Visit our new site at revgalblogpals.org.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - What's It All About Edition

As a 25 year-old newly-ordained minister and only the second woman serving a full-time call in a metropolitan area of over 400,000 people, I remember feeling very alone at times. But even more daunting than the loneliness was the realization that I was encountering situations for which seminary had never prepared me. I was part of a pastoral colleague group whose mentor was wise and caring. I was blessed with a bishop and judicatory leadership that was strongly supportive too. But what I wouldn’t have given for the opportunity to check in with and run situations past another woman who had some significant experience in pastoral ministry, and was still passionate about it! And a group of women like that - well, that would have been the whipped cream and dark chocolate drizzled on the latte!

What do you do when you realize a few months into your tenure that the woman who has been the de facto lay leader of the congregation is deeply threatened by your presence?

How do you function as a leader in a setting where the life events that make one an adult – marriage and child-bearing – aren’t a part of your life’s story?

What do you do when you have the sneaking suspicion that something is terribly wrong with the congregation’s financial management?

What do you do when you begin to think you would be happier flipping hamburgers at the local fast-food establishment than pasturing your parish?

Does any woman make it beyond six or seven years of this work?

These are but a few of the questions I would have brought to “Ask the Matriarch” during my first 3 years of ministry. RevGalBlogPals hadn’t come into existence at that point. Friends – the internet hadn’t even been invented yet!

Today both the internet and RevGalBlogPals provide a means of community for ordained women and those who support them that reaches across denominational lines and around the globe. In August 2006, “Ask the Matriarch’ was proposed as a weekly event on the RevGals site with the specific objective of linking persons new to ordained ministry with questions and struggles with women who had at least 10 years of ordained ministry experience. Judging from the steady stream of questions and responses to them, this feature continues to provide a setting for support and conversation across a range of subjects in pastoral leadership.

I consider it a privilege to be able to be a part of the RevGals community and this feature. There are five matriarchs who join me in this endeavor, but we really would benefit from a few more women with significant ordained experience (10 years is our chosen benchmark) to help shoulder the work when life gets busy for any of us. If you are interested in joining our merry band of matriarchs, drop us a line at askthematriarch@gmail.com.

And as always, we need your questions to make this feature work. You don't have to be new in ordained ministry...whatever your tenure or situation, your questions are respected and valued. You can forward them to us at askthematriarch@gmail.com

We’ll be back with ATM in its regular format next Thursday…hope to see you then.


May you live in God’s amazing grace+

revhoney

(Photo courtesy of WorldofStock.com)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday Festival: Whan that Aprille...



Greetings, folks! It's rainy here...how about where you are?

Sally shares two reports on a Conference for practitioners in reaching out to the new spirituality arena; first my journey to engagement, and then reflections on the conference itself.

Deb at Unfinished Symphony is celebrating! Her 22nd anniversary, end of the seminary semester, and her Harpist's final recital with her orchestra friends. Come to the party!

Christine invites us to this week’s Poetry Party on Honoring the Gifts of the Earth (and a very special prize drawing this week’s for Christine’s 3-year Bloggiversary)

Sophia is exploring the start of a new, emergent-style Benedictine community. If you are interested, please check out her post.

Ivy, blogging at Claimed, Gathered and Sent, invites us to her seminary project blog: "For a project in Gospels, I did a blog entitled Shepherding God's Flock since it was on John 10:11-18. I have decided to continue the blog and would like to include anyone else who is interested to be part of the team." Check that out, and get with Ivy in her comments if you would like to know more.

And, now that those of us who were able to participate in the B.E. 2.0 have had time to come down to earth, and in some cases to post about it, I offer you links to some reflections. There is no particular order to the list; and the folks named but without links were with us, but have not posted about the BE on their blogs yet - (no pressure or anything. ;)

GodGurrl
DogBlogger
Me
Zorra
MomPriest
Sophia
InnerDorothy
Mid-Life Rookie
RevDrKate
EarthenSoul
Songbird
St. Casserole
Crystal
Iris
RevHoney
Vicar of Hogsmeade

Event surveys have been collected from everyone, I believe. All comments are being reviewed and the planning for next year has begun, so watch this space!

Did you miss nominating yourself or someone else in the ring this week? Please share your favorite posts with us in the comments! For next week, be sure to send your nominations to wednesdayfestival@gmail.com, ideally by Monday for the Wednesday post.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - who's inside?

Apologies for coming to this so late in the day - it's been one of those where the phone never stopped whenever I was home, and 2 big meetings took up most of the time between 9.00 and 5.00....But here we are at last!

The lections for this coming Sunday, Easter 4, are a kind of mixed blessing I think....because I really don't know how to choose from such riches!
I've a triple Baptism at the All Age Communion at Church in the Valley, so it will be wonderful to work with
"I know my own and my own know me" in that context...in fact I'm positively excited by it.
I'll reflect on the cross marked in oil on the candidates foreheads as the mark that proclaims they are part of the Shepherd's flock and then, rememebering that the mark will be invisible after the baptism itself, invite them to think about other ways in which their allegiance can be visible
(linking to the 1 John passage, with its emphasis on faith in action)

In another context I guess there might be some good questions around
"I have other sheep, not of this fold".
Do our congregations acknowledge that they would have been the outsiders, the other sheep, to the crowds who heard Jesus preach? We're so good at seeing ourselves as the in crowd...but we are actually the add-on extras.
How do we feel about the idea that there will be one flock and the sheep may not necessarily resemble us in every particular?
All that is asked of us is that we follow the shepherd, not make judgements about the composition of the flock - but don't we struggle with that?

Or, if we feel we've done enough about sheep in Junior Church to last a lifetime, there's the terrifying clarity of the epistle
How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
At least one of my congregations could usefully ponder that challenge for a while...though it is possible, of course, that they might choose to limit their vision of brothers and sisters to "P.L.U." (people like us...said in the most upper-class English voice you can imagine)
I think there might be an awful silence as we consider whether or not our hearts condemn us - at least, I would rather hope there might be.How do we love in truth and action? There's no question of it being an optional extra - it's the fundamental mark of our obedience to God.

Sometimes it seems to me that the readings resemble busses...For weeks you gaze hopefully at a blank screen pining for inspiration, and then one week it seems you could write any number of sermons with minimal blood, toil, sweat and tears. That's how this Sunday strikes me - I hope it's looks as promising to you.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Daughters of Miriam"


Our book club discussion this month is on the book we read and discussed at the recent BE 2.0. The book was written by The Rev. Dr. Wilda C. Gafney who also facilitated the discussion at the conference. Here are some thoughts to get our discussion going:


Daughters of Miriam
Women Prophets in Ancient Israel
By Wilda C. Gafney

You’ve heard of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, three of the primary prophets with books in the Bible. Maybe you have a fondness for Amos or Hosea or another of the “minor” prophets. Maybe you have wondered on occasion why none of these prophets is a woman. As a result of the prophets listed in the canon of the Bible perhaps you had no idea that the Judeo-Christian tradition includes women prophets? Perhaps as you read the Bible, or hear it read on Sunday mornings, you notice that women are rarely mentioned, let alone named. And perhaps it never occurred to you that something, or rather someone, might be missing from the Christian salvation history story? These are just a few of the questions addressed in Daughters of Miriam.

