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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Gaelic Blessing

My daughter Ladybug and I are tremendously enjoying singing in the choir together at our new parish. The musical level is high enough that I am pleasantly challenged to get back in serious vocal shape, and the director and members are kind enough that she and the other child member feel lovingly welcomed--a perfect combination!

This lyrical piece by John Rutter, sung here by the Edinburgh singers, was our anthem this morning--a new setting for me of a long-loved text. As I searched YouTube for the right arrangement Ladybug spontaneously began liturgical dancing around the living room, a joyous visual reinforcement of the peace that it brings me.

What hymns did you sing today in worship? Which songs bring you peace?

Sunday Prayer: The Tongue of Mortals, Epiphany 4C

Leader Creator God, we come before you-
Asking prayers for those who
All known to you in the womb
May we lead as you desire

Leader Incline Your heart, O gracious God, and teach us to love
Response May our heart be Yours.

Leader Holy One, we come before you -
a people who see in a mirror, dimly
shards of lives
hidden in our blindness.
Help us to see as You see

Leader Incline Your heart, O gracious God, and teach us to love
Response May our heart be Yours.

Leader God of Mercy, we come before you –
Speaking the tongue of mortals yet
Deaf to the
Hidden in our silence
Help us to hear as You hear

Leader Incline Your heart, O gracious God, and teach us to love
Response May our heart be Yours.

Leader Gentle God, we come before you-
Giving thanks for all our blessings
the gift of life
all we care for this day
Help us to be Your Hands

Leader Incline Your heart, O gracious God, and teach us to love
Response May our heart be Yours.

Crossposted on RevGalPrayerPal and SeekingAuthenticVoice

Saturday, January 30, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party - Is there a doctor in the house?

Quick digression - - Who's your all-time favorite TV or movie doctor???

OK, so my title is a bit cheesy, but I couldn't resist. I also can't wax poetically on how it relates to the Scripture, because, well, it very well may not. I'm a week behind many of you in the lectionary since I took a detour for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. When I did that, and when I saw this week's text, I decided to skip this one and go back to pick up last week's! Call me a cheater! I can take it!

So anyway, here we are with Luke. It starts with the crowd amazed at his gracious words, not a bad reception I think. But it ends with everyone in a rage and driving him out of town. What I notice quickly (in my non-studying of this passage) is that he didn't tick them off so much by claiming the Isaiah words as being about him, but in what he said later. He picked a fight with them! They didn't reject him first, but he told them they would reject him then they did. Different than the way this rejection appears in other gospels. Just something I noticed, but nothing I'm preaching on, so good luck with that!

Jeremiah's call - - that's a good one. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you...." I love also the imagery of the LORD touching his mouth. Good stuff to run with here, too.

I'm not much of a Psalm preacher. I made myself do them for Lent 2 years ago, and I haven't touched one since. You're on your own there!

But 1 Cor. 13, don't we all dream of preaching this NOT at a wedding? I have to say the first line in my 1 Cor 13 standard wedding sermon is about how Paul wasn't writing it for a wedding. I like to just de-bunk that from the start!

Anyway, that's the quick run-through. We're starting to move into Annual Meeting season, so prayers will be offered for several of those, I'm sure. Any others that we can share as we encourage each other in preparing and sharing the Word? Thanks to all who shared their congregational prayer concerns with me for last week. It was AWESOME to pray for so many churches in our worship celebrating Christian unity.

As always, join us in the comments. I'll have homemade pancakes to share even before I post in the morning, I'm sure. Thank my husband, not me. I don't cook on Saturday morning. I'm lucky to get out of bed to eat them! Wel

Welcome, welcome everyone!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Five: Social Media

I had the joy of spending time with Songbird last weekend, someone I would have never met had it not been for the blogosphere. Now we keep in touch using a large variety of methods: blog (hers a lot, mine not so much lately), facebook, twitter, text messaging, chat and email. So far there has been no skype.

It got me to thinking of the pros and cons of these relatively new means of communication and interconnecting and so I ask you the following:

1) What have been the benefits for you of social networking (blog, twitter, facebook, etc...)

2) Which medium do you use the most? Or if you use them all, for what do you use each of them?

3) If you could invent a networking site (with no limits on your imagination), what would it provide? What would it not provide?

4) Who have you met that you would not have met if it were not for the 'miracle' of social networking?

5) Who do you secretly pray does not one day try to 'friend/follow' you?

BONUS: What was the most random/weird/unsettling/wonderful connection you made that would not have happened if it were not for the ease of which we can find each other in the computer realm?

As ever, let us know in the comments if you play at your blog. And you'll get more visitors if you add a direct link. For a complete how-to, click here.

Please visit one another to read answers, and I will catch up eventually!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - "Part-Time" Ministry

This week's question is one that many of us have grappled with over the years, and one that is possibly not ever quite settled.
I am assigned to a church as a 3/4 time local pastor. It is a small church with an average attendance of about 75-80. (2 services each Sunday a traditional service and a contemporary service)
Full-time pastors are expected to work 40-60 hours a week. But we are all "on call" 24/7. Is there an easy (or easier) way to figure out if we are working too much or not enough -other than keeping track of every minute we are working?
And is anything having to do with the church considered "work?" Prayer meetings, required educational classes, funerals of church members and of non-church members, visiting, homes and hospitals, community "face time", ministerial associations, accountability groups, visits with a mentor, nursing home worship services...and of course preaching, preparing sermons, planning for the coming weeks and months and meetings, secretarial work if there is no secretary or if the hours of the secretary are limited...
How do you figure it all out and not overdo? I've been told by my superintendant to watch my hours and not to do too much. How does one not do "too much?" When things need to be done, they need to be done...

PS: I do not have another job other than this- I don't know how part-time pastors do it if they have another job on the side and have a family...
I (earthchick) don't think we ever fully "figure it all out." I think it's a constant and organic process of determining priorities (both at church and in our personal lives) and trying to be faithful. For me, being faithful means learning when to say "no" - as well as when to say "yes." That requires working towards a clear sense of what is actually the work you are called to do, as opposed to just responding to everything that anyone else thinks is urgent.

I currently serve 3/4-time as a co-pastor with my spouse (who is also 3/4-time) in a medium-size church. My baseline of visible hours (office hours, church services, board meetings, hospital visits, programs, and the like) tends to be 25+ hours. Then there are what I think of as my "invisible" hours - the hours I spend working at home on my sermon, the time I spend doing other prep at home, phone calls at home, conversations with my ministry partner at home, etc. When the invisible hours are added in, that means that, for me 3/4-time is 30-45 hours a week, depending on the week. That seems about right, when full-time pastors generally put in 40-60 hours.

