Friday, October 30, 2009
Lots of Scriptural choices, and by evening at my house at least, there will be lots of candy choices. I'm sure there will be some virtual Halloween candy to share with the late night crowd. Put your orders in early, and I'll raid the kids' stashes before I head to the blank screen after bed time.
Anyway, back to the Scripture! What're you thinking about - Pentecost 22 (Proper 26, Ordinary 31 - why are there so many title choices for each day?), All Saints' Day, going back to Reformation Day, or something completely different? Plenty of choices and I'm looking forward to plenty of Spirit-filled and diverse discussions and offerings.
So, what do you need from the preacher trick-or-treat stash? A little inspiration? A little support? Children's sermon? The perfect illustration? Look around for what you need, grab it, and throw it in your bag. All treats today, no tricks!
Of course lifesavers can come in all sizes and with far less drama. I would readily admit that I have considered a person (children's sermon substitute), the location of a bathroom, and a beverage (the last diet coke in the back of the fridge - score!) all to be lifesavers at one point or another.
And so today I ask you - dramatic or fairly common - what have been/are your lifesavers:
1) Your lifesaving food/beverage.
2) Your lifesaving article of clothing.
3) Your lifesaving movie/book/tv show/music.
4) Your lifesaving friend.
5) Your lifesaving moment.
Please visit one another to read answers, because you never know when you might discover a kindred spirit! Leave a comment here if you play on your blog. Post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment. If learning how would be a lifesaver then click here .
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I am a part-time associate pastor at a mid-sized church. I'm currently 11 weeks pregnant, and hope to schedule a meeting with the senior pastor, the congregation president, and the chair of the personnel committee to tell them about my pregnancy after my first ultrasound, which is coming up in about 10 days. I mentioned to all of them earlier this year, in confidence, that my husband and I were hoping to have a baby, so I don't think the news is going to come as a complete surprise; in fact, I know the personnel chair has even been giving some thought to maternity leave arrangements.
My question is, how is the news of an associate pastor's pregnancy usually announced to the rest of the congregation? Is this something that gets announced on Sunday morning, or does the news spread more organically? If I were a solo pastor I could see sending out a letter to the congregation, letting them know how my maternity leave would be handled, but I'm not sure that is necessary in my case (especially since most of my duties relate to education programming and my leave will fall over the less-active summer months).
Ruth, who blogs at Sunday's Coming, writes:
It’s hard to know what’s ‘usual’ isn’t it – but maybe it helps to hear how it might work – how it has worked for someone else. First of all let me make it clear I am a ‘splurger’ - of course there are times when I can be sensible, measured, and can keep confidences, but when it comes to my ‘stuff’ - especially if it’s good news, I would rather blurt it out to the whole world and have done with it.
I had been in my first church just 3 months when I found out I was pregnant, but since I had made it clear to them that this was my hope... I just couldn’t wait to share the good news. They were great – my daughter was looked for and longed for by the whole congregation, and then goo-ed over and chuckled under the chin by a whole host of new grandmas and grandads: it never occurred to me to do anything other than share with the whole congregation what was happening – when she was due, how I was feeling (especially when I felt sick in early stages, or suffered from short-term memory loss which once made me forget we’d changed the time of the service...), when my maternity leave would start & finish, etc, etc.
I was really fortunate – they were a wonderful group of people and I never had a moment’s hesitation in wanting to share this wonderful event with them. I think this meant they never resented time I spent with my daughter, or changes of plan if she was ill, or the requests I made for baby-sitters.
My advice would be to tell them all as much as you feel comfortable sharing – in a ‘proper’ announcement, so they all know they’re meant to know, and share in it. I hope you are blessed with joy as we were: even now some folk remember the prayers I led at the Christmas service with my baby asleep in my arms...what words could I use to better reveal love incarnate? God bless you.
RevHoney, who sometimes blogs at Somewhere South of Somewhere, offers:
When I was pregnant and in a similar team setting as yours, we found that publishing the good news in the monthly newsletter was the best way for us. I was most comfortable waiting until into the 2nd trimester to make the announcement, and when we had reached that point, I simply shared the news in my monthly column. I didn’t go into detail about maternity leave, but left that for the Personnel team to share with the congregation through the newsletter as the blessed date drew near.
What have others of you done, or what thoughts do you have?
As always, questions for the matriarchs can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
In lieu of ring news...this is Last Call for the BE3!
Reservations Must be received no later than 9 pm Thursday October 29. If you need to fax that thing, please email email@example.com to get the fax number.
All aboard that's going aboard!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
This coming weekend is likely to be a busy one in most liturgical churches, I guess...In the valley and on the hill, we will keep All Saints on Sunday morning, but move to the more reflective and elegaic tone of All Souls in the afternoon, as we welcome back families we've met through funeral ministry...and on Monday there will be the full All Souls Requiem for the departed. I know that in some places, the focus of All Saints carries within it all the faithful departed, the saints of our own communities - and that might be something to work with in preaching.
Of course, you could be using the provision for Proper B26, which would take you to some quite different place in your preaching.
I don't want to conflate the two festivals of All Saints and All Souls (though the lectionary seems intent on encouraging this), but having preached the Revelation 21 reading at at least three of my recent tide of funerals there is alot I could say about John's wonderful vision of restoration and new hope, of the water of life pouring out for the thirsty...But there is a huge attraction in preaching Isaiah, with his promise of a feast for all people, - presaged as it is by the Eucharist. I might, perhaps, simply tell the story of my First Mass, of that sense that when we reached the Sanctus I was joined at the altar by all my own communion of saints, those whom I'd known and loved, and those from long ago whose lives and words had encouraged me on my journey. I might invite my congregation to pause and reflect on those with whom they are connected as the priest says
"Therefore with angels, and archangels and all the company of heaven..."
In fact, at church in the valley it's an All Age Sunday, so we might just find ourselves dishing out endless cardboard halos with the reminder that we are all called to saints...but there must be some better ideas.
Over to you, my friends.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sarah interviewed several individuals whose stories are featured in the book. They are young, not young, married, single, White, Black gay, straight, transgendered, Christians and....a few who would not identify themselves that way. Since the writer's background is Episcopalian, the majority of her interviews were either from that denomination or the UCC. I found myself wondering how she found the women she interviewed. Their stories are humorous, heartbreaking, infuriating--and triumphant. The author does find a degree of healing from the conversations and stories she heard, and she ends on a hopeful note. Sort of.
