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Monday, July 30, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Stolen Sheep or MORE Bread of Life? Edition

Agnus Day
Is it just me or do the readings for Proper 13B (read them here) seem very much like a repetition of last weeks readings?

Nathan Confronts David
So we have Nathan speaking truth to power.  And admit it--would we all like to have this reaction to at least one of our sermons?

Or we have the Exodus-John two punch about Bread from heaven/bread of life.  But then we had John on that one last week (and again next week -- makes me glad I am not preaching again til August 26).

I think I might be tempted to preach on Psalm 51, with a touch of Nathan's parable included.  Not to induce guilt, but to talk about appropriate guilt as opposed to shame and a definite emphasis on forgiveness.

Or one could resort to a video sermon and show this VeggieTales (maybe omitting the Silly Songs with Larry portion):

RevGalBookPals: Keeping the Faith in Seminary

For some RevGals and Pals, seminary is a fairly recent memory- perhaps within the past ten years. For others among us, it may have been twenty years or more. For a brave few, the pioneers in our midst, in may be more than that because these women represent the first in the denominations to be ordained. Of course, we also count in our blessed company Gals and Pals who are not ordained, but who may well have attended seminary or encouraged others toward a vocation that included higher, theological education. Whatever your circumstances, today I ask you to draw up to the surfaces of your memory your own experiences with seminary, theological education, call committees, ordination exams, and the myriad hoops and doors toward service in God's church.

Keeping the Faith in Seminary is a small volume of essays that explores the issues that come with pursuing that Master of Divinity or Master of Arts in Religion. The essays themselves range from gently humorous and encouraging to the contemporary seminary to frustrated scolding of committees and one-size-fits-all tracks. The ink on my own M.Div is dry, but only just and I serve on my synod's candidacy committee. Thus, I read this book with an eye toward encouraging theological vocations, a way to explain seminary to those who may be curious, and perhaps a way to improve the church's system of training our future leaders of all sorts.

While all the essays are good in their own way, there are a couple stand-outs:

Rachel Wind's essay "Unclogging the Pipes" laid out how easy it is for people to assume a love of church and an exhibition of ministry skill is evidence of a call to ordination. Wind describes her love of church and seminary community and her slow realization that the work she loved was serving within that community, not within a parish setting. This made me think about the benefits of theological education and the community that frequently comes with that education can often serve as their own ends, not means for purposes of church.

Mary Hinkle Shore wrote a powerful essay about what it means to undo in mind and body the lessons and practices that were carefully imparted, with good intention, in seminary teaching. ("Never Stop Unlearning") Some of us drop like a hot potato important theological tenets because we did not embrace the history behind them, but other ideas we learn to shape, with a respect for history, to our community and our situations. Shore's essay stirred up for me the indigestion that comes when I do something I suspect is just heterodox enough to scare a certain professor, but reveals Jesus in a new and powerful way to the persons with whom I am working. Every former seminarian comes to those experiences now and again.

Tim Oleson's "Candidacy: An Expected Hurdle" is the essay for everyone who is part of shaping seminarians and church leaders. Is the process we use for the asking of forming, through the Spirit, a unique vessel to carry the message of Christ or is the process for the sake of process? His struggles with a candidacy committee are frustrating to read, but may help the current seminarian feel less alone in a similar experience.

RevGalBlogPal's own Rev. Marci Glass wrote about her own experience in failing failing one of her ordination exams for PC(USA). ("What Would Jesus Score? Finding My Call Through Hoop Jumping, Exams, and Grace.") Her essay describes a deep understanding of what it means to serve the church, to understand God's call to that work and, yet, to have a deeply human system fail to reach that same understanding. Glass's powerful reflection on the role of grace within the process of ordination is encouraging not only to current students, but to anyone who longs to hope that the power of the Spirit ultimately prevails.

There are seventeen essays in the book with a good mix of men and women writers, though heavy on the Lutheran (ELCA) tradition. I would recommend this book to anyone who has already completed seminary, but still reflects on that system and process. The book is a little heavy on theological language, generally as an example of how overwhelming seminary can be. Nevertheless, since the concepts are not explained the language can sometimes serve as the same barrier about which the writers are complaining. As a pastor and a candidacy committee member, I am not sure this book is what I would give to people early in a call/candidacy process, unless the candidate already had several years in church work and some concept and concern regarding the candidacy process.

I would, however, strongly recommend the book to all candidates who are 2-3 years into the process. These essays will speak very strongly, in my opinion, to those in that stage.

In today's discussion, speak to your own seminary/theological education/ candidacy process. Were you uplifted and affirmed? Was it a struggle? What do you say to those who come to you and say, "I want to know about becoming a pastor"?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Prayer for Proper 12B/Ordinary 17B/Pentecost 9

Loving god,
We praise you.
We thank you.
We humble ourselves before you.

