Mental Health and Ministry

By Dr. Mark Poindexter

At the recent Regional Assembly of the Christian Church in Virginia, there was an Interest Group titled “No, I’m Not Crazy!” Affirming Those with Mental Health Issues.  It was the Interest Group I decided to attend.  Not because I thought I needed to learn how to affirm others, but because I wanted to feel affirmed.  Throughout my adult life, I have waged a battle with depression.  I know the struggle that comes with feeling thoroughly overwhelmed in mind, body and soul by what seems like nearly insurmountable sadness.  I understand what it is like to be nearly paralyzed by the weight of the darkness that engulfs someone suffering from severe depression.  My battle with this form of mental illness has been costly in my life.  I believe it was a contributing factor to the end of my first marriage.  In addition, some colleagues could not understand the depth of my depression and thought I just needed to “snap out of it.”  When I couldn’t do that, they decided I was not someone they should have in their life.  The words I heard was that “I bring them down.”  Also, at one point, I had to take a year away from ministry.  The depression had reached a point that I lost my voice to preach; my own sense of being spiritually lost made it very difficult to lead others in the journey of faith.

                After the workshop, I went up to our Regional Minister, Lee Parker, and told him I was grateful for the church’s willingness to address this important matter.  I also shared with him about my own personal battle with depression, along with a couple of articles I had written about my experience.  He called the next day, after having read the articles, and asked if I would write something for the Virginia Christian about ministry with those who have mental illness.  The question for me became, do I write about my own journey or do I give some practical advice about how to be present with others who are going through this painful experience.  I decided that sharing about my own personal struggle with depression was of primary importance because it would help to pull back the stigma and cover of secrecy that all too often accompanies mental illness.   Out of fear of being judged by others, those suffering from mental illness often try to hide their struggles which can lead to an even deeper private pain and a further sense of isolation.  In my life I have become keenly aware that if I am to overcome this illness I have to be willing to address it head on and I need the support of friends and family who are willing to walk with me.

These are a few things I have learned in my journey.  Though there will always be some people “who just don’t get it” there are others who will have an understanding and compassionate response - some of them precisely because it is their battle as well.   I need to surround myself with such people when the darkness is deep.  In my last period of a depressed state, it was the companionship of some former church members, a couple of friends from my seminary days, the presence of my children, and the tenacious love of my sister that brought light to me.  Though loneliness was a struggle during that time, I was never completely alone.  They walked with me and in their presence I felt the presence of God.  For that I am grateful.  I have also learned that with my form of depression the complex relationship between genetics and environment is not clear.  Both play a role in my illness.  So both medicines and talk therapy are vitally important in helping me maintain a sense of well-being.  In addition, one reason I am able to face my illness directly, is because I will not allow it to become the defining characteristic of who I am.  Though my depression has gripped me fiercely at times, I live an abundantly fulfilled life.  I love to laugh and spend time with my children.  I enjoy exercise and running road races.  I love the work I do as pastor.  Congregational leadership has again become life giving to me.  Reading the book, Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled his Greatness, allowed me to see that my own battle with depression does not by any means disqualify me from leadership.  In fact, for my life as a pastor, it has helped me to become a more compassionate and understanding person.   And though I lost some relationships because of my struggles, the door has opened for other relationships to begin.  Again, I am grateful.

I will not live in fear and silence when it comes to the fact that I have a form of mental illness.  As some people’s journey consists of diabetes or Crohn’s disease or cancer and they must undergo medical treatment and receive various kinds of support, so does my illness require the same. I also hope that my willingness to share openly about my situation will help to show others who have similar battles that they are not alone.  They need not fear what others might think or believe that they should not ask for help.  The journey toward wholeness and well-being is a journey all human beings are on.  It can, at times, be a difficult journey, but it is one that can lead to a full life if embraced with a courageous and honest spirit, an abiding faith and a community of support. 


