#RallyRevGals contest winners!

d86bc-pulpitmugWe are happy to announce the winners of our #RallyRevGals blog contest. All winners were chosen with a random number generator, with one entry per blog post.

1) Nik at A Pilgrim’s Process

2) Pastor Kelly at G-Free Rev

3) Deb at An Unfinished Symphony

Bonus prize – Tara at Praying on the Prairie

Congratulations, and thanks to all who played!!! We will definitely do this again.

Winners, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com with your mailing address.

Categories: #RallyRevGals | 7 Comments

Monday prayer

A prayer for this September morning…

O God of wonder!
Here I sit, in my little kitchen in Scotland on a Monday morning and,
Round the world sisters are going to bed at the end of Sunday
Or winding down at the end of a busy Monday
How amazing is your world O God!
That in every corner, at every minute, someone wakes, and greets the day
Greets you, offers up prayers…
And you O God, hold it all in balance.

As these hours pass by
And minutes turn to days
Be with us Mothering God
Nurture and sustain us
Inspire our words, our actions, our thinking….

In those hours when we feel distant, confused, blinded by the realities of life
Touch us. Show us. Clear the way.

Thank you O God of love
For this amazing circle of virtual friends
For the opportunities we have to meet, and greet, and pray, and share
Thank you for the wisdom shared by those more experienced,
And the love that unites us
This day, this hour, this minute, this moment in time
It is the thing we hold in common
Loving and being loved by God in God’s name….
Amen

Categories: Monday Prayer, prayers, RevGalPrayerPals | 3 Comments

Sunday Prayer

We pray this day
that when something out of the ordinary catches our eye
that we might have the wisdom to
turn side and look closer,
for it could be You beckoning to us,
Calling us to step forward, and dare to stand on holy ground.
Help us listen,
to bravely question,
and to know
that You call us to follow you,
and You call us to serve you,
even when we don’t think we are worthy or smart enough or holy enough.
All You need is a willing heart. Or at least, a heart with good intentions.

We are significantly aware this day of all of the evils in this world,
and we are incensed and frightened and sad and at times, helpless.
Help us, o God,
to remember that you ask us to live with zeal and be ardent in spirit as we serve you.
Remind us, that we, as you people of faith, are beckoned to outdo one another in honoring each other, and that you pull us towards humilty and that the way to deal with evil is not by vengeance but to overcome evil with good.

We pause, in these moments, to consider your call…
We pause, in these moments, to pray for one another…
We pause, in these moments, to pray for our world…

Give us the wisdom to live peaceably with all. In the name of Jesus our brother, our teacher, and our friend,
Amen.

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | 2 Comments

11th Hour Preacher Party: Farewell to Summer Edition

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It is Labor Day weekend in the U.S.  Traditionally, this weekend we put the white shoes in storage and get reacquainted with the black ones. In the congregation I serve, the Deacons — male and female — have been wearing white outfits for serving Communion beginning on Easter Sunday.  After Labor Day, they will switch back to wearing black on to serve Communion.

How are you marking this season change in your congregation?
How are you personally celebrating the end of the summer?

Welcome to all you preachers, and welcome to all who, for whatever reason, have a sermon-free weekend.  Here you will find colleagues in sermon crafting, plenty of great snacks and conversation, and help for whatever has you confounded.  Please share prayer requests and help yourselves to some coffee — iced or hot — that is always fresh, fair-trade and delicious.

Pull up a chair and let’s get this party started!

Categories: 11th Hour Preacher Party | 86 Comments

Friday Five: New

So, no matter what the weather’s doing where you live, this time of year brings the beginning of school for most people. Unless you are in year round school, or homeschooling, or something else. :)

Many folks I know say the beginning of school makes them feel like a new beginning, even if they are not in school themselves or have kids there. In fact, I did a little math at the beginning of the week and determined that, based on my career in higher education and when I entered first grade, I am entering the 44th Grade this year.

So, for beginnings: Tell us five things that are new in your life, or that you would LIKE to have be new in your life. If that doesn’t work, how about things that you are ready to shed….to make room for new things? Opening your hands to release, to see what God might put into them?

So, go!

 new

Something shiny and new…

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | 12 Comments

Friday Prayer: At 4 a.m.

