Many of my seminary classmates have had babies in the six years since we graduated and were ordained, but as far as I know, I’m the only one who’s chosen to stay home full-time.
My husband and I met in seminary, and once we became serious about each other, we began imagining our clergy-couple family life. If we were able to have children, we decided I would stay home with them for the first three years—this is what we both wanted. I worked for a year and a half as a parish priest and college chaplain before our son was born, followed two and a half years later by our daughter. I’ve been staying home for four and a half years now. I love the simplicity of our lives—no crazy morning rush to get everyone to daycare or get ready for a sitter, no juggling church schedules and childcare on Sundays, holidays, or for evening meetings. I love that our whole family is together at church on Sunday morning. I love that I am our children’s primary caregiver—seeing all their milestones and changes and being the main person shaping them. In my more peaceful moments, I remember that this is a season of my life, and like all seasons, it will change, so I try to savor the shape of my life right now.
Lately, Mary Allison Cates and Jane Cocke Perdue have been creating poetry and imagery for Shady Grove Presbyterian Church's monthly newsletter, where Mary Allison is the associate minister. Below the fold is their creation for the feast of Pentecost, which the church just celebrated last Sunday.
Have something you could share in this space? Send your submission or idea to creativity (dot) ycw (at) gmail (dot) com.
If you come to me in friendship...
It's an invitation, but there is caution. There is hesitation in these words. There is trepidation like someone that's afraid of being wounded, someone who has perhaps been hurt before, someone who (just shooting in the dark here) had her heart broken recently. I doubt that this describes anything that David was feeling in 1 Chronicles 12:17 (NRSV), but when I came across these words in my prayer life, I was struck by their power. I was startled how they spoke to my own cautious hesitations in friendships. In these words, I hear the desire for relationship, to be connected but it's not clear if it's worth the risk. And yet, it's not clear if this invitation will be held as tenderly as this person (ahem) needs to be held. Oh. How I can relate.
If you come to me in friendship...
I don't like to preach on Memorial Day and Independence Day weekends. By some twist of fate or scrawl of the head pastor's pen as he assigned Sundays, I've escaped both this year. Last year, I was assigned both.
My tactic is to ignore the holidays almost completely in the sermon, and pay tribute in the pastoral prayer (with a heavy note about the dangers of sentiments for country over and above love of God). But, sometimes (July 4 weekend last year being one) I can't help myself and the sermon is about the appropriate place of God in the context of patriotism. This often astounds a member or two who can't fathom how my theology can be so conservative, and my sense of "patriotism" so suspect.
The truth is that the American flag flying in front of a church--outside or in the sanctuary--bothers me. I prayed like crazy for our church member who was in Afghanistan last year, but I cannot stomach praying for the military as an institution. It irks me when denominations (my own included) have a section of "National Songs" in the hymnal. In seminary, at a lunchtime conversation, I was voted "least likely to be a military chaplain".
Dear evangelical church,
I know we both hate these kinds of discussions. They are filled with ambiguity and uncertainty, and they elevate our anxiety and stress. Believe me-- if I felt that we could avoid this discussion any longer, then I would not be bringing it up. It's not that I'm afraid of conflict, as you well know; it's that I'm afraid of myself in the midst of conflict. I'm afraid of saying things that I don't mean or meaning things that I don't say. I'm afraid of using my way with words either to make jokes of matters that are not funny or to be scathing in my indictments as a way of avoiding the vulnerability that comes along with admitting hurt. But I simply cannot take it any longer. We have to define our relationship.
You, my friend, have been so good to me for so long. So long, in fact, that it is nearly impossible for me to remember when we first met and became a part of each others' lives. I remember being a young child, attending Mass every Sunday, and being mesmerized by the aromas, the ceremony, the mystery of the Catholic Church. But I remember feeling frustrated as well. I had questions that were either not answered to my satisfaction or were considered taboo in that context. I remember wondering why the women only occasionally read a scripture passage or led a refrain. I remember being frightened by the gruesome image of the man on the cross. I remember taking my first Communion, bringing the chalice to my seven-year-old lips, and being repulsed by the taste of the liquid therein. I remember gagging, and I remember feeling incredibly ashamed that I gagged on the blood of Christ.
(This article was originally published as a blog post at Elizabeth's blog: Preacher on the Plaza on March 31, 2010.)
We live in a culture that upholds marriage or at least partnership as one of the highest ideals. By time you reach 21 or 22 and aren’t married or partnered up with someone (especially in some parts of the country), people begin to ask the famous: “When are you going to get married?” question. (This is so funny considering how in the world does anyone ever know the answer to this anyway?)
I came from a family with cousins who got married at 19 and 20. My parents met in registration line on the first day of college. So, without boyfriend in tow, I was suddenly the “old maid” in training by 23. Though no one ever set out to make me feel bad, it was like my singleness was a despicable undesirable trait about me that no one really talked about but they all were thinking the same thing: “What’s wrong with her?”
As I prepare for work/worship on Sunday, I realize that I actually don’t have any huge responsibilities – it’s a “regular” Sunday School day, and the high school youth are doing worship. It’s also the last week of the month which usually means I don’t have so many meetings. So…I’m thinking that my work Sunday morning will comprise generally of hanging-out…which means playing with the babies in the nursery and visiting Sunday School classes, oo-ing and ah-ing over the little creations made by little hands.
The ministry of presence is the ministry of hanging-out. I’ve discovered it takes different forms but the core of it is consistent. It means simply being with people and then being a space for people.
I decided to go in civvies to our Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. I wore a rather simple crew neck shift dress, deep maroon, synthetic, with a ruffle down the front and no-collared Janie shoved in awkwardly underneath the neck hole. It was cold and wet out, so I paired it with a pair of dark brown tights under brown leather boots. I imagine I also wore a brown corduroy blazer since the dress is short sleeved. My hair was pulled back in a no-frills ponytail and my ears were adorned with small fake pearls.
As I made my way to the buffet line, a young female parishioner leaned in close and quietly said to me "Can a priest be sexy?" I looked at her a bit quizzically. "Sexy outfit," she continued as she nodded with toward me with a downward glance.