Monday, October 31, 2005

mixed bag - judicial council, federal budget, ordination

I don't know quite what to blog about. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and under-motivated.

-Beth Stroud was defrocked (again) because she is a practicing lesbian. The Judicial Council determined that because non-practicing gay and lesbians are not prohibited from ordained ministry that her defrocking was not based on her status as a lesbian woman. I disagree, of course, with the decision because I hope to see gay and lesbian people welcomed fully into the life of the church without condition. But I also disagree with the logic of the argument that a "non-practicing" gay or lesbian person can be a pastor but a "practicing" gay or lesbian person cannot. What does it mean to practice your sexual orientation? Clearly, the logic here limits our whole sexual identity to who we have sex with. I'd like to think our sexual identity is more than that. After all, as a single heterosexual woman, if I am not in a relationship and not having sex, am I "non-practicing"? My sexuality is unchanged whether or not I'm actually having sex. So we've reduced sexuality to sexual activity. To me, that's very dualistic, very mind-body, flesh vs. spirit, in a way that seems contrary to the gospel message.

-Even more disturbing is the decision that the pastor who refused to let a gay man join his congregation was within his rights as a pastor to refuse him membership. I find it frightening, really, for the church and it's future. Where is the line drawn? If we as clergy can decide who can and can't join the church based on what we perceive to be their sins and what we perceive to be their repentance or lack thereof for particular sins - what sins should be bad enough to prohibit membership? What if we say we repent of certain sins, but don't really mean it? What if? I just feel like this is setting a terrible precedent enabling us to exclude anyone - not just from ordination, now, but from membership, based on who they are.

-On a more positive note, today I handed in my ordination paperwork. It felt good to turn over the big box full of copies for board members. Interviews are in February. Til then, time to relax.

-Also, previously I had posted about visiting Capitol Hill and talking about proposed food stamp cuts to pay for hurricane relief. Well, earlier in the week, the Senate Agriculture Committee proposed that no cuts be made for the 2006 fiscal year in the food stamps program. The proposed cuts had originally put 300,000 families at risk for losing food stamp eligibility. The other cuts I've heard proposed are still troublesome to me - student aid, money used to pursue child support payments, etc., but this at least is an area of relief.

A question for you all - where do you find hope? When you are bombarded with news that says that the issues that are close to your heart are far from where you want them to be, where do you continue to draw strength from, how do you continue to stay motivated? I find it difficult sometimes. Being in community with others who have a shared vision is renewing. Finding comfort in the Word of God in unexpected ways is another source. What about you? What keeps you on the path, keeps you full of hope?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Relevant Magazine: Time for a New Revolution

I just finished reading another issue of Relevant Magazine.

A particular article stood out to me this month: "Time for Another Revolution," by John Fisher (pg. 66, Nov/Dec 2005 issue)

Fisher talks about his experience in the 60s going to Wheaten College, where he was in the "worst" class (so-dubbed by the school's president years later), a class of "rowdy, nonconforming troublemakers." Fisher says his class was full of questions, not wanting to accept "easy answers." Some, for sure, lost their faith in school. But Fisher writes, "I consider this an improvement on whatever faith they brought there that was unable to hold up to the scrutiny of deeper questioning and intellectual curiousity."

Fisher worries that in the last two decades, he finds "rote acceptance of whatever those in places of authority hand down" to be more the norm. "Faith equals blind acceptance," he argues. "For too long, good Christian students have politely reflected the worldview and politics of their parents and rarely asked questions of their teachers . . . These students seem content to fill their notebooks with what they came to college for - answers that will lead to a high grade and result in a secure position in society or the church."

Fisher concludes by calling for revolution, encouraging us to ask questions, hard questions, about our faith and beliefs. "Jesus said that new wine can't be contained in old wineskins."

I didn't go to a "Christian" college, just a United Methodist one ;). But my brother went to a Christian college (yes, it's true!). He certainly is probably on some administrator's list of "rowdy, nonconforming troublemakers." But I think his spirituality is far deeper today for his journey then.

