Monday Prayer

“God’s the Mom because God made everyone”

Oh Mother of all!
Be with us we pray
In laughter and tears
In rejoicing and commiserating
In planning and in working

Guide us
Lead us
Show us
Heal us
Touch us
Love us

For you are life and breath to us
When we are tired – comfort
When we are anxious – reassure
When we are seeking – clarify

So that we can be your servants in this our world and yours
Loving and living and breathing
God Mother, Father, Brother, breath…..

Today and always

Categories: Monday Prayer, prayers, RevGalPrayerPals | 2 Comments

Sunday Prayer

Before and behind,
without and within
surround us, O God.
Stretch out your hand
to lift us up
to call us out.
Be our sanctuary
and our wilderness,
our foundation
and our trembling.

Before and behind,
without and within
overtake us, O God,
with a flood of grace.
In our worry
in our chaos,
be a mercy
and a judgment,
a confidence
and a mystery.

Before and behind,
without and within
lead us, O LORD.
Mark our ways
for love
for wonder.
Bless us to something new.
Bless us to relationships.
Free us to change.
Free us to life.

Amen.

 

A pastoral prayer reflecting upon the Narrative and Revised Common Lectionary readings for 9/14/2014.

Categories: Sunday Prayer | 2 Comments

11th Hour Preacher Party: 7, 77, 7 x 70

Forgiveness and judgment, destruction, going where God calls us–it could be this week’s news, or it could be this week’s lectionary readings! There is lots to consider, and great thought-provokers and idea-inspirers for the RCL and the Narrative Lectionary. Be sure and read the comments, too–even a children’s time idea is lurking in there.

IMG_0187

So partiers, what are you working on? We’ll hear your woes and triumphs. We’ll share our snacks. We’ll commiserate and rejoice together.

Categories: 11th Hour Preacher Party | 80 Comments

Friday Prayer: At the Right Time

At the right time for you today, prayerfully rest during this lovely rendition of “The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Has Ended”.

Categories: Friday Prayer, Prayers and Prayer Requests | 1 Comment

The Pastoral Politics of Keeping Your Mouth Shut

47785_10151261873660841_33362_nNews Flash: People are keeping secrets.

Not a News Flash: We pastors knew that.

We know a Janay Rice, or two or more, who has suffered spouse abuse.  We know a Robin Williams, or two or more, who lives with a mental illness &/or an undisclosed illness.  We know a Wendy Davis, or two or more, whose still-secret story has become a passion in their vocation.

We pastors often have been the one person they confide in.  We keep our mouths shut.  In my tradition, the Ordained Minister’s Code in the United Church of Christ, requires me to “honor all confidences shared with me.”  The expectation of pastors in all settings is that what we hear stays with us and goes no further.

Meanwhile, we pastors have our own non-church-related lives, our own secret relationships and realities. We bring our lives into the church world and serve among the Janays and the Rays the Wendys and the Robins. We also serve the families who love them, who hurt for them, and who experience pain because of them.

Our shared church life births a new story of pastor and parishioners. Our church story is intertwined with the Sacred Story.  Often that story is enjoyed and celebrated and shared as good news to the world.  Like a marriage, when church life is good, it is very, very good. And when anyone experiences church life as painful and abusive, all suffer.  But not all will talk about it. We don’t know how to talk about it.

As enthusiastically as I have opened my mouth to tell the many good news stories of God still speaking and churches being amazing, I have also tended to keep my mouth shut about the hard stories and hurting stories when I am on the receiving end.

These things really happened to me:

  • A supposedly “good surprise” that was inappropriate and humiliating in the worship service
  • An unfortunate congregational survey that compared and ranked all the pastors’ skills and abilities
  • Meeting with a BFP (beloved former pastor) about continued contact with former parishioners
  • Not getting help or direction about whether I should just “go along” with another former pastor’s continued involvement with my current congregation
  • The sudden resignation of an otherwise impressive pastoral colleague
  • Congregation full of praise for my leadership during a summer sabbatical

When I had that Matthew 18, one-to-one conversation with the person, the responses were, in order:

  • “If you want your ministry to work out here, you need to smile and go with the flow.”
  • “You know, the reason people think so highly of you is because you have a great husband and lovable children.”
  • “If I have to choose between my collegial relationship with you and my friendships with them, I choose them.”
  • “Don’t talk to me about this again. You are obsessed, and you need therapy.”
  • “What did you do to him to make him quit?”
  • “I know you did things to undermine me.  But I can’t find anything in the worship service recordings, and no one will tell me anything you did to cause trouble.”

The reasons are similar to what abusers tell their victims: You are negative to bring this up. You are naive to think it can be better than this. You brought this on yourself by being hard to get along with.

These conversation-ending responses came from (in random order): Middle judicatory executive(s), pastor colleague(s), congregation president(s), powerful and feared community leader(s).

After that, where do you go? Who else can be invited to go? Who will believe me? Who will support me?

So, I keep my mouth (mostly) shut. The rest of the story is that they are:

  • A man (or men) whose wives had confessed to me being abused by husband(s)
  • People with some other big secrets, that will remain unrevealed
  • A man (or men) claiming to be “the most dedicated feminist” anywhere
  • A man (or men) whose daughter(s) became, or are becoming, pastors. (Noting the irony and God’s redeeming power, I’m going to take a little credit for this one.)

