Tag Archives: Great Plains UMC

Year of Gratitude; June: Week 3

June’s focus for our year of gratitude is Sabbath. Last week I noted I am not always good at taking time off and giving myself a break. I did so last week, but clearing my calendar so I could have more than one day off (after going a couple of weeks without one.)

This week I am on a sermon retreat. I usually try to schedule one each year, but often they get interrupted by funerals and other things. I get some sermon work done, but it never feels like enough.

This week I chose to be part of the Great Plains UMC offerings of a retreat called “A Time Apart.” Pastor Rebecca is offered this as part of the Transition into Ministry program and I decided to tag along. Beginning Sunday evening, it ends this this afternoon.

What a gift this has been! The retreat is being held at The Spiritual Life Center in Bel Aire, north of Wichita. I could have slept at home and driven in and out, but chose to stay. A much better choice as I was up early and walked and walked in the evening and had plenty of quiet and reflective time. At home I have a tendency to be driven by the many things left undone. The space is beautiful. This  morning I saw the moon reflected on the water, one of the many times this small body of water was as smooth as glass:

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I am not sure the moon in the water is all that evident in my picture but it was beautiful The water’s edge is teaming with life: baby turtles, little sun fish and big carp and catfish often nibbling on the moss. Some crawdads and water snakes. Geese honking and swimming, small and large blue heron, standing tall and paying attention to the water.

This retreat, respite from the normal daily tasks of work have been good for my soul. This time has allowed some creativity and energy to be part my long range sermon planning. The time is work, but at different pace, in a seperate place and surrounded by prayer and grace. The chapel where we held Morning and Evening Prayer has amazing accoustics. Perhaps you can imagine what it sounds like when several preachers sing! One of my favorites this week, was a personal favorite, It is Well With My Soul.” 

So today I plan to write a thank you note to the Spiritual Life Center for providing such a beautiful retreat setting. I will say thank you to the retreat leader. I have found myself profoundly grateful the last few days for this gift of time and space.

How do you find time and space for retreat from your normal everyday activities? Where do you find rest for your soul? Is it well with your soul? I pray you find Sabbath this week, where you may encounter the God of grace and love.

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Jesus on the Move: Witnesses

What a week it has been filled with experiences and joy! It feels like a long time since I have come to blog. I tried to blog toward the end of the week, but the internet at the hotel was intermittent and I couldn’t pull up my site. Soooo, I waited to share all the wonderful joys of the week.

This week was the Great Plains Annual Conference. For United Methodists, this annual meeting is part business and part family reunion. Both the business and the family part is filled with smiles and snark, laughter and tears, anxiety and contentment and the push and pull of different understandings. This was the year we elected General and Jurisdiction delegates for 2020. Elections add a layer of tensions because these are the persons that will help make decisions about the future of our denomination.

Annual Conference is also a time of worship. This year, Rebecca Goltry Mohr was approved as a full member and ordained as an elder. On Thursday, she was introduced to both clergy session and the full annual conference.

 

On Friday was her ordination! What a joy it was to have 50 people from First UMC there to celebrate with her as well as family, friends and the whole of the Great Plains Conference.

Saturday began with a 5K

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Then, after difficult conversations and debates, the annual conference voted to stand opposed to the traditional plan passed at General Conference. I do not know what that means in the long run, but I am hopeful for the work of being an open and inclusive church has truly begun.

The bishop “fixed” our appointments so Pastor Rebecca and I will return for another year of ministry.

Which brings us to worship today. This is the last Sunday in Easter and we remembered the Ascension of Jesus. This moment of Jesus’ departure reminds us we are called to continue to be on the move with Jesus and to be witness to all! In the service we celebrated Pastor Rebecca’s ordination and commissioned a mission as well has celebrated the Sacrament of Holy Communion. You can find the worship service in its entirety here.

I am grateful to continue to serve and to share God’s love with all.

 

 

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Year of Gratitude, January: Week 3

Like last week, I was out of town again this week. The first two full weeks of January tend to be like that on my schedule. This week was the Great Plains Conference annual meeting of Orders and Fellowship. For those “non United Methodist” people it is a meeting of the clergy with several goals in mind: continuing education, orders meetings (which is usually split into Elders, Deacons and Local Pastors, but not always) and fellowship. This meeting moves around but this year it was held at the Church of the Resurrection the largest United Methodist Church in our annual conference and the United States.

It is a beautiful facility and huge, literally huge. Recently it has become well known for having created the largest stained glass window in the world in the new sanctuary that seats 3500.

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There are certainly better pictures, but you can find those by searching in your favorite search engine. The sanctuary is well thought out, deeply theological and purposeful. The design makes it feel more intimate that you might image. I was most impressed as Adam Hamilton, founding pastor and senior pastor explained the concepts not only of this window, but of the entire sanctuary.

It was good to be there for many reasons. I am grateful for my clergy colleagues, the presenters, and the time just to be with these people that have this most particular calling. Part of the focus of the week was to look at self care and mental health issues. It was pointed out in a sermon and in presentations that gratitude was one of those things that helped people feel better about their lives. Gratitude isn’t a self help cure for depression or mental illness, but it is a vehicle that can help.

Last week I invited you to write a thank you note to someone whose vision and faith made it possible for you to be part of the community of faith.This week, I want you to challenge you to write a thank you note to someone who helps you be your best self. Is there a colleague that you seek out when you need advise or help thinking through a work problem? Is there a friend, that no matter how long it has been since you have seen them, your time together is a gift. Is there someone who blesses you, by their laughter, their love and their unique self? This week, write a thank you note to that friend or colleague or acquaintance that helps your be your most authentic self. Add a prayer of gratitude for that relationship and ask God to help you be that kind of person for someone else.

