April 26, 2011

Making a Good Move

Next month, I will be facilitating a group of clergy spouses at the annual "Making A Good Move" event. Last year over twenty spouses came. What surprised me was that out of the spouses present, there was only one whose spouse had just finished seminary immediately after college. Everyone else was married to a second career pastor. And several spouses were not relocating because of job seniority or responsibility to a family home or children in high school.

But because we all want a move to go as smoothly as possible, here are some tips that might help you.

1. Intentionally continue whatever you do to stay connected to God. Even if you cut short the time you spend reading the Bible or in prayer. Staying grounded in God is a reminder that God is with you always and available for whatever you need.

2. Keep a routine as much as possible, especially if you have children. A routine can offer structure when boxes, empty or full, are constant reminders that change is ahead.

3. Recognize that moving involves grief. There will be breaks in meaningful attachments. Anger, sadness, disappointment, fear, and other emotions are often present. Realize that these responses are normal and give yourself some grace.

4. Give children an opportunity to choose to do a favorite activity -- one more time -- in the town where you live. Our children took lots of pictures of our house, their bedrooms, their schools, friends, and of their favorite places. Making a scrapbook gave us something to do in those early days of relocation, when we still felt sad leaving one church family as we were trying to carve a new life.

5. Be patient with yourself and celebrate the small steps. Adjustments take time, particularly if you are moving from a small town and church to a larger church or town. Learning such things as: how to navigate streets, how to get to church, making connections for yourself and your children, locating a doctor, dentist, a school, a job, a grocery store, and the library, cannot be accomplished overnight.

6. Share feelings about the move with your spouse and children so that you can support each other.

7. Stay in touch with persons in the congregation or community with whom you feel close, but be smart about it. You don't want to sabotage the next family.

8. Invite old friends to your new church, house/parsonage, and community. Seeing familiar faces after a move can be uplifting. Give your children opportunities to reconnect with their friends and make new friends. (See caution in #7.)

9. Clean the parsonage thoroughly before leaving. As a family, say a pray of thanksgiving for your ministry there and offer a blessing for the next family.

10. Be selective about your involvement in the new church. Talk as a family about how you can do things better this time.

11. Do everything you can to take care of yourself. Packing, moving, unpacking, adjusting to a new town/congregation/parsonage/house, finding a job, helping children find friends/school, require a lot of energy -- physical, spiritual and emotional. Light a candle to remember that God is present in these new surroundings. Ask for God's peace/strength/comfort/patience or whatever you need to dwell in your heart as you make your new appointment feel like home.

12. Exercise regularly. Finding a YMCA or fitness center with various classes can provide fun ways to manage the stress of a move as well as a place to meet new people. If finances prohibit joining these places, take a walk around the neighborhood and meet your new neighbors, which you might want to do anyway.

13. Establish a routine as soon as you can to add familiarity and structure to new surroundings.

14. Find ways to connect with other clergy spouses in the area. The Indiana Conference has a confidential Facebook site for clergy spouses to ask questions or share comments.

15. For those of us not moving, I always try to contact a new clergy spouse in our area a week or two after the move. A phone call or a quick visit can be helpful to the new spouse and offers an opportunity for the spouse to ask questions or just talk.

God thank you for giving us opportunities to see a broader vision of your body in each new church we serve. Keep us aware of your presence as we make these changes in your name. Amen.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

April 25, 2011

If Jesus is Lord of the living, why are there so many dying churches?

Ministry is tough. And at its roughest times, it can make us doubt the goodness of God. Why is the Body of Christ so unlike Jesus Christ?

Sin is an obvious answer, but that just sounds flippant and simplistic. While I may not doubt the goodness of God, sometimes I wonder at God's wisdom about giving us free will, except, of course, I would never want to give mine up.

So how do you understand and think about the Church as a body of imperfect believers? How do you account for the Christians who have a lukewarm faith? How do you really live and raise your children as "resident aliens," to quote a familiar phrase from Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas.

Lent is over. Easter has come. But why do so many dead churches remain?

Grace, Kathy

April 21, 2011

Making a Good Move

I am mindful that many families are spending time packing boxes, changing addresses for magazines, and doing all of the many tasks in order to prepare for a move. Some already know their next appointment, while others are still waiting. There is typically lots of emotion surrounding a move-- bittersweet as people say.

Each year in May, the Indiana Conference, holds a "Making A Good Move" mandatory meeting for all persons who are relocating. Spouses are encouraged to attend.
The event usually lasts from Friday afternoon through Saturday noon. The bishop speaks as well as other conference staff.

I would like to recommend a book our bishop, Mike Coyner, wrote in 1999 called Making A Good Move (ISBN 978-0687081332) published by Abingdon Press. Bishop Mike, as he likes to be called, touches on many topics related to moving such as: leaving well and letting go; leadership style makes a difference; fast or slow? finding the right balance; your first impressions; your first Sunday; your first week; your first few months; your first conflict; your first year; your spiritual survival kit. Bishop Mike offers much practical advice in a straightforward, easy to read book. Even though the book is directed toward pastors, spouses can also benefit from Bishop Mike's words.

God prepare us to leave one congregation and serve a new one. Some may be experiencing sadness and grief saying good-bye to persons who have become like family. Others are eager to leave an appointment that has been particularly challenging and stressful. However a move presents, remind us that you are always with us. Amen

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

April 18, 2011

Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition

At the end of our Sunday service, we read the Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition, number 607 in the UM hymnal. In case you don't have it memorized, it is a prayer of surrender and discipleship.