Let me be honest from the "git-go" and confess that there were things I did not like about the book. Perhaps I will share more in the comments. At times I was perplexed, frustrated, angry, deeply sad, disturbed, impatient, irritated. I would find myself reading a passage and thinking, "Oh, come on!" and wish I had volunteered to lead the discussion on a different book. A nice, simple fun book. I got angry, and then I got depressed, and then....a paragraph, a sentence, a word would leap out at me from the page and I would be caught and held. And I would find myself pondering my own experiences, those of women I know, both theologically "conservative" and progressively "liberal." Was there a common thread?
Trying to distill my thoughts has been difficult. Sentilles divides the book into sections which are divided into chapters, each of which contains at least one powerful paragraph that deserves exploration. I borrowed the book from the library, but if it had been my own copy it would be filled with highlighted sections. I won't try to say something about every chapter, which is what I originally expected to do. There is just too much material that is difficult, challenging, potentially divisive, and potentially transformational.
The Introduction is called, The Most Sexist Hour. The sections are:
Part One: Vocation in which she discussed the "call," the ordination process, mentors, the job search, and being an associate minister.
In Part Two, Incarnation: the Body the author writes about the way language is gender-related, the special challenge that clothing choices can present to the woman minister, sexual issues, and some particular issues encountered by gay or transgendered ministers.
Part Three, Creation: Ministry has some fascinating insights into Catholic Womenpriests (one word--a new one for me), being a minister (noun) and what that has to do with ministry (verb) and concludes with a chapter describing some very non-traditional "church" gatherings created by women.
I started feeling a bit stirred up before I even read the first chapter. Here is a little from the book's introduction, The Most Sexist Hour. After describing the frustrating experience of early seminarian, Antoinette Brown, Sentilles goes on, "Brown's story sounds eerily similar to those told by the women I interviewed...Churches and seminaries and divinity schools and congregations have been doing the same thing to women for hundreds and hundreds of years. For a long time women have been filling pulpits men do not want in places men refuse to live, for salaries men will not accept...If churches have been doing similar things to women for hundreds of years, why do we continue to deny that sexism is a problem? Why do we continue to administer surveys that tell us the same thing again and again? ...Unless there is an explicit, concrete, commitment to remedy what they expose, surveys can be...dangerous...allowing us to look like we are paying attention to look like we are paying attention to discrimination without ever having to do anything about it."
What are your thoughts? Has your denomination administered such surveys? If so, did they change anything? Do more harm than good? Help? Are we talking the talk but not walking the walk?
Sentilles' description of the Episcopalian ordination process was astounding to me. In my own denomination it is altogether too easy (if one is a male) to reach that step. We need, in my opinion, to be more stringent and do more interviews and psychological tests, etc. The Episcopalian process seems to be the opposite end of the spectrum. What were your experiences? Did you find the process to be reasonable? Was it unduly intimidating? For Rev Gals, did you encounter encouragement or discouragement from leadership? Did being female make any difference in what happened?
Women senior or solo pastors are most often found in small churches, in rural areas, in "difficult" and particularly challenging parishes. As a result, many find themselves in associate pastor positions. The stories from that particular chapter horrified me. I'm not currently serving a church, and I've tried to be open to any area I might be able to express my calling, but during that chapter I tossed the book down and said to my husband, "Yow! If these stories are even partly true I NEVER want to be an associate pastor. ESPECIALLY not under a male pastor." The section on mentoring was equally distressing.
It might be difficult or too revealing to discuss that here, but if you can, tell us about associate pastor or mentor experiences. Mostly positive? Mostly negative? Sexist, or egalitarian?
I found myself clenching my jaw at more than one point! The stories in this book were all too familiar. I was surprised, since the book was exclusively about women ministers from mainline traditions (and I am not) to find this to be the case. I had assumed that it was much easier to be ordained, employed, and respected in a denomination that has a large number of women clergy (the United Methodists, for example). Nonetheless, Sentilles notes that some of the women she interviewed started out in more conservative denominations but left for more liberal ones because they were more accepting of women in church leadership. She implies that it is not possible to have a high regard for the veracity of the Bible and still be accepting of women in the pulpit, let alone be loving and accepting of those who are something other than straight heterosexuals. What do you think? Are the generally more "liberal and progressive" denominations the future of women ministers?
There was one interview (I won't say which one) with a minister who was describing her lack of acceptance by her first congregation. As I read the particulars, I found myself thinking, "Well good grief! I would have been one of the congregation members who wasn't happy with you!" If you read the book, did you find that to be the case with anyone?
I found myself wondering, "Should a few of these women have chosen another profession where they can serve people but don't have to believe much of anything and certainly don't have to affirm Christ as savior?" One minister, who is Black and a lesbian, told Sarah that much of the theology of feminist ministers is "not thick enough" and noted the absence of Christ as the center pillar, instead finding it to be justice or social issues. This reminded me of a post from Quotidian Grace a while back about an atheist being accepted as a Presbyterian church member. (She was appalled.)
So are the gospel and social justice inseparable? Two sides of the same coin? I recall a friend once saying, "What is the gospel if it does not engage society?" So what do we do with the tension of personal transformation (what the church used to call "conversions" and the need for action--for faith shown by works, to quote the Epistle of James?
I loved "Liz" who experienced worship in the Disciples of Christ and the Assemblies of God and said, "I'm excited about bridging the chasm between the two...we need progressive evangelical churches." Is it possible to bridge the chasm? (I hope so because I somehow feel I need to try to do that.)
I'd better stop here, just taking time to note that I found the statement, "There is no going back; we have already won!" to be questionable and a bit trite, but the following paragraph made me shout "YES! "
"The Roman Catholic Church can refuse the priesthood to women...Southern Baptists can tell women to submit and be silent...but it is too late. The horse has left the barn."
Any other issues or insights that stood out to you?
Sunday, October 25, 2009
we give you thanks for
and all the blessings that come our way
because You love us.
God, bless us with your love.
in the chaos of this world
poverty of mind, body, spirit
help us to be your hands and heart
restoring order to creation.
God, bless us with your love.
nurture those who weep, comfort
with strong arms sustain us
walk with us in darkness.
God, bless us with your love.
nurture those who seek violoence
by your Holy Spirit may all people
come to know your peace.
God, bless us with you love.
hear us when we call out to you
known and unknown
help us name our fears
and be healed.
God bless us this day with your love.
lift us up on angels wings
that we might respond to God's call
and be the hands and heart of Christ
in this broken world.
