Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ministers and Movie Stars

Yesterday at the salon I saw an article about Leonardo DiCaprio being mistaken for a thief in a jewelry store because he was bundled up in a sweatshirt and hat, trying not to be recognized.  Apparently it worked, until the police showed up.

Sometimes I roll my eyes at famous people going all crazy to avoid notice.  Those millions of dollars you make: they come because you are recognizable.  Being unrecognizable is ostensibly not a good thing if you're an actor or a musician.

Yesterday, however, I did not roll my eyes.  Instead, I nodded in sympathy at this poor guy who was just trying to buy a gift for his mom and had to dress like a potential robber to avoid being chased down by fans and paparazzi.

I don't have fans, and no one is trying to take my picture.  However, I'm not entirely unfamiliar with the phenomenon of being recognized when you don't want to be.  For example, last week I got off of a plane after a few days of intense meetings.  I was starving, so I went to my home base bar to grab something to eat.  It was 10pm on a Saturday night.  I looked like absolute hell, hunched over my food after hours of travel.  So, of course this seemed like a good time for someone to talk to me about church business.

From her perspective, it makes complete sense: she needs to talk to me, I'm there, what else is there to it? Meanwhile, I am scrambling to find my work brain and not say something completely idiotic.

Fun clergy fact: The likelihood that you will run into a parishioner is directly proportional to how exhausted, frustrated, sloppily dressed, occupied with things other than church, or otherwise unclergylike you are at a given moment.  Ministers cannot just run to the grocery store or stop into the pharmacy or go out to dinner like normal people.  Perhaps we need to pile on hats and hooded sweatshirts and go incognito.  Then again, it didn't work so well for Leo.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The War of the Blogs

I occasionally write for a blog that my denomination hosts.  Usually I limit myself to writing during our annual assembly unless something big is happening, but every once in a while I get a yen to write about something denomination-specific.  This happened just last week, after I had attending the meetings of our executive committee and commissions.  I'm the moderator of the Commission for Women, which means that I spent three days talking about all the injustices women face in our in-progress denomination, which affirms women's ordination in general but provides an "out" for those who aren't down with the equality thing.

I've been living with the consequences of that "out" since I joined this denomination in 1999 and was rapidly disabused of my initial delusion that this would be a happy, accepting place for women (I was fleeing from a reactionary fundagelical experience at the time).  As a member of the Commission for Women, it's been part of my task to hear the worst of the stories of what women have experienced.  Hearing all that crap so consistently can sometimes make one maybe the slightest bit bitter.  So, I did what I do: I blogged about it.

And then the firestorm began.

There are now around seventy comments on that post.  Many of them are from anonymous authors.  In fact, I think only one of my detractors identified himself.  All the usual accusations are there.  I'm angry, I hate men, I'm not to be trusted anyway as I'm a supporter of the evil gays, blah blah blah.  There are lots of threats that they will leave the denomination if they're not allowed to be nasty to women candidates and ministers, which is apparently supposed to bother me.  I'm not sure why the exodus of a bunch of people who harass me and threaten my ordination would bring me a tremendous sense of loss, but whatever.

I'm more or less used to this sort of thing, although it's been a bit more concentrated this week than most.  But I'm starting to think it's just the warm-up.  My church just voted to allow same-sex marriages, and our regional assembly will be discussing it tonight.  A minister who was disciplined a few years ago for performing a marriage has just been reinstated, so tensions will already be high.  On Saturday, I found lists of biblical quotations about sexual immorality posted on the church doors, which I'm guessing may be some sort of commentary (again, anonymous) about our recent decisions.  I suspect we are in for a rocky ride in the months to come.  Because what we need is people verbally beating each other up again for a while, that being such an effective way for the church to function.  I can't help but think that the powers of evil are chuckling with glee while we distract ourselves by ripping each other apart while the injustices of the world run rampant all around us.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rev. Fatty Fat Fattikins and the Vicious Parishioner

My church is currently running a stewardship campaign, which we are actually treating more like a relationship campaign.  Members are calling other members and talking about church.  What's going wrong, what's going right, what could be better, how might you get more involved, etc.  Sounds like a good idea, right?

A woman came into the office this week to tell the senior minister that she didn't want to do this calling thing anymore.  The feedback she had heard on her first call was nothing like she was expecting, and she didn't want to deal with that sort of conversation anymore.  What was this troubling feedback, you ask - this complaint so crucial to the life of the church?

I'm too fat.

Yes, the secret is out.  My tremendous breadth no longer fits in the pulpit.  I'm far too ginormous to climb into the driver's seat of the church van and take work groups to flooded areas.  In fact, I can no longer find clerical robes made in my size.  And after I broke my office chair, they had to buy me one of those circus balls that elephants balance on.  


So there is the plain old sheer meanness of this comment, of course.  Fortunately, my self esteem is fairly high and was only slightly shaken by this useful piece of information.  It was a little worse than it might normally have been because I had spent the week with my family and was a bit emotionally raw.  My first inclination was to get defensive, but there is no one to get defensive to.  I don't know who this person is, and the bearer of bad news certainly doesn't deserve the diatribe that is in my head about genetics, health, enjoyment of life, and the unrealistic societal expectations placed on women.  So, occasionally I think about this episode and allow myself a moment of irritation at people's often thoughtless and sometimes vicious behavior.  

I swear, I will never understand the degree to which some people believe that they own the appearance (and by extension the body) of their minister.  I'm fairly certain this happens more to female clergy than it does to male.  I am constantly fending off comments about my hair, skin, clothes, shoes, nail polish color, tattoos...if you can see it, people feel free to express an opinion about it.  Sometimes it's caring and well-intentioned, sometimes not so much.  But it's nearly always annoying.

More importantly, there is the fact that I now know there is someone in the congregation who is not thinking about whether we are loving people, or pointing people toward God, or working toward peace and justice.  I know that when I talk about these things, she's worrying about whether my fat ass will break the preacher's bench, or worse yet, that I won't look good enough to represent the congregation.  And that, my friends, really chaps my hide.  Excuse me, my fat hide.