For a two-part series in February and March we interviewed single revs from across the country. They serve in various denominations and settings and their answers are varied and complex. February’s questions focused on “Life as the Single Rev” and March’s questions focus on “Sex and the Single Rev.”
1. Do you view yourself as a sexual being? How do you embrace that and perhaps redefine what sexuality means?
Single Rev #1: I definitely see myself as a sexual being. But even before I was clergy I struggled to find healthy ways to live out that reality. And unfortunately, adding the layer of being a pastor on top of that struggle makes things even more complicated.
Single Rev #2: This is a hard question for me to answer. I view myself as a sexual being, but feel very much outside of the conversation at times. Can I be a sexual being without ever engaging in sexual intimacy? As a single woman, it is a gift that belongs to me alone; it is something that I own proudly and that I honor myself by guarding. My sexuality is mine for the time being, and it remains a source of strength and power, even in its purity.
Single Rev #3: God made me and my body. Each of us are fearfully and wonderfully made and that includes each part of us, including our sexuality. Just because our body is good doesn't mean that everything our body does is good though. As I understand Scripture, sex is to be blessed, celebrated, and enjoyed inside of marriage. Chastity is not necessarily just a "no" to sex, but a "yes" to striving to be faithful in following God's design of life and hence to flourish there. That doesn't mean I don't want sex, just that I choose to abstain because of my commitment to God and also to my community.
Single Rev 4: I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian tradition and the message I was always taught was that sex was something bad and dangerous that is to be avoided until you’re married, then it’s magically okay. And for the longest time, until I was well into my 20s, sex pretty much equaled sexuality for me. Through conversations with good friends in the last few years, I’ve started to see and embrace myself as a sexual being; that God has created my sexuality as a part of who I am just as much as my personality, my physicality, my intelligence, gifts/talents, etc. It is not a bad part of who I am, something I need to fight to suppress or beat myself up over, rather sexuality is something to be embraced, an integral part of who I’m created to be, not just what I choose to do.
2. What does dating look like for you? How do dates react when they find out your profession? How do you handle it?
Single Rev 2: Dating is a challenge. Mostly because I am picky beyond belief. Some people think that this is foolishness on my part, and that someday I will really regret it. That is not how I feel about it in my spirit, however. I feel quite content and satisfied in my singleness. Most men cannot handle my career, many are intimidated – but there might just be one out there who can, and I think I am worthy of a man like that. Someone who can help me to be more fully who I am and who I can do the same for, rather than someone who needs to change or diminish me in order to feel comfortable.
Single Rev 4: I’ve dated a variety of men: younger, older, various ethnicities, various careers, and sometimes varying religious perspectives. Some I’ve met through online dating, some in person, and some through friends. I will admit to getting increasingly frustrated at the stereotypes some men (and many people in general) have about people for whom faith is important, especially ministers. I get all kinds of questions: Are you allowed to drink? Are you allowed to date? Can I cuss around you? Are you allowed to have sex? (I mean, would you ask that of any other person you just met?) Is it so hard to find a man who is not only cool with me being a pastor, but likes that about me and is someone with whom I genuinely share common values and beliefs?
3. If you could write an article about “being the single rev and sex” what angle would you take?
Single Rev 1: I'd love to write an article that talks about human sexuality in a healthy way that is inclusive of clergy. Clergy in progressive churches often preach about God affirming the range of human sexuality yet I suspect we neglect to include ourselves in that range. In this article I might acknowledge the reality that clergy are indeed sexual being and that our sexuality is not excluded from God's affirmation.
Single Rev 4: I think it would have to be that reverends are people too! Yes, I’m a reverend, working full-time for a church, but I’m also a single, 30-something year-old woman who wants to date and eventually get married. I have wants, needs, and desires just like any other single or married woman my age does. Just because I’m a minister (or a Christian, for that matter) doesn’t make me more holy than anyone else or mean that the sexuality part of my brain and body is somehow mysteriously turned off because I’m serving God in a more public way than many people. When I date someone, I want to express my feelings through physical intimacy just like any other woman would. God created me as a sexual being and I believe that I should express that.
4. Do people in your congregation/denomination have certain expectations of sexuality for you?
Single Rev 2: I think that people are troubled that they do not know whether or what kind of sexual activity I engage in or prefer. I think that some wonder if I am hiding something – whether that be a personal sexual life or one that is outside of the heterosexual expectations of my denomination. I think that it is a sad state of affairs, but congregations still prefer a man with a wife and 2.5 children; everything fits, all the questions are answered. People like me don’t fit the mold and bring up questions that don’t have easy answers. People like me force the church to think. Just by calmly and confidently being who we are, we challenge people’s expectations, assumptions and priorities.
Single Rev 3: This would be an interesting poll to take! While I believe the majority of my congregation would expect me to live as a chaste person, I don't believe they expect me to be a nun. Many of them encourage me to date and go out and meet people. Though the majority falls into Camp Chastity, there are a few who have voiced wishes to drive by my house and see "an unfamiliar car parked in your driveway overnight…if you know what I mean."
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