A Word To The Creepers

I got permission from my friend, the Rev. Kaji Dousa, to share a pointed Facebook post she wrote last week when she was attending a conference. The sad thing is that although we could read this as a bit of “hot goss,” it’s a strong statement that could have been written by many of us while at many church conferences.

Time is UP, boys.

We’re not going to giggle and dodge your icky hugs, your ass gropings, your comments about our boobs, your sexist put-downs and come-ons. We’re going to look you in the eye and say, “Who the hell do you think you are, and who do you think you’re talking to?”

We’re not just going to share what happened to us through the whisper network, we’re going to organize a formal response and report you. We are going to hold you accountable for behaving like a pig, and we’re going to make sure that you are no longer allowed to be a malignant presence that assures that women remain on the margins of our work and our gatherings.

Women are gathering power and learning how to use it. Some of you who have been getting away with your predatory behavior for years will no doubt pout and whine and claim that you are the victim of a witch hunt. To that I will respond with the words of Lindy West, “Yes, this is a witch hunt. I am a witch, and I’m hunting you.”

Kaji wrote,

I am delighted to be at this conference (& anywhere else, for that matter) to learn and grow.

I am the Senior Pastor of a church with a multi-million dollar annual budget. This means that most of my peers are men. I will talk to them. Do not assume or presume anything in these conversations except collegiality.

So no, my conversation with my friend/colleague should not be characterized as him talking to his “girlfriend”. Comments like this are a clear attempt to diminish my power and to put me in my “place” so that I cannot network and speak to the men with whom I need to be in collegial relationship. I am not here for this, nor should you be.

If I am friendly to you I am not flirting with you. There are no exceptions to this.

My attention to my aesthetics is not an invitation for sexual advances.

I am *NOT HERE* to hook up with you or anyone else.

So don’t test me with a lingering hand or an inappropriate joke. I may choose to laugh things off to diffuse tensions but that is not affirmation that you should try more.

Do not presume anything but my integrity and my fidelity to my vows. If you forget about this, you have permission to allow the unmistakably bright rocks on my left finger (though this shouldn’t be necessary) to serve as a reminder.

Just because you remove your ring before conferences (yes, this is a thing) doesn’t mean that the rest of us do or want to.

I thought that this would get better once I got married but then I remembered that no one is safe.

If any of this describes your behavior towards me or something you witnessed, please don’t slide into my DMs or corner me in the hallway with comments, excuses or apologies. I’m so accustomed to all of this that I’m not even mad. All I want is for this to stop. Don’t explain. Just do better.

And finally, for God’s sake: do not pet my foot. (!!!)

Alright. Carry on.


Don’t look for a sparkling ring on our left hand, either. None of us, married or not, are at conferences to provide cruising material for you. Stop sexualizing our encounters. Don’t hold me for an extra long hug: yuck. If I am charming, gregarious, engaged and cute it doesn’t mean I want to sleep with you. If I do want to venture into that territory I will let you know directly because I’m a grown-ass woman and not a target. In twenty-two years of ministry I have briefly dated one colleague. When he first propositioned me he was in final fellowship, still married, and I was a seminarian. I’ve learned a lot since then. I did tell him off at the time but I also should have reported him to the Association. He was a charming, self-effacing and serial violator of professional boundaries.

I am grateful to Kaji and to all the other women in ministry who support each other in dealing effectively with the pervasive culture of objectification and sexism in our collegial circles. Thank you also to the men and trans folk who speak up and out against this harrassment, who do not protect predators and who do not constantly expect women to do all the emotional labor addressing this issue. Thank you to the conscientious leaders within our denominations who are working to change structures of reporting and accountability for greater impact and health in our ministry.

Looking forward to hearing from other women in the comments. Cis-het men,it would be good if you would sit this one out and just listen.

If we’re not really close friends, don’t come at me like this. If I want to hug you I can make the first move.