Thoughts about your own college experiences?

the good and the bad

Ah, being a clergy person brings such an interesting mix of joys and struggles, doesn't it?

Last night, my lament was: One of the most frustrating things for me in my ministry is not when things fail, but when people just don't respond to things offered to begin with. I had an event going on at church - something new we're trying - that literally not a single person showed up for. I left church feeling pretty blue. It's better sometimes to try and fail then to have no one try with you at all!

Today, my joy is: A clergy colleague died earlier this week - his spouse is also a clergy person. I attended the funeral this morning, joining together in procession, song, and worship with a packed sanctuary which included 100 or 150 of my clergy colleagues. We certainly aren't all on the same theological page as clergy in the conference. But today, when it really mattered, I was proud that we were there for our friend and co-worker in the ministry. To me, that is our connection at its best, and I hope we can draw strength from that support.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Book Review: Bait and Switch by Barbara Ehrenreich

I just finished reading Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich, her follow up to the excellent Nickel and Dimed, which I reviewed earlier this year.

Bait and Switch is similar in style to Nickel and Dimed. This time Ehrenreich undertakes to infiltrate corporate America. She wants to find out about people who "do everything right" according to societal standards - have college educations, work in white-collar positions, make good grades, etc. - but still end up unemployed, underemployed, and dangerously close to sinking into the poverty that Ehrenreich explored in Nickel and Dimed. So she sets aside ten months and $5000 for expenses and set her goal: search for a job for 4-6 months, and spend 3 months as an employee in a white-collar field, with some mid-range income goal. She would go anywhere, take any job offered that met her requirements and was not morally objectionable to her.

Ehrenreich's quest for a job is hilarious and frustrating. She spends a lot of money on job coaches, who give her personality tests (one has results that suggest Ehrenreich is "probably not a good writer"), help her re-write her resume with the proper 'lingo'. The coaches key into the job-searchers need to have a "winning attitude." One job-seekers website she comes across says, "studies have shown that the hiring process is 90% emotional . . . if I like you, I may hire you." (pg. 38)

After job coaches, the next key element of job-searching is networking - trying to make contacts for jobs with anyone and everyone you meet. Ehrenreich attends everything from church-sponsored networking events (Ehrenreich, an atheist, seems to have a strange hate-church-but-can't-stay-away-from-it relationship that I can't figure out. She does know her scriptures though!), to networking "boot camp," to select events that only job-hunters with real potential can attend.

It is during "boot camp" that Ehrenreich runs into a pervasive philosophy of job-seeking: "You must recognize that you alone are the source of all the conditions and situations in your life. You must recognize that whatever your world looks like right now, you alone have caused it to look that way." (pg. 81, as quoted from The Ultimate Secret to Getting Absolutely everything You Want) In other words, getting laid off, the state of the economy, poverty, etc. - anything else that factors into your employment situation is nothing - you've caused it to be how it is and have to take responsibility for it. Ehrenreich writes, "It explains the winners' success in the most flattering terms while invalidating the complaints of the losers . . . it's not the word that needs changing . . . it's you." (pg. 85)

Another big issue Ehrenreich experiences: invisibility. Not even rejection, which would require a response from prospective employers, but invisibility - no response or acknowledgement from most of the hundreds of companies to which she applied. No return calls. No rejections letters. No human contact. (pg. 171)

In the end, Ehrenreich, despite coaching and networking and even an image makeover, is offered two jobs: one at an insurance company, where she basically would sell insurance and recruit other salespeople, and one selling Mary Kay. After seven months searching, those are her offers.

Her last two chapters, tying everything together and making conclusions, are her strongest. She follows up with many others she met job-seeking, and finds that most of them are still unemployed or underemployed, taking "survival jobs." The number of people working in "survival jobs" - jobs that are low-paying, that have nothing to do with one's education and skills - is not a figure that is measured in any way. The Bureau of Labor Stats only measures underemployment by those working less than full time hours.