“More than three thousand years after the prophet Miriam led the Israelites drumming and dancing across the Sea of Reeds, some Jewish and Christian communities still restrict the role of women in proclamation, leadership, and presence in the pulpit on what they call biblical and traditional grounds. However, the biblical text presents female prophets leading the people of God and proclaiming the word of God unremarkably, as part of the natural order of things.” (Daughters of Miriam, page 1). So begins this amazing book that challenges, using excellent scholarship, the common understanding of women’s role in scripture and our history.

To begin, a summary of some of the women prophets found in the Bible is mentioned in the preface: Huldah (2 Kings, 2 Chronicles), Miriam and Deborah, the woman with whom Isaiah fathers a child, seemingly out of wedlock, No’adiah who faced down Nehemiah and won over all the other prophets in Jerusalem, the community of women-prophets in Ezekiel who have the power of life and death, women prophets living around the communities of biblical Israel, Hannah, Abigail, Sarah, Rahab, Rachel, Esther, Rebekah, the women who guard the wilderness sanctuary, Lemuel’s queen-mother who composed Proverbs 31, and untold numbers of female prophets hiding in the masculine grammar and androcentric focus of the Hebrew scriptures. It was this latter point, the female prophets hiding in the text, that became the focus of much of our time with Wil at the recent BE 2.0, leaving many of us astonished and perhaps a bit angry.

One might wonder, just what are the characteristics of a prophet? These are outlined in Chapter 6 based on practices and behaviors of prophets and their counterparts in other texts from the Ancient Near East which are also exhibited by women prophets in the Hebrew texts. Wil’s criteria defining one a prophet includes a list of behaviors in combination with the person being in an intermediary relationship with YHWH on behalf of human beings. The behaviors are: interceding with YHWH on behalf of human beings AND performing musical compositions, commanding military forces, performing miracles, appointing monarchs, advising monarchs, archiving monarchal reigns, evaluating and legitimating Torah, making, teaching, and leading disciples, mediating human disputes, archiving prophetic utterances, constructing and guarding the temple, serving as executioner, inquiring of the Divine, and proclaiming the word of YHWH (page 152). This list proves helpful in uncovering the women prophets hidden in the texts and became part of one of our exercises during the BE 2 Conference.

Most of us who attended the BE 2.0 agree that the most significant exercise we did was the one using She-Verbs. For this exercise we assigned the task of choosing a story from scripture where a woman plays a major role. Read that story and record all the verbs, the action the woman takes in the story. Then tell the story again using only “she” and the verb. For example, “She sat.” “She spoke.” “She touched.” And so on.

This book is not the sort of book one can assign to a parish book club or an adult forum and expect the average church person to understand it. Written in an academic style the book is most useful for leaders of churches and seminary students to read and become informed. It is then our job to teach and share the material with others.

So, here are my questions to get this discussion going:

How will you begin to teach your congregation about the reality of women playing a larger role in our Judeo-Christian history than we have been led to believe?

If you preach, how will this book inform and shape your sermons? What questions will now be raised for you as you prepare your sermon?

If you are a Spiritual Director or hold a lay leadership role in a congregation, how will this book shape your ministry?

Whether lay or ordained, what questions will you ask of the stories of the Bible and the stories of our lives?

I encourage you to try the “She-Verb” exercise and see what the story tells you, then share your insights in the comments below or with a link to your blog.

Lastly, what questions did the book raise for you?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This hymn speaks to me on so many levels - and is one of my favorites, both the tune and the words.



We did not sing this in our congregation, but my guess is some church did as it was one of the recommended ones this Sunday. What hymns did your congregation sing today? Which one spoke to your heart?

Sunday Prayer

God of the night,
where are you
in the darkness of
this hour?

God of the light
surround us
illuminate us
this hour.

God of all love
pour into
suffering and pain
this hour.

God of all hope
embrace our
breathless sorrowing
this hour.

God of peace
enfold us
in your mystery
now, always.

Wounded God
heal us
with your open wounds
and arms.

God of flesh
join us
eat and drink with us
now, always.

Mystery
open us
to your mystery
of love.

Open us
as you
were opened for us
in love.

God of all
being
Reaching out your hand
in love

May we take
the hand
extended, open
for us.

And may we
offer
the same extended
love, all.

Amen.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party: Resurrection Appearances -- for a limited time only Edition


Good morning, gals and pals! Christ is risen, indeed! It will be the third Sunday of (not after, of) Easter this weekend, and the last Sunday where we will have resurrection appearance stories. After tomorrow, we're back to the Good Shepherd, and Jesus in the upper room with his disciples.

Those resurrection appearances: they don't last very long, do they? So what do we do NOW?

So, what are you preaching on this weekend? There's a great discussion of the texts, with some great questions here.

So, where are you today? Are you at Solomon's Portico with Peter and John? In the upper room with the disciples and a piece of broiled fish? Or somewhere or another with John and all of the children of God, dreaming about what we will be "when we see him as he is"?

I'm in the kitchen right now, putting on the coffee (fair trade toffee caramel) and the tea. Would you like an English Muffin or some oatmeal with blueberries? They are full of antioxidants. Or how about a piece of broiled fish? I hear that it is good for you, too.

Let us know your insights, what you are struggling with, your prayer requests, your answered prayers. He is risen indeed!

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's a Bucket List Friday Five, Gals and Pals!

I wrote this Friday Five a while back but was unable to post it. Just saying, so you know I am not ill! :-) Actually I am heading out of town and will not be able to read your posts till sometime early next week, but I'll do so then. Have fun, and don't think too hard about this one. I figured we were due for some fun after Lent and Good Friday and Easter and all that churchy stuff!

Four days of being mostly in bed with a really bad case of flu (do not worry--I will give no detail) has me pondering the fragility of life. LOL! Death, however, has been cheated in my case and I am up and taking nourishment. In that vein of thought, do you have a "Bucket List"? In other words, from the movie of the same name, five things you want to see, do, accomplish, etc. before you kick the bucket?

To link to your post in the comments, copy and paste using the following formula: <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, April 23, 2009

Ask the Matriarch: packaging God edition

Please note: The original text of today's Ask the Matriarch question has been edited at the request of the person who submitted it.
revhoney

Dear Matriarchs:

My senior pastor (SP) has hired a “management consultant” (MC) to work with all of us on staff in defining our goals for 2009. I’m a systems person and a planner, so it’s not a stretch for me to write out a strategic plan and use mission/vision/values or goals/objectives/strategies. I’m part-time because I’m full-time in seminary. The idea of not managing by panic is a great thing.

Where I am uncomfortable is that the “consultant” is a pastor who was first employed in sales in the (no lie) used car business, then got an M.Div.

SO. My SP now says that the MC wants copies of our reports and weekly stat’s. MC’s style is slick, market-driven and – worst of all – sexist. I can’t stand him interpersonally or professionally. He just grates on my nerves.

I want to increase my abilities in communication.

I also want to do a better job of preaching the Word, but I am NOT in agreement that God is a “product” to be “packaged.”

I’ve persevered at this job because I have a year until I graduate and it would be helpful to have a long-term pastoral job on my resume. But at what cost? Am I selling my soul here?

Is this an opportunity for me to develop patience and perspective on “how not to lead the church”?


Ceramic Episcopalian writes
This one is pushing too many of my buttons for me to formulate a good answer, but if the situation is as the questioner says then my basic advice would be to start looking for another job right now and Do Not Engage with this situation. It sounds like a recipe for disaster-- get out with your faith intact while you can.

