Mother’s Day, one holiday in the life of a working pastor mom

For me mother’s day is getting up around 6am to help my children get ready for church.

I get their clothing (laundry being the only thing my husband doesn’t like to do AT ALL). I actually had laid out our clothing the night before, but my leggings for under my tunic on a rainy day (which prob doesn’t matter because I’ll be wearing a robe anyway) seem necessary so the dears at church don’t feel cold due to my sticking out legs. I want to wear my tunic shirt though, my parents sewed it for me, and I wore it for Easter but they weren’t around.

Luckily I find some black tights that will do just fine and easily find another shirt for the 5 yr old. He has a lot more clothes then the older ones as he inherits everything. Then and get back to work to get the kids ready.

I tell almost 9 and 5 yr old no electronics this morning (some days its easier to have them distracted, sometime the fight to get off is not worth it)

My husband comes and they give me a gift card, which I sort of saw when 5 yr old accidentally got excited and tried to give it to me when my husband was out of the house, I convince my almost 9 yr old to rehide the gift. Dad explains that I’ve been working really hard and need to relax, because gift cards are not excited for small boys.

Luckily 7yr old boy (who is autistic) sleeps in, so he comes down for 10 minutes of “Scooby Doo Toys” (youtube; because originally thats what he watched on it). I sneak in his meds as he’s watching (the easiest time to do it) quick before we go. I think about that he’s not up during the present time, but it would probably confuse him as its neither for him nor he picked it, plus he has his own present for me, so I decide that will do for his part of the present giving.

My parents come over because they came up from Philly for the weekend, we all went out to eat the night before for mother’s day (with babysitting!) because then I can concentrate on the worship service. Which is beautiful and perfect, but the significance of the day is still real. I think about this as I think of those electing not to mention mother’s day in church, because its a secular holiday and it hurts. I feel uncertain as to letting the only voices being non-church ones is the way to go. But hey, I’m blessed, so I celebrated some Saturday and do a lot of my thinking today.

Then I look for my black shoes. One pair has been sitting in the “shoe bench” cupboard because the ballet straps look just silly with a lot of outfits, but I can only find one (of course). Look in the basement where I foolishly sometimes take off shoes to change to clean pajamas down there, then the upstairs bathroom where I do the same, finally I look under the couch which is miraculously almost clear, but sure enough my other pair of black dress shoes are there.

We get everyone dressed and ready and going out to the car, and I run back in for tampons, because nothing says mothers day like preaching with your period (seriously the things I reflect on theologically are SO nerdy, did I mention I’m still 33 yrs old the Jesus age…yeah I’m obsessed)

We go to breakfast at Panera, like we do every Sunday, its my survival coping mechanism for Sunday.

I ask my mom and dad to pick up 20 carnations for all the women of the church, and then we head off to church planning to meet them. (Yay for help in getting things done)

I’m on my way to church, still thinking about how to mention all those for whom mother’s day is hard. Reflecting, that its most of us. Who has entirely happy memories/associations with mothers day? I’m lucky in my mother and mother-in-law’s support, but my grandmother is no longer around and that makes me melancholy.

Then I’m old enough to know people who struggle with infertility and miscarriage, to know of those who are yet unpartnered and are trying to figure out what to do with their wish for children, I know people in the queer community for whom mother’s day is extra complicated, not to mention mother’s of children who are physically unwell, have diagnoses or struggle with addiction. I also know those for whom their mothers are just bad news. One friend said she finally has been able to admit her mother is a terrible person. I think on my father whose parents were abusive, the grandparents on that side that I never got to know well.

All of this is in the back of my mind and I go to my bookshelf to get The Runaway Bunny to read to the kids during children’s sermon. Thinking on how Psalm 139 is still my favorite, probably because of this book.

Then I do all the things to prep the church that my one faithful guy always does, but he’s out of town. I prep my office to magically transform into the choir room for 20 minutes and fuss all morning with my butterfly stole which now refuses to stay straight as a chain on the back has broken.

I print out the sermon notes, read over the scripture one last time and think carefully about the promise of baptism.

