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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Prayer on Reformation Sunday

Dear Lord,
On this Reformation Sunday, we thank you for those persons you have poured your spirit into that then set about reforming your church. We thank you that you are still at work in the life of the church reforming us reshaping us, and remaking us into your image.

One of the ways we reflect your image Lord is how we care for one another with love,care and prayer. We pray for those who are in the hospitals today. We pray for those at home with illnesses, pains and recovering from treatments and/or surgeries. We pray for those in nursing homes and those who are home bound. We pray for their families during these times. We pray for those who are facing death. We pray for those who have died and for those who are grieving. We pray for their Doctors, nurses, health care workers and care takers.Lord may we reflect your image in our love, care and prayer that we put to action for these your children.

We reflect your image in how we love, care and pray for the world. We pray for those around the world who as Christians face imprisonment and martyrdom. We pray for those who countries torn by civil war. We pray for those living in poverty. We pray for those who live in starvation. We pray for those who are being used in slave labor, child labor and sex labor. We pray for those who have been effected by disasters such as those in Indonesia because of the earthquakes and Tsunamis. We pray for those in disaster areas who face outbreak of diseases such as Haiti with the cholera outbreak. We pray for our country as this Tuesday we vote for new leadership. Lord, may we put into action our love, care and prayers for the world.

Lord, we pray for your church that we be a beacon of hope, grace, love and light in this world. May our open doors reflect your open arms to all. May our arms and hands reaching out to those in need reflect your love for all. May our forgiveness of one another reflect your forgiveness for all.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party - Why we do it

I understand that October has been Clergy Appreciation Month in some congregations. I understand this, but I don't know it from experience, if you know what I mean. Actually, I don't know how I feel about the whole idea. It sounds very commercial, but at the same time, even if it is commercial, if it serves a good purpose, it certainly must not be harmful. Maybe it's like the way I hated Valentine's Day in middle school. When you're not getting any (Valentines or appreciation), you have no warm fuzzy feeling for the corresponding holidays.

Anyway, I haven't received any notes or cards or anything, but that's OK because after worship a couple of weeks ago I received this:

The child who wrote these notes during my sermon is 8 years old. She was the guest of some members on Sunday morning, but had never been to church before. I understand her home life is difficult. It meant the world to me and at the same time gave me energy to continue on in ministry and let me know that if all of it fell apart and my ministry ended tomorrow, I can know the Spirit flowed threw me at least once.

Ladies and Gents, what we do makes a difference. What we do matters. What we do shares God's love with the world!

What are you doing this week? What message will God speak through you tomorrow? What notes do you hope an 8 year old will scribble during your sermon?

Join the party in the comments and share the movement of the Spirit in our common task.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Revgalblogpal Friday Five: Comfort Media Edition

I don't get to watch that much tv anymore, but I actually wrote today's Oprah show down on my calendar. Why? Because she is hosting a Sound of Music cast reunion!!! Those of you who know me may be surprised that I would care so much about such a stereotypically girly flick, but I love it (although admittedly fast forward through the Reverend Mother's rendition of Climb Every Mountain). I can watch this movie over and over and over again.

It seems no matter how many new movies, tv shows or books come down the pike I still have my ol' stand by favorites that I can watch/read over and over and when I do they actually bring me comfort - like an old sweatshirt or a favorite food.

Today's Friday Five is an opportunity for you to list five of your favorite 'go-to' movies/tv shows/books. You can use images, links, explanations or

If you play the Friday Five at your blog and would like visitors, be sure to share a link in the comments. For a complete how-to on how to post your link,
click here.

Thank you for playing, I cannot wait to read your offerings. Who knows, maybe I'll find a new go-to favorite!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ask the Matriarch: A Service of Healing

Our question this week comes from a colleague who would like to try something new with her congregation and is wondering how best to go about it. Read on.

I was feeling overwhelmed with the many needs of my small congregation, which seems to have many people suffering with chronic illness.  The Holy Spirit brought to me the idea of doing a healing service, during our regular worship.  Services of Healing are a part of my tradition (United Methodist) and there is an order of worship prescribed for the service.  I have attended one service like this and felt very moved.  I inquired as to whether a service like this has every been done at our church and the answer was no.  I would like to incorporate an altar call, with anointing with oil, and I would like practical suggestions for explaining the Biblical tradition of anointing and oil as well as what vessel to put the oil in and how to apply it. My questions are, 1) How do I prepare the congregation for this new service? 2) How do I welcome people to come forward without pressuring them? 3) What do I do if no one comes forward? and 4) What do I do after the service for follow up care?

Jennifer writes:
I don't have much personal experience with services of healing, but we sponsored a series one year during Lent. The services were held mid-week, in the evening, and we happened to hold our services in the chapel of our local retirement community and in the chapel of our local hospital. Our worship planning team liked the idea of more intimate spaces than our sanctuary and at a different time, so that folks knew that they were intentionally attending something different. We included folks in the planning of worship who had special gifts for music, prayer and healing (we're blessed to have a massage therapist who has a lot of knowledge of essential oils and their properties for healing.)
We prepared the congregation with write-ups in the church newsletter as well as verbal explanations in the context of Sunday worship.

