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Monday, January 30, 2012

Tuesday LEctionary LEanings -- Renewing our Strength Edition

On Eagle's Wings
 Let us open our week with prayer:
From the very first tale
told around family tables
to that last word written
in the book of time,
you tell us the story
of your love and joy.
From the foundation
laid in Eden's valleys
to the ever-open gates
of the new Jerusalem,
you build a home for
every single one of your children.
How good it is to sing your glory,
Heart of Creation!
Into the abandoned areas
of our lives, you come -
shushing the little imps
who whisper in our ears
of our failings and foolishness.
When we seem unable
to listen to your hopes for us,
you sit down at the edge of our hearts,
once again retelling the story
of your love and grace.
How good it is to sing your name,
Healer of broken lives.
When our dreams dry up
and turn to dust,
you gather them up
and shape them into
a future which surprises us.
When we would pull shut
the curtains of our compassion,
you yank them open,
so we can see those
we are called to serve.
How good it is to sing your peace,
Spirit of patience.
How good it is to sing your praises,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as Jesus has taught us, saying,
Our Father . . .

As I opened links to prepare for TLL this week I was moved to wonder if anyone out there is doing something for the Presentation of the Lord/Candlemas this week (either on Thursday or moving it to Sunday)??  If you are, then the readings for that festival can be found here

However I am guessing that most Lectionary preachers will be working with the readings for Epiphany 5B.  Those readings can be found here.  And what does a quick glance show us this week?
  • Isaiah seems the perfect passage for those who need to be renewed and lifted up.  Which one of us wouldn't like to be recipients of the blessing in the final verse here?  Or then there is a joke about how hard it is to soar like eagles when one is surrounded by....maybe we best not go there.
  • Does anyone ever preach on the Psalm reading?  So often it is seen as a supporting reading only. But this one has such promise of support and protection.   There must be a sermon in there somewhere.
  • Corinthians.  Paul's claims he is free to be "all things to all people".  Modern writers tell us we shouldn't do that, we should be transparently ourselves.  And yet isn't a successful politician or speaker one who can translate her/his message into language and imagery that reaches a particular audience?  Was Paul putting on a mask or translating a message?
  • And then there is Mark.  Following directly on from last week's reading we have more healings.  And then we return to being renewed.  Or at least an attempt at it.  Why do I understand the feeling of going to a quiet place for renewal only to have people come find and interrupt me?????
Abandoning or leading?

Anyone Doing this?

Which way do you feel led this week?  Or are you off-lectionary and doing something else?  It is also Annual Meeting season, how does the Annual Meeting impact your worship planning for that Sunday?  All this and more in the comments!

And of course it is Super Bowl Sunday!

Monday Extra: Devotionals for Lent

Looking for a devotional for Lent? You can choose from two RevGal authors, Ruth Everhart and MaryAnn McKibben Dana

A Lenten Pilgrimage was written by Ruth Huizenga Everhart, a Presbyterian minister and author living in Sterling, Va., wrote these Lenten prayers and reflections following her own recent pilgrimage to Israel/Palestine.
She writes: “The gift of pilgrimage changed my faith. As a pilgrim, I felt Scripture seeping further down into my being. I came to realize that being a pilgrim is not about traveling to a particular place as much as immersing oneself in the Spirit-filled past so it can infuse our present.”
A Lenten Pilgrimage is published by the General Assembly Mission Council of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Follow the link above for order information, including discounts for multiple copies.
Fellowship of Prayer 2012 Lenten Season comes from Chalice Press. With daily readings, meditations, and prayers, Fellowship of Prayer is the perfect seasonal devotion for this holy time of year. Author MaryAnn McKibben Dana is the pastor of Idylwood Presbyterian Church in Falls Church, Va. Her book on her family’s experience of taking a Sabbath day each week for a year will be published in 2012. It is also available in e-PDF format.
Ruth and MaryAnn are both also part of the Writing Revs, a writing group whose members have included Carol Howard Merritt and Jan Edmiston. What a powerhouse group, and such a great support to one another.  
We're proud of all the authors in our webring. If you have a book or devotional coming out, or want us to link to an article, let us know by emailing RevGalBlogPals!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Prayer: Epiphany 4B

Praise God, give thanks to God with your whole heart!
Great is God's mercy, justice, and faithfulness,
now, and, for ever.

Oh God, help us to be mindful of others that we may
tend to those who are hungry with food and
those who are thirsty may have water.
Use us, Oh God, to help build up the body
of Christ, to be nourishment and
a compassionate hand to those in need.

Holy Divine One, be with those tonight who weep,
those who suffer in mind, body, or spirit,
bring them comfort, as only you can.
Bring them your peace. Turn their despair
into a glimmer of hope, a hope for hope.
In your mercy, tend to those who weep.

God of justice, guide the leaders of this
and every land to the ways of compassion,
dignity of others, and just societies.
Instill in them courage and wisdom
strength to do the right thing
courage to face into the bitterness of greed
and turn their fear or apathy or selfishness
into kindness.

God, Holy One, lead us. Today and always
into the fullness of your desire, into
the depth of grace, into the strong arms
of your mercy. Teach us to be your people.
Teach us to follow you. Teach us to be your
hands, your heart, your love, your compassion,
your mercy, in all we say and do.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

11th Hour Preacher Party: Y'all Come!

It's what I always loved hearing when I lived in the south. "Y'all come!" It somehow meant that at the same time the party could have a lot of people, but I'd feel like a special part of it.