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#ClergyShaming

It has been an interesting week. I usually come to clergy events with mixed feelings. I know not to expect over the top great continuing education. Annual conferences don’t have those kind of resources to usually underwrite top-notch events. In all my years of ministry that has been true. Occasionally someone has been brought in that was pretty great, but mostly I don’t expect it. I go to national events for those kind of experiences.

I go to annual conference events mostly for the fellowship, seeing people I only see a couple of times a year. This year was no different. I have heard Michael Slaughter more than once  and heard OF Clif Christopher so I knew it would be ok, or perhaps more accurately, I thought it would be. I am saddened and angry that it was not.

It is hard to know where to begin, but suffice to say that after thirty plus years of ministry I did not expect the overwhelming arrogance and maleness of the event. When I was a young clergywoman (and yes I was young once) I expected to do a great deal of translating. There were not many clergy women and so all the examples and all the stories were about men and for men and were usable by men. Jokes were often about male experience and too often with women as the lesser partners in the mix.

Fast forward to 2018. I would guess at least one-third of the room were clergy women. Women serve on the cabinet, as executive directors of our institutions, and are senior pastors of large churches. To have session after session with little or no positive examples of women’s leadership is unconscionable. PARTICULARLY in these days of the #MeToo movement.

The opening session and the example of a prostate exam and the doctor being somewhere “his wife” hadn’t seen was terrible and inappropriate and if not boundary crossing, it was border line. Women have been having “invasive” exams since their teens. Humilitating? Ok, but don’t expect everyone to have a moment of sympathy. It wasn’t funny for many and frankly wasn’t needed. Then the comment by the other speaker “Sorry I’m off the market ladies and I know she’ll (his wife) “have my supper ready.” The context was about thank you’s, but again it was inappropriate. There are far more examples that could have conveyed the same point, unless of course you are more interested in using the same tired “good ol’ boy” strategies for the 21st century.

Using military examples can work for some people. However, using the example of being in the Gulf War and having the Iraqi’s surrender was in my ears terribly demeaning and racist. The point the speaker was trying to make was that we need to be trained as Christians rather than pretend to be Christians. The example was that the Iraqis were wearing an Iraqi uniform, carrying Iraqi guns and when confronted with the American troops surrendered. The way it was told was patronizing. And the tag line of the solider who only had twelve bullets for his gun and needed back up in case those P.O.W.’s got ruly just was icing on the cake. How many other examples are there of people who are “pretending” to be Christian can we use that doesn’t look down on another country or another people? How about cowboys that wear the ten gallon hats but have never ridden a horse? Or snow bunnies who go to the lodges wear ski clothes but never get on the slope?

And the Body shaming was stunning. I was not personally affected by that other than amazed that it was being said. Comments like, “you can not be an effective leader if you overweight.” That was said in more than one way and in more than one session. I am ten pounds overweight and know it. Others are being humilated by being told they are ineffective and “fat.”

 

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I talked and heard from dozens of women and men who were unimpressed and saddened and even sickened by what was happening. Yelling at clergy, at anyone and telling them they are dumb and stupid for not doing something is not just unhelpful, it is abusive. The thing is, there was so much potential and opportunity to help clergy to learn and grow. One young woman said to me (and I have permission to share), “I don’t care if he wants a Mercedes convertible, I don’t appreciate being told that getting my Master’s degree was stupid and going into debt to do so on behalf of the church was dumb. He can talk money to me all he wants, what I want is enough money to pay my children’s pediatrician bills.”

I am not listing every comment I heard from the speakers or from my colleagues. I may have another blog coming on this subject. I know the purpose of the conference was to help clergy in terms of stewardship and reaching out to change lives. Yelling at clergy, telling them they have done it all wrong, regularly using like stupid and dumb usually is not very motivativing. I believe it counter-productive. Frankly, I am DONE with listening and exposing myself to people who think they have all the answers and are insulting to my intelligence. I am DONE with male jokes, the mansplaining, and the clergy shaming. Done.

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I want to motivate clergy to do better. I want people, my colleagues, myself to be healthier, stronger and more productive. I don’t want the church to fail or to miss opportunities to change lives or make a difference in the world. What I do want is an environment that is healthy, that is encouraging, that is godly and that does not demean or belittle or stereotype. I want a  place that does not assume that everyone is the same, that every church is the same and that every person will come with the same abilities and gifts.

In fact, isn’t that what “church” is all about? We are the body of Christ, not all alike, with different gifts and abilities, and we are brothers and sisters. We are the beloved children of God.

So, I say #TimesUp church! #TimesUp! We can do better, we must do better if we think we are going a reach out beyond our walls. I don’t want to have one more #MeToo story from the church. No more verbal abuse, no more #bodyshaming, no more #ClergyShaming. Not only do we need to do better, we need to be better than this.

 

 

 

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Preach, Pray or Die

There is an old saying among United Methodist clergy that we are to be ready at a moment’s notice to “Preach, Pray or Die.” The last couple of days I have been hanging out with my colleagues at a meeting that the Bishop calls each year. It is a time of continuing education, worship and reconnecting with each other. Mostly, what I enjoy is the hanging out together.

I am in a new annual conference. Just a few short years ago, the Great Plains conference was three distinct annual conferences with two bishops. So, it is a bit of a challenge living into a new relationship with so many clergy that I do not know.

Two of my talented colleagues, Amy Lippoldt and Ben Hanne decided to find a way to get better acquainted with their brothers and sisters of this new conference and share that information with others. They created a podcast called “Preach, Pray or Die”
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I was privileged to be one of the people the interviewed. It gave me an opportunity to remember my call and to remember the women who went before me. I share the link to the podcast Preach, Pray or Die It helps me remember why I am graced to serve.

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