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Saturday, July 31, 2010

11th Hour Preachers Party: Gods Love in the Ordinary

For a variety of reasons I am reflecting this week on bread. Or actually how bread and the making of bread is a metaphor for the Body of Christ and the love of God. Our readings this week point us to ponder the nature of God's love for humanity even when we behave badly, such as what we hear in Hosea and Luke. Maybe, though, you are pondering Genesis, or Colossians, or one of the Psalms?

Regardless, it seems for me, these are readings that talk about God's love in the ordinary. For some conversation on this idea go here and here. I always appreciate the Tuesday Lectionary discussion on this blog and the commentary on Process and Faith blog, among many other sources I read as I prepare to preach on Sunday.

Here at the Preacher's Party we are, one might say, like the ingredients in bread, coming together and forming a whole, a community. A community  that readily shares resources, ideas, prayers, support, and feedback. This is the place to be on Saturday as we party hard, or at least intend too, in the preparation of our sermons.

So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, pull up a chair, and join the conversation. Let's see what rises up amongst us, like yeast in water and honey. Let's see what kind of flour is added. If you're tired we'll help you knead that dough until it has a texture that will preach....Ok. maybe I'm pushing the bread dough metaphor too far. But nonetheless join us, and let's see what we create!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Five: Love the One You're With

This Friday Five will post while I'm at the beach which for me is more than a vacation destination, it is a trip home. I have found it quite easy to wax nostalgic about the places I used to live (well, except for one) and have begun to wonder what it is I like about the place I'm living now? For instance I sure do love the beach, but this picture was taken about 30 minutes away from my house - not too shabby!

And so I ask you to please name five things you like about where you are living now... and as your bonus - 1 thing you don't like.

If you play, please leave a comment and add a link to your blog post. As I'm not bringing my computer to the beach, I'm hoping folks will help me out by looking at at least two of the posts listed above them! Here's how you do it:

<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, July 29, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Sunday School

I know it's still July, but many of us are already knee-deep in planning and preparation for the fall. Such is the case with the pastor who brings questions about Sunday School today:

I am the pastor of a small single point parish. We have a decent amount of children in our Sunday School with classes for 3 yrs -Kindergarten, 1st & 2nd, 3rd & 4th, 5th & 6th, and 7th & 8th Confirmation. We have the kids who come every Sunday and attend worship most weeks, the kids who come on and off to both Sunday School and worship, and the kids whose parents I do not think I could pick out of a line up because even though the kids are here more weeks for class than not they parents never enter the building. I know that none of this is unusual but I was wondering if anyone had any ideas about reaching out in a non-threatening way to the parents who bring their kids to Sunday school but never to worship? Coming from a church family I confess I have no idea what motivates people to bring their kids to Sunday School but never attend anything themselves, I don't even know where to start to reach out to these families.

On a related note what have your done about discipline in Sunday School? We have some let's say energetic boys, some kids who are too cool for singing (we don't make the confirmation kids participate in the opening time but the 5th & 6th do), and among the confirmation kids we have quite a bit of girl drama complete with disrespectful & even openly defiant behavior to the teachers at times. I don't expect the kids to be perfect but it really is getting out of hand in some classes and preventing the teachers from teaching. We are thinking of instituting a program called 1-2-3 Magic this fall to try to set a better tone this year and I wondered if anyone had any ideas about how to introduce new expectations and possible consequences to the kids, parents, and teachers.


Jennifer, who blogs at offers wise counsel:

On both matters, I’d suggest rallying all hands on deck—your CE committee, your teachers, parents for idea sharing. Ask them how the church can reach out to parents. Involve them in addressing this. All sorts of ideas come to mind—a beginning of the school year coffee on Sunday morning, a “meet the teachers” open house, a shepherding program matching parents who attend with parents who don’t. But first, I’d get buy-in from a lot of other leadership so that they can share their ideas and be involved in reaching out. A friendly church depends on more than the pastor’s initiative.

As for the attitude issues, the same holds true. Enlist support from others, and if you’re develop a plan or policy, make sure your governing body supports and approves it. Perhaps 5-6th graders are telling you with their behaviors that the music is too juvenile for them, If so, is there a more appropriate activity for them?

As far as respectful behavior is concerned, perhaps a covenant at the beginning of the year that outlines expectations which students, parents and teachers all sign would be helpful. But seriously—don’t head down this road without lots of backing from the appropriate leaders in the church.

And Mompriest blogging at offers great insights as well:

I experienced this when I was newly ordained and an assistant at a large congregation. My son was in a class of some 20 kids, mostly boys, all around the age of 8 or 9. The Director of Christian Formation and the teachers had a real challenge on their hands. The solution then was to break the class apart, not by age but by dynamic and social development, giving us two classes of that 8/9/10 year old group. We doubled up on leadership in the classes using both male and female leaders and we establish a different routine for the morning which helped to contain the kids. We too had a lot of parents who just dropped off their kids for Sunday School while they went out for coffee or something. I think we tried to address this issue by having Sunday School meet at the same as a coffee hour with a casual adult formation – nothing too heavy with a plenty of time for social interaction. BUT that adult formation was only 45 minutes while the youth Sunday school was 90 minutes. So many parents then went to worship and their kids joined them in worship for the last 20 minutes or so. Not all parents came to the coffee and not all parents then went to worship, but the numbers increased.

This same process might work for the older kids too, separating into different groups the kids who are most prone to annoy one another, doubling up on the leadership with male and female leaders, and spelling out clear expectations to youth and parents. It would also be worthwhile, if you can manage it, to bring in some professionals to meet with the leaders and offer them some pointers on dealing with the defiant dynamics at play. For example maybe a school social worker would be willing to meet with the Sunday School teachers and congregational youth staff? Or maybe someone in the congregation is an adolescent psychologist and could provide some teaching techniques to the leadership.

Whatever you do it needs to have the full support of the leadership team and be clearly spelled out to the parents, who also need to be apprised of the challenges and the responses that will be given to those challenges.

And last but not least, these kids will grow up and move on and new kids will come in, the dynamic will change in a year or two if not sooner.

What experience and insights can you bring to this conversation? Use the Add a Comment function to join in the discussion.

May you live in God's amazing grace+


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Knit Together

Diane, who blogs at Faith in Community, shares a reflection on ministry to a family in great grief: her ministry, and that of the community of faith.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I said these words at a hospital on Tuesday in the late afternoon. We said these words because a baby had just been born, and his mother was holding him, and his father was standing over him, and his grandparents and his aunt were in the room.

The baby had died before he was born. No one knows why. He was beautiful, and all along the doctors had said he was perfect.

That afternoon we named him, as we also prayed and read scripture. We loved him. His mother and his father and his grandparents and his big sister and his aunt had loved him before his was born, as he was being knit together and as everyone was marvelling at his growth, and anticipating his birth.

