December 21, 2010

Change with Integrity

The word is finally out that my husband is retiring in July. I've had some interesting comments. One staff person called to tell me she was disappointed that I didn't call or meet with her to tell her in advance. I apologized, but then realized that I didn't need to apologize. I don't know where her sense of entitlement came from, but as we know, people have expectations in all aspects of church life.

Then when I tell people that we won't be able to continue attending this church, I get a look of astonishment. I explain that attending the church would not be fair to the new pastor. Sadly, through the years, we've known many pastors who have returned to churches he/she once pastored and caused difficulties by meddling in the current programs/preaching/or other aspects of church life -- some people cannot "let go and move on."
Anyway, that is not going to be our pattern.

There are many decisions we will have to make, the biggest of which will be choosing a church. Mike told me a long time ago that when he retired, I could choose our church. So, I will be making some visits to churches in the next few months, trying to find a place where both of us can feel comfortable.

God life is full of changes. Guide each of us to trust you with each day.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

December 20, 2010

Advent Devotion

"And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." --1 John 5:11-12

Charles Dickens, begins his epic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, with, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” For many, this phrase speaks volumes, especially at Christmas.

It is the best of times because our God gives to us His undying promise of a supreme covenant of love when He sent His only begotten Son to us, a Messiah who is both divine and human. This commitment of protection and redemption is gift-wrapped and set under a heavenly tree so that we might have the present of eternal life. Our faith, our focus of knowing such devotion from God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) can keep us going if we let it. But life's road filled with bumps, bruises, and potholes. So it can indeed be the best of times and the worst of times, in a world of mortality, fallenness, tragedy, and terror.

Yet in the midst of this darkness, we have a hopeful glimpse of light, peace. God comes looking for a place to stay in us.

Consider Mary and Joseph; it certainly looked like the worst of times for them--a dangerous journey back to Joseph's hometown. It was a necessary trip because the Romans needed a census, so they could collect all the tax money possible. We can imagine Mary's questions, “How do we get there before our child comes. Where are we going to stay? What about thieves that might rob from us of what little we have?” But we also know of her faith, to keep going no matter what.

You know the story, when they finally arrived in Bethlehem, there was no Holiday Inn Express, no Marriott, just an animal stall with a manger. They were looking for hospitality and begrudgingly the world gave them the least possible.

Perhaps, pain and sorrow burden you this Christmas season. Maybe you are are just coming up empty. Perhaps you need a place to find rest and fulfillment. But unlike what Mary and Joseph got--a dirty cattle stall, God will always find us, greet us with an open heart, and lead us to a place of honor beside Him. No matter where you may be, you are never alone because of God's gift of unconditional love. God can surely take the worst of times and make them the best, because He wants to dwell in us.


December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas!

May your days be merry and bright!

After all the wonderful church activities. I hope you have some time with loved ones and friends.

One Christmas Eve, our entire family was pressed into service to get ready for the Christmas Eve service. While I was a little provoked that I couldn't be home baking cookies, it turned out to be fun for the kids to help set up the candles for the service. It was just one of those unexpected Christmas surprises. Actually, it was a miracle for the church ladies to agree to candles in the sanctuary at all.

Merry Christmas from all of us at SpouseConnect.


December 10, 2010

Ethics and Pastoral Change

Mike, my husband, met with the staff/parish committee on Monday evening to tell those gathered that he has decided to retire. Tuesday, he told the staff during their weekly meeting.

Mike will be 63 in January, and has had a sense over the past year, that after 15 years, he has done as much as he can at his current appointment. I trust Mike to know when it is time to move on as throughout the years, he seems to know when he needs another challenge. I have known about this possibility since August, but presenting the news formally has been difficult for me to handle. I do not deal with change easily, especially after fifteen years.

I have known Mike for 38 years, and he has never been without a church in some capacity-- (filling in for vacationing or sick pastors). We have been married for 36 years, so all of our life has been in ministry. Now the delicate part comes: I cannot say anything about this change until Mike's letter (in which he describes what his intentions are for the future) goes to the congregation -- which will probably go out today or tomorrow -- not too long to wait.

However, today I received a call from a staff member who wanted me to know that she was very disappointed that I hadn't called, emailed, or met with her before Mike's announcement. I apologized, but I also realized that her remarks did not ease the grief I am feeling about the change. She wanted to know all about the decision: why he didn't stay until he was 65, why can't he take a church, what is he going to do, etc.

I answered her questions honestly, because he felt that he had done as much as he could, he didn't want to take a church for only 1 1/2 years. That would not be fair to that church, and he doesn't really know what he is going to do.

I was surprised to receive her call, especially the nature of her remarks. I feel certain that there will be more thoughts to share as the weeks progress on this topic of retirement, so stay tuned.

God increase my faith and trust in you for all circumstances of my life. Amen.

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

December 2, 2010

It Won't Happen to Me

Dear Friends, I've been surprised that I've heard no one speak on behalf of the guaranteed appointment. Is there really that much "dead wood" in the ministry? I really don't think so.

Here is what we lose along with the guarantee of a place for ministry:

1. Pastors lose the ability to preach prophetically. Remember what happened to those Southern UM pastors who preached for Civil Rights in the 60's? If you don't, look them up and listen to their stories.

2. Pastors and families will lose their homes. The issues related to parsonages are already difficult. Home ownership will have to become more prevalent, but there will be issues related to selling a home where demand is difficult and buying a home where it is too expensive.

3. Intineracy will be more difficult. Who will want to leave their own home? Who will want to go to a dying church and be seen as a failure by a bishop will can easily turn around and not reappoint you the next year. If no church wants you and the bishop is not motivated to appoint you, what do you think will happen to you and your family?

4. Giving pastors what amounts to yearly-contract employment will increase the insecurity of the pastor's family life. Think pastors are stressed out now?

5. Smaller church pastors and churches will suffer most.

6. For larger churches: do you really think that folks coming off the Cabinet will not take an appointment? In a game of musical chairs, someone always is left without a seat. Who holds the power?

While you may think that not being appointed will not happen to you, there are no checks on the powers of bishops to appoint or not appoint. I don't think I'm the only one who has seen abuse of this power across the country. Perhaps the pastor is seen to be too old, too young, too conservative, too liberal, pro-this or anti-that to be appointable.

Think about it. Even if you work hard and even take no time off and leave little time for the family, if the church fails to grow, it is understood to be the pastor's fault. If the church is toxic, it is seen as the pastor's fault. It is estimated that one in three churches are toxic. Are there really that many ineffective pastors? If not, who will want to serve a toxic church?

Do not tell me it's all about fitting the gifts of the pastor with the needs of the church. Do not tell me it's about being more mission oriented. I've heard it all before. This is not new. What is new is the bigger financial problems of the denomination.

We serve a faithful God who has plans to bring the Kingdom to fruition. Pastors are called to be faithful and to speak the Word of God with clarity and power. The question is what will position pastors to best do that. I sincerely hope you speak out, because it can happen to you.

Grace, Kathy

November 30, 2010

A few weeks ago, I wrote about attending a program given by Cami Walker, whose book, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, is an invitation to give some kind of a gift for 29 days to persons encountered day to day. I decided to take the challenge. I completed simple gifts such as letting someone in the flow of traffic, holding the door open for the person behind me, giving the person in front of me in Target 3 pennies to pay her bill, calling a friend, etc. I only purchased a couple of items -- a cupcake for my husband's dessert and a card to send to a family who experienced the death of their elderly mother. Interestingly I really didn't have to look for opportunities to give, life just brought them. The 29th day ended Sunday, but I decided to continue. My biggest gain was that I became more aware of the way others are kind to me.

Anytime I am made aware of others, then I also increase my awareness of God.

If you are looking for a book to brighten the long winter days in January or February, I recommend Cami's book.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

November 17, 2010

Ministry Study Proposes No Guarenteed Appointment

Dear Friends, Please check out the Minisitry Study that will be proposal to General Conference in 2012. There are some suprises and some issues that effect us all.

Study of Ministry Commission Seeks Feedback. The Study of Ministry Commission has mapped out changes that include a shift away from security of employment for elders, a move to group candidacy mentoring, and separating ordination from full annual conference membership. “The 2008 General Conference asked us to streamline the ordination process and make changes that would move us to mission-oriented rather than a clergy-oriented church,” said Bishop Al Gwinn, chair of the commission. Comments can be e-mailed to

From the report:

Appointments should be determined by missional needs, effectiveness of clergy, and fruitfulness of congregations/ministry settings, honoring prophetic voice, accountability, character, servant leadership, and no security of appointment should be assumed.

The historic practice of itineracy is effective and responsive to covenantal obedience to call. Itineracy is not simply a practice of ‘moving clergy,’ but a way of fulfilling our Church’s mission.
Security of employment, commonly called guaranteed appointment, has become a barrier to fulfilling the church’s mission. It limits the ability of the church to respond to the primacy of missional needs. Security of employment can emphasize the needs of the clergy instead
of focusing on the mission of the church, and it restricts flexibility of appointments. Security of employment limits the church’s ability to respond to mediocrity and ineffectiveness. Security of employment is not sustainable, especially in the context of the financial pressures that
are building in our denomination.

