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Friday, December 31, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party: New Year's Day Edition

Welcome to 2011! Can our friends down under tell us how 2011 is going so far? I hope there aren't too many of us who are spending the first day of the year worrying over sermons, and I suspect there won't be a lot since some will still be taking holiday vacations.

However, for those of us who are around and preaching tomorrow, the party is here as usual. Just consider it an extension of whatever party plans you had last night, or if you didn't have any may this be a fun alternative!

How are you celebrating? With Christmas 2? With the texts for Epiphany? Are any going back to pick up the Holy Innocents from last week? There were such good ideas at the party last week that it was tempting for some of us to do so. I understand there are many of us with communion celebrations and at least two of us with baptisms. I love starting the new year with the celebration of sacraments that draw us together in grace and purpose.

Join us in the comments today and share it if you've got it. My mom always makes pork roast and sauerkraut, so I'll borrow some from her to share with any who want it. Any other traditional New Year's dishes on the stove? May God bless your preparation and preaching!

Friday Five: New Year's Eve

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions, but it does seem a good time for some reflection and planning. For the last few days I keep thinking of Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Among other things, that seems to say that reflection is in order if we want to learn and grow.

For some of us, this has been an incredibly difficult year; for others it has been a year of many joys. For all of us, there have been challenges and questions and there have been blessings and--maybe even an answer or two! As we say our goodbyes to 2010 and look towards 2011, share with us five blessings from 2010 along with five hopes or dreams for 2011.

It's fun to visit old blogging buddies and maybe make some new ones as well. To make visiting your blog easier, post a link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation in the comment box: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - How Can This Still Be Going On Edition

Our last question this year...a reminder that as women in ministry and women preparing for ministry, we still face double standards...

Recently I underwent the candidacy committee's interview--and though it was not for my entrance decision, I wondered about how differently women are treated by their board/candidacy committee/presbytery (if that is the right term). One of the questions they asked was how could I forsake my vocation of motherhood for seminary. The member said that he had had a recent experience of a seminary student being overwhelmed by family needs and could not pay attention in class. Is this a question for both female and male candidates?

My pastor made it clear to me also that it was acceptable to be divorced once, but if that happened with my second marriage that I should not bother asking to enter seminary, that no church accepts and calls a woman twice divorced. Just out of curiosity, what are some experiences women have had about that subject. Not that my husband and I are divorcing, just something about the way this was addressed kind of seemed weird to me. Why would that call into question the discernment process?

Thank you for being such an open, accepting and loving group of women and for taking on so many questions. I love reading the answers and wish there were a book of this wisdom available.

Terri offers the following:

Let me take a moment for a deep breath. Ok. I am fairly certain that if this were an interview for a corporate job this line of questioning would be illegal. At the very least they are profoundly inappropriate questions, even for the church. I can’t imagine them asking a man “how he could forsake his vocation to fatherhood for seminary.”

When I attended seminary, after being a stay at home mom for 6 years, my husband and I worked out a co-parenting schedule. This required him to really step up his role as a father, but it was good for him and the children (our kids were 4 and 8 when I started seminary). The tragedy here is that that woman clearly had little or no help from her husband or partner or other family or friends. And apparently she received little compassion from faculty. Not only is she being judged for being tired BUT they are projecting her experience onto you as if you, or any other woman, would have the same experience.

Seminary is exhausting. It’s is more exhausting for people who have children. It is especially exhausting for women who are moms. But we make it work. It helps when we have families that work with us and help.

Secondly, I do know that in my tradition (Episcopal) clergy, both men and women, have added challenges if they have been divorced and remarried multiple times (more than twice). I know of one person who was challenged for being in his third marriage. Multiple divorces and remarriage need to be taken on a case by case basis to understand the situation. But again it seems to me that your pastor is projecting onto you issues and concerns that are his concerns not yours. He has no cause to think that you are headed for another divorce and it was just odd of him to say this at this time.

In both cases I think these questions, and their inappropriate nature, point to the general anxiety and ambivalence church members still have toward the ordination and leadership of women. A good clue into their inappropriateness is the way they made YOU feel. In the course of your ministry there will be other occasions when you will experience similar inappropriate queries. The best response is a non-anxious confident reply that assuages their bias, which it seems you have already done. Blessings on you as continue this discernment. Trust the Holy Spirit, she will have your back.

Terri blogging at seekingauthenticvoice

And Muthah+ replies:

Ohhhh, darn! I had hoped that that kind of stuff didn't go on any more. All I can tell you is that whoever is in charge of your candidacy committee should be told that that questions of that ilk are WAY out of line. Talk to a woman pastor in your diocese, synod or conference and ask her to say something to those in charge. It would not be permitted in the secular world and those questions should not be allowed in our lives either. It is patriarchal and demeaning.

THAT SAID: It is always wise to have answers to such questions in one's back pocket because what they are saying is that they are afraid that you can't manage. Sometimes, jokingly reminding folks that women can multitask better than men helps if you can be real and lighthearted at the same time. Whatever you do, don't get angry; they don't do well with that! You need to help them be not afraid. Despite your avuncular pastor, guys can get positions as pastors when they have been divorced several times and even become bishops or synod officers. I know women pastors who have been divorced and remarried several times and pastor large and influential churches. If you can show that you learned something from the dissolution of your last marriage, and can speak succinctly about it, committees usually weigh that to your advantage.

