It’s that time of year: Christmas. And as clergy, we are often tasked with making sure everyone else’s Christmas goes perfectly. Sometimes, that means we forget about our own Christmases. In the spirit of giving (and preparing, re: Advent), here is a list of 10 things to do as we get closer to Christmas. Whether this is your very first ordained Christmas or your 20th, I’m sure you’ll find something here.

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Dear Askie,

It’s been a wild couple of months at my call; two staff members have taken new jobs, leaving me (as lead pastor) to fill their roles. I don’t know where to start, as I’ve never had to hire anyone before! Any tips or tricks to help make this process a little smoother? 

Sincerely,
Help Me Hire

A decorative image of a megaphone and the text "We're hiring!"
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A decorative photo of a pregnant white woman wearing a clergy shirt with collar, taken from the neck down.

Dear Young Clergywoman,

My pastor just announced to our congregation that she is pregnant. We are all very excited for her, but we also haven’t been in this situation before. What tips do you have for celebrating this news with her? What would be helpful? What should we avoid? 

Thank you!

-An Excited Congregant

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Dear Askie,

I have just accepted a new call! It’s very exciting but also very sad. You see, I’m leaving my current call after almost eight years. I love the people, and we have done some amazing things together. I want to leave well—for me and for them—but I am not really sure how to do that. I need to start telling people and planning for my transition. But I feel really stuck. Help! 

Thanks,
Leaving and Confused

The words "Goodbye," "Thank you," and "Hello" are in displayed in neon blue and pink against a dark backround.
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When does a pastor have the “period” talk with her parishioners? Second Timothy 1:7 proclaims, “God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” But I’ve still been wrestling with this question as a novice pastor serving a small town, rural community along the East Coast. My congregation, which according to their own profile, is “old, white, and conservative,” has never called a woman under the age of 35 to serve as their pastor, let alone one who is ambiguously nestled within the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) community. They chose “unanimously” to become a Reconciling in Christ Community. But many of my parishioners have become disturbed by my sudden erratic mood swings and general snarkiness during certain weeks over others. 

 

You see, I am a pastor, and I bleed. My menstrual cycle has always been unpredictable; however, it became downright fickle when I became an ordained pastor. During the Lockdown of 2020, my period completely stopped: sometimes, bodies cease menstruating to prevent childbearing during crisis. I didn’t actually mind this year-and-a-half reprieve from bleeding, as I had more than enough on my mind during 2020 up until the middle of 2021. However, during the winter of 2021, I was given the opportunity to visit with my family and friends after two years! Something about being with women my own age in addition to being with people I did not need to be pastoral towards triggered something from within. I had life burning in me again, and so I began to preach with fire. My parishioners, most of whom are 60 and older, thought that I had gone crazy making such bold proclamations during worship. Under the guise of caring for my well-being, they contacted my manager, the Bishop and Synod Office, to correct my unwanted behavior as opposed to speaking to me directly about their concerns.

 

During the lockdown, when I wasn’t bleeding, I was able to provide the bright and scintillating persona that they have come to expect in their pastors, all of whom have been white, male, and much older. I have discovered that in addition to my sheer “otherness,” there is a level of terse ennui found among the older folks in my congregation about how to deal with someone old enough to be their granddaughter. 

 

There is a wide array of curiosities among many of my parishioners about my more feminine idiosyncrasies. Many of them demand in the privacy of their homes over tea, “What is to be done about this most irreverent Reverend?” Yes, collar yanking does come with the call to some degree, but we are living in the twenty-first century, are we not? No one has the right to gatekeep anyone else’s body or personhood, not even our parishioners, well-meaning and intended as they may think they are being to us poor little lost lambs who have the audacity to become Shepherdesses in “their churches.” The kingdom of God is open to us all, which includes those of us with the “Red Tide” also known as “Aunt Flo.” It seems that everyone is divided on what should be best practices concerning this internal time marker that our Creator so humorously placed inside of those in possession of a functioning womb. 

 

Regardless of what is a Christ-centered, incarnational call to God, there are corporate realities that make communities of faith very uncomfortable. No one taught me how to handle such conversations in seminary. Naturally feeling disempowered and embarrassed, I took to YCWI for further counsel. As our Scripture writes, “I look to you for help, O Lord God. You are my refuge. Don’t let them slay me” (Psalm 141:8). Naturally, the psalmist didn’t have “Les Anglais ont debarqué” in mind when this wisdom was passed down.

 

Menstruation may forever be a taboo subject, even though it is the most natural thing to happen to those of us currently in possession of it. I am proud to be a Called and Ordained Minister in the Church of Jesus Christ. My “period” comes with my call, and one day, so will menopause, which is a natural process of aging for our sisters who have been blessed with the gift of time. I am not ashamed of being a woman who has been called for such a time as this when I can serve the God who created me in Their Divine Image along with each and every person who was and is and is to be born. 

 

I suppose that a better question to ask right now is a practical one. If our “period” is indeed both a blessing and a curse, then why shouldn’t we as clergywomen be talking about it with the people who claim that “All Are Welcome”?

