As I drove home from breakfast with a church member recently, I caught the last 15 minutes of The Diane Rehm show on NPR. She and her panel were discussing the upcoming midterm elections. One of them shared a recent poll, in which only 15 percent of respondents said they were “closely following” the midterm elections. Among voters ages 18-29, that number is 5 percent.
The topic turned to voter turnout, especially among young people. How can we get young people to register and vote?
I’m meeting this week with The Well, my yearly cohort group. I laugh more during this week of “preacher camp” than I do any other week of the year. This year has been heavier than normal, with several concerns for friends, loved ones, and ourselves. This has made the mirth all the more necessary and sweet.
Many colleagues have wished for their own preacher camp.
Jimmy Fallon is succeeding a giant of late-night television, and he’s entering a crowded field. At 39 years old, he’s taking a leap onto a larger stage and needs to prove himself in some ways. As I watched, I was struck by the smart stuff that was going on under the surface, whether calculated or not, and I started to relate Jimmy’s debut to other situations leaders find themselves in.
The other day I heard Maya Lin talk about her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. I’ve visited the wall many times, and it’s always crowded with people, many of them deeply moved by the v-shaped black granite gash in the earth.
It’s been a wonderful summer—our family’s trip to Iona, Scotland was over-the-moon wonderful—but it’s good to be back into a routine. I put my lastborn child on the school bus this week. I won’t lie, there were a couple of happy mommy tears as he waved from the second seat and rumbled away.
These days I know a startling number of pastors and seminary graduates who cannot find jobs in the church. Some are geographically limited by spouses—many of whom are pursuing their “dream job” while the wife (and in virtually every case it’s the wife) languishes in under- or unemployment.
I was with a group of folk from another congregation recently, introducing them to NEXT Church and talking about my involvement as co-chair. We got to talking about generational differences when it comes to membership in an institution, particularly a church.
I lived in Tornado Alley during my teenage years, but they were quiet years for tornadoes. Honestly, I never took them seriously. Teenagers are invincible, after all. Whenever the subject came up we’d make jokes about trailer parks. It was classist privilege—I know that now, wrapped in a candy coating of “it couldn’t happen to me.”
My husband and I went to see 42 the other night. Good film, well worth seeing. There was the tiniest layer of cheese over the movie, and the score was not the least bit subtle. But it was well done, and it captured the essence of his story, at least according to Robinson’s widow.
A church member had told me to be on the lookout for references to faith, and they were certainly there.
There is still a tremendous gender gap in ministry. By and large, women are the associate pastors and solo pastors. Men are the tall-steeple preachers. (Men of my generation are very sad about this, and they lament it—sincerely, I believe—but will gladly move into those prestigious and well-paying positions even as they tilt their heads sympathetically and decry the patriarchy.)
Some of my Facebook friends have been posting beautiful, excruciating articles about the loss of Noah Pozner, the youngest victim of Newtown. He was a twin. He was a darling child. And his family has been thoughtful, yet unflinching, in their mourning of him.
You can read the articles here and here—please be warned that they are wrenching. You may forget to breathe.
A couple of articles are making the rounds among my friends right now. The first is this Century article by Craig Barnes (the new president of Princeton Seminary), who provides his reflections on why pastors cannot (or should not) be friends with parishioners. Of course there can be close and intimate relationships, and pastor and flock are friendly to one another. But Barnes argues that the clergy role is such that true mutual friendship is impossible, or at least inadvisable.
The second article is about a pastor of a large church in Charlotte who’s on a leave of absence at a treatment center after struggling with depression and alcohol abuse.
Caroline competes each summer with our pool’s swim team, and last week their coaches had given them an assignment to watch some of the Olympic time trials held in Omaha. It was fun to watch elite athletes swimming at the top of their game and to listen to Caroline’s observations about the different strokes.
How do we solve the gender gap in ministry? With women outnumbering men in seminaries today, how we do break that stained glass ceiling?
Our current approach in the Presbyterian Church is to require churches, when looking for a pastor, to interview at least one female candidate. The thinking is, of the final three or four candidates, there would be a woman in the mix, and perhaps even churches with an unspoken default of pastor=male might be sufficiently moved to think outside the box. Not that every church will follow that up with a call to that woman, of course. This is mysterious Holy Spirit stuff, not to mention that there are women pastors who aren’t all that. But churches should at least look.