Thursday, June 30, 2016


Last week I attended the GreenFaith Emerging Leaders Convergence in New Orleans alongside 60 interfaith leaders engaged in climate justice work from around the United States and Canada. We stayed on the campus of Tulane University and visited The Cabildo and the the Katrina and Beyond exhibit at The Presbytere in the French Quarter. And we traveled to Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana to meet some of the first climate refugees in the United States. This is ground zero of climate change.

That's a cypress tree. It's likely been rooted in that spot for generations, much like the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw people that still live on the island today. But now it's dead. The salty water intruding upon the island from the Gulf of Mexico makes it impossible to survive there. So it holds its place in a disappearing land, receding because of man and nature and time. Who knows how much longer it will stand.

The residents want to stay. This is their ancestral home. They've existed by fishing the waters and farming the land for generations. They used native plants to heal. But the farmland is too wet and salty and they cannot graze animals. The medicinal plants are gone. The fishing waters are unsafe from oil spills and habitats are disappearing. Food, medicine, and other necessities must be accessed by a two lane road nearly at sea level, a slash of black in an open sea of blue that was land only 30 years ago.

So why do they stay? Why don't they just leave their homes in the sky and start over? 

Why does anyone stay anywhere? 

Photo credit: Jennifer Rae Pierce

I can't pretend to understand; I'm not from here. The solutions are complex and emotional. But I think it's the same reason people in New Orleans "keep an axe in the attic", so in case the levees break and the waters rise families can escape to the roof until rescue comes, if rescue comes, because this is their home. They have roots here. And sometimes that's literally all you can grasp hold of when the storm surge comes.

Or maybe they just don't have anywhere else to go.

But life goes on. As our group was talking to Edison, the local man who penned the sign that both greets and warns visitors to the island, an ice cream truck passed by blaring Jingle Bells. There is still life here. There is hope. But there isn't much time.

We don't have an escape pod, like the one pictured above. There is no new planet for us to float away to once this one becomes uninhabitable. We only have this shared land, air, and water, and perhaps a common hope that as people of faith we can make a difference. We can right wrongs and speak truth to power. We can listen and hold space for the suffering of others. We can say with one voice that we will do better. And we can stay rooted to the words of our holy writings in the Bible and the Torah and the Qur'an and the Bhagavad Gita that the earth is sacred and that we are called to care for it and one another.

I'm encouraged by this young group of leaders. We're finding ways to bring back what we've learned to our communities across North America. We're connected by what we experienced. Though we are of many faiths, we're rooted in the hope that we can make a difference.

To what do you feel rooted?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Faith without works is dead

Again. Another gun violence tragedy. I am simultaneously numb and livid. It's taken me nearly a week to get my thoughts out from my head onto this page.

I really don't know what to say except I am sorry. 
I am sorry the victims are dead simply because they were out having a good time with people they loved. 
I am sorry the killer had legal access to such a powerful and deadly weapon, and perhaps most lethal of all, an Internet connection.
I am sorry some families learned their loved one was gay and gone in the same breath.
I am sorry that I am part of a faith and denomination that has been complicit in making the LGBTQ community "other" rather than embracing them fully as children of God. 
I am sorry that some Christian people feel the need to demonize all Muslims out of fear and ignorance.

I am sorry. 

At times like this when harm has been done my Christian faith tradition calls me to identify my role in the harm done, to repent, and to work to repair the rift caused by my actions. 

Though I may not be the one who pulled the trigger in this evil act, my silence and hesitancy to step out and lift up, protect, and affirm my LGBTQ brothers and sisters is just as dangerous. Not defending my Muslim brothers and sisters against the hateful speech being spewed against them is also wrong. 
I am sorry.

But sorry is just a word.Thoughts and prayers are not enough. Faith without actions is dead (James 2:17). 

As my family did previously after the Sandy Hook massacre we will be completing 50 random acts of kindness, one for each of the victims. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." We will also be reading books to learn more about peacemaking and other religions. We attended a vigil sponsored by PFLAG Charleston

I've also written my representatives about working for common sense gun legislation including assault weapon bans and background checks. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
and Everytown for Gun Safety have resources for talking to your elected officials on their websites and Facebook pages. 

