It was during Holy Week some time ago. I was sitting alone before a liturgy and a member of the congregation came and sat with me. We talked. Not far into the conversation he said, “You’re a very talented priest. I’m surprised that you aren’t a rector somewhere. Do you thing being black has affected your career as a priest?”
I became instantly uncomfortable. It was the first time in a parish setting that anyone had asked me such a direct question about race and priesthood. I paused for a moment and then said simply, “Yes.”
He replied, “How?”
I realized that I was opening the door to a difficult conversation. I was taking my first tentative steps toward answering the question, when someone else walked up on the conversation. I never got the chance to finish my answer.
That incident has troubled me from that day to this one for several reasons
- That I was so uncomfortable with the question
- That the questions had not been asked me before and have not been asked of me since
- That I was not ready to articulate a coherent answer
- That I not only avoid remembering this incident but that I back away from thinking about the questions at the heart of it
Even as I write this post there is a part of me that is resisting the exploration of this topic. This is somewhat surprising because I’ve thought and talked a lot about blackness and transness. I’ve also thought and talked a great deal about transness and priesthood. I haven’t thought or talked much about blackness and priesthood. Part of me doesn’t want to go there but I need to go there. I might not be able to go there on my own. I might need help. I have begun to explore where I might find that help.