Sunday, May 29, 2011

"No family in the area? Join ours!"

I've spent the last week in orientation for my CPE site here in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.  I'm serving as a Chaplain Intern at Rutherford Hospital, which is a small hospital in a small town.  It's been a blast so far!  My supervisor began the week of orientation by blowing a conch shell.  We ended the day by standing around, looking up into a tree, hearing a story of a several-hundred year old noose on the hospital property.  This story was made up for some laughs by my supervisor, who is a hoot!

I really miss daily chapel at LSTC, but I managed to find an ELCA Lutheran congregation not too far from where I'm staying.  I showed up this morning to see the sign reading, "No family in the area?  Join ours!"  It's almost as if this sign was put up, just for me.  The service was great.  It was my comforting high liturgy, with ELW hymns, even though LBWs were in the backs of the pews.  There was even some gender-inclusive language for God snuck in there!  After service, there was a small potluck, to which almost every member of the congregation asked me to attend as a visitor.  It felt awesome to be welcomed into this little southern family, since my heart misses my LSTC family and my, you know, biological family.  One of the ushers told me that if anything could go wrong with this congregation is that they could love me too much.

I think I'm okay with that possibility.  :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Can't You Stay?

And as my time left here in Montana begins to shrink down, I find myself wishing I could stay. Of course there's the part of me ready for seminary again. Ready for Chicago. Ready for a break from ministry for more than a day or two. Ready to see the people who knew me long before Montana was even a possibility.

The hardest part is that I'm not the only one wishing I could stay. And it's not about the friends I've made here (for though I will miss them desperately, I'm allowed to stay in touch with them). It's more about my congregation. As the pastor is leaving the church and I am fulfilling the role of pastor until I'm finished with internship, more and more of my congregation is asking me to stay. Some ask knowing that I cannot. Some ask with a bit of a joke in their voice. But the majority of the time, there's a quiet plea underneath that is begging me to change the system and stay.

And I suspect this will be the hardest part of senior year: knowing I could be a pastor but am not one yet. Well at least not beyond the priesthood of all believers sense of things. But I love my congregation and understand their plea for me to stay.

I accept that change is necessary for growth... but goodness it's a difficult beast.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tilling the Good Soil

For a moment, the weather finally broke and with the warm breezes overflowing as a waterfall I decided that would be the best time to venture outside and work in my little garden.

This year, most of the garden plots are raised beds and with seeds and seedlings in hand I set to work. Visions of lovely, plump tomatoes, spinach and a rainbow of peppers danced in my mind surrounded by pungent basil and colorful marigolds. My neighbor who is our resident horticulturalist also had extra seeds to share and gave me pointers about planting beans, and the advantage of having that sturdy gate that could serve as a creeping point for vines. I just needed to clear out the massive amount of weeds behind my raised bed.

A week or so ago we were celebrating the end of the semester and the beginning for many of our peers and colleagues as they graduated from LSTC. These were the fruits of the Seminary's labors: dedicated and spiritual warriors who would go out preaching the Good News, walking and helping those who needed care and teaching with open arms those who were hungry in academia for the knowledge that Our Creator has blessed us with.

Amidst the celebrations, weeds threatened to choke our happiness and essences from our very spirits: a "church" was attempting to predict the rapture, destruction of our very lives, thrusting Christianity into a negative spotlight, center stage with ridicule and bad jokes.

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."

The weeds were tackled, stripped and remaining was the beautiful, fertile dark soil which seem to hold promise and spoke to the goodness of the earth. When He returns it will not be with pain and suffering, but with eternal joy and celebration that under His loving care and touch we rise, bloom and blossom, bursting in praise to be in His presence forevermore.

God's Peace.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pastor Gig

My apparent lack of a blog post for the last two Saturdays can easily show you how easy it is to get distracted in ministry. What is usually my day off turned into a funeral two Saturdays ago and a Ladies Luncheon last Saturday. Needless to say, when I got home, I crashed.

After 9 months of internship, it seems I'm finally getting the hang of this ministry thing. The rhythms. The patterns. The way death and life weave together continually. I'm finding what brings me life and what wears me out. And I have to say, I enjoy it. Though I get weary, this ministry thing is wonderful.