Jacque commiserates:
Oh, my sister, I ache for you. Unfortunately the Church has a bad habit of employing people as 'consultants' who are available precisely because they have not made it in other areas of ministry. We have seen this multiple times in our denomination -- often the good-old-boys hiring them because they are buddies. Well .... so much for that.

Three thoughts
1.) Yes, you could do it as an exercise in "patience" and to be able to have conversation with other staff members about his approach and any differences you all may have with it. Sometimes that can be helpful.

2.) The question you could raise is this: Since you are in seminary full time and are part-time student on staff, perhaps you would not be required to work with this consultant. After all, you are in the midst of intensive study and development for ministry in the seminary context and are working on these very issues through that process.

3.) Depending on your relationship with the Senior Pastor, you could choose to share your knowledge of this "consultant" and your concerns. Obviously, this is the most risky approach.

Blessings!!!

Rev Abi offers some suggestions:
Here is my suggestion.
I suggest you go to the Senior Pastor and ask him, what he wants you in particular to write, since you are part-time. How he envisions this to help you help the church. Play Columbo if you have to get clarity. And use that as then your guiding standard for what you then write. Keep the Senior Pastor informed as well as seeking his guidance.

You are part time; you are in a learning situation. Use it as such, to learn the good and bad of church, church politics, and church management. Even ask the guy what he went through at the previous church and what did he learn from that experience so you can learn from him. Again be a bit like Columbo. What would he have done differently? What advise would he have given himself if he was his MC?

I don't know what denomination you are in to know how this all works in your particular situation. But as Methodist we write our goals and objectives with the Staff Parish Relations Committee into a format that is called a Shared Covenant. This goes to our District Supervisor and becomes the means by which we are reviewed and evaluated. You can look to outside resources to help you put this together if need be, but it is always with the knowledge of Staff Parish Relations Committee. I only say this to share one pattern for doing this. There are many.

In fact yesterday I spoke to a friend of mine who has written a format for this that I am going to be looking at using called 360.

I don't know that you are selling your soul, but you are showing that you are cooperating as a team player even though you are part time. And when this MC gives you advice and consultation, you have a means to ask questions. You can say, I want to know how this helps me help the church? How does this fit into the vision of the church? And ask it in the name of learning since you are still in school. Of course you may be learning how not to do things, the effects that may have on people and churches and how to not do at a later time and why. Find friends, and colleagues you can complain to. Keep the Pastor informed of where and how things are going for you. Don't join the gossip; encourage them to like wise tell the Pastor.

And as far as to who this person is and how he does things, people like this usually cause their own downfall eventually.

From Abi who has had to deal with a few too many of these people in life.


Add your thoughts and ideas for questioning pastor.


PS from Ann and revhoney – the question barrel is near the bottom for ATM – please send along your questions for the Matriarchs. Write to askthematriarch at gmail.com (replace the at with @ - no spaces)

Thanks.

UPDATE:
Dear all - this is my last edition of Ask the Matriarch as I discovered that I have been breaking the guidelines of ATM. I did not realize that a 10 year ordained person was the definition of Matriarch. Although I have been ordained over 10 years I do not have 10 years of service. Some whom I have recruited to answer ATM questions are long time lay ministers and therefore do not qualify either. I am sorry that this happened. I have enjoyed my time as an editor of this feature but feel I need to withdraw. Ann

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday Festival: Earth Day, Etc.


Logo for Sacramento, CA Earth Day celebrations...

One festival that is getting attention in my corner of the world today is Earth Day. What are you doing for Earth Day, if you are doing something special?

Leah Sophia says, "Here's the City CD package I designed for Earth Day 2009, along with links to my posts for previous years. I've almost finished a 2nd Beach Earth Day CD package, so will link to it when it gets done. We can make it Earth Month!"

Reverend Mom is thinking about what it means to go home again.

Sally is pondering parables.

Next Monday, April 27th, is our monthly book discussion of Wil Gafney's book, Daughters of Miriam: Woman Prophets in Ancient Israel. As those who were on the BE 2.0 can tell you, this is a substantive and fascinating work, and we hope you will read up and be part of the conversation!



Oh, and don't forget that today is Administrative Professionals' Day (way back when I was a secretary, it was called "Secretaries' Day"). Remember to say thanks to those who help you out...and if that person is you, take yourself out for a pedicure or an ice cream. My treat!

If you neglected to nominate, please share in the comments your or other ring members' recent posts...and don't forget the address for future nominations: wednesdayfestival@gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - all because of some broiled fish.

This Sunday's texts are here

As the Great Fifty Days continues, the disciples are still scratching their heads and trying to make sense of it all...and I would hazard a guess that there are some who will hear our words on Sunday who are every bit as baffled.
Yesterday morning I was talking to someone who was quite certain that she had seen, smelled, encountered her dead father: it's so easy for the physical resurrection of Christ to be confused with that sort of longing recall that can both soothe and trouble the bereaved...Small wonder that
"in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering,"
But then, once again, Jesus turns to the most prosaic, straightforward things and transforms them into a sacrament of his presence...Not bread broken and wine shared this time but the utterly down to earth " a piece of broiled fish" eaten before their wondering eyes.
Could anything sound less dramatic? Yet it is in eating that Jesus demonstrates beyond any doubt that his presence is not a collective delusion born of the disciples' longing, that the resurrection is not simply a matter of disembodied spirits but something solid and real.
The disciples are turned from speculative doubters into convinced witnesses...Their minds were opened because their senses were convinced. Without that moment of solid proof, one suspects that all the teaching in the world would not have made sense to them.
Perhaps this week it's time to ask our congregations what are their equivalents to the piece of broiled fish...what real, concrete behaviours might demonstrate unequivocally to a dubious world that Jesus is alive in his followers.

That's where my thoughts are tending so far...but the day is young. What about you?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Meet and Greet



Meet and Greet today comes to us from the Grand Canyon, where a few of us journeyed following the BE 2.0. It seems appropriate to share with you some of the highlights of our conference with Wil Gafney on the topic of Women Prophets:Daughters of Miriam.

Day One: April 16
We arrived throughout the day...and found our rooms around courtyards like this one:


Some of us arrived early enough to walk the labyrinth....notice if you can, the ground squirrel who made her home under the labyrinth...


And here is the view beyond the labyrinth....


The first night we gathered after supper and share the creation story of RevGals...a delightful email trail of blogger comments. Afterward we entered our worship space

for an evening prayer led by Wil. Most of us, who had travelled far, and been up many hours went to bed after the worship. A few of us stayed up awhile longer enjoying spicy salsa and chips with a little wine or "pop."

Day 2
We gathered after breakfast for morning worship and then our first presentation by Wil. She led us through an interesting discussion on who is a prophet...and finding women in the texts of the Bible, even when it appears that women aren't there...We did some small group work looking at the various kinds of "prophets", a bit more group discussion, and then broke for lunch. (See Wil Ganey's book, Daughters of Miriam, Women Prophets in Ancient Israel, for more infor).The afternoon we had free time. A number of us went into "Old Scottsdale" and did some shopping at the ....some of us bought knitting supplies for the first time while others decided to try and up our knitting technique with more complicated patterns.

We reconvened with Wil for an evening study session followed by evening worship. Some of us stayed up late playing cards....(what were you playing???)

