Noticings – November 3, 2021


November 3, 2021 

Like many other ministers I know, I have the DVD box set of a British comedy series called “The Vicar of Dibley.” I’ve just finished watching through the series again and I wanted to share with you what I noticed. Ministers are real people! Geraldine shows us that hilariously, tenderly, and poignantly. Geraldine is the lead character’s name in the show. Vicar is a common word for minister or pastor in Britain. In the show, Geraldine is a smart and sassy woman who is placed in a small village filled with quirky, oddball, ridiculous characters. But she’s also a woman, and the idea of a woman vicar was hard for these folks to accept. Happily, here in Canada the idea of women as ministers is more widely accepted, but even so I do have colleagues who continue to have challenges because some congregants only see males in the minister’s role. They should watch this show!

I distinctly remember how startling it was when I first got to know a minister outside of church-land and discovered that he was a real person. I grew up in church, and I always had a sense that the minister was different from the rest of us – you know, holier, whatever that meant. It was an impossible, one-dimensional fiction, but it was embedded. If you watch depictions of clergy on TV or in movies they are often portrayed as a moralistic caricature. They’re usually either a judgmental, prim and proper bore, or a bumbling, clueless fool. Then along comes Geraldine! She shatters the mold as she does supposedly unvicarly things like telling bawdy jokes, or swearing, or imbibing, or talking about sex. She has foibles, and blind spots, and sometimes makes big mistakes. She’s no paragon of virtue – but then again, that was never actually in the job description. We all just layered that on from our own preconceptions.

I’ve started to seek out musicians to play with since I’ve moved to this new town. It’s hard for anyone to break into a new music scene – but even harder when they find out what your day job is! The moment someone discovers you’re a minister they start policing their language, and apologizing for some mildly naughty thing they said – or worse, they assume you couldn’t possibly be a real person that could actually relate to them so they close the door. I have very few non-church friends. Sometimes it’s tough to resist the temptation to act decidedly unvicarly to show them you’re a regular guy. I don’t know, maybe I’m not a regular guy. I’m no paragon of virtue either. Just a guy who has caught a glimpse of Something More and been inspired and captivated by it. Actually, such glimpses can help transform all of us into truly real people – people who love life and love others – people who can help us love ourselves – like Geraldine.

(Click here for a video version of this Noticings)

Rev. Larry