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Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday Meet 'n Greet--Ringsurf Bothers

Friends and Members~
I want to let you know that RevGalBlogPals is aware there are some complications with using Ringsurf right now, including a requirement that the description of a new blog contain 1000 words. At next week's board meeting for RevGalBlogPals, Inc., we'll be discussing how to resolve this issue, in which Ringsurf's attempt to be spam-proof leads to complications for real bloggers. We're also aware that emails from our address giving Ringsurf instructions to potential new members have never arrived, which is very odd and also a concern. Please know that we have your emails, still, and I will be in touch after we figure out a better way to bring in new members. 
Thanks for your patience,
Songbird

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Isaiah 49



This one, beloved of my children at bedtime from when they were very tiny, has been around since the 1970s. As a college student searching for maternal images for God I was delighted to discover it, and the holy card with a strong and gentle hand cradling a child's face. (Can't find on the web, sadly, and don't have a copy to scan). And the original title with scripture reference led me to a passage from Isaiah that has played a major part in my spiritual journey.

Why today? Because, on Trinity Sunday, I am anticipating that--unlike many RevGals--my dear, old, Anglo-Catholic rector is going to Father us to death! So, since I can't preach on my favorite trinitarian formulations: Mother, Christ and Holy Spirit, and Lover, Beloved, and Love, I am going for a little musical balance here by sharing a song that means a lot to me.

What did you sing in worship today?

Sunday Prayer: Trinity Sunday



(photo from the files of Mompriest, Sunrise, Escalante, Utah)

Listen! Wisdom is calling!
Before all began,
God , Word, and Wisdom
Creating, calling,
from the foundations of the deep

Listen! Wisdom is calling!
From the mountain tops
Earth, fields and sea
Creating, calling
From the foundations of the deep

Listen! Wisdom is calling!
To those who suffer
God’s love is given
Endurance blossoms
From the foundations of the deep

Listen! Wisdom is calling!
Daily, God’s delight
You, me, every one
Given hope, grace, love
As the foundation of our lives

Listen! Wisdom is calling!
Poured into our hearts
That we may become
Christ’s hand and heart, love
As the foundation of our lives

Listen! Wisdom is calling!

Crossposted on RevGalPrayer Pals and SeekingAuthenticVoice

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Sound of One Hand Clapping: The 11th Hour Preacher's Party



Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? (Proverbs 8:1). Perhaps as we ponder the readings, and what to say to our congregations on Trinity Sunday we are hoping that wisdom will indeed strike us and understanding will prevail? Perhaps we have chosen other readings and another focus for this Sunday, a great way to avoid the mystery of the Trinity - of three in one and one in three - which may be the Christian equivalent to the Buddhist Koan, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Barbara Brown Taylor attempted this in a reflection offered in this bookHome By Another Way called "Three Hands Clapping".

So, today, as you prepare your offering for tomorrow are you thinking along the lines of One Hand Clapping or Three Hands Clapping? Or are you going in an entirely different direction?

What ever direction you are going in, one, three, or otherwise, we are here to journey with you. Share your ideas, your frustrations, your hopes, and we'll be here with you. Maybe there are ideas to share around? At the very least we have coffee, tea, and lots of excellent treats! Here, let me give you a hand as you pull up a chair.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Five: I would put my hand in the fire for that

--Robert Mapplethorpe, Hand in Fire, 1985

There is a German expression: ich würde die Hand dafür ins Feuer legen, which means: “I would put my hand in the fire for that.”

I learned it many years ago, while reading the Best Reference Letter Ever: written by a very distinguished linguistics professor for a student who went on to win a prestigious international scholarship. This student, he said, was destined for greatness; and he submitted his judgment with the certainty of the expression above.

I’ve always held the concept as a very important indicator in my mind. “Would I put my hand in the fire for that?” I sometimes think, and it helps me to make a decision or see a situation more clearly. It’s similar to “is this the battlefield I want to die on?”

These days (certainly as every day) there seems to be so much difficulty, wrong, pain, injustice, and mismanagement in our world, and I need a little revitalization. Often when I feel this way, I’ll write a list of things for which I’m grateful, but that’s certainly been done, and I need a bit of a stronger draught.

So, what are five things for which would you put your hand in the fire? Things / people / causes in which you believe passionately and completely? This might be demonstrated in that you would take extraordinary (for you) action…donations, marching, writing letters…or merely in the way you live your life. You may give as much or as little detail as you wish.

Post your answers to your blog, then post a link in the comments here so people can come see what you've written. 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>

(Ps: there is a metal band that uses the lyrics above in a song…and their interpretation is NOT what I had in mind.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - To Preach or Not to Preach?

Our question this week deals with conflict over inclusive language and how best to address it. We've got a lot of great responses from the Matriarchs, and perhaps you have some thoughts as well. Read on.


I'm a fairly new pastor, been in my placement for nine months, and for the most part people are very happy to have me here. But, I just lost my first member this week, and no I don't mean in the euphemistic sense of 'she died', but she announced to the women's group that she would never set foot inside this church again! (She is one of our matriarchs.)

My "sin" was using a closing hymn that referred to God in the feminine tense. She just couldn't get past that, to her the only way to imagine God is as The Father. So, my question... do I preach an educational sermon about theism, sexism, and dangers of patriarchialism, knowing full well she will not hear it, (but, also knowing word will get back to her) or let it go and do some bible studies around the issues. Both have their merits. How do you(all) weigh in?

