<![CDATA[Pastor Jess - Congregational Renewal Stories and Resources]]>Thu, 04 Jul 2019 17:58:36 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Thanksgiving for Baptism]]>Thu, 25 Apr 2019 14:49:25 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/thanksgiving-for-baptismIn the Lutheran tradition, we often start worship with either Confession and Forgiveness or Thanksgiving for Baptism.  I think that any time we can acknowledge our messiness and imperfections in church is good.  It is such a relief to start worship knowing I"m in a room full of imperfect people who are also sinners and have also made mistakes.  Publicly sharing that together is a great way to start our time with God.  It is great to understand how messy we are, how the world hurts us, and that we need God in our lives.  Enjoy this liturgy.  
P: Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God,
the fountain of living water,
the rock who gave us birth,
our light and our salvation.
C: Amen.
P: People of God, in the baptismal waters we travel with Christ from death to life. Our past, our sin, our failure, our doubt, and our shame are drowned and gone here.
C:  You, O God, wash us clean.
P: Our fear, our confusion, our self-righteousness, our despair  -- ALL are washed away by grace.
C:  You, O God, wash us clean.
P: Our pride, our hypocrisy, and other people’s opinions of us no longer have the power to define us.
C:  You, O God, give us new life.
P: The Spirit lives and moves through us now, a great and joyful mystery, so we may bring love and mercy into the world as the body of Christ.
C: You, O God, give us new life
P: Rejoice that God has claimed us in this baptismal grace, not by our own doing or believing but by God’s mercy alone. 
C: You, O God, give us new life
P:  And so, as we begin worship, we give thanks to God for the gracious gift of baptism that joins us together in Christ by the Spirit’s power. Joined to Christ in the waters of baptism,
we are clothed with God's mercy and forgiveness.
We praise you for the gift of new life in Jesus Christ.
To you be given honor and praise
through Jesus Christ our Lord
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever.
C: Amen.

Resource used and edited with permission of Pr. Michael Coffey.  http://mccoffey.blogspot.com/2012/08/thanksgiving-for-baptism-rite.html

<![CDATA[Saying GoodBye to Jesus, A Good Friday Litany]]>Sat, 23 Feb 2019 02:41:55 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/saying-goodbye-to-jesus-a-good-friday-litanySAYING GOODBYE TO JESUS
P:  Saying goodbye is hard.
C:  We would rather not do it.
P:  Death is hard.
C:  We wish it did not have to happen.
P:  Knowing we will lose someone is terrible.
C:  Know that we grieve together is helpful.
P:  One of the best ways to say goodbye to someone is to honor their life by telling stories.  Sometimes, we get to do that while they are still alive, and other times we have to finish conversations with people as best as we can after they are gone.  Tonight, we know that Jesus is going to die.  Tonight, we have the opportunity to say goodbye well. 
I would like to invite you to quietly meditate on the ways you would finish these sentences:
Jesus, while you were alive, I loved the time when you . . . . . . . .
[You are invited to consider one of your favorite Bible stories about Jesus.]
Jesus, I did not like the time that you . . . . . .
            [You are invited to consider something Jesus said or did that you did not like.]
Jesus, I am confused about the time that you said . . . .
            [You are invited to consider something Jesus said you are confused about.]
Jesus, I feel this way about your death . . . . .
Jesus, I find hope because . . . . . .
Jesus, your impact on my life now has been . . . . . .
P:  Saying goodbye is hard.
C:  But it helps to do it together.
P:  Jesus, we will miss you.
C:  But we will see you again in three days.
P:  Goodbye Jesus.
C:  Goodbye Jesus.  ​]]>
<![CDATA[Saying GoodBye to the Alleluia]]>Fri, 22 Feb 2019 15:57:10 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/saying-goodbye-to-the-alleluia
If you use this litany, please print the note below in your bulletin, and please consider contributing to the maintenance fees for this website.  It us up for renewal.  
"Saying Goodbye to the Alleluia" by Rev. Jess Harren.  Copyright by Creative Commons from http://pastorjess.com (2019).  Used with permission. 

Usage Idea

Copy the picture above and hand out to all kids with crayons at the beginning of both the Ash Wednesday service and Lent 1 service.  Have them bring up their pictures at Kid's Time, talk though the idea, and have them put their pictures into the box.  Then, do this litany at the end of Kid's Time, saving one picture to put in the box during the litany.  