The ones who loved him, they were also being knit together, they were knit together in their common love for one another and for him, in their anticipation and hope. Now they were knit together in grief as well.

On Friday many people came together in a memorial service. We prayed and sang. The baby's big sister danced during "Children of the Heavenly Father." There were families and friends and people from work, and people from our church, all being knit together in love and hope and in grief.

Some people in our church have known this family, this father and mother, since they were children. They have walked together, learned together, worshiped together, served together. They have sponsored refugees and taught English and served meals. They have rejoiced with them, and now they are weeping with them. Did they know, all these years, that they were being knit together into the body of Christ? And did they know that this would cause both great joy and grief to them someday?

We are being knit together by love and anticipation, by joy and by grieving. We are being knit together as we anticipate the reign of God and live now in this reality. We are being knit together, and sometimes this causes us unbelievable joy, and sometimes almost unbearable sorrow.

Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
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, July 27, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Treasures on earth, etc.

"The Rich Fool" by JESUS MAFA, a a response to the New Testament readings from the Lectionary by a Christian community in Cameroon, Africa. Each of the readings were selected and adapted to dramatic interpretation by the community members. Photographs of their interpretations were made, and these were then transcribed to paintings. See: and Source: Heard Divinity Library at Vanderbilt University

Readings for the coming Sunday may be found here.

Will you be pondering the Hosea which the heavenly parent laments in terms that the human parent of a teenager might well understand?

Or perhaps Ecclesiastes..."Vanity of vanities...all is vanity!"

or even Colossians, where we are adjured to seek the things that are above...where Christ is?

or the gospel...with the parable of the man who lays up many goods, and is told he is a fool?

Or even the Psalm?

There are rich treasures in these Words. What homiletical abundance will you store and share from them?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Meet n' Greet: the New Way!

It's the first Monday Meet 'n Greet of the post-Ringsurf era, and I want to thank our membership committee, which will still be screening applicants to be sure they meet the criteria in our sidebar. We have two new blogs to introduce today.

First, meet Becky Ramsey, who blogs at wonders never cease, and says:

I'm a follower of Christ, an author, a mom, and Chief Wrangler of Tanner the Slobber Dog. I search my crazy life for God's fingerprints, and then I write about them. I also drink coffee, fight piles of dirty laundry, and dream of French pastries.

Becky is already a Twitter friend to some of  us, as @rebeccaramsey. Welcome!

Next, say hello to Katie Mulligan, who blogs at The Adventures of Tiny Church. Katie tells us she is the

New pastor at New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Mt. Laurel. This blog follows our adventures together as TinyChurch.

We're glad to have you, Katie!

Our new membership procedure is to email RevGalBlogPals with a request -- no need to go through Ringsurf anymore. Instead of a big block of code, you'll be adding our lovely new button to your blog to show you are a member. And if you're already a member, be sure to add the button and delete your Ringsurf code. If you need technical support, email Songbird to get it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Sunday Prayer, Proper 12C

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death' and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things.

(The Book of Common Prayer, page 836)

Crossposted on RevGalPrayerPals and SeekingAuthenticVoice

Saturday, July 24, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party: from the sublime to the ridonkulous

Among the favorite made-up words at my house: ridonkulous, boofus (boob+doofus, coined by my middle child), craptastic and my own favorite, craptacular. Tomorrow, for lectionary preachers, contains words ranging from "How can I read that in church?!?!?!!!" to "How can I possibly find something new to say about *that*?!?!!" with a stop in between for Sodom and Gomorrah. (The latter for no reason making me think of the "Sobbin' Women" in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," a completely unrelated ancient tale, which might be easier to preach.)

All in all, it makes Colossians look good. Which is saying something.

So, my first thought is coffee. Want some? Or tea?

Preachers, you are welcome to share thoughts, first and last, ideas for a children's message preferably NOT including an egg and a scorpion, and goodies both virtual and real. At my house there is fresh banana bread (really, I made it myself with help from my 15 year old), and Toll House pie. After a trip to the Farmer's Market, I will be back with tomatoes for our lunchtime sandwiches.  Let us know what's going on where you are today and keep those comments coming!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Five: Decisions, Decisions

Since I've been in the midst of a discernment process, I've done a lot of reflecting on how we make decisions. But don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to reveal a dark story about a poor decision, or a self-flagellating story about an embarrassing one. Let's keep it simple and go with five word pairs. Tell us which word in the pair appeals to you most, and after you've done all five, give us the reason why for one of them.

Here they are:

1) Cake or Pie
2) Train or Airplane
3) Mac or PC
4) Univocal or Equivocal
5) Peter or Paul

Try not to pull on the big cat's tail when you answer. :-)

If you play, please leave a comment and add a link to your blog post; I will be sure and decide to visit you! Here's how you do it:

<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, July 22, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Facebook?

Last week we marked RevGalBlogPal's 5th anniversary with a question about blogging...this week, Facebook is the social network du jour:

How do you navigate friendships on Facebook as a pastor? I'm currently not on Facebook because I'm not sure that I want to tackle this. I wouldn't mind being on Facebook to communicate with family and friends (especially those friends from college, etc.) But I don't know that I want my congregation to be privy to these communications. Do they need to see so much of my life? And if a friend says something offensive, I feel like it'd reflect poorly on me--especially as I've only been in my current call a few months. Am I being oversensitive?

Oh, and I did mention Facebook to a key leader in my congregation which was very interesting. She mentioned joining Facebook and being cornered at church because she hadn't immediately accepted friend requests. She told me her intent in getting on was to communicate with her widespread extended family. So, the water is a bit muddier here in my mind already.

Insights appreciated!


Is Facebook worth it?

Mompriest who blogs at Seeking Authentic Voice was the only matriarch with much to say about Facebook:

Facebook is an interesting conundrum. For the most part I think its important to maintain a level of privacy about our personal lives distinct from our ministry lives. Therefore I do not want my parishioners to be "friends" with me on my personal Facebook account. Among other reasons this is because our parishioners need to see us as their Pastoral provider and our personal selves may not meet their ideal, which could lead to additional problems. And as clergy we need to be able to be who we are with our closest friends and family without constantly monitoring ourselves because a parishioner may be listening or reading. That said I also understand the desire to communicate parishioner and pastor on the social medium of Facebook. One way I got around this, sort of, was to set up a Facebook account for the church. This account was managed by me but limited to postings and comments about parish related events. I also created a parish based blog for sermons, where I encouraged comments, and linked that to Facebook. (It wasn't too much work to manage a private and a parish based Facebook and blog). The parish Facebook and blog offered me additional opprtunties for communicating. I think you can make it clear to folks that your private Facebook account is just for family, but the parish one is a place for the congregation to connect to you and each other.

