Advent Is Coming

Rebecca Chancellor Sicks —  October 23, 2015

While I am one of those people who doesn’t like to see signs of Christmas in the stores before Halloween, I am certainly aware that as church leaders, we must begin preparing for Advent and Christmas well in advance. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve begun to see the signs: emails highlighting curriculum, devotionals, and worship materials for Advent and Christmas, the children are getting ready to prepare their Christmas program, and the Worship Committee is recruiting people to light the Advent candles. Advent is coming.

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There is irony in that statement: “Advent Is Coming.” Because Advent means “coming” and the season of Advent is indeed about to begin. The first Sunday of Advent this year is November 29th, and there is much to prepare before that date arrives. There are so many good resources available for pastors during the Advent season, but each year, I seem to spend a lot of time searching for liturgy to be used in worship for lighting the Advent candles. I’ve stumbled across a good variety, but this year, I decided to write an Advent Candle Liturgy myself. I was inspired by World Vision’s Advent 2015 Prayer Guide, which is a timely resource calling us to prayer and action for those on the margins, including refugees. This is a powerful call to prayer and action, and I was moved to include similar themes in an Advent candle lighting liturgy.

Before I share the complete liturgy with you, I want to reflect on a few other salient points regarding lighting the Advent candles in worship. Continue Reading…

We are delighted to bring you our first-ever GUEST POST written by Adam Walker Cleaveland:  Cup-of-cool-water

I can still picture the conference room at the monastery outside of Twin Falls, Idaho. I was an inquirer in the Presbyterian Church (USA) ordination process, and was meeting with my Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM). This annual consultation was taking longer than I thought it would. I was asked about my sense of call, and I shared some of the diverse ministry experiences I’d had over the years and the different things I enjoyed about them all.

The chair of the CPM then leaned in closer to me and said, “So…what I hear you saying is that you don’t have a call.”

“No, I have a pretty clear sense of call to ministry – I’m just trying to figure out what that looks like for me.”

CPM Chair: “So…you don’t really have a call then, right?”

As you can imagine, it was a frustrating conversation.  I knew colleagues in seminary whose sense of call was very clear: “I want to be an associate pastor for two years, then I’ll be a solo pastor at a small to medi- um sized church for 4–6 years, and then I’ll become head of staff at a medium to large sized church).”

But that wasn’t me. And I was okay with that. I’d tried camping ministry, youth ministry, college ministry and clinical pastoral education, and I loved all of it. I didn’t see that as a problem, as this other pastor clearly did.

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Since seminary, I’ve served three churches, primarily doing youth ministry. After some frustrating and difficult experiences with a couple churches, and feeling like I really needed a break from parish ministry, I found myself doing pulpit supply and trying to figure out what was next.

But here’s the thing: I’ve always had other interests in addition to ministry. I’m not saying that makes me unique, but I do know some pastors who are so fo- cused on their churches and ministries, they often forget to practice some good self-care and spend time doing things they love.

About three years ago, I started drawing again. I used to love to draw as a kid, and I began to reconnect with that interest. I took some online classes, received a self-care grant from the Presbytery of Chicago and bought a lot of art supplies, and began finding ways to incorporate art into my ministry.

Continue Reading…

True confession: science was never my favorite subject. My university science requirements were fulfilled with courses like “Human Nutrition” (I get to talk about food every day?) and “Geology” (how hard could looking at rocks be?). During 7th grade parent teacher conferences, my life science teacher reported I preferred talking to active participation in class (um, that was definitely the girl who sat next to me!). Studying theology as an undergraduate and pursuing a call to pastoral ministry allowed me to avoid all those labs and experiments my science-loving peers voluntarily signed up for…at least I thought so.

Crazy scientist. Young boy performing experiments

True confession: as a pastor in ministry, I do a lot of experimenting. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent, and continue to spend, a significant amount of time focused on youth ministry. My seminary professor Kenda Dean often asserted, “Youth ministry is the de facto research and development branch of American Christianity.” So, for me, experimenting comes with a territory. While I agree that youth ministry is a hub for inquiry and change in the church, I think those of us who serve as pastors in today’s church are, and will be, challenged to experiment more and more as we navigate a rapidly changing social, cultural, and religious environment. As I experiment in ministry, here’s what I’m learning. Continue Reading…