-- Wondering in the Land

Jennifer rings in: 

I’m wondering if you’ve reached out to the matriarch in your midst? For some reason this woman feels hurt and offended (or perhaps something else has happened and this is the reason she’s giving others, but not the real reason for her leaving) and talking with her directly accomplishes a couple of things. It models the way in which we are called to treat one another, it doesn’t presume that she’s gone forever, and it offers the opportunity for dialogue (what a concept!!!!!!)  

Not knowing if this hymn that offends her is the first or the most recent example of a lot of inclusive language that gets her goat, an opportunity to talk together would at least give both of you the chance to hear each other (and that’s assuming that you and others are eager to have her back in the fold.)  

That said, I think it is wise to talk about images for God and inclusive language for God and people, especially if it’s important to you. Not knowing if you have a worship committee, you might want to engage them in study, too. It always makes sense to build a base of understanding with new concepts, and worship belongs to all the people, not just the worship leaders. 

The Vicar of Hogsmeade offers:

Over the years, I have found that a Bible study setting that is conducive to discussion, while sometimes more uncomfortable, is a better place for topics that have "hot topics" or concerns. In a setting where there is give and take, where you can ask follow-up questions, where they can ask questions of clarification, and you are able to respond to the body language of the participants, there is more likely to be an atmosphere where the participants feel heard. A sermon on a sensitive subject can lead to perceptions of a "bully pulpit" even when nothing could be further from the truth. Everything you can do to facilitate conversation works to strengthen communication. When there is an atmosphere of open communication and respect in the face of differing understandings, there is the possibility of unity without uniformity.

Ruth, who blogs at Sunday's Coming, writes: 

Forgive me if this sounds patronising (or perhaps matronising?) - but is there a way you can ask some of your folk what they think?

You might find that they have insights into why this person has left, what might help people to come to terms with this, and what has worked well in the past. They might also have history to tell you about others who have got upset in the past, or other things which upset this same person.

Sometimes as ministers we get very worked up about having upset someone, just to have others in the fellowship say ‘oh don’t mind her, she gets like that’. I’m a great believer in sharing the responsibility for caring for all. 

Mompriest rings in:
 
I wonder if you have had a conversation with the woman who is leaving? Have you called her and offered to come over or meet for coffee, saying clearly that you hear she is leaving the church over the use of a particular hymn and you want to understand her feelings. This is the first thing I would do. If she lets you come over I'd ask her tell ME why the hymn bothered her. Listen carefully and repeat back to her what you heard...I suggest this because it sometimes affirms to the person that you have really heard them. Then if she comes back to church I'd stay away from hymns that would offend her until you have the chance to do some teaching.

One thing I'd be very cautious of: because this is a matriarch be careful that this does not become about YOU. You don't say how big your church is but I have the feeling it may be small - or at the very least function like a small church? Matriarchs are powerful and you want to be careful that this stays about the topic, the language we use for God, and NOT about you.

Therefore, regarding the teaching, I'd consider asking someone else to lead a study group - someone else in the congregation who can lead a group - IF you have someone like that. I'd have them use a book to frame the conversation. A book depersonalizes the topic a bit and enables people to reflect with some distance to the topic. It also gives folks the opportunity to see what other folks are thinking on this topic. I once used Bill Moyers book, Genesis for a group discussion. It models a group format for a diverse discussion and there is some conversation about language for God. That's one idea that might work for you. There may be other books or resources for this.

At some point you can make reference to the study group in a sermon or two. After awhile I might build a forum for a season, like Advent and/or Epiphany where we used hymns that have different language for God. Again, I'd have other folks, if possible, lead the forum and choose the hymns. The more you can have others lead and hold the discussion and keep yourself out of it the less it will be about you. The less it is about you the more it will be about the topic. And the more its about the topic the more you can minister to people who are upset or concerned about things like this.
If you don't have leadership who can do this then I'd tread very carefully. Maybe even wait a year or two to begin this study. Let folks come to trust you more and know that you have their best interests at heart. (which you do)...

Also, this summer I will be working with a group of women and men from the National Council of Churches on a conversation about Expansive Language. We hope to produce a resource for people to use, one that might help you with this conversation. It won't be ready though until sometime next Spring, assuming all goes well with our plans and intention. If you are interested in more information drop by my blog: Mompriest at seekingauthenticvoice.blogspot.com
 


And revhoney offers:


I think there is something I would do before or perhaps instead of preaching a sermon or teaching a bible study: I would make the effort to sit down with this person and address her upset pastorally. 

It can be tricky to do this…you don’t want to set a precedent of running after every person who gets upset.  But there is something about this situation that feels as though it goes deeper than a hymn with feminine descriptors for God. 

It is not unheard of for matriarchs in a congregation to feel displaced when a woman is called to pastor a parish.   If you can sit down with this person and listen, you may find that your ear and a sense of your heart is what she wants most.  Don’t plan to apologize or to make the case for the hymn you chose.  Simply make time to get to understand her better and to respect where her faith journey has led her.

Perhaps she will decide that she can step foot back in the sanctuary; perhaps not.  But no matter what she chooses, others in the congregation will learn something very important about you – that you are willing to listen to those whose opinions differ from your own.   You can probably never fully measure the good will and respect that this step will gain you.
----

Lots of wonderful advice here! And as you can see, there is a common thread - the advice to speak with the matriarch and with other congregants before doing anything else. 

