Intergenerational family friendly Christmas Eve Worship Service

18 12 2016

It is 2014 and in 2009 I posted a note on Kidology.org forums regarding an intergenerational Christmas Eve service we had put together for our smaller congregation. Every year since then I have received requests to access a copy of the service order and this year I’ve received three requests! I know I am one who is always on the search for resources and I realized the link on my post at Kidology is no longer accessible (from dropbox way back when!) so I’m simply going to post the service here for folks to freely borrow and edit to adapt to your congregational settings – if you think it is something you’d like to use. Here is the message I left in the forums in 2009:

I have a family friendly worship service we put together for 2008 involving telling the story of Jesus’ Birth using Christmas hymns/carol with some call and response and interactive.  I’ll testify that it is very user friendly and can be done with minimal staffing because it ended up being a really bad snow & ice year in Seattle where we almost cancelled Christmas Eve worship and we had 15 or so folks show up. I had no idea who was even going to be able to make it so I could barely assign parts and we just went with the flow. The Charlie Brown clip didn’t happen due to technical difficulties but it all went along smoothly and it was a wonderfully intimate Christmas Eve service for children and adults alike!

I’d like to add that the ideas of telling the nativity story through hymns and history of hymns came from a wonderful LCPC congregation member, Jackie Brotnov. I loved that she approached me with her idea, wondering whether it had any value… and of course it did! Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Eve Family Worship
Written for Lake City Presbyterian Church
by Jackie Brotnov and Leena Prindle, December 2008

Welcome Greeting

Lighting of the Advent Candles

One: We are a people of hope. Our hearts are full of anticipation for the coming of our beloved Christ Child. For God is to be among us and we will see a great light in the midst of our night. Let us light the Candle of Hope. (Light the first purple/blue candle)

Two: We are a people who seek peace. We know that God has told us to turn our weapons of war into instruments that benefit all humanity. In the name of that Child who was born long ago to become the Prince of Peace, we now light the Candle of Peace. (Light the second purple/blue candle)

Three: We are a people who seek to be brought together by the love of Christ. Our faith teaches us that God gives us unconditional love and forgiveness. Acknowledging God’s free gift of grace, we light the Candle of Love. (Light the third pink candle)

Four: Joy to the world! Our God is now coming to bring us “good news.” May we sing songs of praise and gladness. We know that our Savior reigns. Let us light the Candle of Joy. (Light the fourth purple/blue candle)

Call to worship:

Leader: Come all who are faithful and all who seek join in your lives.

People: It is the season to sing praises to God for the Christ Child is near.

Leader: The symbols of hope, peace, love, and joy shine brightly in our hearts.

People: May they remain with us through the year.

Leader: We now share a promise that was fulfilled by God:

All: Than our beloved Child is born and will call us to new lives of love, joy, and faith in action. Amen.

 “Peanuts- A Charlie Brown Christmas” Clip (approx. 2 mins)

Voice: Long ago, in a far away land, a baby boy was born. We celebrate his birthday on Christmas Day. Because he was such an exceptional baby, many stories have been written about his life, death, and resurrection. The stories are important because they tell us how much God loves us and why we need to follow Jesus.We can find all this written in the holy Bible and even in cartoon Christmas specials on television.

Voice: Another way to learn about this baby, Jesus, is through songs telling us about him. Almost all of Jesus’ birth can be told through music, by musicians and composers who took the stories from the Bible. They had read their Bibles and wanted people to have another way of learning about Jesus.

Voice: But if you didn’t have a Bible to read, you would still know through songs where Jesus was born, and who he was. In the Old Testment, prophets spoke about the coming of a Messiah – they were talking about Jesus.This song was written in anticipation of a Messiah, a Savior, who would come and help the people. Let’s listen:

Hymn: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

Voice: We also know what happened when Jesus was born. Do you remember reading in your Bible where he was born? Who was there? What was the name of the town? What happened whe the shepherds saw the star? All of these answers are found in the Bible and in music and poems people have written.They are also found in music, like in the hymn “Once in Royal David’s City” and “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”. Royal David refers to King David.

