God Loves a Cheerful Giver – RevGals 2015

I don’t want you to feel like you are being forced to give anything. What I mean is this: the one who sows a small number of seeds will also reap a small crop, and the one who sows a generous amount of seeds will also reap a generous crop. Everyone should give whatever each has decided in her heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:5b-7 Common English Version)

Many of us in ministry are just finishing or may even still be in the middle of our local Stewardship campaigns. It is the time of year that organizations look at the plans for the upcoming year and wonder about how to budget and plan for the following year.

RevGalBlogPals is doing the same thing. From today until December 21st, we will post about giving your time, talent and treasure to RGBP. We are a non-profit organization so monetary donations are tax-deductible. There is a PayPal button on the right sidebar that will allow you to make a one-time donation or a recurring donation. You may also send a check to RevGalBlogPals, 2101 W Oak Street, Denton, TX 76201-3722. Some of our donors send checks monthly through their banks.

As this campaign begins, we have 20 RevGals who have pledged a total monthly donation of $485, or approximately $25 each. The donations range from $5 – $50 per month. Those donations fund the ministry of RevGals including the salary of our Fearless Leader, the Reverend Martha Spong.

We do not pay Martha enough to cover the hours she commits to RevGals and we would like to be able to raise her part-time salary closer to a minimum wage range. Martha is the chief administrator of the Blog and the Facebook page. She is the coordinator for our continuing education events: the annual Big Event cruise, our new annual event on land called REVive, as well as smaller regional gatherings called ReGroup. Martha is also the pastor to many of us when we find ourselves in difficult calls or situations. She edited the upcoming RevGal’s book after organizing the authors and overseeing the contract with the publisher.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s our dream: We would love to get to a monthly pledge range of $1000 per month, which would allow us to raise Martha’s salary to that amount. There are 2278 members of our Facebook group and 354 blog ring members, and also 3715 followers of this blog. We believe $1000 per month is a reasonable, attainable goal. We also welcome one time gifts, which will be used for operating expenses, including an update to Martha’s laptop, which is her mobile office.

Please join us in the financial support of RevGalBlogPals. Let us sow a generous amount of seeds and reap a generous crop that will offer support to clergywomen and their pals all over the world.

Amy Haynie for the Board of RevGalBlogPals, Inc.

Categories: donate, RevGalBlogPals, RevGalBlogPals Inc | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Sunday Prayer: Reign of Christ

Most holy God,
beautiful and reigning Christ,
ever-pursuing Shepherd,

You have claimed us — we are yours;
before you we have no other gods.
Set your fire on our tongues
and your righteousness in our hearts
so that we might give you the honor and praise you deserve.

At the gate of your glory and greatness, we pray:
for unfettered joy to catch us up in its wake,
for glad gratitude to outpour from joy,
for fellowship to follow gratitude.

We cannot enter your divine gate
without our sisters and brothers –
the sheep and the goats, the weak and the strong,
the wandering and the lost and the cast-out, each and all your flock.
Bring us together and bring us safely home.

At the gate of your grace, we pray:
bind the wounds of the injured and hold
accountable those who have been reckless;
strengthen those who rise up and cry out
until they may rest with the arrival of reconciliation.
While we praise you, we wait impatiently for justice.

At the gate of your goodness, we pray:
for solace to those in mourning,
for clear vision to those who worry,
for relief to those who are struggling and strained.

Scatter us wide
so we might see
that there is nothing between us,
no separations among us — only you.
At the gate of your glory, we pray:
hold us close and dwell with us.

We pray by the power of Christ,
Amen.

Categories: RevGalPrayerPals, Sunday Prayer | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

11th Hour Preacher Party: Crown Him Edition

sheep-goatHappy Saturday, preachers!

This week we celebrate/face/puzzle over Reign of Christ (or Christ the King) Sunday, and whether the Son of Man is coming in his glory to call us out for being sheep or goats, or Jeremiah is offering up challenging prophecies, it’s tough talk in both the Revised Common Lectionary and the Narrative Lectionary.

