Late that Saturday afternoon, my daughter’s well-being was the farthest thing from my mind. I had 30 teenagers spread across the front of the church, and we were frantically pulling together the details for a youth-led worship service. The musicians needed a piece of music transposed for a saxophone, the projected technology group was having trouble with the laptop remote, the drama team was having trouble with blocking, and a bunch in the front pew was simply bored silly.
Where my 2 year old had wandered off to was the least of my worries. In fact, it wasn’t even a worry until one of the youth group moms lip-whispered to me, “Where’s Zora?”
It is a testament to my church’s tolerance of my parenting style that no one called DCFS when I answered, “I’m sure she’s around somewhere…as long as she’s not in the parking lot.”
If I practice any particular style or method of parenting, it would be called, “Slacker Parenting.” I’m a full time pastor for children and youth with a two year old. My husband, who has the best of intentions and abilities to co-parent, commutes 50 miles into the nearest city to allow me to work where I am called. And so for most of the week, it’s me and the girl. In other words, my time and energy to be the model parent is limited.
This month we feature an engaging meditation through word and image on what (and who) centers us in our roles as women and as ministers. The prayer here was inspired in part by news that the founder of The Young Clergy Women Project, Susan Olson, has been united with her new daughter Selam in Ethiopia. God is knitting that new little family together, and we YCW's are filled with joy for our sister in Christ!
Click below for the rest of suzanne's meditation. God brings many things to birth in and through us, no matter what our circumstance of life, family or vocation might be.
Are you a writer, poet or visual artist? Do you play around with photography or paint? We want to hear from you!
Each month this column features new work by and/or for young clergy women. For more information about what we're looking for, click here.
And now, on to this month's feature...
I’m about to lose about 60 friends on Facebook.
Or am I?
After six years as an associate pastor, I recently took a call at a new church. The last few weeks have been filled with all that betwixt-and-between stuff. I slowly began telling people who needed to know, swearing them to secrecy. The resignation letter to the congregation, written before everything became official, sat safely in a drawer until the new congregation voted, then we kicked the photocopier and postage meter into high gear. I have a list of items on a special “transition” to-do list, even as I’m writing a pastoral note here, making a home visit there, to members of the new congregation.
However, Facebook has added a whole new layer to this process.
During my freshman year of college, after twelve seizures and as many visits to doctors, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. Still under my parents' insurance at the time, I shelled out co-pays - which, at $25 a pop, were plenty taxing on my student budget - but was otherwise blissfully unaware of exactly how much all of those office visits, tests, and medications really cost. Then I graduated, and independent adulthood greeted me with an unpleasant surprise: I had joined the ranks of the uninsured, and all those bills were suddenly my sole responsibility. So, I used tips from my waitressing job to pay full price for the refills on my prescription and nixed further visits to the neurologist.
“Pastor” did not top the list of my dream professions as a child, or even into junior high and high school, when the upper-middle class world I grew up in begins encouraging kids to firm up their vocational plans. Broadway star, lawyer, host of a show on National Public Radio about religion and politics: these dominated my fantasy life, my summer school choices, and my AP exam schedule.
I come from a renaissance sort of family, so my parents never worried about my lack of focus. Ours is an interdisciplinary life – Mom’s in education and theater, Dad’s in ministry – and so they naturally steered me toward an interdisciplinary undergraduate program. It was a fantastic fit: I loved college, loved studying all manner of things. Social science? Humanities? Political Philosophy? I ate them all up. I was happiest when papers came due.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out that what I wanted more than anything was to write. I’d write about anything, I just wanted to see the ideas come together in phrases, in sentences (preferably those featuring my beloved semi-colon), in essays.
I was just trying to be nice. Pastors are supposed to be nice, right? And to listen; pastors are supposed to listen, especially to their elderly parishioners who have just suffered the tremendous loss of a spouse's death. I was trying to be empathetic, to be present in pain, to offer support. To be alone after fifty-some years of marriage must be awful. When he started calling more often, I didn't worry about it.
Being single, I know well how lonely and depressing it can be to eat alone every night - how mealtimes can become an endless march of boxed, dried, frozen, canned, microwaved convenience food eaten on the couch. I'm in favor of meals eaten with other people, on principle, and I frequently have meetings at local restaurants rather than in my office. So, when he asked if we could meet and talk over dinner sometime, I didn't think much of it. A good pastor can share a meal with a parishioner, right?
(continued from August's column) The pastor then informed me that the Session felt that they were unable at this point to move me on to Candidacy, and felt that I lacked some "clarity" and showed "confusion" about the Biblical witness. I asked what would happen if, in 6 months or a year, I still had the same answers for them. They said, "Well, you can imagine that the Session's response would be the same."
I was totally knocked out. This was a Sunday afternoon, and I had a Tuesday morning meeting with the CPM. In the meantime, phone lines were buzzing between the Pastor and EP, CPM chair, and me and my dad. I was hurt and in shock. This meeting and the Session's actions had ripped open old wounds and poured in new salt.
I will declare my bias here and now – I adore Terry Pratchett, and have done for years. I’m afraid you will find little of objective critique here, just unabashed admiration. If you haven’t yet met him and the world of characters he has created, I highly recommend them to you. In my mind, they are the perfect read for a young clergy-woman’s precious leisure hours.
Pratchett's most famous books concern the Discworld (so called because it is truly a disc, moving through space on the back of four elephants, standing in turn on the back of a giant turtle.) It is a world peopled by wizards, dwarves, trolls, witches, werewolves and vampires.