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.