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Friday, April 30, 2010

Friendship



I spent the better part of last week on a continuing education cruise with a group of revgals. Both the class on hospitality and the connections made with friends (old and new) were phenomenal. I always have a difficult time with re-entry into reality from times away but this, aided by getting nailed with strep throat, has been more difficult than usual. Not only does it a take a few days (weeks? months?) for it to stop feeling like I am on a boat, but my heart misses my friends.

In parish life the boundaries are clear and they are there for a reason, but it can make the life of a minister a lonely one. It is such a tremendous gift to spend a few days with women who not only are wonderful and gifted, but who also get exactly what you do and why you do it. The hugs are genuine and free and the laughter is awesome.

Many of us have friendships - past and present - with these same qualities. And so today we will celebrate Friday with friendship:

1) Do you remember your first best friend? What did you do together? Are they still in your life?

2) Did you ever have to move away or have your best friend move away from you?

3) Are there people in your life now that you can call 'friend'?

4) What are some of your favorite things to do with your friends?

5) What is a gift friendship has given you?

Please let us know in the comments if you play. If you don't know how to post a link, there are instructions in a previous Friday 5 (or I'm sure Songbird, my friend, will come along and clean this up by putting the directions here).

Thanks, friend.

***********************************************************
My pleasure, dear friend!


After you play, please leave a comment here, and if you can, link directly to your post, like so: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Conducting Non-Member Weddings Edition


This isn't the first ATM column to deal with weddings or even non-member weddings, but it is distinctive, I think, in that our question invites us to think about how we conduct them. We know about all the studies that characterize young adults as spiritual, but not necessarily church-going. Weddings bring these persons to our churches, if only for the event. How can we minister with faith, grace, and integrity to couples who come to get married?

My question has to do with ministering faithfully with premarital couples. There are logical arguments both for and against doing "non-member" (or "stranger") weddings -- and I think a church's or pastor's policy has at least as much to do with context than anything. My question isn't to-do-or-not-to-do non-member weddings, but rather, HOW to do them.

I currently have very few "member" weddings, so for now am reluctantly willing to do weddings for strangers. Like most of my colleagues, I make it clear up front that "the wedding" isn't the whole deal, and that working on preparing for the marriage is part of my agenda -- whether thru a questionaire or a workshop or something else -- and I rarely get resistance to that.

But I struggle with a third aspect of pre-marital work -- Christian witness. When I marry somebody with a church connection, I urge them to be involved in the church community (which they rarely take me up on!). For all couples, I make it clear that this wedding in a church presided over by a Christian pastor is a Christian worship service, and they nod their heads agreeably, mostly not having any idea what that means. [In my mind, it means the liturgy and music and preacher preach Christ, that the focus is the love of God within the context of their love...]

For couples unconnected to the church, I have no illusion that this is an evangelism opportunity which will bear fruit for the couple and our congregation in the short term. It IS, however, an evangelism opportunity -- a connection w/ folks whose paths wouldn't normally cross with a church's or a pastor's -- and really, if I talk about the wedding being a Christian worship service, ought we not somehow explore together what "Christian" means? And how does one do a crash course in Christian faith and practices amidst the agenda of preparing for this marriage?

The couples I'm currently working with have between them NO -- absolutely none -- religious background, and no interest in religious stuff. None of them have been baptized. They have come for a wedding in a nice indoor setting (or in a church because that's what you're supposed to do), and are interested in investing in the marriage, but have no interest, curiosity, or perceived need for Jesus or his community in their life. They say their lives are too busy to attend church -- but really, given their background, why in the world would they even consider being part of a church? I feel like it's a copout to not somehow do some faith teaching or invite them to some faith reflecting -- but I don't even know the language or touchpoints to use for folks who are so disinterested.

So, gals and pals, how do you define "ministering faithfully with premarital couples"? Especially with "non-members," or people who are so unconnected to church and life of faith? (Indeed, even most of the grew-up-in-the-church couples are unconnected to church and a life of faith!) What practices or policies do you have that seem to be helpful and/or effective? What do you give to them and/or expect from them that takes you beyond just being used as another hired hand (along with the caterer and DJ) for this production called a wedding?

Jennifer, who blogs at An Orientation of Heart was the first to "chime in"...

I think you’ve framed the issue very nicely. It’s appropriate for you to share out of your own tradition, plant seeds, and water, water, water!

Being a genuine and authentic Christian presence in the lives of those who are preparing for marriage may have an impact long after the time you’ve signed their marriage license. Conversation with the couple is about the most transparent way I can think of to raise the issue of faith and faith development. I do not know of any books that tackle this subject…perhaps some others do.


Ruth, who blogs at Sunday’s Coming adds:


I nearly didn’t respond to this because I feel like I don’t have it sorted out myself, but for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts & experiences. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, it’s just some ideas.

With ‘non-church-folk’ weddings, I try to take some time to talk to the couple about the Bible reading and hymns they have chosen (and as it’s a church wedding I insist on at least one fo each) : sometimes this can reveal some idea of what they think they believe. Sometimes it’s a hymn they dimly remember from school or something their granny has chosen.

I also try to give them an idea of what my address (5 minutes – max!) will be saying and try to engage them in a bit of discussion about that.

Yes, I invite them to come to church and point out that if they come it will help them feel more at home ‘on the day’.

I also try in my dealings with them & with the family at the rehearsal to model my faith – I try to be interested in them and to help them in any way I can, and to be clear that to me marriage is bound up in the love God places at the heart of creation.

On the day itself I try to be friendly & ‘human’ in the way I lead the service, but I make sure that (in my 5 minutes) I preach the gospel to anyone there who is minded to listen.

The rest I leave to the mercy of God and hope that at the very least (as someone said to me once after a service) ‘that wasn’t nearly as boring as I thought it was going to be’. You’ve got to laugh! And pray. And cope with the ache inside when you feel that as the couple walk down the aisle at the end of the service it’s as if you never really spoke at all.



