Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Giving Back

Usually the week after Christmas is down time for most clergy. After all the prep to make sure that people are able to spiritually celebrate Christmas, plus the stress of making sure that Christmas with our family is special, we are dead dog tired.

I'm already kind of there now but I'm still excited about Christmas and waking up on Christmas morning to see the joy on my kids faces as they see what we've given them.

I love this time of year because I get to give back to my kids without feeling like I'm spoiling them.

Of course, in reality, I probably am spoiling them. We are blessed with so much while other have so little.

So instead of taking next week as a week off, I'm assisting one of my churches (Sacred Tapestry) in a mission week. I don't suggest this for most pastors (especially lead pastors that really do need the break), but if someone in your church can lead this - its a great idea!

Starting on Sunday, Dec 26 we have a different mission activity each day. We're going to make soup kits for the food bank, gather canned goods, sort at the Atlanta Community food bank, landscape at the United Methodist Children's Home, cook and serve at Nicholas House, and gather pet food for the Humane Society.

I'm happy to have something to look forward to next week and it warms my heart that I'll be able to keep the warm fuzzy feelings of Christmas going for at least one week more as I can continue to be the giver that God wants us to be.

If you can join us, we'd love to have you!

Merry Christmas,

Rev. Shannon Karafanda

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Tale of Two Churches

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." The time of your life when you begin an exciting but possibly stressful adventure - the new job. In my case I've got double the excitement and double the stress. I'm the lucky one to be newly appointed to two churches as an Associate Pastor of Family Ministries. I split my time between them during the week and alternate Sundays.

Starting any new job has its ups and downs but these two have particular aspects that make them most unique:

The Worst of Times: (some of the challenges I'll face with this new appointment)

1) Are we there yet? Both churches are a good distance from my house. One is in Marietta and has the possibility for some major traffic jams. This week its taken me 45-60 minutes to get there. The other is in Cartersville and takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

2) Where am I? Keeping track of what church, what day, and who all the different names and faces are will force me to be mega-organized and to rely on my memory that may not be as sharp as it used to be after three kids.

3) What day off? Both of these churches are new churches (about two years old). Having worked at a new church before, I can tell you that it is a LOT of work. I'm sure both churches could fill up my working hours in a full time capacity but I'm only appointed part-time at each. I'm definitely going to have to delegate, equip others, and get used to saying "NO."

The Best of Times:
(the things I'm really gonna like)

1) Time to myself. I know the commute will get old sooner rather than later, but getting away from the kids and from work during the ride will be a welcome change. I plan to get a lot of praying done and to listen to my Bible on my iPod. It was during my commute to Buckhead, when I was a computer programmer, that I fleshed out my call to ministry so I'm hoping that this time alone will help me transform the world.

2) Variety. Sacred Tapestry and The Church at The Well are VERY different churches. Different from the church I grew up in and different from each other. I know that most people think that church is church so I won't go into details here but if you were to visit both you'd understand - we're not just thinking outside the box; we're shocked to find there was a box to start with and we're recycling it for better use.

3) Recalled to life. The main theme of Dickens' novel "A Tale of Two Cities" was resurrection. Many of his characters were given opportunities to have second chances and make their lives better. With each new church I go to, I look at it as an opportunity to take what I've learned and bring something new to the table. I get to flex my creative muscles and take things to a whole new level which intrigues me on a personal and professional level. By doing so, my goal is to enable people to experience a new life in Christ, to participate in His resurrection and transform the world. So honestly it matters not whether I'm part-time, full-time, or over-time, but whether I'm using the time God gives me to use the gifts He's given me. If I succeed in that, then I can say in the end "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."

If you are ever in Cartersville or Marietta visit me at The Well or Sacred Tapestry, but please remind me of your name (and which church I'm at if possible).

Until Everyone Hears,

Sunday, June 13, 2010


One of my favorite movies is Akeelah and the Bee. Against some major odds, Akeelah ends up going to the National Spelling Bee. The movies' themes center around love, support and coaching others, and overcoming loss. It is only through the help of others that Akeelah makes it as far as she does.

I'm having a very Akeelah and the Bee moment this week. I'm going to be ordained as a deacon in full-connection in the United Methodist Church. It is like many other milestones in my life in that it is both an ending of a long journey but also a beginning or continuation of another journey or calling.