So what about the rest of you? Do you have anything else to add to the matriarchs' thoughts? Have any of you had experience with this particular issue in your own congregation? Do share in the comments. And, as always, if you have a question for the matriarchs, send it our way at askthematriarch@gmail.com

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Hard Questions


As we approach Trinity Sunday, the preachers among us are working on how to explain that difficult concept....and several of our bloggers are working on difficult concepts, too.

Leah blogged about the Deepwater Horizon in oil and water... wondering "how could this have happened? As they've been saying, this is not an Act of God; this is not Mother Nature..."

RevJMK is thinking about the meaning of "church membership" at For The Someday Book. Go join in the discussion.

Sally shares a poem, Christ in Majesty...who, in fact, do we worship? and what does it mean?

I thought about paradox here, too. And introduced a couple of new bloggy friends, including one who will be ordained this Sunday!

What questions are you pondering? 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>

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Three-in-One Edition

Lessons for Sunday can be found here.

A pastor friend of mine jokingly (I think) refers to Trinity Sunday as "the best Sunday for a pastor's vacation." But if visions of glazed-eye parishoners intoning the Athanasian Creed, or object lessons involving apples, eggs or water, are making you long for the lake or the links this weekend, don't despair -- we have some wonderful texts for Sunday describing the Dance of God in action, with particular attention to the Holy Spirit: Lady Wisdom's discourse in Proverbs; Paul discussing the transformative work of God in our lives; Jesus' further description of the Advocate who would guide, comfort and instruct the Church in his physical absence.

What are your thoughts as you sit down to plan, pray and preach this coming week? As always, please share your insights, ideas and conundrums here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

RevGalBookPals: Summer Book Reviews, Part One

For the summer months, we'll be offering book reviews rather than book discussions, and I'm beginning today with two books I read in recent months that make good companion pieces.

After seeing it on the list of our church book group, I picked up one of their extra copies of The Help, a powerful novel about life in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. The author, Kathryn Stockett, who is white, writes from the perspective of three characters: two women of color working as domestic help and the younger white woman who decides to write a book about their lives working in the homes of white "ladies." I'm a little older than the author, and just about exactly the same age as the little girl cared for by Aibileen, one of the African-American characters. When I was that age, I received the daily care of Catherine Doyle, who did the sort of work Aibileen and Minny do in the book, but I hope in a very different environment at my house, in my hometown, Portsmouth, Virginia. Still, although my parents and Ruby's may have been nicer or more just than other possible employers, the world was still screwed up and our hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia, existed under social rules not unlike those in Apartheid.

My friend, Ruby, and I have discussed the complexity of telling other people's stories, when we are very privileged, educated white women who loved the black women who cared for us, but also know we don't fully understand their stories. Perhaps as an activist (Ruby) and a pastor, we hesitate. But Stockett is a novelist, and a lot of this book is about the catharsis of writing, something she required when she began the book in the aftermath of disaster, living in New York City and homesick for her people in Mississippi and for the way life had been before 9/11. Skeeter, the white heroine, writes to get a life and to escape her life. Aibileen writes her prayers every night, a way of keeping up her skills of reading and writing but a powerful spiritual tool as well. She spends an hour or two every evening, after a long, hard day, writing down her prayers.

I wonder what my life would be like if I unplugged from the Internet and spent my time that way?

It's an engaging book despite the difficulties inherent in the task the author set for herself. But I'm a white girl, just like Miss Skeeter, and Miss Kathryn. I hope I'll get to hear/read more diverse opinions from other readers in the comments below.


After I reviewed "The Help" on my blog, I got a very nice email from the Bernice L. McFadden, author of Sugar, asking if I would accept a copy of the book and share my thoughts about it with my blog friends. I agreed, so this is a review of a book given to me by the author. (I also bought it on my Kindle, because authors should sell books!) Ms. McFadden hopes to put before a wider audience an alternative view of African-American life in the pre-Civil Rights Era South, a view formed by an African-American person.

"Sugar" explores the lives of two women in Bigelow, Arkansas, Pearl, who has lived a conventional life marked by the tragic loss of her daughter, and Sugar, who was dropped off by her mother as an infant to be raised by three sisters who run a brothel. When Sugar moves in next door to Pearl and her husband, and the whole town is talking about "who is this slutty woman," Pearl finds her captivating and reaches out to her, tentatively.

I don't want to tell you more of the plot, except to say it's engaging and sad and even funny at times. McFadden explores themes such as abandonment and love and abuse and sexuality and faith and redemption. But she does more than that. She gives the 21st century reader (in my case a white, middle-aged, formerly Southern, educated woman) an eye into the lives of African-American people in the mid-20th century. The characters are fully realized and I venture to say authentic, though I make that judgment as a reader and as a writer myself, not as a witness.

Now, let me tell you how much the book gripped me. I have a Rule of Three, and I apply it to movies and cable TV shows and books, too. The Three are Sex, Violence and Language, and the Rule is I can handle two but not three at the same time. I choose my entertainment based on avoiding the Three at once. Oh, sure, occasionally I go to a movie that is more violent than I expected, but I look away!!! You can't look away from a book, so I simply don't read violent books. "Sugar" contains all three of the Three, right from the beginning, but the writing held me. I wanted to keep going (although I'll admit to putting it down and coming back a few days later), and by the second half of the book, I couldn't put it down. I cared enough about Pearl and Sugar that I wanted to go with them to the end of the story.

I highly recommend "Sugar."