Day 3:
We had sabbath time on Saturday morning. Some of us walked the grounds, others chose to go back into Old Scottsdale. We gathered in the afternoon for more time with Wil looking at the begats in 1 Chronicles and listing all the women named in chapters 1-8...we also broke into small groups and choose a story in scripture about a woman and recorded it using just the pronoun "she" and the verbs associated with the woman's story: so, "She said," "she bowed," "she spoke," etc....and during our small group work we enjoyed this courtyard:

and some flowers in the area:


Following our time with Wil we had a short break and then reconvened for a group photo:


After the photo we had dinner and then spent a relaxing evening around a

the night was cool, the fire was blazing (that's Wil in the background, if you can see her), the wine flowed (well water and "pop" too), and the conversations delightful.

Day 4:
As I write this it is Saturday night. Sunday morning we will gather for a closing Eucharist written by various members of those attending. Afterward seven us are loading into two cars and heading north to the Grand Canyon. The rest will be taking the shuttle back to the airport and heading home. If this is posted as written it means I have not been able to add anything further about our BE 2.0 since Saturday night.....but I will update as possible.

All I can say is, it's really been wonderful. Thank you to those who helped create this wonderful blog ring and for the inspiration to bring us together for the Big Events. There is already conversation about next year: where (East coast? Southeast?), what (cruise? retreat center, a personal home), when (how many weeks after Easter, 1 or 2?)....but whenever, whatever, wherever....plan to be at the BE 3.0....

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Afternoon music video- Dreaming a dream


I wanted to share something different with you this week, last week while watching Britain's got talent with my family we shared the jaw dropping amazement of the judges and the studio audience as Susan Boyle wowed us with her singing talent! If you haven't seen it you can find a link to the You -tube video here.

I spoke about her in my sermon today, noting how she surprised and amazed everyone, how what we saw and heard was not what we had expected. I wondered how often the church is or should be like that. Susan has an amazing gift in her voice, we have an amazing gift in the person of the Holy Spirit, poured out into our lives! We need to both receive and acknowledge the gift we have, and then we as a church need to open our moths to sing God's song.


Listen to the surprise in the judges voices, but also the way they acknowledge what they are hearing! I wonder what it would be like if the church sang God's song, if we dared to catch his vision for us and dream his dreams...


In Church today we sang Charles Wesley's And Can it Be? the question echoes Susan's daring to dream, let us be among those who dare!


Here it is:

How about you, what did you sing today, what has inspired you, as always let us know in the comments.

Sunday Prayer

Last week I posted one of my favorite poems as our Easter Prayer. This week, as we ponder the readings of doubt and our fear that resurrection is impossible I offer this poem/prayer from The Odes of Solomon, written in the 1st or 2nd century.(again, from The Enlightened Heart, an anthology of sacred poetry edited by Stephen Mitchell

My heart was split, and a flower
appeared; and grace sprang up;
and it bore fruit for my God.
You split me, tore my heart
open, filled me with love.
You poured your spirit into me;
I knew you as I know myself.
Speaking waters touched me
from your fountain, the source of life.
I swallowed them and was drunk
with the water that never dies.
And my drunkeness was insight,
intimacy with your spirit.
And you have made all things new;
you have showed me all things shining.
You have granted me perfect ease;
I have become like Paradise,
a garden whose fruit is joy;
and you are the sun upon me.
My eyes are radiant with your spirit;
my nostrils fill with your fragrance.
My ears delight in your music,
my face is covered with your dew.
Blessed are the men and women
who are planted on your earth, in your garden,
who grow as your trees and flowers grow,
who transform their darkness to light.
Their roots plunge into darkness;
their faces turn toward the light.
All those who love you are beautiful;
they overflow with your presence
so that they cando nothing but good.
There is infinite space in your garden;
all men, all women are welcome here;
all they need do is enter.

We pray for the courage, the stamina, the grace, to enter the room of our doubts. We pray for the love of God to work in us and produce the fruits of God's love. We pray that we can be the eyes through which others see God. The hands through which others know the love of Christ, and heart of the Holy Spirit, bringing reconciliation to this broken world. Amen.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party


Well, while the cats are away partying, relaxing, and retreating in Arizona, the rest of us mice are slaving away on our Sermons, worship , children's sermon, homilies, prayers, and liturgy for Sunday.
In honor of my Texas in-laws coming for a visit; I am providing us with breakfast right out the hill country bed & Breakfast menu. It is spread to feast your eye's and stomach on, and to enjoy. I also have your favorite coffees, teas with water for drinking.

Some of you may be trying to reach out and touch Jesus with our twin Thomas. Some of you may be preaching on the The one of heart and mind community of Acts. Some of you may be going up the mountain to the temple to worship, and thus receiving God's blessing. And some of you may be bold enough to preach on the divided community of First John; or you could focus in God is light, we walk in that light, and John's guide to how we walk in that light and not in sin. Which ever you are preaching, the table is an open table with plenty of room for all. I am posting this early enough so the early birds can get the party started. I'll be waking up a little later and will join in on the discussion. Just help yourself to the coffee, tea and the food. Glad you all are here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

From the BE

Greetings from The Casa. We are having a wonderful time learning about women prophets in the ancient world, worshiping together, enjoying the beauty of this glorious space.

I am very slow on this BlackBerry and have already deleted this post once by mistake so will not go on. Just want the rest of our community...you...to know you are loved and missed and in our thoughts.

Blessings!

Friday Five- Household Appliances Edition


As I write this I am waiting for my new dishwasher to be delivered, it along with my washing machine and vacuum cleaner are household appliances that I consider indispensable! Others not so much, we decided not to replace our tumble drier when the old one finally gave out last year, and I can honestly say I haven't really missed it. My hubby Tim and I often disagree about which household appliances are really necessary and which ones aren't, we also enjoy a few luxury items, my one of favourites is a juicer, and Tim's is our all singing all dancing filter coffee maker- it has a thermos jug so the coffee stays nice and hot without the aid if a heat element.

So being in a domestic frame of mind I thought I'd ask;

1. What is the one appliance you simply couldn't be without?

2. What if anything would you happily give up?

3. What is the most strangest household appliance you own?

4. What is the most luxurious household appliance you own?

5. Tell us about your dream kitchen- the sky is the limit here....

As always, leave a comment if you play, and to encourage visitors to your blog, add a direct link to your post, using the following formulation:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>

For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ask The Matriarch: wardrobe malfunction edition


Dear Matriarchs:

We've recently re instituted taking communion each Sunday to parishioners who are homebound. This is a specialized lay ministry, licensed and structured by guidelines of our denomination. One of our licensed "Eucharistic Visitors," is a long-time faithful and dedicated member of our church. He also comes to church "looking like Saturday," as another member describes the wardrobe. This member was scheduled as a Eucharistic Visitor today, and this morning he was in a T-shirt, jeans with ripped knees, and crocs. Two voices echo in my head: "Oh that's just Lee," is what one of them says, not caring in the least what he wears. The other voice says, "I'd really like him to be better dressed--he is representing the church when he visits a parishioner at home (or at a hospital...)."

What guidelines, if any, do the matriarchs use regarding the matter of dress when serving in worship, in or outside the congregation? If there is a recommended dress code, how can it be implemented gracefully?


