Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

It's Not About the Building

Sunday, June 26, 2016
Sermon by Katie Mulligan
Preached at Ewing Presbyterian Church

Scripture Readings: Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 and Luke 9:51-62


How strange, really, to be preaching in THIS building for the first time, to worship with you all for the LAST time as one of your pastors. We’ve traveled together spiritually for a little over 4 years, through some dreadful ups and downs. The obvious source of conflict for this congregation over the last decade has been this building—this building we are sitting in today. And then the good Lord drops this scripture in my lap and says, “Here, do something with this, would you?”

A scripture rejecting nostalgia on my last Sunday with you, preaching in a building from 1867 that we’ve been fighting about for 15 years (longer really), with a congregation that remembers baptisms, marriages, funerals as “properly” conducted here in this contested space. Man, Jesus is a jerk.

So here goes.

It was January 2012 when three separate friends pointed me to the position description circulating in the Presbytery for a Director of Youth Ministry for Ewing and Covenant Presbyterian Churches. The position description was three pages long, included ministry to the youth of two different churches wanting to work in collaboration. You all advertised that the job would be 6-8 hours a week.

I was amused.

And intrigued.

Youth ministry, no matter the context, no matter the size of the ministry, requires more than 8 hours a week. But I was intrigued by churches trying to do something different, working in collaboration, so I

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Brief Return to Tiny Church

Sunday, June 12, 2016
Sermon by Katie Mulligan
New Covenant Presbyterian Church
Mt. Laurel, NJ

Scripture Readings:
Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, 5-6
Luke 7:36-50

Send out your bread upon the waters,
for after many days you will get it back.
In the morning sow your seed,
and at evening do not let your hands be idle;
for you do not know which will prosper,
this or that, or whether both alike will be good.


As I wrote this sermon on Saturday, a 15 year old boy was murdered in Trenton. I don't especially know how to speak of these things to people and churches who don't experience them. I don't always know how to go between these two realities well. I just know that I will preach in the morning at Tiny Church and then come back to Trenton to be. We will pray for this young man and his family. We will do what we can, each of us.

Dear friends, it has been almost 5 years since I left Tiny Church—can you believe it? My oldest is 16 years old. He just got a job! The little one, El Segundo, is 13 and finishing 7th grade. Sometime this spring he grew taller than me by an inch. His voice has dropped to a deep gravelly bass. No longer does he run about church sanctuaries and hide under pews. These days he programs computers. They eat, these two boys, like locusts, devouring entire grocery store harvests.

These last few years I’ve been working with three churches in and around Trenton, ministering to

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Blessing for Community

A blessing for community on the occasion of my friends' wedding:


Omie and Taj asked me to say something about the relationship of love and community. I suppose, as a pastor, words to that effect should come easy. But the truth is I’ve been struggling all week with this task.

Taj and Omie are building together. We’ve been invited today to bear witness to that, and also somehow to participate in it. We are stand ins for the community they will cultivate around them as individuals and as partners. There will be changes over the years to this community as people leave and new people come. The love we share with you today will shift and change and mature. Community often has the sense of permanence and solidity—in a way I want to tell you that each of us in this room will be here for you through thick and thin, through all things good and bad. In a traditional church service we might ask the congregation to make their own vow to you as a couple, promising to care for you and help you uphold your vows to each other.

But there is something too controlling, too stagnant about that, something of what bell hooks* might call “dominator culture”. She writes, “Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, reveling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.”

As you go forward, building with each other, draw near to you those willing to risk, willing to move through fear, willing to connect deeply, willing to revel with you. In the midst of that community, guard what you have with each other fiercely, for that is as sacred as each of you are individually. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Note On Hope


(cross posted at Practicing Families)

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. ~Romans 5:1-5

A note on hope. A note on hope from a parent who very occasionally gives up on hope. A note on hope from a parent whose children very occasionally produce the sufferings which produce endurance, which produce character, which supposedly produces hope, which, quite frankly, frequently disappoints, despite the fact that God’s love is poured into my heart through the Ding Dang Holy Spirit.

I found myself recently pondering the ragged remnants of hope, dashed against the rocky shores of adolescence and my limited humanity. It is not a pretty shoreline most days. I won’t bore you with the details—if you care for children, you know the basic outline. I was left standing (just barely), staring at my child who would not change, no matter my persistence, my assistance, my clenched teeth. I was left without hope because I could not see the way forward and I could not turn my back.

So I breathed as deep as I could, taking in as much of God’s grace as I could find. And then I cursed and threw my hands in the air. And my kid LAUGHED. And I SUFFERED.

And then I endured to the next day, because that is what parenting is sometimes. I threw my shattered pieces of hope straight back at the Holy Spirit.

The Lord picked up those pieces and reshaped them and offered them back. And I saw that indeed I could not have hope for my child. Because hope for our children produces expectation, which produces stubborn mule-headed arguments, which produces FRUSTRATION in the 10th degree, which produces cursing and the waving of hands, which solves nothing, but does feel good.

But the Lord handed me back hope for myself. And I saw that no matter what happened with my child, there is hope for what will become of my life. And likewise the Lord will go with my child and the two of them will work out their own deal.

Hope for myself. Trust in the Spirit. This is decidedly better for my heart. And probably for my child.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Naked


Sunday, April 10, 2016
Sermon by Katie Mulligan
preached at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Trenton

Scripture Reading: John 21:1-19

I’ve been stuck all week on this one line from the passage. When John, the Beloved Disciple, realizes that the strange man walking on the beach is Jesus, he calls out, “It is the Lord!” and, “When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.”

I’m so puzzled by this! Why did he put his clothes on and THEN jump in the water? Why did he put clothes on at all? Was Jesus never naked? Did Peter have an unfortunate habit of running around naked, and one day the Lord said, “For Christ’s sake, Peter! Put some clothes on!” I’m so amused by this little sideline that I almost can’t read the rest of the passage.
Hairless cats are supposedly very sweet.

Nudity is a funny thing in our cultures and communities. You can spend a lot of time in books and the internet reading about nudity and feminism and advertising and rape culture (and I would encourage you to do so). But today I’ll just share some amusing naked stories that came to mind as I read this passage.

First, I live next door to a church. It is a square house, and the windows on two sides face the church. The third side looks straight into my neighbor’s windows across the street. The fourth side opens to the busiest street in Lawrenceville. The impossibility of this arrangement means that after 4 years of living in that house, I have flashed an extraordinary number of people, just walking from the shower to my bedroom. The pastor warned me, when I moved into that house, that privacy would be challenging while living there. How right she has been!

Years ago I took a summer daycamp in California on a field trip out of town. We had a school bus full of 72 children, and when we arrived at our destination we discovered that the city had locked the bathrooms at the public park. On the way home we needed to make an extra stop, so we pulled over at a public beach. What the signs failed to mention is that if, at the bottom of the cliff, one turns to the right, one will find an unofficial nude beach. As we climbed down the stairs, the 4th graders went running off ahead towards

Friday, April 8, 2016

Nothing

ghosts
spiderwebs
tangled
sticky
nothingness
in hair

"don't drink me," you said
while passing the bottle

Friday, March 25, 2016

It Is Finished...Oh REALLY???

It is finished.
Oh yes, O Lord?
It is finished.
I see.
What, exactly, is finished?
Your 33 years, I suppose.
This little ministry of yours
I suppose.
Your mother, perhaps, might be finished
   to watch this son from her womb
   to die like that
   To watch your child die at all.
It. Is. Finished.
   You say.
Oh yes?
   How quaint.
   How SWAY.
33 years and then you run off
   and get yourself killed