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The Preacher's Husband

notes from a clergy-hubby

Tag Archives: church

OK, friends, the jury is in. By acclamation, an overwhelming vote, and 100% of responders… This blog is going to merge with my daily blog – “The Life-Charged Life”. I will – for the time being – continue to use this “Clergy-Hubby” site, but the content will be the same as “The Life-Charged Life.”

Take today’s post, for example – it could have ended up in either location. So:

  • Read
  • Enjoy
  • Let me know what you think
  • Pass this address on to others
– DEREK

Church as it happens - this Sunday

My publisher is always telling me I need to be “cutting edge” in my use of social media.

  • That’s how I got into blogging, and I appreciate the nudge Upper Room Books gave me to get my “on-line journal” going.
  • It’s also why I’m on facebook. Again, I’m glad I’m involved, and I value the way it keeps me in touch with so many people.
  • I TWEET too – although really I’m not sure what I’m doing and 90% of the time my Tweets are little more than an invitation to read my blog. I’ve been told people want to read any snippits of pithy, humorous or informative information I’m willing to put out there – but thus far I’m not locking in on the medium.

But, yesterday, I think I may have gotten a handle on the  Tweet idea – even though my “Aha!” moment came in retrospect and I didn’t actually Tweet a thing.

Kids' Moment with Karen Weber

Here’s what happened. We had a baptism at fpcBrandon. A young couple, active in our church, brought their infant son and it was one of those deeply moving occasions. So I grabbed my Android and snapped a couple of pictures. Then I thought, “Why not post this on facebook in real time?” So I did. I labelled the post “Church as it Happens.”

I enjoyed the concept of Church-as-it-Happens so much that I posted a series of pictures, with comments, in real time during the morning. It felt awkward to be “playing with my phone” so much during worship, and I did get a couple of sharp elbows from the preacher, but I do believe it was worthwhile.

Lots of children at 8:30 service

That evening I talked with a friend who had picked up the facebook posts. She told me what I had done was a “made for Twitter” thing, tweets – apparently – are more “stream of consciousness.” To be honest I’m still not sure that I’m going to do that much on Twitter, because I have a hard time remaining in any way detached from the event I’m participating in – plus part of me can’t get away from the idea that “It’s rude to be on your phone” when participating in any kind of a public event…..

IMMEDIACY: I think what intrigues me most about this whole conversation is the immediacy. Of course, it’s also true that nothing is quite so immediate as actually being there! Point taken. But, I don’t believe the church-as-it-happens concept is about providing an alternative to showing up. I think it’s about taking some of what is real and engaging and transformational about Sunday morning at fpcBrandon and holding it out there as a kind of invitation.

Go in Peace - Rebekah

Let’s face it, the vast majority of people don’t even have public worship on their radar. So this is not about giving anyone an easy out, it’s about offering the beginnings of an easy in. Social media is crawling with the raw evidence of life without committed faith. I believe it’s time that – without judgment or anything other than love – more evidence of the truth of the Gospel message finds its way into the mix.

It’s time that – without judgment or anything other than love – we tell the story and we tell it right.

– DEREK

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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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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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Rebekah at the church door, greeting the Zane family

Quite often, being a clergy-hubby is a spectator event! Fact is, I love to see my preacher-wife “in action.” I think it’s similar to how Rebekah used to describe watching me play soccer. “Derek moves like poetry,” “she’d say. Well, she does too.

Sometimes I’ll stand near the church door when she’s greeting people as they leave after worship. There’s a fluidity and a genuine grace to her interactions that’s fascinating to watch. She engages each individual as if they’re the only person in the world for that moment. She pulls this off with 100% authenticity, and for those brief moments they truly are the only thing in her consciousness. Children… adults… visitors… long-time members… infants; no-one gets missed and no-one feels short-changed.

