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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wednesday Festival: The Lone Wild Bird



Today's Festival post is by Songbird, who is seeking her next pastoral call. Many, many of our number are likewise praying and searching for new positions, or have recently made a transition of this sort. Our prayers are with you all.

***

The lone, wild bird in lofty flight
is still with you, nor leaves your sight.
And I am yours! I rest in you,
Great Spirit, come, rest in me, too.

I'm typing this in the evening, knowing that in the morning, early, I go to the airport, flying away for an interview.

I never imagined myself doing that.

As I embark on another leg of this discernment journey, I put my trust in the Great Spirit, though I know his bird is neither lone nor wild.

The ends of earth are in your hand,
the sea's dark deep and far off land.
And I am yours! I rest in you,
Great Spirit, come, rest in me, too.

I'm not going to the end of the earth, but I am going to the outside edge of the geographic area I considered, and then considered not, and then accidentally ended up considering again.

Each secret thought is known to you,
the path I walk my whole life through;
my days, my deeds, my hopes, my fears,
my deepest joys, my silent tears.

I'm a bit in love with one church and fascinated by another and for some there are no words just yet other than "hope" or "maybe" or "I wonder how they really feel about me?."

I trust this will all become clearer with each conversation, for I know that tonight I said no to some in my mind and must act on it when I return from my trip.

Great Spirit, you know my heart and my mind. Guide me, please, as I rest in you.
**********************************************************************************
"The Lone, Wild Bird" was written by Henry Richard McFayden (1877-1964)

What are you thinking, praying, writing about? Please share in the comments. If you would like to include a link to a post, use this formulation: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - Independence Day Edition


Those of us on this side of the pond celebrate July 4th as Independence Day. Many people will be picnicking and partying. I was planning on a low attendance/informal worship kind of day, but heard recently that some out of towners are planning a meet up that day at church! So, now I am thinking there may be more here than I planned.


Which leads me to today's scriptures. In community life, you just dont know what might happen or how people might act. But it's wise to be prepared for any eventuality, according to both the Gospel and the Epistle (particularly if you choose to add the optional first part of Galatians, as I certainly would!)


How might these scriptures speak to your congregation, community, or nation this Sunday? How do they speak to you? Let us know in the comments!


Links to scriptures here. Photo of fireworks found here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

RevGalBookPals: Summer Book Reviews, Part Two

For the summer months, instead of book discussions, we're featuring book reviews by ring members. Today I'm excited to welcome a guest reviewer, Joan Calvin who blogs at Presby-Opia.


I am usually amazed by memoirs. I understand the desire to write a memoir. I just don’t understand why the author of many memoirs thinks that anyone would would find their life interesting. A Long Way Gone: Memories of a Boy Soldier is different. I wanted to read it to see what it might be like to be a boy soldier. And I was treated to wonderful writing. The memoir begins in Ishmael Beah’s village as he goes with friends to a nearby town to participate in a talent show. While they are in the town, they learn that their village has been attacked by rebels, the RUF and that everyone in the village has either been killed or fled.
The memoir divides into three parts: running from the civil war which has engulfed this part of Sierra Leone, Beah’s life as a boy soldier, and his rehabilitation. I was dreading the description of life as a boy soldier, but it was short and bare of too many horrifying details. I assume because Beah himself may not remember much. The soldiers were high for most of the time: high to deaden the physical pain of wounds and high to deaden the emotional pain of what they were doing.
Beah’s rehabilitation is a story of redemption and the power of love to enter the most defiant heart. As Beah is given back his childhood, he doesn’t want it. He wants to remain the fear-inspiring boy soldier he has become. He misses the power he had over civilians to make them cower in his presence.
The story gives us a glimpse not just into life as a boy soldier, but life as a boy growing up in Sierra Leone. Beah is a boy who loves rap and fills his pockets with cassettes by LL Cool J, Run-D.M.C, Heavy D and the Boyz. He is a boy who can quote soliloquies from Shakespeare. He is a boy who had never seen the ocean or a large city until war comes close.
Before the paperback edition was published, reporters from The Australian attacked the veracity of the memoir. First, they found a man believed to be Beah’s father (who Beah claimed was killed in the fighting). This man turned out to be a distant relative, not Beah’s father. They challenged the time line of the memoir and various details. Beah and his publisher have steadfastly maintained the accuracy of the memoir.
Memoirs always contain fiction—departures from the cold, hard facts. Human memory is a chimera. We see what we want to see; we feel what we want to feel. Ask two siblings about an event in their past. They will probably have two very different memories of it. Eye witness accounts are often wrong in major facts and minor details. I believe Beah’s story is his story and not an intentional falsification. I wouldn’t be surprised to find it was, either.--Joan Calvin

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Prayer for Proper 8C / Ordinary 13C / Pentecost +5

Here we are Lord,
on our knees,
Crying mercy;
Mercy for our souls,
Mercy for one another,
Mercy for our churches,
Mercy for our nation,
mercy for our world.

Here we are again
Standing in your presence
in awe of you your holiness,
your otherness,
your mystery,
and your incarnation

We stand bringing the needs of our friends, family, church, community, nation and world to lay at your feet.
We cry out in pain for the struggles of the world.
We cry out for those who are in pain, sick, in the hospital, rehab, homebound, nursing homes and those on their death bead.
We cry out for the divisions and conflict that seems to be in our lives, our families, our churches, our communities, our nation and our world.
We cry out for those who live in poverty, those who are starving, those who are in prisons, and those who live under oppression.
We cry out for those affected by the gulf oil spill for the marsh and salt lands, for the sea creatures, for the living ocean.

Lord pour out your mercy
Like healing comforting rain.
Amen.

