Posts

A Curse Word and A Cocktail

A Portion of the author's Hinge profile

A Portion of my Hinge profile

I swiped left after left. Conflicting political understandings. Anti-religion. Doesn’t like cats. I definitely swiped left more than right. The swipe right list is not long, but it has weight. A message popped up from a mutual match. He quoted Bret Easton Ellis when he found out I was from Los Angeles, which made me both laugh and wonder what he really thinks about being from LA. We decided to meet for a drink at my local bar. I chose this bar because I know the owner and bartender and made a deal with them long ago – as women often do – that if the date was going wrong or I felt unsafe, I could order a specific drink and they would make sure I got away and home safely. The need for this is imperative this day and age, but that is for another article.

He arrived and we ordered drinks. The conversation was fun and breezy. The type of new conversation that is engaging and enjoyable, devoid of any immediate emotional commitment. I knew why. He didn’t know what I did for a living.

I’m not a fan of dating apps. I will admit that I am on a couple to keep myself “out there.” I don’t have anything against them, but I’m an Enneagram 3 and a Gen-Y woman, so the imposter syndrome comes from all angles. I always anxiously ask myself after setting up my profile, “Who will they say that I am?” Some answer with inquiry, support, and kindness, others have been less so. Unfortunately, I’ve boiled it down to this: the men I have met on dating apps have taught me they aren’t ready to date a female pastor. So, I curate the best photos, the wittiest comments, and the most clickable tagline to present my best, most authentic self, all without saying what I do. Which makes me feel phony.

Now this is not all dates, but in my personal experience, when I do put my job on my profile, I often get two types of guys. The first I can deal with. The first is the guy who is religious but very conservative. Which is to say, our theological worldviews do not align, and we would not be a good fit. He often thinks that I am a “helper” in my church, not the “actual pastor.” Or he thinks I’m not an actual pastor. The other type of guy that I have experienced on several occasions, has a sexual obsession with my job and the apparel that comes with it. The first guy is easy for me to thank for a lovely dinner but share that this isn’t going to continue for lack of compatibility. The second reminds me that in many places I am still not valued as a whole person called to this job by God. The number of times I have been asked if I “wear my collar to bed” by a complete stranger is more than I care to count. So, I leave it off my profile.

The guy I am having drinks with at the bar works in sales, and loves his job. I tell him that I am in my second career. My first career as a theatrical marketing producer making movie trailers is an easy sell. But then the question happens: “What do you do now?” I decide to tell him the truth.

When I disclose my vocation and subsequent occupation to a new person, I always do two things. The first is that I take a drink of an alcoholic beverage. It seems like a simple thing, but drinks are all a part of my plan on dates, on how to best share this part of myself. My drink is not for me, it’s for them. Its purpose is to break down the notion of me that they carry in their head that they may not even know they have. So, I take a sip of my drink and tell them, “I’m a pastor.”

Chances are that in the conversation leading up to this moment, I have already used a cuss word. I find swear words holy, cathartic, and honest. They are a part of my everyday vernacular. But once I take my drink, and share my truth, I always cuss right afterwards. Something like, “And I f***ing love it.” Because I do. That is when I can truly breathe…but also hold my breath. Read more

Looking Over My Shoulder

DrMartens

When I was in seminary, and ordination loomed ahead, we, the young soon-to-be-clergy women, often discussed what to wear underneath our cassocks. I guess we were scared. I guess we saw our whole future ahead of us as very respectable members of society, and we were panicking. In any case, we discussed underwear. Black lace? Our even more daring, something red? After all, ordination to the priesthood has a lot to do with the Spirit…

The day came. I can’t remember what I wore underneath all that black. Probably something comfortable. Somehow it didn’t matter once I
was there. That day was full of grace, full of friendship and joy.

The questions came afterward. Or rather, my need to be young, my need to be me came afterward. Read more

A Ministry of Authenticity

As a child, I wanted to be everything. I often told my family and friends that I would grow up and become an opera singer, doctor, lawyer, florist and hairdresser. Yep, all at once. My family wholeheartedly endorsed my decision to be an attorney and some even suggested that I become a news anchor. However, at the age of 14, everything changed. After attending a few Christian summer camps and openly professing my faith in high school, I felt a strong calling to enter ministry. In my heart and soul, I knew what this “calling” felt like, but I did not have the vocabulary to articulate it. So I did what most teenagers do: I stuck with the original “family plan” and prepared myself to go to college. I majored in pre-med.