I imagine our party today will be an intimate one. Everyone will have a place at the table. Y'all come! Pull up a comfy chair and warm yourself up with a cup of joe.

A number of our regulars will boarding the Big Event 5.0 ship this afternoon while the faithful remnant are left behind preparing sermons. OK. Kidding. Mostly. Our prayers are most definitely with them all as they push off to enjoy the fellowship of the community we build here "virtually" day after day, week after week, or maybe even less regularly.

In fact, if you are a newcomer or "lurker" who hasn't posted much before if at all, I invite you to join us this week out loud. It's likely to be a slower paced party which means we get to spend more time with each other's thoughts, struggles, AND celebrations.

I ask your forgiveness for what will be my absence early (by US standards) in the day. An early morning meeting a couple of hour away snuck up on my calendar early this week. I'll be gone until mid-to-late afternoon, but I know there are plenty of friendly folks around to keep things going in my absense. I'm looking forward to joining back in later in the day. May the Spirit bless your preparation and ministry this day!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Odds and ends Friday Five...

I have had a ridiculously busy week so apologies for the fact that this is rushed and even a bit late, but here goes, even in the busyness of the week what has

1. Inspired you
2. Challenged you
3. Made you smile
4. Made you cross/ made you want to weep
5.Kept you going?

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, January 26, 2012

Ask the Matriarch - Product Parties

Our question this week is an interesting and tricky one, and one I'm betting many of us have had to deal with. As far as I know, our male counterparts don't typically encounter this particular issue, and it's not something I ever learned about navigating in seminary!

Since I've been at my first call, I've gotten several invitations to home parties - the ones where someone is selling jewelry, home decor items, kitchen stuff. Before I became a pastor, I normally only went to the parties if it was for a really good friend, or I liked the brand. Personally, I find much of the stuff to be overpriced and I don't like feeling like I have to buy something that I really don't need or want.

As a pastor, I'm concerned that if I attend someone's party but not someone else's, it will offend the one whose party I don't attend. And I would feel like I had to buy something to be nice.

Is it part of my pastoral function to attend all these home parties? How do other revgals handle the invitations?

kathrynzj writes:
GREAT question!

When I was in a church of 150 members, I went to them, but I would not change plans in order to go. And yes, I came and went without buying anything. Now I am in a larger congregation and I go to none. If I actually want something (I like a certain brand's bread mix) - I get it from a non-church going friend.

And I know you didn't ask, but in a similar vein - kids selling stuff? At the smaller church I bought one something from each of them who asked me (if their parents brought it to me I told them gently to have the child ask me themselves). In the larger church I buy nothing from anyone nor does my kid solicit at church. The bill would just add up to too much.

Good luck!

Muthah+ responds:

This is one of those barrier-straddling things of parish ministry that is difficult.  Used to be that if you could buy locally as a pastor you did.  You bought your car from the car dealer in the parish, your medical care was often a doctor or dentist in the congregation, your insurance was carried by a local agent.  Many of your needs were provided by in-kind donations from the community you served from eggs to carpeting.  And in the good ole days the young curates were paired up with local daughters and they lived happily ever after.  (yeah, right!)
The Baby Boom changed all that.  Everyone after the 1960's caught the entrepreneurial bug and economics became the name of the game, not the commonweal.  Here endeth the history lesson.
Personally I hate those kinds of parties. And I know that many of those parties come from the party giver's need to sell.   However, I do not need to buy.  When someone invites you, you can explain quietly to the hostess that you do get invited to many of these kinds of parties and you cannot buy from them all.  If they want you there because you are a friend, go and do not feel obligated to buy.  Most of them will understand.  If they don't, then you don't want to give your imprimatur to their parties. 

And Sharon offers:
I served in one very rural ministry context and those parties were a big part of the social life of the congregation and the community. In that place, I went to all the ones to which I was invited. I could always find a little something that I could save for a family Christmas gift. Looking back, that was the right decision to make there.

In the other churches, I have just thanked each person for the invitation and declined each one. I do regularly buy a category of things that are offered at those kinds of parties. I get those things now from someone who is not connected to my church. If I lived closed to my relatives or to my friends not related to the church I serve, I would be fine with picking and choosing some of their parties to attend.

Whether it's about these kinds of parties or the stuff that kids sell for school and clubs, the important thing is to think through your reasons for doing what you will do, or won't do. Then respond consistently with all the members of your congregation.

My experience is that your church people will understand your decision to not attend their party or to not buy their kids' stuff. They will not as easily understand your decision to say "yes" to some and "no" to others.


Great responses, matriarchs. Thank you!! What about the rest of you? What are your words of wisdom? Please share in the comments section. And as always, if you have a question you'd like the matriarchs to discuss, please send it to us at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday Festival: An Answered Prayer

Kathryn's feet (r) in Cozumel, 2008, BE 1. Also one of Martha's.

This week's post comes from one of our founding ring member's, Kathryn, an Anglican vicar who blogs at Good in Parts. Those of us who've had the chance to meet Kathryn, who was with us on BE 1, will surely hear this in her lovely voice, as she brings us a redemptive word. Please leave her *your* lovely comments here or at her blog.

An answered prayer

"Lord, redeem my foul-ups" is often a good prayer to have on your lips...and two weeks ago, when it seemed to me that said foul-ups were reaching hitherto undreamed of depths, I prayed it alot..and then some more!
You know that a week is going badly when the funeral for a still-born babe is not the hardest thing you have to cope with...but why I'm blogging now is because, most wonderfully, my fervent prayer was actually answered.