Right before service, my husband and I talk work schedule because the church’s Chicken BBQ is Tues and he doesn’t usually work then, so I have no babysitting. We talk about bringing the kids to the event and under what circumstances he might stay (boys are helpful) go (attitude everywhere) or just take 7yr old autistic child back. We clarify he CAN work Weds which is usually his day off because for once I have no important meetings.

I see a new couple and introduce myself, nope they are here for the cool inclusive-we-ordain-women-worship down the hall. This is often confusing because we also have a female pastor (me). I offer to walk them down the hall. I am trying to look at all of these as a blessing, though I wish we had a cool newspaper write up that drew visitors this week.

I look out, there are about 5 people in church, including my parents. I suddenly remember that Mother’s Day is a low attendance day for my church (in contrast to tradition, but right in line with modern day attitudes). The reminder actually helps me feel like think are normal.  I help with announcements and hear my lay leader jovially wish everyone a happy mother’s day.

Then people trickle in, and we end up with about 20 people, I hear my parents sing during the first hymn and immediately feel like its more mothers day (How do your children say pe-ace, how do your children say hooooommeee…).

We do a litany prayer and my voice cracks on the mother of those who have physical, emotional  or mental disabilities (which I smartly had put in bold as a group prayer). Then I say the part about children who feel motherless for whatever reason by myself (which is not something I feel) and hope its enough for those who are hurting.

I have the children’s sermon and its just two of my three, the other family’s children are NOT cooperating (which I muse to myself is totally understandable holiday are so oft overkill) so I read them the story and say a repeat prayer and send them back to their seats. Sometimes I have the kids give out the flowers, but it feels silly if its just mine. Plus my eldest will end up doing it all, and he doesn’t need the extra attention, even tho he’d love it.

I sermonize, I talk about baptism and God’s role as a nurturing and creating God. I talk about how mother’s day is hard, but motherhood is part of the church’s class. I preach about community and how building community is what faith is about (subtext: belief is one thing, community faith is another). I feel the hope, and talk about welcome as a part of nurturing. I think it was fairly focused, but preaching is an art not a science, so who knows.

During the Anthem after the sermon, I decide to hand out the flowers. One congregant goes and sees her sister who suffers from dementia. She usually has to leave during the last hymn, and I don’t want her to be without a flower. My mom jumps up to help, which is nice.

During the prayers of the people I emphasize those who mothers day is hard, or their mothers are far away.

Then the service draws to a close, I reflect about the balance, the sermon was happy and optimistic but the prayers were more mournful, I wonder if that worked.

We close service, and we pass the peace and go to coffee hour (snacks my kids call it). My parents run to go see my brother on Mother’s day too. Luckily no one is too sad because the kids are overjoyed by the donut holes, I give up trying to monitor how many they are having, seeing that my 7 year old autistic boy isn’t eating too many sweets for once, and is singing and dancing around the sanctuary. I hear a litany of what is being dropped in the entryway (where we now have coffee hour since we are renting out the fellowship hall) and try not to address it, because today is mother’s day.

Then I call for “Messy Church” and find that the family of recalcitrant kids have been refreshed by donut holes and them and another child who was late to church have joined my own for our more informal type of Sunday School.

I take them over to the baptismal font to talk about baptism. Meanwhile my 5 yr old immediately notices I didn’t get a flower (i.e. I didn’t take one for myself) and runs to get me one. Adorable, makes my day.

Then I talk about baptism and am pleased that the kids are super literate about what it is and what it mean. No doubt the involvement in the kids sprinkling all the adults with water as a renewal has helped. They say they belong to God and that Jesus loves us and we are church family. Then I ask if they want to write God on them to show who they belong to (Answer=Enthusiastic YES). I go and write God on the bottom of their shoes and some feet, realizing I didn’t ask any parent’s permission, but figure its harmless enough that its probably ok.  We triumphantly write God on shoes and bare feet and all the kids love it and start telling each other they belong to God. I start to think this has been the most successful part of the whole worship.

Then we go back to show the adults.

