For those who have not yet taken the plunge and joined the Young Clergy Women Project, our Ning group for YCW members allows for a confidential, password protected space to discuss issues and receive feedback from other YCW.
The following article, very appropriate for waiting mothers on this last day of Advent, comes directly from a Ning conversation and is posted here with permission of the authors.
I've got to wear my absolute skinniest clothes to work today because I may have started the preggers rumor mill at my church. Thankfully, they are a good group and pretty healthy about boundaries, so this shouldn't get too weird. But, I thought this was a fairly hilarious ministry moment.
Last month we invited YCWs to share their favorite traditions, recipes and practices that help make Advent and Christmas special (and in some cases, a little less hectic).
When it comes to December, what I call Clergy Superbowl, our very lives are acts of creativity: how will we balance activity and reflection? home stuff with church stuff? the "shoulds" with the "want-tos"? tradition with innovation? It is a constant balancing act:
Some of us cook.
Some of us craft.
Some of us order takeout.
And it's all good.
In this season of Christmas parties and celebrations, Nicole offers some thoughts on balancing the need to gather with parishioners and the need for personal space.
I suppose the jury is out about whether it is uncouth or inappropriate to ever have parishioners over at a pastor’s house. But I have never been one who aims toward conformity. When I began my ministry in Small Town, USA, I was the first in many years to be interested in a parsonage. Even with a housing allowance, I couldn’t have lived near the church, so I jumped for joy at a newly renovated home and a generous equity allowance. The church invested hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars, and donations from the community to make 868 Main Street come alive. I wanted to reward and honor their efforts, and the only way that seemed appropriate was to have them over.
The second coffee hour in the fall was the perfect chance to open my doors wide enough to fit the silver-haired saints and the raucous kids. Norman still made the coffee, but he agreed to cart it across the green, around the corner and onto the pink countertops in my “new-to-me” kitchen. Valerie covered my coffee table with mums and the Spirit did the rest. I wasn’t thinking about the precedent I might be setting; I simply wanted to extend my heart as much as they did theirs for me.
Advent began for me in September with an Excel spreadsheet left in my in-box by our worship committee moderator. Looking at the grid of tasks, staff person assigned, and estimated timetable sucked whatever joy and wonder I was beginning to muster for the season.
Last year I was blissfully ignorant of such logistics. I had the privilege of experiencing Advent as it unfolded. As with any large church, the organ and choir were grand, the liturgy thoughtful, and the build-up to Christmas Eve exhilarating. December 24 came and I was giddy, excited to pull a marathon day that began at 9:00 am and wouldn’t end until 12:30 am. All nine pastors were out in force, expected to lead at all four services. Although I only had a line in each service, the experience of leading worship in a packed sanctuary was intoxicating. Once we sang a candle-lit Silent Night at midnight, I was one happy clergywoman.
The spreadsheet has demystified my Advent experience. I now know where the paraments are kept, which team of florists and laity makes the greens magically appear, and the layers of process that craft and produce our fifty-page glossy-print Christmas Eve program.
"It is not good that the man should be alone..." (Genesis 2:18)
At the beginning of all things, there came a time - very quickly, it seems - when God decided that it was no longer good for Adam to live alone. Such a time also came for me not long ago. No, God did not pluck a rib from my side and create the perfect partner (and let's face it, Adam's partner turned out to be not so perfect anyway, which is pretty much how it's gone for everyone since). No, there are no wedding bells chiming in my foreseeable future. But, after six plus years of solo living, the time came when it was no longer good for me to be alone.
"Women, then, have not had a dog's chance of writing poetry. That is why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one's own." - Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
One of the perks of being an Episcopal priest is being invited to participate in a CREDO conference. It’s almost like our Momma-Church’s thank you gift for attending vestry meetings, being on call for pastoral crises and editing bulletins week after week. The point of the eight-day CREDO experience is for clergy to take a long look at their spiritual lives, vocational callings, health and financial wellness. You walk out of the half-conference/half-retreat with something called a CREDO plan. The plan is more than a list of New Year’s resolutions – it’s an attempt to re-order your life, or at least it was for me. The second of my three CREDO goals was to live more creatively.
When I was a child, I loved to draw. I was fortunate to have a family that could send me to art classes on Saturdays. I was in every play my school put on from seventh grade through my senior year. I started writing poetry in high school and graduated from college with a degree in English that was filled extensively with creative writing workshops (whereas most of my classmates had taken literary criticism seminars). I thought that I would always have access to my right brain.
But as life unfolded (marriage, seminary, six years of ordained ministry, and motherhood), I got simultaneously busy and lazy.
If you are anything like me, you remember the gritty pastel and grey drawings from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are with a certain warm and fuzzy sense of nostalgia. I loved every bit of those monsters – beaks, horns, hooves, human feet, fur, feathers and roars – and I envied Max, that he could be the king of such a motley mischievous crew. But as I watched Spike Jonze’s cinematic rendition of the beloved children’s book, I realized that I’ve held that title before…
It is important to note from the get-go that this version of Where the Wild Things Are is a movie about a little kid – not a movie for little kids. It is often jarring, loud, heartbreaking – and it is filled with such emotional intensity that most little ones are likely to be overpowered. After all, they already live in their own emotionally intense roller coaster lives – lives that are, at best, filled with sword fights, sibling rivalries, and newly found emotions that must be tried on carefully like the loud paisley suit owned by your crazy Uncle Mike. At worst, those lives are filled with wild things enough – to layer on more would be cruelly unfair.