God bless us with your love
Saturday, October 24, 2009
The Desert, photo by mompriest
One of my favorite Jewish mystics is Lawrence Kushner. A number of years ago I have had the honor of being in his presence for two days at a clergy conference in Chicago. It was, to say the least, awesome. He is a fabulous story teller and connected deeply with this all Episcopal Clergy group drawing lines of relationship between the rabbinic understanding of scripture and faith and the Episcopal. Here is an excerpt from his book, "Invisible Lines of Connection, Sacred Stories of the Ordinary" Jewish Lights Publishing, 2004.
"I am fascinated that the word 'responsible' has two different meanings. One connotes guilt, blame, punishment, as in 'Who's responsible for this mess?'; the other seems to focus on the present and connotes moral maturity as in, 'She's a very responsible woman.' The former means, 'blame'' the latter draws its meaning from able to respond,' that is 'respons-able.' Thus, one who is guilty but denies it, is not able to respond. And, conversely, one who is not guilty nevertheless might still be responsible. Every day, situations arise which require the action of a responsible person." (page 84)
Our readings this week, I think, point us to look at what it means to "respond" and from that where our "response-ability" is. The readings from Job and Mark seem to point us toward the idea that responding to God transforms us. They especially seem to indicate that responding to suffering, taking action to move through suffering, as both Job and Bartimaeus do, is faithful, and therefore transformative, even, healing.
This is just one direction a preacher might take with the readings this week. There are, I'm sure, many more. Where are you going? And, how can we help?
I have Fair Trade coffee and organic yogurt and granola to share. All of us together will have lots of love and support, ideas and yes, even frustration, to share. We're in this together, friends. Yes, you might say, we're all response-able for breaking open the word of God tomorrow.... So, let's get this party started!
Friday, October 23, 2009
What I didn't realize was who wrote that music, the hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."
"I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people gay; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor."
On this Friday before Reformation Sunday, let's talk about music. Share with us five pieces of music that draw you closer to the Divine, that elevate your mood or take you to your happy place. They might be sung or instrumental, ancient or modern, sacred or popular...whatever touches you.
Some of us even love hymns. (Well, I do.)
Please visit one another to read answers, because you never know when you might discover a kindred spirit! Leave a comment here if you play on your blog. 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, October 22, 2009
Our colleague writes:
I find myself getting busier and busier
(not unexpected given the life I lead as the mom of three elementary
aged children, the wife of a very busy professor who travels a great
deal, and a part time pastor). I begin to feel as though I am on a
racing train. So I will say to myself "OK, I am very busy this week
but next Monday once the girls are all in school I will have time, and
I will get my sermon started, and I will be able to deal with this
very very messy house." And then something happens - a funeral comes
up, or one of the girls gets sick, and I am back to scrambling through
my week, doing everything in a half-baked sort of way, resenting the
fact that my plans have been altered once again, resenting the idea
that I NEVER get caught up, no never, that my children will be wearing
shorts in November since I still haven't had time to get out their
winter clothes, resenting the thought that once again, I didn't get to
research my sermon the way I wanted to or needed to, resenting the
fact that I am waking up at 5:30 in the morning and my mind is racing
and I don't even know what to do first.
This is my life. I know it isn't going to change. The life of a
pastor, and the life of a mom, is "interrupt-driven". So how do I
deal with it all without going absolutely nuts? I walk every day for
an hour before dawn, I spend time with my kids every afternoon when I
pick them up from school - but the sermons don't get written well, the
house is a mess, and my brain is on overdrive.
HELP! please..I need ideas. I need a brain that works...I need to
slow down my racing heart. How do I live in the NOW and still be
thinking of the next sermon, the next eulogy, the next Bible study
class, and not forgetting to pack the gym shoes for the
kindergartner's gym class tomorrow?
From Sunday's Coming:
This question breaks my heart – I can feel my pulse-rate rising with each sentence. I hesitate to even try to reply because I don’t want to come across as the know-all telling a fellow-traveller what to do. But I can’t fail to respond to such a heart-rending level of honesty.
It sounds like you are doing amazingly well in a hugely difficult situation. My ‘little girl’ is now 15 but for over half her life I have been on my own and doing a full-time ministry job – I’m speaking from my own experience when I say there were days I felt totally frazzled, inadequate, and (yes, you used the word) resentful. When I was working I felt guilty I wasn’t at home: when I was at home I felt guilty I wasn’t working.
One phrase that kept me going was to say at the end of a hard week or a hard day ‘I have done the best I can for everyone – church, family & friends – in the time available: God grant me rest tonight and strength tomorrow’.
The hardest thing for me to let go of has been the feeling that as a ‘Minister-Mother’ I should be perfect – or at least good at everything – well-turned out child, unflustered me, tidy home, and a home-made cake for the church event! I found that I had to cut myself some slack, talk to my church about the help I needed, admit to close friends how I felt, and learn to slow down sometimes.
I have NOT got my life completely sorted out, but I’m still standing and happier than I was 10 years ago.
What surprised me most when I talked to people about how badly I felt I was doing was that so many said ‘But we think you cope really well!’ - my feet were paddling like mad, but they only saw the calm swan on the surface. The other great surprise was the number of people who wanted to help: in my case it was to do with offering after-school childcare, evening baby-sitting, and even occasional holidays for my daughter. At other times I’ve had people do meals for me, and the best 3 months of my life were when I had a cleaner! - there is help out there, I feel sure. May God grant you the wisdom to ask for what you need – and give others the grace to support you as you need.
Matriarch Jennifer writes:
Oh wow, what a timely question. I have the luxury of having entered ministry after my children were grown, so I never had to juggle ministry and soccer practice, but I do hear you on the other aspects of the "ministry of interruptions". My mistake over the years has been in thinking that every request made of me was a crisis that needed my attention immediately. I was wrong. Certainly some things, such as funerals and crisis calls from the hospital, need to handled immediately, but a lot of the rest of the "stuff" can wait. There may be people in your church who don't like the fact that you don't "snap to it" when they make a request, but they'll get over it.
It's taken me a very long time to discover the word "No." It's taken me eleven years in ministry to assert my own right to self-care and to realize that without it, my shelf-life in ministry is going to be very short.
So, for example, there is a special Christmas function at your child's school one afternoon, but it takes place during the week that you usually set aside for home communion prior to the holidays. In the past, I would have done the home communion and apologized for missing the "personal" event. Not any more. NO WAY. No one is going to die if they don't get their home communion until the next day, and they will probably love to hear about your child's school event while you visit the next day.