I check in with the parents and warn them about the shoes (1 hr later I realize the marker all washed off in the rain grass, but hey) and everyone is ok with it. so I then take the moment to tell the other adults about the great special needs baseball team my 7 yr old just started, crowing with proud that he loved it and it wore him out. (And realize once again what percentage of my time is spent talking about my autistic child vs. the other two, but try not to guilt myself about it)

On the way to the car, I say goodbye to the Nursery Care College Student who is heading home for the summer. Its her 2nd year for us, and she is working out whether or not she can do a 3rd depending on internship. I thank her profusely, as I know I’m the only one who pays her any attention, she’s not a member, just an employee, which is unusual in our close knit teeny church. She does well, and I want to be sure to tell her before she goes. Then the kids outdo me and almost know her over with a group hug goodbye. 🙂 YAY!

Then we hop in the car (with less fuss than usual), and head towards the playground, because now that the weather is nice we are trying to do that after church. On our way we discuss whether its worth going, because my husband has work soon and it will be a short visit. It looks like rain, if it rains would we have missed our chance? What if it rains while are there?

The kids tell us they are expecting playground, and are not asking for electronics, so we decide to go. 20 minutes of play actually works out pretty well. I sit a little and read, my husband catches Pokemon. 9yr old is super happy he hangs our with older cool kids, and no one really touches the oozing mudpie that is usually the sandbox.

We run home, my husband gets some food and goes to work at the library. I get everyone settled with electronics (totally forget to give them more food), read a short story written by 9 yr old. Lock the front door and go to take a nap.

2 hrs later!!! I wake up. Whoa, I must have been more tired than I thought. Shoot, I was going to originally kick everyone off electronics after an hour. Oh well, thinking my menstrual cycle probably has something to do with it. I go downstairs and kick everyone outside. 5 yr old is totally grumpy form lack of food (everyone else probably treated themselves to a snack) and begs for “new” mac and cheese, the one in the fridge will NOT do at this point in life.

I look at the clock, its past 4. I start mac and cheese, but the kids ate that last night, so I look for more supper. The fridge is basically empty and pancakes feel eh! for dinner. So, I decide its mother’s day, its ok to order, I order hibachi.

5 yr old helps to make mac and cheese, meanwhile 9yr old is outside and again playing with older kids (yay), One older neighbor who also is not neurotypical has a cool Motorbike!. 7yr old is ecstatic and dances about the yard because watching the motorbike is amazing.

7yr old wants to ride his bike (which he can get out of the trunk of the car with a little too  much ease). Luckily 9yr old comes in to tell me the bike is out, so I go to watch. (Just got the mac n Cheese finished in time) Bingo! Have worked out with 7 yr old how he can go up and down the duplex driveway hills into the street and have me watch from a vantage point where I can warn/help with oncoming cars when the few come it. Much better than running after the bike which was what I was doing til now (good exercise but the 7yr old did NOT appreciate it). He plays outside for an hr! Kids ask about electronics and I say after dinner.

Go onto phone and fb for first time. Try to do the mother’s day greetings and thank yous. Think about my sermon some more 😛 and how it went because this is what I do.

Have dinner.

Get the gift from 7yr old, its a hand in a HUGE block of ceramic. He fits his hand, I say is it for mama day. He says yes (I’m his “person” autistic kids usually have one main person they connect to) and hugs and kisses me, very happy there is a mama day.

Husband turns on Jim Henson’s Storyteller, because 9yr old is currently into Greek Mythology–going into 4th grade thats when I remember being into it, husband too, it must be developmental.

Surprisingly 7yr old turns off youtube and snuggles in to watch. Its adorable, My husband and I can’t move, he doesn’t get pajama pants and I don’t go to the bathroom for a good hour. Then he settles in, and we go about our usual things as the boy-boys watch.

5 yr old decides to make cookies with me. He has cute new apron of his own side and can read the picture directions. We decided to make baby cookies (not to be confused with babies which 5yr old told me Dada says “No Babies” which is true because dada VERY clearly told boy-boys we are not planning on more child-longs a couple of weeks ago).

Cookies are a success, and as their only 12 of them (24 mini-cookies) we feel ok about consuming them all! 5 yr old is very proud of his cookie making accomplishment.

We watch the shows until bedtime.

Its a long and good day (less meltdowns by boy-boys). And I’m not sure what it means, but for me this is mothers day, here and now, and it seemed important to share it.

