Saturday, September 09, 2017

WEIRD WEDDING

It is just as I suspected. A. Weird. Wedding. Never in my life....I guess there is a first for everything.
I arrived at the church just a couple minutes past six pm for the 6:30 pm rehearsal. The church door was opened and all these cars already there.
The pastor was in the sanctuary with the family and friends. I said hello, and was a bit surprised that so many were already there. He replied that the bride wanted to start at 6 pm. Well, thanks for letting me know, as the host pastor!
   I asked if he had the order of service, since his church was doing the bulletins. When we met a month ago, I emailed the pastor - that I would do the welcome, the congregational response - with words all typed out and the congregation's response in bold, and that I would do the prayer of the day.
I never heard back from him. Not even an acknowledgment that he had received what I sent him.
Now, since I am part-time, I confess that I never emailed him again as I have been busy.
  So, he hands me a bulletin and says he hopes he spelled my name right. Now, I know my last name has 4 syllables and is also the name of one of the disciples, but it is spelled the way it is sounded.
I look at it and see Pastor (First Name) Greyhound. What the? He automatically assumed because greyhound is part of email address that that was my last name, although I said my name verbally when we met a month ago. If he wasn't sure, he could've 1. emailed me back asking how to spell my last name, 2. called the church and asked the secretary.
  I've been called: Rev. Sweet Cheeks, Rev. Hard Nose and now: Rev. Greyhound!
  He didn't include the part of the support of the congregation with congregational response. Now I will have to give them the response verbally to repeat. (Stupid)
   The service is a mish-mash of all kinds of stuff. There is not one scripture lesson, there is absolutely no message to the couple regarding marriage, relying on Christ, that we love because God first loved us, etc.
   The Bridal procession is exactly as I feared - the love song from Beauty and the Beast. (Yuck!)
   When I suggested to the Maid of Honor that she may want to be ready to hold the bridal bouquet during the vows (normally the couple holds hands, looks at each other as they repeat their vows), the pastor said they would be facing him while saying the vows. What the? They should be looking at each other and making these solemn promises to each other, not the darn pastor! I always tell the couple to look at each other, they are making these promises to each other and not to me.
  Then everyone gathered sings, "In Christ Alone."
  There's the Ukranian Hand Tie - looks like a table runner wrapped around the couples joined
hands and then they walk around the altar three times.
   The exchange of rings.
   And then it all sort of ends with a prayer by the bride's father, pronouncement and kiss.
   It is totally weird and if there is no scripture or message, why not get married outside?
  I wonder where this pastor went to school - some bible college and no seminary education - although he is 50 ish.
    There seems to be a consumer mentality with all this. We're renting the church, so we should be able to use any and all areas (now also using our gathering space for appetizers and drinks - which was not part of the original bargain) and do whatever we want.
   Non-member weddings are thankless even if the church gets some money for it - just not worth the hassle, the time, and the demands.
   Then, as it neared the end of the rehearsal, the groom's mom asked if I would be coming to dinner - I thought she meant the wedding dinner and I replied that I had a worship service. No, she said, the rehearsal dinner. (by now it was nearly 8 pm), I didn't know I was even invited and replied that I had already eaten (which was true). The rehearsal dinner was at some Christian Church a bit out of town.
I don't think so. I am merely the hostesses, making sure all things for the service are ready and doing my bit part at the beginning.
    Oh, and there is glitter all over the carpets, sanctuary floor.
    I'll be glad when it's 6 pm - the wedding ceremony over, my worship service done, and I can clean up from worship, and go home! I will even be gracious not to embarrass the pastor and simply introduce myself as "Pastor Barbara of (Blank) L Church." I won't even get into the last name part.
God give me strength and help me be gracious and bite my tongue!
  

