Baby steps to the elevator, baby steps down the hall...

I emailed the seminary this morning, let them know that I needed to withdraw my application. I probably should have waited to do it, because my rector wants us to get together with the head of the COM and go over all of the numbers... but I'm out of town this weekend, haven't heard from my rector all week, and he goes on vacation and then sabbatical in 3 weeks. Sometimes, you have to do the reasonable thing, even if everyone hasn't totally signed off on it. (For that matter, we're now on 28 business days and counting that I haven't gotten official word of postulancy.)

So, I've started to put the numbers together, because even though I've withdrawn, it's a good idea to back it up. Now I think I'm going to start working on study proposals, so that I can go into that meeting (if we ever have it) with some reasonable ideas. Extended CPE locally, so that I can still work. A few spiritual direction workshops. Maybe an evening class at the local sem.


Love and Kisses to Justice Ginsburg

I want to be just like this lady when I grow up. She might be in the minority, but by God, it's not going to be the silent minority.

She gave a verbal dissent on a recent decision to deny a woman restitution for decades of gender-based disparity in pay.

Hurrah for this great lady, and here's hoping someone listens to her.

Let's Be Real About This

My bishop, my rector, the head of the COM, and my COM mentor are all men who are 30+ years older than I am.

I don't care how many times you say to someone, "We really want you to open up and be yourself," there are occasions where that may not be realistic.

Don't get me wrong, I've known older gentlemen who were extremely supportive of women in ministry, and of me specifically. Having said that though, it's very unlikely that they have an easy time relating to my experiences.

And so, when my rector says that he believes many candidates for ministry try to conform to what they think the COM wants, maybe we should look at why that happens. It seems possible, maybe probable, that has less to do with candidates trying to manipulate the system, and more to do with their comfort levels. How often does a young woman sit in a discussion with a much-older man in a suit, that she is not expected to try to anticipate what he wants to hear? My arguement is that my rector is probably right: we do tailor ourselves during interviews, everyone does. If that's the case, we should be spending more time looking at why people are guarded.

The youngest person on the COM is in his mid to late 30s. None of the women are under 50. There is only one person of color, and he is a recent addition. Of those who are not ordained clergy, one is a chaplain, another is married to a clergyperson, and a third is a retired doctor.

I understand that, as ministers, we need to be able to work with all people. On the other hand, I think we have to be adaptable in order to do that, which means that we censor ourselves in different ways according to the situation. I learned when I interned in another parish that you frame a sermon differently depending on the congregation. That doesn't mean you're being dishonest, it means that you're looking for the means of communication that will be best understood.

I think that if Commissions on Ministry are really going to be effective, they have to spend more time with the interviewees, and they may have to aquire more diverse members. I understand that they have read our written applications (although another candidate told me that when she referenced hers during the interview, COM members didn't know what she was talking about), as well as recommendations from others, but 12 people interviewing one candidate for 15-20 minutes does not give a full picture, regardless of how insightful the group is. It certainly isn't constructed to establish trust, though my rector says that a significant part of my problem is that I need to trust the system. This is not a system set up to foster that, and I'm concerned when any group says, "trust us, and don't worry about whether or not that trust is well-founded."

Something isn't right here. It worked out okay, but there's something here that I don't believe is fully functional.



I was cruising through RevGal blogs, and came across someone's recent sermon (I'm sorry-- I surfed away and forgot whose!), in which she said, "Those of you in the congregation who are my age or younger..."

Why is that depressing? Because, despite being in my late twenties, I'd have to bring the kids back in from Children's Chapel for that line to work in my parish. Seriously.


The Fear of Killing Superpastor

The RevGals are discussing Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis, and several people have already mentioned Bell's admonition to kill the "Superpastor" ideal that lives in our heads. His passage about this was so striking that I read it aloud to Mr. M-- especially the part about our being called to live into exactly the specific person God created us to be, and that anything apart from that is sin.

I was reassured and uplifted by this, but I felt like I was lifting a rock and trying to see all the creepy-crawlies that live underneath. Because the truth is, there are an awful lot of persons in ministry already saying this. But I know only a very few whom I see putting it into practice.

