United States flag, backlit

Of Streaming and Spies

United States flag, backlit

I’ll admit it. I’m late to binge-watching TV. Six months ago I didn’t understand why people would view all the episodes of a newly-dropped season over the course of a weekend. If you like the show so much, why don’t you stretch it out, savor it? I wondered.

That was before I had access to streaming television services. Now I have a couple of them, and I get it. By watching every installment during a compressed timeframe, you can really enter into the world constructed by the show. And right now my favorite world to inhabit is the one created by Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, showrunners for FX’s The Americans. (Fair warning, there are minor spoilers below.)

The Americans, now on hiatus after its fourth season, is the tale of two KGB spies in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. in the 1980s. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell (in a dramatic departure from her eponymous role in Felicity) play Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, travel agents and parents to a pair of teenaged kids. But when they’re not booking hotel reservations or helping with homework, they’re blackmailing visiting dignitaries, seducing contractors with high security clearance, shepherding new KGB recruits, and killing anyone who interferes with the missions they undertake on behalf of Mother Russia.

Part of the show’s appeal for me is the chronologically-appropriate soundtrack and clothing, plus the occasional quick glimpse of a vintage toy or an authentic news clip in the background. I am, after all, a child of the 80s. I’m also glad for the chance to bone up on aspects of history that were red-white-and-blue-washed for my textbooks.

More importantly, though, I love the show because of three story strands that relate to my life as a minister. Read more

tall pulpit with lighted, round sound board above it

Living, Breathing Woman Minister: A Review of Karoline Lewis’s She

tall pulpit with lighted, round sound board above it

Empty Pulpit

Five minutes into the ice cream social at my first ministry call, an older woman walked up to me, smiled, and introduced herself. Shaking my hand, she said: “You seem like a really nice woman, and I loved your sermon. I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be coming back, because I don’t believe in woman ministers.”

It happened so fast I almost didn’t register what was going on. My first instinct (thankfully, an instinct I swallowed) was a snarky reply: “Who knew that woman ministers belonged in the same category as ghosts, Santa Claus, and the monster hiding under my daughter’s bed?” Was I somehow optional, such that people could choose to believe in me or not, even though I was standing right there in front of her, smiling and holding her hand and saying, “It’s nice to meet you, too!”

Of course, that isn’t what she meant at all. This woman stood in a long line of individuals who, maliciously or otherwise, and often with a smile on their face, have diminished and denied women’s ministry and leadership. She was right there behind the Bible study leader who teaches that women should be silent; faith traditions that have ignored women’s contributions; pastors who steered women away from service to the Board of Trustees and towards the Christian Education committee because they are “better with children;” and parents who have taught their daughters that good little girls are quiet and sweet.

What I didn’t realize until I was a living, breathing Woman Minister, was just how much my gender would impact my ministry. Knowing what I know now, I wish that I had had the opportunity to read a book like Karoline Lewis’s She: Five Keys to Unlocking the Power of Women in Ministry back when I was still piecing together my pastoral identity. Read more

The Conversation

In the time since my ordination, I’ve gotten a better at navigating The Conversation in all its permutations. A lot of practice and a little bit of confidence go a long way. I try to be gracious and understanding and educational, but sometimes I wish I could just be feisty. Recently, a guy came to do an estimate for some work in the parsonage. He knew it was a parsonage, so when I opened the door to let him in, he asked, “Are you the pastor’s wife?” I politely explained that no, I am the pastor, but I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to retort, “Are you the sub-contractor’s husband?”

I wrote this story a couple years ago, when I was still quite new to The Conversation. I called it “What It’s Like to Be a Female Pastor with a Back Condition”: Read more