Ehrenreich talks about that Protestant American work ethic that says "hard work will be rewarded with material comfort and security," at least for middle-class folk. It is this guarantee that is fading away, she argues. Capitalism, Marx observed, "never promised stability." (pg. 217) She also notes the lack of organizing by white-collar laborers, the lack of conversation about why so many of them are experiencing job loss and unemployment. The victim-blaming ideology seems to keep people from looking for larger, societal reasons for job loss, keeping them also from working for change.

Ehrenreich also briefly address corporate greed, talking about the rising incomes of CEOs, a habit of "internal predation" of eliminating jobs of those below you so that you can earn more. (I wish she would have expanded more in this area.)

I enjoyed Nickel and Dimed more than Bait and Switch, because I think good looks into the life of the working poor are few and far between. And it's harder to feel sorry for middle-class people with lots of resources. But at the same time, it's easier to see my own (and my family's) struggles in Bait and Switch. And Ehrenreich really tries to push the reminder - poverty, "downward mobility" isn't so far away from most of us. How many bad events would have to take place in your life to push you from middle-class to lower-class? How many unexpected things could you handle before you had to take up a job you never imagined yourself doing?

Give it a read!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Ezekiel 34:16

Sometimes, I stumble across a Bible verse that has somehow gone unnoticed after so many years of studying, that is just so moving.

Today, I noticed Ezekiel 34:16, which comes in the lectionary on Reign of Christ/Christ the King Sunday on November 20th.

It reads, "I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice."


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Alumni Lectures: Final Reflections, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Thursday was the last day of the Tipple-Vosburgh lectures at Drew, and Rev. Dr. Traci West, my favorite professor, gave the sermon at the closing worship, focusing on 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8. This is a text that has a special place in my heart, since it was the text for my senior sermon there at Drew three years ago!

Dr. West focused in on the first verse, where Paul says, "we know our coming to you has not been in vain." She said she felt like Paul was trying, a little bit, to convince himself. She suspects, she said, that we all do that in our ministries - we wonder, we hope and pray that the work that we've done has not been in vain.

She also focused on Paul's proclamation: "For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery." She wondered why Paul would need to make this claim, unless others had been proclaiming to the Thessalonians with less than honest intentions.

Dr. West urged us to look for places in the world where the gospel is proclaimed with some "tricky discrimantory twist." And she urged us to see that as we prepared to gather at the communion table, that it was at that table that we could bring all the bad that we experience, but also ourselves, our very selves to the table. "This is the place, this is the table to bring your real selves to," she said.

I always feel inspired by Dr. West's preaching. One of my friends commented that Dr. West's preaching makes her feel "too inspired" - a good compliment!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Senator wins Powerball Lottery

Geez. - Sen. Gregg wins $853,000 in Powerball - Oct 20, 2005:

"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Judd Gregg won $853,492 from the Powerball lottery after matching five of six numbers in Wednesday's drawing, adding to his already sizable wealth.
'Even senators can be lucky,' he told reporters outside the D.C. Lottery claims center, where he picked up his check.
The Republican from New Hampshire -- who chairs the Budget Committee and who has a reputation as a strict fiscal conservative -- said his wife is currently remodeling their home and already has plans for the new money.
'She's already told me, 'Don't spend it. I've already got plans.''
He said he bought about $20 of tickets on Monday at a D.C. Citgo gas station as he headed from Baltimore to Washington for a Senate vote.

"I don't plan to quit my job," he said with a smile.

He will owe 25 percent in federal taxes on the $853,492. New Hampshire doesn't have state income taxes and so he will get to keep the rest.

Gregg already is a millionaire, according to personal financial records that senators are required to file annually.

His latest filing, which documents his financial records for the calendar year of 2004, shows that Gregg has assets between $2,697,000 and $9,430,000, mostly in an extensive stock and real estate portfolio."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tipple-Vosburgh Lectures - Reflections, part 1

I continue here in NJ at the Tipple-Vosburgh lectures at Drew.