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

Saturday, June 26, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party: So Long, Farewell Edition



It's a Sunday for goodbyes, in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament: Elisha leaves home to follow Elijah and in the other option bids him farewell; Jesus both encourages and discourages people from following him; and the letter to the Galatians encourages us to let go all sorts of "works of the flesh."

We may want to limit our carousing...

But seriously, folks, there's a lot here if you are following the lectionary, most of it heavy for a summer Sunday morning. Where are you headed for preaching?

I'll keep the Fair Trade coffee brewing. Join us in the comments and share your thoughts about the texts, your plans for the day and any challenges you might be facing between now and Sunday morning. And as always, brilliant suggestions for a children's word are most welcome!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Five: Hot Fun in the Summertime?

It's possible I may have a bad attitude about the arrival of summer. On the eve of the Solstice I left for a mission trip to a town in Maine bordering Quebec. Beset by a swarm of bloodthirsty black flies, and a "classic allergic reaction" according to the PA at the Urgent Care, I had to return the next morning to a week of Benadryl and ice packs. (If only I had known about Bug Band *before*...)

But I don't want that to ruin summer for the rest of you. So I invite you to share five things you love--or don't--about summer. The tone is up to you!

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.

I have a pretty busy day but will check in later. Meanwhile, let Sly and the Family Stone inspire you:



Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Other People's Problems

Our question this week comes from a colleague who is concerned about what is happening at the church where she used to serve. Our matriarchs offer their good thoughts, and perhaps you have some to share as well. Read on....

I have a difficult situation. I was on a church staff and am now working for a nonprofit. (Still a pastor - just don't have a church.) I just found out that the church where I was working is playing some kind of "games" with the church's finances. (FYI that this church is an independent church - no regional or state board or diocese to go to with my question...)

1) They sent out a letter with the first quarter giving statement telling us that the church is about $40,000 in the hole
2) They asked everyone to give extra to help cover these "holes"
3) I find out from a girlfriend on staff that they are hiring three more part-time staff (which they have no money to pay?)
4) I also find out that they are going to take a staff retreat to a spa!!!

OK, so when I am "in the hole" I don't go to the spa and I cut my own grass, I clean my own house and I don't eat out...

What do you do? The senior pastor is a bigwig in the community. I am not. It's all second-hand information, but she shared it with me freely...

Sign me -
Don't Cook the Books!


Ruth, who blogs at Sunday's Coming, writes:
Oh yuck! Churches and money-problems are always a horrible combination.
I don’t think you can do much on the basis of second-hand information – so you need to know what’s really going on: can you go to the ‘bigwig’ senior pastor and ask what’s really happening? Even if somehow it’s all above board they need to know the perceptions that are out there, and if there is something shady the truth needs to be told.
I realise that’s not much to go on – but hope it helps.

Jennifer writes:
I’m struggling to understand what we’re being asked this week.

I’m not quite sure if we’re being asked to chime in on the perceived impropriety of inviting church members to make up a financial shortfall, when it seems as though the church leadership is indicating new hiring and a staff retreat? Or are we being asked to respond to the role of a person who has been gifted with information about a church where she no longer serves? Either way, it’s awkward, to be sure.

I think it’s odd to think that a staff retreat to a spa would ever be in order, but all of the matters raised by our questioner this week point me to one response.

I think my role, if I were in the questioner’s situation, would be to maintain good boundaries. Assuming that the questioner no longer worships at the church where she formerly served, I think it’s important for her to be super clear with her friend on the staff (and with any others who would want her opinion on matters at her former church,) and share that it’s really not appropriate for her to weigh in on matters that are no longer her day-to-day concern.If her friend on staff has concerns that she’s willing to air with people who should rightly know, she should encourage her friend to contact those best suited to address the matters. A financial shortfall, plans to hire new part-time staff, a staff retreat to a spa, her perceived status in the community or that of the senior pastor are really irrelevant. She no longer works there. End of story.

And Mompriest offers:
My first inclination is to say - "let it go!" I say this because ssecond hand information is dangerous. The woman telling you this has triangulated you in her anxiety (true or not) and now you are carrying the anxiety too. If you do want to do something to de-triagulate yourself, do one of two things: a) either tell the woman to go to the Pastor with this information OR b) you go to the Pastor and tell him what you are hearing. He needs to know if there are rumors that are false. If it's true he needs to know that people are seeing through the haze. Then again you can choose to do nothing and let others take this one on, hoping that there are other folks like the person who came to you and there is power in numbers...But it should be people in the congregation - not you. I am not convinced that it is your place to be the "truth-teller" in this situation. That said, I could be wrong. Only you know the details well enough to discern if you should act. If you do decide to act know that there is every likely hood that life will get difficult for you. That doesn't mean don't act, just to stay "safe" - just know why you are acting and that the potential outcome may not be "pretty" for you. Think of the prophets in scripture - they were truth tellers, but life was tough for them as a result. So...prayers for you, what ever you do.

------
I will offer my two cents, too!

You can probably tell from how I titled this blog post where I come down - this is someone else's problem, not the questioner's. It might feel good to vent your sense of righteous indignation, and to allow the staff person to vent hers. But this is not your problem and, as far as I can tell, there is nothing you can do about it. The current members and staff have to be the ones to deal with this, not former staff who happen to be unhappy about it. I am with Jennifer on this - tell the complaining staff member to take her concerns to the senior pastor, not to you.

What about the rest of you? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

And please send the matriarchs your questions! The queue is totally empty now. So if you have a burning question, now is a great time to send it in. Please send your questions to askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot[com.

-- earthchick

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Let's Ask Ronald



Pastor, priest, reverend, deacon, father, mother: Whatever you call the leader of a community of faith, it is almost certain that she or he is overworked and overtasked and expected to keep many, many balls in the air.