We take time now not only to pray but also to listen Lord,
We pray for your compassion on those who are sick and dying.
We pray you show your love to those who are lonely or feeling unloved.
We pray you show your grace to those who are stressed at work,
 those who are jobless and searching for work and Those who are retired.
We ask you show us your hope who find themselves in the midst of despair and hopelessness.
We ask that you show your peace to those who live in turmoil and unrest.

Oh Lord your whole world is hurting
And your people are hurting.
We pray for wisdom for our leaders.
We pray for families affected by the recent mass shootings.
We pray for the families of the victims of child abuse.
We pray for the families affected by alcohol or drugs.
Strengthen, guide them give them grace.

Lord, call us into Christian action to be your hands and feet to your people in this hurting world.
Empower and equip us to make real your love and grace to those in need.

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

11th Hour Preacher Party: More Than Enough Edition

Overflow.Greetings, Preachers!

I wonder if King David's mother had more than a hand-full with young child David?

I wonder what happened to the leftovers at Jesus' great picnic?

I wonder why we would ever say "no, thank you" (or "enough, already!) to the bread of life?

"More than enough" -- blessing or burden?

Welcome to today's Preacher Party!
Let's pile up the table snacks and goodies.  Leftovers are welcome!
Help yourselves to the never-depleted coffee pot and iced tea pitcher.

Share your thoughts and struggles -- preaching related or not.  
Take an extra helping of encouragement and ideas.
May you be filled with good things and abundant blessings!
And give thanks!

Whatever you've got, in Christ Jesus, it's going to be more than enough!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Minimalist: Friday Five

We are packing to move, boxes are everywhere, stuff has been taken to charity shops, more needs to go to the tip. Once again I am asking myself where all this stuff has come from, once again I'm thinking that I should really reduce and simplify.

So bearing in mind you are allowed the Bible, a bed + linen, a functioning kitchen, and a comfy chair, clothes within reason ( no dragging last centuries wardrobe in case), and probably essential today a lap-top OR computer  choose one from each of the following as your luxuries:

1. A book
2. A piece of music (albums/ sets allowed)
3. Piece of electronic/ tech equipment
4. luxury item of clothing
5. One item of your choice- it can be as normal or as weird as you like

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, July 26, 2012

Ask the Matriarch - When People Leave, but Don't Really Leave Edition

Most, if not all, of us women who are ordained have come face-to-face with men and women who do not believe in the validity of our calling from God.  Sometimes the result is that the person(s) choose to leave the communities of faith we have been called to lead; at other times, they stay, or stay on the periphery.  Such is the case with our sister in Christ who writes today.

Hello Matriarchs,

I have a problem that many of our sisters might be familiar with.  When I began my current appointment, just over a year ago, two male members and their families left because they didn’t want a female preacher.  I am not the first woman this church has had in the pulpit, but these folks probably joined in the years between.

The concern I am having is that one of these men remains teaching a Bible Study that is considered to be a church event.  It is off site and was originally sponsored by our men’s group, though now one woman attends.  This man is a self-styled expert, accountable to no one.  I realize that people like him exist in many churches.

My husband went to the Bible Study a couple of times.  He thinks this man is arrogant (in my one meeting I found him the same), but said that the only people who went to the study were a few of the “old-timers” who have been members of the church for a while, and who get along with me very well.  Now, however, some new prospective members have begun attending.  When I met this man at a church event recently (the only thing he has attended since his departure), he told me about this couple coming to his study, how he believed they needed additional “tutoring” and he is working with them individually himself.

I didn’t want to deal with this issue while I was the “new pastor” in my first year.  Now, however, I wonder if something should be done.  Is it worth ruffling feathers to say that this study should not be a church event and be taken off our calendar and other publications?  (Our calendar keeper is one of the few who attend and invite others.)  Also, what would be the precedent set about using other non-members as volunteers at our church for things like VBS, music, etc.  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Thanks!

Several of the matriarchs are enjoying some much-appreciated vacation time, while others are leading mission trips and the like.  As a result, Muthah+, who blogs at Stone of Witness is our sole respondent this week:

Dear Second Year Pastor,

First of all, I would suggest you talk to the members of your board. They are the ones who called you.  Tell them of your concerns. If they think that you can ignore him, do so.  The less you can give him credence, the better off you will be.

If he is running this study as an activity of the congregation, your leadership should end it if this person is not going to make himself part of the worshiping community.  Explain to your board what your fears are.  The more that the congregation can take responsibility for this breach the better you are.  Try not to be in the middle or triangle in this situation.  It is really those who called you who should do something about this guy.

If they cannot or won't do anything, ignore him.  He does not choose to be accountable to the church, so don't give him a second thought.  This is one of those 'shake the dust of your feet' type of situations and you are better off if you do not have to deal with him.

Have you faced a similar situation?  Do you have some insight or advice for our sister?  Please join the conversation by posting your comments below.