Please use the comments to share your thoughts. And if you would like to post a book review this summer, the dates are the fourth Monday of each month; you may email me directly to participate. If we have more participants than dates, we'll include more than one review each time!

(The links in this post take you direct to Amazon. Books purchased after clicking the links will benefit RevGalBlogPals through the Amazon Associates program.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Music - Feast of the Pentecost

The Great Fifty Days has now culminated and we celebrate the birthday of the Church - church communities who observe this feast will see LOTS of red today, whether by what we wear to the celebratory decorations that adorn the church.

"Come Down, O Love Divine" (hymn tune "Down Ampney" by Ralph Vaughn Williams), is the featured hymn in this video. And as if the hymn was not beautiful enough in and of itself, images of the Holy Spirit are featured throughout the hymn.  About half way through the video, the hymn ends and the "credits' begin, as the images are all credited at to their origin, accompanied by piano, with the hymn "Be Still, My Soul".




What hymns did you sing today or what music did you hear that spoke to you? What images did you see today that brought the Holy Spirit into you? Where did you celebrate and worship today?

Sunday Prayer: Pentecost


(From the files of Mompriest, Highway 12 outside Boulder, Utah)

God of creation, God of fun and sport
God who created Leviathon, just
Because you could, God of fun
God of life, God who delights
In diversity and randomness
We rejoice with you this day!

God who sends forth as the Holy Spirit
God who comes to all, women, men,
Young, old, to all colors, all people
God who speaks all languages and
Loves all people and accepts all
We rejoice with you this day!

God who sends forth an advocate
To lead, to guide, to speak for
All, you, me, all creation
God who loves each one as if,
as if, only one - and yet - all!
We rejoice with you this day!

Fill us we pray, with your Holy Spirit
May we know your fire of
love deeply in our being, may
We be your love. May we bring
Your love. May your love reign
As we rejoice with you this day!

In my words and in my silence in my
Prayers and in my meditation in my
Joy and in my sorrow in my despair and
In my hope, may I know your glory
May I sing to you, to your glory
May we rejoice with you this day!

And may the peace that surpasses all
Understanding, the peace that calms
My troubled heart, the peace that
Soothes my fears, the peace that
You give. For the peace that you give,
May we rejoice with you this day!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party: A Fire That Doesn't Go Out

Good morning, preachers!
It's one of my favorite Sundays in the church year tomorrow, Pentecost. The texts are replete with images for preaching.

Where is the Spirit moving you?

Will you speak of Peter and the disciples?
Will you land the hard reading on a liturgist, or do the full Cappadocia yourself?
Or will you explicate the Tower of Babel, or share the Roman understanding of adoption so crucial to comprehending Paul's letter?

It's not even nine o'clock in the morning where I am, so there's plenty of time for inSpiration to carry the day.

Join us in the comments to share your thoughts, your plans, your scheme for a Children's Message and anything else you might like to bring to the party.

I'm laying the table with bagels, cinnamon rolls, orange juice, bananas, grapes and, of course, coffee served up in a "Does This Pulpit Make My Butt Look Big?" mug.

Happy Birthday of the Church! Let's start the party now!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Five: Disciplines

I so often think I have little "discipline" in my life, but there has to be a certain amount to survive and accomplish anything. Think about the various disciplines you routinely (or semi-regularly) participate in--or formerly practiced. Tell us about five in any (one or more) category(ies) that you feel like discussing.

Here are a few examples, but you may bring up your own, too:

  • Spiritual practices
  • Prayer practices
  • Fitness disciplines
  • Food regularities
  • Sermon preparation routines
  • Artistic or musical practices
  • Practices you wish to develop
  • Which practice was routine for a season?

Let us know in the comments if you play! You may recall that I am the FF person who never can write out the linking formula, so for a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Nowhere to Hang Her Stole

Our question this week is a bit unusual and many of our matriarchs freely admitted to having no experience with this issue. 


I'm in an unusual situation in that I have been ordained, but for various reasons am looking for a new overseeing body. My MDiv will be official in May... Does anyone have any advice for us nondenominational types? Are there progressive ordination groups that aren't patriarchal or so nondenominational as to be unidentifiable as Christian?

Or maybe I'm the only RevGal to have this question...

Signed
I'm a Rev but don't have a place to hang my stole...

The Vicar of Hogsmeade offers:

I don't know if you are the only one to have this question but I do know that I have no idea how to answer. However, I just found this website the other day through Rev. Nannette Sawyer's ( the BE 3 presenter) twitter feed: The Center for Progressive Christianity . Maybe that resource can help you on your journey.

Rev. Songbird writes:

The way the question is phrased is a bit off-putting. For me, progressive and patriarchal are antithetical. I'm not sure what is meant by "so non-denominational as to be unidentifiable as Christian." The progressive churches/judicatories are emphatically denominational. Those are the systems that have owned and promoted women's ordained leadership, and all of them are going to have standards for receiving a person ordained elsewhere that are rigorous and unique to the traditions of the denomination. 

It sounds like the questioner is looking for a new church home, in the global sense, a new field for ministry. In that case, she needs to start with her basic theological understandings and seek a denomination that is in the "neighborhood" of those understandings. How does she understand the nature of the sacraments? What is her understanding of the Trinity? Where does she fall on the interpretation of scripture? These are the questions a judicatory will want to ask, along with needing an explanation of the departure from the tradition/group that ordained the pastor. Further, no one will want to take on a pastor who doesn't fully embrace the body offering a new home. In other words, you can't just land somewhere and expect people to take you in just because it's what you want. There has to be a mutual understanding.