As you might have already guessed, I took the scenic route to seminary. I changed my major three times, interned at an investment firm, wrote grants for an environmental organization and took the LSAT, all before entering seminary. Like most other people, (remember Jonah?) I just could not seem to avoid God. It was not so much that I wanted to skip out on God’s call – I just did not know how to live out the call. As an African-American, Baptist woman from Southern Mississippi I had limited examples of what ministry for a woman actually looked like. I had no clue what would become of me with my Master’s of Divinity degree. However, I knew deep down inside that I was equipped, called and indeed enough.

Read more

Ministry of Presence…

Presence1

As I prepare for work/worship on Sunday, I realize that I actually don’t have any huge responsibilities – it’s a “regular” Sunday School day, and the high school youth are doing worship. It’s also the last week of the month which usually means I don’t have so many meetings. So…I’m thinking that my work Sunday morning will comprise generally of hanging-out…which means playing with the babies in the nursery and visiting Sunday School classes, oo-ing and ah-ing over the little creations made by little hands.

The ministry of presence is the ministry of hanging-out. I’ve discovered it takes different forms but the core of it is consistent. It means simply being with people and then being a space for people.

Read more

Finding Church

There was silence on our phone connection, which granted me enough time to put on my pastor hat, even if I was reluctant to adorn this accessory with my family members. It didn’t matter though. I was going to wear the hat anyhow. It went so damn well with my shoes, even if my stepmother couldn’t see this fashion miracle through telecommunication.

“Have you told people at the church?” I asked. Without giving her adequate time to answer I added, “Have you told the minister?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m not sure I can share this.”

“Maybe not,” I agreed. “And that’s OK. But, I know the church is important to you and you might want to consider that as a support network with all that is happening in the family.”

I heard these words echo in my head only a few days ago, when I was having coffee with a member of the church I serve. I had told my stepmother to seek what I cannot have, because I have been called to serve the church family. I have been called to be the support network. That’s what this church member didn’t understand. She sipped her coffee and searched my face for some explanation of how I could survive without that kind of support – that support that is hard to characterize unless you have found its sacred wonder. It was that support that saved me, and I am called to create it for others, but it is the one thing that I don’t get to experience in my ministry in the church I serve. Read more

What Did She Just Say?

“The disciples had been fishing all day, and they hadn’t caught anything whatsoever. They probably felt like crap.”

“You’re going to break your wedding vows. It might not be in a big, dramatic Grey’s Anatomy kind of way, but you will break them. I mean, I love my husband Jeff, but when I’m pissed at him for eating the leftovers I wanted for my own dinner, I’m pretty sure I’m not cherishing him.”

“So if you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, ‘Well, great, I’m screwed,’ don’t worry; you’re not alone.”

These words started making appearances on the smaller, more informal Wednesday night service, when I was preaching without notes. I soon found myself saying these kinds of things in my Sunday morning sermons to hundreds of people. I started to ask myself why recently.

 

Part of the “problem”  is that I’ve always loved words. My poor mother had to carry around this ridiculously small chatterbox of a child (I was in the first percentile, meaning 99% of the kids my age were bigger than I) who spoke in complete sentences but who couldn’t walk yet. When I did (finally) learn to walk, I used my newfound motor skills to make my way over to any available lap, book in tow, chanting, “Read the book; read the book.”

Soon I was sitting by the back door on my older sister’s “liberry” day, waiting to relieve her of her latest acquisition. A few years later, when most of my friends’ parents had rules about how long they had to read before being allowed to play or watch television, my mom had to make an entirely different set of rules: no reading until I was ready to leave; no reading after lights out; no reading at the dinner table.

Ironically, I had a speech impediment. Words that began with “r” or “l” came out sounding like they started with a “w.” My mispronunciations as a toddler were age-appropriate and thus somewhat cute. In second grade, I went to speech therapy to find my lost consonants. Talking became a chore; communicating orally was hard work and, quite literally, homework. I gradually became less and less talkative. My interest shifted even more to the written word. After years and years of reading others’ words, I began shaping words myself as a priest in the Episcopal Church.

To be honest, I sometimes wonder if my life might be just a little bit easier if I didn’t care about words so much. I still haven’t completely overcome my reluctance to speak. If someone else is willing to talk, I’ll generally let her, unless I think I have something to say worth hearing. If I weren’t so caught up in wanting to express myself well, I’d probably be less hesitant to speak. With the written word, there are built-in opportunities, even expectations, around editing that don’t exist with language in its oral form. If words didn’t matter to me, I’d change my words in my sermons to be less questionable. Read more