The economics of supply preaching

I’d love some feedback from my readers — anonymous with a legitimate email address is fine in this case — to find out what supply preachers are getting paid, if anything. A denominational identification and a general sense of the area (region and relative cost of living) would also be very helpful.

Why? Because supply preachers — paid per service or sermon — is likely to continue as a solution for churches, particularly as the decline of the influence of churches in the United States escalates. But I worry that the rate is too low. And if it’s too low, the people who will preach supply will be students, retirees, plus perhaps those who have well-paying work (and may not have much opportunity to preach) or who are desperate for every penny. Too low for what? Putting together a living with part-item gig. That itself isn’t ideal, but is probably going to become more common as the United States economy also changes. Supply preaching will have to pay as well as other casual opportunities. This is all the more complicated since prospective mission churches are the ones more likely to need supply services, and they’re less able to afford them.

No answers now, but something worth flagging.

Give to a ministerial discretionary fund

This is the time of the year — after Christmas, before New Year — when I review my charitable giving and either try to do just a bit more, or make up for lost opportunities.

So I review what’s touched my heart over the last year — a months’ old situation is unlikely not to need more money — all the while able to make better choices about who to give to.

But I rarely find a worthy cause as good as a ministerial discretionary fund. So much of funding good work is trusting that the money will be put to the best possible use. (And I’ve never been peppered with mailings to give to one.) Ministerial discretionary fund are built on filling needs that would otherwise go unmet, and presumably you trust your minister’s judgement.

These funds often help deeply; I say this is someone who has run one, donated to several and received help from one. But the funds are themselves often not deep.

Consider donating, and if you have means, donate to others.

Resuming blogging etc.

It has been an eventful month or so, with many challenges and opportunities. None, other than Daisy’s injury, is worth mentioning in public, but together they’ve left me exhausted and occasionally discouraged. None all that exceptional, but as a group… whew.

Daisy, I’m glad to say, is almost healed. Vitamin E on the scar tissue, for instance. The end of this episode is in sight, and I’m also ready to resume my public work. Ready, meaning desiring, if not prepared.

For one thing, I’m not convinced that this is either the best level of ministry activity for me, or the right (that is to say, exclusive) vehicle. And I will be considering my options — and how I may need your help and advice — for future work.

A pastor without a car?

A similar post, like Wednesday’s. Musing on a reality that “might ought could” (as we say in the South) be examined, even challenged.

Is it practically possible, say, in a larger city or even a  large college town, to pastor a church without a car? I’m not sure it is. It assumes your home, church and most parishioners — not to mention civic events — are conveniently clustered, or accessed by reliable (and Sunday-serving) transit.

And a shame, too. Car ownership is a huge cost — and car maintenance a financial crap shoot. My husband and I haven’t had a car in six or seven years, and have saved a bundle, and that’s considering the occasional car rental or cab.

Reimbursements only go so far. I hear so much from ministerial colleagues about student debt and making ends meet. A car-free ministry would be a big help.

But, does anyone here do it?


Coding for …?

In my experience, attempts to introduce technology lessons for lawyers means an opportunity for clergy, too. Small-firm lawyers and clergy very often have this much in common: a need for technology, perhaps more than is currently thought, and few opportunities to learn about it, even though they have a deep educational background. I mentioned this resource for typography, later generalized. (Bookmark that second link; you can thank me later.)

So I intend to follow Coding for Lawyers the same way. Using Markdown (lesson2) for sermons — I do — is something I’d recommend for those who just need to “get it on paper” with a minimum of fuss.

Thanks to @internetrebecca (Rebecca Williams) for the citation.

The purpose of blogging? ministry? churches?

I’ve enjoyed blogging less lately. Looking back, the every-day blogging schedule was too demanding. The main reason I would write some days was the certain knowledge that, once the daily chain broke, my readership would decline. Indeed, I now get about half the readers I got when I’d post once a day or more.

And why do the numbers matter? It’s not that I have to justify my reach to anyone, and I don’t accept advertising. The numbers matter because I was willing to let increased readership feed my self-esteem. I didn’t write — or don’t think I wrote — anything I don’t believe, but I did appreciate the feedback and the spikes in readership.

But — not to put too fine a point on it — it isn’t worth it. What is worth it?