Questing Parson ponders one of these tasks in his post, "Let's Ask Ronald:"

The parson had known Ronald since he was ordained, two years after the parson. Ronald was one of those never seen servants of the Lord. As far as the parson knew, Ronald had never served on a big committee; Ronald had never, in fact,
served a church with more than 200 members; Ronald had never written an article; never given a speech in support of or against any matter to come before the conference
... Read More

************

A reminder that this feature has changed from listing multiple nominated posts each week to featuring one particular post. Nominations are still welcomed at wednesdayfestival@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Taking up the Mantle, etc.

He Qi: Elijah is taken up to Heaven (at Vanderbilt Digital Library)

Elijah ascends in a whirlwind, while Elisha, hoping to inherit a double measure of his mentor's spirit, watches...and picks up the mantle. I am thinking much this week of how we pick up the mantle of those who have gone before, and also make it our own, reframing it and making it new for the world in which we live.

In the epistle, Paul reminds us of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit: "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." This may sound easier than it is!

And the Gospel has the hard, hard teaching about two people who offer to follow Jesus, but who really can't leave just yet...one needs to bury a dead father, the other needs to go home and say goodbye. Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."


What direction will you take? We look forward to reading and praying with you over your study this week, and the sermons as they are birthed. Please share in the comments. I have coffee on!

Monday, June 21, 2010

What's the Buzz?


Back when the RevGals ring and non-profit were established, we agreed that profits from our CafePress Store would be donated to Heifer International.

We just received a check from CafePress for our "dividend" on RGBP items you have bought there, and used the funds to make a gift of honeybees.

Your board wanted to let you know that your purchases of items such as the quintessential RevGals T-shirt help those less fortunate to build a sustainable living.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Prayer for Father's Day

God,

We today pray for Fathers near and far.
We pray for Fathers alive and Fathers who are dead.
We pray for Fathers who were present with their children and those who were absent.
We pray for new Fathers and old Fathers.
We pray for those who loved well and those who did not love as well.

We pray for Fathers who play(ed) with their children and those who don’t.
We pray for those who take their fathering seriously and those who don’t.
We pray for biological dads and dads who raised us.
We pray for those who don’t get to be dads at all.

We pray for Fathers who were let down by their dads,
We pray for Fathers who were not loved by their fathers.
We pray for Fathers who missed out on the presence of fathers.
We pray for fathers whose fathers did not play with them.

We pray for Fathers who may be caught up in this recession and lost their jobs.
We pray for Fathers who serve in the military in far away places and lands.
We pray for Fathers who may be trapped by addictions.
We pray for Fathers who are serving in prison away from their children.
We pray for Fathers who are all wrapped up in their work too busy for their children.

We pray for our fathers.
We pray for them to have strength, wisdom and courage.
We pray for them to raise their children in the way that they should go.
We pray for them to love, laugh, play and live.
We pray for forgiveness for our fathers, for their shortcomings, their weaknesses, and their abuses.

And God we pray that we may then be able to pray to you Abba Daddy.
Amen

cross posted at revgalprayerpals and revabi's long and winding road

11th Hour Preacher Party: When Late spills over from Friday to Saturday...

So sorry this is late, we've had a schedule snafu.

I've got Fair Trade coffee brewing, and since I promised coffee cake for a church reception tomorrow, that's underway, too.

Please chime in below, using the comments. And have a strawberry, they're early for Maine, and they're delicious.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Five: Running LATE!

I'm late, I'm late, I'm late for a very important date!

As I opened up my computer this morning, I directly went to my blog and RevGals to see what the newest Friday Five would be! Nothing was here, which seemed odd. Then I went to look at the calendar and counted the Fridays, and it is the THIRD Friday! How did that happen so quickly? It's my turn, so here's a quickie:

1. Do you tend to be a late person or one who is timely, arriving on time or earlier?

2. Have you forgotten anything of importance lately?

3. Is procrastination your inclination? Why or why not?

4. Do you like schedules or spontaneity? Which works best for you?

5. How do you stay on track with the various things you need to, people you must meet, etc., etc.?

BONUS: Whatever comes to mind about forgetfulness or lateness.

As always, link in the comments section. Look here to find out how!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Dealing with a Loose Cannon Layperson

Our question today comes from someone dealing with a hot-and-cold church volunteer who seems too fragile to confront. How would you handle this situation?

I have a member who I swear could have multiple personalities and you never know which one you will get. One minute she wants to be my defender the next she is attacking me. Part of it might be because she is often depressed and is likely an alcoholic. She has one several occasions argued a point adamantly at a congregational meeting, usually not in my favor, and then come in to see me privately and argued the exact opposite point, complaining about the pinheads who would say the very things she said at the congregational meeting! My favorite was when I asked her to send out a letter from the council to the congregation, but she insisted on sending it in the newsletter. (She is my self appointed volunteer secretary) I could not get her to send the letter alone, but then at the congregational meeting she stood up and said how worthless it was to bury the letter in the newsletter, no one read it, it should have been sent separately. I have never confronted her, even privately about this because she is so fragile. Basically I don't know quite what to do with her, because she is a bit of loose cannon running around the congregation. I just wondered if anyone else has ever had to deal with some one like this and if they had any advice.


Jennifer writes:
Dealing with difficult members of congregations seems like a theme we've explored here with some regularity. Forgive us if our answers sound a bit repetitive... The quixotic and predictably unpredictable nature of the member you describe sound especially frustrating and difficult.