Another example: a funeral comes up and must be dealt with along with Sunday's worship. See if you can delegate the children's story, or the Prayers of the People or another part of the service for Sunday, just to lighten the load because you are busy with the funeral. The worst that can happen is that someone you ask might say no. If so, go to someone else. The funeral will add extra hours to your week regardless of how much you delegate, so be sure to take back those extra hours - the following week. Not next spring, sometime after Easter. Not during Epiphany. Not during July when it's quiet. Next week, when you need to take a breath and take back that extra time. If you don't - all of those overtime hours (in the UCCan, full time ministry is officially described as a 40 hour week) - will build up to the point where you will just never take the lieu time at all.
I found out the hard way that the church will never thank you for a 60 hour week - they will simply absorb it as their "norm" and expect more. YOU are the only one who can set and insist upon boundaries that give the best of yourself in all parts of your life. The church is better off when you're not spinning your wheels at 150 mph every day. Your family benefits when you take back the extra time you put in at work when it's necessary. Most importantly, you benefit when you slow down, enjoy every element of your life and don't have to feel resentful of any of it.
A question for you: When was the last time you took a whole day and just had FUN? - your kind of fun - a day with your girlfriends of shopping and pedicures, a movie, a date night, whatever.....If it's been too long, do it. Soon. You'll be glad you did.
Matriarch The Vicar of Hogsmeade writes:
I hear you. I've been a single mom and full time pastor for more than 10 years. Being flexible without being chaotic can be quite the trick. So, as the saying goes, let me give you my advice, I'm only using some of it ...
At the risk of being too basic, and missing the point, first, get a calendar and use it. I used to use a 1 page per day Daytimer now it's Outlook. I need something that lets me see a month at a time and yet track daily activity, too. I put everything for every person in the family on the calendar. Let the calendar remember all of the stuff so you aren't trying to carry everything in your head at the same time. Use the alarms on your cell phone to remind you or notify you of the next thing. If I need to pick up a kid at 3:00, an alarm tells me at 2:45. Then I work on whatever I need to until I hear the alarm without constantly checking the time. Also, use the calendar to track the time spent for church so you don't over work without knowing how much it is. When you must over work, be sure you compensate later. The church will not take care of you. The church will always take care of itself. You must take care of you. A retired preacher once said to me "As a preacher, your inbox will never be empty. When it's time to go home, go home."
Then, laying aside the organizational/time tracking part, figure out what is most important to you and what you can tell yourself to let go. For example, long ago when I couldn't get everything done, I decided that house work would not keep me from spending time with my kids. So, until I could afford to hire help, our house was "passable," not sparkling (and now it's sparkling every other week on Tuesdays). And, even today, most of the time clean laundry is found in a basket or on a hanger close to the dryer rather than in drawers. My mom used to give me grief over such things & I said, "My kids are only this age once. I'm playing UNO with them now while they'll still play with me. I'll have a museum house when they're gone." It wasn't that I didn't want an immaculately clean house. It was a decision I made to keep sane and I didn't/don't give myself a hard time about it. Not everything has to be done well (or "right") to be good enough.
So, give yourself a break, too. While your sermons may not be printed in Christian Century, I bet there are people every week who hear the Word of the Lord. And when there are funerals, I'm sure they receive comfort. Do what you can do and trust the Holy Spirit to have your back.
You are the only one who can make the choices that will give you peace. Be ruthless in deciding what you really can do and how you will prioritize it. Look honestly at the things that give you joy, peace, & the other fruits of the spirit. Try to minimize the things that cause resentment. (I don't do breakfast meetings. I am not a morning person & I resent them so I don't agree to them. I shamelessly use getting my children to school as my excuse if needed. Usually, "That doesn't work for me." is enough.) Then stick to your decisions until it is time to change based on the foundational principals of what is important to you -- not the moment of the day. You have a whole life to live, it all does not have to be done now.
Thank you, dear Matriarchs, for sharing your wisdom. I have to admit that found myself wondering if I ought to hire a cleaning service! (Seriously - I'm very interested to read that piece of advice from more than one Matriarch. I'm the only Mom my kids have, but the house could be cleaned by anybody!)
So, what about the rest of you? How do you handle trying to achieve some sort of balance, or at least sanity? I know that for myself, I have had to let go of the idea of "balance" as something that is ever going to be achievable in some sort of perfect state - the idea of balancing it all just became one more burden of unrealistic expectation on my life. We're interested to hear thoughts from the rest of you. I will be away at a meeting (actually a mini-retreat after I drop the kids off at school!) but will check back in later today.
We have several questions in the queue right now, so if you've written and are wondering when we'll get to yours, know that it will be in the next few weeks. As always, if you have a question, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Sophia shares realizations and rejoicings from her recent "quinceanera consecration" as bishop in her new Independent Catholic community.
Jo(e) has a heartbreaking story of abuse and powerlessness.
In a similar vein, Cheesehead had a fantastic sermon in observation of Domestic Violence Awareness Week. She also shares a personal situation of relationship gone wrong.
I am angry.
Songbird's post tells truth about her roots and family.
Jan's post Liturgy of Life asks the important questions, the hard questions.
Seeking Authentic Voice brings this circle of sharing to a close, giving a snapshot of a quiet day , one involving plenty of process.
Holding hands with you all in the ring, reaching out to others as well...
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I'll hope to be able to engage more fully and fruitfully later today, but for now will leave you with the great question that Jesus poses to Bartimaeus, the one he asks each of us too
"What do you want me to do for you?"
Asking and answering that should provide ample sermon fodder, I think...
Monday, October 19, 2009
Our BE Three presenter will be Nanette Sawyer, the organizing pastor of Wicker Park Grace, a faith community that meets in an art gallery in Chicago. Among the speakers at the recent Christianity 21 conference, Nanette also represents the Presbyterian Church (USA) on the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches and is the author of the book, Hospitality--the Sacred Art: Discovering the Hidden Power of Invitation and Welcome (Skylight Paths, 2008.) Download free samples of the book here.
Nanette appeared this summer on BlogTalkRadio's The God Complex, hosted by ring member Carol Howard Merritt and Bruce Reyes-Chow.
BE Three will take place on Norwegian Cruise Line's ship, Norwegian Sky, departing Miami, Florida on Monday, April 19, 2010, with stops at Grand Bahama Island, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay. We return to Miami early on Friday, April 23rd.
Cost including cruise and program for a shared cabin will be $432 for an inside stateroom or $482 for oceanview. A deposit of $200 will be due by October 25th, with the balance due January 20, 2010. We require a minimum of 15 participants and currently have space for 23 at these rates. We cannot guarantee the prices will remain the same for additional staterooms.
Please email email@example.com to receive a brochure, which will include more specifics. We hope you will join us to explore the sacred art of hospitality!