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

BUSY

Yup. Busy. Busy with the start up of a new program year at the church. Today after working at M church it's off to the L church for a Finance meeting at 6 pm and leading Bible Study at 7 pm. A very long day.
  Tomorrow at L church have to pick hymns, write sermon and children's sermon, make a visit.
  This weekend is the 'thankless wedding". A non-member of an independent Baptist Church who are very conservative - wife to obey husband. The young gal is kind ditzy. She can't make a decision without her family or groom's family. She wanted her pastor to marry them. She is awed by the cathedral church setting and needed a church large enough to accommodate all invited (their church is too small). Although we have a great pipe organ that fills the sanctuary, she is merely having the piano with a couple classical pieces, a hymn, and a couple of Disney love songs! (ughhh) I am playing gracious host. I will welcome, give a statement, the prayer of the day and give the promise of the gathered congregation - that they will support this couple. Then I can sit and watch it all proceed.
I don't believe there's a message - she said she just wanted this hymn sung. They will do a Ukranian hand tie instead of lighting a unity candle (which is ok). But the whole ceremony is weirdly put together and it will be fascinating to watch unfold. I will open the church an hour before the wedding at 1 pm, get everything ready, be host and part wedding planner. The service is at 2 pm, our Sat. evening worship service is at 5 pm and so I will be there the whole time and get things set up for our worship service to follow. The reception will be in the social hall, so parking will be at a premium for our worshippers. I don't know who's locking up, but I will be out of the church at the end of cleaning up for worship. That's 5 hours of my time, plus 2 hours Friday for the rehearsal. I am only part time.
   I am not looking forward to this wedding.
   Oh, and the latest is this: the family wants into the church Friday at 9 am to decorate the church,
probably Social Hall as well as Sanctuary - which is ok because after rehearsal we will be free and clear to go.
  However the twist is: they want to be at the church Sat. at 7:15 am to do hair, make-up, and get
dressed. Did I mention the wedding is at 2 pm? I don't know, but usually it's an hour for hair and
1/2 hour for make-up and 1/2 hour to dress. Or am I unrealistic? Whatever are they going to do for
6 hours? Wash their hair in the church bathrooms? Who wants to lug all that stuff to the church
and remember to clean it all up and remove it? I don't want our ladies bathroom filled with junk
for our worship service. As it is, they are not using the downstairs ladies bathroom with large area
and mirrors. They are using the parlor with no mirrors, how will the bride check herself? They
blew off our suggestion of downstairs and will use the parlor. The bride is quite a ditz.
    The reception should be over and all cleaned out by 9:30 pm.
   I don't think the church is getting compensated for an entire day of facilities usage, yes for
a few hours, but this exceeds normalcy on so many levels.
   The lighting in the bathrooms isn't even that good for make-up. Maybe they're bringing in their
own lighted mirrors. I just don't see how this will happen and only a couple of gals can be in front of the bathroom mirror at a time. I certainly would want to do all that in the comfort of my own home or hotel room and not a squirrely mess in a church bathroom.
    I am not looking forward to this wedding.
   Fortunately, the church secretary is here on Friday(my one day off) and will open at 7:15 am Sat.
and lock up at 9:30 pm Sat.
   If I never do another non-member wedding again before I retire, it would be a good and wonderful
thing. They are the most thankless, time-sucking ministry I do, and even worse, when their own
clergy is a part of it, and I am just a gracious host, running around making sure the sound is on, and
everything is working, etc.
   I wish it were next week and this entire fiasco was over. Pray that I may be gracious and not roll my eyes too much or noticeably during the service.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

