Saturday, September 30, 2006

True Loyalties

We are watching the Ohio vs. Iowa game. I'm not a real football person, but if pressed, I will declare my loyalty to my native state and to the school upon whose campus I spent the first year of my life. I placed three buck-eyes on the TV as token of my pledge. My husband who spent the first 25 years of his life in Iowa naturally has different loyalties, (and much deeper passions where football is concerned.)

Midway into the first quarter, we decided it would be wonderful to order pizza. The order was duly placed. Soon afterward, my daughter whispered in my ear, "Mom, I don't really care about the game, I just want the pizza."

That's my girl!

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Group Friday Five

And speaking of groups...

1. Tell us about any group(s) you currently belong to. (e.g. book club, knitting circle, walking buddies, etc.)

I belong to a lectionary study group that meets annually. I'm also becoming part of a small clergywomen's group that meets monthly. I assume, of course, that we're not counting all the countless committees one necessarily is part of in this line of work.

2. Do you feel energized or drained by being in a group situation? If the answer is "it depends," on what does it depend?
I tend to find committees draining. Groups oriented around study, discussion or mutual support are more energizing.

3. Is there a role you naturally find yourself playing in group situations? That is, do you naturally fall into the leader role, or the one who always makes sure the new person feels welcome, or the quiet one who sits back and lets others shine, or the host?
I guess I tend to move into a leadership role--especially if it seems like no one else is doing that. I can't stand the French Impressionist style of meeting management where we make random brush-strokes and hope it will look coherant in the end.

4. Handshakes vs. hugs: discuss.

Frankly, I'm more of a handshake person. I appreciate a well-timed hug from a good friend, and I don't mind giving a hug to someone who seems to really be in need of one. But promiscuous social hugging??? Meh.

5. Ice breakers: a playful way to build community in a lighthearted manner, or a complete and utter hell of forced fun and awkwardness?

If anyone tapes a piece of paper on my back and tells me to walk around the room asking questions to guess what is written on the papers on other people's backs ever again, I will bite them.

Bonus: If you answered "playful and lighthearted," share your favorite ice breaker.
This isnt' really an ice breaker, but I am known in certain circles as the purveyor of the "wine list game". This really only works when you are out to dinner with good friends, (which is why it is not an ice breaker). You take the wine list, read the description of a particular wine, (oaky with hints of mulberry and smoke), and decide which member of the group this best describes. This game is even more fun if you have already had something to drink before you arrive at the restaurant.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

And then there are times you have to have your wits about you

When I shared the story below with a colleague, he shared this story.

Phone rings at church.

Female voice: Hello, coolpastor? I'm the daugther of friend-of-a-friend. I've heard that you're usually willing to be part of non-traditional weddings, so I'm calling to ask you if you would do the service for me and my fiance.

Coolpastor: I see. Well, yes, I have participated in some services that were pretty different from the one in the Prayer Book. Why don't you tell me a little bit about what you're thinking of for your wedding?

Female Voice: Well, it's going to be in Vancouver in September . . . . and it's going to be a nudist wedding.

Coolpastor: I'm sorry. I couldn't possibly participate. September is very busy here and there's no way I could make a trip clear out to the west coast.

Nudist wedding avoided, reputation for coolness preserved. Brilliant, I'd say.

Of course another colleague who was present when this story was shared proposed that he should have simply responded, "Sorry, I'm not up for that."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I get the Absent Minded Pastor Award of the Week: Don't even try to fight me for it.

So ten minutes before last evening's wedding, the very small, still functioning portion of my brain reminds me,

"Uh, Pastor Rebel? This is the couple that wants to receive communion after their vows, remember?"

"Of course they are. I knew that!", my preoccupied, mostly nonfunctioning self replied.

"And did you also remember that two weeks ago when you and the Wedding Coordinator discussed this service you said that YOU would be sure the elements were prepared and ready to go?"

"Holy Shit."