You see, two weeks ago I discovered that I had been living inside my very own version of the Christmas edition of Rev.
In case you managed to miss this (honestly - the series is far too searingly close to the reality of clerical life to count as comedy - it's far closer to documentary, imho) , poor, wonderfully human Adam gets so seasonally harassed that he fails to visit an elderly parishioner - until it's too late.
In the week before Christmas I received a similar request - from someone who spends most of his life on the edge of society, having been homeless for a long time, and with most of the associated problems.
And being over busy, and rather nervous of the prospect of visiting a somewhat volatile guy and his housemate on their home turf, I tried to phone once, failed to get through, and moved on to the next item on the "seasonal busyness" list.

And, just as happened to Adam, I was shown the flaw in my prioritising when a very angry visitor at the vicarage informed me that his housemate was dead - and what sort of a sorry apology for a priest did I call myself anyway!
And of course he was right.
Fear prevented me from doing the right thing.
I took refuge in doing other things and let my needs trump those of the people I am here to serve.
So, I felt pretty wretched.

But the following day I was given another opportunity to respond - and got to a bedside in time.
And then, wonderfully, against all expectations, I found myself trusted to take J's funeral.

It happened yesterday.
Just a small gathering in church...a  handful of volunteers and clients of our local homeless project; a community police officer; a wonderfully warm and gentle funeral director; and a sober and dignified friend.
The flower printed cardboard coffin which had seemed (if I'm honest) just a wee bit naff in the catalogue was reassuringly, delightfully homely and beautiful in reality. You could imagine it sitting comfortably in an ordinary room...not claiming false dignity or pomp...
"I'm here..part of life's reality you know...And it can be surprisingly beautiful".
I found myself touching it and interacting with it in ways that I rarely do with those highly polished coffins that seem to be set on hiding the truth of the death that lies within.
Somehow the beautiful fragility of the coffin, that mirrored the fragility of the life that had ended - a life of hardship, alienation, struggle and, I believe, acceptance.

J had loved flowers - and the church was still beautiful with the flowers left from a far grander funeral last week, which made me smile.
I wept too, as J's best friend read some wonderful words that J himself had written reflecting on his life, his future and his hopes.
A member of the "Marah" family talked of his memories and read to us from The Message
We sang and we prayed and we sat in silence.
Some of the language I use for more conventional funerals just didn't find a place...but the right words came from somewhere. 
And then we followed J across town to the beautiful hillside cemetery and it was somehow incredibly right to be there, to take it in turns to throw handfuls of rich dark earth onto the coffin, to listen as S told us more about his friend, to delight as the sun broke through the clouds and the birds began to sing, a fragile chorus that promised spring to come.

We left S settling down with a drink in the sun...I pray that he'll be alright in the days ahead. Yesterday, we stood on holy ground together.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings -- Who has Authority? Edition

Agnus Day
Greetings to all!  Another Sunday cometh, and for those of us who are not going cruising that means another sermon is due in a few days.  The readings for Epiphany 4B can be found here.

It always seems to me that the best worship preparation is begun with prayer {prayer source}:
O God,
we puff ourselves up with accumulated knowledge,
but without love for you we have no wisdom.
We take advantage of the liberty you give us through grace,
and become bad examples to our sisters and brothers.
We alternate between fear of your authority
and denial of your authority.
We dread to face our demons,
and we are faithless in the presence of your power over them.
Save us Lord from the sins we know,
save us Lord from the sins we hide.
(pause for reflection and self-examination) 
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God, has come into our world with authority. The authority to destroy the demons that haunt us: our past, or weakness, our sin, our grief, our loss, our frailty, our mortal nature. Through Christ’s faithfulness our loving God grants us the forgiveness of all our sins and the promise of eternal life. Through faith offered by the Holy Spirit we may count on God’s intervening power, and live redeemed lives in the name of the Father, and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit.

 A lot about authority this week.  Where does authority come from?  Who has it?  How do we respond?  Oh and along the way, what makes a true prophet?

Are you drawn to the Jewish longing for a prophet like Moses? Or maybe there are a few "prophets" you would like to experience the promise at the end of the Deuteronomy reading (yes, wishing such a thing is not "proper" but if we are honest...).

Jesus Teaching in the Temple
Or maybe you find yourself drawn to Paul and meat.  And it is a puzzling question about how we interact with the culture around us.  What would you say are the equivalent issues in our world today?  How would you respond if you were asked the same question?

And then we have Jesus, and the authority issue.  Not like the scribes.  And even the unclean spirits listen to him.  What sort of authority is this?  Something new is happening?

Where is worship taking you this week?  Is there an article or blog post that you want to share with the rest of us?  Maybe you aren't preaching but have a great thought about what you would do "if only".  Share in the comments so we can all learn together...

Monday, January 23, 2012

RevGalBookPals: Writing to God -- Kid's Edition

Do you have a young person in your family or faith community who asks you, "How do I pray?" Ring member Rachel Hackenberg's wonderful new book, Writing to God -- Kids' Edition, is a great resource for exploring prayer at a late-elementary to middle-school level.

Rachel is also the author of Writing to God: 40 Days of Praying with My Pen, a guide to praying during Lent.

In the Kids' Edition, Rachel brings creative suggestions and guidance for writing prayers to a kid's level. She explores ways to pray by writing about six Ideas: things you experience with all five senses, by writing about your feelings, Bible verses, nature, ordinary things that happen in life, trying new words and pictures for God and telling God thank you. She explores each Idea with a variety of possibilities for exploration, including sample prayers, and the book will include open space to be used for writing prayers.

