Living and Loving in Limbo

by Phoebe Jones

Seminary did a very good job at teaching me that it would be really
hard—nay, impossible—to date anybody as a young clergywoman.  “Don’t
even get your hopes up,” should have been printed on my diploma.  I,
like many others, saw the flood of seminary classmates rushing down the
aisle before heading off on internship or to their first church.  It
was not difficult to conclude that my chances of finding a rewarding
relationship would plummet with the laying on of hands at ordination.

Now, fortunately I wasn’t very good at the dating thing and didn’t mind
living alone, so it didn’t seem like a huge deal.  I’d just experienced
the ending of a relationship gone sour, so was feeling particularly
inept at that kind of partnership.  I also happen not to be a person
who has always craved children or a husband.  So, it was kind of a bum
deal, but I had accepted and come to terms with the likelihood that I
would be a lifelong singleton.

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You Are With Me

She laughs–the wide mouthed, toothless grin of a first smile.  Her nostrils flare.  A pink, elastic, bow encircles her bald head.  Her thumb aims towards her mouth, finding her hands still a new trick.  The day she died, they held a birthday party for the first birthday she’d never have.  I ran about trying to find a small cake, candles, and the birthday poster her mother requested. 

Another picture, wispy blond hair brushes a smooth forehead, glitter bedecked lips part, she is looking up towards someone, mom perhaps, a favorite toy.  The top of her princess dress frames her neck, and I know it spins around her legs in a dizzy dance.  She was buried with a tiara.  I’m in the next picture; a small boy and I grin at the camera.  He is dressed in camouflage pajamas.  His eyes are bright.  A tube is taped across his cheek and goes down his nose, into his belly.  It feeds him on days when he can’t bring himself to eat.  He was transferred to another hospital…last I heard he was still alive. 

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Where the Wild Things Are

SmwildthingsI could fall in love with a politician. I did. It happened. As forbidden and secret as it may be, it is the secret that I keep tucked in by my political hope at night. But they don’t make a t-shirt that celebrates the love of retired clergy. If they did, I wouldn’t wear it because this man is my nightmare.

I don’t really remember how it started. I don’t think I was sent to bed without dinner. I can’t imagine that this sort of nightmare emerged from the recesses of my brain. Perhaps this is the kind of mischief that arrives in your third month in ministry. This may be the testing that one must endure in the wilderness of the third month of a call. Or this could just be the unfulfilled grief of a miserable old man.

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Congregational Interviewing 101 (Or What You Should Know About Parish Interviewing but No One Tells You… Or What I Wish I had Known a Few Years Ago)

Ah, the call process. What an idyllic, prayerful time, characterized by
careful consideration of congregations and clergy alike, with everyone putting aside worldly concerns
to discern the will of the Triune God. Sound familiar?

No? What’s that? You
experienced stress, anxiety, or confusion while looking for a position as an ordained
minister? Blasphemy, blasphemy! Well, maybe so, but, given a choice, I’d rather be a blasphemer than
a prevaricator.

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Jumping Ship

There are certain life markers and statistics that make me feel old: my ninth wedding anniversary is coming up, as is my tenth college reunion; I have high school friends with four kids. But the most remarkable one of these facts is this: I’m only 30, but I’ve already been a pastor in two denominations.

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To Be Made Whole

Riding my bike from my daughter’s day care, I keep thinking about how to deal with our longing for each other. It’s intertwined with my feeling of guilt. I still can’t fully accept that I feel so much better working full time than part time.

I know that she is very happy at the day care. She loves her friends there; she’s having fun and learning things that I never could teach her. But still. When I leave on Sunday mornings, she asks me, “Why do you work today? Why do you work when I’m off?” The only answer I can give is: “Because I’m a priest, darling. That’s how priests work.” Sometimes she clings to me and asks me not to leave. That’s when I leave my bleeding heart on the floor, loosen her little fingers as gently as possible, and cry all the way to work.

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Photography

This month we feature the photography of Elizabeth Marie Melchionna. Her work appears below the fold.

Submit your own creative work for inclusion in Fidelia’s Sisters!

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Never Not the Minister

A few weeks ago, my better half ended up in the hospital for four days. His appendix burst in the middle of the night, and, as he is prone to doing, he was being tough. All of this resulted in the fact that we didn’t really get him to the hospital as quickly as we should have. Still, it all worked out as well as could reasonably be expected. They got him into surgery, fixed him up, and sent him home as quickly as they could, given the moderate risk of infection with a burst appendix.

It was scary and stressful, and I’m still not over the shock of realizing he and I might not be invincible after all. It was also the first time that I have been on the receiving end of my congregation’s big-hearted approach to pastoral care. I’m still reeling over how strange and wonderful that felt.

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The Other Woman: A Conversation Between Hagar and Sarah

This dramatic reading is a re-imagining of two of Abraham’s wives—Sarah and Hagar. It attempts to both respect and conflate the various interpretations of each woman in Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions, and among the African-American community. The women are trying to explain their historical lives, understand their present identities, and the connections between the two. The beginning and end should have a serious tone, while the middle sections are more conversational, as if they are figuring things out along with us.

It was originally performed by Elsa Peters and Stacy Smith at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in May 2006.

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My Elective in Musical Outreach

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As my first year of seminary drew to a close, my friends and I decided that we needed to commemorate our survival of a particularly difficult class.  We kicked around several ideas, and ultimately we voted to raise a glass and take in the vocal stylings of some local “talent.”  In other words, we were going to a neighborhood dive for karaoke night.

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