-Rev Melissa Fain-
I've sat on this post since November. Advent, Christmas and Bible 101 were distractions to coming back to this. Lent's "God is," series was a needed reminder.
Six months on the internet is a really long time! Memes are born and die in that time. Campaigns rise and fall. A collective can feel the pride of success and the bile of defeat. When I took on this six month endeavor is was to do more than follow through on having a male pastoral handle for six months on Reddit. It was also to keep track of my feminine experience IRL (in real life). We don't often pay attention to what's happening around us, because it is our "normal." I didn't want to do something digitally without questioning what was physically happening at the same time.
Where I was: I'm at a place today where this is genuinely a difficult question to answer. I remember there was a time when elbow grease and gumption could get you anywhere. When an ordained minister, and woman flat out told me, "I hope you have skills somewhere else, because you'll need them," I did't listen. Well, I listened, but I had my naive hope. If my chips start lower than the boys, than I just have to be better than the boys. If people are throwing out biblical passages without context, I just have to be prepared to explain them in a well thought out way. Ministerial respect was always earned; not blindly given.
I had to believe this was all there was. There's no other way around it. Why would a seminary accept my money and let me focus my education on biblical and spiritual studies if it wasn't true? Why would a denomination allow me to even enter the ordination process unless my call was going to amount to something?
Where I am: PastorJerome came about because I finally saw something, and I knew there was a way to show it. I wanted to take the male username for two reasons.
First, if males were truly the ones called by God, than it wouldn't matter whether people thought my username was male or female, God would not allow me to look pastoral. I know that sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. I'd listen into conversations where someone would explain how they just felt he was the right minister for them. The way these congregants believed the Spirit moved them, seemed like an easy test. The same people who callously wrote out that they knew I wasn't a minister, would have the same feelings when the username was masculine.
Second, I wanted people who were not normally on the internet to see what I saw. We are all cloistered in our protective little bubbles, with people who think just like us. People are not in church anymore. That's why I'm outside church. It has given me a different experience than those female ministers who are loved by their congregations. I wanted to show the battle is far from over.
What I discovered was not even close to what I was expecting. Unhealthy levels of trust was thrown my way with a male username. When I expressed this fact after everything was done, the detractors came out of the woodwork. I was called a deceiver. Basically, how could I make someone feel I was Spiritually called by God? They couldn't see the other side of the coin, in that, giving a male minister trust for the sake of trust is dangerous. In their eyes, I stole their trust. The language immediately changed when my true identity was known. Being known only made the blatant double standard easier to see. Although, I'd doubt the people pronouncing it would realize what they did.
Where am I going? Six months was supposed to be my finish line. I'd carry this project to a point, express what it meant, and move on. Let me make this crystal clear: By moving on I meant it could reignite or extinguish whatever was left of my willpower. It was either going to be the beginning of a new chapter, or an explanation for why this minister was spiritually crucified. Some of the congregants of Fig Tree heard the dire tones in my words. Even if they had no idea what the context was at that point, they pulled me aside to express why this ministry means something to them.
What ended up happening was different. The IAMA didn't give me a bouncing off point, nor did it douse the flame. There were people who wanted me to continue. I remember saying to a friend, "Continue what?! The six months are over!" At the same time, there were those trying to convince themselves and myself that I did absolutely nothing meaningful for the past six months. That IAMA was seen 118 thousand times just a few weeks following it's publication. Since then, the story has been on Pathoes and the Disciple's News Service. That audience is bigger than any of the mega churches within my denomination.
Here is the cold hard truth: I need help. Part of the reason Fig Tree has been at 2pm is for convenience. You can go to your traditional worship experience, and make it to Fig Tree's livecast while still having time for a sit down lunch. Back when we first started livecasting I thought that was the answer. It's not. We need a "board of innovators." (Thanks James Brewer-Calvert for giving me that term.) We need ministerial help that thinks outside the physical building of church to find God's call to church beyond walls. We need people, male and female, who are willing to sacrifice their Israel to come join me in Babylon.
I'm not done yet. You have yet to start.