A Story of Forgiveness: A Chapter From The Relationship With My Father

By Dr. Mark Poindexter

The only story any of us can truly tell is our own . . . and yet all our stories are part of another’s story. The chapters of our lives are chapters in the lives of others as well. This is my story of how I learned about forgiveness.  It involves the story of my father and his father also.  My grandfather died two years before I was born. I tell it so it might become part of your story.  Most of us have a chapter or two from our lives that involve forgiveness.  Or at least we should. Maybe this will help you write yours.

My father was an alcoholic.  During the years that I and my siblings were at home, Dad drank on a regular and excessive basis.  The alcohol was a true demon for him.  It brought out anger, cruelty and bitterness.  There were many a night that our home was filled with voices yelling and threats being made.  Once, when I was seven years old, I remember my teenage brother and my Dad screaming at each other and a butcher knife being held in my brother’s hand. I buried my child’s head in the couch.  I do not remember how it all was resolved. I do remember the sound of the yelling, the smell of the liquor, the rage in the eyes, the hot air as I cried into the couch, and the knife.

We were all hesitant to have friends over because we didn’t know what kind of shape Dad would be in.  If it was not a good day for Dad, it was not a good day for anyone.  There were nights after work when he didn’t come home, nights when his entire paycheck was lost on drink and losing at the pool table.   It was only many years later that I realized how hard all this was for my mom.

As you can imagine, Dad’s alcoholism affected our family in numerous ways – the efforts to keep it hidden from others, the inability of our family to ever deal with it directly or in a healthy way, the guilt and shame that comes to nearly everyone who lives in a house where unaddressed addiction is a dominant member of the family.  Four of us grew up in that home where indeed love and faith were present, but also deep human brokenness that evidenced itself through drunken anger and cruelty.  Each of us have had to deal with it in our own way. 

I know I had a deep sense of anger at my father for many years, and some of those years we barely spoke.  I spent many hours in a therapist’s office dealing with the dynamics of my family and the shame, guilt and depression that arose in my life, at least in part, because of those dynamics.  But there came a precise moment when I began to understand things differently and see my father in a new way.  It was not a moment that came from the wise counsel offered in a therapist’s office.  It was a moment that came at our family’s kitchen table and the words that changed things were spoken by Dad.

It was the summer of 1989.  It was an especially difficult year for my family that involved divorce, tragic death, and bouts with severe depression.  The moment came on a warm July evening.  Late one night, I found Dad crying at the kitchen table.  His forehead held in the palm of his hands.  We started talking about all that was happening in our family and in the midst of the conversation, Dad said to me – what prompted it I do not remember -  “When I came back from the war my father told me he wished I had been killed so he could have gotten the government money.”  Then Dad just cried, and cried and cried.  I sat there completely stunned as he got up from the table and headed back to his bedroom.  Dad’s tears that night were about all that was happening to our family, but they were also about the painful and horrible words spoken to him more than forty years earlier.

The next day, I asked my mom if Dad had ever shared that with her.  She said no.  None of my siblings had heard it either.  It had lived painfully within him for all those decades.  He kept it a secret within himself.  Like many young men in that time, Dad came home a hero from WWII.  A chest full of medals including two bronze stars.  But when he got home his father said, “I wish you were dead, so I could have the money.” In that moment at the kitchen table I learned why there was a whiskey bottle in the garage, and why that drink released such bitterness and anger in my father.   It is simply true, hurting people often hurt others.  Learning of my father’s own emotional pain, brought on by the words spoken to him by his own father, helped me to understand Dad differently.  It helped me to forgive him in a way that all the hours of counseling never made possible.  And I think it helped Dad to speak of his pain, because it was about that time that he quit drinking and for the last twelve years of his life, he never touched a drop of alcohol again. 

As we live the stories that are our lives and our chapters become interwoven with the chapters of others, there are often aspects of someone else’s story that we do not know.  Maybe things they have buried so deeply that they themselves do not talk about them, but those things still affect how they live.   A note to this story is to tell you, that I bear no ill will toward my grandfather for what he said to my father.  Chilling words whose impact was profound on my family.  As I said, my grandfather died two years before I was born.  All I can do is wonder about what terrible thing happened in his life that caused him to say such a horrible thing to his son.