We invited people to attend for themselves or on behalf of someone for whom they were concerned for healing. We had two or three stations of  healers/prayers, so that folks could choose who they wished to approach, and so that people didn't feel as though they were being observed while they came forward. One person would anoint and the other would listen to the person's need, and then pray for/with them. Because these were intentional services of healing, we always had folks come forward, but if no one had come forward, there would have still been music playing (we had instrumentalists and vocal music on different weeks) and a worship leader would offer a general prayer for healing after some time and some music. I don't think it would have felt awkward.
We handled follow-up care in the same way as we would any pastoral care issue. We called several days later, or whenever we felt it was appropriate, to ask about the person and to see if there was anything we could do to be helpful.

You're to be commended for seeking to find a compassionate and helpful way to respond to the needs of the congregation you serve. As always, enlisting the support and talents of others in the congregation seems to strengthen a congregation's acceptance of and positive experiences with something new...

+Muthah offers:
I would introduce a new rite during the service only after trying it out at a non Sunday service.  Get some of your bible study group, or explain to your youth group that you are trying out something new.  Or offer it as a special healing service on an alternate day.  Then get those who do attend that service to share their experiences either in a note in the Sunday bulletin or in the newsletter.  Coffee hour and “parking lots” often help getting this special service out of the scary into the place where it is inviting. 

Also, I hope you are already anointing people when you visit in hospital.  The remembrance of that type of care will help those who have chronic illnesses to come forward.

On the Sunday that you do decide to introduce this rite into your service, have some people whom you have already gone through a smaller experience and make sure that they are there.  In other words, ‘salt’ your congregation with those who will step forward.  It will be those intrepid few that will get the ball rolling.  Make sure that they know what they are supposed to do and what to expect when hands are laid upon or oil is used.  Have some tissues available because who know where the Spirit will blow!  I have also used those in the health professions to lay hands on with me.  Doctors, nurses, physical therapists do this everyday.  And when they see the sacredness of their work, and how to use their faith in their own profession it expands their ministry too. 

Several parishes I have served had never done the washing of the feet during Holy Week.  I talked about it both in and out of the service encouraging those who had never experience the rite.  It worked splendidly in CA but in Upstate NY, I couldn’t get folks to part with their soxs in March or April!  Know your folk well enough to know where you can lead and where you can’t.  Also if you have a need for healing, make sure that there is someone who will anoint you during the service.

I have used a cruet—a small pitcher with the oil in it.  After anointing (or administering ashes )  I always have a slice of lemon and some paper towels, and/or cotton on hand to keep from driving the Altar Guild nutz.  The lemon cuts the oil and keeps the oil out of good linens.  You can also use an oil stock.  I personally am too cheap to buy an expensive oil stock so I buy a keychain pill container, put some cotton in it and soak the cotton with blessed olive oil.  That way I can have it on the altar or carry it with me in hospital at all times.

Follow up care should be informal.  The same way that you would do for anyone who is ill in the congregation—a phone call, a comment when you greet them at the church door.  If they have something spectacular to tell you, they will!

And Ruth, who blogs at Sunday's Coming, responds:
It’s always good to hear about pastors wanting to introduce a healing service to their churches.

My advice would be to try to get a small group interested in this – so that it is seen as a ministry of the church and not just ‘your thing’. It might be good to do some teaching/preaching on this in a planned way to as many of the community as you can, then ask for a group to form to discuss/plan/pray, then ask for this group to be involved in the service itself.

In one church where I was involved in a healing ministry, we (the team of 3 leading the service) would, at the start of the time to come to the altar, each in turn kneel and receive prayer from the other two. This helps to ‘break the ice’ and models what to do, but more importantly shows that we are all in need of healing, and that it is the body of Christ which offers it, not any one individual.

It also helps to tell people they can just remain in their seats – and mean it! - coming forward really isn’t for everyone.

As for follow up – some people will simply be happy to have been prayed for in the service, but you could have cards to drop into a ox/the offertory plate for those who want either further prayer or a pastoral visit.

I hope the congregation get behind this good idea!

A healing service is such a great idea, and these are such wonderful pieces of wisdom from our matriarchs on how to introduce this new service. Do others of you have experience or thoughts you'd like to share? Please do so in our comment section. We'd like to hear from you!

And, as always, if you have a question you'd like the matriarchs to discuss, please send us an email at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Are Blogs Passé?

Jan Edmiston, at A Church for Starving Artists, blogged with the above title on October 13. It caught my eye on Facebook because her illustration was the RevGals "button:" a photo taken of a group of feet at the BE 1.0. (My toes are the ones barely visible at the bottom of the frame...)

I was interested by her writing and wanted to pass it on for more discussion. Please share your own thoughts about this in the comments; if you want to link to a blog post, here's how:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

And here's Jan's post:

My fifth blogoversary passed and I didn't even notice.

There was a time when I read about 5-8 blogs each day - most of them posts about church life or faith, with an occasional venture into blogs by moms or chocolate lovers. I don't have time to do this anymore.

