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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wednesday Festival: Kirstin Paisley's Memorial Service

For Kirstin Paisley, who blogged at Barefoot and Laughing, and who was one of our original Wednesday Festival hosts... 
On July 30, 2011, family and friends of Kirstin Paisley gathered together at Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento, California, to remember the gift she was in their lives. This gathering was a time for remembering, celebrating, loving, joking and sharing.

With many, many thanks to videographer Sean McConnell, who persevered despite
  • his own family issues,
  • technical difficulties that made him edit the whole thing not only once, but twice,
  • and a workload that, as far as I can tell, requires at least 300 hours a week.
Here is the gorgeous two-part video that intertwines Kirstin's July 30, 2011 memorial service, with the tributes that were offered during the reception afterwards, and photos of her life.

Join us in remembering...

View or download the full worship bulletin here:

Part 1:  
Remembering Kirstin: Part One from Sean McConnell on Vimeo.

Part 2:  
Remembering Kirstin: Part Two from Sean McConnell on Vimeo.

Kirstin had wanted it to be a glorious celebration, and it was.  It was also very much hers.  She had chosen many of the prayers and hymns ahead of time; it was my honor to be able to weave it all together.  

A year ago, shortly after she learned that the cancer had come back full force, I asked her what she would most like to do, if she knew she only had a few months left to live.  She started crying, and said, "To be ordained a priest, and be able to celebrate the Eucharist."  
I made, and gave her, a priest's stole.  A promissory note, that even if she were never ordained in this life, she would always - always - be a priest in the next.  She never lived long enough to make it to ordination.  But the last few times friends came to celebrate communion with us at home, she wore it, with the blessing and full approval of those priest friends.   At her Memorial Service, celebrant Molly Haws wore it, in her honor.  You'll see her wearing it, in the videos.
Kirstin wanted to be inurned in Trinity Cathedral's columbarium, where she could be present every time Eucharist was celebrated, and she was.  She also wanted some of her ashes to nourish the earth - and they will:  at the base of orchards, forests and favorite trees in the U.K., Germany, Vermont, and California, in the mountains of the state of Washington, and the ocean off the California Coast.

She wanted representatives from all of her communities to be able to serve in some way at the Memorial, and they did.  The clergy, readers, ushers, oblation bearers, choir members, and those who accompanied the ashes to the columbarium were drawn from St. Aidan's (San Francisco, CA), St. John's (Lodi, CA),  Trinity Cathedral (Sacramento, CA), The Bishop's Ranch (Healdsburg, CA), The Night Ministry (San Francisco), Church Divinity School of the Pacific (Berkeley, CA), Safe Ground (Sacramento), Loaves & Fishes (Sacramento); friends from Olympia, WA; her parents from East Wenatchee, WA, and aunt and uncle from Tennessee.  And also from her online community:  several people who knew her online, but had never met her in person were able to be present.

She wanted the reception afterwards to be fun, with music and laughter.  There was a band - which included several people who didn't regularly play together as a band.  I asked them what they wanted to call the group, and the answer came back, "Kirstin's Bluegrass Band."  I added the word "Incomparable" to the name, because they were.

She wanted great food - lots of it, with enough left over to be shared with agencies that serve the homeless.  And there was.

Kirstin also wanted us to have something to remember her by, something to help us know how much she took pleasure in baking, in gardens, in feeding others.  And in the center of all the tables at the reception were rosemary plants and a rosemary bread recipe to take home.  The recipe is here:

At the very end of the reception, as people were leaving and we were starting to clean up, Kirstin's Incomparable Bluegrass Band played "When the Angels Carry Me Home."  (If you don't know the song, you can hear a different band playing it here:   

"...No more sorrow, no more pain...when the angels carry me home."
Kirstin, you are home now.
And we will always love you very, very much.

(Posted by Andee 8-27-2011)

An earlier post on Kirstin's blog suggested memorial donations might be made to the Outreach fund of Trinity Cathedral (Sacramento) or to the Melanoma Research Foundation. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: What Would Jesus Drive Edition

Last week at my church, we borrowed an idea from a colleague, "Stump the Preacher." Have you ever done this? I invited people to write down questions they had about...anything really...and a few did, and I riffed for a few minutes on each one.

One question was something about like "what would Jesus drive?" I dodged the question itself and talked instead about how very much we experience in our lives that Jesus didn't know anything about. I talked about how often we have to make our best guess about what Jesus would have us do based on the advice he DOES give, and how much prayer is involved that we are following Christ's way as often as we can. (See yesterday's conversation about clergy dating for a case in point.) This week's readings provide some really succinct advice and command some very specific behavior about how to be together in community. How do you preach Jesus' specificities, if you do at all?

I dont have to answer THAT question this week, because for September at my church, we are forgoing the traditional lectionary for the Season of Creation. Any of you Revgals and pals ever try this? I would love to hear about your ideas or experiences.

For those of us in the States, this week is the Labor Day holiday which may or may not affect attendance depending on your setting. And, I know many are aware of the upcoming anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. How is this time of mourning/reflection/action affecting your planning?

Check in. The comments are open and we'd love to hear from you. Links to this week's lectionary texts are here. This surprisingly wonderful icon is the first thing you find if you google"what would Jesus drive" and click images.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Extra -- Dating in the Parish

In a Twitter discussion of clergy sexual misconduct, the conversation took a turn toward the question of a single clergyperson forming a relationship with a single parishioner. This is probably one of the most complicated boundary issues we have. It wasn't all that long ago that we hoped our unmarried (usually young and male) pastor would find a spouse among the unmarried (usually young and female) church members. It formed a tie between the pastor and the church; maybe he (usually) would never leave!

