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Friday, July 31st, 2015

This month's Word from our Pastor

Pastor Audrey Ward


 Here is a link to Audrey's website for her ongoing blog about her memoir



Pastoral Care 101, a class required for a seminary master’s degree program, taught psychological and intellectual preparation for being aware of congregational need. Those essential understandings included role-play of problems among people in the community as well as between pastor and parishioner. Generally, the details of being a pastor day to day.

            What they failed to teach us was how much we as pastors would also need care. This reversal may not be automatic, in fact it rarely is. But I learned that actual care for the clergy-in-charge by the congregants is every bit as essential. And it took my being educated by people in churches over the last 30 years to assimilate the lessons.

            When I was a callow fresh-out-of-seminary recruit, Bryce and Helen McDonald in Greenfield (ten miles south of Soledad in the middle of broccoli fields) took me by the hand and began to show me the way. Their warm kitchen wrapped me in kindness at every opportunity. Right through Lake County, Milpitas, Fresno, Richmond, then interims in Sacramento,Vallejo, and finally, St. Helena, beautiful people preached me into a loving kindness sort of salvation, lifting my spirits and healing my heart. They instructed me in this care of the pastor so I could once again be present to those who walked through the door on any given day. And then I could also create Sunday services or small groups reflective of the community.

            Here’s how it works: a dozen eggs left with a note on the parsonage porch. Clipped blooms in a vase or Mason jar or fruits and vegetables—maybe plants for the garden—shared in season; flowers sent for a birthday, or a bottle of wine shared or given.  And, as an  invited guest for an anniversary party, dinner, graduation event or the warm pleasures of a backyard bar-b-que.

            Being included and considered means feeling loved. See, I suspect that practicing on this new person—the pastor--educates all of us toward loving strangers and neighbors in general.

            We’ve had a reprieve for one more year: I’ll be your pastor until June of 2016. That is true because of both your presence and unity in this process and also because I have come to understand that being a shepherd requires loyal protection of the flock during crisis as well as their care on ordinary days. Sometimes love must turn fierce.

            Let’s make the most of every minute we have together!

With love, Audrey  

 Pastor Audrey Ward

P.S. And, just to be sure the point of the above note is clear: 
NObody does pastoral care better than St. Helena UMC.  Thing is,
we're in training for a new pastor and to be aware of the details and how we
practice with the stranger in our midst, is an ongoing lesson.  Sometimes I have a thought in my mind written in bold and I forget that you can't read what it says.  And anyhow, I figured you'd see yourselves in the above:  I've enjoyed every detail of this 'how-to' list here in St. Helena over the last six years.  Thank you one and all from my heart for making the phrase "...saved the best 'til last" true for me.















Don't you just love it when the truth pops out of your own surprised mouth?  I wonder if that's like the blues singer - Keb Mo - promises, that it's "jus God tryin ta git your attention."

Anna Quindlan writes a moment like this into her latest memoir, "Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake."  After her country house was barely missed by a tornado, her college-aged daughter called to say she had been frantic regarding her mother's safety, worried her mother would die young.  And Anna quickly responded, "Oh honey, I'm too old to die young, now!"
Aha. There it is. And what an interesting marker for our years:  too old to die young.  Which means, of course, still here, alive in the world for whatever will come.

May Sarton, the poet, speaks of "the inexhaustible flame" that kept her mother alive until she died.  Going on, in the poem "August Third"  (Printed in full below) to say, "if you taught me one thing, it was never to fail life."  And I pass this on to all of us as our calling, every day.

See you in church,


         August Third

These days
Lifting myself up
Like a heavy weight,
Old camel getting to her knees,
I think of my mother
And the inexhaustible flame
That kept her alive
Until she died.

She knew all about fatigue
And how one pushes it aside
For staking up the lilies
Early in the morning,
The way one pushes it aside
For a friend in need,
For a hungry cat.

Mother, be with me.
Today on your birthday
I am older than you were
When you died
Thirty-five years ago.
Thinking of you
The old camel gets to her knees,
Stands up,
Moves forward slowly
Into the new day.

If you taught me one thing
It was never to fail life.




Here is prose poem about joy and plenty from Mary Oliver in her most recent book “Swan,” seems like one Virginia might write. It’s the one she expresses through her 90 + years of life all the time.

Don’t Hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be.  We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

 ~ St Helena United Methodist Church
St Helena, California, USA