Rocking in the Free World as a Clergywoman

Having become quite the fan of moderately obscure folk/alt.country/pop bands that can be seen in small clubs for under twenty bucks a pop, it's been a long time since I've been to an arena concert.

We had a grand old time. I was much more familiar with Neil Young's Living with War album, from which they relied heavily, than most of the older CSNY music. I knew a few hits here and there, but the ones I was singing along with were circa 2006. Which made the whole show feel less like a throwback reunion tour and more like the musically and politically relevant event that it was. For a second I thought I was at church: screens started projecting the words for a big old singalong. (Did rock concerts or Willowcreek do that first? I forget.) Let's impeach the president for lying... I also had the surreal experience of infinitely preferring the rock sets to the folksy acoustic stuff. As one who generally finds rock music distasteful unless it is tempered by another genre, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed seeing Neil Young bust his guitar strings at the end of his earsplitting solo.

When I was tuned out during one of the ballads, I had an internal conversation about being a pastor at a rock concert. No one ever assumes I'm a pastor when I open the door to the church office, and no one would have remotely guessed I'm a pastor last night. I don't fit the profile when I'm in the pulpit on Sunday morning, so I certainly don't when I'm rockin' the free world (or singing about poop at church camp, for that matter). I wondered what it would be like to wear a clerical collar, not only at work but at a CSNY concert as well.

I'll tell you straight up where I'm going with this: when I was at Marie's house for a party during my Ohio trip, a conversation arose about how my family and close friends perceive of me as a pastor. As Marie commented in response to the previous post, she's not yet used to her "preacher little sister." She and the other people in the room were trying to explain the disconnection they feel between the person they know and the role that I endeavor to fill as an ordained minister. It wasn't that they were calling me a hypocrite or anything like that; it was more like they know how loudly I can belch (undefeated champion of the Latin Club burping contest, thankyouverymuch), and that makes it hard for them to imagine me as the person who preaches and celebrates communion and signs the marriage certificate.

The conversation in Ohio didn't make me feel badly or anything; it was helpful. It brought to my attention another dimension of the whole me-as-a-pastor issue. I have spent a lot of energy this year on the ongoing saga of meeting new people and figuring out how to explain who I am and what I do without freaking them out. It's isolating to be looked at like a complete oddity. I'm not yet to the mature point where I'm all jazzed at the opportunity to be a walking billboard for God's new Human Resources Plan. Getting to that point takes a lot of energy, and I just haven't really thought that much about the people who've known me all along, how my new role takes some getting used to.

This is the thing: I do not experience myself as a divided person. At least I don't think I do. I certainly have distinctions between what is personal and what is professional, but everyone does. I know enough pastors to know that we are just as normal and just as idiosyncratic as any other demographic. And while pastors certainly have a responsibility to strive to be Christlike - as all Christians do - I think God calls whole people into ministry, not people minus their predilections for voluminous belching, poop humor, and loud rock concerts.

I hope I don't sound like I'm lecturing. If I do, please know that I'm lecturing myself first.

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