The book begins conversationally:

Hi! My name is Rachel.

            When I was a girl, I wasn’t sure how to pray. Should I use fancy church words? Should I put my hands together and close my eyes? (Closing my eyes usually put me to sleep.) Should I pray for the whole entire world? And how could I pray for the whole entire world if I didn’t know the name of every person . . . or the name of every place and every plant and every animal?

Her voice in writing for children is very natural and invitational. She assures children that you can pray, or write prayers, wherever you are.

Here's a sample from the section on praying with your sense of smell:

These are some of the things that I am thankful for smelling, God:
chocolate cookies baking in the oven
a hamster cage that needs to be cleaned
the kind-of-good, kind-of-stinky smell of mud after rain
smoke from a campfire
This list doesn’t look like a prayer, but I thank God for the sense of smell to experience the odors of life!
Here's another, from the section on Bible verses:
John 11:35 is one of the shortest verses in the Bible. It just says, “Jesus cried.” Have you ever thought about Jesus crying? In John 11:35, Jesus cries because his friend Lazarus has died, and he cries because he’s sad to see Mary and Martha crying. God gets sad when people are hurting or crying . . . and God hears us when we’re sad. Write to God about crying.
I don’t often cry in front of other people. One day I wrote this prayer after I closed my bedroom door:
Jesus, do you hear me crying
when I hide my tears in the pillow?

Elene (age 5) prays:
Dear God, You know how I almost fell off my bike the other day? Remember when I was riding home from Chris’s house? It was getting dark
so I rode my bike very fast to get home. Did you know how scared
I was? Really scared! So scared I was crying. Love, Elene

The sample prayers from children are great, although Rachel's prayers are also at a great level for encouraging kids to write their own.

Because the book is still in the pre-order phase, I have only seen illustrations for the introduction. They show children of a variety of cultural backgrounds and ages, as well as common images from a child's life, and appear to be very accessible. I can't wait to see the actual book! Rachel says, "The official release date for the book is in March, but in fact Paraclete Press hopes to have the finished product in-hand by the end of January so that it can be in bookstores and online in time for Lent."

(Paraclete Press and Rachel Hackenberg provided RevGalBlogPals with a manuscript and PDF of this soon-to-be-published book for purposes of review. There was no promise of a particular outcome!)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Prayer: Epiphany 3B

In the still small voice of the rain,
in the wind of the sea, and the warmth of sun
in the deep of night and the heart of day
when we least anticipate it, God calls.

Surely God is always near, right here,
Or, over there.
Surely there are times we know not where.
But surely there are occasions when we turn
When we go regardless, and follow Jesus
Down the unsuspecting twisting road
When we walk with God
God walks with us.

In these moments, when we are certain we are lost
When God beckons us and then waits until we turn
To see, to feel, to know, to recognize
God with us.
When sorrow catches a glimpse of hope
When suffering is wrapped in mercy
When despair is held in grace and love
When God is God and there is peace
Peace in our hearts, for that moment
Let us pray.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

11th Hour Preacher Party: "One Fish, Two Fish, I Fish, You Fish" Edition

one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish
I see fish.  

Fish I see.

Fish as big as fish can be.

Jonah hiding in a fish.
Jonah saved by prayer and wish.

Jonah preaches and saves a a town.
God's mind is changed all around.

Simon, Andrew with boats in the sea
With James and John called Zebedee
Net strange work with you and me
In Jesus' call:  "New fishing for thee"

Which way will you go
As you go with the flow?

A fishing lesson at Galilee's sea?
Is that your preaching cup of tea?

Or will you tell a big fish tale?
Bring light to Jonah's time in the whale?

Perhaps you have another way
Something else you're called to say?

A children's message I seek -- or two
I'll put some coffee on to brew

Bring a snack you have to share
And, pretty soon, we'll all be there!

* * * * * * *  
And always:

"Be who you are and say what you feel, 
because those who mind don't matter, 
and those who matter, don't mind."
(Dr. Seuss)

* * * * * * * 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Five: Movies

Thinking of movie-watching, what do you prefer?

1. At home or at a theater?
2. With whom?
3. Movie you look forward to seeing?
4. Movie you like to see repeatedly?
5. Food with a movie?

Bonus: Recommendations for home/theater viewing.

Please link as always!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ask the Matriarch - Top Ten Tips for a New Call

Our question this week comes from a minister who has just begun a new call and is looking for some wisdom from her colleagues. She writes:

This week I started a new (part-time, interim, but you've got to start somewhere) call at a small, rural church. I spent my first four years in ministry as an associate, so this is my first time as a solo pastor. What are your top ten tips for getting off to a good start in a new call?

Great question! And the matriarchs have some great answers. Read on:

Jennifer writes:
1 - Listen.
2 - Invite people to share their stories.
3 - Ask people about their hopes and concerns.
4 - Talk with the oldest and the youngest.
5 - Spend time with people who have a harder time getting to worship.
6 - Listen.
7 - Get to know your neighbors and community partners.
8 - Listen to other staff/judicatory leaders/other folks about their sense of things with your new congregation.
9 - Pray and listen.
10 - Listen for and respond to the Spirit's unique transforming message through all of the above.

