November 29, 2012

What Else Can You Say?

Last night a couple friends and I listened to another friend talk about her persisting and serious injuries after a recent car accident. One person finally said, "Well, it could be worse. At least you can still walk." But before she had all those words out, another voice spoke up. "Just let her be angry for a while."

Truer words were never spoken. Just let her be angry for a while. Don't point prematurely to the "sunny side." Don't move the conversation elsewhere, perhaps to make yourself more comfortable. There is nothing wrong with feeling angry.

In the Church we seem to have a problem with angry people. It's as though anger and Christianity don't mix, or we think of an angry Christian as an oxymoron.

Expressing angry feelings is healthy. Acting out, lashing out from or in anger is not. Anger can motivate us to seek out God in a deeper way or it can be a launch pad for sin.

If we don't find a healthy way to express our anger and, instead, turn the anger inward where is gnaws at our soul in its dark recesses, we will become depressed. Perhaps seriously so. Holding on to anger by keeping it hidden is one reason there are so many depressed clergy and clergy spouses. Unexpressed anger just creates a cesspool of hurt.

So what else can you say? And what did we finally say to our friend? How about, "How can we pray for you?"

Grace, Kathy

November 26, 2012

Christmas Eve Chaos

My first Christmas Eve as the spouse of a solo pastor was 6 years ago. The couple of months leading up to Christmas had been a whirlwind and I was looking forward to Christmas in the hopes that it would afford me a chance to stop and catch my breath. We had received news at the end of October that my husband was being appointed to a church and that we needed to be ready to move into the new parsonage by early December. The flurry of packing and goodbyes began almost immediately and our heads were still spinning when the moving truck pulled up to our new parsonage just 5 weeks after being told that we were moving. We found ourselves in a place that, at that time, felt very foreign and was several hours away from our families.

We did our best to unpack and settle in as quickly as possible. People from our church stopped by with poinsettias and fruit baskets, the youth group put together a directory of fun and helpful biographies of themselves. One woman offered to babysit for our 5 month-old baby whenever we needed her. Our congregation truly rolled out the welcome mat for us. But despite the welcome, what I remember most about that time is how chaotic it was. That was the year we did all of our Christmas shopping for both sides of our family in 2½ hours on December 21st. That was the year we bought our Christmas tree for half-price from the Lion’s Club, because it was so late in the season that they couldn't reasonably charge us any more. We were invited to Christmas parties held by some of the Sunday school classes and what I remember most is rooms full of strangers whose names I was sure I would never remember. So, why in the world I thought Christmas Eve would be any different from the previous 2 months, I really don’t know. For some reason I expected that on December 24th, the whirlwind we had been riding on for 2 months would magically stop and our little family would be able to do the things that most non-clergy families do-–finish up the last of the baking, watch some Christmas specials on T.V., and put our son to bed and wrap the last of the gifts together.

I know now that this really was an unreasonable expectation. I mean really, when you’re married to a minister and one of the two biggest church services of the year happens on December 24th, that day is not going to be like most other peoples’. And it shouldn't be like most people’s-–not if one’s pastor-spouse is committed to providing a meaningful Christmas Eve worship opportunity. But silly, inexperienced, na├»ve me was so caught up in the chaos of my world and my own wants and needs that I was truly blown away when Christmas Eve did not turn out like I expected. My expectation was that my husband, son, and I would spend the day together basking in the peace of lightly falling snow and listening to Christmas music, having conversation over cups of hot chocolate about how we had made it though such a tough couple of months, and anticipating the joy of watching our little one tear the wrapping off his gifts. Sure, my husband might have to wander over to the church around 6:30 so that all would be ready for the Christmas Eve service, but other than that I figured he probably didn't have anything else to do that day.

Well, suffice it to say, Christmas Eve turned out to look very little like the picture I had dreamed up in my mind. There were still many things that I needed to get done at home in order for our family to be ready to leave for our vacation that was to start right after Christmas. My husband needed to be sure that all the details for the Christmas Eve services were getting done, and many of those details had been left to him to handle. This was his first big event and having it go well would help set a foundation for the rest of our time at this church. However, I was so caught up in my own world that I was shocked when the day passed in a flurry of busy-ness.

What about that hot chocolate?

