Saturday, August 03, 2013

Opinion

I was going to write a blurb about my weight watcher progress so far in light of the fact that it has been 2 weeks, and in light of the fact that 4 more people I know have turned 40... but something caught my eye on a few blogs that I found this morning.

The first set of blogs that I found came from an email from MennoniteChurch.ca  with the September Resource Update.  I get monthly updates on the resources related to books, and other materials but never really read them until this morning.  I noticed that the posting highlights a couple of blogs. Specifically, 10 Things Pastors Need to Hear from Their Congregations 
by Eric Atcheson, which was written in response to a post by Rachel Held Evans, 11 Things I Wish More Pastors would say.


The second set of blogs were found on Facebook.  Apparently, there has been a lot of buzz related to a post on HuffingtonPost.com about "How to Talk to your daughter about her body". One of my colleagues was discussing her reaction to this blog post in her blog entry of the day.

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Let's start with the beginning post by Ms. Evans.  Her list of 11 things, while food for thought, has also sparked some reactions from people in the blogging world.  My take is that I am writing from the pastoral position; while I was not a pastor of a church /congregation, I do have experience or perspective from being the "pastor" as I had considered my healthcare/medical units to be my congregation, and I did train with other seminarians/pastors.  While I agree with a comment that was posted on Mr. Atcheson's blog, that perhaps that this list may be borne out of her personal experience, I think that there is some common truth in it.

I was raised to respect the role of the minister/pastor who was leading my church.  In my lifetime, I have experienced 8 persons in 4 different Canadian provinces who fit this description of long time leadership from a pulpit.  While I may not have agreed with all of their preachings, I did respect the role that they were in and the gift/Word that they were presenting.  I was taught that we do not call them on their day off, which was usually Monday, unless it was an emergency like death.  I was taught to respect their vacation times, to let them be people not pastors when we meet them on the street, to let them have time with their families.  Sure there was politics involved -- which I often didn't comprehend due to my age, or may not have cared about --- such as financial scandal, illness, sabbaticals but the pastor was still the person that God and the congregation had elected to lead us.  

Mr. Atcheson's point 5 allows for feedback on the sermon for specifics, rather than "good sermon today".  This is needed, but I have also experienced that there will always be certain congregation members who will ALWAYS express their opinion, usually negative about the sermon, the communion, or some aspect of worship.  *Sigh*  (When I first joined my current church in Vancouver, I was apparently talked about as being "the new Lady pastor" even though my place of Ministry was the hospital next door.  I am thankful that was not a church minister as there are just some aspects that I do not think I have the decorum to stomach.  I remember a conversation with a then leader of a church group who said to me, "oh you're the one.  I can totally see you as a chaplain but not as a church pastor." Which shocked me actually.  "because you aren't the type to put up with the politics that go on in a church."  I later told this to my colleague who laughed and said " if you think there is no politics in healthcare ministry, guess again.  There is 10x more politics of a different vein."  Even now my chaplain/spiritual care colleagues are fighting for the right to recognized by the current BC governing powers, but that is another blog.)  
So no, there are some aspects of being a minister that aren't to my liking, but then God does not call us to a life of ease.  If you are lucky enough to have a life of ease, you are either in denial of something, or very humble/aware of your place in Creation.

So back to Ms. Evan's list : 
1. I don't know.  
There is nothing wrong with saying you don't know.  I think that there are some people (not just pastors) who believe that to say this is a sign of weakness or incompetence and likely were taught to acknowledge that we don't know something, especially if we are in a position of authority is wrong.  It is not wrong to say we don't know. It is wrong to put on airs that we do and lead people in a wrong direction, while good intentioned, and dangerous as we are playing with spiritual health of ourselves and out congregation members.  
On the other hand, if we are always saying that we don't know what to do, or say in situations then we might want to reconsider our position of leadership or perhaps the congregation might want to reconsider this person who seems to be non-commital.  People want leadership.  People also want honesty and integrity, not someone who will waffle between "sides", or who remains so neutral that the congregation might be better off without this leader.  