Obviously, I do not see my job as a 30-hour a week job - that's usually the low end of what I put in. But as a salaried professional, I see my work as something along the lines of what a lawyer, doctor, school superintendent or principal might do - full-time for them often means more than a standard 40 hours a week.

One of the many advantage of a job like ours, especially for those of us who are technically "part-time," is that we have great flexibility, and generally a lot of latitude. If there is a week that you feel like you have really been slammed - a funeral or church crisis on top of the usual responsibilities - or if you have a stretch of weeks where you find yourself working on the high end of what you feel like is your range of hours, then you have the freedom, and really the responsibility, to find a way to give yourself some time back in the week or weeks following. Take an extra day off, leave the office early, don't go to a meeting that you don't really have to be at. No one else is going to determine for you when you need to draw these lines - you have to develop that sense for yourself, and then be vigilant and proactive about that self-care.

And by the way, YES!, all those things you listed are very much "church work"!

Ruth, who blogs at Sunday's Coming, offers this:
Ministry is about being and doing – so in a sense whatever our percentage of work we are always ministers – asking ‘is this ministry?’ is like asking ‘am I being a mother?’ at all times of the day. Being a minister is who I am – all the time.
But I am not saying we have to work all the hours of the day – this would be bad for us, of course – and we would not be effective in our ministry.
We all need a balance of rest, work, prayer, play, family, friends, activity, sleep. When you are overdoing something your body will tell you – listen to it!
And plan time off and do not be afraid to say ‘NO, I can’t do that then, its my day off’.
There will always be things that have to be squeezed into the week, so don’t feel guilty if there are ‘gaps’ in your diary. If you really feel you haven’t done enough in any given week, pray a bit more, or visit someone who’s lonely, or read a book!
Ministry is never ‘done’ for the week – there are always things that have to wait for another day, another week, etc. Learn to go to sleep with this prayer “Lord I’ve done all I can today – give me rest for tonight & strength and wisdom in the morning – and thank you for covering the night-shift.”.

This probably sounds obvious – but I hope it doesn’t sound smug – I’m still trying to live by my own advice, as I’m sure my friends who read this will be quick to remind me!

Sue, who blogs at Inner Dorothy, initially wrote in with this:
This is one topic I can speak about with some authority and experience. For me, it's been a real, "live and learn" situation. In the United Church of Canada (my denomination), full time ministry is defined as 40 hours per week.


Obviously, there are times when crisis situations demand more time, but the Manual also states clearly that these extra hours MUST be made up by the ministry personnel as lieu time. It is the minister's responsibility to work out how and when that is going to happen, working with a (hopefully) well-functioning Ministry & Personnel Committee. As a Church, we have had such a high rate of burnout and long term disability claims due to ministers crashing and burning, that the church has taken the issue very seriously.

In your case, in the UCCan, your maximum hours for the week would be 30.

And yes, whenever you are doing work for the church, you are working. I've tracked my hours throughout my ministry, and it's amazing how quickly they add up. For example, those calls you get at supper time every night???? I pick up my book, write down the name of the person calling, their number (in case I have to call back at some point), and the amount of time I am on the phone with them. Work time. Absolutely work time.

I think the major problem with this issue is an ego thing. When I was doing my internships, I sat at a ministerial meeting and literally sat in awe as I watched this table full of (sorry guys - male) ministers bragging to one another about how hard they work. "Well, I'm definitely going to be putting in another 70 hour week, just like the last three."

Who did they think they were impressing?

The point is that needing to be needed can be VERY seductive, especially to Enneagram 2s (if you're into Enneagram theology). I've had to fight with myself for years to FINALLY learn that the words "no" and "delegate" are not four letter words. They are words that just might save your ministry.

If you want a short ministry that will flame out quickly - go ahead with the 70 hour weeks. If you want to be in ministry for the long term, learn to say (politely and sincerely) "I have other commitments that day, perhaps we can look ahead to the next week" or "I'm serving on several Presbytery committees already, I'm sure you will be able to find someone else for that committee who isn't so burdened already."

You get the idea. Assertive, not aggressive. True - to both yourself and to God who calls you to this ministry. Wishing you peace and good discernment in a difficult matter...

And then later that same day, Sue wrote in with the following:
Me again: I need to add that about an hour after I sent in this know-it-all response, I had another crisis call - a funeral, and a complicated one at that (family dynamic issues). I wrote my first ATM response with my calendar for this week laid out in front of me with Tuesday (all day) and Thursday morning booked as "OFF" to make up for the extra 12 hours I put in last week.

Then the call came. I won't be getting either of those lieu days this week. I wish I could say for sure that I would get them next week. The reason I'm adding this, is that even when I think I've got a handle on this terribly difficult issue, situations through a curve into the middle of it all.

When I spoke with the daughter of the woman who died today, all I could hear in my mind was Jesus saying "Whatever you do for the least of these..." and my heart filled with compassion for her. I've been where she is and I know how much it hurts.

I suppose that somewhere in the middle of God's call and the personal self-care that EVERY person in ministry so desperately needs, there is a perfect balance.

Clearly I haven't found it yet. But I'm trying.

So, there you have the matriarch's responses, what about the rest of you? We usually get a lot of answers to this type of question - I think we all have an investment in getting the whole self-care thing figured out! I look forward to seeing how the conversation proceeds this time.

This was the last question in our current Ask the Matriarch queue. Please send your questions to

- earthchick

Wednesday Festival: Random

We all fit together....sometimes in a random way.

Sally shares a poem written following the death of a well loved Church member who will be sorely missed. Christine, too, has a poem about loss, death, and hope.

Pay a visit to Sharecropper for another sort of poem for today.

Rev Mibi is amazed by many things. While there is much she cannot blog about, the gratitude rings true for me as well (things I couldn't blog, either). Thanks to our Companion, the Holy Spirit!
Lectionarily speaking, Songbird wonders: what about that Jeremiah?

ReverendMother tells us about a funny thing her kids do.

Shawna writes a letter to her blog. Speaking of your blog, who are your Blog Control Persons (BCP's??) - Quotidian Grace wants to know. And on to the e-mail spam front, Terri C is baffled by marketing and its timing.
In reading circles...don't forget to visit this month's RevGalBookPal book discussion. We are talking about RevGal Julie Clawson's Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices. Whether or not you have read the book, it's a conversation very worth joining!