The most important thing that you can offer the ministry is for you to step out in the confidence and integrity of your call. That will speak to any interviewing committee. If you know yourself to be called by God to be about the ministry for which you are presenting yourself, all that interviewing committees want to know is are you confident in your ability and your call by God and the Church.

Muthah+ blogging at stone of witness

Let's hear from more of you in the RevGals community. Use the "Post a Comment" box to add your thoughts. And to all, a blessed and hope-filled new year!

Our question queue is nearly empty; please send your questions to us at

May you live in God's amazing grace+

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday Festival: So Called, The Marks of Ministry

At Seeking Authentic Voice, Terri ponders the anniversary of her ordination and the Marks of Ministry.

Eleven years ago today, on the Feast of St. John (transferred that year to Dec. 28), I was ordained to the "Transitional Diaconate" in the Episcopal Church. (Transitional deacons are those who are called to the priesthood but spend six months to a year serving as transitional deacons, learning about ordained minstry, prior to ordination to the priesthood. Vocational deacons are those whose ministry will be the diaconate.)

That night I stood on the chancel steps of the church where my family and I had worship for ten years. The same steps I stood on when the Bishop confirmed me into the Episcopal Church in the fall of 1990. The same church where my son was baptized. The same church where, after sixteen years away from formal Christian worship and faith, I found my way home. A church filled with memories, some of which I reflected upon when I preached there on Oct. 31, 2010.

Like this year it was cold and snowy. The church was decorated in all the grandeur of Christmas celebrations. I wore a burgundy skirt and pink clergy blouse - the color of deaconate ministry and of the Holy Spirit is red.

In the Episcopal Church one of the markers of ordination is the collar. The white band deacons, priests, and bishops, wear around our necks to identify us as ordained. Recently my bishop wrote a letter to all the clergy instructing us to always wear appropriate clergy attire (ie collar) whenever we attend formal church events - to wear the mark of our ministry in public as a witness to the world.

The collar is held in place by collar stays - like cuff-links but intended for neck wear(see link for "collar," above). I had a difficult time figuring out which way to put the collar stay in - it has a flat head and a clasp or a pin like head. One goes through the hole in the shirt and through the hole in the collar, the other end rests against the neck. I remember thinking that the collar stay felt tight and pushed against my throat. The next morning I had a small bruise from the pressure of that stay. A bruise that is, in some ways symbolic of ministry - one does not go through ordained life without a few bruises. But also because I put the stay on backwards a reminder every time I put the collar on that I am imperfect and will make mistakes.

The service that night opened with this declaration of ministry, said by the Bishop to me (and all those being ordained to deaconal ministry, whether vocational or transitional):

As a deacon in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them. You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship. You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. You are to assist the bishop and priests in public worship and in the ministration of God's Word and Sacraments, and you are to carry out other duties assigned to you from time to time. At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ's people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.

It is understood that even as one may go on to be ordained as a priest or consecrated a Bishop one carries within this first call to diaconal ministry. We are always deacons, called to serve.

Later, after the scripture and sermon, the Bishop calls upon the Holy Spirit, and ordains the person. After that sacred moment of laying on of hands the Bishop offers this prayer:

Make her, O Lord, modest and humble, strong and constant, to observe the discipline of Christ. Let her life and teaching so reflect your commandments, that through her many may come to know you and love you. As your Son came not to be served but to serve, may this deacon share in Christ's service, and come to the unending glory of him who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.

Before ordination I worked in several "careers" - including being a stay-at-home mom. Each line of work I've done has enriched my life and taught me much about leadership, life, and people. But in the eleven years of ordained ministry I have experienced a profound sense of what it means to be "called." Some people are called to ministry and work that does not include ordination - profound in its own way. But for me it is clear that I am called to ordained ministry, to wear this funny looking collar, to have a few bruises now and then, to be informed and formed by Holy Scripture, to teach the way of faith, to break open the word and preach, to Preside at the Eucharist, to pronounce God's blessing, consecrate bread and wine, to offer absolution to the broken and remorseful, and to be a sign of God's love - the hands and heart of Christ in the world.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings -Here Comes the Light Edition

Happy New Year (almost)!

What will this coming week look like for you? Are you taking a well earned rest and a week off from preaching? Some of us who dont take an extra day for Epiphany might be using those texts this week. Others will be reveling in the beautifully mind-blowing poetry that is the first chapter of John. Whatever you doing this week, we'd like to hear about it - let us know in the comments.

Photo found here. Texts for this week found here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

RevGalBookPals: Christmas Book List

It's a regular feature of our Christmas: stacks of books all around the living room. This year I gave my older son a book he thought about giving me. I received another book from the Persephone collection of neglected or forgotten 20th century women authors. I gave my daughter books by the Bronte sisters from a Penguin collection featuring cover art by Ruben Toledo that seems like a mash-up of anime and goth. (Don't you love that glowering Heathcliff?)

