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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Welcome Back?!?

This week's question isn't new...and it isn't an experience limited to clergywomen:

My question is about clergy ethics. I pastor a small church that is celebrating with an Open House in a few months. The people in charge invited a former pastor to preach without asking me. The people in this church are very used to doing things themselves and they just didn't think of it, and at a planning meeting when I found out, someone finally thought to ask me if it was okay with me. I told them it was, and thanked the gentleman for asking.
Now my question- the former pastor has accepted the invitation and sent in the title of his sermon and Scripture verses- and he also has not asked me if it is okay. He did tell them he wants to talk with me and asked for me to call him. This is not okay in my tradition (and I am guessing in others), and while I understand my congregation not thinking this through, this guy knows better. I was recently given his contact info, and now I am wondering if I should say something about his neglecting to work the process as he should when I call him. If he wants to talk with me and ask my permission, should I say something about him being a bit late in asking? Or if that is not what he wants, should I remind him of his duty to check with me first?

Jennifer, who blogs at An Orientation of Heart, responds:

Questions around boundaries with predecessors can be tricky, can’t they?

Does your denomination or governing body have a written policy about boundaries with former pastors?

I’d suggest responding to the former’s request to meet with you and to try to be very cordial and hospitable and have a copy of the boundary policy with you when you meet. “Let’s make sure we’re both clear about what this policy means to us…” seems like a great way to start that part of the conversation.

Mompriest, blogging at Seeking Authentic Voice, adds:

Oh my goodness. To me this is unfortunate on so many levels: that members of the congregation asked the former pastor without consulting you first BUT worse that the former pastor accepted without consulting you; and third the former pastor has asked that you call “him?” I wonder if this congregation and this pastor have let go of the relationship they had? There is such a thing as a ghost-pastor... I wonder how you will become the pastor to this congregation in their eyes and heart? Sometimes it’s a matter of time. But it may be impossible; particularly if the former pastor is noncompliant with all the good boundaries that are supposed to be put in place around former clergy and congregations and new clergy. But that’s a potential bigger issue, if it’s even an underlying issue at all, than addressing your question and how to go about this part of the problem.

I suggest you call the former pastor and arrange, if possible, a meeting - soon. If meeting in person is not possible then you have to do it by phone. In that meeting/phone call you need to set very clear limits but with grace and without anxiety (or at least don’t let your anxiety show and rule what you say). Say something like, “It’s gracious of you to accept the invitation of the congregation to come and preach on this occasion. I’m looking forward to spending time with you and learning more about your time with this congregation. However, I hope, out of courtesy to me and the congregation, that if you are ever invited again that you will call me FIRST. We both want what is best for this congregation and need to work together to help them move, in a healthy way, into the future.” (I’d probably not be that blunt, or that short, but I’d make sure I got this boundary setting part in during the conversation....)

Secondly I’d do everything I can on the morning that the former pastor is there to ensure that I, the current pastor, was in charge of the morning, to the degree that my denomination will allow. So for example, open the service, welcome the former pastor, say something gracious about the past and something hopeful about where you are going with the congregation. Make it clear that this pastor is there with your blessing but also within limits.

Third, I’d let the leadership team, the ones who contacted him, know that what they did, or at least how they did it, could have been managed better. Transparency is always good as are open lines of communication. It’s what helps to build trust and mutual respect. You may want to wait until after the former pastor comes. Or not, it depends on how defensive they are and your relationship with them. The goal is not to make them defensive or for you to seem hurt/insecure/defensive/etc but to emphasize healthy communication and good boundaries in congregations. There are some good resources at the Alban Institute on healthy congregation/clergy dynamics and communication.

I hope all of this is just a short blip in an otherwise healthy pastorate for you and the congregation, a learning experience for all. I hope my concerns are just concerns and not a reality. Blessings for you and this congregation.

From Muthuh+

This is a very worrying situation. Parishioners do not understand how difficult returning pastors can be when they are forced upon the sitting pastor. But the dynamics in a parish can cause a major problem in the congregation. When this happened to me, I was able to turn to my juridical authorities and the invitation was revoked without me having to be the “bad guy.” It is often, not always, a move from members of the congregation to manipulate the power issues in the parish. It is incumbent on the visiting pastor to contact YOU, not the secretary or the people who are inviting him. If he does not, and I am guessing that this is a HE, then I would have no problem with rescinding your permission.
One of the things that I am sensitive to is that often male pastors who are followed by women are more likely to ignore clergy etiquette than women. I am not sure why this is true, but I think it has to do with the general understanding that we are less likely to stand up to guys. Most of these guys would not think to encroach upon other men’s turf.
If you are of a tradition that has a juridical structure that enforces such rules, I would contact your bishop, superintendent or whatever and check on how to address the issue with the visiting pastor.
However, I think that you need to consult with your board and see what they think too. You need to inform them that this kind of permission is not proper. You can access to their desires THIS time but you need to make it clear that this is not respecting your role of called pastor in your church. You also need to find out what is encouraging those in your parish to make such an invitation. This is one of those places you can be assertive and you should because if you do not establish the boundaries, they will continue to encroach on what is properly the role of the pastor.

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

In my denomination (United Reformed Church in UK) we have just adopted some guidelines to help ministerial colleagues to treat each other’s ministry with respect.
These include:
All ministers:
· To strive to protect colleagues from prejudicial discrimination on the basis of gender, race, age, disability or sexual orientation.
· To consider very carefully taking any position of responsibility in a pastorate served by another minister and to support the direction of church life initiated through the leadership of the pastorate.
· To respect the work of predecessors and successors and deal honourably with their record.
· To consider carefully the location of retirement housing and try to avoid living in the immediate area of past pastorates.

