Memorial Day Remembrance

3560856061_20a83080d0_zP: We gather together this morning to celebrate.

C: We celebrate a country of promised freedom, and the continuing commitment to ensure that all people might call themselves free.

P: We celebrate the many men and women who have served in the military at our behest.

C: We celebrate the courage and commitment of thousands of service people who have given their all in service to their country.


P: We gather this morning to honor.

C: We honor all who have left behind family, friends, and community to serve in the military.
P: We honor those who have loved these United States enough to risk everything for her prosperity.
C: We honor men and women throughout the years who have dedicated their lives to our freedom and our rights.


P: We gather this morning to lament.

C: We lament the state of a world where war seems the only or most expedient answer to our nation’s problems.
P: We lament the state of our nation which welcomes men and women back from war zones with silence and refusal to hear the stories of war.
C: We lament the state of our souls, ready to send others to do what we would dare not – and then refusing to recognize our own culpability in what they have done.


P: We gather this morning to mourn.

C: We mourn for all those who have given their lives in wars they believed in.

P: We mourn for all who have sacrificed their lives in wars they didn’t believe in.

C: We mourn for all who survived war zones, only to lose their lives in the fight against mental illness.


P: But most of all, we gather this morning to remember.
C: We remember the service personnel we have loved and lost.
P: We remember the sacrifices of so many in the service of their country.
C: And we remember our God, who redeems the unredeemable, forgives the                           unforgivable, and encourages that we love – both our neighbor and our enemy.

P: So, this morning let us celebrate, honor, lament, mourn and remember. And, as President Abraham Lincoln concluded his second inaugural address:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

A Reading from Romans 8: 31-39:

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Word of God, Word of Life.

C: Thanks be to God.


Time of Story Sharing

P: God of love and justice, it is your will that we live together in peace. Yet we live in a world in which war often seems inevitable. May we recognize with humility and sadness the tragic loss of life that comes in war. And as we enjoy freedom, we give thanks for those who have served with courage and honor; for those who resist evil and preserve justice.

We give thanks for those that are willing to serve. Let all soldiers everywhere serve with honor, pride, and compassion. Do not let their hearts be hardened by the actions they must take. Strengthen their families and keep them surrounded and guided by your love. We thank you for those that put the welfare of others ahead of their own safety. Let us all be inspired by their self-sacrifice in service to those who need protection.

We give thanks for those that have made it possible for us to have freedom. Let us call to mind and name those individuals who have served their country . . . . . . . .

We ask that you be with those in pain from their loss and keep us mindful that you have promised to comfort those that mourn and help us to be a comfort to them as well.

C: Amen.


Music for Meditation and Prayer

Taps by First Lieutenant Alicia Smith, Bugles Across America

Dear God, by your grace, may we have the strength and courage to truly honor those who have served by working for peace. May we see in them not only their courage, but also our own call to work for a world that no longer sacrifices life in the quest for peace; that we might envision in our hearts and work in our lives toward that which you have promised through the prophet Isaiah: that day when swords will be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, that day when nation shall not rise up against nation, and that day when we shall not learn war any more.

C: Amen.



Write a Book with the Chalice/TYCWP Partnership

3293117576_43be00bdf4_oIn the last several months, TYCWP Board has heard wonderful ideas for book proposals to Chalice Press. The Project has had an imprint relationship with Chalice since 2008, and Chalice has published seven books (find them here) with TYCWP. An imprint relationship means that the YCW Board helps Chalice read and filter proposals to send to their editing board for publishing consideration. For books that do get published, TYCWP receives some royalties, which supports the mission of the Project.

Writing a proposal and/or a book for a real-life publishing company can seem like a daunting process. TYCWP has several members who have successfully completed publishing a book through Chalice. Mihee Kim-Kort, author of Making Paper Cranes: Toward an Asian American Feminist Theology, offers her perspective on what to expect in the process of writing a book. Brenda Lovick, who serves as the Chalice liaison, crafted some questions for Mihee to consider.

Brenda: How do you know if you have a good idea to write a book?

Mihee: Ideas come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they seem like epiphanies that drop out of the sky into your lap. Sometimes they’re like seeds. Sometimes they’re the tip of an iceberg, and the deeper you go you discover that there’s so much more to it and your very life is intertwined with it.

Talk with people that know you. You want to pursue something that is close to your heart, mind and spirit because it will take a lot out of you, and you need support. Ultimately, it’ll be up to you to commit – so no matter what the idea – go for it if you feel the fire in your bones. Put it out into the universe and see what comes back.

Brenda: How do you do it all?  Spouse, mom, career, and write?  Where do you find time to do it?

Mihee: I do everything kind of half-assed, honestly. That’s what it feels like. But, I try to integrate everything. I try to double up – if I’m writing a blog post that can be used in multiple places, that’s awesome. Or a germ of an idea might be found in a number of writings. Time is not very gracious or accommodating, but you do what you can do with the minutes or hours.

