Church leadership, decision making, lectionary study, liturgical season helps.
Ask the Matriarch: A Church Visitor at a Small Church
I’m a member of the RevGalBlogPals, an online community that supports clergywoman. Because I’ve been in ministry for more than a decade (more than two decades, shhh) I bear the esteemed title of “matriarch.” Which I wear with pride! Today’s feature was an advice column that asked an interesting question about a church visitor. Any member or leader of a small church knows how exciting visitors can be! Click over to read the question and three answers. The answers vary tremendously. What would your response be? This one is tagged Leading the Small Church.
Some churches wear their history like a feathered cape — with the past thrown lightly over the shoulders of the present. The past is color, context, and dramatic flair.
Some churches wear their history like a shroud — with the past draped heavily over the face of the present. The past is silencing, secretive, and corpse-like.
The cape-wearing churches tell stories with many actors, who have many foibles.
The shroud-wearing churches tell stories where one person is to blame.
The cape-wearing churches tell stories that happen all over the place — the sanctuary, but also the retreat setting, the party at so and so’s house, the time we went to Capitol Hill, the homeless shelter, stories told with gusto.
The shroud-wearing churches tell stories that happen in the room where Session meets, or in the parking lot afterward, stories told in whispers.
The cape-wearing churches sometimes organize events by email, or Facebook, and plans can change at the last moment.
The shroud-wearing churches stick to their administrative manual, which is thick.
The cape-wearing churches are a pain to keep clean, what with the play-doh and streamers.
The shroud-wearing churches are clean, if you don’t mind the slight smell of stagnation.
Clutter-free spaces communicate hospitality. The hotel industry understands this. Unfortunately, many churches don’t.
I’m on my way to a “Clean Up Day” at my church. I’m still quite new there — since Labor Day — and the church basement is in reasonably good shape. Still, it’s always good to sift through the flotsam and jetsam. Cleaning up is a good way to learn the church’s history, both formal and informal. I’ll take some “before” pictures of closets, although I expect it will be weeks before I have “after” pictures.
Meanwhile, I’ll repost an article I wrote a few years ago — to draw the connection between clutter and hospitality in church settings, and why I prioritize uncluttering. (more…)
“Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.” ~ Thomas Merton
What You Say to a Hurting Person Matters
I wrote this article for the Tyndale Ministry blog. It’s geared for clergy leaders, who are charged with providing pastoral care. But the truth is that we all come across people who are hurting terribly, and often hurting in secret. How can we respond? What you say to a hurting person matters.
Where do you go to restore your soul? For me, spring always brings a bit of restlessness. On an unseasonably warm day last week, I drove out to Holy Cross Abbey to restore my soul.
I emailed Brother James that morning and he responded that he’d have time to see me after midday prayers at 2:00. I arrived 45 minutes early to have time for a walk. The Abbey’s road cuts through pastures used as grazing land and I love to see the black cows. This day the pastures were unusually active. The cattle were on the move. They traveled with a sense of purpose, an undulating stream of black shoulders and haunches. And one lone white one.
A tractor had just deposited lunch onto the field — a long snake of sweet-smelling feed — and a farmer was calling the cattle to Come Get It.
But there was other commotion as well. Two small vehicles buzzed about the field. A farmer stood on the road near me, next to an open gate. He had a long branch in his hand, which he swung. Soon the vehicles had singled out a bull, who came charging across the field. They pursued him right through the gate and across the road into another pasture.
Once across, the bull stopped in his tracks, snorting. He swung his imposing head, great streams of froth and snot dangling from his nose and mouth. He lifted that head and bellowed. Loudly. Repeatedly. Back in the first pasture, a couple of cows answered him, coming up to the barbed fence as if they wanted to press themselves right through it. The cows sounded plaintive. The bull sounded angry. For some five minutes the bull and cows called back and forth, with me and the farmer between them.
I’ve always enjoyed call and response.
Because I wasn’t there on silent retreat, I talked to the farmer. He said there were three bulls in that pasture, and they’d been in there long enough to get all the cows.
How long is that? I asked.
We’re supposed to give them sixty days, but they’ve had a hundred or so. It’s time.
How many cows?
He shrugged. There’s about 750 cattle in that field.
I finished my walk and then it was time for midday prayer. Afterward, Brother James and I talked about our usual subjects — vocation and writing — but also shame and guilt, Jungian archetypes, instant coffee, the Pope, and hashtags. It seems that social media is an essential part of ministry these days, even for monasteries.
Monks aren’t real big on selfies, but he indulged me. So we can tweet it.
Are you looking for ways to “walk with Jesus” during this season of Lent? I invite you to check out the videos produced by Eran Frenkel in Jerusalem. His most recent video takes us through the Western Wall Tunnels. This is a place I wasn’t able to see on my pilgrimage, and I so enjoyed “being there” virtually.