We talk about self-care. We want to attend workshops on self-care. But we don't want to get caught on our back porch, drinking a 'rita and reading silly novels. Our complaints about feeling overwhelmed look less like a search for a new way of doing things, and more like bizarre one-upmanship.

One of the best things I learned in my internship was that this resistance to take yourself out of the equation really means you don't believe God can get things done without you. I suspect it also means that we don't want people to think we don't care about them, and in ministry we would have to be ON all the time (and then some) to give all the care people want/need.

Can we look deeply and honestly about what keeps us from a Sabbath? Can we please try to open up about what's keeping us bound our work? I don't mean as a society; I know about workaholism and people-pleasing and whatever else. I mean personally. Why do I, Mrs. M, feel like I'm not doing enough? Why do you, Jane Blogger, feel like you're not?

I find that I am able to say no, but I'm embarrassed when I do. I feel quite a bit of peer/supervisor pressure to do everything-- including taking care of myself and family-- but I feel like we have unrealistic expectations about what can really fit in a 24-hour day. I feel like even other people in ministry are very resistant to boundaries.

What are your thoughts?


Rev Gal Friday Five: Hard Habit to Break

Reverendmother writes this weeks of habits:
As many of you know, I have been experimenting with some severely curtailed Internet usage. I realized that I had gotten into some bad habits, which got me thinking about habits in general. I understand that a habits/random facts meme has already been going around. In the hopes that it hasn't hit too many of us yet, be as lighthearted or as serious as you'd like with the following:

1. Have you ever successfully quit a bad habit, or gotten a good habit established? Tell us about how you did it.

I'm making a fledgling effort to start a habit. I've struggled for a long time to have daily meditation time, and it wasn't until my spiritual director said to me, "You know, sometimes women/extroverts simply aren't able to have that focused quiet time when someone else is in the house." So, I'm trying to take 20 minutes to myself every day after Mr. M leaves in the morning, and before I have to. It's making a huge difference in my perspective.

2. "If only there were a 12-step program for _________________!"
Reading. I read constantly. I'm seriously considering fasting from reading at some point in the future, so that I pay more attention to the things that are actually going on. This may well be next year's sacrifice for Lent.

3. Share one of your healthy "obsessions" with us.
I eat really healthy food. I don't particularly like sweets, I've lost a taste for most processed food, and I buy meat from a local Mennonite farm that treats their animals well. I love to snack on fruits and veg. (Well, and cheese. Should have mentioned the cheese weakness as a possible exception.)

4. Share the habit of a spouse, friend or loved one that drives you C-R-A-Z-Y.
Mr. M does not clean up as he goes in the kitchen. This drives me WILD because it's not uncommon that condiments and other ingredients wind up having to get tossed because he didn't put them back. On the other hand, he usually makes dinner, and I am grateful for that.

5. "I'd love to get into the habit of ___________________."
Some kind of exercise every day. I know I should be doing it, but I'm not.

Bonus: What is one small action you might take immediately to make #5 a reality?
I'm thinking about going for a walk this evening.

Bonus 2: Try it, and let us know how it goes in a future post!

Mama God

A year or two ago I was talking to a fabulous woman about how much we both love gospel choirs. She explained her feeling about them by saying they made her feel as though she was "being embraced by the big black bosom of Mama God."

I come back to that image a lot, when I feel like I need guidance or comfort. I was meditating (we'll use that word loosely, or else add the caveat of "to the best of my abilities") on that image this morning, when it occurred to me that I don't see space for that view of God in standard Sunday worship. Making language (slightly) gender-inclusive isn't enough to encourage people to explore alternative faces of God. Which is a shame, because I suspect it's harder for us to seek and serve Christ in all persons if our worship experiences only show God in a certain kind of human form.

But the Mama God image is working for me: strong, funny, warm, encouraging, a giver of wise counsel. Not corporate, not competative, not demanding perfection.


On a lighter note, our kits have a new trick.

