June 2011

Bless Her Heart: Because You're Not the Only One

Ashley-Anne Master and Stacy Smith's Bless Her Heart: Life as a Young Clergy Woman will be on the bedside table of every young clergy woman. Whether these women are seminarians, a local church pastors or a chaplains, these young leaders will turn to these pages because it truly is our story. In these nine short chapters, our story is told.

It's told as if a group of young clergy women are sitting around sipping wine -- including those stories that will raise our glasses and bring us all to tears. It offers that assurance that we offer to each other as young clergy women. Because you're not the only one. This has been the catchphrase that defines The Young Clergy Women Project. This book publishes what we already knew to be true and offers us each strength to look into the future of our own call.

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June 2011

Pastor and Preacher as Artist

“Becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive”

-Art & Fear: Observations on The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland

To be an artist one must be true to the voice that God has given you.  I came to learn this in my last year of seminary when I left the world of West Michigan where I grew up and journeyed to New York City for an internship at a church. The creativity of the city invaded my soul.  The city was like one giant orchestra and each one of the 8.4 million citizens was trying to figure out which instrument was ours to play. It is in New York where I first understood my calling as a pastor was to a calling to first and foremost be an artist. The medium with which I make art is through being a pastor and preacher.

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June 2011

Unrecognized and Invisible: A Sermon for Mother's Day

Scripture text: Luke 24:13-35 (NRSV)

It’s an interesting opportunity to preach today. Around the worship planning table, Matt (the senior pastor) suggested this date to me so that the new mom might lead on Mother’s Day. Since then, I’ve been wrestling with where to go with it.

I struggle with Mother’s Day. I don’t struggle with a day set aside to recognize mothers in all their varied appearances –by birth, by adoption, by marriage, by relationship and blessing. I struggle with the way Mother’s Day sometimes tries to press all these brilliantly and wonderfully diverse meanings of what it means to be a mother into a flat reality, as uninspired as some greeting cards. I don’t want to do that this morning, but I do want to speak from my authentic experience.

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June 2011

Exploring the Narrative Lectionary

Many pastors and congregations use the comparatively slower summer to plan the upcoming programmatic year. I've been slowly introducing the idea of the using Narrative Lectionary (NL) to my congregation. The NL, an initiative being put together by several professors at Luther Seminary and some pastors in the Minnesota ELCA synod, is a fairly quickly paced romp through the arc of Scripture from Abraham and Sarah to Acts (September to late May). Each Sunday, the congregation focuses on one scripture passage that reveals the work God has done. Through the lens of that story, in its Scriptural setting, we move to more fully comprehend the work God is doing now. It is my hope that during this time our congregation will labor together and come to a better understanding of the narrative thread of what we believe. How are the Hebrew Scriptures connected to our understanding of Jesus? How do we see ourselves as children of Abraham? What are the lessons of the Exile?

In order to use the NL, we will have to drop out of formal use of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for about nine months. These are important themes and stories that don't quite make into the heart of the RCL. Arguably, they could be covered through Faith Formation activities, like Christian Education, Confirmation, Bible study... etc. However, I have to be realistic about the habits of my congregation. The majority of people are here on Sunday morning. Some can't, some don't and some won't come to other things during the week. So I have to take seriously the teaching portion of my call and bring the mountain to Mohammed, or something like that.

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June 2011

“Help Thou Our Unbelief”

Despair “Pray for us,” my mom says whenever we speak. “God listens to you. He doesn’t listen to me anymore.”

This all started one Monday morning in June 2008 when I received a phone call from my dad. He asked—in his stern, concerned voice—if I was home, and I said I was. Then he told me that he had been laid off from the job he had held for the last eleven years. While eleven years may not sound like very long for a 61-year-old man to have worked for a company, it was the longest job my dad had ever held. And now he was, again, unemployed.

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June 2011

Single Rev...and a baby?

According to a 2009 article in US News and World Report, the number of unmarried women having babies has risen sharply in the United States according to U.S. Health Officials. This statistic is interesting on the whole because it both represents women in relationships who are not married and women who choose to become pregnant by artificial insemination It does not include those who choose to adopt. The article also points out that these pregnancies are mostly to women in their 20’s, not teenagers. So while this is an interesting statistic to throw out in the world, it made me think about the category of single female clergy who have children.

Throughout seminary, I knew several women who were single mothers and facing the surmounting task of ordination, exams and sermon preparation. Their diligence to their calling and their family always impressed me. They never claimed it was easy. However, the idea of single women choosing to become mothers without a partner was never even discussed. As women have finally gained a place as pastors among us, it is time to discuss the ideas of single clergy and the role of motherhood. Perhaps it is past time.

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June 2011

To and From

Katherine

It’s been exactly a year since my family and I packed up the parsonage, dropped the car off at the freight yard, and departed from the Long Beach Airport at the height of jacaranda season. We had tickets for a one-way flight to Chicago (one made quite memorable by my scrambling to get my last Called and Sent column written by deadline). We left California because we wanted to. My husband and I are both deeply Midwestern, and eight years in Los Angeles County was enough for us.

But we also left California because we were called. I felt the spiritual equivalent of an electric shock when I read the classified ad in the back of the Christian Century describing an associate ministry position in a suburb of Chicago. I paid attention; such jolts of knowing are few and far between. My gut-level response was confirmed throughout the long discernment process, and to my great relief and joy, the search committee came to the same conclusion.

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June 2011

"Punishment Comes One Way Or Another": A Review of True Grit

Editor's Note: This review contains spoilers. Lots of 'em. Don't read this if you don't want to know how this movie ends.  However, if you've seen it and you're looking for a good movie to reflect on theologically and to maybe share with your congregation, read on...

True-grit-2010-big "True Grit": Directed and screenplay adaptation by Joel and Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men”, “Fargo”).  Starring Jeff Bridges (Rueben “Rooster” Cogburn), Matt Damon (LaBoeuf), Hailee Steinfeld (Mattie Ross), and Josh Brolin (Tom Chaney)

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June 2011

Vanity of Vanities?

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. I rarely find comfort in the King James Version and with this verse it is no different. Instead, these words poke at me like a preacher wagging his finger over the pulpit. I know his words are directed at me. I know that they poke at something I don’t care to admit, but there it is. I am vain. I feel vain. All is vanity.

OK. I admit it’s a bit over-dramatic, but I am indeed struggling with my own vanity. It feels silly and trite. Every ounce of my being believes that I should have gotten over this by now. I’ve been ordained for nearly as long as The Young Clergy Women Project has existed. I got to dream about what this organization would be – but when we met at our first conference we shared our vain frustrations. We lamented the church member that accused us of wearing too much make-up. We bemoaned that we were told we couldn’t wear big earrings while preaching. We insisted upon the supreme style of our shoes. After all, it’s all the congregation can really see under our robes. These conversations birthed this column in Fidelia’s Sisters. We wanted to talk about these details in our own voices, but now it’s nearly five years later. Vanity of vanities! Why am I digging this up again?

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