Muthah+ offers:

  1. Be yourself but be respectful of them.  They have been church for a long time and will be a long time after you leave.
  2. An interim gig is a tough one for a brand new pastor.  Know the work you must do as an interim.  Know what the parameters of your ministry are from your judicatory and what you are expected to do as an interim by the parish. Make sure that your congregation is aware of those structures.  Part-time can get VERY sticky if you do not set up what you can do in the x number of hours you are scheduled to work.  All too often you will end up working full-time and then set up false expectations for the church for future pastors. 
  3. Often times Interims are when parishioners are scared and bereft--they are not at their best.  They may just want to take it out on you.  Keep detached from their frustrations for the interim process.  Do not allow yourself to take on their complaints as your own.  You are just the focal point for their frustration.  Detachment is the name of the game.
  4. Listen, Listen, Listen.  It is the hardest thing for many preachers to do.  If there are kids in the parish go to their school events if possible.
  5. Visit anyone older than 50 and/or anyone who is home during the day-time.  Always call first.  This is still important to the older members of small towns.  If they aren't working, visit.  If they don't want you to visit in their home, take them out to the local beanery and have lunch or a soda.
  6. Figure out who the matriarchs and patriarchs are in the parish.  They will be doing most of the ministry. You will be only the chaplain but they need to know you are available.  Work with these men and women even when they seem to be wrong.  Cajole them into the newness rather than butt heads with them.  They have more cache with the parish than you will ever have no matter how long you are there.  And be aware of the parish divisions or cliques or 'families' that they represent.
  7. Do not expect them to change for you.  They have had so many pastors over the years that they see clergy as a flash in the pan.  Try to get them to describe for you their experiences of previous pastors and what the liked. (Try not to let them tell you horror stories--but help them dwell on what they liked in previous pastors so they can figure out what they want for the future.)
  8. Do as much teaching as they can tolerate.  It may be just a few parishioners who will come to adult ed. things but do what you can to raise the educational level in the congregation. 
  9. Visit hospitals and nursing homes.  In rural situations it is a must.  You may see some horrific things.  They need you there as an ombudsman.
  10. Love 'em even when they aren't lovely. 
And kathrynzj puts it this way:
Interim and part-time in a small, rural church?
1 - Visit
2 - Visit
3 - Visit
4 - Learn about their "family" dynamics
5 - Lead good worship.
6-10 - Repeat 1-5

It is very hard to keep within the boundaries of part-time hours but for both yourself and the person who is going to come next, please do your best. 

Prayers ascending for you and this new call to ministry!


Hmm, I'm sensing a theme here, and it has to do with listening! Really good, solid advice, all the way around, from our dear matriarchs. What say the rest of you? What would you add to what has already been said? Any anecdotes to share from your own similar experiences? Please join the conversation in our comments section. And, 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, January 18, 2012

Who Are We?

This fall, my congregation did an exercise: we asked everyone to come up with one word describing our church, and we put all those words into a Wordle and used the various fun word clouds we created as bulletin covers, stewardship advertising, and artwork around the building. It was insightful as well as pretty.

Now I'm working on a project...not a one-word project, necessarily, but something along those lines, and I need your help!
I'm looking for the word(s), phrase, or sentence you would use to describe RevGalBlogPals. Who are we? What are we? Who and what are we for you? What does being part of RGBP mean to you, your life, your ministry? What's your experience of our community?
I promise to post the beauty, whatever form it takes (it could be a wordle, it could be a hymn, it could be...well...lots of things!), when it's done! Thanks!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings -- Gone Fishin' Edition

CHristian Unity 1

Christian Unity 2

In this week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Jan 18-25) let us pray together [prayer source]:
Almighty God,
Through Jesus you say to us
that whoever wishes to be first must become the least and the servant of all.
We enter into your presence,
knowing that your victory is won through the powerlessness of the cross.
We come to pray that your church may be one.
Teach us to accept humbly that this unity is a gift of your Spirit;
Through this gift, change and transform us
and make us more like your Son Jesus Christ.   AMEN

SO this is yet another week with multiple options.  Is there a tradition of acknowledging the Week of PRayer in your congregation, in your area?  If so, how do you generally do that?

Or then there is the Lectionary.  The readings for Epiphany 3B can be found here

Calling the Fishers
The story by the seashore always fascinates me.  I can't help but wonder what would make me jump up and leave everything behind at the spur of the moment.  So far I haven't come up with anything.  But in Mark's version there is also a "passing of the torch" feel to the story since it follows right on the arrest of John.  And yet "the time is nigh" for change, for a new world -- as both Jesus and Paul point out.  Two millenia later is the time still nigh?

Or then there is Jonah.  What DOES one do with Jonah: his reluctance, the fish episode, his preaching, his bitterness at being a successsful preacher...?  Can you in fact preach on Jonah without telling the whole story?

And so, where are you going this week?  What will people be talking about in your congregations?

Monday Extra: Recording sermons

A ring member is preparing materials for her ordination interview, and one of the new requirements in our United Church of Christ Association is a sermon DVD. I'm going to help her with the loan of both a sanctuary and a Flip video camera. It made me wonder about the range of technical capabilities available around the ring.

If you needed to provide someone with a video sermon, would you be able to do it?
And what if you needed to do it without making things completely obvious to your congregation?
Anyone podcasting sermons, using either audio or video?
Any suggestions for adding technology at church on a limited budget?

Please use the comments to share what you're doing.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Prayer: Epiphany 2B/Martin Luther King, Jr

Holy God, may we hear your voice
In the stillness of night, in clatter of day
You call us, and we respond,
Here I am!
May we follow you and
May we love as you love.