Your BE Three Planning Committee,
Mary Beth, RevHoney, Vicar of Hogsmeade, Zorra and Songbird
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Lord, You have always given
Bread for the coming day,
and though I am poor,
Today I believe.
Lord, You have always given
strength for the coming day
And though I am weak,
Today I believe.
Lord, You have always given
Peace for the coming day,
and though I am of anxious heart,
Today I believe.
Lord, You have always kept
Me safe in trials,
And now, tried as I am,
Today I believe.
Lord, You have always marked
The road for the coming day
And though it may be hidden,
Today I believe.
Lord, You have always lightened
This darkness of mine,
And though the night is here,m
Today I believe.
Lord, You have always spoken
When time was ripe,
And though You be silent now,
Today I believe.
From the Celtic Daily Prayer: A Northumbrian Office 1994 MarshallPickering, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Good morning, preachers!
In my corner of the country it's frosty and a busy day lies ahead.
I feel the need for coffee. Lots of it.
How is it with you? Where are you headed, in life and on paper?
If you need inspiration, don't forget our lectionary discussion from Tuesday.
Join us in the comments and share what you're preaching, how you're handling the children's message or whatever else might be on your mind. And keep the virtual goodies going; let's start with some cinnamon toast, okay?
Friday, October 16, 2009
1. What is your favorite footwear at this time in your life?
2. What was the craziest shoe, boot, or sandal you ever wore?
3. What kind of shoes did you wear in your childhood?
4. How do you feel most comfortable? Barefoot, flip-flops, boots, or what?
5. What kind of socks do you like, if any?
Bonus: Anything you want to share about feet or footwear.
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: what you want the link to say goes here For a complete how-to, click here.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I serve as Associate Pastor in a large, suburban congregation, and I live about 2 miles from the church. Parishioners that live in my neighborhood know which house is mine; the vast majority of the congregation never drives past my house, and would have no reason to. On the ballot this fall in our state is a referendum to retain our current "Domestic Partnership" law, which grants the rights of marriage to gay and lesbian couples, as well as to adults over 62 who don't wish to marry, largely for financial reasons. I'm in favor of this law and a few politically active members of my congregation have given me a sign to put in my yard advertising my support. Because my congregation is part of the "Reconciling in Christ" movement (meaning that we openly welcome GLBT folks), I doubt that too many people would be surprised by my support, even if most of them never see the sign, but this situation makes me wonder about the principle of the thing: Is it appropriate for a pastor to post political yard signs? What sorts of guidelines would you suggest?
Sunday's Coming writes:
I have never displayed a poster for any particular political party at my house as I don’t want people to pigeonhole me and stop listening to the gospel because they think I support the ‘wrong’ one. However, I have displayed posters for particular causes, if they are consistent not only with my personal views but also with what people hear from me in my preaching week-by-week.
In short, if you’d wear it on a T-shirt or preach it from the pulpit, why not put it on a poster at your house?
I think your question about raising one’s political voice largely depends upon what you know about your congregation. Have you displayed bumper stickers on your car? What was the response? Have you worn buttons that convey a message of some sort? What was the response? I think a yard sign on your own property is much the same. I’ve always served politically diverse congregations (and have been a manse dweller) so I’ve unilaterally refrained from signs, buttons and bumper stickers for that reason.
Your setting and situation may be different….
What about the rest of you? How have you handled this? As for me, I serve a University church in a medium-sized town, where we own our own home about two miles from the church. While I would never wear a political button to church or put one on my car which will be seen in the church parking lot, I feel like my home is different (no one has to come by my house, whereas if I displayed my political preferences on church grounds, every member would be subject to them) and I have felt free to put yard signs up supporting candidates for president. In my previous context - a very small rural town (population 1100), where I lived in a parsonage - I never did so. Because I lived in church-owned property, I would've been concerned that people would have thought I was speaking for the church.
Let's hear from the rest of you. What have you done, and why?
As usual, if you have questions for the Matriarchs, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I know at least 2 of our membership attended Christianity 21 last week.
Still waiting to hear from Rachel, but RevHipChick posted a couple of reflections here and here.
Did anyone else attend, and if so, do you have comments to share?
Otherwise, opening it up: What are you doing or planning for continuing education and development these days? (Note that the RevGals BE3 deadline is coming right up...! see the sidebar link for more information.)
And if you AREN'T planning or participating in something like this....what do you NEED in this area? What direction would you like to go? Speculation and fantasy are welcome!
Looking forward to hearing from you...
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
However, you may well be looking at Trinity 19,, a quite different set of readings. If I were preaching these, I might want to consider our need to be recognised as special, represented by the "me first" clamour of James and John, and I would probably have told the stories of one or two quiet saints I've known, who washed, unnoticed, the feet of everyone whom they encountered. I'd invite the congregations to consider those who minister like that among us, and to ask themselves what sort of ministry they are called to. I'd pick up the theme of kenosis, of God's self emptying, that we find in the Hebrews passage and I hope we would sing the Servant Song, which reminds us of how very hard it can be to accept ministry too
"Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant too"
That's where I am this morning - as I rush off to the first of this week's funerals...What about you...Evagelism? healing? kenosis?....or a different direction entirely?........
Monday, October 12, 2009
I hope you'll answer in the comments!
And, it's not too late to sign up for BE Three. Read more about it here. The registration deadline is just two weeks from now! You do not have to be a ring member to attend. Send us an email to request a brochure and registration form. Hope to see you there!
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I sang this piece by Bernadette Farrell last summer, and listened to it again these last few days as I've driven hither and yon.
"All that is hidden will be made clear, all that is dark now will be revealed..."
No singing for me today, but I'd love to share in your community's music vicariously - so tell us what you sang!
Oh my God, where are you?
I am lost and so alone.
Hear my prayer.
Oh my. God? Where am I?
My hope. My only hope.
Hear my cry, my plea
Hear my prayer.
In you I put my trust.
In you I lay my life.
You. My prayer.
Help me to love
You, neighbor, self.
hoping, more than
hope in you.
This day, yesterday
hear my prayer.
Cross posted on RevGalsPrayerPals and Seeking Authentic Voice
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I've got the fair trade coffee on (the only kind my step-son will drink), and and also hot water for Good Earth Tea. I'm actually not preaching today, but I peeked at the texts (had a Bible study on Wednesday), and am musing about impossible things, like camels going the the eye of a needle, rich people getting into the kingdom of God, the Twins winning the world series. (But all things are possible with God, right?)
Perhaps you are musing on the double-edged nature of the scriptures, or you are shaking your fist with Amos, or you are questioning with Job. Where are you this morning, where are you flashes of insight, where are your struggles? Pull up a chair. There's always room for one more.
Today, I will be checking in periodically from the Celebration of Faith and Writing. Blessings to all.
Friday, October 09, 2009
I am pre-posting this because Friday I will be at my new Independent Catholic church's yearly Synod, being welcomed and conditionally re-consecrated to episcopal ministry for this jurisdiction. I leave in a few hours and am spending the morning packing and making last preparations for my preaching, presiding, and teaching during the week. Exciting stuff but also nervous making with less time to prepare than I would prefer and lots of new people to meet--especially because, in accord with the pioneering status of ordained Catholic women, 95% or more will be men and I am not sure how receptive some may be to the Christian feminist theological/liturgical perspective!
This has me thinking of the special rites of passage in our lives which we participate for ourselves or in which we support and bless others: baptism, confirmation, marriage, ordination, graduation, funerals, etc. Such important days, so exciting and joyous, but also sometimes anxiety provoking or deeply painful....So, this week, please share five memories of such sacred moments with God and her holy people from your life and the lives of those you love.
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, October 08, 2009
Recently I had a very unnerving experience happen during worship and it has caused me to consider our congregation's lack of preparation when it comes to emergencies or disasters. A mentally ill man whom none of us knew disrupted our worship service, behaving very erratically; he seemed to be having some sort of paranoid episode. For the sake of space, I won't go in to all the details, but suffice it to say that I and others were concerned about the potential for violence, including gun violence (among other things, he pulled out of his bag several spent 40-caliber shells and lined them up on the pew). A member called the police, who arrived quickly but remained in the narthex observing (we have windows from the narthex looking into the sanctuary; I could see a police officer and he could see the disturbed man, but nobody else could see the police officer; the officer would've removed the man from worship but our ushers asked him to wait, as the man had calmed down by the time the police arrived).
All ended well (the man left without incident after the sermon, and the police followed him out of the building to talk with him; they had dealt with him previously because he had recently caused some disturbances in local business), but I was shaken up and it made me realize just how unprepared we are for an act of violence or really any disaster (like a fire). We are a downtown church with an active homeless ministry; we are not unaccustomed to dealing with people with mental illness. A number of homeless men, some with mental illness and/or addiction issues, regularly worship with us. We believe very much in the supreme value of hospitality and in the value of opening ourselves to relationship with people who seem different from us. This is the first time I have ever felt unsafe. Every time this man reached into his backpack, I thought of Fred Winters, the Baptist pastor in Illinois who was shot and killed by a mentally ill man unknown to the congregation, in the middle of worship.
I do not want to be paranoid. I certainly do not want our members being suspicious of anyone who is unfamiliar. I want to navigate between being open, loving, and hospitable, and being responsible and safe. I am wondering if any of you have any kind of protocol or procedures in place for handling such disturbances, and if so, could you share what those are? Are there other measures that you personally or the congregation as a whole has put in place to protect yourselves (during worship or otherwise)? We regularly call the cops when we have disturbances on the grounds during the week. It was this kind of thing happening in the middle of worship (and when children were present) that really seemd to throw us for a loop. Especially alarming was the fact that our nursery and children's education wing were both unsecured when this man left worship. I would so appreciate any wisdom any of you might offer.
Matriarch Jennifer offers:
An emergency procedure of any kind is really important to have in place when a large number of people are in the church buildings, as is a child protection policy.
A small group of sensitive church folks could easily form a task group around safety/emergency procedures. I’d suggest contacting your local police and fire departments for some guidance, and a local mental health agency for the same. We did just that a few years ago, and it was a very good experience.Mompriest writes:
As always, if you have a question you'd like the matriarchs to address, please send us an email at email@example.com.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Whether it's raining, getting colder, leaves turning...or for those of you on the flip side, the advent of Spring...let's have today's festival be a shout-out about your location and your weather!
I thoughe we could go visual today, and have a RevGals Frappr Weather Map:
Powered by Platial
All you have to do is click "join" on the top of the map box, make an account (if you don't have one) and give us your weather report for TODAY. A photo is a bonus! (Hint: click on each pin to see the weather report!)
AND, aside from the weather...If you have some great blogging to report (yours or someone else's), please share it! You can post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation in the comment box: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to,
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Texts for the week are here
I've just come in from taking the funeral for a lady of 96 years, who apparently had a problem holding on to presents...Whenever she received one, she enjoyed it for a while but quickly passed it on to the next person whom she imagined might be in need. She'd clearly mastered the art of sitting light to material goods, of jettisoning the excess baggage that prevented camels from getting through the Needle's Eye Gate in old Jerusalem.
Except - hang on - didn't someone tell me at Greenbelt a year or two ago that there WAS no such gate? That all our comfortable accommodations with the text are actually based on a myth...That's a hard thing to preach, as I sit working on my computer (one of several in the house), in my comfortable, spacious vicarage, surrounded by all the things that I own just for the pleasure of it,rather than because they are needed.
I'm right with the young man - I have so many things I value, things that I'd struggle to let go of...I'm not sure if I'll have the courage to preach on the gospel text this week. I'd feel myself neatly boned and filletted, my own inconsistencies exposed by the two edged sword of Scripture.
But what comes across in both Old Testament and Gospel this week is that need to focus
"Seek the Lord and live...Seek good and not evil, that you may live..."
"What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
One question...the most important of all...
The question I'd like my congregation to ponder comes by way of a supplementary...
What do YOU need to do to make this real..?
In the wake of Harvest gratefulness last weekend this is the way my thoughts are tending...though I might yet go with an exploration of how we read Scripture, and what we expect of it, what we allow it to do with us...The Book that Reads Me...hmmmn...
What about you?
Monday, October 05, 2009
At http://chelleysteapot.blogspot.com/. This is my revgals connected blog which was started during my curacy and was a bit neglected over the last few months, but I'm getting going again! I also blog... in a neglectful way... at http://wibsite.com/chelley.
Hmmm... wow, this is where I try and remember what will seem really obvious when I've finished this! From a Christian perspective I've enjoyed http://www.reallivepreacher.com/ and http://elizaphanian.blogspot.com.... and lots more, but my blog reading has been a bit sparse lately too. My mission will be to go out there and get inspired again! From other interests I'm afraid I have to confess to a bit of a geeky interest in London (best city in the world, though I am biased!) and London Underground of all things! So, http://diamondgeezer.blogspot.com, Http://geofftech.co.uk/iblog (a Londoner now Stateside) and http://london-underground.blogspot.com, are particular favourites!