For this book discussion, let's share what books we received or gave for Christmas, and why we're excited about them. Use the comments to tell your stories, or link to your own blogs. And if you have a new book you think would be suited to RevGalBookPals, please let us know!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Prayer: Christmas I

Holy One
Growing in wisdom
Teach us your ways
That we may love as you

Eternal One
Bless leaders of every
city, nation, world
with your wisdom and grace

Gracious One
Heal those who suffer
Mend the broken
Fill the empty, tend the ill

Lover of Souls
forgive our weaknesses
Bring forth your strength
in us, through you, with us

Holy Teacher
help us to know your ways
may all we say -
all we do - be for you

Cross posted on A Place for Prayer (link in sidebar) and SeekingAuthenticVoice

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Day Preacher Party

Merry Christmas!!!!

Are you up early with little ones? We welcome you.

Are you sleeping in, gratefully? We'll tiptoe quietly around you.

Are you taking tomorrow off? We envy you, but kindly.

Are you still trying to figure out what to say on Dec. 26th about the Slaughter of the Innocents? You have come to the right place!!!

Pull up to the table and have some coffee cake. I promise goose later, and Prosecco for those who imbibe, and sparkling cider for those who are by nature more abstemious. We'll keep the fires burning for all those who have to finish up for tomorrow. Let us know what's on the table at your house.

And even if you're not preaching, feel free to share a Christmas wish or a favorite tradition in the comments.

Friday, December 24, 2010

On Christmas Eve

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined. (Isaiah 9:2)

Tonight's the night.

O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. (Psalm 96:1)

It's Christmas Eve.

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus...

Whether you're ready or not, may your Christmas Eve be blessed.

Merry Christmas from RevGalBlogPals

Thursday, December 23, 2010

11th Hour Preachers Party: What Day Is It? ...a special Christmas edition

(photo from an internet search)
Welcome to this special edition of the Preacher's Party!

Did you sleep last night? Or was your mind racing with all that needs to be done? Are you exhausted and still there are days...important come?

(There there....take a deep breath.)

Pull up a chair. Let me get you a cup of coffee or tea. I have homemade goodies: cranberry/orange bread and cinnamon scones. Rest a spell.

We're here to help you finish those sermons for the next few days. Are you preaching Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or BOTH? (and if you are preaching both will you preach the same sermon or different sermons?).

What are you thinking about? The incarnation?... The nativity?... The "journey?"...the mother? What is the Holy Spirit sparking within you? We are here to share ideas and to offer feedback. We are here to keep you energized or help you recharge. We are here if you need a laugh or have something funny to share.

Join the party, we'll be here all day and into the night. It's almost Christ-mass!

(photo from flickr photos of a natural beachwood nativity set)

Ask the Matriarch will return next week.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Advent Activities

Have you seen the Advent daily activity calendar that Earthchick made for her boys? It is amazing!

Go visit here.

I'm unable, due to the mysteries of an unfamiliar computer setup, to reproduce any text or photos here, but I promise it is worth your while to click and see what the EC family is up to!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - Push! Push! Edition

The body is like Mary and each of us has a Jesus inside.
Who is not in labor, holy labor? Every creature is.

See the value of true art when the earth or a soul is in
the mood to create beauty,

for the witness might then for a moment know beyond
any doubt, God is really there within,

so innocently drawing life from us with Her umbilical universe,

though also needing to be born, yes God also needs to be born,

birth from a hand's loving touch, birth from a song breathing
life into this world.

The body is like Mary, and each of us, each of us, has a
Christ within.

You might feel just a little bit more than usual like you are in labor this week, getting ready for the Biggest (or at very least the Second Biggest) week of the year. Hopefully, the worship services you are giving birth to will be born easily and with minimal pain!

As you create/produce/give birth (pick your favorite verb) this week, take a moment to check out RevGal Carol Howard Merritt's Huff Post essay on being a pregnant pastor in advent. She ends it with this hope for all of us: "In this Advent season, may God create something new within us, may God form within us, so that we might sense anticipation and hope as God kicks us, waiting to be born."

As you prepare to for the week ahead, with many extra services of worship for many of us, I invite you to share what moment you are looking forward to the most. Of course, questions or ideas are also welcome in the comments.

This remarkable painting of Mary, Joseph and Jesus found here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Meet n' Greet: Deck the Halls Edition

Merry Almost Solstice, Gals and Pals!

We're happy to be welcoming new members at this festive season of the year. Be sure to deck their halls by paying a visit to their blogs and leaving a comment.

First, please meet Kara Root, who blogs at in the hereandnow and describes herself as "An atypical Presbyterian minister, mom of two clever kids and two unruly dogs, and wife and proofreader of a wily theologian."

Next, say hi to Julie, now blogging at The Rev and the Boys: "still in love with my hubby of 9 years, proud mama of 2 amazing boys, reverend (sometimes), knitter (when I can), yogi (aspiring), laughing girl, follower of Christ and admirer of all things Wild, lover of poetry and music and dancing, obsessed coffee drinker, activist at heart, midwesterner at heart, living it out in NY and laughing at myself as much as possible…"

Longtime ring member Muthah+  recently moved to Texas and invites us to visit her blog Stone of Witness, where she is writing about the church and the world. If you don't know her already, she describes herself this way:  "I am an unabashedly liberal Episcopal priest from a time when being a liberal was a "good" thing. If I am knee-jerk about anything it is about seeing that justice is done by those of us who call ourselves Christians or who are about serving Christ in the Church."