But as we began to tell the truth about clergy sexual misconduct and hold pastors accountable for their actions in the congregation, the "rules" for social contact with parishioners tightened, at least in theory. We can probably all agree that the pastor who introduced a new love to the congregation while the pastor's current spouse was sitting there, too, crossed a line.

Yet many of us know pastors, and we have ring members, who came single to a church and met a future spouse in the congregation. And where else do unmarried pastors, whether male or female, have the opportunity to meet people?

What does your denomination expect? Do new pastors receive clear guidance regarding social boundaries? And what did you learn in seminary? Please share your thoughts in the comments, and if you decide to write your own blog post, be sure to link to it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Prayer for Proper 17A/Ordinary 22A/Pentecost +11

Oh God, you who are the great I am,
Who appeared to Moses in a burning bush;
Make yourself known to us today.
Guide us as you guided the Israelites to the Promised Land.
You know our sufferings in life, our misery, and our stressors;
Deliver us as well.
Hear our cry for those in the wake of the hurricane Irene,
and for those who have already been effected by her strong winds.
Hear our plea for relief for those who in other parts of our country and world
who have been experiencing major drought, for those living in famine.
Hear our prayer for those who have faced devastation and loss of life
from all the recent earthquakes that have occurred around the world.
Hear our request for liberation for those who are oppressed, under attack,
Held captive, and fear for their lives and wellbeing.
God of our ancestors,
We pray for healing and rehabilitation those in our midst who are ill,
facing surgeries, or recovering from surgeries.
We pray for strength, courage and comfort for those facing death,
those who have had loved ones to die.
Lord of community,
You have transformed us to be your people,
By showing us how to love as your son, Jesus loved;
By giving us your hope;
By filling us with patience to endure and persevere through the hard times;
By teaching us to welcome the strangers,
By pouring your grace into us so that we become generous to those in need;
By giving us your joy, we can rejoice with those who rejoice;
By weeping for your friend Lazarus, we can weep with those who weep;
By forgiving us, we can forgive others;
By feeding us, we can feed the hungry;
By filling up our inner thirst, we can give the cup of cold water to those who thirst; and
By your power to overcome evil, we can also overcome evil with good.
We do all these things to glorify you and to bring your kingdom here on earth.
And so as children of God we pray now the prayer Jesus taught his disciples….

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

Painting of Moses and the burning bush by Chagall

Saturday, August 27, 2011

11th Hour Preacher Party: Come on Irene Edition

Welcome, Rev Gals and Pals! It's time once again for the Preacher Party, and once again there's weather news, as the East Coast of the United States watches or waits for Hurricane Irene. 

I'm in the purple zone. Things are being canceled and postponed and rearranged, but as of this moment, we're planning to worship tomorrow in North Yarmouth, Maine. 

That doesn't mean much of anyone will come. I'm sure people will be watching the wind and the rain and making decisions last minute. But I have to get ready! 

And so, my friends, do you, or you wouldn't be here. So what are you preaching? Are you in the threat zone? Or do you wish for goodness sake the news would be about something else?

At my house we're stocked up on non-perishable items from the store, and there's a homemade Snickerdoodle pie. As long as there's power, there will be coffee. Pull up a chair, and let's write!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Rainy Day Friday Five

It is Friday which is my day off and it is raining, which means that an outing to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park has been cancelled. So what to do, I am currently scanning the internet for possibilities. I think we will head into York to visit the Art Gallery.

How about you do you do on a rainy summers day?

1. At home?
2. In your local area?
3. If you are away on holiday?
4. Name a rainy day read.
5. Is there a piece of music/ a poem/ story that cheers you up?

Bonus: post a rainy day photo!

As always, let us know in comments if you play. Even better, get in the habit of posting a direct link to your blog entry in your comment, 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, August 25, 2011

Ask the Matriarch - Safe Church Policy

Ring member Purple asks a question that likely has relevance for many of us - how does a smaller church implement a Safe Church Policy? Read on:

Our church and denomination is in the very beginning of living into a new constitution (In case you are interested...PCUSA).  Small churches have different structural needs than large churches.  Rural churches have different structural needs than large city churches.  It is flexible and a great tool...if churches will be willing to think differently.

Every church is required to have a Manual of Operations which can be as flexible or as rigid as the church desires.  (note:  I am on the flexible scale).  Part of that Manual of Operations is a Safe Church Policy.  Currently our church has "nada" in this regard.  This church has an active membership of 67 (and the average age is that as well).  Out of the active membership of 67, we have about 35-40 able-bodied people. No youth program or activities.  One child (4th grade) in Sunday School.  We have two teachers who alternate teaching on Sunday morning (one is the child's grandmother).  Many safe church policies mandate that two adults be at every youth activity and that every person helping with any youth activity have a background check.  

- How does this work in a small rural church?
- What creative ways might we write a Safe Church Policy which will provide safety as well as be flexible enough for this church?
- Would you be willing to share your Safe Church Policy with me/us?

Safe Church Policy is not only for the Sunday School, but for the entire church as well. I am fortunate to have two windows in my office. One looks outside to the main street and the other is open to the entryway.  I keep both blinds open when I am in the office, even if I am talking with someone.  If I move that conversation to the library for privacy I keep the door ajar. I maintain confidentiality in all regards (unless required by law to report). As a single pastor, I am always aware of situations which could be misconstrued in visiting as well as pastoral care.  

Yes, I know my presbytery should be on the forefront with information to guide us, but it is an unhealthy presbytery in so many ways and the possibility of that occurring is slim to none. Thanks for your wisdom and grace.

Muthah+ shares her wisdom:
I was in small parish ministry much of my career and I always found it difficult to follow the "rules" of denominational programs that work better for larger congregations.  When ECUSA (now TEC) started their safe church training I was really disgusted with all the falderal that was demanded.  We didn't call it 'safe church' then, we knew that we were mainly responding to the church insurance company's need to cover its assets.