This morning I attended a workshop with Dr. Virginia Burrus, professor of early church history. I took church history with Dr. Burrus when I was in the MDiv program here, and I found her to be an excellent professor, extremely intelligent. I've never been a big history buff, but she made the class compelling and enjoyable.

Today Dr. Burrus presented a workshop titled "Shame as a Source for Transformation: Early Christian Teachings" - all about shame and how it can be a tool for change. Some quotes from her lecture:

"George W. Bush is strikingly impervious to shame." Dr. Burrus noted that this shamelessness is both comforting to conservatives who are reassured by it and alarming to progressives who wish Bush would feel shame for his actions and positions.

Dr. Burrus also talked about vulnerability and shame - shame as a warning sign that we are "in a zone of possibility of intimacy."

Dr. Burrus related shame to the early church when she talked about martyrs in early Christianity taking shame placed on them by the Empire and subverting the shame. Shame can be most harmful when people are shamed not because of particular actions (ie being ashamed because you were caught in some compromising position) but because of who they are - because of identity (ie gay and lesbians being shamed for being gay and lesbian, or people of color being shamed for being a person of color) For Christians in the early church, just being a Christian meant being shamed by the Empire.

Dr. Burrus argued that early Christians could used their stigmatization/shame as an agent of transformation. They shamed their shamers, subverted the stigma placed on them, and reclaimed their stigmatized identities. Today just being a Christian does not have the same shame attached, but shame can still be transformative.

"What shame doesn't do when we don't repress it is let us stay the same."



Later, Rev. Nibs Stroupe, a pastor in Decatur, Georgia, spoke on "Praying for Boldness: Transforming Leadership for the 21st Century."

Stroupe talked about "cheap community" - how we form 'clans' of people to ward off our fears and anxieties. In cheap community, we push outsiders away, so that we, in so doing, can have a deeper sense of belonging.

Stroupe also took to task the effort by liberals and conservatives to privitize God to suit agendas in different contexts. He rejected the idea of individual salvation as non-biblical, this idea that our only goal in salvation is "getting into heaven when we die." Such personalized ideas about salvation lead to justifying unjust behavior. He lifted up an example of minutes from a church meeting during times of struggle about segregation in worship. They read, "although we recognize that this is not what Jesus Christ would do, nevertheless..." (Always a bad way to start a sentence)

Stroupe reminded us that the scriptures are not primarily about how we should be living, but about how we are living.


As I mentioned yesterday, I am now in NJ at my seminary's annual alumni lectures.

This year, Seminary Hall is open with a new addition to the building that was at the center of my life for three years. The building is now accessible, has great new preaching labs, restrooms on all floors (formerly a BIG problem!) and generally looks sparkling and fresh while remaining the integrity and history of the original structure. I'm so glad for the school and the future of the seminary and what this building means for room for growth.

At the same time, I experienced walking through the building with a surreal sense of realization of how long, literally and more symbolically, it has been since this place was my home, my community. Each time I return for a visit, it is less and less the place that I went to seminary.

I'm reminded of the gospel accounts of Jesus saying that a prophet is not welcomed in his/her hometown. I experience not a feeling of unwelcome, but the sometimes surprising reminder that this place is no longer home. Who can be welcomed back home again if home is not home anymore?

I remember experiencing those same feelings when I first returned to my highschool, Rome Free Academy, after starting college. The first visit was great - seeing friends and teachers, sharing updates, and reminiscing. After that, follow-up visits felt more like I was a stranger - maybe not an intruder - but definitely like an outsider.

I think this is a good thing - how 'home' always changes for us - even if some transitions are harder than others. I'm reminded that home is not a place, but a state of being - the place where your community is, and where your heart is, cheesy as that perhaps sounds.

Lorna at see-through faith has been doing a series of posts on "fellowship." I think clergy sometimes have a hard time with finding "home." We serve in communities as part of the home of our parishioners, but our position also creates boundaries for us in our communities. So we have to be very intentional about creating our homes, with our family, friends, and colleagues in ministry. I'm sure lay people today experience some similar things. We live in such a crazed world with a crazed pace, that we, in the midst of crowds, are often very solitary creatures.

