Sunday, February 11, 2007

You're Not Just The Role

My lovely and beautiful people,

It has come to PeaceBang's attention that she might have to have a little Reverend Mother talk with some of you who are engaging in excessive "aw shucks-ery" regarding the important issue of clergy authority and presence.

Here's how "aw shucks-ery" goes. PeaceBang says something about sprucing up for an important liturgical event or professional appearance, and some humble and sweet person inevitably says something like, "Aw shucks, PeaceBang, it's not ME up there, I just represent the Office of the Clergy."

At first, PeaceBang nodded in hearty agreement with you. But then she began to think about it more critically and found herself making little squinty thoughtful eyes. Think about this, pussycats. Are you sure you really mean it? Do you mean to tell me that you're just a Generic Clergyperson and that really, it's not YOU up there presiding -- YOU in all your marvelous uniqueness? You're just, as the hip hop folk would say, "representin'?"

So does this mean that you could be replaced by just anyone who felt like representin'? Like, if you got sick on Sunday morning before church, I could go onto the street and ask the first person I saw if they would come on in and be the clergyperson, it would be no big deal?

Here's my imaginary conversation with this generic person on the street:

"Hey, we need a minister for church this morning, ya wanna do it?"

"Sure, what do I have to do?"

"Well, you have to exude God's love for the community, and before you come in, you have to get in the right frame of mind and heart so that you really believe in that love, because you're not allowed to fake it. You have to do some rituals that we'll teach you.
You have to come up with a meaningful message on some spiritual topic and speak on it for 15 minutes without making everyone fall asleep. You should also try to make it intelligent and coherent, and if you have the time, it should involve some research.
You have to pray, but you can't just read someone else's prayer -- you have to mean it. If you can't mean it, you can't say it.
You have to connect with people, and if someone seems to be suffering or upset, you should notice that, and remember it for later. You have to go to some meetings afterward and then maybe a social event in the afternoon where you should try to greet everyone by name."

"Wow. I have to think about this. The money's really good, right?"

My point is, you're not some Random Guy. You're you, a specific person. You're not just filling a role or representing The Office and then stepping aside and becoming invisible. Darling, it's you who was called to this work, not anyone else. When people see you, yes, they see the Office, but they see YOU. You and your face, you and your whole body, you and your clothing, you and your hair, you and your vestments, you and your shoes, you and your toenail polish, you and your piercings, you and the zit on your chin, you and the run in your stocking or the great new boots, you and your bifocals or your contact lenses, your weight gain or loss, your rosy glow or your wintery pallor, your bad perm or your smart new haircut. They see you. If you're lucky, they love you. They don't love an Office.

When they're in the hospital and you come walking through the door, you don't represent an Office, you are their pastor who cares about and knows them. When you preach a sermon, you're giving a spiritual teaching based on a relationship with them, not just representing an office. When you participate in a processional -- perhaps the most representational and symbolic sort of thing we do as clergy-- we represent a particular person who serves a particular tradition within a particular community. That's why the particularities of our appearance matter.

When God calls a minister, S/He does not say, "Hey, um, somebody do this, okay?" God clears his throat and gets your attention and says, "YOU. C'mere. I've got something I need you to do."
You didn't hide from the calling, baby, so don't start hiding now. And in the spirit of hip hop, let the people say, WORD. Let it shine.

uu minister chasuble dude Ethiopian priest



Anonymous Jess said...


7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not always comfortable with the beauty tips, but with this one you're RIGHT ON. I'm not so sure about the UU scene, but at this Ivy we talk a lot about incarnation and embodiment. So my particular self in my particular body has to show up. There are some deep and important connections about how I'm not _just_ me, the role is important. Still I can't be the role instead of me.

If any out there want to be conscientious-objectors on the fashion scene, fine by me I may well join in. But don't do it because you're somehow abstracted from your particular body by merit of ordination. It just doesn't (and shouldn't) work that way.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bring IT, Peacebang.

thank you for PREACHING it.

Dame O

12:12 AM  
Blogger TheRev said...

Word to yo' moms.

Who are the cool kids at the bottom of that post?

9:17 AM  
Blogger womynrev said...

AY-MEN! times infinity.

it's a tricky space to inhabit--it is not *about* me but it *is* me.

and I believe that it is when we forget about or ignore this tension that we skid out of control and end up violating the sanctity of the office.


10:40 AM  
Blogger Louise said...

Brought tears to my eyes. Thanks.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Caroline Divine said...


4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear PB and all- great post! We have just gotten to the "scandal of particularity" last week in Theology- and it occurs to me that while in our tradition, we say that people are called to a vocation in the waters of their baptism, that God also chooses in a particular way- wish you'd written this last week, before the paper in Theo was due! I'da given you a foot note and everything! be well- N ps when is the Boston Post thing coming out? and will you post a link (please, please,, I say fluttering my not too big eyelashes?)

5:36 PM  
Blogger lutheranchick said...

When it comes to being "up there", the focus should be more on God than on me. However, I figure that the best way to do that is to scrub myself up until I gleam like freshly polished communion ware. What is happening and the people involved are important and I need to show that with my person, not just the banners. Look slovenly and it will look like the altar guild cares more than you.

8:29 PM  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

Just got these photos off google search, "the rev." Not sure who they are, but they all look lovely.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

obviously you have a point, and we should all do what we can to look presentable, but it's important to remember that people didnt love Christ because He always was dressed in a welcoming, admirable way. and He didnt love for that reason either. respect doesnt come from the way we dress or look, it comes from an interior disposition. if we are reflecting Christ, people will be drawn to that. and that is what we want, for Him to radiate through us and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with may feel His presence in our souls.... that they may look and see no longer us but only Him. we're not preaching so they'll be drawn to US but to HIM - and we want Him to be so in us that they dont even see us anymore - only Him. and we certainly cannot lead others to Christ if he is not in us in such a way, regardless of what we look like. it's just important not to forget this.

6:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home