It's not at all that I don't care what's going on in the lives of Cheesehead or Zoecarnate or Sarcastic Lutheran. I actually care more than ever. But I don't have time to check in every day.

My own blog numbers are down too, and so I suspect that others are feeling the same.

Our grown kids have blogs about travels and college life. My brother was thinking about starting a plumbing blog. If everybody has a blog, does anyone have time to read them?

I want to salute RevGalBlogPals for getting me started - with a specific nod to Reverend Mother. RGBP started with a handful of members and now has hundreds. Who can read all those blogs?

Even if no one read this one, I'd still write. But I confess that it's humbling and fun to be at a conference and have someone introduce me as "The Church for Starving Artists" and the introducee has heard of the blog. Nice.

So for now, I'm still writing these posts while I also write sermons and liturgies and emails and the book. And screenplays and thank you notes and agendas. Keep writing and reading, everyone.

(And thank you for reading this blog.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Who are the saints anyway? Edition

Good old Zaccheus - such a ridiculous figure. Too short to see what's going on, he runs (and in those long robes, yet!) ahead of the crowd and around social convention to climb a tree (ditto the long robes comment here) in order to see Jesus. And, in all that milling crowd, he is the one Jesus sees, the one Jesus calls out to, the one Jesus transforms from robber to philanthropist in a single moment.

Jesus comes to seek the lost, but his eye falls on the one who has made an effort to see him, to know him and to learn about him. The one who has dared to make himself ridiculous for Christ's sake.

Will you be looking at the gospel this week? Or another one of the texts instead? Or, are you celebrating All the Saints, including the ones willing to make themselves ridiculous? Or, if it is your tradition, are you remembering reformers?

Let us know in the comments. Texts for this week found here. All Saints Day texts here. Reformation Day Texts here. Picture here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

RevGalBookPals: The Sabbath World

Over the summer, I read The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time, by Judith Shulevitz, who has been a columnist at The New York Times Book Review and Slate, the cultural editor of Slate, the deputy editor of New York Magazine, and the editor of Lingua Franca. Her essays have also appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, and other publications. It's a *very* interesting, engaging book about Sabbath, written by a somewhat-but-not-very (by her own admission) observant Jew. I heard about the book when Shulevitz appeared on Fresh Air. She also paid a visit to Stephen Colbert. Charmed by her conversational manner, I ordered the book immediately. It lived up to the interview. 
Shulevitz places Sabbath practices, both Jewish and Christian, in scriptural and historical context. She wonders what we have lost as a culture in our understanding of time by no longer setting time aside. She writes knowingly about Jesus--really, I could have been talking to a colleague or classmate, I felt, as she wrote about Mark's gospel--and invokes literature from D.H. Lawrence to Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Here's an example of Shulevitz's take on the Sabbath:
The old-time Sabbath does not fit comfortably into our lives. It scowls at our dewy dreams of total relaxation and freedom from obligation. The goal of the Sabbath may be rest, but it isn't personal liberty or unfettered leisure. The Sabbath seems designed to make life as inconvenient as possible. Our schedules are not the only thing the Sabbath would disrupt if it could. It would also rip a hole in all the shimmering webs that give modern life its pleasing aura of weightlessness--the networks that zap digitized voices and money and data from server to iPhone to GPS. In a world of brightness and portability and instantaneous intimacy, the Sabbath foists on the consciousness the blackness of night, the heaviness of objects, the miles that keep us apart. The Sabbath prefers natural to artificial light. If we want to travel, it would make us walk, though not too far. If we long for social interaction, it would have us meet our fellow man and woman face-to-face. 
If you want to read a book that explores Sabbath without making you feel personally guilty for not keeping one "just so," I highly recommend The Sabbath World.

And now, a few discussion questions.
1) How are you at keeping Sabbath? Do you find a time for it?
2) Can you imagine putting down the devices and taking a Sabbath from them?
3) What habits of rest did you learn in childhood, and have you maintained or adapted them for use as an adult?
4) Does your congregation encourage Sabbath rest for individuals or families?
5) What's your idea of the ultimate Sabbath?

Please share your thoughts in the comments. And if you would like to share a book review some other month, let me know via email. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Prayer for Proper 25C / Ordinary 30C / Pentecost +22

God of hope,
We thank you for this wonderful fall weather that brings forth the beautiful colors.
We thank you for you many gifts and graces you bring us in our life.
God of hope,
We pray for those who may be feeling hopeless these days that they may experience hope from you.
God of hope,
We pray for those who are dealing with illnesses, bring forth your healing for their lives.
God of hope,
We pray for those who are grieving, bring hope to them in the midst of their grieving.
God of hope,
We pray for those who have lost their jobs and need work, open the doors for work.
God of hope,
We pray for those dealing with addictions that they may be set free.
God of hope,
We pray for those whose marriages and families need healing, set forth in motion the forgiveness and reconciliation that is needed.
God of hope,
We pray for hope in our lives where we may need it.
God we thank you for your hope in all our lives.