Joan Calvin is searching for movies to go with scriptural themes for a Lenten series. Pop over to her place and see if you can help out with a suggestion!

What are you reading, writing, and thinking about this week? Please let us know in the comments. You'll get more visits if you include a direct link, thusly: <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, January 26, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - All You Need Is Love Edition

I suggested to my Bible study yesterday that the 13th chapter of Paul's letter to the Corinthians
is possibly the scripture passage best known to the average non-church-goer.
If that's true (and in a room full of church-goers that was pure speculation), why do you think it is?
Could be the remarkably beautiful and poetic language. Could be the powerful claims made.
Could be that the language itself transcends any particular belief system, and so resonates
for many.

Whatever the reason, are you going to try and bring this remarkable passage
to your congregation this week in a worship instead of a wedding context?

Or will you continue the story of the prophet in his home town, who certainly seems to NOT be feeling the love this week?

Maybe you will focus on young Jeremiah and his call from God. Or, maybe you are going a different direction all together.

Whatever you are planning for this week, let us know in comments. We're looking forward to hearing from you.

Links to the texts and more resources here.

Monday, January 25, 2010


We received news this morning of the cancellation one of the women planning to participate in the RevGalBlogPals Big Event 3.0 Continuing Ed Event. BE 3.0 will take place aboard NCL's 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 is $432 for an inside stateroom or $482 for oceanview plus the cost of transportation to and from Miami FL (arranged on your own.)

Our BE 3.0 presenter is Nanette Sawyer, the organizing pastor of Wicker Park Grace, a faith community that meets in an art gallery in Chicago. She 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.) A copy of the book is included in your registration fee.


Please email NOW to claim your place on BE 3.0.

RevGalBlogPals Book Discussion

Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices
by Julie Clawson

First off, a word of thanks to Songbird, who, when I noticed this book in her vast collection, said, "Here, it's yours. Would you be willing to lead a review of it at the RevGals blog in January?"

It seemed like a great idea in October, and today, while it's still early enough in the new year to consider some new ways of thinking and doing, I am very glad that I read this book. So, thank you, Songbird!

Everyday Justice is Julie Clawson's first book, but she also writes at her blog and at You may also recognize her name from the Emerging Women or Emerging Parents blogs. She has been a church planter, pastored parishes in Illinois, and now lives with her husband and children in Austin, TX.

Julie opens her text with the words "Warning! Read Before Proceeding. Don't panic." In this pre-introduction section, she gives the reader the opportunity to take a deep breath as we look a at the vastness of the challenge of living more justly. She notes on page 15, "To change the world, we must start somewhere." Julie's goal is to help her readers discover that a total life makeover isn't the only way to step into a more just way of living. "All of us can discern where God is leading us to alter our lives - to change one thing at a time, taking the time to really understand and get behind our actions." (p. 15)

In the introduction, Clawson grounds her text theologically in Jesus' memorable first public sermon as recorded in Luke 4:18-21, which is incidentally the Gospel text of which some among us may have preached yesterday. Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated a way of justice and a call to his followers to live justly.

She proceeds to define justice as "the practical outworking of loving God and others." (p. 21) She follows this with one of my favorite Dr. Cornel West quotes: "Justice is what love looks like in public." She also draws an important, thoughtful distinction between justice as punishment and justice as restoration. On page 23, she writes:
"Justice then becomes much more than simply a punishment for wrongdoing.
Instead of only punishing wrongdoers in the hope that they will live rightly,
biblical justice involves healing the brokenness that marred our relationships
with each other in the first place."

Noting that "every decision has a price tag" and "that price is often paid by the people whose lives are affected by our actions" (p. 25), Clawson then offers "a resource and a guide to acting justly" (p. 29) in regard to the purchase of coffee, chocolate, food, and clothing. She explores how one might live justly in their consumption of oil, disposal of waste, and management of money.
Through all of it, she offers information, insight, and specific suggestions for action without becoming preachy or sounding judgmental.

As I think about my own life, I need and want to move more seriously in the direction of restoration. This text has offered me so much help in thinking through the daily choices I make and the price that others and I pay for those choices.

Questions for discussion:
1. How is Everyday Justice alike or different than other books you have read on the topic of living justly?

2. If you have read the book, is there one area of concern over which you feel particularly led to '"tweak" your actions and choices?

3. How do you imagine Everyday Justice would be received in a parish setting, especially your context? Do you plan to use it in some way?

4. Finally, what did you like best or least about Clawson's text?

I look forward to your insights, and will be around throughout the day to read your comments and share conversation with you.

Looking ahead, Songbird will be discussing Salvation on the Small Screen by Nadia Bolz-Weber on February 22nd.

May you live in God's amazing grace+

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Prayer: Stillspeaking God, Epiphany 3C

Holy and Gracious God, speaking into our lives
May we hear, deeply, may You sound-through us
May we be your body, hands, feet, heart
Reaching out to others may we extend your love.

Inbreaking God, stir us, we pray
To care for the broken,
Hungry, needy, sick, bereaved,
And all who have lost their way.

Stillspeaking God, whisper to us in the silence
That we may quietly hear you and
Gently follow. Stillspeaking God
Shout us out of our illusions.

God of mercy, lead our leaders
Nations, cities, houses of worship,
Houses of people, lead all with mercy
That we, all, may be merciful as you.

God of compassion,
through your Holy Spirit
Forgive us, redeem us, restore us,
teach us, fill us.

Incarnate God, divine and human
Body and spirit, us and you
One, all, thankful hearts
This day and every day.


Crossposted on RevGal Prayer Pals and SeekingAuthenticVoice

Saturday, January 23, 2010

11th Hour Preachers Party: All Who Hear with Understanding

(Photo from the collection of Mompriest, "Ground Squirrel Family Listening")

What text from our readings for this Sunday, Epiphany 3 is speaking to you? Are you being stirred to ponder Nehemiah as I am: "8:2 Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding." I am pondering what it means to really hear with understanding...

Or, are you meditating on this: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer." from Psalm 19?

Maybe you are thinking, again, what it means to be the body of Christ as we hear it in 1 Corinthians? Or perhaps you considering what Jesus means when he says, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

And, maybe, given the recovery efforts in Haiti and the call of the Spirit in these readings you are thinking about this from William Sloane Coffin, "The lack of material well-being among the poor reflects a lack of spiritual well-being among the rest."