The Matriarchs' mailbox is empty again, so it's a great time to send your questions to us at

May you live in God's amazing grace+

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Adultery/Rape and Famine and Abundant Food--Oh My Edition

Let us pray (prayer from here):
In the mist languishing
over a lake,
in the shadows crawling
across the lawn;
in the boistrous teenagers
cannon-balling into the pool,
in the sweet breath of a baby
cooling our cheeks;
in the elegiac stories of grandparents
around the dinner table,
in the giggling of children
sharing a secret;
in our rising to new life
each morning,
in the comforting arms
of sleep;
in the healing taste
of Christ's brokenness,
in the Cup's tart tang
of grace;
in all these, and so many more,
we are blessed with the richness
of your glory in our lives,
and offer our thanks to you,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as you teach us,
Our Father . . .

And welcome to another week!  This Sunday takes us to Proper 12B, the 9th After Pentecost.  The RCL passages for the week can be found here.

maybe just show the movie?
To say this week has a wide variety of preaching points would be an understatement.

feeding the multitudes
On one hand we have the David and Bathsheba story.  Which would make for an "interesting" summer sermon.  On the other hand there is the famine in the land with Elisha, which would pair nicely with the feeding of the multitude in John (which is sort of the point the lectionary gods were trying to make I guess).  So that leaves a choice between abundance in the face of apparent scarcity or a chance to explore "Biblical family values".

Or you could avoid both and go with Paul's blessing to the Ephesian church.

Unless of course you are on your own sermon series track.

Whatever your sermonic thoughts may be, feel free to share them in the comments.

RevGalBookPals: Latter-Day Saints Edition

It's July and if you are not taking a little break, you may be in the midst of planning for your next seasons of learning. While this is a global group, I have been thinking about elections recently (not election, my darling Presbyterians). In the USA, there exists the possibility of electing a president in November who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Regardless of what you think of the candidate in question or about the impact the U.S. president may have on the world, you or members of your congregation may have questions about what he believes and in what ways his faith may impact his decisions, personal and political.

The LDS faith is fairly "new" on the scenes of world religion. Certainly not the newest kid on the block, but it has been somewhat unknown for much of its history. You may have very strong anti-LDS feelings, ambivalent LDS feelings, strong pro- LDS feelings, or be saying, "What is she talking about?"

I'm considering doing a little 4 week primer in a couple months about the tenets of the LDS faith within the congregation I lead. I have no interest in changing anyone's vote (well, that might be a stretch, but I have no intention of doing so by this method), but I generally find that people are curious about other systems of belief and spirituality. Within my own congregation, I may express some of my own strong feelings regarding the LDS church, but for today's purposes- I'd like to tell you about some of the resources that are available to you, if you decide to read a bit more, point curious congregants toward more information, or want to lead a little study yourself.

General Information/ Pro- LDS

Mormonism for Dummies is exactly what it says. It's a very clear-cut guide to the most basic tenets of the the Latter-Day Saint church, religion, and history. I used this resource myself a few years ago when trying to get a toe-hold into the words and phraseology around LDS practices. The authors are both LDS themselves and, thus, are fairly positive toward the history of the church and very positive about the current state and future of the church. This book will answer the most basic questions about day-to-day practices, special ceremonies, titles and positions, and common misunderstandings about the faith.

In the event that you have read (or intend to read) The Book of Mormon, A Plain English Reference to the Book of Mormon is a guide to help you understand what you're reading and its context. This guide may be more helpful to people who already have a strong or fairly strong understanding of Latter-Day Saint beliefs. The Book of Mormon offers some doctrinal ideas and history, but is mainly the explanation and story of the gospel on the North American continent. This guide helps outline the relationships and connections that are crucial to grasping the story of the Book of Mormon.

Not being Mormon, I have no idea how Elna Baker's memoir was received in the Saint community. This is a funny read about her move to New York, attempts to find work, and effort to remain chaste while kissing many men. Her faith evolves throughout the book, but she does remain true to the LDS church (if not the entire spirit of all the teachings). I would consider this book LDS-positive, because her struggles are legitimate and her own, but do not lead her into excessive criticism of the church, its hierarchy, or the tradition in which she was raised. If you have no interest in the LDS, but just want a fun read- this is a book for you.

Specific Information/"Anti-LDS"

Almost any book that attempts to examine discrepancies in LDS history or practiced is significantly criticized. The Mormon Mirage  is one of these books. Written by a former Mormon, there is a great deal of research into the history and historic claims of the LDS church. This is published by Zondervan and thus, occasionally, one sees a certain fervor shining through as the author refutes the Mormonism in which she was raised to embrace the evangelical Christianity that is frequently a cornerstone to this publishing house. Nevertheless, it is a well-researched book offering information to the curious and seeking reader. Along the same lines, one may wish to read

An American Fraud: One Lawyer's Case against Mormonism

Krakauer is not one of my favorite authors; I usually find him a somewhat bombastic in tone. However, I was riveted by Under the Banner of Heaven. This book deals more with the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), but it also delves into some of the violent history of the Mormom church itself. While the history of Christianity is hardly violence-free, there is little said about the history of violence in the early days of the LDS church, which are part of still fresh U.S. history. The reader must be discerning in reading this book as to what is currently true of the LDS versus the FLDS, but the book is informative and somewhat painful to read. In particular, the failure of the current LDS structure to speak loudly and forcefully against cults and cult behavior is provocative and thought-provoking. 