In 1998, God told me to go and preach the gospel. It turned out He wasn't kidding. After 12 years of trying to convince Him otherwise, He's finally taught me that I'm in this for good. He's prepared me. He's equipped me. He's sustained me.

But it hasn't been just God but God working through others. So many people have been there along the way and I'd like to take this time to thank them all. So here goes...

Thanks to:

1) The people who said I couldn't do it. That's right. Every time someone said that I couldn't do this I began to doubt too. I told God - no. And each time, He showed me I could do this and made me even more determined to reach my goal.

2) The people who said I shouldn't do it. You know who you are. Thank you for helping research what I was getting myself into. It hasn't been and won't always be easy. I understand why you said that. But please understand that I'm following God's call and have been through a very thorough discerning process. I'm a big girl and I'm ready to roll.

3) To those who love me no matter what crazy thing I do. You are the ones that love me as God does - bad hair days and all. You helped watch my kids when I needed to study in seminary. You proofed papers for me knowing that I'm a spell checking nightmare. You sent me a message telling me to hang in there. You took me out to have fun to get away from things that were often too serious. You hugged me and cried with me when I needed to heal. You laughed with me so hard that I thought I might do bodily damage. I can't thank you enough.

"You know that feeling where everything feels right? Where you don't have to worry about tomorrow or yesterday, where you feel safe and know you're doing the best you can? There's a word for that, it's called love. L-O-V-E."

And it goes for me too - that's what I feel for all my friends, for all my family, for all my coaches. Thank you. Thank God. And celebrate this accomplishment with me. You deserve it!

Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

On the Eve of Commissioning

This post comes from Nancy R. Smith, a retired deacon and now pastor of Bridgton UMC in Bridgton, Maine. 

On the Eve of Commissioning as a Permanent Deaco

Consider the pot and the potter:

On this day before commissioning
this day of enjoying friends and marking time
and observing the community in which I have become a novice
Why can’t I be still
and allow the forming
and trust the process
And let God create the opening into my inner being?

Because making a pot or vessel involves
punching and pulling
and slapping and throwing –
Long before the shaping of the inner beauty.

And sometimes the potter must scoop up
all the waste and brokenness
and pound it into a big heap
And begin again.

And so, on the eve of commissioning
I sit in awe of the process thus far
And tremble in wonder at the formation yet to come.

What are you making of me, O God?
Why did you select this process for me?
For surely your call is not so much to do, or even to serve,
As to be – or rather, to become.

--© Nancy R. Smith June 8, 2001

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Next Step on the Journey

I really related to the last post on answering God's call. Like that author, I have been on a long (10 year) journey of answering the call to Deacon. I have completed this journey in fits and starts with times of great progress and others of stagnation...and yet God has been able to use all these experiences in the past 10 years to form me into the person I have been called to be.

As I face the culmination of one part of my journey--commissioning as a Deacon on June 15th--I realized that I am just taking the first steps on the next leg of this journey. I am blessed to have work both within the local church and in a job as a healthcare provider. I say blessed because I feel convicted that, for me, it is necessary to keep my feet in both worlds. This comes with its downsides, however. Sometimes I feel that I will be pulled into splits as I wrestle with the competing demands of two jobs with two very different agendas. And yet, I see how they are connected and united.

My call, I believe, is to help others see the unifying thread. I find myself explaining to the Board of Ordained Ministry and Bishop why my job as a healthcare provider is ministry and explaining to my healthcare co-workers why I will still be working as a healthcare provider instead of working full time in the church. I believe this is a great exercise for me to articulate my ministry as a Deacon, as well as an opportunity to educate people on the ministry of the Deacon.

I also feel so blessed to have a job as Minister of Spiritual Formation where I can use my gifts to journey with people in my congregation as they struggle to name how it is that they are called to live lives of discipleship. I hear so often how people want to have a discipleship that permeates their whole lives but they are unsure where to start. As someone who remains grounded in the "secular" world of work, I pray that I will model for them one way to live this out.

