Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My Lectionary Leanings for Today

Genesis 9:8-17_Psalm 25:1-10 _1 Peter 3:18-22 _Mark 1:9-15

Could this be one of those famous Markan Sandwiches? If so, then the bread is the Baptism and the Proclamation and the filling is the temptation.

Baptism -- water and the Spirit (what you hear over and over again in Methodist circles....)
Jesus starts the journey from Galilee to Judea -- foreshadowing the movement of his ministry later in the Gospel.

“let himself be Baptized” – passive action by Jesus. But immediately as he comes up out of the water the skies are torn apart.

HE saw, not they saw. Private vision.

"torn apart" -- Greek schizo -- used only twice, once here in Mark and once to describe the tearing of the veil (Mark 15:38) -- apocalyptic images look also at Ezek 1:1 and Isaiah 64:1. Both times a violent action – a tearing of the boundary between heaven and earth.

Dove = spirit = dove of the Noah story = also Jonah means "dove" -- could be synchronistic with Greek mythology and auguries done with birds. Does it mean it looks like a Dove or that it lights and perches like a Dove?

“YOU are my son, the Beloved” – not “This is my son” – private vision? – Beloved meaning more like “Chosen” – when the voice speaks again, it is to all present in Mark (Transfiguration)
Spoken last in Mark by the Centurion “Sure this was…” This phrase here, echoes the Coronation songs of Ancient Israel – cmp. Psalm 2

IMMEDIATELY drove Jesus to the wilderness (from the order of the Spirit hovering over the waters of the deep to Chaos – the void) No gentle “guidance” here, but his is impelled to go. Jolted, even. Used other places in Mark in exorcisms. Leaves a sense of Jesus almost being a victim. Left order for Chaos for 40 days – parallel to the 40 years of Moses in the Wilderness or the 40 days of destruction by water with Noah. Prologue starts in the Wilderness – ends in the Wilderness – Mark ends with a Wilderness of the Spirit as the women stumble from the tomb terrified.

Testing by the Accuser – like the testing later done by the Pharisees and finally in the Garden.

Wild Beasts – echoes of Psalm 91:11-13 "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot." Esp. when read over and against the other temptation stories. Maybe the wild beasts are really people? Or maybe the wild beasts are a part of Jesus himself?

"good news": The Greek word euangelion – both OF God and BY God

Good News both is a description and the content of the passage – euangelion used twice.

Tense – is beging fulfilled – continual action. Stretches in to the past and future. The time is here, the time is now. Now is the moment ripe.

Verse 15 is a synopsis of the entire message of Mark.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Busy Day

but Sundays always are. Somehow, after months of no sermons to preach, I have 3 in 4 days. Feast or famine. I'll do the pictures about burning the palms this afternoon. Blessings to all today.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


The air was incredibly smooth. My silvered wings slipped through the air effortlessly. It was a magical twilight and the sun burned red and orange and gold like flames behind the skyline of Atlanta. The mountain was stunningly beautiful that night. I will always remember Stone Mountain, rising up in front of the skyline of Atlanta with that great glowing ball of fire. It was a moment of transcendence. I understood the line from the poem – and I know you know the one:

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung_
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space...
...put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

That night, I felt the presence of God. I could stretch out my hand and touch His face. I felt sheer glory that moment. I wanted a camera to capture it forever. That night, right after I landed, my friend Steve Ashby landed his Cherokee Six and rolled to a stop right behind me – He jumped out of his plane and asked “Did you see that?? That was the most incredible thing I think I’ve ever seen!”

On that mountain so very long ago, Jesus was revealed to James and Peter and John as God himself. It must have been a awesome and frightening moment. Darkness, the burning light – silence and then a booming voice – a visitation from the Heroes of the past and then – nothing. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t understand what had just been revealed to them. I know that they must have turned to each other and cried out, “Did you see that?? That was the most incredible thing I think I’ve ever seen!”