Time for you to enter into the conversation, by using the Post a Comment feature. Do you have some experience in this realm of ministry? Some strong feelings, or hopes, or disappointments? Share them with us.

May you live in God's amazing grace+

rev honey



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Love Stories and other Things

Mrs. M says, "I'm reading and remembering and smiling over at my place-- early crushes and quick moments that remind us that it's good to be people."

I'm also very fond of her later post, Some Small thoughts on Meditation.

Good words for a Wednesday! And now the question is, what are you reading and writing and remembering? Please let us know in the comments. If you would like to include a link to a post,do it like so: <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, April 27, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - God Among Mortals Edition

This week's reading from Acts has so many points of entry, it's hard to choose. Identity? Inclusivity? God's grace in the world? Go with the last for a moment. Depending on the translation, following his vision, Peter can neither "hinder" or "withstand" God's grace. Those are words almost of struggle, as if God's grace is so integrally woven into our world that we actually have to work hard to overcome it.

Perhaps you'd rather preach on Revelation. I dont know about you, but I find the promises of heavenly city so perfectly beautiful, that there seems nothing more to add. How will you preach on it?

Going with psalm ("hey, it's ALL good!") or the gospel ("all you need is love") instead? Wherever you are heading, you cant escape God's work in the world this week.

Going off lectionary all together? Check in, in the comments.

Douglas Jaques painting of Peter's Vision here. Texts for this week here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

RevGalBookPals Discussion: Hospitality~the Sacred Art

This past week, 20 women attended the Big Event 3.0 and had the privilege of listening to and working with the Rev. Nanette Sawyer, pastor of Wicker Park Grace and author of Hospitality~the Sacred Art: Discovering the Hidden Spiritual Power of Invitation and Welcome. In chapters about Hospitality to God, self, neighbor, stranger, enemy and creation, Sawyer offers tools for becoming more open to God, self and others.

Instead of offering a review, I'd like to share one of the exercises we did together, and invite you to join in the comments.

After a discussion of openness to God and to self, and the realization that you really can't have one without the other, Nanette asked us to do the following homework:

Name three things that help you and two things that hinder you from finding the core place where God and self meet fully?

Here's my first nomination for something that helped:


We'll have more pictures as part of the Wednesday Festival. Meanwhile, please chime in below with thoughts about the book if you've read it or thoughts about the exercise.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Music Video - The King of Love My Shepherd is

Today during our service, we did something a little different than we typically do following the first lesson. In our little church, we typically either read of chant the psalm, using a psalm tone so very familiar to us. There is a comfort with the predictable, knowing exactly what is going to happen next.

However, today we sang the psalm (23), which is the "psalm of all psalms", "The Lord is my Shepherd" - using the hymn "The King of Love My Shepherd is" was our hymn. There are various tunes to which we are familiar in the church. However, I find the one to the hymn tune "Dominus Regit Me" (by Ralph Vaughan-Williams) particularly soothing and meaningful to me.

As I meandered through Youtube, there is an increasing amount of choices from which to choose.  Some have been chosen to be watched by thousands upon thousands, and usually those are wonderful chestnuts to view. The one I selected has been out for a good six months and viewed by fewer than 400.  It's a prelude performed by the Bournemouth Sinfonietta conducted by George Hurst.  Listen to this lovely little pastoral sounding tune -- listen to the tune Dominus Regit Me meandering throughout the piece.





Share with us your worship experience through the sound of music today. What hymns did you sing? Which were particularly meaningful to you today?

Easter 4 Sunday Prayer

Lord,
We who live in a world of cities, tall buildings, one way streets, suburbs, and gated communities don’t necessarily know what sheep are like or what sheepherding entails. Sometimes we do feel like sheep in our world being herded by the dos and don’ts, oughts and ought naughts, media, and voices we don’t even recognize. Sometimes the den of the voices gets so loud we can’t even recognize our own voice. Calm and quieten our hearts, our minds and our souls to that one small voice; yours. And in hearing your voice we hear our own voices that we sing your song of grace to one another. Amen. Abi

cross posted on revgalprayer pals and rev abi's long and winding road

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The 11th Hour Preacher's Party: Plain and Clear, OK?


(photo from the files of Mompriest of a dust storm in the Sonora Desert)

The Easter season is clipping along at a rapid pace. Our readings this week are moving at good clip too - from Peter and the raising of Tabitha (showing the power and potential for new life that is now in the disciples) to the beloved and comforting 23rd Psalm and verses from Revelation (often used in memorial and funeral services) and leaving us with a question for Jesus and a plea to tell them plainly who He is.

Is it plain and clear to you where you are going with your sermon this week? Or, are you struggling to decide which text, what illustration, and what point to make? Do you have something you'd LOVE to say, plain and clear, but, uhm, need to say more delicately? Are you going with different texts entirely or do you have a theme for the Easter season that you are working on?

Whatever direction you are going in we are here to help, share ideas, offer feedback, or just keep you company. Here you will find laughter, compassion, care, and always a good cup of coffee or tea, fair trade of course! Pull up a chair and join the party.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Five: What is there to smile about?

With the end of RevGalBlogPals' third annual Big Event, I am wondering who went and what it was like. There must be a lot of smiling from the Big Event! Hopefully, the rest of us are not frowning either.

So let us know how your past week was for you.