A Litany for Ash Wednesday/ Lent 1

P: Alleluia!
C: Christ has died.
P: Alleluia!
C: Christ is Risen.
P: Alleluia!
C: Christ will come again. 
P: Alleluia! Sometimes we must say goodbye for a time.
C: Alleluia!
P: It can help us focus on what needs to be done.
C: Alleluia!
P:  We will know the alleluia is there waiting for us.
C: Alleluia!
P:  We will sing it with a new understanding on Easter morning.
C:  Goodbye, Alleluia.
P:  Goodbye, we’ll see you again. 
(Alleluia banner or picture is placed in the box while silence is kept.)
P:  As Christians, we live in a time of the now and the not yet.  We know that Christ is not really gone, and at the same time, look forward to celebrating the new life and resurrection on Easter.  Putting away our most vibrant word of praise gives us a chance to slow down and take time to grow, and to have a new appreciation for what it means to us to praise with this word on Easter day. 

C:  Amen. 
<![CDATA[Christmas Eve Full Service]]>Mon, 24 Dec 2018 06:00:00 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/christmas-eve-full-serviceHey, ya'll, I know that it has been a long time since I've updated this section of my website.  I left my previous call in May 2018, and have been preaching all over the synod.  Right now, I am very consistently at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Arlington Heights, IL.  I'm there most Sundays, work with worship and music, and also provide pastoral care for the congregation.  They are discerning their future, and I'm along for the ride.  My goal is always to help people grow into a deeper life-saving relationship with Jesus, and to use that ground us when big institutional changes are being discussed.  There are several other links that include shorter parts of the Christmas Service.  Scroll past the list of links to watch the full service.  
It takes a lot of time and digital storage space to post videos, especially ones this big.  Click below to help support this blog! 
<![CDATA[Winter INVITATIONAL Focus 2018]]>Fri, 16 Feb 2018 20:21:23 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/winter-invitational-focus-2018The Plan
Leading people by baby steps to talk about their faith and inviting others to church.  We are handing out business cards each week with the instructions on them for the week.  If you would like to purchase the original word and publisher files for all 13 weeks, you can do that in the store.  However, the content and path to leading people is helpful.  

How To Do It

The person handing out the homework, or pointing it out in the bulletin should have one story or one answer for the question that helps people start thinking.  Also, people should be planted at fellowship hour to ask the questions for the week and get a conversation going.  

The Weeks

Think of one story about how this church has affected your life.

Tell the story of how this church has changed your life at coffee hour to ONE person.

Think of one story that shows how your life is better because of Jesus.

Tell the story of how Jesus matters in your life to ONE person at coffee hour.

Name one thing that is scary about telling people about Jesus and one good thing.
When you feel nervous about telling someone about church or Jesus, what is one thing you can tell yourself to help you do it?

Think of a person who does not go to church and how Jesus might change their lives.
Contact the person you thought of last week, and mention something about how Jesus changed your life in casual conversation.
Pray for that person and whatever is going on in his or her life. You can share that you've done this, but don't have to.

Hand a flyer with church information casually to TWO people in a one-on-one conversation at one event this week or next.

What good news of Jesus will you invite at least TWO families to hear at Calvary Lutheran this Easter?  Which TWO families?

Invite at least TWO more families to come worship with us on Easter.  Including at least one sentence about why you think Easter matters.  What is the Good News for you, in one sentence?  How does Jesus change your life?

Send a message or make a phone call to the four families on Saturday letting them know you’ll see them tomorrow for Easter.

The Cards Picture Gallery

Invitation Card Files

Weeks 1 and 2 are in MS Word, while Weeks 4-13 are in publisher.  Weeks 12 and 13 were printed back to back to hand out the Sunday before Easter.  After purchase, you will receive an e-mail will all 12 files for you to edit for your congregation. These were printed on Avery 8871 labels, Avery® Inkjet Clean-Edge Two-Side Printable Business Cards, 2-Sided, 2" x 3 1/2", White Matte.
<![CDATA[Ashes to Ashes. . . Happy Valentines Day!]]>Wed, 14 Feb 2018 13:51:52 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/ashes-to-ashes-happy-valentines-day
By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19, NRSV
I’m so excited!  I’m dust, and to dust I shall return.  Every year in the life of the church, we observe a Holy Day called Ash Wednesday.  Ash Wednesday is on Valentine’s Day this year, so I hope to see you at church at 7pm on February 14.  Somehow, we’ll include Love in all this.
Ash Wednesday is the day that starts us on a path to Easter.  This service begins the church season of Lent, the six weeks we use to prepare for Easter.  At this service, I will draw crosses on each person’s forehead while they kneel around the altar. 

Although some find this service “too real” and “too focused on death”, I find great meaning, great joy, and great life in it.  For it communicates so many things.  It lets me know that I belong to God, no matter what.  If I’m a tiny infant, or near death, we all have the same cross on our heads, and we all belong to God the same.  It equalizes the playing field to know that we are all going to die, and I love knowing that even though each of us are sinners (do things that cause separation and hurt), we are all in it together.  We are all made from the same dust, and we will return to the same dust, and we belong to the same God who sees us, knows us, and saves us anyway.

