, but I rather like it).

Finally, it's back to the evangelical world with a very different "Come to the Water," by Marsha Stevens-Pino. We used to sing this at campfires in college. She was part of the 70s Jesus movement and a very popular composer until she came out as a lesbian; now a major focus of her ministry is letting other Christian gays and lesbians know that God loves them just as they are. This video combines modern and vintage footage of the song with a little bit of her story.

What songs do you and your congregation love to sing at baptisms?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Splendid Isolation

When this is posted, and for the next 4 weeks, I'll be away from home, keeping silence while making the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I briefly thought about posting this video of John Cage's famous piece 4' 33". Instead, I found this combination of dance and exquisite polyphony to be even more evocative of what I'm listening for/to/with on my retreat than Cage. The dance company is Alvin Ailey II and the accompaniment is from Trio Mediaeal - a Norwegian group. (Listen to their Song of Mary here...)

Keep me in prayer these days, as I will all of you!

As we leave Christmas behind and head back into the deeps of winter, what was moving in your community's song today?

Prayer for First Sunday after Epiphany, Year B

Creator God,
Your creation story is told again and again with each person’s baptism.
Your invitation to be part of the body of Christ is offered anew at each baptism.
Your claim on your children, that they are your beloved is told at each baptism.

Spark our memories of our baptism and your claim on our life.
Spark our desires to be part of the body of Christ.

Lord our world is angry, sad and confused with the battles in the Mid East, the Drug wars in Mexico, the economic woes, and the pain and suffering of your little ones all around the world.
We see the damage to your beautiful creation.
We see the destruction by natural disasters.
And we wonder how long?
We feel unsafe and insecure.

Lord in those times,
Spark us to remember our baptism.
Spark us to remember that it is in you that we are truly safe,
truly secure and that it doesn’t matter how long.
In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

cross posted at revgalprayerpals and my blog

Saturday, January 10, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party -- Coming Up Out of the Water Edition

Good morning, preachers!

With Christmas and Epiphany behind us, those of us following the lectionary move to the beginning of Christ's ministry, and the story of his baptism as told in Mark's gospel. Ten days into a New Year, we're all coming up out of the water of the holidays and breaking the surface of our routines.

What does your schedule hold today? What are you pondering for tomorrow? Have a great idea for a Children's Moment? Or an angle on baptism the rest of us may not have considered? Please do share!

Meanwhile, there's coffee, and I should hope after yesterday's yummy Friday Five there will be virtual pancakes as well! Chime in via the comments and let us know how things are going.

(I've been looking at images of Jesus' baptism, and I love this one for its humanity. I found this picture via Google, but you can find more artwork at Textweek; many thanks to Jenee Woodward for making these resources available!)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Five: Pancakes

Last week Sally gave us a beautiful, spiritually reflective Friday Five, so it's time for something light and fluffy (literally). It's inspired by the fact that as I write this my dear spouse TechnoGuy, with the assistance of daughter Ladybug, is making a batch of chocolate chip pancakes with two Christmas presents. One is the Knott's Berry Farm mix which came along with jam, boysenberry syrup, and biscuit mix from my aunt (we ended up with two sets, since my parents passed theirs on to avoid sweet and carb-y temptation). The other is the large size Black and Decker electric skillet he was thrilled that I got him online -- our trusty wedding present normal size one still works at going on 20 years, but the Teflon is getting worn, and he wanted more cooking space. So pull up a chair to the kitchen table and tell us all about your pancake preferences.

1. Scratch or mix? Buttermilk or plain?

2. Pure and simple, or with additions cooked in?

3. For breakfast or for dinner?

4. Preferred syrup or other topping? How about the best side dish?

5. Favorite pancake restaurant?

Bonus: Any tasty recipes out there, for pancakes or other special breakfast dishes? Bring 'em on!

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, January 08, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - Giving 'til It Hurts Edition

This week's question is a timely one, given the increasingly difficult economic circumstances in which we find ourselves as a nation, as well as the increasing number of persons in need of physical or emotional assistance who are left to fend for themselves.

A new pastor writes
I can't tell you how distressed I am to be asking about this.