We have 3 cats-- two and a spare, really. (Never should have let Mr. M pick up tiny IzzyGirl...) And I LOVE a good fuzzy So Anthony, my perfect orange-striped mama's boy, has taken to walking into a room, making eye contact with me, and then rolling onto his back so that I fuss over him.
He'll stretch, and clean his face, knowing that he has us trained. Mr. M and I coo at him as long as he keeps it up, and then he walks off.

His older brother, Romper, has been rolling for the attention of strangers for years. Romper is the biggest attention 'ho you'd ever want to meet-- we'll never get robbed, because a burgler wouldn't have time to take our stuff after giving all the attention Romper demands.

But now tiny Izzy is catching on. Just in the last week or two, she's started the tummy show. She has a big purr for a kitten who obviously couldn't afford all of her calico, and that purr goes full steam when her papa rubs her chest.

There are some seriously spoiled kits in our house. Spoiled humans, too.

Another Perspective

I have an appointment with someone on Saturday morning, and I've been giving a lot of prayerful consideration to what I'm going to say.

Something that occurred to me last night was actually something that I learned from him: that Anglicanism has been intentionally broad from the very beginning (an attempt by Elizabeth I to get Catholics and Protestants to stop killing each other), that tolerance and acceptance are supposed to be fundamental parts of our beliefs. This person taught me this when TEC began dealing with the Rt. Rev. Robinson ordination, and he's a vocal proponent of this idea.

I, too, believe that tolerance and acceptance are vital. I believe that we all need to stay at the table, to listen and share repectfully. Maybe this is where the rubber hits the road. I think I need to go into this being both as forthright and kind as possible. (At the end of the day, I'm not responsible for his reaction. I am responsible for what I bring to the discussion.)

I'm disappointed with myself that it's taken this long for me to be willing to approach him this frankly. I've been frustrated with him for well over a year, and I've tried to make myself open up to him, but I've never really addressed the issues that I felt needed to change. It's only now, when I've become so uncomfortable that leaving the process would be preferable to continuing without change that I'm able to have this discussion. (Staying in the process might be nice, too, and I'm not ruling that out as an option quite yet.)

Lesson learned: Respecting myself, my own voice, and dealing in an open way is more important that anything someone might be able to hold over my head. I'd love to be a priest, but if I have to choose, I'd rather fully live into the woman God created me to be.

RevGals are reading Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis, and in his chaper on Healing, he shares the following words from his therapist:

Your job is the relentless pursuit of who God has made you to be. And anything else you do is sin and you need to repent of it.

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?



Yesterday, I interviewed at the Seminary Choosen on My Behalf. I got a couple of nasty surprises.

I've been concerned about seminary finances from the beginning of this process (2004?), and I've expressed that concern to my rector. I've been told two things repeatedly:
1) Almost no one pays full tuition at this seminary. Worry about living expenses, but don't worry about tuition, most everyone gets very large grants. (This seminary happens to have more money than God, so this didn't seem outside the realm of possibility.)
2) In the first year, the seminary locates scholarships that you're eligible for, in the last two years, you find them on your own. Seemed odd, but what do I know?

The truth is actually:
1) If Mr. M's salary stays the same when we relocate, we will not be eligible for any grant money from the seminary whatsoever, and will need to pay $900/month.
2) Not only does the seminary not locate scholarships for you, but the lateness of my postulancy interview means that I have missed all scholarship deadlines.

So now I'm looking seriously at where to go from here. I'm giving a lot of thought to spiritual direction instead of priesthood. I'm seriously considering withdrawing from the ordination process. I don't know whether or not that will be permanent, but I think it might be what has to happen now. I cannot get through this without genuine support from my rector-- the process isn't set up to function that way. It becomes lonely, overwhelming, and whatever the opposite of affirming is.

Mr. M has been saying for some time now that he can clearly hear my call to ministry, but that he cannot see God in the diocesan process as I am experiencing it.

I've been feeling like I'll be fine if I can just get through each next step, but I'm becoming very concerned about that. God should be glorified in all stages of ministry. That doesn't mean it's easy, but I think it does mean I shouldn't feel like I'm fighting all the time. I don't want to live with a "just get through it" mentality. I want to honor each part of ministry-- receiving, giving, growing, stretching.

