A NDOVER N EWTON
Theological School Bicentennial Year
The Faith Practices
SARAH B. DRUMMOND, EDITOR
Forgiveness l By W.A. Hurd 2
Healing l By Barbara Smith 5
Honoring the Body l By Nell Fields 7
Hospitality l By Janet Bush 10
Household Economics l By Bob DeFelice 12
Sabbath Keeping l By Dawn Karlson 14
Saying Yes and Saying No l By Bruce Taylor 16
Shaping Community l By Nancy Willbanks 18
This anthology, as well as many other activities
associated with the Field Education course, The Integrative Seminar: Faith Practices in
Context, was made possible through a grant from the Valparaiso Project.
Read more about the Valparaiso Project at their Web site, www.practicingourfaith.org,
from which the following statement of purpose was retrieved (7/17/2007):
The mission of the Valparaiso Project is to develop resources that speak to the spiritual
hunger of our contemporaries with the substantive wisdom of the Christian faith,
especially as this wisdom takes shape in Christian practices.
The Project accomplishes its mission by conducting seminars, commissioning books,
developing interactive resources for adults and youth, and supporting innovative strategies
to strengthen participation in Christian practices in a variety of life settings.
The Valparaiso Project launched PracticingOurFaith.org as a way to extend the invitation
offered in the 1997 book, Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life, for a Searching People.
Both book and website explore twelve time-honored practices shaped by the Christian
community over the centuries, yet richly relevant to contemporary experience. These
Christian practices are shared activities that address fundamental human needs and that,
when woven together, form a way of life that is faithful and has integrity.
The Valparaiso Project encourages creative thinking and writing on practices foundational
to a Christian way of life. To learn about writing projects and conferences currently in
progress, visit the News section.
The Valparaiso Project Grants Program (2000-2006) provided financial support for activities
designed to help specific communities nurture a way of life shaped by Christian
practices. These grants enabled creative leaders to strengthen teaching, learning, and
reflection on Christian practices within the varied contexts where people engage in
practices. See what others are doing.
The Valparaiso Project is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., a private family foundation in
Indianapolis. The Project is based at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana.
A NDOVER N EWTON
Theological School Bicentennial Year
210 Herrick Road, Newton Centre, MA 02459-2243
A NDOVER N EWTON
Theological School Bicentennial Year
The Faith Practices
SARAH B. DRUMMOND, EDITOR
The Field Education Program at Andover
Newton Theological School strives to provide
transformational experiential education
for ministry through:
1. Meaningful ministry experiences in
settings that support learning,
2. Theological reflection opportunities
that foster spiritual formation and
vocational discernment, and
3. Academic courses that promote the
integration of ministerial theory and
Andover Newton students preparing for
ministry serve for at least one academic
year in field education, either in an
Andover Newton Teaching Parish or in a
site borrowed through the Boston Theological
Institute. For fifteen hours each
week they minister, prepare, and reflect
with trained supervisors and lay volunteers.
In addition, students take a course on
campus meant to help them to bridge their
classroom and ministry site experiences.
In 2006-2007, with the help of a grant from
the Valparaiso Institute, Andover Newton
students in field education participated in
a pilot course aimed at helping them to
integrate theory and practice for ministry.
Each student in field education took a
course entitled The Integrative Seminar: Faith
Practices in Context. The course included a
lecture series based on the book Practicing
Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People,
edited by Dorothy Bass (San Francisco:
Jossey Bass, 1997), where members of the
Andover Newton faculty lectured on the
habits and actions that shape the faith life
of individuals and communities. The
course also included a small-group experience,
where students selected a faith
practice upon which to focus over the
course of the academic year in partnership
with peers and a pastor-mentor
adjunct faculty member.
The following anthology serves as an artifact
and reminder of what students
learned in their small groups and in the
ministry field. The following essays were
each written by one student who had
been selected by his or her small group to
reflect in writing on field education, faith
practices, and the formation of pastors and
leaders for God’s church and world.
BY W.A. HURD
In Matthew 18, the disciple Peter asks Jesus a question about sin and
forgiveness. Peter assumes that he — that we — must forgive those
who sin against us, that forgiveness is an important aspect of being a
follower of Jesus. He asks Jesus, "Lord, if my brother
sins against me, how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?" Indeed, Peter recognizes
that not only is forgiveness implicit, but that repeated
forgiveness is essential. But, surely, Peter seems
to be asking, there’s a limit to forgiving others. We
certainly can’t go on forgiving everything forever,
can we? You can’t be asking that of us, can you?
As with many stories in the
Gospels, Jesus’ answer to Peter is surprising not
because the disciple’s assumption is wrong, but
because he didn’t go far enough. "Not seven
times," Jesus responds, "but seventy times
seven." Jesus uses a hyperbolic number, a number
that one would lose track of before reaching,
because, for Jesus and for his faithful, forgiveness
must be inexhaustible. It is a defining trait
for Jesus, who forgives even in his final
Yet, there are questions below
the surface that remain unanswered and even
unasked. Is Peter asking about seven different
sins, or how many times must we forgive for the
same sin? Is Jesus suggesting that we are never
done forgiving those who have sinned against
us? Are we only able to forgive those who sin
against us personally, rather than against others
or against God? Though this gospel message
demonstrates that forgiveness is indispensable
in following Jesus, it does not show us everything
we need to know about forgiveness. Most
importantly, this passage does not tell us how
Indeed, the question left unasked
is . . . What does forgiveness look like? Is it reconciliation?
Is it a return to the relationship’s previous
state? Is it always the same? Is forgiveness a
thing or a time, or is forgiveness a process that is
never quite complete, but always progressing?
Jesus does not answer these questions here. It is
left up to us to give meaning to forgiveness, to
practice it in our own lives in a way that makes
sense to us and that allows us to live and love in
this world, using the example of Jesus’ life and
ministry to guide us.
I am blessed to serve in a church
where there are few, if any, physical and emotional
scars in need of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Indeed, there is a sense of general comfort with
and acceptance of one another throughout the
congregation. There are, as in most congregations,
disagreements both subtle and immense, yet none
of these rifts seem in desperate need of attention
or repair. Yet, the desire for and need to forgive still
exists, just beneath the surface.
