February 27, 2013

Sustaining Moral Injury

While even in the church, we suffer from ill-defined and conflicting moral codes, there can be no doubt that some people sustain moral injuries. I see this especially when talking to some returning veterans. In  war, people are called up to perform acts that can be at odds with their sense of right and wrong. Yet out of duty and/or sense of fear, they see and do things they know are wrong.

Let there be no mistake, many people have moral codes, things they believe are right and wrong. In the church, we teach a code of morality. And some churches teach differently from others, but increasingly, for many, the lines between right and wrong are blurry. This is not to say that we live or should live in a black and white world. Seeing gray can be a sign of spiritual maturity. But when we do something that triggers our shame and guilt, even with the best intentions or the best sense of duty, we are injured. And I'm seeing more walking wounded every day. And it's especially hard to communicate your sense of injury and by be heard by someone else who holds a different moral code.

In a world with fewer standards, what should the church do? Is there such a thing as a universal moral code? Should there be? How can we adjudicate the differences?

What moral injuries do you see in your congregation? And how should we address them as Christians?


February 18, 2013

Moving from Another Perspective

I had an experience this morning in church that never happened in the 40 years I've known my husband, Mike, a recently retired pastor. The staff-parish chairperson announced that one of the three pastors, Peter, will have a new appointment beginning July 1. Although I found out about this change a few days ago, I was surprised at my emotion when I saw Peter and his wife, Allison, drinking coffee before the service.

  I am still new into "having a pastor." Mike and I had Peter and his wife, Allison, in our home many times for dinner. We love this young couple. Mike and Peter enjoyed wonderful conversations on various topics related to ministry. Allison was active in the clergy-spouse group in the conference so I saw her at meetings and events, not only on Sunday morning. Peter has been particularly helpful and insightful, meeting with me following the recent deaths of my parents. Mike and I have spent time with Peter, talking about his passions in ministry.

Peter was assigned to the church the same year Mike retired. We started attending the church, shortly after Peter began his ministry. I expected Peter's appointment to extend many years, as he is just now beginning to get several programs solidly grounded and flourishing. I was so disappointed to learn that Peter and Allison were re-assigned.

So, this morning I received a new perspective on pastoral appointments. I was always the one "moving on," often with sadness and the desire to stay longer. Now I know how a member of the congregation feels when a beloved pastor leaves.Through the years, I always had tears when our move was announced. This morning, I had a few tears when Peter's move was announced. I am thankful that we will have a few more months, when we can have Peter and Allison for dinner and discussion. Fortunately, facebook and other electronic media will enable us to keep in touch. I will miss Peter and how he brought God to me.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

February 14, 2013

Preparing the Way for the Next Clergy Family

If you are part of a United Methodist clergy family, this is probably the time of year when you start getting nervous. Is this the year when the district superintendent is going to call and tell us it’s time to move? If you’re from another denomination you might be feeling the pull of the Holy Spirit or a call from another congregation saying that it’s time to move. Some of you have already gotten the news or made the decision that it is time to move and are starting to prepare yourselves – talking to your children about moving, beginning to grieve over pulling up roots, feeling relieved that the time to say goodbye to a difficult congregation is near. And then there is the work of getting your household ready to pack – sorting through clothes, furniture, dishes, cds, and the junk drawer so you can decide what really need to go to the next parsonage and what is just dead weight. You’re probably also starting to wonder who the people are that make up your next congregation. Will they treat my pastor spouse with care and respect? Will they accept me and our children? Are they going to have assumptions about what I am supposed to do as the clergy spouse? All this preparing, packing, and wondering adds stress to what can already be a demanding life. 
One of the ways we as a clergy spouse community can support one another through the stress of moving is to help our congregations prepare for the new clergy family. In most cases we have the ear of the congregation and can find ways to help them understand what their new clergy family is going through. We can talk about how they will need time to settle in and make their own choices about how much or little they are able to be involved in the congregation. If the new family has children, we can talk to the children of the church to let them know a new friend will be moving to the church. We can invite the clergy spouse and children to come to the parsonage before they move so they can begin to vision how to best settle into their new home. In our most recent move, I left a note to the new clergy family welcoming them to the community, and included a map that showed how to get to popular restaurants, grocery stores, and places of entertainment. 
You probably have other, even better ideas of how we can help one another as we transition from one home and ministry to the next. If you have an idea, please feel free to share here. If helping to welcome the next clergy family seems like too much extra work in the midst of the craziness of packing, I can tell you from firsthand experience that this kind of hospitality is one of the best moving gifts my family has ever received. You are in a position to give a gift that nobody else can give, and your small efforts can make a major difference for our clergy spouse community.