There is a healing aspect to this service, for it brings us together as a community.  We start our journey of six weeks knowing that we belong to God, that God made us, and that we’re all equally guilty, equally messy equally death-dealing, and equally saved.
This is a day when we get real about death, real about the pain we cause each other, God, ourselves, and the planet.  We acknowledge how much the same we are, how much God loves us, and how we are all in it together.
​This is my basic theology of life:
​ “Life is hard, we’re all in it together, Yay Jesus!”
Another thing I love about Ash Wednesday is the journey that it begins.  At the end of six weeks, we’ll end up at the Last Supper, Good Friday, and finally, Easter!  (I’ll explain more about those in March newsletter.)  Welcome to the Journey!

This year, for Lent, we’re having classes on Thursday nights beginning Feb. 22 from 4pm-5pm.  We’ll go over the stories of the Christian faith, why they matter, how we live them, how we celebrate them, with a focus on the last meal Jesus shares with his disciples in Matthew 26:17-30.  People of all ages are welcome; please let me know if you plan to attend.  Please also bring your Bible; if you need one, let me know.   Then, on Maundy Thursday (March 29, 7pm), we’ll celebrate First Communion for those who complete the classes and have not yet communed.

See you on Valentines Day!  I can hardly wait!

Love, Pastor Jess
<![CDATA[Christmas Eve]]>Sun, 24 Dec 2017 06:00:00 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/christmas-eveOverview
We tried some new things at Calvary with Mt. Zion for Christmas Eve.  You can read below about some of the things we did, and see pictures.  Although the morning service did not have a sermon, the evening service included a sermon that made the same point as the morning service.  You can listen to it here. Also, we used Cards for Worship so that even first time visitors could be part of making worship happen.   The kids were led through a telling of the Christmas story where they acted out different parts.  It was a no-rehearsal, pop-up Christmas Play.  It worked out great.  Also, for our message time, the kid's did an activity you can read about below.  I've included some of the worship parts that were written just for this service, too.  

Call to Worship

  The presiding minister and the congregation greet each other in the peace of the risen Christ.
P                   The peace of Christ be with you always. 
C                  And also with you.
The people may greet one another with a sign of Christ’s peace and may say:
Peace be with you or similar words. Please ask before offering handshakes or hugs.
P   Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world!
C   He is One who comes to bring us life.
P   At this hour of creative birth, we gather to celebrate the great joy of our salvation.
C   With the heavenly host we sing, "Glory to God in the highest heaven."
P   In Christ, God's Word is made flesh and lives among us.
C   With the shepherds, we will tell of the wonders we have seen and heard.

Prayer of the Day

P           Dear  Jesus,
C             Thank you for coming into the world today as a little baby.  As we think about what presents we can bring you, help us to know how to share your presents with others. In your name, we pray, and we play, AMEN. 

Message Time

If Christ came to give us the gift of
 Love, New Life, And Saving Us,
What gifts could we possibly give him?
The Bible teaches that by taking care of one another, we take care of Jesus.  Each group is invited to take and wrap two boxes. 
Inside both boxes, put a slip of paper. 
They should say the same thing inside both boxes. 
Write down something that you’ll give to Jesus, and therefore to someone else.  You can offer to check the mail, shovel the yard, listen on the phone, take someone for coffee, learn more about a justice issue, give a gift of a wanted hug . . . there are so many things. 
Place one gift in front of the manager, and take the other box home to give to someone else.  This is how we share the joy of Jesus coming into our lives.  

Eucharistic Prayer

Pastor Jess, along with her friend Jess Davis wrote our Eucharistic Prayer for Disrupt Worship.  You can see it along with the things others wrote here.  If you'd like Jess Davis to help you create things, or to be a paid sensitivity reader for you, you can contact her by sending her a message on facebook.  
​Advent/Christmas/Epiphany Eucharistic Prayer 2017 by Jess Harren and Jess Davis
Oh Creator, from the beginning of time you have been with us.
You save us again and again, from ourselves.  From our hatred of others.  From our judgements that we know more than you.
You created us as whole beings, minds, bodies, souls, all together, all connected.
You bring us prophets to point the way, to call us in, to call us toward love and life.
And yet, we turn away.  It is too hard to see.
In the creative darkness, in the beginning of time, the depth of Mary’s womb, you knit together a real human body that comes from another body.  A connected body.  You were a baby.  We hear your cries to eat, to sleep, to be held, to be changed.
In the incarnation, in becoming human, you know what it is to bleed.
To hurt.  To cry out for justice from a body that was tortured.
You know the pain of speaking up against the things that separate. The pain of oppression. Of those who think they get to define who counts as human.
And yet, you gave yourself to us. You gave your own body and blood to heal us, to bring us closer to ourselves, and one another.  To heal the broken connections, within, without, and between our whole beings.  In this meal, you connect your body to ours.  As the story about you is told:
On the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples to eat saying, “Take and eat.  This is my body. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
After supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for all people, and for the forgiveness of sin.  Do this for the reembrace of me.”
Through your human and divine body, you bring us salvation.  You also shared your Spirit with us.
Oh Holy Spirit,
Thank you for promising to infuse this wine and bread with the spirit of Jesus.  Saturate the wine and the and the insides of the bread with your spirit.  Use it to unite us to Jesus’ body, and the bodies of all those around us.  Unite everyone who eats of this meal, until, at last we know the joy of connection with all that is around us.  Amen.  

