For The Someday Book

Book Review: Bless Her Heart

Posted on: January 9, 2012

Bless Her Heart: Life as a Young Clergy Woman, by Ashley-Anne Masters and Stacy Smith, Chalice Press, 2011, 123 pp.

I wish this book had been around 10-15 years ago, when I was just starting seminary and entering ministry. I’m so glad it’s around now for new young clergy women making their way into pastoral life.

Ashley-Anne Masters and Stacy Smith have captured the private conversations and storytelling that happen whenever young clergy women find themselves together, which is too often a rare and isolated opportunity. I remember the first time I was in a group of other young clergy women, thanks to the birth of the UCC’s 2030 Clergy Network. We all had our fair share of stories, good and bad, charming and challenging, hilarious and horrifying: being refused as a pastor because of youth and gender, having your wardrobe up for scrutiny, hearing people talk about “the pastor” without realizing its you, struggling with what to wear, handling discrimination or sexual comments or inappropriate behavior, discovering how to be ourselves while also fulfilling this demanding role as pastor.

Masters and Smith tell stories from young clergy women (themselves and others) and capture the power of those storytelling conversations—the laughter, the horrified looks, the empathy and understanding. The storytelling itself has healing and encouraging power, but the authors take it even further. In each chapter, between the stories, they offer scriptural and theological reflection on the questions at hand. The classic conversation about what to wear for what occasion is deepened with a reminder of the finery of the woman from Proverbs 31, or Paul’s instruction to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Stories about feeling at home (or not) in a new community take on new meaning when coupled with the story of the exiles whose captors demand they sing in a foreign land (Psalm 137), or Lydia, from the Book of Acts, who as a foreigner welcomes Paul to Macedonia.

This power of connecting biblical stories to contemporary stories of young clergy women was especially powerful in the chapter on pregnancy, when the authors reach back to biblical women as sisters on the journey, no matter what your journey looks like:

There are the “Sarahs” of the world, who may be too old to have a child; there are the “Hannahs” who wait many years to get pregnant; and there are the “Rebekahs,” who struggle with the relationships between their children. There are even the “Michals,” who, like David’s wife, are unable to sustain a pregnancy and end up parenting other people’s children. And yet as pastors, our pregnancies can be a step beyond. We can easily feel like “Tamars,” whose families are judged, or “Ruths,” who are foreign outsiders to the mainstream. Remembering we are daughters of these women can help us fulfill the roles of mother and pastor. In our life and ministry, we too are listed within the genealogy of Jesus and are called to be God’s messengers. (65)

This book is a real gift to young clergy women everywhere. It gives voice and validation to our stories, and offers the perspective and encouragement of sisterhood across thousands of years.

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2 Responses to "Book Review: Bless Her Heart"

Thank you so much for your great review! We are so glad that the book spoke to you. I wonder whether you would be willing to post your review on Amazon? It would be really helpful for us.

Thanks!
Stacy

Of course! I’d be happy to. I have done that before for several friends who have written books. Feel free to make use of the review in any way that is helpful to you, or contact me if there are other ways I can share it for you.

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About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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