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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ask the Matriarch - A Matter of Devotion Edition

A new year in the congregation where I serve brings with it the choice
of a new devotional emphasis. The same is true for the RevGal whose
question we address this week:
Hi RevGals!

My question has to do with devotions for monthly meetings. While of course I've tried many things, I'm very interested in input from the Matriarchs about what they do. I like to ground us in scripture, but finding the right questions that will trigger a good discussion can be challenging, as is the balance between spending enough time to have devotions be meaningful, without making the meeting last far into the evening.

I blog at the preacher and the partystore

Jennifer, who blogs at An Orientation of Heart, has a text to recommend:

Of late, I’ve found the book, Growing Together, Spiritual Exercises for Church Committees by Rochelle Melander and Harold Eppley to contain a wealth of helpful questions and devotions, all grounded in scripture. The members of my Session have seemed to glean much from it and the questions set a great tone for the rest of the meeting.

And Muthah+ who blogs at Stone of Witness offers a devotional means of reading scripture together:

I found that an abbreviated form of the African Bible Study worked fairly well. Rather than ask prepared questions, have two different persons read the passage—usually fairly short. Then ask what words jumped out at them and why. There is no right or wrong and often brings out some interesting theology or concerns from the group. It also helps ease the ‘agenda-driven’ nature of most boards and refocuses them in the spirit-led tasks they have to perform.

What about your congregation? Are you responsible for determining the devotional focus for the year? Is there a text you would recommend or a means of sharing the faith journey that significantly impacted the governing body's work?

We hope you will share your successes and failures - since we learn from those too!

May you live in God's amazing grace+

photo courtesy of


  1. I'm not a pastor, but I've been on the council twice. We've had a pattern of various council members providing a short devotion. I think it is always good to encourage the saints to practice reading the Bible, speaking about their faith, praying and leading prayer. Sure, some of them will just pick something right out of a book, but it might be a new thing for them to do this in public, so good for them.

  2. Ditto on Melander and Eppley.
    I have also used, Joyce Rupp's Out of the Ordinary, Invitation, May I Have This Dance.
    I have found that with some adaptation Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Ed Hays has provided thoughtful prayers.
    I have also used Prayer for Parish Groups by Donal Harrington & Julie Kavanagh.
    Interestingly enough, all three resources are RC.
    I've used Meditations from the Iona Community by Ian Reid.
    One year we did Spiritual Disciplines focusing on a different Spiritual Discipline each month using Adele Ahlberg Calhoun's Spiritual Disciplines Handbook.
    Hope this helps some.

  3. Retired (sort of) PastorJanuary 13, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    I strongly agree with the suggestion that the members of the group share responsibility for the devotional time. They might also share in choosing the devotional focus for the year - why not ask? The first meeting could include an opportunity for everyone to suggest books/approaches/ideas for the coming months. Everyone won't, but those that do will probably also participate more fully in the devotional moments of the meetings to come and be more willing to assume leadership for them. And it will give you some insight into the spiritual practices and lives of your congregational leadership - or lack thereof.

  4. Thanks for the book suggestions --- I am adding them to my Amazon wishlist.

    The church I grew up in also had a prayerful/worshipful way of conducting church business that I loved:

    At church council meetings (which were 90 minutes once a month, with all of committee heads in attendance), the meeting started by lighting a candle and carrying in the elements of communion. Everyone was seated in circle, with the communion table in the center. During the meeting, each report was preceded & followed by song (e.g., a contemporary chorus or a verse from a hymn). At the end of the hour (which was all the time allotted for business --- the council was VERY good at keeping to that), the pastors led a service of communion, which ended with everyone serving each other & laying hands on those receiving. As the pastors were served (last), the laity laid hands on them and the lay leader said a prayer of blessing for the pastors.

    At the individual committee meetings, the committee chair would ask a different volunteer to bring in a devotion each month. The only thing that was consistent across the board was the act of lighting a candle to ask Christ to be present where two or three are gathered.

  5. the pattern when I arrived here was for members of the Church Council [CC] to volunteer to lead devotions at the monthly meeting, and occasionally that was me. Now we have a business meeting every second month, with devotions led by members of the CC, and the other month I lead devotions and a discussion with coffee and dessert. the discussion may be about one area of our role as CC, or it may arise from the Bible reading. e.g. Philip and the Ethiopian led to a discussion on who have significant people in your faith journey.

    when I was a lay person, one CC would have lay people lead devotions, then we would get into groups of 3 to discuss one question, then pray together.

  6. Peregrinaje, I am overwhelmed by that beautiful memory!

  7. ditto, Rev Dr Laura -
    beautiful share peregrinaje...


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