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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday Festival: Wondering


Altar Ego is looking for some input, resources, ideas, sharing, etc as she plans a liturgy to honor breast cancer victims and celebrate survivors. She has a post from last Saturday that touched on it, and would be most grateful for help from revgals.

Songbird muses on transitions, and wonders about the next one.

My mama and I both wrote this week about a book that challenged our memories (first and second-generation!) of a place and a time.

Kathrynzj ponders bridging the gap between the modern and the postmodern. "So often it seems like we need less of a bridge, and more of a space shuttle."


What's your wonder this week? Let us know in the comments, and remember to nominate for next week's festival at wednesdayfestival@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Crazy Quilt Edition




Readings for the coming Sunday can be found here .

What a wealth of preaching possibilities we have for Sunday! In addition to the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, it's also World Communion Sunday...and it's also St. Francis' feast day.

What theme, or themes, do you plan to address in your worship and preaching? Does one stand out in your mind? Or, like a quilter, are you crafting something out of many bits of Scriptural fabric that is unique, meaningful and that holds together conceptually? As always, share your thoughts here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

RevGalBookPals: An Altar in the World

I first read Barbara Brown Taylor's book An Altar In The World back at the beginning of Lent, and quickly. I read it quickly not because I was trying to get through it, but because I was devouring it. It seemed, at the time, one of the most deeply true books that I had ever read. At its heart, its thesis is that all of life is holy, and that every activity harbors an opportunity to meet God. In that way, it is a deeply incarnational book.

Brown Taylor divides the book into 12 chapters of twelve ordinary and everyday practices, practices for which, she says, we do not need special equipment. Some of the chapters draw on common Christian practices, such as prayer, sabbath, blessing, pilgrimage, but look at them in a new way. Back in Lent the most intriguing of the chapters to me was: "The Practice of Getting Lost/Wilderness." I remember reading the chapter on "The Practice of Feeling Pain/Breakthrough" in an academic way and then have a long argument in my head with her while I suffered with a migraine that did not respond to medication. And finally, I found the chapter "The Practice of Wearing Skin/Incarnation" poignant as my conflicting feelings about my own body.

Here are her chapter headings:

1 The Practice of Waking Up to God/Vision

2 The Practice of Paying Attention/Reverence

3 The Practice of Wearing Skin/Incarnation

4 The Practice of Walking the Earth/Groundedness

5 The Practice of Getting Lost/Wilderness

6 The Practice of Encountering Others/Community

7 The Practice of Living with Purpose/Vocation

8 The Practice of Saying No/Sabbath

9 The Practice of Carrying Water/Physical Labor

10 The Practice of Feeling Pain/Breakthrough

11 The Practice of Being Present to God/Prayer

12 The Practice of Pronouncing Blessings/Benediction


A few questions/things to ponder or discuss:

1. Which of the practices draws you the most? Which seems least compelling?

2. In what ordinary activities do you most encounter God?

3. It seems to me that she is often talking about the practice of mindfulness. What contributes to mindful living for you, and what detracts from it?

4. She writes as a Christian, from her own faith tradition, but this is not a book exclusively for Christians. It is a book for those desiring More, The Divine, etc. Does this appeal to you or was it off-putting?

5. If you were to write your own chapter, "The Practice of....." what would you write about?

Looking forward to the conversation! Please feel free to add and share your own most thoughtful quotations.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday prayer Salty edition

Lord,
Come be the salt in our life that we then can be the salt in other’s lives.
Lord, Teach us how to not be stumbling blocks in the little one’s lives.
Lord, teach us to accept each other even though we are different in our practices and our form of worship and church government.
Lord, Teach us to be the salt that this world needs.
Lord, help us in our walk to be your disciples.
Lord remind us it is for such a time as this that you have called us to be your disciples, to spread the salt of your grace and love in this world.
Lord remind us to spread your hope in a world that sometimes feels hopeless.
Amen

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

Saturday, September 26, 2009

11th Hour Preacher's Party



On this day, the last Sunday in September, many of us are facing straight into fall. For many fall means cooler temps, changing colors of leaves, sweaters... For those of us in the desert SW fall is peculiar. It's most striking characteristic is the end of the rainy season...gone are the monsoons and the awesome lightening. Instead we face days on end of cloudless sunny skies and slightly cooler temps, if the 80's and 90's can be considered cool...

Our readings this week offer a similar contrast of elements offered on the same day: for example, the reading from Esther: So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. 2On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” 3Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. 4For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.” 5Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?”

and the reading from John John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.". How to make sense of it all?

Perhaps you have chosen to focus on Numbers? Or James...Psalm 19 or 124?

Regardless...many options today but little that hangs together with similar expressions of a common theme. Alas, where are you headed as you prepare to preach?

And as you ponder that I offer up plenty of options for sustenance...coffee, tea, scones, toast, fruit...you name it, I just might have it. Let's get this party going and help each other become the lightening rod that brings forth God's word this day!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Five: Autumn Musing

My husband and my mother, a few years ago.

Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest. Jeremiah 5:23b

The Autumnal Equinox has just come 'round again. I took a look back at our Friday Fives and noted that it always seems to make the Rev Gals and their Pals think of changes.

There is something so nostalgic about this time of year, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. The nights grow cooler, crops are harvested, for some of us the leaves are beginning to change colors. The scent of smoke is in the air, pumpkins are in the stores (or on wagons, or in roadside stands for those of us in the country). I'm thinking of putting away my summer clothes and pulling out the sweaters. And I have a tub of Fall-themed items that my husband just lugged up from the basement. I'm looking for my scarecrow.

For this week, let's share some memories along with some hopes and expectations.

1. Share a Fall memory.
2. Your favorite Fall clothes--(past or present)?
3. Share a campfire story, song, experience...etc.
4. What is your favorite thing about this time of year?
5. What changes are you anticipating in your life, your church, family...whatever...as the season changes and winter approaches?

Bonus: What food says "AUTUMN" at your house? Recipes always appreciated.
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, September 24, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - Council in need of Counseling

This week we have a question from a colleague dealing with a church system that doesn't seem to be functioning as it ought.

I am a solo pastor in my first call at a small ELCA congregation in a rural community. I have been here for about year now and in that time it has become clear to me that the church council is not trusted or expected to make decisions for the congregation (when they do they have been accused of overstepping). It is hard to explain without going into too much detail but I see this as a big problem. How I can educate the congregation to let the council lead, that is why we elected them.

The situation is complicated because several months before I came, without consulting or even notifying the congregation, the council voted to fire the interim pastor. What must a council do to earn trust from the congregation that has felt in the recent past betrayed by the council. I should note that since that incident there has been significant turnover on council, so the council is overwhelmingly filled with people who have been elected since that incident.

We are a small congregation and I have the sense that most decisions have traditionally been made outside council, which would explain the negative reactions anytime council does make a decision, not matter how small. So I want to empower the council to be the council and lead the congregation. How do I do that? And how do I deal with the negative reactions I expect such a change to generate?

What are some models for healthy congregational leadership I could look at or show my council?

St. Casserole
offers this excellent advice:
Really, this is the Council's problem. Do they feel the congregation's distrust? Does the distrust bother them or interfere with what they want to accomplish?

You, as pastor, want the congregation to function according to the ELCA guidelines. These guidelines work but the Council may be out of the habit of paying attention to denominational guidelines (or not know "how" to be ELCA).

You can help with this by standing back from both the Council and the congregation. From the sidelines, let them know how other congregations function with Councils. You aren't chiding either group, just matter-of-factly providing information on functioning groups. If the discomfort is great enough, change will happen.

For your own information, discover who *really* makes the decisions in the Church and get to know that person. Relate to this person as a pastor rather than an organizational strategist and listen.

As for healthy congregational models, consider what you know right now. How do good relationship's work? Good communication, healthy respect for one another, feeling like a group, enjoying being with one another and play.

Matriarch Sue adds:
Well, for me the short answer would be to look to the wider church for some leadership here. In our denomination, someone from the Presbytery would likely be called in to speak with the whole congregation, including the council, to lay everything out on the table and start some discussion around trust issues, appropriate structures and systems and so on. Failing an intervention by a higher court of the church, could you, as the minister, call a congregational meeting for the same purpose? In my ideal world, the more that church people stop whispering in discreet corners ABOUT one another and start talking TO one another, the better.

I would add to these thoughts that our colleague is most likely correct in assuming that there will be negative reactions to any changes she helps make in this system. Those who have been making the decisions, or who have been happy with the decision-making, will want things to change back to what they are comfortable with. Your role is to remain non-anxious, to listen to fears and negativity, but to continue to support positive change. In some cases, you may feel the need to explain why things are changing, and why you support the empowerment of the church council. In explaining, though, try to remain non-defensive. Speak from a sense of strength but also compassion. Some people may need you to listen to them give voice to the betrayal and disappointment surrounding the issue of the council's firing of the interim. You can do that without defending or criticizing the council.

So what about the rest of you? What advice and resources would you offer?

Have a question for the Matriarchs? Please drop us a line at askthematriarch@gmail.com. The queue is short now, so if you ask a question, we will be responding soon.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday Festival of Printed Matter, etc.

SheRev says, "OK – It’s definitely on the lighter side of things, but some of the responses I’ve received on Facebook have been pee-in-your-pants funny. We all seem to grumble when newsletter writing time comes around. I was looking for some good “thought starters” and ended up with some definite “thought enders.” I wonder what our fun crew can come up with. What horrible, funny, or over-used intros have you seen/used when writing a newsletter article?"

See-Through Faith's been reading, enjoying Monday mornings and of course puppy watching. These adorable pups will be moving to their new homes in 2-2½ weeks.

Just one more reminder of Monday's BookPals item: Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World. I read this over the summer, quickly! and am looking forward to savoring it with all of you. I have it checked out of the library for a languorous re-read. Join us!

What are you reading and writing this week? Do share with us in the comments...and remember to nominate posts for next week. They should be sent by the Monday prior, to wednesdayfestival@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "More Salt, Please" Edition


Lectionary texts for the coming Sunday can be followed here .