One of the lessons of the ministry is that you get early-on is that you may not know where or when you do some good, and I suppose the same is true for churches, too. Sometimes it’s the listening ear, the kind word or the open door that does more good — or so we hear, or imagine — than programs, or planning or a fine education or stained glass. But I wonder if that’s not face saving; perhaps not untrue, at least in the past, but a less-than-productive use of time, talent and treasure. And in a secularizing world, we can make a clear and candid review of the work of the church and the ministry, or others will do it for us.

The same thought occurs: what is the value of our work, what reason do we have to engage it, and its value to others?

Where I got my favorite Geneva bands

The “Boy in the Bands” moniker began as a terrible double pun: a throw-away name to sign up for a site I rarely visit today. I was in a pastorate when I began this blog, and wore a collar and Geneva bands, with gown and hood in the pulpit.

I don’t wear a clerical collar often these days: I’m not in a pastorate, for one. And when I preach supply, and then visit after the service it draws too much attention. And a dress shirt and tie is more comfortable. So, I’ve gone from the kind of bands (or tabs, if you like) that you tie on and wear under a clerical collar, to the kind that you tuck in.

2014-06-29 08.40.59
Shameless selfie

Tuck in, that is, between my neck and the shirt and over the tie to hide it. Here am (left) I before assisting with communion at First Universalist Church on the Sunday of General Assembly. (Had I been preaching, I might have worn my hood, too. But the real reason is that I didn’t want to pack it. The gown was borrowed.)  It’s a comfort to only carry a couple of ounces of linen to “suit up.”

I’m writing about the bands, not to draw attention to me or them, but because a younger minister was drawn to this elegant custom, and wanted to get a set.

Alas, they’re German, ordered from Germany with the help of an expat former church member. That was about eleven year ago (and they’re still in wonderful shape.)

I got them from church textiles workshop of Diakonie Neuendettelsau. The “hohlsaum” (handworked decorative holes), made of linen. This is the one I got.

Selection_009 And when you click through, you’ll want the Reformed (Reformiert) style. The Steckbeffchen (insert-bands). I got the 17 cm long ones; then again, I’m 6-foot-4.

Selection_008Good luck after that. I don’t read German, and the site doesn’t assume Anglophones would want their product. Or non-Germans, for shipping.

I though: perhaps the Transylvanians have something similar, and their tailors could also use the work. By which I mean the Reformed Church.(Though I’ve never seen them.)  As the late Bishop Szabo, of the Transylvanian Unitarian church put it when I was kitting him out for a communion service, “we don’t wear the Moses’ tablets…”

But ministers. you might try then. Someone ought to keep tabs on you.


"Fathers" and "Mothers" among the Universalists

For decades, perhaps generations, Universalists applied the honorific term father and mother to honored elders. The most obvious use is Father and Mother Murray — John and Judith — but there are others, none recent.

So I wondered: how did one earn the honor, to whom was it applied (generally, for it was surely not ministers only, and, which particular persons were so called) and when did the practice fade? I know the term brother, to describe a minister, has survived into living memory. I recall Brother (Leonard) Prater, for instance; he died in the 1990s. And the translation of honored and beloved siblinghood can easily be transferred to parenthood.

I’ll post or link future findings from here.

Signs of life at UUCF-MIN

[Later. Title fixed.]

One of the oldest Internet communities for Unitarian Universalist Christians is the UUCF-MIN list. But as email has lost some of its cachet, and Facebook and Twitter have taken over some of its utility, the list has had less and less traffic, and now is more often quiet than not.

I sent an email to check in: to see if the mailing list is live, and to see if its former participants were still present and interested. They are. Some people, after all, just don’t like Facebook or Twitter or any other social network.

If you are interested, and are a Unitarian Universalist and kindred Christian ministers or seminarians,in the United States or anywhere in the world, you are welcome to ask the moderators to join. (I think there was a provision for non-fellowshipped ministers who served denominational churches, but I cannot find any note of that now.) But don’t ask me: I’m not one of them now!

"Bishop of the Universalists"


Presented for your amusement. You hear of bishops from time to time among the Universalists — Paul Dean’s Charleston, S.C. ministry comes to mind — but always accompanied by hot words.

From the California Digital Newspaper CollectionSan Francisco Call, (Volume 85, Number 166), May 15, 1899


LOS ANGELES, May 14.— The most important action during the recent Universalist State Convention in Pasadena was the election of a state superintendent of churches, or what in other denominations would be called a bishop. The convention having created the office, Rev. L. M. Andrews of Santa Paula was by vote elevated to the position. According to the records. Rev. Mr. Andrews is the first Universalist bishop of California.