Archive for February, 2009

February 26, 2009


I am bursting with excitement it seems as I look forward to this coming Sunday and all of the installation activities.

Kevin and I are excited to have both sets of our parents in town, from Georgia and Tennessee.

I’m excited that friends from as far away as North Carolina are coming to play a role in the service.

I’m excited to have such respected colleagues all in the same room together.

I’m excited for Washington Plaza Church to feel the energy of this new beginning coming from the support of our friends and family.

I’m excited for the buzz of happiness that has been around the church for weeks– that something new is happening and that we have a good future together in the works.

I’m excited for the church to have a day to truly feel proud of the intentional process it underwent to hire the 4th minister in its history.

I’m excited for the church leaders to see the sanctuary full again after years of wondering if it would ever happen.

I’m excited to hear the joy in the voices of the choir after all the planning our choir director has put in.

I’m excited about all the great food I know the cooking teams will turn out for the lunch and also for the reception afterwards.

What a joyous time for all of us!

February 24, 2009

The Gym and the Church

As many of you know, I have recently moved into a new home and community as part of the transition to Washington Plaza. While I’m thrilled about where life has taken me, there is always a transition period no matter how much you like how things have turned out.

I didn’t know where the community offices were like the all important DMV.

I didn’t know where the closest bank and post office were.

I wasn’t sure where I wanted to shop for groceries.

It is kind of stressful to have to make so many decisions at once. While I have solved these dilemmas by now, there is one I haven’t master yet: exercise.

I was a member of a great little community gym in Gaithersburg. It was cheap and didn’t have monthly membership fees. And, I loved it.

But now in Virginia, I can’t seem to find something that really meets my needs.

I want a gym that isn’t too expensive, close to my house (or on my way home from work) and has interesting classes to meet other people (or at least that I can stand to work out for an hour in).

I was trying out a new exercise program a couple weeks ago and realized what a church nerd I am because all I could think about was what finding a gym had in common with finding a church. I realized that some people hate finding a church as much as I hate exercise. And suddenly, new waves of compassion came over me.

The class I was attending that day was not meeting my needs and I haven’t been back to it yet.

No one spoke to me. Everyone assumed that I knew what to do when the class started (yet I had no clue). No one asked me for money (what the class cost– so in the end I got it for free, which was good I guess). No one seemed to notice when I left early. No one has called me since I left. I’ll probably never go back to a gym of this kind solely based on my 25 minutes there.

Do you think this is fair? But, really why would I want to go back?

I think what I am learning as a “newcomer” in my community is how important the first impressions are. And, how much we as city-dwelling commuters really care about convenience. If something is not easily accessible to us, we can easily find an excuse not to do it.

My hope is that as Washington Plaza continues to grow as a community of faith, we will become a people who are always at our best when newcomers meet us. That we go out of our way to encourage first time visitors to return. That we so love what we are about at this congregation that we might even make the commitment to membership even if we have to drive a significant distance to get here on Sunday mornings.

For me, I’m still looking for a gym or something to do that is exercise based in community. Hopefully, I’ll find it soon.

February 21, 2009


In celebration of my birthday,  I just received this gift  from my wonderful husband. If you are wondering, I got other things too, but this is the funniest gift.


February 20, 2009

What are we to do?

Watch this about a man Working the Grocery Store. It is a humbling tale of a man trying to provide for his wife, even at age 90.

Where is the community of Christ in situations like these?

What is the church to do in times such as this?

 We hear week after week, more and more people are losing their jobs. Life savings are gone.  Homes lost.

Might we just need each other just a little more? Might the call be for all of us to share in ways more profound than ever?

Join in the conversation with me here. What do you think?

February 18, 2009

10 Things

I am a fan of any technology that connects us and provides the opportunity for conversation. And, for this reason, I joined the latest new thing a couple years ago, Facebook.

Through it I’ve been re-connected with folks that I might never of otherwise found. And, especially during my days of specialized ministry with youth and college students, I found that Facebook was the only way some of them would actually communicate with me and the church on a regular basis.

