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The Preacher's Husband

notes from a clergy-hubby

I believe doors are a great symbol for what church is all about as a entry point for "Kingdom Life"

A flurry of activity over the past few weeks led to a key moment in the construction of our new facilities at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon. The general contractor threw his “Topping Out” party and we’re officially down to the fine details.

The fine details, of course, will take the best part of a month to complete, but it’s all downhill from here.

Officially, “topping out” is supposed to celebrate a building that is dried in and secure from the elements. In reality, this milestone means that we also have electricity, air-conditioning, windows, doors and that the plumbing is pretty much finished up too.

Flooring is going down, there’s paint on the walls, appliances are moving in to the kitchen. They’re working on the landscaping as well, along with the new entrance and sidewalks and such. Exciting stuff all around!

Rebekah picking up lunch from the new kitchen with Bill - left - and Don

“Topping Out” is a contractor party. It’s thrown by the construction folk for all the people who have been working at the site. Employees, sub-contractors, inspectors etc. If they want to – and this isn’t always the case – they invite the people who are paying for the work, too. Our contractor graciously invited a handful of folk from the church that included Rebekah and me, so I thought I’d share a few pictures in this blog.

A whole bunch of doors – above – were set up in the hall for finish work. I thought they made great ecclesiastical art. One of my favorite scriptures is the John 1o passage where Jesus talks about being the gate, the entry point for the Kingdom of God. I like the image of our church serving that role for so many people who are exploring their spirituality and what it means to live in relationship to God.

Builder Jim

Our builder used the opportunity to share his testimony with the assembled workers. What Jim did was to provide an excellent barbecue lunch and preach a ten-point sermon while everyone was eating. It’s definitely one approach to telling the Gospel story.

But what really gave me pause, as I walked around the facility, was the fact that this building is a profound statement of faith. The quality of the work, the way we are committed to making the facilities accessible to so many community groups, the training in discipleship that will take place, the evidence that First Presbyterian of Brandon is active in this community and working to raise the standard of life in Brandon.

It all speaks to the transformational love of God that has so taken hold of us all here.

Coffee/refreshment bar area in the middle

One element I’m very pleased with is the “Coffee Bar” area, right in the middle of all the downstairs classrooms. The design of the structure is built around our recognition of the value of community-building as a key building block in discipleship. The hallways, the stairwell landings, the entry points… these are all larger than minimum code requirements and conducive to gathering.

The Campbell Discipleship Center is beautiful, yes, but it’s very much a practical design that facilitates community. Some of the key attributes, for me, are:

  • The new nursery

    Bright

  • Airy
  • Inviting
  • Natural Gathering Points
  • Community-friendly
  • Top-quality
  • Accessible
  • Flow
  • Practical

View from the parking area

I really love the fact that it doesn’t have any of the “Don’t touch this it’s too nice” feel that many church projects often come with. It fits the personality of our congregation and the thrust of our witness.

This last picture is of the new north entrance, being carved out as we speak. One more interface with our community from a church campus that is improving constantly. I pray that the way we live out our discipleship will also continue to move forward; bright, airy, inviting, accessible, community-friendly – telling the truth about JESUS.

– DEREK

Laying out the new FPCBrandon entrance from the north

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Now that's a great-looking collection of church staff (minus Earl, parish associate)

Did I ever mention the “utilitarian” function of the preacher’s husband? I’m sure I did. We’ve already discussed the pure joy found via freedom from stereotypical “Preacher’s Wife” expectations. The church is pretty-much happy I even show up, and that’s wonderful! But then, over time (and especially if you do show up on a regular basis), people will eventually find out what your particular skill set is and – Bingo! – you’re busy.

Hence the designation of “utility player.” I’ve confessed before in this space how much I enjoy photography, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was asked to shoot the church staff for the new directory. Fortunately it was an easy assignment, as we have a naturally photogenic group who A) do not suffer from vanity, B) are cooperative and C) get along well.

Don (left) and Mark run our music ministry

So I thought I’d share the results in this week’s “Clergy-Hubby” post. I’ll start with the music guys. Mark is music director. He plays the pipe organ beautifully, he directs our most excellent choir, he leads a top-notch handbell ensemble, and he plays piano for the Praise Band; he is also an accomplished trombonist and puts together an occasional low-brass choir that makes truly remarkable music. Everything he touches is enhanced by his grace and quiet faith.

Don (who also plays trombone in the Florida Orchestra) is in charge of the Praise Team. Every week he crafts a multi-layered sound from a surprisingly talented band composed of guitars, brass, woodwinds, percussion and keyboard. Don brings a deep spiritual sensitivity and cutting edge musicality that is the perfect accompaniment for worship.

Steve and Debbie handle facilities

Next we have Steve and Debbie. Steve is facilities manager. Believe me, that’s no small assignment in a rambling set of  buildings that have been stitched together over 50 years. This year, or course, we’re in the process of updating the physical plant and pretty-much doubling our usable space. The other side of that coin is Debbie, who gets to keep it all clean and ready for whatever is going on. Between them (and with the help of God) miracles occur on a daily basis!

The next grouping is the office staff. I don’t have space here to begin to do them justice. Joyce (front right) is our office manager; or, as Rebekah often says, “The Boss.” How critically important is Joyce? Well, let’s just say that, sometimes, I have to buy her chocolate… really expensive chocolate. Yeah, that’s how it is!

Did the office staff coordinate their outfits for today's photo? Sure looks like they did....

Kathy (front left) wears two hats. She is pre-school director for probably the best program in Brandon. Then, having filled the church with love and light and enthusiastic two, three and four-year-olds all morning, she spends the afternoon bringing her positive energy to the front office. Tisa (back right) is the first warm greeting for those who walk in or call, and has revolutionized the church web page at www.fpcbrandon.org. Andy (middle) and Sue work magic with money and accounting and payroll and receipts and a thousand details I couldn’t follow if they explained it to me all day. They are all awesome folk who make the work of ministry at First Presbyterian possible via their faithful service.

Kelly and Lynn, our youth are in good hands!

I didn’t get to photograph our Youth Director, Kelly, other than the group picture (center back, dark hair). But I did capture this fun image last night at the staff party (we party a lot) at our house, when the mantle was officially passed from Lynn. Lynn ran the youth program for nine years, covering our young people with a quality of love and encouragement that is legend around here. This may not be the “official” portrait, but I believe it captures the spirit and the passion they both share.

Tim and Rebekah: "ridiculously good" ministers. Earl - our parish associate - makes three.

Last but not least, Rebekah and Tim. There’s not enough space, but I think a quote from one of our Sunday school teachers fits best here. A week ago, Tim was teaching a discipleship ministry workshop for educators and small group leaders. He handed out some material that described several important factors in making church work. After a while, one of the teachers raised her hand.

“When I read about the qualities people look for in the ideal church setting,” she said, “the first thing that came to my mind was, We have ridiculously good ministers at this church….”

Nice one, Sandy – “Ridiculously Good” it is. But then I could say the same about the rest of the staff, too.

Peace and Blessings – DEREK

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Children leafing through their new treasures while one more comes forward

Sometime, being “The Preacher’s Husband” means being ready to respond to requests (made during the first hymn) such as, “Derek! My camera is at the bottom of my purse – I think – under the desk back in my office. Can you get some pictures of the kids getting their Bibles?”

And so it’s walk – with dignity – out of the sanctuary; run – as fast as I can – to Rebekah’s office; dig – frantically – for the camera; run – super-fast – down the hall again; ease into church – casually – trying not to pant loudly from being out of breath; take a few photos – unobtrusively; return to seat – gratefully.

"God's Word for you!" This is good stuff!

Of course I should have been prepared and with my own camera, because it was Christian Education Rally Day after all, and it’s no secret that handing out Bibles to the rising 2nd-graders is just about Rebekah’s most favorite thing in the whole church calendar. But I’ve been trying hard not to be “The Paparazzi” or, as our son Andrew says with characteristic lack of political correctness, “Dad, when are you going to stop being a Japanese tourist all the time?”

However, and I know you’re wondering, I did manage to get a few good pics. It really is a wonderful moment when a bunch of seven-year-olds come forward, one at a time, and stand mesmerized as Rebekah offers each individual child their own special word of encouragement before handing them the life-charged text.

Sam Sutherland encouraging the children to be "Imitators of Christ"

Later, Sam Sutherland did his classic Children’s-Moment story about “The Tater Family”, sharing with the kids how important it is – if we’re going to be any kind of a Tater at all, to be an “Imi-Tater” of Christ.

Sam’s other characters – and he bought in the vegetables to go along with the story – were “Dick-Tater”, “Agi-Tater”, “Common-Tater”,”Spec-Tater” and – if all else fails – “Be a Sweet-Tater.”

His text was Ephesians 5:1 – “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love.”

Good words for this Monday morning, I’d say – DEREK

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Believe it or not, this little collection of Duplos and blocks and construction paper is a profound commentary on the Christian Education learning model...