As you encounter people whose ways are painful to others, there is likely a story that you do not know.  It doesn’t excuse their behavior.  It doesn’t make their behavior okay.  But knowing that there might be a story that you are unaware of, it can help you to understand.  It helps you to be slow to your own anger.  It can help you to break the cycle of blame and guilt and infliction of hurt that we continue in too many of relationships.  It helps you to have grace. Understanding that you don’t know all the chapters of anyone’s story, well, it can help you to forgive.

Forgiveness has the power to free both the one forgiven and the one who forgives.  I came to love my father deeply and knew his great love for me and for all of his family.  I came to have deep admiration for the courage he showed in his victory over the demons that haunted him for so many years.  After he stopped drinking, the kind and gentle man that we had seen glimpses of over the years, shined through beautifully.  We spent many hours after that fishing together and laughing and telling stories to one another.  But we never mentioned again that night at the kitchen table and what was said there or forty years before. I think we both knew nothing else needed to be said about that night.  That chapter in our lives had the end that it needed to have.

So much of what I understand about grace, forgiveness and love are not the result of study in a seminary classroom or from the works of the great theologians. They are lessons learned from the brokenness and the healing, often painful, of our lives.  I suppose it is the only way we really learn.                 

You're Not Alone: Finding Friends in Ministry

By Rev. Mindi

I graduated from seminary fourteen years ago, with ninety credits and one unit of CPE under my belt. Though I had loved my Biblical Studies courses more than anything, I made sure I took the more practical courses: Church Administration, Stewardship, and of course, Pastoral Ministry Ethics. I figured those would be the courses that would help me in my day-to-day ministry.

Until I came to a church that didn’t want to talk about money or stewardship.

Until I came to a church that had too large of a governing structure for its body.

Until I came to a church that had no internal governing structure for its body.

Until I came to a church that had unhealthy power dynamics within the staff and within the lay leadership.

Until I came to a church that was barely surviving.

You get the picture. In the variety of calls I have served, I have encountered situations that “they didn’t teach me about that in Seminary.”

And even though I am an outgoing person and have immediately sought out clergy groups, sometimes it is hard to relate to other clergy who have had a different experience in ministry. I find it hard at times to relate to clergy in which they were always paid a full time salary with benefits, or were always able to attend continuing education events and their regional and national governing bodies. We all know that relationships are the key to ministry, and if who you know matters, how can you move to a new call when no one at the regional or national level knows who you are because you have never been able to afford to attend? Or how can you compete with pastors who have D.Min’s or other credentials when your continuing education budget is small?

Ministry can be lonely, even when you have colleagues.

Sometimes, you have to build what you envision. “Built it, and they will come.”

A few years ago we began a great local “younger” clergy group. We are small. We can fit around a dining room table. We gather once a month for lunch and to check in with one another. We bless one another when they leave a call, or transition to something new. We honor one another by listening and not judging. We pray for one another when we are going through difficult times. We have built a beautiful support network that I could not minister without.

I also joined another clergy group, with clergy of different ages, but also different cultural and language backgrounds. Many of these colleagues I have been able to relate to in my experience of finding time for ministry while working another job. I have also had a good listening ear from my recently retired colleagues in this group, who get that ministry has changed from when they entered and that those of us in our early years of ministry need more support than ever.

But perhaps the greatest support network I have been part of is UNCO. The UnConference (and yes, I keep blogging about this here, and here, and here) began a few years ago as a “built it, and they will come” event that brings together clergy and church leaders without a keynote speaker. We share our ideas and our concerns in ministry and form breakout sessions based on those topics. All those things I didn’t learn in seminary? I’ve learned more from UNCO than any other continuing education conference. And, it’s affordable! It’s under $500!

Ministry gets awfully lonely at times, and sometimes we feel we are going it alone into uncharted territory, especially as the traditional church wanes and something new is birthing. What is coming forth? What is our role? UNCO is helping us to figure that out for each of us, and I always receive encouragement and support, and even enthusiasm as I return to my ministry setting. And the support continues, through Facebook, Twitter, and Google Hangouts. Sometimes we even pick up the phone and call the old fashioned way, across time zones and denominations.