Leaving the Saints is somewhat controversial in that Martha Beck's former husband (who also left the LDS faith) contests a few details, but he does uphold the majority of her story. Beck talks about coming to terms with her memories of child sexual abuse at the hands of her father, a famous Mormon apologist. She discusses her struggle to find and define her spirituality, ultimately realizing that she will not heal or be whole within a church structure that denies her truth. Beck explains several principles of LDS faith and practices and her frustration with the same. This book is very helpful in understanding some of the structure of the church and the power it has in Mormon communities and homes. 

In the event that you want to read a little bit more about LDS history, these are a few resources for you. I regret that I do not have (at this time) anything to offer about the work of the LDS church outside of the United States. At this time, given the work of Mormon missionaries, the LDS faith can certainly be considered, at least, a minor world religion. 

I would feel remiss as a long-time RevGalBlogPal and a board member if I did not point out that the foundation of RGBP is the support (in all possible ways) of women's ordination and leadership in the church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not offer women the leadership of the "priesthood" nor are women called to decision-making roles in the church or church hierarchy. 

This compilation of reviews is my own work and may not be taken out of context. Neither should it be construed or quoted as my own support or the support of RevGalBlogPals for the specific church mentioned above or any candidate therewith associated.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

11th Hour Preacher Party

This is one long summer in the part of the country I live in. I am yearning, deeply yearning for fall. Or at least a little reprieve from this hot dry weather. Maybe you are too:

There. Maybe this photo will offer us a breather, and a place to meditate as we ponder our sermons for this week.

So, where are your thoughts today? I have been off for two Sunday's (busy, attending the General Convention of the Episcopal Church....) but as I return tomorrow I intend to continue my teaching series on Samuel. I have a lot to catch up on as I follow the story of David, now King David...

What about you? Are you working with Jeremiah? Or Samuel? Ephesians or Mark?

Whichever, we're here to help and support and well, just listen if you need an ear. Pull up a chair I have some excellent coffee and fresh berries.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Five: Next Five Months

The summer is whizzing by and soon it will be August! That means that there are five months left in this year 2012. What do you look forward to in the next five months; or what is scheduled? What is meaningful for you in each of these months? Or memories you have of these months? You decide what to write about for each month!

1. August
2. September
3. October
4. November
5. December

Have fun!

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: For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ask the Matriarch - Funeral for an Atheist

With apologies for  being tardy this morning, here is our question this week!

Just discovered revgals as I am a candidate in waiting for a call.
My next door neighbor's husband died yesterday and they are both atheists.  She wants me to plan a service to be held in a few weeks at the funeral home.  They are waiting one of their sons to return from Germany.  So where does an unexperienced revgal begin or not begin????

Jennifer responds:

First of all, best wishes to you as you preparing for your first call!

Your neighbor is in need. She’s reached out to your for help. I’d begin there.
If you don’t already know your neighbor well, you’re certainly being provided with an opportunity to get better acquainted and for both of you to determine whether you’re the best person to help her.

You’re being given the gift of some time to have one or more conversations about what she envisions for the service.
You don’t say what your own tradition is as far as worship and theology are concerned. It’s important for you to determine how comfortable you are with her requests.  
You’ll learn from a conversation with her what would be helpful, caring and compassionate. Figure out what your conscience and your faith will allow, and see where the Spirit takes you.

And Muthah+ (aka Lauren) writes:

I am an Episcopalian and we have an 'app' for that.  You might look at your tradition's ministry to the unbaptized for some help.  But most of all you want to provide comfort and help at a time of loss.  Meet with the family and find what they need to hear.  Poetry, readings that speak of the values that the family appreciates.  In one such funeral, we took some of the love letters the spouse had from her husband during the war.  Be open to asking them how they want their loved one remembered because you are not only speaking TO them but your are speak THEM to others who will be attending.  Let them know that you would generally speak of God and ask them how they want the goodness of the deceased to be expressed.  I often invite others in the congregation to speak if it is small gathering.  

Finding the value in the deceased is an important thing for them and for you. Hold up those values and speak the goodness that are in them. Get the family to tell you how they appreciated him.  When we are speaking of the Good we are also proclaiming God's presence, you just don't have to say so. I try to keep it light, respectful and short.  And with a bit of gentle humor if the situation presents itself.  Rejoice that she trusts you enough to have you do the funeral.  It says volumes about your relationship.  The hard work will come weeks from now when she is alone.  Then the problems with afterlife, how to remember, etc. will crop up and she will need to ask questions.  