(Public Service Annoucement: If you are a facebook person we’d like to invite you to visit our fan page. Just type in Washington Plaza Baptist Church and find us there).

With all of this being said, there has been a trend lately on Facebook called 25 Things. Messages have been sent between friends asking the question of what are 25 things you might not know about me. While I received several messages to do so, I haven’t yet followed suit. But today, I thought it might be interesting to blog about 10 things (got to save a little time) that you may not know about me.

So, here goes:

1. I love to do laundry and go to the grocery store. Call me crazy but I would even go so far as to say that there is something spiritual about these two practices. There is rythm about both of them that keeps me grounded in the course of a week.

2.  If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would go to . . .  South Africa. Even though I’ve been to the continent of Africa twice already, I have a fastination with this country and would love for this to be my next vacation. I even took a class on the Church and the apartied in South Africa while in seminary.

3. My favorite dessert is cookies. I even go so far as to request a cookie cake each year for my birthday.

4.  My most productive hours of the day are between 10-5 pm. I am not a morning or a night person, though many times I wish I was one or the other.

5. I hate clutter. This drives my husband crazy sometimes because I end of throwing away things that he thinks we should keep forever.

6. My favorite churchy author is a tie between Kathleen Norris  and Ann Lamott. I love writers who can express themselves with great candor and at the same time respect for their audience. If you haven’t read anything by them, google them and start today!

7. Since moving to DC, I have become the wedding chaplain for my friends and I love it! I’ve already conducted three weddings of close friends of ours and this coming year, two ceremonies of friends of mine are in the works.

8. Sunday afternoons are becoming my favorite time of the week. I love that we don’t have Sunday night church at WPBC, so I can go home after a morning of worship and meetings and just relax without the stress. It’s great!

9.  I have been keeping a journal since I was 12. If my house was on fire and I could only save one thing or group of things, I would go get my journals. Precious, irreplaceable stuff.

10. I am giving a shout out to our youngest member (which is not me I might add), Josh Willis because he said he would only read my blog if I wrote about him. Josh we’re so happy you are part of our church family!

Have a great Wednesday everyone!

February 17, 2009

Upcoming Big Day

If you are reading this blog, consider this your formal invitation to my Installation Service on Sunday, March 1st at 4 pm at Washington Plaza Baptist Church. We’d love to have you and meet you then if we have not already done so.

We are getting excited about it around here– folks are making plans to have extra food, we’ve been cleaning out the balcony in expectation of the extra guests, and thinking about the ways we can be most welcoming to those who visit us. Not to mention, the work has been begun on how to print the worship guide.

But the larger question that many have asked is: “What is an installation?” and “Why are we doing it now? Haven’t you already started?”

Installation . . . it is just one of those words that not many people understand or have heard of before. (Actually someone asked me on Sunday “When was my coronation?” To which I replied, “I’m not becoming your queen, but your pastor, even though my name just happens to be Elizabeth.” Very funny mix-up– we all laughed for a while.)

The dictionary defines it this way: 

The act of installing or giving possession of an office, rank, or order, with the usual rites or ceremonies; as, the installation of an ordained minister in a parish.

Or in simpler terms, an installation is a formal new beginning.  It is an occasion where we as the congregation and I as your pastor make promises to each other. It is an occasion to stop and consider again how our journeys have brought us together for this partnership in the years ahead. It is an occasion where all invested parties can gather and celebrate the journey that led WPBC to call its 4th pastor in its history.

In our case, invested parties in the life of our congregation are friends and family of mine, churches where either my husband or I have spent time with, area denominational leaders, local pastors and community members. So, when you think about it, it is quite the exciting occasion! It will be a gathering of people who are all as excited about our future together as those of us who worship here each week.

And, even though, my first Sunday was in January, the installation service has been schedule for a later date so that as many people could be gathered and invited to the service as possible. This way it is an event for the entire community, especially for those are part of other local churches but who want to come and wish us well.

It will be a big day in less than two weeks now. I can’t wait for all the fun of togetherness that it will be!

February 12, 2009

My Most Important Friend

gps-2The best wedding gift I received, hands down!