Write five different aspects of the week

OR answer the following questions:

1. When were you smiling lately?

2. What happened unexpectedly to you this past week?

3. How was a catastrophe averted (or not)?

4. What was the most delicious thing you ate?

5. Did you see any good movies or read any books or articles?

As always, leave a link in the comments. Although Mary Beth keeps coaching me in how to do this properly, I still don't get it! Look here if you need an example.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Manse Privacy and Personal Boundaries

Many of us have, at one time or another, dealt with parishioners who had difficulty respecting our personal boundaries. If we're single, maybe it's our dating habits that seem fair game for inquiry. If we're married with children, perhaps our family life begins to feel on display. Perhaps nowhere is this issue more difficult than in regards to a parsonage, manse, or rectory (or "pastorium" as it was called when I pastored in South Georgia). When the pastor lives on church property, it becomes easier for some congregants to disregard their pastor's privacy. Our question this week comes from a pastor whose small and loving congregation can't seem to stop snooping. Read on!

I'm a tentmaking lay pastor for a tiny church an hour from my home. The compensation includes a tiny manse. Without it, I wouldn't be able to serve this church, because it sits high in the mountains and on a lot of winter Sunday mornings, you simply can't get here from anywhere.

The ministry itself is almost pure joy; the manse is a two-fold problem. First, the propane heater has not been working properly. After my grown children were alerted by the carbon monoxide detector on Christmas Eve, I insisted that it be repaired or replaced. Compared to death, the other potential problems are small, but they include burning down the manse or flooding it when the pipes break — not entirely minor issues. Resolving that issue has involved several expensive trips by an apparently inept HVAC company, but I think that now it's finally fixed.

However, two older members of my congregation have developed the habit of checking on the heat every day, and while they're here, they also check the contents of the fridge, the drawers and occasionally the wastebaskets. For all I know, they're scoping out the sheets as well! My husband is not amused. He's the father of those grown kids, so it's not like we have an illicit relationship, but he would like to be able to keep beer in the fridge to drink when he finishes shoveling the foot of snow that appears like clockwork every Saturday. We don't have anything to hide; I guess my real objection is that it's very disconcerting to be trusted with their prayer concerns but not with managing my life and their building. They have left the freezer door ajar (and this is a community that has no food store!), tidied my toiletries, replaced the tissue roll because they thought it was too small, and commented on my reading material.

They have a legitimate reason to be concerned about the heater, but all my attempts to discuss privacy have been laughed off. We have not personnel or pastor-relations committee; we're such a small congregation that all our groups are committees of the whole. Officially, the steering team (we are a mission church, not a chartered congregation) has set boundaries, but these are elderly people who simply do what they want and probably don't realize they shouldn't. They have been staunch supporters of this church since it was resurrected 20 years ago; they have poured their souls and their pocketbooks into keeping it going. 



Any ideas on *another* way to go about this? I've exhausted all the possibilities I can think of, and this week, there was a note IN the shower reminding me that I was nearly out of soap and had none left in the vanity. (Heaven forbid the preacher should show up rinsed but not lathered!) I believe they feel their actions are expressions of care for me, but I'm at my wits' end!




Jennifer writes:

Bless their hearts…and yours! It sounds like you’re serving an extremely loving congregation with some over-functioning folks!


I’d suggest inviting the two older adults who are checking the heat (as well as on everything else under the sun!) to a cordial meeting with tea or lunch or ice cream and love on them for caring for you. They need to know that you believe that they are caring for your wellbeing, as well as the condition of the manse.  Then, I’d firmly and loving say, “I’m so glad that you care for all of this, but going through my personal belongings, even though they’re stashed in your church manse, really feels like a violation of my privacy. How can we work this out so that I can truly feel at home in the manse, while I’m there?”  See what they say, and be ready to offer what would make you comfortable. Speaking the truth in love should work well.  If they’re checking every day, perhaps you could give them a schedule of when you’re NOT there, and suggest that those would be the only times to check the heat…and only the heat! Best of luck with this….

Mompriest offers:

I lived in a rectory (Episcopal term for manse, a church owned house for the clergy) for 7 years when I was the Rector of a small church. The rectory was on the same plot of land as the church, each on one end of 4 acres with only parking lot and grass in between. I was truly blessed in the years I lived there because the congregation understood that while I lived there the house was "my" house. It was there responsibility for all major repairs, we managed little ones - things my husband or I could easily do. We had an account at a local hardware store to purchase materials for any repairs we made. We had professionals take care of major repairs. Except invitations to social event at the rectory no parishioners ever came into the house or made a repair after we moved in.
I realize some small places like to make repairs as inexpensively as possible, and that means doing it themselves. Some congregations think of the manse as "theirs" and feel entitled to investigate - but this is not appropriate so long as you live there. If you have a diocesan, regional, synod, or judicatory for your area find out if they have any official guidelines for clergy/congregation management of manse. Regardless you will need to work with the leadership of the congregation and develop appropriate boundaries and guidelines. Share with them how it feels to have folks wander through your living area and checking the fridge and bedrooms. And remind them that since the manse is part of your compensation it is your private living space as long as you are the clergy person for this church. To my understanding, and in the guidelines of my denomination, it is clearly stated in the clergy/congregation contract that the manse is the private home of the clergy for as long as the clergy is there.

Once you and the leadership team have worked out some guidelines publish them someplace. I don't know that you need to print them in the newsletter or mail them to folks, but if you have some sort of congregational protocol book or file it could go there. Then again, it may be that the leadership will need to mail it to all members of the congregation in a kindly worded letter. I hope this is worked out for you in a gentle compassionate way without a lot of congregational ownership issues rising to the surface.

And Sue writes:

I'm probably the wrong person to reply to this one, as I've never lived in a manse, but my partner has. The one thing he said when I was entering ministry was that he would support any ministry I wanted to do, but he would NEVER live in another manse - ever. Mostly for the same reasons listed by this week's questioner.

I am astonished at the appalling lack of boundaries here. I honestly don't know how to do more than you already have. All I can say is: Keep on setting those boundaries, and when they are broken (which appears to be almost daily!), remind the folks who are invading your private space that you are entitled to live a private life as well as a ministry life. It's sort of like banging a drum with a constant rhythm - even if you feel like they've heard it a hundred times - say it again. "My family and I need some level of privacy in order for me to minister appropriately to our congregation."

