Archive for December, 2015

Opening Doors

1 Comment » Written on December 28th, 2015     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

Rev. Cathy Kaminski is the lead pastor at Trinity Community Church in Cincinnati, OH. It is her privilege to serve, love, and care for those who have paved many paths of righteousness through their lives of faith and service.

fran gilmoreThe day before Thanksgiving, while many of us were busy lost in the hustle and bustle of pre-holiday traditions, our church suffered a loss. Early that morning Frances Alice (Fuller) Gilmore went to meet the Lord. While I’m sure many of you never had the pleasure of knowing Fran, or may never have heard her name, I guarantee that you have felt the influence of her faithful life.

How? Well, you see Fran was a woman who wore many hats in her ninety-two years. She was a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, librarian, chair of our church’s nursery school board, Christ-follower and naval officer. That’s right: Frances Alice Gilmore was a World War II veteran.

This shy girl from a small town in Maine answered the call of her country’s need. At age nineteen, she enlisted with W.A.V.E.S., (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), and was soon stationed in San Francisco. W.A.V.E.S. was a program passed by Congress allowing women to fill shoreline assignments in order to release their male counterparts to active sea duty. If you’re anything like me, you might know little about these women who served our country, but I promise you that all of us, male and female alike, know their legacy.

Fran’s act of bravery would transform the course of her life and the lives of her loved ones. But I’m also convinced, that her willingness to step out into the unknown, to be a trailblazer down paths few women had ever walked before changed the course of history. It’s because of women like Fran that I am able to be a pastor today. Her faithfulness, her quiet confidence, her pioneering spirit opened doors. Her life broke down stereotypes, transformed minds, and set in motion opportunities for generations to come.

A few months back, Jo Ann Deasy wrote the blog post “In Honor of the First,” (See in Covenant Blogs here.) She wrote in honor of Sherron Hughes-Tremper, the first woman ordained to the Evangelical Covenant Church. Women like Sherron and Fran changed this world. I don’t often take the time to stop and gauge the depth of their gifts to humanity, but when I do I’m lost in adoration. A glass ceiling sadly still exists, for some more than others. But it is raised that much higher because of the influence of women like these. Women we may not know, but women whose lives continue to give us gifts long after their time on earth has come to an end.

In honor of Fran and the many other Frans out there, I write this post. A small piece of her story. A tribute to her legacy. My debt and gratitude go far beyond the words of this piece. I hope and pray to one day be remembered among pioneers like my friend Fran.


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A Christmas Devotional

1 Comment » Written on December 22nd, 2015     
Filed under: sermons - messages

Evelmyn Ivens works at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) in Chicago and graduated from North Park Theological Seminary in 2013 with a MA in Theological Studies. Evelmyn was born in Mexico and moved to the United States during her teenage years; she has lived in Los Angeles, CA, Washington, DC, and Chicago, IL. Enjoys traveling and learning about other cultures. She’s passionate about issues of immigration, hunger, poverty, and human trafficking.

newicons1501As I was reflecting on what to write for this month, I realized that my post would be the one right before Christmas. No pressure, right? And I very much wanted to share something special and honestly with the number of pastors who usually write for the blog, and who are way more experienced on writing sermons for Advent, I felt intimidated. So here’s a devotional in the words of one of my favorite theologians. Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad!

The Coming of Jesus in Our Midst
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

When early Christianity spoke of the return of the Lord Jesus, they thought of a great day of judgment. Even though this thought may appear to us to be so unlike Christmas, it is original Christianity and to be taken extremely seriously. When we hear Jesus knocking, our conscience first of all pricks us: Are we rightly prepared? In our heart capable of becoming God’s dwelling place? Thus Advent becomes a time of self-examination. “Put the desires of your heart in order, O human beings!” (Valentin Thilo), as the old song sings. It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming so calmly, whereas the world fell into trembling when Jesus Christ walked over the earth. That is why we find it so strange when we see the marks of God in the world so often together with the marks of human suffering, with the marks of the cross on Golgotha. We have become so accustomed to the idea that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tiding, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.

Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, and comes to us with grace and love. God makes us happy as only children can be happy. God wants to always be with us, where we may be – in our sin, in our suffering and death. We are no longer alone; God is with us. We are no longer homeless; a bit of the eternal home itself has moved unto us. Therefore we adults can rejoice deeply within our hearts under the Christmas tree, perhaps much more than the children are able. We know that God’s goodness will once again draw near. We think of all of god’s goodness that came our way last year and sense something of this marvelous home. Jesus comes in judgment and grace: “Behold I stand at the door… Open wide the gates! (Ps. 24:7).

see mehomeless_2739298One day, at the last judgment, he will separate the sheep and the goats and will say to those on his right: “Come, you blessed… I was hungry and you fed me…” (Matt. 25:34). To the astonished question of when and where, he answered: “What you did to the least of these, you have done to me…” (Matt. 25:40). With that we are faced with the shocking reality: Jesus stands at the door and knocks, in complete reality. He asks you for help in the form of a beggar, in the form of a ruined human being in torn clothing. He confronts you in every person you meet. Christ walks on the earth as your neighbor as long as there are people. He walks on the earth as the one through whom God call you, speaks to you and makes demands. That is the greatest seriousness and the greatest blessedness of the Advent message. Christ stands at the door. He lives in the form of the person in our midst. Will you keep the door locked or open it to him?

Christ is still knocking. It is not yet Christmas. But it is also not the great final Advent, the final coming of Christ. Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate goes the longing for the final Advent, where it says: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). Advent is a time of waiting. Our whole life, however, is Advent – that is, a time of waiting for the ultimate, for the time when there will be new heaven and a new earth, when all people are brothers and sisters and one rejoices in the words of the angels: “On earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.” Learn to wait, because he has promised to come. “I stand at the door…” We however call to him: “Yes, come soon, Lord Jesus!” Amen.

