Visit our new site at

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - "Just as I am" again...

This week's lections are here
In my parishes we'll be celebrating the arrival of a new deacon, ordained just 2 days ago - and so our readings are quite a gift.

I have quite a dodgy relationship with Paul, but I think this time we'll be working with the Epistle.
Though the glories of the ordination service (16 new deacons presented to a packed Cathedral whose ancient stones have seen such celebrations countless times before) might have seemed like a foretaste of heaven - even they can't really compare with the experience that Paul describes (or rather, tries not to).
But the pattern is the same...An experience of intense and awe-inspiring holiness, and then.......woomph.........down to earth with a bump.

We don't know what Paul's thorn is, whether a physical defect of some kind or an individual who made his life miserable, - but we do know that his appeals for relief were denied.
God told him, in as many words, that this was a gift...a way of ensuring that he, Paul, does not become a celebrity himself but relies for his vindication on God alone.
"My power is made perfect in weakness"
That's the same agenda that we find in the gospel, as the twelve are sent out, empty-handed, to begin their ministry.
If I'm feeling very brave I might use these texts to issue a gentle challenge to my congregations, loaded as we are with buildings, committees and structures of all kinds.
Would we dare to just go - depending on God?
Would you?

There's another clear track in the gospel, of course;the question of familiarity breeding contempt. My curate has been moved from the parishes where he grew up, so that he can engage in a new way with fresh people. The system protects him from becoming a prophet without honour in his own country...but as we dig roots down deep into our faith communities, as we become known by those to whom we minister, I wonder if we find our prophetic edge dulled - by what they know of us, as well as what we know of them. There's a challenge for pastors - to be fully known and yet to be heard and respected...

Early musings on a very muggy Tuesday...I'm longing to hear where you're heading this week.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Meet and Greet

Photo by Mompriest's husband, taken from our backyard...

Little ground squirrel families like the one in this photo fill the sandy foothills of the mountainside we live on. They love to nibble on the remains of celery, carrot, and mesquite tree beans. They are friendly little creatures and entertain us with their play. In this photo it looks to me like they are looking for new friends, hoping to say "Hi" and "Welcome!" Let's extend a warm greeting to our newest RevGal...

Sarah at: never perfect always real. She describes her blog thusly: A 20-something mom trying to balance ministry in the United Church of Christ with parenting two little ones. My guy, Jack, is 2 1/2, and Irene is almost 6 months old! It's a crazy, busy, messy, wonderful life.
Welcome Sarah!

I became the host of Meet & Greet in September of 2007 and it has been my great pleasure to serve the blogring in this capacity. I've met some really great bloggers and appreciate all who stopped by to welcome our newest members. Thank you Songbird for giving me this opportunity and for all your help over the years.....Now it is time for me to resign from this position and move on to other ventures. I'll be around hosting from time to time in various roles on the blog, and look forward to those opportunities.

Look for Meet and Greet to return in July hosted by Songbird and Mary Beth!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Prayer

Gracious One
be with those who
seek you this day

Those who bleed
in body
or spirit

Those who cry
from depths
soul longs

Gracious One
be with those who
do not know You

The lost or
spirit blind
to your love

Gracious One
who love us as

Startle us
beckon, guide
awaken us

Gentle One
gift us
not earned, free

Gracious One
be with us
be with us
be with us


Saturday, June 27, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party - Re-entry Edition

Well, sorry for the late post, folks!!! I just got back from 2 weeks of vacation and continuing ed last night, and I forgot to pre-post like I planned!!! Re-entry is always a transition in church and home life.

How are the sermons coming? This week's Mark passage is one of my FAVORITES, but I'm not preaching. We are dedicating our new outdoor labyrinth and doing something a little different.

For the Mark's - - Are you doing the WHOLE story or breaking it up? I was always struck that as long as the girl had been alive, the woman had been suffering.

Anyway, I need to help get breakfast ready for the family. My husband's been on double duty for a few days so it's time to step it up and help. I can offer Cheerios, yogurt, and milk. I'll hit the grocery store when it stops raining and see if I can sweeten the offer a little later!

Check-in and, again, sorry for the tardiness!!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Five: Talkin' 'Bout...Pop Music

(This is how I like to remember him...)

Happy Friday to you all!

The sad news of Michael Jackson's untimely death has me thinking about music and its effects on us - individually, as cultures, as generations. Let's think about the soundtracks of our lives...

1) What sort of music did you listen to as a child - this would likely have been determined or influenced by your parents? Or perhaps your family wasn't musical...was the news the background? the radio? Singing around the piano?

2) Going ahead to teenage years, is there a song that says "high school" (or whatever it might've been called where you lived) to you?

3) What is your favorite music for a lift on a down day? (hint: go to and type in a performer/composer...see what you come up with!)

4) Who is your favorite performer of all time?

5) What is your favorite style of music for worship?

Bonus if you include a video of any of the above!

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, June 25, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - Overwhelmed in the Face of Heartbreak

This week's question involves a really tough situation - for both the parishioner and the minister. The minister writes:
A woman in my parish unexpectedly lost her adult daughter a few months ago. She has been experiencing severe, paralyzing, debilitating grief compounded by alcoholism. She rarely accepts offers to visit, although she will occasionally speak to me on the phone. She has been evaluated by social workers, but will not accept any alcohol or grief counseling. I am overwhelmed. I feel helpless to help her. I know I can't fix it, and I'm honestly having a hard time even being a non-anxious presence, because nearly every time I speak to her she repeatedly asks me how I would feel if I lost my child. I don't know what to say to that heartbreaking question - not the first time, and not the tenth time. I really don't know what to do.