We pastors cannot write that exciting bestseller that tells the true story about life in our churches. If we would write it, we would surely have to keep our mouths shut about some significant stories that have shaped our lives and ministries. If we did decide to tell those stories, we would have to redact so much that they would lose their power.

We female pastors keep our mouths shut about our stories for some of the very same reasons that abused spouses stay silent: love, money (worries), and power(lessness).  Furthermore, we have the additional responsibility to take seriously our ordination vows. In front of God and the very people we serve, we promised to keep their secrets, to live a godly life, and to represent the very presence of Christ.

I’m confident that there is a life-redeeming biblical, theological, practical, effective response when we pastors, especially women pastors, find ourselves on the receiving end of mind games, power plays, sexism, deceit, and meanness.  Until then, my own strategy is what people are saying to the Janays, too:

When you can’t find your way through it, it’s time to leave.

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Friday Five: Random is back!

Hello Pals~~
Random Friday Five is back!

1. If you could sneak away anywhere this weekend, right now, all expenses paid,
where would you go and what would you do?

2. What is for lunch today? (one of the very first FF I ever played asked this.)

3. Along that first-FF-I-ever-played theme, what are you wearing today?

4. Along the Today Theme, what are you doing today?

5. Along the random theme, what is your favorite scent, and why?

Have fun playing! Link to your blog, play in the comments, or play on Facebook!
Love and joy to you~~

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | 34 Comments

Thursday Prayer

Source of creation, I hereby forgive anyone who has
angered or hurt me, in this incarnation or any other.
May no one be punished on my account.

And if it be Your will, may I be forgiven for the
hurt I’ve caused others and myself, and may I not
revert to the old habits that led me to do harm.

In the book The December Project: An Extraordinary Rabbi and a Skeptical Seeker Confront Life’s Greatest Mystery by Sara Davidson,readers are told that Reb Zalman recited this traditional Jewish prayer every night before going to sleep. (173)

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Ask the Matriarch: The Better Boundaries Bureau

Pastors who supply preach face special boundary issues. While it’s true that no church we serve is “ours,” it’s even more true for those of us who come in for a week or four and then go on to preach from other pulpits. Here’s a letter to the Matriarchs from a RevGal with an excellent sense of where her ministry ends and another’s begins…

The view from someone else's pulpit.

The view from someone else’s pulpit.

I am a frequent pulpit supply preacher, and have been for years, but had a new experience this week.  As I was packing up to leave after a worship service at a congregation where I have filled the pulpit several times over the years, a parishioner came into the pastor’s study and asked if she could have my email address. As she got closer to me, I could tell she was on the verge of tears. I put my things down and asked her if she was alright.

She was not.  Fast forward 20 minutes and she had told me at some length and detail about a prayer concern she had for a family member.  It’s the kind of thing that, were she my parishioner I would have needed to offer a referral for the parishioner to get some further counseling after two conversations.  (There were no issues involved that required mandatory reporting, just a family issue.) As is often the case, I had a hunch that the presenting problem was not the real issue.

I prayed with her, and book-ended the conversation with the suggestion that she talk to her pastor, who would soon be back from vacation. I let her know that I would be letting her pastor know that we had talked. Along the way, I did give her my email address.

I called the pastor when they were back, and let the pastor know what happened.  It’s an issue that the pastor was well aware of, which was a relief to me. In fact the family has been referred before. The pastor told me to “feel free to continue to help her if you want; I’m not territorial about things like that.”

I’m not sure that “territory” is what I’m concerned about, but boundaries are. I have neither the institutional history with this congregation, nor the authority to get hooked into this situation. I do not plan to continue conversation with this family other than to urge them to talk with their pastor.

I got a very nice e-card this week from the concerned parishioner, along with a note.  I’m inclined not to respond but to let it go. Am I being cold-hearted?

Signed,
Just the Rent-a-Preach

Dear Rent-a-Preach:

In a word, No. You are not being cold-hearted, you are operating within the confines of the situation. I agree it is best to not respond to the e-card, or to any further correspondence which may come your way. I think you handled it all splendidly, from listening to the parishioner, praying with her, telling the pastor, then backing away.

Kudos!

Ruth Everhart

Sister Pastor,

You have a hard job as a Rent-a-Preach. To bring good news is also to be a good news person yourself. She recognized that in you and reached out. What also seems obvious, from her pastor’s response, is that either she has worn out her pastor, or she never connected with Pastor. Either way, this is their show, not yours, and they have to figure out how to be pastor and parishioner. Her pastor’s lack of interest, or burn out, is Pastor’s territory, not yours, as you already surmised.

Your conversation with her after church seems well within the bounds of what you were called to do there that day. What you do next depends on how you can best end it. If you already feel complete about this situation, don’t do anything more. If a more definite ending is needed, a brief thank you in response to the card would be appropriate. As best you can, strike a tone that is kind, final, and firmly turns her away from you and back to her church and her pastor. If she contacts you after that, do not respond.