SO FRUSTRATING-

It's so frustrating when making visits to elderly members in assisted living or nursing homes and they get moved. Moved where? The facilities, due to HIPPA laws, can no longer tell me, where said member may have gone. I have had to wheedle info out if the person I was visiting had been taken to the hospital. They aren't even supposed to tell you that.
  So, the standard response is to get in touch with the family. Easier said, than done!
  In the case of the latest person, a woman in her 80's who had been a member of this particular M church from her marriage on, taught Sunday School for years, especially the little ones, and raised four boys with not the most supportive husband (at least parentally speaking, and not the most giving of himself person to her as a partner in life), being involved in church and after her husband's death, finally, giving something back to herself, travelled with the pastor or former pastor to Russia, China, etc., has been at a certain assisted living place for as long as I have been serving as visitation pastor of M church. Over the past year, I could see the decline in her cognitive abilities and that she has lost some weight. She's had memory issues for the past 3 years. She can no longer work on puzzles like she used to, she reads but I'm sure her comprehension is low, and she was not one to take part in facility activities. She enjoyed walking, lots. She used to walk outside for an hour at a time. In the winter, she's walk the hallways. Then it got to be that she just walked the hallways all year 'round.
Now she hasn't been walking all that much.
  With vacation and other visits, I didn't get to see her in July, unusual because I'm there every month.
So, on Tuesday, I go to see her, only she's not there, her name was taken off the door, she disappeared just like mist.
  Now this facility also has a memory care unit and I'm thinking she might have been moved into there, indeed, I was anticipating that would be happening. But, no. The desk lady said that if that was the case, they could tell me that. She is not here and I should contact the family. Great.
   Her family doesn't attend church - although all the boys were baptized, went to Sunday School here, and were confirmed. They have a faith background. Surely they knew all their Mom did in teaching Sunday School and all the group trips made with the former pastor. But they don't attend church anymore.
  And it never occurs to them to let the church know where their Mom is, that perhaps, they felt she needed better care or a memory care place that offered her more. I can understand that, but let her church know.
  Children of parents need to let the church know where their parent is currently residing. How can we visit that person, or bring them communion if we don't know where they are at? Even memory care patients can often still recite part of the Lord's Prayer, or remember the taste of bread and wine, or find comfort in the words of institution or a verse from scripture.
   Auuuughhh...how frustrating it is. They might not think much of faith for themselves, but at the
very least honor your parent's faith, know that faith still means something to them, to be connected to their church family, to be connected to God.
   Call the church. Let the church know where your parent is. Help us to continue to include and serve your parent in whatever capacity they are in. We can deal with it - better than you can!
   Sigh. I ended up finding the daughter-in-law's address because she has an unusual name on the internet. I hate doing that. I'm disturbed at how easy it was to find her address. I will be sending
the family a card, requesting where their mom is. We'll see if they call me or the church. I hope they will understand and let me know where she is. We had built up a relationship and she doesn't really get any visitors aside from them from time to time.
   I pray for this woman, I do.
  But mostly, I simply ask that when you move a parent - from their home into a facility, from one facility to another, call your parent's church, let them know so that we can still minister to them, no
matter what stage they are in. It is so simple really. If you love your parent, you know that faith is
important to them, even if it isn't to you. That is but one aspect of loving and caring for your
elderly parent as you make sure they get good care or are surrounded by familiar things, or when you make doctor's appointments for them, or bring them a new pair of slippers that function better for them. Honor and love your parent by letting the church know where they are at, understanding that church and faith in God was an important and often, vital, component of their life.
  Off to make another visit...hope they are still in the same place!
  Oh, and leave your contact info with the church, in case, something happens, or we notice something, and can let you know.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