Our vision is fruitful congregations that are transforming individuals and communities served by effective clergy undergirded by a system that is itinerant, open, flexible and responsive. To this end, we envision a shift to missional appointments, determined by missional needs
of the community, effectiveness of clergy, and fruitfulness of congregations/ministry settings, honoring prophetic voice and the common value of women and ethnic leadership in the church. Missional appointments emphasize fruitfulness in ministry over security of employment.
To accomplish this vision, we recommend the following:

1) Determine limited and standard fitness assessments. Each annual conference, board of ordained ministry, cabinet, and bishop will determine a clear definition of effectiveness and method for evaluating clergy.
2) Eliminate security of appointment for elders and edit appropriate Disciplinary paragraphs, including ¶¶334 and 337.
3) Create more flexibility for less-than-full-time elder appointments and edit relevant Disciplinary paragraphs, including ¶¶338 and 342. 4) Create a defined status/process for elders who are “not employed” and expand transitional leave as a new paragraph in the Discipline or draw language from ¶331.6.
5) Expand and create new oversight and review procedures for the appointment-making process to ensure that the historic protections of the prophetic pulpit, women and ethnic clergy
are preserved.
6) Coordinate with GBOPHB resources, methods and practices for separation of employment and employment transitions.

Moving as a Spiritual Discipline

I just finished packing up my office so I can relocate to a different floor. As I assembled and taped boxes, it occured to me that as a pastor's spouse, I have a lot of experience with moving. As inconvenient as it is to move, whether an office or a household, there is also an upside. In fact, it might even be considered a spiritual discipline.

When we move I throw out needless rubbish, sometimes have a yard sale, clean things up, reorganize, and dust things off that (sadly) have not been adequately dusted for years. Moving gives me the opportunity to reprioritize and reassess my needs and goals. And just like my new office will be clean, my soul will be refreshed and ready to begin again.

Don't get me wrong, I really don't like moving. But it does give me an opportunity to refresh and renew my sense of order by inviting me to set new priorities. Moving is a spiritual discipline because it gives God another chance to break into my world.

Grace, Kathy

November 16, 2010

I had a real treat yesterday. Mike was on vacation all week which meant on Sunday, I could choose where we worshiped. I selected a church in inner city Indianapolis. There was an interesting challenge to the morning, however, one that I never expected.

Neither Mike nor I are used to driving to church together on Sunday morning. He usually leaves at least an hour before I do. I am one of these people, who tries to do "just one more thing" before going out the door. I depend on red lights to finish my makeup, put on my watch, and finish other minor dressing tasks. We needed to leave by 8, so about 7:50, I heard, "Ten more minutes"."What's that?" I thought quickly realizing that Mike was reminding me that we had to leave soon.

A few more minutes passed, and I heard, "Five more minutes.""Oh my goodness, I am not used to being reminded of time on Sunday morning." Finally, I was ready, sort of -- dragging my makeup bag, watch, bottle of water, into Mike's car as we left.

While we were traveling, I commented, "Mike whenever you retire, our greatest challenge might not be too much togetherness, but integrating our different styles of Sunday morning preparation."

Driving to church together is something we haven't done for over twenty years. We had one car the first eleven years we were married, and two of those years, we had to go at the same time. Then for the next eleven years we lived next door to the church (not the same one) and walking about twenty feet was the best! Since 1989, we drove separately.

Mike shook his head with amusement as I explained my Sunday morning routine as he drove downtown recognizing that sometime in the years to come, our biggest retirement challenge might be driving to church together!

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

November 4, 2010

Hospitality Spice

I go through periods where I really like to clean. Somehow, getting rid of old or unused items is a symbolic way to open more space for new thoughts and ideas. Last weekend when I was sorting articles and pamphlets, I found my old SPICE cookbook. Many years ago (over twenty) there was a clergy spouse publication called SPICE. I was one of the writers, and I was on the board of directors which included women (back in those days, most pastors were men) from various denominations.

The cookbook, published in 1989, was a year long project with recipes solicited from spouses all over the country. I thumbed through the yellowed pages, where I found suggestions for a parsonage open house, a Christmas Eve gathering at the parsonage after the last service, recipes to prepare for those attending church meetings (supplied by the pastor's wife), and potluck meals for over twenty (prepared by the pastor's wife).

Interestingly, I participated in most of these events. For many years, even with two small children, I had an open house for the church and/or churches that Mike pastored. I was told early in Mike's ministry that open houses were "really a good idea to help the people get to know the parsonage family in a relaxed setting" and most important, especially if the parsonage was in need of repair or updating, getting people in the house might increase the possibility of changes happening.

I did all of the baking and prepared the punch. I used the glass plates and cups from the church and asked a teenage girl to arrive about thirty minutes early to tend the children and pour the punch. Mike was always a good support, helping with last minute cleaning and vacuuming. I really enjoyed having people in the parsonage and fortunately all were very appreciative of the hospitality Mike and I extended.

Times have really changed since 1989, I haven't had an open house for many years nor have I prepared refreshments for a church meeting. These expectations are long gone. I did wonder, however, if there are any pastor's spouses who have such events in places where they live, or if you extend other gestures of hospitality toward church members?

(Sadly SPICE ceased publication in the '90's because of financial difficulties, even though the Alban Institute stepped in with grant support.)

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

October 28, 2010

29 Gifts: How A Month of Giving Can Change Your Life

Last Sunday, I participated in a meditation/discussion time with Cami Walker, who wrote
29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life.

Cami was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis several years ago. Her lifestyle was severely compromised by the illness. During a time of frustration, she consulted a spiritual mentor who attempted to pull her out of self-pity by saying, "Cami, I think you need to stop thinking about yourself." Cami was stunned into silence. The mentor continued, "If you spend all of your time and energy focusing on your pain, you're feeding the disease. You're making it worse by putting all of your attention there. I'm going to give you a tool to help you dig yourself out. I want you to give away 29 gifts in 29 days. These gifts don't have to be material things. By giving you are focusing on what you have to offer others, inviting more abundance into your life. Giving of any kind is taking a positive action that begins the process of change. It will shift your energy for life."Although Cami was reluctant, she decided to follow the mentor's advice. She chronicles the 29 days of giving in her book and at the end describes the multitude of changes in her life that have resulted.

I was somewhat hesitant to try giving intentionally for 29 days, because she also discusses what possibilities for receiving might occur as a result. "Giving with the expectation of receiving? Doesn't Jesus say "It is more blessed to give than to receive?" Besides one thing I have worked on in my own life is letting go of expectations of what a person might do with a gift I offer, especially if he/she does something completely opposite of what I intended.

Then I recognized the resistance I felt almost immediately to the possibility of receiving something. Receiving always makes me uncomfortable. As I explored the resistance more closely, I realized that I needed to confront my own sense of worth -- a constant struggle from trauma during the first two decades of my life. However, I kept reading the book and decided to begin my own documented 29 days of giving. I discovered that finding ways to give was easy -- opening a door for the person coming into a store behind me, greeting someone with "good morning," offering the person behind me in line at Target my place since this mother had two fussy children.

I quickly discovered after only two days that as I became more aware of ways to gift others, I was more aware of the way others were gifting me, such as someone I had not seen for several months from church, giving me a hug when we encountered each other unexpectedly. I found that I was feeling better about myself, not from an egotistical stance, but from being present to another in a moment in time.

So far, I have completed four days. I'll let you know how it goes.

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

October 27, 2010

Feed Some Feedback: Internet Churches?

Friends, I need your help with some feedback about Internet churches.

What do you think about them?

Have you ever checked one out?

How does your church use the Internet and/or other social media?

Thanks for your help.


October 25, 2010

Do You Like Being a Minister's Spouse?

Do you? Do you like being a minister's spouse?

I have to admit that, for the most part, I actually do. Sure, I don't like the stereotype of the mousy, under-achieving, do-gooder, who can't stand up for herself (or himself) and her (or his) family.

But I have never met a spouse who fits that stereotype either.

The spouses I know are wise beyond their years and articulate as all get out.

Being a spouse gives me a leadership role in the church and gives me access to all sorts of people. Sometimes I know the "inside" story and sometimes, I prefer not to be involved.

My spouse and I have an arrangement: he is the pastor and I support the ministries of the church as my gifts and time allow. And we have both honored our parts of the agreement.

I made the mistake, one time, of offering to play the piano for the service. You must realize that I am a very poor player and had to practice those four hymns all week. You see, I thought there was no one else who could step forward. That Sunday, I played to badly that not only was I embarrassed, but others were embarrassed for me. But months later I happened to discover that a friend of mine could play and play very well. Needless to say, I was angry at her. How could she let me do such a thing? Happily, she was ashamed; but she never did offer to play at church and I never did either; but others did. The experience taught me a valuable lesson. God does not leave himself without a witness, and I don't have to help just because I am the spouse.

Actually, this freed me to enjoy what I do at the church, because I am not coerced.

How about you? What have you learned from being the minister's spouse?


October 21, 2010

Is Your Church Open?

I returned today from visiting our two daughters: Sarah in Denver and Anna in Portland, Oregon. I was in Portland on Sunday so Anna and I walked the few blocks from her apartment to attend the First United Methodist Church.