 

Resources to Educate Yourselves and Support:

Days for Girls Challenge: https://www.daysforgirls.org/ 

Endometriosis Support: https://www.endocenter.org/ 

Daughter of the original post’s author, Joanna D’Agostino

One of the reasons Young Clergy Women International exists is to offer a space for young clergy women to seek support, share ideas, and build community. Last week one of us posed this question in our Facebook group:

I need some help preparing for confrontational conversations.

AKA: Help me Boss Up.

 

She went on to describe the challenge of approaching and responding to people in our congregations who offer criticisms without solutions or any expressions of gratitude woven in. Like many of us, she often folds under pressure, apologizes for things that aren’t her fault, or offers compromises that complicate the church’s work. Like many of us, she is doing intentional work to stop apologizing for things that she’s not sorry for and to stop giving away power to people whose behavior is inappropriate.

To help her with that, she started a list of phrases to keep with her as reminders of ways she can respond in difficult conversations. She asked the group to provide additional ideas.

It struck a chord. Along with adding wisdom and suggestions, many people commented that they were saving the list of phrases to come back to. The editors of Fidelia would like to share this list of collective wisdom.

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So, you want to be an ally? Wonderful!

To start, let’s clear up a couple of things. First, ally is not a term we get to give ourselves. It is one given to us by communities to whom we are proximate, and with whom we are in solidarity and doing the work. I actually prefer the term co-conspirator or comrade. There is something active in those terms that I like. After all, being an ally is an action and not an identity. Second, the A in LGBTQIA+ (sometimes LGBTQ+ for short) is not for Ally. It’s for our Asexual and Aromantic siblings.**

June marks the beginning of pride month. It is a sacred time in the calendar for the LGBTQ+ community. Every year I get asked some variation of the question, “How do I be a better ally to queer and trans folks?” I love that folks are invested in supporting our community, and every movement needs good co-conspirators. To that end, here are ten tips.

1. Get in the game. Silence is a choice. To quote the public transportation slogan, “If you see something, say something.” When you choose not to enter into a conversation or raise your voice when one of us is being harmed, you speak much more loudly than you realize. You communicate that you do not care about us. Speak out when harm is being done but also just because you can. If it feels hard for you to advocate for our communities with cranky Aunt Ida, imagine how it feels to a young, transgender teenager who is trying to come out, because staying in the closet is killing them. Most of all, fight for us, and speak up when we aren’t there to see you do it. What you do when we aren’t in the room is perhaps the most telling of all.

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Dear Askie,

I think God is calling me to ministry! I never realized what a long and involved process it’s going to be to become a pastor. And did you know that even with a seminary degree, ordination isn’t guaranteed??? I was shocked to find out there are so many things I have to do! And so many people I have to impress and convince that they should ordain me! Do you have any advice for me?

Thanks,
Ordination Discerner

 

Dear Discerner,

Congratulations! Discernment is a wonderful thing. Everyone, everywhere should do it more often. Indeed the world would be a better place if we all endeavored to more fully align our will with God’s Dream for our lives on a regular basis. Blessings to you as you seek to explore God’s call to ordained ministry in your denomination. I hope this journey will be enriching and lead to a place of joy and fulfillment, whether that is serving God and the Church through ordination or as a baptized Christian. I have a number of years of experience working with people in ordination process (+ the additional years of my own process). Out of those experiences, I would like to offer some practical advice. I have noticed that sometimes people make missteps in the process, and I would like to assume that is most often due to a lack of education about process and expectations. Therefore, here is some friendly advice, with the caveat that this is just one person’s perspective and is neither an exhaustive list, nor one that will work or apply in all contexts and situations. Nonetheless, hopefully it will be helpful. Read more

Bible being held by two hands up in air, in the midst of a crowd
Bible being held by two hands up in air, in the midst of a crowd

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Dear Askie,

As a Young Clergy Woman who serves a mostly-progressive Christian congregation, I find myself constantly frustrated by requests for collaboration or rental of our building space from more conservative Christian organizations whose theology radically differs from our own. How might I compassionately but firmly explain our church’s unwillingness to partner with these organizations based on their oftentimes exclusive stances on women’s rights, LBGTQIA+ rights, difference of ability, etc.?

-Frustrated

 

Dear Frustrated,

Askie generally exercises caution in using the labels “progressive” and “conservative” as catch-all terms. For example, it is possible to be both socially progressive and fiscally conservative. At the same time, Askie understands your dilemma and hopes the following template provided by Fidelia Writer in Residence Andrea Roske-Metcalfe will be helpful to you in responding to unsolicited requests.

All best wishes,
Askie

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Dear Askie,

I’ve been really shocked and saddened lately by so many of my female colleagues, friends, and parishioners posting #metoo online with their stories of sexual abuse and harassment. I knew such things happened, but I had no idea how widespread this problem really was. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this kind of behavior in Hollywood or Washington, D.C., but it’s deeply upsetting how many of these experiences seem to have happened in churches. We have trainings and policies to protect children and youth in the church, but it seems like so many of my younger female colleagues have experienced abuse both by other pastors and by parishioners. What can we do to protect them as well as female parishioners? As a middle-aged male pastor, what can I do to address this problem? I want to be an ally, but I don’t even know where to start.

Signed,
Overwhelmed by the Stories

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