SUMMERTIME-VBS TIME

VBS began Monday evening at L church. I helped serve fruit drinks for supper, and helped with the ketchup dispenser for the hot dogs.
  After dinner, I was put to work making yarn pom-poms that would become aliens. We made them ahead for the younger ones. Then I stapled 2 foam bowls together to make a space ship - must have
made about 12 of them. Next, three of us were asked to unroll cotton balls! Unroll a cotton ball? I never knew they could be unrolled. Not as easy as it may seem. Some went fairly well and others ended up in two pieces. We only did half the bag of 400 and there's at least a couple more bags to
go. Looks like I will be at it again tonight as this is for Thursday's craft. Who knew in seminary that
I would be unraveling cotton balls as part of my ministry! At the very least, I know I am doing it for the children in VBS - that they will be amazed at the wonder of the universe when they work on this craft and the wonder of God's love for them, and our love for them. Unravelling cotton balls with an involved member of the church and the council president made for good fellowship. It's amazing sometimes how the simplest, silliest of things can end up being a true ministry. God is always
in the unexpected, in the simple, in the ordinary doing God's thing with us and through us. Nothing is ever too silly, too small, too ordinary, too simple for God not to accomplish God's good work of making God's love, presence and good news in Christ Jesus known, to bring forth hope, peace, grace, forgiveness, blessing, life - new and eternal. It is an awesome thing to see unfold, revealed before one.
It also reminds me of God's delight in the unexpected, in the very small and simple, and of God's mighty sense of humor. "Here, I am, in this little, simple act of unraveling cotton balls. What seems
small and silly to you, is of great significance to others, makes myself be known and discovered, and every act contains great love."
  So, I look forward to unrolling those cotton balls this evening! God is there in the midst of it all.
  Next week is VBS at the M church, but I will  be there just on Tues. morning as we leave for vacation on Wed. I've been asked to help prepare snacks for 101 kids that day - grapes and something else. Yet, another, simple, ordinary act full of love and fellowship, profound with meaning, and full of God's presence!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A SAD GOOD-BYE

  And so it was last Thursday, after 13 years and 6 weeks, after 2 weeks of growing struggle, we let Jazz cross Rainbow Bridge. I took the day off, and it wasn't til near noon when we knew the time to be at our vet, not until evening.
  I worked on a newsletter article, submitted a mileage report, petted and hugged this big, loveable puppy who had an irrepressible spirit and whose body could not keep pace with his spirit. But even last week, his spirit wasn't what it had been.
  That greyhound was always underfoot. Wherever we were, he was. He even still managed to come up the stairs until Tues night and sleep at the foot of our bed. And he did have an accident many times before he came up.
   That greyhound never had a lick of sense! Stayed out too long when it was cold and then his paws would be pretty cold and he'd lift them funny.
   That greyhound was always in the way. In-the-way-Jazz, I called him. By the sink, when I was prepping dinner and needed to be there, by the stove when I was trying to cook and standing in
front of the fridge when I needed to open the fridge door.
   That greyhound could exasperate me, but then he looked at me with those big brown eyes, and
I couldn't be mad anymore.
   That greyhound was most always in a good mood. He was happy and content just to be, but mostly so, when we were home.
   That greyhound was a sturdy fellow, mastered the rhythm of going up and down a fairly steep
flight of stairs. He was bony and bow-legged, not much to look at, but a good spirit with a good heart.
  That greyhound was a toy-hoarder. He used to migrate all his fleece toys from bed to dining room and back again. Any new toy that came into the house was his, even those bought and given to
Renoir who has never shown much of any interest in a toy. They all became Jazz's, some more
well-loved than others - especially his most favorite of all - an armadillo we picked out together
at the pet store. That was his absolute favorite one of all - I think because it was just the two of us and he relished getting to pick a toy. I have seen washed this now 3 legged, short-tongued armadillo and it is in my van.
   I miss him. Oh, how I miss him and tears still fall and my heart still aches. The house is abit
quieter now.
  I get up, and he isn't there at the foot of the bed, trotting behind me going down the steps. I reach
for the water dish no longer there and to put the cup of food where there is now empty space. I have called Renoir, Jazz. He is no longer sleeping in the bed, I've since washed. His toys are still
scattered in the dining room, waiting to washed.
  Oh how I miss him. I was with him to the very end. And he knew, he was loved, as ever, for always.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