Have members of the congregation had similar experiences with your church member? Do you know if she has been offered or if she has ever received help for the challenges of depression and alcoholism you suggest? Does she have family in the church? The behaviors sound challenging indeed, but are perhaps evidnece of even greater problems in her life. You describe her as fragile, yet perhaps in some way she is asking for help. You describe her as presenting as both your defender and attacker; do others experience this with respect to their leadership in the church? If so, are you aware of any attempts to approach this church member and offer some help?   I belive it's important for you to decide whether you are going to function as her pastor, in response to a member who clearly has a probleml, or as the church administrator, when you've specifically asked for help and get contradictory actions and guidance from her.
I think I'd at least attempt to be her pastor and talk with her, preferably with the guidance and perhaps even the presence of someone she loves and trusts.  Hope this helps.

Singing Owl offers:
Ah, I know this person.  (Just kidding.)  It will not be easy, nor will it likely be without consequences of some kind, but I believe you cannot afford to ignore the situation, especially since as your “self-appointed volunteer secretary” there are many opportunities for this to keep happening.  I understand only too well how difficult it can be do deal with a person who is “so fragile” but I admit I was surprised that even after such outlandish behavior you had not said anything.  The newspaper example is one you might use to demonstrate what is happening.  Lots of prayer beforehand, lots of loving kindness, lots of grace, but nonetheless honesty and truth are called for.  If she is an alcoholic who is not in recovery, is there someway that can explored?  Family members?  Intervention?  Referral?  This may not end “well” and you will need to be prepared for that, but on the other hand it may well be an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to be present in a way that will surprise you.  Praying for you, and for her.


Mompriest counsels:
It's difficult to know what will be effective with someone like this. I would try to minimize her opportunities to be your self-appointed secretary. I would also try to re-direct her to some ministry that would enable her to feel useful and important but would have little impact on congregational life. I would listen to her and maybe even say, "So, I hear you saying...." but not respond in a way that counters or supports what she is saying - in an effort to help her feel heard without empowering her or fueling her to counter argue. Of course she will anyway. But if your efforts remain in listening mode and neutral it might help. Eventually the hope will be that the congregation, if they haven't done so already, will recognize that she flip flops and what she says will carry no weight.

And Ruth, who blogs at Sunday's Coming, expresses her thoughts:
The part that worries me most about this is ‘Self appointed volunteer secretary’. If this person is going to do things and be seen to be doing them in your name then good communication is vital. So although you don’t want to confront her and hurt her fragility (of course not): you do need some clarity about what is happening.

Is there a gentle way, one-to-one, of sitting down and saying ‘you said at the church meeting...’ ‘ but then you did...’. She may have some insight into her own ‘fickleness’ and may even say  that she changes her mind after the meeting.. If she could name this you might be able to work together on helping her NOT to be so ready to pin her colours to the mast too quickly, only to find she wants to do something else later.

Hope this helps – hard without knowing the individual – but keep asking the question ‘what can I do?’, because we should never give up on people.. Or ourselves!

----
Lots of great advice here! Sounds like our matriarchs have all dealt with similarly difficult folks. What about the rest of you? What experience or wisdom do you have to offer? Please share in the comments.

Our queue is almost empty, so if you've been saving a question for the matriarchs, now is a great time to send it on in, to askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.


 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Something New

The RevGalBlogPals, Inc. Board of Directors met on June 7. Among the items discussed was this feature. With the widely-acknowledged downturn in blogging, nominations for the Festival (while greatly appreciated) have been few. It was decided to change the format for future Wednesdays to include a single, featured blog post from one of our ring members. Nominations for featured posts will still be accepted at wednesdayfestival@gmail.com
***
Carol Howard Merritt, who blogs at Tribal Church, writes poignantly about "How the Oil Disaster is Tainting our Soul:"

I had a hard time breathing when I saw those pictures; my chest
began heaving when I realized those were birds covered in oil. I felt as if the soul of our nation was drowning in the muck, along with our precious wildlife. You see, for my first job out of seminary, I decided to serve a tiny church in the swamps of Louisiana. I moved to the heart of Cajun country while I was still in my twenties and became a solo pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Abbeville...
READ MORE

***

You are invited to share your thoughts and your own writing on this topic 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, June 15, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - Still Small Voice Edition



I was at a family gathering this past weekend, and heard someone describe her son (who likes skiing, but wont try ski jumping) as "like me - he runs more on endorphins than adrenaline." How about you? What do you run on?

That conversation was in the back of my mind as I read this week's lessons. If I put myself there on the mountain with Elijah, I kind of can hear him going for the rush, and expecting to find God in the dramatic bits - earthquake! wind! fire! Really, God, you're not in those? So much for us adrenaline junkies. God instead comes in the calm, after the rush of fear and excitement has passed, when our minds clear and become quiet. Then, God can make the Divine Voice heard.

We can see it in the gospel lesson too. There's Christ, sending the demons into the pigs! There are the pigs, running into the sea! And here's the man he saved, now no longer Legion but a human being, jumping up and down on the shore, going "Woohoo! I'm coming with you, man! Sign me up for some more thrills!" But Jesus sends the man back to his real life and those who know him. Following me, he seems to be saying, is not all adrenaline rushes. Sometimes the Christ life really is just your familiar routines, surrounded by those who know you best.

So much good stuff this week, and Galatians is it's own wonderful sermon, too. Or are you off the lectionary all together? Let us know in the comments.

Links to texts here. Photo here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Big Event 4.0 -- Save the Date!!!

We're excited to announce plans for the RevGalBlogPals Big Event 4.0!

Our presenter will be the Reverend Carol Howard Merritt, author of Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation and of the forthcoming Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation, both publications of the Alban Institute. Carol is a member of our webring and blogs at Tribal Church. You may have also seen her columns at Huffington Post, or listened to her podcasts at God Complex Radio.