And Crimson Rambler offers:

The Anglican Church of Canada in its Book of Occasional Services (the odds and ends that didn't make it into either the Book of Common Prayer OR the Book of Alternative Services) has some very useful prayers and a form for remembering thankfully the life of a person who did not profess the Christian faith...  When you feel it might be inappropriate to proclaim the resurrection, there are still useful and helpful things to be said.  The link to the Rite online seems to be broken, so I'm including a link to the Episcopal Church equivalent -- I hope --
You might also want to take a look at a very useful Lutheran text called A Trumpet in Darkness.

I hope that this is helpful.  In my experience it has been useful to say, "I will do my best for you" and then ask very carefully about what they WOULD like to hear, ignoring as much as possible the grumbles about what they DON'T want, (usually, "a lot of religion stuffed down our throats")... I remember on one occasion , working with a widow, and making micro-suggestions on behalf of the assembled guests, "Would you mind if I read a bit of Scripture, nothing too long?  Would it be all right if I led the Lord's Prayer; I suspect many of the guests will find it familiar?" and little by little, gently, we managed to assemble most of what would have constituted a Christian funeral.

Every blessing on this work...and this new challenge!


Thank you so much, dear matriarchs, for your helpful responses. What about the rest of you? What experience or advice would you offer? Please join the conversation in the comments section. And, as always, send us your questions at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday Festival: 7th Anniversary Party!!

Happy 7th Anniversary, RevGals and Pals! 

It was 7 years ago tomorrow that a comment string on the blog of St. Casserole started this whole amazing thing.

Here's what Cass wrote:


Should we have a t-shirt with this? I don't know much about Cafe Press so I'm just wondering.
There followed 115 comments, and by the end of that string we had a Cafe Press store, including T-shirts, mugs and thongs (!) (we no longer offer the thongs), a webring, and the beginnings of a blog our own set up.  We also determined to donate the proceeds of the CafePress store to charity, which in the past has been Heifer International. 

Here's a choice comment from that original string, regarding a favorite CP item, the mug asking, "Does this pulpit make my butt look big?" * 
Is there an award for RebelWithoutAPew/PureChristianthink
who came up with "does my butt look big in this pulpit?." She deserves special recognition at our Annual Meeting. 
Yes.  Yes, she does.

Little (?) did we know what we would actually have an annual meeting, in the form of the Big Event continuing education programs.  Our sixth one will be this year, and registrations are nearly at the full mark!  If you are still interested, click the link in the right sidebar for more information.   CEU's are available. 

It's been an amazing seven years. We are now a blog with daily posts, including the highly popular Tuesday Lectionary Leanings and Saturday Eleventh-Hour Preacher Party.  We have a separate Prayer Blog, RevGalPrayerPals.  We also have a Facebook Group with 334 members, and a Facebook Page with 687 members. We are incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) (non-profit) in the State of Texas, with an elected Board of Directors. 

Our membership includes males and females, straight and gay, clergy and laity, and people right around the world.  We support and love one another through tragedy (personal, family, church, world, and universal).  We are truly a community of  Christian love, and that means we have also had our challenges.  As with any Christian community, we have tried our best to address these faithfully, lovingly, prayerfully.  I pray that the years ahead will show new ways that our community can be of service to clergywomen and their friends. 

Celebrate with us today!  Share in the comments (or on your blog with a link here) your favorite RevGals memory.  How did you find the group?  What has made it meaningful for you?


* Note that if you go to the RevGals CafePress store today, there is not currently much to purchase.  We have not had a coordinator for this effort for several years, and we would welcome volunteers to discuss how this could be revitalized.  Martha/Songbird has added our new logo to some old items, but the CafePress site is wonky. Click on an item to see if it doesn't really have the new artwork. And please do contact for more information if you might have the time and talent to help with the store. Thanks!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Where Does God Dwell? Edition

Under Construction???
I remember 3 years ago preaching on this Sunday and having a big box marked "ACME E-Z Build Church Kit".  Mind you I don't exactly remember what I did beyond that...  Anyway, on with the show.

Shall we begin with prayer (written by Thom Shuman):
Steadfast God, we confess that we are so busy
putting up walls between ourselves and others,
we cannot see the home you are building for all
of us. We spend so much time noting the differences
between us and others, while you are embracing
everyone as your child. We run to welcome those
who look, talk, and act like us, and you throw open
your doors to the stranger, the alien, in our midst.
Forgive us, Faithful Heart. By your grace, help us
to see the household your are building for all people:
there are no plastic protectors on the furniture; there
are no rooms that are off-limits; and even the smallest
child is welcome to sit at the big peoples' Table and
be fed by your grace. We pray this in the name of
Jesus Christ, our peace, our hope, our Lord, our Savior.

The RCL readings for this Sunday (which is Proper 11B, the 8th After Pentecost) can be found and read here. And what do the lectionary folks have for us this week???

I think I could find God here
A lot of possibilities on the concept of dwelling.  David wants to build a dwelling place for God (and is told not to).  Paul reminds the Ephesians that  they (or the church as a whole) are (is) God's dwelling place.  And could it be said that Jesus of Nazareth was also a dwelling place for God?  A dwelling place that all wanted to connect with?  Jesus as the new temple?

