Women in Church Leadership

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Our daughter has a set of toy people who are each of a different occupation. We weren’t sure which occupation this lady is. Teacher? Hubby suggested, “Pastor”. Yes. Yes, of course. She’s a Pastor.

As a young girl, I remember asking my dad why he was so committed to attending a Free Methodist church. His reply was, “I have 4 daughters. I want each of you to fully understand that you can serve in leadership at church, too.”

In the little and big ways, we desire for our daughter to know that she can serve in leadership and even be a pastor one day, too (should she feel called). Today that lesson comes in the form of a toy woman with the occupation of pastor.

Why I’m rethinking the crucifix and you should too

Last month, after much searching, I purchased a nativity set that fit the following criteria: 1) one that our toddler could play with 2) one that I’d also like to display when she’s grown (this ruled out the Little People set – plus we couldn’t find one that wasn’t being sold for $80+!) and 3) a nativity set that had more than one shepherd. You’d be surprised how many nativity sets come with 3 wise men (who likely weren’t even visiting Jesus in a manger but as a toddler or young child) and only have 1 shepherd!

The nativity set that I eventually found is hand-crafted, wooden, and beautiful. It’s perfect except for one thing: it came with a manger but no baby Jesus! This oversight was my fault. The product never advertised it coming with a baby Jesus, but did say that it came with a manger.  Disappointment aside, a manger with no baby Jesus inside of it got me thinking.

Why has contemporary evangelical Christianity told me that a crucifix is wrong? The main argument that I’ve heard against having a crucifix is that Jesus is no longer nailed to the cross–he is risen!  We worship a living Lord. But if this is the reason why displaying an empty cross is superior to a traditional crucifix, then why do nativity displays in most evangelical churches have a baby Jesus in the manger? We all know that Jesus is no longer an infant child in a manger. He grew up to be a man, he died, and he rose again. Why then is it acceptable to have Jesus in the manger but it’s not acceptable to have him displayed on a cross? I have never heard of anyone questioning the need to have baby Jesus displayed in the nativity scene because “Jesus isn’t a baby anymore!” But I have heard of Christians being told by other Christians that displaying a crucifix is wrong because “Jesus isn’t there anymore!” Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters (among others) understand fully well that Jesus is no longer on the cross–they, too, worship a living Lord. So why is it “right” in evangelical circles to have baby Jesus in the manger but it’s “wrong” to see him displayed on the cross?

The crucifix isintended to depict what He endured for our salvation long ago on Calvary. Though it seemed a shameful, humiliating defeat at the time, Jesus’ death was actually a glorious triumph of love and obedience. His crucifixion brought about our redemption; this is why Catholics love it and portray it in sacred art”.

This quote was taken from a short/thought provoking post that you’ll want to read: Should Christians Use a Crucifix?

Could it be that the evangelical objection to crucifixes has more to do with how uncomfortable it is to be so visually reminded of Jesus’ suffering for our sake? I’ve attended a Good Friday service every year for as long as I can remember. While Jesus’ crucifixion is why we gather, I’ve been to many a service where there is little room or space to sit in this reality. The heartbreaking truth is quickly washed away with, “BUT SUNDAY’S COMING!” This reminds me of people who say to a grieving person at a funeral, “BUT EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON!” It takes appropriate grief and quickly sweeps it under the rug so that things don’t feel too sad or uncomfortable. Yes, it is incredible, amazing news that Jesus rose again! But let us never, ever forget the severe suffering that Jesus endured. Seeing a visual of Jesus hanging from a cross screams: YOU ARE SO LOVED!!                                                                                                                                                                           Jesus came as an infant in a manger. And he was also a man hanging on a cross. Seeing a visual of either one in your home or church doesn’t lessen the reality that Jesus also rose again!
traditional_lrgIf Jesus is present in our nativity scenes as a way of remembering, shouldn’t he also be present on our crosses for the same reason? Maybe crucifixes are not only “OK” for a Christian to display but maybe they are…dare I say…the better way?