Consultation and the Appointment Process

As you may know, there is supposed to be a consultation process linked to how appointments are made. Perhaps the consultation varies depending on which conference you are in, but in our conference here is the process, at least in the past. The PPR/SPRC meet at the beginning of the year and vote whether or not to ask for the pastor to be reappointed or they can ask for a new pastor. As with all good Methodist bureaucratic practice, the committee has a form to fill out. Likewise the pastor has a form on which he/she checks: stay, move, or either. The pastor also meets with the DS sometime during the year. In our case, it usually seems to be well before the SPRC meets. Sometimes the spouses are invited, but I've never gone. One reason is that I think my husband can represent our family interests well enough.

But this year we have a new bishop, so I assume that the process is different because of that. But it seems that this year the pastor does not fill out the form about whether or not to move. I asked my spouse exactly what this meant, but it was unclear. But I certainly hope it does not mean that the pastor has no voice in the decision about whether or not to move. I would find it highly offensive if the judgement of the pastor, who is the leader of the church, was ignored.

From what I've heard from friends, the consultation process varies depending on the DS. Sometimes there is little to none and sometimes there is more than enough. The capriciousness disagrees with responsible leadership, at least to me.

But if the pastor's voice is ignored, disregarded, or even discounted in favor of the church's, it only shows how little respect the DSs and bishops have for their clergy. Over the years, I've seen the collegiality between pastors erode. This just seems an added step in that direction. This is the part of church life that I seriously dislike. Our denominational leadership may wonder why there is so little trust by the clergy toward the system; here is but another reason.

We'll see. In our conference it seems that our new bishop is cleaning house. I hope he doesn't sweep away any chance of improving the morale of clergy and clergy families.

Grace, Kathy

February 12, 2013


Dear people in the dear Tennessee Conference,
   I miss my home and all the memories I have of our 45 yrs. there. Oh the churches, oh the parsonages,,, oh the babies...oh the heartaches and oh the joys!! Many things enrich my heart as I remember.
   Woody and I were only 21 and 22, when we began at Dodson Chapel in Nashville while he finished Vandy and I finished Scarritt College.
   Did we know very much? Nope, but we were willing. And I pray that we learned God's way more than the Bishop's and DS's. (just kiddin'!) It would take way to long to have you read our itinerary of the churches, and it might be boring to you, so I will highlight one huge thing I learned through those years.
   When we began to date two years before we married, Woody explained to me that he wanted to be a preacher. As if that would scare me away, I replied, "Well that's great because I want to be a social worker."
   My pitiful reasoning at that time is that I loved people. And working with them in social work or church, what would be the difference? Poor me.. no one told me about the relationship with the living God through our Jesus and the awesome power of the Holy Spirit. THAT was to be the call on my life, and not a vocation.
   It took me twelve years to learn that. It took me that long to see that my dear preacher husband was not my Lord. Not that he wanted to be but he was so special and a dear man. I was to learn that he was #2 after Jesus. But I didn't know that a living relationship was possible, since God was just a great Man in the sky to me at that time. I was raised in SS classes and 11:00 church but I didn't hear the True message.
   The little book that came into my life in 1967 was, Adventures in Prayer, by Catherine Marshall. I questioned her story with the question, you mean it's possible to talk with God about anything? I began to have assurance that my question was being answered. In a few weeks I saw an announcement in a church bulletin that a Women's Prayer Group was meeting on Tuesday morning. I went because I wanted to know what that was. The love was so amazing, and it brought exciting purpose to the Bible that I had studied only as a textbook for so long.
   Well, I will quit now, but since I can't be there, I wanted to share that most important event in my life. Many great years flowed from that experience.
   Now that I am much older, it gives me greater joy to share it since it was an essential foundation. I pray that it is so with you all. God's blessings always .
   Much love in our Lord,
   Lucy N. Adams

February 11, 2013

Sacrificial Lifestyle and Local Pastors

This past weekend, I taught a class for the Course of Study. In case you're unfamiliar with it, the Course of Study is a 5-year program designed for United Methodist local pastors who have not been to seminary. But this weekend was also a good reminder for me of how much pastors sacrifice and how that sacrifice is reflected in their lifestyle.

In the group of students, there were 2 people who had 3-point charges and several had 2-point charges.While more and more small churches are being served by local pastors, they are often overlooked by the denomination. We tend to forget that these pastors serve churches and have another full-time job. (I say this because no matter what size a church is, it's a full-time job.)

