A Sunday Prayer

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We seem to be living in a time, Holy One,

where instead of offering mutual concern or care,

we wander through days filled with expressions of self-righteous anger,

smug polarities, staking claims of correctness and accusing wrongness,

a warring mood, heavy and surrounding.

 

The banquet of life is set before us,

and rather than sharing in the beautiful bounty,

we clambor for the best seats, knocking others out of the way simply with our silence,

choosing not to help others, including one another, to the table.

 

You have placed within us

a deep capactiy for love,

and a wide ability to welcome.

Loosen us from what holds us back from being that grace and mercy upon the world.

May we faithfully risk all of who we are

to be unfettered love

to the lost, the lonely, the suffering, the stranger…

may we dare to be your people of courageous compassion and peace.

 

With all of who we are and are not, we pray,

Amen.

Categories: clergy, clergy women, clergywomen, RevGalBlogPals, Sunday Prayer, women | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

11th Hour Preacher’s Party:Make Room edition

 

 

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We’ve been enjoying some fairly dramatic sunsets recently. The right amount of cloud and the right amount of light have conspired to produce stunning effects. I’ve enjoyed taking time out at the beach to simply enjoy these nightly shows. The only draw back is that sunset is getting earlier and earlier here in Scotland -a reminder that summer in this part of the world is slipping away. That means, too, that our church programmes will soon be getting into full throttle.

Are you back in gear yet? Ready to tackle the Lectionary again? Or are you off on some other track?

Whether you’re ready for the season to change or not, Sunday’s coming and there is a word to be preached. Lets help each other get there. Just like the banquet prepared in the RCL Gospel reading, there is room for allsorts here. We can help each other from the table and together find and preach the good news that abounds in our text today.

Check out the blog post from earlier in the week for more inspiration.

Liz Crumlish is a Church of Scotland Minister currently working on a National Renewal Project. A Board Member of RevGalBlogPals, instigator of Spill the Beans and contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, Liz blogs at journalling

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Friday Five: Back to School

I happily affirm that I love school. I loved going to school. I love that our children are old enough to go to school. I know that not everyone, including some people in my household, have the same experience or love for school, but this time of year always fills me with new energy and hope. crayons

Five questions, then, about school.

  1. What was your favorite thing about school?
  2. Who was your most memorable teacher?
  3. With whom did you sit at lunch?
  4. What is/was your favorite school supply?
  5. What do you think “kids these days” are missing out on?

You may answer in the blog comments, on the facebook post, or post a link to your very own blog post (it’s not complicated; just copy and paste the address of the particular post).

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Monica Thompson Smith is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, serving as a pulpit supply preacher in South Central Texas. She is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Thursday Prayer

Darling one,
I used to pray
that you would know
that you are loved.
But over these years of loving you,
I have learned…
There is a difference between knowing you are loved and accepting that love.
So now I pray,
and pray,
and pray,
that you will find a way
to accept love.
To accept the love that your Creator created just for you.
To accept that you are so very loved,
by God,
and by the community that God called together
to love you.
More than you can imagine.
More than you can know.
Amen.

 

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The Rev. Erin Counihan serves as pastor at Oak Hill Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in St. Louis, MO and blogs occasionally at http://www.somewhatreverend.wordpress.com.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Ask the Matriarch: Support for the Pastor’s Spouse

mhAUBt8This week’s question comes from a RevGal whose husband is feeling isolated. What can she do to help him create a support network?
Dear Matriarchs,
I’ve been a solo pastor in a small town for three years. My husband and I had a deep conversation over breakfast this morning, in which he described his growing sense of isolation. As I listened, I realized how much I also miss conversations where I don’t have to guard everything I say. My husband has had a difficult time finding other “clergy husbands” in our area to connect with, partly because there aren’t very many married women in ministry around here, and even fewer whose husbands are not also serving with them as co-pastors. My husband has his own career and interests outside of my call as a pastor. He’d like to talk with someone about topics other than church once in a while. (Frankly, so would I.)