Every time I do touch and go’s, I think of that moment -- I remember it. I loved Stone Mountain airport. It was a homey place – a really old fashioned airport, built in the 1920’s as a relay station for the US Mail. There were relics for days gone by, propeller hubs holding the doors open and always a warm and welcoming fire in the huge fireplace. Framed newspaper articles about the time the mailplane crashed into the side of the mountain – and how Mark Britt climbed out of that cockpit and delivered the mail by foot. The office – the FBO had been built around an ancient fireplace that was all that was left over after Sherman had marched through. There was community there – I loved to go and hanger fly with my friends. My time at that airport glows golden in my mind.

In 1996, Atlanta hosted the Olympics and the owners of the Airport sold the land to be used as a parking lot for the tennis venue. My beloved airport was changed beyond recognition. They placed telephone poles down the center of the runway – they tore down the main building, leaving only the massive old fireplace standing. I used to think of it a memorial stone, an Ebeneezer. I wanted to put a plaque on it to memorialize the memory of a golden time in my life, but as I went back just a few weeks ago – that massive old fireplace had been torn down as well.

I mourn the loss of my airport. I wanted a memorial – a gravestone so that I could remember what had been. But I was caught short when I went by and that massive old fireplace itself – older than my memory – older than the airport itself – that huge mass of stone and mortar were gone. What I have left is the memory – that remembrance of a transcendent moment.
Peter coped the only way he knew how – “Jesus! Ah, It’s a good thing for us to be here! Shall we build you and Elijah and Moses booths so that we can stay a while? So that we can remember this moment? Like a monument or something?” Busywork in a way. He’s uncomfortable and wants to “do something” and not just dwell in that moment of stark and frightening transformation.

What are the ways we build monuments to our experiences of God? Are we willing to live into the moments of transformation instead of building booths of remembrance to days gone by?

Throughout the Old Testament, the people put up what might be called "a standing stone" after a momentous interaction with God. Maybe that's why Peter wanted to set up camp and build some booths. But Jesus didn’t want that. There were more important things to do than build a nice memorial to the moment.

As I thought about this, a realized that a camera wouldn’t have helped me on that night. And it reminds me of why I don't video tape events any more. I am the cameraman in my family – I used to drag all that stuff to every event: the video camera, the digital camera, the lights. Then I realized that I couldn’t both record the moment and BE in the moment. I would get so caught up in figuring out camera angles and lighting that I would forget to just be in the present. Peter needed to be in the moment. The Transfiguration was a vision he would need to remember in the future. If he was busy building a monument, he'd miss the real event.

What endured of that moment?

Peter was in such a hurry to build a "permanent" commemoration of the holy site. What he failed to see was how temporary our human constructs really are. If we're really honest, we would say the same about our monuments – our cathedrals and buildings. This congregation had a monument and now’s it gone. We have the memory – and the heritage of that old Chapel
on the corner, but it’s gone.

What has endured?

For me, what has endured of my transcendent moment is an abiding love of airplanes and aviation. What abides is those relationships that were built hanger flying. When Steve jumped out of the plane and asked “Did you see that?? That was the most incredible thing I think I’ve ever seen!” He experienced that moment with me. Steve remains close to me. What has endured is that relationship – Steve was with me for a few minutes every day for weeks after my mother died. I have held him dear and close – I held his son Patrick in prayer for weeks as he lay in ICU after a horrible car accident. What has endured?

Relationship – that is what will endure.

Jesus took three of his closest and dearest friends onto that mountain with him. Peter became the foundation of His Church, James was the first of the disciples to die as a martyr. John was the beloved disciple – to John Jesus entrusted his mother. The relationships were given strength on that mountaintop.

They each went on and did not build a memorial to the past – but went into the future, strengthened by the memory of Jesus in Glory. It somehow becomes a memory of the future – a peek into what will be. Just as Moses went into the wilderness afterwards, so did they – so did Jesus. Instead of a trip via the wildnerness – it was the Via Dolorosa. Years later, in the light of the glory of this moment, they could realize the glory of the cross. Jesus was transfigured on a Mountain – and then he was crucified on a Mountain. Jesus showed his glory between two heroes – two historical figures of great regard. Jesus showed his glory between two disreputable thieves. On one hand his garments made as white as snow, on the other his garments stripped from his body and gambled over. There were three witnesses on that mountain. Later, Mary and Mary and Salome watch from a distance. There was a thunderous voice from the cloud saying boldly “This is the Son of God.” Then we hear the voice of the centurion – “Could this be the Son of God?”