Mompriest offers:

This is such a sad situation. There is no answer to the question she asks, it's rhetorical in its very heartbreaking asking. But there is a response - to care for the aching woman and her loss by taking the sorrow to prayer. Her decision to soothe her pain by drinking is her decision, a sad one, but it is a (unhealthy) way we humans respond to pain, stress, life.... Eventually she may awaken from her darkness and choose another response.
Prayer too is a response. One that brings God into the situation and the response. That is the primary action the clergy can take in response to this. Secondly the clergy can empathize with the woman, even if they haven't experienced it personally, and honor that her loss is one of the deepest magnitude. Sometimes all we really need in our deepest pain is to know that some one is listening, deeply listening, no answers, no suggestions, just listening. And praying.
A third option, as she is ready, is to refer to her a therapist who can help her understand why she is choosing to assuage her pain with alcohol, which in the long run only prolongs the experience of, and therefore the moving through, of pain.

Revhoney writes:

I can hear the anguish of a pastor’s heart in your words. We answered this call, at least many of us did, because we want to help others. Sometimes, however, we feel absolutely powerless, completely useless.

But we are not powerless or useless. We are the chief intercessors for our people. Pray fervently for this woman. Pray for her grief to be eased. Pray for her deliverance from her addiction. Pray for yourself to be fully present with her even if you have no answers for her questions. Pray for God to grant you words that may offer comfort. Pray for others who may be trying to comfort her. Pray before you call her on the phone.

When she asks “how would you feel…”, could you acknowledge some sense of how you think you would feel? Broken-hearted, beyond grief, hopeless? Perhaps all you can say is, “I can’t begin to imagine how it must hurt. I am so sorry.” And if she is silent or angry in the face of your response, let that be okay. Let her know that she is safe to express her grief with you.

For your own spiritual and emotional health as a caregiver, I strongly urge you to consider a relationship with a spiritual director. S/he can be a tremendous help for you as you learn to accept your limitations and embrace the means of grace that God so freely offers us.

Sunday's Coming adds:
I don’t know what to do either.
I am reminded of a wise chaplain in a psychiatric ward who once counseled me to listen to what my gut was saying when I sat with people experiencing mental health problems. Often they did not say very much, but how they were feeling was communicated to me in how I went away feeling (I hope that makes some sort of sense!).
As you describe this woman’s situation and your own response I feel lost, overwhelmed, helpless... I feel it, you feel it, is it too simplistic to suggest that she feels that too? So ‘all’ you can do is be the steady presence – continuing to ring and ask how she is, continuing to pray, responding with a visit when she is ready for that.
She’s in a rough sea – you’re the beacon of light when she’s ready to try and steer for shore.

And you don’t need to be alone – at least one other person needs to also be phoning her from time to time, and maybe if you have the right people a small group could pray for her and let her know they are doing that. It is all you can do – and I pray it will help in time.

There's a striking unity to the wisdom the matriarchs have written, with prayer at the core of what we ministers have to offer. What else might you say to this struggling minister?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday Festival: What's Up?

Once again, no emailed nominations for the Wednesday Festival. I know people are busy with vacations, conferences and continuing ed, camps, family changes that result from kids being out of school.
In lieu of a roundup, then, two options.
1). Either share in the comments a favorite post (yours or another ring member's) from recent bloggage - instructions for linkiness below -
or -
2>. tell us the next 'festive' thing you have planned for the summer (festive may be interpreted as broadly as you wish!). Going somewhere? Staying home and going to the water park? I'm regressing to my childhood: Wham-0 Slip & Slide anyone?

or maybe a Wham-O Water Wiggle?

Blessed day to all!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - an embarassment of riches.

On Sunday I'll be in the Cathedral, as my soon-to-be Curate is ordained Deacon - but my associate has been unwell, so I'm aiming to produce a sermon just in case, to ease his burden a little, as I don't really think he should be working this weekend...

It's a good week for preachers, I think - though I'm willing to bet that the preacher in the Cathedral (who will have led the 3 day ordination retreat) will probably not look at any of the themes lectionary...If he does, I'll let you know!

Meanwhile, I don't expect I'm the only one to have trouble with today's gospel.Texts for the week are here
When I was a child I loved it, because it was the only story in which Jesus had dealings with a little girl. The illustration in my Bible (very much like this one) finally dropped out, because I wanted to look at it again and again. Jesus with a little girl. Wow!
When I was a bit older, I hated it because I saw it as part of a world view in which children came second...Jesus stopped to talk to an adult and as he delayed the child died.
Older still, I picked up the themes of uncleanness and exclusion, rejoiced that the haemorrhaging woman had the courage to seek her own healing (even if it was as a last resort) and that for her, community was restored.
Today I'm wondering about her exchange with Jesus
"The woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth."
I wonder what the whole truth was?
And I might dare to ask the congregation how truthful they are as they present themselves to God....and how truthful they are with themselves.

Or I might go wandering into the realms of WHY.
When Jesus says, with such clarity
"Your faith has healed you" - why does God not heal all who believe and trust that God will?
I'd fight to the death (verbally at least) anyone who claimed that when healing doesn't happen, it represents a failure of faith...and I know that there are many who would benefit from taking the lid of these almost unanswerable questions.
Exploring some of the links from The Text this Week I found these questions, which might also be helpful

Look around! Are there miracles happening that we do not notice because of the crush of so many who press upon us?

Look ahead! Are we so sure of what we think are the facts that we laugh off the possibility of what God might actually be able to do?

And all that, just from the gospel!

