Friday, November 12, 2010

On the Edge

I've been struggling a lot lately with what I guess I'll call "the church on the edge." It's nothing new. But being relatively new to this line of work, it's not something I've had to deal with first hand.
The church is balancing on the edge of a cliff, I think. At the top of this cliff is a baren wasteland. A dry, tumbleweed-strewn, dust-blown landscape--dead or nearly. At the bottom, a verdant landscape, lush, maybe a lazy river snaking through, trees, animals, you get the picture.
But back at the top, this church--The Church?--has to decide if it has the guts to step off that cliff. 'Cuz baby, it's a long damn way to the bottom. The ride will be bumpy and we might get a little bruised and even a bit broken on the way.
My congregation has a lot of elderly folks, but we also have a few younger families with young kids. It's a really, REALLY hard balancing act to find ways of worship that are relevant and inspiring across the board. My own six year old has no qualms about telling me how boring she finds 'church' (read 'worship') to be. Hell, I'm starting to find it boring and I'm the one who puts it together! I actually threw the hymnal across the room because I was tired of looking at hymns with archaic words (thee, thou, ye, etc.) and stodgy tunes--and it was the one published in 1990!
And here's where I have to steel my own nerves. Do I have the guts to push my own church over the edge down that cliff? So far, not yet, but I think I'm getting closer. The church, as a whole, is balanced on the edge of that cliff. For the most part, churches are in a nimble dance to keep it balanced there. Maybe they just need someone strong enough to give a good push to send them over the edge.
Yes, as I said, they may get a little bruised and battered on the way down, but damn if it won't be worth the trip!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

I hate to admit it, but I play favorites. I should love all seasons of the church year equally and treat them the same, I know. But I just can't help it--I love Advent best. Honestly, it doesn't have that much to do with Christmas itself. I just love the expectant waiting. I happen to be one of those sorts who actually enjoys anticipation. I love writing the Advent candle lighting liturgy. I love the advent carols, some even more than the Christmas ones. I love getting the Advent calendars for the girls in the mail and...
well, ok, I love some of the secular stuff too. I admit that getting to bake the Christmas cookies and a joy for me. I do like to decorate for the holidays with evergreens from the backyard and the glow of candles on every (high, out of reach of small children) surface. We're not traveling this year so it'll be a much quieter, calmer experience since we won't be getting ready for both Christmas and traveling.
So, yeah, I play favorites. It's just how I roll.

Monday, August 16, 2010


We are approaching our annual leadership retreat for the church this weekend. Myself and a few other 'visionary' leaders are aiming to begin what I am sure will be a long and sometimes painful process of transformation. A transformation from an inward focused congregation to an outward focused congregation.
I've done lots of reading on congregational transformation. It's not always a nice thing. Many people (usually older) resist the change because they like church to be all about them. The church is there to care for them and their needs and to make them feel good about themselves. Unfortunately, I have yet to see any evidence of this being a biblical model of church.
So often we forget that we have been called to "go and make disciples of all nations" and that the way of Christ is not always easy. Christ's way is a way of service and compassion--two things I see many mainline churches sadly lacking. Sure, we have compassion for each other, our own members--but not for those outside our walls, the ones truly hurting and in need.
This is a total paradigm shift from the church of the 1950's era. This is the church model I'm fighting against. A model that allowed church to be on par with a social club like Rotary or Lions club. A model that saw church as a place to see and be seen, a place that you went because that's 'what nice people do.' A model that even had a dress code or you weren't allowed in.
That's a lot to go up against. I'm glad I have a few folks who are interested in and committed to fighting this battle with me. As one of them put it, "we're turning a barge around in a ditch." Yep. That's about right. Pray for us, k?

