My husband and I were running errands one Saturday when we stopped at a local bookstore. I noticed a display of books in the center aisle and realized I had never heard of them. The covers were decorated with solid, bold colors and a large bird.
“The Hunger Games? What’s that?” I asked my husband.
“Oh, The Hunger Games,” he replied. “All of my students at the high school are reading them. They can’t seem to put them down. They walk down the hallways with their noses buried in the books and when I ask them a question, they tell me to wait so they can finish the paragraph!”
“Really?” I replied. “Well, then they must be good.”
I was enraptured by the Harry Potter series and recently finished The Twilight Saga, so I was anxious to read another great young person’s series. So I bought the first book in what is The Hunger Games trilogy. I read it in two days. And two days later, I bought the other two books. I finished all three of them in one week. They are well-written, intensely violent, page-turning thrillers. Plus they have a great female protagonist. Not the stuff of the Bible, right?
I couldn't tell you when I first started thinking of myself as a feminist. It's almost like asking me when I became a Christian -- I was brought up this way. In elementary school, I came home from the school library with junior biographies about Marie Curie and Betty Friedan and, no joke, Dr. Ruth. To be great, I read, was to live a life that furthered knowledge and access to it by an ever increasing swath of people.
I was in the eighth grade when Hilary Clinton became first lady. She was from my home town; how could I not have idolized her? Her feminism was of a comfortable sort; she was a mom, albeit a working one. She spent too much on her hair, but understood that it takes a village to raise a child. She was an equal partner in her marriage, even though he was the leader of the free world. It might not have made her any friends in the GOP, but their relationship assured me that smart girls could score worthy men (a key priority as I entered high school; a dream unshattered by his extramarital terribleness).
I am a sucker for a good, trashy novel. When I first began discerning a call to the priesthood, I went through the normal stage of grappling with what it might mean to be a woman of the cloth. On the other side of ordination, I pictured a future populated by massive tomes of the writings of Desert Fathers and Mothers, Greek primers, and liturgy manuals. I was sure that I would have to kick my fiction habit in this austere existence, and wouldn't have time to miss it amongst the praying and the studying and the being pious.
Of course, as I begin my fifth year of wearing the collar, I know that my vision of the ordained life was not a complete one. I did spend my three years of seminary puzzling out ancient alphabets and surrounded by mountains of religious texts, some more obscure than others, and I currently own more Bible commentaries than I ever thought I would, but throughout it all novels have served as faithful companions along the way. In fact, by discovering the existence of a certain sort of fiction, I was eased of some of my anxieties about taking on this particular role in God's church.
I had no choice but to join the conspiracy. In the summer of 2009, I started my first call post-seminary and ordination as a pastoral resident at a growing, mid-sized, suburban, mainline protestant congregation in the Deep South. During a planning retreat in August with my senior pastor, I was introduced to the Advent Conspiracy (AC), which the church had already joined. It was an amazing, spiritual, and challenging experience for them, during which a congregation of 140 in worship raised around $5000 to build 3 wells in the Chaco Region of South America. They decided to continue it during the two Advent Seasons that I served with them; projects in those years raised funds to dig a well and help build an orphanage in Kenya.
Simply put, the Advent Conspiracy (AC) is a program theme for Advent. The four weekly themes are "Worship Fully," "Spend Less," "Give More," and "Love All." AC started in 2006 through the work of five pastors. They head churches that are non-denominational, larger congregations, which clearly state their theological positions on their websites. Most of the leadership roles are filled by men; however one congregation (Windsor Crossing), after two years of discernment, now states that women can have full leadership in the church including the role of pastor.
“This is not class warfare—it’s math.”
On September 19th, President Obama proposed a deficit reduction plan that would be paid for by tax hikes for families making $250,000 or more annually, a group that makes up just 1.5% of the U.S. population. Conservative pundits expressed concerns that President Obama was either engaging in or encouraging “class warfare.” To this, President Obama responded, “This is not class warfare—it’s math.”
At the same time, an “Occupy Wall Street” protest began in NYC, and now similar protests have spread around the world. Protesters at such events have made a habit of chanting “We are the 99 percent” in reference to the fact that 1% of the nation’s population is taking home a quarter of all income in the U.S. each year (a phenomenon eloquently described by Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz’s article “Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%” in Vanity Fair’s May 2011 issue).
Editor's Note: This article is one in an occasional series called "All About the Benjamins," running this fall on Fidelia's Sisters. As many congregations and organizations are running stewardship campaigns and lining up budgets for 2012, we'll be taking a look at the sometimes-taboo topic of money, and the role it plays in our ministries.
It happens. I don’t want to make excuses about it – but you know that it’s happened to you too. You go to a continuing education event, you take superb notes, you nod in vigorous affirmation, you wonder why you couldn’t bring the biggest nay-sayer in your ministry to sit in the corner. And then you get home. You have to wade through all of that email, return all of those phone calls and prepare for the funeral of the beloved church member who died while you were away. There is no way that you were going to recapture that energy. Not this week. All those great resources gather dust.
When Bridesmaids came out earlier this year, much cultural noise surrounded questions of box office success. Would men go see this? Could a comedy about women really make any money? Apparently, long standing wisdom suggests no; even if the finale hadn’t featured Wilson Philips, I would have delighted in the success it found.
It’s astounding to me that the entertainment industry asks questions like this, but I suppose it shouldn’t be. Back in the 1970s, Time magazine covered the move of the networks in expanding what were then half hour soap operas into the hour-long format I grew up accustomed to, and described them – programs which were born as advertising vehicles to housewives – as “TVs richest market.” Now, this very month, All My Children, which has been running for over forty years, will air its last episode, and it’s only the latest on the network chopping block. I find this endlessly curious, especially in light of that terrific Time piece (which, I confess, I located as a link in the Wikipedia entry on “soap operas”), which concluded that the market for soaps was no longer limited to blue collar housewives, but had since expanded to include college students (that’s when my folks got hooked), richer housewives, hippies and the unemployed. It was a “ghettoized” market, but man, did it bring in money.
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.
Full disclosure: When Tina Fey was hosting Weekend Update in the early oughts, I rocked a pair of tortoiseshell glasses, mostly because my boyfriend at the time had a giant crush on her. But also because here was a woman so funny and relatable that I both idolized her and was pretty convinced if she knew me we would be BFFs. Over time my affection for Ms. Fey has only deepened. I thought Mean Girls was brilliant, watched every episode of 30 Rock, laughed at Date Night, and, okay, never got around to seeing Baby Mama.
So, I downloaded her memoir, Bossypants, as soon as it was released. I forced myself to only read one chapter at a time, so I wouldn’t run out of book too quickly. While many celebrity memoirs are interesting to read for their gossip value (Who were Rob Lowe’s lovers?) what I found compelling about Bossypants was Fey’s relationship with her work. Comedy is clearly a calling for her, just as ministry is for me.
Editor's Note: This review contains spoilers. Lots of 'em. Don't read this if you don't want to know how this movie ends. However, if you've seen it and you're looking for a good movie to reflect on theologically and to maybe share with your congregation, read on...
"True Grit": Directed and screenplay adaptation by Joel and Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men”, “Fargo”). Starring Jeff Bridges (Rueben “Rooster” Cogburn), Matt Damon (LaBoeuf), Hailee Steinfeld (Mattie Ross), and Josh Brolin (Tom Chaney)