David's lament for Jonathan is one of the most powerful expressions of grief that I know...and a good launch pad for exploration of love and bereavement.
Here David was certainly telling the whole truth about his relationship and making no attempt to conceal the intensity of his grief. Being real about what we feel is not something that happens enough in my churches...How about yours?

But maybe what I should really preach is the epistle. Both my churches AND my church school are engaged in major fundraising, for essential work - and in the current climate that's certainly not easy. But I'd sooner try to explore once again the whole basis of our giving...
Do we give from excess (so that our giving dries up when we find ourselves short of cash) or from the heart...I fear we are, for the most part, a long long way away from giving with eagerness, because we desire to give - and there could be a fruitful sermon to be drawn from that.
At a recent clergy gathering our Social Responsibility Office was asked how the churches should respond to the current economic crisis...He was admirably direct (Paul would have been proud of him)
"Give more" he said.
I wonder if I would dare to challenge my congregations with that...

So many fruitful possibilities...Looking forward to hearing where you are off to this week.

Monday, June 22, 2009

RevGalBookPals: Abide With Me

Welcome to this month's edition of RevGalBookPals . For the summer months we are choosing fiction and giving reviews of some favorite books or series. I've chosen Elizabeth Strout's novel, Abide With Me. Set in the late 1950s in a small Maine town, it tells the story of a Congregational pastor who struggles with life and ministry and parenting after the death of his young wife. A beautifully written book, Abide With Me raises questions we might ask today about our relationships with church members and what it means to have social and emotional boundaries without losing the chance to be authentic human beings.

The central character, Tyler Caskey, lives with his young daughter, a traumatized and grieving kindergartner, while his mother cares for his younger daughter at her own home. He cannot see how troubled the older child is and resists the efforts of school authorities to intervene. As he stumbles through life trying to process his own grief while still performing his job, everything he does (or doesn't do) seems to cause people to talk.

I suspect any small-town pastor can relate.

As a person who lives in Maine, and who married into a native family, I find Strout's characterization of the people and the places to be pitch-perfect. Olive Kittredge, her recent Pulitzer Prize-winner also set in Maine, but mostly in this decade, is so real as to be painful.

Rather than give away the plot entirely, I would like to encourage us to talk about themes from the book and how they might touch on our own experiences in the life of the church, whether we're read the book or not. I highly recommend both of Strout's books for your summer reading lists!

So, some questions or conversation-starters:

1) Have you ever been the target of gossip in the church? How did you handle it, if so?

2) Strout portrays Caskey as a father who is reluctant to take the opinion of the school teacher and administrators about his daughter's emotional and academic situation. For pastors reading, if you have school-age children, do you find your role helps or hinders or makes no difference when you relate to school officials?

3) The Caskey family lives in a parsonage given to the church after the congregation sold the beautiful former parsonage in the center of town. The physical isolation of the house serves as a metaphor for the emotional isolation Caskey's wife felt as a young pastor's wife. Can you relate to that sense of isolation? Do you have techniques or practices to try and overcome it?

4) Contemporary seminary education instructs us to have some pretty strict boundaries with church members. But anyone who has lived in a small community while doing ministry knows how hard this can be. If something really goes wrong in our lives, people will know about it. Can we risk being vulnerable in our ministry, letting our sorrow show?

5) If you've read the book and have things to add, please do so!

Edited to add: if you're reading a good book, let us know in the comments!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Afternoon music video- Praise my Soul the King of Heaven

We opened our service with this hymn - isn't it beautiful to see that different places bring on a different flavor to the same hymn? This one is interesting as it views different members in the congregation singing (you may even see a familiar face -- you may want to note that in the comments if you see someone you know) - the diversity in this service is notable of people from around the world.

It's a favorite hymn of mine so I share it with you on this Sunday afternoon. What hymns were a part of your worship today?

Sunday Prayer

Oh my!
Still the waves
that rock this

beating hearts
anchor fear

Stir in us
take hold, now
faith, Oh God,

embrace us
still the wind

Silence, awe
God with us
God in us,

Gentle wave
in and through
us, hand, heart,


Saturday, June 20, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party: Dark and Stormy Night Edition

In a week of storms both literal and figurative, many of us prepare today to preach about a storm calmed by Jesus, while some may be telling the story of a boy who felled a giant.

What other unlikely goals will we try to accomplish today?

Chime in below by leaving a comment. Tell us what you're preaching, share your idea for a children's story, or report on the challenges of a June Saturday, whatever they may be.

I'll keep the coffee coming!

(Painting by He Qi)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Five: Life is a Verb

Digh, Patti. Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful,
and Live Intentionally.
Guilford, CT: Skirt!, 2008.

Jennifer recommended this book, which I got because I always value Jennifer's reading suggestions. The author of Life is a Verb, Patti Digh worked her book around these topics concerning life as a verb:
  • Say yes.
  • Be generous.
  • Speak up.
  • Love more.
  • Trust yourself.
  • Slow down.
As I read and pondered about living more intentionally, I also have wondered what this Friday Five should be. This book has been the jumping off point for this Friday.

1. What awakens you to the present moment?

2. What are 5 things you see out your window right now?

3. Which verbs describe your experience of God?

4. From the book on p. 197:
Who were you when you were 13? Where did that kid go?

5. From the book on p. 88:
If your work were the answer to a question, what would the question be?

Bonus idea for you here or on your own--from the book on p. 149:
"Go outside. Walk slowly forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. It might be an idea, it might be an object. Name it. Set it aside. Walk forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. Name it. Set it aside. Repeat. . . ."

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, June 18, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - Church Websites: Outreach vs. Privacy

Most of us are dealing - both personally and professionally - with how to take advantage of emerging technologies in the most appropriate way. Sometimes our dealings with such technologies has unanticipated negative consequences. We probably all have internet horror stories we could share. Today's question deals with the difficult balance between using the internet to broadcast what a church is doing and protecting individual church member's privacy.