It took years for them to see that the glory of the Transfiguration IS the glory of the cross. That the glory of the Son of God is completed in a painful death on rough and splintered wood.

And it’s that glory that we celebrate today as we come to His table. Let us join together and confess our blindness to His glory – Let us confess our sin.

Merciful God,
We confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not see your Glory. We have built memorials instead of missions.
We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will,
We have broken your law,
We have rebelled against your love,
We have not loved our neighbors,
And we have not heard the cry of the needy.
Forgive us, we pray.
Free us for joyful obedience,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Transfiguration -- Mark 9 -- Notes

Right before this – He started to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer.
Who do you say that I am?
Conditions of Discipleship – Transfiguration – Coming of Elijah

Mark 9:2-10
2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

Verse 2 – paralambano cmp. I Cor 11:23
Same three that were in the garden at the end – witnesses to the healing of Jaius’ daughter earlier. healing, Transfiguration, agony??

How did they know it was Elijah and Moses? Cmp Moses face shining in Exodus 34:29 after being on a high mountain. Jesus an incarnation of the Word – Moses and Elijah incarnations of the Law and the Prophets. OR Resurrection and revelation. Talking WITH Jesus, the eternal Word, spoken himself by God. Then they are gone – leaving only Jesus, the incarnation of God. An unveiling of what IS, but what is now concealed? Are they the two witnesses in Rev 11? Thin Space.

John the Baptist = Elijah, Jesus = Moses in Matthew, but here he is clearly set apart from them.
Not only was Jesus metamorpho, but Peter, James and John were, too.
Witnessed to by 2 Peter 1:16-17 40 years later. And John as well in chapter 1:17
Alluded to by Paul in Rom 12:2? Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of you minds. Lectionary Text – 2 Cor 3:7
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV) 18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed [same word as Mark 9:2 “transfigured”] into his likeness with ever-increasing glory. . .

Jesus made a statement when he didn’t use a tabernacle – a dwelling. If he was God, then God would stay with us and walk along and among us.

Voice from the cloud.
Cloud as the same as with Moses in wilderness.
Overshadowed – enveloped.
This is my beloved son – cmp. John’s Baptism
Mountain – echos of the mountain in the temptation?
In Luke – during prayer, here as they are apart from the others.

Earth, Air, Fire and Water – elemental
We yearn to be changed – but we also fear it. Earth, Air, Fire and Water can fundamentally change things. From the earth we came to the earth you shall surely return. Air sculpts trees, Fire refines, slow pressure of water can wear away – but there is indeed conservation of matter. – transmutation. Alchemy. As mysterious to us as alchemy.
Two other theophanies in Mark – perhaps? Baptism (voice from heaven) and the “I am” to the High Priest 14:62: Jesus said, "I am; and 'you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,' and 'coming with the clouds of heaven.'" – this one is both hearing and seeing?

Mark has no sight of the Risen Christ – except for this. Even mentions the resurrection.

Center of Mark’s Gospel. Maybe a disconnect? Jesus talking vertically / conversations with Moses and Elijah – Jesus talking to the doofuses with him / talking horizontally with the disciples. The Sublime to the Ridiculous.

An Exodus – the cloud, the appearance of God, the voice of God – not from Egpyt from from Death? Not via the wilderness but the Via Dolarosa.

Law given on a Mountain -- Transfigured on a Mountain – crucified on a Mountain.
Between Hur and Joshua -- Between two heroes/historical figures of great regard – between two disreputable thieves
Face Shines so that he has to veil himself -- Garments made as white as snow – garments stripped from his body and gambled over
Nation of Israel witnesses --Three witnesses to his glory – Mary and Mary and Salome watch from a distance
Voice from the Burning Bush -- Voice from the cloud – voice of the centurion
Predates Elijah -- Elijah was there – Is he calling to Elijah?

Peter didn’t want to come down off the mountain – but Jesus was all about coming down off the Mountain.

