New Starts

RGBP feet header jpegI’m spent this morning at the Starbucks in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, working on things for RevGalBlogPals, which while it is not new is in a new phase as we try to make it a staffed non-profit instead of an all-volunteer organization. My role is not new, only newish, but it’s no longer riding alongside a church job. It’s all I’m doing now, and it’s a start-up with no infrastructure and a budget that is entirely speculative and no paycheck for the Director, which is to say, me.

And while it is exciting to note that our new website is up and running, the RevGals Facebook group has almost 800 members (786 as of this afternoon) and the webring, after a major update and move of the blogroll, numbers almost 300 (I think 288 exactly) and the Facebook page has over 1000 “likes” and 40 women are registered for the Big Event 7.0, the question out there – a reasonable one – is why pay for something that has been free?

For those who only know the Facebook group, it’s just another Facebook group, a free thing where some people share stories, and others share links to their books or articles or blogs or workshops, and where we hope the links to the RevGalBlogPals site will be noticed in between all the other traffic.

What would they be paying for?

Lots of people have given their time over the years – a handful of us have given an amount of free labor that adds up to ridiculous, in fact – why pay for *my* time?

I’ll admit I don’t know if people actually will. I’m taking a leap of faith because I believe God is calling me to make more of the ministry of RevGalBlogPals using the gifts and graces and hard-won skills and experiences and the absolute serendipities of my life to grow and enhance a ministry that was too much for volunteers to handle well.

For instance, people who love the Big Event cruises don’t want it to ever go away. People who don’t want to go on any cruise, ever, for entirely legitimate reasons, would love the chance to gather with other clergywomen under the banner of RevGalBlogPals for education, recreation and “galship.” But the truth was the second generation of our board and blog team grew up largely around and out of the cruise, and it wasn’t a deep enough bench to do more in-person events.

We said that, but I kept hearing the voices asking for something else. So, yes, the Facebook group is free, and I was open source before there was Open Source, but if we really want to be something more, an organization that offers an ongoing ministry to meet the needs of clergywomen and to provide education for leadership in addition to comfort and support in times of need, someone needs to work at it.

I’ll admit, I articulated this calling myself. The influences in my life are broadly ecumenical. I’ve long felt called to be a pastor to pastors. I’ve long been passionate about expanding the ministry of RevGalBlogPals.

But I want to say, in case anyone worries that I’ve forgotten, I’m not the only person who got RevGalBlogPals started. We exist at all because of Sally-Lodge Henderson Teel’s imagination. We’re a 501 (c) (3) because of the gift of Jody Harrington’s skills and knowledge. We’re a webring because Theresa Coleman figured out how to make one. We have a Cafe Press store because MaryAnn McKibben Dana put in the time and designed the first t-shirt. We know how much money is in our bank account because of Mary Beth Butler, who has been in it from the start. Every feature on our blog bears the handprints of women who had ideas or leaped to embrace the ideas of others and make something of them. Julie Craig, Cathy Stevens, Abi Carlisle-Wilke, Kathryn Johnston, Jenn Moland-Kovash, Stacey Midge, Karen Sapio, Sue Ivany and people who I still think of by nicknames they used on the first blog team 8 years ago — together we created something out of nothing, on the blog, in the work of a non-profit board with a history long enough that we had our first meetings in AOL IM (!), and in painstaking email discussions among the first generation blog contributors that established our ethos: the only qualification that matters for membership is to believe and support women in ordained Christian ministry.

So, why give money to RevGalBlogPals?

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve done it all for love, every hour that I have spent, every html-coding skill I learned, every difficult email I answered as Board President, every blog post I did seemingly late when I was covering for someone else who had an emergency or simply forgot. When I took a three month sabbatical earlier this year, I took it from all those duties, and I hadn’t been away from it for a month before I was telling my spouse that not only did I want to go back to it, I wanted to do more with it. I have many dreams for what RevGalBlogPals can be. I want to see our blog offerings continue to expand to touch more people and offer deeper and wider resources for ministry. I want to keep teaching people how to use the Internet to connect with each other so they don’t feel isolated when the world of ministry crashes around them. I want to see us offer leadership development as well as personal renewal for clergywomen, and I see the summer Con Ed event we are planning (REVive 2014 – about which more is coming soon) providing the former while the Big Event continues to specialize in the latter. I see smaller scale opportunities that offer legitimate Con Ed but also don’t cost the price of a plane ticket because they are devised as regional gatherings; the first RevGals ReGroup will be at the end of October in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, with others to follow in Chicago (April 2014) and the Pacific Northwest (October 2014).  I see our offerings going across the ocean to the neighborhood of our UK members, and that plan is underway for 2015 with the help of Julie Woods. I see weekly lectionary discussions on Google Hangout (Narrative and RCL). I see RevGalBlogPals with a presence at denominational meetings. I dream of a larger-scale REVive leadership event in 2015 to celebrate the 10th birthday of RevGalBlogPals.

I dream of a scholarship fund that helps small church pastors, part time (in terms of paycheck) pastors, retired pastors and seminarians attend our events. 

If you share those dreams, and if you have more dreams, donate to support the ministry of RevGalBlogPals. If you think what we’re doing is merely interesting, or if you claim it as your spiritual community, think about giving. If it’s the support system you turn to when things go to smash, or the circle in which you’ve made some of your best friends ever, consider making a donation.

So far we’ve raised just a little money compared to our hopes, about $2300 when we really needed $12,000 to fund the final third of this year. I’m looking at non-profit versions of IndieGogo and Kickstarter, and also starting to look around for people who would feel called to work on fundraising with us. There may be some grant support out there to subsidize our education events, but like any non-profit, we’re going to depend on the giving of regular people who care about the work we do.

If 300 of those I named above – bloggers, Facebook group members, Twitter followers, the churches they represent, and even the kibitzers who point out what we’re missing – each gave $10 per month to RevGalBlogPals, we would be able to fund a half-time package for a Director.

Like most pastors in all kinds of ministries, I am making the case for myself and thinking how much more aggressive I would be about it on someone else’s behalf. Whether we raise the full amount or not, I’m probably going to keep doing the work, to the extent I am able, or until the Holy Wind blows me in another direction. My motivation is to create a financial infrastructure that will support a justly paying job for the next person who feels called to this ministry.

That’s my new start this fall. I don’t have an office. I work at home, or in a coffee shop (or maybe in your church building, if you are anywhere near Harrisburg, PA, and have some unused space and a heart for this ministry). All I need is WiFi to be in touch with the congregation of the RevGalBlogPals. Don’t you want to help make it happen?

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5 thoughts on “New Starts

  1. I do want it to happen and I’ll pledge $10.00 a month. I treasure my membership. also value being able to read the fulminations of very smart, dedicated Christians. Mary Beth Butler, I am proud to say, is my beloved daughter. She has gently changed and broadened my ideas and my understanding. Thanks, kiddo. I’m still growing.

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