Recently, a church member called the office to say that he was disturbed to discover that information about himself and his children was readily available through an old church newsletter archived on our website, easily discovered through a google search. He asked us to remove the information, which we promptly did. The information was basic information that you might find in any church newsletter - the date the family joined the church, where the parents worked, the names of the children - but I feel terrible that we are responsible for putting information out on the internet that he would have wanted to keep private.

We have recently done a lot of work to update our church website (we hired an advertising firm for several thousand dollars), and we are thrilled with the results. In addition to publishing our bi-monthly newsletter on it, we keep an archive of old newsletters going back several years. I am concerned now that we ought not be doing this. The committee responsible for working on the website felt strongly, as I did, that we ought to have current and new information going up on the website on a regular basis, and that the newsletter was an important vehicle for that. But now I am left wondering if we should not publish our newsletters on our website, since they often include personal information about families in our church. Options include taking the newsletter down entirely, only publishing the first page (the pastor's column), only publishing a condensed version (without any personal information), or making the newsletter a "members only" feature. I believe that the newsletter is an important resource for people seeking a new church home, so I am hesitant to remove it or make it only accessible to members, but I am also concerned about protecting the privacy of church members. I am curious if others of you have dealt with this issue, and how you have handled it.

Mompriest writes:
I think it is a good idea to make the newsletter available online to as many people as possible. Newsletters are one way that churches share with the community a bit of its identity, beyond just calendar data. It is however a good idea to remove from the published edition any personal info: parishioner phone numbers and addresses, names and ages of kids, things like that.
I also think it is a good idea to have "members only' info available on line via a password, or something like that, but even then I'd be careful with what info is included. Passwords have a way of getting out.
Lastly, to avoid any potential missed, old data, I'd just remove everything and start from scratch....that is unless you are really certain you have eliminated it all.

Sunday's Coming offers:
My previous church had a discussion around this very issue: how much information to release on the website.
In the end, rather reluctantly, we erred on the side of caution: the only part of the newsletter which was available online were the ‘non-personal’ - the church calendar. At first this made me unhappy – I wanted all the information out there, but we live in a naughty world and I came to realise that if people from outside were looking at the site with a view to attending, they would be more interested in the fact that the scouts were having a car wash than the fact that Beryl Bliss had celebrated her 90th birthday.
We did however have a short ‘news’ section where, with permission from the individuals, a photo and short item was included – just to give a more personal touch. We also decided that we would have sermons on there from time to time, when they seemed particularly appropriate, rather than a regular ‘slot’ which might not mean much outside the community.
I’m not saying we got it right – but that’s the way we went.

If you want to see the finished article, it’s at

What about the rest of you? Is this something you are dealing with or have dealt with? Please share your wisdom.

Also, we currently only have one more question for the matriarchs in the queue. So if you have an issue you'd like the group to discuss, please send us an email at

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday Festival:

Happy Wednesday to you all!

We start out our festival with a splendid offer! MaineCelt says, "What do British actress Glenda Jackson and storybook heroine Miss Rumphius have in common? They're both part of the curriculum this week at The Tir na nOg School for Wild Girls Enrollment's not quite full yet...y'all come!"

Sally is working on moving on, as she prepares to move house and take on a new charge. She is also pondering the need for vision, a refocusing on God.

Christine at Abbey of the Arts welcomes us to a new twist on creative expression. We have been invited to many of her Poetry Parties, but this one is a Photo Party, in celebration of the coming Solstice! Do go over and see what it's all about.

Deb says: "Some Pentecostal musings led me to thinking about a song by Avalon called "Renew Me". I decided I need to get "a holy Dose of shut-up" more often than not..." Deb, you crack me up!

Me? well, I have been having a hissy fit. The bonus on this post is seeing Dee Snider sing "We're Not Gonna Take It."

We love Songbird's post about what she learned in CPE.

What are you writing and reading? What are you thinking about? Please let us know in the comments. Post a direct link to a 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.

Nominations for the Wednesday Fest should (ideally) be submitted by the Monday prior. Email them to

Blessings on your days!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lectionary leanings - storm tossed edition

The texts this week are here
I'm emulating a headless chicken today, with meetings and appointments pretty well non stop, so apologies for a skeletal offering.

"Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt
Fightings and fears within, without
O Lamb of God, I come"

This week is all about huge questions, left unanswered til the time was right....questions about the majestic power of God in creation...questions before which we, like Job, can only stand silent.
But then the answer arrives, in the shape of Jesus...and seems to leave us with even more questions.
As we watch the storms of life hit our friends and families hard, as we watch helplessly reports of natural disasters and tragedies in many corners of the world, I guess there are many of us who would want to shout at God
And perhaps Jesus's answer is not a huge help...but it is the same one that was offered to Job centuries before.
Everything IS under control. We may be battered and bruised, we may be fast running out of faith, but there is a small, solid pebble of reality in which we can trust
"He said not 'Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased'; but he said, 'Thou shalt not be overcome." (Julian of Norwich)

That's the way my thoughts are leading least, in these few hurried moments. Over to you, to wonder and ponder...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Meet and Greet

Photo by mompriest's daughter, taken with her Blackberry...

My daughter's dog, Oliver, is looking for her. She is working with the horses, training them to be ridden and training kids and adults to ride the horses. Poor Ollie, waiting and waiting to enjoy a good run outside on a warm summer day....

Unlike Ollie, some have this day off, and, are free to do as we please. The rest of us are able, at the least, to do some wandering on the computer. In our journeys today, I recommend we all stop by and welcome our newest member to the RevGals!