In my tradition, your ministerial standing requires local church membership. We do offer Privilege of Call to pastors from other denominations under certain specific circumstances, but that is based in the understanding that they are searching in our denomination and ready to leave theirs behind if a call is found. In other words, you have to be all in to come over to the UCC. That's a function of our local polity, and it's up to the local Church and Ministry committee to determine whether there is a mutual sense that a person's ministry could be compatible with ours. 

And that's just a thumbnail sketch of one denomination.
for the questioner, I would recommend taking the time to visit churches in your area that belong to denominations that ordain women, and see how the Spirit speaks to you.


And Sue adds:

Sorry, but this one has me quite stumped. In our denomination, once the MDiv and internship requirements are met, we are "settled" (as in placed) in our first charge, so there is no search for a call. That process may change in the next few years, but for now, that's how it works. We cannot be ordained without having been settled in a congregation. If no congregation is found, ordination is deferred.

In any case, your situation is really difficult. The closest I could come to an answer for you would be to head North and think about the United Church of Canada. We are uniquely Canadian and lean pretty far to the left theologically. The caveat is that the process for entry from another denomination is quite demanding and can take from three to five years, regardless of what other study you have already done.

The only other suggestion I might have would be the Unitarian churches, which often have a strong body of Christian believers in attendance. My experience is that Christians who attend Unitarian churches do so for the intellectual stimulation, not the spiritual or pastoral care. There's nothing wrong with that, but it may not be your style of ministry.

And Rev Abi said:
I feel like I need a few more details to clarify some things before I can answer your question, but here is my shot at it.
I changed from the denomination that originally ordained me to another.  It took me three years to decide on which denomination I felt I could best find a home in which to serve. I looked at most all of them, asked many questions, sought to understand the theology and practices.  And asked myself was this a place I could call home? Did I feel God was calling me there?  After deciding which one to go with, I followed what was required of me to change denominational ordination, which took another 5 years. But after 5 years of studying, being mentored, and practicing to then be fully ordained.  Would I do it over again? Yes, I would.  Would I go with another denomination? I might. Would I change now? Yes, if I felt God was leading me that way, but I don't.   You can email me if you want to ask questions or want to learn more.


-----


Our matriarchs offered some thoughtful advice. What about the rest of you? Do any of you have experience with this issue? If so, please share in the comment section!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Come, Holy Spirit

Image: yfaith.co.uk

Sunday marks the celebration of the Feast of Pentecost, and yesterday's Lectionary Leanings brought lively discussion of ways it will be observed. Music , drama, balloons, red velvet cake, "Pledges of Passion," and poetry are in the mix, along with baptisms, confirmations, and news of a baby due on Monday (you're in our prayers, SheRev!)

Sally says: I have read a number of blogs today that tell me that equality is still a long way off when it comes to ministry and even attitude. This saddens me, and I must admit that it is still my experience on occasions to meet with outspoken criticism about who I am and what I am called to. I don't want to enter into a rant, so I allowed my frustration to become creative instead! We were there too...

Two of the foundational themes of RevGals appear above: sharing plans and ideas for worship and preaching, and sharing our experiences of (many of us) being women in ministry. What can you add to these discussion today? May the Holy Spirit blow through your heart and mind, freshening your faith and the sharing of it.

If you'll add a link in your comment, it'll be easier for the visitors to find you. Here's how: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Unforgettable Fire" Edition

Texts for Sunday can be found here .

I don't know about the rest of you, but even despite its renewed emphasis as a major festival in my tradition in recent years it's difficult to explain Pentecost to people in the pew...maybe because it's so hard to explain the Holy Spirit in general. What if our assemblies today don't sound or act like that gathering of believers in the second chapter of Acts? What did Jesus mean when he referred to the Spirit as Comforter and Advocate? Who is this Person whose ceaseless activity powers creation and powers the Church? How do we try to conceptualize the One who "moves where she wills?," whether that's in ecstatic worship or in the quiet gifts of the faithful?

What are your plans for celebrating Pentecost Sunday in your congregation? How will you engage the texts in your sermon? As always, share your ideas and insights here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Meet 'n Greet--Technical Difficulties Edition


It's been a couple of months since we had a new member come to us via Ringsurf, and a number of email inquiries to which I responded have not translated into new applicants there, so I perceive we may have a problem. I confess to being mystified.

If you are trying to join the ring and have not been successful at using Ringsurf, please let me know in the comments below.

Many thanks,
Songbird
RevGalBlogPals Webring Administrator

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Prayer: Easter 7


(Photo of Moon setting at sunrise, Escalante, Utah, files of Mompriest)

Bright Morning Star, Holy God
Joy of my heart,
Water of life
Gift to all
Hear our prayer.

Comfort those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit
Those who thirst for your mercy and grace
Those who yearn for the peace of Christ.

Bright Morning Star, Holy God
Joy of my heart,
Water of life
Gift to all
Hear our prayer.

Have mercy on those who struggle to follow
Your desire, your hope, your way,
May your Name be known to them.

Bright Morning Star, Holy God
Joy of my heart,
Water of life
Gift to all
Hear our prayer.


God of love, pour out abundantly like
A river, like flood waters, like a dam opening
Your love overflowing on this house and that

Bright Morning Star, Holy God
Joy of my heart,
Water of life
Gift to all
Hear our prayer.