Handy Dandy Tips for Navigating #PCUSA call process for PNC from a pastor

PCUSApastor

Dear PNC,

     1. You are awesome, seriously this is a lot of work, much group prayer and more! Here are some things I’ve learned from “my” perspective as a candidate that might help you know the process

a. this is not a corporate job–its more like dating, the interest needs to be mutual. Although you (the church) do take the more “traditionally male” role in doing the asking, you get to indicate to the pastor when you want to first speak person-to-person.

b. There are three kinds of referrals on the clc.pcusa.org website. the NUMBERS only are SELF-REFERRALS straight from the pastor, indicating interest. The EP numbers are referrals made by an EP (probably yours altho possibly the pastor’s). The other numbers, cs or crs are computer generated matches (which are definitely valid but are without a human hand).

c. When you email/call or do any kind of contact kindly include your MIF #. Getting an Email from Springfield PNC and not knowing what state Springfield is in, makes it difficult for me to indicate my interest.

d. Pastors do NOT get updates (by email or otherwise) if they have been matched to a church. (Actually what you have to do is filter through ALL the churches that have ever matched you and try to find you). This means the pastor might have missed you on their “matches.” Its not that the pastor is uncaring, its just that the pastor gets many matches from churches who will never call or indicate interest, plus a working pastor is probably busy taking care of his/her own ministry, so again, include your MIF number and expect that the pastor will have to remind themselves who you are before he/she proceeds.

e. PNC defines the process. As you know you spend a lot of time deciding what the next step is in the process, try to keep the candidates informed as to where you are and what the next step is, and (approximately) when that step will be taken.  (also, unanimous decisions might be trickier than you think and we believe in consensus and embrace differences, so do the best you can and think twice about requiring unanimous decisions)

 

f. Different Churches have different technologies: The pastor only has 1 video sermon? Probably that was really hard to finagle. Do not assume that the church’s technological knowledge is the same as the pastor. Maybe the pastor wants taped sermons or video streams but the church just can’t get it together. Be open minded about how sermons come your way.

g. Similarly most churches don’t know their pastor is looking: It may be as simple as the pastor isn’t ready to tell them or some other complicated reason. Getting congregational references might not be possible if the pastor is doing a closed search (i.e. their current church doesn’t know). Professional, Peer and Educational references tend to be what you get. Usually you get SIX references while the church only gives two. These refs are prob enough to give you an idea of how the pastor works.

h. The Pastor is juggling a lot. You may be calling when a congregation member died, the pastor may be waiting to hear back from a neutral pulpit, or perhaps he/she has been out sick. Chances are if the pastor is asking for a little time its because they are taking care of their current call (yay! You want a pastor who is maintaining a good working relationship with their current call). Ask twice if you need to and remember that you and the pastor are working in different time-space-realities. i.e. its like you are in 2 different dimensions. Try not to feel blown off if the pastor gets bogged down, maybe that’s just a hint from God about how the process is going and it probably isn’t personal.

i. A good indicator as to whether the interview went well is if it goes beyond the paper MIF and PIF info exchanges and starts to examine theology (i.e. where is Jesus, God, Holy Spirit at work in the church and in the pastor and do those things match)

j. Be honest. Talk about those skeletons, the rough spots, the imperfections. I fully believe that God calls pastors to churches where they can help each other in their imperfections, there is no such thing as a perfect pastor or a perfect church. There is such a thing as a loving pastor and a loving church.

k. The first visit is a conversation, and part of that conversation is showing how you will be taking care of the pastor. These and other interactions will help to “set the tone” of your relationship with one another. Try to be thoughtful if family cannot come, weekends are hard to come by (pastors are usually using their vacations to come out and see you), or if the pastor has pets for the manse, is not planning on buying a house right away or some other life piece that actually has less to do with how they are as a minister and more to do with their personal life situation. Tip: Try to leave some down time for the pastor to get out on their own, and to process and pray about the visit. Its very kind to tell the candidate how many people have reached this point and when you hope to decide.  