Ultimately, there’s no one way to do it. One day I’ll write for 15 minutes. Another day, a few hours. Maybe it will be in the morning. Maybe at 2 in the morning. It’s not easy and not everything will be good (actually, most of it is shit). It’s usually just not that pretty or romantic. But Anne Lammott writes some hard-but-good words about writing first drafts (in Bird by Bird, which I highly recommend for life, in general). All writing is not readable or useable, but writing – the practice and act of writing – is always good. You’re developing your voice, you’re developing habits, you’re shaping your craft.

Brenda: What makes a good proposal?

Mihee: Being clear as possible. Being passionate and authentic. Being thorough.

Brenda: What happens after your proposal is accepted?

Mihee: After you kind of freak-out, pass out, get drunk and celebrate or do whatever, you get down to brass tax and figure out the details about deadlines, time tables, and if you’re editing a book with numerous contributors, figuring out who’s writing for you.

There’s a lot of back and forth with one of the acquisitions editors and nailing down the actual book contract. At this point it’s helpful to have a second pair of eyes to look over the contract. Some signatures and mailing it off…then, you get yourself at your desk and start writing (if you don’t have a complete manuscript). There will be  instructions about format and footnotes – read carefully.

Otherwise take it a step, a sentence, and chapter at a time. Ask questions if there’s ever any uncertainty about anything!

Brenda: What do you think is the most important thing for a new or potential author to know before writing a proposal or book?

Mihee: Be gentle with yourself. Don’t expect to write a best-seller or manifesto or for it to be totally representative of who you are and your life right now. But, do be invested in it and expect it to consume most of your life. It’s going to be a labor of love. It’s an incredible experience and process, and if you have writing in your DNA then it’s going to be worth it.

Do you have an idea and want to submit a proposal?  To learn more about the process of writing a proposal, click here.


Text in Context: TYCWP Conference 2015 is Texas Bound

14126101201_873b59f77d_oOver two years ago, I responded to a Facebook post, like so many of us do regularly in the virtual community of The Young Clergy Women Project.

The question: Where would you like to see a future TYCWP Conference?

My answer: Austin. Texas! We should go to AUSTIN, TEXAS!

As a pastor, I should know better. Within a matter of months, I was doing initial site inquiries with Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Soon, I found myself on the TYCWP Conference Committee. Last week, I wrapped up one more site visit to put final arrangements in motion. Because, y’all, we are going to Texas!

July 6-9th TYCWP will take Austin, Texas, by storm as we join together in incarnational community for the 2015 Text In Context Conference.

Our keynote speaker is the Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer. Dr. Aymer spent the last 11 years serving as New Testament professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta and has recently accepted a new call as Associate Professor of New Testament at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, beginning July 1, 2015. At the conference, she will guide us through her work in contextual bible study, join us in conversation and reflection, and give us tools to take contextual bible study back to the unique contexts we each serve in our churches, parishes, hospitals, schools, and all the other places God calls us to ministry.

Contextual bible study comes out of the South African bible studies during apartheid where, historically, white academics were engaged in biblical studies with black women who could not read. The big question: How do you foster the conversation with folks who have wisdom but no formal training? To put it another way, how do we engage our varied communities in authentic and faithful biblical study without simply giving participants the answers or assuming we have all the answers and our communities do not in the first place?

Since TYCWP is nothing if not a varied community, comprised of over 1200 members representing 37 denominations in more than 12 countries, what better place to learn and practice contextual bible study before taking it back to our own communities? With practical applications for creating missions studies, planning year-long youth or small group agendas based on a particular Scripture passage, approaching sermon preparation as a community activity, and ultimately parlaying bible study into inevitable action, this year’s conference is a must for my continuing education time and money, and I hope yours, too.

And that’s just the keynote. The Conference Committee is hard at work finalizing break-out workshops, self-care opportunities around the city, child-care, spouse/travel companion activities, worship, snacks, meals, quiet prayer space, and all the other community building, spirit renewing, ministry equipping things we’ve come to love about TYCWP conferences. Because, as important as the keynote sessions and formal learning opportunities are, the networking, brainstorming, and fellowship that happen informally between sessions carry over and keep us connected in our virtual, regional, and denominational communities, until we can all gather together again.

If you haven’t experienced a TYCWP conference yet, Text in Context at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas, with Dr. Margaret Aymer is a great time to start.

Plus, it’s in Texas! Austin, Texas: home of cowgirl boots and Keeping Austin Weird, an internationally renowned live music scene and the world’s largest urban bat colony, warm summer nights and more Tex-Mex food than we can possibly have time to eat in four short days.

Whether you are a member of The Young Clergy Women Project or On the Road to Ordination (formerly Future Young Clergy Women), make plans to join us this summer, July 6-9th, 2015. Registration, opportunities to help with worship and workshops, and up-to-the-minute conference details are available through the The Young Clergy Women Project website. Y’all come!