God of the morning, God of water, Giver
of life in you I am complete for through you
I know love, I become love, yours.

Bright Morning Star, Holy God
Joy of my heart,
Water of life
Gift to all
Hear our prayer.

Amen.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party: Pray for Us Edition

Good morning, pals and gals. This weekend is the 7th (count 'em) 7th Sunday of Easter, and I just can't get over the fact that Jesus is praying for us. Somehow this brings me great comfort, for a variety of reasons. How about you?

Of course there are also a variety of directions you can take with preaching this weekend. You can find out about some of them here. You can turn the world upside down with Paul and Silas, you can stand there looking up with the apostles (Ascension), you can stand around the throne of the Lamb.... I want to here what EVERYONE is pondering this weekend.

As for me, I'm putting on the blueberry pancakes, the fair trade coffee, the good earth tea (it has lots of cinnamon). I'm interested in children's message ideas, sermon inspiration, and general support. (in two weeks the senior pastor is retiring, and I will be "holding down the fort," "holding chaos at bay", or something like that.)

Maybe that's why it's so good to know that Jesus is praying for us.

How about you?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Five: Family Trees



I moved across country for a college teaching job last September, and my mother came to visit for the first time last week. We had a fantastic genealogical adventure tracing the family roots of her father's grandfather, who moved away from this state sometime between 1887 and 1891.

We drove a few hours to their county armed with some names and cemeteries, and wondered if we could locate anyone. It turned out there is an awesome local history room in the public library, with a very skilled librarian library, and with her map and a pile of copied records we struck gold! We found, cleared, deciphered and took pictures of old weathered stones marking members of several family branches in four tiny country cemeteries--the one above is my fourth great grandma. Of particular RevGal interest, we spoke with a friendly and helpful pastor at the United Methodist Church (window above) on the site of the Presybterian church my fifth great-grandpa helped found in 1814!


1. Do you have any interest in geneaology?

2. Which countries did your ancestors come from?

3. Who is the farthest back ancestor whose name you know?

4. Any favorite saints or sinners in the group?

5. What would you want your descendants to remember about you?

Bonus: a song, prayer, or poem that speaks of family--blood or chosen--to you.

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, May 13, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Dealing with Volunteers

When almost everyone you work with is a volunteer, what do you do when the job isn't being done well (or at all!)? Our question this week comes from a minister wrestling with this very delicate issue:


Dear ATM- here’s something they didn’t teach us in seminary……how to (don’t like the word ‘fire’) ummm- find new opportunities to serve….yeah, that’s the ticket!   Someone who has served the church well, but is too old/too tired/too divisive in their volunteering and ministry….any thoughts?

-- Rev First Call

Jennifer writes:

You are so right! Not every volunteer is a good volunteer, and sometimes ministry needs change and it’s time for a new direction, and sharing that news is not always easy.

It’s always good, I think, to make these decisions with others. Doing so alone renders you too powerful and too vulnerable (plus it’s just not fair to make the pastor do all the dirty work)  Gather the appropriate people who should make such decisions with you, and determine what you, collectively, and by the Spirit’s leading, would be most helpful. They’ll have good ideas about what’s best and most fitting in this situation.

You’ve said an important thing—this volunteer has served well. Whatever your plans, I think it’s important to share with the person privately what’s unfolding, so that he/she can get used to a new plan. It’s important publicly thank and bless the person for his/her service to the church. After church coffee hour in their honor, words in worship or wherever this person’s ministry has been most visible are great places to thank them and God for their gifts. From there, move with care but speed to work with the appropriate persons or group to chart a new course. 

RevAbi offers:

Ya know, I vote with Jennifer, because she says it so well.

We don't call them volunteers at this church, we call them members in ministry. We also are working on getting everyone to identify their spiritual gifts along with their strengths so that they are putting those to work, not just volunteering to volunteer.

However, in a small church people feel like they have to volunteer for everything or not and consequently are not always happy or get burned out.  Then you can also have people who are controllers.  Then if the system allows unhealthy people to control others then it is hard to help them move on or to be in ministry where they best fit. That then means the whole system needs some treatment to help it get healthy to allow all to be in ministry where they best fit and to be able to deal with the ill health.  (This can happen in large churches too.)
--

What about the rest of you? What is your experience in dealing with this tricky issue? Many churches struggle to fill all their volunteer roles and are ready to take anyone willing to do the job - regardless of ability or temperament. How do you manage such situations? Share with us in the comment section!

 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Lilac Time



Karla shares two videos posted at her blog about church relevance and why people don't go to church. These are great, thought-provoking pieces. Not to be missed!

Quotidian Grace reviews The Sabbath World and thinks about keeping Sabbath.

Sophia reflects on her experience of Mother's Day, and brainstorms inclusive liturgical options for honoring mothers.

Songbird shares a pair of poems: one on Mother's Day, and one titled The Lilacs. And Mompriest has a poem about lilacs and spring in other places. Sally is writing poetry too.

Jan gives us some questions to ponder. And Kathrynzj shares her marks of growth.

And now the question is, what's blooming in your yard or on your blog? 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>

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Messy Church" Edition


Lessons for Sunday can be found here.

Some of us are acquainted with the hands-on, all-ages program called "Messy Church"...well, this Sunday our lessons point to a different kind of "messy Church": namely, us, the called, gathered and sent people of God, sometimes at our best, sometimes at our worst.