So here are my questions for the matriarchs: How do you (and your spouse, if you have one) deal with isolation when you serve in a small community that doesn’t necessarily share your values and interests? For pastors whose spouses are not also “in ministry,” how does your spouse find a support network that is safe and allows deep friendships to develop?
RevGal and Rev’s Spouse
* * * * * * * * *
What suggestions do you have, dear Matriarchs?
Dear RevGal and Rev’s Spouse,
I understand isolation. RevGals was formed in 2005 in part because several of us were lonely for good friendships. Finding each other through blogs became a lifeline and still is for me.
You’ll need some intentional steps to find friends for you and your spouse because adult friendships take more work than school friendships where similar interests and similar age abound. Maybe go to festivals or events out of your small town and talk to people? Maybe plan a week with old friends you’d like to keep up with? You’ve got better ideas than I can think up.

Friendships make life interesting and happy. Being able to talk freely, laugh at goofy stuff and be yourself is a gift for clergy and everyone else.

If I may suggest praying about this, without sounding deadly pious, I’ve prayed many times for God to help me find friends. I don’t trust my own ability to “see” people who may be lovely friends for me and my family. Praying for God’s help focuses my search, helps me realize I am not alone and gives me inspiration to seek out a wide range of prospects.

Rev. Sally-Lodge Henderson Teel
* * * * * *
Dear RevGal and Rev’s Spouse,
I wish I had an easy answer to this question – it is something I have struggled with since the beginning of my ministry, and still struggle with now, 20 years in. Even though I now live in a very diverse and vibrant community with many opportunities for social engagement beyond my church, I find I simply don’t have the time and energy to invest as much as I would like in this type of pursuit; most of my social energy seems to be taken up already with church engagements. I find that when I do have the time to do something else, the last thing I want to do is go out and be with more people! (and I say this as an extrovert) Yet my need for deep friendships beyond my congregation remains. 
[This is true for my husband, too. He and I are co-pastors, though, and his issues and needs are similar to mine (though as a true introvert, he has even less social energy left over after church involvement). I will leave that part of your question to other matriarchs who have spouses who work in another field.]
As to the question about dealing with isolation, here are some things that have worked for me over the long haul, (even though I recognize this is an area of my life I still struggle with):
1 – Get away. Get out of town, whenever it’s appropriate. In the first years of my ministry, I served in a tiny town (1100 people) in a very rural area, where most of the people my age had moved away and the people who remained (regardless of age) had little in common with me in terms of values or interests (other than the people in my congregation, who were wonderful, but were not the people I wanted or needed to meet my social needs). I made a regular practice of getting out of town and going as far as I had to go to be with actual friends (in my case at the time, that was at least three hours away). I built this in to my monthly schedule, going out of town at least once a month, for at least two nights at a time. My congregation came to expect, respect, and understand this.
Even now that I live in a place I love, surrounded by opportunities for interesting activities and relationships, I still make a habit of getting away to be with old friends (though now it is on an annual basis and not a monthly one). It is amazing how energizing and sustaining even one brief annual get-together can be. I also make sure to use upall of my continuing education time each year, and I find that to be a good time for engaging in deeper conversation and relationship with colleagues (some of whom I now count as friends).
2 – Digital connection. I know it’s not the same as physical presence, but for me, digital connections have been crucial to my mental, emotional, and social well-being during a season of my life where I don’t feel I have time for much else. Sometimes the only time in a week I have for investing in a non-church, non-family relationship is at5:30 on a weekday morning, or 11:30 on a weeknight. Those are not typically times I would feel like going out to meet a friend for a chat, but I can text with my friend who I know is also up that early/late, or I can send a message to my friend who will respond when the time is convenient for her. The flexibility of the digital world has also made it possible for me to stay connected to other female clergy who have similarly erratic and demanding schedules. (And yes, RevGals has been a big part of this for me!) 
3 – A little time can have a lot of impact. This is something I have to remind myself regularly. I have a tendency to think that the most important relationships require a significant investment of time – and that’s the thing I usually don’t feel I have. Over the years, however, I’ve come to see the value of small investments made consistently over time. This is actually something I’m trying to practice in many areas of my life, but it applies to friendships as well. Friendship for me doesn’t have to mean carving out an entire Friday night for dinner and a movie – it can mean brief, but regular, connections. A couple of texts a day, for instance. Or one longer Facebook message a week. Or a standing monthly pedicure date. 
4 – Recognize that now is not forever. When I was in your shoes – a solo pastor in a small town – there were times I felt the isolation so overwhelmingly that it was hard to see that I would ever feel any other way. But now is not forever. There are things you can and should do to make sure both of you are finding the relationship connections you need while you are where you are, but, unless you foresee spending your entire ministry in this particular community, you can trust that you are likely to eventually find yourself in a place that may feel more hospitable, with more potentially kindred spirits. I now look back on my first years as a solo pastor in a small town with a kind of wistfulness – there was a pace and space and silence in my life that I miss these days!
I know it’s hard. It is so good to be proactive about this for yourself, and to encourage your husband to be proactive about it, and to encourage each other and partner with each other in building those non-church friendships. And thanks for raising this important question. I’ll be so interested to see what the other matriarchs have to share about this!
Stacey aka earthchick – earthchicknits.com
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Dear Rev Gal and Rev’s Spouse,
Ministry can be lonely at times especially in a small community. My prayers are with you.
I served a church in a small, isolated community when I was a mother with small children and my Air Force husband was traveling and even deployed part of the time. It was a challenging time, indeed.
I had a delightful, loving congregation who was very supportive. Even so, because I keep healthy pastor/parishioner relationship boundaries, I found myself lonely and tired.
I found camaraderie in local clergy (male and female), Air Force friends and neighbor friends. But my greatest source of support was found online and via technology with my long term family and friends who lived out of state. 
I know that may not sound very comforting but I knew I needed to keep close contact with my “soul friends” who knew me best.
I made it a priority to use my vacation time to visit family and friends.
I now live in a much larger community and have good friends locally but I still find my greatest support through online connections with friends.  And my most treasured support for the last five years has been the incredible clergy support that RevGalBlogPals has brought. I commit most of my Study Leave time to RevGalBlogPals conferences and retreats. It makes such a difference to meet new clergy/lay friends in real life.
Blessings on your search for community.
Rev. Kelley Wehmeyer Shin
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Thank you, Matriarchs! Lots of great ideas for creating support networks for pastors and beloveds.
Let’s keep the conversation going! Add your ideas and strategies in the comments below.
Do you have a question about ministry life or a frustration that is sapping your energy? Send it to us at askthematriarch (at) gmail (dot) com and we will give you our best.

