Congregational Corner: I am your pastor, but this is MY body
By Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div.‘14)
I cannot begin to count the number of times I have heard about inappropriate comments being made to or about my female clergy colleagues, and myself, about our bodies. We are told to dress more conservatively, asked if we are pregnant, receive suggestions about new hair dyes and makeup, and are handed articles about women’s health… just to name a few things. As we focus on finding new ways to share God’s Word with our congregations, our congregations focus on ways to make their female leaders more appealing to look at. Some of my colleagues have even been told that since the congregation hired them, they need to dress and appear the way the congregation says (ie. the way that particular parishioner wants).
The hardest part of this is that as we strive to be professional and kind, we struggle to respond to these comments because we know that our thoughts are in no way appropriate, even if they are in response to an even more inappropriate comment. I am personally incredibly envious of the women who are able to respond with grace and direct attention to the inappropriate comments because all too often we just smile, tell you have a nice day, and walk away as we bite our tongue and seek out a quiet space to let our rage out. We stand off to the side, cleaning up after worship and other programs, listening to what you say and pretending to ignore you while we wonder why you aren’t just talking about the presentation or sermon instead (you are not as quiet as you think you are, and even if you are, we will still hear through the grapevine.)
As I hear from colleagues about their experiences and I think about my own, I have one simple thing to say —
It is NEVER okay to make judgments about another person or to talk about them behind their back and just because “you” pay “them” doesn’t make it okay.
I love to do prayer stations with my youth and a favorite one focuses on how we are created in the image of God. I encourage the youth to look in mirrors and to see themselves exactly in that way – created in the image of God. How does that change the way they see what they think of as flaws? I then encourage them to look at others in the room and to see perceived flaws (and things they may have recently made fun) of as beautiful and the image of God.
It is important that I do this regularly because, I thought, teenagers are the most critical of themselves and in need of support and reminders of their true beauty. As I think about what both my colleagues and I have experienced, and what so many others (men and women alike) experience every day, I want to encourage everyone to try this.
Go find a mirror and look into it. Look at everything that you think is flawed. See the beauty and power in it, knowing that you are strong and beautiful because you are created in God’s image. Think of someone you recently talked about and see them in God’s image. You can even go another step to let them know you see that they are created in God’s image!
There is no reason that your pastor should spend their free time looking for a new outfit to hide their weight because they overheard, again, someone asking if the pastor is pregnant. There is no reason that your pastor should feel like they need to dull their wardrobe because their outfits are not “befitting” of the office. There is no reason that your pastor should feel “less than” because another person does not like or approve of them because they are not fit enough, pretty enough, modern enough… every single person, including your pastor, is in fact ENOUGH and should be reminded of that instead of what is perceived as a flaw.