Sunday, April 18, 2010


So according to Pretty Good Lutherans,  Lake Wobegone has a new interm lady pastor, Pastor Ham who ate three caramel rolls in one sitting and "filled out" the pulpit.  Needless to say, many of us are very disappointed that he chose to portray a female clergy in this manner.

Let me just get this out there.   While I enjoy a lot of the Lake Wobegone stories, I am not a particular fan of Garrison Keillor especially after he threw a hissy fit  and quit when the New Yorker hired Tina Brown as editor.  I think he's sexist and not a little arrogant.  But then talented people often are, arrogant that is.

But let's be honest here.  There are a LOT of overweight female clergy.  Yes, plenty of men too but I think there are more women.  Sorry.  I'm overweight.   But let me justify myself by saying a) I am in good enough shape that I can hold my own in weekly 6 am power skating class with 10 year olds and teenagers  b)  I will only eat one caramel roll even though I want 3  c)  I still don't have to shop at Lane Bryant.

We clergy don't take good care of ourselves.  And dispite all the workshops and speakers that are thrown our way about "clergy self-care" the honest truth is that the church does not support or make it easy for clergy to take care of themselves.  A lot of clergy drink too much and engage in all kinds of self-destructive and community damaging behavior so really if a lot of us are self-medicating with caramel could be worse.

My late husband had a method for dealing with our kids whining "Sarah called me stupid"  my son would whine.  Loren:  "Are you stupid?"  "NO!"  "Okay well then what does she know"  That worked with our kids.  When he tried it on a kid in the home for troubled adolescent boys where he worked it went like this...."He called me stupid!"  "Are you stupid?"  "Well, yea but he didn't have to say it!"

Are a lot of clergy women fat?  Yea but he didn't have to say it!  Garrison Keillor makes fun of Lutherans and midwesterners in general.  A lot of people might argue that ALL of his stereotypes are outdated.   A lot of feminists and Gays have been annoyed with him for some time.  But he's been married  enough times, he should know -  you NEVER call a woman fat.  Unforgivable.


  1. In this country the epitome of the fat lady vicar was, and is, Geraldine Granger, the Vicar of Dibley (Dawn French) - has that programme crossed the Atlantic? It started off excellent, but, as they do, jumped the shark and got old....

  2. OH MY GOSH! I LOVE the vicar of Dibley. They show it on public television here. I believe I've seen every episode and I STILL watch it. But I did think some of the schticks about her eating were cruel and unnecessary. That show as best when her weight was just not an issue at all.

    Another show from your side of the Atlantic I love is "Keeping up Appearances"

  3. "Dibley" is also, I think, the only television program I've ever seen that captures what it *feels* like to be a parish pastor. At a conference once, an elderly CofE cathedral dean suggested that, in his opinion, it had gone a long way toward helping the English adjust ordained women.

    As for the overweight clergy, I really don't think it is significantly more women than men. I think we are all socialized to notice [and, let's face it, judge] overweight women more than men.

    But your main point, that pastors don't take care of themselves (and don't get the encouragement they need) is dead on target. The funny thing is that, for us in the ELCA, "Visions and Expectations" lays out all sorts of wonderful things we are supposed to do, and that congregations are supposed to do to help us. This includes rest, exercise and refraining from gluttony. But when was the last time anybody paid attention to one word of V&E that wasn't on page 13?

    So, a couple of years ago, I proposed that my own synod ought to institute a fitness requirement, on the order of the military's, albeit more lenient. Insist that we keep our BMI to "normal + 10%" or something, which would be laughably difficult for most of pastors over 30. It was in the midst of a heated debate about sex, and everybody assumed I was just arguing ad absurdum. But, really, there is some logic to it, if you want to get all legalistic about things.

  4. Well, there are fat people in any grouping of people, so in some ways it shouldn't be surprising that a pastor is overweight. But, hey, why not go against the usual stereotype on this?

  5. Joelle,

    May I gently disagree?

    Keillor did not quit the New Yorker because they hired Tina Brown, a woman; he quit in protest because they hired a tabloid journalist to be editor who happened to be Tina Brown. It's like voting for Sarah Palin to be president: someone lacking the qualifications got the job when there are better candidates for the role.

    I heard the Prairie HOme Companion broadcast this weekend: Keillor did not call Pastor Barbara Hamm 'fat.' He said she ate 3 caramel rolls in one sitting at the Chatterbox Cafe. We don't know who was with her, or any other information. I'm sure he has more to tell in the future.

    About filling out a pulpit: darn it, I fill out a pulpit too! I fill out an alb too, but that's how I'm built. NO shame there.
    We are not built like men.

    I think we'd all love to take better care of ourselves.. but most congregations want us to take care of THEM! In my last call, I joined a gym, but found it difficult to fit it in my daily schedule because of the parish demands and responsibilities; a lady on the mutual ministry committee was pointed:
    "Get to the gym on your own time, but you be available to us 24/7! " I got the message.

    For generations, pastors have been the sacrificial servants, not having a real life of their own, not having time for family or much of anything else. These views won't change overnight... we need to be careful for ourselves, as women pastors are true pioneers in thie time. But we need to be open and observant as the Holy Spirit uses us for her own purposes.. even Garrison Keillor and Pastor Barbara Hamm can serve those purposes.

  6. You can disagree gently or I can take it rough. The way I saw it -- he threw a hissy fit about Tina Brown - she was NOT a tabloid journalist she was the editor of Vanity Fair and he was a snob and arrogant about how that wasn't good enough. And he didn't even give her a chance and I don't buy that sexism was not involved.

    Yes - take care of yourself on your OWN time is the message of the church. But don't you DARE have your own time :-/