Being there for people when they are grieving and celebrating that life with them. Celebrating being a woman with women of all ages with a fun "Hat Show" and a Salad Luncheon despite the rain that continues and our leaking church roof. The joy of sitting down with people who have just had back surgery or are healing from a hip replacement. Commiserating with high schoolers and college kids who are more than ready to be done with school.

It's just... good. So my apologies for forgetting two weeks in a row. But I'm still counting it as a win. ;)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life."--Lincoln

I returned to my home state of Pennsylvania for few days before embarking on CPE in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.  When I got home, my mom gave me a box and told me that it should help me this summer.  I opened the box and there were two clerical shirts.

The shirts that my mom picked out are of the style where you buy a separate collar and posts to go with it.  Not only do you get measured for the length of the collar, but you have to decide if you want a 1", 2" or 3" collar, a pontiff (stiffer material) or Clericool (more flexible plastic collar with air vents...and lemon-scented...?), and if you want short or long shanked posts.  Whew.  There are so many decisions!  My mom and I made the trip out to the store where she ordered my shirts from and I began trying on collars to find the right fit.  The store clerk and I eventually found the one that best fit my neck and shirt.  I turned to look at my mom and the look on her face was priceless.  She said, "I'm sorry.  I'm having a moment right now."  I haven't seen that look on my mom's face since I walked downstairs in my homecoming dress during my freshman year of high school.

I'm reminded, in these little moments, that the call to ministry is not solely my own, but it is of the community, which includes my dear mother.  My mom continues to walk hand and hand in this journey of seminary and discernment and I thank her for that.

Graphic from

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sign Me Up

The summer before I left for seminary I played guitar for vacation bible school at my friend’s church. I remember sitting barefoot in the sticky church basement with a felt hat shaped like a crab on my head, beating out a rhythm for “Jesus’ Love is Bubblin’ Over” on the body of the guitar, thinking if this is what ministry is like, sign me up.

I had a similar moment last weekend at our spring lock-in. We took the kids cosmic bowling (I am an atrocious bowler), and around midnight, we discovered the bowling alley clocked mileage on the balls. One of our youth decided to see how fast he could bowl. Turns out a brawny 16-year-old can throw a bowling ball down the lane at over 21 mph. There I stood, in too large bowling shoes, utterly exhausted in the middle of the night, high-fiving a kid whose bowling technique leaves you afraid that at any moment he might lose control and send a bowling ball at you at 21 mph, but who is totally delighted at his accomplishment. Being pastor in that role, in that place, is pretty great. I could make a career out of this.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


As a junior at LSTC, I have never seen how graduation here works.  During today's graduation though, I kept comparing LSTC's service to my sister's law school graduation last year.  Now, before you crack a lawyer joke, know that my sister is a public defender, so she's trying to help young pregnant women get into a halfway house instead of a jail, so they don't give birth while shackled to a bed.  But, yes, lawyers are a bit different than seminarians.

The most obvious difference was that LSTC's graduation was incorporated into a worship service, eucharist and all.  When I graduated from my undergraduate school, which is a Catholic school, we had a graduation mass, but it was completely separate from commencement itself.  I know what you're thinking, "Duh, Meredith.  You're graduating seminary.  Of course it's a worship service!"  It's still different and I like it.  I like that graduating four years of theological education, for MDivs, or any number of other years for MA degrees, doctoral degrees and so forth, is worship.  It's still a step in our relationships with God.  We are so, so, so blessed to be able to be studying in this academic institution.

Another difference between LSTC and my sister's New Jersey law school graduation?

The women were wearing much more sensible shoes at LSTC!

So, congratulations LSTC Class of 2011!  You have all been fantastic leaders and role models in the church and I wish you the best in your continued ministry.  

This picture is from the  And, no, no law school graduates or LSTC grads wore these "shoes."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hoop Dreams

Last night I went to Thusday night basketball at LSTC for the last time. During my first two years at seminary, these weekly evenings of basketball shaped my experience here as much as anything. It was when I got to know my classmates beyond the classroom, when we poured out the pent-up energy of our sedentary student lives, and, like the Bulls finally beating the Pistons in ’91, conquered our demons – er, our professors – by winning the annual Student v. Faculty/Staff game for the first time ever. (And yes, our t-shirt jerseys did say “Here We Slam: We Can Do No Other.”)

