Who Wants to Date a Reverend?

The dating world can be tough when you have a job that quite literally scares the hell out of some men, and makes it hard to meet people “the old-fashioned way.”  Guys I work with are out of the question, because I am their minister.  Sure, there are some cute young doctors, but what if I date one, then he has a rough night in the ER and finds himself in need of the kind of support often provided by the chaplain?  How awkward would it be if the chaplain on duty were his girlfriend, or worse yet, his ex-girlfriend?  I think my no-dating-guys-I-work-with rule is a pretty good one.  I spend a lot of time at church, which is often suggested to me as a good place to meet like-minded individuals.  Yet I’m sorry to say there are absolutely no single men at this particular church.

When meeting someone new, one of the first questions is usually, “What do you do for a living?”  You know how it isn’t polite to discuss politics or religion with strangers?  Talking about my career brings up religion, whether I want it to or not.  I can sense discomfort from the other side of the table, as the man across from me tells me about his devout parents who make yearly trips to Israel, or reminisces about the church camp he went to as a kid, or jokingly confesses all the reasons he is certain he’s going to hell.  Then there was the guy who responded with, “A minister?  Ooh, that’s hot.  I went to Catholic school, and there was this one nun . . .”  I don’t remember the rest of his story.  I’m sure my brain blocked it out as part of some anti-creepy defense mechanism.

Bars aren’t my usual scene, and even when I am in one (on a rare night away from work), I mostly stick with my friends.  Not being of the female body type that most often gets attention in bars anyway — I am instead “short and stout” as one guy bluntly told me not long ago, which made me feel like a damned teapot — I rarely have to contend with questions from strange men.  There are exceptions, however, like the time I was part of a bachelorette party last year.  I left my table of party girls to go order us some more drinks, and a man approached me at the bar.  “Are you one of the bachelorettes?” he shouted over the loud music.  I nodded.  “What are you, like a bridesmaid?” he smiled.  “No,” I yelled back, “I’m the officiating minister.”  He couldn’t think of anything else to say, and was gone before the bartender finished mixing our drinks.

So, like a lot of twenty-first century singletons, I turned to online dating sites.  At first, I was upfront about my vocation.  That got me a few very strange emails.  Some were from Christians who felt the need to share with me their belief that women couldn’t be ministers.  Their messages were made up mainly of quotations from the apostle Paul about women keeping silent.  It was tempting to thank them for enlightening me and sarcastically tell them that I had never heard those Bible verses before.  But since silence was what they felt God had intended for me, I thought not replying was my best option.  Another email was short and to the point (so much so that he didn’t waste time with punctuation):  “It’s okay you’re a minister but I’m a f—ing atheist myself.  You’re still kinda cute so if you don’t have too many sexual hangups hit me back girl!”  I could not make this stuff up if I tried.

Eventually, I decided to be a bit more vague about my job description in my online profile.  I was still honest about my beliefs, just not about the fact that I work for God full-time.  I got more responses this way, and exchanged emails with several men.  Of course, then there was the question of when to drop the Jesus bomb.  I found it was best to wait until some initial communication had taken place.  If a guy doesn’t get to know me at least a little bit before he learns what I do, then I’m forced to compete with his preconceived notions of Christians and ministers, and it seems I always lose.  Waiting until the first date (or at least the first phone call) to lay this on him gives him a better chance of seeing me as a whole person.  The results have been mixed.  Sharing with one guy about my sense of calling nearly made him choke on his beer.  “What’s that like?” he laughed.  “God just showed up and said, ‘Hey, Stacy, get off your ass and work for me’?”  We didn’t have a second date.  Another man was okay with my being a chaplain, but was horrified to learn that I’d done mission work.  From the look on his face, you would’ve thought I’d told him I strangled puppies for fun.  One guy said he was very impressed by what I wrote in my profile about my theological beliefs, which were quite different from his own.  So I went ahead and laid out for him what I do and how being a chaplain has affected my understanding of God.  His response was simply, “Wow.  That is pretty damned cool.”  (“He’s a keeper,” I thought.)

One of my colleagues told me, “You’re a woman before you’re a chaplain.”  And she’s right.  I work so hard trying to make sure potential romantic partners see me as more than my job that I can lose sight of that fact myself.  Yes, I’m a minister, and an intelligent woman, a slow but determined runner, a sci-fi geek, a caring and loyal friend, a voracious reader, a kickass team trivia player, an aspiring author, and lots of other things.  All of them add up to an awesomely unique dating experience, for the guys brave enough to see more than just the “Rev.”