I remember one Sunday after communion, where the “Hug the preacher” line seemed especially long. One young mother ushered her four-year-old toward the side entrance (like Presbyterians do when they want to beat the Baptists to lunch!). Their conversation went something like this:

Mother: “Let’s go, we have to meet Daddy!”

Child: “But I have a question for pastor Rebekah.”

Mother: “Okay… (sigh)…”

Wait. Shuffle forward. Roll eyes. Shuffle forward again. Speak with the other people in line. Smile. Shuffle forward. Wait. Eventually they make it to the door.

Mother: “Rebekah, Ralphie has a question for you.”

The Preacher (hoping it’s not a doctrinal stumper, planted by Ralphie’s mother): “Ask away, Ralphie, I love four-year-old questions!”

Ralphie: “PastorRebekah-pastorRebekah!!! What kind of juice do we have at communion?”

The Preacher (relieved): “I think I know the answer to that one, Ralphie. I believe we serve Welch’s Grape Juice.”

Ralphie’s eyes opened as wide as could be, and he turned to his mother with a huge smile across his face and his arms spread wide, palms up: “You see,” he said loudly. “I told you we serve The Good Stuff at this church!”

And we do. Every Sunday at worship, and pretty-much every day between Sundays, there’s something inspirational and encouraging going on. It’s all good stuff, all the time around here!

But – most of all – the good stuff is served up by my awesome wife, “The Preacher”. And all I have to do sometimes is to stand in the background and just watch her interact with the people she loves so dearly, so honestly, and with such tender grace.

– DEREK

Rebekah speaking at fpcBrandon

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Note: I typically post to this page about once per week. For daily entries, please visit my “The Life-charged Life” blog. 

"The Preacher" with Graham, one of our most excellent youth. Looks a little bright - may need to wear shades.....

The Future’s So Bright We’ve Gotta Wear Shades: My wife, “The Preacher”, is not a fan of statistics. “What’s the point?” she says. “Statistics are made to be broken.”

She’s right, of course, and she has perfected a lifetime of demonstrating that the variable that actually counts is always the individual in question, not the statistical trend.

Which is a really, really good thing. Because, according to a whole slew of professional, health, gender-related and actuarial statistics, by now my wife should be a divorced, depressed, dissatisfied former pastor who left the ministry after years of bumping against the glass ceiling and being stymied by the “good-ol’-boy” system. Oh, and she should also be dead.

But the numbers do interest me. So this week I took a look at some of the recent data (and “current data” is always a couple of years out of date ) for female pastors and churches in our denomination, the PC(USA).

  • There are, apparently, around 13,500 active pastors and 10,718 PC(USA) congregations. 31% of these pastors are women.
  • 1,186 of Presbyterian congregations are served by a woman who is the solo pastor, co-pastor or senior pastor/head of staff (that’s 11% of all churches).
  • Of those 10,718 congregations, approximately 900 have a membership of over 500 people (that’s 8.3% of churches).
  • Of those 900 plus “large” churches, 61 are led by a women who is the solo pastor, co-pastor, or senior pastor (that adds up to 6.6% of the large churches).
  • 28% of active female pastors are the “lead” pastor in a Presbyterian church. 1.4% of female pastors are the lead pastor in a church of over 500 members.
  • Ergo, the larger the church, the less likely it is that a woman is serving as the lead pastor.
  • One more interesting tidbit – the average congregation of over 500 in the PC(USA) reports weekly attendance at 43% of membership. Our congregation comes in at around 75%. That means our 525 member church sees more action on a Sunday morning than most 900 member churches!

Church around here is vibrant

So What! My point is that, while I wholeheartedly endorse my wife’s insistence that her job is simply to follow Jesus, to articulate a vision for our local congregation, and to resource the ministries the people at fpcBrandon are called to engage, I also believe it is critically important that the “movers & shakers” in this world understand one very important fact. The important fact is: The reason my church (fpcBrandon) breaks every statistical number-cruncher stereotype that the number-crunchers can come up with, is that our church culture is NOT anywhere close to being business-as-usual!