Re-Imagining Youth Ministry

When I was in high school, I quit my church’s youth group. All the activities they hosted were social events with no spiritual component. They didn’t even pray before meals. If the only reason to go to church youth group was to hang out with my peers, I didn’t want to be there. I had nothing in common with the other kids in the group. We weren’t friends outside of church. Our faith was the only thing that tied us together, and youth group events didn’t address that faith.

What I experienced is symptomatic of a trend that has prevailed in youth ministry for several decades now. Churches often try to provide a youth group experience that is entertaining and provides a parallel experience to what young people could find in the secular world. There are two primary problems with this approach, as I see it. First, the world will always win. Secular groups will always be able to provide something flashier, more adventurous, more well-organized and better funded. Eventually the church will fail at this model of youth ministry, because there is simply no way for the church to provide parallel experiences for all the opportunities available in the world. Second – and this is very important – kids don’t want a church that only offers them lip-service. Young people typically want to know that their lives make a difference in the world. It’s what keeps them engaged in church if they are there already, and what attracts them if they are newcomers. Helping kids find ways to share their spiritual gifts with the world in a way that matters is perhaps the most important part of youth ministry.

Young people are very discerning. They’re smarter than many adults give them credit. They know the gist of the Christian message, even if they’ve only learned the basics from secular media, and they expect the church to live up to what it claims to be. They don’t expect to be entertained at their youth group events. If they are going to church, they expect to learn about God. They hope that they will be welcomed in the radical way that Jesus welcomed people.

One of the most effective ways to do ministry with young people, in my experience, is to treat them like you would any other member of your congregation. Why should youth be the only group to be segregated because of their age? (Yes, I’m well aware of age-based groups for older folks… but these are usually open to anyone post-retirement, meaning there is often a 30-year age range in these groups, spanning two generations!) Here I use the term “youth” very broadly. The examples below come from my experience with middle and high school youth (roughly age 10-18), but I have used this same basic idea with younger children and with young adults.

  • When you serve Communion in worship, ask any worshiper who has already received her first Communion to be the server alongside the pastor. The 5th-grader doesn’t have to be relegated to collecting the empty cups used when serving individual portions of wine (at one church I served, kids called this the Communion “garbage can”). Let the 5th-grader serve the wine. Or even the bread, if your tradition allows for such a thing! In your denomination, is any adult member allowed to help serve Communion? Then as soon as a child begins to commune, invite her to join the ranks of server.
  • When you ask a high school student who is recently confirmed to be a Sunday School teacher – let him teach the class! Don’t make him be the assistant. He probably has more biblical knowledge in his short-term memory than most of the adult members. Isn’t that why we put kids through confirmation in the first place? Once he is confirmed, help him keep that knowledge fresh in his mind by teaching it to others. Give the younger students a role model closer to their age than than their parents. And maybe encourage that high schooler to work at a church camp in the summer, too.
  • Resist the tendency to force all young people into one particular type of service to the church — instead, match their service to their God-given gifts. In my tradition, it is typical to require confirmation students (age 10-14) to serve as acolytes in worship. Why anyone thought it was a good idea to let the children play with fire in the Sanctuary is beyond me! I am not a fan of this requirement, and it actually goes much deeper than the fire risk. Some students are self-consciously short, and can’t reach the tall candles. Some are afraid of fire. Some are not well-coordinated (seriously, who was at 13?) and get nervous about being the acolyte. We don’t expect all adult churchgoers to serve as ushers or lectors or bake sale coordinators as a requirement of their membership to the congregation. Why should we expect something similar of our youth? It is crucial to get to know our members – ALL our members – and offer them ways to serve that match their spiritual gifts. If a person is bad at reading in public, don’t ask them to be a lector. But when you discover that one of your 6th-graders could be a professional storyteller, by all means, give her the chance to read in worship! Don’t make her the “child lector” on a special youth Sunday. She is important enough to be considered for leadership in the church 52 Sundays a year, and on any of the other 365 days that the church offers programming.
  • Follow through with the promises we make and inspire them to do the same.  Young people often see the world in black-and-white. They know that Jesus said to love their neighbor, so they expect to be loved by their church… and they expect the church to give them opportunities to love others in return. They expect the church to follow through on the promises that were made to them at their baptism or dedication or confirmation or at whatever other rituals the congregation took vows to pray and care for the children. Youth take these promises seriously — when they see that they are not fulfilled by adult members of the congregation, they see no reason to follow through for themselves.

Ironically, while in college, I served as a high school youth director for three years. I can’t say that I avoided all the pitfalls my home congregation had discovered, but I was able to lead differently after having the experience of seeing things done poorly. I have learned a lot since those days, and there is so much left to learn; but my basic recommendation to those interested in re-imagining a way of ministering with youth is simple: treat the young people like members of your church. Help them find their spiritual gifts and create ways for them to share those gifts with the community. When you do that, and believe it, then there’s a chance to expand that practice to the staff and members. When all churchgoers are given the opportunity to share their God-given gifts with the world in ways that matter, we will finally be the church that our youth believe we already are.

