Thursday, June 15, 2006

Of Chivalry, or its Lack, and Presbytery

In April I posted about becoming visible at our denomination's district council. I never did come up with any real reasons for the evident change in other's attitudes--or was it a change in me?

Something else that seemed odd happened a few days ago. I'm not trying to brag or imply anything whatsoever. I am just curious, more than anything else, about the "whys." Just musing to avoid going outside and doing yard work maybe. (Today it is HOT in Wisconsin.)

I was attending a small, early-morning training session led by our district superintendent. There were eight ministers present. I was the only woman among them. We all know each other to a greater or lesser degree. I was last to arrive, but the superintendent was out of the room, so we spent some time getting coffee and exchanging small talk and good-natured banter. Two of the group, Rev. R. and Rev. H. are former pastors who are now employed as officials for the district.

I was included in the group as if I was "one of the guys." I mean this in a totally good way. I do not think this has ever happened to me before in a group of ministers. They are kind but I never feel like a friend and peer. This morning--something was different.

Rev. H., the white-haired and jocular man in the chair to my left teased, "Well [SingingOwl], it is good to have you join us. You just significantly lowered the ugly factor in the room." I laughed and replied with some similarly light comment, and the other district official (Rev. R.) in the chair to my right looked at us both very seriously and said, "She raised the intelligence factor quite a bit too." I was surprised at the comment and wondered if he had been concerned that I was offended by the earlier remark (I wasn't). There was no time to reply since we were beginning our class at that point.

Later I was carrying some light but awkward boxes out to my car. I juggled the boxes, my notebook, Bible, pen and purse, dropping the pen in the process. The others were ahead of us, but Rev. R. (carrying a load of his own) awkwardly picked up the pen, calling out loudly, "Hey GUYS! Someone could come and help the lady with this stuff!" They were too far ahead and did not hear him, I assume, since they did not stop. I grinned at him and said, "Well, when you gain some things you sometimes lose other things." He sort of "harrumped" and said he guessed so. I said that I'd take this anyday. He looked at me with what appeared to be somewhat surprised understanding.

We piled into cars and proceeded to Famous Dave's for some fabulous BBQed ribs. It was an enjoyable lunch with lots of warm conversation. There were six at our table, because a short distance away the district superintendent sat with one of our number who has recently been elected as an area presbyter. "Why are they eating by themselves?" I asked Rev. H. who again was on my left. He told me that since the pastor was assuming a new position, the superintendent had decided to begin the education process over lunch. Rev. R. (funny, he was on my right again) said "It's too bad we aren't a little closer. That way you could listen in and when you become a presbyter you can skip the first part of the instruction. Well, I suppose they'd just make you do it again anyhow." He didn't grin.

What kind of joke is that? I'm not saying I'm next on the list for presbyter or that I even want to serve in that way. I am saying that not long ago the remark simply would never have been said.

What is happening?

This is good. I'll carry my own boxes if necessary.


LoieJ said...

I can't help but wonder what the ages of these guys are.

Yes it is good to think have they changed or have you changed, or both?

I was in a situation working at some volunteer work with some really nice men whom I respected, slightly younger than I was, but peers in other ways. There was a lot of joking, but since I hadn't been brought up in that kind of atmosphere, I didn't know how to handle it, so I would just be blank. But as I loosened up, things improved for all of us. When I finally found my own footing and could tease them, they were really surprised that I had a sense of humor.

One of these men is currently the president of our congregation and I've grown to respect him even more. I think he has blossomed as a person and as a leader. These days I give him a hard time.

Our woman pastor has been stuck with several jobs by the men in the local pastor's group (mixed denominations.) It is pretty hard for a new person to be given a job that they have never even observed. I think it has to do with her being new here, not that she is a woman. Her decision is that since they stuck her with certain tasks and didn't give guidelines or offer help, she would do them in the way that is common in our tradition, ie liturgical for example.

Anonymous said...

RYC: No, they're not voting! Buncha chickens! So you should get a shout-out just for being brave enough! And your answer? Not close... it was more! LOL

Anonymous said...

If we're going to Famous Dave's afterwards, _I'LL_ carry the boxes! ;)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like some critical-mass thinking has adjusted attitudes. Way cool.

Psalmist said...

I think it's great that you said you'd take the way it is now over the way it used to be. Too many traditionalists presume to speak for women and say all women at least secretly prefer the chivalry over freedom model, and even progressive men tend to believe them. They need to hear this often from women who've tried both and insist upon freedom.

IMO, the ideal is courtesy and freedom for both women and men. I hold doors for men who are carrying stuff, and have never had one get offended yet. And I don't get offended at held doors or help with carrying things. And if someone rides in my car, I hold and close the passenger door for him/her. Again, no complaints, maybe just a "Oh, you don't have to do that" even as they smile with pleasure at the unexpected kindness.

Who knows, maybe you'll raise the courtesy quotient, as well as the prettiness and the intelligence, of your group! (big grin)

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

P.Softly, the two I am specifically mentioning are about mid fifties to mid sixties. But as for the change at district council, and as for the other ministers in the room...hmm... ages vary from 30s up, I would guess. I have not noticed that younger guys are more accepting of their female peers than the older ones.

As for your pastor, if they don't say what they want they can't
complain, eh? And what could she do than to do it the way she was used to?

Is she the only woman in the group?

Anonymous Nightmare, you're on. Get Ruth and we'll head out. I had never eaten there before, but it sure was tasty.

Tina, I had to read this a couple of times before it clicked. I'm coming back for another guess in a day or so.

Great Ruthie, "Critical mass thinking?" Could it be? Yahoo!

Psalmist, that is right on, IMO. Courtesy should know no gender. I appreciate being assisted when it is needed. So do most guys, I'd say! My husband always comes around and closes the car door, and I always say thanks, but it feels odd, to tell you the truth.
And absolutely, I prefer being treated as a person and as a friend any day of the week. It was noticable, and it felt good! And I'm not abdicating me femininity either! ;-)

LoieJ said...

Yeah, she is the only woman in the group. There are four other churches in our tiny town and one has 3 pastors!!!

LOL about the guys in their mid 50's. That's what I am. But this made me realize that the men I know have changed, at least in the way they speak to women in public, in what they allow and accept and expect. We only had one vote against calling the current pastor.

BTW, since women often volunteer more than men in church activities, do you do anything to counter the possible perception that women are running everything in your church?

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Ooh, yes I've heard that one. It is not true, but it does get said. I take opportunities to have leaders be visible--like mentioning the deacons by name. Our Children's Church director is a man, our Youth Leader is a man (his wife helps him, but he is the main one) and our worship leader is a man. And we still here that "women are running everything" hooey!

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

P.S. I'm 56, if it matters. A very YOUNG 56. ;-)

LoieJ said...

LOL Same age. I tell my husband that I was born in the second half of the last century, but he was born in the first half.

Well, I haven't heard any comments about women running everything. But I've the past, little girls would just see men doing everything every where and didn't have role models. Now I've heard stories about little boys wondering if boys can grow up to be pastors.

We have lots of men that do things, but more women who volunteer more readily, esp for public things. And of course, the paid positions tend to be women.