Our church has a discretionary fund for helping those who come around looking for assistance. As pastor I can spend up to $50 of this money at a time; $50 or more requires the concurrence of two deacons.

In the time I've been at the church (a little over a year) I've seen the need for assistance to individuals in our community increase. The rough economy is taking its toll on everyone, and those at the fringes get hit hardest and fastest. A number of people I've helped are one-timers-- a few dollars here or there helps them to pay a security deposit on an apartment or pay for food at a tough time. But we also have our "frequent flyers"--- folks I can count on seeing at regular intervals.

I have set my own limits here. I require a three to six month gap between episodes of assistance for folks who are regulars. Most accept this limit, even if grudgingly. But occasionally I encounter someone who pushes back.

J is one such person. She has consistently returned about monthly since the middle of last summer. For a while my limit held, but then she came in with a story so appalling that I broke my own rule and helped her one additional time. Since that day she has started coming to church on Sunday mornings (where she has been warmly welcomed by congregation members). Unfortunately, she uses the Sunday appearances at church and coffee hour to hit up members for money.

One recent Sunday she received a total of $60 cash plus a shopping trip at which someone paid for groceries and prescriptions. (Her needs are real, though some of her stories are questionable). I have spread the word around that I would like folks to refer her to me when she asks for assistance, but occasionally she will tell someone that I referred her to them, and they'll believe her. I have called her on this, and she denies it.

Last Sunday she appeared with a story that she had had a medical emergency which had caused her sheets to be covered with blood, and that she needed money to do her laundry "because her room stinks." I told her how sorry I was and said that we couldn't help her with cash, sorry. She then proceeded to tell the story to everyone she encountered until someone finally gave her $20, honestly, to make her go away.

I am increasingly frustrated with this situation. I read in the gospels that Jesus helped everyone, fed everyone, healed everyone without regard to "worthiness", but this woman is pushing my buttons big time. She has shared with me that she has a history of addiction to "hard drugs" and that she has lost custody of three children, but they will be returned to her early in 2009. I have asked her what her plans are for caring for these kids, since she is clearly unable to make ends meet for herself alone. She speaks of all kinds of government assistance that she expects.

I'm not feeling much like Jesus where J is concerned. I'm pissed off about her shocking people with her stories to get cash. But... maybe we should be shocked at what poverty and addiction does to people.

Matriarchs, help me. Please. Seriously.

Ann of responds:

Well - Jesus did not carry any money around as far as I can tell (remember - one coat, no purse) so that is one answer - give up being a social service agency. Seriously I wonder about Discretionary Funds and their usefulness. Most of us don't have the background to really find out what is going on to be very effective in assisting people. I turned ours over to a board to oversee in one place. In another the churches got together to hire someone who could do more than just give out $ - who could help people find all the community resources as well as help get them on track with budgeting and other services. Churches in our community had discovered that the same people were hitting up all of us.

I am not against helping people and no doubt the need will increase. Parameters and guidelines need to be set up. One is no cash - only vouchers or direct payment to the provider of whatever service is needed by the person in need. There is a role for advocacy to make the resources of the community more available to those in need -- going with people to help them sort through bureaucracies, etc. Sometimes it seems easier to just give the money - although the word spreads when one is an easy mark.

I think getting an outreach committee to oversee this is one way to address it. It gets people in the congregation involved who care about the issues. It spreads the word in the congregation about needs and challenges. But it is distressing and hard to say no and not feel guilty when most of us are in fairly comfortable circumstances. For me it is either just give it away and not worry or set up as system and hope you can do some long term good.

And from our Rector in Hawai'i (where many of us might wish we were rectoring right now!):

No one, even people in need, are entitled to approach people in a community concerning whatever it is that they need. This is a variation of panhandling. Two things: J needs to be talked to very firmly and told that the parish can no longer help her because there are so many other people who also need assistance. Give her a list of other places she might go for assistance. Secondly, members of a community do not hit each other up for money. She cannot remain in the community if that continues. Along with telling her this, also make an announcement during Sunday services that if J approaches anyone, you'd appreciate it if the approached parishioner would escort her over to the rector to discuss the need. Explain to the congregation that the parish (you) have been working with J to help her out; but giving cash is not helping to resolve the problem and only serves to make people uncomfortable.The parish needs to maintain some sort of boundary on how needy people are helped -- harassing parishioners, however, is not okay. In some cases, some of your own parishioners might not be coming as regularly if they feel they have to deal with J's panhandling.