I was delighted when I opened the bulletin and found this statement on a pamphlet insert: "As a Reconciling Congregation, members of this congregation have pledged to welcome and support all who want to worship with us, regardless of race, gender, class, or sexual orientation."

I know only two Reconciling Congregations in Indianapolis; and sadly, the church I attend is not one of them. Anna, 25, and Sarah 32, both "PKs" have seen many sides of the church. The comment I hear from them frequently is, "I don't like the organized church." Which always prompts their father to say, "What church is not organized?" Anyway, they note the seeming exclusivity of many mainline churches in the Midwest. Anna, however, said after this particular service, "I might come back to this church. I like it, and they include all."

I look forward to attending church when we travel because I am able to glimpse another section of the body of Christ and learn how ministry is interpreted and carried through. I, too, left that service on Sunday with the same thought as Anna. I would like to attend this church again. I do look forward to returning to Portland to see Anna and visit Portland First Church again.

God, I thank you for those churches who embrace all. Amen.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

October 18, 2010

John Wesley DVD Now Available

Just wanted to alert you to a new DVD about John Wesley. It is called Wesley: A Heart Transformed Can Change the World.

The movie deals with Wesley's early ministry and his journey to America. It is directed by John Jackman and available at Cokesbury

Happy Viewing. As my friend said, "It will make you proud to be a Methodist."


Good News from a Growing Church

Dear Friends, Too often we only hear the bleak news and dire concerns about our denomination. But there are many places where the church is growing and thriving.

Yesterday (Sunday) we saw the unveiling of our church's master plan for the next 5 years. The architect showed the drawing and described the phases. Yes, it will cost a lot of money, but new facilities will help extend the ministries further into the community. It was very exciting and well received.

God is doing great things. And as we all know, God never leaves himself without a witness, and God never leaves his witnesses.

If you'd like to share the great things going on in your church(es), please comment or email a post. Christ also calls us to encourage one another.

Grace, Kathy
Clarksville, TN

October 14, 2010

Little Children, Little Problems: Big Children, Big Problems

As a new parent, this saying was little comfort: Little children, little problems; big children, big problems. But now that my kids are grown, I see its wisdom. But it made me wonder if this is also true: Little churches, little problems; big churches, big problems. What do you think?

Like many of you, we've served in churches of all sizes. I seems to me that the problems many big churches face is due, in part, to the sheer complexity of dealing with so many people. But for many little churches, their main issues revolve around just surviving--not enough young families, not enough resources, not enough help from the Conference. This is a really big problem for all of us if our Church is to be the hands and feet of Christ.

While being small is also no excuse for not being a faithful witness, it does mean that the old 80/20 principle just cannot apply--you know where 20% of the people do 80% of the work. I've known many vibrant small churches, but those are also the churches in which everybody helps. There just can't be any dead weight. These are also the churches that can and often do grow. And it takes a lot more than just an energetic, dedicated pastor and spouse.

So what are small struggling churches to do? What is your experience? Should they just be closed and give up? Or is there still a viable place for the small church?


October 13, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Hits Home

October is breast cancer awareness month and I really want to urge all of you to get your mammograms. It is so important to get your scheduled screening, because you just never know. This is especially true if you have breast cancer in your family.

A mammogram can reveal abnormalities that you can't feel from your self-exam.

And 2 weeks ago it did with me. So yesterday, I went for a biopsy--not a day at the beach, but not that bad either. Anyway, I'll find out something in the next few days.

Whatever the result, I have the assurance that it was found early--when I'd have the best chance of recovery.

So wear pink and support your local programs.

And I wouldn't mind your prayers either.

Grace, Kathy

October 11, 2010

Genesis One According to Kindergartners

This morning I taught the art rotation for Sunday school to a wiggly bunch of twelve kindergartners.

I read the story from a beautifully illustrated book and then posed the question: "If you were God, what would you create on day one, two, etc." Here are there answers:

Day one - grass, people, plants, cars
Day two - stores, animals, houses, day, night
Day three - sun, sky
Day four - books, tables, food, library, the Bible
Day five - mud, clothes, chairs, money
Day six - nuts, nutcracker, spiderwebs, paint, television
Day seven - rest

I was encouraged that they listened close enough to include a few items from the first chapter of Genesis--plants, animals, grass, people, day, night, sun, sky -- and then included a few items God neglected.

I really enjoyed getting into the world of these five and six year-olds and learn how they perceived the creation story.

God I thank you for the opportunity to be with little ones in your kingdom. Help me to listen to their thoughts and teach them as you direct. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

October 8, 2010

New Life for an Old Robe?

Last spring, Mike, my husband, purchased a new white robe to wear each Sunday. He brought his old robe home and I stuffed it into a box in the garage.

Last weekend I cleaned the garage -- a semi-annual project-- and I found his robe. I washed it. After it dried, I held the cloth close to my heart, thinking about all of the Sunday services, weddings, funerals, baptisms, communions that the robe witnessed. I just couldn't throw it away.

I thought perhaps I might make baptismal outfits for grandchildren yet to be born (our two daughters aren't even interested in marriage at ages 32 and 25), but there isn't enough fabric. I remember the last time he purchased a new robe, I cut twenty-- 4 inch squares, pieced to a little quilt and used it as a prayer cloth when I prayed for Mike.

Since I still have and use the prayer quilt, I need to find another idea. Any thoughts?

God, there are times when objects or clothing become holy because of their use in your kingdom. Guide my hands and thoughts how to preserve in a meaningful way the robe that Mike wore for over twenty years. Amen.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

October 6, 2010

Standing on the Promises and/or Principles

Last night I watched the story of the leak of the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg. We may recall the leak set a series of circumstances into motion that brought the Viet Nam war to an end and began the demise of the Nixon presidency. Even though I lived through those dark times, I didn't know the story from start to finish. It is both unnerving and inspiring. Whatever you think about what Ellsberg did, no one can doubt that he stood up for his principles and leaked the papers in an attempt to make our government accountable for its actions. In the PBS program, he said that even those who were against the war from the beginning, would not come forward to help expose the wrong doing. He was one person, but he was one who wanted to make things right.

Ellsberg risked everything for the truth as he saw it.

There are many great things about our Church, and we also have many people standing up for their principles. Sadly, however these principles, most notably about homosexuality, might divide our Church. It seems that some people see themselves on such high ground, on whatever side, that they cannot reach out to others.

Believe me, I am for principles. We cannot have law without them. But where is the place for grace and mercy in the midst of our imperfect human view of ourselves and others? I just keep coming back to what would Jesus do. Are we so sure of our knowledge that we are willing to destroy the faith of others?

As with most controversies, there are many sides. My prayer is for wisdom to temper justice with mercy and act upon our tightly held principles with grace.


September 30, 2010

A New Perspective on Screens

Many churches over the past five to ten years have added screens in the sanctuary. Screens convey announcements, sermon illustrations, as well as the words for hymns, and liturgy.

Recently, my husband, Mike, encountered a different perspective on the use of screens when he visited a couple from India who have been attending church for several weeks. The husband and wife have lived in the United States for thirteen years, however, the husband was much more proficient in English than the wife. The couple is Hindu, but a friend of theirs in India encouraged them to attend a Protestant church to learn more about Christianity.

The couple commented how helpful the screens were as they learned a new form of worship. The screens offered a visual cue to supplement the auditory experience that came from singing and praying -- opening new ways to understand what was happening during the service. And the repetitive scroll of events and prayers offered continuous opportunities to learn English.

Most people who attend the church speak English, but for those few whose command of the language is limited, screens can provide a unique way to teach English and guide persons toward a deeper walk with God.

Does your church use screens in worship? What benefits do you see?

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

September 28, 2010

The Ministry of Donuts

Today at church there was a big crisis. Everyone was talking about it. They talked about it more than I have heard anyone talk about a sermon or worship experience.

What was this remarkable crisis?

The Krispy Kreme donuts, which usually cover two tables in the dining room where coffee hour is held each week, did not arrive.

There were no donuts for the weekly time of conversation and gathering that adults enjoy!

I have heard pre-school children say upon entering the church say, "I want my donut." to which their parents reply, "Not until after church." I have seen two year-olds holding a donut that is bigger than his/her hand. Did you know that donuts have magical qualities? They can even calm any child who is having "a difficult time." Adroit adults can even balance a donut and coffee in one hand as they climb steps to attend Sunday school. Donuts, needless to say, are very important on Sunday morning.

I wish that persons would get as excited about a ministry or an opportunity to serve or beginning new ways of spiritual formation as they did about donuts.

Yes, I do know that Jesus enjoyed sharing food with people, and I bet that if Jesus came to any church across the country, he would visit the "donut room," get some coffee, and enter a discussion with those gathered around the tables. So is more ministry done over donuts than in the sanctuary? Hmmmm.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

September 27, 2010

Travel Soccer, Travel Football, Travel Dance Team...

We had a great day yesterday at church. The hospitality was radical, the worship was passionate, the faith development was intentional, mission and service took risks, and the generosity was extravagant. In other words, we were impeccable in the five practices department. But where was everyone?

This is not to say that no one was at church, but there were fewer. Many of the youth were on an outing with our youth director, but many families were elsewhere-- not that they stayed at home or even just slept in. No, many were with their children who were on traveling soccer, football, hockey, and/or dance teams, and the list continues.