But I'm struggling with this part:
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee of laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low by thee...

This is my struggle: How much is me being put to suffering by God and how much am I put to suffering by other people? I frankly don't think God causes suffering, but I know for a fact that other people do. But in either case, I also believe that God will have the final say and that say will be an everlasting "Yes."

This is Holy Week. I also can't help but think that Jesus had some of these thoughts as well.

As you examine your soul this week, please find ways to stop all the suffering you can.

Grace, Kathy

April 12, 2011

Help Needed for Spouses

I am beginning a new ministry for clergy spouse support in the Indiana Conference. It's called "Be Still." I have tried to locate articles or books dealing with clergy spouse issues, but everything is dated. I am wondering if anyone who reads SpouseConnect can give me any resources that have been published within the past two or three years. Thank you.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

April 11, 2011

Forging a Path toward Understanding

There are many ways to gain meaning from scripture. One way I tried recently lead me to an interesting path. Here's what I did. I found one of my favorite verses. I wrote the verse on a piece of paper. Then the last word, became the first word of the next line. Each sentence that followed was based on reflection with the verse. I kept writing, until I realized it was time to stop--with a surprise at the end.

The scripture I used was Genesis 50:20, where Joseph is speaking to his brothers.
"You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good."

My reflections follow:

GOOD can come from bad circumstances.
CIRCUMSTANCES do not need to determine how I respond to life.
LIFE can bring many challenges.
CHALLENGES can make me more dependant on God.
GOD is the constant in chaos.
CHAOS often leads to confusion which can make staying present difficult.
DIFFICULT times come to everyone.
EVERYONE has the ability to control how he/she responds to life.
LIFE comes from God.
GOD is a real presence in my life.
LIFE is good.

God I thank you for a new way to come to you. Fresh ways to enter your presence give me joy. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

April 6, 2011

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

If you have a chance, check out the April issue of Christianity Today. There is an interview with Miroslav Volf, noted author and professor at Yale. Volf believes that our ability to live together in peace depends on how we answer this question.

In the interview, Volf says that all Christians don't worship the same God, and all Muslims don't worship the same God.

What do you think?

Clarksville, TN

April 4, 2011

Following My Own Advice:Finding a New Church 102

One of my favorite places of community is the YMCA, because it offers friendship as well as multiple ways to keep fit. And occasionally, I attend a women's ecumenical Bible study, which meets weekly in the Y chapel.

Today I was gathering my stuff, when one of the young women in the Bible study stopped to talk. She explained that she was moving to Japan at the end of the month. Her husband, who works for Eli Lily, a major employer in Indianapolis, was being transferred so that he could teach the Japanese in the Lily plant there. She said that they would be gone for ten months.

I sensed that she was apprehensive about this relocation. So, I proceeded in my "wise voice" to share that every time I moved, I learned more about myself and more about God. I continued that in each place I've lived, God has open my heart to new ways of seeing and being with God. My friend smiled, and said, "Yes, that is probably true." I gave her a "benediction" as we parted ways, "I pray God's blessing and care as you travel."

Later in the afternoon I thought, "I need to listen to my own advice. I've been so immersed in grief about leaving my church family, that I haven't even honored the possibility that--I will learn more about myself, about God, that God might even guide me to new ways of seeing and being with God, and who knows what opportunities will appear once I find a new church."

I know that many who read SpouseConnect might be facing a move in June or early July. I do not know the feelings or emotions that are surrounding these moves, but I do know that the same God will be with me and with others who are relocating, when I leave my beloved church family after 15 years, and walk into a new church the next Sunday. God is with all of us wherever we are -- even in faraway Japan.

God, you are everywhere and in your presence is everything all of us need. Keep us seeking you at all times. Amen.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

April 1, 2011

Acting with Hope and Confidence

Very, very early this morning I was awakened by chirping. No, not by birds but the smoke detectors instead. Once I woke up enough to know what was happening, I also noticed that our electricity was out. With adrenaline pumping through my body, I took a quick look around the house--just to be sure. But with the random and irritating noise coming from the alarms in addition to the adrenaline rush, I couldn't go back to sleep.

A couple of hours later, I drug myself to the shower. But first, I decided it might be wise to light a couple of candles, because it was hours before dawn. As I got into the shower, I decided to turn on the bathroom light--just in case the electricity did come back on. And presto a few minutes later, it magically did.

The light (and heat) came on and all was well. Except, I kept the candles going because, from my experience, sometimes it takes a couple of times before the electric company has all the bugs fixed. But in this case, once the lights came on, they stayed on.

For me, this is an example of what hope is all about. It's about turning the light switch on even though the electricity is out. It's about having hope despite your current (no pun intended) circumstance. It's about taking an active step when it might be easier to give up and just go back to bed. But it's also about having faith that people will eventually get the job done right.

In this world, it's well and good to act in confidence (turning the light switch on) but we need to be cagey about giving our confidence too soon (keeping the candles burning). People will sometimes fail us and we need to be prepared, but that doesn't mean that we can't give them the benefit of the doubt. The church will sometimes fail us and we may need a back-up plan, but sometimes we have to give it a chance.

Please pray for folks waiting to hear about their appointment for next year.

Grace, Kathy