If that doesn't work - keep taking it back to the steering team over and over again until they get so tired of hearing it that THEY go to the couple that can't seem to stay out of your manse.

That's all I've got. I'm sorry I have so little wisdom here, but I'm beginning to understand even more why my partner refuses to live in a manse!


---

So, how about the rest of you? Anything you can share from personal experience? How do you draw appropriate lines while honoring the love behind such breeches? Please post your comments!

--earthchick

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Whatever Wednesday



Here we are at Wednesday the 21st! Some of our members are sailing the sea, but the rest of us are here celebrating whatever is going on in our daily worlds. This week, that includes Administrative Professionals Day (TODAY - don't forget your dedicated helpers!) and Earth Day (tomorrow).

Remember that on Monday, April 26 the RevGalBookPals discussion will be on Hospitality, The Sacred Art by Nanette Sawyer. I still have to finish up! Look forward to seeing you all for that next week.

On Tuesday I was wearing red (well, sort of dark red) in honor of Fair Pay Day 2010.

Ellbee says,
"Hi! I posted this wondering aloud about some of the realities coming down the road. I’m still at least 2-2.5 years away from ordination, but am moving into the practicum section of my program this fall. I’m wondering how other second-career moms have helped kids become preacher’s kids… husbands become preacher’s hubbies... that sort of thing. I’ve posted a few questions to prime the conversation, but I’m afraid I don’t even know enough to know the best things to ask. I’m inviting comments, guest bloggers and/or links to someone’s thoughts elsewhere. If non-ordained folks have ideas based on other career shifts or watching a friend, relative, or other loved one walk this, I’d love to hear from them as well."

Leah Sophia shares about Earth Day 2010: her work for this year and for earth days past.

Widening Circles has great news. She says:
"It occurs to me that I never really "announced" that I had received the official go-ahead in the ordination process. I've been blogging about all of this a lot, but two posts that seem particularly relevant are this one, which is about my first appearance in church wearing an alb, and this one , which was written the day after I got the news. Because of my funny hybrid status, having spent three years as a part-time MA student at the same seminary where I expect to be a full-time MDiv in the fall, I will be doing CPE this summer. I'm very excited, and it has meant a lot to me to have the RevGals as a sort of support group while I walked my very roundabout way through this." All our blessings go with you!

The Future Rev. Cody says, "I'm looking for some feedback on a prayer I wrote for Earth Day. The Sisters at the College of St. Benedict have a Procession of the Fish--where the fish from their fish pond are returned to the pond after the winter months. I am offering the prayer/blessing and wanted feedback."

And you, what is up with YOU? Please let us know in the comments. If you would like to include a link to a post,do it like so: <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, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - Get Up Edition


It's no accident of language that on very hard days, those of us "devoted to good works" might say that we are just dead tired. That's when we need someone to give us a hand and help us up, whether we are literally dead or not. When you read this, I will be a preaching conference, hopefully getting rejuvenated and refreshed by experiencing worship led by other people, and I'm looking forward to being given a hand. If that's the direction your thinking is heading, then head on over to Acts 9:36-43 and this week's story.

However, you might instead be pondering all things sheep and shepherd, in which case the Psalm (23) and the passage from John might be better. Personally, I love to preach on the 23rd Psalm since its such a familiar one to so many people. It's fun to hold those familiar words up and see if the light shines through them in an unfamiliar way.

And, , if you are bravely continuing your series on Revelation, please let us know.

In fact, whatever your early-in-the-week thoughts are, let us know. We can all use a hand up this week as our own worship planning starts to take shape, dead tired or not.



Monday, April 19, 2010

All About Hospitality: A Variation on the Monday Meet and Greet


For the third April in three years members of the RevGals and Pals are beginning a retreat called BE, for Big Event. The first year was a cruise and held many memorable moments – transformational moments – moments that point to the deep friendships and collegiality that the RevGals blog has brought to the lives of those who are “members.”

Today is the first day of the BE Three, the third retreat, taking place again on a cruise. Like years past there is a theme to the retreat, this year it’s “Hospitality.” Therefore our Monday Meet and Greet today will emphasize hospitality in its many forms.

What is hospitality to you, or to your faith community? How do we offer hospitality as individuals, as community, as bloggers? How do we experience hospitality?

To get us thinking I offer a couple of poems from Billy Collins and Mary Oliver who use nature as a way into the heart of hospitality.

This one from Mary Oliver called, “Acid” points us to ponder those places and times when others in the human family force us to take a good hard look at ourselves, whether we want to or not. For me that is one valuable aspect of community and hospitality – a chance to not only “look” at my self but better my self.

Acid (By Mary Oliver)

In Jakarta,
among the venders
of flowers and soft drinks,
I saw a child
with a hideous mouth,
begging,
and I knew the wound was made
for a way to stay alive...
once in a while you can creep out of you own life
and become someone else...
I will never see him
again, I suppose.
but what of this rag,
this shadow
flung like a boy's body
into the walls
of my mind, bleeding
their sour taste-
insult and anger,
the great movers?