I realize this whole "I want my kid to be successful and have fun" thing is important. Our daughter participated in Color Guard and missed a number of Sundays. But what should our Christian response be?

Do we make our kids go to church? Do we tell them that in the great scheme of things, church ranks after sports? Does the commitment to church take a back seat to our commitment to the team? Do we take our church and witness beyond the walls? Do we miss the opportunity to be part of Sunday worship? What do you think?


September 24, 2010

When the Church Sins Against You

I recently had a tender conversation with a spouse whom I have mentored through a few difficult situations related to ministry.

Her husband is a second career pastor. His first congregation, while he was in seminary, warmly and enthusiastically welcomed him and his family. They were very supportive and encouraging while he navigated the demanding path of papers, tests, and family and church responsibilities. Following graduation, they moved to a rural church that was completely different. There were inadequacies in the parsonage. Getting needed repairs was a constant battle. And they expected the spouse's presence at various church events, which was complicated by the lengthy and daily commute to her job.

The "final straw" occurred when her husband was hospitalized, but the church thoughtlessly required him to preach within a few days of discharge -- two weeks sooner than recommended by his doctor.

I listened to my angry and frustrated friend for nearly forty minutes. She concluded by saying, "Someone needs to tell ministers and spouses not to expect 'a red carpet to heaven' when they begin life in ministry."

I knew that I had to pray about what to say to her. I surely did not want to offer her empty platitudes. She'd already heard too many from the congregation. So I suggested that she and her husband talk with their DS. I reminded her that a DS can be their advocate when church members avoid or prolong making necessary changes such as parsonage repairs. A DS can help a congregation sort through needs and expectations placed on a pastor and spouse. Finally, a DS can substitute or get a substitute for a pastor on Sunday, when the pastor is ill or dealing with critical personal circumstances.

Additionally, and most importantly, I encouraged her to keep her walk with God alive and vital. God is ever present to help us and hear our concerns. I also suggested that she contact three or four pastor spouses for support. I described my good experience with a book group I attend with a group of spouses. I confided that the discussing the book is really secondary to our opportunity to share our personal lives and places in ministry.

While no one gets "a red carpet to heaven," we do have God's graceful invitation to walk on a "red carpet of life." A carpet where we can travel with our Savior on the road that leads to life.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

September 13, 2010

My favorite account of Jesus feeding the thousands is in John, chapter 6, verses 1-13 because of verses 12 and 13: "When they were all full, he said to his disciples, 'Gather the pieces left over; let us not waste a bit.' So they gathered them all and filled twelve baskets with the pieces left over from the five barley loaves which the people had eaten."

John's gospel is the only account that mentions gathering the "leftovers." Jesus realized that the pieces were just as valuable as the loaves. Putting all of the pieces together enabled even more people to receive nourishment.

I was reminded of this story a few weeks ago. I have quilted for many years, and quilting is a way that I pray. I decided to go through my pile of unfinished projects, leftovers from finished projects, as well as pieces of fabric representing experiments of a particular technique. There was definitely a diverse collection of fabric, embroidery, applique, and a few pieces of paper that I used with fabric. I really did not want to throw away any of these pieces because each represented prayer as well as an image of my faith walk during the past several years.

Just like the crumbs of bread, my pieces were sacred because of the way God was part of the creation. So I randomly began to sew everything together. I disregarded color, pattern, as well as the expectation of making something that "looked nice." I gathered (and sewed) much like the disciples. I ended with a new quilt top, one that will continue to feed my heart and soul as I pray and finish the project.

Jesus gave us a model to value pieces as well as wholeness.

Thank you God for those pieces of who we are that when put together make us whole in you and in ourselves. Amen.

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

September 8, 2010

Cable TV and Other Parsonage Standards

Dear Friends, I recently learned that pastors in New Jersey have as part of their parsonage standards, cable TV and Internet. While that isn't the case in our Tennessee Conference, it started me thinking about how one could change/update the parsonage standards.

In our conference, the must-haves include: energy efficient heating and cooling systems; a stove, refrigerator, dish washer, and dryer; some furniture; window coverings; suitable floor coverings; an adequate lawnmower or lawn service (to be negotiated with the pastor); proper installation, storm windows, and storm doors; a garage or carport; and deadbolts on all exterior doors.

First, what do you think about your parsonage standards? Does your parsonage meet those standards? Do you have what you need for ministry in today's world?

Second, if you wanted to change your parsonage standards, would you know how?

Our first parsonage was seriously lacking in both heating and cooling. The window coverings did not cover; there were no storm windows; and the furniture, such as it was, was pitiful. The people were great, but they seemed not to even know there were standards. Our current parsonage is the polar opposite. It is a lovely house.

How is it with you? What words of wisdom can you share to help make life better for other parsonage families?


September 1, 2010

Fall Kick-offs and New Year Resolutions

Even though I don't have kids at home anymore, Fall still seems the beginning of a new year. Funny how the new school year also means a new church beginnings, for example our church kicks-off its Wonderful Wednesday program tonight with a family (and neighborhood) cookout.

With this new beginning, it almost feels like I need to make New Year's resolutions all over again. So here they are:

1. I resolve to let the light of Christ shine through me in all I do and say.
2. I resolve to do my part to make our church a welcoming, affirming, mission-orientated place.
3. I resolve not to feel guilty when I have to say no.

Ok, that is probably more than enough.

As your church enters into a new school year and kicks-off Fall programs, what resolutions will you make?

Grace, Kathy

August 30, 2010

Women Military Chaplains Convocation

I was privileged to spend last weekend helping with the Convocation for Women Military Chaplains. These women are the creme of the crop, and I was proud to have an opportunity to minister to them. The speaker was Chaplain (Major General) Lorraine Potter, a UM. She was the first (and only) woman to become the Chief of Chaplains. A Chief of Chaplains has all other military chaplains of all branches of service under her.

But I also thought you might be interested to learn a few other things.

First, United Methodist chaplains have the reputation of being well prepared and equipped to serve, perhaps the best prepared.

Second, United Methodist chaplains are well supported by their denomination, by us. Some of this support comes from the United Methodist Endorsing Agency, which is part of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. The convocation was also some well-deserved R&R and sponsored by the UMEA. Next time you hear the our general boards and agencies don't do anything, I'm here to tell you that they are vital.

Third, Chaplains are missionaries to the unchurched. They represent us in ways and places that other missionaries cannot. And when other missionaries go into what was a war zone, the chaplains, our chaplains, were already there. (A chaplain friend who serves on an aircraft carrier told me that he has the world's largest youth group.)

Fourth, Chaplains, like all service personnel, have been wounded in the line of duty and can return home with PTSD. Yet, they do not carry weapons.

Fifth, These women proudly serve the church (us) and we are fortunate to have them defending our religious freedom.

Please pray for these women and all our chaplains.

Grace, Kathy
My three favorite books in high school were A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Diary of Anne Frank -- each of which mentions a tree throughout. (I read recently that the chestnut tree to which Anne Frank frequently referred was toppled by wind and heavy rain. )

Anne wrote in her diary in 1944, "I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver." From this, I realized how aware Anne was of the minute details of the tree. Her poetic words offer a beautiful picture of a view outside the window. I feel her "visits" to the tree refreshed and energized her as she lived in small, cramped quarters for so many years.

When I am dealing with a challenge or difficulty, I find myself much more focused on the simple elements of life: a drop of rain on a blade of grass, the rabbits chasing each other in the backyard, the color of flowers, the interaction of mothers and children. However, when life is good, so to speak, I pick up again, not nearly as much aware as I was when things weren't going well.

God, increase my awareness of all parts of your creation, every day, no matter what is happening in my life.


Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

August 25, 2010

Soul Care and the Cause of Clergy Burnout

This recent article from the Huffington Post is by Anne Dilenschneider.

There's been quite an interest lately in clergy burnout in the media. The New York Times has published several pieces on the subject: "Taking a Break from the Lord's Work" by Paul Vitello, and "Congregations Gone Wild" by G. Jeffrey MacDonald. The Clergy Health Initiative at Duke Divinity School has published a new report on the poor mental and physical health of pastors. NPR has featured interviews on the subject. Remedies range from developing better boundaries to engaging in self-care to putting the brakes on the demands of congregation members.

There certainly is cause for concern. However, my doctoral research on transformational leadership and the spiritual life of pastors, as well as 12 years of consulting in the field, show that the causes of clergy burnout and poor mental and physical health are far deeper than poor boundaries, or the failure to engage in self-care, or the seemingly insatiable desires of congregations. Burnout and poor health are symptoms of a far deeper "dis-ease" of soul that has plagued clergy for nearly 100 years. They are symptoms of starvation. Addressing the symptoms of burnout does not get to the root of this serious matter.

Pastors who are effective and get things done are considered "successful." Denominations, including The United Methodist Church, focus on results that can be measured (e.g., increased membership and the congregation's financial well-being). Yet numerous studies over the past 20 years reveal that this approach is, literally, killing clergy and, by extension, churches and denominations.