On second thought, it might be good to bring this up at the vestry meeting and ask them how they would suggest you handle this. Some of them might have been approached by J as well. With vestry developing the guidelines, you'll have a better chance that parishioners will follow those guidelines. Even inclusiveness and charity and assistance all have boundaries.

This might sound a little harsh but there really are needy people who will get as much as they can, especially when drugs are involved. Sounds like J is going to continue doing this until she is asked to stop. If she doesn't stop, you can suggest that the police might be helpful in this case. I don't think you'll get to that point, but sometimes it's necessary. If she doesn't panhandle, she's very welcome to join the community.

Earthchick adds:

The first thing I have to remind myself of in this kind of situation is that I am not Jesus. (I shouldn't need the reminder, because all evidence makes it clear that I'm not.) It may seem that Jesus helped everyone without limit or exception, but I am very clear about the fact that I am incapable of doing so - and trying to is a very unhealthy situation for both me and the people I try to minister to. I think it's time you draw some very firm lines with J, lines that it sounds like you need to make clear not only to her but to your congregation as well.

I think the cash flow from you and your church members has to stop. In our congregation we have a set of policies in place for our discretionary fund. The first one is - no cash. Every gift has to be made for some specific purpose - if a person needs help with rent, we write a check to their landlord. If they need groceries, we write a check to the grocery store. We do not keep cash on-hand, and we do not write checks to individuals. It helps to be able to say "This is our policy and there's nothing I can do about it." This takes more work than handing out cash, but it also helps us be responsible with the money that people are giving to the discretionary fund - we know that the money is going for actual critical concrete needs.

Additionally, we work very closely with agencies who are actually equipped to assess need and appropriate resources. We send these local agencies money and we refer people to them. If these agencies won't assist someone who is requesting help, we know that there are good reasons (i.e., their story didn't check out). This has been a crucial part of our work with the local poor and addicted. Ministers and individual congregations shouldn't bear the burden of helping people alone - we really must work together with local social agencies. Not only do these agencies help people we send to them, but the agencies know they can call on us for financial assistance in certain situations. We know we can trust these requests.

It does not feel good to say not to people in need. But the situation you have gotten into with J is not helping her. It is enabling her and draining you and your congregants. She needs the long-term support that social agencies might be able to help with, not the quick and easy fix of a fistful of cash. I know this is not easy, and I hope you and your congregation can find healthy ways to love and support her.

from Soprano in New Jersey:

Ah, it's so hard to know the desperation of the poor. On the other hand, it's so easy to romanticize poverty in general and the needs of the poor in particular.

I remember one particular situation when we were walking back from the office of a friend who is a devout RC and a lawyer. He was on his way to a special Mass for lawyers and began talking about his faith.

On our way to the garage to fetch our cars, we were approached by a homeless man, asking for 'spare change'. A woman in our company reached into her coat pocket and produced a small hand full of change and gave it to the man with a warm smile. As we walked on, the lawyer became very angry.

"How do you know he's not going to spend that money on alcohol or drugs?"

She looked at him and said, "How do you know that wasn't Jesus?"

Right. Everything we have is not ours, it is God's. And, do we also have certain responsibilities to be good stewards of all that we have been given, do we not?

Is it really good stewardship to give money which might be used to contribute to a person's demise, or should the 'free will' given to us by God also be extended through us to others?

I can't tell you what to do. I can only tell you what I do - what works for the way I see the world works and what feels right to my soul.

I carry around food gift cards with me in $25 amounts, which I give out to those who are in need. You can get them from local grocery stores like Stop 'n Shop, Shop Rite, Giant, etc.

Also, I will pay directly to the pharmacy or utilities or insurance company or landlord. After the second request, I will have a conversation with the person about a systemic approach to the problem. We'll begin to talk about drug rehab or employment resources or job training. In at least two instances in the last three years, I have worked with other pastors in my community about helping to pay for a course to train two women as nurse's aids and in another two cases, two nurse's aids to become med techs.

