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Archive for the tag “Pastoral Identity”

Is the senior pastor in…

The phone rings in the church office.  I answer.  “St Peter’s UCC. Pastor Kathryn speaking.”  The voice on the other end is usually young and male.  “Is the senior pastor in?”  I pause before answering.  “I’m sorry the senior pastor is not available.  Can I take a message?”  (And just in case you’re wondering this is technically true since senior pastor implies a staff, associate pastors, and to be entirely accurate I’m The  Interim Pastor, no senior.)  “Is there a time when he would be available to take my call?”  And now I know that the caller is not someone familiar with the church.  Usually they continue on with a sales spiel designed to convince me that it is imperative that they speak with the senior pastor because only HE can decide the importance of their product.  Occasionally I interrupt, “Actually, I am the pastor.  We don’t use the term senior.  Would you like to tell me about your product?”  This usually results in one of two reactions, good-natured chuckling and some recognition of the error, “Oh, I’m sorry Pastor.  What did you say your name was?”  But equally often there’s an awkward pause.  And then “So you’re the pastor?  But…” and the unspoken “You’re a woman!”  Sometimes they can’t get off the phone fast enough and I wonder if they think gender is contagious.  One young man, obviously very discomforted by my response said “Well, I’ll call back some other time when you have a senior pastor.”  As I hang up I think to myself “I wonder if Junia had this problem.”

This is Father…

I’m at the hospital.  And given that the person I’m visiting is not a parishioner but  the de-churched friend of a parishioner who grew up in a more formal and liturgical tradition I’m wearing the collar.  I tap on the hospital room door and ask if I can come in.  The patient is sleeping but his brother is sitting at the bedside.  I introduce myself.  We chat for a minute or two.  Another family member enters the room and the brother introduces me.  “This is Father…I mean…Mother…no that can’t be right either.  What do we call you?”  I introduce myself, “Pastor Kathryn or just Kathryn is fine.”  “Yes of course Father.  I mean Mother…”

Junia and I

Let’s get one thing straight at the beginning.  I am not a feminist.  That is to say that I am not someone actively involved in an organized movement to promote the rights of women.  This doesn’t stem from a lack of concern about the rights of women but rather a belief that the rights of all individuals should have equal value in any society or culture.  The word feminist carries some baggage that I’m not ready to embrace.  I’d call myself a humanist, someone concerned about the value of all humanity, but that word has also been appropriated.  See the note above regarding baggage.

But I am concerned.  As the mother of two adult daughters, and as a seminary professor, I wonder what kind of hope I can hold out to my daughters and to my students for a world in which gender in not the measure of competence and potential in ministry.  I hear from female colleagues who feel that they must accommodate themselves to a largely male world within the church; a patriarchy that tends to metaphorically pat women on the head and say “of course you want to do this, and you should”, while at the same time limiting the possibilities in which women can serve.  I watch as female students struggle to find ministry settings in which to serve, and listen to male students defend complimentarian positions without any sense that the other half of the room is hearing this as a personal rebuke.  And all this makes me believe that Junia and I need a voice in the world.

But what kind of voice?  Not a strident voice that demands.  Nor a submissive voice that is self-subjugating.  But rather an honest voice that recognizes the unique blessings and challenges of ministry for women and serves to encourage those living with the call.

And so, Junia and I begins.  An attempt to offer my own frank experiences as a woman in parish and educational ministry.  My observations about the worlds in which I function, and an invitation to others to consider their own relationship to Junia and I.

 

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