Maybe you’re skipping all that, U.S. preachers, and having Thanksgiving Sunday?

The sun is barely breaking over the horizon here in South Central Pennsylvania, but it heralds a busy day at this preacher’s house. The coffee is ready, and pumpkin streusel muffins are on the table. Help yourselves. Use the comments below to tell us about your sermon, your day, your ideas for a children’s message, or really whatever you like. Let the party commence!

Categories: 11th Hour Preacher Party | Tags: , , , , | 101 Comments

Speak Up, Jesus!

IMG_0474News Flash:  David P. Gushee declares: “I’m an evangelical minister. I now support the LGBT community — and the church should, too.” The Mercer University distinguished professor of Christian ethics has shifted his moral stance, now convinced that LGBT persons are more than pawns in Christian ethics debates and victims of Bible proof-texting.

I celebrate this breaking from the rank-and-file by such a prominent evangelical voice. I am very happy to hear this life-giving news from a brother in Christ whom I have also known as friend.

Let us also hear Gushee’s journey as a cautionary tale, a tale told by Jesus himself in Matthew 25.  It’s possible to turn Jesus away, not seeing that it was Jesus, and not hearing that Jesus was the one speaking.

Thanks to voices that he was able hear, Gushee did see how the Civil Rights struggle mirrored the Holocaust genocide in the ways that Christians responded. While many Jews and blacks suffered, some Christians heard that cry as holy and worthy of respect. Too many Christians, when faced with those suffering “minority” populations, clung to Bible passages and traditional interpretations that shoved the already-marginalized to precarious edges of the margins, or off the page entirely, or dead.

Gushee astutely notes:

“Too often, people are silent when minorities are being victimized, because majority opinion is powerful. It is hard to cut against the grain of your entire culture, and courage is costly.”

In other words, when Jesus shows up, ready (needing, wanting) to be heard (respected, included, nurtured), sometimes that voice is heard as important and worthy of a hearing, and sometimes that voice is impossible to detect.

David Gushee has distinguished himself as an evangelical who has changed his mind and re-tuned his ears. No longer is he listening solely to traditional interpretation of Holy Scripture as final authority.  He has come home to the “good news for all people” that is the very translation of the word “evangelical.”

Gushee has decided to follow the way of Jesus, whose voice was speaking love and inclusion all along.  A pretty clear mission statement for Jesus and for us: “that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn.10:10) In Jesus world, they is us, stranger is neighbor, and enemy is friend.

All along, thought, some Christians and some churches have been living out the words of Jesus that Gushee and others are now hearing.  The United Church of Christ is an historic, mainline, Bible-believing, Jesus-is-Lord church, fully including LGBT persons, and even ordaining gay clergy as far back as 1972.  The UCC has taken its own mission statement from another Jesus vision: “That they may all be one” (John 17:21).

When we are confused about where the voice of Jesus is coming from, we can listen, with Gushee, to Glenn Stassen, Larry Rasmussen, Dietrich Bonhoffer, James Cone and Cornel West, who — sooner or later — spoke courageous Jesus-based truth to power.

A new-ish voice for liberation and equality of LBGT persons is Matthew Vines, president and founder of The Reformation Project, leading a call for “a gospel-centered, Bible-based approach to LGBT inclusion.” Dr. Gushee’s keynote address to their recent conference was: “Ending the Teaching of Contempt Against the Church’s Sexual Minorities.”

Again, a cautionary tale.  Whose voice is not being heard?  The above-mentioned heroes and mentors are all, every one, men.  I don’t mean the generic “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” kind of “men” that supposedly includes women. All of these inspiring and authoritative voices are male-identified men.

Why don’t women speak up?

The Board of Directors of Sojourners is 60% male. Even the United Church of Christ collegium is currently 75% male. Gushee, who serves on Sojourners’ board: “Majority opinion is powerful . . .” and minority numbers keep some voices unable to be heard.