But over the 20 years since those beginning 'sensitivity trainings' we as church have become much more aware and much more concerned for the welfare of our kids and I am thankful for that. Even your senior citizens (I am 67) need this information for the sake of your congregation and for the sake of your community.  I would suggest you ask your teachers to attend any conferences available in your area in order to report back to your congregation at an adult education event.  There will  come a time when you will need it. 

We had a situation in which one of our children was being molested by an older boy at public school.  It was the support that our little congregation gave him so that he could go through the reporting and and testimony that made it possible for him and his family to stand up to the bullying and side-taking that happened in our community.  It drew us closer together and more committed to the safety of our grand children.

It was also as a result of that training that a couple older members shared histories of abuse with me and for the first time in their lives were able to begin some healing.  We older folks have kept silence about a multitude of things because they 'weren't proper in church.'  This is a topic that can no longer be ignored if a congregation is to be healthy.  I heartily recommend that you send your most compassionate souls to this training, you will be surprised by the residual pay-off.  I can guarantee you that members of your congregation have some familiarity with sexual misconduct and those who oppose this training most vociferously are the ones who need it the most. (If your judicatory does not provide such programs, look for another denomination that will accommodate you and your members. ECUSA has a good program now and the UMC does too.)  And I can also guarantee that when young parents in your community hear of your concern for children, they will find it a place where they can worship as a family.

I would suggest a fairly low-key policy such as a commitment to an adult education event (adult forum or speaker) once a year on the topic and each year a member of the congregation is sent for the denominational safe church training.  Your congregation needs to know what is incumbent upon the pastor in the way of reporting and that they are all responsible for keeping people safe in the church.  

Dorcas responds:
Here are a few of the things we did at my rural church of a similar size.  We did have a group of children that ranged from 1 to about 20, depending on the season and other factors.  If the group was on the larger side, we were pretty strict about having more than one adult present.  But if there were 1-3 kids, and limited adult helpers, we required that children be in classrooms or spaces that were visible—open doors, etc.  Sometimes having an open door could be a problem (noise)and our children’s church area was somewhat isolated, but we installed glass panels on all the classroom doors so that even if the door was close, or even when there were two (or more) adults they were not invisible to someone who might pass by.  At least once each week someone did stop by and peek in, and the leaders knew this would be the case. 

And Sharon writes:
Definitely -- be flexible and be reasonable!  You also want to come up with a policy that is not just a "cover-your-you-know-what" document but an approach that actually will create safe spaces and practices in your church.  Some churches adopt a detailed Safe Church Policy all at once.  I have opted to address one thing at a time with the governing board as we build a comprehensive policy.  I started with the policy that two non-related adults be with any group of children or youth.  The flexibility might come with having two small classes in close enough proximity that two leaders are effectively available for each other and able to observe each other.

The next policy for me would be a disclosure form that each adult teacher/leader fills out.  This has personal information (contact info and job info), background info (previous churches and roles), references, and answers to questions like "Have you ever been accused or convicted of (a felony, drug possession, child abuse)?" Ideally, the members of the governing board will have input into what is to be on the form, and they will each fill out this form at the same time they ratify its use.

Other things that could follow these are things like a plan for disaster or emergency and the criminal background check.  This incremental approach worked especially well in a small-ish rural church.  One small church around here includes a "Safe Elder" or "Safe Senior" component to their policy which requires at least two people to visit homebound parishioners.  

I hope this gives you some ideas about how to make the policy-making process more manageable and more reasonable.

Wow! Thank you, matriarchs, for sharing from your wisdom and experience! What about the rest of you? What would you add? If anyone has a Safe Church Policy that they want to send directly to Purple, let us know and we will facilitate that sharing.

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday Festival: On Sl*twalks

Ring member Carol Howard Merritt has an important column on the Huffington Post's Religion page, What Christians Need to Learn from Sl*twalks.

The SlutWalk came to D.C. Unfortunately I missed it. If I didn't have a conflict, I would have been there, not in a short skirt or highheels, but in my clergy collar.
Why? Because the Slutwalk is a protest against a rape culture. Women are speaking out against the understanding with which many of us live -- if you've been raped, molested, abused, or betrayed then you must have done something to deserve it.
Christianity has often perpetuated the myth of female condemnation which can include sexual violence, among many other things. From the genesis of time, the woman eats the fruit, the man follows, and the woman is marked as the temptress. Whether we are talking about Eve, Bathsheba, Jezebel, the woman at the well, or Mary Magdalene, we have dressed women up as tempters, and told stories of how women are not only responsible for their actions, but for the actions of men as well.
The curse we've lived under is real. I can picture women in my mind who have not only been victims of sexual violence or betrayal, but as they sorted out their circumstances, their churches have harmed them again by heaping blame upon them.
A woman got drunk, and a man raped her. She believed it was her fault because she shouldn't have had so much to drink. A woman who ended an evening out with a man, who forgot to tell her that he was married. She thought that she was to blame, because she shouldn't have gotten caught up in the romance of the evening. A woman's husband cheated on her. She assumed that she caused the infidelity because she was not attentive enough to her husband in the bedroom.
These messages are often communicated to us from the time we are in youth group, especially in the rise of chastity movements. We were taught to never wear anything suggestive, because we have a responsibility to keep men from thinking sexual thoughts. If something brutal happened to us, and we finally gained enough courage to tell our horror story, someone would ask us, "What were you wearing? Were you drinking?" In other words, "What were you doing to cause this to happen?" I have encountered far too many religious leaders who ask questions that have indicated that the culpability originates with the woman. She is somehow responsible for the action.
Even ten years after youth group, when I was in seminary, I was taught that I needed to wear a collar under my big black academic robe as I preached, or else men would not think about the sermon, they would imagine what was under my massive garb. The robe looks like something you would wear at your high school graduation. I basically wear a tent to preach. But that wasn't enough, because somehow, I should be responsible for the thoughts that someone might have when they see four inches of my neck.
It's time for our religious communities to acknowledge the ways in which we have contributed to a rape culture -- the ways in which we blame women as we proclaim our narratives, ask our questions, and teach our teenagers. And it's time for us to stand with women who have had enough.