Maybe it is just as well I am not preaching if I want to talk about Jesus as the temple...

But some of you ARE preaching.  And what are you preaching about?
GOt this one from FB a few months back.  Good Question though?

Big Event 6.0 FAQs

The official "pheeto" from BE 4.0.
"It's the registration deadline for Big Event 6.0. Does that mean if I haven't signed up it's too late?"

We have a limit of 40 for this BE. As of Friday, we had a handful of spaces left. We'll be checking the mail today and let you know exactly how many. The significance of the first payment deadline is to be sure we have enough participants to meet our expenses, and we have reached that number.

If you want to come but don't have a registration form yet, email RevGalBlogPals and I'll get a form and brochure off to you today.

"Can I give you my deposit online today?"

We're not able to take a credit card or online payment at RevGalBlogPals (although you can use them for the payment to Pure Travel Ideas). If you want to register today, send an email and we will get you on the list. Then mail your check.

"Remind me what happens on the Big Event?"

The Big Event is a unique combination of learning, relaxation and "galship." We've found that using a cruise ship for our venue allows for unplugging from the rest of the the world that encourages all three. Although we are not in the most posh cabins on the ship, it's a welcome measure of service and modest luxury for the ordinarily hard-working clergy women and lay leaders who participate. Our schedule includes worship, continuing education, and plenty of personal time, as well as dinners with the group. The cruise ship will dock at Key West and Nassau, the Bahamas; participants will be free to go ashore (or not) without missing any part of the program.  Recreation opportunities range from miniature golf to karaoke to shows and each ship has a gym and spa (spa costs are additional).

"Can you tell me more about the program leader?"

Rachel Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ pastor, a soccer mom, an author and a pray-er. I've had the chance to attend a workshop in which she facilitated Psalm writing. I found her to be inspiring -- even the most dubious-looking pastors in the room had something creative to share in the end. I know our participants will appreciate her presence and leadership just as we value her books and her blog, Faith and Water.

In the water at Cozuemal, BE 5.0.
"Why a cruise?"

When we got a group together to plan the first Big Event, the suggestion of a cruise took many of our planners by surprise. We quickly discovered that a cruise was surprisingly affordable and amazingly relaxing. Our wintertime date means lots of us are grateful for sun and surf. Meeting space comes at no additional charge, allowing us to keep overall costs down. RevGalBlogPals Big Event is not supported by grants; we have to meet our expenses each year. Whatever we have left over is rolled into the next year's deposit.

Other questions? Send an email and I will respond today.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Prayer for Sunday Proper 10B/Ordinary 15B/Pentecost 7

Lord, its all yours; this earth, this universe,
All of us. We are all yours.
And we praise your name for the beauty of it all.

We come seeking a deeper relationships with you God.
We come wanting to know you better, and
Wanting to know you better.
And so we come to worship,
come to listen and come to pray.

We ask that you hear our prayers;
Hear the cry of the needy,
fill their hearts with your love.
Hear the cry of the hungry,
Fill their bellies with food.
Hear the cry of the lonely,
Fill their lives with friendships.
Hear the cry of those who are grieving,
Fill their souls with your presence.

Lord, we would love to dance like David
Before you, but some of us are handicapped,
Some are stiffened by arthritis,
weakened by neurological or muscular diseases,
some of us are tired from our work, and
some of us are burdened down with problems and stress.
Lord we pray for that day when we not only get to feast at your heavenly banquet,
But also for the day when we get to dance like David.


Friday, July 13, 2012

11th Hour Preacher Party: Mid-Summer (at least for some of us) Edition

Wasn't the summer (at least for us Northern Hemisphere-ers) supposed to slow down?  That's always the promise, isn't it? If the summer is supposed to slow down, why does my office look like this?  Seriously, this is out of control.

How is your preaching going this season?  There was a great conversation over on Facebook earlier this week about all sorts of different sermon series for the times of year that are a little longer and a little less attended.  It's a fun time to do something different, and it looks like a number of us are taking advantage of that opportunity.
Where are you heading this week?  The lectionary has John the Baptist losing his head (literally, not figuratively), more David (which isn't any easier!), Amos's plumb line and some of his call story (maybe a way in there???), and the start of Ephesians.  I think at least one of us is embarking on an Ephesians series.
Anyone need a children's sermon?  My advice - - go with the Psalm!!!
I have a feeling we're going in lots of different directions this weekend, but there's one thing I've learned.  We still have plenty of wisdom and support to share with one another.  Join the party today in the comments.  We'd love to have you, regulars and newcomers.  Let's get this party started!

It's the Second Friday of the Month Friday Five...

...and you know what that means--yet another edition of a Random Friday Five!
So, without further ado, let's get our random on!

1.  If a spaceship landed in your back yard, and three very cute little aliens knocked on your door and asked you to show them around Earth,where would you take them?  (Remember, you have superpowers from last month's Second Friday Five, so if you need to use them for transportation, feel free to do so.)