11th Hour Preacher Party: Truly Humble Edition

Good morning, gals and pals! (Or, good whatever part of the day it is, when you first read this.)  When I was first assigned this weekend, I was going to be preaching, but now, it's out congregation's Big Stewardship Push Weekend, and our interim Sr. Pastor wanted to do the Big Stewardship Push.

So I come to you truly humble this morning, because I don't have to preach.

However, I am thinking about the texts, and particularly the gospel reading, today.  Pride and humility.  Righteousness and wretchedness.  Pharisees and tax collectors.  Of course there's the good fight of the apostle Paul, and the prophets Jeremiah and Joel to choose from too.  There's a great discussion of the scripture readings here.

And I am serving breakfast today, for all preachers and non-preachers.  I've got my famous blueberry pancakes (thanks, Betty Crocker!), turkey sausage, orange juice and fair trade coffee.  Would you like some?  I'm serving both preachers and non-preachers, the righteous and the wretched, pharisees and tax-collectors alike.

What are you preaching on today?  What are you eating?  What else are you doing?

Humbly yours.

by the way, the picture is from here

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Five: The Perfect Blendship

If you're ever in a jam, here I am.
If you're ever in a mess, S.O.S.
If you're so happy, you land in jail. I'm your bail.
It's friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship.
When other friendships are soon forgot, ours will still be hot.

I'm thinking a lot about friends these days, the ones who rush to you in times of trouble, with a casserole or a socket wrench or an invitation for coffee or lunch or a trip to the foot sanctuary. We meet friends in school or on the playground or at church or in the workplace and even on the Internet. Even as blogging has experienced some decline, the community here has been strong.

For today's Friday Five, some questions about friendship.

1) Who is the first friend you remember from childhood?
2) Have you ever received an unexpected gift from a friend?
3) Is there an old friend you wish you could find again? Or have you found one via social media or the Internet?
4) Do you like to get your good friends together in a group, or do you prefer your friends one on one?
5) Does the idea of Jesus as a friend resonate with you?

If you play the Friday Five at your blog and would like visitors, be sure to share a link here, using the following 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.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - When is it time to go?

Sometimes there's no denying that it's time to leave a pastorate - things have gotten too ugly or unhealthy to fix, or forces beyond the pastor's control make leaving inevitable, or the pastor can find no more joy or creativity in her work. But what about when none of those things are the case? How do you know when God might be calling you onward? Our questioner this week asks this thoughtfully:

How do you know when it is time to leave a church?  I understand wanting to leave when you have hurtful things going on.  But, when things are going well, what are some of the benchmarks when considering whether it is time to leave, and how do you prepare yourself emotionally?

Muthah+ responds:
I am a big N on the Meyers-Briggs so I can usually intuit when it is time to move on.  But there are several things that have to do with a decision to move on.  I would invite you to consider some of these questions:
·       What does my prayer say?  Is God calling me somewhere else? Is my work done?
·       What do my pastoral strengths say?  Am I a change maker and have the changes been made or can’t be made by me?  Am I a pastor called to care for people in the good times?  Am I prophet and have I already spoken God’s truth?  Am I a community builder and has Christian community come as far as I can take it?
·       Check your emotions:  Are you still enthusiastic about getting up on Sunday mornings and being with your flock?  Are you still able to touch your congregation with your sermons or your pastoral care or your teaching?  Is there some other kind of ministry that is calling you?
·       Is it a logical time to work on a further degree, see the kids off to college, change in your life, move out of the manse, retire?
Usually when I have answered these questions and I hope other questions, I am getting prepared to make a change.  There are a couple of books from Alban Institute that are helpful in making these decisions.  But most of all, when you have made the decision, don’t look back.  Allow yourself to trust that God will direct you and it will give you and your congregation the comfort that you are doing what God is calling you to, rather than “YOU decided to leave us.”  Which often hurts those in our congregations.  

Jennifer writes:
I think the discernment around when the Spirit is saying that it’s time to leave is more than a personal decision.

I believe that it involves trusted members (not a million, just a few) of the congregation, your personnel committee, your family (if that’s pertinent) and a group of visionaries (is that long-range or strategic planning or a visioning task group in your neck of the woods?)  I picture that discernment happing informally and/or formally, over coffee or tea, in one-on one conversations, with prayer, and with the good of all at heart. Feeling called to be there and having that inner call affirmed by those who serve with you is a pretty good way to sense whether you should be singing, “Should I stay or should I go?”

That said, I’m really not one to abide by years of service, length of tenure, church growth or other benchmarks being the only, or even very good, ways to determine how long to stay. Your mileage, or that of your church tradition, may vary.

And Singing Owl, who blogs at "The Owl's Song" offers:
There could be so many reasons that one could “know” it’s time to go that it is difficult to generalize. What says, “Time to go” for one might be different than for someone else.   I only have a few minutes before I have to be at a meeting, so I’ll just speak for myself and my most recent leave taking.  It was difficult for many reasons, not least of which was that people loved us and did not want us to go.  I stayed longer than I now believe was probably good because it didn’t seem to make sense to leave a congregation where one was loved, especially since I had no place waiting for me. 