When examined more deeply, it turns out that the current emphasis on clergy effectiveness is due to a change in the role of pastors that occurred in the 1920s concomitant with the development of the assembly line and the adoption of the production efficiency methodology of Taylorism in corporate America. At that time, as Richard Niebuhr observed, clergy became "pastoral directors" who focused on the administrative tasks of managing and maintaining churches for the benefit of the denomination. And, as retired United Methodist bishop Richard Wilke has noted, by the 1960s, pastors were being evaluated on their "competency, acquired skills, and professional status."

Now we hear that burnout needs to be solved so that clergy can be effective. At the same time, the solutions that are being recommended, and have been recommended for decades, to mitigate the symptoms have not been enough. Far more is needed than firm boundaries or vacations or sabbaticals that are not true times of rest and renewal. Although The United Methodist Church allows for a sabbatical year every seven years, it is an unpaid year and health benefits are not covered, so clergy often have to work during their sabbatical year. The sabbatical programs offered by the Lilly Foundation and the Louisville Institute are generous, yet they still require the clergyperson to produce research as evidence of time well-spent. Ironically, the purpose of Sabbath, and sabbatical -- to rest from producing -- has been lost.

Efforts to improve clergy health for the purposes of increased effectiveness and production cannot cure what ails both clergy and congregations. To move towards true health, it is essential to get to the root cause by considering the role of clergy before the 1920s.Until the 1920s, the pastor was a cura animarum, the "cure of souls," or "curate" -- a person who cared for souls by helping people locate themselves in God's greater story. The first step in this work was the pastor's own attention to her or his soul-care through an intentional focus on her or his personal relationship with the Holy. Yet, as I learned as a participant in a Lilly Endowment convocation, seminaries focus on academics and do not train Protestant clergy in spirituality or spiritual formation. At most, even in 2010, only a handful of seminaries require a semester of study in this essential subject.

The rationale for this omission is the assumption -- which I have heard stated by many in seminary leadership -- that clergy receive spiritual formation in their home congregations. However, as Ezra Earl Jones, who headed the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship for 12 years, points out, churches are "places for programs" and because of this, pastors themselves "haven't known the church to be a place of spiritual formation." As a result of their own poverty in spiritual formation and relationship with God, pastors are not prepared to help people build relationships with God. As Jones told me:

"My data, largely about United Methodist pastors, confirms your learnings that our pastors in large part are not praying people. They do not practice the historic spiritual disciplines and therefore it is impossible for them to help those of us who look to them for guidance in the church to be praying people seeking God and love of neighbor."

Daily time and space for this inner work are essential for the health of clergy and congregations.
As Norman Shawchuck and Roger Heuser wrote in Leading the Congregation: Caring for Yourself While Serving Others, a congregation

"will not journey beyond the pastor; the congregation will not venture where the pastor is not leading. This is a hard saying. It would be more comfortable to work like the traffic cop -- to give a map or a few verbal instructions -- but spiritual formation is a case where only those who have eyes to see can lead."(p. 126)

The witness of spiritual directors over the centuries is that the leader's need to "make a difference" -- the need to find personal significance through effectiveness -- must be set aside in order to be "made different" -- the deeper need to discover one's renewed identity through relationship with God.

John Wesley, the eighteenth-century founder of the Methodists, wrote of his own spiritual disciplines and his daily time of solitude at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m.: "Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone; only God is here, in his presence I open, I read his book; for this end, to find the way to heaven." In the letter he wrote to a pastor 250 years ago on August 7, 1760, Wesley clearly stated the importance of soul care for pastors: "[This is] what has exceedingly hurt you in times past, nay, and I fear, to this day ... Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way ... Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer."

August 23, 2010

My Muslim Friend

Muslims are certainly prominent in the news recently. The plan of building a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero has triggered all kinds of feelings and opinions. Then, there is the mistaken idea that President Obama is Muslim.

There is a large Muslim community where I live in Fishers, Indiana, which is about two miles from Indianapolis. The Muslim community built a school in Fishers a few years ago, which is accredited for preschool children through eighth grade.

I also participate with Muslim women in classes at the Y. I am sympathetic toward them, as their heads are always covered, which in high impact aerobic classes can mean a lot of sweat. They also wear long pants and long sleeve blouses where others wear shorts and tank-tops.

One day I was waiting for a class to start at the Y. I noticed a Muslim woman sitting on a bench, outside the exercise room, reading out loud from a book. She was completely oblivious to the crowd that was standing around her. I sat down next to her, where I could see book more closely. The letters were Arabic, so I assumed she was reading the Koran. When she paused, I asked what she was reading. She told me about goodness, peace, and love, which were described in the passages. I commented that those ideas were also in the Bible. She smiled and we continued talking, realizing that we had many similar ideas despite our faith differences. She told me about her family, her move to the United States, and her adjustment to a different culture.

I felt God's presence deeply between us as we talked. Too quickly, my class began, for I really wanted to talk further. However, every time we see each other at the Y, we shake hands. Each time, I feel God's presence deeply between us, and I thank God for the interaction we share that truly was a mutual bridge of acceptance.

God, I thank you for the differences that exist among your people. I also thank you for the way that in differences we can, with desire, find common ground. Help us to view all of your children with love and acceptance.


Jacquie Reed,Fishers, Indiana

August 17, 2010

Our Church in Mission Is a Good Thing

Yesterday, a friend told me that she saw our church van in her neighborhood helping with the flood clean-up. She was excited to know that people she knew (sort of) were helping, and she was proud that her denomination was doing Christ's work in the world. It was as though she was helping too.

So often, it is too easy to gripe about the Church, but there are lots of times when the Church really does step up and act as the Body of Christ.

There is a new book by Adam Hamilton called When Christians Get It Wrong. It makes the point that the reason why there aren't more Christians is because of the poor witness we Christians do make. And it is a great book.

But Christians also get it right. These acts of love and care will probably never make the headlines, but they are our witness and God does use them.

Hope you have a great day by being Christ's hands and feet today.

Clarksville, TN

August 16, 2010

Sharing Who We Are

Yesterday and today the church had a work day. The main project involved painting the classrooms and hallways of the educational wings, trying to save money. Last night, Mike (my husband) and I spent a few hours helping. I put tape along the bottom of the walls and around doors and windows. I was assigned to the upstairs kitchen where two other people, who I didn't know, were in charge of painting.

There are four services at the church each Sunday, and since I attend the early service at 8:30, I do not know people who attend the other services. We introduced ourselves and within ten minutes, the man, told us his life story. Then the other person, a woman, told her story. I didn't say anything because my role seemed to be listener.

I am always amazed at how eagerly some people open their hearts so quickly, while others, like me, are more reluctant to reveal deep struggles.

Reflecting on my encounter on the way home, I realized how important "story" is to a person. "Story" can give an identity, for example the man shared detailed milestones of his life, those parts that shaped him in the past and those that contribute to who he is now. The woman's story was about how she had moved on emotionally and even geographically.

The story describing who we are has deep meaning. Stories can explain how I respond to life's experiences or how I define my priorities and direct my heart. My story is important because it is mine, only mine.

Jesus too, realized the importance of story as he walked among people and taught using parables -- stories about the kingdom. And I know that I remember stories my husband uses to illustrate his sermons more than anything else.

God, every day we live is another collection of stories added to our lives. Help us see you in each event, experience. or encounter. Use our stories to mold us more completely into the people who have created us to be.

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

August 10, 2010

Singing a New Song to the Lord or Not

I do not get mad very often, but today I was mad.

Today was Youth Sunday. All students from seventh to twelfth grade participated in three of the four services. The youth praise band began each service with beautiful music and singing. Four high school students gave testimonies about the value of youth group in their lives. They described friendships formed during annual mission trips, weekly Bible study, and Sunday evening meetings. They also included specific ways that God was helping them make decisions regarding time management and planning for the future. Their words clearly came from their hearts and the sincerity of their thoughts was touching.

So what made me mad? Let me explain. During the early service (the only one I attended at 8:30 am) ten people left, some during the opening music, and the rest throughout the service. The music, was not the kind that is usually played. So??? Who could resist the praise band led by a junior in high school, who eloquently conducted the service, prayed, and gave a benediction. So??? The cross and flowers were removed from the altar, replaced by a white cloth and votive candles. So????? Four students gave the "sermon" instead of one pastor. So???

What really made me mad was that those people who left, could not open their hearts to worship "youth style" for even one Sunday. They missed a wonderful opportunity to be with God and worship with an energetic sincerely committed group of young people.

OK , here's the clincher. Two people came to my husband after later services, saying that the reason they were leaving was because the American flag was removed from the front of the church-- for one Sunday of the year, so that there was room for a skit that the youth presented, room for the vocalists who sang with the band, and room for a television to show a video related to what the teenagers do during their Sunday night meetings.

I don't get it. If people leave whenever something doesn't go "the way we've always done things" what does their action say about his/her life with God? If I pray and God doesn't answer, do I give up on God? Do I throw away my Bible? Do I refuse to go to church? What type of example does this type of behavior show to children and young people? Leave if something doesn't go your way?

What would Jesus do? I don't know. What do you think? What would you do?

God, I am saddened when those in your kingdom close their hearts to any new expression of being with you. You told us to love one another and to encourage those who are growing in faith. Help us renew our interest in these young people. We are praising you for the way their faith is woven into many parts of their lives. They are an example to others. May we be like them. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

August 6, 2010

Twice as depressed as your average bear?