A variety of answers from our Matriarchs this week and we are not short on opinions of all sorts! Take your pick:

Kristin opts for a group discussion and consensus:
Sounds like a good time to have a discussion with both groups the Visitors and the Homebound. What are their expectations? What would they want to see if they were the one being visited. What do clothes say about the lay minster? Personally, I would expect that Lay Eucharistic Visitors would dress up for such visits in 'professional' looking clothing unless you come from a really laid-back denomination. At a minimum this would mean dress slacks, a nice shirt (not a tee-shirt), and tidy closed-toe shoes (could be clean tennis shoes, even). I live in the pacific northwest and wear (clean!) hiking boots to the opera, but wear them with skirts and dressy, well-fitting shirts.

Clothes that are stained, ripped, or ratty looking would put me off-- unless the person had made arrangements in advance to help me with my garden as part of the visit. What does your congregation expect of its ministers (both lay and ordained)? What makes them feel like they are being ministered to? Care in dressing is a part of serving the needs of others.

As for implementing a dress code gracefully, you'll have the best chance if you include the folks who are invested in the program in the decision making process. It helps that this is a new program for you-- you shouldn't have any "we've always done it that way" issues to fight against.

Revabi thinks it depends on the congregation's expectations and also thinks some discussion with the team is needed:
What a dilemma? Here you have a person willing to serve, yet represents what we see in the church and the everyday world. It sounds like you don't have a written dress policy for the church, but does the denomination have one? I am not sure even from your note how old this person is either. I hate to say it I have seen some preachers come in shorts to do their hospital visits. And I have come in wearing them when caught in an emergency and couldn't go home.

I think you would be switching in midstream to all of a sudden say something to him. But what if you got the whole team together and discussed their experiences and what they are learning. Perhaps raise the issue of whether there is a need for a dress policy or not? If this really important to you or the representation of the church.

And I don't even know what your church is like, is it more traditional, dress-up? If so, then perhaps dressing accordingly is important. But if you have a contemporary service or what you wear doesn't matter, then what should it matter?

SingingOwl writes:
Our church is very casual. Jeans and tee shirts are common attire on Sundays (in warm weather anyway) along with a range of other outfits. Suits and ties are rare. We did have occasional problems, like the Sunday the keyboard player wore a pair of florescent orange sandals that looked like fluffy bedroom slippers. Whenever I glanced her way all I saw was bright orange fuzzy shoes. We did implement a dress code for those who were serving on the platform, or in other situations where they were representing the church. It was by no means a strict one. The “guidelines” were presented at a team meeting so no one was singled out. Emphasis was placed on the concept that when we are ministering to others it is not about US, and we want to minimize distractions. A low cut blouse, very short skirt, ratty jeans, and so on are a potential distraction from the ministry that is taking place. Jeans were okay, but not holey jeans. Shorts were out. We cautioned about tight clothing, etc. but it is not like someone was the “clothes police.” As for the orange fuzzy sandals, I was honest and told her that I was thinking about her shoes and not about God. The dress code worked well for us, and as far as I know no one took offense. I’m sure I’d like Lee, by the way.


Jan has some questions to be answered first:
#1 Issue Here: who is this really for? Assuming worship leaders and hospital visitors are serving to bring spiritual comfort and care to others, I would let that be the Eucharistic Visitors' guide. For example, if serving a parishioner who even mows his lawn in a suit, the Eucharistic Visitor would be wise to dress accordingly. If serving a person who is always in sweats, then a more casual EV uniform would be fine IMHO.

A member of our staff is known to dress down on Sunday mornings which concerns those who believe that dressing up glorifies God. But M. dresses for those visitors who will not be dressed up. His thinking: he dresses like the "worst dressed" person who might come through our door as an act of hospitality so that person won't be uncomfortable. A dressed-down worshiper might be a visitor who doesn't know how most worshipers dress on Sundays or it might be a mentally ill member whom many assume is homeless. He's not, but he dresses like he is which is fine with us because it's a miracle when he can get his shoes on in the morning.

The point of "good manners" is to make others comfortable. And dress - whether it's "proper" or "improper" - is not meant to get in the way when a person is representing the church. A too-formal hierarchical choice might stifle heart-to-heart conversation. A sloppy demeanor might also offend. Maybe the EVs could simply be trained in the art of including what they wear as preparation for serving those they are visiting. If it's really about caring for your people, they clearly will want to be as caring as possible.

That could happen in ripped jeans or an expensive suit. I think God only cares when we get that it's not about us.

Jacquelyn thinks addressing the question as a group is helpful:
The congregation I serve welcomes folks to worship in a relaxed environment in which people feel welcome to "come as you are." What this means is that some are in suits and dresses and some are in jeans and shorts. We have not had the problem of people making home visits when they are inappropriately dressed. However there have been other concerns regarding how a particular elder or deacon carried out the responsibilities of his or her lay ministry. I have found is that it usually works best to address these issues in the context of the whole group so that no one person is singled out. If I were in your situation, I would have gathering of the Eucharistic Visitors for the purpose of training or talking about their ministry. I would not approach it as a "dress code" at all. I would talk about -- and facilitate the Eucharistic Ministers themselves to talk about -- what they are doing when they take communion to those who are at home or ill. It can be helpful to tell stories that reveal what this means to those who receive it and, in particular, how much the relationship with the Eucharist Visitor means to the person they are visiting. I would talk about them representing the church and therefore Christ when they make their visits. Then talk about how they prepare to go 1) calling ahead of time (when appropriate 2) the communion kit 3) the service they prepare to lead when they are there and any tips on sharing communion with the person 3) dressing neatly - in a way that will help make the person they visit feel good (you might note that it is important for the Eucharistic Visitor to be aware of dress expectations of persons of different generations) 3) making their visits in pairs rather than alone. This, of course, has to do with "Safe Church" as well as the simple fact that conversation is easier with 3 rather than 2, but it also is the case that the person you are concerned about is less likely to do the visit in jeans and t-shirt if they are doing it with someone else who is dressed more neatly.

That's a long way of saying that I would address the issue as a part of a wholistic look at the ministry of the Eucharistic Visitor.

Kay has another point of view:
I say don't sweat the small stuff - if Lee shows up looking like Saturday and shares the Eucharist with love, then I bet he is dressed just right.

My opinion: The dress code can be divisive. If my personal style is more the jeans and crocs look, then I am excluded from sharing the Eucharist with others.

RevHoney also recommends gathering the Visitors to discuss this:
Our congregation has been morphing into a more casually-dressed group over the last few years, but I am not sure we would have any Eucharistic Visitors "looking like Saturday". Among our EV's, there does seem to be a sensitivity to choosing what will make the person receiving the sacrament most comfortable. We have worked to cultivate that attitude through quarterly gatherings of the EV's. We haven't ever spoken about appropriate "dress" on visits; but we have talked at some length about the ways that EV's can help people truly feel a part of the community through thse brief encounters.

Another step we have taken has been to assign EV's the same persons to visit over a span of time. Relationships are established and deepened that way. Perhaps there are members receiving the Eucharist who know and love Lee just the way he is, and those are the people whom he should visit.

I hear similar voices in my head from time to time as I look out at our changing way of being community. And when they clash, I try to remind myself that it isn't about me or about appearances...it is about authentic community gathered around the crucified and risen Christ and dispersed to be Christ's hands and feet in the world.

