Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's official!

Thanks be to God - Tristan English and I were ordained on September 29, 2010!

Here is the first picture (thanks to Pamela Kandt) and more will be posted when I get them.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

EfM Cubes

If you click on this image, you will find an online album with the files for the EfM Cubes I use at training. They are pictures because you can't easily attach a .pdf to a blog. Some day I will figure out a better way.

Culture and tradition meet in this song.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I choose this challenge

A week ago I was driving over Togwotee Pass on my way home from St. John's Episcopal Church where Mary Erickson was ordained to the priesthood. I spent the day in tears of joy with Mary, but while driving over the pass I found myself crying as I think ahead to ordination. I was in a construction zone and couldn't pull over so I blubbered along for several miles. It is still puzzling why thinking about ordination makes me cry, but today I figured something out that links my summer as chaplain at camp with my future as a priest.

The activities at Wyoming Wilderness Camp are Challenge by Choice. The challenge holds the promise that I may be able to complete the challenge - but if I can't, there is still a promise of learning something new. It seems to me that it kind of translates to a possibility of failure, but we don't usually mention that to campers.

During staff week, I was offered a challenge to cross the rungs of a "ladder" made from sticks held by camp staff. To accept, I had to say out loud, "I, Kay, accept this challenge."

I said it, and then I entered the challenge. I had a hard time getting up on the rungs, but the staff helped me there. They supported me, reminded me to watch my head, and let me balance by touching their heads. I walked across the ladder successfully. They celebrated with me!

So here is what I figured out. There is an expectation from my community at St. Stephen's that I have the ability to be a priest. I expect that my community will support me and celebrate with me. Sure, there is the possibility that we might fail, but if we do, there will be learning for all.

So I think that my next step is to say out loud, in front of a congregation, a bishop, and some presbyters, "I, Kay, accept this challenge of being a priest." And then the congregation will respond, "We accept the challenge too." And then we have to do it.

Now I am crying again but it is different somehow. September 29 at 6:30 PM at St. Stephen's in Casper - you are invited!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A visit to camp - and what I learned about the priesthood

Wyoming is my favorite state - it is my home. One of my favorite places in Wyoming is Wyoming Wilderness Camp. I have been on the camp staff of for 7 years. I spend a few days each summer there, and my title seems to change depending on what the camp needs. This year, I am the camp chaplain.

On a recent Monday morning, Pat Walsh, the director, called. He told me that Elizabeth, a counselor, was leaving the next morning to return to Pennsylvania for surgery on her broken clavicle. He told me that if the ever the camp needed me, this was the day. Could I come to camp?

I had not planned a trip that day, but I promised to be there - and I left work as promised at 5:00 PM. I drove the 86.7 miles to camp - down I-25 to Douglas, then down the paved road to the White School, then down the dirt road, and the 2.7 miles down the really bumpy dirt trail. And there I was at camp.

I was greeted enthusiastically - with hugs and smiles. The counselors rang the bell, and we gathered at the firepit.

I took a deep and prayerful breath, and started with a story I heard The Rev. Rex Martin tell on the day of his ordination at Church of Our Savior in Hartville, Wyoming. Rex tells about his days working in the Sunrise Mine near Hartville. Every time he left work, he washed the red iron ore off his body. One day, the mine closed. Rex figured he was done with red iron ore dust - but to his surprise, it took months to wash the dust off.

The story illustrates our connectedness. The people we meet are part of our "dust" - and even when they are no longer with us, their "dust" is part of us. It is impossible to wash off the "dust" of family and friends, even when they are no longer close. The camp staff has become a tight-knit group, working and playing and sharing "dust" that will never wash off.

I then asked the staff questions: a theological reflection about the time they have spent together at camp. What has it been like this summer? Where have you seen brokenness or division? What has surprised you or shed new light? What shows a change of heart or mind? Where have you seen blessing? Where have you seen God this summer? We sat in silence as we thought about the questions, and then listened as hearts were opened in sharing.

We prayed a Litany of Farewell borrowed from EfM. (EfMers, check out page 7-12-1 in your Common Lessons and Supporting Materials.)

The staff gave Elizabeth a gift, and we shared ice cream.

It was not really a big deal - and yet it was a big deal. The camp staff was able to say good bye in a graceful way - in a way that acknowledged that Elizabeth's departure was leaving a hole in the staff that could not be filled, and in a way that recognized Elizabeth's need to take care of herself and to heal from the unfortunate mountain bike accident.