Those of us who had the pleasure of meeting Muthah+ at BE 3.0 know how delightfully straightforward she is. Go say hey!

Now let's welcome Pastor Kathy, who brings her new blog to the ring, New Life in the North Country, but I would also like to give a nod to her blog, The Daily Cattown News, which chronicled her life in the five years after Hurricane Katrina. Kathy is all these things: "Ordained Presbyterian minister, newly married, writer, former business journalist, native New Orleanian who can speak fluent Yat but refrains most of the time, cat person, horse person, fan of TV shows that have been off the air for years."

I know you will want to read Inscription, the blog of Hassopheret,

"An educated black woman, priest, pastor, preacher, technician of the sacred, sacramentalist, scholar, teacher, writer, thinker, believer, dreamer."

Her recent posts have been deeply moving, in particular the latest post about Advent.

And last but not least, meet Derek Maul, who brings two blogs to our ring and says about himself,

"Life is good. It's about living in partnership with my wife, Rebekah, about serving God in the context of our church home, about being the parent of two amazing children, and of both honing and using my particular gifts in order to make this world a better place."

His eponymous blog, Derek Maul, has been around for awhile, and more recently he began The Preacher's Husband.

I hope this will be a fruitful week for all our bloggers. Hang in there, the days start getting longer very soon!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Prayer: Advent 4

Holy and gracious God,
the giver of light and life,
we thank you for this gift of life.
We thank you for those who come into our lives as prophets,
pointing us toward that most precious gift,
your Son.

We thank you for those we travel with us
as we seek to know more fully who we are
as your people.

Come to us this day
and every day.

Come to us in the trials and tribulations.

Be with us in through the storms of life,
and otherwise.

Come to us in our birthings
and in our dyings.

Come to us
and comfort us.
Come to us
and give us your peace.
Come to us
that we might see the way.

Come to us
that we can be
Your hands and heart.

Come to us
that we might be
the source
of healing
and reconciliation
in this broken world.

O Come, Emmanuel.

Crossposted on A Place for Prayer

Saturday, December 18, 2010

11th Hour Preachers Party: Advent, still

Many of us are looking at a short busy week ahead of us...only a week from now it will be Christs-mass. Much to do...but today we are focusing primarily on the sermon for tomorrow, which is technically still Advent 4.

True, some of you may have your Christmas in church celebration. For many years the small church I served shared its space with a Korean Methodist Church. It was important for us to do a quick change after services on Advent 4, decorating the church for the Koreans to have their Christmas service that afternoon. (They only met on Sunday and would not have a Christmas Eve or day service).

Whether you are preparing for Advent 4 or Christmas or both, you are welcome to the party. We are in the deep-freeze where I live so lots of goodies to fortify us and keep us toasty: coffee and a variety of teas, homemade apple crisp, oatmeal, yogurt, for starters. Pull up a chair and join the party. We'll help with ideas, comments on you sermon, support if you get stuck, and some fun too.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Five: Christmases Past

Tell us about five Christmas memories you have.

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.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ask the Matriarch – The Long (or not so long?) Goodbye

Good morning!

This week’s question comes from a RevGal who is discerning that it is time to leave the setting where she has been serving:

I'm trying to figure out when to break the news to the folks in my church that I am leaving them. There are a couple things that make this sort of "interesting." It's a different situation from a regular resignation where they would need lots of lead time to call a new pastor, as I am one of three non-stipendiary priests on a Mutual Ministry Team and the other two will remain as well as the rest of the team to continue on in ministry. The other complexity is that my husband and I don't know exactly when we are leaving. We have set a goal to be moved by July 1 if at all possible, but we cannot go sooner than the end of May due to my "day job" contract commitment. But all of this hinges on getting jobs in our new location, selling our house here, etc. My thought is to set an end date for my participation on the team on May 22nd anyway. It would give some "finality" and allow some planning for schedules, etc. My question then is, when to annouce this. How much time is enough and how much is too much. Hoping some of you who have left calls and have some experience with this can lead me in a wise direction. Thanks!

In alphabetical order, our respondents offer the following thoughts:

Jennifer, blogging at An Orientation of Heart writes:

I hope you feel you can share with your lead priest or head of staff the news that you are leaving as soon as you feel comfortable. Undoubtedly you have program planning and a preaching schedule and your lead pastor would probably appreciate all of the notice you can give. He or she can keep the news confidential while still being given the courtesy of knowing what's up with you. I'd suggest sharing your news with the congregation no more than a month in advance. Given your timetable of wanting to finish on May 22, I'd say letting folks know after Easter would be adequate for offering you a fitting farewell.

Best to you!

Mompriest, who blogs at Seeking Authentic Voice writes:

This is a good question. The way we end a ministry is as important as the way we begin one, even if we are part of a team. Certain people within the congregations served will always know “You” as their favorite and will feel the loss. This means you need enough time to say goodbye and celebrate your ministry with all the people in some festive manner – a glorified coffee hour with each congregation – at the very least. Check out the Alban Institute weekly newsletter articles for more information on this. (somewhere in their archives they will have something on ending pastoral relationships.)

