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We Are Not All Having the Same Experience: Clergywomen with Children and Covid-19

Several days ago John Dobbs wrote an article entitled “The Coming Pastoral Crash.” Clearly this piece speaks to some deep truths that many are experiencing because it has already been shared by a number of clergypeople with whom I am friends with on Facebook.

You can read the full piece for yourself here.

I don’t know John Dobbs but I suspect that my theological tradition is very different from his tradition. That being said, I think he makes a number of excellent points but also leaves out some crucial parts of what some of us are experiencing.

Dobbs points to the fact that many are doing ministry in entirely new ways, ways that we are not trained or fully equipped to do. He highlights the fact that not gathering together in person does not mean that we are not working just as much (or more) then we did back in March.  We not only lack the training for this new way of ministry but we also may lack the electronic equipment to do it well and with ease. Again and again, I hear stories of my clergy colleagues making do with smartphones or tablets, make-shift tripods and unreliable internet connections. When Zoom went down a week ago on Sunday a huge number of my clergy colleagues had to desperately search for fixes, or start recording worship to post later, or switch to an entirely new platform. It was a stressful day for them and required an extreme amount of work. This has been the story of the pandemic, especially for smaller or less wealthy congregations. Clergy are trying to Macgyver engaging digital worship experiences and religious education opportunities armed only with a spork, an elderly laptop and grit. I see the emotional strain of this in many of my colleagues.

Dobbs also points out that many previous work boundaries have not been maintained during this time of crisis. Many clergy are finding it impossible now to take days off, vacations, Sundays off and are working at all times of night and day. Although I entirely agree with Dobbs on this point, I think he misses something significant: clergymen are not having the same experience during this pandemic as clergywomen with children.

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The Zumba Pastor

I take the stage and feel the music pumping and I’m ready to move! Let’s get this party started! Most people don’t expect their pastor to be dancing salsa, merengue, reggaeton and Bollywood on stage in front of a class. They haven’t met “The Zumba Pastor.”

happy zumba

Three years ago I went to my first Zumba class in the gym next to my very first, grown-up apartment in the town of my first call. I flopped around in the back row feeling like an idiot. Then I was sore for about three days. But I came back for more and more and more. Until I was a Zumbaholic!

Zumba started out as just a fun exercise to do. But then it turned into more. One of my parishioners had a friend who was teaching Zumba in her basement and was looking for a bigger space to teach in. I instantly said yes to using our fellowship hall! Before we knew it, there were fifty people in class every Thursday night! It was amazing! People were having fun, getting healthy and losing weight – and so was I!

Months went by. Soon Theresa and Amie, our instructors, and I were chatting after class as we normally did. They said to me, “Krista have you ever thought about getting certified to be a Zumba instructor yourself?” Had I thought about it?! YES! In fact I found myself getting sidetracked from sermon prep to watch Zumba videos on youtube! It was like so many ministry call stories I had heard before, just replace pastor with Zumba Instructor. It felt like a calling.

In December of 2012, I got certified. My friends let me lead songs in their classes. Theresa always introduced me at the beginning of each class as the pastor of the church and as a Zumba instructor. It really opened a lot of doors. People started coming up to me after class and saying, “YOU are the pastor? That’s so cool!” Or they would ask for advice or a prayer. Several of my parishioners also started coming to the class. It was another great opportunity to connect with them. There’s nothing like sweating it out with the same people you sat in the stressful council meeting with the night before!

Our classes got so big that we actually needed to move out of the church! We got an offer to come to a local community-based gym that was looking to offer Zumba classes. Now we’re teaching in an old furniture store turned gym. It’s privately owned and run by a Christian man who also wants to see change on our side of the city – the “bad” side. It’s the same side of the city my church is on. We are making positive connections between the church, the gym and the community. I think God has really blessed me with this opportunity to be part of the change, to help individuals be whole in mind, body and spirit in a depressed part of the city.

Zumba has done so much for me. It started as simply my self-care. Now, not only has it turned into a part of my ministry, it’s also introduced me to friends outside the church which is huge and hard for us pastor types to do! I now am asked to do Zumba in the local Lutheran school gym classes, women’s retreats and synod functions. Thank God for Zumba!

Embodying Resurrection

My resurrection moment came, as I suppose they most often do, unexpectedly and unimagined.

It was early March and we had a beautiful weather one Sunday – a teasing taste of spring at the end of a cold and windy winter.

I did my normal Sunday morning thing – taught a class, led worship, had a meeting. Then, I went home.  Instead of just collapsing, taking a nap, doing chores, or the other things I usually do on a Sunday, I wanted to go outside to enjoy the sunshine. It was too beautiful a day to stay inside. However, I had too much energy to just go and sit or even walk the dog. No, my body was calling me to go for a run. So I did. And as I was running (actually alternating between jogging and walking) I realized that I was experiencing a moment of resurrection.

This thing of going for a run on a sunny day might not seem like resurrection for some people, but for me, it was. Because I had NEVER done this before and NEVER would have ever thought that I would want to do this. It was a new thing – a new moment in my life.

Easter 2012 2My resurrection began last April on a spiritual retreat. I am blessed to be a part of a group of young clergy from my denomination who gather twice a year for week-long spiritual retreats which feed our spirits and help us develop good spiritual practices early in our ministries.*

We had gathered in Malibu, California in April 2012.  As our accustomed practice, when we arrived on Monday had a check-in circle where we each had a few minutes to share with the group where we currently were in our lives and ministries. Usually we are asked a guiding question. This time we were asked to share what we needed from our week’s retreat. To aid us in this task, we are given several broad categories to help choose from including preparation, retreat, friendship, prayer, healing, delight, and blessing.

I went into that time thinking I knew exactly what I needed: I needed preparation to help me lead my congregation through the discerning and transformational process which we starting our journey through last year. And yet, as check-in went on, I began to feel God nudging my spirit to a different word: healing. Specifically, it was a healing from treating my body in damaging and harmful ways by not living a healthy lifestyle and taking care of my body.

Now, I kept resisting this nudging. I told myself:

“Well, I work out a few times a week.”

“Well, I try to eat fruits and vegetables.”

“Well, I do need to lose a few pounds but I can easily do that.”

“Well, I do sometimes eat when I’m upset, but not too often.”

 What I felt in my heart and spirit was the reply:

No. Stop fooling yourself. You know what you need to do. You need to stop abusing the body that you have been given by God – the beautiful gift of a body that can move so well and through which you experience the world. You have been called by God to serve as a minister, a sacred calling. And right now, you are not being faithful to that call because of how you are treating your body.

And when I checked-in, I shared that I needed healing and I began my journey of resurrection.

Over the course of that week, I wrestled with this new call on my life from God. And from that time last year, I began a process of eating more healthy food, watching my portions, working out more – which included starting a couch to 5K program which basically helps you alternate between walking and running to build up your stamina.

It has been a long process of transformation. Daily, hourly – choices must be made. Then, there are the times I don’t make the best choice and must forgive myself and try again. In the midst of the decisions, there are times where I have to look deep inside myself to see where the habit came from. Hardest of all are the times I have to face parts of myself and my life that I don’t want to face. It is a long hard process of transformation.

But then come the moments that shock and amaze me.

Running a mile for the first time EVER in my life.

Wearing a size of clothing that I have never worn as an adult.

Wanting to spend an afternoon in the sunshine running.

F Baker-5648These are moments of transformation. These are moments of new life that I never thought possible. These are the moments where I have experienced resurrection. And through these moments of resurrection, I have felt deep inside the power of God’s amazing, constant love, cheering me on, saying “You are a beloved child of God. Thank you for living fully into your call.”

In the past year, I feel as if I have embodied resurrection, deep inside of me. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he writes, “Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye . . .” (1 Cor. 15:51 CEB) At times it doesn’t feel possible that we can be changed in a moment. At times, it feels as if those things that bind us will always do so.  And yet, resurrection means that change is possible and those things that once bound us can be cut away and we can be set free.

I am so grateful have started this resurrection journey . . . and I know it is not yet complete.

Barbara Brown Taylor says, “We do not know what resurrection will mean for us in the end. We cannot know how it will feel or work or look. But we do have evidence it is so. God has woven resurrection into our daily lives so that we can learn the shape of it and perhaps learn to trust the strength of it when our own times come.”

I have embodied resurrection this past year and I am beginning to learn its shape and to trust its strength in my life and also in the church’s life. As I continue to lead my congregation and indeed the wider church in journeys of transformation through the 21st century, my prayer is that all of us will come to embody the resurrection.

* I am honored to be a current member of the Bethany Fellows. You can learn more about this wonderful and amazing group at http://bethanyfellows.org/.