5 reflections on 2016 & hopes for 2017

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This blog was started in 2016. In addition to the blog; twitter, instagram, and a fb page were created. I gave them all a trial and will be keeping active on instagram & fb and hopefully write more in 2017 on this blog! It was mostly me (R) writing and posting in 2016…maybe D will join me more in 2017. One can dream 🙂

As I begin to briefly reflect on 2016, I will share the following. I recently read my FB Memories from years past re: my new years reflections. Year after year, I wrote something to the effect of the previous year having its share of really difficult moments & good ones. I guess the saying from Ecclesiastes is true: there’s nothing new under the sun. With that said, I’ll pause to reflect on 2016 and offer some hopes for 2017.

2016

2016 certainly had a theme of loss. While we felt peace about our decision to resign from our church, I mourned the loss of those relationships in 2016. We also said good-bye to our dog, Mowgli, and our cat, Storm in 2016. I miss them.

2016 had a theme of personal growth, too. It wasn’t until the end of 2016 that I realized something: I grew a lot this year in the areas of grace and forgiveness. In 2016, I purposed to “feel all the feels” as well as to let go. Being hurt but not growing bitter is hard work! This could be a whole other blog post. Suffice it to say, I’m entering 2017 feeling light and free.

2016 was a year of growth as a couple. We grew in emotional intimacy and spiritually. We prayed more together in 2016 than ever before.

2016 was the year that I grew closer to my co-workers than ever before. I don’t know why this is. I wonder if my heavy church commitments (being married to a pastor & serving in my own way(s) in the church), caused me to be “less available” when at work. I know that I used to use my breaks at work to do church related things (like update the church fb page, read a book for book club, etc). It could also be the fact that several co-workers have gone through super stressful times this year and it’s more natural for me to “show up” for that than to do small talk. For whatever reason, I’m thankful for new and deepening friendships outside of church walls in 2016.

2016 had us feeling tired & so happy as we watched out daughter grow from a baby to a toddler. We feel tremendously blessed that dad was able to stay home with our girl from summer 2016 onward.

2017

2017 will be the year that we plug into our new church. We visited over a dozen churches in our area in 2016. We are praying about where to put down roots. I am so looking forward to having a church family in 2017!

2017 may bring us closer to discerning what’s next for us in pastoral ministry. Or not. We’ll see! The key is to remain open to whatever comes next. And to also enjoy the season that we are in (we are enjoying it!).

2017 is a great time to do all the new years resolution type things: lose weight. eat healthier. purge items from home. work on projects. read more. travel. I would like all of these! But most of all, I desire to grow in relationship with others this year. Family, friends, co-workers, church goers, strangers, etc. To make time even when you think you don’t have any time.  If I spend more time with people, if I’m more present with people, if I’m more vulnerable with people, and if my “people time” decreases online and increases in other ways, 2017 will be a success.

Do you have reflections on 2016 & hopes for 2017 that you’d be willing to share? I’d love to hear them! Truly.

Difficult December: Come thou long expected Jesus!

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December feels like a blur. In our household, at least one of us has been sick at any given time this month. And when you have a toddler who is sick – no one is sleeping. Suffice it to say, we are not ready for Christmas. And we are hosting Christmas at our house! Eek.(I have to stop and remind myself: the shopping, cooking, cleaning, card writing and even the gift giving is not what Christmas is ultimately about. To neglect to prepare MY HEART for the birth of the Christ child would be the biggest shame of all).

Besides feeling physically run down, my heart has felt heavy this month. I think of Aleppo. I think of the infant baby who was beat by his own father in Napanee (the child is on life support). I think of a family who lost their home and all their possessions in a fire. And I know several who are experiencing significant stress due to job loss at this time of year. My heart is heavy.

December has been a difficult month. A struggle. I haven’t been feeling very merry.  Recently, I’ve begun to wonder if the struggles of this month are providing me with a different perspective of this season. When I read the lyrics of Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, the words hit me in a new way.

Come thou long expected Jesus.
Born to set us FREE.
Free from fears and sins.
Release. We find our REST in thee.
You are the hope of all the earth!
The joy of every longing heart.