On the other hand a protracted good bye will feel endless and wearing on everyone, especially you. Essentially you become a lame-duck leader once you announce your resignation and it all becomes about goodbye. The other two ministers will feel the impact too and the transition will begin, even if it’s just a transition from three to two ministers in rotation.

So, the general rule of thumb in my denomination is to announce your resignation 6-8 weeks before you leave. Occasionally, when a Rector (head of staff) is retiring not resigning, much more notice is given. In your case I suggest something along the 6-8 weeks, which will feel terribly long and too short all at the same time. And, as I’ve said a team of leaders need to organize with the various congregations a festive celebration of your ministry with them and a fond farewell. It is appropriate in my denomination to ask folks to contribute to a “purse” – a farewell gift of money – but that may not feel right to you. A gift to a local charity in your name could also be appropriate.

And Muthuh+, who recently retired herself, adds:

I would say that 6 months is too long and 1 month is too short. Give yourself time to visit with those who need your visit, to wind up all the projects that you have in the fire. I would suggest 2 or 3 months will be enough. If you were the stipendiary pastor, I would suggest more. Allow them to have a party to say good bye. Give them a specific date. I had a problem with this when I retired because we had a problem with our housing. We had to move the date around a bit which was not good for the parish.

It’s your turn…use the Post a Comment function to share your experiences and insights.

And send us your questions – the queue is nearly empty. Send them to

May you live in God’s amazing grace+


image courtesy of

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Longest Night Services

This is a participatory Wednesday Festival! I searched the RevGals archives and did not find a post on this topic, though it was mentioned in comments by several. I'd like to ask you to share in the comments about your experience with this type of service and let us know whether you have something like it, with a brief description.

At this time of year, many churches offer a service of solace for those feeling out of kilter with the merriment suffusing our culture. I've heard it called "Blue Christmas," "Longest Night" (often because it's held on December 21, the longest night of the year), and "Hard to Be Merry" (in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is the opposite of the longest night).

I've never been to a service like this, but as I said to a friend today, I wish I could. I don't have any great personal tragedies making my Christmas difficult, but still, I feel depressed by the horrors of the world and by the pain I hold for others - those I know and those I don't. And those feelings are magnified by the fact that I am "supposed to" feel happy, joyful, ho ho ho! How much more must this be true for those of you whose calling is ordained ministry, and who walk with people in devastation in these days, and who are dealing with tragedies of your own as well.

In a December 10 article from Episcopal News Service, Carolyn Voldritch of the Church of Our Saviour in Charlottesville, VA, says of the service, "I find it personally helpful because you don't get to be middle-aged and not have some sort of heaviness in your heart, where you're missing someone or because things in your life didn't turn out the way you wanted them to," she said.

Yes. Thank you.

For your interest, here's a link to a wonderful liturgy for Blue Christmas on the blog of Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton, Proctor Fellow at EDS.

So, please share with us your thoughts and ideas for Longest Night services. If you want to include a link, you can do it with this little formula: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>


On a different but very related note - I ask your prayers for Questing Parson, whom many of you may know from his blog or on Facebook. He has been a steadfast member, friend and supporter of the RevGalBlogPals from the beginning. He has been walking in the Valley of the Shadow with his dear wife, who entered into larger life at midnight last night.

Lord, hear our prayers.

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "At Last, the Beginning" Edition

Texts for Sunday can be found here .

Well, it's taken a couple of weeks...but we are now in Advent's home stretch, with our Gospel lesson turning toward the events surrounding Jesus' birth.

What are your thoughts as you read this Sunday's lessons? Anything that speaks to you as especially preachable? Do you have a new way to proclaim the beginning of this "old, old story"? As always, we appreciate your sharing your insights and worship plans here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

2nd Monday Discussion: Near Misses and Minor Disasters

Everyone seems to have a story about something that went wrong, or almost did, at a Christmas Pageant or a Christmas Eve service. Maybe there was some tradition we didn't learn about until it was (almost) too late, or perhaps a child did something unpredictable.

Sometimes those moments become holy. Other times they are simply hilarious. And occasionally they leave us chagrined or thankfully, thoroughly relieved.

For this 2nd Monday discussion, I invite you to share a story, or a link to a story on your own blog, in the comments.

(That handsome, grey-bearded Joseph on the right? My 15-year-old daughter, in a bit of last-minute casting. She is a really good sport.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Stella Maris

This piece seems to capture the silence and the stillness that I so covet by this point in Advent. The setting is medieval plainsong, a hymn to Mary in her title "Star of the Sea" (Stella Maris — thought by some to be an errant transcription of St. Jerome's translation of Miriam (Mary) as stilla maris — a "drop in the sea".)

The text echoes the readings many of our communities heard today, Isaiah and Matthew's pericope on John the Baptist:

Solve vincla reis,
profer lumen cæcis....

Loosen the chains of the guilty,
Send forth light to the blind...


Vitam praesta puram,
iter para tutum:
ut videntes Iesum
semper collaetemur.

Bestow a pure life,
Prepare a safe way:

That seeing Jesus,

We may ever rejoice.