Time, self-reflection, and experience helped me to see that my expectations we really out of touch with reality. Being part of a clergy family means that Christmas is going to look and feel different for us than for the rest of the world. Our spouses are going to work themselves to the bone because they love and serve Emmanuel-–God With Us-–and want their congregations to experience all that God’s work through Jesus Christ means for humanity. I have come to see my husband’s Christmas planning and preparations as an act of love for God and our congregation. I love to watch him think up and put into action new ways of opening people’s eyes to the world changing birth of Jesus, the Christ, and I do not mind that our Christmas Eve doesn't look like most other people’s. I also know that come December 25th, we will get to snuggle up together over hot chocolate and watch the snow fall. We will reflect on the miracle of Christ’s birth and the blessings God has bestowed upon our family in the past year. And the chaos will have ended, because it always does.

Julie


Almost Advent

Liturgically, the great expanse of weeks and months between Easter and the first Sunday in Advent, called Ordinary Time, ends next week. Once again the four weeks of preparation for the birth of Christ begin.

From what perspective would you have liked to witness Jesus' birth?

Here are a few choices: the angel, Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper,the innkeeper's wife, other
ppeople on the way to Bethlehem, the donkey, the inn, the manger, the stable, the cow, other animals, the star, the people in Bethlehem, Simeon, Anna, one of the kings, the shepherds, Elizabeth, Zechariah, John, the swaddling cloth.

I asked this question to a group of friends and just about every perspective was chosen.

I selected the donkey because then I could have heard every conversation between Mary and Joseph on the way to Bethlehem, as well as during and after Jesus' birth.

Perhaps as Advent begins, your perspective can guide the way to the manger with new insights and thoughts on the miraculous birth.


Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

November 13, 2012

You Are Invited

Most Jews, Muslims, and Christians are devoted and faithful. Still, on any given day, it’s difficult to avoid the vigorous and heated disputes between them, whether over the “Ground Zero” mosque, lobbying state legislatures against sharia law, sharing worship space, dissecting the fallout of the Arab Spring, protecting civil rights, or challenging the authority of sacred texts. With so much rancor, can there be any common ground? Do they even worship the same God? And can religion, which often is so divisive, be any help at all?

Four internationally known scholars set out to tackle these deceptively simple questions in an accessible way. Some scholars argue that while beliefs about God may differ, the object of worship is ultimately the same. However, these authors take a more pragmatic view. While they may disagree, they nevertheless assert that whatever the answers to these questions, the three faiths must find the will (politically, socially, and personally) to tolerate differences.

Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God? may be one of the most important questions of our time.

Your are invited to a frank and stimulating conversation on this question in Chicago on Saturday, Nov. 17th at the McCormick Place Convention Center at 2301 South Lake Shore Dr. in Room W196b. Speakers include Martin Marty, Bruce Chilton, Baruch Levine, Emil Homerin, Cynthia Rigby, and Elaine Robinson.

This event will be part of the 2012 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature.

If you can't be in Chicago, you can still participate via FaceBook.
Go to: http://www.facebook.com/events/246414662152778/

Please don't miss out.

Kathy

November 9, 2012

Why We Apportion






Grace, Kathy

God in the Recent Storms

Watching the news can be hard on our mental health--so many crises, so many hurting people, so much uncertainty. During times like these, it's understandable that we want miracles--to reconcile difference in our land, help our leaders find common ground, sustain our resolve, heal the sick and wounded, and keep us safe in the storm.

But miracles do happen. Consider Christ working through us individually and as groups, or people doing heroic and unselfish things. Last night I heard about some of the rescues that firefighters made during Superstorm Sandy. One man dove under flames and water to hook up the fire hose. A group of firefighters saved children and a pregnant woman from a flooded and burning building. During disasters, true character is revealed. Heroes are made; cowards are revealed.

But heroic character was also shown by pastors and their families by opening their homes and churches to hungry, cold neighbors. So much giving. So much love.

God was doing miracles working through people, some of whom probably weren't even Christian. When that firefighter helped those kids to escape certain death, I doubt that anyone asked if he or they were Christians. They were people. That is all that mattered.

When we despair and ask where is God, let us remember that we together are his Body.

Grace, Kathy

November 8, 2012

Missionary Spouses and Families

Lest we forget, ministers serve across the world. Meet Eric and Liz Soard. These two young adults in their mid-20s are missionaries serving the UMC of Tanzania. They both graduated from Lambuth, a UM school. This is from their Oct. newsletter. I know they would love to hear from you, so I've enclosed their emails below. Eric and Liz have a special place in my heart, because they are also friends of my younger daughter.


Don’t go to church...be the church
If you have missed our blog lately, this has quickly become the focus of many churches in the district. Whether we are doing a seminar on men’s and women’s groups in the church, meeting with church leadership about member care, finding funerals as a place where the church can bring the comfort and hope of the Holy Spirit, or welcoming youth for a Sunday afternoon pick-up game of soccer our churches are quickly finding ways to get into the community and be the church during more than just Sunday morning worship.