Here’s one from Billy Collins that is a gentle invitation for one person to walk a familiar journey with another. It’s called

Direction

You know the brick path in back of the house,
the one you see from the kitchen window,
the one that bends around the far end of the garden
where all the yellow primroses are?
And you know how if you leave the path
and walk up into the woods you come
to a heap of rocks, probably pushed
down during the horrors of the Ice Age,
and a grove of tall hemlocks, dark green now
against the light-brown fallen leaves?
And farther on, you know
the small footbridge with the broken railing
and if you go beyond that you arrive
at the bottom of that sheep's head hill?
Well, if you start climbing, and you
might have to grab hold of a sapling
when the going gets steep,
you will eventually come to a long stone
ridge with a border of pine trees
which is as high as you can go
and a good enough place to stop.
The best time is late afternoon
when the sun strobes through
the columns of trees as you are hiking up,
and when you find an agreeable rock
to sit on, you will be able to see
the light pouring down into the woods
and breaking into the shapes and tones
of things and you will hear nothing
but a sprig of birdsong or the leafy
falling of a cone or nut through the trees,
and if this is your day you might even
spot a hare or feel the wing-beats of geese
driving overhead toward some destination.
But it is hard to speak of these things
how the voices of light enter the body
and begin to recite their stories
how the earth holds us painfully against
its breast made of humus and brambles
how we who will soon be gone regard
the entities that continue to return
greener than ever, spring water flowing
through a meadow and the shadows of clouds
passing over the hills and the ground
where we stand in the tremble of thought
taking the vast outside into ourselves.
Still, let me know before you set out.
Come knock on my door
and I will walk with you as far as the garden
with one hand on your shoulder.
I will even watch after you and not turn back
to the house until you disappear
into the crowd of maple and ash,
heading up toward the hill,
piercing the ground with your stick

- Billy Collins

And lastly another one (one of my favorite) from Mary Oliver called

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

What does Hospitality mean to you? Do you have a favorite poem or story, illustration, song or hymn that speaks of hospitality for you? If so post it on your blog and link us to it.

And let’s give a shout out of joy for those RevGals who are heading off to learn all about hospitality from Nanette and her book on the same theme.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: This is the Feast



I learned this great canticle from the Lutheran tradition, based on those amazing texts from Revelation, in my college choir when we sang at a Lutheran church during the Easter season. It was a joy to rediscover it when my daughter Ladybug learned it this week at choir practice for the recessional hymn during today's worship. This isn't the most professional rendition, but the singers are clearly giving it all their hearts, and every word is crystal clear.

I also have many happy memories of singing it for Easter Vespers in my grad school chapel--most joyously, when my oldest was a wiggly toddler delighted with the lighted candles in the dark church, and dancing around during the Magnificat!

What did you sing for the third Sunday of Easter?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Prayer for Easter 3

Lord, we sing your praises loud and clear for all you have done for us.
We thank you for being with us in our times of grief.
We thank you for hearing our cries in the night.
We thank you for bringing your joy to joyless lives
We thank you for seeing us through the messes in our lives.
We thank you for friends and family whom we love and who love us.
We thank you for your great mercy and faithfulness.

Lord we take time now to pray for all those who are grieving.
For those who suffer from illnesses.
For those among us who are in the hospital.
For those who are struggling financially.
For those who are in a troubled relationship.
Lord we pray for you resurrection power in their lives.

Lord we pray for those who are hurting in our world.
We pray the country of Poland who has suffered a traumatic loss of their President
and so many of their country’s leaders.
We pray for those who are suffering from Iceland’s volcano,
which has caused flight delays and other problems.
We pray for those who lost loved ones in the many recent earthquakes, especially those in China.
We pray for those who are starving in the world today.

Lord we pray for revgalblogpals who are traveling to their retreat this weekend,
keep them safe and restore and nourish them.
We pray for those revgalblogpals who were unable to go this time,
may they experience the power of your resurrection in their lives.
Amen

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

11th Hour Preacher Party: The Preacher's Buffet Edition

I so agree with with Juniper from the Tuesday Lectionary Leanings. There are way too many good choices this week. How's a preacher to decide?

For those of us who love good "character" narratives this week is full of gems. Simon Peter gets a chance to redeem his denials. He also does a reverse skinny dip. If someone is addressing this naked fishing piece, PLEASE post it in the comments. Many of us are dying to know your take.

What about a comparison of Paul and Ananias? Paul's sudden conversion next to Ananias' steady faith and response. Here's a shot of one of my favorite sites from my Middle East trip (not my photo, though) - the chapel located at the traditional site of Ananias' house in Damascus.

The praise and poetry of the Psalm and Revelation reading are beautiful for preaching or praying. I know I used much of them in my liturgy, but look forward to seeing how others are inspired for preaching them.

Not sure about the rest of you, but our weather should be gorgeous later today. The morning is cool enough that I'm trying to find some legitimate excuses to keep away from the church clean-up day, but the rest of the day will compete with my attention for sure. Writing will be hard to accomplish, but as always, it will happen somehow!

Let us know what's going on with you today. What do you need from the community? We may be a little smaller today because of the Big Event, but the Spirit is with us as well as them. We'll share what we can!

See you in the comments!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pack Your Bags Friday Five

I'm preparing to pack my bags for the Big Event Three, and as I gather what I need I'm thinking about just that: what do I *need* to take with me? As a person who likes to pack light, I worry that in the end I may underpack and wish I had other things with me.  I own the gigantor version of the bag to the right, but my morbid fear of having it go astray and not get to the ship means I'm more likely to try to pack it all in a carry-on bag instead, especially since I have a very tight connection on the way to the cruise. But won't I be sorry if I don't bring _______________?

With that in mind, here are five questions about packing to go on a trip.

1) Some fold, some roll and some simply fling into the bag. What's your technique for packing clothes?

2) The tight regulations about carrying liquids on planes makes packing complicated. What might we find in your quart-size bag? Ever lose a liquid that was too big?

3) What's something you can't imagine leaving at home?

4) Do you have a bag with wheels?

5) What's your favorite reading material for a non-driving trip (plane, train, bus, ship)?

After you play, please leave a comment here, and if you can, link directly to your post, like so: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Seminarian's Spring Cleaning Edition


It's time for Spring Cleaning...and for a seminarian who's about to graduate, there are some important decisions about what to keep and what to throw away...










"You Win Some, You Lose Some" wrote about a therapeutic round of spring cleaning that she tackled and the reasons why it was a good thing. http://winsomelearnsome.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/clean-house/

It got me to thinking about what I could do proactively to clean out some of the stuff that I've collected as a seminarian. I graduate in May, and while I don't anticipate moving, there's SOOO much stuff from 90 credits of graduate school -- KWIM?

