Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eight Essentials for the Ecumenical Family

(This is a post I wrote about a year ago back when I was just starting to blog. I thought that it was worth a second read)

When people comment that my husband and I do such a great job of managing our ecumenical marriage and family (him Mennonite and me Presbyterian), I often reply, "well, when you are both pastors it is a lot easier." In some ways that might sound counter-intuitive. If we are both so committed to our particular denominations that we would serve as clergy in them, then certainly we would prefer to "be" with someone of that same tradition. Interestingly there are many ways that being from different traditions actually helps foster self-awareness and complements our respective denominations - but that is a discussion for another day.

I realized that I tend to think that because we are pastors my husband and I have been blessed with or worked to achieve a level of cohabitation as an ecumenical family that might be unattainable for those who are not religious professionals. That seems a little snobby, so instead I want to try to demystify the ways that we live as an ecumenical family, with the hope that all families like ours might achieve the same kind of respect and collaboration. I also want to include some reflections based on experiences I have had with other ecumenical families within my congregation.

1. Cultivate an environment of mutual respect.  You would think this would go without saying, but it is important to show respect to the other person's tradition. It is never going to work if you secretly or openly believe that your tradition is superior to your partner's. This also entails having the respect and confidence to manage  extended families if they do not show the same respect and/or do not buy into the ecumenical vibe you are trying to encourage in your nuclear family. This may seem like a tall order for some, but it is essential to the rest of the items listed below.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Caution: This Book is Not for Children…or is it?

Let me confess right from the start that there is a copy of the newly released Brick Bible: A New Spin on the Old Testament on my seven-year-old’s nightstand. I should also confess that for the first time ever the other day my son said to me as I was putting him to bed, “I’d like to read the Bible in bed for a while before I go to sleep mom. Is that okay?”

I have spent my morning reading through the slew of one star ratings that this Old Testament, illustrated entirely in Legos, has received on Amazon.com. Most of them made me chuckle. The subjects for complaint range from the uncensored reproductions of stories that involve violence, sex, childbirth, and nakedness to the unsympathetic way that God is portrayed throughout. The fact that I have been receiving exactly the same concerns from a group of women ranging in age from 30 to 90 who are working through an Old Testament survey course (with nary a Lego in sight) speaks to me of the level of accuracy that the Brick Testament has achieved.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Stories of Holy Week – 5 (out of 100) things your child should know before Confirmation Class


The Holy Week and Easter fog is lifting from my eyes this early April, so what better time to reflect on how we teach the stories of Holy Week to our children and how we can build upon these lessons once they are teenagers in a Confirmation class.

In theory, these should be the easiest lessons to teach our children, especially if we are focusing on biblical literacy. Children’s resources are full of the stories of Jesus’ last days. If there is any industry-wide complaint I might have about children’s Bibles and picture books, it would be that they spend too little ink helping us to teach children about the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, not his death and resurrection.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Foot Washing, Face Washing, Butt Washing and Servant Leadership

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.  John 13:14-16 

The first time I ever experienced the Christian practice of foot washing was at a middle school retreat in a workshop that (as I look back now with pastor eyes) was about resurrection. We read the story of the Velveteen Rabbit together and talked about the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and the new life offered in the resurrection – just like the toy rabbit must be sacrificed, and in his new life becomes a real rabbit.

Then we were asked to turn to our neighbor and wash one another’s feet. I still remember that I washed and was washed by my childhood friend Caty. I don’t remember being embarrassed or weirded out by the event. Honestly, the thing I remember most was the refreshing feeling I had the rest of that afternoon with squeaky clean feet. It is the same feeling I get when I dangle my feet in the bathtub to clean them after a day of working in the garden.

The tradition of foot-washing comes from a story about Jesus and his disciples in the Gospel of John. Jesus takes on the role of the servant in that dusty, sandal-wearing culture, stooping down to perform this basest of acts, humbling himself before his disciples. The disciples protest, and he assures them that the master must become the servant, and adds that if they would not let him wash their feet, then they could not be his students.

In some Christian traditions, including the Mennonite tradition, foot-washing has become a liturgical ritual along with the sacraments of Baptism and Communion. Because my husband is Mennonite and we are attempting to raise our son as both a Presbyterian and a Mennonite, I have wondered how to make this foot-washing tradition a part of my son’s own religious psyche.