So, who is particularly surprised by the news that it took the voices of 13 women, or 15 women – or more — to be heard over the one voice of a famous man who played beloved Dr. Huxtable on TV?  And then, it was a male comedian’s comedy routine going viral that finally started a new trial in the court of public opinion.

Why do women need to raise our voices — to speak up or speak out –to be heard, and believed?

Why are the LBT persons of the LGBT population less likely to be invited to the table than the “G” people? Which of their new evangelical allies will advocate for all of those “other” voices to be lifted up as authoritative?

When will they notice who’s not at the table to be heard?

When will I?

Wise words by David Gushee:  “Too often, people are silent when minorities are being victimized, because majority opinion is powerful. It is hard to cut against the grain of your entire culture, and courage is costly.”

Speak up, Jesus!  

Categories: clergywomen, The Pastoral is Political | 2 Comments

Friday Prayer: As Kingfishers Catch Fire

The sheep and the goats reading always makes me think of this poem, which I then pray: May I do that for which I came, for which I have been made,… to see and been seen by Christ in loving and being loved by those all around me.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)
Categories: clergywomen, Friday Prayer, Poetry, Prayers and Prayer Requests, RevGalPrayerPals | Leave a comment

Friday Five Thanksgiving Ahead!

ThanksgivingVittlesNowTakingOrders
Since I am going out of town for the weekend, I am seeing Thanksgiving suddenly approaching in the USA six days away–order food or buy it to cook?? That will be decided next week if I’m not in a funk:
The Cure
Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I’m not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she’s just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it’s snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn’t been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She’s been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn’t do it, put on a red dress.–Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)

So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she’ll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?
 
1. What is your cure for the “mulleygrubs”?
2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving?
3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family?
4. What do you wish could be deleted (or added) to your traditional Thanksgiving day?
5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?
BONUS: Describe Aunt Bert’s Thanksgiving.
And please leave a link to your play at your blog in the comments section. I’ll be back on Sunday evening to comment!
Categories: Friday Five | Tags: , | 11 Comments

Ask the Matriarch: Vision Process, check! Now what?

Dear Matriarchs,

We have just “finished” a visioning process, culminating in a new statement of the church’s identity and purpose. We are using the statement in worship each week for the next few weeks, but then what? How do I lead into this next phase, as we try to live into this new chapter? Working through the visioning process was one thing–there are so many resources with steps and ideas and outlines. Living into the result seems much more nebulous, but I know that this is the time for leadership, not for relaxing because we’re “done”…
help!

Now What?

Dear NW,

First of all, kudos and a big High Five for your desire to do something more with this good work beyond relegating it to a wall plaque or a filing cabinet. Some ideas:

  • Publish it in every newsletter and email update and church directory, etc.
  • Highlight your new statement in church meetings (boards, committees, mission teams, groups). Each time, get everyone read it in unison, and then do an opening game or activity with it that leads that group to interact with it and own it, like:
  • What word or phrase is your favorite?
    What part of this calls this particular group to reflection &/or action?
    After awhile, put each sentence on a card, give one to each person, and have them put them in order. Ask, does the order of the statement matter?
  • Another way to use the statement is to gently keep meetings and plans focused. “How does this express our stated purpose to . . .?” Also, be ready to affirm decisions and ways of being that do authentically express the congregation’s identity.
  • Use these statements to create worship liturgy and responses, especially on days of congregational meetings.
  • Could someone write an original hymn based on your statement? Or, could a person or group use these to create new words to a familiar hymn tune?

Don’t forget to ask your governing board if they have ideas about how to use it. Ask them to come up with 10 ideas, and then get them to decide on one or two that they can do or lead.