SO I was wondering what you think is worth keeping, and what I should just go ahead and sell/toss or recycle.

For instance -

- great outlines from OT and NT professors on various books of the Bible? Powerpoints included -- would I use them? EVER?

- research papers (gag - IS there a reason to keep them?)

- Books, books and more books (some text books, some just books I wanted to read on a subject

- reference books

- Biblical language texts - OK it is a snowball's chance in hell that I am going to go for a degree that requires I reconstruct all of the Greek and Hebrew I learned (and now have already seem to have forgotten). So -- keep them for pounding myself with guilt at not reviewing them? Or just let it go, and buy a really good electronic lexicon?

What do you wish you had kept/tossed? Or does it matter?

Thanks

signed,

The happy seminarian. :)


Jennifer, who blogs at an orientation of heart, got right to the point:

I’d keep anything you think you might use for a year, and then reevaluate. I think where one is serving would have a lot of bearing on whether one would use academic resources regularly.


And Ruth, who blogs at “Sunday’s Coming!” adds:

I was ordained in 1993 and only got rid of some of my files of papers two years ago in a house-move – so maybe I’m not the person to ask. And perhaps it depends on what kind of note-taker you are – but I realised after 15 years that I had NEVER used the notes at all. For me, I tend to half-remember something & then go scuttling off to a book (or, increasingly, the internet) to remind me exactly what it was. Which brings me to books. At first I kept them all, and I still have most of them. At one point I ‘culled’ some of the more academic ones I felt I wasn’t using – and, inevitably, two weeks later I wanted one of them. I went to a library & borrowed it: the sky didn’t fall in. On the other hand I have other books I know I need a lot and like to have on the shelf – hard to find things, really useful things, stuff I have found useful to lend out to other people.

In summary – someone once suggested it’s best to ask yourself not ‘could this someday come in useful?’ - answer almost certainly yes! - but ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen if I threw this away?’ (or gave it or sold it!) - if the worst thing is you have to go out and buy it again, you may want to keep it: if the worst thing is you spend 2 minutes finding it online – then let it go!

And finally, as a busy minister I’d just say that it’s not just good to have something, it’s vital to be able to put your hand on it when you want it. I am rather disorganised, but I have a friend who is great at saying – ‘oh yes I have a research paper on that...here!’. If you can organise the stuff you keep, you’re winning the battle!

I wish you joy!


Do you have some advice for our happy seminarian? Use the "Post a Comment" function to add your two-cents worth!


Next week Earthchik will be your hostess, as I will be among those enjoying BE 3.0.


May you live in God's amazing grace+

revhoney

(Image courtesy of www.comicnurse.com)



Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Getting Ready for a Party!


Quotidian Grace's post on Church-Based Reality TV got some great comments last week...go see and join in!

RevJMK says, "I finally managed to find the energy to think through a post about my son the preacher's kid on Palm Sunday. I'd love to be included in this week's festival, because I would welcome some feedback and conversations from other preacher moms on bringing their little ones to church. Especially from those who don't have spouses who attend church with them."

I imagine there are a lot of folk out there who can weigh in on this really poignant and tough post.

Next week is a Festival Challenge! A number of our regular readers and commenters will be off cruising on the BE3. I will not be among them....if you will not either, let's wish them Bon Voyage, and while they are away, let's have a party of our own in this space. I'll have the blender out making drinks all day, and the grill fired up making veggie burgers, steaks, grilled veg, whatever you please. I'd love to hear what you are reading and posting and to get some conversation going among those of us still on dry land. Who knows, perhaps Antonio Banderas or your favorite actor will drop in.

That means you need to nominate at least one post for next week's festival! They can be yours or another ring member's and you just need to email the link and a description of the post to wednesdayfestival@gmail.com.

We all look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - So! Many! Great! Choices! Edition

Welcome back, preachers! Whether you took the week off or not, it's time to put one foot in front of the other into as we head solidly into Eastertide. Luckily, whatever road you choose to walk down, you cannot go wrong this week.

You might choose the Acts passage. Are you doing a series on Acts? No matter, you can dip just for the day into what a friend of mine used to call The Bible's Big Comic Book (I think for all the action! There's a reason it's called Acts! and not Sits Around!). If you have the kind of church where you can project slides, you'll find lots of lovely paintings of Saul's conversion on-line. Take this one by Michelangelo, for example. He imagines the scene more packed with spectators than I've ever really imagined. Also, that animal is rather majestic for a donkey, imho. However, it certainly is compelling.

On the other hand, if you are looking for images of Jesus on the beach to illustrate the passage from John, you might find those a little harder to come by. I tried googling it several ways ("john 21:1-19" "feed my sheep" and even "jesus cooks breakfast"), and found just a very few. Like this one, for example, but you've probably already seen it at Textweek.

I wonder why the Saul conversion has generated so much art, and the John passage so little. The scene at the beach, while it lacks the drama of the opened eyes of Saul/Paul in a Hollywood kind of way, has lots of drama in a family-gathering kind of way. There's that splashing out of the boat business. And, what is lovelier to paint than a beach at sunrise, even if you don't care anything about the story?

But, I digress. In both of these stories, followers of Christ get their eyes opened to what it really means to follow the Resurrected One. Which might be the start of an interesting conversation about discipleship.

Or, maybe your Revelations series is in full swing? How's that going?

At my church, we are celebrating Earth Day and Creation Sunday with a blessing of the pets, so there will be animals in the building, which really makes any sermon I'm preaching somewhat beside the point. Anyone else heading that direction? I cant decide if I should stay on lectionary or not. Although if I do, "feed my sheep" takes on a whole new meaning in this context.

Whatever you are up to this Sunday, let us know in the comments.