Carol is not the only one of us to be mulling the movement. You can find the thoughts of pseudonymous blogger Hassopheret, I am not a Slut, at Inscription.

It's taken me a while to think through my response to Slut Walk, the anti-rape and anti-harrassment marches in which some/many women dress as sluts to make the point that nothing a woman or girl wears (or doesn't wear) makes it acceptable for her to be raped. (While not denying the experience of male rape, the Slut Walk phenomena is a woman/girl movement in response to the comments of a Toronto police officer who said that women who didn't want to be raped should stop dressing like sluts.)
Obviously his comments are reprehensible, violent, disgusting and more.
I share the outrage of the Slut Walk organizers. But I was immediately put off by the phenomenon and it took me some time to figure out why.
Finally it came to me: slut is not a word I chose to claim for myself or other women. I am not a slut. I am not a bitch. I am not a c*nt. I realized my response to the Slut Walk phenomenon was the same as my response to one of the Vagina Monologues monologues. Some words cannot be redeemed for me. I am not a n!gger. I am not a whore. I am not a 'ho. I am not a slut.
I am a woman created in the image of God. I am beautiful and brilliant in every sense of each word. And no one has the right to touch me without my permission. Not my hair. Not my skin. Not my body. And there is nothing I could ever do - or have ever done that would justify anyone breaking into my body.
Nothing I wear (or don't wear) makes me a slut, whether or not someone else finds me attractive, desirable, or sees me as in need of domination, subjugation or feels entitled to have access to me, to violate, injure, degrade or rape me. None of that is about me. Whatever names they might call me, whatever narrative they may create for themselves to justify their conduct; I am not a slut. I won't own that label at the hands of rapists, sexists or anti-sexist anti-rape activists.
One aspect of the marches that I did appreciate was the range of attire worn by the participants. That is where I would have looked to name the response: What Raped Women Wear - not nearly as sexy catchy as Slut Walk.
I know that some speeches addressed this issue, but I would have needed this to be the headline and organizing principle in order to participate.

What Raped Women Wear...
Grandmothers in housecoats and slippers
Critically ill women in adult diapers in hospital beds
Mentally ill and developmentally disabled women and girls in jumpers and jeans
Infant girls in onesies
Little girls in their Sunday best
Muslim women in hijab
Nuns in their habits
Businesswomen in business suits
Students in jeans and skirts
Girls and women in their pajamas, nightgowns and skin in their own homes, in their own showers, in their own beds
Prostitutes and strippers in their uniforms
Police women and soldiers in their uniforms
Any woman or girl anywhere, wearing anything
this is what raped women wear.

Are you writing/thinking about Slutwalks? I hope you'll say so in the comments, or leave a link to a post at your own blog.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - Burning Bush Edition

Dear Friends,
As we move through these ordinary times, here is an idea to ponder from Macrina Weidekher:

"Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure." - A Tree Full of Angels

How will you unwrap the ordinary and harvest its treasure in your preaching this week? Join the conversation in the comments.

Links to texts found here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

RevGalBookPals Review: Not Your Parents' Offering Plate

Available in our Amazon store!
Our weather report predicted "fall-like" weather for today. As summer winds down, many of us see Stewardship campaigns lying just ahead. If you're wondering how to approach things differently this year, take a look at Not Your Parents' Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship, by J. Clif Christopher.

Christopher is ordained in the United Methodist Church and began his career in parish ministry. In 1992 he founded the Horizons Stewardship Company, a consulting business that works with churches and other faith-based institutions to meet financial goals. He writes from both his experience as a pastor and as a consultant, and his underlying principle is that being a proper steward of what God has given us is our primary call. It leads us to loving care of the church, of the earth, and of ourselves and our families.

It also leads to a lot more work for the pastor, and Christopher ends the book with a note to pastors saying he wouldn't blame us for throwing the book away for that reason alone.

But I put this book into the hands of my Stewardship committee, and we found it enlightening, even if in some areas a bit overwhelming, and we're hoping to begin putting some of Christopher's principles into practice.

He begins by sketching a picture of the world of giving, and how much it has changed since the days when "everyone" went to church and we could simply expect people to give to the work of the church. Today, he says, people have a huge variety of worthy causes to support, and some will choose a non-profit over the church because the non-profit will know what to do with the money! This is the larger version of something we've probably all begun to notice. Many people, especially younger people, in our congregations, will willingly give for something concrete, but will not necessarily feel called to give to the support of the institution of church itself. People will text to give $10 to earthquake victims, or click a button on a website, or even invest in a micro-loan through Kiva, as long as they feel the money is going where they want it to go. Christopher encourages us to be able to tell our story better, to explain why giving to the church and its ministries matters, to stop being afraid to talk about the money.

Donors are saying to our churches today that you have to earn our gifts. No longer can you just preach a sermon on tithing and think the members will give 10 percent to the church. They will hear your message that tithing is what God wants them to do, and they they will go home and decide to give the church 2 percent, the youth center 2 percent, the homeless shelter 2 percent, and their college 4 percent. They will then look you right in the eye when say that it all should go to the church, and they will ask you, "Do you not believe that Jesus is working in the youth center and the homeless shelter and with our college students?" If you are not prepared to compete with over one million nonprofits, you will lose. (Christopher, p. 7)

He also illustrates the ways in which non-profits outshine churches at showing appreciation to donors. We expect giving and sometimes don't even think of saying thank you to the givers. And one of the reasons that happens, in my experience, is that we don't know for sure who is giving, much less how much. In some of our traditions it is verboten for the pastor to know who gives. Christopher insists this is disastrous, because he understands a person's giving as a measure of his or her spiritual health. He makes a strong and detailed case for bringing the pastor into the loop about who is giving -- and how much.