And yes, when I leave the house in the morning, I also take the spare change from the top of my dresser and put it into my coat pocket.

You just never know when you're going to meet Jesus on the street.

And from Jacque:

Oh, I can feel the level of frustration! I serve an inner city congregation with people coming in asking for assistance on a regular basis. The good news is that we have an ecumenical urban outreach ministry with food pantry, and emergency assistance to which I can refer folks. People still come to me both during the week and on Sunday mornings, asking church members for money as you describe.

First, I would say that if we are to help people, we do have to accept the fact that sometimes we get conned. I'd rather help folks who truly need it, even if means giving to the occasional con, than to turn away those who have real needs, because it wounds my pride to be conned.

Second, when I have concluded that someone is conning, then I know that I am not helping them by continuing to feed into the sickness. (My conning, I include those who do have real needs, but have found ways to manipulate others to get money or goods rather than working on real solutions to problems.)

Third, we do have a call to help people in need; however that does not mean that our attention should be turned from other ministry every time someone asks. Everyone needs to live within appropriate boundaries. For everything there is a time ...

So, sometimes I do end up giving people money. But when I do, I try to make it clear that this is a one-time, rare occasion and that from this point they need to go to (in our case) Isaiah 58 Ministries, which is open 5 days a week from 10 - 1:30. And this is the phone number ....

I've come to notice how many people have a 'sudden' emergency on Sunday afternoon and cannot wait until Monday morning. I let people know that there is assistance, but that they have to plan and uses the services available like others do. It does not help people to become responsible if they never have to think ahead, make resources last, etc.

I've told people who are shaking down the congregation, that they simply are not allowed to do so. I believe the congregation should be able to come to worship and Sunday School without being hustled for money. At the same time, the congregation needs to realize the needs and issues of the community. Therefore I need to include them in discussions about how WE are responding to those in need.

We had one couple who joined the congregation in order to be able to have access to people to get money time after time. The leadership of the congregation discussed how to respond. We offered a variety of kinds of longer term help that were not what they wanted (not money and resources in their hands). I had also let them know that asking for money was not appropriate. When they discovered they could not get what they wanted, they left.

From a Wise Layperson:

I don't really have an answer for this one-- though it does occur to me that ground rules might be a place to start.

It seems like this woman is turning this church into her own personal beg-a-thon (what we call the pledge drives on PBS). I know I would (and have) felt put off when one person comes to dominate the discussion at a church.

It is important to remember that everyone at the church, rich or poor, sane or in mental distress has needs that they come to church to have met.

In a more perfect world the church would band together to help this person _and_ the person would be healed by that action. Unfortunately the world is a lot more complicated than that. It sounds like what this person really needs is professional help and what your congregation needs is to have an upfront discussion about how it will live in the world and what the ground rules are for dealing with this and future situations.

Can you help her? I have no idea-- but without groundrules you run the risk of driving other members of your congregation away.

My advice boils down to:

1) If church is becoming "all about J" then there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

2) Get some advice from a mental health or social work professional for how to handle this before it gets too far out of hand.

My own experience:
Many years ago, a man started coming to our church. We had announcements in the middle of the service and he would, without fail stand up and give a long, rambling sermonette about his cause of the week (usually it what what movies were 'unchristian'). Many people in the congregation found this irritating and disruptive of their worship. For a while we all tried to be the bigger people and let him have his time-- he was obviously not quite all there and we wanted to be welcoming and 'good christains.' We did try various low-key ways to approach him and get him to tone it down. He did not respond to any of them.

Finally we decided that it was not working. His constant disruption and lack of respect for our boundaries was getting on most peoples' nerves and making worship a chore. So we changed the service. We moved the announcements to the end of the service and for several weeks skipped parts of the service that invited congregants to share.

Deprived of his soapbox, he stopped coming to services.

Was this the outcome we wanted? Not really-- what we wanted was for him to understand that worship was a communal act. He could join us but he would have to immerse himself in the corporate act of worship and not take over a part of the service to the detriment of most everyone else present.

He couldn't or wouldn't do that so all that was left to us was remove the parts of the service that seemed to be triggering his behavior and see what would happen.

I do think that if we had acted sooner we would have saved ourselves a lot of heartache.