You can find links to the texts for this week here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

2nd Monday Discussion: 1040-not-so-EZ





We're three days from tax day, and it's on everyone's minds, but there are particular complications for clergy when it comes to taxes.
Even the payroll companies that claim they know how to handle our needs don't know how. 
Even accountants with great experience find some things about our situations cloudy. 
So for today's discussion, we'll open the comments to stories good and bad about the peculiarities of clergy taxes. Because that 1040EZ? Is wishful thinking.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Prayer for Easter 2

Lord,
We find ourselves in the locked doors of ourselves just as the disciples were behind closed doors. We too are afraid, perhaps for a different reason than theirs. But we too need the breath of the Holy Spirit to take away our fears so that we can come out from behind these locked doors.

Lord, we are like Thomas with our questions and our doubts. We sometimes need to see in order to believe, we need you in order to have faith.

Lord, we too need the peace you bring because our world is fraught with violence, and unrest.

Lord, just as Thomas confessed you are his Lord and his God, we boldly claim for our lives.

Lord we thank you for the blessing you have given us, the ones who believe without seeing.

Lord, may the doors of our churches be open to all and that doubters be welcomed here.

cross posted at revalprayer pals and rev abi's long and winding road

11th Hour Preacher Party: More Peaceful Edition

Good morning, pals and gals! It's been Easter for, oh, about six days now. Have you gotten used to the Risen Lord yet?
I thought not.

This being the Sunday after the Big Bash known as the Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord, it is often more (ahem) peaceful than the one before, there (often) being no choirs, no bells, no trumpets, no timpini, etc. It is also the week that Jesus comes to the disciples through locked doors to speak to them, "Peace be with you."

Are you preaching this week? (another way of asking: are you the associate pastor?) If you are preaching, are you using the much-maligned Thomas as your theme? There is a great discussion on the texts here.) If not, what are your plans this weekend? Do you need a good children's sermon?

I have blueberry pancakes this morning, orange juice, fair trade coffee and tea. The table is set, and a hearty welcome to all of you this morning, or throughout the day!
(painting is called "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas"; I found it here)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Friday Five: On the Road Again



My family is heading out to my husband's parents for the weekend later today. They would have preferred that we come at Easter, but I preferred that my choir director not bring my life to an early end! (Five liturgies to sing between Thursday and Sunday, two with major solos). So Low Sunday it is.

Some Gals and Pals may have been able to travel to join family or visit a vacation spot last week; some who had to stay put then may be traveling this weekend; and, if I recall correctly, some lucky ones are heading out to the Big Event next weekend. Hence: a road trip Friday Five.

1. When was your last, or will be your next, out of town travel?

2. Long car trips: love or loathe?

3. Do you prefer to be driver or passenger?

4. If passenger, would you rather pass the time with handwork, conversing, reading, listening to music, or ???

5. Are you going, or have you ever gone, on a RevGals BE? Happiest memories of the former, and/or most anticipated pleasures of the latter?

6. Bonus: a favorite piece of road trip music.

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, April 08, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Games People Play Edition


This morning's question came to us as more of a narrative, and in two parts over a few days. Our ministry leader has an unhappy congregation member who happens to be very good at both triangulation and avoidance, two of those games people play!

The initial setting: A gathering for soup and Lenten Study.

The players: B. is a member of the church. She is on the shut-in communion list, but is not in the least homebound. We celebrated communion in December and I met her for the first time. She has not attended Sunday worship since I have been here (3 months). She has been "dating" a man from this small community (for at least a year) while his wife was in a nursing home. The wife has since died. Both were present Wednesday. I sat beside B. and gave her the space to introduce J. if she wanted to. While I did not directly engage her in conversation, the group at the table had conversation.

Today, I hear she is upset with me because I did not speak to her and thought I was unfriendly to J. She has not contacted me directly, but has voiced her concern to several other people, who have let me know.

My gut instinct is to call her and tell her there was no ill will on my part and that I hope she continues to come to the Lenten Study.

Our ministry leader did in fact contact B. Here is the gist of the conversation.

Me: I am sorry if my actions on Wednesday evening hurt your or J. in any way. That certainly was not my intent.

B: Oh, I am not upset with you.

Me: I know a bit about your relationship with J. from our time together in December, however I wanted to provide you with the space you needed to introduce him...or not. (I offered that hoping she would understand that while we could of been more hospitable...there was a part she played in this as well).

B: I was a little hurt that the men who attended that night did not come up and talk to J.

Me: That must of been painful.

B: I just thought they would...he is members in one of the service organizations as are several of the men present. You know this could of been a potential member, but now I am not so sure. I feel very welcomed at J's church.

Me: I cannot speak for others, but please know that I am sorry for what has happened.

B: Thank you.

Me: I hope you will join us again this Wednesday and in the future if anything like this happens, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Here are some questions our ministry leader presents in light of these events...

-in a perfect world B. would of come directly to me without involving others. I am aware of triangulation, but I also did want this to "fester" any longer.

-could it of "worked" if those she complained to had said something like, "I understand your hurt, but you really need to address the pastor with this personally." Or offer to come with B. to see me.

-here is where I see it breaking down: B. does not take the invitation and continues to stew in her own anger...causing more distress...and the vicious cycle repeats itself.


Two of our matriarchs responded to our ministry leader's query:

From Mompriest, who blogs at Seeking Authentic Voice

I think "Me" has done the exact right thing - contacting "B" and having the discussion they had. In that conversation "B" revealed a lot with her "loaded" statments, examples of how easily she is "wounded" and how little she takes healthy initiative and falls back on blaming others (ie now, faced with a direct conversation with "Me" it wasn't "Me" who ignored and upset "B" but the "men."). Such people are seldom ever satisfied with how they are treated and can become chronic problems in congregations.