I raced across the church lawn, robe flapping, berating myself in the harshest manner while simultaneously praying that there would be bread and grape juice in the church refrigerator. I must not have berated myself quite harshly enough, however, because when I opened the church refrigerator I found------CranRaspberry Juice and garlic bread.

Well, you work with what you've got.

The marriage is off to an interesting start.

Friday, September 22, 2006

New Members: Beyond Hoop Jumping

At almost the last minute, we cancelled our scheduled new member class. This was not because there is no one out there who is interested in joining our church. We have a healthy list of folks who have indicated, one way or another, that they are, in fact, interested in just that very thing. What they are not interested in, (or at least unable to commit to), is two consecutive Sunday afternoons of New Member Class followed by a Sunday morning breakfast meeting with our Session to be officially received. Yes, child care was available for all three events.

So the chair of our Evangelism Committee and I started looking at the church calendar to see when we could reschedule. But after a minute, we realized we were having another conversation. Why "reschedule" something that doesn't seem to be working? I've only been here six months, but apparently it's been hard getting new member classes filled for a few years now. It's always the same issue: a nice list of folks who have indicated an interest, but can't fit our "hoops" into their busy lives. And each new member is assigned a sponsor to stand with them as they make their membership promises and to help integrate them into the life of the church--but this "sponsorship" in most cases seems to be one of those ideas that works well in theory, but not so much in real life.

When I think of most new member classes I've been part of, it often seems, in retropect, that they were hoops for the sake of hoops, so to speak. "We can't just take everyone who walks in the door and says they love Jesus! We have to have requirements! We have to give them information! We have make sure all those former Baptists/Catholics/Mormons/Non-denominationalists know what it meanst to be Presbyterian!" But mostly the classes seemed like something all of us were enduring rather than enjoying.

So, I'm looking for new ideas. What do you do? How do you receive new members into your church? Do you feel that what you are doing is life-giving and helpful? What moved you beyond hoops for the sake of hoops?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Day Off

While another clergy friend and I were trying to schedule lunch together recently, we discovered that we don't share a day off. I take Mondays, she takes Fridays.

"Oh, I'd never take Mondays off," she said. "I'm so wasted from Sundays that I'd be good for absolutely nothing. I need to be productive in other areas of my life on my day off."

"You have a point," I replied. "But I know myself. I'm enough of a procrastinator that if I took Fridays off, I'd just end up using my day off to write my sermon. On Mondays, the next Sunday seems miles off so I'm not tempted."

Then there is another pastor I know who told me he takes Saturdays off. Now that made me feel guilty. I often do work at least part of Saturday: weddings, funerals, pastoral care crises, and sermon completion mostly. However, I always have in the back of my head the notion that should there be no wedding, funeral, or pastoral care crisis and if my sermon is somehow miraculously complete, I could, theoretically, spend Saturday on the patio with a book and a drink. That, in addition to my normal weekday off.

On the other hand, one Senior Pastor I worked with in the past always came to the office on Saturday mornings. He said he and his wife had decided long ago simply to concede that Saturday was a work day and plan for that rather than the family hoping, hoping, hoping, that this Saturday he'd be home and having those hopes disappointed at least half the time.

What about you? Which day(s) do you take off? Do you consider Saturday a work day or a day on which you might work but are not absolutely obligated too? I've been considering proposing that I simply work every weekday--but only during school hours and necessary evenings. Then my kids would not need to be in afterschool care. I think the hours would work out the same as taking one full weekday off. Has anyone tried that? How did it work?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Famous Friday Five

1.Tell us about a time you met someone famous.

Depends on how strictly you define "met".

One day in October 1989 I was rushing through the Boston airport. I had arrived in town for a friend's ordination on a flight that was nearly an hour late. I was lurching toward the taxi stand, dragging my suitcase and carrying my still quite new pulpit robe in its garment bag. All at once, I locked eyes with a gentleman standing about 10 yards away who was watching my so-called progress. It was former governor, former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. He smiled encouragingly, I smiled back, then lurched onward to catch a taxi and arrive half an hour late for the service.
Apparently, I also met Maurice Sendak when I was three years old. He was giving a reading at the college where my Dad taught and my parents took me. They say I was quite overawed at the time, but I don't remember it.

