Finding Words

Post Author: Kathryn Craven

ministry lab nov 2016I have finally found my voice. I found my voice after seven years of often squelching, silencing parish ministry. For some reason beyond me, this new sense of purpose and meaning has come in the form of what used to intimidate me: writing liturgy. After my last call came to an abrupt close, I felt the overwhelming push to start writing liturgy — something I had always been much too scared to do before. Truth be told, I was actually still scared to do it but somehow knew that I had to. I started by writing Holy Week liturgies and have progressed through the year from there.

I start with the four scriptures appointed for the day in the Revised Common Lectionary. Since they change each week, every liturgy brings new challenges. I always try to include at least three, if not all four, of the readings. The more liturgies I write, the more I find the scripture speaking for itself. I find myself just picking out the central or pertinent parts of scripture and quoting those with added context. I have been surprised just how many times scripture has simply handed me the prayer of confession, and often it’s been way harsher than I would have attempted writing. I also have found that scripture speaks effectively to our current historical moment, sometimes in ways that feel pointed. Scriptural themes of the consolidation of land and wealth resonate strongly, and I often find myself drawing connections between scripture and the U.S. election. Justice (the non-punitive kind) is still needed, and righteousness (which I define as “right-relationship”) is a struggle both in scripture and in our contemporary context. It has been fascinating seeing these arcs and connections. I write the Opening Prayer last, typically using the themes that I would base a sermon on if I were preaching that day. My liturgies are definitely mini-sermons to me.

The stark reality of my ministry is that right now, writing liturgy for others to use is my ministry. My mom uses the words I write at the amazing country church she and my father serve in their retirement. As I attend there it has been odd to be immersed in worship, only to realize at the end of the prayer that I’m worshipping using words I wrote myself. I’ve also written the liturgy especially for a couple of our Presbytery meetings. This is now how I serve, which in no way is what I would have expected at any previous point on my journey in ministry. I want to be happy that it is in such a creative way. I’d like to help make the world a better place for those who especially need the Good News of God’s incredible love and interaction.

This new path isn’t always easy. It’s hard to know how effective this ministry is, and I’m doing it as a labor of love while family finances are tightening. I’m the “trailing spouse,” supporting my husband’s career path for the next few years, which feels odd after being career-driven for myself over so many years. But then again, how many forms of ministry can I engage in while nursing or after everyone else has gone to sleep? The rhythms of life keep things interesting if not downright disorienting.

So this is where I find myself: listening to scriptures, trying to create resources that help people hear their importance afresh, and all while holding the precious toddler who, as I wrote this essay, just crawled up on my lap and fell asleep (She’s only ever done that for grandpa! This is amazing!). Life is so holy sometimes. But from me to you? When you are being squelched or when for survival you keep silent? Please know that you are not alone, and that the holy voice inside of you will find a way out in its own time and place. The caged bird still sings. The scripture even now still speaks. You have unexpected holiness waiting to come from you, too.

Kathryn Craven is a mom, wife and minister-at-large living in Southern Wisconsin. In between sewing, dreaming of a neat house and trying to offer as much loving, inclusive, radical hospitality to the world as possible, she writes on her lectionary website.

Image by: ashley.adcox
Used with permission
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