For more from our wise layperson, you can visit to read an essay she wrote on being taken in by a con and how that felt.

And you...what would you add?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Great news for those of us who have been missing the fabulous Princess Mindy: she's BAAACK! Go say howdy!

Lorna shares some rare sunshine photos from Finland!!

Christine invites us, "Come on over to this week's Poetry Party at the Abbey on the theme of "Epiphanies."

Sally already posted an Epiphany poem at her place. And shares some post-Christmas musings.

Deb did a "first of each month" post to review 2008, as did some other folks: I did, Songbird did, who else? Holler at us in the comments!

What are you up to? Share your best writing of the week, or nominate the work of others in the RG ring, in the comments!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Begin at the Beginning" Edition

Lessons for this coming Sunday are found here .
This coming Sunday we're going to be preaching and praying about beginnings.

We begin at the beginning, so to speak, with the soaring poetry of the first Genesis creation story. We continue with a Psalm to the Creator, in the wake of the awe inspired by the power of nature. Our Epistle lesson visits the beginning of some early believers' lives in the Body of Christ as they are baptized. And we meet Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry, as his cousin John baptizes him in the Jordan.

Beginnings are also about change -- and there's certainly a lot of change going on in our lessons: the development of the created world; a transition in understanding of what baptism is in the context of Christianity; and a literally heaven-rending, cosmic change in the course of history as Jesus the carpenter from Nazareth is revealed as Son of God.

Where are Sunday's texts -- or any other texts you may be using instead as themes -- taking you as you plan, pray, discuss and write your way toward Sunday worship?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Daughters of Miriam: A RevGals Big Event 2.0

April 16-19, 2009 the RevGals and Guys will meet at The Casa Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona for a Continuing Ed event. Our facilitator will be the wonderful Wil Gafney, Ph. D, an Episcopal Priest and Associate Professor of Hebrew and Hebrew Scripture at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

In this year's RevGalBlogPal's Continuing Education Event, Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in and Around Ancient Israel, we will spend three days exploring gender in the scriptures, focusing primarily on women in the Hebrew Bible. Each study session will begin with a thirty-minute presentation followed by a thirty-minute small group activity. We will close by regrouping and sharing our learning.

Our journey begins on Day 1 with a study of women prophets in ancient Israel responding to the question, "What makes a person a prophet in the bible?" In this session we will reflect on prophecy in biblical Israel and the traditions of women's prophecy in Jewish and Christian sacred literature. In our small group study, we will read the biblical narratives in which women prophets appear and document their words and deeds.

Continuing on Day 2, we will explore the context for women's prophecy in ancient Israel, answering the question, "What were the neighbors doing?" by examining women's prophecy in the surrounding nations. We will consider women's prophetic activity in relation to other women's professions carried out in professional guilds: musical - especially funeral - and scribal guilds. We will also look briefly at some professional women's guilds in the bible. In our small group study time, we will read a genealogical text looking for women's whose names and stories may not be well known.

Concluding our study on Day 3, we will ask ourselves, "What does it mean to be created in Her image?" We will study together the implications of reading and translating the scriptures as women. In our small group time, we will engage two devotional exercises, "She Verbs" and "Self-Psalm." In the first exercise, we will verbs articulating women's agency in the scriptures from selected passages, creating new versions of old stories. In the second exercise we will read and write ourselves in the Psalms, by name and gender.

The Big Event 2.0 will take place at The Casa (also known as The Franciscan Retreat Center) in Scottsdale, Arizona. We will begin on Thursday evening, April 16, 2009, and conclude on Sunday morning, April 19, 2009. The cost of the retreat will be $385 to share a double room, or $475 for those preferring a single room. A deposit of $100can be made to reserve your room, with the balance due on March 1st, 2009.

Rate includes all meals, a t-shirt and RevGalBlogPals, Inc. membership for 2009— transportation to Phoenix, Arizona, is in addition. Shuttle bus to and from the Phoenix International Airport via “Super Shuttle” will be approximately $16.00 each way. The Rev. Dr. Gafney's book, Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel, will be available for purchase at the retreat. You are encouraged to purchase it and read it ahead of time, through the link on the RevGals sidebar to Amazon.

