The Young Clergy Women Project is more than the articles that we offer on Fidelia's Sisters. We launched this e-zine as a means to tell our stories -- but more than these articles, we are a network of the youngest ordained clergy women.
We are always reaching out to each other to support each other through our calls to be servants of God, agents of change and sisters in Christ. However, this e-zine was not the origins of our journey. We truly began through an underground, password-protected blog where comments to particular prompts went on for pages. There were limitations to that mode of communication. We wanted more than it had to offer so we moved to NING.
I don’t like words in my prayers.
Empty. It’s a hard place to be as one who so many years ago vividly remembers beaming and answering “a mommy” when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Over the years the answer to that question have varied quiet extensively and have taken me all over the world in a sense. Even led me to the calling of ministry. But it still remains that “mommy” is one aspect of who I am that is not yet realized.
Carrying a ‘little one’ in one’s own body for however long makes still having empty arms all the more difficult. I do not yet have all the words to describe the sense of loss and grief and even failure after experiencing a natural miscarriage, on a Sunday no less. As a minister I was ready and thinking I would be capable of leading a congregation in worship as I cramped and bled. How wrong I was that early Sunday morning as I stood in a waiting room after being checked by a doctor. And how glad I am to have the caring, insightful husband who said “no” to a wife who often gives of herself to others rather than saying “yes” to caring for herself when she needs it most.
Ministry can be a lonely place at times when carrying with others their grief, worry, sadness, and hurt. Ministry can be a lonely place at times when you wish you weren’t in the public eye so much as a leader in the community. Ministry can be a lonely place when you worry about private, personal struggles behind the scenes while bearing the Christ Light for your brothers and sisters. Ministry can be a lonely place when you miscarry the baby only your nearest friends and husband knew about and you were so looking forward to sharing the joyous news with hopeful family and congregation who have been desperate for their minister to be holding a baby of her own from the day they called her to be their minister. Ministry can be a lonely place when you feel your arms empty when all you want is for them to be filled with a little one, like the arms of the couple whose child is before you to be baptized.
Empty arms are something I am learning to cope with in my grief. Yet, I know the arms that that I rest in are not empty. God’s arms bear my grief, my sorrow, my little one who never took a breath, my yet unrealized hopes of motherhood, my sense of failure as a wife, my sense of fear of breaking down in tears whenever anyone asks how I am, my worry about the future and trying again. God’s arms are not empty but full of all the mothers and fathers who suffer from miscarriage each day. Thank God, the arms that hold me are strong and can bear much, for I need to lean on them in my time of weakness.
Editor's Note: It's happened to many of us. We casually start looking through the lectionary texts only to discover that we have to explain an inexplicable text. The month of September has presented more than a few opportunties for exasperated sighs and hair pulling. Many just finished having a go at the dishonest steward, the infamous "problem child" of the parables, after having exegeted Luke 14:25-33 only two weeks before that. Here, young clergy woman Katie Z. Dawson describes not only sermon writing process but also how she approaches "difficult texts." How does your process compare to what Katie describes?
It happens about this time each year. I get anxious any time I hear the sportscasters talking about injuries. Burgundy and gold make me smile. My heart flutters on Sunday afternoons because I know one thing is true—the Washington Redskins are back and maybe, just maybe, this will be their year.
Now, here’s the thing. I love the Washington Redskins and have my entire life. My upbringing deeply embedded two key facts that will forever be with me: Virginia is in the south, and the Washington Redskins are the only team I should ever love. My grandfather always had season tickets. My uncle gave me a Redskins onesie when I was born. My mom used to sing me the fight song as a lullaby. My love of the Redskins was inevitable.
Last night, I had a very strange dream. I dreamed I owned a dog and a cat—not just any dog and cat, but a dog named Abby (who actually belongs to my friend Jennifer) and a cat named Caiomhe (who actually belongs to my friends Sonja and Mike). Both very cute and loving animals, may I say. In the dream we all lived in a large house filled with clutter. Unfortunately that detail was not as shocking as what came next.
This piece was originally posted at Elizabeth’s blog, www.reimaginelife.wordpress.com.
Someone from my church recently asked me what my career aspirations where after this job. I was a taken aback by the questioning and then began to answer with statements like, “I know I am in the place where I am to be for now. I will be the pastor of this church for as long as my leadership is beneficial both to me and the congregation.”
The funny thing about these questions was that it was assumed that I would want to be the head of a larger denominational organization at some point in the future or that I would want to go to a bigger church. Assumed.
And it makes sense, doesn’t it? Corporate ideas of success have truly invaded the mindset of the church and those who work therein. Success for pastors = bigger church/organization, more influential church, more prestige, higher pay.
I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love cover to cover one Friday in July, sitting in a coffee shop in Bossier City, LA. I had just moved from Chicago after receiving my first appointment to a United Methodist Church in Northern Louisiana. The transition had been, for lack of a better description, a shock. I had just gone through an abrupt break-up with a serious boyfriend, had very few friends in the area where I lived, and found myself in many ways at odds with the conservative culture and people I was serving. The three years I had spent in seminary in a larger metropolitan area were full of adventure and possibility, things that were sorely missing in my new life. I grasped at anything I could that seemed remotely likely to engage my senses and imagination in the same way: yoga, hip-hop dance classes, and when all else failed, Cheetos and chocolate.
On Saturday June 6th 2009, while turning to get something during our evening worship, I ruptured my Achilles tendon. It happened so quickly: Five steps and a pop. One E/R visit and one splint later, plus a phone call to a church member who’s also an orthopedic surgeon, and I was scheduled for surgery on the 9th.
So with one surgery, one ‘outpatient overnight’ and one ginormous cast, I was home for two weeks. No weight-bearing AT ALL, no driving (I injured my right leg), and so on. I did lots of reading, catching up on news, keeping up with email, and frankly, sleeping (especially as I weaned myself from pain meds. Sleep is a great avoidance tactic.). Then I went in for a second casting (working the foot toward normal/flat) on Wednesday the 24th.