* * * * * * * *
Rev. Sharon M. Temple currently serves as Designated Pastor of the delightful Brookmeade Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Nashville TN.  She blogs at Tidings of Comfort and Joy and contributed an essay to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Wednesday Afternon Prayer

Sweet Holy,

I just need to be in You right now. 

Wrap your understanding around me,

Hold me in your  heart….

(Be silent for a minute)

Amen. 

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Wednesday Festival: Maybe You Too

If you’ve read the story of how RevGalBlogPals started, or if you’ve spent time in our Facebook group, you know the importance of community to remind us that we’re not alone: not alone in experiencing the Church at its most pristine and also at its messiest, not alone in being flirted with while wearing a clerical collar, not alone in post-preaching weariness on Sunday afternoons, not alone in preferring to preside at funerals more than weddings, not alone in saying “No one told me that ministry would include…”

Today’s Wednesday Festival continues that spirit of community by inviting you to recognize yourself & find solidarity in the blogged experiences of other Gals and Pals around our webring:

+ Maybe you too experience God when food is shared, especially if that food is chocolate. You’ll appreciate “When God Tastes Like Brownies” at Becky’s blog beckyramsey. (On a personal note: It’s possible that God is a homemade chocolate cake in my kitchen at this very moment and inviting me to sit awhile…with a fork and a glass of milk.)

