Pretty Little Minister

HereIstandImage“Well, aren’t you a pretty little minister? How old are you?”

The grey-haired piano tuner had met me on the steps of the church, in the small New England town where I was serving, so I could unlock the big wooden doors and he could tune our grand piano.

Bristling, I told him: “Twenty-four.” Then defensively: “How old are you?”

Surprised but game, he responded: “Seventy-two!”

I will turn forty this year. I went to seminary and was ordained almost ten years ago, but people still make comments about my age. I admit: I have a youthful face, I’m blond, and I tend not to wear make-up or spend much time on my hair. But over the years, I’ve noticed that it doesn’t matter if I’m wearing make-up, if my hair is long or cut short, or if I’m wearing a collar: I look younger than I am and probably always will.

One Christmas Eve at St. Benedict, an unfamiliar older couple came through the front door and I heard the woman say to her husband, “Look, there’s their priest! The one who looks like a teenager!”

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Still the Single Rev

5935864125_f8ae383332_bI was 25 when I graduated from seminary and was ordained. My first position was as a chaplain at a small college, where I was routinely mistaken for a student. To me, the four years between my own undergraduate studies and my chaplaincy work represented an enormous gap in both age and experience. But to the students, staff, and faculty around me, the difference was invisible. It rankled when students hit on me, and even more when faculty dismissed me. Realistically, I realize now, the age difference between the students and me was practically non-existent; one of the students in the introductory theology course I taught was older than I was.

During the first several years of my full-time ministry, it seemed like someone was always telling me I was young. Read more