How do we domesticate God? Where do we try to put god in a box?

It changed Jesus – It changed the disciples – it changes us. Gave Jesus the strength to do what had to be done. It gave the disciples an image of the Glory – how does the transfiguration change us?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I love

Church Chick. Seriously. I do.

Very Sad News

It seems that Smauglybob has been slain. Two knights cruelly pierced his heart with a magic spear, as Smauglybob went to England to visit the Queen. Charges have not been pressed because her knights were trying to protect the Queen, not understanding that Smauglybob meant no harm. Smauglybob was a Draconus Liturgicous. He will be missed.

(I was told this bad news at dinner by Entropy. She's exploring now the churchyard of the local Presbyterian church. It seems they have a Draco Calvinious infestation. One might say it was predestined to happen.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

How to burn palms

I've been asked by someone how to burn the palms that we saved from last year -- that we made into crosses. I'll do it in the next couple of days and post the pictures.

Remember! Ash plus water equal Lye. Lye will burn skin. Do NOT mix your ashes with water, unless you WANT a chemical burn on your forehead. Use oil instead.

Continuing Thoughts

First, I want to thank Juniper68, Rev. Dr. Mom and Songbird for their comments. I've been where you are, I know what you are saying, I've said it myself.

In fact, I've been there VERY recently. I have recently felt body-slammed by two different groups, who each would have body slammed each other. Sometimes it's overt, sometimes it's subtle -- and usually hostile. I've had several experience at funerals that have been jaw-achingly awful. There is something about the stress that occurs during the death of a loved one that can bring out the absolute worse in a person. I've had a parishioner whose son died tragically. He was a member of a different church, different denomination. At the funeral, I wasn't even allowed to pray with the family. And I became angry, rightly so. At another funeral, I was asked by a very distant relative of the deceased "And who do YOU think you are?" I answered "Called by God." And I became angrier.

I've been known in discussion groups as the "angry radical feminist" -- just because I like to overstate my points, calling men "mutants of the race." After all, all fetuses start out female -- it's only after the toxic wash of testosterone that they mutate into males. (I love this stance. Generates lots of discussion.)

After the anger wears off though, I end up with a deep, abiding sadness that goes down into my bones. I think it's the sadness you can feel in some of the prophets when they realize the futility of preaching an unpopular word to a unregenerate nation.

The only way I can say that this particular denomination is living in integrity is that they DO remain in conversation with the topic. After all, it took them almost 150 years to begin using a hymnal instead of just the Psalter. I talk to the minister of this church on a regular basis -- we grew up together. We look at the passages together -- we struggle to understand each other in love. We use several exegetical tools -- some the same, some different and usually end up in similar places. He's given me an understanding of his struggle -- I gave him Phyllis Tribble. Our conversations become passionate -- but not hostile. We laid out the ground rules a long time ago that we would not attack each other -- or become automatically defensive. He's not a Fred Phelps -- or a Jerry Falwell either. And my idealistic self would hope that there are more people like my friend out there than there are like Fred Phelps. (Actually, I think there are more out there that just don't give a flip b/c they've never even been IN a church.) This denomination is still moving, is still thinking. I like to think of this denomination as the Ents of the Protestant world. They move and change, it's just very slow.

My denomination has accepted women as clergy for 50 years (or they have at least on paper.) I find my friend's honest struggle with this issue to have more integrity than someone who will say "oh yes, we have women clergy" but will not have a woman as an associate much less work for a woman AS an associate.

And all I can do is to live my call in integrity -- doing what I am set apart to do. The witness of my ministry has actually done more to convince my friend of the validity of the ordination of women than any discussion. And just as some of my African American friends know, laws and polity can change overnight, but true change will take lifetimes.

Monday, February 20, 2006

More about the previous

Not only do I think that women pastor differently, and perhaps preach differently, I think we sometimes are more sensitive to the climates within our congregations. The climate in my Gwinnett county church is distinctly different than the climate in the DeKalb county church I grew up in. Not only was the denomination more conservative, the society was more conservative. I grew up in an area that had been stable for a long time with pretty conservative people, theologically and politically.

