Tales of a Midwest Lutheran on the East Coast

Sunday, January 29, 2012

First Call Theological Education, AKA "Baby Pastor School"

Or what my colleague Jim says, "Baby Pastor Boot-Camp." Actually, he's not far from the truth! Though we did not keep awake all night praying on hot coals or eat mush by candle light, it was pretty intense - they had us going from 7:30 AM to 9 PM with scheduled activities, with few breaks in between. Most of our days were spent in long plenary sessions and in our small groups. I was so excited to see one of our Luther professors Chris Scharen was one of the speakers. He's always great. It was just.... long with not a lot of time for reflection. Granted, they were trying out something new this year... they called it "the Leadership Guild."

I "won" the award for newliest ordained, having been ordained less than 24 hours before being whisked away to a retreat center in Malvern PA. Since I have only been at St. Paul for about 5 weeks now, it was a challenge for me to make a lot of connections between what we were being taught and figuring out concrete ways to apply it. It was nice to meet so many people in our region, and especially to make connections with other pastors who are part of a "staff" like myself. But really, by the end I had to do some claiming of my introverted self, which my group was wonderfully supportive of. 

Our cats were VERY happy to see us when we got back - they had gone from six people in the  apartment to NONE!!! Poor things. 

This Sunday I presided for the first time... and almost forgot the Lord's Prayer during the first service. :) I did that a couple times on internship too. But I wasn't really that nervous anyway. It makes such a difference to be leading worship in a community that is just SO EXCITED for me to be there, that doing this was more of a WOW and a joy than an "oh no!" I was anxious not to mess up of course, but I think no more than normal. It was pretty cool. I feel pretty darn blessed.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ordination Sunday

January 22, 2012. My ordination day. Where to begin describing? With the attempted arrival of my family (Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Sister) on Friday night, of course. Originally, they were supposed to fly from Madison to Detroit to Philly, arriving at 5 PM. But thanks to delays and cancellations that plan soon went out the window. They were able to fly into Newark that night, which is about the same distance from us as Philly at 10:30 PM. We were able to get them to our apartment by midnight, before it snowed. The next day we relaxed and had a big breakfast and played games. Our big adventure was going to Target and then attending the service at Beau's church

On Sunday morning I picked them up between service, so they could see me "in action" during our 11 AM service. I didn't preach but I did the children's message, using at kitchen timer to talk about what Jesus may have meant when he said "The time is fulfilled." Just about every one in the church welcomed them and talked to them. Many people commented about how alike Katie and I look!

After church we went to lunch at Perkins nearby in Hightstown - lucky for us they could get us in right away because we were a big group. Then it was time for the "rehearsal" of the service with Bishop Riley. Julie S, a friend from college going to Gettysburg Sem, had arrived to be one of the lectors along with my sister Katie. We went through the service and people began to arrive. A bunch of my clergy friends from the cluster were there. We waited in the narthex area to process in, so I "missed" the first part of the service - all I could here was my colleague Jim going "wa-wa-wa." :) 

Pastor Linda, who had become a good friend in our cluster and who had also been an intern at St. Paul a number of years ago, preached an amazing sermon on the call of Isaiah. I will never forget the "O woe is me!" bit. :) Suddenly it was time for the ordination part of the service. I made some promises, and the congregation made some promise too. Then my mom, Beau, and Jim put the stole on me, a stole my mom had made and had been blessed by my home congregation, Grace Lutheran Church, where I had been baptized, confirmed, and married. Then all the pastors gathered around me and put their hands on me. It was like being cocooned in the spirit. Then I was also installed (a two-for-one service) and took a field trip around the sanctuary to font, pulpit, and altar. 

It was humbling and affirming at the same time. I was so glad to have been surrounded by not just the friends and family there physically, but also the presence of all the people who have helped my in my journey. And this journey is not over - it's just a new chapter beginning. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Nesting... the process continues! But you can see that I have made progress on my office. Unfortunately due to the narrow nature of the room, I can't show you the shelves that are on the other side of the desk, nor can you really see the bulletin board on the opposite wall. But is coming along nicely. It will look even better this weekend for my ordination! I have now moved all my stuff from home to the office. And I have already gone though some of my stuff that I haven't looked through since internship, really. And my stuff from senior year hadn't really been organized at all. But it has a little space heater that keeps in nice and toasty! It's the little things, right?

Monday, January 16, 2012

We still have work to do.

"How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!" Psalm 133:1

On of my first activities as part of WHAM (Windsor-Hightstown Area Ministerium) I participated in a MLK service last night at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Hightstown. THIS kind service, I think, is what the end result of MLK service at liberal arts colleges across the Midwest strive for and fail. THIS service was the true coming together of people of all kinds of different races and faiths, which you just can't do in the Midwest, being the bastion of Lutherans and Catholics. The music swung with the Holy Spirit in a way I have never experienced before. Ho-ly cow.

A man from the community recited the entirety of MLK's "I have a dream" speech. Well, he didn't recite it as much as EMBODY it. I realized I had never before heard the speech in its entirety. I am seriously at a loss for words to describe the experience. All I know is that I had to hold on to the pew in order not to fall out of it. It was that powerful.

Never before, either, had I seen Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, and Jewish clergy and more holding hands and singing together "We shall overcome," swinging to the music. Wow. wow wow wow.