Wounded and Healing at: wounded and healing offers this blog description: I'm a United Methodist clergyperson who had a rough experience in the parish. This blog is my outlet for reflection, growth, and healing.
Welcome "Wounded and Healing!"

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Take off your shoes

mompriest's beautiful prayer welcomed us back to ordinary time - calling upon God to enter into our every breath. This song "Take off your shoes, this is holy ground you walk on." always gently reminds me that all we touch, hold, see, breathe in and breathe out - bears the mark of our Creator.

Take off your shoes today, walk on holy ground - wriggle your toes in its grass (if you're in the northern hemisphere!), breathe deeply of God's grace, play in the sweet waters he sends down.

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes...

-- Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Aurora Leigh

Sunday Prayer

Photo by Mompriest, Grand Canyon, April 20, 2009

Gracious God, we give you thanks this night/day for the gift of life. We thank you for being the foundation that supports our roots, for anchoring us richly, for nourishing us through the rocky days, the stormy nights, the wind, rain, and cold. During times when it seems all but impossible to stay grounded, you hold onto us. We thank you for being there even when we are certain that we are all alone, abandoned to harsh elements.

God of life, we thank you for all the blessings of our lives. For this on-line community that supports, sustains, and manifests images of You, of love and compassion and hope, through pain and hurt feelings, sorrow and loss. For our friends here, who also celebrate with together in times of joy!

Compassionate One, we ask that you be with those tonight who need you most. Those who are struggling with their last breath, those who are taking their first breath, those who need release and the chance to take a deep cleansing breath. Bring them your peace.

God of grace, lead us into your truth, your ways. Help us, leaders, followers, in all walks of life, to hold before us a vision of your love. Help us, all, to love as you love, generously, all. Give us your eyes, your heart, help us to be your hands, help us to mend the broken places.

Merciful God, forgive us when we fail, pick us up when we fall, sustain us when we doubt, guide us when we fear, embrace us when we cry, and laugh with us when we have joy. Then help us to do the same with those we meet, those we know, those we encounter day and night, even those whose lives we do not know. Help us to see deeply into the pain we cause - knowingly or not -help us to exhale your mercy that others may inhale your love.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

An Ordinary 11th Hour Preacher Party (First of Many Edition)

It's here.

The season we've been waiting for.

Ordinary Time!!!! Yay!!!! Send up the green balloons!!!!

We enter the long green, embark on the David cycle, wander through Mark and then John all summer, tell the Deacons not to worry about changing the paraments and wonder how to keep things interesting in and around people's vacations.

What's up in your green world today?

Share your thoughts in the comments and share a cup of virtual coffee or tea. And how about some blueberry muffins? I'm making them from scratch. Let the Ordinary Party begin!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Five: Trader Joe's!!!!!!!!!!!

Gals and pals on the West and East coasts, and a few spots in between, may know of Trader Joe's--a quirky, well-stocked, well priced semi-gourmet store that attains near cult status among some. I discovered it through my Aunt Judy, who always brought a couple of their desserts to holiday parties....The best was a chocolate ganache torte that had my four year olds begging for it (and among the only four year olds on the planet to know what ganache is, presumably).

My family has happily Trader Joe'd in southernmost California, up to the Northwest, and back down to southern Cal. And now we're really excited because today a brand new Trader Joe is opening up across the street from our apartment. Wahoo! There are sure to be lots of tasty free samples on opening day and from now on we can just walk across the street to get a lot of our shopping done. I have a new spiritual directee coming tomorrow and she has already mentioned that she'll be stopping in on the way here, leaving me to be jealous cause I'll be spending that noon hour like, praying and preparing and study-vacuuming and everything, and won't be able to stop in till the afternoon.

So in honor of the new Trader Joe's, this week's Friday Five is all about food shopping.

1. Grocery shopping--love it or hate it?

2. Who is the primary food shopper in your household?

3. Do you have a beloved store like TJ's which is unique to your location or family?

4. How about a farmer's market, or CSA share, as we move into summer? Or do you grow your own fruits/veggies/herbs?

5. What's the favorite thing you buy at the grocery store?

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, June 11, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - Balancing Lay and Ordained Ministry

This week's question comes from a minister struggling with the how to encourage lay ministry without diminishing her own call. She writes:

I am in a denomination which encourages lay ministry, and I don't have a problem with that. I was a very involved lay person before I candidated and was ordained. I think part of my role is to not get in the way of other people exercising their gifts in ministry. My dilemma is what to do when allowing/encouraging other people to exercise their ministry, diminishes my ability to exercise my ministry, and at times follow the call to this congregation.

This was a tough question for many of our matriarchs - lacking specifics, it's hard to know exactly what the issues are, and how to sort them out effectively. Still, we got some solid advice.

Sunday's Coming writes:

I’m sure there are times when we all get frustrated that someone else is printing the newsheet/arranging the chairs/talking to young people – and doing it less well than we know we could. The question is – when to step in and say ‘this is my ministry and my gifting and I want to offer the best to God’ and when to say ‘I can’t do everything and God can use second best, too’.

I try to strike a balance between thinking that as the minister my job is to do what other people don’t want to do – filling in the gaps (this is true, but not ALL that my ministry should be about) and only doing the things I feel I’m good at. I think the thing that helps me most is grace – helping me to value what other people offer, but also to value what I bring to God: and God’s grace keeps me sharp to when I’m avoiding the things I don’t like, or when I’m getting an over-inflated sense of my own importance. It helps me to keep at the heart of what I do that it is God’s work, God’s kingdom, God’s church and God’s gifts – I am by God’s grace, God’s servant.
Sorry if that sounds pompous: but I think it’s true.