I now bop back and forth between the liberal atmosphere of Emory to Conservative Gwinnett County. (Hmm... is there any other Gwinnett County?) The atmospheres are so distinctly different. Inside the perimeter, at the smaller, more established churches, women seem to be accepted with little qualm. Here is Gwinnett, things are different. Just as we want our corporate structures to be led by males, we want our churches led by males. Church is not a place of refuge and sanctuary for an aging congregation here -- it's an exciting, growing happening. But at what cost.

I have watched the previews for The Second Chance. I want to see it in the next few days. I wonder if those tensions will be brought out in this movie. More later.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Musings about Churchstuff

The senior pastor and I were sitting in his office, discussing different guest speakers to come and speak at our Lenten Lunch series. He suggested a couple of names, I suggested a couple of names, I suggested a couple of the pastors of local churches and he said a curious thing. You see one of the churches is from my old denomination -- in fact, I was a member of this congregation for a while. He asked me, "Do you really want to invite a pastor to preach who would not let you in his pulpit?" This denomination still does not allow for the ordination of women. This denomination did not sing hymns in worship until 1964, when it was decided that hymns MIGHT not be of the devil. When I was a child, women were not allowed to collect the offering, serve as ushers or serve on the Board of Deacons or the Session. I belonged to this denomination for so very long -- switching over to PCUSA, then Baptist, then Episcopal then back to this denomination right before I was married. I find myself slipping into language that is different than what we use in the Methodist church -- I ask to be forgiven of my "debts as I forgive my debtors." I say that I believe in the "Holy Ghost," not the "Holy Spirit" in the Apostle's creed.

But back to the question. Upon reflection, I don't mind asking this pastor to speak. In fact, I'm glad they've stuck to their guns and against the popular tide of affection in this country, have decided NOT to ordain women. I'm glad that tension exists. Not that I think that they are correct for me, personally, but their decision gives them an integrity. They believe what they believe and they are not afraid to stick by it. And this is admirable.

I went into this church this fall -- just a few months ago during one of their Saturday events. I bought some BBQ and wandered around. They were able to salvage a good many of the furnishings and architectural elements from their previous sanctuary and were able to give their new building the essence of the old. It's a peaceful place. I sat in one of the back pews and I realized a feeling that was so very strong. I know I will never be able to speak from that pulpit. I will never be able to claim my authority in that church. And sitting in that back row, I think I knew something of the plight of so many of my brothers and sisters -- that because of who I am, I will never be one of those in power in this denomination. That because of my gender, I will always be an oppressed voice in that church. And the understanding of that oppression is a gift. Something my current church wouldn't be able to give me, well, overtly.

Now, the role of women clergy in my conference is not as my idealistic self would have it. Most women in my conference will never be a senior pastor of a "significant" church (whatever THAT may be.) Women clergy will be seen as "useful" for small membership churches or associate pastors. There are significant numbers in my denomination who will never accept women clergy -- although the polity says they will. And I am not glad with this. To speak the words with the mouth, but not to feel them in the heart -- this is NOT living in integrity.

And there are still those who believe that a really bad male pastor is infinitely better than an excellent female one. And those who believe that I am Satan because I call myself clergy. And I can accept their more conservative theology -- but not the hostility. I'm sure that this posting will bring out the trolls again. I don't see what their hostility will do other than anger people. It certainly is not persuasive.

Women do indeed pastor differently than men. Some of the difference is because society demands that women act differently from men. A behavior in a man that would be called "assertive" and "bold" in a man might be called "pushy" in a woman. Typically women focus more on relationships and nurture. As I struggle with my pastoral identity, I've realized that maybe women SHOULD pastor differently. Women should also maybe even preach differently.

I'm ramble on more later.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I had a horrible revelation in class.

I like to observe my classmates and their behavior and sometimes label them -- like "feminist" and "social activist."
Some others are "angry man," "angry woman," "passive," "inattentive" and so on.

There is one type that is in every single class I've had at Candler -- the "smarty-pants Candler student." Yesterday I was thinking "how nice, there is no smarty-pants in this class!"

I then realized that I had participated in the discussions several times* -- and each time everyone in the class would turn and look at me with "that look" and it hit me.