Another of our matriarchs indicated that she had no opinion, and no Facebook page.

So...let's get the dialog going with Mompriest and Is Facebook Worth It?... What do you think? How do you navigate the social networking waters as a pastoral leader? I am looking forward to hearing the wisdom and experience of our community.

May you live in God's amazing grace+


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday Festival: RevGalBlogPals

As you can see from Monday's post, the RevGalBlogPals ring has just celebrated our fifth anniversary.

Mompriest shared a reflection on her blog about the group and what it's meant to her:

(photo from the files of mompriest of BE 2.0, that's my foot at the 5:00 position)

In celebration of the RevGalBlogPals fifth anniversary of blogringing, I
offer this reflection. The summer of 2006 was primarily consumed by a job
search, one I found myself in quite unexpectedly. It was for a position a bit
above what I was doing at small church but with a strong social justice
component, which appealed to me. If I got that job it would have required a move
across country. In the end I did not get that job, a fact that really saddened
me. A number of areas were a concern for me that summer, but if I had known then
what I know now, I wouldn't have worried about any of it. Hindsight being what
it is....

The best part of that summer four years ago was an article I read in
Christian Century about a blog ring for women clergy and their "pals." I didn't
even know what a blog was, not really. I was busy trying to have a decent web
page for small church and take care of all the details that become a part of the
life of a solo pastor in small understaffed church. But I liked the idea of a
blog and of a community of like-minded ecumenical women invested in their faith
with whom I could blog. And so, almost as soon as I put the magazine down, I googled RevGals and promptly started this blog. The early years I blogged "anonymously" ergo the pseudonym "mompriest" which describes me - a mom and an Episcopal priest. In time I became less anonymous and even for a time used my real name. I still wonder about that, about using mompriest or my real name...but for now that's where I'm at.

It took me about 8 months of diligent blogging before I began to feel like there was a
community of bloggers who were becoming my "friends." In the course of those 8 months I had a serious illness that landed me in the hospital for 11 days and on IV (picc-line) antibiotics for 9 more weeks. It was crazy! I also entered into a number of job searches and found the blog, while it was anonymous, a great place to ponder the search process with a group of people who would not be affected by it, as my small congregation would be.

But mostly, what remember about that first year was the poetry discussion
that developed with Barb, Diane, Hotcup, RevSS and Jan. Later a number of other
bloggers became my close friends including BeachWalker and Deb. Soon I had a blog roll, like the one on the side of this blog, of people whose blog I read often.

Still, none of this would have developed if I had not had the almost daily
support of Songbird. There were many days when her comments where the only ones I received but it was enough to keep me going. I'm grateful for that. MaryBeth has been a frequent reader and supporter too. It's been awesome to meet many of these friends in real life, especially at the Big Event 2.0 which I attended in the Spring of 2009.

See, there are so many friendships that have formed in these four years. I
am so grateful for so many (you know who you are) who have become an important
part of my life....I have also been gifted with the opportunity to write posts
for the RevGals blog, which is another level of writing for me - prayers, poems,
book reviews, groups discussions are just a few examples. I'm not a "good"
writer, but I do enjoy it. (Makes me wish I had stayed in that boring "technical
writing" class instead of transferring out to the creative writing class). Much
has changed in my life over these four years. But through it all I am grateful
for the RevGals, who have been a source of inspiration, love, support, grace,
prayers, hope, and witness of a living God.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Ask, Seek, Knock" Edition

Texts for Sunday can be found here .

It seems like such an easy, hit-it-out-of-the-ballpark sermon text, our Gospel for Sunday: God, the radically loving, generous Parent, is always ready to give us what we need, if only we trust in that love and generosity. But is it that simple? What is the good news for you and your congregation, where you're at right now, in this text? Any new "ahas" as you prayerfully, thoughtfully engage Jesus' counsel to believers?

Of course, you may also choose to preach on one of the other texts, or on another of your choosing.

As always, share your insights on the lessons and plans for worship with us here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Happy Birthday, RevGalBlogPals!!

Born in a comment thread at St. Casserole's blog, RevGalBlogPals celebrates its fifth birthday today! Within 24 hours of that post, we had a webring, a group blog and a CafePress store. In our short history we've published two books of reflections and sponsored three Big Events. Today we have about 300 member blogs.

But what we cannot count are the friendships made through the ring. Don't let anyone tell you Internet friendships are not real. RevGalBlogPals has been the source of connections for far-flung clergywomen, of kindnesses in disaster, and a vehicle for the movement of the Holy Spirit through our lectionary and book discussions, preacher parties, sharing of wisdom and experience, prayers, and even our memes.

The board of our 501(c)3, RevGalBlogPals, Inc., is evaluating some of the guidelines established early on about ring and corporation membership. First, we are moving away from the idea of having dues-paying members of the corporation, and will let you know more about this soon. For the time being, we are not taking dues payments. Since there are by-laws to revise, it will take some time to transition.

Second, given some changes at Ringsurf, we are going to discontinue use of their service. Blogs applying for membership now must provide a 1000 word description, and while we appreciate the desire of Ringsurf to protect against spam, this feels onerous. Please go ahead and delete your Ringsurf code, and instead install our new button on your blog. Include a link back to

(That's a picture from BE 2.0.)

In the next year, we have plans for Big Event 4.0, with Carol Howard Merritt, and more specifics will be coming on that soon. Meanwhile, please use the comments to share a favorite memory or thought from the past five years, or to leave a link if you blog about it.

Many thanks to all the ring members who have given their time and energy over the years to make the webring go and to provide the content on this group blog. If you haven't been a participant before but might like to try it, send us an email.

Happy Birthday!!!

To grab our button, right-click on the image in the sidebar (that one has less gobbledygook than the one in the blog post), and save it to your computer. Go to your blog software and add via your picture or link instructions. In Blogger use the gadget for a picture, very easy to add. In Typepad, you have to save it to your Typepad files, which is a little more complicated, but they have instructions for doing it and embedding a link. If anyone has WordPress advice, please add it to the comments and I will cut and paste here. Thanks!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Prayer 11C

Gracious and generous God, creator of all,
Birth giver of summer, of sun and warmth
Of the green earth and blue seas,
We give thanks for the many blessings
Flowing from you to us, like
A basket of summer fruit.

Gracious and generous God, creator of all,
Pouring your love into Christ Jesus,
Your steadfast promise of love, of
Hope, to us, our faith.
May we hear your words calling,
us to be your Body.

Gracious and generous God, merciful lover
Of souls, tend to those who grieve.
We pray for the suffering of this world
Of body, mind, and spirit, may your
Healing love embrace the pain
Holding it with tender care.

Gracious and generous God, merciful lover
Of souls, take our worries and the
Brokenness of the world and heal it
As only you are able. Speak into
Our lives and show us the way
To be your love, healing.