We were blessed to be present for the latest episode of being the Church in Tarime town. The church in Tarime is currently renting space for Sunday morning worship. The space they rent is a business that shows soccer matches from the United Kingdom throughout the week, a pretty popular space for the teenagers and young adults of Tarime. What we have found out from meeting there since last February is that there is a group of street kids that sleep on the front porch at night.

Every night they come by and lay out cardboard boxes and by morning they are gone, trying to earn some money for food throughout the day. The oldest we talked to is 18 and the youngest around 8. What was amazing to see in the midst of this disturbing learning experience was the response of the church.

This past Sunday the church welcomed them inside and they accepted, we had 8 of the kids worship with us this past Sunday. The church welcomed them in with one of the church leaders introducing them as his guests. After church they stayed to talk to the pastor about their lives, some of their challenges, and the other place in town where street kids sleep at night. After they left the church leadership sat down and expressed their desire to do something and their heart ache that these kids were out here by themselves.

Families may be poor in Tanzania, but they still have each other. These kids have no one, no parents, grandparents, or siblings. They have left their homes either because they were forced to or chose to, the streets being better than home. Bonny, Charles, Fred, and Chacha were all honest, open, and just about in tears as they told us a little bit about why they chose the streets instead of home. The church will start next week, by preparing a small meal for Sunday morning and giving them some spiritual nourishment as well. The church wants to start small, not offering things they can’t deliver, and we weren't exactly prepared nor had we planned for this.

However, they are excited to be helping, loving, and offering grace to these kids that literally sleep on the front steps of a building, they may not have even known held a church service on Sunday mornings. I think everyone involved in this situation is excited about Being the Church.

soard.eric@gmail.com; elizabeth.soard@gmail.com; www.ingodslife.blogspot.com

Missionary bios can be found at www.umcmission.org

November 6, 2012

Nursing Infants at Clergy Spouse Events

The Clergy Spouse Retreat Committee of the Indiana Conference has formed a sub-committee to explore the presence of nursing infants at clergy spouse events. What policies do other conferences have on this topic? Are nursing mothers whose infants are under one year welcome? What type of provisions are required if a spouse brings an infant?

Thank you for your insights, suggestions, perceptions, comments on this topic.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

November 5, 2012

Liberal or Conservative--Who Cares?

As the call for disaster relief goes out to help those effected by Hurricane Sandy, do you think that the folks receiving help are going to ask the workers if they are liberal or conservative? When UMCOR goes to help churches in New Jersey, do you think that they are going to ask if the churches paid 100% of their apportionments? When pastors organize and plan to rebuild, do you think that they give their members a theological litmus test? No, no, and no.

When disaster strikes, no one is going to ask if you are a liberal UM or if you are a member of Good News. No one really cares if you are for or against the guaranteed appointment or if you are for or against term limits for bishops. All that matters is that you are there to help.

When disaster strikes, it's a good time to remind ourselves about what really matters. All our tinkering with church structure and fretting over the membership of the UMC pales in comparison of getting help to people in need. I think that is what Jesus would do too.

If you would like to share how your church is helping in disaster relief or in mission and ministry, please let us know here at spouseconnect.

Grace, Kathy

November 1, 2012

All Saints Day for Clergy Spouses

On this All Saints Day, I thought it would be fitting to share some of the unrecognized contributions of clergy spouses. While we often picture the lone circuit rider traveling the connection on his horse, the reality was different. Pastors not only traveled with other pastors when possible, but also took their wives and children. In days before parsonages, the entire clergy family traveled the circuit as well. And when the parsonage system quickly followed, the pastor's wife was considered the resident spiritual leader when the husband was away preaching. Being the pastor's wife was considered a vocation of its own. And being the bishop's wife carried even more prestige.

But times change and because of the poor pay, wives had to seek outside employment. A dear sainted pastor's wife was once berated by the bishop's wife for working outside the home as a teacher. Didn't she know that she was hurting her husband's ministry, to which the pastor's wife retorted that when the Church paid for her sons' college education, she'd be happy to quit. But in the meantime, she planned to continue. This happened in the 1960s (not that long ago) and is a favorite true story told in our conference.

We have parsonage standards, not because of kind hearted laity, but because spouses saw to it and worked the system. And I know more than one pastor who was elected bishop because of the political savvy of the spouse.

So on this All Saints Day, remember all those spouses who have made things better and easier for us.

Grace, Kathy