Rector in Hawai’i comments:
Hard to answer this one since Hawaii is so casual. But ripped pants and t-shirts are really unacceptable -- especially if the homebound folks are older and have different expectations and standards. The idea of an EV is that it's all about sharing the sacrament. If the homebound are focused on poor dress, they will be distracted from the reason for the visit. Kind of like one of the reasons clergy and altar assistants are vested --- so as not to distract from the reason for coming together....

I'd have a discussion among the EVs about appropriate dress since they don't wear their albs out there. In my own congregation, I'd approach with some humor -- perhaps opening up a discussion about how the time with a person is spent, if their age makes any difference with the way EVs talk with them, and try to move it around to appropriate attire. I'd use myself as an example because I rarely wear a collar during the week, but also am very aware of how I dress and when I do wear a collar depending on who I visit. Although my daily dress is usually jeans and polo shirts, I will change quickly if I'll be visiting someone for the first or second time. It's really so situational and cultural.

On the other hand, I might just say -- 'Hey George, got a minute?' After I close the door, I'd say, 'Okay. Let's talk about whether or not less-than-casual clothes for EV visits help or hinder the visit.' Or if I knew him well, I'd say, 'How about if we make a dress code for EV visits since you're representing the church and are working with an older generation. If we do it now, we won't have to deal with cranky homebound folks who expect your best Sunday clothes."

No lack of advice among our Matriarchs --- what would you tell this pastor on this subject?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wednesday Festival: Easter Week

In a belated Holy Week post, SheRev shares the following conversation with her daughter. Out of the mouths of babes, as it is said.

Gord shares some Easter wisdom, his Monday column from the local paper.

Leah Sophia says, "I planned this Eucharistic Prayer - Great Thanksgiving for the Sundays of Easter, though it might need some tweaking for other than Easter Day.
Christ is Risen, Alleluia!"

Now that Lent is over, the Abbey of the Arts Poetry Parties have returned! Christine invites you for Practicing Resurrection.

As you know, several of us are headed to Scottsdale for the RevGals Big Event 2.0 this weekend. We will keep you in our prayers, and will post at least a couple of updates for your enjoyment via some tiny technology (IPod Touch, Blackberry?) You may have to put on your reading glasses for it, but we'll see how it works out.

Have favorite posts from the past week - your own or others'? Please share in the comments and include a link if you have time (instructions at any Friday Five post).

For future nominations, please mail them to wednesdayfestival@gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Announcement: A space available at BE!

Folks, one of our BE 2.0 (April 16-19 in Scottsdale, AZ) attendees has had to drop out due to a family emergency. Under our contract, we are committed to paying for her space at The Casa in Scottsdale.

So, here's the offer: If you are interested in going, please let me know (ASAP if not soooner) at marybethbutler AT gmail DOT com. I'll be glad to telephone you to discuss further if you'll give me your phone number in the email.

Your payment (total of $385) NOTE CORRECTED AMOUNT!!! would be in two parts, payable the first day of the event - one check directly to the person dropping out, which I would send on to her; the other to RevGalBlogPals, Inc. for the retreat costs.

Hope to hear from someone! - Mary Beth

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Lectionary Leanings, below...

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: doubting Thomas edition


Complete lections here
After all the intensity of Holy Week, it's all too easy to slump into exhaustion as soon as the final alleluias of Sunday fade into silence, but since Easter lasts 50 days that's really not an option, even for clapped out clergy! And of course for many in our churches, the transition from the pain and emptiness of Good Friday to the jubillation of Easter Sunday may just have been too abrupt. So though this coming Sunday is traditionally "Low Sunday", we need to give them an opportunity to share the joy...which, for me, is where Thomas would come in. Late to the celebrations, out of step with the prevailing mood, and, bless the man, needing proof. You have to love him (while being glad that we're not all branded for centuries on account of one aspect of our characters; you can so imagine it..."She's a bit of a panicking Kathryn, you know...")
The whole story is such good news for we who walk by faith rather than knowledge - there's much you could explore there I'm sure.

Or maybe you'll offer your congregation the challenge presented by the Acts community
4:34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. Dare we believe that there might truly be enough to go round, if we really tried to give in the same way that we have received? With many anxious souls in our congregations, that could be really transformative.

You know, I'm almost regretting that I have a Sunday off - do share the direction you're heading...and Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Music Videos: Halleluyah! Psalm 150

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen! is the traditional Orthodox Easter greeting. My community has spent many hours sitting vigil with each other over the last few days starting with Morning Prayer on Holy Thursday through to the celebrations this morning. We've prayed 21 psalms (my mathematical and theological personae notes this is the product of two biblically significant numbers - 3 and 7!) together over these days.

The last psalm my community prayed before the great night vigil began was this psalm -- 150, anticipating the joyous, wall-shaking noise we made last night. This modern setting for voice, percussion and shofar is in Hebrew. It makes me wonder what the Resurrection sounded like to Christ?

What did resurrection sound like for your community? Were there trumpet blasts? cymbals? voices that shook the walls? Share with us in the comments, so we can hear your voices move 'round the earth!



You can find a beautiful professional recording of Halleluyah (Psalm 150)
here. Full disclosure - my son is singing in the version you are hearing here!

Sunday Prayer

On this glorious day, as we celebrate the resurrection and our new life in Christ I offer this poem by Symeon the New Theologian (919-1022)

We awaken in Christ's body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes CHrist, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamles in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous? -Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ's body

where all our body, all over
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
we awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

(The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, edited by Stephen Mitchell)

May we, the whole creation, on this day, this Easter awaken as Christ's body, made whole again. Amen.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party: Easter Vigil Edition

Well.

Tomorrow is the day. Except that every day this week has been the day for many of us and for some of us even today is the day, if you're observing an Easter Vigil. And this day? Exists in a funny, in-between energy. If we want to celebrate tomorrow, we need to prepare today, but at the same time, we're not quite there yet.

How are you holding up? (Even these lilies look like they could use a nap, don't they?) How many services will you be part of tomorrow? Do they begin at sunrise?

Let us know in the comments and tell us what you're preaching about, which text you chose, and how you're going to explain Easter to the children, always a tough assignment.

And how are things on the home front? Are you filling baskets or hiding eggs or hosting guests tomorrow?

Meanwhile, have some coffee. Breathe deeply. We will get through this, together, and tomorrow? He will be out of the tomb, I promise.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Five: Adoramus Te



Adoramus te, Christe,
et benedicimus tibi,
quia per sanctam crucem tuam
redemisti mundum.
Qui passus es pro nobis,
Domine, miserere nobis.

We adore you, O Christ,
and we bless you,
because by your holy cross
you have redeemed the world.
O Lord, who suffered for us,
have mercy on us.

1. How will you pray and worship today?

2. Share a powerful memory or memories of Good Friday past.

3. How have you grown and experienced God's love during this past Lent?

4. In whom do you see the face of the suffering Christ most clearly?

5. Where do you find hope for resurrection?

Bonus: Share a song, poem, or prayer that makes the paschal mystery come alive for you.