We will fight fear with facts. We will open our hearts, though our first instinct might be to close off. We will listen and learn. We will speak out when necessary.
 Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me and my little family. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Ask a Pastor's Wife: My Answers

This question comes from Julie R.:

Since we are in the middle of a big move, and I know the Methodist church preachers move as much as military members do, how is the Church with providing resources and assistance with relocating your family? The Army provides school liaisons to help with school transitions, there are multiple agencies that can help provide anything from dishes and toasters, you name it.  The army makes it as stress free as they can. Not to say it's easy, but there is help out there if you need it.
Great question!
You are correct in saying itinerant United Methodist pastors move frequently; I believe the average is every 4.5 years. You are also correct that both types of moves can be challenging. But a ministry move is different from a military move in a few ways: 

1. There are no designated liaisons. In our most recent move a lovely church member sent me a detailed document with doctors, dentists, grocery stores, school contacts, etc. Upon meeting her when we arrived in town, I thanked her for the list. She responded that she hoped someone would do the same for her if she were in our shoes (#dountoothers). 

The church did collect about a dozen gift cards from local restaurants for us. That went a long way in helping us adjust to the new area, and took away some of the stress of cooking with half of my kitchen still in boxes. 

That type of outreach isn't standard practice, but it certainly was kind and helpful. I'm sure this varies from church to church, but it does set the tone for how welcome the new pastor and his/her family feels in their new congregation. In theory, the church community itself should be your liasons. 

It is also helpful when the transitioning clergy person and his/her family can meet and discuss the challenges and strengths of the church and community. To date, we haven't had this type of meeting, and I'm sure there are a number of reasons for that. But we plan on making sure that whatever clergy person follows us has a fair and honest idea of the needs of our congregations before we move on to our next appointment. 

2. Though there are standards unique to each conference, moving isn't always a streamlined or predictable process. For example, for our first appointment (moving from Michigan to Illinois) we packed, paid for, and drove our own U-Haul. Some members of the church were at the parsonage to help unpack, which was enormously helpful. I believe we were reimbursed for some of our moving costs later. 

For our second move (within the Illinois Great Rivers Conference) we solicited bids from several moving companies who walked around the house and gave us estimates based on predicted weight of our stuff. We chose the company with which we felt most comfortable. We packed the boxes, the moving company packed the truck. They drove the truck, unpacked it, and set up our beds before they left. It was a two-day process with an overnight hotel stay in between. The moving company sent the bill to the church. 

By our next move perhaps we'll be better prepared. We're beginning year 3 of our appointment in Neoga/Etna/Toledo this July, so if the average holds true for us, we may be moving in the next year or two. But maybe not! Only the bishop and district superintendents know for sure.  Since we're getting a new bishop in the fall, who knows what might happen! 

3. Moving is expensive! Though most moves within the conference aren't farther than 3-4 hours away, the process drains both emotional and physical energy. Also, money. The new church picks up the cost of the move, so pastors and their families do their best to keep costs down, as they don't want to bring stress and financial tension before they even arrive at their new charge. 

Many families opt to break down and store their moving boxes from year to year so as not to have to pay for new ones. We bought zero boxes for our last move, reusing sturdy produce containers from our local grocery store instead. 
Fun fact: liquor stores also have excellent boxes. 

4. The timeline is usually short from appointment to moving day. Appointments begin on July 1. The process to fill vacancies and shuffle pastors begins months before that. Typically, pastors get the dreaded call from their district superintendent between February and March. I've known pastors who have sweat through their shirt at the mere appearance of their district superintendant's phone number on their cell phone in the late winter months. 

Anyway, if you find out in March that you're moving in July, there's just enough time to start looking at schools, getting bids for movers, making necessary repairs to the parsonage, saying goodbyes, and hoarding boxes. 

I hope that answers your question, Julie. And best of luck in your upcoming move!

If you have any more questions, post them in the comments or email me at 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Ask a Pastor's Wife

One of the benefits of being the wife of an itinerant United Methodist pastor is getting to meet new people everywhere I go. Seriously, everywhere: grocery stores, outlet malls, coffee shops, rest stops (yes, really). My husband and I strike up conversations or respond to others' questions literally anywhere. 

Though we might not always agree with every facet of the United Methodist Church, it's like our family--bruised and a little banged up, sometimes guilty of doing harm and squabbling with our siblings, but above all working to keep love at its center. 

I especially love meeting folks who don't go to church or who have been hurt by church. I've been told that I'm not a "typical" pastor's wife (whatever that means), which sometimes makes space for open and honest conversations. And as I've written before, my super power is people telling me things. 

So, here's your chance. Any burning questions you want to ask a pastor's wife?  I'm not shy, but keep'em clean and appropriate, please.

Post your questions in the comments and I'll respond to them next week. My family and I will be at the Annual Conference of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference next week, so your questions will give me something to think about while I sit through hours of legislation and debate over church business.