Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"What Do You Need to Lay Aside?"

Dear Shepastor Friends,
As we leave 2010 and prepare to enter 2011, let us heed the words of the Hebrew writer that declared…

Hebrews 12: 1-3

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

I invite you to consider the following…

In Hebrews 12:1-3, the anonymous writer, after having given great encouragement through the “Hall of Faith,” (Hebrews 11) writes, “seeing we are surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us …" As we enter 2011, I’d like to suggest that there are some things we don’t need to carry into the New Year.

In the movie, “City Slickers” actors Billy Crystal, Jack Polance, and some others set out to experience the life of cattle ranchers in the 20th century. Billy Crystal was a “city slicker,” not knowing the first thing about “roughing it,” herding cattle, driving cattle, riding horses, enduring the hot sun with a leather vest and some cowboy boots with spurs!

On one of their journeys, Billy Crystal gets some advice from an experienced Cowboy – Jack Pollance who said to him, “Always remember this one thing…” And he held up his pointer finger, symbolizing, “one.” Billy Crystal looked at him baffled and perplexed and asked, “What one thing?” Jack Pollance responded, “that’s for you to figure out…”

What “one thing” do you need to remember? What priority has taken a back seat that you need to bring to the front line in your life? Sometimes we can’t get to the one thing because our lives are so cluttered with things that we need to lay aside. So often we lose our focus on the “one thing” that the Lord has called us to do, gifted us to do, prepared us to do because of the things we allow to burden us down, shackle our feet and keep us from running the race with patience and grace.

Unbelief, fear, anxiety and worry will not only defeat you, but will rob you of entering your promised land. In 2011, the Lord is saying to somebody, "I've got some blessings for you, but in order for you to get them, you've got to lay fear aside, you've got to lay anger aside. You've got to lay resentment aside. You've got to lay worry aside. I've got great blessings for you, if you will lay aside "every weight" and trust Me!"

Don’t let the demons of fear, worry, self-doubt, low self-esteem, old belittling voices in your head, resentment, anger, hostility and yes, even hatred – don’t let those demons keep you shackled. As you enter 2011 lay it all aside. Step out on faith – Ask the Lord to reveal His will and purpose for your life and then pursue it. Be bold and walk with your head held high, pressing towards the mark with victory. Lay aside every and anything that is hindering you from running the race which God has ordained for your life.

May you and yours have a blessed, peaceful, Holy Spirit led and “shackle free” New Year!

Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Advent Message: "Learning Your Song"

As we prepare to celebrate the advent of our Lord Jesus’ birth, I’d like to share with our Shepastor friends excerpts from a message the Lord birthed in me a few years ago.

Be blessed, learn, sing and live your song!

Sermon Text: Luke 1: 42-55
Sermon Subject: “Learning Your Song”

Mary’s Song (1: 42-49, NIV)

46And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.

Luke’s Gospel presents Jesus as the universal savior who came to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke gives special attention to despised and rejected people such as tax collectors, other gentiles, women and children. In our particular text for today, we have what is commonly called the “Magnificat.” The term is derived from the Latin phrase, “My Soul doth Magnify the Lord…” Let me share with you some thoughts about the Magnificat…,

Mary is overwhelmed by news from the angel that she would be the mother of the savior of the world – Jesus, the Christ.Commentators suggest that Mary's hymn expresses praise to God for his treatment of her, but then extends her praise to how God has treated the righteous throughout the ages and how He will vindicate them fully in the future. Understanding what God is doing, Mary is full of joy. She speaks for herself and for her community, the people of God throughout time. She declares that God is worthy of praise for what He will do in taking care of his own.

Mary’s song is power and significant, since first-century culture often relegated women to a secondary status. One of the beauties of Luke's infancy material is that different sorts of people all experience joy at the arrival of Jesus. This reveals Jesus' universal appeal.

