(Stained) Glass Ceilings

Sarah Palin, eat your heart out; I’m shattering a glass ceiling or two on my own ’round here.

My little congregation in Plainfield has had several women– young women, even– as pastors before, but at the larger church in Montpelier, I am the first woman and the youngest person to sit behind the pastor’s desk. Leaving aside, at least for a time, observations as to why it might have taken so long, there are some exciting things about breaking a mold or two. Like the double-takes around town when I wear my funny collar, or the sudden interest when someone mentions that their new pastor is a young woman.

I want to stress that this has not been An Issue with the congregation. In fact, none of them have so much as mentioned it. I was told by a retired pastor, although the Office Manager and I had pretty much figured it out.

Now as a young pastor and as a woman, I believe I bring some specific gifts to this ministry. I blog, for instance, something more common amongst young’uns (although not limited to us). I think that I have an ability to do what I call emotional muti-tasking, that is, I can name, give room for, and process an emotional response, say, anxiety (my own or others’), and at the same time say, “great, well, despite feeling anxious about this, we really need to get down to business.” This is something at which I think many women excel, but again, it is by no means limited to us.

But just now, I’m mostly evidencing my skills in the field of interior decorating (again, some of the best decorators I know are men, but apparently, none of them have pastored in Montpelier). You see, the office that I came into was, well. Dark. Stale. Plain. I believe Office Manager extraordinaire Kimberley referred to it as a ‘man cave.’

We took down the heavy drapes (using a butter knife as a screwdriver, since the rod was bolted to the wall, and I’m handy too, so there for gender stereotyping), and put up some sheer fabric. We washed the window panes, which also let in more light. I brought in plants. I lit scented candles. I arranged my books with little pieces of decor in between them. I moved the desk. I asked intentional questions of myself, like, “what’s the most inviting way to arrange this space?”

Everyone who has walked in has commented on the difference. How bright and friendly and welcoming the office suddenly is. A former pastor, over the phone with Kimberley, was moved to defend his own decor: “My office was inviting, too!” To which she replied, “No, you were inviting. Your office was too messy for people to find a chair.” Ah, poor M. But they still love you.

“Why didn’t anyone else think to put the desk there? Or make it so bright?” someone asked me. I bit my tongue and resisted the urge to reply “because they were boys.” Unfair and sexist of me, that is.

But come on, and ‘fess up to your gendered ideas. Ladies, what gifts to you think you bring as a female to your particular work? Gents, fight back! Tell about your mad decorating skillz or what other gifts you think are your particular masculine forte.

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3 Responses

  1. I think that I bring multi-tasking to my job. I don’t know many men that can do it very well if at all. I, however, can hold several tasks all at once, and do them all pretty well.

    I think that I also see things that others don’t. ike someone says, “—– needs to be done.” I feel like I’m the one who really helps us to think about what that means.

    These could just be me things, but who knows.

  2. @Heather,

    See now I hear the multi-tasking thing a lot, and I actually think that it is a legitimate gender difference, and not a stereotype. I’m told it links back to hunters vs. gatherers. If you think about it, the hunter (typically male in early civilization) has a single focus: to locate, stalk, kill, and bring back an animal. The gatherer (typically female) goes out and gathers many things at once, keeping in mind what is needed, what can be used, and what is unnecessary, and then incorporates those things into the life of the camp/homestead. I dunno, but it makes some sense to me.

    That second piece is an intuition kind of thing, which is probably neither male nor female (my dad is really good at it, for example), but is about whether or not you see the big picture and how things fit in it or the details and what the immediate needs are. A very good gift to bring to the table– either one, really.

  3. You know, I am so unprepared to discuss “typical gender role” stuff. Apart from the incredibly gauche and over-generalized “woman cook, clean, have babies; men work, watch football, drink beer,” I don’t honestly know what skillsets are supposed to belong to which gender.

    I can be dispassionate and analytical, which I’m told is “such a guy” way of looking at things, but I well up with tears and have emotions derail my plans sometimes, too. I’m direct and to the point and can’t stand waffling or politicking in the office, which means I have little patience for many of my female colleagues at times, but I can play coy when it suits, also.

    *shrug* This is one of those things that trying to think about probably hurts far more than it would help for me.

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