Blessing and Dismissal

​May God bless you with presence, May Jesus bless you with saving love, and May the Holy Spirit inspire you to share those with others.  
C         Amen.

P: Glory to God in the highest!
C: Peace to God’s people on earth!
P: Go in peace. Share the gift of Jesus.
C: Thanks be to God.

<![CDATA[Jesus and Goals]]>Wed, 20 Dec 2017 06:00:00 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/jesus-and-goalsThis time of year, in the church, and our lives, we are getting ready for Jesus.  We are getting ready to celebrate a tiny baby in a manger, God coming into the world in unexpected ways. 
It is in the vulnerability of the infant that we see God open Herself up to humanity in brand new ways.  Jesus changes everything. 

Jesus knew something about neighbors, friends, and family, too.  While we understand that God is the Father of Jesus, he also had an earthly Father and Mother.  And, depending on which gospel you read, several siblings.  God intimately knows how hard it is to get along with family members all living together – because God does it in the form of Jesus.  The workshop participants have asked me to communicate with the entire congregation the things we have been learning, and new goals.
Often, congregations work like families.  A group of us have gotten together three times now to think about our family at Calvary.  How do we interact with one another?  How do we define ourselves, while staying part of a community?  What happens when things are not going well between two groups, two people, or leadership?  How do we resolve differences in healthy ways?  For those of you who have been coming, I’ll rely on you to share what you’ve learned with others.  If you haven’t had a chance to come, the first two are posted.  You can read all about what we’re learning and how we’re growing as a congregation by clicking on the two buttons below. 
​At the end of Workshop Three, we talked about how Bibles that sit on coffee tables and look pretty, but are never opened and read, can’t really change our lives or help us follow Jesus.  Similarly, allowing these workshops to help us grow as a congregation only works as much as we follow through on new behaviors. Those at the workshop asked me to communicate our four goals for the congregation to you.  The plan is that the congregation will work hard on these goals, and we’ll meet again on February 18 after fellowship time.  At that time, we’ll do chapters 11-13 of the book and evaluate how we’re doing with our goals.  I also encourage people to write about their progress --– how things are going; what’s hard about it; how prayer matters in the process; where things went well; where conversations did not go well.  Also, I invited people to share reflections with me on the process. 
​Are you ready?  The goals requested by the workshop participants are on the next page.  They are also posted by the kitchen pass-through so that we can keep them in mind. Don’t worry about getting this all at once.  It’ll take a long time, and this is just a brief overview to get us started and it will let you know that workshop participants (along with others) might be speaking to you differently from now on.  Also, if this is all new and totally overwhelming for you, be sure to read the book if you have it, and ask questions of those who've come to the workshops.  It is ok to just pick one of these goals for you to read and concentrate on for the next month or two.  


Goal #1:
 “I Statements”

Goal #2:
Shut down relationship triangles by asking more questions to help people change their own behavior (instead of talking about how to change someone else) and sending people directly to the person they are complaining about (or hoping to change).

Goal #3:
Boundaries Around Complaining

Goal #4:

Define Discussion V. Argument
Goal #1:
 “I Statements”
​I statements are easy to understand, and very hard to do.  In our workshops, we have been learning that emotional systems, or families, or organizations, grow the most when people are defining themselves.  
In places where people have been worried for a long time it is called chronic anxiety.  In most groups, when the worry is high, like worrying for years about the survival of the congregation, we start to want to blame other people.  Often we think “If that person just would/would not do this/that . . our church would grow fine.”  However, what we have learned is that “I statements” make a world of difference.  They are hard in the moment when we’re not used to them, so just imagine Jesus arguing with his parents, and then try again the next time.  The point is to try to use them and see if they work.