The youth at my previous church and their families gave it to me as a gift because I was always seeming to get lost when I took their kids home.  Several of them frequently told me, “I’ve never been anywhere with you without getting lost.”

Even though I usually begin to find my way around after a while and do just fine, the whole sense of direction skill does not come to me naturally. I can easily turn left sometimes thinking I’ve turned right. Sad, I know.

Especially now, working  and living in a new part of town that I can not go anywhere without it.

I realized last night how addicted I had become to the GPS when I was trying to find a meeting at a church member’s home that I hadn’t been to yet. I got directions the “traditional” way- turn left, turn right here, etc and I just couldn’t do it. My paying attention skills were worse than I thought! What has technology done to me?

I think that GPS for cars were made with pastors in mind. At a moment’s notice at any given time you have to be somewhere you’ve never been before. Not that there aren’t always better ways to get around than what it tells you to do, but sticking to it guiding voice means you will always get there eventually.

It gives me great peace of mind that with the address in hand, I could pretty much find my way anywhere. Well, unless it takes me through a tunnel . . .

Until then, I’ll stick with my important sidekick with hopes I’ll be at my next meeting on time.

February 9, 2009

New Member

fall-and-christmas-2008-2211Yesterday at church, we had our first new member join in my tenure. I was really excited because I am a believer in church membership as a statement of “I’m here,  I’m committed to your mission and want to do what I can to help” but also because of who joined. The new member was my husband, Kevin.

To some of you this may not sound like a big deal. It seems pretty customary that a spouse would be a member of their partner’s church, right?

In this day and time, getting “two for one” is not always the case. There are tons of interfaith clergy marriages. I know clergy who are married to a person who doesn’t do the God or church thing at all. I think it is fine if the spouse of a pastor doesn’t come to church. I mean, you are only actually paying the pastor to come . . .

Yet, I feel lucky that in my situation, Kevin is a Jesus-loving kind of guy who believes in the church. He grew up in the Baptist tradition like myself but has come to be the strange “different kind of Baptists” like those found at Washington Plaza and other like minded places. He cares about the relevance of the church in an age when so many people think the church is unnecessary.

But yet, Kevin and I have never gone to church together on a regular basis. While I served as an associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Gaithersburg, Kevin continued in leadership at Calvary Baptist Church (the place that actually connected us to each other originally). While it would have been nice to have seen Kevin at church on a weekly basis, we both felt like we were best used at different places.

However, the whole conversation changed when I received and accepted the call to pastor at Washington Plaza. Without my asking him to, Kevin volunteered that he’d like to transfer his membership to support me and the congregation I was so passionate about building up. While it would be hard for him to leave his roles and friends at Calvary, he felt this was the best thing for us.

Needless to say, I was overjoyed and even more excited yesterday when it was all official.

Washington Plaza folks, you need to know that you have a gem in your newest member, Kevin Hagan. Though it will take him some time to adjust to this whole “pastor’s spouse” thing, in due time you might find that you like him more than even me. He is a compassionate and wise soul that really does want good things to come to the Plaza. He looks forward to feeling even more at home with the congregation in the days ahead.

Know that Team Hagan is glad we are here and that we are here for the long haul!

February 4, 2009

Meeting Neighbors

In my little over a month tenure on the Plaza, I have learned how easy it is to stay focused completely on church affairs. . . for there is always something INSIDE the building to be done. Newsletter articles to be written, bulletins to put together, phone calls to be made to church members, and of course the ever pressing need of sermons to be written.

I could spend all my time doing these things and still not get everything done. And, not to say that all of these things aren’t important organizational tasks.

But, the faith that excites me is not always about being inside a building. And, Jesus, who the Christian faith professes, had a lot to say about getting out too. Maybe it was something like “Love your neighbors as yourself…”

This is why I am trying to discipline myself to find as many opportunities as I can to meet neighbors, to get to know the community in which I work and connect with people who know more about neighborhood than me.