Did you know that, as a group, clergy are two time more likely to be depressed than the average person? Also did you know that, as a group, clergy are seriously overweight? This may not be news to many of us, but this next fact blew me away. Did you know that, when asked, clergy did not think that their being depressed and overweight made any difference to their ministry?!

If fire fighters, physicans, salespersons, teachers, for example, are depressed and overweight, don't you think if would effect their performance? Who wants to depend on a depressed and overweight fire fighter or police person to save them? Who wants to be advised by a depressed and overweight physican? Who wants to trust the care of children to depressed and overweight teachers? Who wants to have a depressed and overweight role model?

Pastors have stressful jobs that demand that they can go the distance and attend to the needs of others. No one can do ministry well if she is depressed and overweight. Even Jesus went away from the crowds. Even Jesus had close friends. Even Jesus was fit.

So what do we do?
First, we insist that our clergy spouses take time away from the church.

Second, we take care of our own depression and weight by taking good care of ourselves and our kids.

Third, we make sure that our spouse lets the congregation or Staff Parish Committee just how much he/she works and what the work entails. Most people still think pastors only work on Sunday.

Fourth, we see to it that if our spouse is depressed, he/she gets help.

Fifth, we give our spouse the personal space to take time to exercise for simply have time for fun.

Sixth, we make sure we cultivate long-lasting friendships.

Seventh, if she/he won't do things differently, we talk to our friends to get more ideas.

And I'm sure you can think of more. And we better start thinking, because our health insurance rates are out the roof as it is.


August 5, 2010

MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, and more and more...

Most of our spouses, and mine for sure, have a difficult time taking time off and away from the church. But the social media and all the technology of the past 20 years is just making taking time away even more difficult.

While I objected to my spouse carrying a beeper (years ago), he now uses 2 cell phones, a Facebook page, a pda, 2 PCs, and a Mac. And with the amount of email he gets, he could just answer that all day every day. My question is: How much is enough? People want instant access and response 24/7. So how do you turn down the pace or can you?

Don't get me wrong. I love having a cell phone and the rest, but I also like to just talk to people in person.

What about you and your family? How do you keep the boundaries between you and the church clear and reasonable?

Clarksville, TN

August 3, 2010

The Clatter of the Marketplace in Church?

I teach a Sunday school class composed of parents ranging from mid-thirties to mid-forties.

Yesterday, the Sunday school classrooms were being used for a homeless ministry the church supports, so most classes did not meet or gathered in the "donut room." My class found an empty table in the middle of the room. We began with prayer, as usual, and I attempted to present the lesson.

I noticed, however, that as time passed, two more classes gathered, one on either side of mine. These people were laughing and talking, drinking coffee or orange juice. As I was trying to teach above the noise, I became frustrated. Discussion in our group was difficult because of the competition from the other two tables.

"This is like trying to teach in the middle of the marketplace," I thought. "I bet Jesus sometimes had to teach under similar circumstances-- where people, completely oblivious to him, were busy purchasing items from merchants or talking to friends."

The class ended, but later I took a few moments to reflect further. I realized how difficult it can be for me to hear the truth amidst the noise of the "marketplace," however "marketplace" is defined.

I also thought how easy it is to become distracted from following the path of love and service. A favorite quote came to my mind that speaks to attentiveness: "Make time for the quiet moments, as God whispers and the world is loud."

God, it can be truly difficult to hear you amidst the noise of the marketplace in which we, your children, dwell. Help us be more attentive to you in our daily living. Amen.

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, In.

August 2, 2010

What about church membership>

A few days ago, we received word from our "home church" that they were seeking to remove our names from their membership records, because we no longer regularly attend.

It stirred up some mixed feelings for us, because we still consider the church and its members as part of our family. We like knowing that we're still a part of one place, no matter how many moves we might make during our years of ministry. It's comforting to feel like there is a place we can call home.

We did some checking and have learned that clergy actually become members of their Annual Conference and are no longer members of a local church. Spouses and families, however, have the choice of where to have their membership. They can leave it where it was before their spouse became clergy, or they can move it based on their current appointment.

Personally, I never had any thought to move my membership from the church that I grew up in. We are still faithful to give when we can (though we do tithe to the church we are appointed to) and we even attend some special events as we are able. I'd like to know if/where other clergy spouses maintain their church memberships. Do you keep your membership at your "home church," or do you move it with your spouse's appointment changes? Where are you a member?

Linda Hodges

When Christians Get It Wrong/Right?

As Christians we are all on the road to perfection, but sometimes we need a course correction. So please take a look at Adam Hamilton's new book, When Christians Get It Wrong.
Adam is lead pastor at Church of the Resurrection just outside of Kansas City.

Book trailer -

Book excerpt -

Book info -

Grace, Kathy

July 22, 2010

Matushka, First Lady, or Something Else?

I usually do not go to the church during the week. However, Monday (July 19) I needed to tell Mike (my husband) about a problem in our bank account, so I stopped by his office. Shortly after I entered the church, I found two men who looked lost. I asked if they needed help. They explained that they were electricians and couldn't find the bathroom that needed new light fixtures.

I led them through the maze of halls, while they proceeded to talk about how they found God a few years ago, and the difference that God made in both of their lives. Somehow, I mentioned that my husband was the pastor.

One of the men said, "Oh my. You are the 'first lady.' You are honored among women". I hardly knew what to say. I had heard the term 'first lady' used for the pastor's spouse before, but no one had ever called me by that term. I stumbled for words to reply, and finally said, "No I am Jacquie, Mike's wife."

Then, I recalled a visit two years ago to upstate New York where I was born. Mike and I attended St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, as my heritage is Greek and Russian Orthodox. I smelled incense the minute I entered the church which quickly brought back so many memories of kissing icons (which I did not like) and crossing myself. The spouse of the priest in an orthodox church has a special name, matushka, which the congregation is proud to call her.

Many, many times, when I am introduced by someone in the congregation to a friend or family member, I hear the words, "This is Jacquie Reed our minister's wife." When Mike first began ministry, I did not like being introduced as 'our minister's wife', because I wanted my own identity (I asked Mike, more than once, "What can't I be introduced as Jacquie Reed, person, period?") and I definitely did not being thought of as an appendage of Mike.

Through the years, however, I realized that nothing I could do , politely and respectfully, would prevent people from introducing me as they had from the beginning. So I decided to embrace these moments, thank God for giving me the opportunity to be Mike's wife, and accept the joy which people convey introducing me as "our minister's wife."

How do persons in the congregation introduce you? Would you like to be called "first lady" or "matushka" (meaning mother) or the "pastor's wife"?

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

July 20, 2010

Fresh from Seminary?

Just before my husband graduated from seminary, the faculty wives set up a time to meet with the student wives. It was outdated, even in the 1970s, because about one third of seminary students were women, including me--now, it is more than half. But I went to their meeting, thinking that I'd be nice, and, besides, I was curious to see who was married to whom.

It was a very informatative meeting, but I hardly thought it could ever apply to me. After all, they were talking about the old days. Things weren't that way anymore. Then my husband and I were appointed to his first church. Boy, was I wrong. We moved to a county-seat town, but we might as well have moved to a third-world country as far as I was concerned. Please don't misunderstand, but we did suffer. The house was not well heated, food was scarce on our table, and there was no viable place for me to get a job. Sure, there were good times and fond memories--thank God-- but there was plenty of bad stuff too.

But our DS wife, Mary Morris, was a godsend. She befriended me as she did so many others. And at the time, I made a promise to help new wives too. I surely don't want anyone to go through what we did in that parsonage.

There are things you can do and there are people you can trust to help. If you don't need a willing ear, there are others who do. We all know new pastor families in our area. Join me and take the time to give them a call or welcome them with a batch of cookies.


July 15, 2010

Keys to the Kingdom

A friend of mine got the unwelcome and unexpected news that her young niece had tragically died. The girl had been having problems for a couple months and the doctor said it was nothing to worry about. Then one night, the pain became unbearable and the next day, she was dead. Needless to say, the news came as a shock. My friend packed her bags quickly so that she could make the long drive out of state to help with the funeral arrangements and be with the family. But before she left, however, she took her house keys to the church. "Here," she said, "Please, someone, feed my dog. I've no idea how long I'll be gone." So with only that, the church secretary took her keys.

Now, my friend was gone for two weeks. When she came home, she not only found that her dog was OK, but her grass was cut, the lawn was trimmed, her refrigerator was full, her house was clean, and there, on her deck, was a lovely potted fern.

Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom. My friend gave her house keys to the church. Both acts required trust. Both responses are grace-filled, generous acts of love. I don't think I can think of a better example of Christian friendship.

Sometimes the Church is the Body of Christ, and sometimes we get glimpses of the Kingdom.


July 7, 2010


Whenever I have asked my husband how I should act in certain instances related to our ministry, like going to a church for the first time, or participating with small groups, etc., his response has always been, "Just walk in there and act like you own the place."

Not to suggest that I have ownership over it, or that I should demand my own way, but that while we serve in a place, I should understand it is my place of worship too, and I should act that way. I should have ownership in it. I should invest in it, and its ministries and people should be important to me. I should help however I can to change the life and health of the congregation for the better.

