Monday, August 31, 2009

New Courses in Seminary

Or, perhaps, simply courses you wished they'd taught in seminary after your first few years as a priest, pastor, or other ordained presence in full-time Christian service. Our sampling would include:

Bob Vila is not your rector 101. Apparently, many parishioners think you had this course when they come to your office and say, "Oh, the toilet is overflowing again," or, "the chancel lights are on the blink." Then they leave you, the person whose bookshelves are lined with tomes on Rethinking the Doctrine of Atonement or Elementary Biblical Hebrew. See any Bob Vila books in here? Nope. But what do we do? Go jiggle the handle ourselves or flip the light switches on and off a few times to no avail. Just because we can invoke the epiclesis does not mean we can call down the Holy Spirit to unclog a toilet. Tragically hard to believe, but there you go.

Housekeeping 101. This we know, but did we really go to seminary to arrange chairs, sweep the vestibule, wash altar linens, or clean up after the parish pot luck? Perhaps the real course should be Avoiding Housekeeping 101, which most male clergy seem to have excelled at as they quickly leave an event before any actual physical housekeeping needs are identified.

Self-editing 201. Speaking the truth in love does not mean having no unexpressed thoughts (an aside, I actually do have unexpressed thoughts, which should be really disturbing for those who know me well). Nothing good will come from uttering, "Why do we have this garish chasuble?" before discerning it was the gift of the parish matriarch's mother and sewn from the remnants of her childhood camping tent. Just blog about it anonymously.

Human Relationships 099. Just because I'm your priest does not mean I want to be your girlfriend. Clever yet subtle ways to avoid the creepy attention from the gentleman callers who also regularly attend your church services. Course will also include a list of valid excuses that, while complete lies, have received an absolution from God herself. They include, but are not limited to: I have a meeting that could go on for hours; I have a pastoral emergency; I'm dating someone else (even if it's Mr. Darcy in fantasy boyfriend land); and Doesn't this violate the terms of your probation?

Covert Activities 501. For advanced students only. Also known as Dating in the Priesthood. Find nifty ways to have dinner where no parishioner will see you and engage in awkward conversation, then spread rumors. Learn how to camouflage the vehicle of a guest so it will remain unseen. Master the art of vagueness while sharing your vocation so he won't be initially creeped out by dating said priest.


What Not To Wear. A week-end seminar on all things clergy wear. Lesson one: clergy shirts aren't sexy. If a man says they are: RUN. They are shapeless and black with a piece of plastic around your neck. They are made to identify yourself as a woman of God. All well and good. However, just because they aren't lovely parts of your fashion wardrobe DOES NOT mean you get simply get to give up on looking nice. General no-no's include pants with elastic waistbands, anything velour, and clothing your mother gave you because she no longer wears (unless your mother was Coco Chanel).

Silent self-expression. Learn the fine art of non-verbal communication. The eye-roll for particularly stupid statements at Diocesan conventions. The furrowed brow for yet another phone call about the failure to sing, "Hail Thee Festival Day" on Easter. The shaking lip for the girl priest who wants to say, "I don't want to have this conversation and tears make most men uncomfortable enough to shut up." When you can't say it with words, simply imply it with facial expressions.

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