Directing Worship and Flubs


I am SO not set. Today was the Children’s Pageant and I have been obsessing about the service on the 23rd and Christmas Eve (we don’t have a Christmas Day service). Then, a mere few days off and we bang right into the New Year’s Eve service! Not exactly, but almost. OMG WHAT TO DO?

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about!
I want to talk about what to do when you mess up worship.
I also want to talk about the fact that you’re a theatrical director, did you know that?
Yea, I’ll talk about that, too. Comment! Weigh in! Tell me if you learned anything!

Mary Poppins Returns… To Church!

Now, keep in mind as you listen to me cackle my lungs out that this is probably the tenth time watching this clip of a preacher levitating while giving his sermon:

This reminded me of a final dress rehearsal I attended last month for a production of “Peter Pan” directed by a dear friend. One of the details that made the show work so well was that the flying was very carefully choreographed. The children and Peter Pan knew what to do at take-off, while airborne, and while landing. Because the actors knew how to hold themselves gracefully, they never looked like they had been accidentally hooked by the back of their collars to a ski lift like this poor man does.

I hope he had so much fun. He certainly committed news, and that isn’t a bad thing.
But the moral of the story is, whether you’re getting yourself into a story, a ritual or an actual physical levitation (!), please at least think through — and rehearse of possible — what you are doing with your body and words at the beginning, throughout, and at the end. So many creative worship ideas or traditional liturgies are disempowered by worship leaders who have a poorly executed concept and don’t know how to stick the landing.

Michael, Wendy, John, Tinkerbelle, COME ON! “Peter Pan” at The Norwood Theatre.

Crazy Candidating Week Schedules

So you got the invitation from the Search Committee to be their candidate!! CONGRATULATIONS!!
The next step is to meet the whole congregation during the ordeal we call Candidating Week.

Soon, or already, you will receive/have received a bewildering schedule for the week that contains about four times as many appointments and obligations as you would have in the normal course of your work, and that’s insane. DO NOT ACCEPT THIS SCHEDULE AS A DONE DEAL.

Get out your red pen and get to work. Create a reasonable schedule that allows for you to meet the important groups and people you need to meet, NOT all of the people the Search Committee has determined you ought to meet. Remember that they’re excited, you’re a hot ticket, and they have never done this before. They are hearing from all kinds of eager folks who are anxiously trying to get some time with you. These are their friends, fellow church leaders, and those to whom they are accountable in this work. Of course they want to try to please their constituents! Don’t freak out.

But remember: the Search Committee, leaders and congregation can tag team through this process. When an individual or team gets exhausted, they can take a break and reappear a few days later.
You are one person.


Not only are you one person, you are one person who most likely has another congregation to get back to at the conclusion of this candidating experience; a congregation with whom you want to do a good and grounded leave-taking process. It is insensitive and inconsiderate for congregations in search to assume that any clergyperson can travel a short or long distance to meet dozens to hundreds of new people over the course of one week, have multiple important conversations per day, research their new geographical area and do house hunting and possibly school visits for children, craft two worship services with church staff and lay liturgists, meet and work with administrative staff who may also have an official or unofficial say in the selection process, check in with local colleagues and then return to their current ministry setting anything but completely drained.

YOU ARE ONE PERSON, and you are an ordained spiritual leader. Now is the time for you to model reasonable expectations and to lead by example. In a non-anxious way, simply respond to the schedule with your revisions in a spirit of collaboration and conversation. Don’t be defensive; remember, the Search Committee may be working off a boilerplate schedule they got from All Souls Workaholic Overachievers Church. So you simply say, “I think we can combine the religious education committee and worship team meet-and-greet on Thursday afternoon, and then I’ll be meeting with a realtor at 3PM. I’ll plan to be back in the office on Friday at 9:00 AM because my family and I will be having dinner together that night.”