It was my dubious distinction to
lead the worship service on the day of the congregation’s
annual meeting. I learned during
the previous week that the only way the con-
the bulk is done by the kids. When the adults
are approached with an idea or a potential program,
the first suggestion is to have their children
(or, in reality, someone else’s children) do
it. After all, by doing this the kids will build
character and learn valuable lessons about helping
After my sermon, in which I
implored the church to recognize their duty to
the church and their fellow people around the
world, the budget passed without increasing the
missions allocation. No one even asked why it
was sliced. The subject never came up. Though
I knew it from my first week visiting, before I
was even interviewed, I was now certain that
this congregation had no intention of carrying
What does forgiveness look like?
gregation could remain solvent for the next year
— without firing the minister or closing down
during the summer — was to halve the missions
budget. The suggestion was made at a council
meeting, when it was revealed that the missions
committee hadn’t even met in four months and
none of their allocated funds spent in six.
Members of our congregation
lead busy lives: they have families, and work,
and need some time for themselves. They travel
for business during the week, and their children
have activities all weekend. Honestly, it’s a wonder
that they make it to church three times a
month. But they pledge money to the church,
2% of household income is the goal, and they
donate money to other charities unrelated to
church. Occasionally, they’ll spend an evening
working the food pantry. More often, they’ll
send their children to perform those duties.
Indeed, what little community
service and outreach the congregation attempts,
out any kind of wider mission, and were content
to let it die unnoticed and un-mourned.
Still, in my conversations with
various members of the community, it became
obvious that there were people who were distraught
at the notion that the church would
abandon its mission to the world outside the
church doors. They couldn’t understand why the
church council would allow this to happen.
There was anger and indignation from these
folks, who questioned why the consequences of
a lack of funds weren’t brought to the community’s
attention earlier. At the same time, the members
of the council, the minister, and other
involved parties agonized over the decision and
thought that they had alerted the congregation to
the upcoming shortfall. Indeed, this problem of
expectations and miscommunication or lack of
communication is prevalent in the community.
The congregation was splitting
apart, slowly and just beneath the surface. The
members of the community who were angry at
the council for cutting the missions budget felt
that they were kept out of the loop and that
they were being forced to lose a vital part of
their Christian practice. The council itself felt
like it was under siege, despite doing the best it
could under the circumstances. There were
many people, myself included, stuck in the
middle, trying to repair this breach.
The easiest solution was never
going to appear. The money to fully fund the missions
budget wasn’t going to magically arrive in
the coffers. There was no way to make the problem
disappear, but there were ways to alleviate
the symptoms. Lines of communication needed
to be reopened. Expectations needed to be voiced
and managed. The failures of both sides needed
to be recognized. Only then could the processes
of forgiveness and reconciliation begin.
forgiveness begin. I saw two people, at odds
only moments before, share a look that spoke
more loudly than all their previous bickering.
Reaching inside themselves, putting away their
differences and recognizing the love that they
had for one another, they began to see themselves
in one another’s place. They apologized
to one another, giving voice not only to their
own pain but also their own blame.
The money never materialized
magically in the church coffers. The missions
budget remains where it was set at that meeting.
But the acrimony subsided after that morning.
The lines of communication between the opposing
factions were reopened. Conversations about
expectations, about what it means to be a church,
about the importance of mission, about what
Forgiveness looks different each
time we are asked to forgive or to be forgiven.
There was a morning Bible study
at which the church’s moderator and one of the
aggrieved parishioners sat next to one another.
They seemed to take opposing sides on every
topic, every passage that we discussed. Their problems
with one another were leaching through to
every facet of their relationship. Suddenly, one of
the older members of the congregation lent her
voice to the subject. First out of respect, then out of
understanding, they listened to her words of wisdom.
She told a story about how the church had
gone through this before and that she didn’t want
to see it happen again. Visibly upset, she said that
it was hard work to make a community out of
people who only had so much in common, but
that our love of one another and of Jesus was
something that we all shared.
We sat in silence for a few
moments. It seemed like days. I thought of our
discussions of the passage from Matthew and
how what forgiveness looked like remained
unspoken. As I looked down the table, I saw
mission might look like sprung up at Bible
Studies, at fellowship hour, in emails. The problem
still existed and still troubled the community,
but by addressing the underlying causes, by
seeking common ground and recognizing the
importance of forgiveness and reconciliation, the
problem was being managed.
Forgiveness looks different each
time we are asked to forgive or to be forgiven.
What is constant is that we must take into our
hearts the frailty, the imperfection of ourselves
and others. Reconciliation is not always possible.
Forgiveness does not always mean leaving
the problem in the past and continuing as if it
never happened. Yet if we are to live in a
Christian community, a beloved community, we
must find within ourselves love for those who
have sinned against us, not just once, not just
seven times, but seventy times seven.
BY BARBARA SMITH
“We yearn for the touch that will make us whole, or we yearn to be
able to offer this touch of wholeness to someone we know.” – John Koenig
The faith practices group on
healing in the course, The Integrative Seminar: Faith
Practices in Context, tended to be experiential in
nature, becoming a group that explored the
parameters of healing and its significance in our
daily lives. Instead of talking about it, we experienced
it by participating in it, observing it, doing
it and celebrating it! One of the things that
became apparent is the realization that the art of
healing could be used to define the practice itself.
Perhaps the best example of how
the group integrated this practice in its field education
is the day when each member within the
group recounted his or her day; and one by one
it was revealed that every member of the group
had experienced loss that very day. Someone
had died in each of our individual placements.
It was not this coincidence that led us to the
practice of healing, but it was a process that
shaped the group from the first meeting.
As such we began to talk about
healing in the context of many different aspects
of our field education experiences. One way
in which our conversation was expanded was
through applying the practice of healing to
the act of having a voice in our placements.
How do we negotiate what we want and
what the church or internship committee
would like to see done? How do we define
our roles? With each of these questions it was
necessary to re-visit past experiences within
the church and personally determine our current
Healing became part of the journey
for us: the journey from a tentative presence in
the churches where we served as interns, to an
authoritative presence in the church universal.
Another way of describing this healing is growth
or movement away from the old towards the new.
