I don’t know if it is my new addiction to the Kindle app on my IPad or just the season of spring, but I’ve been on a reading kick lately of some really wonderful titles that I think many of you, blog readers, might like too. So, I’ve decided to devote the next five days to informal book reviews and reflections.
And first up today is a newer release especially for those of you who are young clergy women or want to know a young clergy woman in your life a little bit better. Bless Your Heart: Life as a Young Clergy Woman by Ashley-Anne Masters and Stacy Smith is a e-book I downloaded and completed over the weekend.
I’d remembered fellow female clergy, especially friends from the Young Women’s Clergy Project, excitedly promoting this title when it came out more than a year ago. A colleague’s Facebook status read of her enthusiastic praise of the text saying something like, “Finally there is a book about someone who understands me!” So, I sat down to see what all the hype was about.
I was a little disappointed in the style of the book– all stories came in the first person but we never knew who “I” was. (And so, I had trouble following if the stories shared were of the authors or of other clergy they interviewed said). And, really felt like the scripture sections of the chapters were a big too simplistic for the topics. But, overall, I am glad this book was written and I’m so thankful to the authors for taking up this task.
I couldn’t help but recall as I read, several of my own stories about clothing, dating and what it means to have a social life as young clergy woman. And with each recollection, this book helped me grow in gratitude for my own journey. Though there have been hard times of misunderstandings, lack of respect and “How in the world could YOU be the pastor?” I know I’m in exactly the right vocation.
No matter how times have changed, almost all of us female clergy, like Smith and Masters write, have stories about comments on “inappropriate shoes,” “not being in the office long enough to the tastes of the secretaries” or “honey, you are as cute as my granddaughter.” This book read to me like a testimony that while we as young clergy women might have different tastes in footwear, Sabbath keeping or hair color than our male or even older female colleagues, we still are clergy, gifted and eager to learn as we serve. So many of the stories told within speak to a growing edge in young women must climb in their efforts to claim their authority, exude confidence and individual style in a religious world that wants us to conform, and balance family and work roles. We all are a work in progress, no matter our age or gender!
I also became grateful because of how much less “green” I feel now in my soon to be 6th year of ordained ministry. I have grown much over these past six years, especially during my tenure at Washington Plaza, a place where I have been lovingly supported by church leadership, given opportunities to experiment, and always taken seriously as a spiritual leader (no matter my age).
If there is anything I would want to share with my young clergy women sisters after reading Bless Your Heart, it would be, keep going. This is what I know: it will get better. Not necessarily better because societal attitudes about young clergy change, or all senior pastors suddenly become instantly supportive of maternity or family leave or that because all young clergywomen who want jobs find them. But as we stick around the ministerial life, we change. Our voice becomes stronger. Our focus becomes clearer. And our ability to let go “all of those stupid things” people say to us quickens. No matter what kind of ministry space we find ourselves in, we know who we are and we know who we serve and who we don’t! So the next time an elder says to us “Bless your heart” we smile with our hands held high and say back “bless yours too!”
Next up: Traveling with Pomograntes by Sue Monk Kidd