BE 4.0 will be another cruise. Because of the late dates for Lent and Easter in 2011, we will offer this event prior to Lent. We'll depart Tampa, FL, Saturday, February 26, on the Carnival Inspiration for a five-day Western Carribbean cruise, returning Thursday, March 3. There will be two days spent at sea and two opportunities for day excursions, at Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Cost details will follow soon. 

The amenities on our previous Carnival cruise were superior, and we hope to offer relaxation, recreation and spiritual refreshment once again at the BE 4.0. You do not have to be a ring member or a blogger to attend, so think about inviting a friend or colleague to come along with you.


Please save the dates!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Music Videos: Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel



Repentant, weeping, anointed and anointing, we are delivered from the lion's den, untouched by the fiery furnace. I love the looks on the faces of chorus and director. There is a deeply rooted joy amid their fierce concentration. I wonder if this is how the woman with the alabaster jar looked?! And it's an amazing piece of music, too.

May you know joy today,
may it sink deeply into your soul,
and may it rise higher than these sopranos' voices!
Amen.

Sunday prayer for Proper 6C / Ordinary 11C / Pentecost +3

Lord of love and light, shine into our lives and bring your love into our souls.
Remind us of the amazing ways you have loved us even when we turned our backs on you.
Open our hearts to receive your loving spirit.
Open our minds to receive your wisdom.
Open our hands to show others your loving compassion.

Lord of love and light, we hold in our hearts those around us who feel unloved.
We bring them to you for you to shine your love into their lives.
We hold in our minds those who overwhelmed by their needs and difficulties.
We hold in our hands your loving compassion to give them.

Lord of love and light, there are people and places that are dark and in the dark about your love.
Shine forth your light and love in their lives and in those places.
There are people and places that have closed their minds to you, to others, to new and fresh ideas.
Shine forth your light and love to open their minds to you, to others, to new and fresh ideas.
There are people and places that need our hands reaching out to them with your loving compassion.
May our reaching out to them with your love and compassion, shine forth your light and love. Amen.

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

Saturday, June 12, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party: Repentant Edition


Good morning, gals and pals! I wasn't sure exactly what to call this weekend's party theme. I mean, you have self-righteous Simon and the woman with tears and the alabaster jar; you have (in one set of readings) Nathan calling King David to account, and (in another) Naboth's vineyard; then you have the apostle Paul in Galatians, reminding us that "I have been crucified with crucifed with Christ" and "the life I live now I live by faith....". well.


so, I went with repentance, or the sudden realization of God's grace and goodness, weeping or laughing or falling on your face or changing your whole outlook on life.


Also, I can ask you: what have you changed your mind about this week, yesterday, today? Are your preaching ideas the same today as they were on Tuesday? Do you have a good children's message?


The texts for tomorrow are here. And over here, there's a great discussion of some possible themes, including dealing with some of the strong women in some of these texts..


Today, I have fair trade coffee (toffee caramel), cinnamon tea, blueberry pancakes and pretty good conversation. I hope you'll join the party.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Five:Work Out Edition



(Photo of a hiking trail at the Grand Canyon  from the files of mompriest)


Recently I started an assertive exercise regime thanks to my daughter who convinced me to join her gym. Truth be told I've been pretty good at working out most of my life. Usually these workouts include walking my dogs, bike riding, swimming, or a yoga DVD. I thought I was in good shape. That is until I started using the machines and taking classes at the gym with people half my age.

During this same time frame I have spent several nights a week watching hockey. As the oldest child with three younger brothers I grew up with hockey. Then it was played outside on rough ice and in freezing temperatures. Now I have been captivated by the Chicago Blackhawks and their quest for the Stanley Cup. Wednesday night I sat through a nail-biting game that culminated in the win Chicago's been waiting for.

Also going on this week is the NBA playoff and the World Cup Soccer games in South Africa. Lots of sports to distract us from the problems of the day.

As if that weren't enough I am recultivating my practice of silent prayer and meditation. This has been a long practice of mine but one that sometimes goes by the wayside of life's distractions. Sadly though I have also just moved far away from my Spiritual Director and will have to try and find a new one in the future.

There have also been occasions in my life when I have seen a therapist to help me work out one or more issues in my life. Sometimes these sessions have required more grueling intense internal work than any physical workout I've done.

For this Friday Five let's ponder the various ways we work out (or not), physically, spiritually, and/or psychologically.

1. Do you work out physically, spiritually, or psychologically? (I'll let you define what that might mean to you)

2. Are you more inclined to join a gym, or a book club?

3. Are you more inclined to read self-help books like Gail Sheehy's "Passages" or spiritual books like Richard Rohr or Theresa of Avila? And if so, what is your favorite?

4. Are you a loyal fan of a sports team? Or do you join the bandwagon when the local team is winning? And, if so, which one?

5. Or do you lean more toward having a favorite theologian/Spiritual writer or self help author  and if so, who? And, why.

Bonus: What was the last play-off series you watched and did your team win?

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, June 10, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - The First Female Pastor

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 Our question this week comes from someone who may find herself in a position that many of us have been in - the first female pastor a particular congregation has ever known. How exciting - for them and for her! She wants to make sure, though, that she enters the position wisely. Here is what she writes:

I've been in the ministry for a while (about 8 years) in associate pastor's positions, music minister and solo pastor.  However, I've never been the very first female pastor a congregation has ever known.  This may change in July. I am in an episcopal polity denomination, and while both the church and I have a say, ultimately it is up to the Bishop.

While I am not anticipating any problems, what are the potholes I should be looking out for?  What are the red flags?  Any suggestions would be welcome.