The biblical reference for this process comes from
Colossians 3:9-10, "Do not lie to one another, seeing
that you have stripped off the old self with its
practices and have clothed yourselves with the
new self which is being renewed in knowledge
according to the image of its creator."
Some themes that arose in our
discussions included forgiveness, approaches to
healing, and the question of "cure." Furthermore,
as we recounted our individual experiences,
it became apparent that who we are determined
how we healed. We do not heal in the
same manner. Some heal quickly, some heal
slowly, some do so privately; while others do so
publicly. Other issues that arose included inner
peace, energy and wholeness. This experience
revealed that healing can be as simple as claiming
authority or as complex as forgiving.
Our ministerial identity seemed
to grow (at least in part) out of this field education
experience. We began by acknowledging
when healing had to be done and reflecting
Bass, Dorothy C.
Practicing Our Faith.
Epperly, Bruce G. Healing
Worship: Purpose &
Practice. Cleveland: The
Pilgrim Press, 2006.
Person, Gretchen. Psalms
for Healing. Minneapolis:
Ausburg Fortress, 2001.
upon this experience, and discerning when particular
individuals or a congregation needed to
be healed and how to take that to our parishioners.
We learned how to be comfortable with
the mystery of healing.
I am now able to define healing in a
more pragmatic way. As I worked with the people
at my assigned congregation I define healing
in a different way. Healing is a reconciliation
with that which is lost. It is bringing about
wholeness and that is what we are called to do
as ministers, to bring about wholeness to individuals
in their own lives and in the life of the
church. The value of humor, the importance of
allowing others to help you heal, and the necessity
of being connected were among the ways in
which the healing group was effective in integrating
this particular faith practice into our
When we speak of healing most
people have images of a doctor, a hospital, and
physical pain or injury. Few people realize that
there are other types of healing, such as emotional
and spiritual healing. The bible gives evidence
that there are different types of healing
in the stories about Jesus for example, who
went about healing all types of illnesses.
Healing was a major part of his ministry (see
Matthew 4:24; Luke 6:17). It was also an important
part of the early church. In some instances
the different types of healing required will
overlap. If a member of the congregation is
being beaten by her husband who is also a
member of that same church, she may require
all three types of healing (physical, emotional
One of the first things that we did
in our healing group was to acknowledge that
healing was necessary. Such acknowledgement
is a crucial step in the process. Another thing we
did was to involve others in the healing process.
We are meant to be connected to one another,
and nowhere is this more evident than in the
healing process. When we are in pain or suffering,
we cannot heal ourselves. This is why the
phrase "physician, heal thy self" is so poignant.
Even the physician needs someone else
involved in order to heal.
When our group reasoned
analytically about this practice it became clear
that there are several elements to it. One such
element is trust. The ability to trust also entered
our conversation: how can you be healed by
God if you do not trust in God? How could we
as a group consider healing as a faith practice if
we could not trust one another? If one does not
have faith, how can one be healed? Conversely,
if one does not have faith, how can one heal
others? Christian healing has been a part of the
church since the first century; it is not new.
Perhaps through this faith practice we are rediscovering
the importance of healing as it relates
to the church as a whole. In some instances, it
forces us to respect faith traditions other than
our own. It pushes our limits.
Another element of this practice
is movement or progress. How do we move
through the healing process? What makes us
stagnate? Is God’s timing and humanity’s timing
the same? When we are not cured of a certain
ailment does this mean our prayer was
not heard? What are the theological implications
of movement or progressing through the
Sharing is an element that we
sometimes take for granted. When we share in
the process of healing it can help give meaning
to the purpose of healing. Sharing our stories,
our hopes and experiences can help us in this
process. It is one of the elements that we tend to
overlook. The following are specific methods
and practices of healing that can be brought to
2. Prayer Shawl Ministry
In sum, our group came to agreement that healing
is most effective when we realize that the
primary cause for healing is that which comes
BY NELL FIELDS
Honoring the body, as a faith practice, can be deceptively simple. After
all, we know what it means to honor the body: to take care of it, to eat
right, to get enough rest, to bathe it, to clothe it, to touch it, and to
allow it to be touched in tender, caring ways.
Yet, to mindfully live out this practice in a culture
that tells us to be more, do more, eat more is
difficult – even for six seminary students who
committed to this practice for a year. At first, the
demands of school, church, field education, family
and work appeared diametrically opposed to
the practice. How could we faithfully live out
honoring the body? we asked.
Like other faith practices, this one
starts with intention, with an awareness that
our bodies are sacred. They are a gift from God.
Being mindfully aware of the different ways in
which we can honor our body –
and the bodies of others – can awaken us.
And in doing so, this practice brings us into
closer relationship to God and to others.
For one student, this awareness
led to an awakening of her senses. She began to
see the world and her parishioners in fresh, new
ways. To her, the practice of honoring the body
allowed her to see that worshipping God was far
more than readings, prayers and songs. It also
involved the body. Her realization came from
experiencing candles burning – not just watching
them burn, but focusing upon the burning
with her full attention.
Another student had a similar
experience. Her weekly drive to her field education
transformed from drudgery to a seasonal
slide show, each week offering a new view of
the landscape. "As I focused on the practice of
honoring the body, I became more aware of
myself, of others and the world around me," she
says. "I realized I could engage in this practice by
noticing, by participating in the little things."
She says one week she had one of those "aha"
moments when washing her hands. She writes
of that experience:
After my visit with a parishioner,
I returned to the parsonage. Rev. Bonnie is on
the phone, responding to the crisis of this seemingly
sleepy town. Finally, she comes up for air,
transitioning smoothly. “How was your visit?”
She smiles. She knows. "Really good," I answer.
“I have lunch for you. Seafood salad.” It is 3 p.m.
already. Rev. Bonnie hasn’t eaten either.
Before I sit down, Rev. Bonnie
says, "Wait, you’ll want to wash your hands." I nod.
Oh yeah, right. "No, just before eating, but after
every pastoral visit, it is important to wash your
hands. You’ll see a lot of people, hold their hands.
Pray with them."
I wash in silence under the warm
water. Freshly scrubbed, an autumn landscape: I
her body, it was honoring her commitment to a
God "who lives in all places and all times."
