Green emergency exit graphic sign with human figure running through a door and an arrow pointing left

Emergency! …But Whose?

Green emergency exit graphic sign with human figure running through a door and an arrow pointing left

There are some emergency-like situations that don’t need to be escalated and intensified by the pastor.

“Doesn’t it suck,” my colleague commented to me, “when people call us in a panic because they didn’t read their email from weeks ago and now they want us to fix their problem?”

Yes, it does suck. One of my growing edges as a pastor is learning how to prevent other people’s anxiety from engulfing my day. One of the unspoken and unrealistic expectations placed on a pastor is that a parishioner’s predicament should automatically become the pastor’s. Of course, we have many real and pressing crises in pastoral ministry, such as someone moving to hospice, getting into a car accident, receiving a grim diagnosis, etc. But I’m discovering there are also situations facing folks that don’t need to be escalated and intensified by the pastor.

In this identified growth area, I draw inspiration from my sister. This spring, my niece, who is 9 years old, wanted greater independence. She was tired of her mom telling her what to do. My sister and niece agreed to a week-long trial in which my sister would refrain from giving directives, which ranged from feeding the cat to taking a bath. Before the experiment began, my sister said, “Just so we’re clear: with this arrangement, your emergency doesn’t have to become my emergency.” For example, if my niece forgot to pack her lunch the night before school, she might be in a panic in the morning and go to her mom, expecting her to be similarly panicked and hence find correct change so that she could purchase a school lunch. But no, my sister said:  the consequence would be that my niece wouldn’t eat lunch that day. Happily, my niece never neglected to pack her lunch; it seems that she had sufficient internal motivation. My sister is not ready to endorse this parenting method to anyone else: there were pros and cons to letting a 9-year-old completely determine her priorities in homework, chores, and personal hygiene. Nevertheless, my niece’s attitude improved substantially, and my sister was pleased by how much their mother-daughter relationship improved.   Read more

handprints in paint on a white wall

Ask a Young Clergy Woman: Running Down the Aisles Edition

handprints in paint on a white wallDear Askie,

Recently, our church has seen an increase in young children attending worship. Now, I love children very much, and I know that young families are a wonderful addition to our congregation. However, the noise and commotion can be very disruptive, and really detracts from my (and others’) worship experience. Our congregation offers childcare, but I guess some parents aren’t comfortable with that.

Another problem is that as these children get older, they feel right at home in the church building, and can often be seen running around with little or no supervision. This can be dangerous for the children and for the unlucky folks in their path. How can our church address these problems without chasing the families away?

Concerned about Children

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Celebrating The Longest Relationship

Over the trajectory of our lives, what are the longest and most enduring relationships we are likely to experience?  With our parents?  Our partner?  Our children?  For those of us who are not ‘only’ children, the longest relationships we are likely to hold are those with our sisters and brothers.  Siblings are perhaps the most significant repositories of our life stories outside of ourselves and those other intimate and key relationships we create and nurture for ourselves.  Who else has memory of early years, growing up, young adulthood, who observes our forming loving partnerships with another, who might be appointed a guardian of our own children should the unthinkable occur and who holding all this story will accompany a person into old age?  While some friendships do endure for life, many arise either for a reason or for a season.  While some families do become estranged, it is unusual for a person to lose contact entirely with their sisters and brothers.

Both realising this reality and arising from a pastoral wish to involve all members of a family, it has long been a regular practice of mine to offer the option of a promise or set of promises for older siblings to make when a baby is brought to church and welcomed into the Christian community at baptism or dedication.  It has never felt pastorally comfortable (to me) when older brothers and sisters are left on the sidelines of the church’s liturgy, with more emphasis on the role of godparents than on the longest relationship the baby is likely to experience and enjoy.

Celebrating the Longest Relationship PhotoThis particular set of affirmations was prepared for a nine year old girl, Holly, to make at the baptism of Daisy, her younger sister.  It accompanies A Service for Infant Baptism written by Alan Paterson and published by The United Reformed Church, Additional Material, ‘Worship: from The United Reformed Church’ (London: The United Reformed Church, 2004).

Affirmations for an older sister



We read in the Bible of sisters and brothers

some who were together friends of Jesus,

the fishermen James and John

Mary, Martha and Lazarus,

whose home he visited.

We hear of others,

Moses, Miriam and Aaron

who journeyed together

even though they

did not know exactly

where they were going.

Holly, will you try

to always be a friend and helper to Daisy?



I will



We heard too in the Bible

about some sisters and brothers

who did not get on so well together;

of Jacob who took

what belonged to his brother Esau,

and of Joseph of the amazing coat

whose brothers

sold him to a foreign land.

Holly, when Daisy annoys you

or when you don’t agree

on what is right,

will you try to be patient and understanding?



I will



We celebrate the stories of the times

sisters and brothers helped each other

to know Jesus for themselves.

The Gospel writers remembered

how Andrew introduced

his brother Simon to Jesus

and how brothers James and John

followed Jesus’ call together.

Holly, will you try to follow the example of Jesus’ friends

and will you share with Daisy

everything that you have learned here at chapel

about how Jesus invites all of us to follow him

and will you look forward to a time

when you and Daisy can learn about

God, family and community together?



I will