Friday, March 30, 2007

Oh How Many Feet you Meet

Our Assoicate Pastor is turning 50 this weekend. She is taking herself to a spa for the day. She has signed up for various luxury body treatments, but NOT for a pedicure because, she explains, she feels wierd about people touching her feet. As we discussed this, I explained that I've never had a pedicure either. I don't have a problem with people touching my feet, but I have a problem spending money on my feet. (This is entirely illogical as I frequently waste money on overpriced restaurant meals and books I won't read.)

I'd like to test a theory. RevGals who love pedicures are more likely to do footwashing on Maundy Thursday. RevGals who have some kind of psychological barrier to pedicures tend focus on Communion or do a Tennabrae service.

How bout it? Anything to my hypothesis???

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What's in a Name

A nice thing I've noticed about living in an area with many Spanish speakers is that they pronounce my last name right. My last name is not Spanish, it's Italian--or rather, it is an Italianized version of a Jewish last name (and therein lies a story). We lived in pretty white-bread places during my childhood, so I grew up having my name misprounounced by clueless grown-ups and mocked by classmates who knew exactly what they were doing. But Spanish speakers get it right the first time almost every time. It's kind of refreshing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I Just Smite

My nine-year-old son was experiencing wierd ankle pain today. I'm pretty sure he just played too hard and over extended something, but he was limping and moaning so he stayed home from school and I made a late morning dr.'s appointment for him.

Prior to the Dr. Appointment, he accompanied me to the monthly gathering of the Academic Suburb Interfaith Council. The meeting began with someone offering a reading from Exodus 12 and some thoughts on our work together in these days leading up to Easter and Passover. This text records God's command to remember the great thing that is about to take place: God will smite the first-born of the Egyptians and pass over the first-born of the Hebrews.

My son has certainly heard the story of Moses, Pharoah and the Exodus before--but I'm not sure he's ever heard it read straight from the bible rather than mediated through paraphrased, cheerfully illustrated Sunday School curricula.

As we drove from the meeting to the Doctor he remarked:

"You know that part of the bible that guy was reading at first? That part where God says he's going to smite all the first-born sons in Egypt?"

Yes? I said.

"Well . . . . don't you think that's a little dark for Him?"

Wait till he reads Revelation.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Long Range Hunch

Thanks for all the input on the Introvert's Coffee Hour Dilemma. Check out this blog for a sustained exploration of the topic of introverts in ministry.

I avoided the coffee hour yesterday because we had a Newcomer's Orientation right after worship. This is a new experiment: something between that first "thanks for visiting" letter and an invitation to attend new member classes. Just bagels and coffee and a chance to learn more about our congregation without being pressed to commit to anything. After members of the Evangelism Comm. gave brief presentaions, we asked if there were questions. One woman wanted to know if there was an evening Circle meeting. One guy wondered if we would repeat a particular adult ed class that he'd missed. Then one man said, "Yes, I'd be interested in seeing your long range plan. What kind of goals are you working toward? What's your strategy?"

See, I've always read those, "Come Up With The Whiz Bang Long Range Strategy that will Catapult Your Church into the Stratosphere of Wonderfulness" books with a mixture of awe and guilt. Awe because they are so energetic, logical, and confident. Guilt because I don't work that way. I usually have a general sense of the direction things ought to go. I'm good about facilitating conversations about what should be the next steps we take along that path. I do urge folks to make decisions and be clear what they are trying to accomplish. But I don't tend to spend much time developing The Big Plan. I'd have to say I work with Long Range Hunches rather than Strategic Goals and Benchmarks.

Do you suppose this has to do with an NF rather than an ST approach to ministry? Do we need a blog called The Intuitive Church?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Elvis has left the building

Yesterday I went to visit Retired Seminary Professor who has health issues that are keeping him mostly homebound right now. We chatted for over an hour and at one point he gave me an unsolicited critique of my first year at Academic Suburb Church. He said very nice things about my preaching and worship leadership and commented that his wife, who is on our session, appreciates the way I run meetings. Then he remarked,

Of course your big weakeness is your demeanor on the patio after church. You're an introvert and after two hours of teaching and preaching you've clearly burned all your gas and don't have the energy to "work the crowd".