2.  What is making you grumpy these days?

3.  O.K., so now that you got the grumps out, what is one thing today that will be sheerly joyful for you?

4.  I am pitifully, once again, trying to grow a garden.   Last year I only harvested one cucumber.   This year, I have zucchini, cucumbers and tiny tomato plants.   Everything is abloom, but the jury is out whether there will be any yield.   So, do YOU have a garden?  What are you growing?   If you don't, what is your favorite fresh summertime vegetable/fruit/flower?

5.  If the aforementioned aliens suddenly demanded all the contents of your closet, OR ELSE (as in clothing, shoes,  etc.) but kindly said you could keep three items, what would they be?

Have fun, and as always, let us know if you played by telling us in the comments, and linking us to your page!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ask the Matriarch - Planning and Visioning

Our question this week is about a great "big picture" issue - how much time should a pastor spend on visioning and planning? And what exactly is that process supposed to look like? Our colleague writes:

I read somewhere that effective pastors should spend some huge percentage of their time in planning and visioning (can’t remember exact number, only that it was huge).  I feel like I hardly ever plan or vision in the big picture sense, but mostly just triage each new thing as it comes at me.  As for worship planning, after 5 years in one call, I feel like I'm just beginning to get a handle on looking ahead a very little.  I'm a solo pastor of small but healthy and slowly growing congregation.   So my question is, do you agree with the premise?  should I be spending more time in planning/visioning?  And if you are a planner, can you describe what your planning process looks like -either for worship, or for other programs/projects of the church, or for the overall mission of the organization?

  Muthah+ responds:
Dear Pastor,

I think planning and visioning should be proportional to the size of your congregation and mission of the community you serve.  A larger parish needs a great deal more planning because there are often more people involved --not just staff but volunteers. Smaller congregations often have a life of their own.  My first years in ministry were involved in 'triage' too. It also involved what I thought the ministry of the parish 'should' be rather than allowing myself to see the ministry that was already there.  But that too was at a different time in the Church.  

I think today in a small parish I would focus on what it means to belong, how that belonging forms community and how that community proclaims the love of Christ by loving one another.  In smaller parishes and also my own ENFP personality, I would spend a great more time 'intuiting' rather than planning or visioning.  My sermons were always about a vision--and the people of the parish need to do the visioning.  It is empowering them to 'dream dreams and see visions' that is the work of a pastor.  That work is quite informal.  It is having coffee with the key leaders and dreaming with them that I found the most helpful.  It is the glue of the faith centered community.  And empowering them to tell you what's 'wrong' with your vision.  Laugh a bunch!

I am always a bit leery of hard and fast dictums from 'experts' or even 'matriarchs'.  Some dreaming and even planning has to be done--you can't just shoot from the hip.  But allow your own personality and your skills to dictate what you need to be doing.  It is the integrity of your faith that speaks so loudly in small parishes.  If you are slowly growing in today's church--you are doing something right.   And in small parishes it is the faith of the pastor that often speaks the most eloquently to her parishioners.  

Five years is about the time that you 'catch up' in a parish and the parish is ready to trust their 'new' pastor.  Try some of your ideas on your folk and let them test them.  You will only learn by doing.  

And Sharon at Tidings of Comfort and Joy offers:

Because my personality type (MBTI = INFP) is about the most un-planning-est personality type there is, it would deplete me to have to spend "huge percentages" of my time planning.  So, I encourage you to be true to your own pastoral style and personality as you find your own comfort level with planning.

Here's just about the only structured planning I do:  On a fairly regular basis, I plan congregational worship for an entire liturgical season.  My "method" -- if it can be called that -- is to create a table in a computer document and put each worship service for the season in its own row down the first column.  For each worship service, the first column in that row has the the date & day (Nov. 28/Advent 1) and special events that day (Communion, Baptism, Mother's Day). The second column lists the scriptures we will use that day. The third column has initial thoughts and references and music / hymns (it's a wider column!).  It's a highly adaptable model!

I also offer this link to an Alban Institute article that came this week, all about the pastor's role in leading a congregation to make plans:  Planning Assumptions.  Some of the "assumptions & realities" might be applicable to a pastor's own planning, too.

Thanks for asking this question!  I look forward to learning more from the other Matriarch responses and comments.

I love it that both matriarchs reference their personality type (like Muthah+, I am an ENFP) - I agree with them that personality, along with congregational type/size/personality are all factors in how planning and visioning work. Let's hear from the rest of you - how does planning/visioning work for you? How and when do you fit it in? What other advice would you offer? Please join the conversation in our 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, July 11, 2012

Wednesday Festival: Seventy-Seven Times

Today's post is from Katherine E. Willis-Pershey at any day a beautiful change

"Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times."

We don't know where she picked it up; it isn't something we have modeled, necessarily, and not something we intentionally taught. But we hear it several times a day.

"Juliette, you can't take toys away from your sister."
"Will you forgive me?"

"Juliette, you know you're not supposed to jump on the couch."
"Will you forgive me?"

