H/t Canon Christopher Hall
There is a very good article on Times Online about Rosemary Lain-Priestley's life. She is a mother, wife and priest. She discusses what this has meant for her and how she has been interpreted by those around her: unusual, unexpected and even 'totty' for which they are grateful.
She articulates neatly what I have been exploring recently with my soul-mate at college and in seminars which have touched on the subject and provoked my thinking. Rosemary Lain-Priestly simply says: "Our gender and sexuality are always present in the room."
We are looking at the Pastoral Cycle at college and learning how to listen. We are looking at Christian counselling models and Gestalt therapy. We are practising in threes listening to one another and we are quick to forget that we are in a constructed situation and lots of passions and vulnerabilities are being shared. However, in my three, we are all women. In pastoral ministry to men, there is always that vague rustle of another dynamic in the room and I think that Rosemary Lain-Priestley understands this in her simple articulation of her realisation that with men she 'navigated a careful path ... acutely aware of the necessary limits of pastoral intimacy.'
There is a very careful negotiation of words and actions so that the love expressed is not perceived as another kind of love, which is not in many ways another kind of love or at least it shouldn't be, only that that other kind of love is expressed in a God-honouring way within a framework of monogamous Christian marriage and fidelity, so that whilst we do indeed enter into Christian ministry as embodied people, the body needs negotiating.
As men minister to women and women minister to men, it might be construed that there displayed is a level of intimacy at which the world raises its eyebrows, but this says more about the lack of love in our world and how it has been sullied. In these interactions, there is risk and vulnerability but Jesus knew this only too well. He allows the woman with the alabaster jar to pour the oil all over him and anoint him for burial and kingship. The disciples were horrified.
To love one another in Christ and declare it between the genders involves a great deal of trust that this love is of God, it is bodily for how else can it be expressed but it is contrary to the bodily love with which the world seems obsessed and uses to sell us perfumes of a different kind from the anointing oil, or cars or even chocolate ice-cream!
We need to love each other as bravely as Jesus did in the beauty of Holiness, putting on the garments of gestures and words that glorify God and one another, which reveal to the world, by their finery, that there is indeed another kind of intimacy for which the world is so hungry, yet only satisfying in ways which fray the golden threads of those garments, leaving something tatty and naked in its wake.