The collar virtually guaranteed
that I would not fade into the background. It
meant I would be conspicuous; it hinted that I
had things to say that would be meaningful and
relevant. It also ensured a level of trust and perhaps
suspicion that I would not have garnered so
quickly. I grew used to it: toward the end of the
month looking at my image in the mirror no
longer produced a jolt of surprise. I started to forget
the look of my bare neck and just as I did I
realized the collar had gone inward. Something
in me had shifted, in a variety of small and
momentous ways. The aspects of the role I struggled
with—the constant worries that I would not
be up to the tasks of ministry and of faithfully
Something in me had shifted,
in a variety of small and momentous ways.
am grateful. I retreat now into the warmth. I am
grateful, too, for this ritual, washing; for this
practice, honoring the body. And for the sacred,
relationship. Relationship with the other, with
the community and with God.
For another student, the practice
of honoring the body began with the simple act
of dressing or adornment. In this case, the practice
came to life in wearing – for the first time –
a clerical collar. The collar not only set her apart
from others – especially people her own age,
but it set her apart for – for a life of ministry. "I
spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to put
on my clergy collar," she says. "It looked simple
enough: one band, two fasteners. But it was the
order of events that threw me off balance." This
piece of clothing was more than just honoring
representing the Church—were not gone entirely.
Those worries were abated, and I began to see the
collar and my clergy shirt as part of my skin.
For seminary students and others
juggling myriad tasks and obligations, the practice
of honoring the body means taking time for
rest and sleep. "As a seminarian, you really want
to go above and beyond to prove yourself," a
student observes, "but honoring the body
means just that: taking care of yourself." One
student engaged in this practice learned first
hand the importance of setting limits. One
evening, when providing pastoral care to a
parishioner, he realized he had been with this
person for nearly four hours. He explains:
I told the parishioner that I wanted
to be sure we had ample, uninterrupted time to
speak and that I was available at 7:45 that evening.
I suggested we meet at a local coffee shop and he
asked if it would be okay to meet at his home or
mine. We agreed to meet at my home. In hindsight,
I think that was an error in judgment since
it allowed me no gentle way to terminate our
meeting. He stayed until 11 p.m., and I was
exhausted. At last, I was able to steer our conversation
around to taking the form of a prayer. And
then I said a prayer for myself: "Lord, please hold
these concerns for me until tomorrow. I’m tired.
I’ll work on this, with your help, tomorrow."
Sometimes, the practice of honoring
the body can be a communal act. A fellow
student, a dancer, choreographed a liturgical
dance involving various members of the congregation
for a Maundy Thursday service. The
result? Not just one person honoring the body
through movement, through dance, but six
dancers acting together as one body honoring
the communal body.
“ Live with your hands open so that which needs
to fall out can and that which needs
to fall in, also can do so.”
The sanctuary was barely lit,
mostly by candles waiting to go out; but in the
mean time, slow turning ceiling fans made the
flames dance and bring life to the space. Add to
that six bodies clothed in black – shadows really,
from 80 years old to 12 years old – inspired to
move throughout the sanctuary by a solo voice
singing "Deep Love of Jesus." Add to that the
movement of the congregation rising and
falling between hymns and prayers, the ebb and
flow toward and away from the communion
table; and the ministry team appearing and disappearing
from the pulpit. There we lived the
painful hours, the last words, the last touches,
the last bread broken. There we sat together in
the dark, then darker, sanctuary no longer moving;
just the in and out of the solo breath of the
one soul who pulled the rope of the church bell
so many times that we all began to breathe the
struggle with him. All over the world now the
Body of Christ in tears. Connected in our brokenness.
No matter what form the
practice of honoring the body takes, it requires
openness and trust. We have to remain open to
the experiences that God has in store for us.
And at the time, we must trust that those experiences
will bring us into a closer relationship
with God. "My field education supervisor
shared some great wisdom with me," a student
engaged in honoring the body practice offers.
"It is this: Live with your hands open so that
which needs to fall out can and that which
needs to fall in, also can do so." That is a stance
of openness and trust. It is a stance of restful
alertness. It is both salutation and surrender. It is
moving into one’s place as member of the Body.
BY JANET BUSH
VNACare Hospice, headquartered in Needham, MA, serves patients
and families throughout greater Boston. An interdisciplinary team of
nurse case managers, social workers, physicians, chaplains, and
volunteers provides care to dying patients who
may be in their homes, in nursing homes, or in
one of two home-like residences run by the hospice
itself. I served as a chaplain intern. I visited
patients at the hospice residences and in their
homes, participated in weekly staff meetings
where cases were reviewed, assisted with inhouse
memorial services, and met weekly with
Chaplain Webb Brown, a wonderful mentor, for
supervision. I also participated in one of the regular
bereavement support groups, and served as
the group’s facilitator when Webb was away.
I wanted to focus on hospitality as
a faith practice because it seemed to fit the mission
and activities of hospice work. In preparing
a homily for the annual memorial service honoring
all the patients who had died over the previous
year, my focus on hospitality reminded
me of a Buddhist story about a woman whose
child has died. I told my own version:
The grieving mother comes to the
Buddha and implores him to bring her child back
to life. He tells her, "Go among the houses of the
village, and bring me back a mustard seed from a
house where no one has been touched by death."
She sets out. At the first house, she meets a middleaged
woman who sees the anguish on the younger
woman’s face. The younger woman explains her
mission. "You may take all the mustard seeds I
have," says the older woman. "But I have lost two
children, and both of my parents, in this house.
Please, come in and rest. Have some tea."
The young woman moves on.
At the next house, an old man greets her. He too,
feels compassion for her and invites her in to
share some food and to rest. His wife has died
only two months before. He lost a son in the last
war. From home to home she goes. She is welcomed
with kindness, she shares her story and
hears the stories of her hosts, and she is offered
food and drink. But she finds no house untouched
She goes home to bury her child,
and then returns to the Buddha to become his
This story is usually said to be
about the realization that mortality and suffering
touch us all. In my version, it becomes a story
about hospitality, about the care and compassion
and welcome people provide to each other in
times of need. As I worked with patients, I paid
attention to welcome and care. I learned that
ministry with dying people and their families
involves layers of reciprocal caring and being
cared for, and a blending of the roles of guest
I met Terry shortly after she was
admitted to the hospice residence. The social
worker suggested I bring her some fruit. Terry
was pleased and touched by the welcome. As I
left her that afternoon, I told her that we would
all do our best to take good care of her. "And I
will do my best to take good care of you," she
replied with a smile. Later I learned that she was
Native American, and that reciprocity was an
important part of her tradition.
