At worship recently the anthem was a duet titled “Why is There Such a Thin Line?” and included such questions as “Why did God make such a thin line between darkness and light, peace and war?” etc. It was a haunting piece of music with strange harmony and dissonance to complement the words—a piece of music that required some effort and some thought on the part of the listener as well as the singer.
This duet reminded me of a conversation I’d had a few days earlier, in which I was trying to convince a friend that there is something that feels qualitatively different about church members commenting on the hair/clothes/weight of a female pastor than that of a male pastor. Yes, I believe men get those comments as well, though I doubt they come as often as they do to clergy women, particularly young women. And yes, I believe that these comments are generally made when a congregant can’t think of anything else to say—the sermon has already left their brain by the time they get to the door and they need something to say while they shake the preacher’s hand. But still…as a woman, I’ll just say that it feels different when people choose to comment on my appearance rather than any aspect of a worship service or education opportunity or whatever else might be going on. It feels like a devaluation of our ministry—a way to reduce the minister to something to look at and dismiss anything substantive that she might say or do.