The Magnificat was Mary’s song. Mary was filled with joy and awe over what was about to be birthed in her. She had been visited by the angel and the declaration had been made. Her response was profound – not just the beautiful words of her song, but before her conversation with Elizabeth, in verse 38, Mary declared, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

Mary heard, believed and accepted what God was going to do in her life. From her acceptance, the Lord gave her a song.
We too have a song, given to us from the Lord. I’d like to share with you a beautiful and profound tradition that is held in East Africa called, The Song of a Child…

The Song of a Child

There is a tribe in East Africa
for whom the birthday of a child
is not counted from the day of its physical birth
nor even the day of conception.
For this tribe,the birthday is the first time the child
is a thought in its mother's mind.

Aware of her intention to conceive a child with a particular father,
the mother goes off to sit alone under a tree.
There she sits and listens until she can hear the song of the child she hopes to conceive. Once she has heard it, she returns to her village
and teaches it to the father so that they can sing it together as they make love,inviting the child to join them. After the child is conceived,
she sings to the baby in her womb, and she teaches the song
to the old women and midwives of the village,so that throughout the labor
and the miraculous moment of birth itself,the child is greeted with its song.

After the birth, all the villagers learn the song of their new member
and later sing it to the child when it falls or hurts itself.
It is sung at times of triumph,or in rituals and initiations.
This song becomes a part of the marriage ceremony
when the child is grown. And at the end of life his or her loved ones
will gather around the deathbed and sing this song for the last time.

Each life has a song, a theme, a chorus. Sadly, we are so hurried, so busy, so tired, so involved with other things that we don’t take the time to hear our life’s song, to learn it, sing it, live it. Your life song is that melody that, that rhythm, that assignment from on high that naturally flows through your being.

It is that which is waiting to be birthed in you. It’s like what Michael Angelo said about his great stone statues. When asked how he chisled out such great masterpieces from bits of rock and chunks of stone, legend has it that he responded, “the form was already there. I just freed it.” There is greatness within you waiting to be birthed.

Some have gone through life either never learning or ignoring their life’s song. But your song is about more than you. As Mary embraced her divinely ordered destiny, she gave God praise – not only for her divine appointment, but for what God was going to do through what she brought forth.

Your song is meant to bring hope and love and life to others. Your song is not only for your help, your encouragement, your strength. Your song is for your community. Your song is for your family. Your song is for your sphere of influence. Mary magnified the Lord for what was about to be birthed in her. She may not have understood the mixture of joy and sorrow, freedom and burden, hope and desperation, pain and pride, she would endure over the next several years, but she took what she had and ran with it.

Our song will sometimes be happy, sometimes sad, sometimes light hearted and sometimes heavy as stone – but our song – our life’s theme – our calling is meant to be a blessing. When we don’t learn to sing our own song, we go through out life feeling unfulfilled and empty.
You can’t do anything about yesterday. But you can begin to sing your song today. You can say, “behold the handmaid or the servant of the Lord –be it unto me according to thy word.” You can begin to sing your song today. You can expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.

You can begin to sing your song today. You can ask the Lord, “Lord, what is my life’s song? What would you have me to do with my life? What do you want to birth in me? How do you want to use me to accomplish a part of your plan for this world?

You have a song. Will you learn it, sing it and live it?

Have a blessed, peaceful and “song filled” Christmas and New Year.

Until next week,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Resources to Encourage and Equip Clergywomen"

A great source of encouragement, I have found, is to know that we are not walking this journey alone. We have faith that the Lord walks with us and we praise God also for providing “sisters” to come along side us. Sometimes the fellowship and sisterhood of clergywomen is not tangible, but spiritual. We find strength through hearing, sharing and observing each other “fight the good fight of faith.” Today we continue to share websites, articles, and other resources for women in ministry.

Be blessed…

Center for Clergy Women

This site is especially designed for women who are considering, pursuing, or serving as professional Christian clergy. Here you will find resources and connections that will assist you in hearing God’s leading and growing your ministry for Him.

Click on the link below for more information

The excerpt below comes from an older magazine, Circuit Rider Magazine (May/June 2006)

"It's a Girl's Job After All!” by Judith E. Smith

When I was four years old, so my mother says, and we were visiting my grandparents, I announced one Sunday afternoon that we were going to have church and I was going to preach. I marched my grandparents, my parents, and my two-year-old sister into the bedroom and seated them in a line at the foot of my grandmother’s bed. I stood on a stool in front of them, opened the Bible, and said “Great American people!” No one remembers anything else about that first sermon of mine, but they all remember that my squirming sister managed to crawl over the side and under the bed, escaping from the room.