+ Maybe you too start…and fail…and restart…and get bored…and try a new approach…and fade again in your efforts to organize your days in order to accomplish ALL THE THINGS with cohesive flair. Check out “Why I broke up with my bullet journal” at Lee’s notes and offer your commiseration.

+ Maybe you too feel the drag of compassion fatigue, and you’re struggling to focus your energies & tasks. Read “Keeping Hope in a World Gone Mad” at Rebecca’s To Do Justice.

+ Maybe you too strive after peace through stillness & quiet. Maybe you too strive after peace through activism & voice-raising. Both the hushed and the restless may appreciate “Still Moving” at Kathy’s Quietly Rolling Thunder.

+ Maybe you too have a bin (or three) of ribbons, or you have a place where hoarded wrapping paper goes to die. You’ll want to read “Ribbons” at bnzoot’s Southern Fried Californian.

Want to share your blogged experience with others who may have similar stories? Add your link to the comments. Know that you are not alone! And here’s more holy chocolate to keep you company…

Nanaimo bars. Make some.

Nanaimo bars. Make some.

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Rachel G. Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ minister, soccer mom, blogger, and author. Her book Sacred Pause plays with words to refresh our relationship with The Word.
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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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RCL: On Worthlessness, Pride, and Love

 

honey-dipper-924732_1920.jpgThe texts this week are rich in images and provide no shortage of materials for sermons. There’s everything here from being a worthless people to being humble, loving servant-people. I’m just returning from vacation and am struck by the power in these passages.

Jeremiah’s words might not be any more popular now than when they were first uttered. However, the truth is undeniable. We whose worth is inherent because we are made in the image of God, become absolutely worthless when we forsake God. The people of Israel are accused of two sins:  they abandoned God and then created gods who offer no life. Is this not what we have done now? So many have forgotten God’s ways of love. Many others have been lulled into believing they follow God’s ways even as their words and action fail to support life.

Psalm 81 is a plea for the people of God to listen to God and return to God’s ways. Surely, the would do well to remember the God who brought them from Egypt and saved them from their enemies. In their own self-reliance they are in danger of being overrun once more. God would nourish them with the finest wheat and the sweetest honey. They would be satisfied. How often do we do the same? We rely on our own abilities, forgetting God’s presence and promises, only to find ourselves hungry, dissatisfied, and bitter?

Sirach gets right to the core of the matter. Pride is what leads us away from God. Pride can fool us into believing that we are more powerful and significant in the universe than we actually are. Pride makes us forget the God who loves us so much more than we know. The hope here is that “pride was not created for human beings.” It is not natural to us and we can set it aside. Moreover, and a message that many need to hear, “violent anger” was not created “for those born of women.” Violent anger is not innately who we are either. What powerful words for a world full of very violent anger!

Palm 112 poetically reminds us of the amazing qualities of those who live in God. Grace, mercy, righteousness along with generosity, justice, steadiness, and fearlessness are marks of those who trust God and follow God’s ways. Imagine how different our lives, our churches, our communities, our nation, our world would be if all God’s children took this seriously.

All of these passages are nicely summed up in Hebrews. These few paragraphs lay out how to live as followers of Christ. The first line says it all, “Let mutual love continue.” This is a prescription for living fully with our neighbors. Instead of worrying about what we do not have and what we cannot do (remembering days of larger budgets and fewer available seats on Sunday mornings), we are called to do good and share what we have. I wonder what this would look like in our churches… What if each congregation figured out what good they could, what they could share, and did just that? I bet we’d all get along better with each other.

If you haven’t found a sermon idea yet, there’s the Gospel text. What a lesson in humility! This banquet Jesus talks about, reminds me of the communion table. Of course this is not great stretch. But who really are the welcomed, sought-after guests at Christ’s table? Who is really welcome in our churches when we celebrate communion? Who would have the seats of honor? Jesus is clear about who he invites. Are we?

So much to contemplate in these texts. The wanted and the worthless, the welcomed guest and the unrecognized angels. Where is the Spirit leading you this week?

Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, vlog, and books at Beachtheology.com.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Categories: RevGalBlogPals, Revised Common Lectionary | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Tuesday Prayer: Lasers of Love

Today I’m bursting with love for you, Friend!

I skipped out to get the trash bin

and sang as it trundled back behind me.

New students filling my college town

Friends’ children scrubbed and ready for school

things seem just a little newer and fresher

Today, help me see with fresh eyes

the person who stands too close to me at exercise

the person who speaks so loudly in the grocery store line

You love every single one of them just as much as you do me

and how can I do any less?

My eyes will be lasers of your love today.

Amen.

Mary Beth Butler is an Episcopal layperson in North Texas. She is a retired university administrator, paving contractor, and occasional blogger.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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The Pastoral is Political: Flood Messages

mjYAgSSA week ago, an unnamed storm dumped four trillion gallons of rain on Southeast Louisiana, flooding over 100,000 homes and thousands of businesses. The Red Cross has called it “the worst [disaster] to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy.”

Baton Rouge, the state capital, was submerged in water after more than two feet of rain fell in less than 72 hours. Baton Rouge is usually a “high and dry” place that New Orleans residents evacuate to when hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast.

Baton Rouge  — or “red stick” — is the place I call home. Baton Rouge is Red State and Bible Belt, LSU football, Cajun cuisine and the epicenter of the indescribable circus that is Louisiana politics. We moved there when I was in junior high school. My 86 year old mother still lives in that same house with my sister and brother-in-law.

As the flood waters rose, I worried from too-far-away Nashville. Social media brought regular family updates along photos tracking the water level. The streets filled up, then the water spilled over the curbs, then up into the yards. Raindrops plopped relentlessly into our newly formed neighborhood lake, ringed by houses that were flooding, one by one.

Social media offered support and a remedy: “Please pray” was the plea from my family members and from other Baton Rouge-related friends. “God help us.”

The water was coming up on the carport, rising toward the back door. It was early Monday morning August 17 when the good news came through a family member’s timeline: “The rain has stopped and waters have stopped rising. The house is dry. Prayers were answered.”

For my family, it seemed, all those prayers held back the water, and God messaged us, “You are safe from the flood.”

For a high school friend’s family, prayers did not “work” to stop the waters at her doorstep. As they kept seeking higher ground, God’s message may have been, “I am with you in the flood.”  

For Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, disasters are God’s way of saying, “I’m angry about your liberating politics and civil rights actions.”

In 2015, Perkins said that Hurricane Joaquin was God’s punishment for legalizing gay marriage and abortion. “God is trying to send us a message,” Perkins declared. He hasn’t yet revealed what message God was sending him last week when his Baton Rouge home was flooded out.

A 1000 year flood happening in a place that is always wet but never before underwater — that sends a clear message:

“Climate change is real. And it’s getting worse.”

The days before the Louisiana floods saw a record amount of precipitable vapor in the atmosphere . Extreme climate conditions brought a flood to a city that is always wet but never before under water. Weather disasters are becoming more common and more severe. Church-related disaster relief, Red Cross, and emergency management services will not be able to keep up with the great need. The clean up is expensive and disruptive. Society’s marginalized are hardest hit. The next disaster is on the way.

Ancient God message:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it.”
(Psalm 24:1-2)

Translated for today:
Red state, Blue state: We all breathe from the same air, thirst for clean water, benefit from nature’s bounty. When disaster strikes, we are all in the same boat.

The Louisiana flooding was “at least the eighth 500-year (or rarer) rainfall event in America (sic) since just last May,” according to meteorologist Eric Holthaus. (emphasis mine) 

As the waters begin to rise again, will we get the message?

“Climate change is real. And its effects fall on all of us.”

God help us.

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Rev. Sharon M. Temple currently serves as Designated Pastor of the delightful Brookmeade Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Nashville TN.  She blogs at Tidings of Comfort and Joy and contributed an essay to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Categories: RevGalBlogPals, The Pastoral is Political | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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