2. Tell us about a celebrity you'd like to meet.
Hmm. Probably some of my favorite writers: J.K Rowling probably the only one who rises to true celebrity status.

3. Tell us about someone great who's *not* famous that you think everyone oughta have a chance to meet.

I'm thinking of a member of my previous church who was courageous and compassionate and also a little crazy. She's passed on, though.

4. Do you have any autographs of famous people?
Garrison Keillor. I guess I sort of met him, too. I went to a reading he did at Powells Bookstore in Portland. It was two days before my son was born. Once again, I arrived late and it was standing room only. I was determined to stay--though I nearly fainted. At the end, you could stand in line and get a personalized autograph, or simply purchase some of the pre-autographed books available at the checkout. I opted for the latter and went home and took a nap.

5. If you were to become famous, what would you want to become famous for?
Coolest blog maybe??

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ethics Problem

A certain clergywoman has a son who has Aikido class every Thursday at five. One week the clergywoman's husband was going to be out of town for work AND there was a wedding rehersal scheduled for Thursday at 4:00. Clever clergywoman figures out that there is no way the rehersal will be over in time for her to pick up kids from afterschool program and get across town to Aikido class by five. Regretfully, she figures son will simply have to miss class that day. HOWEVER, that same day son returns from Aikido class with the thrilling information that that very Thursday is the day they will be testing for new belt levels and it is VERY IMPORTANT that EVERYONE be in class that day ON TIME.

As this clergywoman is puzzling about this dilemma, the church office adminstrator informs her that the couple has called and wants to know if it would be okay to change the rehersal to 3:00. Does the clergywoman thank God and shout YES! YES! and AMEN! or does she remind the couple, (who do not actually live in the LA area) that this reschedule will mean they will likely be trying to get the wedding party to the rehersal dinner location at the very highes possible point of rush hour traffic???

Monday, September 11, 2006


Yesterday was our "Kick-Off" Sunday: the start of the new Church School year, classrooms newly supplied, curriculum selected and purchased, teachers exhuastively recruited, families reminded, volunteers prayed over during worship. All went smoothly. Kids showed up--though not nearly as many as we have on our "potentials" list.

But my feeling at the end of the morning was, "Meh." Nothing was wrong--expect that there was no real sense of excitement or expectation. I'd say the primary feeling among staff and lay leaders was relief that we'd pulled it together for another year. The main feeling from parents was the satisfaction of having done the right thing by getting their kids there. And the main feeling from the kids was, "Okay, whatever."

Here's my question. Does Sunday School still work? It's been the cornerstone of how we form kids in the faith for so long that most of us can't even imagine that it could happen any other way. But really, it's a new development in terms of the history of the church--only about 150 or so years old. It was largely the product of industrialization and urbanization in the 19th Century and then spread from there. It didn't become a standard, middle class thing until the early years of the 20th century in most places. There are some places where it still seems to go very well, but I have to say that most churches I see are struggling to keep the thing afloat.

What do you do? I'd love to hear from faith communties that are doing Christian formation for kids and youth in other ways than the traditional hour on Sunday morning and/or a mid-week-in-competition-with-soccer/band/ballet/piano/karate/homework/parental exhaustion program.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Okay, that didn't work . . .

For years, we have grown our own basil for use in pesto and other summery sauces. There is always some excess that we can't use fresh and that we have always washed, patted dry, then nuked in the micorwave until it dries. Then we either crumble it by hand or whiz it quickly in the food processor and save it for dishes requiring dried basil flakes.

This morning as I was puttering in the kitchen, I noticed we were developing quite a pile of extra chili-peppers from the bumper crop in our backyard.

"Aha!" I thought. "I bet the same process we use on the basil would work on these little peppers! We can make our own red pepper flakes!"