Congress Street

2015 YCW Summer Conference

Congress StreetThis Summer, the YCW are GTT[1]

I look forward to the Young Clergywomen Conference every summer. For me, it’s a no-miss July ritual, right up there with hotdogs and fireworks. The Young Clergywomen Conference re-charges mind, body, and soul, comfortably navigating the line between solemnity and frivolity. Where else can you break from evening prayer and adjourn for beers at a local pub? The YCW conference, that’s where.

This year, YCW Conference will kick up its boot heels in Austin, Texas–that weird keeping, laid-back, music-loving capital of Texas. The dates are July 6-9, 2015 and  Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary will be our gracious host. Located just across the street from the University of Texas, and blocks away from downtown Austin, APTS is nestled between restaurants, pubs, and the ubiquitous Texas treat — breakfast tacos. Fellowship with old and new friends is a cornerstone of all YCW conferences, and Austin will provide the perfect context to feed your soul and stomach with the food of friendship.

As it turns out, this conference is all about context — from its location at Austin Seminary, to its keynote speaker, Dr. Margaret Aymer, professor of New Testament at Interdenominational Theological Center (Atlanta).  She’s going to be working with us on Contextual Bible Study, a tool that arose out of the church’s response to Apartheid in South Africa.  You can find her over at Twitter, where she is very active under the handle @mayog.

In addition to workshops, the conference will also offer:

  • Self-Care Opportunities (such as the very popular mani/pedis)
  • Field Trips for Spouses/Partners/Traveling Companions
  • Childcare will be available!
  • Cost: Early Registration fee for 2015 is $160. Childcare, meals for traveling companions (non-conference attending adults), and t-shirts are extra.  You may pre-register here.
  • Hotel: We have a group rate set up at the Holiday Inn-Midtown, Austin. The cost is $99/night.  We may have more housing options available in the coming months.  If you would like to reserve a room at the Holiday Inn-Midtown, please go to this link.  You are responsible for arranging your own housing for the conference.

See y’all in Texas!

[1] gone to Texas



IMG_20141102_085157“Give us this day our daily bread.”  Too often, I think, we hear this phrase preached as a call to the daily, a reminder to live in the moment, not thinking too far ahead and not lingering too long in the past.  I know I’ve preached that sermon more than once.  And although this message isn’t wrong (after all, the manna in the desert went bad if the people took more than they needed for a single day), I wonder if it is at risk of becoming narrow and myopic.  If bread is merely a daily commodity, I wonder if we miss the abundance of the larger picture.

Bread, in my experience, is not a commodity measured in 24-hour increments, but is instead a substance which demands thought and planning.  Most of the loaves of bread we in America love to eat, the fat, crusty, seedy loaves from the bakery baskets, take days of planning and care to create.  A loaf of sourdough bread, for example, can take months or even years to develop.  Once a strand of yeast is captured, developing, feeding, and caring for that yeast strain amounts to something of a family tradition.  Bakers across the world are known for the strain of yeast they build their sourdough from: here in the US, most of our sourdough comes from the San Francisco yeast strain.

Artisan breads, including sourdough, start from what is called a “sponge,” a paste made from flour, water, and a little yeast, which you let sit out for a number of hours or even days.  The sponge bubbles and ferments, building the flavor and complexity it will add to the loaf of bread.  The crumb of the bread also takes time to develop.  Crumb refers to the density of the loaf: How much give does it have against your teeth as you take a bite?  The chewier your crumb, the longer the bread takes.  Gluten, from the flours, needs to convert to create the crumb, and it converts through the hours of rising time.  Needless to say…bread is not a “daily” endeavor.

A beautiful loaf of bread also demands sweat and elbow grease.  Our poor kitchen table has grown all too wobbly thanks to many hours John and I have spent kneading bread on its surface!  In The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection, which is a lovely exploration of food and theology, Rev. Robert Capon, a chef and Episcopalian priest makes the following comment about kneading:  “Knead well.  It perfects the texture of the bread, and, more important, it is good for your soul.  There are few actions you will ever take that have more of the stuff of history in them.  A woman with her sleeves rolled up and flour on her hands is one of the most gorgeous stabilities in the world.  Don’t let your family miss the sight.”

There is something about bread that is, at least in my house, the very definition of home, in all of its time consuming activity and work.  The sight of the sponge bubbling on the counter raises the anticipation of fresh bread for tomorrow, the sound of John kneading away at the table is truly a sound of stability, and the scent of yeasty bread baking in the oven makes even the coldest days seem a bit warmer.  Bread, from start to finish, is decidedly not daily.