UNCO West is October 24-26 at San Francisco Theological Seminary. The cost is $350 per person including meals and room for 3 days and 2 nights. There is KidUnco (the BEST!) and there is still space available. Register now!

America Can Be Great, But Not "Again"

By Dr. Mark Poindexter

One of the candidates for the office of the President of the United States has used as his official campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”  If you want you can go to his official website and buy a baseball cap with that phrase on it.  Depending on which hat you pick it will set you back anywhere from $3.03 to $25.00.  Of course, you have to pay for shipping and handling too.  Once you buy that hat, you can wear it and promote the idea that America has a former period of greatness that we just need to rediscover.   As for me, even though I love baseball caps because they hide my baldness, I am going to keep my money in my pocket.  And not because I think this candidate has more than enough sources of income already, but because the word “again” is just not something I can buy into.

I have learned over the course of my life that history is always interpreted from the perspective of those who have power.  And the idea that our nation has a former period of greatness which we just have to rediscover comes from the perspective of white male privilege and the desire to hold onto that power.  I am fairly certain if we were to ask some other groups to identify when our period of national greatness was, we would be met with silence.  If we were to ask the Native American population this question about America’s greatness, they might refer instead to the ravaging of the land they hold sacred, the many treaties that have been broken, the genocidal Trail of Tears on which many of their ancestors died.   The mistreatment of Native Americans continues today as the current battle over the oil pipeline in North Dakota shows.  The proposed pipeline will go through a sacred burial ground and also has the potential of devastating local water supplies.  Can you imagine the uproar if a pipeline was planned to run through Arlington National cemetery?  Centuries of our violence and broken promises to Native Americans continues even in our day, as peaceful pipeline protestors were met with attack dogs and pepper spray.  Or what about our African-American citizens?  Is there any period of our history that they want to return to because it was great for them.  Was it the brutal days of slavery when they were held in human bondage?  The humiliating days of Jim Crow laws? The time not too long ago, within my lifetime, when beatings and lynchings still happened without fear of punishment for those white men who perpetrated such atrocities?  Is there an American past that African-Americans want to rediscover because of its greatness?  When it comes to these two groups of people American greatness is not something to be found “again.”  As a former United States President once said about the American treatment of these two groups of people:

What we have done with the American Indian is in its way as bad as what we imposed on the Negroes. We took a proud and independent race and virtually destroyed them. We have to find ways to bring them back into decent lives in this country.

We could mention other shortcomings of greatness as well.  The fact that women weren’t allowed to vote until almost 150 years after the United States began.  The children who filled the coal mines and textile mills for meager wages while the owners gained further wealth. The internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II.  Our nation’s greatness is not something that lies behind us, except in the minds of those who want to disregard the full history of our nation as they seek to hold onto the power that they feel slipping from their grasp.

If there is a greatness to our nation it is found not in any historical period, it is to be found in the idea of our freedoms which allow us to have a voice about what is wrong with our nation and the opportunity to work and correct it.  Our hoped for greatness lies in continually striving after the foundational idea that “all men are created equal and possess certain unalienable rights given by the Creator – among these rights being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  When Thomas Jefferson penned those words, he could not have known that 250 years later we are imagining a fullness to his words that he never even dreamt of.  Originally those words meant that only white male, land owners were equal and had certain rights.  Our possible greatness lies in our continual work to expand our understanding that human equality and rights exist for all people. 

As a person of faith in America it is the striving after a greatness that lies before us and is inclusive of all people, that my faith and my patriotism can work together.  Every week when I stand behind the communion table and invite people to share in the meal of bread and cup, I say that the Lord’s Supper is for everyone, that all people are welcome.  As an American I believe that equality and God-given rights are for all people – all genders, all colors, all creeds, all sexual orientations, all educational levels – everyone gets to be included in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

Our national greatness doesn’t lie in our past.  It is not something that can be discovered “again.” It lies in our ideas of freedom and equality for all.  Ideas that we have never completely lived out, and at times we have quite shamefully failed them.  Yet, the ideas of freedom and equality are something we can always strive toward and work for.  Any greatness that the United States of America might attain is yet before us.  So may we work ever harder toward fulfilling the great idea of a more just and inclusive nation for all

Environmental Degradation and Racism

By Rev. Mindi

I returned to Alaska last week to visit my family and the places I grew up, and inevitably, the conversation turned to climate change. 