Our first lesson portrays a young Church on the move in the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit to set captives free, whether that be a possessed slave girl, the Apostles themselves or the jailer and his household. That's good news; right? But yet we find a peevish Paul who seems more interested in shutting up the annoying slave than someone demonstrating compassion toward an exploited young girl. (And we never do find out what happens to her in the end -- perhaps telling in itself.) Our Revelation text contains a beautiful, hope-inspiring promise of final victory and life everlasting for Christ's people -- but pairs that with vituperative condemnation not only of "those bad people over there" but of anyone who tampers with this particular text; more ammunition for a contemporary readership convinced that Christians are intolerant "haters." And yet our Gospel lesson takes us back to Jesus' High Priestly prayer, in which he lovingly prays for the entire body of believers -- as imperfect, as messy, as improbable a group to live his message into the world as there could be.

And then there's that thing about Ascension Day, this Thursday, an increasingly forgotten holiday in much of the Church...is anyone going to move those lessons to Sunday, or otherwise incorporate that theme into Sunday?

So...what might your sermon be about this Sunday? As always, share your ideas and insights with us as you pray and plan your way there.

Monday, May 10, 2010

2nd Monday Discussion: What (Not) to Wear

As I round the corner toward the end of my current Interim position, I'm looking toward job interviews, and I thought we might have a discussion about what to wear, and what not to wear, at interviews.

Ever since our BE 2.0 presenter, the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney, told us about Design-her Gals, I've loved inventing cartoon versions of me, and at times like this, I wish I could shop for one of their outfits! I've created this Random RevGal to illustrate my point. I am never quite sure what to wear at those crucial moments. (I also have deep regrets about a pair of black pants I no longer possess.)

How do you dress when meeting a Search Committee? It doesn't matter what you wear to a phone interview, but how do you handle Skype? Do you wear a suit? Dress the way you would on a Sunday morning? If you wear a collar, what outfit built around it makes you feel most confident, fully vested in your pastoral authority?

I hope you'll join the conversation in the comments! My apologies that it comes so late in the day.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Suite Antique



It's the end of the semester, and predictably, my life is chaos. This was the closing for the funeral of a friend's husband yesterday. I found it soothing to my soul, but also loved the hints of joy's to come hidden in the flute arpeggios.

What burbled joy in the music you heard today? What soothed your soul? Share with us in the comments -- I certainly could use both recommendations for pieces full of calm and joy!

Sunday Prayer: Easter 6


(photo from the files of Mompriest, Highway 12 outside of Boulder, Utah, altitude, 9660 ft)

God, who created the heavens and the
Earth and all that lives
Bless us, heal us.
Make Your face to shine
Upon us and bring us peace.

May all leaders
Of governments,
nations, cities, towns, villages
through Your grace, be filled with
Your wisdom. May Your desire for
Life may be fulfilled.

Bless us, heal us,
May your face shine upon us
and bring us peace.

May suffering
Of body, mind,
or spirit be healed through
love -Yours, through faith - mine, ours.
Embrace us deeply. Take my troubled
Heart and my fears.

Bless us, heal us,
May your face shine upon us
and bring us peace.

Strong and yet ,
Gentle God, Mother
of all - birthing life
nurturing life, love food -
grace fuels hope, mercy, comfort,
her people, hers.

Bless us, heal us
May your face shine upon us
And bring us peace.

In thanksgiving
for the gift of life
and the mothers who birthed us
and those who nurtured us
and the nurturer within each
of us, and also for
Your most profound expression
of love, Jesus.
amen.

Crossposted on Seekingauthenticvoice and RevGal Prayer Pals

Friday, May 07, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party: On the Move Edition

I am really feel a very dynamic Holy Spirit this week. She's like a divine tour guide throughout the lectionary readings. OK, so the Acts passage doesn't mention the Holy Spirit by NAME, but I'm reading her there big time. The Spirit calls Paul to Philippi, leads him to Lydia, who is already worshiping with women before she is baptized. Jesus promises the Spirit in John. The Spirit is the divine tour guide in Revelation. All in all, I'm feeling a lot of movement in this week's offerings, sending I guess it is.


The Mothering Spirit is another possible direction. I have been nudged quite a bit to work on a "real" Mother's Day sermon this year, but I am still resisting. I don't know what that means or how to do it well. I haven't ever heard one that I thought worked well, so it's just not speaking to me. However, maybe working with the Holy Spirit in any or all of these texts would lead us that direction - - the Mother Spirit the prods, calls, nudges (maybe even nags?) us to go where we are needed, the Mother Spirit who brings peace, comforts, and advocates for those in her care, the Mother Spirit who shows us what is possible, speaks the truth of the future that we just can't quite see yet from where we are.


Where are you being sent in your sermon? Where will the Spirit take you as you lead the people in hearing God's work and experience God's Spirit? The Holy Spirit is alive and well this Sunday, and I know she'll be with us as we're making our preparations, too. (I know I need her!)


Also, what do you need - - prayers, children's messages, stories, or just support? Join us in the comments and we'll wee what we've got! Welcome and pull up a seat at the table of preparation (and fair trade coffee)!

Friday Five- Faith and politics...


Well it may or may not have escaped the notice of many that over in the UK we have been awaiting the results of the General Election.... it has been the most closely fought election for many years, and the result... a hung or balanced Parliament, with no outright winner... and it has got everybody talking...

So what do you think about the mix of faith and politics:

1. Jesus a political figure: discuss...

2. Politics in the pulpit, yes or no and why?

3.What are your thoughts on the place of prayer in public life...