​“I statements” are formatted like this
“I think/feel __________________ when you ___________________________.”  For example, someone reading this might be saying, “I feel uncomfortable when Pastor Jess talks about these goals because I do not want to do them.”  That’s an I statement, and a good and honest one.  
Goal #2:
Shut down relationship triangles by asking more questions to help people change their own behavior (instead of talking about how to change someone else) and sending people directly to the person they are complaining about (or hoping to change).
Triangles are a normal part of human life, and we all make them.  Often, they end up hurting us.  A triangle is when we involve a third person (or thing) in a relationship between two people.  For example, if my spouse and I are fighting, I might call one of his friends.  After venting about my spouse for awhile, this third person might offer to call my spouse and explain to him how to change.  I’ve taken the anxiety (the uncomfortableness) between my spouse and I sent it to a third person, who is now in the system.  While this relieves tension in the short term, it increases it long term because the two people with the issue are not talking directly to one another.
We accomplish this goal in two primary ways.  If someone at church comes to you to complain about someone else, or talk about how someone else needs to change, then the first step is to offer to help them think about how they can go directly to the person they have the problem with.  Saying things like, “If you have a problem with Pr. Jess, you need to go talk directly to Pr. Jess” will really help.  Also, you can ask clarifying questions.  What is she doing you don’t like?  How do you want things to be different?  Let me help you think of how to tell her how you’re feeling about this.  What’s really going on?  How might you need to change the ways you talk to Pastor?  How might you need to hold your boundaries better?  What tools can you use?  It is the job of the person listening to not become part of the relationship triangle, and to help the person talking understand themselves better, and go directly to the person they are struggling with.
Goal #3:
Boundaries Around Complaining
The workshop participants have noticed a pattern that often people at church relate to one another through complaining.  While this can be a good way for two people to feel close to one another and on the same page, it can also drag an organization down.  There is a difference between complaining and these preferable things:
  • Thinking about how to change the situation
  • Defining yourself in the situation, What is your role?
  • Thinking about what you have control over
  • Venting emotions for a short time so you can move onto more                                      constructive ideas
The workshop participants have many tools for responding when they hear complaining.  Those tools include asking more questions to help people define themselves, putting time limits on how long they are willing to listen, helping people to use “I statements” and other things of this nature.  While it is important to take feelings and stress seriously, it is also important that we do not pass it around so that it gets bigger without any problem solving, processing, or solutions. 

​Goal #4:

Define Discussion V. Argument
​The group decided that this would be a helpful thing for our congregation to know.  How do we define an argument, verses a discussion?  Is it the emotional intensity?  The use of “I statements”? The ways blame and anxiety get passed around?  The amount of constructive problem solving?  When these two things are confused, often people try to avoid difference all together.  They do not talk about things in open and honest ways, and avoid solving problems all together to avoid an argument breaking out.  This is most likely when an emotional system has low tolerance for people having different needs.  It is possible in some places to say “I don’t like that, that doesn’t work for me, and I am in favor of it because I understand this might be a good way that our community can show Jesus to the world.”  When we know how to have a discussion, and when people have space to define themselves, it actually becomes much easier to move forward as a group toward a common goal.  Although it might look nice on the surface, when people do not define themselves and their position, it is much harder to move forward together.  

We can do It!

​That’s it!  And that’s enough.  This stuff is hard work.  I find much hope in knowing that Jesus was human.  He lived on earth among humans.  There are times he gets into triangles, especially when he offloads his anxiety to God about the disciples not getting that the Good News is about Life for All.  Of course, as we celebrate our very human Baby Jesus this winter, we look forward to knowing that Jesus was also Divine, that God has become human and can redeem humanity.  Jesus will forgive us as many times as it take to work on these goals, with love, compassion, understanding, and guidance.  May we know that the human Jesus is with us in this, and that the Divine Jesus will always forgive us and offer us New Life and the chance to try again.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.  

To Purchase a download for use in your congregation, click below. 

Newsletter Article on Goals

Download this Word document and modify it for use in your own church newsletter. 
@2017 by Rev. Jessica A. Harren. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  From pastorjess.com, and adapted by Rev. So and So for This Congregation.  Used with permission. 
<![CDATA[Family Systems Workshop #2: Hula hoops and Marbles]]>Sat, 18 Nov 2017 23:53:28 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/family-systems-workshop-2-hula-hoops-and-marblesto read about workshop #1, check it out here. 


Our congregation has committed to engage in workshops once a month that help us think about the ways to be a healthy church that is for proclaiming the love of Jesus to all the world.  At workshop #1, we learned about making "I statements", about how congregations are connected in emotional systems, how we affect one another, and how anxiety is spread throughout the system.  


Gathering Introductions

​Everyone chose a marble from a container, and then we went around the circle of 12 people.  Each person shared how they thought that marble represented them.  We found out that everyone used different words to describe their marbles, even when they appeared the same way to the eye.  Words like: maybe some will think this is ugly, but I think it’s beautiful, pretty, pitted, different, sparkly, textured, interesting, iridescent, see-through, gold, yellow, clear, opaque.  This became a helpful discussion about perception, and the multiple ways one might describe the same thing.  