Dear Lord,

For the third day, the baby has arisen at 4 a.m.

Our mingled communion of exhaustion and hunger is exhausting and endearing.

I pray that she will go back to sleep.

I also ask for your blessing and consolation on those also awake in the night:

shift workers

insomniacs

Early risers

late-to-bedders

Those with no comfortable place to sleep

The ones who have received middle of the night calls

Those keep your holy hours

Your nocturnal animals

 

All move and breathe in you.

 

amen

Categories: Friday Prayer | 2 Comments

Ask the Matriarch: Counting Complications

Image from ClipArt Panda

Image from ClipArt Panda

This week’s question came from our Facebook group.

What are your rules for counting the offering and handling the money in your congregations? We are having accusations from people unwilling to share actual information, that one of our regular counters, who is a known gossip in the church and power monger, is sharing confidential information. Also, I found out that this person, who is counting every one else’s offering, no longer gives to the church. So,, we are working to try to find the best possible way to get a better policy in place for getting someone else to be a part of the process. In actuality, we need to get this one out of the office, but in a way that shares ownership rather than targeting one person. I’m not sure if I’m making sense here, but I’m looking for advice on how to restructure the offering-handling process. Thanks for any help and advice you can give.

Dear Pastor-

Unless, the accusers give you “actual” information, I think it will be difficult to confront the gossip from a position of strength. Even if you are confident that something is going on, without factual information, it just feels hinky to me. You need a trusted person to be straight with you.

I’m also wondering why this person’s giving has changed? Are they voting with their checkbook? Has something negative happened to their personal finances? Knowing the answers to these questions might help you deal with some of the other pieces to the puzzle.

Your Finance Committee or governing board should be tasked with establishing policies and counter training. However, the presenting issue is probably not going to be resolved by a change in process. You’ve got some detective work to do before having a pastoral conversation with the congregation member.

Good luck!
Heidi aka RevHRod

Our denomination requires us to have two people who are not related to count the money. Our church has taken this a step further and requires three people present to count the money and then our Finance Secretary reviews the deposit. We also send out quarterly statements to every giver to make sure that our records match the givers. Our church practice is that the money must be counted at the church, not taken off site to be counted. Even with these practices in place a creative person could find ways to steal from the church. The larger issue is about trust. What are the larger trust issues which are being called into question through this current issue at the church. How can these issues be identified and named in a safe and open way? Policies and practices will alleviate some of the concerns and are a good starting place.

Shelly McNaughton-Lawrence

My suggestion is to thank them profusely for their dedicated service. And then make your case for how it is unfair to ask only two people to bear the burden of counting every Sunday. It is time for others to share in this task. Most financial professionals talk about segregation of duties in order to provide safety for the organization and for the personnel. You might think about ways you could speak of telling them that you want to protect them from harm or the appearance of mistrust.

We have two people who are not related to each other count the offering after services every Sunday. They rotate monthly. The offering is deposited at the bank on Sunday immediately after the count. At my previous church, they rotated weekly and the counting sometimes didn’t happen until Monday but also was done by two people not related to each other. In both churches, all people who counted were/are not related to the person who cuts the checks. Interestingly to me, at this church, there are less people in worship and they have more people involved in counting than they did at my previous church. Go figure!

Sarah, The Vicar of Hogsmeade

What a difficult position to be in!! The first thing I would do is check denominational policies and resources to see what help they give you. You can also make sure that church officers and even members of the congregation know what those requirements are. Also be sure to incorporate them into the policy you establish. In the Presbyterian Church USA, two counters are required by our constitution, for instance.

In churches I have served, both elders and trustees have served as counters. As I have become more experienced and more familiar with our constitution (especially the recently adopted form!), I think I would suggest that only elders (church officers) serve as counters, though they wouldn’t have to be currently serving on the session. This serves to provide some accountability. Our constitution does not speak specifically about confidentiality regarding giving, though transparency is required with regard to church finances. Churches have different policies regarding giving; in some churches, the specifics of giving are known to the pastor and/or the session (church board).

I think that confidentiality regarding giving is obvious, whether one person, two people, or even an entire church board is privy to that information. Unfortunately, what seems obvious to me is not always that obvious to others! Perhaps confidentiality expectations need to be clearly stated in the policy you are shaping so that there is accountability when confidentiality is not kept.