Leadership is a hard place to be.  Everyone has an opinion and may not always support the leader.  As a minister/pastor of congregation, it is our role to discern the voice of the people and espeically God's leading in a situation.  Saying "I don't know" isn't a bad thing, but if as in the previous example one is doing it for what I consider political reasons (non-committal) than there is an obvious issue with the leader's agenda and it may not be in the best interest of that leader or its followers.

3. What do you think?
Yes it is good to hear what the congregation member thinks at times rather hearing the preacher expound on a topic repeatedly.  Dialogue is a good thing. I was taught that when someone asks a question; usually they have an agenda or reason to ask the question.  So sometimes it is helpful to ask where they are coming from before going off on a tangent as it might lead down a road that is far from where the person is, or wants to go.

5. I need to take a break.
6. I need to spend time with my family.

Taking time away like a vacation, or just a night in with family is also important.  The fact that Ms. Evans has it on the list that she wished more pastors would say perhaps speaks to something that we are taught by society or somewhere that we ministers need to available 24/7, that we aren't doing enough, that people will see us as slackers if we "take time off" even though we are entitled to it, and everyone else gets a "weekend", it's just that most ministers don't get Saturday/Sunday as a weekend as Sunday is a workday.  Spending time away to refresh/recharge is important, spending time with family is equally important as the congregation demands the attention of the pastor while those who need to connect the most get deprived because of the parent/spouse's job.  Talk about practicing what the congregation preaches; we affirm as the congregation that we need to connect better with our family, our friends, our coworkers, hence we need to allow our pastor/leader to the same courtesy.

 At the end of Mr. Atcheson's comment section, someone asks about Q&A, opposition and rebuttal. Mr. A says that this is done in their service.  Our minister also does this from time to time in his services as we are given opportunity to text our questions for a Q&A time following a sermon.  Fun stuff and sometimes he is stumped and has to think for a minute before responding.  


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Moving on to the Huffington Post blog about talking to a daughter about body image.  I agree with my fellow mama about the tone of the post. The Huffington blog starts with a lot of "Don't do this".  I can understand that "don't" is a good premise to start with.  When asked what to say to grieving people, I often start with "what NOT to say", however, this post about what to say/not to say to your daughter about her body is fraught with commands and very little helpful hints or in my opinion lacking explanation/rationale.  Sure blogs are supposed to be short and to the point.  Lists are helpful as they are point form, short and the reader can skim it. I don't like this list as it is misleading. 
I get that the writer is trying to de-emphasize the obsession that our society seems to have with body image and is trying to say that each girl is different and to expect our daughter to conform with a certain idea about body image is harmful enough as they are already self-conscious enough from puberty and peer opinion.  

"Don't say anything if she has lost weight. don't say anything if she has gained weight."  hmm... this is tough.  Eating disorders aside, it is a mother's job to notice what is going on with our children.  Sure, picking at weight is not the objective, but not saying anything ever!?? 

Sure most women have body image issues, at least I haven't met a woman who doesn't wish some body part were different, smaller, fatter, whatever.  


“Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.”

Hmm.. this speaks to gender stereotype/gender role bias. Well not really, but I think the author is trying to say, let's teach our daughters to be independent and have confidence in themselves.  Trying to say "try not to ask like a helpless waif" (do it yourself) is not always helpful.  I am an independent woman.  I'm also stubborn and take pride in the fact that I can carry my 2 children down the stairs, to the car, wherever by myself.  I take pride in the fact that I can move my own furniture if needed (I once moved almost an entire 2 bdrm apartment down 6 flights of stairs.)  I also shoveled the snow and mowed the lawn growing up because I was the "boy" of the family, or so i proclaim.  This has also gotten me in trouble.  My "I can do it myself" attitude has also meant that I won't accept help even when I need it, it means that I try to do too much, literally carrying too much so that I don't have to waste energy on another trip up/down stairs, to the car, etc.

I wonder if what people are reacting to with the H. Post isn't simply the tone. The author could have said, teach your daughter that she is loved, to be loving and caring/respectful to others, and to love herself regardless of what others think of her.  Teach her that no matter what we will love her unconditionally, and God will always love us regardless.  Understanding that we are loved, that we are given chance to take risks, given boundaries, and that we are to love others will get us further in the world even when the world seems to be against us.

Yep, I'm tired. I don't think I'm making much sense anymore on this post, but I will post it anyway and welcome dialogue.  

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