Part one: Bible

We worked with Acts 4:32-5:11 and noticed some things about the text.  We noticed that God doesn’t kill Ananias, but that he just falls dead.  Maybe from grief?  Maybe from shame?  How does it hurt us when we can’t live in community well?  Does living in community mean giving up everything we have?  We didn’t have any good answers; however, it was interesting to sit with a group of congregation members and interrogate a Bible story about togetherness and separation.  If nothing else, this story highlights how hard it is to live in community, and gives us motivation for learning to do it well.
As people said what they noticed about the story, their answers were: fell down and died, great fear, none had any need, alarmed, power, lied to God, [guilt/shame/shock]

Part Two: Life Forces

​Basic overview of Life Forces, including Unity/Difference, Closeness/Isolation, Sameness/Difference, including discussion questions from Chapter 4 for group discussion.  Where is the anxiety around close/distant in our congregation? What things does one have to believe to belong to this congregation?  Be ok with?  What is necessary for who we are?  Some of our answers about Conformity at Calvary were
  • Preaching is required for worship.
  • About half of the congregation allows for children’s noise in worship.
  • Don’t routinely cuss.
  • We eat together.  FOOD
  • Music is necessary for worship.
  • Liturgy is necessary for worship.
    • Lord’s Prayer
    • Creed
  • Communion is necessary.
  • Time
[The image is of a sheet of paper that reads: For Group Discussion: 1. What specific differences does your congregation seem to deal well with? Which ones cause more problems? 2.How do members of your congregation attempt to achieve “peace and unity” in the church, in the midst of significant difference? 3. To what extent is “unity” defined as “sameness” and “lack of diversity” in your church. Give examples. 4. How much “sameness” is needed in a congregation in order to feel “unified”? Is there such a thing as too much diversity? 5.How does your church draw boundaries and decide who belongs to “us” and who belongs to “them”? 6. If having “the mind of Christ” includes respecting the diversity of members of the body, how well does your congregation do this? 7. What other Biblical Passages or Theological Themes seem relevant to your thinking about peace, unity and diversity in the church? [h/t to River Cook Needham for the image desription. Send them some business at: https://www.facebook.com/queerxtian

Part THree: Tug Of War

​Four volunteers demonstrated the close/distant dynamic with jump ropes.  They also included the pursuer/distancer dynamic.  People tried to put others closer, while others tried to pull away.  For example, see below:
A: Oh my gosh, I haven’t seen you in a week, how are you?  When we can get together?
B: Ummm, I’m not sure.  I’ve been really busy lately.
A: Let’s have dinner tonight!
B:  I can’t, I have family coming over.
A: How about Monday? Or Tuesday?
B: [Drops her end of jump rope and leaves conversation.]
A: Hey, welcome to our church!  I’m glad you came today. How are you?  Would you like to get together for dinner soon?
B:  I’m not ready for that, could we meet for coffee instead?
A: OK! 
[They stay connected by the rope, AND respected one another’s boundaries.]

Part Four:
​Boundaries/Thinking for Self

Overview/Teaching on how we think for ourselves, how anxiety is spread around the system, how we use language. Discussion on being reflective, owning our own thoughts and feelings.  We covered feeling/thinking, being reactive/reflective, ownership of our thoughts and feelings, the concept of “you make me” v. “I feel/think when you ____________”, how we try to make ourselves more comfortable by sharing level of threat, ​not relying on other to “make you feel better.”
"squared circle ~ erin with her hula hoop" by hobvias sudoneighm, taken on Oct. 24, 2004. Origional at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/1082718. Used by permission of https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Part Five: Hula Hoops

​First, we created a story about a power pole breaking from a lightning strike during Sunday School.  It crashes into our kid’s play area, putting a hole in the roof.  Water from the large rainstorm in pouring into our fellowship hall.   We practiced two different ways of spreading anxiety around, one that involved owning our own responsibility and worries, and one that did not. 
Everyone got into small groups of 2 or 3.  We had hula hoops of anxiety, and passed them around.  We blamed others for problems, complained, and handed hula hoops to our partners.  If Person A was the one sharing the hula hoop of anxiety, often Person B would respond with “When I hear you talk that way, I feel ______________.”  This resulted in only hurt feelings, anger, and very little problem solving. 
We also practiced putting hula hoops around ourselves and owning our own thoughts/feelings.  We practiced using “I statements”.  Everyone could name their own worry, and what they thought they could do to help with the situation.  Many ideas for problem solving were shared, and everyone felt better at the end. 
Discussion:  What is the role of feelings?  How does it help to give them the proper role? By using our feelings to let us know something isn’t ok, or something needs to be done, we can move to proactive goal-focused conversation.  It is not about not having feelings, it is about giving them their place in being an alert system, owning them, having them acknowledged, and then moving onto problem solving. 

