Saturday, May 18, 2013

Clerics and knowing when the time is right

From BuzzFeed
I don't wear a collar at my internship church.

Pastor Deb, when she was with us, didn't wear one -- I don't think I ever saw her in one.  I asked about it, early on, when all my seminary colleagues were scrambling to get their hands on shirts and albs before they left.  Deb said that when she was starting the church, the collar came up as a barrier -- people didn't like it.  It felt too formal, too much like a line to cross, a boundary to the relationship.  So Deb didn't wear a collar, and neither did I.

Our interim pastor, Hollie, wears a collar, for many reasons.  Most of her Sunday best are collared shirts.  And when she was new to the congregation, it was an easy way to identify her.

I haven't taken up the practice, because it just didn't feel like the right time.  I will always be an Episcopalian at heart, with a sense for "the proper time" for formal things, and I never felt like there was a proper time for me to start wearing the collar, after I'd not been wearing one for so long.

Last week, I was slaving away at finals.  I would write, between Monday and Thursday, twenty-four double-spaced pages of essays.  I had been dismissed from most of my church duties in order to focus on my schoolwork.

In between notes on Finke and Stark's The Churching of America and Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling and Wolf's Lutherans in North America, I kept my eye on Twitter and Facebook, on the slow but constant stream of updates about the House vote on the same-sex marriage bill.

At 1:30pm, I declared:  "This is ridiculous.  I fought for this.  I marched for this.  I flash-mob-danced for this.  I can't not be there."

And when I texted my friend Amy that I was on my way, hoping to make it there before they took the vote, she said, "Margaret and I are in our clericals."

Amy, as a pulpit supply preacher, has worn hers before.  Margaret is an ordained ELCA pastor who wears hers when she hangs out at the Wellness Center in St. Paul.  Mine hung in my closet, pressed, dusted with the cat hair that pervades my wardrobe no matter if I've worn it or not.

Until Monday.

Because it was the right time.

Because I took just my cell phone and my wallet (and my red chucks), but I carried so much more with me.

  • I carried with me the female priests and pastors who, since I was four years old at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, have modeled for me the graceful nature of female leadership in the face of Christians who claim we are not worthy.
  • I carried with me the memory of my uncle, Father Maynard, whose passing in November left his traveling companion Vern without his closest friend of forty years.
  • I carried with me the many words and hugs of Bruce Benson and Jennifer Koenig, my campus pastors at Olaf, as they guided me through my first steps toward candidacy and seminary.
  • I carried with me the pastors and lay leaders of the ELCA who have stood up, over and over and over again, for the ordination of people in "publicly accountable lifelong monogamous same-gender relationships".  Including Jen Nagel and Jane McBride, and their brilliant and beautiful witness.  And Anita Hill and her decades of work.  And Margaret Kelly, my guide through the muddle of a queer life at Luther Seminary, and my mission partner and colleague and friend.
  • I carried with me my colleagues from Luther, the multitudes of women and men who have laid hands on my own call and affirmed it.  I especially carried my dear friend Jill, who has been my seminary partner since our first week on campus and started the seminary LGBTQ & allied support and fellowship group with me.  I carried with me her fiance Gretchen, and the beauty of their love, which I have been blessed to see blossom since CPE two years ago and now I will rejoice and dance my ass off for in August when they marry.
  • And in the best sense of a Lutheran pastor, who is called to serve in the office of pastor for a community, I carried with me everyone at Light of the World who has supported me in my openness and public ministry.  I carried with me every stranger who has found my blog or my Tumblr and reached out to say "Yes.  Yes.  Me too."  I carried with me my youth from Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer who have been raised in a church with a gay pastor and a gay youth minister and a gay organist and didn't blink twice at a gay children's education director.  

One of the many groups of clergy at the capitol that day
My clerics have been broken in, in the dreams of so many who I carried and so many who have carried me.  They have been baptized in sweat and exhaustion, in long hours leaning against the marble walls of the rotunda, in shouts of "Vote Yes!" and songs of praise and hope.

It was the right time.

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