I have not been a very active preacher’s husband this summer. Not, that is, other than my core value of being there 100% for Rebekah and doing everything in my power to provide her with a solid home base to operate from.

My inactivity has been as regards church in general. I’ve been showing up, but I’ve allowed other people to teach Sunday school, I’ve put The Men’s Room on ice, and I’ve limited my Sunday evening small group to just a few fellowship activities.

To be honest, I think it’s been good, both for me and the church too.

My excuse (if I needed one!) has been the new book I’ve been writing. Today I pretty-much competed the project – which is just as well as my deadline to get it into my publisher is Monday (Aug 15). I have some detail work to do before the final proofing and printing of a hard-copy (one chapter at a time) all day Monday.

Open to Learn: But I have been showing up for church activities, and that is very important. This morning I attended a teacher/leader training event put on by pastor Tim Black. It was a workshop designed to hone some of our skills, expose us to new information and get us geared up for the new church education year.

I have to admit, I didn’t want to go! I didn’t want to break away from my work on the book, I didn’t want to be reminded that there are other things going on in the world besides what I’ve got going on. And I didn’t want to be learning anything at all, sitting in class. And I especially didn’t want to be made to participate in any interactive group-learning scenarios…:-)

  • But I did show up – because that’s what you do.
  • And I spread some cream cheese on a bagel – because they were there.
  • And I made some coffee – because, duh!
  • And I participated – because I’m the preacher’s husband!

And, of course, I had a good morning. I had a good morning because I was in fellowship with some really cool people who love Jesus, and who are committed to be leaders in education at our church. And I had a good morning because it wasn’t about me, it was about what I need to learn. And I had a good morning because, when two-or-more show up to do something in the context of mutual faith, well, God shows up too.

Our guest speaker – Beth House – did make us to an interactive project, but it was excellent because it demonstrated how important it is that we pay close attention to what it going on when we’re leaders in the faith community. It’s always about who we’re not reaching as much as it is who is in class every week.

That insight alone was worth showing up for.

Bottom line – The Preacher’s Husband needs to blend in with the crowd sometimes, sit at the feet of Jesus, and be willing to be taught… and to learn… and to serve in new and creative ways.

Peace – DEREK

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Nice form, Gerard....

I’ve been thinking about the most basic, essential important duty of “The Preacher’s Husband.” The question – not so much a question as an observation – came up today when I was playing golf with my friend, Gerard (see, there he is, exhibiting unique golf skills just this morning). Gerard is on the way to becoming a “clergy-hubby” by virtue of his wife’s progress through candidacy (with the Presbyterian Church) and seminary at Asbury on Orlando (MDivon the cards for next May).

Peg is second career, they’ve been part of a variety of churches over the years before finally realizing that they were Presbyterian (!!), and Gerard already has experience as an elder. So we were talking about the whole gig, as it were, and he was saying stuff like, “I’m not sure I could keep my mouth shut,” and I was saying stuff like, “You won’t be a regular church member anymore,” and “Your entire ministry focus is going to shift.”

Because this Preacher’s Husband stuff is all about, in my mind, just the one thing. And the one thing is to create an environment at home that’s supporting, nurturing, loving and relaxing for “The Preacher;” to give her a place where she can experience restoration and replenishment, so she can do the preacher thing without picking up additional stress she doesn’t need.

Not that anyone needs stress, it’s just that I see my job as giving her a safe place, an anchor, a rock where she can tie up and just feel the love.

The Great Adventure

“If you can do that,” I told him, “and give her a home where she feels loved and safe and completely nurtured and supported in the strongest way possible… then you will be the best kind of clergy-hubby there is….”

That’s all – DEREK

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Our mission team hits the road/air - very early this morning!

Early this morning (5:00 am to be precise) our mission team to Central America met at the American Airlines check-in at Tampa International Airport. Andrew flew all the way from Italy to take part, and we left our house at 4:24 am! But I didn’t just drop him off, I touched base with the entire group.

Why? Because I’m the preachers’s spouse. I’ll try to explain:

My topic of interest in today’s post is the area of “being there.” Every preacher in the world is spread thin; it’s a fact of ministry that it’s impossible to satisfactorily stay ahead. Even if a church has just 25 active members it’s impossible for the preacher to keep up. One crisis can sometimes take an entire day and then the week’s schedule is already shot!

It helps that First Presbyterian of Brandon has amazing elders, creative ministry teams with excellent leadership, an active Stephen Ministry, and variety of nurturing small groups – plus three pastors on staff (Rebekah, Tim and Earl). But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still anywhere from one to a dozen places and events happening at any given moment where the senior pastor’s presence is expected, anticipated or at the very least desired.