Salt -- not only a mineral essential to our lives, but one that makes life taste better.

We have a lot of spiritually salty material in the lectionary this week.

Your people may be hearing the story of Esther this week, and how one of God's faithful "salted" into an alien culture helped save her people. Or they may be hearing about the gift of prophecy sprinkled amidst the restless Israelites.

In our epistle lesson James offers lessons on how the Christian community should season its life together.

And in our Gospel lesson -- echoing the text in Numbers -- Jesus challenges the disciples' expectation that spiritual salt only comes from an "approved" source.

How will you use these texts to season your sermon this week? Or are you preaching off the lectionary? As always, share your ponderings and plans here!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Meet n' Greet, BookPals Reminder and BE Three, too!

Happy Monday, all! We have two new members in the ring, and I am happy to introduce them.

First, please go and say hello to RevDisco, a UCC seminarian from my neck of the woods working on a Senior Project she hopes will lead to a new church start.

Next, meet Patrick McCullough, a student of the New Testament and Christian origins, at kata ta biblia. Our great discussion last Monday came largely from a question posed by Patrick.

Next Monday in this space, look for RevGalBookPals. Diane will host a discussion of Barbara Brown Taylor's latest book, An Altar in the World. Remember, if you click through to Amazon from our sidebar and purchase a book or other merchandise, you benefit RevGalBlogPals. Income from the Amazon store helps subsidize program expenses for our annual Big Event.

Finally, don't forget, the deadline to register for BE Three is just over a month away. Read more here about Nanette Sawyer, author of Hospitality: the Sacred Art, and our Norwegian Sky cruise to the Bahamas.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Prayer for Proper 20B

God ,
When we are hurting you welcome us as the hurting child.
When we are sad, you welcome us as the sad child.
When we are lonely, you welcome us as the lonely child.
When we have done wrong you welcome us as a forgiving God.

Lord you ask us to welcome the hurting, the sad, the lonely
and those who have done wrong just as you have welcomed us.
And so Lord teach us how to be welcoming as you are.
Teach us to love as you love.
Teach us to serve as you serve.
Lord we live in a world that demands greatnesses, demands perfection,
and demands being number one.
What a radical way of being you ask from us.
What a radical way of living you yourself lived.
And yet Lord you knew that this would change the world change people’s lives for the better.
Lord, keep changing our lives for the better.
Amen.

crossposted at revgalprayerpals and rev abi's long and winding road

11th Hour Preacher Party: I Love to Tell the Story Edition

It all started via e-mail, this Preacher Party of ours, when one preacher wrote to another and they realized they were both online and they kept sending little words of encouragement via the Internets. And it crossed their minds that other preachers in the webring might need the same sort of cheering up as Saturday afternoon turned to evening, and thus the 11th Hour Preacher Party was born.

The first Antonio Banderas reference appeared in those very comments (49 in all). You see, one of the evening-long email festivals took place while my daughter and I were watching Shrek 2. I just love that Puss-in-Boots. Somehow the notion arose that in our dreams a completed sermon would be delivered by the voice of Puss, Antonio Banderas himself.

Also in the comments at the very first Preacher Party, my emailing friend reassured us all with the following--

Now for the two things that one of my homiletics professors told me was absolutely essential to preaching:

1) Let it go... the Holy Spirit has got your back.

2) If you got a dog, walk it proud.

This is our story, friends. We've been throwing this party for over three years now. It's the most-visited feature on the blog every week. It's been a place to make friends and get help and let off steam. Thanks to all of you for your participation and contributions over the years.

We've shared many cyber-treats and I promise you, they are absolutely calorie free. I'll supply the molasses glazed doughnuts and keep the coffee and Diet Coke coming today. Pull up a chair and get out your laptops. Let's preach a good one this week!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Five: Where on the Stairs?

Halfwaydown_1Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn't any
Other stair
Quite like
It.
I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top;
So this is the stair
Where
I always
Stop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn't up,
And isn't down.
it isn't in the nursery,
it isn't in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head:
"It isn't really
Anywhere!
It's somewhere else
Instead!"

— A. A. Milne
“Halfway Down,” When We Were Very Young



Thinking of your childhood as a stairway, when did you feel (and how did you feel then)

1. at the bottom?

2. at the top?

3. halfway?

4. At this point in your life, where would you place yourself on your own stairway?

5. Identify a place for you that "isn't really anywhere" but "somewhere else instead."

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, September 17, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - Privacy and Accessibility

We've talked a couple of different times recently about maintaining the privacy of church members, but what about the pastor? This week's question comes from a colleague who is struggling with balancing the pastoral need for accessibility with her family's need for privacy:

I recently began a sole pastorate at a congregation about 30 minutes from my home. Until recently, I have not had a landline phone, but just hooked one up to try to save on cell phone minutes. My husband was upset that I published the home number in the church bulletin because he was afraid that it could be looked up to see our address. I then informed him that usually, the pastor shares her address with the congregation for the purpose of receiving correspondence at home, etc., and that's it just a normal practice. I told him that at my last pastorate (where I was Asst. Pastor), our address had been listed in the directory. He was upset about that and said he didn't realize it and would've been unhappy if he'd known. Part of his concern, especially in this new church, is that he is a manager at a local industrial business, which puts him in the position of having to fire employees at times. There happen to be two employees who attend this church, thus would have access to the address if/when it's published. I think my husband is overreacting and don't see a problem sharing the address, even with his employees as members. What are your thoughts on this, and any possible alternatives? In some churches, there is a parsonage, and then of course the members obviously know where the pastor lives. Though this is not the case, I feel as though I'm hiding something if I don't simply share the address.