So I washed and dried about a dozen of them, spread them out on some paper towel, and stuck them in the microwave. After about six seconds, I began to hear loud POPS that sounded suspiciously like exploding chili-peppers. I turned the microwave off and opened the door. The kitchen was immediately enveloped in a choking wave of pepper mist--kind of like the pepper spray they use to subdue violent criminals. We coughed, sneezed, and wiped our streaming eyes.

"I think," my husband said helpfully, "that we'd better let the rest just dry on the counter."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Beauty Tips for Ministers, The Third Grader Version

So it's been over 100 degrees here in SoCal the whole past week. I've been challenged trying to dress in a manner that preserves a reasonable core body temperature AND a modicum of professional dignity. Today I chose a dark, calf-length skirt, a camisole with built-in bra and over that a long sleeved, silk blouse unbuttoned. Not the height of professional fashion, but I thought I'd done as well as I could given the circumstances. But as we were headed out the door this morning, my eight year old son gave me an appraising look and said, "You need to button your shirt, Mom. Your boob crack is showing."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Six Wierd Things About Me

Continuing with the blogger's block-I-can't-come-up-with-any-interesting-new-material theme, I shall participate in the Six Wierd Things About Me meme that currently seems to be going around.

Six Wierd Things About Me

1. I lose my keys. All. The. Time. My husband, my kids, the rest of the church staff and many members of congregations present and past are very familiar with the routine of helping me retrace my steps,and knowing my faviorite "set-down" places. Remarkably, though this happens several times each week, the keys are seldom missing for more than ten minutes at a time.

2. I twirl my hair. My mom reports that she found me in my crib stroking the back of my still mostly bald head when I was no more than a few months old. I never quit. Until I was seven, I sucked my thumb too as part of the deal, but I got over that. I can tie spectacular knots that magically disentangle themselves when I let go of them. When my hair is really long, I can crochet a strand it with my thumb and forefinger. I can't really wear hats or scarves for long periods of time because it interferes with the habit.

3. I can't keep house. I'm not lazy or stupid, but I cannot keep my house in order without outside intervention.

4. I believe cats understand everything you say to them.

5. I've been know to go a mile out of my way in order to avoid making a tricky left turn.

6. I can't play anything that involves a ball. Back in P.E. class I totally rocked the gymnastics, folk dancing, archery, and trampoline units--but I was totally hopeless at kick-ball, volleyball, tennis, basketball, soccer, or anything else that involved tracking, hitting or catching a projectile of any sort. Things have not gotten better over the years.

Tag, you're it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Highway Friday Five

Hey all,
My brain feels kind of fried lately. I can't think of anything original to blog about. Thank goodness for Friday Five.

1. Driving: an enjoyable way to clear the mind? a means to an end? a chance to be quiet with one's thoughts? a necessary evil? the downfall of our planet and its fossil fuels? Discuss.

I don't really like driving very much. I don't too much mind highway driving in light traffic--but I hate city freeway driving. My family moved overseas three weeks after I got my driver's license, and though I moaned bitterly about the unfairness of it all, deep inside I was going, "Phew! I can put THAT off for another year or two."

2. Do you drive the speed limit? A little faster? Slower? Have you ever gotten a ticket?

Around the speed limit mostly. Not so good here in SoCal where SPEED is the thing.

3. Do you take public transportation? When? What's your opinion of the experience?

I would a thousand times rather take public transport than drive myself. I was perfectly happy in NYC the years I lived there. I just wish inter-city train travel in the US wasn't such a total joke.

4. Complete this sentence: _____________ has the worst drivers I've ever experienced.

5. According to the Census Bureau, reverendmother's fair city has the 6th longest average commute in the United States at 29 minutes each way. How does your personal commute rate? Three minutes by car, 8 minutes on foot.

Bonus for the brutally honest: It has been said, and the MythBusters have confirmed, that cell phones can impede driving ability almost as much as drinking. Do you talk on a cell phone while driving?

I've never gotten into the habit of putting my cell phone where I can reach it when I'm driving, so it usually goes to voicemail long before I can locate it.