12 thoughts on “Who Wants to Date a Reverend?

  1. You leave us in suspense: What happened to the one “keeper” who out of all those hung -up people responded so genuinely to you? In my case, I was lucky. I met my husband at a poetry reading. At the time, I was a rabbinical student, (VERY rare for women then, in 1989) and he thought that was odd, and wondered if I was going to be part of an arranged marriage! But he was intrigued enough to talk with me. We are both in contrarian careers, so it worked out.

    Show up in places that attract other unconventional people, such as artists, etc. and you will meet people who are fascinated with you rather than dismayed. At least you don’t have to say you are a HOSPICE chaplain.

    1. Maybe the suspense will keep people coming back, Karen! 😉 I love the story of how you and your husband met. Yes, back then I’m sure a female soon-to-be-rabbi was even more of a wonder to men than a female minister is now! (Incidentally, I did my first unit of CPE with a woman studying to become a rabbi, one of my favorite fellow chaplains-in-training.) I think you’re right that the more unusual, creative types seem more intrigued than put off by what I do. I need to spend more time among them, my people.

      1. That’s absolutely right! Just do activities off and online that attract like-minded folks and things will happen naturally. Meanwhile, if I meet an “elegible” for you I’ll keep you in mind!

  2. Rev. Ruth Shaver

    I could have written the vast majority of this! I’m still hoping that the “keeper” I found will figure it out, though I have to say that having a “keeper” makes it easier for me to gently remind folks not to set me up with their family and friends…

  3. Wayne Beebe

    Going to the dating doctors thing. Doctors date doctors. Doctors date nurses. Nurses date nurses. Most know how to keep professional boundaries. You are at the same skill level as these professions, I would not exclude them from the dating pool. Just be up front with the boundaries issue

    1. Thanks for your comment, Wayne. I agree that we are at the same skill level, but the skills are very different. I need the staff to feel comfortable coming to me with any issues they’re struggling with, and often those things are very personal. It would be like a counselor dating her clients, or a pastor dating parishioners. Some people don’t see it this way, but it’s a line I’ve chosen to draw, for good reasons, I believe.

  4. Stacy Alan

    Stacy, except for the fact that I’m 40-something, divorced with two kids, I could have written this post, even down to the fact that I, too, am named Stacy and am a (college) chaplain. Figuring out how to date at my age and as a priest was a challenge, and I got almost all of the responses you list. Your line, “If a guy doesn’t get to know me at least a little bit before he learns what I do, then I’m forced to compete with his preconceived notions of Christians and ministers, and it seems I always lose,” is spot on. That fact led me, also, not to list my ordained status on my profile, and even (though it pained me to do it) downplay my faith in general, at least until first connections were made. A sense of humor helped allay some fears (and soften the sting of the jerks). For example, I assured one guy that I didn’t work on commission and that my Boss gave me no bonuses for conversions. I did have to do a lot of education with some of the guys who were open enough to respectfully share their questions and misconceptions.

    Thanks to the support of my friends—and trust that God would provide me with a companion when it was time—I slogged away at it and am now about to be married to an atheist Buddhist playwright who supports me, my children, and my ministry more than I ever could have hoped. I did not “out” myself as clergy until we’d made a personal contact and he was intrigued enough to give me a chance, and once we started dating, I made sure he got a taste of what dating (and then marrying) a pastor would be like for him. Thanks be to God, he stuck around and loves the idea of being a clergy spouse.

    You’ve got my prayers for a supportive companion who appreciates and supports ALL of you and, in the meantime, friends who will love you through the loneliest times. God’s blessings on your ministry.

    1. What a great story, Stacy! Thanks for sharing your experiences. It’s always nice to hear that others can relate, and that you finally did find a prince among the frogs! 🙂 Blessings to you both, and I really appreciate the prayers!!

  5. Pingback: On Not Finding God’s Match For Me | chaplainjesuslady

  6. Pingback: An Epiphany Miracle (of Sorts) | Stacy N. Sergent

  7. Reblogged this on Mindy Quigley and commented:
    My Reverend Lindsay Harding character, a short, spunky, curly-haired Southerner with a quick wit, bears an uncanny resemblance to real-life hospital chaplain Stacy Sergent. Sergent shares her hilarious, poignant observations about life in the spiritual trenches at stacysergent.com. You can also check out her fantastic memoir, Being Called Chaplain: How I lost my name and (eventually) found my faith.

    Sergent’s post about trying to find love as a female minister would definitely resonate with Rev. Harding! I may have to steal some of these dating “gems” for the next Lindsay book. 🙂

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