The reasons I knew it was time were many and complicated, but they condense down to one central theme.  I was finished.  I gradually became aware that I was not really being heard.  As I said, they loved my husband and me, so it wasn’t as if they didn’t hear me because they were angry.  It was subtle, but became clearer and clearer that what I hoped to accomplish was not likely going to happen.  The church had stopped moving, and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it “unstuck.”  I was finished.  I also discovered (about the same time that I realized I was loved but not necessarily heeded) that my passion, my hope, my belief that something great was coming—all things I’d once had in abundance-- were gone.  I did not make the decision easily, but sometimes we may be in a ministry place for some specific purposes and when it is over, it is over.  I cried when I left.  But I was also relieved.  That’s because I could stop trying to MAKE something happen.

I hope that makes some sense!

What fantastic wisdom has been offered here by our matriarchs! What about the rest of you? What insights would you share around discerning when it's time to take your leave? Please share in the comments section.

And, as always, if you have a question you would like the matriarchs to discuss, please send us an email at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday Festival: One of Every 10 People

In a bit of shameless self-promotion, your editor is posting from her own blog today. The post also seems in keeping with today's celebration of Spirit Day, which has many of us wearing purple today to show we are taking a stand against bullying, harassment and hateful speech.

Here's what I wrote at Terrapin Station:

1 of every 10 people

From a Facebook status:

1 of every 10 people is gay. That means 1 of every 10 people is instantly put down, labeled, left alone, put in a minority and so much more, all for something they didn't choose. Many gay teens are committing suicide as a way of escaping. If you want to tell them life will get better and you respect them for who they are, copy this into your status. Most of you won't, but let's see the 5% who will.

I almost never copy in these FB status things. Mostly because they tell me to do something, and I don't want to be told what to do. They make bets on whether I'll do it; the answer is, I won't.

But the 1 in 10 is an important number for me. My sophomore year of college, I did a speech in Technical Speaking class on Ryan White. You remember him, and if you don't, please follow the link. (It was news to my class that day.) Talk about your fear-based bullying.

In my speech, I mentioned (from my careful research) that 1 in 10 people is gay. I remember the professor saying, "1 in 10! That can't be right!" I assured her that my (impeccably documented) source said it was. She and the rest of the class shook their heads in utter disbelief. I could not convince them.

There were 30 of us in that class. It was Texas A&M in the mid 1980's. It was an insanely conservative place, but also the home of the Corps of Cadets, which (anecdotes say) has at least its fair share of homosexuals.

So, probably two to three people in the class were, indeed, gay. Closeted, almost certainly. In the years to come I'd go to "the gay bar" in that town with friends. It was a scary time. Would it get raided? The building was a warehouse, completely unidentifiable from the outside. No one bought mixed drinks then; bottled beer was it, because there was a theory that you might get AIDS from a poorly-washed glass but beer bottles were safe. One of my friends from that era died, within 10 years, of AIDS, but I am entirely certain he didn't get it from a glass.

So if there were three people in that class when that statement was made, and did they feel? Marginalized. Invisiblized. Nullified.

It's been 20 years and we are still trying to put forth the facts. It's time we spoke, shouted, screamed, loudly enough to be heard.

What are you reading, writing, thinking today? Please share with us in the comments. If you'd like to link to a blog post, 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.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - What's God Up To These Days? edition

I cant remember who I heard joke once that it seemed like all the sermons he heard quoted The New York Times, a new sociology study, and a favorite best selling novel before saying, "But Jesus really got it best when he said..."

In today's readings (I'm thinking of Joel, Luke and Timothy here) it's awfully tempting to head in this direction. In Joel - what are the people doing in response to disaster? In Timothy - what's Paul thinking in his last days? And in Luke - What about that wacky Pharisee, huh? Cant he see that it's all about doing as the tax collector does?

David Lose over at working preacher (I know I'm always quoting Working Preacher, but really it's just because they so have it going ON over there!) lays it on the line: "Rather, this parable is about God: God who alone can judge the human heart; God who determines to justify the ungodly."

Which makes me think that maybe it would behoove us to look at all the scriptures this way. I admit my first tack is too often to ask what what the people are doing in these passages. What happens if we ask instead first hat is God doing in Joel (and speaking of Working Preacher, check out our own Wil Gafney's excellent commentary on this passage) and Timothy?

Let us know where your early-in-the-week thinking is taking you. See you in the comments!

Link to texts here. Picture of those 2 guys in the temple from here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Meet 'n Greet

Recently we've heard from several people who don't blog, but would like to be part of RevGalBlogPals. To join the ring, you do need to have a blog. But anyone can participate in our community simply by leaving a comment. We welcome you to join our conversations!

We have three new members to introduce to the webring today.

First, you may already have connected with FaithHopeCherryTea, who has been a regular participant here in comments for a while. Her blog is also called Faith Hope CherryTea, and she describes her blog purpose as:

pursuing the nature of God, goodness and grace, pioneering creative worship, inspiriting faith, hope and practical charity, living future present, in awe and wonder ...

