December 20, 2011

Receiving Gifts from the Church?

After years in the ministry, I still have mixed feelings about this. While no one is in ministry to get rich or to find earthly reward, still, a token of remembrance at Christmas shouldn't be too much to ask for. Or am I wrong on this?

Currently, we are in a loving and generous Church. And we do receive gifts from some church members individually, but there is no gift from the Church as a whole. This surprises me because the choir regularly collects money for a gift for the choir director and organist, and I'm for that too. It just seems odd to me that the Church doesn't take the opportunity to say thank-you to the pastor.

Of the churches we have served, there have only been one or two that gave the pastor a Christmas gift. One was a small, loving congregation who gave generously; the other was not as kind and gave only because they thought it was their duty--that was my read anyway.

My spouse has no problem with not getting a gift from the Church. I confess that it's just me. Part of my feeling stems from the fact that the companies I've worked for always do something. So I don't understand why the Church does not.

And I guess it makes me angry to know how much my spouse does and at what expense in terms of time, commitment, physical endurance, and yes, money, without the Church acknowledging his many gifts to them throughout the year. It seems to me that too often the Church acts like spoiled children who believe they are entitled to all that the pastor does.


December 19, 2011

The Messiah Is One of Us

Once upon a time there was an old monastery high on a hill. Each Sunday, the village people filled the sanctuary. Young men wanted to become priests; young women yearned to be nuns. Then one Christmas it happened. No one why or how it happened, but it did. When the priests and nuns entered for worship--there was no one else there.

The abbot withdrew to pray like he had not for a long time. How could it be that no one from the village came to celebrate mass? But despite all the prayers and petitions, no answer came. In desperation, the abbot decided to seek the wisdom of the Rabbi Who Walks in the Woods. This mysterious man was occasionally seen from the turrets, and it was secretly whispered that God spoke to him. Not believing this but with nowhere else to turn, the abbot took his cloak and rushed out the gate to find this man. Perhaps the Rabbi could help.

After hours, the abbot caught a glimpse of a little hut nestled under some large snowy oaks. There in the doorway stood the Rabbi Who Walks in the Woods--smiling and beckoning the abbot to come in.

No words were exchanged, but each man looked into the others' eyes and knew this meeting was meant to be. As they looked at each other, they suddenly began to smile, then laugh, then cry great tears of joy. But soon the tears of joy gave way to sadness and sobs of deep grieving. Feeling cleansed and after a deep sigh, the Rabbi motioned for the abbot to sit on one of the logs that served as a chair.

Then the Rabbi spoke the only words that were said, "I have a message to you from God. What I am about to say, I can say only once. I can never repeat it. What I tell you, you can repeat only once. And you can never speak the words again. Do you understand?" The abbot didn't really understand, but nodded yes out of respect. Then the Rabbi said softly, "The Messiah is one of you."

The abbot said nothing, but his mind raced. "The Messiah is one of us? Who could it be? Is it Father Matthew? Surely it is Father Thomas? Sister Elizabeth? Dear God, how have we served you?" The abbot looked back to the Rabbi and both knew the meeting was over.

The abbot hurried back to the monastery, making plans to tell the rest. After evening prayers, the abbot asked that all remain. He said, "I have a message from the Rabbi Who Walks in the Woods. What I am about to say, I can say only once. I can never repeat it and neither can you. Do you understand?" They did not, but nodded out of respect. "The Messiah is one of us."

The priests and the nuns sat in stunned silence. "The Messiah is one of us?! Who can it be? Is it Father Peter? Sister Mary?"

The next day, things went on as usual. Except each time one brother did a deed of kindness to another brother, the one receiving thought, "Oh, that must be Jesus. See how he cares for me." And the one giving thought, "Oh, that must be Jesus. See how graciously he receives my offering." And each time one sister did an act of mercy for another sister, the one receiving thought, "Oh, she must be Jesus. See how her face shines." And the one giving thought, "Oh, she must be Jesus. See how humble she is."

It was not long before the people in the village saw a difference. "See how they love each other. See how they serve. See how much they love us."

The next Christmas, the sanctuary was full as the congregation praised God for all that God was doing. God was present in their midst as they celebrated whole heartedly. And once again, young men wanted to be priests and young women wanted to become nuns.

Merry Christmas,

December 13, 2011

The Day the Church Gave Us Money

Last Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent, had an interesting twist toward the end of the service. The ushers passed baskets containing envelopes to everyone. Each person, including the children, chose an envelope. Inside was either a five or one dollar bill, with a few lucky persons received twenty dollar bills. There were two cards in each envelope. One gave instructions about hos to give the money to a stranger; the other was a holiday greeting from the church to be given with the money.

A few years ago, Mike did something very similar at our church. On that Sunday, a gentleman came to him after the service and wanted to take him to lunch. After the meal, the man said, "I never liked you. However, when you gave me money in church a few weeks ago, I started to like you, because you gave me an opportunity to do something for someone else." Now, I don't know why the man had never felt inclined to help others, but at least he was honest.

When we got our envelopes this Sunday, my husband, Mike, immediately had a person in mind to give his five dollar bill to; but I am still waiting for God to bring someone to me. The church giving us money? Yes, it happened as a way to help us spread love at this season of hope and expectation.

God, there are times when unexpected opportunities come in your name to spread love in the kingdom. Wherever we are open our eyes to guide us to those who need your love and encouragement not only in Advent, but all the time. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

December 9, 2011

You Is Your Pastor?

This issue was raised in one of the comments and it is a good one. Who is the pastor of the clergy family? According to many, it is the District Superintendent. But is this true in your experience? And how realistic is it that you would go to your spouse's supervisor for help? But who should it be? Who can you turn to for help, spiritual and otherwise?

For example, who visited you in the hospital when you had your child? In my case, just my husband. For some, however, the spouse was too busy tending to the needs of the congregation to visit much during this crucial time.

In our conference, there are counselors available, but no designated chaplain. But in some conferences there is a person at the conference level who does act as a chaplain, or so I've heard. Is this true in your conference?

While I would never go to a DS or Bishop, I would have gone to Mary Morris. I first got acquainted with Mary when she was our DS's spouse. She was smart, kind, and politically savvy. A former school teacher, Mary was the person who introduced me (and others) to other spouses and got me going to the spouse events. When I think about her, I do believe she was a spiritual guide for many of us. I thought a lot of her husband, Bill, but loved Mary. I guess you could say, she was my pastor.

So when I need spiritual help, who do I go to now? Other spouse friends. In my experience, they are called by God into ministry as well--perhaps not a popular idea, but they pastor me.

Grace, Kathy

December 8, 2011

Ministry for Clergy Spouses

"Be Still" is a ministry in the Indiana Conference for clergy spouses who need a listening ear or a word of encouragement. I am putting together an information booklet to use with the program. I wonder if there are other conferences which have a booklet or information pamphlet given to clergy spouses when his/her spouse begins ministry?

If you are interested in sharing with me and my committee I would be grateful. My email is Thank you so much for helping.

God, we your children are mindful that we must care for each other in the way that you would. Guide the ministry that is beginning to reach out to those spouses who need your touch. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

December 6, 2011

Gentle Savior, Do not Pass Me By

Last Sunday and Thanksgiving Day, I volunteered to serve meals to homeless persons. Both events were held in downtown Indianapolis churches, one United Methodist and one Catholic. When I arrived at each church, thirty minutes before, there were groups of people waiting. Then when the doors opened, a steady stream of hungry people entered.

We served over 300 people. I tried to look at each face and greet everyone with friendly "Hi" or "Good morning." Some responded with gratitude but others didn't even look up. They just passed by. After all, they were here not to socialize but to satisfy their hunger-- at least for that day. I felt sad and wished I could do more for them.

Fast forward to Christmas in a few weeks. Imagine Bethlehem and Jesus sleeping in a feeding trough. How tired and hungry his parents must have been. How many people just passed by the stable, not even giving it a second thought? Think what they missed.

As I served up the meals, I tried to look beyond dirty, scruffy, and often toothless faces, and image us all, not here, but in that Bethlehem stable receiving love from the Son of God-- a love available for anyone who comes into Jesus' presence. Jesus will not pass us by but is always ready to meet us, in a barn or even a church dining hall. Where is Jesus looking to meet you this Christmas?

God, thank you for your faithfulness and willingness to meet us wherever we are. Help us not to pass by without looking for your love and nourishment. Amen.

December 5, 2011

Santa Lives in My Town

Liz, a friend of mine, grew up in a small, Midwestern farming community. Here, every year, Santa made the rounds--church, 4H, City Hall, Christmas parade, school. He even visited the homes of the neighbor kids. Liz was always amazed that Santa actually knew who she was and even called her by name, asking how that new lamb was getting along or if she like that new play-kitchen set. After a while, Liz decided that Santa may work at the North Pole, but he lived in her town.

As she got older, Liz visited the big city nearby and was surprised to see that Santa had helpers. But how foolish those kids were, thinking that the helpers were the real Santa. They didn't look anything like the real Santa.

When Liz reached a certain age, she discovered the truer identify of Santa. But that really didn't matter, because whether or not he was dressed up, his eyes still twinkled and his kindness never wained.

Liz has fond memories of Santa. Even though her home is far and years away, her recollections of Christmas intertwine with Santa's warmth and care.

When children see us, hopefully they too will see reflections of incarnated Love.

Grace, Kathy

December 1, 2011

Guns and Church Security

Heard a most disturbing story. It seems that a few churches now have a security team equipped with guns! Yes, you heard right--guns. The idea is that certain men in the congregation are trained in case a gunman enters church with the intent of hurting someone. My friend told me that the church also has an emergency exit plan for the pastor and the pastor's family.

I'm glad people care about their pastor and will make plans in case of an emergency, but the thought of men carrying guns into worship makes me wince. There are just too many people with anger issues and, frankly, PTSD, to trust that someone might not use the gun they say they will protect you with and kill you or someone you care about instead.

Am I just out of the loop on this? How common is this? Do you have a security team at your church?

Happy Advent,