Have you entered the storehouses of the snow...Job 38:22

Monday, March 15, 2010

Three Skevts of Coffee

Occasionally something really nice happens in South Dakota. I’m on the “pulpit supply” list at the seminary. This means that if a church has a need of someone to fill their pulpit on a given Sunday, they notify the seminary. The seminary then sends it out to all of us on the “pulpit supply” list. This list includes not only students but also faculty.

When their request goes out like, it is sort of a lottery for the church. Or should I say more like biblical casting of lots. They might get a PhD who teaches at the seminary or they might get a student. If they get a student, they might get someone experienced or not.

Last fall I got one of those emails. It was for a church in Iowa. It said it was close to Sioux Falls. Sioux Falls is 50 plus miles from me but by South Dakota standards, that’s not far. To go to this part of Iowa requires 70 miles from my house, but still within a range, I thought I could handle.

I replied saying I’d like to do this. I got a response back; I won the lottery that day. I was the first to reply. My obsession with emails can sometimes be a good thing. Then I got nervous.

I had a prayer and praise report all in one. I was praising God for the opportunity to preach and praying desperately about my concerns. I didn’t know anything about this church. I didn’t know how they felt about women in the pulpit. I didn’t know how liturgical they were, if I had to preach from the lectionary. I knew nothing. I was told I’d hear from the contact person, in this case the pastor.

I did. It was a woman! Okay, I could cross that off my list of concerns. There was a pretty standard order of service. I still didn’t know how formal they were though. I don’t have a problem with formality. I am just not sure how good I am with it.

I asked the pastor about the prayer times. She said oh, just whatever the Holy Spirit leads … Whew! that I could do. Writing formal prayers was not my strong point. I rather like the freer flow when it comes to prayer. The last hurdle in my mind as I prepared was could I wear pants for preaching? I still struggle with that issue. Too many years of hearing about the evils of women looking like men.

Ok, I know you are laughing now but I heard that a lot when I was young.  For the good Christian female pants were never acceptable anywhere, let alone church. However, if you were going to grace the platform, you should have no make-up, elbows covered, panty hose, skirt to mid-calf, and good supporting garments – a handkerchief or something for your knees, just in case the skirt crept up.

So preaching in pants was something to be thought about seriously. However, I had no skirt to wear. With some fear and trepidation, I headed to preaching that morning.

We got their early, a rarity for us. The church sits in a cornfield. You drive along wondering where you are and then all of a sudden you see this gleaming white steeple. Two cars were parked and one of the occupants was sweeping the walk.

As my husband and I walked in, we were warmly greeted. I mentioned we were there for pulpit supply. Someone thought that was to be my husband. We laughed; it was an honest mistake. No one seemed to look at my pants.

Nervously I went with a church leader to the office for prayer. I think he was trying to figure out this woman they sent. I nervously studied the bulletin.

If anyone cared about my pants, I couldn’t tell. I left there so much richer. I told my husband that is one of the nicest experiences I’ve had in South Dakota.  Oh, well, it wasn’t South Dakota, it was Iowa.  Nevertheless, the upper Midwest has some possibilities.

Yesterday, I filled that pulpit for the third time. I still get excited every time I go there. In pants, I walked in greeted with a warm handshake, then a hug by someone saying Good Morning Pastor Joyce.

The church has begun to feel like home to me. The warmth of the people is exceptional. They are amused at this Norwegian Pentecostal from Brooklyn New York with the husband from Pakistan who fills their pulpit and worships with them.

I thought about the saying about the three cups of tea made know by Greg Mortensen in his book by the same name. When you share your third cup of tea in the remote areas of Pakistan where Greg has built schools, you have become family. This was my third time at this lovely church.

I think though it is more fitting to talk about three skevts of coffee. They are mostly Scandinavians drinking straight up black coffee.

The first time you drink a skevt of coffee, you are a stranger.
The second time you take a skevt of coffee, you are an honored guest.
The third time you share a skevt of coffee, you become family.


  1. Feeling accepted and wanted is something we all long for in our inner being! But when it comes from a Christian somehow it means even more. You are a Pastor - a gifted one - none-the-less when someone affirms that gifting by calling you "Pastor Joyce" it causes that 'inner man' to rise up and jump for joy!!! I could not be happier for you that your gifting is recognized!

  2. Grandview is my "home" church, having grown up within it's loving reach and embrace. Although I live 300 miles away now, they are all still family. (even though I'm only related to a few of the members) I'm glad you had a wonderful experience, welcome to the family!


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