Felix was quite particular about
his space and his routines. He had a painful condition,
and his mood varied. He was a thoughtful
man, with a deep faith that sustained him. One
day, he told me he had decided that his purpose,
now, was to cooperate with his care. "The people
who work here really want me to feel as well as I
can. They don’t have to do this work, I know.
They do it, although I suppose they wouldn’t
admit it, out of faith, as a kind of ministry. What I
can do is to cooperate, and not resist their efforts."
I thought about his insight. When we are guests,
we submit, graciously and gratefully as we are
able, to our hosts’ care. Being a hospice guest is
practice, perhaps, for the final letting go.
I was sitting with Frances on her
porch. She was in her 80s, still living independently
despite her weak condition. I had gotten to
know her quite well over a number of visits. Our
past conversations had ranged over many subjects,
including her feelings about her illness and
impending death. On this afternoon the conversation
seemed to veer back and forth from profound
to trivial. Frances wanted to know about
my vacation, how my children were, about my
ministerial studies. I would answer, but then try
to lead the conversation back to her. As a chaplain
I see my role as bearing witness, and, as I’ve
heard it said, "hearing the other person into
speech." At one point I noticed feeling a little irritated,
even bored. I thought, "Frances is just playing
hostess," and "Why did she get herself all
dressed up for me?" And then suddenly she
began to share some very difficult memories. We
talked some more, and she said, "I don’t like to
talk about gloomy things all the time. That’s why
I keep changing the subject, you know." As I
shared this experience and reflected on it, I realized
that of course Frances needed to "play hostess,"
and that part of my gift to her that day was
giving her an occasion for dressing up, and
speaking of ordinary things.
I have often thought of myself as
a caregiver or a pastor who is there to give, to
provide comfort and support. This is the role of
a host, of the person who welcomes the guest,
the other, without judgment. But I learned, from
Frances, Terry, Felix, and so many others, about
give and take, the mutual giving and receiving,
and the blurring and blending of roles.
Hospice and hospitality share the
same root, of course. Hospitality is part of many
religious traditions. In ancient Christianity,
around the Mediterranean, hospitality involved
feeding and protecting travelers. Travel was dangerous
in that time and place. Hospitality often
included a bath, supplies for the traveler’s onward
journey, and an escort along the road
toward to the traveler’s next destination (for reference
and more information on this topic see
Entertaining Angels : Early Christian Hospitality in its
Mediterranean Setting, by Andrew Arterbury,
This description of hospitality
to the traveling stranger is a beautiful image of
what family members, friends, hospice staff and
volunteers do together. Together, all work to provide
an escort for part of the way, to provide comfort
and blessings for the one who is dying, traveling
towards a new destination. In offering and
accepting hospitality, patient and caregivers share
stories, fears, vulnerabilities, strengths, love and
care for each other. And in so doing, all are
reminded that "even though I walk
through the valley of the
shadow of death," I am
empty. The monthly rental fee was determined
and the trustees of the church undertook the
task of locating tenants. Part of the rental agreehousehold
BY BOB DEFELICE
The lens through which I examined my experience in field education
was that of Household Economics. As a former accountant, this topic
seemed to naturally jump up and say, "Here I am, pick me!" … so I did.
Thankfully, one of the texts used for field education
was Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a
Searching People, Dorothy Bass, Editor. In this
book, Sharon Daloz Parks presents the section
on Household Economics and she offers the following
words that I used as a guide in my
understanding of this topic:
Like the word ecumenical and ecology, economics
is rooted in the Greek word oikos, meaning household,
and signifies the management of the household –
arranging what is necessary for well-being. Good economic
practice positive ways of exchanging goods and
services – is about the well-being, the livelihood, of the
whole household. (page 44)
The management of the household,
of the whole household, was something
that I have been involved in at my field education
setting for over four years. I have been the
local pastor of my field education church since
January 2003 and I have developed relationships
with many members of the congregation
during this time. I believe it was because of my
established relationship with the church members,
and ultimately the members of the
Teaching Parish/Site Committee (TP/SC), that
allowed us to quickly establish goals and objectives
as I sought to meet my field education
requirement in the setting where I already
worked. As the pastor, I had a very good understanding
of the specific area where I felt the field
education experience would be able to benefit
me as a student. But I also found it difficult at
times to be able to separate the role of pastor
from that of student. However, with the help of
a very supportive TP/SC, it all came together in
One of the household economic
field education experiences I worked through
was the result of me being the first pastor
appointed to this church who did not live in the
church parsonage. As someone entering the ministry
as a second-career, it should not be surprising
to know that I have my own house. So
instead of uprooting my wife and two highschool-age
children, we decided that it would be
best for us to remain in our house and make the
40 mile round trip commute to the church.
The church members decided to
rent-out the parsonage, rather than have it sit
ment stated that the utilities would be paid by
the church and the tenants would be responsible
for reimbursing the church for this cost. It was
also decided that the rental income would not
be used to support the general operating budget
of the church. The proceeds would be used to
pay a housing allowance to me and to pay property
taxes on this no longer tax-exempt portion
The first tenants, a family of four,
moved in and rented the parsonage for two
years. They remained until they purchased a
home of their own, and, after several weeks,
a new family of four moved in. A few months
after the new family’s arrival, the church was
informed that the husband was seriously ill and
the doctors were having a difficult time diagnosing
his situation. In the early days of his illness,
members of the church took turns providing
meals to the family. After a period of time the
Unfortunately, the situation
escalated to the point where the trustees began
eviction proceedings and the tenants stopped
making payments to the church for rent and
utilities. The tenants were ordered by the court
to vacate the parsonage by December 31, which
they did, and at the time of their departure,
the amount owed for rent and utilities was
In situations like this one it is easy
to say that the right thing to do would have been
to let them stay, to help them through this difficult
time. But how do we determine when we
have gone as far as we can go to help someone?