Holy One, through trials and turbulence
Make us steady, your hands
Holding strong the fragile and weak
May we love as you love.

Gracious God, may the fruits of our lives
be food for the hungry, bread
clothing, shelter, fire, water, Word
May we love as you love.

God of justice, remove the barriers
Of our lives that keep us from
One another, barriers we construct
Based on skin color, religion, or gender
May we hear, and follow, graciously.
May we love as you love.

Loving God, take this day our fears our
Worries, distractions, and all
Turn them into grace and mercy,
And, following the example of Martin Luther King, Jr.
and all your Saints,
May we love as you love.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

11th Hour Preacher Party: Fearfully and Wonderfully Edition

Hello, Preachers!

Are you ready to write?

What's your text for tomorrow? We have an array of options, all of which find God all up in our business, waking Samuel in the night, declaring things that astound Nathanael and just generally knowing every darn thing there is to know about every single one of us.

(And about that other passage, well, if you're preaching about, ahem, members, I'd like to hear about it in the comments.)

Wherever you're headed, we're all in this together. Join us and have some coffee; I promise to keep it coming. Share something good from your house, too. This table is big enough for all!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Five Recommendation Edition

So, it's the time of year I get inundated with requests for recommendations for students that are looking to be camp counselors.  So in honor of camp counselors everywhere, today's Friday Five is the Recommendation edition  (which has nothing to do with camp or summer or anything--work with me, it's late....)

1.   Recommend a favorite worship resource or devotional book.
2.   Recommend a blog that you like to read that you think others might find enjoyable.
3.   Recommend a fiction book that you think people might like.
4.   Recommend a favorite recipe website.   O.k., if you aren't into cooking or food, then just recommend a random website that you find useful, hilarious, mind numbing or thought provoking.
5.  And for the last recommendation--it's bloggers' choice!  Make a recommendation for anything!

As always, let us know that you played in the comments by directly linking to your post using this formula:
<a href="the URL of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>

If that doesn't make sense,  Here are detailed directions on how to directly link to your post .

I highly recommend that you start making recommendations now!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ask the Matriarch - Encouraging the Tithe

Last week, we had quite a lively discussion during our Wednesday Festival, which was on "Ten things we can do if we really want to change the church." Out of that conversation came a question that the matriarchs decided to tackle this week. It was the 24th comment in that particular discussion, if you want to check it out, and it is to the point:

How does one motivate a congregation to tithe? Preaching has no effect at all. What does?

Muthah+ responds:

Stewardship has never been my strong suit.  I have served in relatively smaller congregations most of my career.  But it was never my strong suit because 'we really didn't need it'---she says with some trepidation.
Tithing has to do with commitment and a fairly sophisticated understanding of what giving means to our spirituality.  I never preached the 'tithe'. I always looked at tipping at 15% or 20% was expected but for some reason we had a hard time with the 10% tithe.   I would talk about giving as a discipline.  My last stewardship chair "got it."  She told me that in their family they started with the tithe and then tried to figure out how they could give more.  But she was never able to get that across to many members because they were still thinking of the tithe as "dues." 
People give as they are invested in the parish.  It is as simple as that.  That is stewardship.  And so I would try to get new comers involved in the parish as soon as I could.  I would try to find ways that all members could find something to get involved with, if it was just folding bulletins or mowing the grass.  Now as adjunct staff in a larger congregation, I still try to do this finding that the personal touch of involving newcomers in some part of the parish program allows them to get involved quickly in the life of the parish.
But as a person becomes more sophisticated in their journey with Christ they begin to realize that giving is part of the discipline of "clean living". ( I use that term in place of "righteousness' because that has become so accreted with negativity.)  But as I have come closer to God, I have found that 'simplicity' has more to do with my giving patterns than does the tithe.  "How can I give in a way to free myself of ME and STUFF and so I can be more open to the Christ within me?" 

And kathrynzj writes:
Well, if we knew the answer to this we'd be sharing our book and seminar royalties!

Here are some of the things I've seen go well:
1) Talk about stewardship as a whole (time and talent) and actually mean it,
2) Talk about stewardship not just at one time of the year. I know we all agree with this, but how many of us actually make it a discipline to preach on it once a month.
3) Share your own story - NOT in November, but in a less pressured time. I know I've shared how my family was working towards a tithe (we weren't there yet) and folks responded to it.
4) Practice asking people for money (in the mirror, to other clergy, or a family member - whatever) then go into the living rooms and ask. Generally speaking, the $ is out there folks are just choosing to give it somewhere else. It is FAR more exciting to buy a cow or a flock of geese (nothing against Heifer) than it is to stuff a check into a 'General Fund' envelope every week/month

Not a fix all, but some suggestions. Great question!

And Ruth adds:
It’s worth looking at a scheme called ‘The Responsibility is Ours – TRIO’  - if you Search-engine it you’ll see quite a few examples from the UK.
Hope that helps.

I agree with Kathryn, this is a great question, and I'm interested to hear what more of you have to say. I personally feel very strongly about the tithe and have practiced it since I was child (I was taught about tithing in church, Sunday School, and girls' mission groups). I have preached it and taught it every way I know how. But I don't think I've been very persuasive, because I don't have much evidence that many people in my congregation think it's even a valid goal to work towards. Honestly, I'm having the most success with my own children - I think it's so much easier to start tithing when you're only getting $5 a week. This leads me to think that starting with our kids and youth might yield more fertile ground - not that I'm willing to let the adults off the hook!