4.Is there a political figure, Christian or otherwise that you admire for their integrity?

5.What are your thoughts on tactical voting, e.g. would you vote for one individual/party just to keep another individual/ party form gaining power?

Bonus- is there a song which might sum this all up- if so post a video or a link...


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

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Bitten by the Blog

Sooner or later, many of us who blog have to face the troubling issue of negative comments. That kind of thing can be hard for anyone to take, but especially if the blogger has been dealing with vulnerable issues of faith, vocation, or church. This week's question comes from a blogger trying to figure out how to handle her first negative comment.

I've been in ordained ministry for nine years, but I've only been blogging for a few months--so I am looking for input and experience from more experienced bloggers.

How do you handle negative comments?

I got my first one on the blog this week. Someone who self-identified as a Roman Catholic priest called me "immature" and a "flake" because I found amusement as a woman pastor leading worship in a Catholic setting. He did not leave a return address. I debated whether or not to approve the comment for display, and whether or not to post a response. I did both.

My blog is not a professional thing. I am accustomed to such comments on my sermon blog, or YouTube videos from my ministry, and I handle those with professional zeal. This felt different--more intrusive. But then again, I did put it out there on the blog in the first place.

What do you do? Do you allow negative comments on your blog, or not? Why or why not? Do you respond or just let it go?


Sue offers:
 I think every blogger I know has eventually shared your experience of "trolls" visiting their blog for the purpose of causing some kind of upset; either for the blogger or his/her readers. I eventually put comment moderation on mine, so that I can see the comments prior to their going public. Honestly, I have to answer No, I generally reject anything that will cause a huge debate on my blog or cause me personal upset.

The way I see it - my blog - my call.

On the other hand, when I've had the occasional "in your face" comment (and it hasn't happened often TBTG), I have written to the individual personally via email to sort out the question or issue just between the two of us. In every case, it has resulted in both of us learning something and feeling heard and respected. In your case, it is unfortunate that your troll did not leave any means for you to contact him privately.

I know several bloggers who simply state the rules of their blog either above the comment section or on the sidebar.These rules might include no nasty or hurtful comments. For me, comment moderation has worked, but it may not work for everyone. I find that it is also a great way to filter the occasional spam that gets past all my firewalls. All I have to do is hit "Reject" and that's that!

Blessings on your ministry and your blogging!


Jennifer writes:
The world of blogging is a mixed blessing. We make friends and find kindred spirits and discover people with the lovely ability to disagree in very agreeable ways.

Conversely, there are folks who are abrupt, intrusive, ill-mannered and do not play all that well with others. The blogosphere resembles the real world.

It’s never any fun to find people reacting rudely to one’s personal thoughts and opinions on one’s own blog.
If someone leaves a truly offensive comment on my blog to which I feel there is no good response, I’ll delete. If I have patience and inner fortitude, I’ll attempt to respond in a way that tries to clarify (if I sense a misunderstanding or miscommunication) or model graciousness.

And Abi just puts it to you straight:
Delete the comment.


So, we've heard from the matriarchs. What about the rest of you? Do you have experience with this? I'll be honest - I don't. But my blog (which is a craft blog) steers completely clear of issues of faith and vocation. I've still seen negativity break out on craft blogs (which always stuns me); I've just somehow managed to avoid it so far on mine. I'm not entirely sure how I would handle it if it happens. What about the rest of you? How do you handle negative comments? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section for this post!

- earthchick

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Wednesday Festival



Robin is blogging about the spiritual aspects of physical space, which has caught Michelle's attention...and mine, too. Good reading!

Sophia took part in the annual Blogging against Disabilism Day.
She also recommends the many wonderful posts in the BADD carnival, linked under Sat. May 1.

Songbird celebrates a new year and some flowers that came on their own.

There's an interesting conversation going on at Diane's place, "Why don't we run the church more like a business?" (You've never heard THAT before, have you?)

Mompriest is pondering about home and going there.

What's the news in your locale? 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, May 04, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "God Is In the House" Edition

Texts for this Sunday can be found  here .

Sunday's Gospel lesson contains, in your humble blogger's opinion, one of the most comforting, evocative images in all the Gospels: Jesus promising his friends that if they love him and listen to him he and his Father will come and make their home with them. How does God make a home with us? How do we make a home for God? What might that feel like? Look like? 

And what happens when God asks us to help make God a home within a different community, a different culture than ours? That's our first lesson, as the beleagured Apostle Paul is sent to Macedonia and meets Lydia, a woman of means who offers her home as a church and mission center. In these days when "missionary work" can be a twitchy subject even within the Christian community, do we still sense  the message "Come and help us"? How do we proclaim the Gospel with boldness but with sensitivity?

And our Revelation reading gives us a glimpse of a New Jerusalem where God is at home among mortals in a very present way.

Are you at home with these texts? Is this going to be a "home-run sermon" Sunday, or a struggle? As always, we invite you to share your ideas and insights right here.


Monday, May 03, 2010

RevGalBookPals: Monday Book Share

Last summer we moved away from a book discussion model for a few months to a book review feature, and as this summer approaches, I'm looking for volunteers to review books on the fourth Mondays of May, June, July and August.

And as I make my summer reading pile, I would also love to know what's on yours!

So, in the comments, please let me know if you might like to be a reviewer and what you have been reading recently that you would recommend to others.

Thanks!