I first heard this piece on the frozen edge of the Atlantic while making the Spiritual Exercises. Now I can't hear it without breathing deeply of silence, winter and the ocean.

May the silence enfold you, may drops of dew from heaven soothe your soul, may you travel in safety and may you rejoice heartily in the Lord on this Gaudete Sunday!

What joyous praises did your community give voice to this weekend? There's so much wonderful Advent music to hear, and so little time to hear it -- please share your feast with us in the comments!

Sunday Prayer, Advent 3A, Sixteen Days of Prayer Advocating for the End of Domestic Violence

For the speechless tongues of those oppressed
For weak hands, feeble knees, widowed, spirits
Made lame, we pray

For those orphaned from war, violence, fear
Parentless children, silent, stifled cries. For the
hungry, we pray

For wives, beaten, abused, trampled, shot
Spirits abandoned, imprisoned by fear. For
Women, we pray

In the dry land of desert wilderness, parched
Stranded spirit, a deer that cannot leap. For the
Broken, we pray

Blessed are those whose help is God
Happy are those whose hope is God, for the
Good News, we pray

For the Good News of God, born human, who
Comes to live and love us, as us, be glad, rejoice,
Singing, we pray

For hope, like blooming flowers in a dusty desert
For hope, compassion bursting forth, be strong!
God is with us.

Crossposted on RevGalPrayerPals "A Place for Prayer" and SeekingAuthenticVoice

More on Sixteen Days of Prayer to End Domestic Violence HERE This prayer was originally written for and is published here

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rejoice! Rejoice?

I'm pretty certain I have admitted my horrible TV watching habits. Junk. A lot of junk. One of my more recent obsessions, though, has been giving me new thoughts about Advent and Christmas. (See even junk TV can be good, right? I'll try for any justification.) Anyway, MTV's 16 and Pregnant has me thinking a lot about Mary. In the show teen mothers are followed from mid-pregnancy through the first few months of their babies' lives. Needless to say, in most episodes there isn't a whole lot of rejoicing going on.

But rejoicing is what Mary did. (I know I'm off lectionary from most of the rest of you with my Mary thoughts, but it is still Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday). Even in the midst of her scandelous situation, Mary was moved to rejoice and sing.

Back to the lectionary: James urges us to be patient. When longings are deep, patience is hard to come by. And in my experience when longings are deep, times of rejoicing are not coming easily either. Which, I believe, is why someone had the wisdom to put this Gaudete Sunday in the lectionary - - to remind us to rejoice. Not because, as the fake roadside sign implies, we don't ever rejoice any other times, but because even in our season of preparation and anticipation there is room and reason to rejoice.

Now, about those sermons. Who's ready to rejoice? Maybe we can help each other get there. Have a story to share? A prayer to offer? Of course one of those ever necessary children's sermons would be great! Let us all know what you need and how you're doing. Join the party in the comments!!!

Friday Five: Who or What Lifts You Up?

My colleague, an Italian, just walked by my door singing, "Jingle Bell Rock." At the end of each line, he punctuated it with a clap!

"Jingle bell, Jingle bell, Jingle Bell rock (*clap!*)"

I'm not sure he knows any more of the song than that, but he sure does sound happy. :)

Another colleague and friend, who has been away from our workplace for several months, has returned on a part-time basis. She danced into my room this morning with a big, "HEEEEY!" and hugged me.

I love having people and things in my life that lift me up. This morning started out with icky things running through my head: I've been sick, I feel like a zombie; my husband's been sick; all the world's news seems to be bad, Christmas is coming and my proverbial goose is not nearly fat! and work deadlines are looming. And yet, and yet.

These two friends have brought a smile to my face today. My spirits are lifted.

So, for today's Friday Five: What lifts you up when you are low or troubled? Who helps you remember that you are not alone, it's getting better all the time, etc.?

Your five responses can be people you know, people you DON'T know, music, places, foods, scripture, surprises, something you do for someone else. It could be a pair of slippers. It could be a glass of water.

Bonus: Do you like the song "Jingle Bell Rock?" If you do, who do you prefer to hear sing it? Bobby Helms, Brenda Lee, Mean Girls, Stephanie Smith, Chubby Checker, Billy Gilman, Brian Setzer, Hilary Duff, Thousand Foot Krutch (I am not making this up), oh, there are so many more! I am currently partial to my friend Marco.

If you play, let us know in the comments! You can use this easy formula to make a link: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - The Pastor's Report

How does the pastor make an accounting of her work to her congregation? While some might see this as just one more administrative obligation to be gotten out of the way, our questioner this week sees it as a true leadership opportunity. She would like some help in thinking through how better to shape this report. Here is her question:

In my denomination, I make a pastor's report monthly to our church governing board.  I've heard many after being a member of this group prior to seminary.  It always seems a bit like "justifying" the time spent during the last month.  I have divided up my report in areas:  church, pastoral care, community, administration, presbytery, and self care.  Essentially much of the report does not change from month to month...the worship prep...sermon prep...newsletter...monthly ministerial meeting...etc.  Of course, Advent and Lent planning occur at appropriate times and there are months when pastoral care issues are above normal (note:  I do not list people or number of calls made).

I do give a verbal report and the last two months have expanded it to begin including some of the new ideas on church from Phyllis Tickle and Carol Howard Merritt. 