I suggest "Me" follow up with those who told her that "B" was upset and give them a briefing on the coversation. It is important that these people know that "Me" took the initiative to call and apologize for the hurt feelings (note, I do not say, for what she did, but for the hurt feelings)...but also that "B" denied being upset with "Me" and instead said she was upset with the men who knew "J". This will need to be worded without emotion or judgment, just report the conversation. The hope is folks will realize that there is no reason for the congregation to get too worked up about anything "B" says regarding her peceived "hurts".

By the same token it's always important to be mindful of hospitality and having a generous welcoming spirit. Also, it's a good idea to remind folks that the next time "B" or anyone triangulates another they need to be reminded of healthy communication.

There are a number of good articles on the Alban Institute website. Click on the link for Conversation, then Enewsletter, then archive. Permission can be gained to reprint these in congregational newlestters and as handouts for leadership teams. Also good is Peter Steinke's book, "Healthy Congregations." Blessings and best wishes for you.

And from Sue, who blogs at Inner Dorothy,

I have little to zero patience with parishioners who are grown adult human beings, yet when faced with church dynamics, suddenly start playing out a classic toddler tantrum in slow motion. I just have no time for it. The drama queens and kings of our churches set dramatic inter-personal fires that keep us from doing real ministry in our communities. I don't know if it's about needing attention, or needing power over another person (which happens when people feel powerless in other parts of their lives), or if it's just plain old curmudgeonly behaviour - but I do know that it's a pastor's biggest time suck.

Putting out these little fires is exhausting and takes away from the church's ministry in so many ways. An example: new members catch on to these dynamics and their first thought is "What a bunch of hypocrites - talking about the love of God while they treat each other so poorly." We had a lovely family attending for about a year, after which time they decided they had to leave. They invited me over to say it had nothing to do with my ministry and everything to do with the personal dramas and fights within the congregation. This family just could not reconcile scripture with the nasty crap going on in the church (ours and others in our city), so they stopped attending. Now they don't attend any church at all. It's sad, but it was a rare occasion in which a family left the church without feeling angry - just disappointed.

While this may seem like a fairly small incident, the potential for it to grow is clearly present - because the disgruntled member wants it that way. I would give it some time and call to arrange a visit. I would NOT apologize for anything said or unsaid at the dinnner. You did nothing wrong. There were plenty of people at the event. You cannot possibly know who you need to pay "extra" attention to - you do not have mind-reading capacities. You attended, you engaged in conversation with people, all of which is appropriate. If someone feels slighted - tough. If they felt a particular need to speak with you that night, it was
their responsibility to approach you - not the other way around. Again - none of us were taught clairvoyance in seminary. Why parishioners believe we know what's in their heads is just beyond me.

(After reading our ministry leader's follow-up, Sue adds...) I would not have apologized. It would have been enough to empathize. Also, her first words to you were untrue, which is really unfair to you. Serious triangulation going on....This sounds like a woman who is looking for a reason to leave and go to J's church. Also, if J wanted to talk to the gentlemen he knew from his other service groups, why didn't he go and talk to them??? ARGH. Like I said, tantrum in slow-motion.

You have done all you can do and you have acted with grace and concern. If B still decides to leave, at least she will be attending somewhere else where her spirit can be fed. I sometimes think people don't always know how to leave as gracefully and honestly as the family I mentioned above did. Please know that if she does leave, it is not your fault - it is her decision. It is what it is. Just know that you have done all you can do and carry on with your ministry. You're doing just fine.

I think all of us have had at least one of these episodes in our contexts. We'd love to hear how you deal with them, what resources have been helpful, and any encouragement you have for our ministry leader. Please use the "Post a Comment" function to add your two cents to the conversation.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

May you live in God's amazing grace+

rev honey

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Easter Week

Artist: Hanna Cheriyan Varghese (found at Does Not Wisdom Call)

So, Easter week...and headed for "Low Sunday," or "Bright Sunday," as some are calling it. In fact, there are rumors of this being observed in some quarters as "Holy Humor Sunday" (might this be akin to the Prairie Home Companion's Annual Joke Show in the sermon time?)

Lectionary Leanings from yesterday are here. Please continue to share in those comments what you are working on...Thomas, humor, Peter, Revelation?

Quotidian Grace shares the April article she wrote for Presbyterians Today. "The subject is international blogging and I highlighted two of our RevGals--Sue of Inner Dorothy and Nik of A Pilgrim's Process-- in the column so I think it will be of interest to the webring."

Lucky Fresh says, "this has nothing to do with the Easter season, but I wrote a letter to my niece. "

Mrs. M. says, "I've started imagining and stitching with scripture, and it's been a wonderful way to go deeper."

In a difficult Easter Week post, I commented on the Christian Century article Holy Fire: Cremation, a practice in need of ritual. I would welcome comments and discussion.

And MomPriest had an unexpected Easter morning gift.

Monday's post invited us to share our Easter joys and challenges. If you have written more since then and would like to share your reflections (on Easter or anything else), please do so in the comments, and link to posts if you have them. Here's how: <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, April 06, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: The Sunday After


There are two kinds of pokey. The way we feel the week after Holy Week, and the picky kind of pokey of a person who has to stick his finger in Jesus to be sure.

Oh, you have some other choices for this coming Sunday. You can hang with Peter, who is getting in trouble with the authorities, or you can head for Revelation.

Or you can take a vacation, but if you're reading this column, I will assume you are not doing that!

It's my experience that where Thomas is concerned we jump too quickly to dismissing him, when in fact many of us really would like to see some proof, so how can we not identify with him at times? I think it's also instructive to look at his other appearances in John's gospel (the Lazarus story in Chapter 11, and in Chapter 14 during the Farewell Discourse) and use those to build a sense of who this follower might have been in more fullness than John 20 allows taken by itself.

So, where are you headed this week? You may find all the texts listed here. Join us in the comments and let's talk this over.

(The painting is Caravaggio's "The Incredulity of Thomas," which I found at -- please don't laugh -- Lostpedia.)