I AM the smarty-pants Candler student in that class! Oh no!!

*of course, at the end of one of my comments a fellow student turned to me and said "Do YOU understand what you just said?" Whoops.

Ok, you wanted to know the statment, so here it is (or a facsimile thereof)
"So, Dr. Hacket, what you are saying is that Ambrose here is concerned with the priesthood of the celebrant because he is a flesh and blood incarnation of the spoken word, the verba at the time the words cross his lips? That somehow he BECOMES the verba? That not only is the Body apparent on earth in the elements themselves and in the gathering of the congregation, but somehow the pre-existant, eternal, ever-exisiting Word, the Logos of Hellenistic thought, the Word in John is incarnate in both the spoken words and the priest himself at the same time? And by doing such, he is participating in the priesthood of Jesus, like what's found in Hebrews and the priest is participating in the Word and by such becomes a co-creator with God -- like what's found in Romans 8?"

Yeah, I'm a geek. And a smarty-pants.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

why i am so glad

to be a mommy.

I wake up at 2:00 am with Entropy poking at me, "Mommy! Mommy!"
"Here -- my teacher wanted you to have these papers."



If everyone were jumping off a bridge...

Here is the link to my Johari Window. Please visit! Thanks!

Here's the results.

And the Nohari.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Transcript

Of a deep theological conversation on Real Live Preacher's site. Enjoy.

[church nerd] 9:01 pm: it would be easy to make a big loop and visit everyone on my frappr map
[reverend mommy] 9:02 pm: I think you should do it in a canoe.
[church nerd] 9:02 pm: i like canoes
[reverend mommy] 9:02 pm: while wearing blue.
[reverend mommy] 9:03 pm: and playing the kazoo.
[tglaser] 9:03 pm: i live on the ohio-erie canal, nerd, and i think rick lives near it too...
[church nerd] 9:03 pm: i play a mean kazoo
[reverend mommy] 9:04 pm: but no tutu.
[church nerd] 9:04 pm: no tutu??!!?? then the trip is off
[reverend mommy] 9:04 pm: fine. In a tutu.
[reverend mommy] 9:04 pm: hold pots of glue.
[reverend mommy] 9:05 pm: looking for a clue
[reverend mommy] 9:05 pm: warding off the flu
[enz] 9:05 pm: ah-choo
[church nerd] 9:05 pm: with a new hairdo?
[reverend mommy] 9:05 pm: impersonating a Jew
[HotAnorak] 9:05 pm: Hope you don't catch the flu
[church nerd] 9:05 pm: watching Dr Who?
[reverend mommy] 9:06 pm: Dr. Who!
[tglaser] 9:06 pm: a televangelist hairdo
[reverend mommy] 9:06 pm: Boop Boop de doo.
[church nerd] 9:06 pm: doing kung fu
[reverend mommy] 9:06 pm: while hunting a gnu
[church nerd] 9:07 pm: smelling like poo??
[reverend mommy] 9:07 pm: and not stepping in poo
[church nerd] 9:07 pm: in the pouch of a kangaroo
[tglaser] 9:07 pm: eating tofu?
[reverend mommy] 9:07 pm: in the zoo
[church nerd] 9:07 pm: with Lucy Liu
[reverend mommy] 9:07 pm: Woo Hoo!
[reverend mommy] 9:08 pm: A Chinese lass to woo!
[church nerd] 9:08 pm: wearing all blue
[reverend mommy] 9:08 pm: in a tutu
[reverend mommy] 9:08 pm: floating in a canoe.
[tglaser] 9:09 pm: picked up a one legged buckaroo
[church nerd] 9:09 pm: with fun coming out the wazoo
[enz] 9:09 pm: are we through?
[church nerd] 9:09 pm: that's up to you
[tglaser] 9:10 pm: ended up at mizzou at quarter to two (AM)
[church nerd] 9:10 pm: i like the one legged buckaroo. tg gets 50 points
[tglaser] 9:11 pm: oh, yeah, the buckaroo left his shitzu in his Subaru....what to do?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

This requires no Commentary.

Best Church Commercial. Ever.