When I first started going to basketball nights, I stayed pretty quiet. I ran around a lot and played hard on defense, but I didn’t have the confidence to take an active role on offense, didn’t shoot or drive or otherwise take my turn at center stage. But over time, week after week, I slowly grew into my role. I never became D-Rose – that’s not me – but I started taking my open shots, my threes and fast breaks and midrange jumpers. I took an active role alongside teammates who had their own gifts and skills and passions. I found my place.

I didn’t go to Thursday night basketball much this year; it has a different vibe now, and for much of the year I couldn’t bring myself to adapt yet again. Senior year has been hard like that. But last night I went again, one last time. It was hard at first, as it always is, adjusting to a new group of people and finding your place in their midst. But the Spirit moves, even on the hardwood, even when it’s late in the game. By the end of the night, we were running on all cylinders, like a well-oiled machine, or at least like a rusty old jalopy…whatever. We played the game. We finished well. We lived.

In the morning I woke early for graduation rehearsal, one last huddle before Sunday afternoon, when we’ll run our final play before the buzzer sounds on this seminary series and we turn, finally, to face whatever comes next.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Intern Cluster

Just got back from two days in beautiful western Massachusetts for my last ever intern cluster meeting. One of the requirements of internship is to meet occasionally with other interns from the area. As there are only a couple of interns in upstate New York we are lucky enough to join the cluster from the New England Synod, which is a fantastic group of people. We meet quarterly, and our gatherings always include a program of some sort as well as excellent worship and great conversation. The best part of cluster is peer groups, where interns and supervisors meet separately to allow space for open conversation. We share concerns, lift up joys, ask one another hard questions, pray together, and genuinely try and support one another. I am the only intern in my conference and while I have great pastor colleagues, as an intern my joys and struggles are by nature different than theirs. So it is such a blessing to be around people who are in the same space I am. Who are also living the tension of the role, share my anxiety around transitions, and are even familiar with the mounds of paperwork. Who can challenge my understandings because they first understand my challenges. Thank God for colleagues!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


What a weekend!!! I spent some time with my friends from OR at the “Glocal” Mission Gathering. We spent Friday evening and most of Saturday talking about the relationship of local and global mission, and how we need to better in both. We heard some excellent speakers, and even saw a one woman musical/drama, that was superb highlighting ecological responsibilities and the theology that informs it. An amazing opportunity, which I was informed about through my friends who were speakers at the event, but we were able to allow four other LSTC students by asking for scholarships from our school. There were 5 of us as participants, there were a couple more that were speakers, talking about their experiences in Young Adult and Global Missions. The food was amazing, the music was quite inspiring, and the community blossomed. I think this all happened in good time, as we go our separate ways, because we are able to leave remembering the entirety of the church. Although many of these I will not see for months, I take joy in the work they do, some as close as Chicago, others in New York and Minneapolis, and of course my friends in Oregon always working hard for the marginalized. We will all be busy, but I like knowing we are busy together, hands dirty together, being the church together.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ink Talks

Conversations about faith and God happen in most peculiar of places. My favorite: tattoo shops. There's something about having a few hours to pass and desperately needing a conversation to distract from the pain of the procedure. And because I'm me, and my tattoos all have some tie in with my faith, conversation happens. And even if I am with a friend or my Sibling while they get their ink done, conversation drifts to what I "do." So conversations about God begin.

And really, I think they're my favorite because tattoo artists, perhaps better than most people, can understand the absolute unique faith that every individual has. Just as a person's body is their own personal canvas for beautiful ink and piercings, each person's heart and mind are uniquely linked to God. Their faith is as individual as they are.

Today, I went with a friend to get a new piece on her ankle. We were in the shop for 3.5 hours, swapping stories about how we were raised, how we express our faith, the stories behind our ink, and how we will raise (or are raising) our kids to believe that there is no one answer. In this artist's words: "There are 6.5 billion answers."

So here's to Ink Talks and finding space and time to talk about God in all the places no one expects.

(Photo from

Friday, May 6, 2011

Finding God Everywhere and Trusting in the Promise

The journey is now in 3-D.

When we began this journey over 8 months ago, we approached the Seminary having answered this call with nervousness, enthusiastic momentum and an openness to the Holy Spirit which fell upon us all.