That was in 1948, and it did not occur to anyone in that room to think that I might actually grow up to be a preacher. And yet, as this issue of Circuit Rider comes off the press, I will be celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of my first ordination.


On that same site, you’ll find the following article excerpt…

The book Courageous Past–Bold Future chronicles the historic journey of the first women to receive full clergy rights in The Methodist Church and looks at challenges still facing clergywomen 50 years later.

“The stories of the women in these pages carry hope for the younger generation of United Methodist women. They are living narratives that bear the pain and joy of ministry that represents the paradox of Christ’s call,” said the Rev. HiRho Park, director of Continuing Formation for Ministry at The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, which published the book by Patricia J. Thompson.

Visit the site above to see a list of other articles and website links

Online Resources and Bibliography for Women in Ministry

Check out articles such as:
A Woman's Place? Leadership in the Church (C. S. Cowles)

An online version of a book from Beacon Hill Press presenting the biblical and historical case for women in ministry. Dr. Cowles is a professor at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA.

Women in Ministry (Phyllis H. Perkins)

An Examination of the issue of women in ministry from a sociological perspective, focusing on the God-given and enabled skills and gifts that women bring to leadership roles in the church, and what that means for clergy preparation in the church. Dr. Perkins is a professor at Nazarene Bible College, Colorado Springs CO. Available only in Adobe .pdf format.
From Rhetoric to Reality (Janine T. Metcalf)

"From Rhetoric to Reality: Putting into Practice Our Century-Old Polity of Gender Partnership in Ministry." Brief survey of the history of women ministers in the Church of the Nazarene with consideration of why women ministers have declined. Dr. Metcalf is pastor of the El Cajon Church of the Nazarene in CA. Available only in Adobe .pdf format.

Go to the site below to review additional articles, books and website links for female clergy.

Book: Clergy Moms: A Survival Guide to Balancing Family and Congregation , by Allison Moore (Seabury Books, New York, NY, 2008).

The author, Allison M. Moore, an Episcopal Priest in Fort Lee, New Jersey, provides a descriptive and analytical book which draws on the research of Barbara Zikmund and others about the life of the clergy family. “She weaves experiences of faithfulness to God and analysis of the social structures that shape commitments into one understanding of vocation.” She utilizes the voices of women, men, clergy, laity and children. She challenges assumptions, while offering insight to female clergy.

Are these resources helpful? Do you have others to share? Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Resources for Clergywomen: Networks, Books, Beauty Tips and More!"

Resources for Clergywomen…

Half the battle of moving forward in anything is knowing where to go. Frequently, female clergy desire to make connections with other clergywomen, are looking for support and would like to know where to turn for guidance.

For those with the above mentioned inquiries, wonderful resources are available!

Today’s Shepastor highlights several resources such as websites, reading materials and networks for female clergy.

American Baptist Women in Ministry (ABWIM)

Check out the newsletter, “WOMENWORD”

Published semiannually, a wonderful series of articles from American Baptist women in ministry as well as conference reviews, updates on workshops and seminars, missions work, ministry projects and more!

Editor: Rev. Karen Pickler

To find WOMENWORD, visit the ABWIM on the web:

Reading Resource:

A Time for Honor: A Portrait of African American Clergywomen, by Rev. Dr. Delores Carpenter, St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2001

“Historical, theological and sociological scholarship; denominational statistics; the author’s own survey and interview findings; and her own experiences as an African American female pastor all inform this important text honoring African American clergywomen.”

Using case studies, Dr. Carpenter provides an overview of a wide variety of issues and findings concerning the service of African American women clergy in today’s churches. She includes explorations of seminary and church official’s attitudes toward and perceptions about women as ordained clergy.

This wonderful resource may be purchased on Amazon.

