Tag Archives: persistence

Taking The Pulpit

When I was in my teens, a minor revolution occurred in our small town when our Methodist Church got a female minister. Her name was Judy, and she was the first minister I would know by her first name, separate from the words Reverend and a last name. I, being an angry feminist from my earliest years, was enthusiastic about the change. It was about time a woman came in and showed everyone that we were just as capable getting this job done as the men. Judy surprised me by being earthy and well, a little weird. She laughed a lot and comported herself  differently than the ministers I’d been used to, who had always seemed to be kind of big on the issue of dignity. She also had some kind of unique ideas about worship and God. If I found Judy to be a little unconventional, I can’t even imagine the uproar she caused among the adult congregation, although I did hear a few conversations between my parents on the subject. I don’t remember what they said, just that I was surprised that “the preacher” was a topic. Like most Methodist pastors of that time and place, Judy was with our church for a few years, then transferred elsewhere. Change is hard on a congregation, and maybe the frequent changes of leadership is part of what makes them hold so tightly to a certain way of doing things as a way to cement identity.

Through Goodreads, I became interested in a book entitled Sea Level, by Nancy Kilgore. Kilgore writes of a woman, Brigid, taking the pulpit of a Methodist church in a small Virginia coastal community. It is her first appointment as a pastor and their first experience with a woman in the role. What ensues is the good, the bad and the ugly on every level imaginable. Kilgore explores the sometimes hair-raising politics and cultural attitudes from the perspectives of various members of the congregation and the minister and her family. There is also a plotline involving  Mary, an artist more attuned to ideas of the Goddess, born and raised in the community but long ago fled to New York City, who returns to connect with her roots and to try to integrate them with her free-thinking and independent way of life. Mary and Brigid become friends and allies in a place where many demand both of them sit down and shut up. There are some differences, but I strongly suspect that Judy would have recognized Sea Level as a variation of her story of church leadership, ostracism, changing times and hopefully, support in my hometown. One of the biggest lessons I take from Sea Level is that being right and feeling certain don’t always come as a package.  In the book, as in life, there are no tidy endings, but there is a sense of assurance that persistence pays off, that living right and trying hard will, most of the time, see you through.

See Goodreads for my full review of Sea Level. Sea Level is available from Amazon.com or from your local bookstore (may need to order it,) and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

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A Good Climb

I am not a believer in New Year’s Resolutions. If you have an idea to improve yourself, why wait? If you can’t manage incorporating the idea right now, why set yourself up with an arbitrary date? New Years Day isn’t magic, but wouldn’t it be cool if it was! Think of everything that would really happen! World peace, balanced budgets, kids turning in their homework on time, and the effortlessly kicked habits or dropped pounds. WOW. OK, that was fun, but back to reality. I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions but I do believe in approaching the end of the calendar year with an analytical eye.

It is time to start assessing 2011. What did it mean, and how have we grown? What did we try for the first time, or in a new way, and how did that work out? What activity did we say good-bye to, to make room for other things? What juicy failures brought us hard-won epiphanies? What successes raised our bar for 2012? It isn’t too early to start the review, because even though we still have over five weeks of 2011 to try, desist, fail and succeed, the tendency is to lose the lessons in the noisy, demanding, swirl of  everyday functioning. It can take some time to reflect. This isn’t a test. You don’t get an A+ if you journaled and cross-referenced exhaustively all of the above and are ready with a leather bound retrospective on December 31st. If you do that I will offer you my amazement and a referral to get yourself diagnosed. You also don’t fail if the only thing you can remember is to never, ever again send out emails when you are drunk. That right there puts you ahead of plenty of other people.

For me, 2011 has been a lot about bravery, honesty and mellowing out, but also about frustration and fear (always fear, darn it.) I know I have learned a LOT since I was sixteen years old, but I am bemused to find that I still so often see the world as I did then: as one big learning curve with no end in sight. I  am thankful this November that the curve isn’t always painfully steep, and that there are continuously new things to take in  and familiar things to perceive at a different level. I am thankful for every one of you reading this for sharing the climb, and offering me challenges along the way.

2011: What has it brought you?

I am so glad you have stopped in to check out my newborn blog! My desire to be a successful writer is almost (but not quite) matched by the fear that I can’t do this at all. I remember when I first started riding a road bike (super skinny tires, handlebars lower than the saddle, shoes that clip to the pedals.) That first summer I found every way possible to fall over, usually in front of other cyclists and motorists. After the eighth consecutive phone conversation with my mom relating my latest kiss with the pavement she commented, “I don’t understand why you keep doing something you are so bad at.” She is not usually cruel that way and will probably deny she ever said it, but it’s true. My response was, “I like it, well, not the falling part, but all the rest of it.” Writing is like that, but more so.  Writing is therapy and escape and growth. It can also be a little bit like picking scabs. Sorry, but you know what I mean, don’t lie and say you don’t. It is agony sometimes and yet I can’t stop doing it. True love or psychopathology? The jury is still out, but I hope that  you will join me on the road to verdict, and that there aren’t too many crashes along the way.