For most of us, the thought of baking bread might stop here, but growing up in the Palouse region of Washington State, it was impossible to escape the ubiquity of the grain needed to make the bread.  You see it when you drive out of Spokane in any direction.  There are large, community grain silos in every town.  Even our local distillery markets their whiskey as produced from 100% WA wheat.  In the Spring, the fields are full of young wheat, rippling like a green lake; by the height of summer, the stalks are brown and pregnant with grain.  Fall brings the gathering of the sheaves, and winter marks the fallow period, when the stubble of harvest promises to restore the soil.  Just as bread is not a daily endeavor from the perspective of human bakers, bread is even less so a daily endeavor from the perspective of the land and those who farm it.  The Psalmist reminds us that the rivers of water, providing the people with grain, the furrows and settling ridges are blessed with growth by our creator and provider (Psalm 65).  The years are crowned with bounty by the one to whom the valleys deck themselves and shout for joy.  Our sustainer has been planting our loaves of daily bread years in advance.

Every year, the grain once again grows up as tender, green stalks.  Every year the sun continues to dry those stalks into the amber waves we sing about.  Every year the harvest comes again, and every year, the stubble of the fallow field stands testament to the God who has once again provided daily bread.  And just as the fields seem their emptiest, full of overturned dirt, the little green shoots spring up again, a moment in which it seems our God has said, that was fun, let’s do it again!  The soil does not forget the one who has caused it to overflow with richness, so let us not forget either.  For our God has planned our daily bread before we could imagine it, be it the literal bread of the field and table, or the sustaining friendships and vocations we are called to live into as the body of Christ.

So, yes, let’s enjoy the bread given to us this day.  Let’s take freely of the abundance of the table set before us.  But in the bread of today, let us also remember the hope that God’s provision did not start in this moment…and it will not end when this table is emptied.  Our bread is not daily.  Our creative God cares for us abundantly, preparing for us bread, through the days, the seasons, and the years we have been given.

The author and her piano

A Companion for the Journey


The author and her piano

Above: the author at her piano

I sat in the blue Queen Anne’s chair (not mine) in the formal living room (not mine) of the parsonage (not mine, of course) and watched, nervously, as he took the cover off the grand upright piano (mine). He had a case of ancient-looking tools behind him on the bench, a cell phone in his back pocket. He opened the lid of the piano and removed the upper panel. He ran his fingers, unmindful, through the thick dust on the wood as he reached to touch the pin block where a name and number were still engraved.

“You can look up the serial number if you want. See how old she is.”

I took a worn book from him and looked up the maker, Mendelssohn, and the serial number. The book tells me this instrument was manufactured in 1909. My piano is 105 years old this year.  It’s been with me for twenty-three of those years.

My grandmother played piano. When we kids were little she taught us “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” I played the melody while she played chords underneath it. We played on her Winter console piano, the key edges gnawed off by the teething children of multiple generations. I thought it was magic, the way those keys made so much sound. One day my dad asked me if I might like to play piano like Granny. I said yes.

Dad bought this piano for a hundred dollars when I was in the second grade. It was beat up with multiple layers of paint, its own keys damaged. It came to live in our garage while Dad took it apart, piece by piece. He repaired what he could, replaced what he couldn’t, sanded down the wood, stained it all again, and put it back together. I don’t know how many man hours went into that piano, but I still remember the smell of varnish and the sound of the evening conversations between my dad and the man he called to consult about pianos and how to fix them. Before too long, I was taking lessons and learning to play. Like Granny.

Through the years, I had six piano teachers, countless lessons, seasonal recitals, many competitions, hours of practice, frustration, joy, careful work…and one beautiful faithful piano. It stayed at my parents’ house when I went to live in a dorm room at college. I played many pianos in the practice rooms at Birmingham-Southern College, but “home” was always that old grand upright. On visits to my parents’ house I gravitated toward the instrument in the corner. Sometimes I’d practice, then stop playing and stare at the dark wood before my eyes, my feet kicking lightly at the bottom panel, just as they had when I was a kid.

Though I majored in music, I was feeling a tug toward sacramental ministry. So after college I moved to seminary, and my piano stayed in Alabama. I moved to my first church, then another state, then my second church. With each move I left behind friends and made new ones, left behind old worlds and learned new ones. Yet no matter where I lived or who I left, I came home to visit Mom and Dad and my sisters…and that piano. How many times had I sat on that bench and kicked my feet against the bottom panel, hearing the echoes of space, the potential of sound, inside? How many times had I been comforted with that familiar seat, that dark wood—unchanging, the old friend that was my piano, still there?

When I moved to my third call, I was compensated with a large parsonage. I was determined, this time, to move my piano with me. It was expensive and difficult to get such a heavy, unwieldy piece of furniture up to a second-story living room. It took four young men and some luck on a rainy day, but here it was, before me: my dear piano. And the piano tuner.

I handed the book back and watched as he jiggled pins and tapped the soundboard.

“It’s very old,” he said.  And I listened as I do when a doctor shares a loved one’s diagnosis.  “But it’s a good piano. Amazing shape, considering the age.”

He explained that some things simply could not be fixed, that wood is wood and it decays over time. He explained that even the metal wears and becomes loose, that eventually what is now only a little flat will be completely without sound. I felt as if he were telling me how many years the piano had left to live because, of course, he was.