We opened our souls in the reflection, and we prayed heartfelt prayers together. We shared in the sacrament of ice cream - a dessert that was more than just milk and cream and sugar.

As I drove home in the dark - up the 2.7 miles of bumpy trail, and then the dirt road, and then the paved road, and then I-25 - I began to recognize what it means to be a priest.

I did not wear a collar or a stole. I was not in a church. I did not bring any magic answers.

I brought a framework for sharing: a story, some questions, some silence, some prayer.

I brought a glimpse of the Good News that God is with us, and that we matter, and we are loved, and we belong.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

God is like a mother hen, mother bear, mother eagle: My Mother's Day Sermon - 6th Sunday of Easter 2010

Sixth Sunday of Easter readings

You know, there’s nothing like the power of a mother – the power of a mother hen to hide the chicks from the cruelties of the world; the power of the mother bear to chase away intruders with a deep growl; the power of the mother eagle to keep babies safe from harm with her wide wings.

When I was a child, we were driving on a dark dirt road near McFadden, Wyoming. It was really dark, but my dad spotted a baby jackrabbit. He stopped to show us, and it was really cute. Big eyes, big ears, big feet. Suddenly, out of the dark, rushed the mama jackrabbit. She jumped against his leg in a rage, until he finally scrambled up on the hood of the car to get away. Yep, mama jackrabbits are powerful too.

I couldn’t think of any thing in the Bible about mother jackrabbits, but Jesus says he wishes he could gather up the people like a mother hen gathers her chicks. In the 2nd chapter of 2nd Kings, Elisha was walking down the road while some kids made fun of his baldness. Elisha called down a curse and two bears came out of the woods and ate 42 of the kids. You don’t want to mess around with angry bears. A favorite hymn paraphrases Isaiah, “And I will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of my hand.”

I grew up with the tradition, carried on in the Book of Common Prayer, that God is our Father. There are so many other metaphors for God – metaphors that help my small human brain comprehend just a little of the amazing God who is our God. Some of the metaphors are challenging – metaphors like we heard in the hymn today: God is like a mother hen, God is like a mother bear, God is like a mother eagle.

The readings today seem to resonate with the theme of HOME. In the first lesson, Lydia, a wealthy woman who was a dealer in purple cloth, opened her heart to the words spoken by the disciples. She was baptized with all the members of her household – and then she opened her home to the disciples. In Revelation, we hear of the description of a great city where Jesus is the center – not the Temple, and where no electric lights or candles are needed because the light of God is so bright in that city. And in the reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus says those who love Jesus will be part of the family of God – that God will make his home with the followers of Jesus.

You know, families and homes come in many flavors. The center of the home may be Mother, or Father, or Granny, or Aunty or Big Brother or your dog or cat. . Some homes have two moms or two dads. The members of a home change over the years. Your home may have consisted of a mother and a father and some children, and now it may consist of just you or you and your spouse. My home currently consists of me, my oldest son, his wife, and Nigel and Johanna, ages 5 and 3. When my boys were teenagers I divorced, and then our home consisted of me, my three sons, and many of their friends who stayed for varying lengths of time. The members of a home may become part of the family through birth or adoption or rescue --- one of our family stories tells about the time when my great-grandfather rode the train to save a baby after the mother died, keeping the baby alive on a sugar pap, sugar water dripped from a cloth into the baby’s mouth, on a cross country train ride to my great-grandmother who was nursing a baby.

We know a lot about home from Culture, the world around us. We know that home is where you hang your heart. Robert Frost said “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. “ We live home, home on the range. Last weekend during the Kentucky Derby, we sang about our Old Kentucky home, far away.

I paraphrase Lane Denson, a retired Episcopal priest who grew up in the hills of Texas, “Home is that one place that manages to make you feel that you’re special and that you aren’t living up to your potential – all in one sentence.”

We know a lot about Mother from Culture too. We know the sweet Hallmark card side of Mother-Roses are red, violets are blue….

We know about Forrest Gump’s Mama: Forrest said “Mama always had a way of explaining things so I could understand them. Mama always said you have to put the past behind you before you can move on. Mama always said dying is part of life. And Mama always said Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.

We know about the Mother in our own lives – the center of the homes of our hearts – whether that was Mother or dad or Granny or Brother or pet.