We have felt the need to spell these out because there are, sadly, instances of people not respecting that another person is now minister of that church: it is not OK. This person’s treatment of you is not OK – I would encourage you to speak out assertively and calmly.
I hope it is received with grace.

Finally, Earthchick (Earthchicknits) shares the following:

I have been in a similar situation to this before and I know how yucky it feels. While the congregants may not have known better than to ask the former pastor without consulting you, the former pastor certainly should have known better than to say yes without checking with you. It's possible that he assumed the congregation had already cleared it with you before asking; still, it was his responsibility to have made sure before proceeding.

That said, my personal inclination (and what I did in a similar situation) would be to let it go. I'm not sure if this the right move - other matriarchs may certainly have different thoughts and more wisdom about it than I do. But personally, I'm not sure what it serves to confront the former pastor about this breech of process, other than airing your own grievances. Are you in the right and he in the wrong? Yes. But what would be your hoped-for outcome in letting him know that? Do you want an apology? Do you want him just to know better or do better for next time? Do you just want the opportunity to let him know he's wrong? Do you want him to decide not to preach at the Open House? And if that is what you want, think through what the ramifications might be if he were to do that - what kind of capital might you lose with your congregation if he steps down and they know it's because you confronted him? If you do decide to say something to him, then I suggest thinking very clearly about what exactly you hope will come out of the confrontation.

Personally, this sort of confrontation simply isn't worth it for me. I would rather suck it up, be gracious, and move on, than risk bruising relationships with my congregation over this sort of slight.

There is a lot of excellent advice here...but we don't have the corner on the market with regard to pastoral wisdom or common sense. So please, share your thoughts and experiences by posting a comment.

May you live in God's amazing grace+

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday Festival: That Social Media Thing

I am so sorry to be so late in the day with this post! All is flotsam and jetsam here. :) But in a good way.

I am pointing you once again to some writing by Carol Howard Merritt at Tribal Church. It's some interesting thinking about the functions of social media in the church. Carol says:

I’m in the midst of editing a podcast for God Complex Radio. I interviewed Phil Shepherd, at the Euc, and Charlene Li, founder of the Altimeter Group and author of Open Leadership.

While talking to Charlene, I realized that the ways we communicate and use technology in our churches have three pretty distinct functions:

1) We use it to reach out. In many congregations, people usually check out the website before they enter the church. Our website is our new front door. Another effective outreach tool seems to be our sermon podcast. We regularly get thank you emails from people who listen to it. People have also come to our church because of the reviews on Google maps. What’s been most effective for you?

2) We encourage the congregation. Charlene Li is a business writer, but I was thrilled to find out that she knew congregational culture and understood the challenges of reaching across the generations. She explained that when churches receive outside criticism, sometimes the most important thing is to build up and take care of the body. Use emails and newsletters, and make sure that your communication works across generations.

3) Leaders support each other. Right now, churches are cutting and downsizing. Retiring pastors have watched their nest egg dry up, pastors beginning their careers have found that those entry level jobs are disappearing. Church culture often blames the pastors for the decline. Sometimes it’s the case, but not always. I just don’t believe that former generations were that much more awesome than we are. Sometimes we’re just caught in difficult situations, and we need a place to vent and share with one another. We need to pray for one another. Social media has become that place for many leaders.

What functions would you add?

Oh! And new season of God Complex Radio is scheduled to come out on Tuesday! We’ve had a bit of furniture rearranging to do in the summer/fall. When Bruce Reyes-Chow stepped down from his Moderator position, Landon Whitsitt stepped up as Vice-Moderator. Landon put a ton of work in as the producer, so we’ve had to figure out how to redistribute that. Now I think we have… Landon’s going to do a bit more hosting and less producing. And we’re adding a new person on the team to help produce. But more on that later…


Thoughts on social media, how your congregations use it (or would like to) or other things? Please share in the comments: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
For a complete how-to, click here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Mustard Seed Edition

Sunday's texts may be found here .

What does a life of faith look and feel like?

In our Old Testament lessons faith is clinging to hope of God's presence and power despite all evidence to the contrary. In our Epistle lesson Paul, the veteran evangelist and missionary -- who has previously summarized his own experiences and hardships -- exhorts Timothy to build on his own faith foundation as he continues Paul's work of preaching the Gospel. And in our Gospel lesson Jesus seems to be saying...well, what is it that he seems to be saying about faith? Perhaps that instead of wondering about our degree of faith we should simply get out there and engage in faith-ful activity?

Much grist for the sermonizing mill this week in our lectionary readings. Or perhaps you're taking time to observe World Communion Sunday, or recognizing Francis of Assisi this week, or going in a different direction entirely.

Whatever seeds of insight are being planted in your mind by your choice of Sunday Scripture texts, we'd love for you to share them here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Big Event 4.0 Update

Saturday was the registration due date for Big Event 4.0. At this point we need to put a hold on registrations because we have more attendees than the cabins we originally reserved. If you have mailed a registration and given us a heads-up, don't worry! We have included you in the count. If your registration was postmarked by the 25th and we did not know to expect it, please send me an email today. We are working with the travel agent to get more cabins and hope to get the same rate.

Thank you SO much for your interest in BE 4.0!!! We are going to have a great time. And for those who could not attend this year, give some thought to BE 5.0, which we expect to have shortly after Easter in 2012.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Prayer 21C

Form IV (The Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal Church)

Let us pray for the Church and for the world.

Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your Name may
be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal
your glory in the world.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Guide the people of this land, and of all the nations, in the
ways of justice and peace; that we may honor one another
and serve the common good.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation,
that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others
and to your honor and glory.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant
that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he
loves us.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or
spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles, and
bring them the joy of your salvation.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will
for them may be fulfilled; and we pray that we may share
with all your saints in your eternal kingdom.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Crossposted on RevGalPrayerPals and SeekingAuthenticVoice

Saturday, September 25, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party: Fall's Here Edition

Whether it's true in the air, or on the trees with their multi-colored leaves, or even just on the calendar, fall is here, at least on this side of the globe. I understand there are still some areas of the hemisphere that haven't had the blustery weather we're having up here, but I can hardly remember what those kinds of Septembers are like. Whatever the weather, usual or out of the ordinary, the seasons are changing and fall is upon us.

For some this means stewardship season for others a season of creation. In our communities and churches we are welcoming folks back for the homecoming season. What will they be hearing when they walk into your church this weekend? The lectionary continues along in Luke with a "rich" parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The prophets Jeremiah or Amos are up in the Old Testament. Psalm 91 will have some folks singing "On Eagle's Wings" I'm sure. Do you feel like you're being carried? 1 Timothy warns about excess and harmful desires.

There's a lot here in the Scriptures for all of us and if Tuesdays posts were any indication we are headed in many different directions! Join the party and share where you're headed both today and in your sermon. Maybe we have a few things to share with one another.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Five: We Who Sing Pray Twice

Music is a part of the human experience, and part of religious traditions the world over. It is evocative and stirring, and many forms of worship are incomplete without it.

Our title comes from a quote popularly attributed to St. Augustine: "He who sings prays twice." A little Googling, however, indicates that Augustine didn't say exactly that. In fact, what he said just doesn't fit well onto a t-shirt. So we'll stick with what we have.

"Singing reduces stress and increases healthy breathing and emotional expression. Singing taps into a deep, age-old power available to all of us. When we find our voice, we find ourselves. Today, sing like you mean it." And let's talk about the role music plays in your life and worship.

1) Do you like to sing/listen to others sing? In worship, or on your own (or not at all?)
2) Did you grow up with music in worship, or come to it later in life? Tell us about it, and how that has changed in your experience.
3) Some people find worship incomplete without music; others would just as soon not have it. Where do you fall?
4) Do you prefer traditional music in worship, or contemporary? That can mean many different things!
5) What's your go-to music ... when you need solace or want to express joy? A video/recording will garner bonus points!

If you play, tell us in the comments and add a link so we can come to sing along! Use this formulation: <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.

SING badge and quote on singing from The Green Children Foundation blog

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - You Can't Please Everyone...

As lovable as all of us RevGals and Pals are, there are always going to be a few who think that we just don't measure up...

A parishioner told me recently that he expected 'more' from my ministry after his father died. This is a man who has not attended church in almost a year because we have a non-white pianist...yes, that is awful and true. I told him that I struggled to know how to meet his needs since he withdrew his participation, but he had no suggestions for how I could improve. What is pastoral care, particularly to those individuals who do not like the pastor?

Chilly Fingers

This week we have responses...

...from Muthah+

Dear Chilly,
Lawdie, if I had a nickel for every time this kind of problem came up in my career, I would have been able to retire before now! You have obviously asked him how you could have been more helpful to him. Was he aware of what would have helped him deal with grief? So seldom do people really know what helps because they are not available to their own feelings. They just know that they hurt but haven’t the foggiest notion of how to address it. It isn’t so much that he doesn’t like you, he somehow has a different notion of what a pastor does than you do. And he is still hurting and doesn’t know how to get it healed.
You might get him to describe how he has been pastored before where he has felt the “more” that you have not given him. It might help you understand what his expectations are. If he is willing to explore that with you, you may have a chance to “win him back.” But given his resistance to what is happening in your parish with regards to the pianist, it is most likely that he won’t be willing to open up to you. While he may be able to deal with a woman pastor in his head, somewhere in that hurt soul of his, he is scared to allow you to touch those important places where Christ dwells. He is afraid that he is wrong, but cannot admit it to himself and certainly not to you. This is where you have to be patient and remain open to him until that time when you can again minister to his needs. Most important, do not let his rejection of you allow you to reject him. Call him every once in a while. Greet him warmly at the grocery or the post office. Joke with him every now and then if you can.
Even if you never get him to return, what you are modeling for the rest of the congregation is a way to deal with hurt that cannot be “fixed” save by the individual him/ herself. They will see that you have done all you can. That is an important witness. Also discuss it with your lay leadership and the steps you have taken to try to meet his needs.
Ministry is always a two-way street because it is a relationship. And the healing ministry is not a pill for our parishioners to take and feel better. It is a walk with one another. If parishioners are unwilling to take that journey there is not much we can do for them except wait and pray. Be diligent in your prayer for those who find fault with you or who criticize you (and I know this is damned difficult!) But ultimately you will be healed of pain of their criticism. And God always works even when we aren’t too keen on it.

...from Jennifer, who blogs at An Orientation of Heart

Dear Chilly,

I commend you for having shared your struggle with your parishioner, and for listening to his struggle. You don’t say what care you offered him, and I wonder if you and he are also tracking the care that the congregation extended to him following his dad’s death. IMHO, pastoral care is the full reach of the compassionate arms of the church, from casseroles to counsel, and certainly not all delivered by the pastor! If he has not suggestions for your improvement, is he suggesting that there are other needs of his that haven’t be addressed? Is this parishioner really saying that he doesn’t like you, or that he is uncomfortable with the music staff? Sometimes folks have issues they can’t resolve. Has this parishioner been encouraged to find the love and support of another congregation, if the one you serve does not feel like a fit? Again, pastoral care is your role, but not yours exclusively. If you don’t feel as those you and this parishoner are simpatico, I’d encourage you to find a leader in the life of your congregation who is, and who could listen and offer kindness and direction to him at a time when he is grieving.

