I miscarried very, very early after I became pregnant for the first time. For one brief evening, my husband and I were naively dumbfounded and excited by the potential of a new baby in our lives. The next morning, I began showing symptoms of a miscarriage. Within a few days, we knew what we had hoped for was not going to happen. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings I experienced, but I can say that one emotion seemed to outweigh all the others—shame. I feared I had done something to cause the miscarriage. I felt as if I had failed somehow. I felt ashamed for feeling ashamed.
At the time, my husband and I were each new pastors serving little rural congregations 13 miles apart. I was vehement about keeping this news from our congregations. I already felt like I was living on display; to be that vulnerable with our parishioners (and, subsequently, two small towns) was unthinkable for me. I didn’t want our painful situation to be some entertaining news for the early morning coffee group at the local café. I protected myself fiercely, and soon found myself feeling increasingly isolated and alone (at a time when I was already feeling isolated and alone).
We young clergy women are a multi-talented bunch. (Do you sculpt? sew? shoot photos? string words together? We want to hear from you.)
You've read Stacey Midge's witty articles for Single Rev's Guide to Life. Did you know she is also a musician? Click below to hear her play "Long Road Home":
Note: Since the Christ and Creativity column is less discussion oriented, we will be closing comments each month. However, if you'd like to offer feedback to the artists we feature, please contact the Christ and Creativity editor, MaryAnn McKibben Dana, at creativity(dot)ycw(at)gmail(dot)com.
After services one Sunday, I walked into the sacristy to thank the altar guild for their work. The acting altar guild chair said those words we all long to hear: "Are you tired? Because you look really tired." I was, in fact, really tired. I hadn't taken a day off in nearly a month.
I hadn't meant to not take a day off. It just happened. What with a diocesan convention here, a religious arts festival there, some pastoral care emergencies, Lenten planning, and of course, the weekly parade of bulletins, committee meetings, and sermons, it had just been easier to keep going. For me, taking time off sometimes feels like one more thing on the never-ending to-do list.
The work of Lent is something of a spiritual house-cleaning: whether it involves organizing a back closet, bringing out and discarding things that need to go, adding something beautiful to a room, making space for a new guest. Hard work, but it sounds so beautiful when it's something done in your heart and soul.
But in the midst of all that spiritual work, the everyday work of dusting, scrubbing and organizing real rooms doesn't go away. This month, we bring you a sermon that reminds how this, too, is a spiritual pursuit.
I have this dorky parish clergy daydream. I like to imagine that as the years go by, all the different sacramental rites at which I’ve officiated or preached will blend together into a bizarre mélange of baptisms, communions, funerals, and weddings, so that I will no longer be able to remember in which significant moment of someone’s life I took part. I’m sure that there will be a few that refuse to conform; some, for whatever reason, will refuse mix in the melting pot of memories. One of my Unforgettable Sacraments will be the first wedding I ever officiated, not because it was my first time to pronounce two people husband and wife, not because the bride and groom were my close friends, but because someone died during the middle of the ceremony.
Ministers are often the recipients of odd and not entirely appropriate comments, so most of us get used to putting on our unfazed faces and playing along. However, there are limits. I have to admit that my professional poise slipped a bit when a leering photographer at a wedding I was officiating leaned over and whispered that I had “great legs for a minister.” Aside from being unsure whether that was really a compliment, I felt speechlessly awkward, as though both my person and my vocation had been somehow violated. In another kind of workplace, this would have been considered sexual harassment; for a minister, the recourse is not so clear. When so much of our ministry depends on hospitality and graciousness, when and how do we draw the line?
OK, so it was a cheesy children’s sermon anyway. Though most children’s sermons—or at least the ones I give—come that way, this was particularly so. But it was Easter—my first ordained Easter!—so amidst all the preparations for Holy Week services, and especially my much-anticipated Easter sermon, I grabbed the first half-decent object lesson I found. At least the adults would like it.