I especially liked the chapter Reasons People Give. Here's a quote:

If you are on the finance committee of your church, I hope you will take this chapter to your next meeting, and when they whip out the line item budget to start trimming things because you are running behind, stop them and say, "Hey, the top three reasons people give are (1) belief in the mission,  (2) regard for staff leadership, and (3) fiscal responsibility. Instead of just cutting out budget, could we review how well we tell our donors about how we do our job of changing lives? Could we review how well we utilize our staff and pastor when it comes to relating to our donors? Could we look to see if we are sending signals that we are fiscally sound or fiscally unsound? It may be that if we could fix these three areas, we would not have to cut the budget again." (p. 30)

This is not a new version of Pony Express. It is not a canned program to guide your fundraising for one season. It's a provocative, theologically-grounded re-write of the rules of stewardship as we have understood them in the mainline church. I will offer the caveat that many of the suggestions he makes are large church-oriented, and when I read this:

I believe each pastor should intentionally invite the top five to ten donors to his or her home about three times a year. (p. 100)

I wrote this in the margin:

Is my wife fixing dinner?

And when I saw the suggestion that the pastor write ten thank you notes a week, I laughed. I would be writing to the same people almost every week, and it would quickly seem like spam. But I will admit it got me writing more notes by hand, even if not ten a week.

On the whole, the enthusiastic lay people on my Stewardship committee and I found plenty to spur our thinking in this book and came away wanting to pry open the privacy doors so that we can show appreciation to our givers and find out what is making them tick. We also appreciated the narrative budget example in the book, a big help when you're in a church that gets hung up on the line items or a church where things are tight and the pastor is viewed as part of the overwhelming staff line item instead of as the driver of the church's programs.

I highly recommend the book as a discussion-starter and look forward to hearing from any of you who have also read the book.

RevGalBookPals coming later!

Our book review will be posted as soon as the Internet reboots at Songbird's house!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Prayer for Sunday Proper 16A/Ordinary 21A/Pentecost +10

Lord God,
We come to you in humble awe of who you are.
We worship you this morning with songs and voice and now with prayers.
We adore you with our love, praises and thanksgiving.
We thank you for all you are doing in and through your church.
Churches that were once dying are now alive and growing.
Churches that had become unhealthy are now healthy again.
Churches that had become turned inward are now turned outward.
Churches that were inhospitable that have become inviting and hospitable.
Lord God,
We thank you for what you are doing in our own lives.
Growing us to be mature in our faith.
Growing us to be more like Jesus.
Growing us to be loving of others and especially the unloved.

And Lord we come bringing our petitions for those in need.
We now pray for those in our midst who need healing, in the hospital, home recovering, in rehabilitation, those waiting for results of tests.
We pray for those who are grieving today may they be comforted, re-find their way, be strengthened and encouraged.
We pray for those who are in financial distress, facing foreclosure, loss of job, long-term unemployment. May their prayers be heard, jobs found, ease of finances, and the ability to pay their bills.

And Lord we come brining our prayers for our communities, our countries and the nations,
It feels as if we live in tumultuous times everywhere.
Everywhere the economies are in dire straits, bringing other problems with it.
There is rioting, protests, fighting, in every country even our own.
There are famines, food scarcities, medical supplies shortages, high unemployment, the list could go on.
It appears that sometimes the nation’s leaders seem helpless or powerless.
Lord we need you to intervene in our world to put right the wrong, to guide our leaders, to relieve the suffering and pain and to offer real hope to the world.

Lord, we believe that if it had not been for you bringing the Israelites out of captivity from Egypt, they would have been destroyed.
We believe our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
We believe that we all are one body of Christ working in this world, in ministry to this world.
We believe that on the rock you are building your church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

You gave us the keys of the kingdom of heaven to have complete and free access to God's kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven.
Let us then be your church in this world.

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

Saturday, August 20, 2011

11th Hour Preacher Party

Good Morning, Preachers and Pals! This is my first Sunday back after a two week stay-cation and I plan to preach on Exodus! Love this story. A colleague of mine, an OT scholar, uses this story to talk about topics like, women in the Bible. She makes reference to the fact that they are midwives and named, and responsible for saving the Hebrew people by their act of defiance and faithfulness. She has a great reflection on the text, which I only remember vaguely. Anyway, you can find the readings here and more discussion from the RGBPTuesday Lectionary discussion. I admit, though, that it's been a busy first week back, and while I have read the texts and spent time thinking about them and praying with them, I really don't know where I am going with them.

What about you? What text are you using, and where are you going with your thoughts?

I have homemade oatmeal peach bars made with fresh Michigan peaches and a delicious apple molasses whole-wheat breakfast bread - both hearty, healthy, and great with coffee or tea. Please, join the party, we're here to help with sermon ideas, kids time ideas, prayers of support, a joke perhaps if a good laugh is needed? Pull up a chair and grab a mug!

- Posted using BlogPress from my please excuse any mis-spelled or odd words due to the iPad autocorrect...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Five: Road Trips

My husband and I just returned (on Wednesday night) from a long road trip up the middle USA to Canada, going through various national parks, and on to the Puget Sound of Washington State. This brought back memories of family road trips with my children and when I was a child, so the idea of today's Friday Five arose.