My brother’s snowmobile sits covered up near his cabin, and he never started it up last year because there wasn’t enough snow.

The change of climate in Alaska has made the national news. In 2016, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race didn’t have enough snow for the ceremonial start in Anchorage, so snow was brought in by train (however, they did get a dumping of snow the day before). The race for years would restart in Wasilla, my hometown. In 2008, the restart was officially moved from Wasilla to Willow, 30 miles north, because there were too many years where Wasilla didn’t have enough snow.  But in 2015, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race had to restart in Fairbanks, 300 miles north of Willow—because there wasn’t enough snow across most of Southcentral and Western Alaska.

Sea levels are rising, and entire Native villages are being forced to make the decision to move. This story on the village of Shishmaref aired on NPR days before I returned home.  Houses are collapsing in villages because the permafrost—which is exactly as it sounds, ground that is supposed to be permanently frozen—has begun to thaw, causing sinkholes. Even in areas close to Anchorage, wells and septic systems are failing because the ground is warming up and pipes are breaking as the ground collapses.

Growing up in Anchorage and Wasilla, Alaska (I lived there from 83-95), it almost always snowed by the second week of October, and the snow stayed through April. In the late 90’s, when I came home at Christmas from college, I could already see the changes. One Christmas it was 30 degrees out and we were all wearing sweaters instead of our winter coats (it’s a dry cold, and +30 seems balmy compared to 20 below). One Christmas there was no snow on the ground. Since 2000, the winters have been warmer, and now, my dad and brother told me about how most of the time in January it rains—then it freezes, which is much more dangerous than the snow and cold we used to have.

Summers have been warmer, and warmer for longer—last week, it was in the 70’s by the time we left. There is a beetle that has infested the birch trees—my mother was telling me that scientists are not too worried about it, they believe the winter will kill it, but it is something that traveled north with the warmer weather and infected the trees so the leaves didn’t turn the normal golden yellow—instead, they became brown. But the rest of the land—especially up in the mountains, where in previous Augusts, the tundra shrubs would have turned to brilliant reds by this time of year—are still green because autumn is coming later.

Glaciers that I used to see from driving on the road are no longer visible. Portage Glacier, a famous glacier less than an hour south of Anchorage, receded in eight years what they had expected it to take 25 years to do (hence, a very expensive visitor’s center that was built, along with a boat to go look at the glacier, had to change purposes since you can’t see the glacier any longer, not even from the boat on the lake. When we first moved to Alaska in 1983, there was no lake—the glacier was right there by the road).

Exit Glacier is known outside of Alaska because President Obama visited there on his trip to Alaska. I have been to Exit Glacier three times: 2003, 2010, and a week ago. I have shared pictures here so one might see the dramatic changes over the years.

Climate change must be the church’s responsibility. God gave us the earth, to have dominion over it the way God has dominion over us—and we continue to abuse that gift and deny our responsibility. Our addiction to fossil fuels is not only warming our planet, but is killing the most vulnerable. Environmental degradation is part of racism, as seen in the events in Standing Rock, North Dakota, where currently the Dakota Access Pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners have bulldozed sacred ground, including gravesites, and provoked protestors and attacked them with dogs and mace. Or lead in the water supply in Flint, Michigan. Or the above article on Shishmaref, Alaska. Climate change is affecting Black communities, Native American and Native Alaskan communities in disproportionate ways. Sure, rich folks live by the seashore, too—but generally speaking they have the resources to protect their homes, or to move. Poor folks have no place to go.