The situation here may be two-fold: clear "job" descriptions for all ministries and an understanding of congregational size compared to it's leadership structure. First, sometimes this "confusion" of jobs/ministries happens when churches grow larger than their leadership structure. In other words a church may be program sized but still functioning like a family or pastoral sized church. Good resources for understanding this found through the Alban Institute, especially in Alice Mann's work on congregational size. Here is a link to Alice Mann's books: And, the Alban Institute:
Second, having job descriptions for every leader position including the clergy can help clarify who does what in a way that will both honor the lay leadership while at the same time defining the specific sacramental role of clergy.
The best way to help the leadership team to understand this is to have a leadlership team retreat and bring in an outside facilitator to lead them into this conversation and role definition.

Diane Roth adds:

I think that we all have a charge to empower lay ministry in our congregations, in the way consistent with the theology of our particular churches. I think the way to empower lay ministry without losing your own pastoral authority is to be actively involved in training people, or equipping people, if you will, for their ministry, whether it preaching, assisting or leading in worship, hospital visitation, evangelism, whatever. You need to be actively involved in discerning and in equipping people to do the work of the church.
I sense in this question that the pastor involved feels challenged in her leadership. How not to be protective of our own turf, how to be nurturing of all of the gifts of the congregation, how to lead out of security and not defensiveness? I think one way to do that is to create partnerships and allys with the lay leaders in the congregations, so that you are working together on a common goal.

What other words of wisdom might you offer on this issue? What kinds of difficulties have you run into when seeking to empower laypeople, and how did you deal with those?

Also, there are no more questions in the "Ask the Matriarch" queue. So if you've been thinking of sending one in, now's a great time! And if you haven't been thinking of sending one in, go ahead and think about it! Email us at

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Wednesday Festival: Busy, Busy, Busy!

Well, for the first time that I can recall, we have NO nominations for the Weds Fest. It seems to be the season for a lot of denominations to CONVENE.

Like, a lot of US United Methodists are in Conference/Convention/something else. There has been Twittering! Also, some ELCA and PCUSA meetings are going on, too? (I saw mention of Presby Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow tweeting during a meeting!)

I know that TEC will be meeting later this summer (July).

Anyone at those meetings want to update us?

And, if conference/convention/presbytery is something you DON'T want to talk about...

what are you thinking/praying/writing about? Please share in the comments, giving a link to your post if you have one.

Oh, and if you've been looking for a way to get involved with the RGBP ring, we could use a few new people to host the Wednesday festival. It's me if you'd like to know more!

Lectionary Leanings 1st Sunday after Trinity - Green and growing

I've just been to a splendid morning of Continuing Ministerial Education focussing on Life in the Power of the Spirit. One of the sessions was from a liturgical perspective, and the speaker made the point that we too often treat the weeks between Trinity and the Kingdom Season as if they were absolutely and completely "Ordinary time"...week after week of non-descript liturgy, with little variation, little shape, nothing to mark out the Sundays as the mini Easters they should really be. He invited us instead to think about these weeks as "the season of the year" (rather than just an endless series of Sundays after Trinity or after Petecost)...and to see them as weeks of green growth.
And here we are...straight into a Sunday where seeds and sowing are at the forefront of our lections.

Always, planting a seed is an act of faith...
As he uses images from the natural world to teach us about the Kingdom, Jesus reminds us that the Kingdom (and the Church that is called to be a sign of it) is not a static institution but a living organism. In this diocese, we're invited to spend time thinking about how the local church can represent green shoots of Kingdom hope...perhaps it's time to look at the growth in your own church community...Or perhaps it's a question of inviting the congregation to see where there might be potential. Consider David, after all - the unlikely choice
"for the Lord does not see as mortals see"
God has endless confidence in our potential - for God alone sees what we, as individuals and as the church, can become with and for Him...
"All the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord".

Here in the UK, we're having a difficult time politically. The credibility of our government is about as low as I can ever remember, and disturbingly right-wing views are emerging. Set all that in the context of the world recession and the need for hope becomes overwhelming, - but it can feel as if the church is failing to communicate the hope that is in us.
We want the Kingdom to come in all its realised glory - but we have to wait, and trust, and wait some more.
Time, maybe, to reconsider the mustard seed... One of my favourite passages the Oscar Romero speech that reminds us that we are "Ministers and not messiahs" encourages us to "take the long view..." because "we are guardian of a future not our own".
As we look anxiously for signs of life in our churches, those words surely offer encouragement.
What is there in your church communities that shows potential for flourishing?
Could this be the Sunday to celebrate small beginnings?
Or is it time to stir your people to action...since we are called to take part in the harvest?
Where are you heading, in this season that is green and growing?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Monday Feature Discussion

Happy Monday!

For quite a while now we've had a music feature on the second Monday of each month. Due to life's demands, the creator and coordinator of that feature, Cathy, has stepped back. Many thanks for Cathy for her efforts!! Thus far there has been no volunteer to succeed her from among our current blog contributors.

Is it time to retire this feature and try something else? Over the past nearly four years some features have come and gone: Monday Mission Moment, also a monthly feature at one time; and daily round-ups that were possible with 50 blogs in the ring, but not so possible with well over 300!!

What would you like to see at RevGalBlogPals?

I invite you to leave a comment below with suggestions.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Holy, Holy, Holy! Trinity Sunday Video

This is one of my favorite hymns, and an entirely different interpretation of it than I grew up with via the Episcopal Hymnal 1940! This version gives me new ears to hear.

What did you sing in worship today? How did you celebrate and explore the Trinity in music?