Sharon at Tidings of Comfort and Joy 

Dear Now What,
I’d suggest planning with your congregational leaders. Do you have a committee structure? Consider sharing the identity/purpose statement with each committee as a point of reflection and planning at each meeting for the next few months…or more. How do the plans and dreams of committees and groups in the life of the congregation reflect the statement? Use it as a touchstone everywhere you can. Print it in your church newsletter. Preach about it. Invite others to dream with you about what this statement means to them.
Best to you as you help live out some dreams!
Jennifer at An Orientation of Heart

Dear Now What?,

First off, if the new vision for the church isn’t implemented in decent time, no one will work on one again for years. It’s too distressing to be asked to discern identity and purpose if nothing comes of it. Second, is there a portion of the new statement that excites you? Makes you glad to be in leadership? If so, begin with this. If you feel there is too much “stuff” to do before you get to your exciting work, stop and look at the to-do list again and organize it into what can be done now and what can be done later. This will become clear to you as you draw up lists and more lists. Finally, consider a calendar of what will begin when. Then publicize every portion you implement through newsletter, bulletin or minute for mission (whatever you use to tell the congregation the same message at least 5 times.) P.S. I do better bounding into the future after a nap and a chat with a best friend.

Sally-Lodge Teel at St.Casserole

Dear Now What,
Congratulations on getting through the visioning process. That’s an important accomplishment. But that’s the easy part and, as you said,
now the fun begins!

I suggest that the statement become part of the daily liturgy of the church: spoken at the beginning of every worship as in: Good morning! We are ____ and our vision is to ___________! Welcome!

It would be good to start every meeting with this statement as well. Also, as leaders meet, they can stop after every Big Issue (e.g. the decision on the Vacation Bible School curriculum, the decision to hold a chili dinner, the evaluation after the youth retreat) and have a brief conversation about how that decision/program/event supported the vision (or didn’t.)

This is the only way that things will shift and the new vision becomes part of your congregation’s DNA. I hope you will avoid the temptation of putting it on a shelf after a couple weeks and then forgetting about it. Good luck!

Jan Edmiston at A Church for Starving Artists 

Dear “Now What”,

We just finished our Vision/Mission statement also. I love your idea of using it in worship!
Some of my thoughts on incorporating the vision statement in the life of your congregation:

-a Christian Education class centered on the vision statement
-have each committee/ministry Team talk about ways their ministry focus can support the vision statement
-use the vision statement as a devotional focus for the staff meetings

Blessings on your ministry!
Rev. Kelley 

*****

Readers, what is your experience? Please share your thoughts in the comments. And if you have a question for our panel of experienced clergywomen, please send it to askthematriarch at gmail dot com.

Categories: Ask The Matriarch | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

All God’s Children

Awaiting the grand jury’s verdict in the Ferguson, Missouri case, let us pray with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

We thank you for your church, founded upon your Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon you. Help us to realize that humanity was created to shine like the stars and live on through all eternity. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace. Help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all God’s children — Black, White, Red, Brown and Yellow — will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the reign of our Lord and of our God, we pray. Amen.

 

Categories: Wednesday Prayer | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Wednesday Festival: Advent Planning

A wreath ready for Advent

There has been plenty of activity around the ring this week as NaBloPoMo continues and others share sermons and keep up regular writing.  It is also the week when many clergy are working hard on Advent plans.  There is lively discussion about Advent resources over in the RevGals Facebook group and you can read on for some generously shared Advent resources.

Rachel Hackenberg offers suggestions for Advent preaching series, whether you are using the Narrative or Revised Common Lectionary.  (Last Monday she posted several different Advent Candle liturgies, which are also worth checking out).

Jeff is posting a series of Advent candle prayers.  The fourth Sunday one is found here and you can click previous post to find the other Sundays.

If a Chrismon Tree is part of your tradition, On The Chancel Steps offers a comprehensive resource for using the tree through Advent.

Mindi invites us to a photo-a-day Advent practice.  You can find the resource she prepared here.

Sarah tackles the thorny question of whether to sing carols during Advent.

April Fiet wrestles with whether Christmas needs saving.