To request a brochure with more details, or to request a registration form, please send an e-mail to

And for those of you who are getting really tired of is usually really beautiful in Arizona in April, sunny and 80's.

....and as an extra enticement....the Grand Canyon is only a three hour drive north...there is some talk about taking a side trip up there after the BE2.0. Or maybe you want to come in early and and go there with your family....if so, you can get more information here.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Video: Songs of Thankfulness and Praise

I love this hymn, although I'm accustomed to hearing it played rather faster than this.

I am sorry I can't get the video to embed...but you can get to it here.

The tune is wonderful; it has a fantastic descant, but the words are the best part.

The last line of each stanza in the original reads: "God in man made manifest." I grew up with that, and I like the alliteration and the intent of the word "MAN" in "manifest; but let's try hearing it a different and more inclusive way today:

Songs of thankfulness and praise,
Jesus, Lord, to thee we raise,
manifested by the star
to the sages from afar;
branch of royal David's stem
in thy birth at Bethlehem;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in us made manifest.

Manifest at Jordan's stream,
Prophet, Priest and King supreme;
and at Cana, wedding guest,
in thy Godhead manifest;
manifest in power divine,
changing water into wine;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in us made manifest.

Manifest in making whole
palsied limbs and fainting soul;
manifest in valiant fight,
quelling all the devil's might;
manifest in gracious will,
ever bringing good from ill;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in us made manifest.

Sun and moon shall darkened be,
stars shall fall, the heavens shall flee;
Christ will then like lightning shine,
all will see his glorious sign;
all will then the trumpet hear,
all will see the Judge appear;
thou by all wilt be confessed,
God in us made manifest.

Grant us grace to see thee, Lord,
mirrored in thy holy Word;
may we imitate thee now,
and be pure, as pure art thou;
that we like to thee may be
at thy great Epiphany;
and may praise thee, ever blest,
God in us made manifest.

Words: Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885), 1862
The Hymnal 1982, number 135

What did you sing in worship today? What are your favorite musical parts of Epiphany? Please share in the comments!

Ephiphany/Christmas 2 Sunday Prayer

God of Time and Space,
You are not bound by calendars, day timers, PDA’s and watches,
teach us to not be bound by them either.
God of the stars, the heavens, the planets and their orbits,
you sent a star to guide the Magi on their journey to the Christ Child,
Send your star to guide us on journeys of faith.
God of Creation, your word spoke creation into being,
you sent your son as the light into a world of darkness,
God may your word still speak to us today,
May your son still be the light in our worlds of darkness.

God our dark world is a hotbed of fighting, pollution, starvation, and homelessness.
Teach to once again be stewards of your earth.
Bring forth you peace in the midst of the battles.
May there be plenty for those who are starving.
May there be homes for those without homes.

And just as the Magi brought gifts to the Christ Child
may we bring gifts to the Christ Child again. Amen

Saturday, January 03, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party: Christmas or Epiphany? Edition

Good morning, gals and pals! This Sunday will be the (let's see 7, 8, 9) 10th Day of Christmas, the 2nd Sunday after Christmas -- or will you be celebrating an early Epiphany in your church? There is a wonderful discussion that goes both ways here. In my own congregation our habit is to celebrate Epiphany, as there would otherwise not be a chance to hear the story from Matthew. The Senior Pastor is preaching, and I'm getting ready for the annual journey to Phoenix, Arizona, where my sister resides. We're also planning a special snowfall for the weekend.

This is also the anniversary of my first time hosting the preacher party!

In the 10 years I've been here, we've done several different special things on Epiphany Sunday, including a Reader's Theatre based on Henry Van Dyke story, The Story of the Other Wise Man, and a Processional with three people dressed up like kings, all bringing their gifts to the manger. What about you? Do you have any special plans for epiphany? Or is it the 2nd Sunday after Christmas for you, with the ethereal Gospel reading from John? Or, something else entirely?

I have oatmeal with apples and cinnamon for breakfast, fair trade coffee and tea. I also have some leftover Christmas cookies I'll leave out throughout the day JUST IN CASE. Please come and tell us the stars you are following, where you are seeing grace and truth, where you sense danger and where opportunity.