church, job search, vocation

Why did I lay aside my vocational goal?

Wednesday January 22, 2020

Once upon a time there was a priest who wanted to be a rector. In the course of less than two years she applied for 14 positions. All of those parishes chose someone else. And so she stopped applying. And she lived happily ever after. The end.

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That’s the fairy tale version of the answer. However the real reason why I laid aside my vocational goal is more subtle and more painful.

The real reason is that I concluded I am not what the contemporary church seeks in a rector/vicar. It’s not one particular thing that I am but it is the combination of things that I am which are problematic for the contemporary church.

I am 60+ years old. If a congregation is looking for long term leadership, is a 60+ year old person going to be at the top of that list? Also if a church wants to attract young families is it likely to pick a person who is 60+ years old and who has no children at all–let alone young children?

I suffer from depression and I don’t hide that fact. Did that help me in any call process? Do you think a search committee would say, “Wow, a priest with depression. Let’s call her.”

I am a woman, a transgender woman, a black transgender woman. Let’s face it, that’s more diversity that most individuals can handle let alone a congregation. The statistics tell the story here. A man is more likely to be called as a rector than a woman. A white person is more likely to be called as a rector than a black person. A straight cisgender person is more likely to be called as a rector than a transgender person. Clearly someone like me is at best facing an uphill struggle and at worst has a snowball’s chance in you-know-where.

After a while all those “thanks but no thanks” letters from search committees just got to me. My self esteem took a pounding. My sense of worth as a priest in the church was severely diminished. I felt angry and frustrated that my gifts were not being given a chance. I felt sad and rejected by my church body. But at last I came to face the fact that my vocational goal was unreachable and that I had to make some changes.

So I decided to let go of the goal of being a rector/vicar. That was hard to do. I come from a family of tenacious people–some might even say hard-headed. How tenacious? Well, if there had been Robinsons with Napoleon after the Battle of Waterloo, we would said, “Come on, Boney, one more charge. I think we can take ’em this time.”

Still I gave up and I duly mourned that loss, sitting on my own personal island of Saint Helena. I hurt during the pursuit of my goal. I hurt after the failure to reach my goal. I hurt again at giving up my goal. However, that pain lessened over time.

This week marks one year since the last of those 14 congregation gently said no to me. This week finds me in good spirits and quite content with my current vocational situation. God has found a place for me in the church and I never had to leave to find it.

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