Let’s Be Honest: A Guide to Worship

My boys love going to church. On Sunday mornings, as I’m rushing to get out the door, they are moving quickly right with me, excited to get there. It is amazing and gratifying and humbling to witness, and I do not expect it to last forever. I will cherish it while it does. 

The truth is that Sundays in many homes where people are trying to get out the door to church are not always peaceful and pleasant. But often, as soon as they enter the doors, there is a transformation. Arguments pause, smiles return, and all is well once again. Through unspoken agreement, we participate together in the rhythms and rituals of worship. It’s holy space, but susceptible to the overcrowding of the mundane or the lull of familiar patterns.

Inspired by some musings shared by members of Young Clergy Women International, I present to you “Let’s Be Honest: A Guide to Worship.”1

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You Are My Beloved

OnesWeLoveJuneImage“My beloved speaks and says to me: Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”

I’ve been involved in planning quite a few weddings over the years, including my own, and I can tell you that one of the trickiest parts is choosing music. I’m a big fan of our Episcopal hymnal, but it really falls short when it comes to wedding hymns. There are precisely four hymns in the section titled “Marriage.” They are numbers 350 to 353, and I can pretty much guarantee that even if you are Episcopalian, you’ve never heard of any of them, because they’re never used. There are plenty of other fabulous hymns that people use at weddings, and of course, there are many songs for choirs or soloists. But there are hardly any actual wedding hymns.

So a few years ago, when my wife and I agreed to make each other Christmas presents instead of buying things, I decided to write her a wedding hymn. I drew on the image of the beloved in Song of Songs, which is often read at weddings, and I set it to the tune of her favorite Christmas carol: “In The Bleak Midwinter.” Read more

An Interview with Margaret Aymer

The Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer was keynote speaker at the Text in Context conference, hosted by The Young Clergy WomMargaret Aymeren Project this July in Austin, Texas. She taught for many years at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, before becoming Associate Professor of New Testament at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Professor Aymer is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). “Our Cloud of Witnesses” editor Diana Carroll sat down with her during the conference to learn more about her life and ministry.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your ministry?

Some of the challenges have included things like working in places where I was not making a lot of money and not having the money to participate more broadly in the life of the church. The first few times I was asked to preach in a conference after I was ordained, I actually had to have them buy me the ticket, because I could not afford to buy a ticket and have them reimburse me.

It was challenging teaching in a seminary in which one of the six seminaries didn’t recognize my ordination, because I was female. Read more

Veni, Vidi, Venti?

A few years ago I was particularly grateful for my sister’s various talents. She sang for our church service, she glued animal addresses together, she helped lead the kids in our children’s Christmas Eve service, and of course she came with me to the hospital to sing.

When we go visit at a nursing home or a smaller facility, Beth will come with me to the room of whomever we are visiting and offer a few carols there. We’ve tried that at the hospital but for some reason her overpowering soprano is not as welcome in the halls as it is in an assisted living center. We’ve had nurses shut the door on her beautiful notes of “O Holy Night” more than once. Read more