Once in Royal David’s City stood a lowly cattle shed, Where a mother laid her baby in a manger for his head. Mary was that mother mild. Jesus Christ her little child.

Hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

The holy family enters. Mary, carrying the baby, and Joseph, come behind the lectern and go to the large pulpit and just sit down, quietly, peacefully, as Mary cradles the baby.

Voice: So what have we learned through these songs? People were looking for a Savior. Jesus was born – in Bethlehem. We learn the name of his mother, Mary,and the baby king’s name – Jesus.

Voice: Let’s continue traveling through familiar songs and see what else we can discover. “Away in a Manger” is a favorite of children and grownups alike, and it was written by Martin Luther for his own children. This used to be called “Luther’s Cradle Song” and sometimes children would make a ‘cradle for Jesus’ with their arms when singing. Some folks sing it very softly, so they don’t wake the baby. Can we sing it together?

Hymn: “Away in the Manger “

Voice: We have learned the shepherds were frightened that night, and the angels calmed their fears. They wanted to see for themselves, and so came to the manger, which also had animals keeping warm.

Hymn: “The First Noel”

Voice: Later, some people brought gifts to Jesus. Do you know what they were? Gold, frankincense and Myrrh – gifts for a king. If you could bring a gift to Jesus what would you bring? Write it down in words or draw a picture on the gift wrap card you received. You can bring it forward during our offering time and give your gift to baby Jesus.

Leader: Our offering tonight is for……fill in the blanks but not your own church – someone else instead. After our Prayer of Dedication of the offering, please come forward and place your offering in the bowl provided and take a taper. If you have not brought anything with you, don’t worry, just come and take a taper. Form a large circle around the church instead of returning to your seat.

Prayer of Dedication of Offering

L    It was cold and Mary and Joseph were fearful.

P    But that did not stop the birth.

L    They were poor and had no place fitting for their child.

P    But that did not stop the birth.

L    They were uncertain about what God wanted from them.

P    But that did not stop the birth.

L    Today we are still sometimes cold and fearful, certainly poor in many ways.

P    We often feel we have no place and are unclear about what God wants of us.

L    But these things did not stop the birth of Jesus then, nor will they now.

P    Lord Jesus be born in us today.

L    Like Mary and Joseph, who trusted in your grace, we offer ourselves and our gifts to you.  Bless our offering and our every thought and our every action, that Christ may be revealed through them to the world that is yet in darkness. Amen.

Offering (Adults and children come forward to offer their gifts, take a taper and join in circle around sanctuary)

Offertory/offering Hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful”

Lighting the Christ Candle and Prayer.

Leader: “Tonight is the night we have all been waiting for. Our Advent wreath will now be completed by the lighting of our Christ candle. “For unto us a child is given, unto us a Savior is born and the order of the world will be upon his shoulders.” With the birth of Jesus, our lives will be forever changed. We will be transformed by his model and message. We light this candle to represent that Christ is truly the center of our lives.”

(Light the Christ candle, leader lights taper off the Christ candle and light the tapers of the people on each side of them. Encourage those persons to light the taper of the person next to them and so on).

Leader:  As Jesus’ light travels around the circle, we pray that God’s love and songs of the birth of Jesus will be in everyone’s hearts tonight and always.

Voice: Our story told through music and song continues, with many more Christmas hymns that take us all the way, from Advent to Christmas to Epiphany. It’s a wonderful journey we can take together and use to bring the light of Jesus to our friends, family, and the rest of the world. There is one more song for us to sing, and everyone can sing together: “Silent Night”. Let’s just stay here while the candles are lit, be very, very careful and sing “Silent night”.

Hymn: Silent Night

Benediction

May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ child. Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you now and forever.