I feel like my deep self has been silenced over and over by my rector. Many times I've tried to open up about joy I was finding in ministry, or fears I had of where it was going, only to have my perspective corrected and adjusted. I cannot genuinely serve God this way, and I simply am unable to continue in the process without support.

I'm disappointed when I think about withdrawing from the process towards ordination, but I also think it's the right thing to do. I don't know where we'll go from here, but I need the freedom to serve God, as I understand God, every day, and I don't feel like I have that right now.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.


Interview Questions?

Well, ladies and gents, tomorrow I head south for my seminary interview. It's a little funny-- I've interviewed probably hundreds of job applicants, but I'm not quite sure what to expect from this interview. (Does anyone remember what they were asked?) I suppose it will be fine, though I'm learning that some professional interviewing skills don't serve you well in a ministry-interview context.

So, prayers and warm fuzzies for me, please.


Friday Five-- Big Event Edition

Songbird over at RGBP provides this week's Friday Five:

Did you know that the major purpose for forming a non-profit, RevGalBlogPals, Inc., was to be able to attract grant support for a large scale RevGalBlogPal meetup? My dream from the beginning has been attracting financial support that would allow as many of our bloggers to be together as possible.

RGBP, Inc. now has a planning committee, and we are in the early stages of planning the RevGalBlogPal Big Event. What, When, Where and Who are all on the table at the moment. In that spirit, I bring you the Big Event Friday Five.

1. What would the meeting be like? (Continuing Ed? Retreat? Outside Speakers? Interest Groups? Workshops? Hot Stone Massages? Pedicures? Glorified Slumber Party?)

There's such a wealth of experience and ideas among the RGBPs, I don't think I'd need an external speaker to be there. I like a combination of Retreat/Massages/Pedicures/Glorified Slumber Party. More self-care and mutual support, less professional development. (Frankly, I think we'll develop professionally regardless of the agenda!)

2. When in 2008 might you be able to attend? January? Shortly after Easter? Summer? Fall? Some other time?

Hopefully I'll have both seminary and CPE to take into account next year, but I'll try to be flexible. January would be fantastic.

3. Where would your dream meeting location be? (Urban Hotel? Rural Retreat Center? New England Camp? Southwestern Fantasy Hotel? Far away from civilization? Nearby Outlets or Really Great Thrift Stores?)

Shopping definitely does not appeal, nix the outlets and even thrift stores. I'm wild about the beach in winter, so if we got together in January, that'd be my answer.

4. Who would make a great keynote speaker? (That's if #1 leads us in that direction.)

So many-- St. Casserole, Pink Shoes, Songbird, Iris... but my point is that if there were speakers, I'd love for them to come out of our community.

5. Did I leave out something you want to suggest?
Food. There should be lots of tasty food.

Dream big for the Big Event!!!

Afterthought:Mother Laura suggested New Orleans as a meet-up location, and that seems like a perfect idea. What a wonderful way to be supportive through presence.


The bees can keep it.

sniffle. snort. sniffle. rub eyes. repeat.

The my ears, my eyes, and the roof of my mouth all itch. I've gone through 2 boxes of tissues in the last day and a half. Everything is blooming and growing here, which is great. My sinuses aren't all that supportive, though.

Yes, drugs are a good idea, but they put me to sleep and/or make me dizzy and lightheaded. So here we are. sniffle. snort. sniffle. rub eyes. repeat.

There is a time for every season...


Random CPE question for Seminarians (and graduates).

For those of you who did CPE the summer between your first and second years, did CPE take up your entire summer, or did you have a couple of weeks to regroup before classes?

Also-- I sort of feel like the threat of CPE is being held over my head. Could you please tell me about your experiences?



RGBP Friday Five: Tomato, To-MAH-to

1. Mac? (woo-hoo!) or PC? (boo!)
Well, I use a PC more often, but I like the quirky heart of a Mac. I'm adaptable.

2. Pizza: Chicago style luscious hearty goodness, or New York floppy and flaccid?
Gonna have to go with Chicago style on this one-- I HATE mushy food!

