It’s a Saturday night, I am sequestered in my home office with two snoring dogs nearby. There are (at least) three different types of beverages on my desk, one with caffeine, one with the ice completely melted and a layer of water resting on the surface. Books are strewn about with random objects as bookmarks, and there are more tabs open on my computer than is socially acceptable. I don’t notice my leg bouncing, but it’s comforting. My noise canceling headphones are playing Gustav Holst’s The Planets at full volume. I’m preaching in the morning and trying to finish my sermon. But it’s never really finished, I just show up anyway.
People have been very affirming of my growth in preaching, and I’ve been told I’m quite good at it. So I’m just going to take this moment to tell you that this is shocking to me. Preaching was the last thing I thought I could positively contribute to my ministry. And I used to be so anxious about it. I tried to hide it, but on several occasions I would be in the pulpit coaching myself through breathing and nervousness. Thus, any positive feedback was mentally met with a befuddled “wait, really?” It’s been difficult to fathom that I would be gifted in this area because I spent most of my childhood under the impression that someone like me wasn’t allowed to preach, that this was biblically mandated, that this was God’s will. You can imagine why it might have been a difficult journey to imagine myself in such a space.
The task of preaching is hard work. There are several things that go through my head during the process. “What if I trigger someone’s spiritual harm? What if I cause it? Should I really include this part about Jesus and menstruation? I wonder if it’s okay to compare the Holy Spirit to Shania Twain. Oh, the scripture is on forgiveness, something I struggle to do? Great. Maybe I’m being too vulnerable. But maybe this is the space for that? What if I cry? I don’t know how to do this, God. Will you help me?”
Can you remember the first time you saw someone who looked like you doing something you were told could never be done? What did it feel like? I remember the first time I saw a queer woman preach. It was lifegiving, yes, but equally disorienting. Deconstructing the sacred is no small task. Fifteen years after that moment, and I am now regularly behind a pulpit, and I am still deconstructing. I’ve been told that my background in theater might positively influence my preaching, and in some ways it does. In many other ways, it shouldn’t. Theater was a major part of my life as a teenager, and a fantastic escape. I relished the opportunity to live someone else’s life, rather than face my world as an out queer teenager in the early 2000s. But now, when I’m in a pulpit, the last thing I want to be is inauthentic. Despite efforts to keep people like me out, I am worthy of being in the pulpit, so you’re going to get me when I’m in that space. And it turns out, I’m good at it.