As always, let us know in comments if you take part. 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, April 09, 2009

Ask The Matriarch: rockin' with baby edition

Dear Matriarchs,

After almost a year of waiting for both, my husband and I are expecting our first baby and I am close to landing a first pastorate. The congregation I’ve been talking with is a great fit for me and I’m really excited (albeit a little terrified) about the possibility of becoming their pastor. Here’s my dilemma: because of my husband’s work commitments, the soonest we could transition to our new city and I could transition to this pastorate is in my seventh month of pregnancy. The other option is to transition shortly after I give birth (although I would then likely lose the possibility of taking any paid maternity leave). Am I crazy to be considering making both of these major life transitions at once? Does anyone have advice on whether it would be better to be a new pastor in the last trimester of pregnancy or with a newborn?

Newbie pastor and mom to be


Exciting times ahead for you and the church!! Our matriarchs have some thoughts about your questions and some ideas about how to make the transition. Prayers and blessings surround you and your family and the congregation as you journey through this year.

Kay Yaks writes:
I think two major transitions at once is not that much worse than one major transition at a time - there will be stress either way. If you move before the birth, you'll be exhausted, and if you move after the birth, you'll really be exhausted. If you move before, you'll have help from the congregation. You'll have a chance to settle at least a little before the baby arrives, and you can scope out potential babysitters. I am leaning towards moving before the birth.

Long time rector and mother of young child offers her experience based wisdom:
Check maternity policies. In the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts you weren’t able to take advantage of the family and medical leave act until you had been in the diocese for a year.

Regardless – speaking as a rector-mother, it is much easier to do the job very pregnant than to do so with sleep deprivation of infancy. I would highly recommend if you can afford it to have a doula or grandmother around for a while to help you get some sleep!

earthchick also notes those first sleep deprived months but says share the joy with your new congregation:
First of all, congratulations to you and your husband on both counts!

Making two transitions at once will certainly be difficult and stressful, but it sounds like it might be worth it. Only you can ultimately decide what is best for you and your family, but if I were in your position my inclination would be to start in the last trimester of pregnancy. Those first few weeks after giving birth are so intense, so life-changing, that I would find it difficult to contemplate making any other major change, especially that of starting a brand-new job. I would also want to have the option of paid maternity leave, so that would be a consideration as well. It won't be easy to take the time off for maternity leave so soon after arriving, and I would make sure before making this decision that you will be guaranteed your full leave, even though you will only have been there a short time.

If you start in the last trimester, you will also be giving the congregation the gift of being your partner in your transition into motherhood. I gave birth to my twin sons while pastoring the church I am serving now, and it meant a lot to me (and, I think, to them) to be a part of the congregation at that time. Congregations go through so many challenges and transitions, and few of them are as joyful as the birth of a child. I think it could be a nice start to your ministry with them, to allow them to share in this joy with you.


Share your advice and ideas in the comments for Newbie pastor and mom to be.

Ann

P.S. The font color is Dodger Blue - in honor of the opening of baseball season!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wednesday Festival: Holy Week

Liz at Lutheran Geek writes movingly about her Lent spent in the NICU with her new son. Many blessings and prayers for all of you!

Sophia ponders one of the most common comments made to bereaved parents.

Also from Sophia, we have a post on Holy Week and one on preaching on the cross.

Good conversation has followed the latter, both in Sophia's comments and at Pastor Joelle's place.

Ruth at Work in Progress asks for our help! I'll let her tell the story: "I've submitted a novel, Take Wing, to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and it has advanced to the quarter-finals. That means that out of 10,000 entries, it is in the top 500, based on an excerpt (the first 10,000 words, or about 35 pages). Cool, right? Right now Publishers Weekly editors are reading all 500 manuscripts in their entirety, to winnow the 500 to 100....eventually the winner will get a book deal. Actually, last year’s contest (the first one) resulted in between 4 and 10 book deals, depending where you get your info. I think that Harper Collins editors also look at the top 100, later. The point is: this is an incredible opportunity to get in front of the “right” editor!

Here’s where you come in. All 500 novel excerpts are posted on the Amazon website, and anyone can download them, read them, and write and post a review. It’s easy to do, fun, and totally free. Don’t let the process make you nervous, there are no tricks.
Could you take the time to download my excerpt, read it, and write a review? Please? The deadline is Friday, April 10. If you have some particulary harsh criticism, that’s fine, but please leave those comments on my blog, rather than the Amazon site. I want to hear what you have to say, I just don’t want the judges to hear if you don’t find anything to like!

Here's the link to the free download!

Let us know what's going on with you this week...either post in the comments or point us to a blog post. And for future weeks, don't forget to send your nominations to wednesdayfestival@gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Easter Inclinations

It's the week of weeks for preachers and pastors. We may be preparing for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Easter at any given time. Some of us will conduct Easter Vigils and Sunrise services. I have four pieces to write this week (some meditations, one a reflection and one a sermon), which feels like a lot.

But the most compelling question for me is this: which Gospel? Do we go with John's story of Mary Magdalene and Christ meeting in the garden? Or do we preach Mark's contrarian text, the one with no Resurrection appearance?

In two different conversations with colleagues in the past 24 hours, we have wondered what we can say (and about which text) to that odd mix of regular churchgoers and annual visitors. What are people who only attend at Easter (and there are some who choose that day even over Christmas) looking for? What Good Word do we have for people who drop in and out of the communal theological conversation so infrequently?

Please join the conversation in the comments and let us know what you're wondering today.

(Image from Visible Kingdom.)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Seeking Wholeness in this Holiest of Weeks...

Monday Morning in Holy Week is, for me, and perhaps for many of you, a day of standing on the precipice looking into a chasm of holy busy-ness. Actually the Saturday before Palm/Passion Sunday is really the day to stare into that abyss. Now, today, one of the Holy Week days is already over, gone like the palm branches we blessed and waved, lingering in the aftermath of a Gospel reading that points us to what lay ahead.

And, so while Palm/Passion Sunday is over, and I try to claim some brief respite on my day off, I wonder, "How will this week go?" "Will the rehearsals help us have flawless liturgy?" (Not likely, but is perfection really the goal? Alas, I hope for it anyway).

"Will the people come to the Triduum, that service that lasts for three days and begins with Maundy Thursday, includes a prayer vigil through the night ending at the Good Friday service, continues with a brief Holy Saturday morning service and concludes with the Great Vigil, or Easter Vigil as it is also known?" In my mind, if people came to no other worship service all year, they should come to the Triduum.

...Ok, maybe that is overstating it a bit, and asking too little of people....but really the Triduum tells our salvation story with drama, passion, love - what more could a person ask for?

And, of course I wonder, will the Easter Day services be as full this year as last? Will they energize people and leave them feeling like Christ has risen, and that is Good News we should proclaim to all we meet? Sigh. Yes, on this Monday morning I have high expectations for the week ahead.

I leave you with this song from "Owl Woman" a healer of the Papago tribe in the desert Southwest, the region I live in. Also an image of a Navajo sand painting for healing, which hangs in my home office and yoga studio. It seems to me that the underlying theme of Holy Week is, will we be healed of our sins when the Easter sun rises?



How shall I begin my song
In the blue night that is settling?

In the great night my heart will go out,
Toward me the darkness comes rattling.
In the great night my heart will go out.

Brown owls come here in the blue evening,
The are hooting about,
They are shaking their wings and hooting.

Black Butte is far.
Below it I had my dawn.
I could see the daylight
coming back for me.

The morning star is up.
I cross the mountains
into the light of the sea.

(Owl Woman, from Women in Praise of the Sacred, translated by Frances Densmore, edited by Jane Hirshfield, HarperPerennial publisher, 1995)

What are your hopes for whole-ness for this holiest of weeks? Leave a comment in the comment section or a link to your blog.

