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.