Did You Really Just Say That?

Ministers are often the recipients of odd and not entirely appropriate
comments, so most of us get used to putting on our unfazed faces and
playing along.  However, there are limits.  I have to admit that my
professional poise slipped a bit when a leering photographer at a
wedding I was officiating leaned over and whispered that I had “great
legs for a minister.”  Aside from being unsure whether that was really
a compliment, I felt speechlessly awkward, as though both my person and
my vocation had been somehow violated.  In another kind of workplace,
this would have been considered sexual harassment; for a minister, the
recourse is not so clear.  When so much of our ministry depends on
hospitality and graciousness, when and how do we draw the line? 

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Whose Hair Is It, Anyway?

Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God
with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if
a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long
hair, it is a glory to her?
(1 Corinthians 11:13-15a)
Ah, hair. Who knew the collection of threads growing out of our heads could be the source of such contemplation and consternation! Nearly
every young clergy woman I know has had at least several conversations
with herself and others about what her hair means both to her and her congregation.

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The Light of Christ

OK, so it was a cheesy children’s sermon anyway. Though most children’s sermons—or at least the ones I give—come that way, this was particularly so. But it was Easter—my first ordained Easter!—so amidst all the preparations for Holy Week services, and especially my much-anticipated Easter sermon, I grabbed the first half-decent object lesson I found. At least the adults would like it.

For $2.99 I bought a foam brick at a craft store and stuck candles in.There were regular candles on the left and right, and a trick candle smack dab in the middle. When it came time in the service I marched to the front of the chancel and confidently called, “I would like to invite all the children to join me for the children’s sermon.”

“The Bible says that Jesus is the light of the world,” I told the children, pulling out my brick. “The light shining in the darkness.” I took out a match and lit the middle candle. “But do you know what happened to Jesus on the cross?” The tiny hands of our three budding theologians shot into the air.

“Jesus died on the cross!” shouts Susie smiling. Read more

A State of The Young Clergy Women Project Update

I suppose January is as good of time as any to take stock in an organization’s progress. Annual meetings dot the calendars of churches, college presidents reassure alumni and alumnae with updates, and the United States president interrupts prime time television with his State of the Union address.

Sadly, there is no potluck luncheon following this address, but happily, there will also be no democratic and republican reactions, either.

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Body Beautiful

I struggle
with the notion of embodied faith, not because I don’t like the idea, but
because I don’t like my body. My body is
a place of deep imperfection and frustration. It’s never thin enough, perky enough, cute enough, strong enough, or
beautiful enough.

As the chaplain
to a small women’s college my misperceptions of my own body rise to the surface
on a regular basis. My day-to-day
actions set an example for the women around me. The amount of rest I get, my fitness level, my stress level, and my
eating habits are of as much interest to the students as my theological
knowledge or spiritual well being. We often imagine that the minds of small
children are like little sponges, absorbing everything around them, and assume
that by college age this formation is done. But college students are much the same, soaking up the adult world
around them, trying on identities to determine which ones might fit. I know that just as they try on the personas
of the other students, they will also try on my identity to see if it mirrors
what they would like to be themselves. I
would hate to find out that my body issues reinforced or supported the same self-loathing
behavior in anyone else.

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Breastfeeding as Spiritual Practice

The mother can lay her child tenderly to her breast, but our tender Mother Jesus can lead us easily into his blessed breast through his sweet open side, and show us there a part of the godhead and of the joys of heaven, with the inner certainty of endless bliss (Ibid. 239).

When my husband and I signed up for our labor and delivery classes at Meriter Hospital, I looked forward to these sessions with both excitement and trepidation.  It was unfortunate that we missed the last class, which was on breastfeeding.  I never really thought it would be a big deal.  After all, my mother never had any problems, and I knew women had been doing this for ages.  The thought of taking a class on a "natural" biological event seemed a bit strange.

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Storytime; We Crucified: Poems

Before we get to today’s offering…

Are you a writer, poet or visual artist? Do you play around with photography or paint? We want to hear from you!

Each month this column features new work by and/or for young clergy women. For more information about what we’re looking for, click here.

And now, on to this month’s feature…

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Mom, Please Stop Vacuuming the Red Carpet

I am a bit of a curiosity in town. I know this, and if I go out wearing the collar, I now expect it: cordial smiles from the nuns and nurses at the Catholic retirement home, curious stares from many people, trying to figure out if I should be called "Father" or "Sister" or something else entirely, nods of bewildered greeting from all manner of people on the street, from policeman to punk rocker wanna-be. All in all, it’s usually a much more positive reaction than I would get in some other regions of the country and the world. And it’s not so bad, most of the time.

But what I didn’t expect is what happened to my parents on the other side of the country. In my hometown, they have become minor celebrities.

Because nobody else has a pastor for a daughter.

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Do You Want to Be Made Well?

“Do you want to be made well?”

What an Ash Wednesday question.
On a day where we traditionally hear about our own sinfulness
and are faced with our own mortality,
“to dust you shall return,”
what a question to consider.

Of course we want to be made well. Of course we do. Duh.

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The Conversation

Oh, The Conversation. We’ve all had it. It’s a vocational hazard of being a female pastor. It often begins with the uncomplicated question, "What do you do?" But we just don’t have an uncomplicated answer, do we? Not only are there people who don’t know women can be ministers; there are also plenty of folks who believe women shouldn’t be ministers.

In the time since my ordination, I’ve gotten a better at navigating The Conversation in all its permutations. A lot of practice and a little bit of confidence go a long way. I try to be gracious and understanding and educational, but sometimes I wish I could just be feisty. Recently, a guy came to do an estimate for some work in the parsonage. He knew it was a parsonage, so when I opened the door to let him in, he asked, "Are you the pastor’s wife?" I politely explained that no, I am the pastor, but I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to retort, "Are you the sub-contractor’s husband?"

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