Next meet Vicki Hesse, who blogs at Showing Up to the Moment. Vicki is an "aspirant" in the process discerning a call to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, and she writes:

I'm currently a Loaned Executive at United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County. This temporary job provides insight to the unique needs of this amazing community. I'm walking in faith towards what is next!

Finally, say hello to Sharon Littrell, who blogs at Tuesday Thoughts and serves a UCC/DOC congregation in Pennsylvania.

Sharon describes her blog this way:

I try to plan exercise in my day, but don't always follow my plan. Being in the ministry is my third career - first teaching at university, second nonprofit implementation, now new church planter. I am a very creative thinker - never understanding there is a box to be out of.

Stop by and visit our new ring members!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Prayer for P 24C / O 29C / P +21

Your son taught us to pray and to never lose heart.
But frankly God there are times that wear us down and we feel fainthearted.
We feel weary and close to giving up.
There are times Lord we lose hope and give up.

It is times like these that we need to hold each other up in prayer.
It is times like these that we need to encourage each other.
It is times like these that we need to be there for one another.
It is times like these that we need to cry out to God for those in need.

But God it is not just for those in need, it is also for justice that we cry out.
We plea for those who can not speak up for themselves.
We stand up for those who rights have been violated.
We seek peace with justice for those who need both.
We pray for justice for those who are the weakest.

We thank you for your justice at work in this world.
We thank you for hearing our prayers and answering them.
We thank you for your showing concern and protection.
We thank you for your mercy that you pour out with your justice.

In all of this Lord, may we be found faithful

cross posted at rev abi's long and winding road and a place for prayer

Image found at Christ Church Nanton

Saturday, October 16, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party: Superior Persistence Edition

At the 2006 Festival of Homiletics, I heard one of the best sermons I've ever experienced in my life, and I was in the room with some of my RevGalBlogPals. How many of you remember the Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Samuel's persuasive message about the persistent widow? He's the pastor of Victory United Church of Christ in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and I can't think of that whole service, the last night of the festival, without smiling. Victory's choir and liturgical dancers brought an incredible energy to the Peachtree United Methodist Church, a place that had already felt spirit-filled throughout the week. But like the widow in the gospel lesson for this week, the people from Victory brought a something more, and I can still hear Rev. Dr. Samuel's energetic depiction of the widow following the judge home, appearing wherever he turned, even looking in at his window.

We're here today to support each other in finding that something extra we can bring to our own congregations tomorrow. So tell us, what goes on at your church or in family this weekend? Are there challenges? Treats? Special occasions? Is there some person or situation that requires superior persistence from you this week?

Join the discussion in the comments and let us know how you're doing. I can promise persistently superior coffee until it's time for Diet Pepsi! 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Five: Connecting

I am currently reading Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam, where he explores the changes in community in the USA in the 20th Century. He explains how communities, people, and especially children function better when they live where there is high social capital. Basically, it means that "relationships matter."

We all know this because Christianity (and other religions) emphasize the Golden Rule:
All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,
do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 7:1

So here are some questions to ponder for this Friday Five about connecting with:

1. Self: Who was your hero/heroine when you were about ten years old?

2. Family: Who are you most like? Who is most like you?

3. Friends: How do you stay in touch?

4. Neighborhood, community: What are ways you like to be involved?

5. Job/church: Do you see a need that will help in developing connections?

Bonus: A link or anything else about connecting.

As always, let us know in comments if you play. Post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment with the formula I can never print out--click here for the info about it.

And remember today is BLOG ACTION DAY!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - communion for the homebound

Our question this week comes from a pastor who would like to offer communion to homebound members in a context where that hasn't been the tradition. She asks some great questions and gets some thorough and specific answers from the matriarchs. Perhaps you would like to share your thoughts too.

I am serving my first church as solo pastor and have been here several years.  There is not a tradition of serving communion to homebound people in their homes here, and I'm not sure how to go about this or if it is important to introduce it. Other churches have deacons to fulfill this role, but we dont have those here, and so I'm kind of on my own.

I guess I'm uncertain about it, because in my previous setting as an associate, I took communion to people's homes sometimes and always found it a little awkward, both theologically and logisitically. Quite a few people just said "no" when I offered it, seeming to think it should happen at church or not at all.

If they said yes,  I have a couple of those kits to take home communion in, but everything seems to be the wrong shape and size for the kind of bread we have, or to leak.  And, the little plates and cuprs are so tippy and tiny,  and I'm never sure where to put anything (there is often some kind of bedside table in these situations, but it's always covered with bottles or kleenex or something).   Then, half the time the person is on a special diet, or has a hard time swallowing.  Also, I guess I'm uncertain what exactly to say  -- we are a rather "low" church but our communion liturgy  is still pretty formal.  I feel like the "communion at home" prayers and things I"ve read teeter between way too formal, and ridiculously informal.

Please be very specific.  For example, when you're pouring the wine/juice out of the little plastic bottle into the little cup, do you say the words of institution then?  Or do you get it all ready, and then present it?  Do you just ease into it, sort of naturally as part of the conversation (I often pray this way), or do you set aside a time and offer it more ritualistically? If you are/have been homebound, would it have been meaningful to receive  this sacrament and if so, how?  When you take communion to homebound folks, what works?  And, have you ever introduced the idea of communion in homes to a congregation that hasnt done it for a while -- or ever?