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Adam McLane on Talking to our Kids about Race and Ethnicity

12 11 2016

I have two daughters on each end of the tween-age spectrum. Both of them have very good and best friends who are persons of color in particular African American and hispanic American. They have close friends who are a variety of Asian , middle eastern, and Eastern European ethnicities. They hear the media and rhetoric surrounding Black Lives Matter and immigrants being deported out of the country and they immediately think of their friends with great concern. This along with stories things I’ve heard in my places of ministry, other jobs, and school contexts make me want to help my children be the best friend and classmate possible to these children and us as parents to their friends parents. Adam McLane’s words are very helpful in sharing ideas on how to have this conversation with our children and why it is of utmost importance.

Check out his suggestions here: http://adammclane.com/2016/11/talking-to-our-kids-about-race-and-ethnicity/





A Twist on Tradition. The Parable of the Sower – Mark 4:1-9

3 11 2016

This portion of scripture, Mark 4:1-9 is known as “The Parable of the Sower”. We can find very similar accounts of this parable in the other Synoptic Gospels of the Bible in Matthew chapter 13 and Luke chapter 8. There is more discussion and explanation of this parable past verse 9, but this is the portion set before us as we are following the Illustrated Earth curriculum provided by Adam Walker Cleaveland of Illustrated Children’s Ministry. Pastor Sandy chose to use this curriculum as a guide as our children are participating in the entire worship service this summer.

This isn’t my first time preparing a sermon for the entire congregation, however I have gained respect for Sandy’s and other guest preacher’s preparation as it is a challenge to stick within the parameters set by the curriculum rather than veer in a whole other direction.

Listen to the Word of God –

Jesus was beside the lake when he began to teach. So many people surrounded him that he climbed into a boat there on the lake. He sat in the boat while the crowd stayed on the shore. He spoke to them in parables. He said, “Listen to this!”. A farmer went out to scatter seed. 

Some seed fell on the path; and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. Those sprouted immediately. But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants; they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among the thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked the seeds, and they produced nothing, either. Other seed fell into good soil and bore fruit. As it grew, the seed produced a lot of fruit – each new place it grew, it produced more than the last!”Jesus said, “Are you listening? Pay attention!”

My first question in studying this scripture was “What is a parable?”.

When it comes to defining parables I poured through a few Bible dictionaries and commentaries and yet the most simple but concise definition I came across is from a book written by the professors of the seminary where I am currently studying. I promise I did not look for a place to plug my studies or Seattle Pacific Seminary at Seattle Pacific University. I can’t help but share an excellent resource with all of you developed by a variety of well-studied and currently engaged theologians and biblical scholars residing right here in Seattle. This group of professors wanted a book that would be helpful to their Theology undergrad student, a primer for their seminary graduate students, and could be used by the lay persons in their own churches and the churches they are asked to teach. I can’t recommend “A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible” enough. If you’re interested, I can help you acquire a hard copy or you can search for a digital version for your Kindle or other e-reader.

OK enough commercial – getting back to the definition of a parable by Dr. Laura Holmes (New Testament Studies professor at SPU):

A statement that compares something – often from nature – to the kingdom of God in order to illustrate what the kingdom is about or to point to who God is.” 

She continues stating:

“Parables are rarely interpreted in a straightforward manner; in fact the point of a parable is to make its hearers think hard about God, Jesus, and discipleship. We are in danger of totally missing the point if we assume that parables are easy to “get”.” (Compact Bible, p 116)

Why did Jesus use Parables?

Jesus used parables as did many rabbinical or Jewish teachers of his time – it wasn’t a new idea and there are a few earlier parables recorded in the Old Testament. No matter how many others use them, Jesus holds the record for the number of parables used in his ministry as it is highly characteristic of his teaching style.