First Female in Rural Parish

Jennifer writes:
I’ve been the first female in every setting in which I’ve served, except for one. As I see my 30th anniversary of ordination off in the distance, I’m thinking that issues surrounding women in ministry have less to do with whether one is the first clergywoman someone a parishioner has experienced than they do with the anxiety around a new spiritual leader. At the end of the day, the authenticity of the clergyperson makes the biggest difference. Your confidence in your call to ministry, your sincere desire to love the people and meet them where they are will count for a great deal. Listening for concerns about being “the first” will be important, just as listening for concerns about how your style is different from or similar to the previous pastor will be. Change is a challenge for many in congregations, and in your system, and assuming that your bishop is caring and sensitive, asking your bishop and others who know the congregation about its personality might help. And if anyone is resistant to you as a clergywoman, there will, hopefully, be opportunities to chat with her or him about what’s going on and what’s on their minds.

Mompriest offers:

I hope the possibility of a new call brings you and those you serve great joy!
Some things to consider: most Bishops will accept the candidate chosen by the parish, especially if the Bishop and the Canon to the Ordinary prescreened all the applicants before giving the applicant materials to the parish. Of course there are a few exceptions - I hope that is not the case here. 

In terms of your leadership in the parish: some of the points to be aware of will be determined by the size of the congregation and the type of leadership it is already used too. So, for example, are they used to a rector who makes all the decisions and is a strong leader? Or are the used to a rector who does a few things well and has left the rest of parish ministry up to members of the congregation? What is your natural leadership style? There are some really good books to help with this: "New Beginnings: A Pastorate Start-up Workbook" by Roy Oswald and "The Web of Women's Leadership: Recasting Congregational Ministry" by Susan Willhauck and Jacqulyn Thorpe. Understanding how you lead and what kind of leadership the congregation is comfortable with will help. And, another book that helps with this time of transition is, "Managing Transitions" by William Bridges.

To that end some churches have really strong matriarchs and patriarchs. These are often most powerful in small churches BUT some larger churches have grown at a rate where their leadership is still that of a small church AKA matriarchs and patriarchs. In "Discerning Your Congregation's Future" by Roy M. Oswald and Robert E. Friedrich, Jr. they describe congregational size, their leadership style, and what is expected of the Rector. While their description is good I have found, as I've said, that some churches can be bigger but still function smaller. To that end here is what they say about churches that have a strong matriarchal and patriarchal leadership dynamic: "What (these churches) want from their clergy is pastoral care, period. For clergy to assume that they are the chief executive officer and the resident religious authority is to make a serious blunder. The key role of the patriarch and matriarch is to see that the clergy do not take the congregation off on a new direction of ministry. Clergy are to be the chaplains of this family. When clergy don't understand this, they are likely to head into a direct confrontation with the parental figure. It is generally suicide for clergy to get caught in a showdown with the patriarchs and matriarchs within the first five years of their ministry in that place." (page 149). I don't say this to scare you but to help you understand the importance of understanding the expected leadership style of the congregation regardless of its size. These hold true regardless of gender but the dynamics become more complicated when a female rector is called.

Some of the reasons the dynamics might become more complicated have to do again with the age of the congregation and whether or not there is a strong matriarch and or a history of a strong matriarch/patriarch. So, what may arise is the matriarch, in particular, feeling displace by the new woman leader. Knowing who this person(s) is and cultivating a relationship with her will be critical. Knowing that you will not be able to do anything without her blessing will also be key. The same holds true for the patriarch(s) although the dynamic will be slightly different. 

Secondly in some systems the female rector is viewed as a "daughter." This may be more true when the congregation is older and the female rector younger, but could happen otherwise as well. In this case, because the rector is seen as a "daughter" she is therefore supposed to listen to her "elders" and be "obedient." This dynamic does not always appear in every church where the woman is a rector, nor in a church where one is the first woman rector, but it is a possible dynamic. Again, this dynamic will limit the rector's ability to do anything without the blessing of those who are really in charge of the parish. 

More than once I have been the first female rector in a parish. The issues I have spelled out above are things I have faced. But, I can also say that I have had some really wonderful experiences. I have been blessed with congregations with whom some fabulous ministry grew from our work together.  And lastly, you may want to set up for yourself a transition team at the parish who will help you learn about it. Have the search committee help you find folks, around 4-6 people - one who has been there a long time, one who is newer, one who was on the search committee, one from each service, and a former warden (no one who is currently on the vestry since they will have their own opportunity at leadership with you). This team will meet with you as often as needed - once a week to once a month - to guide you as you learn the parish and navigate into the future. 

I wish you well on this exciting new journey into ministry! And remember the RevGals will help you as go along too! 

And Ruth, who blogs at Sunday's Coming, adds:

This could sound really corny – but best advice I can give is to be yourself; be ready for the people who will NOT accept women’s ministry (it’s their loss – there is NOTHING I’m prepared to do about my gender); but also be ready for the people who will realise that God really DOES call women into ministry!

And may you be surrounded with prayers & hope
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And I want to add that you might want to ask the Bishop and/or congregants about the local community's experience with female ministers. In my first call, I was the first woman to serve my congregation and they were very excited about it. The members of that small community, however, felt differently. I was treated with a lot of suspicion by members of other churches and especially by the other ministers in town (all men). Our church was excluded from ecumenical events because of having a female minister. It was not pleasant, but serving my congregation was a joy. What helped me a lot was to remember that my calling was not to convince people that I was called to be a minister! My calling was to minister.

What about the rest of you? Share your experiences and advice in the comment section. And, as always, send your questions to the matriarchs at askthematriarch@gmail.com.

 

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Wednesday Festival: I will do a new thing

Finland has elected its first-ever female Lutheran bishop. See Through Faith gives us her thoughts on the event.