I don't know to be outraged -- or amused. Or both. Two reactions: "That's AWFUL" and "I wonder if we can do that...."

I am blessed

There are times that I realize I am extraordinarily blessed. I am blessed with a very supportive spouse who I love beyond words. I have healthy well behaved (well, in public well behaved) children who are beautiful and unique personalities and very attractive, as well (if I do say so myself.)

We have a nice home, not extremely well picked up all the time, but warm, comfortable and inviting. I get to go to school (yeah!) I have a wonderful position at the church. It's exciting, rewarding, fulfilling, invigorating. I enjoy the people in my congregation so very much. There are some that I have come to dearly love. I love my senior pastor -- I love the way he and I bounce ideas off each other and somehow become more than the sum. I've learned so much from this church and from him.

And there are no buts today. I'm just feeling effusive. And grateful to God.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More musings about churches

I think Songbird is onto something when she says we are different than the 1st century. And we are different across denominational lines. I have Baptist collegues who don't feel they are sucessful unless they have "saved" a certain number of souls per year. (hmmm, doesn't God "save souls?")

In my denomination, we hear "moving onto perfection," "discipleship," and "spiritual transformation." A little harder to quantify.

I'm in an unique position -- I'm part of a fairly moderate church body that's growing so very fast that keeping up with all the congregants is a challenge. My job isto guide them on the right track for certain things and to facilitate their spiritual growth in others. To help plan relevant and spiritually transforming worship. It's exciting.

People here yearn for the Word, for relevance, for spiritual growth. We have had maybe 3 or 4 spontanous baptisms already this year when people at the end of the service (almost always someone who we've been counseling to begin with) just walk up and say "I'm ready!" This is really pretty unusual in a Methodist church.

Then I go to some of the churches of my peers here in North Georgia (mostly student pastors and people in their first appointment) and they seems so discouraged. Not that they should expect the same sort of response we get, but I was talking to a friend yesterday and he got the comment from a congregant "just preach on Sunday -- and do my funeral." His congregation is not into spiritual formation and transformation. It's almost a spiritual hospice. Which is a legitimate need but -- we are not prepared at Seminary for this.

We closed 7 chuches last year in North Georgia -- maybe one percent. And we started a few as well. There seems to be a life cycle for a congregation -- birth, adolescence, maturity and death. We are trained for the middle two -- and the first and last are usually not even discussed.

Not only do I not know how to close a church -- I don't know how to plant one either.

My job is/will be/has been to help people down the path of discipleship, spiritual growth, spiritual transformation. That is the charge I accepted as a minister. How can that be measured? To what plumbline do we hold ourselves? It's not my place to judge a person -- that's beyond my payscale (or anyone else's for that matter). We need to know how true we are being to our charge to baptize and make disciples. How then can we measure effectiveness? Of a church or a pastor? I know you cannot look for external validation in the ministry -- you validation must come from within. But is validation the same as measuring effectiveness?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Brilliant Idea!!

Let's use Dropshots to sermon blog!!


(Gavin? you there Gavin? Jonathon? John? Anybody?? Hello-o-o-o-o)

I've been reading

a lot about churches/pastors and what not for your basic 10 page paper.

There is a fascinating article from Pulpit and Pew.

In my report on clergy supply and demand,I pointed
to evidence of two trends that have direct implications
for clergy careers.First,a growing number of small
churches cannot afford to hire a full time pastor.
Second,there appears to be a declining number of
larger churches.While the data on available clergy
positions leaves much to be desired,the distribution
of jobs that it suggests has a direct impact on the
opportunities for clergy mobility in these
denominations.When job opportunities narrow
sharply at the top,and when this is combined with a
growing number of small churches unable to afford a
full-time pastor,the chances of gaining a good
pastoral position right out of seminary or advancing
throughout one’s career begins to decline.
If the number of senior pastor positions is shrinking,
this suggests that the majority of clergy will spend
most of their working lives in mid-career positions,
that is,as assistant or associate pastors or as pastors
of small and medium sized churches.This means that
newly ordained seminarians will have fewer chances
to be hired into these positions,since they will be
competing with clergy who already have a number of
years of experience.