Marcus Borg points out parables are stories where something happens and yet are not factual and are made-up stories. Borg however is quick to point out the fact that parables are made up does not at all discount the important of the point of the stories. He says parables are “meaningful and meaning-filled, truthful and truth-filled. Their truth does not depend on their factuality; rather they are about meaning. They are invitations to see something you might not otherwise see.” Jesus had a most difficult task of explaining to those in his presence his purpose and the fact that he indeed is God and he indeed came to fulfill the prophecy of a messiah come to usher in the Kingdom of God. It was his job to create a visual and an experience to help people understand the importance of who he was, who God was, and who we are as people of God.

Another factor in the importance of Jesus’ parables is remembering that his Aramaic tradition was an oral tradition. They did not yet write down their history and everything was passed on and explained through verbal storytelling. Parables were a colorful and effective means of storytelling to help others remember. Parables made it easy to pass on the word to others.

Bay of Parables

I came across a fun tidbit of information about the likely location of Jesus’ parable of the Sower. It is a place known as the Bay of Parables or Sower’s Cove.

bay-of-parables

  • The Parable of the Sower was likely an acoustics aided parable on the Sea of Galilee.
  • About 1km northeast of Tabgha is a small bay with exceptional acoustic qualities. Here it is believed Jesus taught the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-9) from a boat moored in the bay.
  • The semicircular bay, at the foot of the Mount of Beatitudes, is one of the most attractive places along the shoreline. It is called Sower’s Cove or the Bay of the Parables.
  • The slope of the hill forms a natural amphitheater, rather like a Roman theatre. Acoustical research has demonstrated that as many as 7000 people could hear a person speaking from a boat in the bay.
  • Pilgrims who test the acoustics, usually by reading the Gospel account, are amazed at how far the voice carries.
  • This location was also an appropriate setting for the story of the sower and his seeds. There is fertile black earth, rocky ground and plenty of thorns and thistles.

Parables and the Gospel of Mark

Biblical scholars have a variety of definitions and purposes for the author of the Gospel of Mark to include the Parable of the Sower, but most agree on three many purposes for the entirety of the book of Mark. These three main purposes are Christology, the Kingdom of God, and Discipleship.

Reading further in Mark chapter 4 we will see Jesus explain this parable further – the seed is the word, the ground – or soil – is the recipient of the word – when the birds snatch up the seed, this is Satan snatching away understanding before it can begin to take root; the rocky soil doesn’t allow for depth in growth – this is a joyful recipient but the joy is short lived when they are tested with trials and temptations, as there is no soil for the plant to take root; the thorny ground is one who receives the word but their potential growth is choked by the longing for wealth, greed, and selfish motives; the good soil is the recipient who hears the word, takes it in, and grows and produces good things from doing so. This is a very brief synopsis and leaves the disciples and ourselves wondering which are we, and how might we be good soil, and do we even want to be good soil, is it worth it? It is apparent that this parable already covers the gospel writer’s main topics – Christology (the kingship and authority of Jesus), the Kingdom of God (who is and is not in it), and Discipleship (what it looks like to be a follower of Christ).

Some of you who grew up in a Christian household or congregation might have had a similar experience with this parable as a child. I remember having this parable taught and explained to me in a manner that left me anxious wondering if my heart or my life was good soil and worried about whether or not I was producing good fruit for God. Was I studying what I understood to be God’s Word – the Bible – deeply enough to make sure my faith was strongly rooted and anchored in Jesus. I think for some maybe the anxiety is necessary to get a start in faith, and some need a reminder to stay rooted in Christ. But as I read this scripture now, having studied not only the Bible, but some history and theology and reading further work from Laura Homes, Marcus Borg, and John Edwards on this passage – there is something intriguing about a possible difference in what I was taught and what perhaps the author of the book of Mark intended to communicate to the recipients of the Gospel. I have been struggling with how to communicate this idea to you all wanting to have it all wrapped up in a nice neat package. I admit I do not have that nice neat package but several thoughts and ideas to share that maybe we can continue to ponder together. After all, this is a parable and it isn’t supposed to be easy for me to “get”, right?