Matriarch Jennifer writes:

What a good thing it is that you want to be available to the new congregation and still sensitive to your spouses concerns about safety and privacy! I think you did a thoughtful thing in trying to save on cell phone minutes (if a landline phone does, in fact, end up saving you money) and allow the congregation you serve to be in touch with you. I think you’re right, that many congregations are aware of their pastor’s address, but perhaps not all.

The added dimension of not wanting to raise questions by departing from a previous practice (publishing contact info in the bulletin) is a reasonable one, too. My hunch is that you may have help --right where you are—in sorting this out.

I wonder if you have a personnel or an administration committee where you’re serving, or some trusted folks from the committee or group that called you to serve there, whom you could ask about expectations and contact information. It may be helpful to hear from them, if you don’t already know their feelings, what would be acceptable. I would not hesitate to share with that “sounding board” person or group that you don’t want to create new issues by being circumspect about your living arrangements, but that your spouse has a desire, because of his employment, to be concerned about making your home address public.

And ps: If it’s not too late to explore unlimited cell phone minutes, you may discover that it’s still cheaper to maintain only one phone and protect your family privacy as well.

Diane offers:

I think Jennifer's reply was very complete and also very compassionate. I remember the days when most pastors lived in a parsonage and there was no escaping having everyone know where the pastor lived, and probably very little privacy for the pastor's family. (The pastor at my church growing up lived right next door to the church.) In my first call in a small rural parish I once had a woman seeking shelter from her abusive boyfriend come to my front door, so I lived knowing that everyone in my community knew where I lived.

I'm not sure I can add much to Jennifer's excellent response, except to say that she is right in recognizing that there is a need for privacy for your family as well as the need for your congregation to get in touch with you in emergencies. Even with the printed phone number in the church directory, you need to be firm regarding your day off, and when it might be appropriate to contact you at home.

Singing Owl says:
I confess, I think it would be nearly unthinkable for a congregation not to know where their pastor lives! Of course, every congregation is different, but I think that it would indeed look as though you were hiding something if you refused to disclose your address. This is especially true if the church has a printed directory. I’m sorry about your husband’s distress, but I do think he is overreacting. Being at least somewhat accessible is part of being a pastor of a church.

Sunday's Coming
writes:
Privacy is important – especially for families. You don’t have to worry about ‘hiding something’: if people have a number where they can reach you that’s good. In the UK you can have a number ‘ex-directory’ which means people can’t simply look up the address – to protect your partner – is this possible?
If people need to be able to write to you is there maybe a church address, an office or something, where they can send things for you to pick them up? You can of course explain this to a management committee/elders meeting/committee of some kind and explain why your home address is not in the public domain. I hope they are wise enough to understand and not make a big deal of it. Good luck & God bless
.

It's an interesting dilemma our colleague finds herself in, and not one I think previous generations of pastors faced. And it is difficult for some in other professions to understand the accessibility required of the pastor. What advice do you offer to this pastor? How would you balance the need between what the church needs and what her family needs? (and wow, isn't that what so many problems we have boil down to?!)


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday Festival: Puppies and other Things


(STF's pups!) There are EIGHT (8) total.

See-Through Faith has been on what seems like continuous puppy watch , come on over if you'd like to help! She contemplates spiders' webs and a call to holiness, and has a new Bible to tell us about.

Songbird shares an audioblog post by a non-ring member about a project she is doing, collecting letters from ordained women to collect in a book for women entering seminary/ministry. You can read about the project here. What a great way for us to be involved in encouraging women who are in the discernment and ordination process! Please do check it out.

Sally gives us two poetic reflections: Echoes of Grace and Grace.

What's yours this Wednesday? Let us know in the comments...and blessings on all!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Who's the Greatest?"


Scripture texts for next Sunday can be found here .

"Who's the greatest?"

That's a question that permeates the popular culture. Even in our entertainment choices we seem to be obsessed with the "best" -- the best athletic teams; the best new talent; the best B-list. And if we're honest with ourselves we will acknowledge our own aspirations to be "the greatest," or at least better than the next person, in our various roles in life.

Jesus' disciples seemed to be equally concerned about who among them was "the greatest." So imagine their surprise when Jesus points to God's idea of human greatness: service to "the least of these."

Is this going to be your text and your message on Sunday?  Do one of the other texts of the day resonate with you more in terms of preaching? Or are you off the lectionary altogether?