Fidelia’s Sisters: A publication of the Young Clergy Women Project
The Network of the Young Clergy Women Project

Ann Bonner-Stewart, Founding Managing Editor

Fidelia's Sisters is an online publication by, for, and about young clergy women, with new material appearing on a rotating schedule over the course of a month. They publish short stories, visual art, poetry, liturgical resources, personal essays, reflections, interviews, book reviews, and more. They “strive to be a space where some of the professional and personal issues that young clergy women face are addressed with honesty, all the while recognizing that no one ‘kind’ of young clergy woman has a monopoly on who young clergy women are.”
Visit them at

For our United Methodist Sisters, the website below provides a beautiful array of articles, networking opportunities and research related to female clergy.

General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Click on the link below to check out articles such as, “Women face a long road to change in the church.” Also available, a downloadable literary journal called, WellSprings, with reflections, essays, poetry and more – produced for clergywomen by clergywomen.

From Duke Divinity School – Clergy Health Initiative…

The Deeper Purpose of Beauty Tips for Women

“Beauty Tips for Ministers,” is a blog by the Rev. Victoria Weinstein, Harvard-educated pastor of First Parish Unitarian Church in Norwell, Mass. She started this blog, declaring, “If clergypeople believe that religious life is vital, relevant and beautiful, they should look the part.”

Concerning the blog, Duke Divinity commentator Courtney Wilder writes, “While chock-full of salient advice on how to navigate trends and potential beauty pitfalls, the blog’s true value stems from its ability to elevate women within the context of their profession. …What separates Weinstein’s approach from secular guides to professional dress are first, her ability to exercise pastoral care in guiding her readers, and second, her clear conviction that having (and dressing) a female body does not interfere with a pastor’s vocation. Indeed, Weinstein argues that for female clergy dressing one’s body ought to reflect both affirmation of one’s gender and acknowledgement of the leadership role of clergy within the community.

She identifies the tendency of some female clergy to efface their gender and/or sexuality in their professional attire and argues that this approach does no one any favors; instead, she advocates for a model of religious womanhood that is frankly feminine, and simultaneously highly professional and even sartorially conservative.”

Check out Rev. Weinstein’s “Beauty tips” at

That’s it for today. Next week we will share additional resources for clergywomen. Do you have a resource(es) that would benefit sister clergy? Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris
(If you are unable to directly click on website links above, highlight website address, then copy and paste into your brower)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Faith and Leadership: A Resource for Clergywomen to Make Connections"

For the next several weeks, Shepastor will focus upon networking resources for clergywomen. Today I’d like to share highlights from, “Faith and Leadership: An offering of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity”

In the article, “Clergy women make connections,” author Natalie Gott writes,

“Women have been entering into ministry in large numbers for decades. But few women lead congregations, and those who do are likely to lead small congregations.”

A couple of months ago, I attended a seminar on female clergy “Breaking the Stained Glass Ceiling.” One of the presenters made a profound assertion. “Women don’t ask.” The basic point of her message was that women, because of our proclivity towards nurturing, supporting and “making do,” tend to accept less and are expected to expect less in terms of salary, benefits, church growth (numerically) and opportunities.

Our presenter made a distinction between “sinful ambition” and “holy ambition.” Sinful ambition was described as selfish and self-centered in nature – the “it’s all about ME” attitude – my goals – my desires – my benefits etc. “Holy ambition,” on the other hand was described as a desire to grow, thrive and obtain not only for self-interest but for the furthering of God’s Kingdom.

In other words, holy ambition has a view towards increased resources for increased opportunities to do ministry. This does not suggest that it is sinful to desire opportunities commensurate with education and experience – it is not sinful to desire a decent pay, benefits and a vacation! Nor is it sinful to desire to serve in a larger venue if you feel led or called to do so.

To further expand upon these considerations, Let’s look at excerpts from Ms. Gott’s article mentioned above…

February 16, 2010 | For women who aspire to leadership positions in church organizations, the career path can be a lonely one, with few role models and mentors.

Overall, women lead about 8 percent of congregations, and only about 5 percent of American churchgoers attend a congregation led by a woman, according to the National Congregations Study. The study also found that women who work as pastors are less likely to report satisfaction with their jobs than their male colleagues.