Please join this conversation, especially if you have some experience to share about something that is working in your own congregation! Of course, discussing the struggles of teaching and preaching the tithe is welcome, too! Join us in the comments! And, as always, if you have a question you'd like the matriarchs to discuss, please email it to us at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday Festival: Shameless Self-Promotion

Some of you know that RevGalBlogPals has another blog, "A Place for Prayer." A faithful team of posters puts prayers up most days of the week, some original and some drawn from wide resources for inspiration.

I happen to think everyone should see the one from yesterday.

I also happen to know the prayer blog gets about 10% the visitors of this blog, so let me encourage you by linking and re-posting here. Add it to your feed reader! Leave a prayer request or thought.

It's from revkjarla, who also blogs at amazing bongos, and it's entitled A Tuesday Prayer Meme.

(actually, I am not sure what a meme is, but it sounds good....)

Take a couple of moments, and just breathe centering breaths....
And then,

1.  Give thanks for something you are looking forward to....
2.  Offer a prayer for a colleague whom you know needs prayer
3.  Pray for yourself...
4.  Pray for someone who really 'bugs' you  (like a frenemy)
5.  Pray for a place in the world for which you have concern...
6.  Offer a blessing
7.  Breathe a few more centering/cleansing breathes.....
8.  Be silent
9.  Listen
10. Be silent
11. Amen

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings -- Voice in the Night edition

Come and See
 As our week's preparation begins (or continues), let us pray [prayer source]:
It doesn't matter
how far we go
to run from you,
you reach out
and touch us
with healing in your hands,
and turn us around
so we can follow you home.

It doesn't matter
how suspicious
we are of you,
God-who-invites-us-to follow:
you remove our fears
with your compassion,
you take away our doubts
complete acceptance
of who we are.

It doesn't matter
how often
we ignore your words,
you whisper to us
until our ears
tingle with anticipation
and we listen
with eager hope.

God in Community, Holy in One,
continue to call us by name,
even as we pray in the name
of the One who has taught us to say,
Our Father . . .

 I have to admit that I found myself in a quandry this week.  Not one but TWO of my favourite scripture passages in the same week!  Which one to preach on????  Oh but first maybe we should point out that the RCL readings for this week (2nd After Epiphany, Year B) can be found here.

Psalm 139 from this great site
SO we have God's voice coming to a young child in the dead of the night--and a teacher who is a little slow to figure out what is happening.
OR we have the Psalmist proclaiming the God who knows him intimately.  I have to wonder if this is blessing or curse though.  If we are honest, aren't there parts of our lives and selves we would sometimes wish NOBODY knew about?
OR, maybe you want to take on Paul and the Corinthian church.  Is it about sexual ethics only or is there an extension to be made here?
OR, do you want to go with the Gospel.  Is it a call/response story or an evangelism moment?

Where do you see worship taking you this week?  Any ideas for a children's time on any of the passages (I have to admit that a Children's Time using the actual words of the Corinthians passage would be interesting to watch)?  What are the questions that are driving your sermon forward this week?  What hymns do you hear in your head? Any articles/blogs you have read that you want to share?  Let us know in the comments.
The LATE JEsus Christ?

Monday, January 09, 2012

Big Event 5.0 Opening!!!

We have a last minute opening for our Big Event 5.0, "Take the Book out of the Box." Details of the cruise are available at this link. If you might be able to come with us, please contact me directly for more information. Come join us!

a new year, some new members...

As the holiday excitement dies down and we get into a new 2012 routine, perhaps it's time we add some new blogs to our routine! Here are a few ideas for you--our newest RevGalBlogPal members!

RevDonna is contemplating Scripture and looking for your insights...pop over and join the conversation!

CindiK is "a seminarian who wants to one day build new communities of faith for believers who have given up on traditional church; a motorcyclist who likes to take really long trips; a guitarist who has more passion for playing than talent; a dabbler in improvisational theater; an occasional poet and novelist; a human being trying to find her way."

Shannan is a Presbyterian pastor in New Jersey, a part of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, a wife and mother, a writer, and works extensively on issues of nonviolence. Much of her work centers around Colombia, which is both her husband's first home and her focus with the PPF.

Meredith "is an Episcopal Priest serving as the Associate Rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Cypress, Texas. She is passionate about mission, formation and worship. When she is not doing her part in God’s work here in the world, she is probably hanging out with friends and family, traveling, reading, doing something craft related, re-learning the piano, keeping up with scientific journals, finding a way to get to the beach or planning the next scuba trip."

And one old friend has moved to a new home: Jan of PreacherMom is now at SimplyJan. Update your blogroll!

Stop by and offer a warm RGBP welcome to our new friends in this new year!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Music Videos: From Sheba they came

Advent has so much music, it cries out for a return to a six week season. Meanwhile, the short season of Christmastide has an even shorter repertoire to draw on. Many of us are caroled out by now, and wondering if there is anything suitable for the season beyond "We Three Kings." In short, yes! This gorgeous Bach cantata was first performed for Dreikönigsfest — the feast of the Epiphany — in 1724. The unknown librettist has the tenor offer in his recitative, not the standard gifts but

The gold of faith, the frankincense of pray'r,
The myrrh of patience, these now are my off'rings

What gifts, musical or otherwise, were exchanged in your celebrations today, be they of Epiphany or of the Baptism of Our Lord? Share with us in the comments!