He suggested that I might want to just "disappear" after worship rather than hanging around looking like a wrung out sponge. (He didn't actually say wrung out sponge, but that's what he meant).

How bout it, fellow introverts: How doyou deal with the after church mingle time? This isn't the type of atmosphere we're most comfortable with anyway and Retired Seminary Professor is correct that between Sunday School and Worship we do tend to run clear through our extroversion energy by the time coffee hour arrives. But I'm not sure "leaving the scene" is the best solution.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Group worth joining . . .

From one of those collections of "church bulletin bloopers" :

Dedication and commencement of Ecumenical Stud Groups on the theme “Growing Together.”

from a church newsletter, Greater Manchester, England (They meant to write “Study Groups.”)

Hat tip to my sister for bringing this to my attention.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Walk On

So after a week of silence, here is my keen, penetrating question about contemporary church life: walker storage.

Like most mainline congregations, we have many elderly members. Actually, we may have more than most because there are three big retirement communities in our town. A number of these folks use walkers and bring them to church. Often, they sit at the end of a pew and "park" their walker in the aisle next to them. This 1) creates an obstacle for people who arrive later and 2)is a hazzard in case of the need to evacuate the sanctuary quickly in an emergency.

What to do? One suggestion was to create a "walker parking area" near the back of the sanctuary and then encourage walker users to sit in the back few pews. But this results in the ghettoization of walker users and also forces folks who likely have vision and hearing problems as well to sit in a place where those problems will be exagerated. Someone suggested putting the parking area at the front of the sanctary, but this forces walker users to walk the length of the sanctuary before they can sit down, ( our sanctuary is long) and also puts them "on display".

Another idea is to have this parking area at the back and then have ushers escort walker users to and from their chosen seats. But this is time consuming for our ushers, some of whom are older themselves and probably not the best folks to be assisting those with walking difficulties. I would expect resistance from the ushers on this. I'd also live in fear of the day one of the ushers would stumble while escorting a frail walker user and the usher and the walker user would both go down and break bones.

Yet another idea is to install some walker hanging racks at intervals down the wall of the side aisle of the sanctuary. This would allow walker users more options of where to sit and insure that their walker would be nearby when the service is over. But someone pointed out that this assumes that walker users are able to fold their walkers and lift them up to the hanging racks on their own, which probably isn't realistic in most cases.

So, we are on the verge of "appointing a committee to study the matter". Have any of you discovered a good solution to this problem?

Monday, March 12, 2007

My Day Off So Far

It's my day off, but I agreed to a morning Starbucks gathering with two other clergywomen to brainstorm about a presentation we are giving together next month. A fourth clergywoman was supposed to join us, but she declined to meet on what it turns out is also her day off.

The gathering began with the convener going on a bit of a rant about clergywoman #4 and her refusal to meet with us on her day off. Speculative comments about her character ensued. Opinions about her job not being really all that demanding were floated. Me and my other colleague listened to this awkwardly and then changed the subject quickly. We are both invited to the bris tomorrow for the newborn son of the Cantor at the local synagogue. Neither of us has been to one before so we were comparing our ignorance of what to expect and wondering whether we should bring a present for the baby.

Grumpy Convener listened to us twitter about this for five minutes or so and then said rather loudly,
"Well, to change the subject from penises to the reason we're here this morning . . ."

So how is your day going???? And btw are you supposed to bring a baby present to a bris?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Great American Melting Pot, Part II

Yesterday my daughter was invited to the birthday party of a classmate. We arrived at the birthday girl's home at the hour noted in the invitation and discovered that this party was only partly for the friends of the birthday girl: the house was already full of her extended Filipino family. The invitation had not mentioned an end time for the festivities, so I asked the girl's mother. Her face wrinkled in concern, "You're not staying?"

"Well----my son has a baseball game that starts in twenty mintues . . ." (and the invitation did not mention anything about parents staying)

"Oh. Okay. Well, you can come back in a few hours."

Pressing for specificity I said, "So, around 5?"

"Sure." said the Mom.

So I went off to the baseball game, (they won!), and reappeared back at the birthday house at, I thought, the agreed upon departure time. I was actually about five minutes "late". By the time I got there I joined a group of about five other Anglo parents who were all bemused and/or downright irritated to discover that the party was still in full swing. The mother of the birthday girl, on the other hand, looked genuinely surprised to see us all there and confused that some of the parents were actually instructing their children to gather their belongings in preparation for departure.