Where is your home? Where is your community? What are your best home-coming experiences?

GBCS board meeting: wrap-up

Just a quick wrap-up note about GBCS before I moved to where I am this week: Drew Tipple-Vosburgh Lectures.

On Saturday, we had a special dinner to honor Dr. Dorothy Height with a "Faith in Action" award. Dr. Height was president of the National Council of Negro Women for more than 40 years, and a longtime participant and leader in the civil rights movement. One of her special achievements: She established the Bethune Museum and Archives for Black Women, which is the first institution devoted to black women's history.

Dr. Height is 93 now, and still witty and clever, and quite a stylish dresser! We got to hear her speak at her dinner, and I found her quite inspiring. During my time in seminary, I got to take a couple of classes that centered on African-American History, and I became aware of just how much I don't know. My knowledge of the civil rights movement had previously been limited to MLK and some knowledge about Malcomn X, and that was it. What a rich history we have - learn it!

Another thing I wanted to mention was the gift of leadership from Bishop James Swanson. Bishop Swanson was on the board last quadrennium as a clergy member, and I didn't get to know him very well. I still don't know him well, but I've become more appreciate of his impact on the board. Somehow, when he speaks on the floor when we're not all in agreement on a certain issue, he has a very pastoral presence among us and helps us move forward with humor and grace (and a bit more speed). That is a real gift to have, and I'm thankful for his presence.

Friday, October 14, 2005

GBCS board meeting reflections: Friday

Today was another full day at our fall board meeting for the General Board of Church and Society.

Today, we spent time visiting our representatives on Capitol Hill. My work on the board is especially on the work area of Environmental and Economic Justice. One of our major priorities has been in addressing federal budget issues, and communicating our understanding of the budget as a moral document.

We had time as a small group to meet with Neil Bradley, policy director for Majority Whip Roy Blunt. This was my first meeting of this kind, and I was a bit nervous, but once the conversation started, I remembered the beliefs that ground me and found my voice.

I found Mr. Bradley to be, frankly, patronizing, and I felt like we were getting a lot of smooth talk around real issues. At one point, Mr. Bradley informed us, when we asked him about US borrowing money to meet our spending, that many are misinformed and think that we can just print more money at the treasury. And whenever he referred to an unpopular policy, he said, "a lot of people are going to yell at us for that."

When we asked about cuts to social services, and about additional cuts proposed in light of Katrina and Rita, his first response was that they were "not really making any cuts." That's right, that is a direct quote.

He later suggested that people who pay less or no taxes to the federal government don't care about the government because they are not financially "invested" in it. He compared this to church members who give less, knowing that we were all church folk who know about "church budgets." This is the issue that caused me to pipe up - people who don't pay as much don't care as much? How can he say that?

He concluded by saying that criticizing the budget as a whole isn't something helpful to him - that instead we should look for parts of proposal that we can support, and other parts we think need "tweaking." When another board member asked if there was somewhere such information was available to us for our input, of course, Mr. Bradley had to admit that it was not easily available to us and that they plan to proceed with "budget reconciliation" as outlined.

I certainly was enlightened by my experience, and I appreciate even more the work of GBCS staff like John Hill (Director for Economic and Environmental Justice) for going up against such an audience repeatedly. The one day was enough to last me for some time.

GBCS board meeting reflections: Thursday

I didn't get to posting thoughts from yesterday here at the Fall Board Meeting for the General Board of Church and Society, so here's some catch up.

Yesterday Jim Winkler gave his report. For me, this is always one of the highlights of our time together. Jim is a prophetic and bold voice in the church and to our board, and I appreciate his words. Jim talked about claims that his work or the work of the board is partisan in nature. His response? He's not partisan, but he is biased. We are biased. The Board is biased, because we proclaim Jesus' bias for the poor and marginalized. I liked his way of putting this. Sometimes our work on the board through our bias brings us shoulder to shoulder with one group or another. Not becuase it is partisan work, but because we happen to share common goals and purposes on common issues.