As always, share your impressions and ideas here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

2nd Monday Discussion: Where are the Women Bloggers?


Last week RevGalBlogPals received an email pointing to a discussion that included one of our member blogs. It came from Patrick McCullough, who posed a question to our Julie Clawson, which she posted at Emerging Women.

Here it is:
"Why do you think there aren’t more women blogging about academic biblical studies? If you have some knowledge about biblical studies, but are not a “biblioblogger,” why not?"

This may go to an even more interesting question. How much communication is there between male and female clergy bloggers? Do male bloggers simply not notice female bloggers? Or are our blogs more multi-disciplinary and not as easy to categorize?

Recently, Church Relevance published a list of the Top 100 Church Blogs. There were about 7 written by women.

This raises questions of standards for granting status and forms of networking and perhaps even the relative invisibility of some people in other people's eyes.

I would ask our bloggers, what is your experience with other faith blogs on the web? Do you cross-connect with bloggers, male or female, who have a different theological perspective? Do you write about the Bible? And could we consider ourselves bibliobloggers if we aren't writing strictly academic posts?

Please chime in via the comments.

(And if you might like to volunteer to host 2nd Monday next month, let me know here. We'll be trying new formats and will choose a permanent feature later in the year.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Healer Of My Soul

I have several friends who are longing for healing these days, from deep wounds to heart and soul and body, which makes the reading from Isaiah and the psalm for today all the more poignant for me:

See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?

and

The cords of death encompassed me;
the snares of the netherworld seized upon me;
I fell into distress and sorrow,
And I called upon the name of the LORD,
“O LORD, save my life!”

Monk John Michael Talbot's plea to be kept safe at even', morning and noon even when "On rough course faring" gently sounds these themes. The candles burning in the foreground remind me of how prayers arise, even in the times of desperation. Even when we ourselves cannot find the energy to call out "O Lord, save my life!" the prayers of others can call out for us.

What music eased your soul or cried aloud to God for you this Sunday?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

prayer for Proper19B/Ordinary 24B/Pentecost 15

Lord, what a powerful time we have been going through recently.
It has been 8 years since 9/11 and we cannot forget.
We have watched the political goings on surrounding the Health Care bill.
We have listened to people express expressed hate and frustrations in ways that have crossed lines of civility.
We are overwhelmed by the increase of the jobless, the homeless,
and those living in poverty.
We are concerend about the increase of swine flu cases.
Lord sometimes it feels like it is too much.

Lord, we pray for the healing of our land
For the healing of the hearts broken from 9/11
For the healing of the divide in our country
For the healing of those filled with hate that overcomes them
For the healing of those who have lost jobs, lost their homes and now live in poverty
for the healing of the sick and those infected by swine flu
For the healing of our own hearts.

Lord, bring your healing down for all.
Lord use us to bring your healing to this land
That all may know that you are the Messiah. Amen

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

11th Hour Preacher Party - Words, words, words


Whether the words are words of confession (a la Peter), words of confusion (a la Peter again), words of rebuke (a la Jesus), words of instruction (a la...well, you get the point), words of warning, or words of praise. The words we say matter. The words we say shape the way we believe and the way we live. They also characterize and set the tone for our entire discourse with one another (a la a certain congressman from South Carolina).

The words we say matter, and this is particularly true when the church is speaking in a hostile or foreign culture. Who do we say that Jesus is? What word does the Word have for our communities today? Join the party in the comments. There's a lot going on with all of us these late summer, almost fall weeks!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Five: PJs







As the weather cools off into a lovely fall, my son and daughter are rediscovering their joy in cozy footed "pajammies"--though not to sleep in. They love to hang out in the pjs before bed or in the morning, but when it's time to actually sleep they strip to their skivvies! Good thing they finally have their own rooms, now that they are getting older.



Without going to TMI land, share with us your sleepwear memories and preferences....



1. What was your favorite sleeping attire as a child? And did you call them pjs, pajamas (to rhyme with llamas), pajamas (to sort of rhyme with bananas), jammies, or ???



2. Favorite sleepwear put on your own little ones, or perhaps those you babysat? (Bonus points if you made it).



3. How about today-do you prefer nightgown, pajamas, undies, or au naturel?



4. Silky smooth or flannel-y cozy?



5. Socks or bare feet?

Bonus: Funny story regarding sleepwear (or the lack thereof).

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, September 10, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - Getting the Insiders to Reach Out

This week's question is a tough one, and one which many of us have had to grapple with in some way or another. Our colleague ask:

One of the most frequent reasons I have been given when someone decides to leave our church is that they don't feel like they have a community or friends at church--except of course the priests, who have "always been very welcoming...". Now, these people have often put in a good faith effort to get involved but have discovered that they don't really fit into the already existing groups/cliques. So...my quandry is this, how do I address this as an issue with the congregation (eg, the "clique" issue--which really is based on natural affinities and long time friendships and I don't believe the members of these groups intend to be exclusive) and how responsible should I feel for losing these members? Should I feel badly for not hanging out "socially" with these individuals? Should I try to create even MORE programs to try and address their needs (we are a family sized congregation that offers a fairly large number of programatic options)? Should I immediately roust my most social congregants and ask them to befriend these individuals? That said, I know my own time for good friends is very limited and I try to prioritize my free time for friends I already have. I just don't have time to carve out for people who I'm not friends with yet (or who I may not have all that much in common). I imagine that many of my congregants feel the same way about their time and social commitments. So, that said, what to do?
Thanks,
The Neophyte in the Front

Jennifer writes:

You’ve raised such an important issue in the life of many congregations.