 

Exceptional Ideas: Big Church with lots of energy? Consider hiring a young/fresh pastor who has lots of ideas? Fulltime Solo Pastorate? Consider hiring a woman (most women only get part time ministry jobs) Got a favorite ministry? Send the links to the candidate, Want young families? Consider a single pastor with more time or a more experienced, older pastor. Hiring an Associate Pastor? Consider hiring a competent CoPastor instead. God calls different people to extraordinary roles we don’t expect. Moses was shocked to be a leader, Samuel, Daniel and Joseph, all of these people were put into ministries that “weren’t usual” for the time.

 

Also, pray for each candidate, pray that they find God’s call wherever it is. We the pastors REALLY appreciate it!

 

 

Small Church, New Church, Old Church, Blue Church: Credo Reflections

“Trust the Process”

Credo is a great program started by Episcopalians and picked up by the Presbyterians to help with clergy health and welfare (emotional, spiritual, physical, mental, financial). Its a process to work, worship and create so that a rule of life can be developed.

This year the Presbyterians are running the first ever early ministry model. (Previously it was only available to mid-career). I was lucky enough to be pulled randomly from the hat to attend. Its a support network to help what is now the overworked life of the clergy today.

I would say, for me, the process was a success. We shall see how the rule of life plays out and whether I can use the accountability tools helpfully.

Here are some interesting things that emerged for me….

1. Many of the pastors there were wishing to start a new church somewhere…

Which makes me wonder, what is that about? Are we prophets of the future? Are we wishing for a system with more pull? Is this what revolutions look like? Or is this how we manufacture hope? What is at the root of this and how does it effect the church in general as we go forward.

2. I also heard that a lot of people wanted to write, really write something, either through a blog or a publication or something. Recently I read a blog (I wish I could find it again) about the fact that pastors are writers who get paid

I personally feel that is true, I write sermons like I wrote my English/History papers (which I double majored in). Writing papers every week in undergrad was a good warm up to solo preaching.

So as we look forward, and as CREDO happens next year, I wonder, what can we do with these amazing revelations.

 

Small Church, New Church, Old Church, Blue Church–the clergy seems to be moving in a similar direction

Especially considering that us Presbyterians believe the Holy Spirit works by consensus 😉

 

 

Family Church

I went to General Assembly in 2012 as an observer…which meant, literally that I was there with absolutely no ulterior motives, I just wanted to see how things worked. My husband, my three children and my mother came with me. Luckily, my husband had friends in Pittsburgh, where it was, so he was interested in seeing them. Luckily, my mom is a Presbyterian Pastor so she was interested. Luckily my youngest was an infant so he could easily tag along with me. Luckily, I could go.

But it was a hassle, and there I was a young pastor burning with the call to do things–and I couldn’t find the young/contemporary people.

And, I want young people to go to church–maybe, perhaps, even more than my elders do. I want young people to come not just because they are the “future of the church” not because “we need them” or even “the church is dying” but because I am young, and I feel alone. I want my peers to be into what I’m into, I want friends and partners who understand what it is to be fulltime working, raising children, on all the media and a millennial…it hurts, it hurts because its tempting to take the weight of an entire generations’ conversion on my shoulders (which is stupid because I don’t convert people, Jesus does, but I’m only human, so I slip), one night I cried all over my best friend’s shoulder because it just felt so overwhelmed and sad and alone

There are a few gaps that I see that I think that are obvious to me that do not seem to be a part of the conversation in the greater church.

Churches are NOT family accessible:

I could write the laundry list of why, but lets just say…most timing is very inconvenient and children are NOT included in most of church life…they are either tucked away somewhere else or ignored.

and there is never any babysitting…there certainly wasn’t any at GA….and then they wonder why young families aren’t coming.

This is all to say that I am going to the NextChurch conference next week, and no I am not bringing my children, but there is BABYSITTING. This alone makes me know that nextchurch is on the right track.

“We WILL have childcare available for the National NEXT Gathering. Childcare will run from 8:30a-5:30p on Monday and Tuesday and 8:30a-12:30p on Wednesday. Childcare will be located at the Hilton, the conference hotel. We’re outfitting a playroom there. It will be staffed by fully vetted childcare providers through the service College Nannies. The fee for childcare is $75 per child for the whole conference. Please bring a check made out to Village Presbyterian Church, earmarked “NEXT Childcare.” If this cost is prohibitive, please be in touch with Jessica Tate (nextchurch2014@gmail.com) to discuss options.”