Any ideas on how to not make this seem like a "report card"?  I would love to begin to shift this into something much more constructive and life-giving (for all). 

Thanks for your wisdom.

Muthah+ offers:
I find that lay folks really don't have a clue to what we do and the kinds of energies we use.  Most folks see time as the primary coin of the realm since it is for them in the secular world.  At the same time it falls on us to understand our  vocation well enough to explain it to them.

When I could describe a service taking the same amount of energy as teaching a day of school--or that writing a sermon took as much energy as running  10 K race , they began to understand.  And when they recognized that funeral planning took whatever energy it took it began to understood.

If you chart a typical day for them, most of them will get the idea that you are doing your job.  There will always be those who think that they are your boss.  Try your hardest to help them realize  that God is your boss--that you answer to God first and they may begin to understand you work with different standards.  At the same time you can't be a slacker, they have to trust you will be there when they need you.  The longer you are there, the less it will be a problem.

And Ruth, who blogs at Sunday's Coming!, writes:
I wonder whether there’s some way to make this more about the work of the church and less about you and your time?

I once tried dividing up a group’s agenda according to the 5 marks of mission ( tell, teach, tend, treasure & transform: see for more detail)  : so that it was clearer that what we were doing was not just ‘stuff’ but was part of our desire to join in with God’s mission.

Is there some way of doing something like that? If you talk about the mission of the church you will of course talk about what you have been doing, but the focus is less on your time and more on God’s work.

What about others of you? Have you found constructive ways to make your report less like a report card and more vision-setting and missional? Please do share in the comments.

We are low on questions in the queue, so if you've been pondering a problem or a question that you'd like the matriarchs to address, now would be a great time to send it in. Email us at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wednesday Festival: The Ways We Get Through the Season

We all have our coping techniques for a busy season. Over at Quotidian Grace, we find her Fifth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest. RevGals Nik and Singing Owl are participating, how about you?

Lots of us are participating in #reverb10, a series of prompts that runs for the whole month of December. You can find posts at Preacher Mom's and Rev. Dr. Mom's and Jules' and Mary Beth's and at my place. And if I've missed someone, please let us know in the comments, and I will add a link.

Edited to add: Please go visit Purple! I don't know how I missed her. And say hello to Kerri, she's doing #reverb10, too. Not to mention Bad Alice!!!

And jo(e) shares the story of neighbor children who have touched her life and reminds us of ways we can help others at this season when we remember a young woman desperately seeking a place to give birth in her post, Everywhere.

How are you coping with the busy season?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - Patience Edition

Artist Melanie Weidner says of this painting that it is "Based on a quote from the Tao Te Ching: "Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?" (By the way, if you havent been to her site yet, check out Melanie's other beautiful work here.)

Anyway, there is something so delightfully soothing at this unusually busy time of year, the time of year in which you are probably making lists of your lists, to think about sitting quietly until the water clears itself. Maybe it's because patience seems like the very last attribute we preachers need right now, rounding the corner into the third Sunday of Advent. We need fortitude, creativity and energy! We need pep! You might actually be feeling a little impatient for the season to get on over with, so things can get back to something like normal.

John is impatient. So impatient, he cant wait to see for himself, so he sends Jesus a message from prison "are you HIM or NOT?" As if in reply, the epistle counsels "be patient, strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near!"

What about you, patient or impatient pastor that you are? Are you preaching on Isaiah's poetic imagery? The Magnifcat? Or is this pageant or choir cantata Sunday for you and yours? Check in the comments.

Links to texts from this week here.

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Poem for an Advent Monday

Making the House Ready for the Lord
Mary Oliver

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
   Still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you.  Under the sink, for example, is an
  uproar of mice—it is the season of their
many children.  What shall I do?  And under the eaves
   and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances—but it is the season
   when they need shelter, so what shall I do?  And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
   while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do?  Beautiful is the new snow falling
   in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door.  And still I believe you will
   come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
   that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon:  Come in, Come in.

(Apologies from your hostess for missing Monday's Meet and Greet. Look for it next week.)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Sunday Prayer: Advent 2A, Sixteen Days of Prayer Advocating for the End of Domestic Violence

Advent 2

Let us pray for the Spirit of Wisdom to rest upon us
A spirit of understanding and knowledge
Grant us to live in harmony
God’s mercy prevail

Let us pray for God’s steadfastness to gird our spirit
May peace prevail like lamb and wolf
Grant us to live in harmony
God’s mercy prevail

Let us pray, for voices crying out in the wilderness
Women living in fear, children hiding
Grant all a place of harmony
God’s mercy prevail

Let us pray, repent of harm done to the innocent
Clear the chaff of abuse and hurt
Bear the Spirit of harmony
God’s mercy prevail

Let us pray for the God of hope, joy and peace to fill
All hearts, one voice glorify
God, prepare the way
God’s mercy prevail

Crossposted on RevGalPrayerPals "A Place for Prayer" and SeekingAuthenticVoice

More on Sixteen Days of Prayer to End Domestic Violence HERE This prayer was originally written for and is published here

Saturday, December 04, 2010

11th Hour Preacher Party: Stumped Edition

Good morning, Gals and Pals!  We are coming up on the 2nd Sunday in Advent here, and where I live, we are celebrating the occasion with a fresh coating of snow (six inches, to be exact).   We've got a busy day sermon-writing day lined up, with lots of advent waiting, watching and wondering going on.  