You see, Mark was written after Jesus walked and lived on the earth – approximately 70 CE for a second generation of Christians. These Christians were not only Jewish but also Gentile (meaning, not Jewish) they probably already knew about the life of Jesus – his teachings, his miracles, his call to discipleship. They knew that he was the Messiah – God come in the flesh to save them from oppression. They knew that Jesus died on the cross, they knew that Jesus resurrected from the grave and came back to life, they knew that he ascended into Heaven. They knew the stories, but they didn’t experience this first hand in real-life. They were believers because they were told the story, believed the story, and accepted the call to live a life worshiping God and following in the footsteps of Jesus – just the same and you and I.

The book of Mark was one of the earliest written narratives of Jesus’ life. Most Christians did not read and write, only a few select people in society were trained to do this so they took this short narrative explaining the purpose of the life of Jesus to groups of people and read it out loud in a few short hours – like a reader’s theater and the first people groups it was read to were Christians who either were living just at the start of the Jewish/Roman war or just at the end. They were persecuted for their beliefs and it was risky to participate in Jesus’ call to care for the poor, the hungry, the beat-down. This was not the call of the Roman or Jewish leaders, it was a life-threatening move to follow Jesus. In their fear, they were becoming discouraged and hopeless wondering if it was worth it to keep following Jesus. The Gospel of Mark is a book of encouragement reminding them that actually, it is worth it, because they aren’t alone in doing this work – God has already done the work.

Realizing that these people already accepted the word and realizing they were paralyzed with fear causes me to wonder what if this parable of the sower is not a mandate to worry about whether or not they have control over the state of their hearts and souls? What if it is a reminder that in the midst of chaos and uncertain times God is in control. What if it is not about worrying if Christians will do the work, but it is about reassuring Christians God has already sown the seeds and done the work and will continue to do so? What if this parable is reminding future generations of Christians that God the sower already sent Jesus the seed into the world to create a ripple effect of love, peace, and justice that continues to grow despite the difficulties.

Future generations of Christians do not need to worry about whether or not their risks to love others will produce good fruit or benefit the future because we know when it is an act rooted in following Christ it most definitely will grow love in or bring healing to others. It may not immediately yield a huge amount of results but it will gradually grow greater – one sown seed at a time. The Christians who first heard the parable of the sower from the Gospel of Mark needed to be reminded that Christ had already conquered death and continues to live and they need not be afraid to take the risk of worshiping God and following Jesus because the hard part was already done and the benefits far outweighed the risks.

Perhaps we as Christians today need to hear this encouragement as well – you know the stories, you know the call – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and Love your neighbor as yourself”. We live in a different time and our risks to our lives may not cause physical death, but we fear loss of pride, friends, family, work, and self-identity. Some of us may still need to hear this parable as if they were with the crowd and the disciples hearing it for the first time and learning how to listen to and what it means to follow Christ.

Some of us may need to hear it as a 2nd Generation Christian hearing the Gospel of Mark – What if you accept that you already are good soil instead of wondering what kind of soil you are? What if you continue to let Jesus take root in your life and follow him, take the risk rather than being paralyzed in fear – take the risk of loving others and working towards justice, working towards whole and right relationships, and allowing God’s love and goodness take root and grow abundantly in your lives and throughout the world.

When you listen to the words of Jesus what do you hear him calling you to in your faith and life? What might God want to grow through you?

Wise Jesus, Thank you for seeds that grow and for the fruit they bring. We want the goodness of our lives to grow too – teach us how to nurture it. Amen.