Hope this helps!

...and from Ruth, blogging at ‘Sunday’s Coming’

First reaction – yuck! I know how this sort of response from people can lead to me having feelings of sorrow and inadequacy: I expect it’s the same for any pastor. The first thing to do is look in the mirror and say ‘this is not all down to me’.
Pastoral care needs to be the work of the whole church. Yes of course pastors are a vital part of that – but when we hear the ‘I expect more of YOU’ line we need to remember that we are only a part of the body of Christ. We do our best to love and support people – but one pastor can’t do it all. Are there others in the church who can get involved in trying to reach the people you can’t reach?

The other thing to remember is to pray for the people we can’t reach.. or can’t please...or can’t like.

We'd also like to hear...from you! Use the "Post a Comment" function to respond to Chilly Fingers or share your own story.

And know that no matter what anyone thinks, Jesus loves you very, very much!

May you live in God's amazing grace+

image courtesy of

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday Festival: What we Carry With Us

This week at her blog Faith in Community, Diane tells about visiting her father.

One of the things I regretted in my busy solo summer was that I did not visit my dad in the nursing home as much as I would have liked. My mom had him home for a couple of afternoons, and we had a big bash for Father's Day, but I just didn't get up to see him that often. I was busy holding down the fort at the church, writing sermons and funeral sermons (we had twelve funerals this summer), and checking up on people, and trying to get ready for the fall. But last week our interim Senior Pastor arrived, and he is encouraging me to take some comp time, to do things like clean my house and make doctors appointments, and just rest a little. So this afternoon, before starting on the dirty dishes, and wiping out that cupboard or sweeping the closet that has accumulated dog hair, I went up to see my dad. He was sitting in the common area, paging through a magazine. He seemed happy to see me, although I wasn't sure at first he knew who I was. I asked him several times, and he seemed puzzled, but it turns out that he has lost his hearing aid again. Finally, he said my name, ("of course!"), and told the old knock-knock joke associated with me. It seems that I was helping with the dishes once when I was very small. I turned to my parents and said, "Knock knock." They answered, "Who's there?" "Dishes," I said, thinking about the dishes in the sink. "Dishes who?" "Dishes Diane." My father has told that joke ever since. So today he called me, "Dishes Diane," and continued to page through the magazine. It seemed that he was looking for something, but I don't know what. When he finished that magazine, I found him another. He seemed to enjoy just paging through the pages. I told him a few riddles. He knew the answers to some, but not to all of them. He couldn't remember what he had for lunch, so he said, "Filet Mignon." Someone came by with chocolate chip cookies and coffee for break. We each munched one cookie. I couldn't think of what to say, so I asked if we could say the Lord's Prayer together. I know, it seems like a pastor thing to do, but he used to say it with me before I went to bed, when I was a little girl. So we said the Lord,'s prayer, the old version, and then I said I would have to go. He said something about saying the Lord's Prayer when he went to bed. I asked him if he still did that. "Not any more," he said. "I used to." "You said it now," I told him. "Was that good?" Sometimes I think I ought to bring something every time I visit my dad. Once I brought him an old riddle book, another time I knitted a shawl. I think it would have been nice to get him something, a stuffed animal, one of those funny ones that sings when you push on the tummy or the ears. You know what I mean. But in the end, I just came with my empty hands, and the Lord's Prayer.

What are you thinking, writing, praying about this week? Share with us in the comments and add a link if you like, this way: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
For a complete how-to, click here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Rich Folks, Poor Folks Edition

 Lessons for the coming Sunday can be found here.

For many of our churches it's stewardship season -- so it may or may not be a good thing that our Gospel and Epistle lessons this Sunday directly address issues of wealth.

How do we re-tell the familiar story of the rich man and Lazarus in a way that avoids a simplistic "rich people=bad/poor people=good" cliche'? Especially in communities battered by economic change and recession, how do we address the Epistle messages about the proper uses and pitfalls of wealth to working- and middle-class households who feel as if they're being pushed off a financial cliff?  How, in this context, do we avoid an unintended but nonetheless perceived message on the part of many laypeople in the pew in response to texts like these: "Accumulating wealth is bad, so give us yours"?

Big issues, and big questions, this week. Of course, you may instead be observing another Creation Sunday, or may be off the lectionary altogether. Whatever you're planning or preaching this Sunday, it's important to us -- so please share your insights and conundrums here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Meet 'n Greet: Lots of New Faces!

It's been a while since we hosted a Meet 'n Greet on a Monday, as we have been promoting BE 4.0: Reframing Hope, with Carol Howard Merritt. The deadline for registration is this Saturday, Sept. 25th. Email me for a brochure and registration form.

A quick note to all members, new and old, in case you missed the announcement, we are no longer updating the ring via Ringsurf.  Instead of Ringsurf code, please install our button (the picture on the right of a circle of feet, taken at BE 2.0) with a link back to this page. Our blogroll is the official membership list. If you think your blog should be on it and is missing, please email RevGalBlogPals.

And now our new members!

First please meet Linda Anderson-Little, who blogs at The Holy Grind. Linda found us via BE 3.0, a great reminder that you don't have to be in the ring to attend.

She is a "Lutheran pastor in St. Louis, MO...a pastor's wife, the mother of three teenagers, and a breast cancer survivor." She also got her picture taken with George Clooney!

Welcome, Linda!