Tell us about five road trips--in your childhood, in your family, in your recent past, with friends, and/or hoped-for-places-to-drive-to. Don't forget the one that stands out as the BEST or as the worst time.

If you play, leave a comment with a link so we can see where you've been. Here's the details on how to make a link.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ask the Matriarch - Preaching Hope in the Midst of Despair

Our question this week comes from a colleague who is struggling to preach hope in the midst of many difficult situations. In addition to the challenges her congregation faces, the stress in her own life is also mounting - it all adds up to quite a lot. Read on:

I’m a solo pastor of a 120 member PC(USA) congregation in rural Indiana. I feel as though I’m fighting a Demon(s) of Despair…and the Demon is winning.
·         I’ve several greatly loved elderly people who are facing changes in their health, and they are …. all over the place in terms of emotions.
·         I’ve large farmers who are working through a second drought in as many years.  Some are already thinking of plowing some fields, damaged by a recent wind storm, under.
·         The heat and drought have been oppressive to everyone.
·         I’ve an aging Organist that makes worship very difficult. She is a member of the congregation and has served for 50 years…and people just want her to quit so they don’t have to hurt her feelings. She isn’t quitting and people are frustrated within worship.
·         I’ve young couples dealing with financial crunches and uncertainty in the economy. It is taking a toll on relationships.
·         I’ve three families working through cancer of a loved one.
·         The evening news on TV is oppressive! 

I have anywhere from 6 – 20 children each Sunday for the Children’s message. With them, I’ve been focusing on living with an attitude of Gratitude.  I know many adults hear the Children’s message better than the sermon.  Yet, I’m beginning to feel like a rose-colored-glasses Pollyanna!

My own situation, I’ve nerve issues from a car accident in ’98 when I broke my neck and ended up with spinal cord issues. Stress only intensifies my physical issues. I’ve a mother-in-law living ¼ mile up the road dying with cancer and is now in beginning stages of dementia. I’ve aging parents facing the same issues of elderly at BPC. We farm as well! We lost 100 Acres to wind yesterday and received 2/10 of an inch of moisture. One of my daughter’s marriage is teetering, another daughter/husband struggle with financial/labor issues.

How do I preach a message that brings hope? The gospel should bring hope to all!!!  But it feels as though I’m fighting demons.

Jennifer responds:
You have a full plate, both personally and professionally. For all of us, preaching hope in the midst of despair requires good self care.

I hope you have someone great to talk to—a friend in ministry, a spiritual director, a counselor, a doctor, someone trusted near or far, who can listen to you and be helpful to you as you process and stay true to your calling. The Board of Pensions/Cigna can be very helpful in locating physical and mental health resources…and some of them are free!

I hope you truly take your day off and that you attempt to observe Sabbath—I’ve benefited from both (and they’re different!) Engaging in time away, as you are able, and being away even when you’re home, when possible, can be truly restorative. 

You owe it to yourself, your family and your dear congregation to take good care of yourself. You will reclaim the hope that is in you, and it’s a good thing to ask for help!

And also, don’t be afraid to voice some lament to and with your congregation. Your transparency will reflect the Psalms, and God is expansive and receives all of our thoughts and our prayers. Your congregation (and you!) may be refreshed to hear that you struggle and lament all that is transpiring in your area right now. Lament sounds like a pretty faithful response to the magnitude of all that’s going on.

Muthah+ writes: 
If you are a follower of Walter Wink, you ARE a demon-fighter.  With that said, I would not suggest you pull out your crucifix and your incantations.  You have your plate full of what is pretty normal for a congregation your size in the present economy of mid-west farming communities.  Add to that your own family issues and I would suggest you are over the top on stress producing incidents.  And any therapist worth her salt would say  "get some counseling."  But also I know that in small town ministry those resources are not always available.  So here are some suggestions.  Pick some of them but most of all find some things that work for you:
  1. Take some time for retreat.  Take a few weekdays to go and just sleep, eat, rest, read and pray. Get out of town. Usually your parish will understand--and your family should too.  Get a colleague to cover any parish emergencies.  Spend some prayer time just sitting with open hands and a quiet heart.
  2. Have you taken vacation time?  Farmers are not good about getting away but you owe it to yourself and your parish to get some down time with your family.
  3. You say nothing about your personal devotional practices.  What are you reading for spiritual growth?  What is feeding you spiritually?  Pay attention to your own spiritual care.  This is one time I would not suggest reading with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.  Get some good spiritual nourishment.
  4. Do you have good care for your aging parents?  I know that that drained a lot of energy for me until I knew Mom was in a good place and being cared for.
  5. The organist is a problem I have had in several parishes.  It is perhaps the most difficult and re- occurring situation I had in parish ministry.  Does the woman have any self-awareness at all?  If you can talk with her, she already knows that she isn't doing her best, but it may be the only place where she has any control of her life.  Remember you are a mere 'whippersnapper' in a long line of pastors she has 'whipped into line.'  But if you have the support of the members of you board, take someone with you and talk about retirement. And do a big retirement party. Also, find something important that she can do in the parish that isn't on the organ bench.  But first do you homework and have someone waiting in the wings to take over!  Especially if it is someone who is good.
  6. Because I am such an extrovert, I found that talk-therapy really helped me.  Find a spiritual director, a therapist, a counselor, a fellow cleric who will do that work with you.  You need to take an hour out of the week for yourself anyway.  And the drive there and back will give you some private time just for you.   I would guess you have some mild depression and it would be better to treat it than try to ignore it.  (It is the same advice you would give your parishioners if they came to you with the same list you have shared. 8>P)
  7. But Hope, the Hope that is provided by God is not just a feeling.  It is part of the hard work of faith.  Hope is what we have when EVERYTHING is going wrong.  Hope tells us that things will get better.  My parents lived through the Great Depression as a young family and no work.  I am sure that there are those in your parish who did too.  Start talking to your elders and listen to the stories that they have of the 1930's--especially those who were children and who watched their parents despair and how they were able to live through it.  It was this bunch who also lived through WWII.  They are your patriarchs and matriarchs.  (Get your organist to tell you stories!)  The hope will be in their stories.  Just like matriarchs who have been through parish ministry, you have people right there in the congregation who can tell you of the hope that sustained them..
  8. And remember you are a Demon Slayer!  You were ordained for that.  Because the hope is not that the church will get through tough times, the hope is in Jesus Christ as the one who liberates us from our fears.  There is nothing that can assail us if our trust is in him.  And as they say in AA "fake it till ya make it!"  Keep preaching that hope until you are back on track and can live into it again.  This is the REAL hope of the Gospel.
And kathrynzj writes:
Prayers ascending, my Friend. 
Thank you for serving your Call with faith and conscience. Your list reminded me of a psalm of lament and I think that is okay. The thing we love and respect about the psalmists is that even in the deepest lament, when feeling totally separated from God, they still cried out and expected God to answer. I think it is okay to not always have a peppy word of hope and promise and to admit that you are feeling it too. It makes you human and accessible. And therefore your hope will become more accessible for those who are around you. When you walk through Good Friday together, the alleluias for Easter are all the more full of praise.
Peace be with You...