As Martha offers hospitality to the stranger
As Mary listens carefully to your word
May we learn from our sisters to
Be your hands and heart in the world.

Crossposted on RevGalPrayerPals and SeekingAuthenticVoice

Saturday, July 17, 2010

11th Hour Preacher's Party: Should I Stay or Should I Go edition

Admittedly if , while pondering our Gospel reading for this Sunday, one thinks of this song (as I have)  by the Clash one has to consider it very loosely as a double entendre. In a rather "loose" interpretation, (and I really may be stretching it a bit here) it gets us to some of the points we might be making. I mean, Mary and Martha are clashing, right? And we may be pondering about what the Gospel is saying regarding, love and whether one is staying or doing?

Then again, perhaps you're taking a both/and approach to the reading?
Maybe, though, you are going with Amos instead and pondering a contrast between how having a relationship with God means living a life as rich as a basket of summer fruit? Or, how a life without a relationship with God produces a desert of desolation? (Amos has a few strong words about this life without God idea). Maybe you like the story form Genesis about Abraham and Sarah entertaining angels unaware and how this story led to the inspiring icon by Rubelev on the Trinity?

Then, of course there's the reading from Paul's Letter to the Colassians and a reflection on the Body of Christ? So many options to ponder this week. Including this conversation from the Tuesday Lectionary Leanings.

Wherever your ponderings are leading you we are in it together. Here you will find an excellent cup of freshly brewed coffee and the tea kettle is on. Or, for those in the warmer climes, iced coffee and tea. I have fresh nectarines and homemade apple bread. And lots of ideas to share around. Pull up a chair and join the party!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Five: Pets or not?

My friend Judy told a group of friends last week that her beloved hermit crab Al died. She missed Al--after six years of his company, even though she was not sure how pronounced his personality was or if he had one!

With the chewing exploits of our third dog, puppy Maisie, I am wondering about the pets we presently own and have had in the past.What about you? Tell us about the animals in your lives. If you have no pets, give examples of friends' pets or imaginary ones!

1. Did you grow up with pets?

2. Do you have any pets now?

3. What is the funniest or worst thing any of your pets have ever done?

4. Who is/was your favorite pet?

5. How did you train your different pets?

BONUS: Pictures of a pet or one you wish you could have.

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

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Nomme de Blog

Next Monday is the 5th anniversary of RevGalBlogPals! As we look back at the history of this virtual community and our journey together, it's a great time to reflect on our question this week and offer our own perspectives. Remember the excitement (and maybe anxiety) of starting your own blog? Our question this week comes from a new minister who is ready to take that plunge:

I am ready to start a blog, but I am stumped at how to pick a good name. Of course, it seems that all the really cool names are owned by Rev Gals! LOL. Seriously, I don't know if my creative juices are just low, or if I am over thinking it, or what.

I don't have a extremely clear focus for my blog either. It's largely going to be a place where I can post my sermons, talk about books I am reading, ramble about things that happen or that I notice. I am in the transitional stage from seminarian to first call pastor, so I can't really claim either identity, which also makes it hard to find a good name.

How does one go about picking a clever name? What are some tips I should know before starting a blog? Any advice is welcome!

Jennifer writes:
I really like what one fine Rev Gal did and named her blog “Clever Title Here”. I thought that was brilliant!! (Hooray, Teri!)

Is it important to you that the title be clever, or would it be more helpful to just get started blogging, and see where it goes? Perhaps you’d want to consider whether your blog will be pseudonymous or if you’ll use your real name. If it’s the former, you can adopt a name and call your blog _____’s Blog. Or you can use your real name and call it __________ (insert name here)’s blog. 

Transitions might work as a name. I like “rambling” in the title…

Ruth, who blogs at Sunday's Coming, offers:
As you see, I just use my name, rather than a cool Avatar! - so I can’t help with that question.

But on blogging more generally: I think one important choice to make is whether you are going to write your blog anonymously or whether you will identify yourself. If you are identified, you need to remember that whatever you write is ‘public’ - not a space to grumble about people or events. The downside of an anonymous blog is that you can’t easily use it for discussion purposes in the church you serve, or you will ‘blow your cover’. I suppose your decision is whether it is primarily personal diary/ reflection space or something for others to read and discuss...

My lectionary-based blog is public: I set it up to discuss sermons & stuff with the people I work with – but now get about 200 hits a week from who-knows-where. But sometimes I wish there was a space for more risky, anonymous thoughts and reflections: maybe one day I’ll set up a second, anonymous space.

Jump in & enjoy!

And mompriest writes:
Oh, yes... I understand, there are so many creative blog-titles that people have created. For me the blog title criteria, as I was creating it and naming it with the intention of participating in the RevGals blog ring, needed to relate to my faith journey. I wanted a title I would not outgrow any time soon and could be relevant for both personal and professional reflections. Originally I blogged anonymously but since I joined Christian Century I am no longer anonymous even though I still use my pseudonym. 

In terms of what I share on the blog: I always speak from my perspective and try not to make it personal about others. I want to respect the integrity of others, even on those occasions when I have wanted to rant. On those occasions I try to rant about the situation and not the people. I post my sermons on the blog, play the RevGals Friday Five, and post the Sunday Prayer for RevGals when I have written it. Often I  write a piece I call, Monday Morning Musings, to offer a reflection on the week past and the week to come. Sometimes I play "Meme's" that float around the blog-world which are usually aimed at asking some general but slightly more personal information than one might others post. And occasionally I post a poem that has been meaningful to me. I always try to write mindful that search committees and parishioners may find me and read the blog. I want it to be a place that reveals a bit about me, but with integrity. I'm not a very good writer nor am I terribly creative or witty, but blogging is place where I find community, support, and friendship, and for that reason I value my blog. I hope you find blogging to be fruitful for you and a place of community.

Thank you, matriarchs, for your thoughtful responses. We would love to hear from the rest of you. Got an idea for how our colleague might pick a name for her blog? Or do you have some wisdom to share about what has worked and not worked for you when it comes to actually writing the blog? What challenges have you dealt with as a clergy-blogger? Please share in the comments!
And our queue is empty once again. Send us your questions at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday Festival of Forgiveness

(Illustration tagged: "Bonhoeffer - still making me work.")

Tripp posts at The Anglobaptist about forgiveness and why we're in community:

Don't ever let anyone tell you different; forgiveness is a pain in the ass. It's an impossible task sometimes. It will ask everything of you with no promises attached. It's true. Forgiving someone who has hurt us deeply is one of the most difficult tasks known to humanity. The only thing that might make that already seemingly impossible task more challenging is if the person you must forgive is yourself.