Next we have Cathy, who is a current ring member (you may know her blog Widening Circles) with a new blog to reflect her new condition in life, You're Only Young Twice. Cathy is:

  • a fourth-career seminarian with two grown kids, a husband I've been with for thirty-some years, and a house in the suburbs. Not long ago, I had a good job in higher education administration. Now I'm back in school on the receiving end as a full-time MDiv student living four days a week in a dorm in another city. Who says do-overs don't count?
Not us! Cathy has already written about the first days at seminary, so catch up on a few posts when you visit her.

Now please meet Woman in Cute Shoes, blogging at The Best is Yet to Be: Walking Through Adversity in Way Cute Shoes. She comes to us via ring member Singing Owl and writes:
  • First and foremost I am a woman called to follow Jesus Christ. After that I am a wife, a mother of four awesome adult kids here and one in eternity, and a grandmother of seven fantastic grandkids. I am also a credentialed minister with the Assemblies of God. But more than that I am a woman who has walked through adversity. I grew up in the home of an abusive alcoholic father, raised a disabled daughter who was crippled at birth by a drunken doctor, buried a child, and been broken, bankrupt, and bedraggled by life. The purpose of this blog is to share my journey to encourage you to be embellished by those trying times that surround you, and see yourself as a Masterpiece in the frame of life's adversities.
I think you'll find many other bloggers in the ring who celebrate the power of shoes. :-)

Now meet West Texas Weaver Woman, Mary Jane Butler, who you may already know as the mother of one of our bloggers

She writes:
  • I guess I'm approaching old age. At 78 it's safe to say that. I plan on lots more years, God willing. Grew up at the beach, deeply in tune with mountains also. The place I live now has it's own beauty but you do have to get used to it. I appreciate the spareness of it all as well as the big sky. Being a Christian, I am happy to have found a church which embraces us. Life is good.

Next please welcome Debbie Allen, who blogs at Pastor Debbie's CyberDesk.

  • Pastor Debbie grew up in the United Methodist Church and has been in the ministry since 2001. She has served churches in Fort Myers (Tice, 2001-2004) and in Hudson (Faith, 2004-2009) and currently serves at Belleview UMC just south of Ocala. She is married to Daryl (lifelong United Methodist and pastor of Druid Hills UMC in Ocala) and they have two sons Parker (born 2004) and Wesley (born 2007). Pastor Debbie is a trained ReFocus facilitator and works with the North Central District Committee on Congregational Excellence. She is also a candidacy mentor and works on the design team for the Florida Conference's Residents in Ministry Program.

Now say hello to Reverend Potato Head, who blots at Under the Steeple and describes herself as:

  • A Quilter. A Photographer. A Knitter. A sometimes triathlete. A wife. An Introvert. A southerner. A ponderer. A wanderer. A messer-upper.

I think we all resemble that last descriptor. We're glad you've joined us.

We're also glad to welcome Lydia, who blogs at Anam Cara. I've been aware of her blogging about ministry after Hurricane Katrina for a long time and am glad she's joining us. Lydia says she is:

  • . . . child of God . . . daughter . . . sister . . . friend . . . pastor . . . striving to be transformed by the Holy Spirit more and more into the image of Christ, Himself.
Our next new blogger is no stranger, as she has been a participant for a while now. Sandy Herren blogs at The Table.
  • In my home, command central has always been the kitchen table. It was here that work was completed, food was prepared and shared, crafts were made, and conversations took place. Essentially everything and everyone that comes or goes spends a few moments at some point at the table. Come spend some time at my table and join me on my adventures through life as a wife, puppy-mother, and minister. These are my musings as I try (often unsuccessfully) to broaden my horizons and combine the various parts of my identity into one harmonious, well-balanced individual. There is laughter, tears, and some good things to eat! There is always room at the table for more!
Please greet Shannon, a United Methodist pastor blogging at Until Everyone Hears, who says, "I'm not a doctor, but I believe in a great healer!" I like Shannon's list in the sidebar,which included:

    * I'm going to continue to listen and follow God's call in my life.
    * I'm having a date night once per month. Luckily I've got someone in mind.
    * I'm making 52 new recipes this year.
    * Lose more weight. I'm doing a few new things this year. I'm sticking to keeping a food diary. I AM going to plan my meals ahead of time. And I'm running four 5k races this year. Let me know if you are running one and I'll run with you.

Still with us? This is a big group!

Here's Rev. Jude, whose blog is Vicar in the 'burbs. Recently returned from a life-changing trip to Malawi, Rev. Jude describes herself as:

  • Latecomer to ministry, I'm a wife, mom of a married son, and having a blast leading a small Episcopal mission in Central Texas.

And now please say hello to Shepherdess Writes, a blog collection of sermons, essays and theological reflections. The author says of herself:

  • I serve as a pastor of a small Lutheran parish in the mountains of western North Carolina and as a campus ministry pastor at Western Carolina University. I love my job–really–and am very happy to be living in the most beautiful place on earth.

Last for today, please say hi to Rev. Sharon at Another Loose Canon.

Sharon is an Independent Catholic priest and calls her blog a place where theology happens! She's the mother of one and "owned by a QH/Connemara gelding and a cat." 

We have more than one Rev. Sharon in the ring, so hopefully the picture with the beautiful horse will help with identification!

We have more new members to meet in two weeks. Please take a few minutes to go around and say hello to this group. It's the way we make community together.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Prayer Proper 20C, a lament

God of all that is, was, and will be
Have mercy on me
As I stumble, lost
In my ways,
Ignorant of what I’ve done,
Now, dismay has taken a hold of me.

Have mercy on us, heart sick are we,
Whose joy is gone
With grief upon us
We mourn, for dismay has taken a hold of us.

Defiled are we, buying the poor for silver
The needy for sandals,
Our pockets full,
Theirs empty, and
Now, dismay has taken a hold of me.