Does a person’s giving history matter in regards to his/her responsibilities as counter? If so, perhaps that also needs to be incorporated into policy.

Your current situation is sticky. Are those making the accusations willing to come forward with specifics, to the church board or a committee? If so, what are the expectations should that information be substantiated? If no one wishes to come forward or there is no way to substantiate the accusations, then you are in a bind, I think. To act on hearsay is irresponsible and will probably create conflict.

It seems to me that your best bet is to create a policy with clear expectations and consequences should policy be violated. Then you can evaluate who your counters are in light of that policy. It isn’t a quick fix.

I hope this is helpful, and that it gives some help in dealing with a sticky situation.

Tracy at Daily Grace

Dear Concerned One,

Practices surrounding counting the offering are always a delicate but important issue. Thank you for sharing your concern. The policy at our church regarding money counting is a set practice that has been in effect for many years and seems to work well.

Our part-time financial secretary counts the money on the Monday following the Sunday the offering was received. The Financial Secretary is not a member of the church. One of our Trustees counts the money with the financial secretary but the Trustee never sees the names associated with the offering money or checks. This ensures that there are two people counting money and allows for safekeeping of the money as well as the money counters. But only a non-church member sees the names associated with the offering money.

Blessings on your process of discerning what next to do.

Rev Kelley

Design a simple written policy for the church then get your money handlers together for a workshop, doesn’t have to be long but don’t do it after worship because people are rushed and hungry. Talk about confidentiality until you are blue in the face. Can you find out more about the why the person counting money isn’t giving now? If he or she is withholding funds as a comment that’s one thing; if he or she is having financial problems, that’s another. You need more information. 

Have you considered a sermon which includes information on how to give to the church? Not everyone knows about regular giving or even how to give.

You can do this! Take your time.
St.Casserole

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Thank you to all the Matriarchs who answered this week. If you have a question for our panel, please send it to askthematriarch at gmail dot com.

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

Wednesday Prayer: Time to Wake Up

“Time to wake up. Time to let the spiritual alarm clock within my soul ring me into awareness. No more religion set on auto pilot. No more taking the impact of my values for granted. There are people around me I need to pay attention to, people waiting for me to notice them. There are new challenges to discover, new chances to practice what I preach. It is so easy to drift into the comfortable notion that I have learned all I need to be a person of faith, that I have arrived and can settle in to relax with God. Time to shake off the dust of my own privilege. Time to wake up, get up, and be active. Love now, sleep later.”
The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Choctaw

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | 1 Comment

Wednesday Festival: A Heart Break

One of the many joys of participating in a blogring & fellowship such as RevGalBlogPals is the opportunity to hear other voices, to pause amid all the “usual” voices in our daily lives and read someone else’s voice, to give our hearts a break by finding a little salve on a ringmember’s blog. Find a much-needed break for your spirit among these posts by our Gals & Pals:

+ For much-needed laughter, try dotting your digital messages & social media with chickens (like kwp of Any Day A Beautiful Change, I didn’t know such things could be done)!

+ For a much-needed getaway, imagine yourself road-tripping with The Crimson Rambler: savoring hot springs & fair trade coffee and keeping your eyes open for a bear!

+ For a little holy in your everyday, pause to examine the fabrics you’re wearing, the material of your kitchen towels, the coziness of your favorite sweatpants, and consider God as Fabric Artist with Liberation Theology Lutheran.

+ For a nudge toward gratitude, read Nik’s appreciation for Sheryl’s guidance along her faith journey. (Have you written your #rallyrevgals piece yet, to add to the cloud of women witnesses?)

+ For the ongoing heartbreaks of the world and the reminder to let your heart break into action, Erica considers the little ways we can look out for each other.

+ For much-needed courage to have difficult conversations, Jan observes that “the pot longs to be stirred.”

+ And for much-needed cuteness to comfort our aching hearts, google “cute pet pictures” and read chaplaineliza’s description of the cat currently in her care.

How’s your heart, Gals and Pals? What blogposts are you reading or writing that can be shared to offer a break to others’ hearts?