“The board meeting will be a big one, and I’m going to be scheduling a meeting immediately afterward with the chair and the treasurer to go over some questions I have about the Letter of Agreement, so the potluck with the choir won’t work for that day. How about if I come to their rehearsal a half hour early so we can chat then?”

You’re the professional. They are not in this profession and are making their best, most educated guess as to what a good Candidating Week looks like. Show, guide, converse, teach. Discuss. If there’s a retired or active pastor on the team that put together the schedule who pushes back, smile and red flag that. That person has just identified themselves as a competitor, not a congregant.

This is an opportunity for you to find out what kind of relationship the congregation wants to have with their minister: collaborative and considerate, spiritually mature, supportive? Or resentful and demanding, with grumbling when you suggest reasonable alternatives to an unrealistic, barely survivable schedule?

You will learn a lot. Assume the best intentions of everyone and be ye not afraid. You got this.

Kiss of peace, PB

#MeToo And Ministry

Happy Spring? I think? We had snow yesterday and I keep slipping just enough to twinge a groin muscle that I sprained badly in JANUARY, which is entirely charming and doesn’t at all make me feel like I’m 106 years old.

I have a serious subject to raise with you, clergy colleagues. I spent much of Friday night on the phone with a female colleague hearing about yet another case of sexual misconduct within our ranks — and trying to stategize an appropriate response with her within our current structures.

Lately, I have been adding up all the hours I have spent over the years discussing male ministers’ casual, jokey sexism — and in some cases actual groping and assault — against female colleagues and church staff, and I am angry at the theft of all our time and energy. I serve in the most lefty Protestant denomination in the country (we’re so Left, many of our members and clergy would deny we’re even Protestant at all, but we most definitely are in the sociological sense, if not theologically). We should know better. We have been doing work on human sexuality for decades and were the first (or second) to ordain women in the 19th century.

We do not know any better. Those of us who blow the whistle are still accused of being uptight and complaints or corrections in the moment are mostly either laughed off or diminished. Because we’re so bad at intersectionalism, we have been told that we’re “whiny white women” (this by other white leaders).

Particularly since #MeToo, women ministers have been talking amongst ourselves about how sick and tired we are of tolerating objectification, icky jokes, outright discrimination and uncomfortable situations with colleagues.
I am thinking of a wonderful woman colleague who went to peck the cheek of an esteemed old male colleague in greeting at an event she was hosting at her church. He quickly maneuvered his face and stuck his tongue in her mouth. She was shocked, horrified and traumatized, and still is. While she was still mulling over what to do, he sent her an e-mail thanking her for hosting the event and quoth, “Your tongue tastes like heaven.’

She did not file a complaint for reasons of her own, but continues to struggle emotionally with the fallout from this disgusting assault. Again, a terrible theft of her time, energy, wellness and sense of safety in the environment of collegial gatherings.

One of the reasons ministers in my denomination hesitate to report our colleagues for skeevy behavior is that our collegial covenant is outdated and paternalistic, and presumes some sort of baseline decency among our ranks that does not exist. Our covenant pressures all of us in ministry to assume best intentions of one another, to speak directly with one another when grievances arise (can you imagine being expected to speak to someone who has assaulted you? Try that in real life!), and to work things out with a Good Officer — a third party whose role it is to help the colleagues have the necessary conversation, to listen well, and to facilitate a fair process.

We call bullshit. We are not family, and we are not friends. We are a group of professional colleagues who have all been through the same rigorous educational, training, screening, vetting and discernment process that tries, but cannot possibly assure, that we are mature, healthy people with appropriate boundaries and egalitarian attitudes and practices. If we don’t know by now that such rigorous training is no assurance against the ancient assumptions and attitudes of patriarchy, we are practicing willful ignorance.

I have zero patience for the “oh, this is turning into a witch hunt” complaint. As Lindy West wrote, “Yes, this is a witch hunt. I’m a Witch, and I’m hunting you.”

I would like to know what your denominations have in place that specifically address sexual misconduct among religious professionals.