Is there no balm to soothe this sin sick world?

Gracious God who lifts
The needy and raises the poor
Who urges within us

Have mercy on us, hear our prayers
May the intercessions in my heart
Become the actions of my hands
May our feet move out of the ash heap
May we work to restore hope
May we work to restore justice
May we work to restore love
May we be bear the balm that soothes
As you would have us do
And may there be thanks-givings for everyone.

Crossposted on RevGalPrayerPals and SeekingAuthenticVoice

Saturday, September 18, 2010

11th Hour Preacher's Party: the "Really?"..."Seriously"...edition...

(from flickrfotos)

For a YouTube of the season 6 finale, in case you've missed it

This week some television shows are launching their new season while others are offering reruns of the season finale from last May. It seems to me that most of the shows I usually watch, like Grays Anatomy, ended last season on a note of extreme drama and violence. I remember watching and having to close my eyes and turn away.

We live in a world that is filled with so much sorrow, violence, and injustice, that often we too shut down and turn away. There is only so much a person can take what with economic collapse. weather disasters, famine, war, violence, immigration issues, and so on....yes, it's enough to make anyone want to put on blinders, cover ears, and repeat lalalalallalalallalalalala......

So it is with our scripture readings this week. How many of our congregational members will sit in church, listening with no reaction, while these readings are offered in a matter-of-fact voice? How many of us will not grasp, whether in the proclaiming of these, or in the hearing of them, that these are scary texts. I mean, seriously, what is Jesus saying?

There are lots of ideas of what scholars think. But sometimes it might just be best if we acknowledge that we don't know exactly what Jesus meant. Or at least what he meant beyond shaking us up, waking us up, and hoping that we are paying attention to the reality that God is right here with us in the muck and confusion.

Well. So much for my rant on the texts...what about you? Where are you with these readings this week? Are you "on lectionary" or blessedly "off lectionary"? Are you going with Jeremiah or Amos (I mean really, is there difference other than one being a Prophet while the other is so called"minor" prophet?)....

I think we are going to need a lot of substance to get us through this day so I am loaded up with coffee, tea, toast, muffins (carrot/raisin), eggs, bacon, pancakes...and that's just to get us started! Pull up a chair and grab a mug. We're here to help with your questions, concerns, the places you are stuck, ideas for children's time/sermons, and even feedback on your sermon. It's a party of support and love.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Five: Baby Showers!

Friends are giving my daughter-in-law AA a baby shower, which happily brought her and DC down for a visit to Corpus Christi. looking forward to having my first grandchild in two months and all these preparations, like baby showers, are getting me excited! So I hope you'll participate in telling about your likes and dislikes about baby showers for you and for others.

1. What were baby showers like for you and your friends in the past?

2. Did you play games? What kinds?

3. In your job, especially if you are a pastor, do you get invited to a lot of baby showers? What do you do about them?

4. Are baby showers different for our daughters (or younger friends) than they were for us?

5. Do you like hosting baby showers or do you avoid that responsibility?

Bonus: Any silliness about baby showers you wish to contribute.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - This Thing Called Vacation

Here is our question for the week...

I just celebrated my 2nd anniversary of ordination and am gearing up for my third year as a solo pastor of a small rural church with no staff. I am ELCA and my letter of call says I get 4 weeks of vacation plus 2 weeks of continuing ed. Before I started I vowed to always take all my vacation and continuing ed time but the truth is I have failed in both regards.

When I look at it there are four causes for this
  1. 1) It is so hard to figure out when I can get away, liturgical year constraints (we have thanksgiving eve, midweek advent & lent services) & our public school has no non religious holiday related breaks (although we have pulled them out anytime we have managed to get away),
  2. 2) leaving is a BIG PAIN, to replace myself for a week or even a Sunday takes a lot of planning, coordination, and amazing array of people, partly because they don't have money for pulpit supply so I need to put together a service that can be lay lead including sermon or sermon replacement and we don't have any tradition of worship assistants beyond reading the lessons.
  3. 3) Where to go? It's not that we have a shortage of friends and family to visit, its just none of them live in our state or even our time zone and we just don't time to drive or the money to fly to see them as much as I wish we did.
  4. 4) I don't really know where to look for continuing ed beyond my seminary and it seems they only schedule interesting things when I have a conflict plus it is a full day's drive away. (and when they might have to borrow from the bank to pay my salary it is hard to ask for the con ed money even though I know they owe it to me, it is in my letter of call).

So my question is how do you get away and have the vacation time you are owed and need to maintain sanity and energy for ministry? Also I am saving my pennies, wedding & funeral honorarium, and anything else I can to be able to visit my cousin stationed in Japan, we plan to make take at least 2 weeks for the trip, maybe more. How do you prepare a congregation for a longer trip?

Earthchick (who blogs at earthchicknits) jumped in on this one...

You obviously recognize the need for taking all your vacation and continuing ed. It sounds like you just need to make up your mind to actually do it and make it work. It also sounds like you will need to prepare your congregation for the fact that you are going to begin taking your full allotment of time.