Wherever you are going with the readings today, whether you have some idea or are completely lost or stuck or too busy to think, we are here to help. Pull up a chair while I pour you a cup of coffee (or would you prefer tea).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Five: Trains, Planes and Automobiles

By the time you're reading this, I'll be en route to a Great Big City to see my son in a play. I'll go by car and bus and train and no doubt cab and maybe even subway. Thus, our Friday Five.

1) What was the mode of transit for your last trip?

2) Have you ever traveled by train?

3) Do you live in a place with public transit, and if so, do you use it?

4) What's the most unusual vehicle in which you've ever traveled?

5) What's the next trip you're planning to take?

As ever, let us know in the comments if you play at your blog. And you'll get more visitors if you add a direct link, thusly: <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.

Please visit one another to read answers, and I will catch up eventually!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Bringing Baby to the Office

This week's question is a happy one, as one of our colleagues looks forward to the birth of her first baby and finds herself in an extremely supportive working environment. She writes:

As I prepare to balance motherhood and ministry for the first time, I could use some guidance from others who have brought babies to work with them. I work as the associate at a church that has been very supportive throughout my pregnancy and the negotiation of my paid parental leave (8 weeks). When I asked our senior pastor if it would be okay to officially “work from home” some after the baby arrives (which I already do) he said, “Of course! And I’m assuming you’ll bring the baby to work some, too, right?” I feel so fortunate to work in such a supportive environment.

I am planning on taking the baby with me to the office for about 6 hours a week (two three-hour shifts). I will use this time to do e-mails, etc. (not premarital counseling or other meetings!). My question is, how should I handle this new situation with the rest of the congregation? Should I mention to the pastoral relations committee or the church council that this is what the senior pastor and I have worked out? Should I ask someone else for permission (in our situation I am supervised by the senior, but called by the congregation)? Should I tell the whole congregation about the set-up in a newsletter article or something? Also, we do have a monthly finance meeting that I’d like to attend but it will be when the baby is with me. Any tips for handling the baby in a meeting?

Thanks for your help as I wade through this. I would also covet any general tips about taking a baby to work!

Jennifer responds:
I, too, was fortunate to have a supportive environment in which to bring my children to work when they were babies.
How great that your head of staff is encouraging you to bring your new baby to work!
I think your instincts are great--- why not ask the moderator of the Finance Committee if you might bring your baby to that meeting, on a trial basis, since you’re all new at this! I think that sharing the news with the congregation is fine, too, especially in a way that feels comfortable to the congregation. You’ll know your setting best to determine if you’re the bearer of the news, or if the senior pastor or the pastoral relations chairperson can most effectively communicate what will, hopefully, be happy, happy news.
Ruth, who blogs at Sunday's Coming, writes:
My ‘baby’ is now 15 years old & I’d been ordained just under a year when I had her. My experience has always been share, share , share – I have always tried to let people know how I’m doing the balancing act, so when I would have her with me, what any arrangements are, when I need to leave by for feed/bath/bed time, etc, etc – and people have always responded with deep generosity and love. I think the churches I was at when she was smallest almost enjoyed her more than I did, and she just loved being passed around & getting all the cuddles and smiles from everyone in the room.

As for meetings : I always tended to sit by the door (In case you’ve just got to go out for everyone’s sanity!), explain at the start of the meeting that I would possible stand & sway if she got a bit fractious, or walk about, or else go out altogether, and I always made sure I had ‘stuff’ to distract her – milk, food, cuddly toys.. Later crayons, paper, quiet games, etc.
I hope I’m always tolerant of others who are now in the boat I was in, but I turn into a grumpy old woman if people expect children to be quiet but don’t give them anything to do – just expect them to sit there!

I hope you enjoy the mad roller-coaster of motherhood and ministry – and may you be blessed with a congregation of extra grannies, grandads, aunties & uncles!

And revhoney offers:
I’m glad that your are serving in a supportive environment. There are few gifts greater than that in a team ministry!
My office was large enough and off the beaten path enough that I could bring our sons to work with me when they were infants. I set up a “Pack-n-play” in my office, and was able to devise a schedule that allowed me to get the kind of office work you referenced done while they slept. Our sons nursed when they awoke, stayed awake for awhile, nursed again, and then slept. So I brought them to work toward the end of their waking moments, nursed them, and then they slept for 2 or more hours. The older of our two boys worked well with this schedule until he was nearly seven months old; the younger until he was about five months old.
We were blessed to have a home-based caregiver a block away from the church. We were also blessed to have homebound members who wanted to meet the boys – a few of them were more concerned about me bringing the boys to visit than bringing them communion!

It's encouraging to read these stories of clergy mothers being supported within the church! I think I would have had the same freedom to bring my babies to the office, except I simply couldn't manage it with twins. I did find that whenever I was upfront about my needs, I was met with a lot of caring and support.

I think the matriarchs have offered some good advice about how to proceed - what do the rest of you think?

If you have a question you would like the matriarchs to discuss, please send us an email at .


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday Lectionary Leanings: What!?

Good Wednesday Morning!

I'm a little off schedulewith this feature. Because there wasn't a Lectionary Leanings post yesterday, and there haven't been any nominations for today's Wednesday Festival, I've elected to "transfer" LL to today. :) Perhaps some of you have already established your sermon directions and can share them with us in the comments. Please do!

The lectionary texts for this week, Epiphany 3C, can be found here. They point to the importance of unity in the body of Christ and the necessity of each part of that body acting together and in harmony.

In an article at The Christian Century, John Stendahl points to the Nehemiah passage as "a great national liturgy," the sort that we do not often see in modern days (perhaps properly so). I wonder how our world's riveted attention to Haiti for the past week, and the many efforts to assist her people in large and small ways, might fit in with this?

Psalm 19's beautiful and singing words are described in context of this lectionary by Howard Wallace of the Theological Hall of the Uniting Church, Melbourne, Australia: In the way this psalm is used we see an illustration of the very thing today’s reading from Nehemiah indicates, that God’s word is open to new and different contexts and speaks to them in life-giving ways.

The First Corinthans reading reminds that we are all part of one body...which could be taken in so many directions. We are all part of the human family and of supplying to others that which we have and they do not; that which they need and do not have. And there are a variety of gifts ... but the same Spirit.

And, in Luke's Gospel, Jesus reads the words of Isaiah to the synagogue at Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This is a conversation stopper; all eyes are fixed on him. "Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Has that scripture still been fulfilled, is it being fulfilled, in our hearing, in the hearing of our people? How? I look forward to reading about how you will bring it!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti Resource Sharing

We're going to depart from our usual schedule today. I've updated some of the links posted here on Saturday with a focus on ways to give to Haiti relief efforts, which you'll find in red below.