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Debt, Uncertainty, and A Woman’s Call

1 Comment » Written on December 14th, 2015     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

Jo Ann Deasy is an ordained Covenant pastor currently serving as the director of institutional initiatives and student research at the Association of Theological Schools in Pittsburgh, PA.

Did you know that women seminary students incur more educational debt than male seminary students?  Despite the fact that male and female seminary students bring with them almost the same amount of undergraduate debt, women students incur more debt while in seminary.  This is despite the fact that women students are more likely to be enrolled in shorter degree programs.

Educational Debt Incurred While in Seminary

Men Women
Less than $10,000 59% 49%
$10,000 to $39,999 22% 22%
More than $40,000 20% 29%
Grand Total 100% 100%

      Source:  Association of Theological Schools Graduating Student Questionnaire, Spring 2015

The numbers are even more drastic for African American Women students 58% of whom will incur more than $40,000 in educational debt in seminary verses their African American male (47%) or their white female (21%) counterparts.

Why the great disparity in debt levels?  I currently serve as director of institutional initiatives and student research at the Association of Theological Schools, the professional organization of most theological schools in the United States and Canada.  In my role, I have been wrestling with statistics regarding women seminary students seeking to understand this and other disparities between male and female students.  I don’t have any certain answers, but here are a few observations.

While more women are enrolling in shorter degree programs such as the Master of Arts in Christian Ministry or the Master of Arts in Christian Education, these degrees are less likely to be eligible for full- or partial-tuition scholarships, many of which are geared towards the Master of Divinity degree which is generally considered the primary degree to prepare people for pastoral ministry.

Women are also less likely to have a clear sense of call when they enter seminary.  This is especially true for evangelical women students.  While reasons for this may differ among women, it seems to me that this larger trend must somehow be connected to the mixed messages women receive from church and society about their potential to serve as pastoral leaders in the church.  During my time as Dean of Students at North Park Theological Seminary, I witnessed many women who came to seminary with some sense of call, but with no clear direction.  It was only once in seminary, among a community that fully advocated for their role as pastors, and often after experiencing affirmation for their pastoral skill in an internship or CPE program, that these women were able to even consider and eventually to embrace their call to pastoral ministry.

Again, scholarships for those entering seminary often privilege those who have a clear sense of call before coming to seminary, who have been in churches that will nurture and then commend that call to seminary admission’s committees.

Does the uncertainty of churches regarding a women’s call to pastoral ministry then also contribute to the inability of women to find meaningful work and economic support while they are in seminary?

What does all of this suggest?  First, it reminds us why the topic of Biblical Gender Equality still needs to be addressed and why the conversation needs to continue to include reflections on issues of race and class as well.  Second, it challenges the church to consider the cost of remaining silent when they see women called to ministry and to consider how they might provide financially for women both embracing and struggling with call.  Finally, it calls denominations and seminaries, anyone who funds theological education, to consider how scholarships might be privileging certain people based on gender or race because of the cultural complexities for not white men who are called into ministry.

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We Have A Story To Share!

6 comments Written on December 8th, 2015     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

Abby Jones is the pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Stromsburg, NE. She earned an MDiv from North Park Theological Seminary in 2012. Abby is mom to Stella, Lucy, Mabel and Harper. Read more of Abby’s writing at

OriginalAdvent has seemed darker than usual this year. There have been a series of horrific events, instilling fear and robbing us of peace. Simultaneously, the political climate is increasingly hostile, and disciples of Jesus are divided and suspicious of one another. This is a time when God’s children need to come together, bringing good news into a dark and desperate world. Instead, we are bickering with one another across the aisle.

It is important to remember at such a critical moment that God is at work. God is doing something right where we are. The land we are standing on is fertile. A promise has been planted, and new life is springing up right where we are. God’s plan is not for desecration and destruction, but for restoration and resurrection.

For far too long the narrative of our faith has been told by white men of power. Patriarchy has controlled the message and it’s delivery, leaving only a select few eligible to teach and lead and proclaim. We have this beautiful, transformative message about God putting on flesh to live among us, to bring good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed. God is working to put all things right, to make all things new, and God invites us to be instruments of redemption in the world.

This good news is for the least, the marginalized, the voices that have been silenced throughout human history. And yet, too often there have been restrictions on who is allowed to communicate this message. I was recently denied the privilege of proclaiming the good news at an ecumenical gathering because of my gender. Members of my congregation have been told that our church is “loose on theology” because they have a female pastor. We don’t have time for this behavior, we have work to do and we’ve got to learn to work together. Now more than ever, people need to hear and see and experience the good news that we have to share.

The world needs to hear a unified vision of hope from the people who know the restorative nature of God. In Advent we are reminded that we are not waiting for something that we’ve wished for to come true. Wishes are nothing more than desires disconnected from a promise. The characters surrounding the birth narrative of Jesus are filled with hope. They were given a promise that they were waiting for. We too have been given a promise that we are waiting for God to fulfill.

This is absolutely the moment that the world needs to hear about God’s promise. People are afraid, people are grieving, people are living in utter darkness, and we have a story about hope and life and light. The voices that are controlling the narrative are telling us to be afraid, that darkness is triumphant and evil powerful. We need to hear vibrant and unified voice proclaiming the good news. We cannot continue to relegate the voices of women to the background. We need every single voice we have telling an alternative narrative. Every single voice is important in sharing this story with our troubled world. The world is desperate for a better story, and we’ve got just the one to share!


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