Above all thank you for your attention to pastoral boundaries. Keeping compassionate and clear boundaries is a priceless gift you give to our profession, and it’s hard work.

Sharon

It can get slippery on those marble steps.

It can get slippery on those marble steps.

Dear Rent-A-Preach,

It sounds like you responded perfectly as the pulpit supply pastor for that Sunday.

You are not being cold-hearted, however, to say “no” to any further pastoral care, even with the blessing of the pastor of that church. It is the pastor’s responsibility to care for their church member, and it is good to know they have offered pastoral care for this member and referred them for professional care.

I think it would have even been fine not to give them your email unless you were also the pastor-on-call for pastoral emergencies, too.

Maybe a short response such as, “You will be in my prayers. I am grateful to know that your pastor is available for you anytime.”

Sincerely,

Rev. Kelley

Dear Boundary Champion,

Thank you for being that pastor who gets clear boundaries.

It could be that the installed pastor is happy to have you take the troubled parishioner off his hands. It could be that he has a generous understanding of the connectional system. Nevertheless, it’s good that you have tried to establish healthy boundaries and if you contact the parishioner at all (and I don’t think you should at this point), it would simply be to share that – for the sake of healthy boundaries – she needs to seek pastoral care through her own pastor. It might be helpful to speak with a pastoral counselor or psychologist. But – as a “guest pastor” it’s not appropriate for you to act as “her pastor.” That is not your call.

Blame it on the system if you must. That’s why we Middle Judicatory staffers are here. 

Jan Edmiston

***********

Thank you to the Matriarchs for the fine answers this week. If you have a question for our ecumenical panel of women experienced in ordained Christian ministry, please send it to askthematriarch at gmail dot com.

Categories: Ask The Matriarch, Boundaries, Pastoral Care | Tags: , | 2 Comments

WitsEndsDay: Spiritual Fantasies

Sometimes I fantasize about a “real” spiritual life–the kind I read about in books: hours hiking in the woods every week, extended quiet times with the sunrise and God, week-long silent retreats, pilgrimages to Iona, contemplative examens at the end of each day.IMG_3236

My fantasies though, are generally interrupted by a child needing a Kleenex, a pot over-boiling, or my phone calendar reminding me of a church meeting that starts in half an hour.

These interrupted fantasies rarely materialize into reality. If I hike in the woods, my kids come too and I’m more likely to hear a whiny, “I’m tired,” than a deep word from the Creator of the universe. By the time the sun is up, so is my 10-year-old, who is not much interested in quiet time. I love my husband too much to leave him home while I go skittering off to week-long retreats. We can’t afford a pilgrimage to Iona. (Braces are expensive.) And by the time I have settled three kids and two dogs into bed at night, I am in no mental state to contemplate anything but my pillow.

The more I read about the spiritual lives of others, the more pitiful my own half-hearted attempts at disciplines look.

It reminds me of an episode of Friends where Chandler and Joey somehow get a free porn station on their TV. They’re afraid if they turn the channel it will go away, so they watch porn all day. And when the pizza delivery girl comes to the door, gives them the pizza, and leaves, they are disappointed that she didn’t start stripping off her clothes. The porn made them forget how the real world works–where most of us keep our clothes on around strangers most of the time.

candle crossNow far be it from me to accuse Richard Foster or Joan Chittister of peddling porn. Their work is holy and good and Jesusy and all of that. But sometimes spiritual books can make me forget how the real world works. I read them and think I should have deep and holy moments every time I see a tree or light a candle or pick up dog poop. Then if the tree is just pretty or the candle doesn’t do it for me or the dog poop stinks, I feel like I have failed God. The dog poop is supposed to make me contemplate God’s intricate work of creation, but it just makes me think, “Why did we get another dog? This poop stinks.”

There is, of course, a fine line between giving myself grace in this area and just being spiritually lazy. I do want a strong spiritual life, and I can have a strong spiritual life. It just won’t look like the life of a middle-aged man with no kids living at home; and it won’t look like the life of a nun. It won’t even look like the life of another 39-year-old woman pastor with three kids. It will look like my life–when I pay a little more attention to the Holy Spirit’s presence. Which is not particularly glamorous.

Right now, for me, that means I will let my son live in the house until he graduates. And, in my best moments, I will use a kind and calm voice when I talk to him, no matter how loud he gets or how stupid he says I am.

I will randomly listen to spiritual podcasts–which might be prayers and Taize and sermons or might be This American Life which provides a disproportionate number of my sermon illustrations.

I will pray in bed in the mornings when I don’t want to get up yet. (I have a feeling my bed-prayer life will improve as the temperatures drop.)

I will write sermons now and then–which will involve Bible study and prayer (in different proportions depending on the week and the text).

I will listen to hurting people and make cards and write stuff.

And I will try to be glad and not resentful that there are people out there taking long hikes, sipping their tea at sunrise, and boarding planes for Iona.

Joanna Harader blogs at Spacious Faith.

Categories: Wits-Ends-Days, WitsEndsDays | Tags: , | 15 Comments

My prayer is mostly blubbering

Frederick Buechner

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | 3 Comments

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