Your congregation, starting with the governing board, needs to know about the feedback you’ve been receiving. You’re not supposed to be the sole provider of hospitality.

It sounds like it’s a great time for a conversation with key leaders about how folks are welcomed and assimilated into the life of the church. New programs aren’t the answers—rather, doing what you do well in ways that are sensitive to newcomers may hold the key. Some people dive right in when they’re new; others need invitations and encouragement. Are there members of your congregation who serve as shepherds to new folks? Are there folks who would be willing to make sure that newcomers receive personal invitations to church events--- and are there people (deacons, elders, greeters, somebody!!!!) who make sure that new folks are greeted warmly, introduced to others and helped to feel comfortable?

In some settings, I’ve asked folks to consider how they would greet and receive folks in their own home, and use that as a model for what it means to welcome new folks (or anyone who is less than comfortable in group situations) to your church home. Blessings to you in your ministry!

The Vicar of Hogsmeade offers:

It sounds like the established members need some guidance in the difference between "being friendly" and "being friends." Or, as someone else (whose name I cannot remember) said, "Hospitality is not only making room at the table but making room in your heart." Some times established folks don't even realize that they are having "insider" conversations because "everyone" knows XYZ which leaves newer folks on the fringes of conversations. There are groups for whom it only takes a mention of these things for them to be more attentive and, therefore, more mindful and more inclusive. There are other groups for whom the change will be harder. But, if the commitment to building relationships with others is not there, the efforts are not likely to be there either.

Mompriest writes:

In family sized parishes it is always a blessing when someone from the congregation becomes the designated matchmaker - the one who helps newcomers find their way into the community. Sometimes this person rises up on their own, sometimes this person can be coached in to this ministry. It is also wonderful when churches set up intentional opportunities to get to know each other, such as dinner groups - groups of 5 or 6 couples who, over the course of a year or 6 months, rotate having dinner at each others house, pot luck. This works also for singles.
But most often churches of all sizes have fixed groups and all they really want is to see their friends and not add new folks to their group. Thus begins a lot of teaching, beginning with the leadership team, using outside leaders to come in and do the teaching - or using books and group discussions. Over time the leadership may understanding their role in becoming a truly welcoming church and work toward implementing it.
As the primary leader I would not do take this on as my responsibility without the active engagement of the rest of the leadership team. It will burn you out and fail to help the congregation understand that this is really their responsibility. For those who are leaving, see if you can arrange to have several people on the leadership team (not you) call them with simple questions: "We are wondering how we as a parish are viewed by people who come to this church. Can you share with me your experience of this church"....and then maybe have some specifics to inquire about. IF the leadership will do this they will hear for themselves the comments people are making, and perhaps begin to see the need for change.

revhoney adds:

The responsibility of assisting new members in their assimilation into small groups and ministry teams belongs to everyone in the congregation. However, if no one who takes assimilation on as a mission or ministry, it will not happen.

Personally, I think that a priest or pastor’s role is not to be the primary “socializer” with new members. Ours is to call members to be intentional about welcoming others into community and into ministry. In the context where I serve, that happens most effectively by finding new members’ interests for service and then giving their names to the team leaders for those serving ministries. Ministry teams are usually quite warm in their welcome to those who want to help with projects.

Sometimes new members come with an interest not yet present in our faith community. Then a member of our staff works with the new member to put the word out to see if there is interest enough to form a new team or activity. We have birthed several new ministries in this way.

Once people are serving together, we often see meaningful social relationships begin to develop as well.

Our matriarchs have offered some good wisdom here. What about the rest of you? What has been your experience with getting insiders to reach out?

If you have a question for our matriarchs, please send it to askthematriarch@gmail.com. We will add it to the queue and our matriarchs will take a crack at it in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Wednesday Festival: 09/09/09

It's got to be a good day: 09/09/09! One of those few when the various dating conventions of different countries can't confuse us...right? For everyone I know, those numbers mean we are having The Ninth of September!

The Vicar of Hogsmeade is reviewing books...this time it's Fearless by Max Lucado. Go see!

Sally is back to blogging, having got moved and settled into her new manse (are you settled yet, Sally?) She continues her thoughts on The Lord's Supper, and also a poem and thoughts on history and change.

There's been an excellent discussion of the US health care issue at Songbird's, with a number of folks chiming in.

So, what's yours today? Please let us know in the comments! You may 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.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Take Up Your Cross" Edition


Texts for the coming Sunday may be found here.

It may be the "green and growing season," liturgically speaking, but the Gospel lesson for the coming Sunday points us back to Lent, and the centrality of the Cross in the Christian story.