What I am finding is that there are a lot of people in the Lake Anne community who want to cheer us on! Just today, I attended the monthly Lake Anne Merchant Association Meeting at Jasmine Cafe (who provides great coffee by the way). When I provided an update to all the business owners about our upcoming concerts and our desire to open up our space to the community through our rental policies, they were so excited! They gave me some really interesting and doable ideas about how the church and the community can work together even more in the future.

I came back to the church this morning with a spring in my step knowing that our time is now to really open the pages of a new day here at Washington Plaza.

Wanta chat with me about how you can get involved in my “meeting neighbors” project, Washington Plaza folks? Let me know.

So, if you don’t find me in the church during my office hours, you know where I’ll be .

February 2, 2009

One Weekend, Three Religions

I have to say that I’m a bit tired this morning. Not just because Sundays are the most intense day of the week for ministers and it’s the day after, but because of all the adventures Kevin and I had this weekend. We experienced God in three unique expressions and were quite the blessed as a result.

On Friday night, we were invited to attend the installation service of my cousin’s partner and our dear friend, Jessy, who is the rabbi at Beth Chaverivm Reform Congregation in Asburn, VA. We sang and listened to prayers in Hebrew and listened to Jesse’s mentors and teachers say really nice things about calling and hopes for his ministry in the future. The mood of the congregation was quite celebratory and made me excited about a similar service Washington Plaza will have on March 1st for me.

The funny part was that we got caught in traffic on the Toll Road and were 15 minutes late. We hoped we’d sit in the back and no one would notice our tardiness. But, not so much . . .

We walked in just as the ENTIRE congregation was doing some sort of four corners of the room prayer so that right as we opened the doors everyone was turning to face us! I quickly tried to hide Kevin behind the door hoping they would finish soon. Luckily, we didn’t have to stay behind the doors for long but soon learned that Jessy wanted us to be on the front row with the family so we quickly made a processional to the front. We were glad to be there and sink into our seats a little after the embarrassment. . . .

Then, Saturday morning, we were up before 7 am to meet up with several of our friends to carpool to Roanoke, VA. Our dear friend, Bhavik’s mom died on Monday evening and her funeral was on Saturday afternoon. Bhavik’s religious tradition is Hindu.

None of us really knew what to expect at all but quickly did a lot of research last week about the funeral rites associated with Hundu cultures and India. We learned that white, not black is the color of mourning and that funeral rituals take place over several days instead of in just one event like the Christian tradition.

When we entered the funeral home, we were soon asked to take off our shoes and to enter the chapel respectfully. Around 40 or more family members and friends were already there (even though we were 25 minutes early this time!) chanting and singing.

By 2 pm when the service was to begin, the room was full, even with all the family members sitting on the floor. The chanting contined with none of us “Americans” having any idea what was being said. . . It was hard not to zone out (as much as I wanted to really be engaged in the moment) and get really sleepy.

But, after maybe 20 more minutes of chanting, the eulogies were said in English by our friend Bhavik, the eldest son, Mr. Patel, the husband, and Bhavik’s younger brother. They were moving accounts of how much Mrs. Patel had meant to this family as a woman of great hospitality and love. We were all in tears seeing our usually unemotional friend, Bhavik in great pain.

The most touching part of the service came at the end. As funeral rites were performed on Mrs. Patel, the master of ceremonies (who I think was a family friend) explained to everyone in English what was occurring. (The priest continued to chant and do things to the body to prepare it for the next life). It would have been so easy for the funeral service to proceed without paying the non-Indians in the room any attention. It showed signs of great hospitality to me for the translation to occur out of such a gracious spirit. It was the definition of respect for religious traditions is about.

We all left the experience very sad for the Patel family but so rich in having the opportunity to share in such sacred moments with our friend.

But, I have to say that I was happy to go to a Christian church on Sunday. It was great to sing hymns that I knew and loved and to pray in English. It was good to celebrate the faith tradition that means to much to me and to lead others in the hearing of the word and taking of communion. But, I’m also happy that I am in a place that respectfully acknowledges other faith expressions too as we work with our neighbors to meet the needs God has given all of us to address in our community. I’m in the exact place I belong. Thanks be to God for this and some a good night’s sleep.

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