To answer your issues as you laid them out:
  1. Yes, it is very hard to figure out when to be away, given the liturgical year restraints. I get 4 weeks of vacation as well, and I always take one of those right after Christmas and the other 3 sometime in the summer. Even in the summer, it sometimes seems hard to figure out when to be away - there is always something going on that I feel I should be at. But taking vacation is a nice big reminder to myself that I am not indispensable. (By the way, on the issue of being indispensable, I would highly recommend that you read The Contemplative Pastor, by Eugene Peterson.)
  2. Leaving definitely is a big pain in terms of planning logistics for while you are away. Your congregation really ought to be challenged to come up with money for pulpit supply - how on earth did they expect to abide by the terms of your call otherwise? Before my current call, I served a tiny rural church as the solo pastor (no other staff). The congregation still managed to come up with money for pulpit supply. Are there any seminaries nearby where you could find students looking for an opportunity to preach? That's what I did in my previous call (though the seminary was 3 hours away), and it was a wonderful chance for students to get some time in the pulpit and for the congregation to encourage them. If you absolutely cannot find a preacher, I still think it's worth all the effort of planning a lay-led service to be able to take your vacation.
  3. I'm not sure that I have anything to offer you on the question of where to go. Personally, I would find anywhere, even if it meant just going to the closest non-rural city to your town, just to get away. I also love staying home for vacations, but that might not be feasible in a small rural town where people would know you were still there. I live 800 miles from all my family and friends, which is why I take 3 of my vacation weeks all at once - so that I have the time to drive and go see them.
  4. Besides your seminary, check out retreat houses in your area. It doesn't have to be within your denomination or related to your seminary. My favorite continuing ed is going to a Benedictine convent about four hours from me. You can also check with your denominational office, as well as looking in places like The Christian Century. There really is no lack of fantastic continuing ed opportunities out there. If nothing else, just schedule some time away to do some reading and praying. Again, the congregation should be challenged to fund this portion of your terms of call.
You ended by asking how to prepare the congregation for a longer trip. I think you need to start by taking everything that is allotted to you. Begin preparing your congregation for that now. This fall, during budget planning, talk with whomever makes the most sense - pastor relations committee, personnel committee, whichever body oversees such things. Tell them that you have been remiss not to take all the vacation and continuing ed they have granted you, and that you need to start doing so beginning 2011. Talk with them about the need for pulpit supply funding and continuing ed funding. You may want to consult with your judicatory about how to proceed if the congregation feels they can't honor their agreement.

Just one last thing, and I'm sorry if this sounds too pushy. You cannot make any more excuses about taking vacation and continuing ed, and you must not accept any excuses from the congregation. Time away is not optional. It is necessary for your own health and for the health of the congregation.

As did Muthuh+

Small parishes will fill your vacation time, continuing ed. time and even sleep-time if you let them. It isn’t because they are mean-spirited, it is just of the nature of small parishes to suck you into EVERYTHING in their lives. The greatest thing you can do for them is to teach them your boundaries.

I remember hearing a skit by Garrison Keillor about Pastor Enqvist wanting to go to a church meeting in FL during the winter and the congregation being upset because they were secretly envious. That skit has stuck in my mind over the years because in small churches often we have to deal with people who cannot look beyond their own small worlds. Part of the pastor’s job is to bring the outside IN. You are doing your congregation a great disservice if you do NOT take your vacations and con. ed. time. If you want to go skiing then plan your vacation so you can get snow time. If you want to sun on the beach, plan that time too.

It sounds like you think that perhaps you don’t deserve away time. That is ‘stinkin-thinkin’. Take your vacation because THEY need you to be rested, re-grounded in spirituality and connected with your own primary sources, or whatever.

First of all, set your time for vacation at whatever time you want to take vacation—not Christmas, Easter, or Lent. But at a time that is convenient to you. You must tell them when you are going to be gone and then ask the Council how they want to handle the absence. It is part of their job to provide for your vacation--they MUST build into their budget the cost of your vacation. In my little ELCA parish, there were those who loved to lead the service. I had 4 congregatonal deacons. If you haven’t trained someone to lead the service, you need to do that for the future. If there is no one, ask a deacon in another congregation with the permission of his/her pastor. I had the luxury of having a retired Episcopal priest in town.

It sounds as though you need to plan your vacation for your own sake too. If you need to be with your family for Thanksgiving, work out a shared service with another church in town and share with that other pastor by doing it the next year. Con. ed. can be done on line if you want, but it is much healthier to get out of town. If your own Synod doesn’t have such events, check the other denominations in your area. My synod was a part of a consortium of mainline denominations that held con. ed. events in a city 2 hrs away. It made for a nice day away and driving time which was quiet time to think things over.

In small parishes, especially if there is a manse or parsonage, there is a mentality that they can call on you at any time. If you want to just take some days at home, just let them know that you are not taking calls that week and hunker down and sleep, read and watch TV if you don’t want to go anywhere. Put the phone on the answering machine and don’t answer. I found this hard to do since I was often fulfilling my own ego needs by being important in their lives. I found getting out of town was healthy for them and for me.

You must teach them that you are deserving of your vacation time. But most of all, you have to BELIEVE that you are entitled to that vacation. We women are hard-wired in trying to take care of others. We can never do it all and we will always fail if we think that we can. Get clear that your vocation is to bring Christ to their lives, not take care of them. With their eyes on Christ, they will not expect YOU to be Jesus.

Great insights born out of years of experience! How about you? Have you found some creative ways to make the most of your vacation time...or developed the means by which preparing for time away and returning from it need not be so time-consuming? We'd all benefit from the conversation!

Use the Post a Comment function to join in the conversation.

May you live in God's amazing grace+

photo courtesy of

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Self-Inventory on Biblical Hermeneutics

Julie Clawson at onehandclapping gives us a gift this week with a post of "her seminary homework assignment." Thank you, Julie! Enjoy, all.


Okay, so I'm going to go all geeky here and post my seminary homework assignment – not even the work I'm doing but the straight up assignment itself. Why? Because it is so freaking awesome. (when was the last time you said that about homework?) Basically, for my History and Hermeneutics class I have to answer these questions to help me understand all the "stuff" I bring with me to the biblical text. I've thought about some of this before, but am grateful for the chance to look more in depth at the lenses I use for interpreting the Bible. I wanted to share it here because I think everyone should engage in this sort of exercise. Pastors should require it of their congregation just to help us all know ourselves. Admitting that biblical interpretation is always influenced by our cultural setting is difficult for some people, realizing the extent of that truth is something few people ever take the time to consider. Hence, how awesome this assessment is as a tool for helping reveal such things.