What does it mean -- really mean -- to take up our crosses and follow Jesus? How does taking up our cross differ from enduring the routine pain and misfortune common to all? Is that a theme you intend to address in your worship and message in the coming week, or do you find a different focal point in the text?

Or...are you preaching on the Gospel lesson at all? The Old Testament lectionary offers a choice between Lady Wisdom's beckoning in the Book of Proverbs and a portrait of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. In the Epistle lesson James expounds on a sin that we Christians tend to gloss over lightly, as sins go...the sin of unmindful, unbridled, hurtful speech. Is that a preachworthy message in these incendiary times?

Or perhaps you're preaching on a different theme altogether.

In any event, please share your ponderings and insights as you blog, plan, pray and preach your way to Sunday.

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings:



That troublesome tongue from James! Will you be preaching from that text this week, or Isaiah's "tongue of a teacher"? Or perhaps from Jesus' question to the disciples in Mark: "Who do people say that I am?" Or something else entirely?

The readings for this week may be found here. Share with us in the comments what you are planning and pondering!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Monday Meet n' Greet: Interviews and Reminders

Happy Monday and for our U.S. readers, Happy Labor Day!

Do you have the day off? If it's your regular day off, will you get a comp day later in the week? (Are you chuckling or guffawing now?) Plans for a cookout? How's the weather where you are? Feel free to answer in the comments!

All this is to say we won't be introducing new members this Monday; look for that in two weeks. But for today, I'd like to do two things.

First, if you have been in summer mode and haven't seen our post about the BE Three, be sure to read it!

Second, way back in the beginning of Meet and Greet, kathrynzj created an interview for current members as a way for us to get to know each other better. We'll feature the interviews here in future posts. I'll cut and paste the interview below. If you would like to send it in for a future Meet and Greet, please email it to RevGalBlogPals with "Interview" in the subject line. mompriest ran this as a meme last spring, too, so if you did it then, feel free to email it to us for future publication here (and see if your answers have changed!).

Answer any ten of the following questions:

1. Where do you blog?

2. What are your favorite non-revgal blog pal blogs?

3. What gives you joy?

4. What is your favorite sound?

5. What do you hope to hear once you enter the pearly gates?

6. You have up to 15 words, what would you put on your tombstone?

7. Write the first sentence of your own great American novel.

8. What color do you prefer your pen?

9. What magazines do you subscribe too?

10. What is something you want to achieve in this decade?

11. Why are you cool?

12. What is one of your favorite memories?

13. Anything else you've always wanted to be asked?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Video: Crumbs from Your Table

Prayer for P 18B/O 23B/P 14/Labor day weekend

Lord of compassion, mercy and justice,
Many have come to you seeking compassion and you have graciously shown it to them.
We too come seeking your compassion
For our needs, our pains, our illnesses,
For our friends, families, and coworkers,
For our neighbors, our communities, and our world.
Lord we all need you to shower us with your compassion.

Lord many have sought you to receive mercy and you given them a multitude of mercies.
We too come seeking to receive your mercy
For our guilt, our shame, our sins,
For our family members, our neighbors,
For our churches, our communities and our world.
Lord we need you to renew us with your mercy.

Lord many is the person who has come asking for justice and you have generously provided justice in their lives.
We too come asking for your justice
For ourselves when we have we been treated unjustly.
For those who have been treated with injustices.
For those whose countries show no justice.
Lord we need you to roll down your justice for all.

Lord, let us also remember the laborers of the world on this Labor Day weekend.
Let us remember those who retired well and those who retired poorly.
Let us remember those who labor in blue collar jobs, white collar jobs and no collar jobs.
Let us remember those who labor in jobs worthwhile, and those whose jobs have no meaning at all.
Let us remember those who labor in the fields, the factories, the government, the service industry, education, health-care and all manner of labor.
Lord let us remember those who labor in free enterprise and those who work in slave labor.
Let us not forget that your son’s labor in this world was not in vain, for he brought compassion, mercy and justice to the world. Amen

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

Saturday, September 05, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party--Sticky Situations


I'm off to the MN State Fair this afternoon, so cotton candy is about as sticky as things will get for me! Repurposing a sermon from my previous call as I entertain guests from that church in town this weekend. Hmmm...maybe that could be a sticky situation, too.

In addition the Scriptures are PLENTY sticky this week. As of Tuesday it looked like we had a good mix of folks attempting Mark, James, the Wisdom Lit, and a few others sprinkled in, too. What's sticky for you this day? Your sermon, your other worship plans, your weather? Stop by the party. I'll bring back lots of deep fat fried food on a stick, mini donuts, and Sweet Martha's cookies to the late night crowd. Someone else should probably bring something a little more health conscious!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Recharged/ recharging Friday Five


A few weeks ago my lap-top battery died, suddenly I found myself looking at a blank screen and was rather relieved to find that it was only the battery and not the whole computer that had failed. This morning a new battery arrived in the post, and suddenly I am mobile again!