What measuring stick do we use to let us know
that we have done all that we can to help and
that we have reached a point where enough is
enough? Is there a dollar amount that must be
reached before the decision is made because
someone owes us too much?
In situations like this one it is easy to say that
the right thing to do would have been to ...
family expressed their thankfulness for the
meals and informed the person coordinating
this effort that the meals were no longer needed.
Several months passed with no
further word about the husband’s condition.
Then one day the trustees were informed that the
tenants were behind in reimbursing the church
for the cost of utilities by over $2,000. This is not a
trivial amount of money for a small rural church
and concerns were being expressed. Following
prayerful discussion about the best way to handle
the situation, the trustees talked with the tenants
to determine if, perhaps, they were trying to live
beyond their means. Assured by the tenants that
they could afford to remain in the parsonage, the
tenants continued to occupy the parsonage without
a lease on a month-to-month basis.
This situation was upsetting to
everyone involved. The tenants were forced to
vacate their home because they could not afford to
be where they wanted to be. But were they living
within their means? Were they being truthful with
themselves and with the church about their financial
situation? Were they seeking all of the assistance
available to them through different social
agencies? Could the church have done more to
help them through this situation? Could I have
done more as a pastor or a student? Was this the
right thing to do or does it go against our call to
help the widow and the orphan? Christ came to
proclaim the good news to the poor, but where’s
the good news in all of this? Was this a typical
field educational experience? No. But when it
comes to the management of the household, of
the whole household, we will get involved with
things that won’t always make us smile.
a time that leads toward an often uncomfortable
call for justice? Does it always need to be one
or the other? If both are important, how do
we achieve balance so that Sabbath worship
does not become bogged down in criticisms
but still retains depth? How do we ensure
that Sabbath worship provides restoration
and peace, without becoming merely superfisabbath
BY DAWN KARLSON
Question: Is the Sabbath a day of rest or a day of justice?
It was Christmas Eve. It was also a Sunday, a
day of Sabbath. Morning worship was done and
my supervisor and I were spending a little time
going over what needed to happen at the
Christmas Eve service that night. He asked me
to read and comment on his Christmas
Meditation. The meditation was not one of joyful
celebration as I expected; instead it was a
powerful prophetic call for justice.
At first, I felt this special Sabbath
of Christmas should be a time of joy and mystery
and hope, not one laden with the weight of
the injustices of our world today. Then again, it
was a potent message, one that needed to be
I came home that afternoon and
announced to my husband that I didn’t think I
had a "prophetic" voice because I couldn’t imagine
delivering that kind of a message on
Christmas Eve. And yet, on Christmas night I
found myself writing a poem that wondered
where Jesus would be born if born today. Would
Jesus be born in war-torn Israel, Iraq or Sudan?
I have been thinking since then
about how a minister’s words, attitudes, presence,
prayers and sermons can "shape" the
experience of Sabbath for our congregations.
Is Sabbath a restorative, peaceful time or is it
A minister’s words, attitudes, presence,
prayers and sermons can "shape" the
experience of Sabbath for our congregations.
spoken. It was likely to be heard by more than
the "usual" crowd on Christmas Eve. I suggested
that certain parts of the meditation be "softened"
but noted that this was a message that came
from deep within my supervisor’s heart. The
meditation was uncomfortable for me, yet I
knew its truth.
cial? It seems to me that balance and style of
presentation are critically important, particularly
in the context of a society that has tended
to deemphasize Sabbath time altogether.
Most of us are familiar with the
idea that Sabbath is a time for rest, but how, I
These readings confirmed for me
that Sabbath is about both rest and justice.
Perhaps if we take the time to offer our Sabbath
time to God, to spend this special time with
God in whatever way is most authentic to us,
our work of justice will naturally follow. If we
"taste and see" (as one of our small group members
liked to say) the fruits of Sabbath time with
If we “taste and see” . . . the fruits of Sabbath time with
God, we will want every one to experience it.
wondered, is Sabbath about justice? I decided to
check scripture to see if I could make the connection.
There were two points I found in the
Sabbath commandment (in both Exodus and
Deuteronomy) that struck me. First, Sabbath
time is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Second,
Sabbath is for every single person, a rest day not
just for some, but for all. Sabbath implies freedom
for even those "enslaved" or oppressed in
our world today. Consider the Sabbath commandment
from Exodus 20:8 and
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six
days you shall labor and do all your work, but the
seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.
On it you shall not do any work, neither you,
nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant
or maidservant, nor your animals, nor
the alien within your gates. For in six days the
Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and
all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh
day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day
and made it holy.
. . . but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord
your God. . . on it you shall not do any work,
nor your manservant or maidservant . . . so that
your manservant and maidservant may rest,
as you do. Remember that you were slaves in
Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you
out of there with a mighty hand and an
outstretched arm . . .
God, we will want every one to experience it.
On the other hand, our job as pastors is to help
our fellow sojourners on their path and there
are times we may need to remind our community
that Sabbath is not just about renewal, but
about justice for all.
As I reflected back on my
Christmas Eve experience as a field education
student, I realized I had begun to understand
one of the challenges of pastoring: knowing
when to nurture and knowing when to challenge
our faith communities. I had also begun
to see my own Sabbath time as a time with God,
with my center of being, before being sent back
out into the world.
When we practice Sabbath, we
open ourselves to whatever God might provide…
there may be times when we receive joy,
peace, or rest. There may be other times when
we receive strength, perseverance or a call
toward some specific work. When we take the
time to rest in God, our Sabbath doesn’t need
to fit into any precise category. Sabbath doesn’t
need to be either about rest or justice, it can be
about both. Indeed, if we open our Sabbath to
God, we may be surprised by the myriad possibilities
saying yes &
BY BRUCE TAY LO R
This past year, our field education seminar was organized around the faith
practices described by Dorothy Bass in Practicing Our Faith. My group
focused on "Saying Yes and Saying No", the practice of intentionality
in making choices. Every day we make choices
that have implications for the spiritual journey.
We take risks and open up to the unexpected or
we opt for safety. We accept responsibility or
acquiesce to the decisions of others. We chase
after fixed goals or choose to participate in life as
a dynamic process. The practice of "Saying Yes
and Saying No" cultivates a conscious awareness
of these choices.