And for the curious, "this self-inventory was first developed in an ongoing working group on the politics of biblical hermeneutics sponsored by New York Theological Seminary. The working group’s membership included faculty from New York Theological Seminary, General Theological Seminary, and Union Theological Seminary, as well as pastors and denominational staff members." It can be found in N.K. Gottwald's “Framing Biblical Interpretation at New York Theological Seminary: A Student Self-Inventory on Biblical Hermeneutics” in Reading from This Place, Vol. 1: Social Location and Biblical Interpretation in the United States (Fortress, 1995).


What is my denominational history and tradition regarding interpretation of the Bible?


What are the norms or standards beyond the Bible recognized in my tradition to indicate how and in what particulars the Bible is the word of God? This may include a founder of the denomination, a church body, a confession, a creed, a set of customs, a type of personal experience, a social commitment, as well as other possibilities.


What is my actual working theology regarding interpretation of the Bible? To what extent is this the same or different from the official position of my denomination or the ‘average’ viewpoint among my church associates? Is my working theology more or less the same as my formal theology, such as I might state in an application to a seminary or before a church body?


How does my ethnic history, culture, and consciousness influence my interpretation of the Bible? This may be somewhat easier for Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians to answer, but it is also a necessary question for Anglos to ponder.


How does my gender history, culture, and consciousness influence my interpretation of the Bible? With the rise of feminist consciousness, this may be an easier question for women to confront, but it is also an important question for men.


How does my social-class history, culture, and consciousness influence my interpretation of the Bible? Since the dominant ideology in our society tends to deny that social classes exist among us, or to belittle the significance of class, it may take considerable effort on your part to identify your class location. For starters, you can ask about work experience, inherited wealth, income, education, types of reading, news sources consulted, social and career aspirations, and so on, and you can ask these questions about yourself, your parents, your grandparents, your associates, your neighborhood, your church.


How does my level and type of education influence my interpretation of the Bible? If I have had technical or professional training in nonreligious fields, how does this impact my way of reading the Bible? How does my age and ‘generation’ affect my experience of Biblical interpretation?


Does my congregation have a vision of the common good of the community in which it is located? Does it have any explicit commitments to the attainment of the common good? How does my congregation’s view of its relationship to the larger community influence my interpretation of the Bible?


How does my avowed political position influence my biblical interpretation? Politics is about as narrowly conceived in this country as is class. The term ‘political position’ in this question refers to more than political party affiliation or location on a left-right political spectrum. It also takes into account how much impact one feels from society and government on one’s own life and how much responsibility one takes for society and government, and in what concrete ways. Also involved is how one’s immediate community/church is oriented toward sociopolitical awareness.


Even if I am not very political in the usual sense, or consider myself neutral toward or ‘above’ politics, how does this ‘nonpolitical’ attitude and stance influence my biblical interpretation? What is the implicit political stance of my church and of other religious people with whom I associate?


What is my view of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity? To what extent is my view informed by direct experience of Jews or Jewish communities? How does my view affect my understanding of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments and my understanding of the religious identity of Jesus, Paul, and other central figures in the New Testament.


How does the mix of uses of the Bible to which I have been or am currently exposed influence my biblical interpretation? Such uses may include worship, preaching, church-school instruction, private study, Bible school training, ethical and theological resourcing, solitary or group devotions or spiritual exercises, and so on.


How do the Bible translations and study Bibles I use influence my interpretation of the Bible? What translation(s) do I regularly or frequently use, and why? If I use a particular study Bible with explanatory essays and notes, what line of interpretation is expressed in it? Do I accept the study Bible interpretations without question or do I consult other resources of information to compare with them?


How do the published resources I regularly or sometimes consult influence my biblical interpretation? Among these resources may be one’s private library, a church or seminary library, periodicals, church-school educational materials, sermon helps, and so on.


How do my church and pastor (or myself as pastor) understand the role of the Bible in preaching as an aspect of the mission of the church, and how does that understanding influence my own pattern of biblical interpretation?


Are the categories and terminology of biblical scholarship completely new to me, or do I have some familiarity with them? How does my attitude toward and use or nonuse of biblical scholarship influence my biblical interpretation? Am I inclined automatically to accept or to reject whatever a biblical scholar claims? Does the biblical scholarship I am familiar with increase or decrease my sense of competence and satisfaction in Bible study?


What was the characteristic view of the Bible in my childhood home? Have I stayed in continuity with that view? Do I now see the Bible rather differently than my parents did (or do)? If there have been major changes in my view of the Bible, how did these come about? How do I feel about differences in biblical understanding within my current family setting?


Have I experienced crises in my life in which the bible was a resource or in which I came to a deeper or different understanding of the Bible than I had held before? If so, what has been the lasting effect of the crisis on my biblical interpretation?


What has been my experience of the role of the Bible in spiritual awareness or guidance from God? What biblical language and images play a part in my spiritual awareness and practice? How do I relate this ‘spiritual’ use of the Bible to other ways of reading and interpreting the Bible? Do these different approaches to the Bible combine comfortably for me or are they in tension or even open conflict?

You may remember Julie as the author of Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of our Daily Choices. It was the subject of our January RevGalBookPals discussion.

Thoughts on the above? Or, are you thinking and writing about other things? Either way, let us know in the comments, and do it like so: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
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