To this end, Jim also said that he suspected we might still be at war even if Kerry or Gore or someone other than Bush was in office right now, and that if we were at this war, no matter who was in office, he would oppose that war.

I don't have the printed version of his report yet - when I do I may share more.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Currently, I am in Washington, DC for a meeting of the General Boad of Church and Society. Today, we had a day of training on how to teach our United Methodist Social Principles, led by Neal Christie and Clayton Childers.

Clayton led us in a time of worship this morning, focused on James 3, concluding with verse 10, "from the same mouth come blessing and cursing." He talked about reading an articlue in the Arkansas Annual Conference's newspaper by Bishop Charles Crutchfield. In it, Crutchfield talks about a favorite word of his: agathokakological, a word with Greek origins which means "composed of both good and evil." Clayton suggested that this can be a great word to describe the human condition - are we not composed of or torn between both our good and evil selves/urgings?

From there, Clayton talked about Jurgen Moltmann, Moltmann's personal experiences in Germany in World War II, his guilt-feelings from his experiences in the war, and his embracing of what would develop into his Theology of Hope during his three years as a prisoner of war. Moltmann's hope was in the coming of the kingdom of God, God's reign.

Clayton talked about vision. What's the most famous speech in history? Probably MLK's I Have A Dream. Clayton reminded us that this speech was not a statement of how things were, but a statement of King's hope for how things might be - his vision for the future, his hope for God's reign on earth.

Our role as people of faith is to figure out how we want to get "there," to the fulfillment of our vision and God's vision, from where we are now.

What's your hope? How will you get there?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Topical Preaching

After reading Adam Hamilton's book Leading Beyond the Walls, another thing I've been thinking about is lectionary preaching and topical preaching. I mentioned in my review that I disagree with Hamilton's take on lectionary preaching.

I remember at General Conference 2000, I had my first experience of the using of the phrases "high view" and "low view of scripture" by the late Rev. Bill Hinson in my small group on the Faith and Order legislative committee. Rev. Hinson and other conservatives talked about having a "high view" of scripture, meaning a more literal interpretation of scripture and perhaps a (conceived) more central place given to scripture in theology. I had never thought of myself as having a "low view" of scripture, though this seem to be implied as a natural correlative of a liberal outlook.

What does this have to do with lectionary and topical preaching? What I find interesting is this: from my experience (no formal surveys here, no studies I've read, just folks I've talked to so chime in if you don't fit my suggestion!), liberal pastors are more likely to stick to the lectionary and more conservative pastors are more likely to choose another method for selecting scriptures for preaching.

Adam Hamilton talks in Leading Beyond the Walls about sermon series he has preached, including the "controversial issues" of the church. We've recently added a second service at my church, and we've been focusing on the Social Principles in the worship, and I've been trying something new: non-manuscript non-lectionary preaching. It's been challenging for me, and I can't say I've enjoyed it. Why?? The non-manuscript part makes me nervous - I'm not comfortable with it yet, and as a lover of writing I feel my strength is in the way I put a manuscript sermon together.

But that aside, I miss the discipline of the lectionary very much. To me, it seems very strange to have a topic, and then pick a scripture to go with it. It never seems as deep to me as to read the Word, and then try to understand, interpret, and preach it. To me, there is some irony in the fact that someone like me with a "low view" of scripture has such a hard time not starting with the scripture first in my preaching, and seeing where it and God leads me and my congregation.

This week, I am heading off to the General Board of Church and Society meeting in DC (expect reports from me on the good work of the agency some of you love to hate!) and will spend one day in training on teaching the Social Principles, which I hope will help me center my topical preaching.

'Til then, what are your thoughts? Do you preach the lectionary or not? Why? Do you think there is a correlation between theology and the choice to preach or not preach from the lectionary? How do you keep your preaching grounded?

Movie Review: In Her Shoes

I went to see In Her Shoes tonight, and was happily surprised. I expected a fluffy feel-good movie. I like fluffy feel-good movies sometimes. But this movie had a lot more depth to it, and was much more than a romantic comedy or romantic drama.

