The Iowa Caucus

Published Feb. 28, 2016 in the Ames Tribune.

When I told people in southern California that I was moving to Iowa, the overwhelming response was, “Won’t it be too cold?!” Having lived on the windy plains of central Illinois and through the Chicago blizzard of 2011 (“Snowpocalypse,” “Chizzard”), I could respond that, yes, it will at times be too cold but then there will be spring. I love the seasons of the Midwest.

One response, though, stood out. It was from a woman who was very active in her county’s politics. She said Iowa would be great because of all the time I would get with presidential candidates. California barely warrants one visit, let alone the dozens each caucus season, she explained.

I grew up in a somewhat political household. My mother’s position was through gubernatorial appointment and she once worked in President Bill Clinton’s administration. But I mark the beginning of my own political participation in the 1992 election season in Portland, Oregon.
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Why No Shoes?

First published September 2015 as a pastoral letter for the Ames UCC Courier
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

One of the most common questions I’m asked after church is why I don’t have any shoes on.

The reason was initially practical: I get really hot when I lead worship.

At my previous church I was tucked away in a high pulpit where no one could see what I was up to. And although my initial reason for going unshod was comfort, I came to really love the feeling of preaching bare- or stocking-footed: connected, grounded, and agile.

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Politics of Church: Mark 6.30–4, 53–56

sanctuarygreeting300Delivered at Ames UCC on July 19, 2015
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Sermons are written to be heard rather than read.
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Several weeks I ago I was talking to Carla, my wife, about this sermon, this day. I told her that I was really anxious, surprisingly so. I explained that I didn’t know how I would be received. Yes, we had a marvelous time at my candidating event, but that was just one day, one weekend.

Preaching is a public act with consequences both public and intimate. It is an act of hubris to stand up before a gathered body and speak to the nature of the divine. So I always want to take great care when I do so. I want to make sure I’m not just preaching my agenda, but that of God, as best I can discern with honesty and integrity. I have to check that I’m not just addressing my needs, but those felt more largely in the community of Ames, the congregation of Ames UCC.
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Letter to Claremont: Romans 1.1–17

letter to claremontFirst published May 3, 2015
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

I think a lot about how to do church and be a church pastor. And I read a lot. Here is a selection of recent titles:

Not a very sunny list, is it? Continue reading

I Cried

First published March 18, 2015
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

What do you do when a dying congregant tells you that you are the light of her life?

In order to graduate from Chicago Theological Seminary and pursue parish ministry in the United Church of Christ, I had to do something called Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). This is a form of ministerial training that can take place in a nursing home, a teen homeless shelter, a hospital, or even a not-for-profit. What makes it unique from a regular internship is daily time spent with others in the program to debrief feelings and receive reflections from others on how you handled given situations.

I chose to do my CPE unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH). A hospital that included a level 1 trauma emergency room, high-risk infant care, a large cancer facility, and all the other kind of health needs in between, I felt that NMH would give me the range of health crises I might encounter in parish ministry.
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The Lord of the Dance wants you to Read Comic Books

Published September 21, 2014
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

I recently asked a group of colleagues, most of whom are decades older than me, two questions:

  1. If you could tell baby you—the you of your first years in ministry—anything, what would it be?
  2. If you could tell the church (writ large) anything, without fear of retribution, what would it be?

Their responses to the first were a mix of professional and personal advice: Don’t judge congregants for not being like you and protect the integrity of your pulpit, read fiction, take a dance lesson, and have some FUN.

In The Secret to Motivation, Amy Wrzesniewski and Barry Schwartz describe how humans have two basic motivations for their behaviors, internal and instrumental:

If a scientist conducts research because she wants to discover important facts about the world, that’s an internal motive, since discovering facts is inherently related to the activity of research. If she conducts research because she wants to achieve scholarly renown, that’s an instrumental motive, since the relation between fame and research is not so inherent.

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Published September 21, 2014
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

My professional title is The Reverend Eileen Gebbie. Most people call me Eileen, Pastor Eileen, Pastor, P.E., P-Mitts, or Mother Mittens. Ok, those last two are pretty rare/in my dreams.

In the United Church of Christ (UCC), the title “Reverend” is reserved for ministers who are ordained. Ordination is a culminating worship service that includes vows, a charge from the community, and blessings. Getting there requires becoming a “member in discernment” of a local church as well as the regional Association; seminary education (or equivalent experience); clinical pastoral education; field education/internship; an ordination paper for an interview with the Association; and an Ecclesiastical Council (public testing) with a culminating vote. (To learn more, see our Manual on Ministry.)

If a candidate is “cleared for ordination, pending call” at the conclusion of the Ecclesiastical Council, she may then start to look for work. Once employed—called—by a church, she is ordained. She has earned “the R.E.V. degree.”
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Collar up!

Published September 15, 2014
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Earlier this summer I started to wear a clerical collar every day at work.

Clerical garb is not a large part of my denomination’s identity. I imagine most of my colleagues wear stoles when they lead worship, but I can only picture a handful of us that are in a collar. I don’t know of any who wear them full-time.

Why not? Our history: We are puritanical in our roots, very invested in simplicity, and the priesthood of all believers. Rejection of the Roman church and its hierarchies and the trappings of those hierarchies has been important to us. We are all accountable for our faith, we can all go straight to God. Pastors are not magical mediators.
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