Some objects are just objects. But others are (or become) important friends. I don’t know what lives my piano was a part of before it came to me, but I remember the life that I poured into it: the curiosity and boredom (by turns) I shared with it during practice hours as a child, the emotion and turmoil I felt I could only express through its sustained sounds as a teenager, the discipline and determination I worked into it as a young adult. Now, after the piano tuner left, I sat on the bench once more. A new church. A new home. A chair and a living room and a house (not mine) and an old piano (mine). My beloved, faithful friend.

Blessed Are The Crazy

Book Review: Blessed Are The Crazy

“Blessed are the crazy for we shall receive mercy.” – Sarah Griffith Lund

Blessed Are The CrazyIf you have ever struggled with mental illness or loved someone who has, then you know that we have a cultural problem. There are many misperceptions; high-profile, violent events have become the face of mental illness. Yet most people with mental illness are not dangerous. People don’t want to be labeled; we want to be seen as “normal.” In our world, so many people are affected by mental illness but don’t have the tools and language to talk about it. Sarah Griffith Lund has written Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family & Church, a book that will transform our perceptions and give us tools to deal with the reality of mental illness in our lives. She even proposes that mental illness is a gift.

This book is poignant, relevant, and profound. It responds to the stigma of what Sarah rightly calls “brain disease.” Sarah is a young clergy woman who is also trained in social work, and she has a very personal, beautiful testimony about mental illness. She provides genuine theological reflection about how individuals and communities can respond to mental illness in healthy ways. This spiritual journey teaches the reader true redemption and reconciliation from one who is deeply affected by mental illness.

Sarah offers several stories about mental illness that draw the reader into her personal experience. She shares about her childhood with her father who lived with bipolar disorder and how his brain disease significantly impacted the dynamic of her family. She continues her testimony with her oldest brother’s bipolar disorder and what she discovered through loving him and caring for him. Sarah then describes what it was like for her to offer spiritual guidance to her cousin who was convicted of murder, lived on death row, and was eventually executed. She reflects upon her own spiritual journey – from faith formation in her family, to atheist, to evangelical, to progressive Christian. She examines the life of Jesus as God entering a painful world and offering healing and forgiveness for all ailments. Sarah challenges the reader to think about how God is working through those who suffer from mental illness; she infers that we can learn and grow from greater understanding. The conclusion of Sarah’s testimony integrates her personal experience with practical ways that the church can bring hope to individuals, families, and communities overwhelmed with mental illness.

As I read Sarah’s book, I couldn’t put it down. Her words are comfort to me in my personal and public life. As a pastor to some who live with brain diseases, and as a woman who has struggled with her own depression and anxiety, Sarah provides a courageous testimony that frees me and others to be honest about our own “crazy in the blood.” What I love about Sarah’s book most is how bravely she writes about the complexity of her journey, and her experience of God in the midst of human brokenness. She truly has an insightful spiritual walk that can teach us all.

Blessed Are the Crazy is a valuable tool for pastors, lay people in the church, and unchurched people. I would be eager to use this book, with the study questions provided on Sarah’s website, with an adult book study group. I also plan to have extra copies of this book on my shelves for those times when people who live with mental illness walk into my office looking for comfort or hope. Sarah’s eager authenticity gives us hope that we are not alone nor do we have to feel alone. This book, Blessed Are the Crazy, can and will change the ways that we talk about mental illness.


Introducing the Board

logoThe Young Clergy Women Project is organized by two boards — the Editorial Board and the Community Board. Together they form the Full Board, which offers vision and direction for TYCWP. Using various online meeting resources, the Editorial Board and Community Board each meet regularly throughout the year. The Full Board also meets periodically online, and once a year it gathers in person (following the annual conference).

Who are the women who serve on the TYCWP Board?  Let’s introduce you to the ladies serving in 2014-2015:

The Editorial Board

Erica Schemper is a Presbyterian pastor and mother, currently concentrating on the mother part after a decade of ministry in various settings in the Chicago area. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their two children. She blogs at “Don’t Flay the Sheep” (http://erikanderica.org/Erica).

Brenda Lovick is ordained in the ELCA. She’s from DeForest, Wisconsin (just outside of Madison), and is now in rural northern Illinois. She went to Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. She met her husband in Louisville, and he is from there.

Amy Loving is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She serves as pastor of two of the coolest Presbyterian churches in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. During her free time she enjoys dabbling in needle felting and crochet, spending time with her fiancé, reading mystery novels, and playing the occasional computer or video game. Her life is fueled by faith, friendships, and coffee.

April Berends is an Episcopal priest in Sewanee, Tennessee. She has served churches in Milwaukee, Miami and Washington, DC. She lives on a mountain with her husband (an Episcopal priest and musician) and their two sons. Between the four of them, there’s a good chance that at any given moment, someone at their house is singing. April enjoys throwing pots, cooking, hiking, conversations on the porch, and tending a vast tangle of vegetable garden.