(This video appears extremely long, but the last 2 minutes are credits.)

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

Text: Reginald Heber
Music: John B. Dykes
Tune: NICAEA, Meter: 11 12.12 10

Sunday Prayer

God our Mother
birthing new life
through chaos

God our Father
building hope from
the dark night

God our Sister
comfort us in
times of sorrow

God our Brother
guide us through the
storms, calm water

God of the Night
brighten our dark
days, warm light

God of the Day
show us the way,
love as you

God, mystery
One in Three and
Three in One

Parent, child, friend
Comforter, Grace
Spirit, Love

Lover, One, All
Infinite One

Sun, Moon, and Stars
Earth, Wind, and Fire
Water, Life.

In Your Image
Abide in us
We in You

In your Image
In Your image

Saturday, June 06, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party: Holy Frustration

We've had a gorgeous couple of weeks around here, but today it's back in the 50s. Fantastic. I just changed out the kids' wardrobes to make room for the spring/summer clothes. Ugh. Frustration.

Frustration is also where I've been with my sermon prep this week. There is something about the last sermon before vacation that is just torturous for me, and my usual difficulty has been intensified by the texts and festival this week.

I've had little bits of disconnected inspiration that will have to come together into something preachable soon. I'm thankful today for God's free gifts, especially the Spirit that blows where it will. Blow this way, Spirit, I'm ready!

Thankfully, the Spirit has been known to blow through this community more than once or twice! I'm looking forward to discussions, conversations, and community today! Let me know what you need, and I'll do my best to provide! Grace and peace to all who are preparing! Welcome to the party, Gals and Pals!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Moving and Changing Friday Five

The theme of change is dominating my thinking at the moment, this morning my husband Tim has headed off for an interview in Sheffield. The West Sheffield Methodist Circuit are looking for an Evangelism/ Mission Enabler, in may ways this would be Tim's ideal job, but we wait on God... ( if you can spare a prayer today we'd be grateful)

...Sheffield is a commutable distance from my new post as Minister in Sherburn-in Elmet and some of the surrounding villages, before Tim gets home I will have left to join the Leadership team there for an away day on Saturday, I'll be staying the night with the current Minister in Sherburn to talk over some of the practicalities of the post.

ALL IS CHANGE.... and although I am looking forward to it, it is not without a sense of trepidation, as change always brings challenges.

Changing location also means packing, so next month will be a month of clearing and sorting, deciding what comes and what gets left behind...

So with change in mind I offer you this Friday five; ( if you've never moved here's a chance to use your imagination)

1. A big move is looming, name one thing that you could not possibly part with, it must be packed ?

2. Name one thing that you would gladly leave behind...

3. How do you prepare for a move

a. practically?

b. spiritually/ emotionally?

4. What is the first thing you look for in a new place?

5. Do you settle in easily, or does it take time for you to find your feet in a new location?

The bonus for today; a new opportunity has come up for you to spend 5 years in a new area, where would you go and why?

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,

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - The Drama Grandmama

This week's question concerns one of those people who threatens to suck all the energy out of a congregation and its members. Even if we haven't dealt with these particular circumstances, most of us have tried to minister to people whose need never seems to be filled. How do you show care to someone such as this, while still caring for the wider congregation and drawing appropriate boundaries?

One of our parishoners is a single custodial grandmother with three active little grandchildren who struggles to wrest order out of the chaos of her life. She's someone who, as a friend of mine would say, the 70's didn't treat well, who has battled substance abuse and various dysfunctional behaviors in her own young adulthood. Now she has permanent custody of three kids maybe 6 to 11 years of age, who've had a host of medical and emotional problems. She works third shift, which poses additional challenges to her attempts to raise her grandkids. So she, as they say, has some serious issues.

Our problem as a congregation: This woman has a tendency to dominate every church conversation and turn it into a litany of her own personal problems and needs. She's driven people out of our Bible study because instead of discussing the texts in question she uses them as jumping-off points for long monologues about what's going on in her life at the moment. (One of our study dropouts told me, in some frustration, "I signed up to learn about the Letter to the Romans; not to sit in on one person's group therapy.") During morning announcements, she'll stand up and talk about a personal problem or need -- for instance, the other week when our confirmation-class kids thanked the congregation for their support of the kids' fundraiser, she got up and said, "I just want to apologize for not coming to your event because...." and launched into yet another tale of woe.

This lady is hooked into the social services system, and help from her local school system, so we know that she's already getting various types of help for her grandkids; she is not totally without other supports in the community. We help her with things like camp scholarships for the kids, and I know individual members have also given the children school supplies, clothes and other items. We've also given the grandmother some references to other programs that may be able to assist her with specific family needs. So we're trying to help this family; but sometimes, frankly, the melodramatics and pushiness get in the way.

How can we gently help this woman manage her neediness, for lack of a better phrase, in a way that respects the needs and feelings of other parishoners, many of whom struggle with their own difficult life situations? Thanks for your suggestions.

Sunday's Coming writes:
This is a tough one: it sounds as if your community is giving this person so much and I'm sure lots of us recognise the issue you're facing. As you recognise, to her it feels that she's not getting enough - so she's taking up time in inappropriate places.

Maybe time is key here: is there a way of giving her a regular time that she knows is hers? With just one or two trusted people - not problem-solving but just listening, supporting, praying. Make it clear to her that this is her space, and not all the other spaces in church life. Here she can let her guard down, but in other places it is not always appropriate to unload quite so much. The message is we want to listen to you - but we want to listen here, not in Bible study and other places that have other things to do.