In my own life, my spouse served a 4-point charge, which had over 625 members. At the time, it was the largest 4-point charge in America. And I remember how we drove from one church to another each Sunday. I also recall that each church had its own unique ministry. While we really loved the people, the only time they cooperated with each other was during the annual revival. Can you can imagine 4 parsonage committees, 4 worship committees, 4 nomination committees--the list goes on and on. Just the meetings wore my husband out, but we were young and didn't know any better.

I've always been impressed with our local pastors. And I don't hear them complain very often about how little they are paid or how some churches are perfectly happy not really wanting to be United Methodist as long as things can be just like they were when grandma was alive. While there are advantages to serving a small church (under 100 members), many of these churches are dying, because they don't have the resources in terms of people. But like my students this weekend said, every church can be in ministry and every church is part of God's mission to our world.

Happily some of the churches served by members of my class are growing with young families. One church boasted of 17 children, which is a lot considering the church is an average worship attendance of about 35. But that pastor is optimistic and it seems his churches are too.

If local pastors, which are both women and men, get little recognition from the denomination, their spouses get even less. So if you know or meet a local pastor's spouse, please tell them that they can, at least, be part of this on-line community. Don't know about you, but I'm sure they would bring a lot of wisdom and experience.



Lent is known as a time of self-examination and repentance. I grew up in the Episcopal church. Each Sunday during Lent, the children decided what everyone in the church would "give up" throughout the coming week. Ice cream was popular as was television. No one like to do without ice cream, but there was a sense of self-denial in the practice.

Years later, I heard of "taking on" a spiritual discipline or act of service during Lent, with the idea of forming a new habit or focus.  Taking on rather than giving up seemed to be a more positive/active was of growing deeper into life with Christ.

I decided this year to take a completely different focus. I am using a book by Juliet Benner, Contemplative Vision - A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer. The book is an exercise in contemplative prayer using art.  Reflections and discussion  are offered on ten paintings. (There is a color copy of each painting in the center of the book.)  A brief biography of each artist is given.

I am excited to take on and learn new ways of seeing - and making more space for God in my heart.

How will you make more room for God in your life during this Lenton Season?

Jacquie Reed 
Fishers, Indiana   

February 4, 2013

Teaching Your Child to Pray

Every child has an image of God– no matter what he or she or the family's religious beliefs. This is not to say, however, that this image conforms to the Christian God. It merely means that kids absorb ideas and images from their surrounding culture about God. And it may point to the idea that humans are created with a need for God. But this also means that most children are curious about who God is and how to talk with God.

There is a good article about teaching children to pray  from the current issue of Interpreter Magazine. Here are an excerpt:

"'Prayers can be in pictures, songs, art, movement and dance,' said the Rev. Melanie Gordon, director of children's ministries for the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville, Tenn. 'We have to make sure that we honor that there are other ways (than words) to show God how thankful we are.'
Children's pure intensity and earnestness in prayer often inspire her.

No child is too young to experience prayer, Gordon said. Parents can say prayers or recite Scripture in rhythm as they walk an infant. 'I encourage nursery workers, when they are cradling or soothing children, to say prayers with them and to let them know that they are a blessing,' Gordon said.
Modeling prayer tells children that prayer is essential. She encourages adults to be willing to pray aloud — and not always ask the pastor to pray for the group. The relationship with God is important, she said, not the form of the prayer.

Young children should also learn familiar prayers, such as the doxology, the Lord's Prayer, and Psalm 23, Gordon said. Their understanding of the prayers will change as they grow – what the Lord's Prayer means to a 3-year-old is different from what it means to a 7-year-old.

For more see: http://www.interpretermagazine.org/interior.asp?ptid=43&mid=14626

When we teach kids to pray and how to pray, remember that kids are not blank slates.They have preconceived notions about who God is. So as you teach them about prayer, it is also important to explain who we believe God is. Prayer offers a teaching moment and provides a genuine opportunity for children to learn to be open to hearing God's presence in their lives.

If you have a story about prayer, please email spouseconnect@gmail.com

Grace, Kathy

February 1, 2013

Help for Allergies and Autism

If you or your family have issues regarding allergies, you might try NAET. It may be unconventional but I have seen it work. NAET practitioners also have treatments for autism, but I have not seen that. 

But I do know someone who went to multiple doctors and could not get relief, let alone cure. She knew of someone who had tried NAET and it worked, so in desperation she also tried it. For her, it was like a miracle. If you want more information here are some sites to check out.



Hope it works for you too. God wants us to be healthy and not suffer needlessly if help is available.