Last night, we gathered as a class with laughter and fellowship as we met with our Ministry in Context teaching parishes, pastors and lay leadership. It was a time to plan, ask questions and begin this bonding process with these churches which will be our worshiping homes next year. Sitting at the shelf, I chatted with my pastor from Prince of Peace Lutheran from Chicago Heights. As I began to take notes, he gave me directions that concreted my journey "I'd like for you to get three things over the summer: an alb, a clerical shirt..."

Liturgical shopping is in my future.

The semester is coming to a close, and many of us are finishing papers and projects. Some of my classmates are packing up to return home for a respite before they go off to their CPE sites for the summer. We also begin to say "see you later" and exchange Skype names as Middlers venture off to new communities for internship. We celebrate Graduation as many of our Seniors will be leaving us for new Synods and await assignments.

As the evening descended after our MIC meeting I flipped through my email finding an important one from this same pastor, who happens to serve as the Synodical Director of Liturgy for our Synod here. Again I have the opportunity to assist my Bishop during an ecumenical service in a couple of Sundays: at the end of the bulletin listing all the participant read my name with the title of Rev. Seminarian.

The journey continues, and as I enjoyed last weekend being at camp I am reminded that going forward, the Creator will lead me out of my comfort zone and where He wishes me be as His humbled servant, learning from others. I have also come to realize that one day, I will be on the road to internship and far away from my beloved camp. But no matter where I am, I know that God walks with me and I thankful to be a part of the Beloved Community.

May the Creator continue to embrace your Spirit and give you peace.

Rolling On

On Thursday the LSTC community met for the last chapel service of the school year.

We gathered outside, on the grassy courtyard lawn, grateful for the return of springtime, and gave thanks for our baptism. As many have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Allelluia! Then we took off our shoes, and walked inside through the baptismal pool, getting good and wet on our way into the sanctuary.

As I dipped my own feet into the storied waters, my heart flooded with memories. If was as if they were surging up from the very water itself. I remembered my first end-of-the-year chapel service, when as a first-year I watched graduating seniors walk through these same waters, shedding a tear or two, smiling, laughing, crying, embracing. I remembered the last service before I left campus for internship and study abroad, a different sort of service: a commendation of the dying for one of our professors who was facing a terminal illness. When we walked through the waters that time, tears falling, she stood at the end of the pool to greet us, arms open, as we emerged, dripping wet. Now, a week from graduation, I walk through the water again, one last time, remembering, remembering everything.

Professor Satterlee says the gospel is like a river, and that’s what it’s been for me here at LSTC, flowing through classes and classmates and everything in between. Now that river sends me out again, sends us all out, down new tributaries, to new people and new places, where, dripping wet, we’ll live out the gospel anew.

At the end of the service, we gathered around the cross, joined hands, were blessed with one more reminder of who and whose we are, and were sent out, finally, into the wide, wide world. Then we sang another song – guide my feet, Lord – and danced ourselves right out the doors.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

You can't hide in Preaching class

You could probably get through most of seminary without saying much. Just sit in the back of every class, taking notes behind your computer. Write a paper when you need to, take a test every now and then. Chances are you won’t really be put on the spot very much. But you can’t hide in Preaching class. In Preaching, sooner or later, you will be the center of all attention. As Dr. Satterlee’s syllabus for our Advanced Preaching class this semester says, “Your professor regards your sermons as real. I suspect your classmates do as well. We expect to hear the gospel proclaimed from you. We expect the Holy Spirit to show up. Decide that your preaching is real and prepare and preach accordingly.”

Yes, at times you can feel a bit exposed. All the more so when you go up there without a manuscript or notes, as a few of us challenged ourselves to do this final week of class. And even more when about a third of the way through your sermon you’re looking your classmates in the eyes and you realize your mind is blank. To use a metaphor of Dr. Satterlee’s, you feel like a trapeze artist who has let go of the bar, only to realize the next bar is nowhere to be found.

But you know there is grace in the room. There is no condemnation here. This is a workshop, a space in which to experiment. So you relax, take a breath, and just start talking again. Because you’ve done your preparation. You know the Gospel you wanted to preach. And it comes back – not exactly in the way you had planned, but powerfully none the less. And they get the message. The hear the good news. Because the Holy Spirit showed up.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Holy Humor

How do we know that God has a sense of humor?
Because he can take a rib.