Being inspired, the laughter of young children, beautiful countryside, satisfaction in even the small things of ministry, sunsets and sunrises, early mornings, birdsong, being a mum, music, time to be immersed in a good book, the thought of what's to come, sharing God...
Waves, birdsong, children's laughter, the voices of loved ones, violins, God's 'voice'... those echoes of the things that bring me joy!
I expect this will be the truly predictable answer, but I really would love to hear "well done good and faithful servant!" You see I'm not very good at thinking 'well done' but though I live in the knowledge of God's love, I'm rather too good at imagining him as a rather disappointed parent who notices my shortcomings, lazy times and lack of inspiration as much as I do! I was reminded recently of the times of discovery a long way back in my journey when the sense of being a loved, precious child was at the forefront of my walk and has been a bit overlooked in the years of ministry... replaced almost with one who expects more of me than I can produce. And yet, how well He knows me! Phew!
6. You have up to 15 words, what would you put on your tombstone?
Hmmm... "I told you so" would be the tongue in cheek answer (referring to what comes next rather than what sent me off!). Perhaps simply "she loved God and she loved us".
Can I have a British one please? I've looked at the screen for a while and come up blank, so I'd better not rely on producing fiction as an alternative career... but if I could come up with something like Jane Austen's wonderful "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." (Pride and Prejudice) then I'd be more than a little chuffed!
Blue. I don't know why! Should I have a profound reason for that choice... I think my writing looks nicer in blue! And now I come to think of it I do generally rather like blue, it is after all one of the colours of Spurs! (Tottenham Hotspur - North London football club and the greatest team of all!).
None at the moment. But if I was choosing to subscribe from the magazines I like to read every so often (when finances allow) then I'd go for the BBC History Magazine, Country Living (despite living in an Industrial, built up part of England, just east of London!), Country Walking, or Period Living and Traditional Homes!
Seeing people who's lives are lived near, and touch, mine grow in faith, purpose, love and hope and helping them along the way (as they often help me). Not only those who have been 'given' me to care for in the church and parish but to be someone who is a blessing wherever! (That's not meant to sound pious!). And aside from that, I'd love to fill my thoughts with things that inspire me, give me ideas, bring me closer to God... and if it's not being greedy - England winning the World Cup would be great! Though not really my achievement that one!
Because the window's open next to me.
Well, going back to what I said in number 5... the day when TeenSon (now 18) was about 4 years old and we were walking along the alleyway behind our then home to get to the Supermarket at the other end. He was skipping along happily ahead of me and I remember watching him with such a feeling of love and joy, and all of a sudden I 'heard' a voice say "that's just how I feel about you" - it almost stopped me in my tracks... God could feel that level of love and delight over me, and it had a profound affect! I need to remember it more often!
13. Anything else you've always wanted to be asked?
"Would you come and preach at our church?" (I might be an inspirer then!)
"Would you pray with me?" (Because it's a sign of openness to God)
"Would you like a cup of tea?" Thanks for 'listening'... thanks for being 'RevGals'!
love Chelley x
vaughnblog.blogspot.com Another Unfinished Symphony (We also have 3 blogging cats... Henry and Tiria blog at Mouse + Cat = Blog http://tiriacat.blogspot.com/ and Polgara, our senior citizen feline, deigns to respond at http://catduchess.blogspot.com/
Becky, a friend, homeschooler and blogger http://www.goldenacornhomeschool.com/
My orthodox friend, Debbi homeschooled up to 6 at one time (not worthy!!) http://debd.wordpress.com/
Emerging Women.. http://www.emergingwomen.us/ and Beatitudes Society... http://www.beatitudessociety.org/blog remind me that I'm in this for an all-consuming purpose.
Christians for Biblical Equality has a blog "the Scroll"... http://blog.cbeinternational.org/
Cake Wrecks... http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/
The Buckeye Blog... http://www.thebuckeyeblog.com/ and Block O Nation http://blog.blockonation.com/ AND... TBDBITL... http://tbdbitl.osu.edu/ (because I do NOT get Buckeye coverage here in the DC area)
Family, Music, Friends and chocolate. Always Chocolate.
The surf on a "real" beach (no boardwalks, vendors, puke-rides... just the beach!)
5. What do you hope to hear once you enter the pearly gates?
I love you.
6. You have up to 15 words, what would you put on your tombstone?
Deb doesn't live here anymore.
7. Write the first sentence of your own great American novel.
Shredding her Turabian handbook one page at a time, the new pastor in town puzzled over why the dogs were picketing the manse...
8. What color do you prefer your pen?
Black roller ball
9. What magazines do you subscribe to?
Sojourners, Christianity Today, Consumer Reports, and a couple of homebrewing ones I don't remember the names of (for the Bearded Brewer's enjoyment.)
10. What is something you want to achieve in this decade?
Well, finishing my M.Div. and actually being employed as a pastor would be nice... to see our kids through college, beginning the settle into the places God wants them, and maybe, just MAYBE, renovate the kitchen before we move.
11. Why are you cool?
Don't know as I am. But then, I never really tried to be.
12. What is one of your favorite memories?
Those "newborn" moments when our girls were born.
13. Anything else you've always wanted to be asked?
Q. Why now?
A. Why not?
Rev. Deb Vaughn
1/3 less serious than your usual pastor...
Sunday, October 04, 2009
I didn't make it to church today but we might have sung this...! it's suggested by Oremus for the tie-in to the Hebrews text.
I love this series of videos from the BBC's Songs of Praise. Everyone looks so alive and present!
Blessed Sunday to you all!
at the time of death
hold us in your embrace, sustain us with your grace
Loving God, through times of great joy in life
healing of mind, body, or spirit
hold us in your embrace, sustain us with your grace
God of our mothers and fathers
God of bread and wine
God of morning and night
God of water, sun, earth, air
God of all
We give you thanks for all the gifts of life.
God of all
Bless our lives
bless those we love
animals of kinds
great and small
Help us to care for the earth, your own creation.
We ask this through the great love
of your son, our brother,
the vine, the branches,
the cup, the hand
Cross-posted at RevGalsPrayerPals and Seeking Authentic Voice
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Well, as the liturgy continued in a super silent sanctuary, I suddenly heard a very distinctive sound - - POP! Hssssss.... Rattle rattle (Doesn't work so well typing it out, does it?) Well, anyway, I knew that sound. It was definitely a Coke bottle. My head popped up in an instant. Who the heck was pouring a drink at a time like this? My head returned to its proper position, but when I heard the noise again it snapped up much faster.