I have a list. Do you? You know, of the things for which you need to forgive yourself? Desmond Tutu says, "Without forgiveness, there's no future."
He's so annoying. He's right, of course. There is a way that we are incapable of growing or moving into the future God wants for us sometimes if we cannot forgive ourselves.

I don't want to air my dirty laundry here. It would be akin to bragging. This post is already coming too close to that as it is. Sharing is one thing, but to reveal too much is unseemly. Let me just say that there are things I've done, a person (or people) I have been in the past that I simply cannot forgive. I did not see that until today when a parishoner called me out on something.

Stupid communal spiritual honesty.

So...yeah. I need to forgive myself somehow. I just don't know how to yet. God have mercy on me, a sinner. Anyone know a good confessor?

In other news, Alan Rudnick blogs at On the Bema. He's a smart and passionate Baptist minister. For some unknowable reason, he has asked me to contribute to his series on baptist sacramentality. He's posting my entry tomorrow. In the mean, I offer this brief reading list for your edification. Yes, baptist sacramentalism is
alive and well.

Suggested Reading:
Promise and Presence: An Exploration of Sacramental Theology by John E. Colwell Gathering: A Spirituality And Theology of Worship in Free Church
by Christopher J. Ellis
Joining the Dance: A Theology of The Spirit By Molly T. Marshall
Can These Bones Live? A Catholic Baptist Engagement
with Ecclesiology, Hermeneutics, and Social Theory
by Barry Harvey

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, July 13, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Attention Must Be Paid" Edition

Texts for Sunday can be found here .

At our house we have been known to become so involved in preparations for guests and trying to meet their real or perceived expectations that we wind up...well, not paying as much attention as we should to them: engaging in genuine, mindful conversation with them; listening to them, simply enjoying their presence. We're too busy plying them with food and drink or fiddling with the music or scurrying off to fix some last-minute housecleaning oversight to be entirely present for them; which in fact defeats the whole idea of hospitality.

That seems to be the dynamic at the house of Martha and Mary in our Sunday's Gospel lesson, where Jesus gives Martha a priority readjustment.

It's a lesson that seems at once so straightforward but at the same time fraught preacherly pitfalls: inadvertently pitting the "Marys" of the Church versus the "Marthas" and disrespecting the practical vocations in our faith communities that keep things running; either ignoring the social contexts that make this interaction between Jesus and the two women really interesting and indeed revolutionary, or  inadvertently framing the sermon as primarily a "girrrl thing" that fails to engage the male members of the congregation.

Those are things I'm thinking about, anyway, as I prepare for my sermon on Sunday. How about you? What will you have to say about Jesus, Mary and Martha? Or are you sermonizing on one of our other very preachworthy lessons? Or are you going off the script altogether? As always, share your ideas here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

2nd Monday Discussion: Summer at Church

I have a good friend who dreads summer. In New England summer at church often means diminished attendance and few, if any, meetings. I have looked forward to it as a natural "down" cycle in the year, but my friend often wonders what the point of her work is if it seems to mean so little as soon as the sun is shining longer and the days are warmer.

Does summer, or any other seasonal change, have an impact on the life of your church? Do you appreciate it? Dread it? Do you get busier because of Vacation Bible School? Find you are expected to take a block of time off when you would rather not? Wish your church would turn on the A/C?

Join us in the comments and tell your stories, and I'll keep the iced coffee coming! 

Next Monday is the fifth anniversary of the founding of RevGalBlogPals. We'll have a party in the comments and a blog carnival of stories about what RevGalBlogPals means to us. We'll also be introducing a new "button" to mark our blogs as we transition away from using Ringsurf. Join us next week for the festivities!!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Prayer Proper 10C

God of love and compassion
have mercy on us
lying here in this ditch of life
give us your hand
tend our wounds with your love.

God of love and compassion
tend to the suffering
in the world today and every day
be a gentle balm
that soothes our pain of body and spirit.

God of love and compassion
reach out to those
afflicted by war, famine, oil spills,
tragedies of weather or economic failure
and comfort them as only you are able.

God of love and compassion
embrace those who have died
lift them into your arms of love
comfort their families and friends
with the assurance of your grace.

God of love and compassion
we give you thanks
for the gift of life, and especially for
the gift your love poured out in Christ Jesus.
May we be that love in the world. May we be
the hands and heart of Christ.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party: What are You Preaching About? Edition

A friend of mine who is a pastor relayed this story recently: she found her three year old son sitting in front of her computer one day. She asked him what he was doing. "Working on my sermon," he replied. "So, what are you preaching about, Carl?" she asked. "Jesus."

With that in mind, I offer this simple question this morning in the middle of summer: "What are you preaching about tomorrow?" There are several scriptural answers to this question: you might be trying to find a new twist on the extremely familiar story of the Good Samaritan. You might be starting a sermon series on Colossians. You might be looking at Deuteronomy or at Amos' plumb line, or you might be preaching about something Completely Different. A great conversation about some of these possibilities can be found here.

Or, it might be as simple as my friend's son: "Jesus." It's always that simple, and it can still be complicated, as well....

What are you having for breakfast? As always, I'm serving fair-trade coffee, good earth tea, and blueberry pancakes (I hear blueberries are full of anti-oxidants!) I have the table set in anticipation of company, so I hope you'll join me.

And maybe even have a children's sermon idea. (Please?)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Friday Five: Forgetful Jones Edition

No, it wasn't my turn to do the Friday Five, but it was my job to confirm the new person whose job it is, so herewith, the Forgetful Jones Friday Five, complete with Sesame Street video for those who like such things.

a) What's the last thing you forgot?
e) How do you keep track of appointments?
i) Do you keep a running grocery list?
o) When forced to improvise by circumstances, do you enjoy it or panic?
u) What's a memory you hope you will never forget?

If you play, please leave a comment and add a link to your blog post; we'll be sure we don't forget to visit you! Here's how you do it:

<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.

Humbly submitted,
Forgetful Songbird

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - When the Senior Pastor Phones it In

Our question this week comes from a lay leader with a sadly common problem: a senior pastor who seems to be biding time till retirement. Our matriarchs have some great wisdom to share. Read on:

I’m a lay person on the governing board of my church, where I’ve been a member about 5 years.
Our pastor is on track to retire within 3-5 years. I’ve had the impression for a long time that he was sort of “phoning it in” and recent conversations with more than one of the church staff indicate this is definitely true with regard to his leadership of the staff…there doesn’t appear to be any. So what ends up happening is that one of the staff who has a very extroverted personality (and who has been a member of the church for many years) is essentially running things…the pastor sits back and does whatever this person suggests. Lots of resentment ensues.

The church has good leadership from an associate and two retired pastors who help out, as well as from dedicated lay leaders. But finances are suffering, numbers are dropping, and the staff and church need more. 

What should I/we do? If you were this pastor, what would you hope your board would do? 