I should own responsibility, in love, in faithfulness. But there are little things too, that I have come to expect of myself. Things I think to myself, "You're the pastor's spouse, if you don't do it, why would you expect anyone else to?" I absolutely cannot allow myself to leave a toilet paper roll empty when I notice one. I can't leave after a fellowship dinner without helping to clean up. And even if I'm not "allowed" to wash dishes, I can at least gather the plates of others to the trash. I can pick up bulletin papers or candy wrappers after a service. In short, if I notice something out of sorts, I can make it right.

It doesn't have to be a big thing. I might not be able to be a remedy for all my church's issues or needs, but I can make a difference. I can make it better so that when I leave than it was when I came. I know the roles of clergy spouses can look vastly different from church to church, but that's my spouse-i-tude. What's yours?

Linda Hodges
A Clergy Spouse in the North Alabama Conference

July 6, 2010

A Church Family Reunion

Recently I attended our son-in-law's ordination service in another conference. Needless to say, I really didn't know any one there. And I couldn't help but think it was like attending someone else's family reunion. But I assumed it was pretty much like our conference with long-standing friendships, intrigues, dysfunction, and all.

For about one third of our pastors, this past Sunday was the first for them and their families. And I wondered, what kind of welcome they received. Then, as usual, when I point a finger, the other three fingers point back to me. How welcoming have I been?

This year we have a new DS and a returning bishop with their families. So please join me and welcome your DS and bishop's spouses. Take a moment and sent a card, note, or email. As hard as it can be to walk into a new church, it must be more difficult to walk into a new conference and district. If we welcome each other, perhaps we all will more fully experience the benefits of being a church family.


June 29, 2010

Still want to do away with the guarenteed appointment?

Susan and I became friends eight years ago when she was appointed as the associate pastor at the church my husband serves. We didn't get together for coffee, but conversations between church services and at church events kept us connected.

Susan moved three years ago to another church. Her husband died in April, and now she is moving again to a church closer to family, especially her elderly mother.

Susan told me about the new pastor, a woman, moving to her church. I knew that this pastor had moved under two years ago to a great church in a town of 22,000. When I asked Susan why the other woman had to move so soon, she told me, "The congregation did not accept a woman as pastor. In addition, neither the church or community embraced the pastor's two adopted bi-racial children who were in elementary school."

I was heart-broken and angry. I thought that any negative feelings toward women pastors was way in the past -- but not embracing bi-racial children -- children are children -- people are people. I wanted to jump in my car, drive to the community and read the gospel to them -- and maybe I also need to add prayer.

God there are times that we hear about those who are prejudiced and unwelcoming to all who live in your kingdom. Enter their hearts, soften their emotions, so that all may feel your presence. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

June 28, 2010

More Stress with No Commitment from Our Church

In a recent UM Reporter, I couldn't help but notice two adjacent articles. Separately they were newsworthy, but taken together, a bit surprising. The first article, funded by Duke, had to do with clergy health problems; i.e., clergy's poor health reflects inordinate amounts of stress--no big surprise to any of us. The second article had to do with the possible elimination of the guaranteed appointment.

Think about it. On one hand clergy are over-worked, over-stressed, criticized for poor self care, and under-paid. Then on the other hand, the Church says, "Let's add to pastors' burdens by eliminating their guaranteed appointment. Let's let them worry every year that they might not have a job or home or health insurance for their family the next year."

Seems to me that the Church demands 100% commitment from pastors but is unwilling to show that same commitment to her pastors and their families.

Frankly, it makes me angry. I don't know about you, but I'm not happy for my kids or me to be collateral damage when the Church fails to be a faithful partner.


June 25, 2010

Loving and Being Loved by Special People in the Church

Today, Mike, (my husband) had the funeral for 80 year-old Betty, a beloved and longtime member of the congregation. Betty fell last week and broke her hip. Unfortunately, her body did not respond well to the anesthetic, and she died three days later.

I am so sad that Betty died -- in fact, I told Mike that I had to see her at the funeral home before I could believe she was gone.

Betty never missed church. She and her friend, Mary, folded the bulletins every Friday. Betty was one of the leaders of the quilting group that met Monday afternoon. When I occasionally visited the quilters, Betty was always so eager to show me her latest project.

Betty, however, was one of my energizing persons. It seems that every Sunday I have numerous people come and weigh me down, telling me about their challenges. I like to welcome these people, but sometimes I leave church exhausted. Betty also came to me every Sunday. I began asking her about her latest quilting project, and once she told me that her daughter was also named Jackie, that sealed our friendship.

What makes Betty stand out for me is that she always asked what I was doing. She was interested in me as a person. She knew that I was interested in her and she reciprocated. Not many people do that.

Last Sunday I kept looking for Betty in "her pew." I looked for her after church. I just couldn't believe that "my energizer Betty" was gone. I'll really miss Betty for her gift of presence to me. There have been so few through the years that stand out in the way she did.

May God comfort her family and friends who mourn her passing.

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

June 24, 2010

First Impressions

Research has confirmed what most of us know--first impressions make a lasting difference.

A first impression is made within about 6-7 seconds. We have first impressions of our spouses, churches, the DS, friends, etc. Likewise, they have first impressions of us. First impressions count and cannot be easily undone.

So what can we do to make a good first impression? Here again, no big surprises.
1. Smile.
2. Be interested in others.
3. Walk with confidence.
4. Pray for God to accompany you.
5. Wear something comfortable.

Personally, when I am nervous my cold hands betray me. I've tried rubbing them, running them under warm water, relaxation exercises, but usually nothing works. I just pray that people will not notice my handshake and be won over by something else.

But the church also gives a first impression, which can be a valuable tool for you and your ministry. Because you see what visitors see. The first Sunday at our current church is a case in point. I was by myself, didn't really know which door to enter, had no idea where to go for Sunday School, and there was no one to ask. I figured that if the church didn't welcome me, and they knew I was coming, they probably weren't good a welcoming others. Needless to say, I mentioned that to my spouse and the church heard the issue and fixed the problem.

As some of us begin new appointments this Sunday, please know that the rest of us will pray that all goes well for you and that there are a multitude of great first impressions.


June 23, 2010

Need a Laugh?

If you need a laugh or want to hear some great stories, check out Jeanne Robertson on YouTube or ITunes or at

Speaking to thousands of people annually, Jeanne Robertson utilizes her style to illustrate that a sense of humor is much more than a laughing matter. It is a strategy for success. Jeanne is also an active member of Front Street United Methodist Church in Burlington, North Carolina and on the Board of Trustees at Elon University. This former Miss North Carolina and Miss Congeniality winner in the Miss America Pageant, “Yearrrrrrrrrrrs ago,” uses her down-home Southern drawl and values to leave her audiences laughing and thinking.

She just did a fund raiser here in Nashville at Brentwood UMC and raised over $17,000 for flood victims.

You'll love her.


June 21, 2010

Are You Staying?

The Indiana Annual Conference ended last Sunday (June 13) following a service of ordination for elders and deacons. I went to church as usual and several people asked me, "Are you staying?" I was taken aback by the question, because I knew that if we were moving we would have found out one or two months ago.

I remember when Mike first began ministry in 1976, more experienced pastor's wives told me stories from the past where no one knew if he/she was moving until annual conference. The pastor then called the spouse, sharing the information that he/she was being placed in a new church. Moving date was two weeks later. These women (back then, there were very few women pastors) began a frenzied two week period of packing and doing all of those other tasks that a move involves.

I am so thankful that today there is much more time given to pack and say good-bye. When Mike had smaller churches, we were honored in various ways when notice arrived that we were staying. One church had a reception each year and gave us gifts. When Mike was assigned to a church on the south side of Indianapolis, the same man in the congregation stood up each year during the service and welcomed us back. Following his announcement, we were greeted with applause. These moments of affirmation were so encouraging and energizing.

"Are you staying?" What is your response? Happy to stay another year?

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

June 18, 2010

Warning: It's a Small World

With many folks moving, I thought I'd share this warning.

After one of our moves, early in our ministry, I found out something the next minister's spouse said about me. It seems that she told one of her new friends in her new congregation that I didn't leave the parsonage very clean. Needless to say, I had a baby and did everything by myself. Even so, I thought I had left it in very good shape and a lot better than I had found it.

But to her standards, perhaps it should have been better. That's not the point. The point is that her new friend at her new congregation was my old friend at my old congregation. What she said went straight from her to me with our friend barely holding the thought for a minute. The new spouse had no idea that she was talking to my friend. Of course, I also wonder just how good a friend I had anyway to tell me something so hurtful.

It's been my experience that I have to be careful what I say and to whom in a church. You never know if your talking to someone's friend, cousin, or even work colleague. It's just that small a world, and I can't tell you have many times I've had to learn that lesson.

On the other side, my spouse grew up in the city where we are now. We regularly run into people he went to school with or had as a teacher, couch--there have even been a couple of old girl friends. So we hear lots of stuff from lots of sources, not just at church.

You can always be sure that what you say will get back to the person you're talking about. So when you move and start afresh at a new church, just be careful. It took a long time before that other pastor's wife and I made up and for me to get over that innocent remark she made to our "friend."