I came to my field education church with very
little practical experience in ministry, anxious to
apply my book learning in a real-life setting. I
made a good start. It is worth reflecting on this
adventure in terms of the yes/no faith practice.
1. The Chickpea and the Cook
I was anxious to do everything at once. My
supervisor quoted me the poem by Rumi which
describes an impatient chickpea trying to jump
out of the pot. The cook tells the chickpea to get
back into the stew, so that it will have sufficient
time to develop its flavor.
I came to my field education site expecting to
practice specific skills. My first learning experience
was in the articulation of learning goals.
There was so much to learn, and I could not
realistically expect to do everything in one year.
I had to say yes to a few important goals and
give lower priority others. Without this discipline,
it would have been difficult to do anything
well, and very easy to burn out. Even if I
were able to "do" everything, I might have
missed the point. Field education concerns more
than skills. The point is to integrate the experiences
that occur in the field education setting
and to develop the person inside, the person
who will eventually become a minister.
I said yes to the process of ministerial formation,
which takes time. I accepted the need to stay in the
pot until I am fully cooked, so that one day I may
nourish a congregation, and not cause idigestion.
`2. Ministerial Presence Means
One learning goal was to find my voice and presence
as a worship leader. Presence may be
[mis]understood as a ministerial persona. I pursued
the goal of presence in my worship leading,
carefully rehearsing the liturgical elements for
which I was responsible. Actually I overrehearsed,
to avoid making any mistakes, which I
associated with failure. As a result, my performance
did not seem natural. I said the right words,
but was not truly there for the congregation.
I came to realize that ministerial presence is
being present. It requires taking off the mask
ather than putting one on. I observed good role
models in my supervising minister and the religious
education director, who embodied the values
of our faith tradition. My supervisor challenged
me to speak from an outline rather than
a manuscript. I tried this and was pleased with
the result, although it may be some time before I
can give a complete sermon that way. I experienced
the advantage of speaking directly to the
congregation rather than reading to them.
In seeking to develop authentic presence, I have
learned to say no to psychological armor, and
yes to vulnerability, which allows me to make
true contact with people in the congregation.
3. Pastoral Identity: Yes,
I Am a Minister
As I learn the work of a minister I must come to
own it, and make it part of my identity. Early in
the year I became aware that I was missing
opportunities for pastoral conversation. I was so
focused on carrying out my planned duties that
I did not recognize signals from people who
might have been seeking emotional support or
a listening ear. It was as if I were wearing blinders.
When I recognized this issue I was able to
widen the angle of my vision, so to speak. I
began to internalize the ministerial role, so that I
responded as a minister in unplanned moments
as well as planned activities.
A major turning point was the Saturday afternoon
when I received a phone call from one of
the lay leaders, who was coordinating the worship
service that Sunday. She told me the guest
preacher was sick, and asked if I had a sermon
handy. I surprised myself; my immediate
response was Yes! – I have a sermon handy and
I’m ready and willing to lead worship tomorrow.
(Actually I had half a sermon, and I scrambled to
In his autobiography, Howard Thurman tells the
story of a pivotal moment when he was a student,
covering the duties for his minister who
was out of town. A parishioner called and said a
man was dying. "They’re asking for a minister.
Are you a minister?" Yes, I am a minister.
4. Leadership: Theological
Reflection with Consequences
In my previous career I was a software developer.
My leadership was of a technical kind; I did
not lead people. But ministry is by definition a
leadership role. The buck stops here. In my field
education experience I encountered situations
where I had to speak up rather than defer to
others. For example, I was scheduled to lead
worship on the Sunday morning of December
24. A big Christmas Eve service was also
planned, and that later service was the focus of
The lay leaders suggested that we cancel the
morning worship because it required additional
resources that were in short supply. Initially I
agreed. But then I reflected on the importance of
hospitality in our faith tradition, and the ethos of
welcoming in the stranger: not only for the
stranger’s benefit, but to open ourselves up to the
world outside, and the possibility of transformation.
I recalled the days when I had felt alone and
the church was there for me. When I told the lay
leaders my thoughts, they immediately changed
their minds. It was as if I pressed lightly on a
door, and the door swung open. We planned a
scaled down worship service and found volunteer
musicians. It went exceedingly well.
In this and other situations I have learned to say
yes to leadership, recognizing when it falls to me
to make a decision affecting others. I have seen
that my theological reflections have consequences,
and this is an empowering insight.
5. Grabbing Hold and Letting Go
"Saying Yes and Saying No" does not represent a
series of static choices, but an ongoing, dynamic
process. There is a time to every purpose: a time
to try, and a time to let happen; a time for beginnings
and a time to say goodbye.
When I began my field education I tried hard to
develop skills, which I understood as tasks. In
seeking to develop pastoral skills I made it a goal
to shake as many hands and start as many conversations
as possible. As the year progressed, I
relaxed and did not try so hard. Paradoxically,
the conversations I had were fewer but more satisfying.
Both phases were necessary: to try hard,
and to relinquish trying. I did not necessarily get
"better" in dealing with people (although probably
so), but I gained perspective.
Similarly, with the field education experience as
a whole: when I first arrived I was like a deer in
headlights. Everything was so unfamiliar. I very
much wanted to please people and do well.
Eventually I let go and just did it. The turning
point was the Sunday when I took the place of
the guest preacher who was sick. I showed
myself and the congregation that I could do it.
Too soon it was time to say goodbye. I have
come to know the congregation just a little bit,
and yet I have formed a deep connection with
them. I have received a brief glimpse of the network
of caring relationships that constitutes this
beloved community. I have had a taste of what it
is like to be a minister, and it is everything I had
hoped it would be.
BY NANCY WILLBANKS
Being a commuting student at a seminary is not unlike how many people
experience being a member of a congregation. You show up every week
for a few hours and hope to get something out of it: deeper understanding,
better relationships, insights on how to live your
life and do your work, laughter, connection,
energy for the coming week, and/or respite from
the previous days or hours.
Sometimes, on good weeks, you do have a
moment to connect, or you may get an opportunity
to talk about what you heard from the person
at the front of the room. Rarely, unless you
make a significant commitment outside of that
once weekly block of time, do you have the time
and opportunity to get to know someone well or
deeply, or to put what you heard or learned into
practice so that it becomes your own. The experience
that I had in my field education seminar
small group went beyond that rare opportunity:
within months, we became a community.
The chapter by Larry Rasmussen on ”Shaping
Communities" in Practicing Our Faith explains that
communities are shaped by rituals and governance.
Over the course of a school year the creation
of our community demonstrated how rituals
and governance can translate into actions that
matter to everyone in community, and how
those actions in fact form the community. We
created our community starting with a group of nine
people from seven faith traditions: African Methodist
Episcopal, American Baptist, Church of Christ-
Scientist, Episcopal, Quaker, Unitarian Universalist,
and United Church of Christ. We had in common
only that we were in field education and that we all
commuted to school: some were doing field education
in churches; others were in school or health care
names in building community. For our lives in ministry
this activity emphasized that knowing names is
fundamental for relationships with people, and often
overlooked. Although initially intimidating, this ritual
became comfortable and important.
If anyone came in late, the facilitator paused to welcome
that person and let him/her know what we
As a group, we did not offer advice or try to fix the issue;
we were there as companions to the
person on the journey.
agency settings; some are headed for ordination, others
are not; some are married, some are not; some
have children, some do not; some live close by, others
farther away, throughout New England; we are
Hispanic, black, and white, gay and straight. Here’s
how we shaped our community.
We started our sessions on time, an important and
respectful governing rule. If we knew someone was
not going to be with us, we acknowledged that. We
started with a one-word prayer that described how
we were feeling right then, and together these words
were a snapshot of all that we were bringing into the
room that day: traffic, stress, anticipation, hunger, joy,
gratitude, rushing. This brief ritual ended with the
facilitator saying Amen. The one-word prayer
acknowledged that we were coming from different
places, and helped us make the transition to being
present with one another.
Our next ritual was called the name game. The first
person says, "I'm (say own name)." The second person,
says, "I'm (say own name) and this is (name of
first person)." The third person says, "I'm (say own
name), and this is (name of second person) and
(name of first person)." Continue around the circle
until the end when the first person then does all the
names. We continued the name game throughout the
year. This ritual helped us not to assume that everyone
knows or remembers names; it reminded us of
who was present or missing; it affirmed the power of
were doing. We did not wait for people to arrive or go
back and repeat what they had missed, but they were
able to enter into the activity that we were doing.
Appreciation and Noticing
Each time we met, after the one word prayer and the
name game, our facilitator would call for a time
where anyone can express appreciation. Appreciations
were not limited in scope and could be for anyone
in the group or people and things outside the
group. Appreciation was often expressed for the
whole group. Appreciations could be made for
actions, words, qualities, or events.
After we finished expressing appreciation, and in fact
after many activities, the facilitator asked, "What did
you notice?" and often made a list so that we all could
see these responses. This question made us mindful
and made us pay attention. Were we inwardly- or
outwardly-focused? Were we singular or plural in our
focus and expression? How did things change over
time? Particular to the ritual of appreciations, what
impact does expressing gratitude and appreciation
have on both those who express it and those who
receive that expression?
What we learned is that every time we met this time
of appreciation deepened and grew. This time
became incredibly meaningful. Noticing also showed
us how our reactions changed over time and how it
affected our relationships outside the group. Within
the group this ritual engendered trust and started the
gathering of our community with a positive sense of
espect for each other, and helped us look at
someone who was noted in the appreciation
with new fondness even if we didn’t experience
the reason for the appreciation ourselves. Again,
we looked forward to this part of our ritual and
often came ready to express appreciations.
Checking In and Focused
Each time we gathered we had time when one
person talked and either a partner or the whole
group listened. This uninterrupted time when
an individual could report while others listened
attentively was an incredible blessing. We used
a variety of techniques to start conversations
and break into conversation partners, discussion
questions, opinion statements, and open
space topics, and, most frequently, a regular
timed check-in with four minutes of update and
30 seconds of silent prayer for each person. If
you have never been able to talk on a regular
basis about something important to you, without
interruption, while a group of people listens
carefully, you may be astonished at how important
that time and those people become.
An abbreviated version of an intensive and
deeply-focused listening process from the
Quaker tradition, the clearness committee, also
helped us shape our community. Each of us had
the opportunity to be the focus person, who
brought an issue before the group; the group
asked questions to help the focus person go
deeper spiritually to which the focus person
does not respond aloud. As a group, we did not
offer advice or try to fix the issue; we were there
as companions to the person on the journey.
Those questions, which were recorded by a
scribe, were often so powerful and applicable to
each of us that we made copies for all of us to
take away for reflection. God is economical, our
facilitator would say.
The Integrative Seminar: Faith Practices in Context
worked with other faith practices, I think it is
important to note how interrelated those practices
are and how they also shaped our community.
Hospitality was a practice of our community,
in an unplanned but consistent fashion with
various people bringing chocolate, nuts and
pretzels to help us make it through the late
afternoon time that we met. Testimony would
be another way to describe both our appreciations
and our check-in time, as we shared stories
of our journey. Discernment was certainly
the central reason behind clearness committees,
but was often a result of our smaller check in
and listening times as well, as insights would
pop out of the dialog. For many of us at different
times, healing came through the listening
and prayers of this community. Saying yes and
saying no in difficult situations became easier
with the support and affirmation of this community.
Prayer, however short, was the beginning
and end of each time that we met. And
each thirty seconds or more of quiet time to
"hold a person in our hearts and in God’s presence"
had its own reinforcement of keeping
Sabbath. All of these faith practices also helped
us shape our community.
While we sat in a circle each week, the shape of
this community became a circle, woven with
strong bonds of trust, respect, and deep faith.
We will carry each of the faith practices and the
rules and rituals that worked in the building of
this community out into congregations, classrooms,
and workplaces. I will express for all of
us the appreciation of what each person in the
group brought and continues to bring both in
presence and in memory: the hugs, the laughter,
the tears, the wisdom and the prayers. We
each made this a commitment and a time not to
be missed, a time and a group that I already
miss, but will carry with me as a centering and
central place in my seminary experience.
Integrating Other Faith
Because other small groups in the course