Jennifer offers:
I find home communion to be one of the great privileges of ministry. My tradition requires that an elder or deacon accompany me, and we find it easy to recruit elders and deacons for this meaningful observance.

We make appointments in advance and certainly, some folks turn down the offer, but most accept, and it's always a really nice visit.

Here's how I handle the specifics: We visit for awhile, then I ask if it seems like time for communionl.  I excuse myself to ready the elements while the elder/deacon continues the conversation with the person/people we're visiting. I typically say a short prayer that includes parts of the conversation we've been having. I then say the words of institution, and offer the elements. The elder/deacon offers a closing prayer.

I have introduced home communion with a church that had done little of it. It took time, but it was very well received. It's a very special opportunity for pastoral care and to extend the loving arms of the church. Perhaps it will feel that way to those with whom you serve!

Mompriest writes:
I come from a tradition that not only offers home communion to the sick and homebound, but for whom it is expected. If one can’t come to church the church comes to them. We use ordained and trained lay folk (Lay Eucharistic Ministers) for this ministry. If I were serving a congregation for whom this ministry is a part of the life I’d begin with some teaching. I’d begin with the leadership team and share with them your experience of this ministry and why it is a powerful witness of the church in the world. I’d then invite a group of lay folk, from the leadership team and the general congregation,  to learn about this ministry. After teaching the folks about it I’d invite a few people (if that would work in your tradition) to be trained as LEM’s (Lay Eucharistic Ministers). If using lay folk is too much too soon, then I’d focus the teaching on the importance of the ministry and do it myself for some time, and if it takes hold in the life of the congregation, then I’d invite some lay folk to participate, assuming that is allowed. I’d publish articles in the congregation newsletter and on the website. I’d preach about it and talk about it at every opportunity.

In terms of what I do: I’m very social when I make these visits. I spend a few minutes in friendly dialogue. (or as long as the person seems to desire – if they aren’t sick more time might be ok, if they are sick and in the hospital a short visit is important). Then I say, I brought communion from our Sunday morning (or weekday service), would you like to receive communion and a prayer for healing? I make it very simple. If I can’t spread out the bread and the wine on a table near the person I use a window ledge or a chair. Sometimes, depending on the condition of the person, I only offer a little piece of bread/wafer – which I bring in a special enclosed case called a pyx – these are like a little pill container, round with a hinged lid. They are nice because they fit in your pocket or purse.

When I intend to offer both bread and wine I use a kit, which can be made from small containers or purchased (not inexpensive) from places like Almy.  These include a paten (plate), an enclosed cruet for the wine, a chalice, and sometimes tiny purificators (napkin) and corporal (placemat). Depending on the space available I lay it all out or not. At the very least I try to use the paten and the chalice.  I used a simple service that includes an opening sentence: Blessed be the one holy and living God...(or something like that) and the person says, And blessed be God’s kingdom. Then I read a short phrase from scripture that describes God’s love and healing grace or hope. There are a few short prayer sentences for healing and then confession. After confession we say the Lord’s Prayer and then I offer communion. We conclude with either, a prayer for healing with a laying on of hands or a more simple prayer. You can find some options here: BCP ministry to the sick.

That said, I adapt all of this to tend to the condition and needs of the person. At a minimal I invite the person to pray with me the Lord’s Prayer and then offer communion and then offer a short prayer after.

I also create, one heavy paper/card stock, in large print, the entire service (from which I adapt) so that it can be easily used by anyone present.

That said, I have had people who find the idea of home communion to be uncomfortable. In these situations I just offer a prayer. Holy Eucharist is a gift, but it’s not required for God’s grace to fill their lives. Your presence and prayers can also be a sign of God’s love and grace. Blessings to you as you explore this powerful ministry and witness in the world.

Ruth, who blogs at Sunday's Coming, has this to say: 
You are right to identify the ‘previous practice’ of churches as important here – also I think the ecumenical mix of the congregation can make a difference. Some people are just more comfortable with the idea of home communion than others. I have even had good church folk who have looked at me as if I was offering the the Last Rites (which we don’t really have in my denomination) when all I said was ‘would you like communion at home?’ - so I think your instinct to take care is a good one. However since you asked for some suggestions, here are mine.