Sources:

Wall, Robert W., and David R. Nienhuis. A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible: Learning to Read Scripture’s Story. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015.
Borg, Marcus J. Conversations with Scripture: the Gospel of Mark. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Pub., 2009.
Sweat, Laura C. Theological Role of Paradox in the Gospel of Mark. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013




Role models and Mentors for Women in Public Leadership – Hilary Clinton

28 09 2016

Humans of New York

http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/150136510691/im-not-barack-obama-im-not-bill-clinton-both

Political agendas aside – I get her. I get Hilary Clinton  (yes this is a bold staement to make). I have not experienced the depth of vitriolic public shaming she has experienced by some citizens of our country, not even close. I am with her when it comes to the way a woman “must” present herself when speaking publicly and the  available role models and mentors leading up to that point – mainly men. Men, and every woman, who says I need to present myself differently in public to exude a sense of strength and confidence and  poise. This includes working hard to keep my voice low and slow since my higher pitched voice “doesn’t assert authority” – I dont mind being told low and slow so people can hear and understand – but to assert authority is a different piece of advice that exposes biases.

I’ve been blessed working and ministering at LCPC – with first a 70 year old woman who was interim pastor and now pastor Sandy for six years. I have learned a lot from both about the difficulties and the benefits women have in public leadership. Often times, when both of us, or several women have stepped up to leading the public part of worship at our church – heck even our organist and pianist are women – I have this nagging wonder and concern about the men and boys in the church and who they have as male role models in the church. Who can they look to to learn to be men of God?

As I read Hilary’s comments on role models, I realize there are more than enough positive male role models in the church, in our society, and there always will be. There are plenty of other places these men can choose to worship where men are the majority or only public face or voices. Personally, I truly am grateful for the many men in my life who have been and continue to be great mentors for me… so often though it has not been by choice. They simply have been or are the only option available to me as a woman.

There are many men who choose to stay and wholly participate in our community and after several years of being publicly led by women, they are still there. I really need not worry about them, they are fine. They choose to look to and minister alongside the women God has currently called to publicly lead their church – they have a choice. They get a choice of who will be their role model for public leadership – something a lot of women did not get until the last few decades. Actually, many women still do not have the choice in choosing to be led by a woman in authority – in the church, in academia, in politics.

Take this a step deeper and consider this who are in minority – people of color, people in poverty, LGBTQ persons – when do they get the choice? Why do we suppress their voices and styles of leadership and assume that the wealthy, white, straight (mostly male) role model is THE model for leading the whole of this mixed diverse population?

Thank you Secretary Hilary Clinton (first woman to be a Presidential Nominee for the United States) for standing strong for yourself, speaking up for women in leadership, and being a role model and mentor we can relate to when it comes to being in the public eye. Thank you to the men who take women as we are and have full confidence in our leadeship abilities – help in to hone our natural abilities rather than clone a full replica of your own skills and abilities.





The Five Things I need from White People Right Now

21 09 2016

Because Black Lives Matter …

derricklweston

Another day, another unarmed black man dead. Terence Crutcher’s SUV stalled as he was coming back from community college classes. He was studying music appreciation and was very active in his church choir. Seeing his picture reminds me of any number of big dudes I know who can sing their lungs out. From his view in a helicopter, a Tulsa police officer thought he looked like a bad dude. Instead of trying to help the man with the stalled car, two officers made him put his hands up as he approached them for help. As he reached into his SUV, probably to grab some form of identification, which again, should not have been necessary because he was the one in distress, he was tased and then shot. He was unarmed. He was the father of four.

I feel like ranting and raving about how angry and scared this makes me…

View original post 980 more words





To “Take a Break” or Not to Take a Break? That is the Question. 

13 06 2016

Sometimes I think – “Ugh, I need to ‘take a break’ and ignore some certain social media Groups or posts and get away from the anxiety, stress, and angst I feel because of it.”
And then I remember that there are people for whom the “isms” behind these awful occurrences are a reality every day – walking into work, school, community spaces, even their own family – and they are normal everyday oriole just trying to live life like me these people don’t get to choose to take a break – ever.