Purple is looking for suggestions on stewardship materials and welcomes any recommendations.

Leah Sophia shares further thoughts on the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - Remember the Women Edition


I heard a sermon recently in which the stories told about women cast them as both weak victims and powerful sex objects - that old and tired dichotomy. Alas, if only the preacher had read this week's texts.

Jezebel? Although she is the "villian" of the piece, it's not because of overweening sexuality, it's for her smarts, chutzpah and initiative. The woman with the alabaster jar? She combines emotional intelligence (or at least emotional expression) with worshipful devotion, and an ethic of service and hospitality which puts the males around her shame.

Centuries of Christianity have diminished the voices and stories of women - gifts which are only now being reclaimed. And yet, through all those years of shame and anti-sensuality and oppression, these two stories about these two amazing women - so different from one another, and yet so singularly well-defined - have survived. It's incredible, if you really think about it.

These stories take me toward a reclamation of the feminine voice in our tradition. So I think that's where I would head, were I preaching this week. What about you? What direction do these stories pull you? Or are you heading in another direction altogether? Let us know in the comments if you play.




Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Video: Gather us In


We sang this today...I love it!

(Sorry for this late post! I'm on vacation and all time is skewed for me.)

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Prayer for Sunday Proper 5C / Ordinary 10C / Pentecost +2

Lord,
We find ourselves living in vulnerable unsure times, what with a major oil spill, recall of vehicles from companies once with spotless records, a slow economy, jobs still not returning, and anger in our nation.
We cry out to you for help Lord,
help to lead,
help to discern,
help to heal.

We look around and realize it is not only our economy that is in peril, but the economies of other countries are as well. We see anger, fighting, rioting and terrorism in countries near such as Mexico and Jamaica and far such as Thailand, and Pakistan. And we find ourselves confused and disheartened by the news of the attack of Israel on an aid ship, and at the same time the continued attacks from Palestinians.
Lord to you we cry for your graciousness,
Your forgiveness,
Your healing.

And Lord we see the destruction and continued long term effects from hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and earthquakes. And We cry out that our weeping would not last for ever and that your joy be returned to us. And we pray that we can be your hands and feet to the hurting people of the world, that by doing so we may bring you glory and that your light would shine in the darkness of people’s lives.
Amen.
cross posted at rev abi's long and winding road and revgalprayer pals

11th Hour Preacher Party: Back to Life Edition

Good morning, preachers and pals! Sorry for the late start. She Rev is on maternity leave, so we shout out huzzahs and welcomes to the She Revlet!! And then ask for pardon for the late-sleeping Songbird, who took advantage of the cover of thunderstorms to stay in bed, before remembering the party!

Those preaching the lectionary have impressively supernatural texts to consider. Some of you may be like me, looking forward to a children's program tomorrow. Let us know what's going on where you are. Which text did you choose? Anything special going on in your service as the school year ends or has already completed?

And does your Sunday School go on through the summer?

I'm brewing Fair Trade coffee and hot water for tea is not far behind. If you'll be patient, I promise coffee cake later! Join the party in the comments and let us know how it goes with you today.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Patience and persistence- Friday Five...


As I write this I can see out over our newly set up veggie plot from my study window. When Tim and I moved here in August last year he set to work clearing the ground, this spring I began planting seeds indoors and out, and now the beds are full of leaf and promise. We have harvested some spinach and lettuce, but still have to wait for the main crops....

Patience is something that sometimes comes easy and sometimes doesn't, in the case of the garden it is easy, I can see the growth and know that waiting will produce good results. With other things patience is more difficult....

Along with looking forward to eating our own veggies, we are also looking forward to seeing four of our children graduate with Bachelors degrees this year, they have worked hard over the three years and stuck at it through some difficult stuff. It would have been easy for them to give up, but they haven't...

Persistence often pays off, but we need to be aware that it sometimes turns into sheer pig headed-ness...

With all that in mind I offer you this Friday Five:

1. Is patience a virtue you possess? If it is then does it come naturally, if not how do you/ did you work at it?


2. Being patient with ourselves can be a huge challenge, we are often our own worst critics; is there anything you need to be patient with yourself with at the moment?

3. Are you the kind of person who can/ will persist with a difficult task? How much of this is personality related?

4. Can you spot when persistence turns into pig-headed-ness, or do you never get there?

5. Post a song or a poem that chills you out and helps you to re-group, re-focus and carry on?

Bonus, a picture or a photo that speaks to you of patience or persistence....


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, June 03, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Loneliness in the First Call

My heart goes out to our questioner this week, as she grapples with loneliness and staff issues during the first year of her ministry. I know from experience how hard it can be as a young, single, female solo pastor in a small town. The challenges involved can create a vocational and even spiritual crisis. Our colleague is really struggling right now, and our matriarchs offer their thoughts. Read on...


I am a newly ordained pastor, coming to the end of my first year as a solo pastor in a small city where I know only other pastors in town and nobody else outside of my church thus far. I have quite a nightmare of a problem with a staff person that I have been led to believe at this point will never be fired, because churches don't do that kind of thing. So there are two huge problems. My overwhelmingly lonely existence, and a staff person who makes me dread coming to the office each day.


I have never been a terribly orthodox person of faith and have often wondered if I really have the spiritual strength to be a "person of the cloth." At this point, not even a year into my ministry, I am tempted to walk away from the church altogether. To move to a town where I know people, even if it means working random jobs to make ends meet and pay the bills I have racked up as a student in ministry.


I am tired. I am physically tired. I am emotionally tired. I am spiritually bankrupt. Most days I feel like I have nothing to give to the church and its people, and I what I have remaining I want to keep for myself and my own sanity. I know that the first year of ministry can be hell. And yet I am not sure that I should continue on this path as a minister if I question God's existence in my life right now to the point that most days I do not believe in the divine. Is this the kind of hell that the first year of ministry is, or am I in a pit so deep I need to claw myself out without regard for the consequences to my church and my "career"?