If you don’t already keep an eye on Carolyn Brown’s excellent ‘Worshipping with Children‘ site, head on over as she already has material up for all the Sundays in Advent and Christmas worship too.

If you have posted Advent and Christmas planning resources to your blog please add links in the comments.

You might also like to read about the Top Ten Women in the Bible who spoke the most (you can give yourself a quick quiz before heading over and see home many names you get right).

You can pop over to visit with St. Inuksuk and celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of her ordination.

While rejoicing, we also might like to stop in with the Church of England RevGals celebrating the legislation having passed that makes provision for the ordination of women as bishops.  You can read the “facts” here.

As we rejoice, so also we mourn.  Our condolences to jo(e), whose sister died last week.  She has written a beautiful tribute to her.

And if you value the resources that RevGals provide: the company of friends, the wise words, the praying and the sharing of liturgy and other worship materials please consider whether you might have resources to share to help sustain the life of the community.  We are especially looking for people to make financial contributions and you can read more about how those are used and how you can contribute at this post from the RevGalBlogPals Board. 

Categories: Wednesday Festival | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Revised Common Lectionary: Bleating Hearts

This week’s RCL readings are pretty agrarian, aren’t they? There’s lots of talk of sheep, goats, and shepherds, which leaves me at a bit of a disadvantage. I’m a total city slicker. I don’t know any shepherds personally.The only time I’ve ever even seen a goat is at a petting zoo. And I’m a vegetarian, so both lamb and goat are off my menu. I am currently wearing a wool shawl that I knitted last year — does that count for something?

At any rate, here’s what little I know about sheep and goats: they’re not the same animal. Total epiphany, right? They look similar and they even make similar noises — bleating, if you will. Perhaps from the vantage point of an average-size human, it wouldn’t be easy to distinguish between the two if they were mixed up in a large group. And yet, our shepherd in Ezekiel, Matthew, and the 100th Psalm knows exactly which species is which and which ones of those are his own, not at all confused by their similarity in appearance or sound. He can even sort them by BMI!

On Reign of Christ (or Christ the King, depending on your tradition) Sunday, I’m struck by the lack of references to civic or monarchical power in the readings. We get allusions to God as prince and the Davidic line in Ezekiel, but Ephesians deals with monarchy the most. The overwhelming connotation in these readings is not the absolute and unquestioned reign of a potentate, but the care of a loving, doting, concerned, protective, and even pursuing shepherd. This is a portrait of a caretaker who would pursue those that are his and redeem them from a destructive oligarchy designed to devour them.

Perhaps the most curious thing in any of these readings is that Matthew suggests the sheep have some say in whether or not they are sheep. And interestingly enough, they live into their sheephood (new word) by ostensibly caring for the shepherd! What a shift in dynamics! I suppose there is an inherent partnership between farmers and the animals in their care — the farmer cares for the animals and in turn gets milk, wool, or even meat from them. But this partnership in Matthew 25:31-46 is different. The acting shepherd doesn’t need the sheep for provision. The way the sheep care for the shepherd is by caring for each other, and in doing so, they proclaim who their shepherd is. Sheephood is a condition of the heart, not a matter of circumstance.

I sense that these texts are inviting us to plant our flag and declare which kingdom/pasture is our home. Where are you going with this text?

In conclusion, I leave you with an adorable video of bleating, back-talking baby goats. Because cuteness.

Categories: Revised Common Lectionary, Tuesday Lectionary Leanings | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

Tuesday Prayer

Wow.

God…there are so many prayers flying around the universe today.

Prayers for strength, for confidence, for love, for peace, for hope, for your kin-Dom.

Prayers for those who are sick, those who are fearful, for those who are persecuted.

Prayers, oh dear God…

just hold us.  Wrap us in your ineffable self. Hold us, infuse us with your spirit. Help us to lean into You as long as we need to.  Then, a little longer, before we are released into your world as your servants.

Amen

Categories: Tuesday Prayer | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,721 other followers

%d bloggers like this: