October 31, 2012

Help and Thank You Prayers

Anne Lamott says that there are only 2 kinds of prayers: Help me and Thank you, Lord.
Like many of you, I have friends and family on the East Coast. And like you, I was seriously praying for them before, during, and after the storm. Thankfully everyone in my family is ok. But I'm still praying, because there are a lot of people who are not.

And I have no doubt the UMCOR is there, as well as other help from churches across the country. Perhaps your church is providing direct assistance.

While Anne says there are only 2 kinds of prayers, and perhaps there are if you only think prayer is talking to God. But prayer is also listening to God and talking things over with him. As we rebuild devastated parts of our country and head toward the election, I hope a lot of us doing more listening than talking to God.

Grace, Kathy

October 30, 2012

Guaranteed Appointment Upheld

The Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church has upheld the guaranteed appointment. Below is from the article from the online UM Reporter.

...the church’s Judicial Council, meeting Oct. 24-27 in Elk Grove Village, ruled that the General Conference action was in violation of the church’s constitution.
Security of appointment “has long been a part of the tradition of The United Methodist Church” and “abolishing security of appointment would destroy our historic plan for itinerant superintendency,” the nine-member court said in Decision 1226.
The General Conference action was in violation of the church’s third and fourth Restrictive Rules, which ban changes that would destroy that historic plan and do away with clergy rights to a trial and appeal, respectively, the court said. That right to trial and fair process is “absolute,” the ruling states, and it has been upheld repeatedly in previous decisions.

‘Itinerancy is the cornerstone’

Frederick K. Brewington, the General Conference delegate who had asked that the matter be referred to the Judicial Council, argued in favor of overturning the legislation during an Oct. 24 oral hearing before the court.

“Itinerancy is the cornerstone of the whole structure,” said Brewington, a lawyer and lay member in the New York Annual (regional) Conference. “This action shifts power from the annual conference to the episcopacy. There would no longer be a need to bring charges against an elder, just fail to appoint them.

“Elders make a contract, a covenant, to serve where the bishop sends them,” Brewington said. “This turns things into a mish-mosh — and that’s not a legal term. It will take away our ability to attract new and young clergy, who will go elsewhere.”


October 29, 2012

Letting Go Is Better Than Throwing Stones

Clergy spouses and clergy families are often the collateral damage during church conflicts. So much so that sometimes you just have to laugh. We would be bitter persons, indeed, if we couldn't forgive people who hurt us. But sadly, it's too easy to be bitter or want that sweet revenge.

What makes us hold on the those hurts and withhold forgiveness? After all, not forgiving only hurts ourselves. The other person may not know or even care that they've hurt us. But we continue to harbor the grudge, stewing over our wounds--sometimes for years. It's like taking the poison we want someone else to drink. It only hurts us. Sometimes not forgiving can cause depression or physical illness. Not forgiving will weaken our immune system, making us even more vulnerable to other hurts. And don't you know that bitter people look bitter, even to the ones they love.

So what can we do? We all know we need to forgive, but it's not simple. How can we just let it go? Does forgiving mean that we forget? No. Even if we forgive easily, it still takes time to heal--like a broken arm or a black eye. You can forgive, but the body takes time to mend, so be patient. Does it mean that you let someone hurt you over and over? No. Getting hurt serves as a warning to stay away, or when we can't do that, take appropriate precautions.

Sometimes the best we can do is just let it go. That's the first step. The next step can be to walk away or, at least, not cast stones in revenge.

A number of years ago a co-worker told me this when sometime had hurt me. She said, "You may have to wait on them, but you don't have to do them any favors." In the church, you may have to see them every Sunday and you may have to sit in the same room with them during a meeting, but you don't have to do them any favors. You can forgive, but you don't have to invite them to hurt you again either.

Yes, we pray for our enemies, even begrudgingly. But to truly forgive often means that we need to rely on God's grace. That's what makes Christians different.

Grace, Kathy

October 25, 2012

Who mentors clergy/spouses young in ministry?

I spend each Tuesday volunteering as a chaplain at one of the Indiana University Hospitals fairly close to my house. Today I was walking through the lobby and saw one of Mike's (my husband)former district superintendents, Paul, and his wife, Mary. I was so glad to see them. They are getting close to eighty, but remain active in church, community, and family interests.

Paul was Mike's superintendent from 1981-1983. We brought them a meal when they moved. We were in their house numerous times for dinner, along with other clergy and their spouses. Paul and Mary came to our house too. Our friendship with them was close, like family. Paul mentored Mike and the other pastors in the district. Mary mentored spouses with warmth, and genuine care. We were so blessed to be in their district.

I wish clergy/spouses young in ministry could be mentored the way Paul and Mary did for us. They were integral parts of our growth in self, in God, and in ministry. My heart aches when I listen to spouses who have no one to walk alongside in close and meaningful ways. Our districts are so large now, geographically, that there are assistant district superintendents who help the district superintendent. Administrative tasks have increased. Ministry is so much more complex than in the early eighties.

The gracious hospitality that Mike and I received from district superintendents and their spouses the first twenty years in ministry was such a grounding for the future.

How do other conferences nurture clergy/spouses young in ministry?


October 18, 2012

Call to Action: Is Anyone Listening?

Dear Friends, As you may know many dollars, hours, and a lot of ink has been split over the UM Call to Action. Recently the final report was issued. I urge you to read this closely. Do you agree? Is the report specific enough? Do you see this affecting you? What changes do you suggest? Does the report restate what you already know? What is new in the Call?

In my opinion, this report could have been written 30 years ago. In fact, much of it has been repeated for at least that long with no better results. I pray for the growth of the Kingdom, but there are still too many vested interests for real change in the UMC to occur. And as long as we look to our structure to solve problems or for the hierarchy to change, we will remain only issuing calls.

Here is an extended quote from the report:

We affirm:
That the local “charge” or congregation is the primary venue for making disciples. We believe there is an urgent need for redirecting significant leadership, time, and money toward the adaptive challenge of building and supporting United Methodist people and their witness on the ground and, in particular, working to increase and sustain the number of vital congregations.

This can be accomplished by:
1.Creating clear expectations and metrics for all leaders

2.Creating a non-residential bishop to lead the COB and build collaborative work on the adaptive challenge

3.Cultivating a new generation of young UM clergy with education and support systems that focus on the adaptive challenge

4.Creating a unified UM Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry constituted from 10 existing agencies with a new governance structure.

5.Redirecting apportionments in 2013–16 by up to $50 million for work on the adaptive challenge including:
Intentional and substantial focus on new faith communities for new people
Increased emphasis on recruiting and developing young clergy under age 30 who
are called by God and confirmed by the church for leadership
Fostering consensus about the personal and professional gifts, skills, and
practices needed for effective clergy
Fostering a "culture of call" in which congregations regularly invite and
encourage persons with the needed gifts to consider if they are being
Providing financial support through scholarships

6.Redirecting $5 million of general church receipts for theological education in the Central Conferences

7.Redirecting $5 million of general church receipts for focus on developing young laity as UM leaders

8.Reforming the clergy system
Making the recruitment of gifted young people to full-time ministry a
priority and devote resources to helping them complete their theological
Expecting and working with seminaries to train for the skills and practices
most needed to revitalize existing churches and start new ones
Continuing to purposefully avoid deploying clergy based primarily upon
seniority/salary and toward deploying persons where their gifts can have
the greatest impact
Improving ability and processes to more promptly exit low-performing clergy
from the system

9.Reforming the episcopal system
Greater consensus about leadership qualities needed for Bishops in the 21st
Bishops have public accountability for improving vital indicators in their
residential areas
One bishop dedicated and accountable for encouraging and supporting others on
the Council of Bishops
Align appropriate work of the general church more closely with annual
conference strategies for embracing the adaptive challenge

See see the Call to Action as proposed go to: http://umccalltoaction.org

Grace, Kathy

October 16, 2012

Health Care Information: Where Do the Candidates Stand?

Because clergy are almost un-insurable, it behooves each of us to know as much as possible about proposed changes by the presidential candidates.

Here is some information regarding health reform and differences in what is being considered by President Obama and Mitt Romney and how Mental Health Policies might influence models of practice, treatment, and reimbursement. Not all the information might apply to you, but it comes from a reliable source.



October 10, 2012

Prayers for Another Fourteen Year-old

Last week our church buried a brave 14 year-old girl who lost her battle with cancer. This week we pray for another 14 year-old, who is fighting for her life and for the rights of girls to attend school in Pakistan.

You've surely seen the news report, but she is Malala Yousufzai. Malala had blogged against the Taliban and was shot for her courageous efforts.

We pray for Malala, her family, and her country.

Grace, Kathy

October 9, 2012

Clergy Depression

We continue to hear a lot about clergy not taking care of themselves. This self-neglect makes them expensive to insure (sometimes almost prohibitively so)and cuts short their ministry. While most concerns, at least in our conference, center on lack of exercise and excess weight, clergy depression still goes unappreciated and under-reported. Why is this so?

For many people, depression is "just" a mental "thing" or merely feelings of sadness. No, depression is not being able to get out of bed in the morning, or eating too much, sleeping too much or too little, feeling drained all the time, or feeling empty and bored with life much of the time often with no identifiable cause, having too much or too little desire. Depression is a real illness that effects a person's spiritual, emotional, physical, relational, and intellectual life.

And pastors are more prone than average to be depressed, in part because they minister to large numbers of other depressed persons. You can know that you are around a person who is depressed, because they just wear you out. If you are surrounded by lots of depressed people (in the jail, in the hospital, in the pastor's study, in the nursing home, in the funeral home), you need to pay attention that you and your spouse don't get worn out beyond recognition.

What can you do? First recognize when you are being drained by interactions with people. Try not to schedule too much in too short a period of time, so you can give yourself time to decompress. Do not grab another bite of cake or an extra cookie, but take a walk instead. Get outside. Do something you enjoy with friends and family. Call or email or text a friend. Renew a friendship or deepen an acquaintance. Make sure you have something to look forward too. Learn something new about the Bible. Start a blog. Contribute to this one. Listen to some good music. Play with the kids or help them with homework. Get inspired. Find your passion. Identify hope in your life.

But if you are depressed and have been feeling down and out-of-sorts for over six months, check with your doctor. Pastors are too valuable to be wasted.

Grace, Kathy

October 8, 2012

Ever Present Help in Times of Trouble

As spouses of pastors, we see the worst and best of the Church. On Saturday, I saw our church come together and truly be the body of Christ.

On that day, the church held funeral services for a young girl, who had bravely fought cancer for over a year. Because she and her family have been active members of the church, school, and community, my husband knew that there would be many youth who had never attended a funeral and many adults who don't attend church anywhere. We would need to be especially sensitive and offer extravagant generosity.

In addition to the sanctuary where the casket would be, some folks pitched in and hooked up the gym with streaming video for the overflow crowd. As we stood, greeted, and directed people, I was proud how everyone helped, even without being asked. People brought food for the guests and food for the family afterward. Several people took up posts with sound and video. One person saw that no one had put a reserved sign on some of the pews for the family, so he quietly went about getting it done. The day was filled with quite acts of service, not out of obligation but Christian love for the family.

It's often said that the church can be good in a crisis, but over the long term people tire and fall away. Yes, our compassion wears out and we want to move on to the next thing, or even the crises in our own lives. But in cases like this, when your friends lose a child, we will have to continue to stand by for a very long time. It is also why the church is a body of believers. We can't survive or serve alone.

So it was a sad and difficult day, despite the fact that we did celebrate this young joyful life. And there will be bright days ahead, but for now, we will walk beside our friends as they journey through their grief. God, grant us all the grace to endure.

Grace, Kathy

October 2, 2012

Including Children in Worship? All, Some, or None?

Having young families in a church is a sign of congregational vitality. And it goes without saying that having young families also means having young children.

As a young mother, I welcomed childcare at church when it was available. That was my quiet time, when I could worship, pray, and even collect my thoughts. But some parents prefer to sit with their children, because they see it as a time for family worship.

As clergy families, it is different for us, because one or sometimes both parents are upfront leading the service. And there were a couple of times, my pastor husband had to say something directly to our kids to make them behave. That was embarrassing, because I was doing the best I could in the pew and obviously, sometimes, I lost the battle.

But now that my children are grown and one even has children of her own, I enjoy seeing and hearing kids in worship. I think it is important for them to drink in the experience, even if they don't fully understand---but then, who does fully understand God anyway. But it is also true that a baby crying during the pastoral prayer or during the sermon is a bit distracting for the preacher and congregation, but not to God obviously.

Currently in our church we have children's church. Kids stay for most of the service, but have their own program during the sermon time. What we've noticed is that since we started up children's church again (there was a time when we didn't have anyone to do it), our attendance has gone back up and is increasing. I don't pretend to understand what all that means, but I think it means that most parents like to worship with fewer distractions. And I think it means that the kids get more out of an age-appropriate lesson then they would otherwise.

Still I also know there are churches where children are to be seen and not heard. In my experience, those churches are dying. Is your church welcoming to children?

Want your church to grow? Offer something special for young families. Something that they want and need.