Female pastor

Bedtime theology with the 10 yo... 

(while driving

Grandparents at my ordination

Me: So, if someday I am not working at the synod office, I could be a pastor somewhere.

10 yo: You should work at our church!

Me: Well, that would be fun be we already have a pastor and a deacon so we’re full up on leaders.

10 yo: Hey, you could work at that church (points to a Catholic church). It’s close to our house.

Me: I can’t be a pastor there; they don’t allow women to be pastors.

10 yo: Really? Well, that’s dumb.

Awhile back my middle son asked me if boys could be pastors. This amused me because about 30 years ago, I was hoping to marry a pastor. It didn't occur to me then that I could be one. A lot of things had to shift for me to see myself (a woman) in this role, a shift my children don't have to make.

I didn't know any women pastors when I was growing up in a Midwest Lutheran church, but I'd heard they existed. My own (male) pastor encouraged me to consider seminary and he nudged me by giving me the chance to preach a sermon (at 17) and took me to visit a seminary campus. I still struggled to feel called. My own mother, shortly before I moved away for seminary, asked me if I was sure that the Bible said it was okay for women to be pastors. 

Years later, my kids have a mom pastor, a female pastor at their church and female bishop in our synod (geographic region of the church). Oh, and a presiding bishop of our entire denomination. 

Times have changed, but the progress is slow. Women are being elected into more senior pastor roles (slowly) and gaining seats in our denomination's conference of bishops. But still, this weekend at a denominational gathering, a man droned on about a former pastor's wife being so wonderful because she did it all, "just like those pastors' wives of the 1950s." I always wonder what people think the pastor's husband should be doing at church. In my first call, mine was lauded just for showing up.

Then there's the uglier stuff. I resonate a bit too much with this video of actual things said to women pastors, put out by Lutherans in North Carolina. It's not pretty, and every female pastor I know has her own version of this. From being told I couldn't do a funeral because the deceased was a "man's man" to getting asked on a date by a funeral director while we were in a hearse (you can't make this up) to the countless comments about my body, clothes, age and marital status to the hugs that went on too long and the hands traveling too low on my back, women pastors (and women in general) have experienced things that are not okay. 

My grandmother, a first-generation immigrant from Poland, told me I could be whatever I wanted to be, and I took that to heart because she lived through the unspeakable trauma in a Siberian forced labor camp during World War II. I believed her. When I finally decided I did want to be a pastor, I believed I could, in part because others told me so. We all need that kind of encouragement, and it's what our kids need to hear, too. 

My husband and I have also told our kids that they can be anything they want to be, and since they have the privileges of gender and socio-economic status, it feels like they were born already at second base. Perhaps my more urgent question is how to parent them so that they support others in being whatever they want to be, too, especially those with fewer or different privileges and resources. 


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