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NEWLIFE51's Photo NEWLIFE51 Posts: 85
8/14/11 6:43 A

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I am a single woman priest - I am 54. A Long time ago, I realized that, as an introvert, I LOVED living alone, especially once I started working in a parish. I have dated on and off over the years but always someone outside the parish and, since I have mostly served in small towns, outside of town! Not easy, though. Boundaries are the key. Aside from a few awkward moments - a couple of men simply throwing themselves in my arms - thank heavens for the windows in my door! Find good friends and enjoy life.

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NICHIEROSE Posts: 305
8/8/11 7:33 P

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Wow! This is so interesting and helpful to read... Ever since I announced I felt I was called to be a pastor, I have vowed not to date or marry... My parents of course are laughing and tell me that eventually the right man will come into my life.

I know at this point that I am not ready to date because I believe to date someone you are looking for a longer relationship down the road (AKA: Marriage eventually). I'm not ready nor mature enough for that right now so that solves the problem for now...

I guess what's really holding me back for the future is the fear of going to far or loosing my focus on God. It bothers me a bit that I want to be a pastor and if I get married I don't want my "husband" to feel threatened or awkward that I am a pastor and of authority at "our" church. Does that make sense? I truly believe that the man is supposed to be the head of the household and I don't want to blend the lines of authority between home and church... I guess it's all based on boundaries as everyone has stated. :)

Thanks for posting this! It's encouraging to know I'm not the only one struggling with this!

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REVSERENA's Photo REVSERENA SparkPoints: (0)
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3/2/09 7:23 P

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Many years ago I was a single female pastor, so although my experience may be a bit dated, I think I understand your difficulty.

If a guy is signaling without saying anything, I'd say that it isn't any different than before you were studying for the ministry. Just don't respond.

If it is early on, and the flirting is too subtle to confront directly, I might say: "I'm studying to be a minister. What do you do?" That gives them a clue.

If he is not put off by that, or the original overtures are a little more overt I might say something like: "Sorry, I'm not looking for that kind of relationship." (or if I am looking to date, but he's clearly too forward: "Slow down! Friendship, then we'll see. o.k.?")

If the overtures are very overt?: "Back off. I'm not interested."

Few men are looking to get rejected unless they are looking for the lottery. If they are polite, and you are clear and polite, they will usually take the hint. If they aren't polite or don't take the hint, you just have to say "no" as clearly as it takes.

I had a friend in seminary who bought herself a plain gold ring to signal unavailability. You are not under any obligation to explain to a near stranger why you are not available. I don't consider the ring a lie if it is actually communicating what you want it to, that your heart is attached elsewhere and you are not available for a romantic relationship.

As a pastor I was actually looking to have a relationship that would eventually lead to marriage, so I didn't wear a ring, but I did make sure that my dress and manners were modest, so that my morals weren't a total shock when we got to the point that we were talking about dating.

I eventually began dating, and married, another pastor.

The earlier advice is good advice. Parishioners or not, the key is to know your boundaries and communicate them clearly.

The whole gender thing is a challenge, but male clergy have have to deal with it too. Some people just find a collar sexy! Single, married, male or female, as clergy we are responsible for setting the sexual boundaries with everyone we meet.

I hope it goes well for you.

Get up offa that thing! - James Brown

"The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands. "
- Robert M. Pirsig

"Christ has no body now but mine. He prays in me, works in me, looks through my eyes, speaks through my words, works through my hands, walks with my feet and loves with my heart."
- St. Theresa


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PRIESTESS3713's Photo PRIESTESS3713 SparkPoints: (0)
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2/23/09 6:21 P

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I appreciate everyone offering their advice, but I'm afraid I have not been clear on the problem. The men I'm encountering are not parishioners. When my role is clearly defined, so are the boundaries, which I find easy to enforce. I'm not having trouble in my leadership role, I'm having trouble with my life outside. These men don't know I'm a pastor. Most of the time, they don't even know my name. These are people I meet on the train, grabbing coffee at a Starbucks, or even my neighbors in my apartment building. They are polite, and I see no reason to alienate them since they are part of my wider community, but their intentions are usually sexual and I have no idea how to to tell them f*** off in an appropriately ministerial fashion.

Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit
Called or uncalled, God is present.
~ Carl Jung's Door


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UMUCGRAD's Photo UMUCGRAD Posts: 56,833
2/23/09 4:55 P

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Good for you in asking. I've been single and celibate for a long time. As has been stated already, the key is setting BOUNDARIES. Every one wins in the long run. Each person has to decide on what those are for them but the key is to communicate them. That sounds obvious, but as one person suggested, males are not necessarily tuned in to subleties. I go into each appointment and lay out, politely and with love, how I intend to protect myself and them so that we can concentrate on Christian love and service. I've had VERY few problems. But, as a pastor, you are the LEADER, so it's up to you to establish the terms. They'll thank (and respect) you for it.

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JUNKDRAWER Posts: 1,253
2/19/09 9:35 P

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I have been single in ministry, and I have friends that are, so I can share from these experiences.

I was a chaplain for a summer in a men's correctional facility, as part of prison staff training, and ministerial counseling training, they tell you to be very guarded about entering into personal connections in a discussion. If someone is talking about how their cat died let them talk but avoid the "oh, I know how you feel my cat died when I was 6 and I cried for weeks". It sounds harsh but the more personal a conversation gets the more likely it is seen to be crossing into the friends or "interested" category.

One of my friends pastored in rural canada where there were lots of interested young men. She would have them show up at her parsonage door needing to "talk". Instead of inviting them in, she would ask them to step into her office at the church. This was to clearly define, I am talking to you as a pastor, in the church, not as your best friend or interested female in my home space.

Common practice male or female is to never be alone with a person of the opposite gender. If you need to have an appointment with someone schedule it when someone else will be at the church, even if it's just someone cleaning or running the bulletins. If this isn't possible meet in a public place. If you are carpooling drop off the opposite geneder people first. Even Billy Graham had people search his hotel rooms to make sure nothing would be there too surprise him to leave room for questions, accusations, or the appearance of "evil".

I do know a professor who was a single woman pastor, and she did meet someone she was very intersted in. They had to handle their dating very carefully.

You will need to decide some boundaries and personal rules of conduct for yourself and understand what that means for your life. Everyone needs to do this really. It may be hard at times, but our actions are scruitinize and can have far reaching impact if we do something off track.

I know someone who is almost terrified and suspicious of any male, and I don't suggest that, but there does need to be a definite line set in being friendly and professional and too friendly and a tease can be.






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KD2008's Photo KD2008 Posts: 824
2/9/09 3:04 P

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Not sure how to help, but I want to express my admiration for you thinking about this. I was a single female pastor (even though I am not single or a pastor currently) and I wish I had been better at boundaries then.

Trying to live my life like its Golden


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GILGEORGE's Photo GILGEORGE Posts: 23
2/9/09 3:57 A

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There are a few things you can do, but the most important one is to figure out where your boundaries are. Take some time to figure out where the lines you don't want crossed are, articulate them in your journal, and stick to them.
One of the ways that you can draw boundaries is to differentiate between ministry time and personal time. When you are in the role of pastor/ pastoral care, don't be distracted and guide the conversation to "business". I realize that one of the difficulties is that a major part of our work is in building and modeling healthy relationship, so that just adds to the complications.
I would highly recommend reading Edwin Freeman's A Failure of Nerve for insight into the relational tasks of a leader in dealing with emotional systems and people who are not self-regulating.

Speaking as a guy, we are not always clued in to the subtleties of a situation, and occasionally need a clue by 4 upside the head to understand that we may be crossing a line. Don't be afraid to tell a guy that he is crossing a line you don't want crossed, he probably doesn't know the line exists.

Another excellent book that discusses the quality of your physical presence as a leader is Mary Kate Morse's Making Room for Leadership.

Sorry to give you reading material while you are in seminary.

Gil

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PRIESTESS3713's Photo PRIESTESS3713 SparkPoints: (0)
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2/4/09 10:28 P

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I'm struggling with something. I'm a young, single, attractive woman. I'm also a seminary student who wants to be a pastor. I get approached by men a lot, and I don't know how to handle it. As a pastor, I want to be friendly and neighborly and kind. As a woman, I want to protect myself and tell them to go away. It's easy when their behavior is gross and inappropriate, but when they're polite, its hard to draw the right line, or even know what the right line is. Has anybody else been through this, or know how to handle it? I really need some guidance on this issue. Thanks.

Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit
Called or uncalled, God is present.
~ Carl Jung's Door


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