Post Author: Stacey Midge
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the flash of the simple, silver cross I usually wear when preaching. Just before I slipped out the door, I swear I heard it whisper, “Remember, you’re still a minister.” As if I could possibly forget!
It wasn’t that I planned to do anything scandalous. I’ve never really been one to lose control of myself. You won’t find my bra hanging above a bar or spy me stumbling down the street with a stranger in the wee hours of the morning. However, what is a minister to do on those nights when you’d just like to go out, have fun, and maybe even meet someone? Is a minister even allowed to be “on the prowl?”
The formula for other women our age seems to be: wear as little clothing as possible, be prepared to remove even more if called upon to do belly shots or dance on bars, and shake your booty at every opportunity. I like to burn up the dance floor as much as the next girl, but the rest sounds like a recipe for a quick loss of both dignity and job.
The adjective “single” usually implies some level of openness if not desire to meet someone, be it for a long-term relationship or just a brief flirtation. I hear from my single friends that good people are hard to find regardless of your vocation. It just adds fun to the search when your answer to the standard “What do you do for a living?” question causes people to fall off their bar stools, right? The current dating game in our culture just was not designed to be minister-friendly. Not only is the usual bar scene behavior out of the question; other typical ways of meeting people can also end up getting us in trouble. Can you imagine the the potential fallout if a parishioner discovered their minister’s profile on an online dating service?
Still, all hope is not lost. Single, young clergywomen may have to wrestle circumstances a bit to have a social life, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I still take my fabulous, fully clothed self to bars (even when the mirror gives a less positive report). I even meet great people there, although I acquire many more friends than dates. I realize that the bar scene isn’t for everyone. It’s riskier professionally for some clergy, and simply awkward for others. The key for me is that I’m comfortable there, having spent several years on the other side of the bar.
I can hardly claim to be the expert on developing The Relationship, but it seems to me that it helps to meet people in general – which is a good idea for building a holistic, balanced life anyway. The more people you know, the more people you have the possibility of meeting. We’re most likely to meet people – and have something to talk to them about – when we’re in a comfortable setting. For me, comfortable usually means live music, a sociable pub, or a combination of the two. For others, comfortable might be an art or language class, a book or motorcycle club, or an online chat room or dating service managed discreetly from your living room.
Comfortable also means that wherever you take your fabulous self, you take your whole self – including your minister self. This isn’t a vocation we put on and take off at will. The mantle stays on even when the stole is removed. Sometimes this can feel a bit stifling, but it can also be freeing. When I embrace the fact that I just am who I am, minister and all, I often find that ministry and “normal life” intersect in some unexpected and wonderful ways. That is, of course, what it means to be not only a minister but a Christian: that the Gospel becomes incarnate in us, wherever we go and whatever we do.
One of the basic difficulties of life in our society for many people, just not ministers, is developing strong, healthy relationships of all kinds. Dating and just making friends is challenging for ministers. However, I am convinced that the good news is embodied through us when we integrate our faith and calling into all aspects of our lives, especially the difficult ones! Damaged and broken relationships are so prevalent in our culture that I can imagine few aspects of life more in need of good news. Perhaps we can even be the ones to bring it.
Rev. Stacey Midge is ordained in the Reformed Church in America and ministers in Schenectady, New York.
Image by: Anvesh Reddy
Used with permission