Post Author: Amanda Mackey
“I’m a bat!” No, I wasn’t flying around in the middle of the night. Those were the first words I uttered when I found myself hanging upside down from a trapeze bar. A seminary friend had invited me to take an aerial arts class with him at a studio called Sky Candy, and though I had no idea what I was getting into, I agreed. The class exposed us to different aerial apparatuses: silks, lyra, the static trapeze, and the hammock. Now, I don’t consider myself an acrobat. I am a tap-dancing, yoga-doing theatre kid – activities that are done right-side-up, standing on your feet. For the first part of the class, I didn’t really enjoy anything. Then, we got to the static trapeze. The static trapeze was unlike anything I had ever done before. Hanging upside down, I loved it, and I was up for the challenge. After the first class, I knew I wanted to continue. It turns out “being a bat” was exactly what I needed at the time.
By the end of my senior year of seminary, I performed in the student showcase at my studio and had found two amazing coaches to work with. I had the opportunity to train with Elsie Smith, the founder of the New England Center for Circus Arts, and former Cirque Du Soleil performer. Post-graduation, I continued to train back at home in Kansas City while looking for my first call. While I had many typical requirements one considers when searching for a call, I might be the only pastor whose primary requirements included a city that had a studio with trapeze. My aerial arts classes came up in conversations with search committees as I interviewed. People were constantly surprised and found it an interesting hobby. When I arrived at Germantown Presbyterian Church last October, I was thrilled to find out that there was an aerial arts studio in Memphis with a trapeze.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” This quote echoed in my mind as I learned how to climb to the top of a warehouse on a silk, or when I learned how to balance on the trapeze bar on my stomach. One of the biggest blessings of being able to continue my training in aerial arts while being a pastor is that it allows me to refocus so that I can bring my best self to work. Aerial arts classes have allowed me to push myself outside my comfort zone. They have given me the opportunity to meet all different types of people, and to challenge myself both physically and mentally. When I’m on the trapeze, I must be constantly present in the moment. There is no time to think theologically or daydream when I am hanging by my ankles in the ropes. It is a time of Sabbath, to let go of stress and focus, fully and completely, on the moves that I’m working on. My aerial arts classes have enabled me to conquer my fears, take risks, and be completely present. They have made me a better pastor.
Being a pastor who is also a “bat” has certainly made people see me in a different light. There have been a few awkward moments, of course, such as the time I walked into a staff meeting with my hands wrapped in athletic tape, and had to explain that I had trapeze-related injuries. But it makes me pretty cool to all of the youth I work with. Many of them have asked me to have a trapeze workshop during youth group so they can try out aerial arts for themselves. Ultimately, being a “bat” means that outside of the robe and the stole on Sunday morning, I’m also an athlete and an artist – all in the light of day.
Rev. Amanda Mackey is an ordained PC(USA) Minister. She is the Associate Pastor of Youth Ministries at Germantown Presbyterian Church in Germantown, TN. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Simpson College. She has served churches in Kansas, Texas, and North Carolina. In her spare time, she enjoys aerial arts classes, reading, theatre, cooking, and exploring the city of Memphis.
Image by: Daniel B. Williams
Used with permission