Rebekah says the spotlight should be on Jesus, not her ministry. She insists it’s our pastoral team (Rebekah, Tim Black and Earl Smith – plus the amazing team of elders) that makes all the difference. She says the fact that she is a female head of staff in a dynamic church is a non-issue. Fair enough… but I want to shine a spotlight on that!

I want to shine a spotlight on the fact that the gender of our senior pastor is a non-issue.

Are we having fun yet? Yes!

She can be “under the radar” all she wants, but I love the Presbyterian Church and I think there’s a lot that our denomination can learn from vibrant, discipleship-oriented congregations like ours. Here’s a sampling:

  • This church belongs to Jesus.
  • Ministry is about making disciples, not recruiting members.
  • Worship Sunday morning means a lot more when there’s mission during the week.
  • The main thrust is how we can be the presence of Christ to the world in and through the work of the church.
  • The Gospel is always transformational – politics and “issues” are not.
  • Our most important, pervasive, and consistent creed is love.
  • The way we are as a community – the quality of our koinonia – tells the truth about the Gospel we preach…

So, “take that”, statistics! When it’s all about following Jesus, then nothing else has the power to distract us from the transformational power of the Gospel! My wife may not keep count, but I can’t help but notice… We keep setting the curve around here!

Peace – DEREK

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Tim Black (left) and Rebekah Maul aka "The Preacher"

If there was one word to describe what “The Preacher” does well (other than “everything) it would be “communication.” Rebekah is beyond awesome when it comes to connecting with people; be it just the one, or a room full of a thousand.

I’m sure I’ve already said this, but my wife is absolutely without a doubt the most interesting and inspirational preacher I have ever heard! But she also happens to be a really good writer, a wordsmith who manages to draw people in with just the right words at just the right time.

Our church newsletter – “The Happenings” – goes out twice a month, and the “Rebekah’s Remarks” page is never a disappointment. A lot of preachers brush the newsletter off as hardly worth the effort, but Rebekah understands that her message is an important element of the communication package and she always takes the time to get it right.

It actually reminds me of a weekly newspaper column. The “Op-Ed column” is an art form, and when it’s done well it’s one of the best reads in the paper. Rebekah gets it right every time.

So I thought I’d share a couple of paragraphs with you, just to offer a different slant from a writer I truly admire. They are the first and the last from this week’s “Happenings”.

Dear Fine People (Rebekah writes):

We were gathered for our weekly staff meeting two weeks prior to Easter, and it was noted that “things will calm down after Easter Sunday.” I don’t know where such a thought came from. I was told of this so-called slow-down my first year in ministry… and I’m still waiting. By now, I know that a church sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit isn’t about to slow down.

Every day is Easter.

Every day affirms that the tomb is still empty.

Every day allows us to realize our world’s constant need of the Light and Power of the Risen Lord….

…There is so much going on, in such a wide variety of ways, as people are being led to go deeper and wider in their relationship with God in Jesus: The world Jesus sends us out into will break; wars continue; lives are destroyed by natural disasters and random acts of evil and violence; termites will eat away in poorly reinforced walls (Inside joke – it happened at our church!).

But:

  • God’s healing is found in the midst of brokenness…
  • Peace transforms conflicts…
  • Natural disasters will be cleaned up…
  • People will commit their lives to Christ…
  • Celebrations will be enjoyed…
  • Ministry and mission will be carried out…
  • The Bible will enlighten and strengthen…
  • Our church family will be faithful, as we continue to be who we were created to be – the Body of Christ for right now.

Invite your friends to church with you. They’ll find out more about who we are in the next few weeks than even some of us know (Next week is the church 50th b/day celebration).

I love you – Rebekah

This coming weekend we celebrate 50 years as a church, witnessing to God’s grace here in the Brandon community. Stay tuned, there’s bound to be a blog post that reflects some of the excitement!

– DEREK

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