Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reasons to Know Jesus Loves Us

I initiated a new Policy-from-on-high in this here parish that I rule with an iron fist. I was getting kind of grossed out at "leftovers" getting left in the parish fridge for sometimes weeks at a time. Sure, they might be cookies from the cookie walk, but I'm sorry, after they've been frozen, defrosted, put out for coffee hour, and refrozen a few times, they're done.

I put up a sign reading "Items left in fridge over 2 days may be tossed or eaten. (The Pastor likes eggs and cookies). Please label your items if you don't want them eaten!" The first week, I got a dozen eggs, a few cookies, and few slices of toast out of the deal. Then I cleaned out the junk (as in, that nasty bottle of ketchup with the expiration date of last May).

This week, the fridge was empty of contraband! Good thing I brought lunch. There was only milk, chocolate sauce, and orange juice. What is the health conscious pastor to do!

Fortunately, because I work for Jesus and I think he might like me just a little... chocolate milk actually has LESS SUGAR and fewer carbs and more protein than orange juice. Therefore, chocolate milk is healthier for you!

Amen to that!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Score One, Church School!

Wow, two do-good parish events in a week. Today, we were going into sermon time. Typically, after the gospel, the kids go out for a little church school called Sunday Breakout. Because of Safe Church, we require that the teacher have a second adult with them. Usually, a parent has been going.

Until today!

A brave and intrepid choir member (whose kids are all grown up) got up, and elected to assist in Sunday School. Can I even say how much that rocks to have a non-parent helping out with the kids? I think the moms were really relieved to be able to stay and hear the sermon (and snuggle her newest baby) while their older kids were getting some educatin' going on.

So- choir member D.J., thank you SO much for going out! That was awesome! I hope you guys all had a great time with Breakout teacher C.S.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Score One, Parish!

Those of you in the know are aware of what a struggle it is for my little parish to fully embrace hospitality. I just wanted to give them a little shout-out for some do-goodin' today. That's right, little Epiphany, there was some good stuff happening today.

We had visitors, with three small children. One was a two-year old, who did what two years do and had himself a little two hour meltdown. The parents were visiting family and could have easily been mortified, but they sat in back. While the parents double-teamed the two-year old (taking him out to the car in shifts to calm down a bit), the usher did a fantastic job of reassuring them everything was okay, providing books for the older kids, and helping the parents get up and down. When it came time for Sunday Breakout (sunday school), the other kids in the parish invited the visiting kids to come.

At the peace, all the kids shook hands with everyone, except that I got caught in a crush of people and couldn't reach one knot of kids. So I shot them a "peace" sign, and they "peace'd" back. Well, the acolyte gave me the Texas Longhorns sign. I will have to speak with her father about that. I mean, I love the Longhorns as my brothers in Christ, but we are a Connecticut state, after all. After the Huskies, there is no space in my heart for any other college team.

So, all-in-all, a rather successful day for a parish that has struggled in the past with welcoming the stranger. I thought they did a great job today! And we had noisy kids, a giggling acolyte, a couple of dropped prayer books, and a little bit of chaos sprinkled among our order. That sounds like decent church, to me.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Safe Church?

So, there's been a very interesting conversation going on in my circle about how safe should the church be. There are many stories in church employment that go like this: priest hired as an assistant. Things go well at first, but assistant is not a doormat. Personality conflicts arise, and instead of working through them, the rector fires the priest without the assistant having any recourse to mediation, or being able to appeal, to keep their job, or to have any kind of severance for involuntary termination. Oh, and did we mention that church employees are not eligible for severance pay?

One friend pointed out that the church on one hand should be a safe place. We go to Safe Church training so that our people may be free of fear of abuse from clergy. That absolutely is a holy endeavor. She then raises the question of whether church (and God's work) ought to be truly safe. Jesus walked a little on the wild side, himself. He touched unclean people, ate with sinners. I mean, he even stood between an angry mob and a woman caught red-handed in adultery. Definitely not safe.

My own work has not been safe. I remember a schizophrenic man who wasn't always on his medication, but who was an excellent physical laborer and who helped out at every church event. I remember a rough man arriving later in the day, who was begging for help as he considered suicide. In the hospital, I walk every day into rooms where people have MRSA. In the police world, I wear bulletproof and combat boots. No, my world is not "safe". (Sorry, mom.)

But I do expect that my world should be free from abuse. In the Episcopal church, we all vow to "strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being". We all renounce the evil that is Satan. That should go for all of my bosses and my friends' bosses as well as for me and my friends.

Just because we work in the church and just because our work is "not safe", it doesn't mean that a total lack of job security should necessarily go with it. Firefighting isn't safe either, but if you have to be terminated, you have the right to be represented by a union rep and you have the right to fight for your job. Your job of running into burning buildings isn't safe, but your right to live your life free of undue fear should be.

In my ideal world, when relationships between clergy start going downhill, we should be forced to sit down and work with a freakin' mediator, even if it takes months, to forgive each other's shortcomings and to seek how we can go forward reconciled, renewed, and forgiven. Imagine what a powerful world it could be, if that were the standard your clergy were held to.

Yes, this work is not safe. We are called to go into all the ends of the earth as bearers of God's light. But I do think the church and its human relations and its hiring practices should be.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

So you have a new Dentist?

So, shortly after moving, I got it into my head that maybe I should finally get my act together and find a new dentist. The demands of residency, the long commutes, the fact that dentists in Southbury weren't in my insurance plan, combined with my general fear of dentists meant that I hadn't been to the dentist in a while. And a short while ago, I started developing a dull ache in the jaw, plus headaches. I have sensitive teeth, so I reluctantly decided it might be time to visit the dentist.

He took a long look, and declared I needed new fillings. No, wait- not new cavities. Just new fillings. The old fillings had cracked, and few parts of them had actually fallen out, leaving exposed open spots.

I mean, whoever heard of that? They bribe little kids at the dentist, by telling them that it'll be ALL OVER soon, and that you'll be ALL DONE. No one says, "You'll be all done... until you turn 29 and then we ruin your life by having to do this all over again!"

Seems like nothing, not even tooth fillings are permanent.

Churches aren't permanent either. I've been thinking seriously lately about how to shake things up at Epiphany. There's some good think-tanks going on, but definitely resistance to the idea that it's time to change HOW WE DO church at Epiphany. (At least at the 10 o'clock service...)

I didn't want to change my fillings. I was terrified. But the dentist did lots of novocaine (I'm getting feeling back now), and he did a cool thing- he went ahead and did what he needed to do, but he gave me a mirror so I could watch if I wanted to. He explained things, showed what he was doing... essentially, gave me the museum tour of "how to get a filling changed". The changing of the filling itself STILL wasn't that fun. But at least it was bearable. And right around now, it's getting to be pretty okay.

I bet I will barely mind at all for the next set of replacements in three weeks...