Before we get to Jess's lovely poem about the joys and incongruities of being a young clergy woman...
Next month we will start a new feature in Christ and Creativity, an intermittent series of interviews with YCW's who also practice art, writing or other creative pursuits. We want to hear what drives them to create, who and what their creative inspirations are, and any advice they have for others who want to undertake a creative practice.
If you know someone who would be a great subject for this series, drop us a note.
And now, "Wearing the Robe" by Jessica Rivera.
If I have to read the story of Abraham and Sarah’s miraculous conception of Isaac one more time, I will run screaming out of the pulpit. Because I know what it’s like to want a child. I know what it’s like to try everything under the sun to create one – frankly, if concubines were a legal possibility, I might go for that at this point. I know about barrenness. I do not, yet, know about the laughter which might follow.
I am an infertile pastor. As I write, my husband and I are undergoing fertility treatments, and have been for three and a half years. Thankfully, we have the resources to do this, and for that, I am deeply grateful. But they have not succeeded, yet.
In the meantime, I dread Advent. All those texts about babies showing up where they shouldn’t have: to Elizabeth, who thought she was too old; to Mary, who thought she was too young. And the hearkening back to the others whose barrenness broke their hearts: Sarah and Hannah, my sisters. It is hard to preach these texts. Some days, I dread baptisms; I worry that I cannot hold one more baby at the font and not mix my tears with the baptismal waters. It is hard to keep all of this a secret, but I do, because I cannot quite imagine another way.
It was bound to happen sooner or later: a baptism fight in the pastor’s meeting.
“Fight” might be too strong a word. I’m blessed to serve on a pastoral staff with a healthy sense of friendship and collegiality. We might grumble a bit, but there’s good give and take, and things tend to get resolved in the light of day before anything festers too often.
In fact, it was the very health of the way we share worship leadership that led to this disagreement. Our head of staff, Carl, insists on sharing the sacraments among the four pastors. Communion responsibilities are varied, and things are arranged on a given Sunday so that there’s never one officiant. One of us might give the invitation, another the Great Thanksgiving, and the other two split the responsibilities for breaking bread and pouring the cup.
I was a relative latecomer to the Facebook phenomenon. Many of my friends joined in college or not long after, but right up until the middle of seminary, I remained vehemently opposed to the idea. I thought that it was a senseless waste of time, and that if I joined, I would never get any work done again. Then one day, my partner gave me her password so I could look at some photos a friend had posted, and before I knew it, I had caved. I have never become a true Facebook addict, but I do rely on it more than I ever thought I would to stay in touch with friends and family—especially those who live far from me (which is just about all of them).
So when it came time for me to graduate from seminary and move to a new city to start my first church job, I found myself facing an unexpected but very common question: how would I relate to parishioners on Facebook? I knew that many of my new parishioners were in their 20s and 30s, and I soon discovered that a Facebook group for these “young adults” already existed. It didn’t take much to see that Facebook was going to become a part of my ministry whether I liked it or not, and that I’d better figure out in advance how I was going to handle it.
If you're single, most people you encounter will assume you are, but if you admit it, they will likely become uncomfortable. It's an unmentionable for clergy, a confession that might hurt or puzzle your congregation, or encourage them in inappropriate matchmaking attempts. The very nature of it leads you to believe that you are isolated, that you are the only one who has ever felt this way.
Of course, we have all felt lonely - yes, even the married people. You probably already know that, intellectually. We single people are just the ones who are actually asked, "Aren't you lonely?"
This month, the Jesus Review is pleased to bring you a conversation between two of our favorite TV junkies. Excuse me. They would like you to know that they only watch intelligent TV. This conversation wasn’t an exchange the tinkling of coffee mugs in a coffee shop or wine glasses after the most recent episode aired. Instead, it happened through an email banter which Elsa Peters and Sarah Kinney Gaventa with you here.
Elsa: Do you watch Lost? Let me rephrase that. Are you as addicted as I am? Do you spend your whole week waiting for Wednesday night to learn what might happen next? Each week, I eagerly await Wednesday.
I’ve been working part-time for more than a year, and with three young children and a small writing vocation on the side, it has been the perfect schedule for this stage of my life. For many pastors, part-time ministry can provide untold benefits: more space for parenting, attending school, or pursuing other vocations; the opportunity to continue pursuing ministry even during a busy stage of life, as opposed to stepping out of ministry altogether; the chance to distill one’s job description to those aspects of ministry that are most important and/or those for which the person is most gifted.
On the congregation side, this process gives churches a specific opportunity to be the body of Christ, providing support for a pastor who requests more time for children, aging parents, or other worthy pursuits. As one member of my church put it to our session (governing body), “It says a lot about us if we can support a young parent at this time of her life. And it says a lot more about us if we are unwilling to do this.” It can also be an opportunity for deeper discipleship as churches learn how to minister to one another, rather than relying on the pastor for things they could (and should) be doing for themselves.