Just FYI, I am seeing a therapist and a spiritual director, and am actively seeking ways to meet people in the community, it is just really hard for a young, single person, no less a minister, to meet people in a small town.


Help!
rev lonelygirl

Jennifer responds:


Dearest lonely one,

Your note is heartbreaking. I think many of us completely empathize with the suffering you’re experiencing. Ministry can be dreadfully lonely, if we let it be, and it can be really difficult to be a single pastor in a smaller community.

You sound exhausted. I’m wondering if you’re taking your days off and your vacation time and continuing education time. All of these times can be restoring, whether it involves traveling to be near people you know and love, or simply taking a deserved break from the stress of daily ministry.
Your staff problem seems to be very difficult and it’s clear that you’re stressed at the thought of going to work. Do those who have led you to believe that the staff person is there to stay understand your feelings? Have you explored every avenue there?

It’s challenging to try and tackle your challenges at work with a tank that feels like it’s on empty. I commend you for seeking therapy and spiritual direction. Do you have any leftover energy to talk with someone in your higher governing body about a match with a clergy colleague who has “been there/done that”? You’ve done a brave thing to write to us, but there may be some clergywomen in closer proximity who could be your buddies. From personal experience, nothing beats a pedicure in a convenient locale with a clergy pal…

You’ll be in my prayers, hoping that you’ll continue to reach out a little more to involve others in your search for answers to your personnel problems and your own needs for friendship.

And Mompriest offers:

I am really glad to hear that you are seeing a therapist and a spiritual director - that is awesome self-care through this difficult time! Sadly what you experience is not just the trials of a first year minister but something that anyone of us can, and probably will, experience some time in our call: loneliness, isolation, and difficult staff and or difficult parishioners. (Often all at the same time as you are experiencing, as I did once, too). Regardless of when it happens it does seem to call up the same kinds of questions about call, about God, about vocation and always about location. More to the point I'd wonder if this is the right place for you rather than whether or not you are called to ministry. It may be that you eventually decide to leave ministry but I think it's too early to know that. Certainly another call could make all the difference in confirming it one way or the other.

I wonder how difficult it is for you to search for another call in a location that would not be so isolating for you? Do you have denominational leadership that you can speak to and who can help you find another call OR manage this situation? to that end, is this staff person difficult for others or are you the only person who struggles to work with this person? Might you denominational regional leadership be able to come in and work with the congregational leadership and help them assess whether this person should remain in the position? Part of your job is to teach the leadership of the congregation how to be leaders and how to support you in your leadership. This is often done best by offering a leadership retreat and bringing in outside folk to lead it.

I do know many churches that have let go of a staff member, hard though it is. It is possible and, not surprisingly, often healthier for both the church and the person when this happens. There is some support for how to proceed with this through the Alban Institute. But I also hope you have some help and support from your regional denominational leaders.

Another option is for you to get additional training through something like "Appreciative Inquiry" (http://www.clergyleadership.com/clergy/ai.html ) or a workshop from the Alban Institute (http://www.alban.org/ ) or a group in your area that studies family systems in congregations. Any of these might help shore up your leadership, give you additional support, and expand your options of how to move forward.

I have also found the RevGals blog ring to be a great source of support. Often we cannot write about the actual issues we face but we can say that we are facing a "number of unbloggable issues and would appreciate prayers..."

That said, prayers for you from me.
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Wonderful advice and encouragement here from our matriarchs. What about the rest of you? What support and words of wisdom could you offer to our sister? Please offer them in our comments section.

And as always, if you have a question you would like the matriarchs to address, please email it to us at askthematriarch@gmail.com.

- earthchick

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Wednesday Festival: The Three R's



In the northern hemisphere, summer is coming (or if you live where I do, it's already here!) With kids getting out of school, the mind always seems to go to thoughts of VACATION.

Considering this, please share in the comments your hopes and plans for Rest, Relaxation, and Renewal in the months to come. Even if you don't have vacation coming up, even if it's not summer in your area, perhaps you will get some ideas. A day-trip can be a big help!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - All Alone or In a Crowd Edition

Today's lectionary readings from Kings and from Luke give us two very different settings for miracle stories.

In one, Elijah raises from the dead the son of the widow Zeraphath (and yes, I DID have to look up the spelling again, even though I JUST saw her name a few minutes ago) while Elijah is staying with them in the widow's home. Elijah calls out to God, and then "stretches out" near the boy three times to heal him. It is strange but intimate little scene, with no witnesses, as far as we know.

The other resurrection story takes place in Nain (annnnd, got the spelling of THAT one right on the first try!), again with the son of
a widow. But this time, the miracle takes place out on the street, as the crowd that is following Jesus bumps right up against the crowd accompanying the widow.

I dont want to go all 9th grade English teacher-ish on you here, by asking "How does the storyteller use the setting - one so quiet, domestic and rather mysterious; the other very public, almost raucous and quite matter of fact - to set a tone in these stories?" And yet, the setting must have a purpose. If it matters to the original teller enough to make note of it, how does it matter to us? What point is being made? In our own lives, how do we respond differently to encounters with the Holy that happen in public vs those that happen in private?

Over in Galatians, Paul is trying to help the community pay attention to both the individual response to God, and the communal one, with mixed success.

Let us know what struck you about these readings or chime in about whatever direction you are heading. See you in the comments!

Link to texts here. Painting of Elijah and Zeraphath by John Bates Bradford found here. Painting of Jesus healing the son of the widow in Nain by Tissot found here.