Environmental degradation is part of racism, and we must work not only to reduce our own waste and reliance on fossil fuels, but to support the Sioux of Standing Rock and all Black and Native communities affected by this injustice and our continued failure to live up to God’s intention for us: to be the earth’s caretakers, to truly love our neighbors as God has loved us.

Me at Exit Glacier, 2003

Me at Exit Glacier, 2003

Exit Glacier 2003

Exit Glacier 2003

Exit Glacier 2003. This was as far as they would let you walk, but you could walk right up to the face of this glacier and the trail gained no elevation.

Exit Glacier 2003. This was as far as they would let you walk, but you could walk right up to the face of this glacier and the trail gained no elevation.

Exit Glacier 2010--the viewpoint used to be where you see the river below. The viewpoint has now moved 1/2 mile up the trail on the mountain (elevation hard to make out from this angle)

Exit Glacier 2010--the viewpoint used to be where you see the river below. The viewpoint has now moved 1/2 mile up the trail on the mountain (elevation hard to make out from this angle)

Exit Glacier 2010

Exit Glacier 2010

Exit Glacier 2016. 

Exit Glacier 2016. 

"Epipen Outrage: Unbridled Greed and The American Health Care System"

By Dr. Mark Poindexter

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”  I Timothy 6:10

The cost of drugs is something that I have been keenly aware of for more than a decade now.  In fifth grade, my daughter, Michele, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Over time and trial, it was determined that the best option for Michele was drug therapy which would be given through an infusion every two months.   The drug would not cure her illness, but it would treat her symptoms and hopefully allow her to stay in remission.  We are grateful that drug has done its work and Michele has been able to live in the most comfortable way possible with her illness.  Over the years, she has had approximately sixty such treatments. The charged cost of the medicine to treat her illness over this time is about $750,000.  That doesn’t include the doctor or hospital bills, the charges for the use of the infusion center room and the other medical supplies that have to be used during her infusions.  Just the main medicine has come at a cost of about $75,000 a year.  I am extremely grateful of the relief that this medicine gives to my daughter and for the doctors who cared for her and recommended this course of treatment.  The care given to her has been exemplary and the outcome for us could not be better.

I also know that my family has been one of the better provided for when it comes to caring for someone with a chronic illness.  In addition to having major medical insurance, there was rebate program for the medicine provider in which we could take part and we did.  Still, even with the insurance and the rebate program, because of deductibles, out-of-pocket expenses, and pharmaceutical co-pays, Michele’s medical bills averaged between $400 and $500 a month.  It was a significant percentage of a pastor’s salary.  Again, my family was fortunate.  Some members of the church I was serving for much of that time helped us cover those monthly expenses. For that gift I will always be grateful. Like, I said my family has been one of the better provided for when it comes to medical care for someone with a chronic illness.

My own journey through medical costs came to mind this week when I heard that from 2009 to 2016, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, maker of the Epipen has raised the price of this medicine, which can be life-saving for those with certain allergies, by more than 400 percent. In 2009, a two-pack Epipen cost $100 and now that same product costs $600.  A vial of the medicine, Epinephrine, can be bought on the open world market for about one dollar.  Appearing before congress, Mylan’s CEO, Heather Bresch, said that the price increase was not the fault of Mylan, but America’s health care system.

Bresch argued that a lack of transparency in the complex health care system -- with bigger cuts for everyone along the supply chain -- "incentivizes higher prices" in the industry. She pointed out that copays and deductibles are on the rise, too. (CNN, August 25, 2016)

As she passed off the buck of responsibility to “the system,” I honestly found her words hard to swallow since the 400 percent rise in the cost of a life-saving drug coincided with a 671% rise in HER compensation package.  During the same period of time, her compensation rose from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068. (Chicago Tribune, August 25, 2016)  I do not think there is a coincidence here.  While some families dealing with life threatening allergic reactions, were having to decide what they could cut from their budget so they could afford this potentially life-saving medication, she was personally profiting to the tune of $17,000,000.  I do not have trouble calling such profiteering evil.  It is done at the extreme expense of others, even possibly the expense of someone’s life. 