Healed Heart

Categories: Wednesday Festival | Leave a comment

Narrative Lectionary: A Sign of Life (Ruth 4)

For Narrative Lectionary preachers, the long summer of short series ends this Sunday with the final chapter of Ruth. (NRSV or CEB, what’s your pleasure? You can find Working Preacher’s commentary on the whole book here.)

This chapter is less about Ruth and more about Boaz and Naomi. The beginning of the chapter revolves around the things Boaz must do to ensure that his marriage to Ruth will honor the expectations of family inheritance, maintaining the name and property of Elimelech and ensuring a successor to his name. There is one kinsman closer, and he has the right of first refusal, which sounds strange to our ears when the property involved includes a woman. The two men engage in the rituals recognized in their community. A sandal is handed from one to the other. The whole town blesses this marriage between Boaz and the Moabite widow, foreshadowing Ruth’s place in the future of their people.

“May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel.” (Ruth 4:11b)

Ruth and Boaz marry, and they have a son, and that would be enough to make this a happy ending, but there is a peculiar twist in the drama. Ruth hands the baby over to Naomi. He becomes more than a sort of half-twisting step-grandson. He becomes Naomi’s son. (v. 17)

Below are four different translations of verse 16, a captivating and odd statement asking us to consider the nature of the new relationship and what it means.

  • Naomi took the child and held him to her breast, and she became his guardian. (CEB)
  • Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. (NRSV)
  • And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it.(KJV)
  • Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. (NIV)

I think the NIV is a little light on the reality of the situation. Taking all these translations together, Naomi is not just the babysitter. She nurses him at her breast. She is the mother.

There is lots of art – real art, not just Sunday School clip art – based on the story of Ruth. There are dramatic scenes of Ruth and Naomi at the crossroads, some with Orpah slipping away. There are gorgeous images of Ruth gleaning, and sexy Chagall interpretations of that night on the threshing floor. But there isn’t much good stuff taken from Chapter 4 that I could find.

Naomi Gryn, who wrote about having a baby at 51 in The Guardian.

Naomi Gryn, who wrote about having a baby at 51 in The Guardian.

Instead I found a modern-day Naomi.

Naomi Gryn (pictured right) is an Englishwoman who at age 51 tried one more time to have a baby via in vitro fertilization.

Think back to the first chapter of Ruth. Naomi tells Ruth and Orpah to go back to their families. Why? Because she is too old to have a husband and a chance of more sons, and the women will not want to wait to marry until they are grown up anyway! This story is about being the end of the line, and then not being the end of the line after all. Like Sarah before her and Elizabeth to come, Naomi despairs at her lack of descendants and the end of her husband’s lineage. This time God provides through a surrogate.

Naomi Gryn writes:

Each time you get pregnant or have a cycle of fertility treatment, you imagine a bright future. Then your hopes are dashed and, once again, you have to reboot. Emotional snakes and ladders. I wanted to give in graciously. Pete wasn’t willing to accept defeat so lightly. He found a clinic in Barcelona with a cut-off age of 51. Dreading further disappointment, I vacillated for months. Then, last November, with just one more menstrual cycle left before my next birthday, I could procrastinate no longer. We paid the clinic’s advance.

Yet again it didn’t work. The clinic extended their deadline by three months for us to use the remaining embryos. I’m not sure why we bothered. It seemed like such a remote possibility, throwing good money after bad. My expectations couldn’t have been lower.

Pete was away on the date I was due to take a pregnancy test. I woke in the middle of the night to pee and thought I should use the opportunity to find out. Nothing. I tried to blank out the disappointment and went back to sleep but when I woke again a few hours later and re-examined the white stick, there was a faint pink line where before I’d seen none. I took this to a chemist and asked the pharmacist: “Could I be a little bit pregnant?”

She took one look and laughed. “One hundred per cent pregnant!”

I danced with joy.

This is how I imagine Naomi, no longer bitter, holding joy in her arms and to her breast. She did not give birth to the child, but he ensures that the end of the line has not come. The baby is a sign of life. There will be more.

Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed, Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David. (Ruth 4:18-22, NRSV)

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What are your thoughts, preachers? Let us know in the comments what you find engaging in Ruth Chapter 4.

Categories: Narrative Lectionary | Leave a comment

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