I would invite you to share things I've missed by leaving a comment, and I'll update the list throughout the day.

And if you're hearing stories from Haiti, particularly via blogs, let us know in the comments, too.

If your church talked about Haiti in worship yesterday, let us know how that went.

And if there's something I'm not thinking of or something else Haiti-related you want to share, prayers or news, please do.

(The photo, of people in Port-au-Prince masking their faces against the smell, came from Kim and Patrick Bentrott's blog, Adventures in Life. They are Global Ministries' missionaries in Haiti.)

To learn about United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Health Kits, go here.

knittinpreacher points us to the PC(USA)'s Presbyterian Disaster Assistance page about Haiti.

The United Church of Christ asks for donations to One Great Hour of Sharing (both by churches and by online donation); funds go to organizations on the ground including Church World Service and ACT Alliance, with which the UCC is also sharing practical resources such as satellite phones. 

Diane let us know that you can find materials and donation instructions on the front page of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's website. And go to Pretty Good Lutherans for tributes to seminarian Ben Larson, who died in the earthquake while on a mission trip.

Margaret shared ways The Episcopal Church is helping in Haiti.

Brian Merritt, spouse of our Carol Howard Merritt, compiled a list of organizations receiving funds that are actually being used on the ground in Haiti. It's on his church website: The Palisades Community Church.

Meg points us to the website of the Christian Reformed Church's World Relief Committee (CRWRC).

Gord shared this link to the United Church of Canada's Haiti Appeal.

And one more--Crimson Rambler shares this link from the Anglican Church in Canada: PWRDF is the Canadian Anglican response for the emergency relief, refugees, development, and justice. 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Prayer: In The Shadow of Your Wing

God of righteousness - spread your wings
Over the earth, enfold the suffering
in clouds of mercy.
Reach into the tragedies of this earth,
Especially the chaos and despair in Haiti
May our hands be yours, bringing relief

Precious is your love, O God
May we take refuge
in the shadow of your wings.

Guide the leaders of nations – in grace
Teach us, your people to be Your heart,
your love abundant.
Like a mountain of love reaching to the heavens
A gift of the Holy Spirit given, that we may be
A place of refuge in the dust, hope in darkness
In your light may we see, may we be light

Precious is your love, O God
May we take refuge
In the shadow of your wings.

Merciful God, be with us all, - this day
The sick and the dying, the worn, and fearful
And all who suffer.
Call us by name, the name you give, love.
A fountain of mercy pouring forth light
You who lift us up, known before birth
Naming, calling, holding, caring.

Precious is your love, O God
May we take refuge
in the shadow of your wings.

Gracious and Holy One, we give thanks
For all the blessings of this life
Miracles of grace
Of being found, of air and water
Of food, song and prayer
Tenderly hold us, gently lift the
Cup, the wine of your delight.

Precious is your love, O God
May we take refuge
In the shadow of your wings.

Crossposted on RevGal Prayer Pal and SeekingAuthenticVoice

Saturday, January 16, 2010

From Nutella's mother, in Haiti

Nutella is the pseudonym of a longtime non-blogging participant at RevGalBlogPals, and I learned today that her parents are in Haiti. She writes:

Hello Songbird,
I'll email you the email we received from my parents just yesterday.  IT's quite remarkable and might be useful.  Feel free to post to any preachers who can use it.  I'd ask you mention they are in Leogane (pronounced LAY oh Gone) not Port-au-Prince, only because they are actually closer to the epicenter and no aid has arrived  in their town.  We're trying to get the word out that aid hasn't left Port-au-Prince.  Hundreds are injured and no medical supplies at all.  doctors working without gloves, antibiotics or anaesthesia.  Parents are fine but sleeping outside like everyone else, without anything at all, and trying to stay until aid arrives to help direct it.  Please pray for them and all who have not received word of their loved ones well-being.  The situation is rapidly getting desperate over there as people are running out of food and water and others are dying of infection.  That said, my mom's email paints a wonderful picture of God at work in the midst of tragedy.  I'll forward it to you.

Please let the RevGals know how dear they are to me and how thankful I have been for their preaching support and their prayers now.  I'm so busy I'm not sure I'll get to the site, but I hold you all dearly in my heart as you prepare for worship tomorrow.  And thank you thank you thank you for your prayers and support!  It means so much to me.

Very sincerely,


Many thanks to Nutella and her family, who will surely be in my prayers. And now here is her mother's first-person account:



Using som,eone’s computer without using a bright screen, so
I cannot tell aoba

Ut my mistakes.  I
will send one msg to all, so some information will not mean anything to you.

Hopital Ste. Croix is standing.  John and I are fine.  The administration collapsed under the
guesthouse, and our apartment collapsed under the story above.  We have nothing we brought with us to Haiti, but
since we have done a lot of cleaning in the gusthouse and hospital, we can find
what we really need.  Someone who was
here gave me some shoes, and I foiund another pair or reading glasses that will
work, so I have what I need.  John was
caught under the wreckage for about 4 hours, but shortlthe roof above was
supported y the lintel of the slinding glass door, which held up te second
floor, so he was uninjured except for a small cut on the top of his head.

Everyone connected with the hospital is alive except that we
have not heard from  Mario..  Several people lost members of extended
family.  Alber’s daught was injured but
is fe, will recover fully.  He saddest
news is tat Marie Yves has died. In the earthquake.  Motr and Chrislet are fine.  The Ste. Croix church is cracked, I don’t
know how badly.  Eye clinic looks fine.  Pere Kerouin’s house looks OK, Pere FanFan’s
house looks OK with some damage, Pere Pierre’s house is damaged, but stll
standing.  Doctor’s quarter’s and
penthouse are fine.  If we can get it
open, John and I may try to move in there for a while.  At

At night we sleep in the yard behind the hospital where the
bandstand was.  It has fallen, as has theEpiscopal
school.  Thee are 2-300 people who sleep
in that field at night.  Thy sing ymns
until almost midnight, andn we wake up to a church service, with hymns, a
morning prayer, and the apostle’s creed.
The evening sky is glorious.  In
the field there is a real sense of community.
Of course, we are the only blancs there.
A group from FondWa arrived in Leogane today and will sleep there
tonight.  Janine the head cook brought John
and me spaghetti from her home in Darbonne 8 miles away.  We shared with the group from FondWa.  They have some money so they went out and
bought rice, etc, and we will eat tonight.
People have shared with us and we are getting a chance to feel how the
Haitians really live.

The injuries we have seen at the hospital are enormouse,
skulls exposed, one woman died in the yard.  Another women’s leg was cut vertically to the
bone, with muscles showing.  Doctors
worked and saw over 300 people with cuts, fractures, etc.   Today they are not, but worked hard every
day since the quake.

Of course, we have seen looting.  The end wall of the guesthouse by the shared
drugs fell and it was open to the outside.  My friends can imagine how I shouted down
about 20 looters in the guesthouse.  Righteous
indignation works wonders, as does a tiny bit of pushing people to get out.

John and I do not know our plans.  We need to talk with the board, but have no
phone.  We have Joey’s phone, with
battery that needs charging.  Our idea is
to stay as long as we can b helpful, then get out of the way.

I have never understgood joy in the midst of suffering, but
now I do.  The caring I have seen, the
help we have received from the Haitians, the evening songs and prayers.  Are wonderful.
  The people will survive, though
many will die.  Please pray for us.  And pray that we and the hospital can be of
help to the people here.


11th Hour Preacher Party: When the World is Shaken

Updated 2:30 pm--Check out the post above for the story of Nutella's parents, who are in Haiti. Preachers, you are welcome to share it.
Friends, when we started our lectionary discussion on Tuesday, there had been no earthquake in Haiti. For many of us this means we're thinking about how this becomes part of our sermon, or whether it does, and those are small concerns compared to what's going on in Haiti, but this work is what we do. We try to open the Word even and especially in dark times, even when we ourselves may wonder where God is in the midst of loss and chaos and despair. I hope today we can help each other to do our work.

In the comments, share with us what you are planning to preach, your texts, your theme, your direction, your challenges on this Saturday. Will you bring together what you may have planned earlier in the week with the events in Haiti? Stay on the lectionary or set it aside? Pray for Haiti but preach as planned? Or something else entirely?

I invite you also to share stories you may have heard or read since the earthquake. I'm reading the blog of UCC/DoC Global Ministries missionaries Kim and Patrick Bentrott.  The picture here is their home, where they lived on the third floor of what is now a two-story building.

If someone from your denomination or church is in or has been in Haiti, let us know. And if you have earthquake-related resources to share, please do that, too: hymns, prayers, donation information. Link if you can, and if it's a problem, don't worry, I'll keep up with you and add links if needed.

And somehow, together, we'll get there.

I'm adding to this post throughout the day, linking directly to resources shared in the comments.

First, here is the always excellent United Methodist Church Worship page with lots of resources including the prayer by Safiyah Fosua recommended by Patty.

To learn about United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Health Kits, go here.

Sarah suggests the material at the United Church of Christ (UCC) website, including a hymn using the tune St. Christopher (known familiarly as "Beneath the Cross of Jesus").

knittinpreacher points us to the PC(USA)'s Presbyterian Disaster Assistance page about Haiti, which includes a link to this prayer.

Diane let us know that you can find materials and donation instructions on the front page of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's website. And go to Pretty Good Lutherans for tributes to seminarian Ben Larson, who died in the earthquake while on a mission trip.

Margaret shared ways The Episcopal Church is helping in Haiti, and this page includes a prayer. Please see her comment below for suggested scripture references.

Brian Merritt, spouse of our Carol Howard Merritt, compiled a list of organizations receiving funds that are actually being used on the ground in Haiti. It's on his church website: The Palisades Community Church.

Meg points us to the website of the Christian Reformed Church's World Relief Committee (CRWRC).

Gord shared this link to the United Church of Canada's Haiti Appeal.

And one more--Crimson Rambler shares this link from the Anglican Church in Canada: PWRDF is the Canadian Anglican response for the emergency relief, refugees, development, and justice. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Five: IF

In EFM this week, our question was, "If you were a color, what would you be?" So that's where this Friday Five comes from, at least its jumping off place.

1. If you were a color, what would you be?

2. If you were a flower (or plant), what would you be?

3. If you were an animal, what kind would you be?

4. If you were a shoe, what type would you be?

5. If you were a typeface, which font would you be?

Bonus: Anything connected with metaphors that you'd like to contribute.

As always, let us know in comments if you play and visit each other if you can. Post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the the formulation found here in the comment box. For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Confidentiality in a Multi-Staff Church

Here's an interesting question from a colleague who serves as the head of a small staff, trying to discern how to handle confidentiality within the staff.

Dear Matriarchs,

I am a 50-something rector of a four-point mostly rural parish. This is my first parish - second career. I've been the only clergy (and the first woman) for five years. This year we happily received an assistant priest, an earnest and compassionate young man half my age. He and I are 6 months into a team ministry and doing fine together. It's great to have help, I love teaching, and he seems genuinely pleased with the arrangement . But I need advice about how to handle confidentiality. "What is said to one is said to both" might head off end-runs and triangulation. On the other hand, there are things I have not shared with him about some folks, to let him do his own discerning without my biases. Might there be situations where it would be faithful for him to receive confidences which he would not share with me?

Added twist: the people who could not receive a woman priest left years ago. The parish is growing a tiny bit, and I've had no further gender-based problems. But there are indications that some folks are pretty happy to have a man with a collar around again, and assume that he will naturally become "the primary priest."

Jennifer responds:
I believe there might be occasions that either one of you would be asked to keep a confidence from the other or feel it would be right. Being candid about the reasons that confidences are kept is, in my opinion, the best way to be as transparent and open as possible with each other while still maintaining high professional standards.

Ruth, who blogs at Sunday's Coming, writes:
My gut feeling is that you need to give people the chance to say things to one of you & know it stops there. If there are things that you feel it would be useful for you both to know, perhaps you need to check with the person ‘is it OK if I tell my colleague?’ or even ‘would you like him to know too?’ - then your folk are clear that you are a team but that confidences can still be kept.

There may be gender issues – both ways: I’m sure you’ve had times when people have said things to you which you feel they would not have said to a man, and I’m sure you’re right in feeling that for some people your colleague will feel like ‘the priest’. As you have already said that you work well together I’m sure you can both have the grace to take the lead when it’s appropriate & step back when the other is the lead person.

But I know that sometimes it’s hard to challenge the ‘natural order’ in which one person has to be boss! I pray you will both live the gospel – God bless.

And mompriest offers:
First, since you are the Rector, and he is the assistant, it is never appropriate for him to receive information and not share it with you. He runs the risk of triangulation if he with holds information or carries information that should be shared with you. At the very least he needs to encourage people to take any concerns that fall under your purview to you, and/or he needs to say, "let me discuss this with the Rector and get back to you." You need to be a team, but also everyone needs to know that ultimately you are the boss. This is, after all, a hierarchical church structure. You can function like a collegial team and share in many of the same duties and responsibilities, but when push comes to shove you are the "boss" and people need to know that. And for you to do your job well you need to know what is going on on all levels. Besides it is just common respect that he would share information with you so that you are never surprised by what comes your way. However, because you are the Rector you will naturally know things that he will not, should not, need not.
Secondly, whenever a female and male clergy team work together people do tend to navigate to the male as if he is more in charge. We live in a world where male voices just carry more authority than female. sigh...You and this assistant need to acknowledge this social norm and actively work together to let folks know that you are the Rector and he is the assistant. It will really require his cooperation and understanding for he is the one who will need to remind people that the Rector's input is needed for decisions and actions. It also helps if you have titles that keep it clear who is the Rector. Using Fr. and Mother is not my favorite choice in this matter. Sr. Pastor and Pastor is better (I've known Lutheran Churches who use that title). Of course, since he's been there 6 months, you probably are set in your titles. If the boundaries are clear and respected then you will work together with much greater mutuality and collegiality, a real team.

I hope this continues to be a fruitful and wonderful experience for all concerned, even if it will need to be done more intentionally.

I love it that our Matriarchs offered somewhat different answers from each other this week. This is obviously not a cut-and-dried issue, and perhaps there are many approaches that could be ethical and healthy. What do the rest of you think?

My husband and I serve together as co-pastors and we have had to wrestle with this one over the years. After nine years, we are still working out our approach to confidentiality! Neither one of us is the "boss." There are some things both of us do need to know, and other things - not so much. So we tend to take things on a case-by-case basis. Individual parishioners seeking pastoral counseling can generally assume confidentiality. Our exceptions have been if a parishioner says inappropriate things to one of us (along the lines of confessing a crush, or saying things that indicate such feelings, for instance), or if one of us is feeling unsafe for some reason (for instance if one of us has been meeting with a couple having marital problems and we feel the situation is volatile). Otherwise, if we feel it would be good for the other pastor to know something confidential, we will generally ask permission from individuals to share what they've shared - they almost always have agreed. It's still tricky, though, and something we continue to hammer out.

Let's hear from the rest of you. What is your experience? What are your opinions? Please share!

And, as always, please send questions for the Matriarchs to discuss to

- earthchick

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Many Things

Songbird considered some aspects of preaching in context, while jo(e) went on retreat at a monastery on top of the world.

Kathryn shared snow stories, and Gord shared some thoughts about grieving with the congregation.

MaineCelt celebrated Twelfth, er, Fifteenth Night. In other celebration news, Christine's Poetry Party invited us to make poems of the words her readers have chosen for the year ahead.

Looking forward, Elastigirl gives us an update, and Purple wants your input. Scott names some of the stresses for church life in these tough economic times.

Have you seen a picture of Jan's Christmas Surprise puppy? Brittany tells a beautiful story of connections made while rebuilding in Mississippi.

Did you see Monday's discussion about recording sermons? Take a look, and share if you'd like. Would you like to be part of a RevGals Youtube channel?

Many thanks to Songbird for nominating so many posts. You can nominate, too...for next week! It's easy, at

For now, share with us in the comments what you are thinking and reading about. 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>

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Platinum Wedding Edition

Texts for Sunday can be found here .

Every once in awhile, while idly clicking our way up the remote, our household will catch a few minutes of one of those wedding-extravaganza shows -- Bridezillas or Platinum Weddings.  Well...none of those weddings have anything on the one we're going to be hearing about this Sunday, where Jesus pulls off the greatest catering coup ever.

What does the story of the wedding at Cana have to say about God's extravagant generosity? What does it have to say about God's willingness to help God's people manage our individual and collective anxiety? ("They have no wine!") What other insights do you find in the text?
We also have a beautiful lesson from Isaiah holding out the vision of Israel -- contentious, straying, emperiled, exiled, suffering Israel -- as God's beloved spouse. And our Epistle lesson speaks of God lavishing God's people with a variety of spiritual gifts -- what do we do with all this?

Lots of potential sermon themes here. Or perhaps you will be honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. in your sermon...or going in a different direction altogether.

Bonus point to ponder: How do you handle all this marriage imagery in a congregation filled with singles, or widow(er)s, or other persons for whom marriage may be a sensitive subject? Is there good news for them as well?

As always, feel free to share your thoughts with the rest of us as you plan and pray your way to Sunday!

Monday, January 11, 2010

2nd Monday Discussion: Sermon Recordings

In our weekly Ask the Matriarch column, we publish questions that have been answered by members of the ring who have been in ordained ministry for ten or more years. But I would like to open a discussion today that might be better answered by people who are younger in ministry years, or any of us who have been involved in a search process in recent years.

Long ago I served on a search committee that requested sermon tapes from candidates as one of our screening tools. It was long enough ago that I remember our surprise when we received a VHS from one of th applicants! As a pastor who has worked in one geographic area, I've been able to invite prospective churches to hear me preach in person without worrying too much about recording sermons. Or at least that was true until my last search round, when I worried and wondered about whether to do an audio or a video and realized I just did not have the right technology available to me.

As an interim minister, I am engaged in searches fairly often, and as the mother of a young musician who needs to record auditions, I purchased (at after-Christmas prices) a Flip video camera. My plan is to have my son record this coming Sunday's sermon. I have heard some people say video may not be a great format for women preachers, while others suggested a video would be more dynamic than an audio recording for a woman with a more girlish voice (ahem, that's me).

In the comments, I invite you to share your experiences with recording sermons. What worked for you? What didn't?

(And yes, my own Flip is pink. Really.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Grocery Store Musical

It's hard to imagine how you might call this song a hymn -- but it's been weaving in and out of my prayer for more than a month now and besides, it's funny. And in my view, anything that gets you to laugh on what in my area of the globe is a very chilly day, is a grace. So I share it with you, that it may bring a bit of whatever grace you need into your afternoon.

The video has me contemplating joy: where we find it; what keeps us from noticing it; what surprises it holds for us; how it can transform the ordinary, the burdensome; when is joy is too much for us to bear? It's also made me wonder about how we bring God out of our churches and into the world. Are we people of joy? Are we people who would dare stand up and sing? My parish is in the first stages of a process by which we hope and pray will transform our lives and the lives of our community. I'm hoping we can not only become the "holy daring" we've said we want to be, but that we can dare joy.

