What Chaplains Don’t Do

Because this is Pastoral Care Week, I’ll be part of an event at my hospital which includes a reading from my book, and a question and answer session on the role of healthcare chaplains. The event is co-sponsored by our Pastoral Care department and the hospital’s Humanities Committee (of which I am a member), and has been advertised all over campus. Someone who saw the flyers was concerned that in a hospital committed to diversity and inclusion, we were promoting Christianity. I had to laugh at the irony. Such misconceptions of what chaplains do are exactly why such an event is needed! Continue reading “What Chaplains Don’t Do”

Advent Conspiracy Week 4: Love All

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It’s hard to believe, but we’re coming to the end of Advent already. And that brings us to the hardest part of Advent Conspiracy. Man, I thought Spend Less was tough. But here we are at the final theme, Love All. Really, all?? “Love some” I can handle. Even “love most” would probably be doable. But “all,” everybody – surely that’s going too far! Some people just make it so hard to love them. I met one of them a few weeks ago in the parking lot of a Lowe’s home improvement store. Continue reading “Advent Conspiracy Week 4: Love All”

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.”