Public Servants

January 21, 2017
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

My grandfather was a soldier.
My grandmother was a public servant at the federal level.
My mother was a public servant at the state and federal levels.
My aunties–biological and chosen–were public servants at the federal level.
My uncle was a public servant at the federal level.
My stepfather was a public servant at the state level.
My father-in-law was a soldier.
My brother is a public servant at the state level.
My sister works in a public school.
My sister-in-law teaches in a public school.
My cousin teaches in a public school.
My brother-in-law teaches at a public university.
My wife taught in public schools and at a public university.

Each worked hard to receive training and do their jobs well with and for fellow Americans, regardless of race, class, sex, economic background, sexual orientation, abilities, nation of origin, or religion. Each entered public service for common good and not to personally enrich themselves (and at times even at the risk of their own lives).

Which, in addition to their positions, is why I am appalled by so many of the nominees for our nation’s cabinet and the new president’s top advisors. Their careers have been marked by self-interest and their training is in no way related to the concerns they would now have to tend. Or, even worse, their careers or training to date have been directly opposed to those concerns. By refusing to remove conflicts of interest that will be personally enriching while making decisions for all of us, they serve only themselves, and not us at all.

As a Christian priest, I do not engage in partisan politics. Instead, I work within my church and my local IAF alliance to build power and then address specific issues we are struggling with. This allows me to be in relationship and solidarity with people with whom I might not share a party platform but do share pressures around housing, jobs, and mental illness, for example.

In that work, I am a public servant. And you can be, too.

My family taught me that public service is a privilege, but one open to all people. If you have not already, please seek out the alliances in your community that transcend name-calling and take no pleasure in the suffering of others. Because this new cohort of leaders will betray that role and all of us because of our race, class, sex, sexual orientation, economic background, abilities, nation of origin, and religion.

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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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.
Please join us at 10:45 a.m. on Sundays.

NEW PREACHER
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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Choose Love: Psalm 1

HBP_2974Delivered at Claremont UCC on May 31, 2015
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Happy are those
who reject the advice of evil people,
who do not follow the example of sinners
or join those who have no use for God.
Instead, they find joy in obeying the Law of the Lord,
and they study it day and night.
They are like trees that grow beside a stream,
that bear fruit at the right time,
and whose leaves do not dry up.
They succeed in everything they do.

But evil people are not like this at all;
they are like straw that the wind blows away.
Sinners will be condemned by God
and kept apart from God’s own people.
The righteous are guided and protected by the Lord,
but the evil are on the way to their doom.
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Letter to Claremont: Romans 1.1–17

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

CHURCH AND CHURCH PASTOR
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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Priesthood of All Believers

priesthood of allPublished March 9, 2015
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Some of the most powerful theological thinking in my church happens at our League of Youth (LOY).

Middle schooler:  “I don’t think Jesus is the king in the parable of the wedding banquet. I think Jesus is the stranger who wasn’t wearing a wedding outfit and got kicked out. It was before Easter so they didn’t recognize him yet.”

Last night I joined our middle and high school kids (and a handful adults) for dinner and a conversation about worship. Our youth have a fair amount of involvement in worship: Once each month they are greeters and ushers and once a month they read the prayers and scripture.

But for this gathering I wanted to talk about how worship is where we practice being Christians, specifically practice being table followers and baptized seekers.

Our conversation about Holy Communion centered on Maundy Thursday and Jesus’ welcome of all, including his betrayer, Judas.

Teenagers know a lot about betrayal: a sense of betrayal by their bodies, by their parents and guardians, by their peers, by their nation. Continue reading