No Longer Taboo

Art by Rev. Shawna Bowman

Art by Rev. Shawna Bowman

Two weeks ago my spouse was installed as the new head pastor of the church he now serves. For you non churchy types (I sure hope there are non-churchy types who read my blog) it was an additional worship service with questions, vows, and charges to the newly installed, thus making the new gig officially official. It was an energy filled service complete with an artist/clergywoman interpreting Scripture in the pulpit via canvas and bold colors while a clergyman preached from the lectern. There was music that was the opposite of boring and there was dancing.

The newly installed head pastor was charged by members of the community including the children and youth of the congregation. Both young women who represented the children and youth of the church were confident and articulate. The young woman who represented the youth included that one of the things they want their new pastor to do is “have babies.” Her delivery of that line was as perfect as the rest of her charge, and the room filled with laughter.

I think it’s beautiful that the youth of the congregation like and respect my spouse so much that they want to see him as a father. I love that. And I love that the “have babies” line was delivered by the adopted child of a dear friend who intentionally chose to adopt as a single woman. I love everything about what the youth see and hope for my spouse and me.

Since that Sunday, multiple adults in the congregation have referenced the “have babies” line in various settings. Folks are still laughing about it.

During the service I initially laughed too, and teared up, thinking back to the day that young woman was adopted by her strong mama, and thinking of my own infertility. When adults speak of the “have babies” line tongue in cheek in the biological procreation sense, I keep thinking, “Y’all are missing that the very mouth that uttered ‘have babies’ was a prophetic voice declaring that the love of a family is not measured in biological procreation or blood relation. It’s measured in bold choices and boundless love.”

In churches, somehow the staff’s personal business is an acceptable topic of conversation at any given time. Also in churches, somehow the procreation plans of said staff members and their significant others is also an acceptable topic of conversation. I have a hard time believing that if my spouse were the new CEO of a secular company, the officially official welcome would include adults discussing their hopes of our procreation when they saw me out running errands.

I’m a contributor to the forthcoming book Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith, and the essay included discusses my own navigation of the waters of infertility as a pastor, chaplain, and patient. My essay is the first published work where I speak of infertility from the first person perspective, not simply clinical or professional perspective. It was time, and the “have babies” conversations with adults the past two weeks have affirmed my notion that it’s time. For if we can’t openly and sensitively talk about the many definitions of family within the church, then we are doing something wrong.

The text preached at the installation service was Galatians 3:23-29 and the sermon was entitled No Longer.  It was a passionate and powerful sermon preached by a mentor and friend, and throughout the sermon he discussed Paul’s refrain, “no longer,” and all of the worldly structures, divisions, and silences that no longer exist in the Kingdom of God.

As always, I am grateful for the voices of young people in our midst who continue to prophesy to adults. And, I hope adults continue to feel the nudge within us to no longer keep silent in the pulpit and pews about issues society and the Church have deemed taboo. Often the taboo topics are the very things that make us authentic and remind us of our need for community and faith in something greater than ourselves.

So may we no longer be silent about whatever it is about ourselves that we have been taught is too taboo for the Church. I’m confident the boundless love that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ can handle our authenticity.

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11 comments

  1. Thanks for this, Ashley-Anne. Beautifully, courageously and insightfully expressed.

  2. AA – What a wonderful piece. I feel there is such boldness in speaking about the things that we have held in silence. I, too, am embarking on a journey to open dialogue on the hidden ones that assist me in my work. Thank you for your brave example. (And yes – I can confirm that the unchurched do read your blog). Peace. Gail

  3. Its amazing how small utterances from children can add holiness to such events…

  4. Jennifer · · Reply

    Amen, dear one.

  5. Rev. Dr. Christine Vogel · · Reply

    Bold and compassionate piece Ashley Anne. Brava for writing it! And indeed, out of the mouths of babes…….amazing when and through whom the Spirit shows up. Blessings, Christine

  6. Kathi Worthington · · Reply

    Thanks.

  7. Hansen Wendlandt · · Reply

    Thanks, AA. My installation was yesterday, for which I used the same phrase as you, “officially official.” Thankfully no one commented on my procreative powers, although my former ordination was referenced as “did the deed”, which drew at least one inappropriate chuckle.

  8. I am smiling, knowing with all confidence that God has brought you to this place. Within our congregation are strong sisters in Christ that have started this conversation and I know would be thrilled to read this. I will pray that you find each other!

  9. Charlotte Epley · · Reply

    Interesting, as I read it I thought of babies in the faith, and I thought that was very wise, as in disciples and mentees. Only as I read on did I realize everyone else was thinking babies. After I married my husband – who before we married had made it clear having more children (he was a widower) was not an option for him and if I wanted children he was not for me and I was fine with that. There came a time when I grieved for the child I had not had, at that point I felt it was too late age wise for me to have a child, but there was grief and it was difficult at the time. At this point having no experience in rasiing children it is not something I think a lot about and I guess that is why I took the statment differently.

  10. Tara MacCabe · · Reply

    Gratitude! Faithfully frank! I recall the faith a couple showed as they discerned to put their honest of infertility in the congregation prayer list. In 12 years, i never saw that kind of faithfulness. Their faith taught so so many!

  11. What a profoundly beautiful expression of faith and love. I now know that Reggie has indeed met his match! Peace and love as you both continue to share the gifts God has given you.

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