It happens to almost everyone, unless your dad or mom is a teacher. That realization, sometime in elementary school that Teachers. Are. HUMAN.
I know, I know, it came as a shock to me, too. My mom has worked in courtrooms for most of my life so I always knew that judges and cops and lawyers were human, but somehow that didn’t carry over to teachers. And even after the realization about teachers it didn’t carry over to ministers for a long time.
Obviously I realized that ministers have lives and partners and houses and children at some point, I guess around middle school when we had a pizza party at our youth minister’s house. It’s not like I didn’t know it before then, but it wasn’t something I thought about. But that was our youth minister. She wore hoodies and jeans and Converse and was basically the epitome of cool to a bunch of church kids.
But over the last year or so I keep meeting ministers who are just very, very human. Very down to earth, very… normal. I know, ministry is, on some level, just a job. But it’s one of those jobs that kind of throws you off a little. I completely forget what blog I was reading, but it was a blog by a minister who was basically saying, “look, I’m human. When you meet me at a party I probably don’t want to talk about God, and I’m sure your great uncle was a great minister but I’m not sure why you just told me that.” Like when people meet a doctor and want them to diagnose their back pain, or a lawyer and want to ask about a case that their second cousin Jimmy lost a few years ago.
I realized that ministers were just normal people on some level, but aside from a couple who I know well as friends I wasn’t quite sure how to just sit down and talk with ministers. That changed when I went to Phoenix in July to protest SB 1070. There were a lot of ministers there.
The first night was weird, but that’s mostly because I was just totally disoriented and confused. I started calming down a little when I realized I knew a couple people there, only vaguely but it was enough to put me at ease. I kept meeting people who were ministers or going into ministry or considering it who were… normal. Who had good senses of humor and were sarcastic and cussed and were dynamic and just cool people. And they were… ministers (or close to it).
So here’s to YOU. YOU let me know that ministers are human:
YOU, my roommate our first night in Phoenix.
We were technically doing a home stay but the couple who owned the house we were staying in was on vacation. He is the minister of a church in Tennessee. We had adventures trying to get into that house. First we had to find the gate code, then there we set off the alarm. We had to figure out the air conditioning, which was no easy task. We had to figure out the internet, and adding to all of that we were exhausted and jet lagged. It was what he did the next morning, though, that really cemented him as totally human in my book. He made coffee. At 3:30am. It was kinda crappy coffee and it was really too damn hot to be drinking coffee but he made coffee, and it was fantastic in so many ways.
YOU, one of the UUs arrested in Phoenix.
After she was arrested, while they were all being held, she got out of the makeshift handcuffs they were wearing and she took pictures with her cellphone and sent them to people “on the outside.” She took this absolutely fantastic picture of Reverend Susan Frederick-Grey sitting in the holding area. It just struck me as something one of my friends would do – sneak their iPhone in to jail to take pictures.
YOU, my youth minister when I went to the Assembly of God church in middle school.
I just remember her being cool and accepting and not so judgmental about everyone and everything. I never got to talk to her after I came out but I just remember her being a pretty good person. Looking back I have no idea what she would have said about my being gay but I like to pretend she would have been cool about it. Maybe. Ok, I have no idea, but she was a good person.
YOU, the first UU released from jail early morning on July 30th.
He came out to applause and immediately started telling us stories of when they’d been inside. Stories of playing hangman, of just messing around with each other.
YOU, my first UU minister.
She showed me that you can be a minister and a sexuality educator. You can be a minister and still write non-religious poetry. You can be a minister who reads Terry Pratchett Discworld excerpts from the pulpit. She showed me a lot of things.
YOU, the one who offered me a hug.
When he saw me leaning against the wall of the church crying. He had no idea why I was crying, and I completely blew him off, but it mattered that he noticed.
YOU, the alum from my college.
He talked to me, for a really long time, about discernment and ministry and then he told me I should meet his parents because he’s sure they’d love to have dinner with me. He let me complain and really got what I was actually complaining about, not the surface issues but the stuff deeper down.
ALL the UUs ministers in the van on the way to Tent City
A whole bunch of ministers in a van on our way to a quickly thrown together protest. And what do they talk about? People who knit in church. Apparently this is a REALLY contentious issue. REALLY contentious. Seriously, I think the people in that van got more into talking about knitters in church than they did about immigration reform.
Every one of you who has linked to something funny on facebook. Who has blogged about all the stuff going on in their life. Who has cussed out the copy machine. Who admitted that one time you totally lied in a sermon once because it made your story a LOT better. YOU, every minister who has shown me that you are all human and not some other life form.