So here I am at the crossroads...I have completed the first part of this next step--graduation from seminary. Now it is Ready, Set, GO...for the next part of the journey. I pray that I will be a faithful disciple and Deacon as I move forward. Amen.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Running from God

This is the first in a series of bi-weekly posts by deacons across the U.S. (and hopefully the world).
This post comes from Shannon Karafanda's blog "Until Everyone Hears" (


Running from God

Twelve years ago I got a "call from God."  I put that in quotes because until you realize you've gotten one, you really think that a call from God is a bunch of baloney. But the reality is that God talks to all of us. Some of us are just smart enough to ignore the voice in our head, others are crazy enough to talk about them and have to seek help, and some are dumb enough to just listen to what's going on.

I'm one of the dumb ones. I've followed a call that has led me to ordination this June. For most people this call doesn't take 12 years. It is possible to do this in 6, but I've been running for part of the time. I like to run. Its good exercise and builds strength and endurance.

For those runners out there, here are my tips on how to run from God:

1) Wear good shoes. You can't really out run God so you need to take care of your feet. You'll be in this for a long time until you decide to run with God and at that point I hear Jesus is into pedicures so its not as important.

2) Get plenty of rest. This is really an exhausting process so be sure to re-energize yourself each night before you get back on the hamster wheel. Of course this advice works well when you decide to give into the call, but then its called a Sabbath.

3) Drink plenty of water. Water is essential for this kind of running. It keeps your mind focused on the task at hand - running from God. Plus its Biblical. Jonah was on a boat. Noah built a boat. Peter walked on water out of the boat. Andrew cast his net from a boat. You get the picture.

So I hope you all enjoy your training either running to the call or away from it. If you need any help deciphering which one you are doing, let me know.

Shannon Karafanda is a deacon in the North Georgia Annual Conference.  She currently serves in Families & Communications ministries.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Marginilization, Mission & Ministry

I’ve been thinking a lot about marginalization lately. It isn’t hard to do in my context. I attend seminary in an upper-middle class city. The majority of our students, faculty and staff are used to asking the question of what it means to be marginalized, and where our responsibilities should lie. We even have certain degree requirements that are meant to address marginalization. And yet, as well-intended as we may be, we still have a long way to go as a seminary community, particularly if we continue to address marginalization only from the comforts of our classrooms.

As a deacon candidate, I am thankful to get the opportunity to dialogue with deacons from all over the country. It took me years to discern my calling to the diaconate, and I count myself blessed to be in a place in which that questioning could occur. I was also glad to find out that this year’s topic for the Deacon Dialogue is “Opting for the Margins.” I am excited to hear about marginalization from others – from people who are in full-time ministry. I am also acutely aware of my own self in this topic. I identify myself as a quadruple minority in the United Methodist Church – A woman, young adult, Native American, pursuing the diaconate. In the last year or so I have often asked myself, “What am I still doing here?” According to statistics, I shouldn’t be here.

A few months ago, a dear friend of mine asked me what we do at our deacon meetings on campus. He was curious if it was a chance for the deacon candidates to get together and bash elders, and wondered if some students were choosing the diaconate to “be marginalized.” I assured him that we were not gathering to plot chaos for the church, but that we meet to learn from each other and try to understand our roles more clearly. His other concern – that people choose the diaconate to feel marginalized – has resonated deeper.

There are many ways that we can make ourselves victims. We can, and do, put ourselves in unhealthy situations professionally and personally. We can set ourselves up for failure if we don’t trust in the gifts that God has given us. We can remain in churches that continue to foster hostility and brokenness. We cannot, however, “choose to be a deacon” to become marginalized. As I have talked to deacons and deacon candidates the last few years, the strongest thing I am told is that this calling chooses them. It has nothing to do with replacing our mission with ourselves. Labeling a particular group of people as a “minority” does not mean that they must be marginalized.

If we are so concerned about being “othered” for its own sake, we are not being true to who God calls us to be, nor are we being true to those with whom we minister. We are not the subject here, and we can’t afford to neglect our responsibility in asking ourselves what—and who—is important in our ministries.

Today, I will not accept anyone telling me that I must be marginalized, or take actions that threaten my spirit. As a privileged people, we have a responsibility to those who do not have the power to speak for themselves. I sincerely hope that—through our “discussions,” questions and sharing together—we will learn what it means to be a source of hope for our hurting world. We are real people with real callings, and we want real transformation. It doesn’t mean we’ve got it all figured out, or that we ever will, but it does mean that we figure it out more faithfully together.