Happy Moving, Kathy

June 16, 2010

Just back from Annual Conference

Dear Friends, For me, Annual Conference is about reconnecting with friends and colleagues. This year the business part was meager, but some very deserving people received recognition and awards. The spouse lunch was great and pretty well attended. This year I sat next to a friend whose spouse is an active-duty chaplain in New Orleans, where they continue to struggle with the aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina and, now, the oil spill.

Annual Conference is more like a big family reunion than anything else. And it comes with all the same surprises and dysfunctions. It really is like a gathering of the clan of The United Methodist tribe, as our speaker Len Sweet reminded us.

This also struck me about Conference. Len Sweet painted a vivid picture of what the church can and should be. That perspective is helpful, because sometimes we only see the hard realities and the folks who get ground up by the system, left bleeding on the floor. But insight into what the church should be also makes how the church sometimes acts even more unbearable. Still, it's really all about Christian friendships and reaching out to find the Christ in others, even if He is only there with prevenient grace.

Grace, Kathy

How available is too available?

John Marshall Crowe sent this article by Tom Steagald in North Carolina.

Here’s a description of pastors you won’t hear every day: “A quivering mass of availability.”

Sound right? Maybe not. Could be you can’t always find your pastor when you try.

The description rings true to me, however. The phrase was coined by Will Willimon, a United Methodist bishop and one of the most acerbic wits you would ever care to meet. Willimon contends that most pastors are in fact too available, running here and there doing all sorts of stuff for all sorts of people — and most often at the expense of the prior and more important work of prayer and study.

For his part, John Wesley expected Methodist pastors to read for four hours every day — he believed that such prayerful study was the underpinning of all lasting ministry. If the pastor complained that he did not like to read, that she had more important things to do in caring for the flock, Wesley suggested they go back to their previous jobs. Sadly, a recent study suggests that most Methodist ministers do not read even one book a year! Why? They are too busy, too distracted — too available.

Now, study and prayer are not all pastors are called to do. Of course a minister is going to be at the hospital when a member has heart surgery. That does not mean we leave our sermon preparations or cancel Bible Study when someone is having an ingrown toenail removed.

Of course a minister is going to care for the home bound — but that does not mean the pastor should — as I did for almost two years — do all the errand-running and grocery-shopping and trash-removing for an elderly member (that, when others could have take a turn).

John Baillie, a Scotch Presbyterian scholar and pastor, offers a powerful cautionary word for ministers and other servants. He confesses in one of his prayers that often “my affection for my friends is only a refined form of caring for myself.” In short, Baillie says that our service to others is often, in truth, an expression of deep selfishness. His confession begs the question: How often do I do what I do, not just for the sake of the one I serve, but also in quivering dread of the anger that will come if I don’t? Or in quivering hope of the blessing that will come if I do: “Oh, preacher, you are so wonderful!”

Like everyone else, pastors enjoy the immediate gratification and emotional pay-off that come from services rendered. Unlike others, a pastor’s quivering may just be the shakes — a sign we need a quick fix to soothe our often unconfessed fear of irrelevance. But like all fixes, it is addictive.

Harder to delay gratification, to read and study. Hardest of all to pray — where there is almost never an emotional pay-off. Still, I seem to remember that Jesus was not always available. Got him in a bit of trouble now and then, but at least when he arrived he came prepared. After all, as Bill Hinson has said, “The person who is always available brings nothing with him when he comes.”

Dr. Tom Steagald is pastor of Lafayette Street United Methodist Church

June 14, 2010

Annual Conference Time (new poll)

For United Methodists, May and early June mean one thing--Annual Conferences! Here in Tennessee, ours is going on right now, which means my husband is staying at his parents' house for a couple days to be closer to the host church, and I'm doing the single parent thing for a couple days!

Last year, my hubby was being commissioned, so I went just for the big commissioning/ordination service. I have yet to attend a spouse's luncheon--not really my thing--so this year I won't be going at all.

How about you?

Take this week's poll in the sidebar to declare whether you're going to conference or not, or just for an event or two. Or, if you're not United Methodist (this blog is for you too--we're just sensing a majority here!) share that instead!

Happy holy conferencing!

June 10, 2010

Remember Who You Are

You've probably heard the story about the Mom who said, before her daughter left on a date, "Just remember who you are." I find these comforting words in many church situations.

Last Sunday during our "Joys and Concerns" time, the guest preacher (my spouse was away) followed the congregational tradition and asked if there were any birthdays or anniversaries. I raised my hand because we had just celebrated our anniversary. She called on me and made the appropriate comments, but it was clear that she didn't know that I was the pastor's wife. That was OK with me, but my friend, sitting next to me, started to protest, saying, "But she [the preacher] needs to say more, because you're..." I cut her off and said, "It's all good. Don't worry."

The whole incident was kinda funny to me, because I had so many different mixed feelings all at once. First, I was glad to be just another church member celebrating. Second, I was sad that my husband wasn't there to share the moment. But third, I was a little sorry that the preacher didn't make more of it.

There are times that being the pastor's wife makes me feel special, but then I have to remind myself of who I am. I'm not a role or a professional Christian. I'm not special because I'm somebody's spouse, but I am one blessed woman whose been married for all her adult life.

What about you? What reminds you of who you really are?

Grace, Kathy

June 8, 2010

Clergy Kids

While researching for a paper I'm writing, I found this interesting information thought you'd enjoy. It seems that clergy kids across denominational and even cultural lines experience pretty much the same things. And there are benefits as well as difficulties. Here is a brief summary, which is taken from interviews of adult children of clergy about growing up:

For clergy kids:
- Their parent was looked upon as a ‘person of God.’

- They have to cope with possible discrepancies between ‘front-stage’ and ‘back-stage’ behavior of their parents.

- They are public property, whether they like it or not; they are watched (or at least they have that impression) and they have to set an example for other kids. This feeling can lead either to rebellion or over-adjustment.

- As an unpaid extension piece of the ministry, they have to bear responsibility at a very young age.

- In many cases the family belongs to the local (intellectual and cultural) elite.

- Social, religious, moral, and cultural capital is abundant in the parsonage and is generously transmitted to them.

- Moving to another place every now and then forced clergy children to conquer their place under the sun again among peers.

- Developing an identity of their own is often a difficult and sometimes a very painful process. In their own view they remain the minister’s son or daughter too long.

- In spite of or thanks to their youth and education most clergy children do quite well as adults.

What is your experience or the experience of your children?


June 7, 2010

Listen to God and not Adversity

In morning devotionals, Charles Stanley and others hit on the point of my inadequacies and my uselessness to anybody -- definitely to God as well as to others, certainly to myself -- when I try to rely on my own power. Then, in another sector of meditation was the wanting to be get to some sort of secular comfort zone both in image (wanting to be be younger, better looking, popular) and desires (for power, sexual lusts, you name it). Charles Stanley used Psalm 127: 1-2 to get my attention.

Bottom line: I have to focus and ask God to mold and direct me.

Yes, God is faithful and is performing "life-saving" events in my life, not only saving my wife from either being seriously injured or killed in an auto accident the other day, but just saving a wretch like me in spite of myself.

In considering the beatitudes that Jesus addressed to me from the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior says:. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." I need to get more in the mercy business as I oftentimes have little or no mercy for others or myself.

I believe that God will give at least me the option of being more merciful if I give my attention and commitment to such groups like the Restore Ministries, those that surround me, and to His Almighty Presence through the Holy Spirit.

I just need to listen better to Him and not to all of the adversity that surrounds.

Joe Macupa,

(Joe's spouse is a deployed chaplain)

June 3, 2010

The More Things Change, the More they Stay the Same

Googling "umc guaranteed appointment female minority" just now, I came across the most fascinating article that ran in Christian Century in 1979. Titled "UMC’s Women Clergy: Sisterhood and Survival," it was primarily remarkable for how unremarkable it was. If not for the reference to the upcoming 1980 General Conference and the use of the word "retarded" to refer to a special-needs child, the piece could easily have been written this year--more than 30 years later!

There are more female clergy in the UMC today, and more of them are appointed to senior pastorates and large membership churches than in 1979, but the issues they face are all the same. Challenges to advancement. Concerns over acceptance in certain congregations. Lack of support or flexibility in pregnancy and childcare situations.

For our purposes on this blog, as clergy spouses, consider this paragraph:

“Clergy couples” -- with both husband and wife being ordained -- “are beginning to find their label oppressive,” said one workshop participant. It causes them to be regarded as an entity rather than as two pastors, and to be stereotyped as a placement problem. Coordinating the career moves of a couple -- whether they desire to serve a joint pastorate or separate parishes -- can be difficult. But cabinets have been slow to acknowledge the seriousness of the two-career couple problem when one of the members is clergy and one is nonclergy. When both are ministers, the church bears responsibility for placing them both in jobs -- generally within driving distance of their shared parsonage. But when only one partner is ordained, the church has no control over the other partner’s career, and often fails to take it into consideration. The assumption has been that when the minister must move, the spouse must follow. The system worked well for many years with men who had nonworking wives, or wives whose careers as nurses or schoolteachers were regarded as transportable from one town to another. The two-career-couple crunch often forces a wrenching decision: “Which career is more important?” The assumption that the male’s ambitions always take precedence is being questioned, and couples are wrestling with the sacrifices required when career goals conflict.

Thirty. Years. And yet so little seems to have changed.