Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lent is upon us now

"Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing." Joel 2.12-13

As I write this, I've just finished with my first Ash Wednesday service. I have another one tonight at 6:30pm before my Session meeting. Seven faithful folks arrived at the church, almost at the exact time, to worship at the noon hour. The service was one filled with scripture, prayer, and silence. Near the end, I marked their faces with the sign of the cross in ashes. While I've attended many Ash Wednesday services, leading one on my own held great meaning for me. I was struck, maybe for the first time, by the power of the beginning of the Lenten season and the significance of marking oneself with the sign of the cross. We are indeed embarking on a journey with Christ towards Jerusalem, yet once again. We, in all of our sinfulness, have the privilage of walking with Christ this Lenten season. It is a time for penitence and self-examination. We prepare ourselves, over these next forty days, for the celebration of Christ's death & resurrection.

There is often conversation about giving up something for Lent. We are called in scripture to fast during this season. For me, I am choosing to incorporate more intentional time for reading scripture & writing. I feel that life often gets filled with so much distraction & this is certainly the case for me. And, as a new minister, I'm always running from one thing to the next. So, during this season of Lent, I am committing to do better & make sure I take the time to be in conversation with God. Holy conversation.

Friends, Lent is indeed upon us this day. May it be a season filled with self-examination, penitence, and humble learning as we journey with Christ towards Jerusalem once again. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Newly Reverend

It has certainly been a week filled with ups and downs. I traveled home last Friday morning to Tennessee for my ordination weekend. The scene at Philadelphia International Airport was one of complete chaos! It seemed that everyone came to the airport to attempt to get on earlier flights and avoid the impending snow storm. It got so bad at our gate that the gate agents had to announce there were simply no more seats on my flight & they would attempt to get them on the next one at 2pm. I was one of the lucky 160 people who were able to get on the flight to Atlanta. By the time we arrived in Atlanta, the 2pm flight had been cancelled due to weather. I felt incredibly blessed, but also felt for those who were unable to get out of Philadelphia. I made it home to East TN around dinner time & spent time with my family.

Last Sunday afternoon, I became the Reverend. It was a truly beautiful service, filled with people who represented so many different parts of my life. I'm so very thankful for all those who were able to assist in worship & those who came to witness. It felt like a blur, but I will never forget the words "you are now a Minister of Word & Sacrament in the PCUSA". It was the most incredible feeling. After the service, there was a beautiful reception. I didn't even get a chance to sit down, as I greeted & spoke with all of my home church family.

I returned home to PA on Monday, in between the two massive snow storms, to a scene of winter wonderland. There was about 2 feet of snow on the ground! And, more was on its way. But, I also returned to news of a death in the community & a request to officiate a funeral on Saturday. This was a well known man in this area & had grown up in my church. He had not been active for a number of years, but his widow requested the funeral be at my church. I met with her before the snow struck again & began to prepare the service. Then, I was snowed into my house for the next 36 hours.

It was certainly a strange feeling being snowed into the house all alone. I did get a lot of work done, but I really missed being with people & the freedom to come and go. On Thursday, I emerged from the house to begin the long process of shoveling. We got another 18-20 inches on top of the 2 feet from the weekend. I knew I couldn't do it all by myself & thankfully, a man with a plow came by & plowed me out! I was so grateful. In the process, I met my neighbors across the street & ended up having dinner at their house that night. What delightful people! We enjoyed lots of laughs & great conversation, not to mention wonderful food. This is what my friend Whitney would call a glimpse of grace & it certainly was!

Saturday brought my first funeral. I've assisted with three funeral previously, but this was my first to handle on my own. I did not know the person nor did I know the family, so I made due with the information I could gather. The family appreciated the service, which is all that really matters in the end. But, the whole experience left me rather exhausted. Literally, I came home & crashed. Yesterday was another first - communion. That went well too. These are the things that keep me awake at night - worrying about whether or not things will be okay.

The life of a pastor is unreal. There are moments of great stress, great joy, and total exhaustion. My hope is to find some sense of balance in the middle of it all. We shall see what this week will bring.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Wordle: Ephesians 3
Ephesians 3.14-21 - the main passage for my ordination service this weekend.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Three Week Mark

Today marks my three week mark of being here. I am really falling in love with living in Pennsylvania. Over the last few days, I've begun to get a sense of trusting that God called me here for a reason. Despite all that happened with my exam on the floor of Presbytery, I feel very empowered as a young, progressive female pastor. I had coffee last week with several area female clergy. It was great to meet others in the Presbytery and feel supported in this new ministry. Then, I was blessed to have lunch with a seminary friend who happens to work in a church about 20 minutes away. There's something very comforting about having a Columbia person not too far away - I suppose in Presbyterian circles we would refer to that as being a connectional church.

Last week, I had the opportunity to lend a hand at the Mobile Food Pantry here in Parkesburg. It happens on the fourth Wednesday of the month & people can come to receive assistance. It certainly opened my eyes to the extent of poverty in this area of Chester County. Chester is one of the wealthy counties in PA, but there are significant pockets of deep poverty and struggle. I am thankful the area churches & the Chester Co. Food Bank are able to help as many as we can in this area.

It has certainly been a crazy, exciting three weeks! I know there are lots of challenges ahead, but I am committed to remaining thankful for it all. I'm now setting my sights on this weekend - I am headed back to TN for my ordination service on Sunday afternoon. It's been such a long journey to get to this point. I'm not sure the full extent of it has sunk in yet. This whole thing feels surreal, but I plan to enjoy every moment of the weekend.