We call the Church our home and we call the Church Mother – and it lives up to both of those. The church is a place where we belong, where we matter, where we make a difference. It is also a place where we are continually called to be something more than we already are – to live up to our potential to make a difference in the world.

Sometimes, Mom and Mother Church have a lot in common.

Mom says, Stand up straight! Today, Mother Church and women all over the world invite us to stand up at 1:00 PM today for the world’s children and grandchildren, and for seven more generations as we dream of a world with clean water for all, with education for all, with food for all, healthcare and homes and safety for all.

Mom says (at least mine did!) Go outside and blow the stink off! Mother Church asks us to dream about the ways we can help the children of the world go outside. You may be involved in cleaning up the environment, or working with children in a school program, or by helping with the Boys and Girls Art Show that we are helping them plan to raise money for their summer activities, or by going to Wyoming Wilderness Camp with the Homeless students of Natrona County or by gardening to make the world a more beautiful place.

Mom says Eat your vegetables! Mother Church invites your donations of non-perishable food for our hungry neighbors – this month they are going to St. Mark’s food pantry.

Mom says wash your hands! Brush your teeth! Mother Church asks you to spend a few minutes of your coffee hour today assembling toiletry bags for the homeless students of Natrona County.

Mom says Be nice to your brothers and sisters and friends. Mother Church asks us to join with God, who is both father and mother, bear and hen and eagle and jackrabbit, to make this world become the kingdom of God, in this time and place and for ever more.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How we use Power Point at St. Stephen's

At St. Stephen's in Casper, Wyoming, we use Power Point most Sundays, and we like it. We do the entire Morning Prayer service about once a month from Power Point. We have pieces of the other services on Power Point: The Gloria, The Prayers of the People, and the Sanctus, and sometimes other things. We don't announce the Gloria or the Sanctus, so it helps to have the music and/or words on the screen.

Our goal is to use Power Point for all services this summer as an experiment. To make that happen, a group of us are assembling a "library" of smaller pieces of liturgies so we can easily cut and paste to prepare a service.

I would not have thought our congregation would be one that likes Power Point, but we do. Like Susan mentioned, we like to stand up tall to pray together -- the difference is noticeable from congregation and from the leader's role.

This is how we got started: Last fall, the Liturgy Team asked the congregation if we could try it out. After a few weeks, we met with those who didn't like it to find out why. We learned that our font wasn't big enough to be seen from the back of the church. After negotiation, we switched to a size 54 font. We rearranged some furniture to make the viewing area bigger and higher. We bought a projector with enough lumens to shine in our bright sanctuary. We use simple slides - not a lot of glitz. During times when the congregation is listening, we use what I call a placeholder slide - an image that reflects the season in some way, often from nature.

We still use hymnals most of the time as we are not totally satisfied with the way our music works on Power Point, but it is getting better.

I saw this explanation on the website of The Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Scottsdale, AZ:

Environmentally Friendly: rather than print a full paper bulletin, we will hand out paper announcements and project the service on a screen. .

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Our Rule of Life

Why a Rule of Life? This was our prayerful response to months of work in which we decided how we intended to live our life together as a community working with God to transform the world. The original Rule was a little different - for instance, there was more of a focus on worldly things than on God - but as we have moved on in our journey as a community formed and transformed through our faith in God, our Rule has also changed.

St. Stephen's Rule of Life

We commit ourselves to be involved in all aspects of church life:
Pastoral Care

We commit ourselves to encourage each other to use our spiritual gifts. We commit ourselves to create an environment where groups and individuals are invited to explore and define their spirituality by asking, listening, and learning from each other and from God. We commit ourselves to the stability, growth and transformation of St. Stephen's by working together and by our commitment to God.

At a recent Ministry Support Team meeting, we said our Rule of Life together as an opening prayer. We then shared our reports - our ministries are very busy indeed! The plans stretch over the summer and into next Easter, and there is joy and enthusiasm. As we closed the meeting, it became obvious that we are truly involved in all aspects of ministry at St. Stephen's.

Amen. Alleluia!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Our education

From my recent post to the House of Bishops and Deputies list:

In our congregation, we value education as much as anyone.  We particularly value education that we share.  We just don't pour all of our education into one person.  Each of us comes with gifts, talents, and experience that help us prepare to share our ministry, and we work together to develop those gifts. 

 As an example, the woman who coordinates our pastoral care does not have a degree at all.  She has 20 years of experience taking care of the elderly.  When we as a group discerned her gift for pastoral care, we arranged for her to take a class sponsored by the Diocese of Wyoming and EDS.  She didn't take the course alone.  Others in the diocese studied with her, and a group of us, including our seminary trained Ministry Developer, read all the course materials and participated in small group exercises and discussions.

 This sort of things plays out in our congregation on a regular basis.  We are a small congregation and struggled for years to pay a rector.  We could have closed the doors, but we believe we have strengths as a worshiping community that reaches out to the world in many ways, and we chose to keep the doors open. 

We now have groups organized as ministries of Pastoral Care, Liturgy, Administration, Evangelism/Outreach, and Vision/Education.  Groups are meeting regularly to develop the ministries, and to be educated together.   We have a Ministry Developer who works with us and other congregations in this process, and a diocesan structure that works to put this all together. 

We also have two transitional deacons, ordained by Bishop Bruce Caldwell a month ago yesterday.  Tristan English and I will continue to work our "day jobs" while participating in the ministry and work of the church.  It's true that neither of us has been to seminary and at this point neither of us knows Greek.  It is also true that we are both educated in our professions and in the work of church, and we remain committed to ongoing education.  The congregation is not going to allow us to hoard the knowledge that they value.  They will insist that we continue educating ourselves as a team as we continue doing God's work in the world.
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Sunday, April 4, 2010

My call

During March 2010, I was ordained as a transitional deacon at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Casper, Wyoming. (See the pictures here.)

Someone in an EfM Online group asked me this question: How did you hear the call to ordained ministry? It took me a long time to get started - there were so many places to start. I finally ended up with this story.


I am envious of people who hear a call and recognize it for what it is. One of my sisters knew from the time she was in 2nd grade that she would be a teacher, and she is. My cousin knew her whole life that she would be a nurse, and she is. Some other cousins recognize a calling to be waitresses. They love it, and that is what they have done all their lives.

But I never have known exactly what I wanted to do. I had ideas: My first career choice was bookkeeper, as I thought that is the job done by librarians. At different times I wanted to be a teacher or a cellist. I quit college when I was 20. I went back when I was 30. I chose business because it seemed sort of general, and I wasn't sure what I really wanted to do. I got a degree in Finance when I was 35. I went to work for the State of Wyoming in 1991 with a plan to stay for a few months till something better came along. I have been there ever since - coming up on my 19th anniversary. Now I am an administrative law judge - that was not my plan but a door opened when I was trying to make a decision about some things in my life. I prayed, and this job seemed to be the answer.

God and church have nearly always been in my life. I have talked about my "frozen chosen" sort of background. It was partly the era but also partly the leadership of my congregation. The priest ran everything in our church except the kitchen and the altar guild. His wife ran those. Girls did certain things, and boys did others. Girls sang in the Girls' Choir. Boys had their own, but they also got to acolyte. Girls not only did not acolyte, but I didn't even think to ask about it.

I liked church. I got perfect attendance in Sunday School in the days when the teacher kept track. I chose to get up and go to church when I could drive myself. I walked to the Cathedral often when I lived in Laramie the first time I went to college. I went to church in Hawai'i when I lived there. I floated for a number of years as a young adult, but I went back.

I graduated from high school in 1974, the year the first women were ordained as Episcopal priests. I think I remember reading about the event, although it happened in late July 1974 and I was working at a Girl Scout camp then, so maybe I read about it later. I remember wondering why anyone would even want to be a priest.

I moved to Casper in 1997, and chose the smaller of the two Episcopal churches here in town. It didn't take long to get involved, and before I knew it, I was elected as a delegate to our diocesan convention.

It was at one of my first diocesan conventions that I heard about Mutual Ministry. Sally Boyd, an Episcopal priest in at St. Francis on the Prairie in the small town of Wright, Wyoming, talked about their experience. I was fascinated, but thought, "Not for St. Stephen's."

A few years later, our part-time rector announced his retirement. When he made his announcement, I had been senior warden for 3 years. The congregation/vestry convinced me to stay on as senior warden another year until his retirement. We got through that year, and called an interim priest. The vestry asked me to stay on another year to help with that transition.

Shortly after the interim left, the congregation made the difficult decision that we could not afford to call another rector. We finally decided to join the diocese's Mutual Ministry program.