Last Wednesday we celebrated Holy Humor night at Atonement. Holy Humor night is a modern version of the ancient tradition of “Bright Sunday,” a day of parties and laughter to celebrate the resurrection as “God’s supreme joke on death.” At Atonement, we celebrated with terrible puns, upbeat music, and Peep dioramas. It was great fun.

Seems weird to be writing about something as trivial as peeps and bad jokes, given the events of the last few weeks. Tornadoes in the south, flooding in the northeast and Midwest, revolutions and military states and whether or not to celebrate death, even the death of one who caused so much pain and suffering and death. But as I reflect back on this odd juxtaposition, I find I am even more grateful for the opportunity to find joy in the midst of confusion.

Christ died, and when the women showed up at the tomb it must have seemed like the end, must have felt like all hope was lost. And then, unexpectedly, but with perfect comedic timing, he arrives again, and is mistaken for the gardener. I can’t always see through the complicated mess we make of this world. But I know that no matter how dark things get, silly things like Peep dioramas and bad jokes always make me smile. And smiling always seems to bring light. And I believe that in the midst of it all, God’s final word is resurrection.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Not just another morning prayer...

I woke up early today realizing that my volunteering to pray at 8 AM class was now a new responsibility. This is what I wrote. This is how I feel.


We praise you this morning for another day; we praise you for the sunlight through the weekend. For the blossoms on the trees and tulips of many colors greeting us on our walks. Thank you for the peace from such a great weekend and all that we were able to accomplish or not with such a great distraction

We come to you today in a frenzy of emotions… While finals were trumped by live news, while readings were replaced with presidential addresses and facebook was replacing normative Sunday night statuses, with words leaning from righteous victory to sobering anguish. Help us realize your will in these situations.

As David mourned for Saul his friend, enemy, and family, let us mourn for Bin Laden, help us realize that this death is not redemptive, and that those who fell at his hands cannot be brought back with the death of one or 1000, help us to realize that redemption lives in love, love of a God sending his one and only son for our sins. Help us to remember a man that said father forgive them for they know not what they do, and help us to say mother forgive them, even if they know what they do.

We ask you to be with those who suffer, those who feel like 10 years ago was still only ten seconds ago. Give joy to the saddened, peace to the angry, perspective to the perplexed, and comfort to the weary.

Help us remember that at a time like this, we did not solve the problem of war, injustice, hunger, poverty, extremism, or even terrorism. Help us remember while we killed one deliberately, many more have died and will continue to involuntarily pass from this earth from sickness, hunger, and lack of shelter. Also help us remember that many still struggle under oppressive rule and the threat of violence and persecution.
We hope in the day where love will unite us in a way death did last night, and when we realize the life of Christ day in and day out, creating a kingdom on earth that is a witness to the Gospel. Until then we live in the hope of the Redeemer, and ask the Spirit to sustain us and give us peace in this trying time.
In the name of the risen Christ,

Sunday, May 1, 2011


We've been praying for transitions for awhile here at LSTC.  We're constantly bringing up the changes that are happening in, essentially, everyones' lives.  Juniors are about to start CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) where they'll have their first opportunity to engage in ministry outside of the classroom.  Middlers are preparing to start internship.  Interns are trying to say their goodbyes to internship sites and coming back to LSTC.  Seniors are waiting for the first call details to get into place.  Faculty and staff are about to have a new dynamic of students around, as they'll only know 50% of campus...again.  

We've been talking about this and praying about it so much that it's started to become normalized to me.  I forget that I'm saying goodbye to my first year of seminary and the intense feelings (I would imagine) that others are experiencing in their various "goodbyes" and "hellos."  

I had the opportunity to worship this weekend with the congregation that I'll be doing MIC (Ministry In Context) at next year.  It was crazy because without knowing that I was going to be attending, the pastor put my name in the bulletin to introduce me to the congregation.  He also had a note to invite people to Travis's last service, since Travis is finishing up his year of MIC there currently.  

It was a good reminder for me that these transitions are not just about us.  It's not just those of us gathering in Augustana Chapel for worship during the week.  The transitions are also about the congregations and site placements preparing to receive us.  Peace and prayers to those receiving all of us!

**Picture from**