Faith and Doubt

Faith and Doubt

If you read the about me statement of faith, you will see that I don’t believe everything all the time (technically I think that’s impossible). However, I stand as a Christian and trust that God fills those gaps for me (partially thru the church). Here is a post about a pastor who is wrestling with belief/doubt, and faith and what atheism means. It raises good, complicated questions about how pastors and churches should be looking at faith…

 

“I was trained to believe that there was no hope outside the Cross. That people are constantly looking to fill the God-shaped hole inside of them. That we are all looking for a Savior. I am not so sure about that anymore. Sure, some people are. Others are content to live in the moment, find happiness where they are, and simply be. Wherever I come out, it will not be the reformed charismatic pastor/theologian I once was.”

Millennial Pastorin’

During a clergy luncheon a pastor related a story where her confirmation mentor was part of a women’s fellowship, so she spent much of her adolescent spiritual life with a group of post-menopausal women……the clergy women laughed and then reflected on how this was probably the perfect experience a young pastor needs to lead a church.

Besides the inevitable “How are you at leading people of differing generations?” transl. “Can you motivate and be respectful of and as yet still relate to people who are 10, 20 and mostly 30 years or more older than you?”There is, of course, a real generational gap…..

I love worship, I ENJOY God, and I think that church can be/should be and is (in its essence) a joyful and open place for people to do “Real Things” To change the world

I also understand that 90% of the congregation won’t ever see much less understand basic things like “what’s our online presence” are we “really actually, accessible to families (daycare? changing rooms? non-judgmental worship? meeting times convenient to non-retirees?)” and that the world understanding of a generation who is underemployed and over-indebted is probably Really, really hard for those who are comfortably off to understand (ex: I was once explaining how my generation feels both unfulfilled by our work and worthless due to our debts, and a fellow pastor noted that her daughter was in the same state of working a random job that didn’t actually help with college debt, but she “didn’t understand what I was getting at” when I explained the predominance and importance of these feelings–talk about a generation gap)

Here’s the hard part of millennial pastoring

1. I am a different generation from those I lead, and I want to honor and understand those experiences

2. Other generations may have trouble understanding the millennial perspective, and (I’d go far to say in some cases) not even understand why these differences are even important

3. Something like only %7 of Mainline Protestants are under 40

4. It is hard to value a “young person” for who they are, oft. times being “young” is the most important quality–one that I’m well aware I and other millennials will lose, and the actual “person” part of the young person is lost

5. This is why some churches can’t do “real” things, because they can’t understand the “real” issues facing these “young people” (note how labels begin to play a large role here.

6. I can’t just walk up to a millennial and have a conversation with them about the “Real Things” Church, Ministry, My Profession, My Struggles and Successes in my Profession, because church is not (yet) important to them, and they don’t see it as a “vehicle to do real things that are important and good” and so the cycle begins again. Plus I’m socially bereft when it comes to who I am and what it is I do….

Here’s the thing, church is the only place I know where many different people from all different walks of life can get together and do almost any kind of “good” that they want. Heck they don’t even have to be members of the congregation, if you have a great idea for a neighborhood, the church is a good vehicle to get it done. All you have to be is respectful and nice, and willing to work and play well with others and the possibilities are endless…I think that’s what God wants us to do…(church should function more like TEDtalks and less like exclusive clubs)

So the question is, why do churches have so much trouble doing it? I’m ready…who is with me!

Empowerment

Ok, Oberlin got me with this poster
There were a million other reasons why I went, but this was the primary one.
Its also why I go to church. (as opposed to sitting at home and being spiritual)
When I was 10 I was confirmed as an adult
I was assisting with Sunday School at age 12
At age 14 I told an emergency Children’s Sermon
By age 15 I ran a Vacation Bible Fair (just one night)
I was empowered, as such I am excited to see what I will do from now on!
Through church I find partners, through partners to be empowered to make a difference in the world.
Hopefully churches give healthy empowerment and partnership to those who want to love.
That’s how i look at it……