Of course you need to be clear about boundaries - one of the things I frequently have to remind myself is that I must not offer someone something that cannot be sustained - better to offer to meet once a month for an hour and DO that, than to offer an afternoon a wekk and get exhausted and unable to continue after a short time.

mompriest offers:
This is a challenge for two reasons: One; the "Church" and it's members want to be "good" Christians, which means supporting and helping this woman. Two: the woman has very poor boundaries. The first thing is that the Pastor in charge and a lay leader need to have a conversation with her and share the experiences of the parish - that folks are leaving adult formation classes etc. when she shares too much about her life. It may be that she just needs someone to tell her that she is giving too much information in a public forum and that that kind of personal sharing is best done one-on-one. Offer to meet with her for three sessions and then let her know that three sessions are the limits of what you can do (perhaps because you are not trained and insured to provide long term therapy), then give her a couple of referrals to therapists that work on a sliding scale.
Then in addition to laying this teaching/boundary on her the Pastor in Charge needs to teach the rest of the lay leadership on how to provide appropriate responses. If she stands in the middle of a service and goes on a tirade then one of the lay leaders needs to be primed to stand up and say something like, "N.N. knowing that we are all praying for you, you need to continue this one on one, please see me after the worship service." Let her know ahead of time that if she goes off on a tangent in any public setting, whether a class or worship, that one of the lay leaders will intervene in this manner.
The rest of the parish will be grateful, especially if it is done firmly but with compassion.
The key is for the Pastor in Charge to be firm, clear, compassionate, and to have lay folk who are comfortable and able to do this - or folk who are willing to rehearse this so that they are able.

Diane writes:
I think this is a tough one precisely because the church wants to be a caring, supportive community, and so it's hard for us to know what to do. We feel that we should be endlessly compassionate, and do understand the kinds of hardships that people have do deal with.
I don't have any easy answers, because there many be, as well as the financial and physical hardships, also mental health issues that are part of the reason this woman is behaving the way she is. In a Bible study session, I might want to initiate a really strict policy for sharing (no one shares twice until everyone has a chance). I've had issues with people who monopolized the conversations/discussions for different reasons, and used "gimmicks" (such as having people hold an item while they are talking and passing it along to the next person when they are done).
It might be helpful for this woman if she also spent some time helping others, although re-reading her issues, I'm not sure if she would be able to do that. However, doing some volunteer activity herself might give her a sense of what others go through.
I'm looking forward to what others say! I think the church can be firm, but loving, when she tries to take over every conversation, but I also know that this is easier said than done.

Karen writes:
You could take a direct approach and simply tell her that it's simply not helpful to focus on her family's problems in public worship or bible study, but that anytime she wants to talk you're available. Then pull out your calendar and say, "Let's make an appointment, how's next Tuesday at 3pm?" Then make a prior arrangement with your sanest deacon/elder etc. and the next time she tries to hijack worship say, "Wow Jean, that sounds really difficult. Alice? How about you and Jean go back to the library and pray about this while we get started with worship . . . " You could make a similar arrangement for bible study.

These are all suggestions that involve a caring, firm approach that takes seriously the needs of the congregation while seeking to minister to the individual. What thoughts do the rest of you have? Have any of you successfully dealt with someone who threatened to drain the congregation, or turned people away with his/her neediness? Share your experience!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wednesday Festival: Poems and Pentecost

Sally shares two posts on the a Town Festival Outreach event. Go read them here and the follow-up here.

She also gives us a report of a wonderful Pentecost!

Michelle wrote about a lovely post at a friend's blog, about Silence and Voice.

Christine at the Abbey of the Arts says, "You are invited to join this week’s Poetry Party at the Abbey! Bring wine, cheese, and beautiful words..."

and in that vein,

Songbird has a perfectly beautiful poem, "Some Things Never Will."

What are you writing and reading this week? Let us know in the comments, and remember to nominate your own or other ring members' posts for the Fest by emailing a link and description to

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Lectionary Leanings - Incomprehensible Edition

This week, of course, is the one when preachers everywhere try hard to book a visiting preacher....
The week when the Athanasian Creed, with its proclamation of
"The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible..." seems to be crying out for the rider
"the whole darned thing incomprehensible"
And yet...And yet..
Trinity Sunday.
God in relationship...inviting us in.
So, where to go?
The texts themselves are here
I shall be at the ordination of priests in our Cathedral on Saturday afternoon, so have a strong inclination to look at call, response and readiness ("woe is me") in the light of Isaiah 6.......and maybe, just maybe, to try and recover some sense of the enormity of the God whom we love and serve. I work so hard to help people lose their fear of God that I wonder sometimes if we're in danger of losing sight of the awe and majesty Isaiah describes so wonderfully...

But against that we have, of course, dear Nicodemus - a closet Christian and, like many, given to doing his best thinking at night. I'm certain he had been tossing and turning for a while before reaching the conclusion that drove him from his bed like some theological Archimedes leaping from the bath
"Rabbi, we know you are a teacher come from God"
It would be tempting to rehabilitate the concept of being "born again", which here in the UK at least has such strong associations with a particular theology that it's hard to use it in mainstream try and reconsider the radical disjunction there should be between lives lived in Christ and life without Him.
Here, the Spirit is the midwife of new birth...but poor Nicodemus remains baffled...
"how can these things be"
We're back to the incomprehensible once more!
What a blessing, then, that we have that rock of a verse to offer our congregations - the one to cling to when theology defeats us, when old sins seem determined to halt new birth.
Perhaps, on Trinity Sunday that message of the Father's love seen in the mission of the Son will carry the clearest message
"For God so loved the world...."
Not the church, mind you...nor "people like us"...the world
Goodness, I almost wish I were preaching!
How 'bout you?