.. .Clergy ordained between 1970-1980
had a far better chance of getting a parish job within
the first two years after seminary graduation.In this
cohort 85 percent of the men and 70 percent of the
women could expect a parish placement within the
first two years (and the majority received jobs within
the first six months),but for those ordained after
1980,only 60-70 percent received parish jobs within
the first two years (again,the majority received their
jobs within the first six months).This suggests that in
this cohort between 30 and 40 percent of new M.Div.
graduates either get jobs in non-parish positions,in
secular work,or drop out.

Next to consider is if pastors are effective or not. There is a body of research done from by Hartford Seminary (Faith Communities Today, among others) and Concordia that large segment of the ministers in the UMC are considered "not effective" -- unlike those in denominations that operate on a call system. I can't find the reference right now, but it was around 22%. (I can't find that reference and it bothers me.)(if you know the reference PLEASE let me know.)

My question is: if Ms. Chang in the Pulpit and Pew report is correct, then why even attempt to go into the parish? If there are declining numbers of large churches and declining numbers of small churches that can afford a minister, AND ineffectual ministers that cannot be disposed of easily, why even try?

Perhaps the problems are not related -- perhaps the ineffectual ministers are not CAUSING the small churches to not afford apportionment. Perhaps these smaller churches are the canaries in the mine shaft -- indicative of the death of denominationalism in America. Of course, having ineffectual ministers in these churches does not help.

I'm thinking primarily of the churches my peers are pastoring too. I could name a half dozen in North Georgia off the top of my head. All with a chapel mentality, all with a VERY aging population (average age over 60 -- maybe closer to 80). How can these churches ever be effectual themselves? How COULD a minister succeed in these churches?

Maybe the answer is to cut deadwood -- not just in the pastorate, but eliminate killer churches that destroy good pastors.

I know that sounds cold hearted, but we either need to train pastors differently -- at least those who are going into dead and dying churches or those with toxic environments, or find a Godly way to admonish these churches.

My musings for this morning.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


The mom in me is going hmmmm....

Chaos not only shaved her legs after lunch today, she took a bath in scented bath oil, brushed her hair for a very long time, took forever to select her clothing, put on her lip gloss, took it off, put it on again and is saying things like "but mommy, I HAVE to go to youth."

Color me suspicious. What do YOU think is going on?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I've been thinking

a lot about being clergy. I took on more/new responsibilities at church and am thinking about balance. It remains a part time job, since I have school and the children as well. I think alot about effectiveness as a pastor, about where my batteries are charged, how to "be" first and then be a minister second. So I want to posit some questions. Please answer them either here or on your own blog, and point more clergy my way so that I can gather responses. If you do not wish to make the answers public, please email me at candlemb@bellsouth.net. Thanks.

: 1. Is being a pastor detrimental or helpful to your faith?
: 2. Is being a pastor harder or easier than you imagined from your seminary days?
: 3. Have you developed a passion/focus to your pastoral ministry?
: 4. All this talk about clergy burnout-- is it any different than any other job?
: 5. How does the congregation show its support? What are the hidden perks to being a pastor?
: 6. How do you keep your children safe in their faith and church life?
: 7. Do you admonish parishioners? If so, how?
: 8. Do you pray for your flock? How?
: 9. Is it enough to be approachable? How do you approach them?
: 10. Do you change lives?
: 11. Do you aim for greatness? What is your aim in ministry?
: 12. How do you keep the enmeshment of church/ministry/family from being overwhelming?
: 13. Would you say you have deep relations with church members? Tips on barriers or boundaries?
: 14. What is the difference between a mediocre and a good and an excellent pastor?
: 15. What is a must read author/website?
: 16. Is there a difference in the way that men and women pastor? How would you describe the difference?

Note: I reworded this posting after reflection. My church work invigorates me and is extremely rewarding. In fact, I feel that the work I do for church is much more educational in ways than my studies at school. I willingly took on these additional responsibilities -- and received a raise and a new office. With beautiful new furniture that my loving husband help me assemble. However, I want to know about others -- I realize that I need to maintain balance. How do you do it?