The movie was certainly about relationships, between siblings, in-laws, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren. But I think that it was especially about how we view and value ourselves. The two main characters, played by two different and talented actresses, Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette, are very opposite - one extrovert, one introvert, one seemingly boundless in confidence, the other self-doubting. But both seem to struggle with their own self-value, to doubt their worth as a person.

I guess it is that aspect of the human condition - how unconvinced we are of our own worth and value - that spoke to me the most. I look at people in my own life who are so gifted and talented and who I admire and wish I was more like - I look at them, and see them so full of bad things to say about themselves, so full of inner-conflict about who they are and what they should be doing and questioning how much they matter. I do the same thing about my own worth, of course. But this movie reminded me, if not explicitly intending to do so, of our personal worth. Are we made in God's image? We have great worth, immeasurable.

A poem is read at the end of the movie, which I'm sure many others like myself will be looking up, by e. e. cummings, "i carry your heart within me":

i carry your heart with me (i carry it inmy heart)
i am never without it (anywherei go you go, my dear;
and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet)
i want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

CROPwalking again

I am walking in the CROPwalk again this year in our community, a program of Church World Service. With all of the natural disasters that have struck the globe this year, I know people are overextended financially. I'm certainly having a harder time raising funds this year than last. But if you have $10 to spare, please consider donating to this great ministry...

Click to donate:

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Calendar Girls: UMC Clergywomen?

Thanks to John for highlighting this great article. Apparently, UMC clergy women in the Rocky Mountain Conference have gotten together to pose for a calendar, in some serious and some more humorous poses. Perhaps this is an idea to pitch at my next finance committee meeting. Follow the link to order your own calendar for $15.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

congrats, brother

Huge congrats to my middle-little brother TJ (Ok, he really prefers Tim) - he got hired for a full time job today after many months of searching. I'm really proud of him. Go read his totally ranting, profane, and incoherent blog to make his day extra special.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Pastors and Leadership

My recent post on Adam Hamilton's Leading Beyond the Walls has garnered the most comments on any post I've done, replacing only my post on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in number of comments. This is thanks in large part to a conversation between RevWilly and David Allen Grady, and I feel almost as cool as Shane at WesleyBlog and Dean at Untied Methodist, who always have long comment threads on their posts.

Anyway, RevWilly and David started a conversation about what it means to be a leader, and what kind of leaders we are called to be as pastors. Forgive my short summary of their comments, but it started with David asking: do pastors enter ordained ministry because they want to be leaders? Is being a leader the focus of pastoral ministry? Revwilly responds to say that shepherding a flock requires great leadership, and that pastors with thriving churches have great leaders.

I think both have raised some interesting questions. What kind of leaders are pastors meant to be? What is our model of leadership?

A good place for us to start, of course, is with the example Jesus sets for us. But Jesus, rabble-rouser that he was, always was more challenging to the leadership of the religious community than anything else. I've been studying the upcoming lectionary text from Matthew 23:1-12, where Jesus has harsh words for the scribes and Pharisees, who in their leadership, lay great burdens upon others, while reveling in their titles of 'rabbi' and 'teacher', all the while not practicing what they preach. Pastors today are in that same position - we're the religious leaders of our communities. So we stand in leadership with many warnings from Jesus to be very careful about what kind of leaders we are.

What kind of leaders are pastors meant to be? We toss around words like "shepherd" or "servant-leader." What does that mean? I personally have a hard time connecting to the image of shepherd - I'll be honest. We see pretty paintings of Jesus carrying a lamb, but I suspect this isn't a good picture of a shepherd. Was a shepherd in biblical days considered a leader? Should we try to resemble CEOs? How much does leadership have to do with how and what we preach? How about our administrative skills? How much do we need to have those gifts and talents? What about how we dress or how we carry ourselves?

What do you think? What does it mean to be a leader as a pastor?

Who would you lift up as a great example of pastoral leadership?

Do you have a resource on pastor leadership to recommend?