I was a little girl, sitting near the front row of the church. My legs could not touch the floor, and I had to hold my hands laced in my lap so that I could remain still. I stared at the coffin before me.
I’m not one who has any natural inclination to vulnerability, but the suggestions I read that clergy vulnerability should be exercised in the pulpit of all places really make me cringe. I’ve asked Carol Howard Merritt for her thoughts on vulnerability as an element of clergy self-care.
Sixteen years ago, I kept a journal of my first year in ministry. At the end, I remember pasting an illustration of a man who was white and naked, and was being pulled apart by different hands. It was almost as if he were on a medieval torture rack, except fingers stretched him. The drawing, I felt, perfectly illustrated my first year as a pastor.
Rev. Frank Schaefer is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church where he ministered for 20 years. In 2013, he was tried by a highly publicized United Methodist church court for officiating at his son’s same-sex marriage. He was defrocked on December 19th, 2013 when he refused to uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety, which would have meant to denounce gay marriage rights.
My daughter and I drove up the driveway of the Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center to pick up my husband, Brian, from work. The Justice and Peace Center is housed in a beautifully dilapidated hundred-year-old Methodist Church, which closed. Now it’s full of artists, non-profit workers, musicians, activists and a new worshiping community in Chattanooga.
If you know me or have heard me speak, you’ve probably heard this story. I have told it hundreds of times. I grew up Southern Baptist and attended Moody Bible Institute. I felt a call to go into ministry, but I was frustrated because the only ministries that seemed open to me were teaching the women’s Bible study or playing the organ.
I’m re-reading Man’s Search for Meaning. The last time I read it was when I was in seminary. I skimmed it for a course. It had a profound effect on me then, but it’s been good to soak it in this time around.
We have a culture of nice that allows bullies to flourish. I have watched as this culture allowed certain people to take over a church. Then the group placates that person, and even asks the person who stands up to the bully to sit down, in order to maintain peace. This dynamic can and does kill churches.
Recently a friend came to me for financial advice. I was stunned, because... well... we don’t have money. We have a home. We have equity. We have retirement savings. We have a plan to send our daughter to college. But, our day-to-day lives are lean. There have been a couple bountiful years here and there, but for the most part, we have to be careful.