So I choose to stay connected and pray and see what is the best way I can participate in being a voice or act in a way that can be supportive in breaking down the ‘isms’. Sometimes I mess up and it hurts because I thought I was doing the right thing. So I ask forgiveness, correction, and guidance and keep going. 

There are so many privileges I am granted as a middle class heterosexual white woman living in the Seattle area. I didn’t ask for them – just as others who do not fall in my categories did not ask for their categories. (A few like money and location may be negotiatiable, but that is not the case for those who are oppressed while living in those conditions). I don’t need to break myself out of my categories but I need to embrace those in different categories with love and with equity rather than pity, hate, and disgust. 

This is because I am a Christian but also Not because I am a Christian. Because I am human and they are too, because I am valuable and they are too. What will it take for us to understand that we all have value? What will it take to treat one another as valuable persons – and definitely not in the sense of valuable to bring me power, money, or pride like slavery, sex trafficking, concentration camps, and child marriage and more. I’m talking about value that says “I am here to work and live side by side with you and others so we all may have the dignity to live out our hopes, dreams, and full purpose and potential for life”. 

I can’t take a break until everyone is allowed a break. 





But I Don’t ‘Sound’ Like a Seminarian…

8 06 2016

It is that time in the quarter and the school year – when I have a lot of deadlines with my school, my kids school, our family life, our church year – the end of Spring quarter and the beginning of summer. It is also that time of the quarter where I become self-reflective and concerned about whether or not I should even be in seminary (never mind  I’ll have completed approx. 40 of the 120 credits needing for the Master in Divinity program in a few days).

Tonight was the last meetup for one of my classes that I am sad to see end – Global Christian Heritage. I can’t believe I have taken three quarters in this series following the history of Christianity around the world beginning with Jesus on up to today. It has been an eye opening series of classes. I have learned a lot more about the beliefs and interactions of the church – the one I grew up in, the ones in which I’ve served, the ones that family,friends, and others attend or now disassociate themselves with, and the church experiences yet to come. I don’t know it all, but I know a bit more than when I started my second year of class this past September.

Something else I’ve learned is I still haven’t acquired the ‘lingo’ of a seminarian – at least that of the ones I often hear speak up in class around me. This is something that really hit me tonight as we gathered for our final class at our professor’s home. I shared something connecting my work in children’s ministry with what we were talking about it class and what I had to say did not at all have any ‘seminary/theological’ lingo. I felt like the one with the most practical answer, with the most simple words, and I couldn’t even think of any words to try to match those of the brilliant colleagues in my class.  I kicked myself even as I spoke, realizing I was opening up my mouth yet again about children’s or youth ministry, wondering if what I wanted to say even made any sense to our discussion. It is really hard – very easy  to want to compare myself with others and yet understand that I am who God has made me to be and will give me the words I need for each situation. This is all on myself. No one has said anything to discourage me. I think it is my own expectations of what a seminary student is really supposed to be able to say, understand, and communicate.

Sometimes I wonder if because I have spent so many years translating theological concepts to children, teens, and other adults – trying to learn the big words and break down the lingo for others – that I don’t have the ability to speak as ‘eloquently’ as my seminary colleagues and professors. Perhaps this is one of my purposes for being called to pursue seminary studies: to learn the big concepts, grasp the greater issues of the church so that I can break it down to those whom I minister at church and at home. As I work through this frustration, I’m guessing this is how many of the people I’ve worked with who volunteer in children’s and youth ministry feel – and to those of you I say, it is OK if you aren’t able to teach or speak like your pastor or other minsters… just do your best to master the material set in front of you and translate God’s role and our role in it the best you can for the children and youth in your care – even if they are ‘just’ your own children.

We need not compare – only encourage and pray for one another to continue the call God sets on each of our hearts, knowing somehow that through our simple and our eloquent words that God will be made known to others. And please don’t hesitate to remind me of this if you hear me worrying about whether or not I’m eloquent enough to be in seminary (although I’m sure to some I could probably make some improvements when I contribute to a classroom discussion).








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