Of course, this is the week that that locust-and-honey-eating prophetic forerunner, John the Baptist, makes his appearance.  And that's not all of course.  There are visions of peace and equity in Isaiah, the promise of a king who won't judge by appearance, but who will rule with justice.  There's a great conversation to start you off  here.

As for me, I can't stop thinking about the stump of Jessse.  But what about you?  Are you stumped?  Or are your creative juices (aka the Holy Spirit) flowing this morning?  What have you got to share?  What questions do you have?  (and just how are behind are you on your Christmas preparations?)

As is my tradition, I have blueberry pancakes and fair trade coffee to start off the day.  I promise you more treats as the day progresses!  I hope you will stop in, and stay awhile.

There is plenty to share!

Friday, December 03, 2010

RevGalBlogPal Friday Five: December Survival Guide Edition

Whether a RevGal or a Pal most of us in this cyber community have enhanced responsibilities during this time of year. We also have traditions - religious and secular - that mark the season for us in a more personal way.

For this Friday Five please let us know five of the things that mark the season for you.

And the bonus? Tell us one thing that does absolutely nothing for you.

If you play the Friday Five at your blog and would like visitors (not to mention making it easier on your host), be sure to share a link in the comments.

Thanks for playing!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Dating and the Single Minister

Any of us who have been single while in parish ministry know how complicated dating can be. As servant-leaders in such a public role, what might ordinarily be private decisions can turn into very public choices, and can be subject to a kind of scrutiny that might not feel comfortable. Additionally, being a single minister can be an especially lonely role, and it can be very difficult to even find anyone appropriate to date. Our question this week comes from a colleague who is struggling with some very particular issues around her desire to date. While her circumstances are unusual, perhaps some of you might have some experience or insight to share. (I have edited her question for the sake of space, but I believe I have preserved the core of her situation and question).

I am a single 28 year old woman in my first pastorate, I have been here for 18 months.  I have not dated much since arriving here, and have certainly not made any of my dating public.  Honestly, there has not been anyone I was interested in bringing to church, as bringing the "BF" to church is such a big deal for a single pastor - I have only done it once with my ex-fiance (at my student pastorate).  

I recently met a man who has been pursuing me - but the manner in which we met is a little ridiculous to say the least.  I performed a wedding in October.  He is the ex-husband of the woman who's wedding I performed, the father of her child who was also in the wedding. He and his ex-wife have a very cordial relationship and remain friends. They have one child together who is 10, and remain friends so that they can both be a part of his life as much as possible. After the wedding weekend, he sought me out, found my email address, and we started an email exchange.

The man and his ex-wife joined the church 13 years ago, when they were married and when the previous senior minister was leading. They got a divorce nine years ago and stopped coming to the church; neither of them have come to the church since the current senior pastor has started serving, and they have no relationship with him. But since the wedding I performed, the woman and her new husband have decided they DO want to start coming to church. So has her ex-husband (the man pursuing me). Now their status in our church database has gone from "Inactive Members" to "Active Members."

I've touched on the issue with him that I cannot date church members. I expressed that if our conversations were to turn from more than just enjoying each other's company and having dinner that he would need to find another church to attend. We've talked about this a little bit, I've given examples of colleagues I've known who have become involved with church members. This is not a conversation I would dare have over email - but I feel as if we're getting to the point we need to have the "real" conversation.

The woman in me hopes he would say, "Yes - I'll attend another church so we can date," as I have no idea where to meet people in this new city anyway and really enjoy the friendship that has formed. But the pastor in me hopes he would say, "We need to end this, because I would love to be a part of my son's spiritual journey and want to continue being an active part of this congregation."

I'm appreciative of any help you can send my way....

Jennifer responds:
I’m not sure what you’re asking, but I want to affirm your good judgment and instincts. I think you’re doing all you can to set good personal/professional boundaries. You’re honest about your conflicting feelings. If your relationship continues and deepens, I think you’ll want to have good conversations about the interesting intersection of your lives with the rest of the family involved (the son and his mom, who are church members, yes?)

Grace and peace to you as you seek to have great personal and professional relationships!

And Mompriest writes:
This is a complicated situation with two “goods” in conflict with each other: leave the parish in order to date OR stay in the parish, don’t date, and be part of the son’s worship life. On the one hand the father can still be part of the son’s spiritual life whether or not they worship in the same church, so that’s one piece to sort out. On the other hand if he leaves and the relationship doesn’t work out and he decides to worship there again, that too would be awkward.  I think in a perfect world the boundaries would be clear and easy. But this is not a perfect world and sometimes life gets muddy. The important piece is to have the conversation with him and talk it through from ALL the angles and see what decisions you come up with together. But be clear, you cannot date a parishioner. That is non-negotiable. I wish I had more substantial thoughts. I hope this works out for all involved.

What about the rest of you? Do you have experience with this sort of situation? How might you counsel our friend who is struggling? Please offer your thoughts in the comment 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.