I am writing from Davidson, NC where I’m meeting with my annual Preaching Group. You can read more about us here.
We started as a post-Doctor of Ministry group and then lost and added new people along the way. We range in age from early 40s to mid-60s. We are all clergywomen.
There are preaching groups comprised of both men and women, and we appreciate and salute them. We (the Preaching Roundtable) gathered in response to the fact that we were not allowed in the (then) exclusively male clergy groups. But while we share our sermons and other resources, while we discuss theology and best practices, we mostly share our lives. Think Carol Gilligan. We tell stories and eat good food and encourage each other and coach each other. We celebrate new calls, not merely because the calls are good matches but also because the Nominating Committees were bold enough to call a woman.
Most of us have been the first female pastor our parishioners have known, in at least one of our calls. And we also seem to share in other common experiences:
- Our most ardent opponents – if we have had any – have been women parishioners. Most women parishioners are supportive, but occasionally there are women in the congregation who make life fairly miserable. Maybe they rue the fact that they didn’t go to seminary themselves. Maybe it’s an inherent Means Girls Thing. Maybe they would prefer to see male pulpit candy every Sunday morning. Maybe their ecclesiastical power is threatened. Who knows?
- We are criticized if not always perceived as warm and fuzzy. We might in fact be warm and fuzzy on occasion, but we can also be strong, direct, and confident. Strong, direct, confident women are sometimes not considered pastoral. You’ve heard this before with other female professionals.
- Most of us have been paid less than our male predecessors or colleagues for most of our careers. Associate pastors are often paid much less (1/3 as much) than senior pastors, but even female senior pastors are often paid much less than male senior pastors of comparable congregations.
These are generalities – none of which is new material – and – again – this is merely our own experience. Nothing scientific here. But church folks should be aware of these factoids.
Nevertheless, all believe that professional ministry is a privilege and a joy. Exhausting and crazy-making occasionally, but extraordinarily satisfying as well. We are so thankful for each other and my hope is that all pastors have this – a long-term group of friends with whom you can share your doubts and frustrations and funny stories. Let me know if you need help finding your own group.
Image is of the signature RevGalBlogPals mug. A favorite since July 2005.