Monday, May 23, 2011

Clean Frumpy Ministry

We've done a few cursory searches with our blog title, just to see where we get reposted and tweeted (lots of places - thank you all for believing what we write should be shared) and what pops up.  There's Dirty Sexy Money, the television show that flopped; Dirty Sexy Administration, about, well, the zaniness of administration; and even a Dirty Sexy Vegetarian.  No pornography sites.  No lascivious images.  No weird cookies that infiltrate your browser, just waiting for the FBI or the secret church morality police to discover.

Yet time and time again, in our respective former parishes, in former and possible dioceses, and search processes (of which one of us is going through now), we get asked why we named the blog Dirty Sexy Ministry.  

First, it gets your attention.  And it seemed like a great idea at a New Year's Eve party when a local New Orleans celebrity suggested it. 

Second, we like it.  Yes, it's a bit jarring and edgy, but not nearly as edgy as the whole killing God on the cross and God telling us we are still loved anyway.

Third, we believe it.  We believe ministry is dirty and messy.  We also believe it's sexy, often done more for appearance's sake than an outpouring of the heart.  But if you're following us, you've read that post.

So why is the combination of the words dirty sexy and ministry so troubling for so many?  Because, we suspect, the church really, really doesn't want to talk about sex.  We avoid that conversation at all levels.  Throughout history, the church has demonized sex, banned it on certain days (read what one is supposed to abstain from on certain days on the Medieval Church calendar and you'll wonder how the human race ever propagated), demonized those who dared talk openly about sex, and ignored the issue all together.  The Church's official stance on sex seems to be, "Don't ask, don't tell."  While the current discussion of the place of gays, lesbians, transgendered, and bisexuals in the institutional church is moving us in a good direction, many church types (including your friendly neighborhood bloggers here) think it's still a distraction to the real issue, which is how does the church finally enter in a positive way, a discussion about nurturing, healthy sexuality in all people (because we feel certain that it's not just the gays and lesbians having sex) and how harmful unhealthy sexuality can be (including abuse, harassment, and all their nastier cousins).  For people who say this better than we, we recommend investing about 25 minutes of your time to watch this video discussion between Brian Ammons and Richard Rohr.

What we named the blog isn't nearly as important as what we say in the blog.  When I was in the search process, I was hurt when some parishes couldn't get past the blog title or were concerned that it was a bit "racy"for their parish or diocese.  But what I was really hurt by was the truth that there were parishes and dioceses that would want me only if I edited myself as a person to be nice and proper.  I've tried that editing myself to fit in; it didn't work well for me (again, we've posted that journey here, too).  I was also hurt that the vulnerability we both strive to share in the posts was completely overlooked seemingly because two women had the audacity to put sexy and ministry together in a title.  Mary has had similar experiences, although many more parishes have been positive about the blog during her interviews.

Just when I actually contemplated disbanding this blog and selling out to get a position, I got to the deep interview stage at a parish in another diocese.   There were questions about the blog (all valid), but they were honest questions, not ones posed to see if I gave the "right" answer.  They had actually read the posts.  Guess which parish and diocese I now serve?

We hope that we as a faith community can ask honest questions about sex and ministry and all the subjects that frighten us.  Honest questions are the ones for which we don't know the answers, but are willing to ask because we are willing to surrender to the holy search.  This is the root of faith - being willing to surrender to the truth that God is in charge of all this, and we are not.  And honest faith comes at a cost, mostly a cost of our own egos.  

Yes, this blog has cost both of us (you'll have to wait for the book to read the juicy details).  But it has also been a way for us to discern what is valuable in our lives.  We are both proud of what we offer in our writings: dirty, clean, sexy, frumpy, silly, and serious;  we are also humbled we can share it.  We are glad our followers and readers are with us (tentative conference time is fall of 2012, by the way).  And we are planning to write until the Holy Spirit herself says, "Enough."  

So, here's to the fearlessness of those who read our blog without wondering what cookies may be in your browser.  Here's to the churches and dioceses that like the blog, and to those of you part of this Dirty Sexy Community (maybe we'll make up membership cards), and we ask your prayers that Mary (in the search process) will find a parish that will let her write her posts and love their community as only she can.   

13 comments:

Gluten Free Jesus Freak said...

So... when's the book? :)

Dom said...

Great blog, great title. As one who was raised Roman Catholic (before I saw the light and became Episcopalian), I am certainly aware of how some in the church have tried to demonize sex - and to oppress women.

Keep up the great work! Can't want for my membership card.......

Di said...

Amen, Amen, Amen! Having done some of that awful self-editing (and now discerning with intentional lack of editing), I stand and applaud the honesty.

The Irreverent Economist said...

I'm a relatively new follower of DSM, but I enjoy it very much. A careful look at Jesus ministry shows that he came not so much to comfort, but to challenge. Challenge the status quo. Challenge the power structure. Challenge each of us out of our self absorption. Your blog challenges too. Keep at it.

Watercolor said...

I love the title. If we ever needed a new priest, I'd find it refreshing from the "safe" crap others spew.

it's margaret said...

Oh yeah --no doubt about it. Thank you for your honesty, vulnerability and willingness to take risks.

emb said...

Your irreverent nature has gotten you this far, so why stop now?! Keep at it, and maybe, just maybe, you may change a few minds while you're turning heads. Well, or at least open them to new possibilities. And as I see it, we are who God made us. To "edit" God's work would be just a bit insulting, don't you think? Thanks for reminding me not to do it! And thanks for being exactly who you are, and sharing it with us.

SuzieQ said...

Love it. I've just recently started following you gals via your blog - and thank you for coming out and saying it - well, everything you say, but in particular this about how the church often seems to let a black hole of ignorance and fearful avoidance consume any honest embrace of sexuality. I'm at a place in my life right now trying to embrace my own sexuality in a way that is both pleasing to God and absolutely honest...and I'm still searching for resources and people in the church I can turn to for help. Good on ya!

BobMacActual said...

"Yes, it's a bit jarring and edgy, but not nearly as edgy as the whole killing God on the cross and God telling us we are still loved anyway."
BWAAAAHAHAHAHAAHHAAAA! Now that's funny! It makes me suspect that you are Canadian...
=

Julie said...

I'm also one of those priests that thinks living fully into myself as God created me is what God wants from me. And I have also found my honesty and authenticity to cause lots of anxiety for people in the church. But, as you both know, living as less than we are always turns out badly. Sure there are opportunities that pass us by, but the Holy Spirit knows that those aren't the right places for our ministry anyway.

Thanks for your sharing your selves with us. And for giving me hope that there might be a place in this church for me after all.

Ellen J said...

As a card carrying evangelical, from the part of the Church that might even be more whacked out about sex and sexuality than certainly you Episcopalians, I salute you for your honesty, courage, and darn right insightful writing. Much peace and blessing to Dirty Sexy Ministry!

jevcat said...

Thank you both for being yourselves and sharing your journeys with us. You may never know just how valuable you are.

ContemplativeNonTheist said...

Free spirits have always been violently opposed by organized religion. I greatly enjoy your blog posts, though I'm an atheist, but time and again I wonder why two such creative and freethinking people are languishing in the backwaters of a church. Both of you could accomplish so much more elsewhere, in my very humble opinion.