--Thank you, Matriarchs, for your warm and wise responses! So many good thoughts here!

Our questioner wrote in later to add:
I wrote earlier saying I felt as though I was battling Despair Demons.

Putting my “thoughts” out there, I was blessed. I wrote about my discoveries on my blog.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity, the place, to say, “I need help!” because God listened and sent me help.

A good reminder that sometimes just naming our despair can help put it in perspective.

Our matriarchs have made wonderful offerings of hope and counsel. I wonder what the rest of you would add. Let's continue our conversation in the comments. 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, August 17, 2011

Wednesday Festival: Communication

This week's Festival post comes from Sandi Benton Plasters, who blogs at Life From Where I Stand. Start a conversation in our comments below. Let's communicate!

'Dental procedure aboard USS Abraham Lincoln.' photo (c) 2011, Official Navy Page - license: a recent visit to my dentist, I started thinking about communication.  Throughout the procedure, he would occasionally ask if I was doing okay.  I would respond in the affirmative, but it had to be difficult to understand.  My mouth was full of instruments, so I was not very clear.  I tried nodding, but it is difficult to nod while keeping my mouth open wide-as-possible with my head turned slightly toward the dentist. The dentist probably has lots of experience communicating this way, but I doubt that most of us do.
We tend to have preferred ways of communicating.  We want to express ourselves in certain ways, and we want to listen in certain ways.  However, just because we have a preferred way of communicating does not mean that those around us will automatically communicate in the ways we prefer.  Usually the people around us communicate in the way they prefer.
In order to be successful in communication, we need to be able to communicate in different ways with different people.  We need to be able to disperse and receive information even it is sometimes in a difficult-to-understand method.  We who are followers of Jesus especially need to remember that not everyone speaks the language of the church, and we may be communicating a message of exclusion rather than inclusion.  For example, consider the terms that are often exclusive.  Hymns, pews, narthex, chancel, sacrament,  and laity are all terms that are not generally heard unless they are connected to church.  We then further exclude by the unwritten rules of our places of worship.  For example, if everyone knows that no one in this church wears a tie, we may unconsciously snub the guest who is wearing a tie.  If everyone knows that we all do or do not do something, then we are shocked about someone breaking the unspoken rule.  Even worse if we bring it to the attention of the person!
Are you sending a clear message of God’s love within your congregation, or are you sending a different message?  Sometimes communication is difficult, but if we don’t communicate the love of God, then who will?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - Be Not Conformed Edition

We begin with a quote from revgal Jan Richardson's book Sacred Journeys: A Woman's Book of Daily Prayer as she meditates on the midwives who tricked Pharaoh, saving the lives of countless babies, including Moses.
Midwife literally means "with-woman." Shiphrah and Puah embody this "withness" in their solidarity with each other, with God and with the Hebrew people...Working together, Shiphrah and Puah speak to us of the necessity to draw strength from one another as we give birth to new visions, to different ways of living, to one another and even to ourselves.

We'll be "drawing strength from one another" as we help each other bring our sermons to life this week. Are you diving (ha!) into the story of Moses? Or maybe you are full steam ahead in your series on Romans? Or, are you considering Jesus' words in Matthew, each verse of which seems to be its own perfect little sermon?

Personally, I have never preached on either the Romans or the Matthew text, although I love them both. The Romans, I generally avoid, I think, because it has so much personal resonance for me; it was in my ordination service, and when my dad showed me his gift to me that day - his confirmation Bible - the same text was written in the flyleaf, in a note from his confirmation mentor all those years before. The Matthew text trips me up because I once heard A Very Famous Preacher preach a sermon on this text so perfect for the time and place that I sort of cannot imagine what else could be said about it.

I guess Jan might say these excuses are the pharoahs, blocking my path. However, unlike the wily midwives, I am sidestepping them both again this year and going with Exodus. How about you? What keeps you from preaching certain texts, or leads to you others? Comments are open for business.

Jesus and Peter found here. The women with Moses found here. Texts for this week found here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Big Event 5.0 Reminder

If you are registered for the Big Event 5.0, scheduled for January 28 - February 2, 2012 on Carnival Elation, this is a reminder that today is the due date for your first payment to the travel agent.

We have a few more spaces available, but to get the great rate, be in touch today! Email RevGalBlogPals with questions or to get a registration form.