I believe one of the primary problems with the medical system in America is simple greed or as the author of I Timothy writes, “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  The greed of pharmaceutical and insurance companies, is destroying the idea that health and well-being is a basic human right in which all people deserve quality care.  Leaders of such companies lack a moral compass when they can accept millions of dollars in increases while people struggle to afford the medicines that they provide.  Last year, another pharmaceutical CEO, J. Michael Pearson of Valeant, said that the company’s primary responsibility was to the shareholders.  He did not mention those who might benefit from the use of his company’s drugs.  His concern was profit margin alone – not care for the sick (US Uncut, October 2015.)

Such unbridled greed has cost much damage in our nation.  Not only does it lead many families to have to make decisions between medicines and some of life’s other necessities such as food and clothing, it has also led to many families being virtually destroyed financially.  The number one cause of personal bankruptcies in America is medical expenses which accounts for about 62% of all bankruptcies.  And, 72% of such bankruptcies from medical expense are even filed by people who do have some type of medical insurance. (The Huffington Post, March 24, 2015).

There is much discussion in the current political debate about health care and most of it centers on the Affordable Care Act and the prospect of universal health care and the sky-rocketing cost of medical care.    I believe the church has an important role to play in this conversation.  We can speak out for those who live on the edges and who fall through the cracks when it comes to being humanely cared for.  We can also dare to speak about the greed which is driving too much of our current system, calling greed what it is – evil.  In addition, we can speak up about the social and moral responsibility companies and corporations need to have.  This, I believe, is our Christian responsibility.  To work for a more just and equitable world.  Quality health care is a right for all and not just a privilege for those who can afford it.

I am glad my daughter is well and I owe lot to all those who make her health possible.  I want to work for a world where we are not just the fortunate ones, but a world where everyone has the same kind of fortunes we have been given.


The Glass Ceiling Ain't Broke Yet

By Rev. Mindi

A few weeks ago, we watched the graphic of the glass ceiling break as Hillary Clinton became the first female presidential nominee by a major political party. While presidential candidates in the past have had it mentioned that they were good parents, there was much lauding of Hillary’s motherhood, and behind-the-scenes talk about her sticking by her husband during their difficult times.

This past week, we have heard stories of Kerri Walsh Jennings being a terrific mother and how she has to balance motherhood and being an athlete. Headlines that congratulated the wife of a Chicago Bears lineman who won bronze in women’s trap shooting: her name is Corey Cogdell (the Chicago Tribune received a lot of feedback on that one). That glass ceiling is not broken, only cracked. Because women are barely getting through.

Less than one quarter of the churches in my region have a woman on the pastoral staff, and of that quarter, one third are part-time. And while more women are still entering seminary than men, more women are in search processes and more women are not considered by search committees. There are still churches, in 2016, in my denomination that refuse to look at the professional profile of a woman minister in their search processes.

So I would like to ask my male colleagues to consider the following:

--Would you enter a profession in which you were significantly less likely to be hired because of your gender?

--Would you accept a position at a church if the person before you was a woman and received more pay than you, even though you have the same level of experience (or even more?)

--Would you be comfortable in a denomination in which there were churches that would not consider you because you are male?

--Would you accept a position in which a major change in family status would require you to be gone for 6-12 weeks, but the church would not pay for your leave time?


Now, ask yourself these real questions that I have personally been asked by search committees in the past, and how would you feel about them being asked of you:

--“How will you balance your family time and church time?”

--“What will you do on Sunday if your child is sick?”

--“What will your spouse do if you are the pastor? Will they be involved in the church?”

--“How is your physical health?”

--“How will you be able to pastor the (opposite sex) in our church?”

--“Will you leave the church if you have a baby?”

No my friends, the glass ceiling has not been broken. It has been cracked, but we have a long way to go in breaking it.


*Note: this post reflects a binary way of thinking, and is definitely not encompassing of all ministers or all families, especially LGBTQ individuals and their families. I cannot imagine the list of questions my LGBTQ clergy friends have been asked that would never be asked of those of us who are cisgender and heterosexual.