ParT Six: Marbles aND A rING FOR cHRISTMAS eVE

In order to understand how we are each our separate selves while moving forward as a community, we collectively decided to talk about Christmas Eve.  There was an idea on the table that we would partner with another small nearby congregation.  We would do an earlier Interactive Children’s Service, and the other congregation would do a later Candlelight service.  We would advertise together, people could attend earlier service, and the Pastors would be at both services. Unbeknownst to me, the time of the Christmas Eve service was normally a conflictual conversation with high levels of threat and anxiety.

For this conversation, we had two minutes of silence while everyone started into their marbles and decided what they thought about this idea.  [add picture of chart paper where answers were recorded]
The pool ring was slid from the leader to the next person at the table.  That person said what they thought, placed their marble into the ring, and then slid with ring (taking the marble with it) to the next person at the table.  We went around the entire table, and people named their own self-interest.  They said parts of the idea they liked, where they might go for Christmas Eve, and the times of their personal family dinners. We learned that some people do not like the pews at the other congregation, and that some people might like to come to both services, but cannot drive after dark.  We learned that some people have felt hurt in the past when the service was scheduled at a time they could not attend – they felt left out of the community.

The second time around, everyone took a second marble.  This time, people said what they thought was right for the community.  The second time, after everyone had claimed their own ideas, everyone thought that the partnership was good for the community, as long as there was non-pew seating, and rides for after dark.  It was powerful to have each person talk twice, and to have people make a difference between their self-interest and the interest of the community.  It was the calmest conversation about Christmas Eve in years according to one participant.
We demonstrated again how the marbles all stayed distinct with their own glass borders, AND were all able to move in the same direction for the same purpose.  No one got lost, and everyone moved together, while staying separate people.  

CLosing Word

​In closing, everyone said one word in reaction, and they we prayed together.  Words were:
  • Hopeful
  • Complicated
  • Intrigued
  • Feeling good about Calvary
  • More Open
  • More Communication
  • Hopeful
  • Gained Ground
  • Happier
We all agreed at the end that we like our church, and are happy to be part of it! 


​Three weeks after this workshop, a council meeting was held.  It could have been a highly conflictual one.  A conflict between two council members was brought out during the meeting.  The conversation was intense; however, it is notable for what was absent and what was present. Absent was yelling, chair throwing, name calling, and personal attacks.  Present were “I statements”, clarification of ideas, clarification of communication, clarification of responsibilities going forward, and requests for things to be in writing.  This will eventually include job descriptions for each committee and council position so that everyone knows who is responsible for what, and whom reports to who.  This congregation, that has a history of avoiding conflict and walking on egg shells around those who are upset, solved a conflict with ownership, problem-solving, and clarification.  We not only tolerated the conflict, we moved forward to help prevent it from happening again!  The workshops are working.  Even though I wrote them, presented them, and taught them, I could not be sure that would work.  Good news, they are!!
P.S.  At least for now.  Systems often try hard to go back to the way things used to be, so we’ll see what the pushback is, and how that will be handled.  However, we are celebrating the great progress that we’ve made.  Also, if you’d like me (Pastor Jess) to come and do these workshops with your congregation or staff, you can contact me here.  

<![CDATA[#metoo In the Church]]>Sat, 21 Oct 2017 12:43:07 GMThttp://pastorjess.com/congregational-renewal-stories-and-resources/metoo-in-the-church

Bible Story

The Gospel of John Chapter 10 can be a rough chapter for Christians to read and understand.  I encourage you to read the whole chapter.  If you don't have a Bible (or don't want to find it), you can read the entire chapter by clicking the button below.
If there's not a Bible in your house, you can use the website Bible Gateway, and there are numerous apps for phones with Bibles.  I use Olive Tree.  For this article, I would like to invite us to focus on one verse. 
Gospel of John Chapter 10
This article will be complicated and nuanced.  It will not contain an entire story, but it will contain things that our congregations can do in the future.  I invite you to keep an open mind while reading and to see how this might make a difference.  It would be normal for you to have feelings while reading this.  Notice them, share them with me or others, and let them pass so that we can be about creating a culture of abundant life in our churches. 

Change is hard for everyone, and for many, this is a significant culture change.  I imagine some of you will also feel joy and relief that we’re working so hard on our culture. Some of you may be excited about us bringing out topics that affect many of our everyday lives.  Maybe, for some, knowing that we’re creating a culture of safety in our communities that isn’t available in the world at large will bring great happiness.