Jessica Harren is the pastor of Capron Lutheran Church in Capron, IL. She earned a BA at Texas Lutheran University, an MA at Loyola University Chicago, and her seminary training was at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. She lives with her husband Peter, their toddler son, and two cats – Gandalf the Gray (in case you’re not as geeky as her family, that’s from Lord of the Rings) and Mai Tai (ever notice how cat’s tails are the same shape as straws?). Jessica’s time also includes reading, learning about trains and tractors, thinking about what a truly postmodern church might look like, and managing her health holistically though both Western and Eastern medical traditions.

Mihee Kim-Kort is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She has served two parishes – one in NJ and one in PA. Her current ministry is to college students at Indiana University through UKIRK (PCUSA’s collegiate ministry). She hauls twins and a surprise #3 around Bloomington, IN, and in the midst of mom-brain fog, she continues to try to engage issues close to her heart: Asian American culture, social justice, feminism, and now motherhood and women’s spirituality. She’s written three books: Making Paper Cranes (Chalice), Streams Run Uphill (Judson), and a third book with her husband which will be released Fall 2014 called Yoked: Stories of a Clergy Couple in Marriage, Family, and Ministry (Rowman and Littlefield). She blogs at First Day Walking (miheekimkort.com).

Kelly Boubel Shriver serves as the Pastor of Peoples Presbyterian Church in Milan, MI. She is a graduate of Princeton Seminary, with a focus in Women’s Studies. Kelly and her husband, John, keep themselves busy chasing after their two sons, Enoch and Moses, a dog, Bristol, and a flock of ducks. When not corralling one of her many creatures, Kelly loves to quilt, can and preserve, read, and watch reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Doctor Who.

Kelsey Grissom is an elder in The United Methodist Church and currently serves as Associate Pastor at Asbury UMC in Birmingham, Alabama. She graduated from Candler School of Theology at Emory University before adventuring to such new and strange places as rural Valley, AL and very-urban Philadelphia, PA. Now she is glad to be back home in Birmingham where she lives with her three-year-old son, Houston, and their dog and cat. In her private life Kelsey enjoys hiking, book club, and music. Kelsey and her mom were the first mother and daughter clergy to be ordained in their Annual Conference.

Diana Carroll is an Episcopal priest and currently serves three-quarter-time as Rector of St. Luke’s Eastport in Annapolis, Maryland. She is also the exceedingly part-time chaplain at St. Anne’s School of Annapolis. Her great-grandfather and grandfather were both Episcopal priests, so she thinks the trait must have skipped a generation. Diana majored in English at Kenyon College (2004) and did her MDiv at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale (2008). Before coming to Maryland, she was the Assistant to the Rector at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Diana lives in Annapolis with her wife, Sarah Lamming, who is also a YCW. On their sabbath days, they enjoy tending their balcony garden, cooking and eating delicious brunches, and not living in church-owned housing.

Emily M. Brown is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, currently serving as Associate Pastor of Broadway UCC in New York City. She is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York, as well as Harvard College. Her family includes her husband Bailes, stepson Ben, and son Abel. She enjoys Zumba, reading young adult dystopian novels, and exploring the city’s many bakeries. She makes excellent meatballs, and blogs intermittently at www.feministpastor.blogspot.com.

The Community Board

Molly Field James is an Episcopal priest who serves on the Bishops’ Staff as the Dean for Formation for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. She holds a Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Exeter (UK). She holds a Master’s of Divinity Degree from Yale Divinity School. She is an Associate Priest at Christ Church Cathedral and Grace Church in Hartford, CT. She is currently an adjunct faculty member at Hartford Seminary and the University of St. Joseph. Previously, she has served as a parish priest and a hospital chaplain. Her husband, Reade, is a mechanical engineer, and they have two children, Katherine who was born in October of 2010, and Halsted who was born in April of 2014. In addition to ministry and education, Molly loves cooking, reading, films and spending time in the splendor of God’s Creation.

Diana Hodges-Batzka is honored to serve as the Senior Minister since 2011 to the wonderful people at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Lemoyne, PA. In 2009 she had a crazy summer of transition where she received her MDiv from Vanderbilt University Divinity School, was ordained, got married to John (fellow Vandy Div School grad), and started a two-year pastoral residency at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Montgomery, Alabama. When not in transition, she enjoys reading, watching TV, going to movies, hanging out with her husband and dog, Sophie, and going to Florida or other warm places to escape the cold.

Christine Davies is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). After earning her MDiv at Princeton Theological Seminary and MSW at Rutgers University she worked as a social worker and a staff chaplain in Philadelphia. She now serves as the Director of Chaplaincy Services and Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor at NYU Langone Medical Center in NYC. When not running CPE groups, she can be found taking in cheesy Broadway musicals, searching for the perfect chai latte and getting sunburned in Central Park.

Jamie Haskins is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She currently serves Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri as Chaplain, Director of Spiritual Life and Instructor of Religious Studies. A graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School (go Dores!), Jamie and her partner Sarah ventured from the South to the Midwest and now call Columbia, Missouri home. When not teaching, preaching, and hanging out with amazing young adults, her time is ideally spent eating good food, drinking fabulous wine, cycling, camping and spending time with her lovely family.