(Meet and Greet will return in two weeks)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Mahalia Jackson

Pastor Joelle suggested a Mahalia Jackson feature, and I'm so happy to oblige!

Here is "His Eye is On the Sparrow:"


"Amazing Grace:"


and "Nearer, My God to Thee:"


What did you sing in worship today? Let us know in the comments!

Sunday Prayer

Lamb of God
Hear us when we pray
Wipe our tears

anoint us
with fragrant oil
calm our hearts

Lamb of God
Hear us when we pray
hold the pain

anoint us
love beyond measure
deep mercy

Lamb of God
broken open heart
love pours out

walk with us
journey to the cross
grace for all

darkest of days
holiest of weeks
God with us

amen.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party: Two Processions Edition

Good morning, gals and pals! Today is the day before Holy Week begins. You know what that means: tomorrow is Palm Sunday. Or is it Passion Sunday? Great discussion of that is here.

Since I was sick on Tuesday and didn't get in on the discussion, I'll just say that when I was a little girl, it was always Palm Sunday. We gave the palms and the hosannas and the cheering crowds the whole day, and saved the rest of the story for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Now, in my tradition, it's called Passion Sunday: we open with the cheering crowds but by the end of the day, we have heard the whole story of Jesus' suffering and death. So there are two processions: the cheering Sunday one, and the jeering Friday one. (hence the post title).

I have fair trade coffee this morning (as usual), Good Earth Tea (think a cinnamon orange spice flavor), oatmeal with blueberries and bananas and some orange juice. I'm "11th houring" today, but I'm also working ahead to organize Holy Week and Easter. Come by and share your sermon inspiration or your emptiness, your hunger and thirst, the things that feed you on this day.

In this procession, let's walk together.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday Five- time out edition


Holy Week is almost upon us, I suspect that ordained or not, other revgal/pals calendars look a bit like mine, FULL, FULL, FULL........

Jesus was great at teaching us to take time out, even in that last week, right up to Maundy Thursday he withdrew, John's gospel tells us he hid! He hid not because he was afraid, but because he knew that he needed physical, mental and spiritual strength to get through...

So faced with a busy week:


1. What restores you physically?

2. What strengthens you emotionally/ mentally?

3. What encourages you spiritually?

4. Share a favourite poem or piece of music from the coming week.

5.There may be many services for you to attend/ lead over the next week, which one are you most looking forward to and why? If there aren't do you have a favourite day in Holy week if so which one is it?


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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ask the Matriarch: supporting the ministry of the laity

Part 2 of last week’s question:

I will be moving into a solo pastorate call in the near future...first call.

Part 1 was about scheduling --- here is part 2 on pastoral care in the congregation and other helpful hints on solo pastoring:

Are there other tidbits of knowledge on how to navigate the daily tasks so that I do have time for myself. (See last week’s ATM for many helpful tips on scheduling).

I think the church is capable of functioning without the pastor at every event...and it should be that way. I also think as we move into newer ways of "being" that pastoral care is a congregational activity, not just a pastoral activity. I am searching for a new "name" to call this care.


What helpful tips do you have for solo pastor?

From Singing Owl:
In a church long ago and far away we had such a ministry. We called them The Care Team and what was provided was Tender Loving Care. They visited shut ins and hospitals, and they functioned in a variety of pastoral kinds of roles that involved TLC. It was understood, after lots of communication, that they would contact the pastor as necessary, but after a while (and it did take a while) people grew to like visits from the care team almost more than pastoral ones, perhaps because “care” visits to the hospital or nursing home or to grieving family members and so on is perceived as part of a pastor’s paid job description. I’m not sure, but perhaps some of what you are asking about here is the kind of thing that (nondenominational) Stephen Ministries resources help train people for. They can be found at Stephens Ministries

From Jan
I remember hearing a church staff member tell me that she would be devastated if she left and "things didn't fall apart." Yikes.

Ministry is not about us and our indispensability. In fact, good leadership means that we can step back and things don't fall apart. Remember Ephesians 4:11-13 (the only time the word "pastor" is found in NT) - our role is to equip others for ministry.

In my humble opinion, there will always be a need for professional clergy because there will always be new saints to equip. But our role is not to be the cornerstone in the Jenga tower, which causes a crash when we are pulled away. Our congregations will never reach more than about 150 - according to people who study such things - if we don't allow others to lead. This involves permission-giving after establishing healthy parameters, etc.

In terms of pastoral care, this is simply "being the church" with and for each other. It is the opposite of Biblical teaching for the pastor to be the only one who does this. And something that seems to make sense to our parishioners is this truth: the greatest moments in ministry I've experienced have been at death beds and in emergency rooms. I should not be the only one who gets to experience this intimacy with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

The tough part will be convincing your congregation of this.

From Rector in Hawai’i:
Pastoral care can be an almost completely lay function. Eucharistic visitors are one of the best inventions in the Episcopal Church. The challenge is to help parishioners see that they don't need someone with a collar to do all the visitations. Often, visiting a parishioner and taking along a Eucharistic Visitor opens the door to the visitee to be more open and comfortable to a lay pastoral caregiver. Meeting with the EVs on a monthly basis and having them report on their visits is a good way to stay on top of those who are homebound. A well-trained cadre of EVs can get to the point of writing almost-verbatims after visits and emailing them to the other EVs. That way, everyone knows the updated status of every visitee. Although the EVs' main responsibility is sharing the Eucharist, they also function as pastoral visitors when visitees don't want communion. The point is that everyone who is homebound -- short- or long-term -- continues to have an ongoing connection with the faith community. The other vehicle for pastoral care is a weekly mailing to all shut-ins that includes Sunday's service leaflet and the preacher's sermon.

From SeaShellSeller:
One of the best things I learned from a Senior Pastor is to start a card file on every member (secretary or volunteer can do this for you) with as much information as possible --- birthdates, anniversaries, recent pastoral needs, deaths in family, children and their birth dates if living at home. Every time there is a contact - add info to the card. Date - issues -- status. This is for your reference only and kept in your hands. Pastoral visitors should have ongoing "staff meetings" and training. When they have feedback from a visit - you note it on the card.

From Razor City Rector:
I think the only way to have time for yourself is to put it on your calendar. From my perspective a solo clergy operation offers lots of flexibility. I think it works well to actually put on a calendar and let people know when you won't be available, except for crises or pastoral emergencies. I have always worked at home on Thursday mornings where it is quiet, no interruptions. I began by totally screening any calls and now no one ever calls then, unless it is dire. It is my time for study and writing. For many years, I lifted weights three times per week. I left the office for an hour or so and returned. It was on my calendar and I refused to make appointments during that time. You have to decide your priorities (and personal time, health promotion) is all part of that.

As much as one is tempted to think that the pastor is not needed at every event (something I totally agree with); a lot depends on the size of the congregation at which events you really don't have to attend. Pastoral sized churches have high expectations for the pastor to "give blessing" by their mere presence.

How about "congregational care" for a name for this ministry? Sometimes taking someone else along on a pastoral call authenticates their ministry with an individual at a later time. For example when calling on someone at the hospital, I have asked the lay person with me to offer a prayer, to read a scripture, rather than do everything myself. Then on subsequent visits, their ministry was more readily accepted.