Others of us might grieve the way that changes confuse us or don’t seem right to us and our view of the world.  Sometimes, they don’t seem to make sense with our own life experience.  I know that my church growing up was a safe place for me, and that I’ve had my image of church shattered as an adult when I realize that many churches never talked about consent culture.  I know that for some, we will need time to grieve what we thought church was, should be, or could be.  When our eyes are opened to new possibilities, sometimes it is exciting, and sometimes it can be hard. That’s ok, and it is ok be angry or frustrated if this is something that is hard to understand.  Faith matters to me in my everyday life.  Reading the Bible and learning to be the best possible Christian community we can be for the sake of Jesus matters to me.

John 10:10
he thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.


There’s a campaign going on online right now called #metoo.  Women, femmes, and trans folks are posting stories of being harassed for being not strictly male. Some men are also posting their own stories of bodily harassment and assault. (If you have a trauma history, you are welcome to stop reading and talk to me.  I am 40 hour trained in the state of Illinois in both domestic violence and sexual assault survivor advocacy. You can contact me here.)  ​​

If you understand these things happen in churches, please read below to find out what you can do to help change the culture in congregations to make these things less possible.  Also, see the calls to action for at the end of this article.

If you think that these things are not happening in churches, please read an article by Rev. Chrien here.
Many people are posting stories about times they were harassed in the church.  If Jesus came to give us abundant life, then we need to have a congregational culture that doesn’t allow this kind of harassment to happen.  When one listens to the stories of the great pain of survivors, one hears that being touched without consent, having our bodies commented on, not being allowed to say no – all these things steal, kill and destroy dignity, humanity, and abundant life.  Some of you might be upset that I’m talking about sexual harassment, naming it out loud.  Some of you might think that survivors should just learn to live with this, or feeling like it is unfair that survivors today have rights that you wish you had, but might have not been able to experience.  (For example, it is still true that some people are fired when they refuse to let their boss grab their behind. It is also true that many women shared stories of this happening to them during the sharing of the peace or in the communion line, sometimes from when they were children.) 

To know why these stories matter and have so much power, please read this post by Vicar Alex Witt.  

We need our church to be a different place.  Jesus calls us to abundant life, and we often experience that in community.  If our job as disciples of Jesus is to offer people experiences of abundant life, then church needs to be countercultural.  Needs to be safe from physical danger. To be a place that honors the stories of those most harmed, and holds those doing the harming accountable.  This is not just about Calvary, this is about most churches.  We’ve not done a great job at this in the past. I’m finding that many people are confused about what consent culture means, and why it matters.  If you are confused and are willing to learn more, please ask me for articles.  Consent culture matters a great deal, and it is part of how we recognize the full humanity and bodily antonymy of others. 

What Consent CUlture looks Like

  1. Waves are an option during the sharing of the peace. People are asked before given hugs or even handshakes in most cases. Our bulletin says this already, and I say this every time before we share the peace so that it can truly be peace that is shared. 
  2. Children can have their own physical boundaries and have them honored, respected, and listened to.  Stories as well as research show us that being able to say “NO” to hugging an adult at the age of 2 makes it easier to understand that NO has power and protects children later in life.  Saying please and thank you are respectful and good manners, touching others when you do not want to is just harmful. 
  3. Children need to be asked before being tickled or picked up. If they say “no” respect their no.  Adults will work together to hold one another accountable for this.
  4. If someone touches you in ways that make you uncomfortable, or if someone is not respecting your no, let pastor know and a plan of action that keeps you safe will be worked out.
  5. It is encouraged that people speak up about their own boundaries, and those boundaries will be respected.  For example, if someone says “I do not like being talked to that way” or “I do not talk to people who yell at me” or “I do not want to ever be alone with that person, will you stay with me?” those wishes will be respected and we will hold one another accountable for those things. 
  6. Physical harm and fear is valued over hurt feelings, and people speak up when they need to. 

Cultural Change is Necessary

These things might be significant culture changes for many of you.  Some of us grew up in worlds where children were to hug adults as a sign of respect.  Where whatever adults said mattered the most, and not hurting their feelings mattered the most. 

I’m inviting all of us toadopt this consent culture in our congregations.  So that we can all have life, and have it abundantly, and be sure that no one from our congregation ever has to post #metoo about things that happen in our community.  Will you join me in working on practicing a consent culture?  Let the world know your congregation is a safe place (or, last least, is trying to be).    
I don’t have all the answers.  #metoo is triggering and huge emotional labor for many clergy people right now, especially those who are femme, woman, trans, gay, and non-binary.  Also, many people I know are living in trauma brain this week.  Sharing these stories has caused nightmares, PTSD symptoms, high levels of anxiety and so much more.  Let's make it all mean something and work for change.

​Let’s work together to have all these stories mean something and change the culture inside the church.  

Calls to Action

Sign the Consent Culture Pledge
Help Organize, Plan, and Discuss
learn about the ORIGIN of the #metoo movement
Give Coin to the Founder of #metoo

Share on Social Media Call to Action