In the ordination vows, as all ordained folk know, there exists an infamous line: “you are to carry out all other duties that may be assigned to you from time to time.” It’s in the Examination, during the Ordination of a Deacon, and, since ordination is an indelible mark, promises made here are boom! Permanent! It is an unassuming little promise, but as aged ordained folks will tell you, this is the promise where They Get You. This is the promise that ends, five years later, with once-chipper-young ordinand fixing the plumbing in all 5 of the church’s bathrooms and wondering what on earth happened?
And one returned
That’s the less-fun scenario. That’s the story told by grizzled elders who, more than likely, did not go on CREDO retreats or pay attention in Fresh Start, so they did not take their most important Day Off.
The more-fun scenarios are ones like I’ve had: improvising a funeral for a dearly-departed dead bird (RIP Davey). Unpacking the theological significance of ‘Arrested Development’. Being given a cat as a thank-you by a parish.
And the most rewarding of all: Periodically I get to be Official Church Presence at something.
This past week was Coming Out Week at NAU. For the first time at NAU, the university also has an Office of GLBTQ Affairs to coordinate said week, and its activities. (Give thanks, all readers. Our president presumably saw a calendar, noticed it was 2011, and decided to Get somewhat With It.) Two of my colleagues and I noticed this development with glee, and asked nicely if we could do something having to do with inclusive Christianity. (For such a thing exists, don’t you know.)
The result was a brown-bag discussion this past Thursday, on churches that took an inclusive view of the GLBTQ community. One of my colleagues had an emergency at the last minute, and couldn’t come, leaving me and my Lutheran colleague to hold down the fort.
I made cookies, and wore my collar, and heels. (Because when you want to convince people that God does, in fact, love them, you should wear proof that someone thinks you capable to opine for God on occasion, and bring proof that someone loves them enough to bake them Diabetes in Disk-form.)
We expected that we’d get maybe 6 people. We got over 20. All talking, all engaged. We talked for over an hour and a half. Everything from “how do you approach that verse in Romans?” to “how do you counteract the media image of Christians as Westboro Baptist?” It was an extremely thoughtful and earnest group of college students.
I didn’t say anything earth-shattering. However, I did get to be the one to sit there in a collar, and say, “Hi! I, as an Official Christian-type Person, would like to tell you that the church I represent does not believe that you are going to hell. We believe strongly, in fact, that God loves you just as much as anyone else, and that happens to be quite a lot. God actually created you just as you are, intentionally! And if I am the first person to tell you this about God, then I’d sort of like to stomp on the former religious leaders in your life with the high-heeled shoes I have worn specifically for this purpose.”***
After it was over, and I was packing up the left over cookies, one girl stayed behind. She came up to me and my Lutheran colleague and thanked us, “You’ve entirely changed my image of the church,” she said, “All I’ve heard before this was negativity and hate. I didn’t think I would find a place that would accept me, but I heard something different today. So I wanted to say thank you.”
Sometimes my job is complicated–budgets and funding sources and pastoral care issues and family systems theory.
Sometimes it is just simply awesome.
This was one of the simply awesome days.
***I DID NOT ACTUALLY SAY THESE THINGS. I used other words. And I did NOT threaten physical violence, to which I am opposed quite passionately. PLEASE don’t actually stomp on people with high heels on. I don’t advise it, no matter how whacked-out their theology may be.