And that, my friends is why there’s a whole category of “preacher’s spouse-ness” known as, “There’s no way I can make it could you possibly just show up?” Some people call this, “Taking one for the team.” Or, “Representing the brand.” Also understood as “unofficial ceremonial stand-in.”

Typically what I’m talking about is not even officially “unofficial.” Most of the time my being there isn’t even a conscious something that anyone would necessarily take note of or point out if it didn’t happen. But it’s meaningful all the same, because the gift of presence is one of the most important things we have to offer as the preacher’s spouse.

Let me share a couple of examples. This morning was one. Obviously I was taking Andrew to the airport because he’s our son and we love him. But skipping my usual “drop off” and going inside, then making sure I spoke to everyone in the mission team, and saying “Blessings” and “Peace” as they headed out through the first security checkpoint… these were all “preachers’ spouse things”, and they were qualitatively different because of that fact.

I’m also talking about:

  • Some of the weddings or funerals I attend
  • Receptions I have slipped into long enough to shake some particular hands
  • Checks I’ve written and causes I support
  • Girl Scout cookies I’ve purchased
  • Retirements… graduations… even some parties I’ve crashed!
  • Hospital waiting rooms I’ve prayed in
  • Awards ceremonys I’ve applauded
  • Toasts I’ve given
  • Concerts I’ve sat through
  • Sporting events I’ve cheered at… You get the picture.

There’s a chance I might have attended some of these events anyway. But there is something about the quality of presence and the fact that I’m there without Rebekah that states – pretty clearly – “The pastor at First Presbyterian is here in spirit, is thinking about what’s going on, and has you in her prayers.”

As preacher’s husbands we are pleased to have this awesome opportunity to make our own way, because there is no stereotype to fill. But that doesn’t mean we don’t still – sometimes:

  • Wear a tie when we didn’t want to
  • Attend a wedding we’d rather skip
  • Shake an extra hand (of several hundred)
  • Miss a game we wanted to see
  • Kiss a cheek we’d rather not
  • Laugh at a joke that wasn’t funny
  • Eat a peanut-butter pie that made me gag (that’s a whole story of its own)…

It’s called being there, the ministry of presence, the ambassadorship of the office.

Together to sign the floor of the new Discipleship Center

We’ve all been seated at the tail end of the head table at a public event, resisting the urge to visit our smart phone when the program gets tedious. And we acknowledge how much more fun it is when “The Preacher” is with us.

But it goes with the territory, and the majority of time I’m honestly thankful for the opportunity to be identified with such a dynamic ministry. We’re better together, always, but if there’s anything I can do to extend the ministry of presence… I’m there.

Just don’t forget to feed me!

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Derek & Rebekah Maul - Image by KATY KUEHNER - Tribune staff photographer

Exciting day! This morning, Saturday July 23, the Tampa Tribune has published a feature about yours-truly and Rebekah.  “Brandon preacher’s husband content with unconventional role”  The article was written by the Trib’s religion editor, Michelle Bearden. Michelle did a fine job presenting a positive story and giving readers a clear look at what it means to be a clergy-spouse – regardless of denomination or gender.

As a writer, I find it nerve-racking to let someone else tell some of my story. Rebekah and I have both been misquoted in the past, and have been embarrassed when journalists completely missed the point of a seemingly straightforward interview. So it is refreshing to read a well-honed report put together by someone who knows how to listen as well as write. So kudos to Michelle Bearden.

Some newspaper subscribers will be reading this blog as a direct result of reading this morning’s article. Welcome! I hope you’ll come back and visit again.

I’ll keep this post brief and I simply encourage you to take a look around. Scroll down, click on the links, and read some of the content. You can also look on the right hand side of the page for your choice of recent articles, or to connect to my daily blog, “The Life-Charged Life.”

I recommended “Welcome to The Preacher’s Husband blog at WordPress”, down at the bottom of the list; it offers a helpful overview of some of the issues I’ve discussed or will be addressing in future posts.

Then, check out “What You See Is What You Get (and other reasons it’s going to be great to be a granddaddy!)”. It will give a good look at our family.

Thanks so much for dropping by! I look forward to future visits, your comments and (this is important) please recommend this site to your friends. I have a lot to share and I don’t want anyone to miss out.

Also, if you don’t have a church home, you are very welcome to worship with us at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon.

Peace, Love and Blessings – DEREK

– Check out www.derekmaul.com for links to books and other info…

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