Outwardly, I’m sure it looked as if I was listening intently as the assisting minister read from Isaiah. Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
Inwardly, I was counting the number of hours since my daughter had last eaten, worried that my breast pads would not hold and that I was about to step into the pulpit and demonstrate the irrefutable truth behind this metaphor.
After years of infertility, testing, treatments, loss, and nine months of vomiting, I have entered new territory in my life: I am a nursing mom. A nursing mom-pastor, to be exact. I read someplace that we only encounter those “seventh and eighth weeks of Epiphany” lessons about once every twenty years, which seemed right for me – that the congregation and I are entering this newness together, a place we have rarely trod as a church. My male colleague has a daughter also, but she’s eighteen, and I doubt he ever worried about leaking onto his alb.
That's my picture in the Fidelia's Sisters header. The one with the pink hair and the guitar; that's me, or it was at the first conference of the Young Clergy Women Project. A few years later, my hair is a bit more normal looking, although I suppose not everyone would consider near-platimum blonde with streaks of red to be normal. My hair isn't my creative outlet, though. I leave that up to my stylist, as I sit down in her chair every 4-6 weeks and she asks what we're doing to it this time. "You know, the usual," I invariably answer. She has been working on my hair for a while now and knows this routine. "Something that works for my rock band on Saturday night and the pulpit Sunday morning."
Rock star hair must be more fun to style than preacher hair, because I usually walk out cracking myself up with the image of trying to do a wedding with the exaggerated spikes and dramatic bangs falling across my eyes. Fortunately, my hair is easily calmed into a style more acceptable for my "real job," and I haven't had pink or blue hair for a couple of years, after I learned how hard it is to get out quickly when you need to do a funeral. My hair is still a little weird for a pastor, particularly in how often it changes, but it's part of the personna I've cultivated in the creative realm of my life. All of us have to find ways to balance our ministry with the other aspects of our lives, and I've found that it's easier and more authentic for me to tone down the rock diva a bit, so that she is a little less jarring in a pulpit, than to sling on my guitar and step into the spotlight with pastor hair.
Here at The Ones We Love, we've developed an unofficial tradition of publishing an article each summer about our latest conference for The Young Clergy Women Project. Even in 2009, when we didn't have a conference, we published an article about the sisterhood found at that year's board meeting.
I'm glad to write this next installment in the tradition, in part because I loved pretty much every minute of this year's conference, but for another reason too. As of this month, my term on the board is complete after four years of service. Beginning in September, I will be handing over the editorship of this department to the capable and talented Stacey Midge.
The Ones We Love has become my baby over four years. It's hard for me to say goodbye. Which is kind of funny, considering that after our first board meeting in 2007, when the idea for Fidelia's was born, The Ones We Love was given to me without a lot of choice in the matter. If I wanted to be on board, this was my assignment.
Today marks the anniversary of September 11, 2001. And, just so we’re all kind of on the same page, I thought I’d very briefly recap what happened. On that Tuesday morning, two planes flew into the World Trade Center, which was basically several really tall office buildings in New York City. Another plane flew into the Pentagon, which is where the US Department of Defense has their offices, in Washington, DC. A fourth flight, thought to have been meant for the Capitol building, where the US Congress meets, was taken over by the passengers and in the scuffle they crashed in rural Pennsylvania. All told, about 3000 people died that day, including the terrorists.
Hours after receiving my denomination’s final approval for ordination a little over a year ago, I began pouring over catalogs and websites trying to decide what type of clergy shirts to order. Long sleeve or short sleeve? All black or a mix of colors? The amount of time I spent doing this is quite ridiculous considering there are very few options to begin with and the prices are steep.
Once I received the shirts and collars in the mail I figured the hardest part of the whole collar-thing was done. Wrong. The second time I donned that sweat-inducing piece of plastic around my neck after my ordination, I had my first (and rather rude) awakening to the public/private tension of being a priest. After guest preaching at friend’s church, I stopped at a local Exxon station to get some gas and use the restroom. As a matter of fact, I didn’t need gas as much as I needed to empty my bladder. Normally, I refuse to use gas station restrooms, but I had a three-hour drive ahead of me. It couldn’t wait.
As I considered where I might go on vacation this summer, I knew it had to be somewhere tropical. Having visited some beautiful beaches before, I knew deep within me that this would be the most relaxing, rejuvenating and restful experience that summer vacation had to offer.
Right about when I was dreaming up this idea, I met someone. Over these last few months, I’ve had to adjust my independent and sometimes selfish life to once again include someone else in the constant push and pull of time and compromise that lives within a relationship. And to be honest, I’ve loved every minute of it. It seemed to make perfect sense to both of us that we would vacation together.
My identity as a clergy gal has changed substantially over the years. I've been the reluctant seminarian, the slightly-less-reluctant-but-still-unsure new minister, the energetic still-single-and-happy-that-way rev, the newly-married-second-time-seminarian youth minister, the youngish-married-associate minister. Each phase of this calling has had its ups and downs, and each change in identity has had its awkward adjustments - but for the most part it has been fairly easy to slip into new roles, new ways of being and doing.
But now there is this.
I first met Harry Potter while I was in seminary, after my teacher-sister recommended this great book one summer while I was visiting home. She couldn’t stop reading it. Or listening was more like it, as the first few books we each passed around were the brilliantly produced audio books. There were days that my husband came home to find me in our tiny seminary apartment, sitting on the couch, listening to a tape player with tears streaming down my face, with the wide eyes of shock, holding my hands up to him to be quiet and not interrupt this crucial moment.
So then, it’s been around ten years of friendship - for some others I know it’s been even longer. Ten years of passionate reading, ten years of watching this young boy become a man, along with his two loyal and talented best friends, Hermoine and Ron. Ten years of experiencing a story so near and dear to our hearts come alive on the big screen. So it was with ten years of memories that I walked into a late-night showing of the final chapter of Harry Potter movies, The Deathly Hallows Part 2, by myself, popcorn in hand, and filled with a pile of mixed emotions. Grief, excitement, pure happiness and anticipation, sorrow and anxiety.