Then I saw it. The Coke bottle. (HA! I was right!) But it wasn't in the hands of an unruly worshipper; it was in the hands of the pastor! There he was, pouring the Coke into the chalice and all of the little individual cups. In a land of no refrigeration and definitely no alcohol (a STRONG no-no for Presbyterians in Ghana, even in communion) Coke was the safest, cheapest, and most readily available liquid to use in communion. Welch's grape juice would have been worth it's weight in gold.
I have to tell you, when I went to seminary a few years later, I had a very different answer to the often used case study question, "What would you say to the youth group when they ask you if they can use Coke and pizza for a communion service?"
So, not much to do with the texts this week, but I had to share my favorite World Communion Sunday story!!! I'll make sure the Coke (and diet) is flowing today for any who come to prepare. Join us in the discussions and we'll what we have together!
Friday, October 02, 2009
To put it in crude terms I was blown away by the by the deep sense of God's presence, of gentleness, of holiness and purity. Today as I reflect upon the experience I recognise that there have been other places and other times when I have experienced a tangible touch of God. I wonder if it was because the message that Therese had is so much needed today, she experienced God as a God of love, and encouraged others to draw closer...
How about you, where do you find God's peace and presence, is there:
1. A place that holds a special memory?
2. A song that seems to usher you into the Holy of Holies?
3.A book/ poem/ prayer that says what you cannot?
4. How do you remind yourself of these things at times when God seems far away?
5.Post a picture/ poem or song that speaks of where you are right now in your relationship with God...
No bonus this week, I think that this F5 enough on its own....
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, October 01, 2009
Our second question asks more specifically about preaching in the context of divorce in the congregation.
Matriarch Sunday's Coming shares her hard-won wisdom:
Ok – this is a very personal response because when I was going through a marriage break up & then divorce there were so many possible ways to get hurt or helped – and it wasn’t always people in the church who did the helping! So this is very much from the ‘person’s’ rather than the ‘pastor’s’ point of view:
- I needed people to talk to about what I was going through. I didn’t want to burden my parents, I didn’t want my child to know what was happening until there was something definite to say. When I tried to talk to one person I trusted in the church the answer was a very curt “I’m sure you’ll work thing out” - looking back maybe her own marriage wasn’t so sure at the time & she just couldn’t handle the issue. I turned to my (non-church as it happened) friends – they were brilliant, they never said “You ought to stay together” or “ you ought to split up” they said things like “that sounds tough” and “anytime you need to talk” and “come and have a drink!”.
2. When finally we decided to split up we talked to our daughter together. We tried to answer all her questions, but also to be honest about not really knowing why our marriage hadn’t worked “we just can’t live happily in the same house anymore” - but we reassured her “this is not your fault – it is mummy and daddy’s problem” and “we both still love you and we will always be your mummy and daddy even when we live in different houses and you will see each of us and have TWO bedrooms” (she was 6 at the time). When people at church talked to me about ‘the situation’ in front of my daughter I made sure I included her in the conversation and used the same kind of language “her daddy is looking for a different place for him to live and she will be at his house some of the week and at my house some of the week”.
3. I did NOT appreciate people saying to me, when I announced the divorce ‘this is terribly sad’ - actually it was really painful living through the breakdown of the marriage (something church people did not want to talk about) but having made the decision, the divorce was actually the best option for us. I wanted to hear “can we help make it easier?” not “oh dear, what a pity...”.
4. On the subject of announcing the divorce, I know it’s a bit different when you’re the minister, but I think it helps the church to be told something definite – a wise friend helped me put together a statement which I took to the elders’ meeting, and then to the whole church, That way everyone knows the basics and there’s no need for speculation.
5. Please can we preach something a bit more subtle than ‘marriage is good’ . Good marriage is good. Bad marriage is not good. Though I still believe in love and still am happy to marry people. It just doesn’t always work out & we can make divorced people feel 100 times worse by heaping on the guilt.
Navigating a good pastoral course through the choppy waters of divorce within a close-knit congregation can be very challenging. Thinking about the Word proclaimed when it feels all too relevant is challenging, too, regardless of the topic!
With respect to the preacher (the question regarding avoiding or embracing the lectionary), I think Mark 10’s teaching (or the Hebrew Scripture lectionary passage for next Sunday from Job) is stern stuff whether or not one is aware of a particular sensitivity in the congregation. In other words, I would expect that this would be a challenging passage anytime, despite your knowledge of a difficult situation in the congregation. Not knowing whether you seek to preach on the gospel lectionary passage only each week, or if you seek to address all of the lectionary passages, surely there’s a way to preach a word of hope and good news, challenging as that may be. (I am finding the Feasting on the Word series of commentaries to be exceedingly helpful with respect to challenging passages or very familiar ones.) Trust your instincts. You know your congregation, and know whether Mark 10:2-16 would be good for them to reflect upon—or if it would be better to shine a little light on Job, the psalm, or the passage from Hebrews!
About the pastor’s role regarding the family seeking pastoral care surrounding a possible divorce, I think it’s important to contact both spouses very soon to express your concern. I think it’s very appropriate to say to each that you’re not there to take sides, but to be supportive of each one at a difficult time. Let them share with you what form that pastoral care might take. You may find that one spouse seeks a prayer partner, while the other wishes to talk. It would be very appropriate to express your concern for their children, which may be one of the best offers you can extend. (See below for another best practice!) Have good referrals available for licensed counselors, should they express that need for themselves or their children. Be cautious about seeking to provide a lot of counseling, unless your training and time allow you to do so. Be a good listener, and take your cues from them. Ask them if you can check in with them periodically (then do it!) and if you think they have a concern about the “talk” that you anticipate others will engage in, determine, with their help, what you have permission to share with others. In all things, whatever the struggle or challenge, respond to questions with a statement like…. “I’m permitted to share this about the _______________ (insert situation here—with permission.) or, assuming that they’re asking because they want to be helpful say, “Gee, Suzie/Sam, I know you’re concerned about _________, but I don’t know that I have his/her/their permission to share right now. When and if I’m given the green light, I’ll be happy to let you know how you can best be helpful.” Do recognize that finding a path for both spouses to stay involved in the same congregation during or after a divorce is exceptionally rare, unless it’s a very large congregation. While it may or may not be the best outcome to have both partners remain, should the couple decide that it’s not possible for both to worship in the same congregation, you can play a really wonderful and healing role in helping one or both find a way to engage with a new church home that’s sensitive and supportive.
As always, if you have questions you would like the Matriarchs to address, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.