Monday, June 14, 2010

On Being of the Female Persuasion and in the Ministry

Being a woman in the ministry is something that I didn't worry too much about when I came here, even though I was the first woman that this congregation had ever had. I was more concerned about my age--more specifically, my age compared to the average age of this congregation (and the denomination as a whole).
Over at RGBP this past week, there was a post on what to look out for being the first woman pastor of a congregation. It got me thinking of the challenges that I have faced over the past two and a half years. Honestly, most of them aren't due to my gender. Some folks have been a little less confortable than others. I don't think we lost anyone over it, at least not that I'm aware of. But as pointed out in one of the comments to the post, I am tangling a bit now with some of the matriarch/patriarch 'dynasties' in the church. This is unraveling in several ways. Mostly it is coming about with knit-picky snipping at me for what they see me not doing to their particular liking or standards. "We've come to expect better (fill in the blank) from our pastors here," is a frequent relay.
Thankfully, I know I also have some staunch supporters who are excited about my ministry with this church and know that I care for the congregation (knit-pickers and all!) and that change is always a painful experience, especially for smaller congregations.
Probably harder than anything else is being a mom and a minister. I'm still the primary care-giver. I am thankful that my vocation allows me some flexibility to my schedule. Who says I have to sit in my office to write a sermon? I have a laptop. Starbucks, anyone? Some members believe that ministry ought to be a career like any other. 9-5, fire at will, that they as the members are my 'boss,' that sort of thing. But I have some wise lay people who reminded me that my 'contract' is actually called a 'covenant.' That is, in the sense of a marriage. I don't actually work for the church, I work for Christ--he's the boss! I was called to lead and minister to this church in the name of Christ, as his disciple. I am blessed to have wonderful colleagues and lay people to help me sort all this out and help me to realize what is actually beneath some of the knit-picking. Once I know the root, it's far more easily addressed and the lay leaders who are not part of the entrenched dynasties are wonderful at taking the leadership mantle and addressing the rest of the congregation when those sorts of critical comments would be better received that way than from me.
I am also blessed to have many wonderful female colleagues in the area. Even though I am the only woman pastor in my town, the rest of the men that I have encountered of other denominations have been very open and we have good collegial relationships. But I also know that I couldn't make it without my minister girl-friends! We are all in similar situations and it is so helpful to know that small churches are fairly predictable and I'm not going through this alone.
Still, I have been very well received by the majority of folks here in my congregation. My pillars are very good to me and help remind me why my work here is still very relevant. I know that the Spirit is moving and shaking here and we have to lead, follow, or get out of the way! TBTG!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

for future reference

I just hate it when I find great stuff like this after the fact (story of my life)
But I want it here so I can find it again next year!

Monday, February 08, 2010


I'm sure I cursed myself the other day when I told someone that, with 4 in '09, surely we would be death/funeral free for at least the first half of 2010. While none of my congregation is appearing to be in eminent danger of passing, the grandfather of one of our members died over the weekend and I was asked to do the service. It won't be at the church as neither the member's parents or grandparents were religiously affiliated, but I had helped with the father's sudden passing in the summer and so was asked to come be with the family again. They've had a lot to deal with in the past 6 or 7 months. I worry that the grandmother isn't far behind either. I suppose the 'good' news is that the grandparents are both in poor health and it was not completely unexpected. I think that helps in some small way.
Personally, I like funerals. You really get to know people. The facades fade or crumble and people share their stories and memories. They are, however, quite emotionally exhausting for everyone, including the minister. But more than any other time in my ministry, I am brought up short by just how amazing and even palpable God's grace is during these difficult times. TBTG!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Lent Already?!?

The last time I posted it was about Advent, now it's time for Lent! How in the heck did that happen??
It's not going to slow down anytime soon either. I have Ash Wednesday to plan, a Lenten Bible Study, the regular weekly bible study, the community Lenten services to attend--the first of which our church is hosting,as well as the normal sermons to write, oh, and a baptism coming up (that one gets a hooray!) Trying to plan when confirmation should begin (probably the fall). Hmmmm... I better quit before I get too overwhelmed. I supposed I'd rather be busy than bored though!
We had three days off school this week too, so I'm frantically trying to catch up from that. Snow, and lots of it. Not something we see much of around here and certainly not in that sort of quantity. L loved it. M was nonplussed, though that's fair since all she can do is let it hit her in the face. It was too powdery to build snowmen though, much to L's disappointment.
Can I just say, stream of conscience, that I am so excited to actually have a real, grown-up date planned with my hubby? Wow! When was the last time we did that? Can't even recall. Probably the Indigo Girls concert when I was preggo with M. Not that we could do much conversing there--no, wait there was also the Gaelic Storm concert. Again, not much conversation. So this will be a nice, sit-down dinner where we can talk about things other than the children or work. (At least I hope we still have other things to talk about!)
My work is going good though. I'm hoping we can be funeral free for a while. I don't see any immanent, but you never know. The only thing I wish is that we had some more self-starters in the church. I feel like I'm having to come up with all new ideas and that means it's harder to get people passionate about following through on them. I get a little jealous when I see other churches with people who start their own programs and initiatives. (Like, say, recycling--why in the world don't we do that?!)
But overall, they are good, hard-working people, and I love them. Amen.