Jennifer responds:

In a perfect world, I’d hope that trusted leaders in the life of the church would the staff approachable and could ask questions and seek to provide help and leadership in this time of perceived detachment and distancing. In addition, I would hope that my governing board had a great personnel committee in place, with regular evaluation of all staff, including the head of staff. 

If it hadn’t happened regularly, I would ask that it could happen. I’d hope that any concerns could be directed to them, even if there were concerns about my leadership. I would hope that if the church I served were connected to a higher governing body, and if problems couldn’t be resolved internally, they would contact the presbytery/bishop/conference/appropriate body and ask for help and guidance. 

And Mompriest offers:
Sadly this is a frequent occurrence in churches when a Pastor is preparing to retire several years out. The transition for a congregation begins as soon as a Pastor announces that he or she is leaving or retiring and lasts until about 18 months after a new Pastor is called. This means that your congregation is already in a transition stage and feeling that instability.

A number of approaches might steady the congregation for the years ahead. If it hasn't happened already someone (maybe two people) in the leadership team needs to have a heart to heart with the Pastor.This conversation needs to help him understand how this time is being experienced by the congregation and others in leadership. From there a plan needs to be put in place that clearly articulates the role the Pastor will have in these last years, the role of the leadership team, and the role of the congregation.

One way I have seen this develop: the Pastor acknowledges a need to focus her/his ministry in a certain area for his/her final years (say counseling or raising endowment funds, etc) and that others on the staff are going to take over the remaining aspects of the Pastors leadership. This will make it intentional for someone else on staff to have more leadership responsibility. The benefit of this is it helps that person(s) grow in their skills - preparing them for their next step in leadership - perhaps as the Sr. Pastor in another parish. It also prepares the staff and congregation for changes that will come with any change in leadership, while still having the Pastor on staff to support and guide the direction. If this is the approach then it needs to be spelled out clearly so that the leadership team has approved the details of the approach and how it will be lived into. Then this needs to be laid out for the congregation so they understand it, hopefully support it, and pray for it. Congregations usually manage times of transition better if there is a clear plan in place and the steps of those plans have been spelled out as well as possible, noting that not every eventuality can be planned for. 

That said, during times of transitions, especially as a Pastor leaves, it is "natural" for churches to go through some changes. People, who have been "waiting" for this time will finally begin to leave. Congregations can anticipate about 10% of the congregation to "move on." There will also be a shift in finances as people leave or hold onto their money during the transition. In time there will be new folks coming in, again a congregation can anticipate about 10% new growth with the new Pastor, essentially replacing, over a few years time,  those who left. Some resentment over the changes will be natural. No one likes change, but change that is managed with some teaching and intentionality can bring renewed health to a congregation. 

Most important will be the ability of the leadership team to manage their anxiety and that of the congregation by modeling a non-anxious presence and a clear path forward. That's not to say that anxiety won't be present or part of the process, but neither the people nor the process should not be ruled by that anxiety.

It will also be helpful if the leadership team learns about times of transition and what to expect. There are numerous resources available through the Alban Institute: on this topic. It may be helpful to hire a consultant who helps the team navigate this time.

Prayers for you and your congregation as you go forward, may it become a time of new life.

Some great advice here! What about the rest of you? What thoughts or experiences do you have? Please share in the comments section. Also, please do send your questions to askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com. Our queue is nearly empty, so we could address your question quite soon!

Wednesday Festival: Biting and Devouring

Ring member Margaret is pondering Paul's advice to the Galatians and the nature of Christian disagreement:

If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not
consumed by one another.
This line from Galatians 5 jumped out at me this morning as I listened to the lessons being read. Biting and devouring isn't usual Sunday fare, thanks be to God, but I wonder if it was usual Sunday - and maybe even daily - fare for the new Christians in Galatia. It's such colorful language for sniping and fighting!

I suspect I bite and devour sometimes even though I feel like I bend over backwards doing just the opposite. When others begin to do so, I try to ease the tensions or simply walk away rather than get involved.

But there are times when we have to stay and fight. It seems to me the various parts of the Anglican Communion have been biting and devouring lately - or should I say once again or still. A part of me wants to jump into the fray and do a little biting myself. Part of me wants to walk very far away, even out of the relationship. But that feels like I am letting the biting and devouring consume me.

If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not
consumed by one another.
Take care that you are not consumed by one another, says Paul. It sounds to me like we have permission to disagree even to the point of taking chunks out of each other but that we are never to go for the knockout punch. Hmmm.... I would love to know what Paul was talking about, wouldn't you? Is he saying, "If you are going to argue, don't walk away mad" or "If you are going to fight, don't draw blood?" It's hard to know, isn't it.

But it refreshing to see that Paul doesn't seem to be saying that we should make nice just for the sake of keeping the peace. We shouldn't paste that plastic smile on our faces and pretend everything is fine. Somehow we are meant to engage each other about our differences. It ought to be a loving disagreement with each of us listening to the other and thinking about how best to respond without saying "well, that's just stupid," no matter how obliquely we try to do that.

So I guess biting and devouring are not generally appropriate behavior amongst the greater family but Paul is realistic enough to know we will still try it on once in a while. 'When you do," he seems to be saying, "take care not to cause the other - and hence, ourselves - irreparable damage. Always leave the discussion with the door still open and all the bodies intact.

(Image from

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, July 06, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Straight Up" Edition

Texts for the coming Sunday can be found here .

When I -- not the most spatially inclined person in the world -- took my stained glass class last year -- I quickly learned the importance of proper measurement; of keeping rulers and edges straight. Sloppiness, even to a small degree, can skew and distort the entire picture.

This week our texts speak to the value of "straightening up." On Sunday you may read the Deuteronomy text where the people of Israel are exhorted to internalize the Law they've been given, so that they may enjoy an abundant, peaceful life. Or you may read the Amos text where God's plumb line shows Amos' society to be askew and in need of reform.  In one of our alternate Psalms God outlines how to straighten up an unjust society; in the other the Psalmist prays for wisdom and guidance. In our epistle lesson Paul expresses his hopes that the Colossian Christians may continue along the right path. And our Gospel lesson Jesus, in response to a lawyerly question about how to inherit internal life, sets God's plumb line not against one's proper observance of ritual law, but against one's demonstration of compassion and mercy.

What's your straight-up take on our texts this week? As always, here's the place to share insights, questions and plans.

Monday, July 05, 2010

RevGalBookPals on Karen Armstrong: Summer Book Reviews, Part Three

Did you read the piece in Christian Century about Karen Armstrong? Our Scott Johnson, who blogs at Nachfolge, contributes a guest review this week of her book, The Case for God.