"You're not listening!"
"Please forgive me!"

It kind of knocked the wind out of me the first time she said it. I don't know why it feels so different than a simple "I'm sorry." It's so humbling, so plaintive, so serious. It has taught me to dial down my reactions to her minor offenses; otherwise, my harsh tone immediately elicits a plea for forgiveness, and I find myself trying to explain that she does not need to be forgiven for getting so excited about a picture book that she accidentally raised her voice over the acceptable volume for the library. She merely needs a reminder. Preferably, a gentler one.

I'm torn between worrying that overusing the language of forgiveness will water it down, and celebrating the ease with which she asks for it. With Juliette around, there is no danger of forgiveness becoming a dusty theological word, divorced from lived relationships.

I am learning to say, "Yes, I forgive you," because no matter how overblown the situations may seem, I want her to learn that she will always be forgiven, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

I am also learning to ask for my daughter's forgiveness, to not merely say that I am sorry, but to use the language that she has adopted.

She always says yes.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Celebrate!?!? Edition

 Let us pray (prayer source):
O God,
sustain us in the complexity of our humanity
as you sustained David--
playing the harp of youth,
throwing stones at giant problems,
loving our friends beyond wisdom,
dancing worship,
mourning children,
breaking our hearts in psalms, and
longing for warmth in our old bones. Amen.

David Dancing
Salome and John
As a new week dawns we (or at least those of us using the Lectionary) find ourselves looking at the readings for Proper 10B.  My what a contrast.  AS you scan down the page you start with David dancing (and exposing himself?) before the Lord and end with Salome asking for a rather odd thank-you present following her dance.

In between those we also have Amos (one of my favourite prophets) confronting the king.  Or one could go with what I am seeing as almost a hymn of praise from Ephesians.

So whither would you go?  Nearly naked dancing or severed heads or...?

meet-n-greet, lost but not forgotten edition

I may be losing my mind, unaware of day or time or what I'm supposed to be doing (hence the crazy late post--sorry!), but we do NOT want to lose these two new friends! Be sure to stop by, say hello, and offer a warm RGBP welcome to our newest members!

Bookgirl "used to teach high school English. Then I quit my job, sold my condo, moved 2000 miles away, and started working on a graduate degree. Simultaneously, I moved from the Evangelical world to slowly finding a place in the mainline denominations. Then I met CG, got married, moved 2000 miles back home, and kept working on my Ph.D at my alma mater. Now we have 2 children and I’ve finished school, but seem set to be Dr. Mom for awhile. Meanwhile, I’ve found myself more and more drawn in to lay ministry in our local Presbyterian church where I am an elder and currently sitting on Session (council)."

Mary van Balen met our very own Jules up at Collegeville last month and was encouraged to join--thanks for the RevGal evangelism, Jules! Mary is a long time blogger who just decided it was time to join--and we're glad to have her! At her blog you can find her "reflecting on the spiritual pilgrimage through everyday life."

Welcome, friends--we're glad you're here!

Don't forget you can also join in conversation over at our facebook group, you can always jump right into the comments on any post here, and we're always looking for Ask The Matriarch questions--lots of ways to be involved in our community!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Music Videos: Canticle of the Turning

The readings today spoke of difficult mercies: prophets sent to the hard of heart, an angel of Satan sent to keep Paul from becoming "too elated" as one translation has it, the poignant Gospel of Mark where Jesus' neighbors and friends cannot comprehend who he is...turning him out.

We didn't sing this piece today — but the text speaks to me of the mercies we are offered, the gradual way in which fire and water soften the stone of our hearts, and the power that can perfect even our weaknesses. I enjoyed the power of this arrangement, which literally shook my desk. The voice of the Lord, full of power.

My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all the tears, For the dawn draw near, And the world is about to turn.

Though I am small, my God, my all, you work great things in me,
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame, and to those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight, for the world is about to turn.

--Canticle of the Turning/Rory Cooney

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Prayer for Sunday Proper 9B/Ordinary 14B/Pentecost 6


We lift up our eyes and our hearts.

We pray to be filled with your tender mercies,

We come to you in faith,

Asking for your steadfast love

To touch our inner most parts,

Lord we pray for your church, your denominations

especially those who have met and are meeting.

We pray for your churches that are being martyred in other countries,

especially those in Kenya.

We pray for those suffering from fires in Colorado,

the oppressive heat,  those enduring the loss of electricity and .

those who have experienced flooding.

We pray for healing for our sisters and brothers

and for our world that needs healing.

We pray for strength for those who are caring for elderly parents,

and those who are sandwiched between parents and children.

We remember our members who are homebound whether temporarily or long-term.

We remember those who are in nursing homes.

We pray for comfort and presence for those who are grieving.

Let us as your children reach out in love and care to these in need.

Lord, we thank you for all you have done and are doing in our lives, our churches and our world.

Help us to be ever mindful to hear and see you at work in our world.

Lord help us to remember that your grace is always abundantly available for us

no matter what we are going through.