The Misguided Dream
A group experience takes place on a lower level of consciousness than the experience of an individual. This is due to the fact that, when many people gather together to share one common emotion, the total psyche emerging from the group is below the level of the individual psyche. If it is a very large group, the collective psyche will be more like the psyche of an animal, which is the reason why the ethical attitude of large organizations is always doubtful. The psychology of a large crowd inevitably sinks to the level of mob psychology. If, therefore, I have a so-called collective experience as a member of a group, it takes place on a lower level of consciousness than if I had the experience by myself alone.
Carl Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious.
The dream of being a co-pastor was a misguided dream, an illusion of an atonement, reconciliation and re-unification to the church, appropriately aligned. I didn’t believe that on my own merit and individual calling, I would be accepted as a single-woman-preacher in church for two reasons (1) I was born a woman and (2) I was not a preacher’s kid.
I was a preacher’s grandchild, which is not quite the same thing. My “granddaddy”, Rev. James B. Thomas came to my first sermon and told me I needed to “close better” by taking everyone back to the cross at the end of my sermon. Other than that, according to him, I preached a good Word. After my initial sermon, when I would come to visit him in the final months of his life, he would tell me stories about his time in ministry. He would sit in his old brown chair, and I, at that point, a thirty-something woman, would sit on floor as if I was a five-year old girl. He would tell me to tell him what I was doing in ministry at Texas Southern. He would ask me to re-preach my sermons to him. I would sit on the floor like a little child excited to tell her granddaddy about her school day. I would recall the scriptures I used and way I set up my three points. I would joke about how I closed (without hollering or singing at the end). We would laugh, and then we would debate over the need to include Jesus in every sermon, even if I was teaching on Abraham, David or Esther. Although he was unable to walk on his own or do much of anything for himself, I would see the joy and light come back into his brown eyes, now blue from his failing health. In these moments, he was a young man again, living through his granddaughter. When I would come in the door after a long time between visits, Granddaddy would hear my voice and holler from the back room,
“Is that my preaching granddaughter?”
I would go to his room hug his neck and proceed to tell him what I’d been up to. He would listen. Then he would instruct and we would start the cycle again. This was not always the case. When I initially told my grandfather I was called to preach he did not accept it right away. He took me through a series of questions because initially he was skeptical. He was an old school Baptist preacher and in his world, women didn’t preach.
This was true for my former father-in-law, “Rev” who was also a pastor of a small church in Houston. Both of them loved me dearly, but only my grandfather, after hearing my first sermon (not before) accepted me. Rev, my first husband’s step-father, never accepted it.
Although Rev and I were close, even after the divorce from my first husband, I saw him almost every week because his granddaughters, my daughters, spent evening at his house when I had to work. Even though we had many conversations about what I was doing in ministry at Texas Southern University, he never invited to speak at his church.
Rev, like my grandfather, attended my first sermon. He offered no congratulations nor feedback regarding my sermon. He nicely listened to my bubbly commentary about my weekly sermons at Texas Southern University. He usually would sit with me in the living room in front of the big screen, nod his head, and change the subject. One day, however, he was in his office on his computer when I was preparing to leave. I told him about my day and sermon. This particular day, he focused his attention completely on me. I felt a sense of excitement come over me. After I told him what I preached and solicited his feedback since he seemed interested, he responded. In a loving, kind, and fatherly way, he said,
“It just ain’t biblical for women to preach. Sorry baby. Maybe God will send you a husband who is a pastor and you just help him out by teaching women’s bible study or having a service every few months for just women, and you can use your talent there. Don’t forget to keep your looks up. That will be important.”
With a friendly smirk, he added,
“Be understanding. He may still be growing in his character and giving in to his nature. There’s a lot of temptation out there, especially when a man is in a position like that. Women will always be coming for him, so you’ll need to be patient with him. That’ll be the best way for you to go forward if you’re really serious about what your trying to do.”
I looked at him tenderly. After a few seconds of silence, I said, “Really? Is that all? Is there anything else I should know?” He nodded no, turned his back to me and headed for the kitchen. As he was walking away, he said in his sweet southern twang, “You’ll be fine.” and disappeared into the kitchen.