PENTECOST

Here it is Pentecost after a busy Easter season. How do these 50 days go so fast?
  So, I am making red fabric prayer ribbons for Sat/Sun. Last night and tonight - cutting red fabric into strips. I will invite the congregation to write their prayer for the church on the strip and then after worship, go into the prayer garden and tie their prayer ribbon onto one of the benches.
  The prayer garden is small but a peaceful courtyard with lovely flowers paved patio with somewhat black rusted benches and a non-functioning water fountain with 3 large water jars, one of which is always blown loose and it would roll and rest on its side near the edge of the grass. So now there are only 2 water jars. (or large vases, whatever they are).
   I will leave those prayer ribbons out for the summer at least. No one ever goes in there, except for Easter Sunday when the really little kids had their Easter Egg Hunt there.
   Maybe it will give folks a chance to express a prayer for their faith community and to see their
prayers be moved by the wind - by the Spirit. I pray that their prayers will be carried to God and healing, hope and vibrancy would take up residence within and around them.
   Maybe as I age, I need hope, energy and vibrancy in my self!!! There are days, when I think, I'm getting too old for this!!! And then the Spirit sparks an idea and off I go and cut up 1 3/4 yards of
red fabric into prayer ribbons!!!
   Since the church is a cathedral, it is hard to hang stuff without a ladder and help and whatever is hung needs to be long enough. So, I'm a bit challenged in the use of space and fabric. Somehow crepe paper streamers didn't seem quite the thing here as in the previous church. Too bad! With red, orange and yellow, twice as much red as the other colors, they had movement and brought in color which was really pretty neat.
    So this year it is red prayer ribbons.
   Since I'm only part-time, it also cuts into my creativity and time to do things.
   But maybe I should just trust the Spirit where it leads me and if it is red prayer ribbons - then that's what it needs to be. And then allow God's Spirit to do the work!
  
  

Monday, April 17, 2017

POST EASTER

My, what a busy Lent it was! And then there was Holy Week. Most of which went well - aside from
a memorial service I will prepare and do this coming Saturday. (Not to mention the two in May).
   Maundy Thursday went very well and the stripping of the altar done by just two women was efficient and nicely done.
   Good Friday was planned very well (by moi). The acolyte attempted to extinguish the first candle to early. The choir (which has just started up after a year or two hiatus) sang (you won't believe this! and try not to cringe!) "In the Garden". I know, the most inappropriate hymn for Good Friday. I would have nixed it, except it was the first time they were singing for a service and I just couldn't in all good conscience, squash their spirit. If I am still there next year - it will be an appropriate piece for Good Friday. Our organist who is a senior at a local university, just the nicest and very talented
young man, still needs some seasoning and has some learning edges. I have never sung, "Ah Holy Jesus" and "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" so fast in my entire career in ministry! I guess I needed to remind him that the service is more contemplative than any other in the church year. I do commend him that he doesn't drag hymns on normal Sundays, however, this was Good Friday! I will speak with him about that this Saturday. He did a great job soloing "Where You There?" in the darkness of the
sanctuary. Oh, and the one working the lights brought up the one aisle light as the organist began to
sang and the acolyte was sent to tell him to turn it off until after the singing! Sigh. What is it with Lutherans not wanting to be in the dark? The last L church had a hard time turning off ALL the lights, and this one turned them all off and too quickly put some back on!!
   Easter morning began at 5:20 am for me when I got up. The first worship was at 8 am and it was very good. Then a breakfast followed. An Easter Egg Hunt or rather, Gathering - as they were not hard to spot, took place following/during breakfast. The second service was at 10:30 am. I guess I was a bit tired - and for whatever reason missed saying the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer. Instead
I nodded to the Organist to play "Holy, Holy, Holy" as within the very first phrase, I realized what
I had done! Mortified I was! As soon as we finished singing, I said the Preface and stated, that we "praised" and "had joined in the song of all the choirs of angels, etc." Then I went into the Words of Institution and all followed well after that. Everyone got their foamie butterfly stickers and enjoyed my Easter message! Thanks be to God! I survived, not without glitches, but with grace beyond me,
and I am ever grateful to God. Several folks mentioned how good Maundy Thurs and Good Friday
services were - despite the choir anthem and singing too fast a couple of hymns. Perhaps, grace
abounds even when and despite things going wrong and the Spirit is at work in spite and despite
us. That's is grace and blessing.
   I am off today to recover. I have a massage scheduled for this afternoon. Thanks to my sister and her gift of a certificate!
   Then hopefully, I will be ready for the church council meeting this evening, putting a memorial sermon together for Sat. and all that this week will bring and unfold.
   May the grace of Easter abound in your life and bring you to life.