One of the things that Rev. Powell, a Baptist pastor and speaker at the service, talked about was commitment. I want to commit to learning more about the East Windsor/Hightstown area and to be visible and participate in the life of the community, especially through the ministry of WHAM. Who, I must say, are a group of kind, dedicated, and fun-loving individuals that I also want to commit to getting to know better.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I can has office?

Yes I can! I no longer have to carry around my office (things I need such as planner, important papers, and upcoming bulletins)! A cozy room next to Jim's office that was once the copy and paper storage room is now mine! I have a window and a desk and a file cabinet and a space heater. Soon I will have a lock on the door and perhaps a table and more shelves. It is really shaping up to really become MY space. The pic I'm including is not current - the copier and file cabinets are no longer in there. Other than that, this is it!!! More pics will be forthcoming.

It is currently the budget-heavy time of the year, with plenty of mind-numbing meetings about things I only halfway grasp. I know that it's important work, but no my most favorite part of ministry. I keep telling people, "This is one of my growing edges!"

We are also revving up for my ordination in just over a week. It's so exciting! My family will be coming in less than a week, so we're starting to get ready for them to arrive. On this Sunday I am also reading scripture at an inter-faith Martin Luther King Jr service in Hightstown. There are some cool rabbis in our ministerium, and I met my first ever female rabbi! I am definitely going to ask her to lunch sometime.

It is starting to FEEL like winter, with some cooler temperatures. No snow yet. I wouldn't mind a bit of a dusting, but people here DO NOT WANT. Which makes sense, because the last two years they've been dumped on.

I my free time I have been reading that new bio of Bonhoeffer - fascinating. And I'm also reading my first ever Stephen King novel, Under The Dome. It is fantastic, and has a lot of interesting connections with faith and God - various characters have various levels and kinds of faith, ranging from a pastor who no longer believes in God to a crazed fanatic using God as an excuse for his horrific actions. I'm going to do a full review of the book once I am done - it is quite a task, being a book of 1000 pages. But I can't put it down!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Letter To Myself One Year Ago

Dear me -

Hello. I know right now you are having a life-changing experience in China, but hear me out for a moment. You may be having fun, eating strange food and having your mind blown, but I know that in the back of your mind - our mind - worries are still there. Yes, approval is successfully completed, but there are still so many unknowns in your life - what region will you be assigned? Are you going to be in the Midwest still, or somewhere else? What synod will be crazy enough to take two pastors married to one another? What kind of church will want to interview you? Will you like the bishop? Your future was one bright nothingness, so unformed that you could not even picture in your wildest dreams where you would be a year from this point. Your future was wide open, so open that your brain might fall out just thinking about it. It's pretty scary, in those moments when you actually did stop to think about it.

You have no idea that Beau will get a call before you. That you'll be called to the last place you ever imagined: New Jersey. That you'll spend the summer one foot in the GMI office at Luther and the other at the Garden Inn in Hamilton NJ. That you'll get the apartment of your dreams. That your cats survive the trip. That you would vow never again to use a moving company. That you would have to wait four long months before getting a call (that would totally be worth the wait). That you would actually get to catch up on some reading. That after the congregational vote you would walk back into the sanctuary of St. Paul Lutheran to a standing ovation. That you would actually get to go to Baby Pastor School this year, right after your joint ordination and installation service.

I'm here to tell you it all turns out ok. Though you have no idea what is in store for you, you'll make it through with your sanity intact. You'll even be stronger, more confident once you reach the other side. And that God does some cool stuff in the meantime. So keep on doing what you're doing.

Peace out.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas 2011

Baptism by fire, baby! That's what Christmas is all about. Just kidding - actually Christmas services went great. And was made even more memorable that the acolyte ALMOST lit my co-pastor's hair on fire, but didn't. Have I mentioned that the pastor's wife puts on a mean holiday spread for the staff and music people between services? This church is totally worth it. :)

I preached Christmas Day, then we hopped in our car and drove down to Sutherland VA to be with Beau's sister and fam. Her husband is from VA, and they moved there about two weeks before we moved - they are now our closest family, "close" being 6 hours away. We survived the drive around Baltimore and DC and arrived to 60 degree weather. They live about 5 miles from a super-important Civil War battle that we've never heard of - Five Forks in Petersburg VA . Their kids loved it. Way cool. We were sad to leave.

Last night, New Years Eve, we did NOTHING but watch a movie and drink a little wine - pretty normal Saturday night stuff. Then services this morning to a pretty low crowd - attendance-wise, not morals-wise. :) This week is when I will finally get to bring in my office things, even though right now I just have a desk in the work room that the interns used to use. The office will be forthcoming, but I am just so excited to have some SPACE of my own and to put my pastor-y stuff!!!

One of the best things I received this Christmas was an awesome hot pad that I warm in the microwave and then put over my shoulders and neck - thanks Mom! And Beau sneakily traded in my old Nook for a deal on a new Nook Simple Touch! I love it! It's so light, and the battery lasts for ever! I even got a good deal on a pretty cover. I've named it Parnassus II, in case you want to know. I was totally not expecting it. I am currently reading the new Bonhoeffer book, which is fascinating.

My ordination is three weeks from today - January 22nd at St. Paul Lutheran Church, where I have been installed. It will be a two-for-one, ordination AND installation service. I'm so excited!