So by that time our diocese had quite a bit of experience in Mutual Ministry (which we mostly call Shared Ministry now). The reason I think this works as well as I think it works in Wyoming is that the diocese supports the process. We pay a portion of our income to the diocese for the support, but we don't pay a rector directly.

Kathy Robinson is our Ministry Developer. She is employed by the diocese to work with 5 churches in Shared Ministry. With her help, we started with a program called "Rooted in God" written by our Canon for Ministry Development, Margaret Babcock. A group of interested people worked through that program, and eventually wrote a Rule of Life for the congregation.

We then spent months figuring out what we had paid the rector to do. After that, we wrote job descriptions, and divided them into ministry groups. We ended up with five ministries with multiple teams on each: Pastoral Care, Liturgy, Administration, Evangelism, and Vision/Education. We had some discernment days, where we discussed where we felt called, and where others saw us. Eventually, we filled the ministries and teams with folks who felt called to those ministries.

We formed a Ministry Support Team, consisting of representatives of each of the five ministries, which meets monthly with our Ministry Developer to help coordinate the activities of the 5 ministries, and to coordinate with the vestry.

The last job descriptions we wrote were for deacon and priest. After we wrote those, we settled on a plan to call priests. We put some little forms out, and a big gold jar. They were out from the first week of Advent through Epiphany. Parishioners could write the names of those they saw as priest on the papers. No one (to my knowledge) looked at the papers. After Epiphany, two people who were not in consideration as priest sorted and counted the papers. Then they met with the Ministry Support Team to discuss the list. After all that, they let two of us know that we had been called.

My call went like this: I had just come off the 7th year of senior warden. I was in the habit of taking on odd tasks - for instance, I still tell senior wardens it is their job to check the toilet paper and paper towels before big events. So at Shrove Tuesday pancake supper, we had an infestation of ants. Someone sprayed bug spray into a cupboard containing some open boxes of crackers. (I never did know why we kept open boxes of crackers, but we did.)

I was sitting on the floor throwing away crackers with bug spray and wiping up dead ants. People were saying things like, "You mean you are throwing away all those crackers?" and "You missed an ant." I was getting a bit testy in a laughing sort of way, and I was pushing my glasses up with my middle finger so they could all see it.

Two people crooked their fingers and asked to talk to me. That is when they told me the congregation had called me to be a priest.

I didn't think it would be me. Earlier in the years of senior wardenhood, I would have guessed so. But I thought enough people were tired of me bossing them around for 7 years, and there were other people with priestly qualities who were on my own list.

So it was a surprise to me. I couldn't talk or think about it for a while. I finally started talking to a few people. I started figuring out the vocabulary for priest, and Eucharist, and so on, in Spanish, and then I found I could think about it. It still took me a long time to say Yes. I had some concerns: from my own experiences, I know how hard it is on lay people when clergy act like humans. Besides, when you get a lot of clergy in one room, they develop a sort of hormone that I dubbed Priest-osterone. It is sometimes just too much for me.
However, once I decided I was going to say yes, it was affirming to tell people. People have told me that they knew long ago that I should be a priest. This is sort of worrying, because what else do people know about me that I don't know?

I have typed enough for one night, and you have probably read all you can stand for now.

So more about formation in another post.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pokemon and Palm Sunday

I am preparing for my part in the sermon for the Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian and St. Stephen's Episcopal joint commemoration of Palm Sunday. My preparation is rather bizarre - I am sitting on the floor watching my grandchildren watch a Pokemon movie.

You would think I would someday figure out that even movies which appear to be totally silly (like this one did to me) contain theology.

In this movie, the world is being covered by a flowing sheet of ice. I have no idea why, since I was not paying attention, but there it is: A flowing sheet of ice is covering the world. A woman - the mother of a boy - has been dragged into the ice with a lonely and clingy girl who wants a mother of her own.

But fighting the ice is love - the love of the boy for his mother and the love of the boy's community of friends and Pokemons. The children and the Pokemon critters put themselves in every sort of animated danger in their quest to save Mom and Molly

I don't understand the movie, but I believe I understand that love reveals God in the world. When we love each other by fighting against flowing sheets of ice, we are part of the continuing revelation of God in the world.

I pray for you and for me a most holy Holy Week - a week in which God's amazing love is revealed.
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