After a week with what feels like wall to wall meetings, and Synod looming on the horizon for tomorrow I find myself pondering my own need to recharge my batteries. This afternoon Tim and I are setting off to explore the countryside around our new home, I always find that walking in the fresh air away from phones and e-mails recharges me. But that is not the only thing that restores my soul, so do some people, books, pieces of music etc....

So I wonder what/ who gives you energy?

1. Is there a person who encourages and uplifts you, whose company you seek when you are feeling low?

2. How about a piece of music that either invigorates or relaxes you?

3. Which book of the Bible do you most readily turn to for refreshment and encouragement? Is there a particular story that brings you hope?

4. A bracing walk or a cosy fireside?

5. Are you feeling refreshed and restored at the moment or in need of recharging, write a prayer or a prayer request to finish this weeks Friday Five....


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.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - Preparing for an Interview

Our question this week is one for which a lot of you probably have some wisdom to share:

I am in the process of seeking a new call to a congregation. In my denomination, we must interview with
a committee composed of members from the congregation. I would love some interview tips from some
of the veterans. How do you prepare yourself? How do you relax? How much do you share from a personal
standpoint? Any tips would be great!
Thanks,
Seeking A Call


Jennifer
has a lot of good thoughts:

I think your anticipatory questions will serve you well. I’d suggest that you find out as much as you can about the congregation prior to your interview. Checking their website, asking for some copies of past newsletters and a copy of the most recent annual report and the budget are good resources. Don’t hesitate to contact your higher governing body (if applicable) and speak with someone who knows the congregation well. Regarding how much personal information to share, I think there are some wonderful previous installments of Ask the Matriarch that address this very question. You may want to hunt through the archives for more wisdom!

Often committee members raise questions about relationships, marital status,or plans to start a family. Sometimes committees ask questions about expected length of tenure, as though we have crystal balls and can foresee the future! I try to remind myself that these kinds of questions are almost always about the congregation and/or a previous pastoral relationship, and rarely about me or any current candidate. Have they had a negative or a positive experience in the past? Are they trying to take the same path or a different one? What role does a partner or spouse have in the life of a congregation? I think that how one fields personal questions is very important and can set the tone for future discussions and one’s relationship with the congregation.

As someone who has interviewed for church positions as a single person and as later a married person (and as half of a clergy couple) I have tended to be pretty forthright and transparent, answering any questions that felt comfortable, and gently, humorously reminding a committee if they’re getting too personal, and asking them to clarify why the information is important to them. I’ve learned a lot from hearing what a committee’s expectations and biases or openness might be.

How to relax? Dress professionally, but in nothing that is uncomfortable or binding. Try to remember that you’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you. As you prayerfully discern whether God is calling you to a new place, recall that the committee is probably nervous and excited, too. Listen closely and feel free to pause a bit before responding to a question. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand a question. Be yourself!!!

Blessings as you find the best place to which God is calling you!

Sunday's coming offers this helpful insight:

In my denomination, too we seek a call in a similar way.

If it helps: the last time I went through this I managed to alleviate the stress quite considerably by not thinking ‘I want this job, how do I get it? - but instead approaching it as a piece of consultancy. My task as consultant was to help this pastorate decide whether they wanted this woman for their next minister. I tried to put the fact that I was the woman in question to one side, and instead to take my knowledge of who I am and try to find out more about who they are and help them to decide whether there is a good match and a call from God.

It might sound a bit weird but it helped a lot. As it happened they DID call me (and it’s working out pretty well) - but if they hadn’t I would just have felt I had helped them reach the right decision and been happy to walk away without feeling bruised by the whole thing.

God be with you.


What about the rest of you? How have you prepared yourself for dialogue with a congregation? What have you learned from the process that might benefit our friend who is seeking a call? Please share your wisdom!

We have a number of good questions in the queue for the next few weeks (so don't fret if you've sent one and don't see it yet - it's coming!). As always, if you have a question you'd like the matriarchs to address, send it to askthematriarch@gmail.com. Thanks!

Wednesday Festival: Light One Candle


A non-festive topic...

Today marks one year since the death of Gannet Girl's beloved son, Joshua. You may read about her journey at Search the Sea and Desert Year.

Please light a candle in honor and memory of Joshua today...either literally or virtually at the Gratefulness website.

There is such power and hope in Christian community. Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "He Said WHAT?!" Edition



Sunday's lessons can be found here .

It's that time again -- when the lectionary rolls around to one of the most problematic stories in the Gospels, a story that makes Jesus look like...well, like an insensitive, bigoted jerk.

But there it is: Jesus -- friend of "sinners" and outsiders, who elsewhere in the Gospels seems to have no problem helping and healing lepers, hemorrhaging women, Samaritans, servants of Roman soldiers -- seeming to balk at responding to a distraught Syrophoenician mother's desperate request.

What do we make of this? How do we unpack this story for our people this coming Sunday? Is there a way to approach it that doesn't come off as trying to make excuses for Jesus?

How do we tie this Gospel lesson in with our other readings, which speak to living the Reign of God into the world?

As always, share your lectionary plans and ponderings here.