When visiting a friend's office, I enjoy
snooping through perusing the shelves. Sometimes I find something that is exactly what I need for a particular situation. Sometimes I'm reminded of old favorites that I had nearly forgotten.
This week we asked several young clergy women serving ministries outside of the parish to recommend resources that have been useful to them in the last year or so. Go ahead, snoop around, you know you want to! (Feel free to add your own recommendations to the comments.)
Each Mother’s Day at worship, one of my first call churches in the mountain valleys of Pennsylvania gave out flowers to all the women of the congregation. The children came forward at the end of the Mother’s Day service and walked out into the small congregation bringing a flower to each woman there. Grandmothers and great-grandmothers, sisters, aunts, and women who were never able to bear children themselves all received flowers from the children that day. The first year, I noticed that because I was up front leading worship, none of the children thought to bring me flowers. Considering that I was helping organize the flower giving, I was not surprised, really. The second year, I noticed that one of the pre-schoolers became very confused. She would look at me and then ponder a flower, as if debating, “Does the Pastor count as a woman?”
How do you immerse yourself in the biblical text? For one young clergy woman, visual art is key to the process. She writes, "I believe through images and the act of creating, the Spirit engages us and gives us new eyes to see the unseen God alive in our lives and in the lives of our communities. ... In letting the Word reside in our imaginations and wrestle with us in new ways, I believe we become more faithful and creative preachers."
To enlarge each piece--and you'll definitely want to do that with this lovely work--click on the thumbnail.
The power and mercy of God's hold gives us courage to let go of that
which holds us captive.
When I began seminary, my husband was finishing, so the question du jour was, “Would you ever work together?” To which I responded with a resounding, “NO!” We’re too competitive, too insecure, I’d say. It would never work.
But as I moved through school and into my first call, and he settled in first one parish and then another, we began to see how our gifts for ministry could work together--how we could complement each other instead of compete. Our own personal styles developed and emerged, and perhaps most importantly we began to add a new dimension to our relationship: we began to respect one another as a pastor.
Though it is in our lectionary, our Lamentations text - this prayer of pain and petition - is not something we hear every day. I doubt many of us could quote from Lamentations as easily as we could from Psalms, from Isaiah, or from any of the gospels or epistles. So when we do hear from this book, it may come as a shock to our system. When I’ve told people that one of the texts I would be preaching from this morning is Lamentations, I got very similar responses. There were a few “ohs” and “that’s interesting,” and even an occasional “oh my.” Not exactly the words of assurance a woman would want. But these words did not really surprise me for what we find in this book – undiluted expressions of despair – are rarely the passages we seek out for nice Bible studies or our bedtime readings.
I began seminary with several single classmates, but our number was significantly reduced over the three years we spent there. By senior year, it seemed like a mass headlong rush to the altar. Those of us who had not joined the stampede mostly avoided the topic, as though voicing it would speak it into reality, but in a fit of honesty, a friend moaned one night, “Once I’m a pastor, all hope of getting married is over.”
At the time, I was puzzled by - and occasionally scornful of - my classmates’ partnering inclinations. “Get Married” has never made it to my life to-do list. It still hasn’t. Although I’m sure I’d make it work if it happened, I can’t imagine doing ministry as a married person. I can’t imagine living as a married person. Still, doing ministry and living as a single person has brought my classmates’ fears into sharp and sometimes painful clarity.
It’s happened too often to write it off as a fluke. There was that one time in the pulpit, and again the Sunday after Hurricane Katrina hit. At the last board meeting, once during choir rehearsal, and of course the day after we found out our beloved dog was dying of lymphoma. I’ve only been serving my congregation for twenty-six months, and I’m inching toward needing a second hand to count the incidents. No, it’s not a fluke. I’m a crier.
We’ve been in our home for a year now. In actuality, it’s been almost two years, but that first year, this didn’t feel like our home. We were renting. Now we own our home (or at least part of it), and I feel settled.
I am a nester. Not in the sense that I like to clean, but in the sense that I like to decorate and I don’t like to move. I love to hammer nails into the plaster. I am the one who buys the paint entitled “late tomato red.” In our last home, my husband and I embellished our upstairs with the designs of the Ndebele tribe of South Africa.
It was 8:35 when my alarm clock betrayed me.
And I only knew of his defiance because the phone rang. Twice. But I rolled over insisting that this, too, was part of my dream. The rebellion continued until the answering machine interrupted.
“Lexi?” My answering machine called. It was then that I realized that this was the morning I was betrayed. It was now 8:37. Worship had started seven minutes ago, and I was supposed to be presiding.
And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:1-2 (NRSV)
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Psalm 121:3-4 (NRSV)
I was sure I’d be back in church within one week of my daughter’s birth—not as a pastor, but as one of the faithful, gathered in the pews, free to worship God without fear.