A longing fulfilled. The birth of our saviour! The one who provides freedom, rest and hope is Immanuel, God is with us.

Whether this month has been mostly happy or mostly difficult, let us make time to focus on the long expected Jesus.

Thanksgiving: when you’re feeling anything but happy

Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving. More Americans will make it a priority to be with their family & friends tomorrow than any other holiday (yes, even Christmas!). The day before Thanksgiving can be filled with anxiety that has nothing to do with baking or traveling. There’s a type of anxiety that is present for those who have seen heartbreaking changes since last year’s gathering. Death. Job Loss. Divorce. Diagnosis. These are just a few examples of what has happened to too many families over the past year. Individuals and families have been rocked to the core. Things don’t look or feel like they did a year ago. People are holding their breath and hoping for the best for tomorrow.

Thanksgiving can sting more than any other holiday because the focus seems to be pretty much all about family. The message society gives is one of showing up at Thanksgiving as a happy, happy family. To prove this point, what is the greeting that is said at Thanksgiving? HAPPY THANKSGIVING! But we know that for so many, tomorrow does not evoke happy feelings. For several, sadness or anxiety seems more appropriate than “happy”.

If you or your family are struggling on Thanksgiving eve, remember that you aren’t alone. Remember to take it one hour, one moment at a time. Take deep breaths. Hold a hot beverage in your hands all.day.long if that’s soothing. Go for a walk. Leave the party early if you need to. Do whatever will help you. Thanksgiving is about family but remember this: you are a branch in the family tree! You need to stay healthy so that you can bear fruit, too. You matter just as much as anyone else.

Instead of wishing you a “Happy Thanksgiving”, my hope is that you are able to find little & big things to be grateful for in the midst of the sad. Don’t deny your sad. But don’t miss seeing the good, too. With this perspective, show up tomorrow in the best way that you know how while also taking good care of you.

When a pastor resigns remember the pastor’s wife

I just did the math. It’s been 85 days since we’ve become a pastoral family “in transition”. 85 days since our last day at our church. That’s almost 3 months. Here are few reflections from my perspective as a pastor’s wife re: resignation, leaving and being in transition:

  1. After my husband resigned from our church, he received phone calls and e-mails and coffee dates from colleagues who were all interested in seeing how he’s doing. He even had a coffee date with a pastor in our area who is from a different denomination. As a result, he felt very supported. During that same time-period, I was attempting to process everything. But no one called to see how I was doing. This was a wake-up call for me. Of course, it’s natural for my husband to be more connected to his colleagues than I am to other spouses of a pastor. Part of his job has included denominational networking and he’s been part of an interdenominational pastoral group in our town. While I was previously aware that there’s not the same networking for spouses of pastors, this reality really hit home when we entered into transition and I was processing our new reality alone.
  2. In the weeks leading up to our last Sunday, we as a couple were committed to, “leaving well by loving well”. For me, I found it rather therapeutic to write encouraging cards to congregation members and to give a speech on our last Sunday at the church.
  3. Some days or moments, I’m able to soak up this “in transition” status. There is significantly less stress and more family time. We actually go to church together as a family! That’s been so nice.
  4. At other days or moments, I’m feeling impatient. Searching for a church can be a long process. I feel lost without a church family. I want to know people at a church and be known. I desire to serve. I describe us as being “an island” at this time. Not fun.
  5. A retired pastor said to me, “leaving a church is a loss no matter the reason”. He’s right. Some days or moments, I miss our old church family so badly that my heart aches. We’ve created appropriate space between us + them during these early transition days. But I think about them. I pray for them. I don’t love them any less now that we are gone.

If you recall anything from these ramblings, I hope it would be this: Remember the pastor’s spouse during a season of pastoral transition. Remember that their life has changed in a big way, too. They could be experiencing relief or grief or anything in between. They are likely feeling very alone.  Do ask how they are doing and offer support in the best way that you know how.