Although the official barriers to leadership have fallen in many church organizations, women clergy still face challenges, including how to thrive personally and how to build networks and friendships that can sustain them, said Barbara Brown Zikmund, who is ordained in the United Church of Christ and is a former president of Hartford Seminary. She is co-author of “Clergy Women: An Uphill Calling.”

“The challenge is how to do the job in new ways,” she said.
Women have responded to this need in different ways, including conferences, formal church programs and online chat rooms and blogs. In these formal and informal spaces, women clergy are coming together to connect with and support one another.

Ms. Gott goes on to describe four examples of clergywomen networking with each other. One I found particularly interesting (and relative to our earlier discussion of holy ambition) is the “Lead Women Pastors Project.”

Appearing to be an extraordinary program, the project is designed to identify female clergy who desire and have the potential to lead large (1,000 +) congregations. The process is described below…

The Lead Women Pastors Project

The Rev. Karen Oliveto has served in urban and rural settings, as a campus and United Methodist parish minister, in New York and now, in San Francisco as co-pastor of Glide Memorial Church’s 11,000-member congregation.

Through it all, she has leaned on others for insight, inspiration and encouragement. But she has found that it has become harder to find mentors the longer she has been in ministry.

Through the United Methodist Church’s Lead Women Pastors Project, Oliveto will help fill that mentoring void for other women. The project pairs 25 women such as Oliveto who serve at churches with 1,000 or more members with 25 women who have the potential, as determined by United Methodist bishops, to one day lead a church of that size.

The coaches will connect with their partners at least once a month for two years. The project started in April. The coaches have participated in both group and individual training sessions and will work to help the promising pastor determine if her gifts are suitable for leading a large church.
“What I hope to offer is to help another clergy woman come into a fuller sense of her own power and authority,” Oliveto said in a recent interview.

The coaching program is the second phase of the Lead Women Pastors Project. The church first surveyed both female and male senior pastors at large United Methodist congregations on a variety of issues in 2008, focusing heavily on leadership styles. The results showed that women who lead large churches still are pioneers: Nine out of 10 were the first women to lead their churches. Further, the study showed that 77 percent of lead women pastors developed their leadership style by having role models, which the coaching project is designed to foster.

Of the roughly 1,200 United Methodist churches in the United States with 1,000 or more members, 94 had women as lead pastors, according to October 2008 data. Twenty-seven percent of all clergy in the church are women, even though the UMC’s membership is nearly 60 percent female, said HiRho Y. Park, director of continuing formation for ministry at the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

“It is only logical to me that leaders should represent the constituency that they are serving,” Park said. “If the church is there to disturb the marginality of God’s people, it will be a justice consciousness that will spring up through the cracks. To me, the Lead Women Pastors Project represents the core mission of the church.”

Completing the coaching program is one indication that the woman being coached may be ready to serve as a lead pastor in a large church, Park said. Bishops and district superintendents will be informed when the clergy woman completes the program. Park says she is hopeful that they will consider those clergy women to be appointed as lead women pastors, Park said. One goal is to increase the number of lead women pastors at large churches by 10 percent to 15 percent by 2012. Park also hopes the program will promote and facilitate a focused discussion on clergy women’s roles and leadership styles with the bishops and the cabinet and that it will help strengthen a support network for lead women pastors.

Oliveto says she is happy to be part of the project because she is committed to growing new church leadership and she hopes to build relationships with other women clergy participating in the program.
“I just think the church needs the skills, the creativity, the enthusiasm and passion for ministry that women bring, and I love helping cultivate that,” Oliveto said.

What a wonderful opportunity for female clergy! It is my prayer that the idea of mentoring clergywomen to the lead pastorate role for larger congregations will blossom and spread beyond churches that appoint (hierarchical in nature) to churches that have the call process (congregational in nature).

For more information on this project as well as other resources for female clergy, visit,

Do you have recommendations for websites, resources such as articles, books, organizations etc., to help female clergy to learn, grow and thrive? We want to hear from you! Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris