Sermon Series


Today’s RevGals Friday Five asks about ideas for sermon series.  A couple that I’ve done during the summer:

  • Favorite Hymns
  • Water, Water Everywhere ~ based on the Presbyterian Women’s excellent study on water themes in the Bible

Taking a look at this summer’s texts, I think that if I were preaching regularly I might do one of these series:

  • Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible
  • All In: The Book of Romans (I thought I might try to tackle Romans three years ago, but wow ~ what a LOT of study would be required!  That might be something I could do on my own this summer in preparation for future possibilities.)
  • The Jesus of Matthew
  • In the Beginning: A Genesis Series

I guess that’s six, not five.  Maybe an opportunity for one of them will present itself.

Storytelling and the Bible ~ Part I

When my boys were small, we often spent long summer afternoons crunched together on the front steps, where I would make up long, involved, and dramatically enhanced stories for them.  The stories usually involved anthropomorphized trucks and fire engines, their favorite figures at the time, racing down our street to tackle crises in the neighboring yards and parks.

This past January, I attended a conference on Biblical storytelling sponsored by RevGals and led by the inimitable Casey Fitzgerald, a storyteller par excellence.  We all spent a lot of time making new friends and getting better acquainted with those we had already met,* but our official learning sessions were focused on Biblical storytelling.


How are the stories of the Bible told in your church?  If you are like most of us, they are read, with varying levels of skill, by members and pastors, from a lectern or a pulpit, set somewhat apart from the congregation, during worship on Sunday morning.  Some readers, having not looked at the text until they have begun to read it aloud, stumble over unfamiliar words.  Others read slowly and pause frequently for dramatic event.  Many race through the words in a monotone.  And a few read as they would read a story aloud to children, with changes in voice and speed appropriate to the telling.

But how many of us TELL, or hear told, the Biblical readings as the stories they are?  Casey urged us to learn the stories by heart ~ which, if you give it some thought, is a different proposition entirely from the memorizing of their words.  Learn them as they speak to you in your deepest places, and tell them as the emotional experiences that good stories are.

We learned, and practiced, all kinds of ways of storytelling.  We tried out the same stories in different voices ~ voices of fear, of confidence, of wonder, of skepticism.  We made cartoons and wrote poems and watched Lego movies of stories.  We explored in depth stories about women whose roles and passions are often overlooked in the rush to focus on the male actors.

And we returned home filled with the hope that we could communicate the Biblical story to our listeners in ways that give the stories themselves, rather than our own commentary, pride of place.  I think we all long for our congregations to respond to the stories of the Bible with the same wonder and delight my boys found in the stories of trucks rushing down our street to save the playground.


If you’re interested in learning more, you can go to the website for the Network of Biblical Storytellers, and you can find Casey Fitzgerald at Faith and Wonder.




*The photo is a RevGals tradition, born of the days when people were reluctant to post identifiable images online.  (I’m at the bottom.)

Friday Five for Lent


The RevGals Friday Five is, not surprisingly, focused on Lent:

1.) Are you giving up, or taking on? Some combination thereof?

I’m taking on . . . accompanying a college student through an eight-week version of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and trying to do the daily prayer and reflection alongside her.  I also pulled out my journal from my own year-long experience of the Spiritual Exercises in 2005-06, because I wanted to see what I had to say then.  I am somewhat surprised, although it all rings true.

2.) Fasting? What does that look like for you?

Fasting has never been a meaningful practice for me.  I suppose the whys and wherefores of that might be worth considering.

3.) In what way is study helpful to you this season? Are you reading, studying, journaling…?

Since I find myself without a call, I have plenty of time for reading.  This week, I am finishing up Frederick Buechner’s Telling Secrets and David Lose’s Preaching at the Crossroads, and skimming Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

4.) Purple. Do you find that your wardrobe is drawn to participate in the season?

Nope.  Now that I think of it, there is very littler purple in my wardrobe, although I have some great purple earrings.  And, as I look down, I see that I am wearing a fuzzy purple sweater, because I am staying inside today and it happened to be lying on a chair instead of in the laundry.  Maybe it’s an unconscious thing.

5.) How are you finding ways to take “time apart” in order to avoid getting worn thin?

I don’t have to worry much about wearing thin these days.  A year ago, I was brand new to my congregation, looking at an extra service and sermon every week, and in the process of getting really, really sick, which I ignored and thereby prolonged.  Today, I am declaring a snow day and working (or not) at whatever pace I choose on whatever projects appeal to me.

Friday Five Back to School Edition

Monica has posted a RevGals Friday Five about school favorites.  I think that sixth grade might have been my favorite year ever, so I will start with sixth grade answers:


  1. What was your favorite thing about school?  Biology!  That year we learned about amoebae and euglenas and we dissected a frog and I decided to be a doctor.  I loved it!
  2. Who was your most memorable teacher?  Mr. Curran, of course, our classroom teacher who rose above the limitations of our very small rural school. (Did we even have an official science curriculum?)
  3. With whom did you sit at lunch?  Probably Sarah.  We ate as fast as we could and bolted for the blacktop outside which passed as our basketball court. (And were laughed at when we suggested a girls’ basketball team.)
  4. What is/was your favorite school supply?  Our textbooks.  I loved our green world history book, which was filled with news from the ancient world.
  5. What do you think “kids these days” are missing out on?  The simplicity of the demands made upon us.  We lived out in the country, and lessons and sports and other after-school activities mostly didn’t happen.  We rode the bus home after school and went outside to play.

But then, there was my senior year of high school, in a girls’ boarding school in Massachusetts.  More answers!


  1. What was your favorite thing about school?  Late evenings in the basement “smoker.” Believe it or not, smoking in specified locales was a senior privilege.  We set up the laundry room with our tables and typewriters (LOL!) and notebooks and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, writing our papers and talking ~ and smoking, of course.
  2. Who was your most memorable teacher?  That year it was probably my religion teacher, Mr. Smalley.  Later I would learn that he, like many of our religion teachers, was ordained and in possession of a doctorate.  The class was “Church and Society,” and it was where I first read Freud and Bonhoeffer.  He was also the teacher who told me not to be so parochial with my college choices and to get out of New England.  (He was right,  but I didn’t listen.)
  3. With whom did you sit at lunch?  We had assigned tables which rotated periodically.
  4. What is/was your favorite school supply?  Paper!  Always something to write.
  5. What do you think “kids these days” are missing out on?  My high school experiences were fairly unusual.  I think that I am most grateful for the education we received in choral music (religious school, mandatory chapel).

And most recently there was seminary, which I attended in my fifties, commuting to Pittsburgh a couple of times a week from my home in Cleveland.  Another set of answers!


  1. What was your favorite thing about school?   Actually, it was probably the long walks I took through the Highland Park neighborhood every day.
  2. Who was your most memorable teacher? Edwin van Driel, who showed up at the end of my second year and articulated an approach to Christianity that addressed a lot of my own “issues.”  He would eventually preach at my ordination service
  3. With whom did you sit at lunch? Cindy and Scott, two people whom I met in the first weeks of school and who became my best seminary friends.
  4. What is/was your favorite school supply?  My laptop, of course.  (Definitely NOT the Hebrew and Greek flashcards over which I labored for so many long hours!)
  5. What do you think “kids these days” are missing out on?  They aren’t kids, are they?  But I think the seminary education is getting better and better, so they aren’t missing out on anything.  Except time ~ enough time to absorb it all.

Truthfully, I love school so much that I would go back for a D.Min. if I could!

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