On what is the last day of the Christmas season in many of our communities, what joyful things did you sing? see? hear? Tell us in the comments so that we can share in your joy, too.

Sunday Prayer: Living the Baptism of Christ

Holy God, before time you named us
Through time you redeem us
You call us, precious in your sight
May we love as you love.

Holy One, through the turbulent waters
Make us steady, your hands
Holding strong the fragile and weak
May we love as you love.

Gracious God, may the fruits of our lives
be food for the hungry, bread
clothing, shelter, fire, water, Word
May we love as you love.

God of justice, remove the chaff
Of our lives that keep us from
Hearing, following, Your call
May we love as you love.

Loving God, take this day our fears our
Worries, distractions, and all
Turn them into wheat, heart food
May we love as you love.


Crossposted on RevGalPrayerPal blog and SeekingAuthenticVoice

Photo from the collection of Mompriest: Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Mompriest, and Baby Z

Saturday, January 09, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party: Wade in the Water Edition

Dear Gals and Pals, for many of us this will be the 1st Sunday after the Epiphany, otherwise known as "the Baptism of our Lord." So we'll be dealing with water this weekend, with Jesus wading into the water to be baptized, with the promise of Isaiah 43, "when you pass through the waters I will be with you," with baptizing new disciples in Acts. Please see the texts and discussion here.

So, will you be observing The Baptism of our Lord this weekend? What will you be doing? Where will your preaching take you? Will you be wading ankle-deep, knee-deep, waist-deep, or "in-over-my-head, thank you very much"?

I'm down with a headache, but hope to be better and hosting all day. To start, we have some fair trade coffee this morning, some blueberry muffins and pancakes. Oh, and orange juice. What would you like? Pull up a chair. There's room for all.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Five: Dreams

With the beginning of my college teaching semester I have been having some unusually intense and memorable dreams lately--especially related to my Women and Religion class. With the beginning of a new calendar year many of us are engaging with dreams of another kind: planning, brainstorming, setting intentions or resolutions, etc. And many churches will celebrate the baptism of Jesus this Sunday, reading the Gospel account of his vision of the Holy Spirit as a dove and the "beloved child" words of Godde that set him off on his mission sharing Godde's dream for the world. So let's take a few minutes on this (where I am at least) lovely snow-blanketed Friday morning and share about the many different dreams and visions in our lives.

1. Do you tend to daydream?

2. Do you usually remember your night dreams? Do you find them symbolic and meaningful or just quirky?

3. Have you ever had a life changing dream which you'll never forget?

4. Share a long term dream for one or more aspects of your life and work.

5. Share a dream for 2010....How can we support you in prayer on both the short and long term dreams?

Bonus: a poem, song, artwork, etc. that deals with dreams in general or one of your dreams.

As always, let us know in comments if you play and visit each other if you can. Post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation in the comment box: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Requesting a Reference from the Senior Pastor

Today's question is a tricky one:

OK, this is a slightly ticklish situation, but I think others may have this problem...

I need a reference from my former boss The Senior Pastor. Problem is, when I resigned to finish my M.Div., SP told everyone I was "on leave to finish school." I am NOT on leave. I ainta goin back!!! No way! No how! I got my dignity and my pride and my sense of call back, and I know that God has other plans for me!

Every potential employer will wonder why I don't list SP. Some may even know SP. I know I need to have some kind of "gently censored" story on why SP isn't listed... but where do I go for a reference when I need a "denominational supervisor"?? They asked for seminary profs too, so I can't use them instead of SP.

I know SP would see this request for a reference as abandonment. (Did I mention SP has control issues?) My permanently leaving also makes SP look less than truthful. Can I go behind SP's back and ask another staff member, a peer, to do the reference? I can't go over SP's head because they are all chums, if you KWIM.


St. Casserole writes:

Dear Moving On,
Nothing will be gained now or for your future in ministry by playing with the truth. We want pastors who tell the truth, behave genuinely and who don't play games.
If you need to ask the former SP for a reference, ask him. Make clear what you want. It sounds to me as if he had a problem with your leaving and so used the excuse "on leave" to explain why you left. Perhaps he has a history of bad relationships with staff and was covering his trail or people were disappointed you left and he was reassuring them you would return. Whatever is going on, people understand people moving on to new jobs. We don't stay in one place in ministry forever.
I beg you not to begin a pattern of untruthfulness or caginess as you move into ministry. Won't do you any good and will harm you eventually. When I say this, I'm encouraging you to tell the truth and have good boundaries at the same time. For example, your work with SP at that Church may or may not have ended well. Don't bore people who interview you with details of how awfully you were treated. Instead, talk about what you did and what you learned. If asked about staff relationships, answer positively without going into details about how the Devil and the SP are first cousins.
How can I advise you to speak positively about SP when I've told you to tell the truth? Complaining about other staff gets you nowhere. You will appear like a difficult to please victim which will not enthuse the committee interviewing you. If you are a real victim, law enforcement must be notified.
One thing more, the SP may or may not have the power and authority in your religious community that you think he has. Newer clergy often overestimate what SP or denominational bigwigs can do to or for them. If the SP is a stinker, people know this. Your refusal to trash talk about him will earn you respect.
Best wishes to you and let us know how it goes.

Jennifer offers:
It sounds as though you do not wish to list the SP as a reference. Ideally, you’d want to have a conversation with the SP that sets the record straight about your resignation and clears the air, so that you don’t have to play any games now or every again. Is that possible? Is it possible to have that conversation with a mutually respected third party present, who can hear both of you and help create a conversation that will be healthy and helpful? That’s my suggestion, rather than trying to leave the SP out of the loop entirely.

And mompriest counsels:

Oh my...this is such a challenge. I do not think it is a good idea to go behind the back of Senior Pastor and ask another member of the staff. That will put the staff person in an awkward position and compromise you too (think, Triangulation). I think the only solution is, the difficult one, which nonetheless maintains your integrity - speak with Senior Pastor and share your desire to look for other employment. Be grateful for your time there but certain that its time for you move on to other challenges. It's difficult to feel resentment toward someone who is grateful and appreciative. After that conversation then you can use Senior Pastor AND someone else on staff so there is a balanced reference. Perhaps you will have an opportunity to tell the potential employer that Senior Pastor doesn't want you to leave so they have a context for what ever Sr. Pastor says.


The matriarchs have offered some good advice for this tricky situation. What about the rest of you? What thoughts and/or experiences do you have that might help our colleague out? Please share your comments!

And as always, we would love to receive your questions at .

- earthchick