Lutheran Campus Ministry at Iowa State University hosts a "Theology for Lunch" group every Friday at noon during the school year. Last fall we tackled N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope. This spring, because Wright wasn't deep enough, we took on The Case for God by Karen Armstrong. [check your sarcasm sensor - fully operational? Good] It was a very enriching semester for all of us.

This is my first experience with Karen Armstrong's work. Many have recommended her other works to me through the years, most especially A History of God and The Spiral Staircase. After our experience with The Case for God, I'll definitely add these titles to my list for future reading.

Contrary to what the title may lead the reader to expect, The Case for God is not an apologetic; at least, it is not an apologetic akin to anything I've previously read. As we drew near to the end of the book, I found myself mystified with the title altogether - it seems to draw the reader's attention away from the marvelous work Armstrong is doing toward an argument or proof that is never offered. Armstrong herself states that "quarreling about religion is counterproductive and not conducive to enlightenment." But she does offer, in the introduction, her rationale for this work:
The modern God is only one of the many theologies that developed during the three thousand year history of monotheism. Because "God" is infinite, nobody can have the last word. I am concerned that many people are confused about the nature of religious truth, a perplexity exacerbated by the contentious nature of so much religious discussion at the moment. My aim in this book is simply to bring something fresh to the table.
What she brings is an encompassing history of theology, religion and faith. Armstrong literally attempts to cover the waterfront: she begins in 30,000 BCE and ends with the "death of God" movement of the 1960s, the recent rise of neo-atheists and a touch of how the modern church might wish to respond. It's an ambitious project which Armstrong mostly carries off extremely well, focusing on what I believe are two main hypotheses:
  1. The concept of faith as cognitive assent to a list of dogmatic assertions is a very modern development, post-Enlightenment at the very least if not later; and
  2. The development of this concept has had an extremely detrimental effect upon the three monotheistic faiths (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) and their adherents.
In pursuit of these two hypotheses, Armstrong collects and presents an impressive collection of theologians, philosophers and intellectuals of every stripe and genre. In such an attempt, there are bound to be omissions, no matter how carefully one does one's research. I'll gladly admit that the omissions I noted were mainly of the Lutheran stripe - I would have preferred a deeper look at the Reformation, and an analysis of how the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer were co-opted by many in the "Death of God" movement. Others might have preferred a more detailed examination of their own faith tradition, especially as the Christian church has splintered into denominations over the past 1,000 years.

These are, however, minor quibbles. Nearly every page offers a great deal of thought-provoking analysis of religious faith, and Armstrong is remarkably even-handed in her praise and criticism. As those of us who love our churches venture deeper into the post-Christendom age, The Case for God is a valuable contribution to the church's conversation with itself and with the world in which we live. I highly recommend it, but only if you're ready to think deeply about God, theology and what it means to be people of faith.

Grace & peace,

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Video: Psalm 23

True confession time: I didn't make it to church today; I was with family. I don't want to include a patriotic song here. And I can't find anything that I more need to hear than this, today. This is the anthem, the prayer, to the true home of all our hearts.

What did YOU sing in worship this morning? Let us know in the comments...

Sunday Prayer: Proper 9C

God of all creation, of Me and you, of
Earth and sea, of Sky and stars, God of
All, bless us this day with the freedom
Of your love, freely given, freely shared.

God who suffers when we are arrogant,
When we are prideful and hurtful,
God who weeps when we turn away
From your love, freely given, freely shared.

Be with those who suffer this day and night
Suffer at the end of life. Suffer from rich oil which gives
So much to life and yet can take life just as easily.
From all the tragedies of the world, love us whole.

God bless us with prophets who dare to
Speak to us in the ordinary, in the every day
Unnamed voices calling out and showing us the
Depth of your love, freely given, freely shared.

May we listen, may we hear, may we follow,
may we lead, may we pray in your name,
may we heal in your name, may we be your heart
may we help as once again you make the world whole.

God transform us with your love, make us whole
That we can make whole those we meet, strangers,
Family, friends, enemies, one and all, together in the
Depth of you love, freely given, freely shared.

And if we cannot lead, if we cannot follow if
Others are deaf to the love we bring, to the hope
you offer through us, if your love in us is rejected
may we gently walk away still free to love generously,
as you love.

Crossposted on Revgalprayerpals and SeekingAuthenticVoice

Saturday, July 03, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party: Fireworks Edition

Good morning, gals and pals! (or, good middle-of-the night, if that's when you are reading.) Over here when I dwell, this Sunday is a rare occurrance: the national independence day holiday actually falls on Sunday. The dilemma is: how much should this occasion influence preaching?

The gospel for this weekend is the sending of the 70; Paul concludes his letter to the Galatians and includes paradoxical advice; Elisha heals Naaman the Syrian. Take a gander at a great discussion of the texts here.

So, besides sermonizing, what are you up to today? Are you planning parties? Planning family reunions? Planning fireworks? Are you planning any sermonic fireworks? That would be interesting too!

I've got blueberry pancakes here, some orange juice (we need our five fruits and vegetables), fair trade coffee and conversation. I'm eager to host and welcome you and whatever goodies you'd like to share.
Fireworks are from here.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Friday Five: I want to be part of a church that.....

This has been a good week for British Methodism, The Annual Conference has discussed and debated many things and not shied away from some difficult stuff. New Ministers have been Ordained and received into Full Connexion. Add to that the fact that two amazing ladies; Alison Tomlin and Eunice Attwood have taken up their posts as President and Vice-President for 2010/2011- and that they have both inspired us in their speeches and preaching , and you begin to get the picture.

In the Vice- Presidents Address Eunice gave an inspiring account of the type of church she wants to be a part of,  almost poetic she said:

I want to be part of a church that is prayer-filled -
A church that is resourced and sustained by the Bible,
A church that can offer hope even in a credit crunch,
A church that can live well with difference and diversity.

I want to be part of a church that welcomes the wealthy, those who have power and influence -
A church that knows how to party and celebrate life,
A church that acknowledges death and speaks boldly of resurrection,
A church that doesn’t pretend to have all the answers but encourages all the questions.

I want to be part of a church that throws parties for prostitutes -
A church that welcomes those who seek asylum,
A church that longs and yearns for justice,
A church that listens to those no-one else wants to listen to.

I want to be part of a church that believes in transformation not preservation -
A church where all who are lost can be found,
A church where people can discover friendship,
A church where every person takes responsibility in sharing the good news.

I want to be part of a church whose hope is placed securely and confidently in the transforming love of God -
A church that engages faith in its communities,
A church that makes and nurtures disciples of Jesus.

A church where the story of God’s love is at the centre.
I want to be part of a church that offers outrageous grace, reckless generosity, transforming love and engaging faith.
This is God’s story Transforming Love: Engaging Faith.

My prayer is that by the power of the Spirit of God at work amongst us, it will increasingly be our story.