Arvo Pärt's haunting Anthem of John the Baptist would be an apt and gentle way to end the Christmas season (regardless of whether you celebrated Baptism of the Lord today or not). I couldn't find an online version, but it is on iTunes and well worth the listen.

Sunday Prayer: Baptism of Jesus/Epiphany

Holy and Gracious God, speaking into our lives
The voice of the LORD is glory and strength,
The voice of the Lord is holy splendor, full of majesty,
May we hear, deeply, may You sound-through us
May we be your body, hands, feet, heart
Reaching out to others may we extend your love.

Creator God, stir us, we pray
For the voice of the Lord speaks into our lives.
May the LORD bless God’s people with peace
May the LORD give strength to God’s people!
That we may care for the broken,
Hungry, needy, sick, bereaved,

Creator God, whisper to us in the silence
For you, God, called the light Day,
and the darkness You called Night.
You named all creation.
Baptized by the Spirit,
May we quietly hear you and
Gently follow. Inbreaking God
Shout us out of our illusions.

God of mercy, lead our leaders
Nations, cities, houses of worship,
Houses of people, lead all with mercy
That we, all, may be merciful as you.

God of compassion, through your Holy Spirit
Forgive us, redeem us, restore us, teach us, fill us.

Incarnate God, divine and human
Body and spirit, us and you
Baptized in the Spirit,
Ascribe to us, your compassion,
That we may be your voice, your heart, your hands
This day and every day.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

11th Hour Preacher's Party: Which Way Am I Going? edition

(top of the Rocky Mountains, somewhere in southern Utah)

This is one of those Sunday's when the preacher has choices - have you transferred in the Feast of Epiphany and a celebration of three wise ones? Or, are you celebrating the baptism of Jesus? Do you have a baptism? Are you talking about the Holy Spirit?

The readings for either feast can be found here. And a discussion on the readings can be found on the Tuesday Lectionary's worth checking out for the cartoons alone.

Seriously though, which ever way you are going we are here to help. Pull up a chair, the coffee will be on early, as I have a big funeral this morning. I also have homemade yogurt with homemade raspberry jam to tide us over until I return.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Friday Five - The A-ha Moments

This past holiday season is not one I will soon forget, but not for the reason some may think. Certainly, it was a busy one for those involved in the life of the church. The 1-2 punch of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on a Sunday brought more than a few of us to our knees (or hopefully to a more comfortable napping position).

In the midst of the holiday season I had one of those moments where a path suddenly was made clear - A-ha! This experience has prompted me to wonder what some of your A-ha moments may be.

They can be mundane - a realization that you like/don't like a certain food or that you really look good in that color you never had the guts to try. They can be sacred - a way to better pace your day clicks into place or finally a devotion or meditation practice that really works for you. They can be profound - the moment you realized he/she was the one (or wasn't)or the moment you realized where your deepest passion could meet the world's greatest need.

Please tell us - what are five (more or less) of your 'A-ha' moments. Where have you had a moment of clarity?

Be sure to let us know in the comments when you play so that we can learn about your moments of clarity! Can't remember how? Here's a reminder on making that pesky link.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Ask the Matriarch: Tracking Expenses

We've had a number of conversations over the last few months about leading our congregations in the budget process - but what about our personal budgets? For many of us, that can be a much trickier area. We have treasurers at church to keep the books straight, but at home, most of us are on our own! So how do you manage this important task? Our question this week is straightforward and relevant. If you are already good at this, I hope you'll share what's working for you. And if you, like me, need help with this, then I'm sure you'll be appreciative of the wisdom our colleagues share.

2012 is ... here and that means another year of keeping track of expenses, both those reimbursed and those which are not.  I am looking for a very simple online tracking/budget program.

What I am hoping to find is one where I can track housing expenses, professional expenses, other ministry expenses, medical, and non-ministry related expenses.  I would appreciate what has worked and what has not worked for the Rev Gals/Pals. 

Muthah+ responds:
Most of my career was pre-computer and definitely pre-smart phone so I have years of date books with highly cryptic numbers and squiggles that no accountant, IRS agent or even I could make heads nor tales of. Nothing I ever turned in could stand scrutiny.  But then again, I never made enough for them to even care. That said, the rector with whom I now work uses a free app for his iPhone called "Milebug".  He said he uses Quicken for everything else. 
On the other hand, I take off my socks.

And Kathrynzj writes:
Great question - I'm looking forward to reading the other answers. 

It's been awhile since I looked to find something that was all encompassing and was accessible both from the laptop and the mobile. I now use Quicken at home and use the memo line excessively so I can look things up quickly. I have also used '' when I needed a simple spreadsheet in front of me to help me figure out what money was going where during the month.

The key to the whole thing is finding something that works for you. (I know, duh.) What I mean is, after trying to find the right mileage app and having this or that on my phone, I realized that what really worked for me was a pencil and paper on the console of my car. I photocopy it and attach it to my reimbursement request and there it is. I also keep track of my expense accounts on paper and keep it in a folder right by my desk. Archaic, but it works for me.

Kathryn's combination of old school and tech sounds much more effective than my current method of jamming all relevant receipts into my wallet and sorting them out at the end of the month. Thank you to our matriarchs for sharing what has worked for them or others they know. What about the rest of you? Any greats tips or tools that the rest of us could use? Please take a moment to share in the comments what you would recommend. 

Our question queue is empty again, so if you have a question you'd like the matriarchs to discuss, send it our way and we will get right on it! Email us at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.