Love Thy Neighbor

Townhomes

My seminary boyfriend broke up with me just a few days before I was supposed to go house-hunting.  It was my senior year, and I had just accepted an exciting new call as an assistant rector.  A girlfriend of mine named Mary peeled me off the floor of my dorm room and insisted on driving me to look for houses in this town in which I had never visited, much less lived.  Moving away from all that I knew felt terrifying. Mary metaphorically held my hand while we visited apartment after apartment, until I found "the one."  The townhouse was brand new, painted a cheerful cream, in a somewhat Pleasantville-like neighborhood.  Mine was a sweet two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath, with a rent in the outer limits of what I could afford.

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Good Friday: A Service of Shadows and Stones

Rocks
Our congregation has used Taizé, Tenebrae, and narratives of the Passion in past Good Friday services. I grew up in a congregation that often used the 7 last words of Christ as a focal point. I wrote this liturgy to combine some of these elements, but also wanting to add some concrete way for people to respond. I came up with the idea of using stones: stones as worry stones; stones as weights; stones as symbols of altars built where people have an encounter with God; and stones as used in modern Judaism to leave at a grave site as a way to honor the memory of the deceased.

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Why College Chaplaincy?

An Imaginary dialogue between a college student and her chaplain.

Student: Chaplain
Kate, I have to interview someone for my First Year Seminar class. Would you mind if I asked you a few
questions?

Chaplain: That sounds
fine to me. What are you researching? 

S: Well, we were supposed to interview a professional woman
about her job. I was kinda curious about
why you are a chaplain so I thought I’d ask you, if that’s okay, that is…um,
well, and if you have time…

C: That sounds good
to me. I’ve got some spare time
now. Ask away.

S: So why are you a chaplain?

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Not What You Might Expect

After a long pause in our conversation,
I suppose that he felt the need to ask another question.  I was
inclined toward hanging up.  The conversation had been annoying
thus far.  I didn’t see the potential for improvement.

“So, what’s your favorite movie?”

It is probably best that this was
a phone conversation so he couldn’t see my eyes roll with the exasperated
gesture that accompanied it.  He asked this exact question three
times – in our three previous phone conversations. The fates hadn’t
aligned as his first email contact arrived in my Match.com inbox days
before Christmas. Though he was heading out of town to see family,
my schedule was more of a nightmare. Our casual emails drifted as New
Year’s arrived. We had graduated to the phone by then. It was clumsy.
And yet, our conversations had always had this tone of silence.

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The Fake Search

Recently,
at a local governing board meeting, the chair of a search committee presented
his candidate before the governing body with the words, “We really did have a
real search.” I sat
back in my pew, folded my arms, and rolled my eyes, because we all knew the
truth. It was just another sham.

Have
you ever fallen prey to the fraudulent pastoral search? Do you know what I’m
talking about? Between my husband and me, we’ve been caught up in it. I
hate to say just how many times.

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Forbidden love

I’m in love!

Oh, don’t get too excited.  I’m not in love with anyone I’ve actually met. . .or am likely to meet.  This love is a secret love, which is something juicy for me to savor.  I’m not telling many people and definitely not telling members of my congregation.  They are very kind to me, but I think they would find this love of mine polarizing. 

Yes, that’s right, I’m in love with a politician.  A candidate, actually.  A candidate for President.  And I can’t tell ANYONE!  I want to shout my love from the rooftops, proclaim it in the pulpit, but I also don’t want the IRS breathing down my neck.  I feel very strange being in this position.  I used to love politics.  As a kid, I made my own campaign buttons out of card stock and contact paper.  But the last few years, politics has been so stressful, so filled with vitriol and betrayal and power grabbing that I just haven’t been able to bear participating.

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Moments of Silence

I miscarried very, very early after I became pregnant for the first time. For one brief evening, my husband and I were naively dumbfounded and excited by the potential of a new baby in our lives. The next morning, I began showing symptoms of a miscarriage. Within a few days, we knew what we had hoped for was not going to happen. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings I experienced, but I can say that one emotion seemed to outweigh all the others—shame. I feared I had done something to cause the miscarriage. I felt as if I had failed somehow. I felt ashamed for feeling ashamed.

At the time, my husband and I were each new pastors serving little
rural congregations 13 miles apart. I was vehement about keeping this
news from our congregations. I already felt like I was living on
display; to be that vulnerable with our parishioners (and,
subsequently, two small towns) was unthinkable for me. I didn’t want
our painful situation to be some entertaining news for the early
morning coffee group at the local café. I protected myself fiercely,
and soon found myself feeling increasingly isolated and alone (at a
time when I was already feeling isolated and alone).

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Long Road Home: Music by Stacey Midge

We young clergy women are a multi-talented bunch. (Do you sculpt? sew? shoot photos? string words together? We want to hear from you.)

You’ve read Stacey Midge’s witty articles for Single Rev’s Guide to Life. Did you know she is also a musician? Click below to hear her play "Long Road Home":

 

Note: Since the Christ and Creativity column is less discussion oriented, we will be closing comments each month. However, if you’d like to offer feedback to the artists we feature, please contact the Christ and Creativity editor, MaryAnn McKibben Dana, at creativity(dot)ycw(at)gmail(dot)com.

Love the One You’re With (Er… Yourself)

After services one Sunday, I walked into the sacristy to thank the altar guild for their work. The acting altar guild chair said those words we all long to hear: "Are you tired? Because you look really tired." I was, in fact, really tired. I hadn’t taken a day off in nearly a month.

I hadn’t meant to not take a day off. It just happened. What with a diocesan convention here, a religious arts festival there, some pastoral care emergencies, Lenten planning, and of course, the weekly parade of bulletins, committee meetings, and sermons, it had just been easier to keep going. For me, taking time off sometimes feels like one more thing on the never-ending to-do list.

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Holy Housework

The work of Lent is something of a spiritual house-cleaning: whether it involves organizing a back closet, bringing out and discarding things that need to go, adding something beautiful to a room, making space for a new guest. Hard work, but it sounds so beautiful when it’s something done in your heart and soul.

But in the midst of all that spiritual work, the everyday work of dusting, scrubbing and organizing real rooms doesn’t go away. This month, we bring you a sermon that reminds how this, too, is a spiritual pursuit.

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