I want to be part of that church to, and at the danger of trying to add to such a wonderful litany of dreams/ visions and prayers I wonder which five things would you echo from or add to this. What kind of church do you want to be a part of in the 21st Century?

Simply list the five, and as an added bonus is there a hymn of a Bible passage that you would make your inspiration?

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, July 01, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Fashion and the Female Minister

This week's question is a fun one, and one that I think a lot of you will have thoughts about. It's not a topic that seems to come up in seminary, and yet many female clergy will have to make some decisions at some point about how we deal with it. Our questioner writes:

I am a 32-year-old lawyer discerning a call to ordained Lutheran
ministry. It feels a little embarrassing to ask a question of this
magnitude, or lack thereof, but here goes. I am having trouble
deciding if the creature comforts I enjoy are compatible with being a
pastor... things like wearing make-up, wearing pretty clothes and
shoes, etc. Certainly these things are not central to my life. But I
think they are indicative of my greater question: can/should women
"like me" be pastors? I don't have a lot of female pastor role models,
and the ones there are don't seem to care much about the stuff I
mentioned. It's not that that's a bad thing. It's just that I'm
wondering if I belong. Can anyone relate? I would love to hear your
wisdom. Thanks!

Sue responds:
I began my ministry as a second career as well, at about the same age. At the time I worked in a hospital and wore a uniform to work. However, I also wondered about things such as hair, make-up and appropriate clothing, mostly because I had always worn some (not a lot) make-up and I always liked to look 'put together' when I was not working.

In my denomination, I had seen the whole gamut of "looks" (from no make-up and buzz cuts to looks requiring way more maintenance than I would ever have the time for), but for the most part, the model has been moderation. Yes, it is okay to wear make-up but not in excess. A good, natural, day-time look will always work regardless of where you work.

I have noticed at meetings of the larger church that many female clergy go with the simpler, low-maintenance look. My deep hope is that they do that because they WANT to, not because they've been given any impression that they MUST leave their femininity behind once the stole is over their shoulders. That, in my view, would be an unfortunate form of sexism. Yes we are pastors. Yes we are women. If it's a personal choice to go make-up free with a no-maintenance haircut - great - go with that and enjoy. But if it's imposed by any denomination or congregation - not good. Not good at all.

In my first pastorel charge, my team-mate in ministry (male) did not wear vestments for worship, so when we led worship together, I didn't either. Instead I would wear a nice, classic suit with a skirt at an appropriate length (below the knee), and low kitten heels. It was frustrating after worship to hear people say NOTHING about my colleague's tie and suit, but I could count on at least half a dozen people who would comment on my "outfit". Argh. SUCH a double standard.

So, when I started at my second charge, I began to wear my alb for every worship. It helps a lot. I want to hear about the congregation's opinion about the service and what is happening in their lives - I do NOT want to hear about their opinion on my 'outfit'. The alb has in essence become as much a disguise as a symbol of service, which is unfortunate - but it works.

So basically, in my experience - I don't hear anyone asking male clergy to "look" a certain way, so I believe that it would be wrong for any church to play dress up with a female clergy by telling her what she is allowed to wear. On the other hand, if either gender were dressing VERY inappropriately (use your imagination!), that of course creates a different situation. Go with natural, moderation (as in no mini-skirts or 4 inch heels), and authentic to who you are - and you can't go wrong. 

Jennifer writes:

Of course there’s a place for you in ministry! I would think that the same rules apply to those in ministry as they do to those in the field of law: your manner of dress is a reflection upon one’s own feelings of self-worth and self-confidence and your respect for the calling. Would “all things in moderation” apply to your current dress code? You don’t want to dress in a way that detracts from your message and work, right? Same with the ministry!

That said, whether the pastor is male or female, there will always be folks in congregations and parishes who find reason to critique a pastor’s attire (and other lifestyle choices, too). It’s good to be prepared for this, and this may prove to be the greater challenge. On the subject of appropriate attire/style for clergy, check out Beauty Tips for Ministers ( for lots of good advice.  

As you continue to discern a call to ministry, try to seek out some role models who can alert you to all of the joys and wrinkles of serving in the public eye as clergy.
You’ve come to a great place here, and you may also want to look for some mentors who’ve transitioned from a first career to a second in the ministry who can provide some good support about the whole calling as you sort out what feels right to you.

And Mompriest offers:

Absolutely! I had a wonderful role model (for me) when I was discerning and going through the ordination process. In addition to be articulate, and good preacher and leader, she always had well manicured nails, and not just in a buff colored polish, but red or coral. She also wore lip stick and nice clothing, even heels. I have done the same, BUT only because it's part of who I am. True, on a casual day off you will find me in jeans, flip flops and no make up. I'm comforable that way too, although I rarely show up for "work" that way. The point is, if this is organic to who you are and how you like to express yourself then it is who you will be as a pastor, and that's ok! 


Our matriarchs have all offered some great wisdom. I can't help but share my own experience as well, since this is a topic near and dear to my heart. I'm not sure why this issue never occurred to me along the way to ordination - maybe it was because I didn't have a lot of female minister role models (i.e., none when I was growing up, and only a handful once I was in seminary). But it was only when I was packing to move to my first parish that I suddenly realized that my personal style was nothing like the few female ministers I did know. I did not have the "clergywoman haircut" (a smooth, simple bob - which my long, unruly curls would have defied anyway). I wore makeup, multiple earrings, and had a tattoo. I've always loved clothes and fashion, and my personal style was not the conservative one I had come to notice other clergywomen had. It actually became a bit of a crisis for me, as I suddenly began to feel that on the basis of my style alone I was unsuitable for church ministry. And then I realized how ridiculous that was. God called me - not some generic stereotype of a clergywoman. God called me in my particularity, and that particularity includes all aspects of who I am, including my personal sense of style. 

Over the years, I have had to learn, by trial-and-error, how to navigate my style preferences in the context of my ministry. A casual evening out with young adults in the church allows for different style choices than an afternoon visiting shut-ins or representing the church at a public event. When in doubt, I ask myself what looks most professional. I would think that most of what you wear to practice law could be worn to practice ministry (unless you dress like Ally McBeal! - I'm pretty sure that the tiny skirts she wore would be as inappropriate in the law offices as they would be in the church office). For me professional always includes heels, makeup, jewelry, and fashionable clothes. I always wear a robe in the pulpit so that my clothing can be a non-issue, and I only wear one pair of earrings in the pulpit (as opposed to multiple). I cover my tattoos in work contexts (this wouldn't be necessary in "emerging church" contexts or certain other ministries).

I have many more thoughts, but this column is already getting quite long! I'm anxious to hear from the rest of you. What thoughts would you share? Please do so in the comment section. And, as always, if you have a question for the matriarchs, please send it to askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.