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