 (We’ve been asked by some people what “in transition” means.  In the Canadian Free Methodist Church, pastors are first approved for ministerial service by the denomination.  Then, they are eligible to be interviewed and hired by a local church Board.  That employee-employer relationship is then formalized by the Bishop officially placing the pastor under appointment at the particular location.  For those familiar with the terms ‘episcopal’ and ‘congregational’ when describing church governance, the Canadian Free Methodist Church is a bit of both. In a nutshell, then, “transition” is the season between when a pastor resigns from one appointment and begins another appointment.)

coffee lovers who want to make a difference

Bukeye, Burundi - Dark RoastA blog post from Derek! He wrote it all himself:

The Good Coffee Company—how it tastes and how it’s sourced…the name says it all.

Actually, the name is an understatement.  Not just good, the flavour is EXCELLENT! Likewise, its positive impact on local coffee bean growers is beyond good—it’s ESSENTIAL.

Here’s what their website says:
“Our company was born out of a deep desire to impact the lives of people.  We dreamt of finding a meaningful way to connect people like you with communities in need around the world in a way that leads to hope, transformation, and deep relationships – all through delicious coffee.

We roast the coffee fresh every week in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and get it into your hands so that you can drink delicious, life-changing coffee.  From there we reinvest 25% of our profits into the coffee-growing communities through innovative projects.

Our coffee makes its way from farmers we know by name to the hands of coffee lovers who want to make a difference.”

“Coffee lovers who want to make a difference.”  In other words, people who love great coffee and love striving to meet needs of people around the globe.  Yup, that describes me.

Oh, and by the way, ethical doesn’t have to mean expensive.

I did the math for our family…we pay less for Good Coffee Co. than for the other stuff we were buying.  Yup, a dollar less per pound, actually.

Plus, because of a wonderful partnership between the Good Coffee Co. and a non-profit organization that works with preventing and responding to human trafficking called the Set Free Movement , our $1 less expensive coffee purchase sends 10% of the purchase price to support efforts in ending modern-day slavery.  It’s a natural partnership, really—ethically sourced coffee that pays local farmers 20-35% above fair-trade wages and an abolition movement.  See, when individuals and families receive a sustainable income, they become less susceptible to the wiles of would-be traffickers, because a living wage means a family gains much-needed accessibility to resources like clean water, food, education, and safe housing.  Plus, don’t underestimate how powerful are the weapons of dignity and hope when it comes to vulnerable people engaging in the fight against trafficking in their communities.

(FYI, current estimates place nearly 46 million people in some form of slavery today around the globe—people held against their will doing activities they don’t want to do.  Context: that’s more people than were enslaved throughout the entire Trans-Atlantic slave trade from Africa.  In addition to the Set Free Movement website, you can read more at www.globalslaveryindex.org.  You can also check out the last 15 years of the U.S. Government’s annual Trafficking In Persons report here www.state.gov.  But be careful, it just might open your eyes, break your heart, and cause you to change your purchasing habits as a way to decrease the size of your own slavery footprint.)

So, if you’re going to spend your cash on coffee, might you do it in a way that supports, sustains, and empowers the growers?  That’s what you do when you buy from Good Coffee Co.  Plus, when you enter the promo code SETFREE, your purchase goes to support an abolition organization at the same time.  And, you end up paying less for your coffee than you would with other coffee out there.  (But, even if it didn’t cost less, wouldn’t it still be a worthwhile sacrifice for the sake of others’ well-being around the globe?)

Here are some of your options: 1lb or 2lb bag?  Whole beans or ground?  One-time purchase or recurring automatic shipment based on your consumption?  The choices are all yours, and your product comes delivered to your mailbox.  Plus, if you spend over $50, you get free shipping (I buy two 2lb bags at a time, costs me $52).  And, remember, using the coupon code SETFREE will ensure 10% of your purchase goes directly to the Set Free Movement for their work in preventing and responding to human trafficking…and it will also give you a 10% discount on your purchase!

You and I have the privilege to support two organizations that attempt to create hope for the future among some of the world’s most vulnerable people groups by investing in local communities, providing long-term sustainability, and facilitating life-transformation.  If you love great tasting coffee and care about people, why would you not do this?

– D.