"But we haven't had the cake! We haven't done the pinata!"

At this point, a couple of us got it that we were witnessing a multi-cultural learning moment. Anglo-American birthday parties begin and end at a set time. Parents hang around only if specifically invited to do so. A good host begins gently preparing the kids for the party's end so that they are ready to go when the parents arrive at the pre-appointed departure time. Polite guests arrive and leave on schedule.

Filipino parties, apparently, are all day affairs that don't have set start and end times. Everyone comes and hangs out. They end when everyone is ready for them to be over. Only rude people would appear at some arbitrary time and insist that their kids leave right away.

Someone needs to write an inter-cultural guide to party manners.

The Great American Melting Pot

For Christmas I got my kids the DVD collection of Schoolhouse Rock. It's taken them some time to figure out why they should be interested in this thing, other than their Mom's sentimental attachment to memories of the Saturday mornings of her childhood. But they're starting to get into it more. My son especially likes the "America Rocks" section, the one with the Preamble to the Constitution and No More King and The Shot Heard Round the World.

Last night I came into the family room in the middle of The Great American Melting Pot. I came in just as the group of cartoon characters were enthusiastically singing:

"What great ingredients! Liberty and immigrants!"

Dang, I miss the seventies.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Solitude Deficit

I think I'm figuring out at least part of what is going on. After one whole year at this job and in this life reality, I'm running a serious solitude deficit.

My first five years in ministry I was single. Though my job as a Youth Pastor was insanely busy, when I got home, I was alone. I fretted about this a lot, worried that this would be a permanent condition, that I would never have a family of my own to come home to--but underneath all that fretting, was the deep relief of diving into the clear, cool pool of quiet that waited for me inside the doors of my apartment.

Then there were three and a half years of first-stage marriage. This was an adjustment, but two adults living together are not always in each other's faces and my husband's job took him on the road fairly often. I still had the apartment to myself on a semi-regular basis, plus I was commuting twenty minutes to my job, so I had that solo car time to decompress.

The infant/ toddler years were crazy, of course. But the sleep deficit so dominated my consciousness, that the solitude deficit didn't even register much.

During the six and a half years that I was working part time in a small church, my work hours were mostly alone time. There was no one in the office but me. The phone did not ring off the hook. There weren't that many "walk-ins". I had to be focused and productive during the hours of the day my kids were at pre-school, but much of that time I was by myself.

But now---the church is a bee hive of activity. There is a constant parade of church members and other staff popping their heads through my office door to discuss stuff. There is a steady stream of phone calls and e-mails all day. About 4:30 I break from this to begin my portion of the family kid schlepping duties: soccer, piano lessons, play rehearsal, aikido practice. Then the mad rush to produce and/or consume dinner after which I'm either headed back to church for meetings, or playing designated homework parent. When the evening's activities are finally over and the kids are tucked in and sleeping, my husband sidles up to me and lets me know in subtle and not so subtle ways that it's "his turn".

I think this would be exhausting even for an extrovert, but as an introvert I feel like I'm going nuts. I'm getting grouchy with colleagues and family. Sex feels like just another invasion of my personal space. The blogosphere, which I've experienced mostly as a source of support and comfort is beginning to feel like just another group of folks who expect my presense and attention.

Anyone been in this spot? What did you do about it?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Still here

Yes, I know I've been fairly quiet lately. One big reason for this is I've made it a Lenten discipline not to blog at the office. At all. Not even quick peeks during the odd ten minutes between appointments. Not even as five minute (I swear just five minutes!) stress breaks. Too many of these were turning into half hour or more time sucks from which I'd emerge unfocused and feeling guilty. I'm doing really well on this Lent thing, but--surprise, surprise--when you don't blog at the office there's much less opportunity to do it at all.

Otherwise, I don't know, I'm just feeling kind of dry in the interesting things to blog about department. How many stories about the kids, the cat or the folks at church does the blogging world really need to hear, anyway?

Anyway--I'm still here. No major crisis or anything. I'll speak up when I've got something worth saying.