3. Brownies/fudge containing nuts:
a) Good. I like the variation in texture.
b) An abomination unto the Lord. The nuts take up valuable chocolate space.
[or a response of your choosing]

Ew. It's just wrong. Peanut butter chips, yes. Heath bar parts, yes. Nuts, definitely not. (Like I don't have enough of those in my life!)

4. Do you hang your toilet paper so that the "tail" hangs flush with the wall, or over the top of the roll like normal people do?
OVER THE ROLL, PEOPLE, OVER THE ROLL!!! And not resting on top of the old, empty roll...

5. Toothpaste: Do you squeeze the tube wantonly in the middle, or squeeze from the bottom and flatten as you go just like the tube instructs?
I'm a wanton squeezer. Muah ha ha ha ha!!! (Drives Mr M crazy, which is a pretty good time.)


Shhh... listen...

I've been getting these wonderful nurturing messages encouraging me to listen lately. To God, to myself, and to others in an intentional and kind way. It's healing and encouraging, because what I'm feeling pulled towards is trust in my own ability to hear. Not seeking someone else's translation, but listening and hearing for myself. Sounds obvious, but I've spent a long time letting other people superimpose their hearings onto my perceptions. There's wonderful ownership and self-love in giving yourself permission to hear on your own.

I'm thinking a lot about this in terms of vocational call, because in TEC we place such a lot of emphasis on discerning in community. It can make one too eager to please, and also a bit distrustful of one's own gleanings.

My new spiritual director is encouraging me to notice the things I read that seem to resonate, because we hear the beginnings of our own inner voice that way. Thich Nacht Hanh talks about deep listening to others in True Love, which I've just read smatterings of. All around me I'm feeling quiet nudges to open my own ears.

(now the ears of my ears awake
and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
-e e cummings

Oh, No!!

Mr. M and I are having a HUGE PROBLEM.

We've been checking out Gilmore Girls DVDs from our library. Unfortunately, they don't have season 5, so we skipped from season 4 to season 6.

APPARENTLY, a lot of major stuff happened in season 5.

I'm distraught. And, I can't remember the password for our netflix account, so I can't get it that way, either.

Tragedy, my friends.

Also, I couldn't find the latest book in the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series this morning. Mr. M brought it home from the library tonight, but this morning, the whole library bag was AWOL. Seriously, I'm becoming fiction deprived.


Yes! That's what I'm talking about!

A sister RevGal, Jan of A Church for Starving Artists, wrote this fantastic post. I wanted to share it with you all, because it made me want to do yet another little happy dance.

This idea of going out of the church, of being accessible, of being present in the community is so in line with how I see ministry. Bring them in, feed them, and send them out! You can't bring 'em in, though, if you don't go out to meet them.

Thus endeth Mrs. M's theology of evangelism.


Doin' a little dance...

I sent off my seminary application yesterday, which means that I have NO OFFICIAL RESPONSIBILITIES for an undetermined period of time. (Which, if all goes well, means August.)

Free evenings. Free weekends. Lower stress. I am DOING A DANCE!!!! about how marvelous it is to have the next stage in someone else's hands.


I just read this post by Jill about women, and my heart swelled because it felt so good.

And I'm reading a book (that I'll tell you all about once I'm into it a bit further) whose author tries to reconcile her spirituality and her feminism, tries to help them live together peaceably.

And thinking about both of these things, I thought about a priest I know who would dismiss it all as claptrap, as not "serious" or "important" work. I think he'd be dismissive of these ideas, wouldn't appreciate these women's ideas.

I thought about this, and got disgruntled, but when I pushed further, I realized I wanted the same sorts of healing and affirmation for him, too. No question about it, women have really gotten the fuzzy end of the lollipop in a lot of spiritual/religious settings. But so have men. Anytime we try to shove someone into a mold, we have to break their whole self to do it. Does he want to be authoritarian, or is it the only way he knows how to lead? Seems lonely and exhausting to me.

I think about Mr. M, and about my dear friend Michael, and about so many other men who care "shoulds." I think those "shoulds" can get just as heavy as all the "should'ts" we women have to carry.

What grace we would show if we let everyone be wholy themselves.