1.              I try to take an elder of the church (or good friend of the house-bound person) with me – I think this helps it feel more like ‘we are sharing together’ rather than ‘I am giving you something’.
2.              I always ask in advance ‘would you like communion at home?’ and ‘would you like x to come with me?’ rather than springing it on people.
3.              I chat for a little while on arriving – sometimes sharing some of what happened at church on Sunday (eg which reading, what celebrations...) to establish that we are still one family of God together, even if we can’t all be in the building at the same time (the church building or their home).
4.              I say something like ‘I’ll just set everything up..’ - I find a suitable table, make a space if necessary (& remember to put it all back afterwards!) and I am always touched to feel that this little bedside table/hospital trolley/ stool has become the table of the Lord – I sometimes make a comment to this effect. Setting up includes pouring the wine into the cup, putting the bread/wafer out. Sometimes I use a very formal little silver ‘mini chalice & patten’ other times I use a simple pottery cup & plate (depends on person and how high/low they are).
5.              I ask ‘shall we start?’ so that people are clear this is the ‘liturgy’.
6.              Whether I use a formal set service or something more informal depends on the person, again. But I always have something in my hands so that it feels a bit ‘more’ than a snack together. My personal preference is for the Presbyterian Church of Scotland ‘Common Order’ Fifth Order for Holy Communion ‘for use at home or in hospital’ - I sometimes trim things down depending on how the person seems (tired, restless, etc). Sometimes I use one of the readings form the Sunday worship either just gone or to come & I say where we’ve used it, to reinforce the sense of communion with the rest of the congregation.
7.              Depending on how the person is (again!) I might put bread/wafer in their hands & hand them a cup – or dip bread/wafer in wine for them and place it in their mouth, or hold the cup to their lips... I’m not afraid to ask them in advance ‘what’s going to be the best way of doing this?’. I take the elements last so that I can consume what’s left (but that’s because I’m getting ‘higher’ in older age!).
8.              I say a firm blessing so that we know to transition between liturgy & back into ‘conversation’. I chat as I ‘pack things away’ and restore the table to ‘normal’. If I’m offered tea or coffee, I personally prefer it now, after the ‘service’ rather than before.

I hope some of that is useful.
Over the years I have been very touched by some people who would have a little table ready for me – complete with little vase of flowers, possibly a candle, even a little white table cloth – I love these signs that they have got ready for the coming of God into their home. Other times I have rejoived at Jesus’ presence in the midst of all the mess and clutter – among the pills, letters, and yogurt pots.

Be bold – and God bless you.

And Muthah+ offers this: 
Taking Communion is always awkward because we are so used to it being in church.  But I think of it as just one more way of bringing healing into an environment of ill-health.  I would suggest you write a short service that seems right for you.  Sometimes our prayerbooks or hymnals get in the way for what you want to highlight.  Print it out in a size that can fit in you communion kit.  I find the little plastic cups for hospital calling to be wise so that they can be thrown away following the service.  This where “fish food”—pressed hosts for bread, any reason to call them bread.  I have a pyx in my communion kit just the right size for hosts—but some of the smaller kits do not have them.  Find a little box that will provide the right size.  I refuse to buy an oil stock because they are so expensive.  I have found that a pill dispenser with some cotton and blessed olive oil in it will provide the oil for healing that many find helpful.

If the family is present and they would find a celebration convenient, I will take a roll from the patient’s lunch tray and I carry small single serving bottles of wine and celebrate the whole Eucharistic service for them.   If you are taking elements from your congregational service, make sure that those receiving them are reminded of the prayers of the faithful who sent you there.

When I first started in ministry I found that people refused the sacrament but I finally realized that many refused it because they had never received that way before.  Talk to them about it and then move into it informally if they are willing.  As you experience it more, you will be able to discern when to be formal and when to make it simple.  That comes with practice.  Most of all, let your people see the Christ in you as you minister to them at home or in hospital. 

Thank you to our wonderful Matriarchs for such great responses! What about the rest of you? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section. And, as always, if you have a question you'd like the matriarchs to respond to, please email us at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Blog Action Day

Thanks to Jan of Yearning for God for today's post:

This day is to unite the world's bloggers in posting
about the need for clean water throughout the world.
  1. Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Unclean drinking water can incubate some pretty scary diseases, like E. coli, salmonella, cholera and hepatitis A. Given that bouquet of bacteria, it's no surprise that water, or rather lack thereof, causes 42,000 deaths each week.
  2. More people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets. This means that sewage spills into rivers and streams, contaminating drinking water and causing disease.
  3. Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water. They do this while carrying cisterns weighing around 40 pounds when filled in order to gather water that, in many cases, is still polluted. Aside from putting a great deal of strain on their bodies, walking such long distances keeps children out of school and women away from other endeavors that can help improve the quality of life in their communities.
  4. It takes 6.3 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. That 6.3 gallons covers everything from watering the wheat for the bun and providing water for the cow to cooking the patty and baking the bun. And that's just one meal! It would take over 184 billion gallons of water to make just one hamburger for every person in the United States.
  5. The average American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world. From showering and washing our hands to watering our lawns and washing our cars, Americans use a lot of water. To put things into perspective, the average five-minute shower will use about 10 gallons of water. Now imagine using that same amount to bathe, wash your clothes, cook your meals and quench your thirst.

While these facts may be grim, there is hope for real solutions as more and more people around the world are waking up to the clean water crisis. Earlier this year, the UN declared access to clean water a human right and groups like charity: water and continue to work tirelessly to bring water access to the developing world.

And now, on October 15th we all have a chance to help shed more light on water issues around the world. Take a moment to make sure to register your blog and grab an action widget, and get ready for an amazing day of blog activism.