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Candles lit for Advent

Lighting the Candles without Fitting the Mold

Candles lit for Advent

Candles lit for Advent

A few years ago, I inherited the task of assigning Advent candle lighters for our church. For as long as anyone could remember, nuclear family units had been assigned each week’s readings and scriptures. Parents would help children to light the matches and teenagers would read the apocalyptic texts with gusto.

But there had been a pastoral transition, and the Advent wreath liturgy suddenly fell to me. I remembered my own small hurt the year before when I realized with a certain start that I, a single woman in my thirties, wouldn’t qualify for this particular liturgical responsibility in our community. Then I started thinking about all the other people in our congregation who might be feeling that particular sting of being left out.

I thought about the handful of elderly widowers, so desperate for human touch that they doled out bone-crushing hugs to anyone who’d let them. I thought about the divorced man with partial custody of his young son, a schedule that made committing to anything at church together nearly impossible. I thought of the recently retired school teacher, never married, and the ways her depths of wit and wisdom filled a dozen important roles and relationships but who was never asked to light a candle in anticipation of Christ’s coming.

And then, after I thought about these particular people who might be sharing the twinges of alienation like I was, I started thinking about all the people in scripture that we’d be leaving out of our Advent liturgy if they happened to show up here in church some twenty-first-century Sunday morning.

The list of single people who get enlisted for world-shaking roles in scripture is long and fascinating: Read more

Flying Solo

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The author on one of her solo adventures

During my mid- to late-twenties, I went through a phase: Everywhere I went, I met Scottish people. I even found some in Mexico at an all-inclusive resort where my mom and I were vacationing. Every time I met Scots, I thought, “These are my people.” And they all assured me that I was right, and that I really should come over and see the place that produced all these fantastic folk. I absolutely believed them.

But whenever I tried to plan a trip, none of my friends had the money to travel internationally, or no one could get the time off work. I had done my fair share of solo domestic travel, including lots of long-haul driving across broad swaths of the U.S., but my international travel had always been a group thing.

At the end of my twenties, however, I had become restless. On my thirtieth birthday, I decided to do a bunch of things that would just make me really happy, so I got a new tattoo, played a gig with my band, and sat in with some musician friends at their later show. Then I came home, summoned up the horrible dial-up internet in my parsonage, and booked a flight to Glasgow. That trip ended up being a transition for me in more ways than one, as I soon accepted a new call and used my journey as the break between the old church and the new. Read more

Still the Single Rev

5935864125_f8ae383332_bI was 25 when I graduated from seminary and was ordained. My first position was as a chaplain at a small college, where I was routinely mistaken for a student. To me, the four years between my own undergraduate studies and my chaplaincy work represented an enormous gap in both age and experience. But to the students, staff, and faculty around me, the difference was invisible. It rankled when students hit on me, and even more when faculty dismissed me. Realistically, I realize now, the age difference between the students and me was practically non-existent; one of the students in the introductory theology course I taught was older than I was.

During the first several years of my full-time ministry, it seemed like someone was always telling me I was young. Read more