Julie Jensen is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina Honors College (go Gamecocks!) and Columbia Theological Seminary. Currently, she serves as Associate Pastor for Congregational Care and Mission at First Presbyterian Church in Cartersville, GA. In her spare time, Julie enjoys cooking, knitting, watching movies, and is trying to become a runner, which is a lot harder than she thought it would be.

Sarah Moore is a minister of the United Reformed Church (URC) based in Cumbria, England. Currently serving as Cumbria Area President in the first ecumenical county in England working closely with the Church of England Diocese of Carlisle and the Cumbria District of the Methodist Church. Ordained in 2005, Sarah read Theology & Religious Studies at Roehampton Institute London before preparing for ministry at Westminster College, Cambridge followed by a happy seven years in her first pastorate within an ecumenical group of churches in Darwen, Lancashire. Sarah also serves the global church on the World Council of Churches Central Committee. Other interests include reading, real ale, hiking up mountains, cheese, wine and travelling world and country at any opportunity. She lives with two cats (both named after beers), Ginger Marble, a ginger and white cat who keeps her sane, and Hawkshead Windermere Pale (aka Windy), a cream and white cat with attitude!

Lesley Ratcliff serves as Associate Pastor for Children at Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Lesley Ratcliff spent several years in Exile, also known as Texas, while completing her Masters of Divinity at George W. Truett Theological Seminary before returning to her Mississippi roots. Lesley and her husband Brock (Pastor and Mathematics Teacher) are the parents of one human child, Marlow, and two four-legged children Sophie and Duke (both 60 lb. lap dogs). In her spare time, Lesley can be found working algebra problems for fun, reading children’s literature or pretending to be an interior designer.

Phyllis Stutzman is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She is a graduate of Truman State University (2001) and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (2005). She currently pastors First Presbyterian Church of Tecumseh, Oklahoma. Previously, she has served congregations in Missouri, Texas, and Kansas, and finds herself forever serving on presbytery level committees. Phyl and her husband, Jacob, are active in interfaith community building and ecumenical work, and together, they chase around their precocious preschooler, Annora, love on their aging pup Rosalind, cheer on the Kansas Jayhawks, and pursue an increasingly futile search for good Mexican food north of the Texas border.

Caroline East Berardi was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina and attended the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Now ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Caroline graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2009. She now serves as the Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Anderson, South Carolina. She juggles life and ministry as a newer parent and as the spouse of a fellow Presbyterian minister. In addition to faith and family, Caroline loves baking, reading, frozen margaritas, afternoons in the backyard, and all kinds of travel.

Meg Jenista grew up overseas and in a variety of evangelical churches. She is a minister with the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), ordained as an associate in Kalamazoo, MI in 2008 and now serves as a solo pastor in Washington DC. She thoroughly enjoys the support, resources and humor of TYCWP and is honored to serve on the board. Since she lives in walking distance of the Metro and has a ridiculously friendly cat, she’ll issue an open invite to members of the project who want to see the nation’s capital. You have a place to stay!

If you are interested in serving on the Board, watch for applications in early 2015.

This is what clergy women look like!  Join us next year!

Images from “Out of the Deep: Pastoring in Creative Space”

Over 70 young clergy women from all over the world gathered in Minneapolis, Minnesota just a few weeks ago for the seventh Young Clergywomen Conference.  We learned from our wonderful speaker, Rev. Ruth Harvey.  We could feel the Spirit’s presence as we worshiped and prayed together.  We offered a conference that welcomed children, as well as one that offered childcare.  And, of course, we had fun meeting and bonding with fellow young clergywomen!

After you see these pictures, we know you’ll want to mark your calendar: our next conference will be held the week of July 5-9 in Austin, Texas!

We worshiped together in the chapel at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

We worshiped together in the chapel at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Who doesn't like a good sale?  The sale table featured extra "swag", TYCWP  "You're Not the Only One" cards, and imprint books.

Who doesn’t like a good sale? The sale table featured extra “swag”, TYCWP “You’re Not the Only One” cards, and imprint books.

The "swag" for the conference was AWESOME!

The “swag” for the conference was AWESOME!

Here we are at the keynote session with our speaker, Rev. Ruth Harvey.

Here we are at the keynote session with our speaker, Rev. Ruth Harvey.

We participated in some table activities during the keynote session.  There is so much we can learn from one another!

We participated in some table activities during the keynote session. There is so much we can learn from one another!

The prayer service of healing that was held in the Chapel at Westminster Presbyterian Church was a moving experience.

The prayer service of healing that was held in the Chapel at Westminster Presbyterian Church was a moving experience.

This is what clergy women look like!  Join us next year!

The 2014 TYCWP Conference Attendees (including Amy Loving who was Skyped in). This is what clergy women look like! Join us next year!