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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ask the Matriarch - Devotions for the Pastor

Our question this week comes from a new reader with a question many of us have no doubt struggled with from time-to-time. We work so hard to nurture the spiritual lives of our congregants - but how do we get nurture for our own spiritual lives?

Greetings Matriarchs of Rev Gal Blog Pals. I have just recently been connected with your blog and am begining to plug into the various supports you all support. I am hoping in polling all of your wisdom and the various sources for support now, where can i find a meaningful and engaging 'devotion' geared toward such a, shall I say, elite group?

I am struggling in my current situation as a Christian Education Director (a much needed training and educational first step, for me) in Ordination to find something that helps 'feed my soul.'  And of course, ideas on where to connect with others - most churches I've seen provide young adult gatherings, and obviously they are on Sundays (am/pm), the same time I am working.

Thanks so much for your input and I am excited to be connected!

Jennifer writes:
Dear New Friend,

Welcome to RevGalBlogPals! I hope you’ll find lots of support, laughter, compassion and joy in engaging with this fun group.  But yikes!--- were you suggesting that we are “elite”? I’m thinking you need to get to know us better!  We’re pretty authentic and diverse and not “elite” or “elitist." All who support and encourage women in ministry are welcome here.

I’m not exactly sure I understand your question, but I think that maybe you’re asking for suggestions for worship and reflection because you’re working during worship or the hours that a young adult group might be meeting.   You’re wise to recognize that church work isn’t the same think as reflection and worship---although our work can (and hopefully does) feed our spirits.  Everyone needs quiet time/reflection time/ and also  time when we’re not necessarily playing a leadership role. You’ve also mentioned that groups in which you might participate conflict with your work schedule, so I’m guessing that you’re thinking along the lines of a Bible study or small group and that you’re looking for soul friends and spiritual connections with others, perhaps.

What feeds your soul? Is it reading, Bible study, walking, exercise, cooking, pottery?  Where is your passion? Depending on where you live, you may be able to discover within or outside of the congregation something that meets your need. There are lots of on-line resources for walking devotions (Pray as You Go comes to mind) if something other than a conventional Bible study or small group interests you. Take a class, be a student rather than a leader, go have fun and embrace God’s creation and creatures!

If you’re looking for a group, you might think about looking for something that meets through the week. Have you thought about gathering a group of friends/colleagues (other directors of Christian education or clergy, perhaps?) with the clear communication that you’re gathering folks, but don’t necessarily want to lead them in a book group, bible study, small group, lunch bunch, a movie group….who knows?  Are you part of a connectional denomination that might connect you with others? Perhaps someone in your denominational office can be helpful.

This is a rambling response, but hopefully touches on some of what you seek. Please stick with the RevGals. Each day provides connecting points, in prayer and laughter and thoughtful conversation. The more you participate, the more connections and feedback will blossom.

All the best to you!

The Vicar of Hogsmeade offers:
Over the years, I have found that different seasons of life have called for different devotional practices or different groups of people to help me connect to God in ways that help my faith. The most consistent resource for me has been to draw on ancient practices of the Spiritual Disciplines. More recently, I most consistently use "The Divine Hours" as compiled by Phyllis Tickle.

I first discovered the Spiritual Disciplines with depth when leading a small group. I'm not sure that anyone else in the group was as drawn in to them as I was. We were using "Spiritual Classics : Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines" edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. That particular group in my local church helped me realize that I wanted to be in a group that was willing to engage deeply with God.

I have used different strategies in order to have that kind of group. In one setting, an already formed group invited me to join them. In a couple of other settings, I have called other pastors and created a group. After some time in one of those groups, we discovered that everyone had wanted a group but couldn't find one. I happened to be the one that actually picked up the phone and asked others to participate and the group was formed. So don't be afraid to make your own group! I just recently joined a group due to an invitation from another RevGalBlogPal of another denomination.

If you need to create your own group, be creative about how you put it together and who you invite to participate. Here are some of my suggestions for recruiting others to be in a group with you: Our new Facebook page might be a place where you could find others in your area with whom you could meet. Or the Facebook page could also serve as a place to ask for others to join you in an online setting. Ask others in your denomination what they do or who they know in a similar situation. A ministerial association is another place you could potentially find others who are interested. Look up churches in your area of other denominations and call them. (I would be glad to have a phone call like that from someone. It's nice to have phone calls from folks who are not upset or selling something.)

Sometimes it takes a while but I have the effort to be well worth it.

Thank you so much to our matriarchs! This is an important issue for every minister to take seriously, and it's great to have input from other ministers about how they are handling their own devotional life. What about the rest of you? Please share in the comments section! And, as always, if you have a question you'd like the matriarchs to discuss, please email us at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.


  1. I appreciate the Vicar mentioning that her practices have changed over the years. Sometimes I fall into feeling that my devotion time only "counts" if I'm using some formal book. But this morning I had a great talk with God just laying in bed enjoying the warmth and the birds singing outside my window.

    And I also have reached out to create a spiritual support group--it's worth the effort, I think.

  2. I agree that Vicar's point is a good one - it's one I hadn't realized would happen. I feel like my devotional life changed dramatically after my children were born, and now that they are a bit older I find it changing again (less dramatically). I didn't really anticipate that my practices would change so much over the years, but I really appreciate the notion of different "seasons" for different devotional practices. I'm going to try to keep that in mind so that I feel less anxious when things start to change again in the future.

  3. I recently scored at a closing Border's, 60% off Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, ed. by Shane Claiborne and two others, which seems to be the emerging church praying the hours. A great book.

    While you may simply be needing to connect more with colleagues and other Christians, you may also need to redefine some of what you're already doing. I pray a lot in the car, and driving can become sacred time for me. Cooking and gardening are very prayerful for me. I probably need to work on the sitting still and meditating thing, but changing how I looked at ordinary tasks, bringing God into every aspect of my day, was transformative for me. Peace to you.

  4. LOVE The Divine Hours and used it successfully for a couple of years. Now I am also reading "Ordinary Radicals" with a group of other RADICAL women. (WOOT!)

    My life schedule is a bit unpredictable, so I have also been taking advantage of two podcosts: One is The God Journey and the other is Pray-As-You-Go. Both are easy download to an MP3 player - or you can stream them on your computer. Both feed my heart and my mind.

    Worth a listen, if not to see how they might help you.


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