Here's the program we're planning:

Take the Book out of the Box
Jenee Woodward, the author and collector of the study, preaching and worship website, "The Text This Week," will lead a workshop on the gospel texts in the weeks after Pentecost for Year B in the Revised Common Lectionary. We’ll seek worship interpretations of the scriptures that speak to the context of our local communities, just as Mark and John did in their gospels. These might include writing prayers and other liturgy, developing creative or interactive presentations of the stories, and even making videos we could take back with us. Think of the ship as a lab instead of a classroom, and come put the Extra in Ordinary Time!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Prayer for Proper 15A/Ordinary 20A/Pentecost +9

God of our days and lives,
Teach us to live our lives to the fullest,
Teach us to take joy in the many blessings you have showered us with,
Teach us to love one another as those in the early church did,
Teach us to be the church to those who are in need around us.

God of our comings and goings,
Help us to order our work, our play, and our time around you.
Help us to find time to spend with our families, our loved ones and our friends.
Help us to rest and relax as needed.
Help us to spend time in prayer and meditation with you.

God of our world,
Remind us to not turn our backs on those dying from the famines.
Remind us to not turn our eyes away from the rioting that is occurring.
Remind us to not turn our hearts away from those sold into slavery and into the sex trade.
Remind us to not turn our minds away from those who are still recovering from earthquakes.

God of our churches,
Strengthen us to maintain justice.
Strengthen us to do what is right in your eyes.
Strengthen us to be the voice for those who are not able to speak for themselves.
Strengthen us to be your church in this world.

Friday, August 12, 2011

11th Hour Preacher Party: Tough Stuff Edition

Every once in a while, and really not that often, I wish those Jesus Seminar folks really could just toss stuff out of Scripture. However, this week it probably wouldn't matter since the Scripture I'm struggling with, the gospel lesson Matthew 15:21-28, is likely one of their keepers. It's one of those difficult interactions with Jesus. Who else is taking that challenge?

If that's not the challenge (or maybe I should say opportunity... at least calling!) before you today, do you have one you'd like to share? One you like for us to carry along with you?

What else might you be preaching? This is the last week of the Genesis series if there are any who are finishing up that family soap opera. How will close up their drama? The alternate text from the Hebrew Scriptures pairs pretty well with gospel, but could also stand alone for preaching.

The Romans series continues for those who have been going that direction. I am not preaching from it this week, but it has been on my mind and in my prayers as a member has asked us to highlight the work of the Gideons in worship later in the fall. He has a video that includes a portion where a Jewish man felt converted to Christianity after reading a Bible in a hotel room. I wanted to ask this member of my church (and maybe the Gideons in general), "Has God rejected God's people?"

Still others, I know, are working on series this summer. It's been particularly fun to see what topics come up in the churches with sermon request series. What are you all doing this week?

As always, join in the conversation in the comments. Ask and you shall receive! And of course, what is everyone bringing to the feast? Everyone is welcome at the table, and no one needs to beg for crumbs underneath it!

Friday Five

The Place I Want To Get Back To

is where
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
the darkness

and first light
two deer
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,
this one is okay,
let's see who she is
and why she is sitting

on the ground, like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless;

and so they came
on their slender legs
and gazed upon me
not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring to me that could exceed
that brief moment?
For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts bestowed,
can't be repeated.

If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named

(Mary Oliver, "Thirst", Beacon Press, 2006)

For this Friday Five I invite you to offer five gratitudes you recognize in your life.

Link us to your blog with the following code:

<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.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ask the Matriarch: Keeping Track

This week's question comes from one of our Matriarchs, Sharon, who blogs at Tidings of Comfort and Joy. She writes:

I am beginning a new call with a congregation soon, and I want to figure out how to keep records of the content of appointments, meetings, phone calls, and other interactions.  I know how to keep track of information regarding appointment times (phone), member records (church office computer), official actions of regular meetings (meeting minutes), and the like.  What I want to know is how to keep a record of what happens in a day -- for example -- when the church leader came to talk about church things and a family crisis, I met with my mentor, took three phone calls, made two pastoral visits, and got chewed out by the custodian.  Three months later, or three years, any of those might have developed into something with a history that I wish I could remember and, sometimes, take further action on.  Does anyone else try to keep track of things like this? If so, how?

Sharon, congratulations and blessings on your new call!

The Vicar of Hogsmeade offers our first answer this week:

I haven't tracked my hours in years so all I have is an "old school" answer with a name brand answer.

I used Daytimer one-page per day. I used the monthly view calendar in the back to schedule appointments and used the additional calendar supplements as necessary. For each day, on the daily page I tracked what happened during the day with notes including names and phone numbers or addresses. If I needed more room, the notes referred me to the place where I could find the details, i.e., verbatim filed in Learning Covenant file year 2 or see mileage report. I then kept those calendars as if they were journals. (NOT in the church pastor's office to which half the church had a key!)

I'm sure there's a way to do something similar with newer technology. I just don't currently keep those kind of detailed notes. You might try Google calendar but don't share it with anyone.

Thanks, Vicar! And here's a late addition from kathrynzj:

I use my email as a journal. I keep just about all correspondance in its own folder and when I send a response by email i put the sent message in the folder labeled by the persons name.

I also email myself. For instance, through the year I see positives and challenges in the staff here. I email my notes to myself and then put that email in a folder with that staff person's name. Now when I go to write those reviews, I have the folder to look up stuff I might not remember sitting cold in front of the computer.

If you're concerned about privacy, use your personal email. If you don't have an email just for personal use - get one!

If you have a suggestion for Sharon, please share it in the comments. I'm guessing some of our readers who are both tech-savvy and organized will have more ideas.

And please keep our Matriarch, Muthah+, and her dear friend, Judy, in your prayers, as Judy finishes a course of chemotherapy. Those of us who attended BE 3.0 had the chance to meet both of them.