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My reasoning is quite simple: if I could somehow achieve cool-hood my emergent community would thrive.
I am not cool. I teeter on the edge, possessing perhaps the potential to enter cool-hood, but I have never pulled it off. In the span of five years in my early twenties I became a wife, ordained minister, and mother. At that moment, I wrote off cool forever; it was no longer even a fleeting dream. I wore a robe, drove a minivan, and my husband was pleased to just have me naked whenever he could (what I wore had no relevance to him).
I am still a wife, ordained minister, and mother. I still drive a minivan and worse pay a mortgage in the suburbs. And yes, my husband still prefers me naked making cool clothes irrelevant. I have no tats, no interesting piercings (in fact, I am a little squeamish about gauges), and I prefer to wear solid clothing. The potential exists: I have solar panels, am a member of a CSA, and send my children to Montessori school. But if you could just see me, you would know this only makes me a suburban want-to-be hippie. And if you saw my husband it would make it worse. If you looked up WASP in the dictionary his picture would appear. We just aren’t cool.
If I haven’t achieved cool-hood at 38, the writing is on the wall, right? So why does any of this matter now? Recently, I have been in earnest pursuit of cool-hood, because it has become clear to me that the emergent ministers getting media coverage are SUPER cool and very edgy. Rob Bell does not buy anything, I am positive, from LLBean. He wears big glasses and dark t-shirts under his blazer. Very cool. Nadia Bloz-Weber has more tattoos than I have fingers and toes. Exceptionally edgy. Shane Claiborne has dreads! All three are so beyond cool they are cool.
My reasoning is quite simple: if I could somehow achieve cool-hood my emergent community would thrive. (Yes, I am aware this is delusional and shallow thinking). Since I have no interest in tattoos, cannot afford a personal shopper (really I can’t make the dressing thing work), and dreads take too long, I decided I would seal the deal with Chuck Taylors. They would be my signature look. I love Chucks. I have since I was in sixth grade when I bought my first pair with my own money. The plan is quite streamlined and simple: I will wear different colored Chuck Taylors every time I preach and viola: I am cool!
It hasn’t worked. I started preaching in my chucks back at Christmas. And this Pentecost I spent an ungodly amount of money ($50 to be exact) on red chucks. I have not achieved stardom or cool-hood. I am still just a lonely emergent church pastor out there working like a dog, loving my people, wrestling with God, and trying desperately to breathe new life into a worn out institution. I still wonder every month if this will be the last month our community can afford my salary. Chucks have not sealed the deal.
Yesterday as I caught a glimpse of myself on facebook, preforming a recent marriage of two women in my red chucks, I realized something besides just how delusional my grandeur is. The kids in my community, including my own biological, will never think I am cool. However, I am positive that one day they will look back on their faith community with pride. They will scroll through old facebook pictures and laugh at my red chucks. They will point out to their secular friends that actually there were faithful and progressive people working for justice back in 2014. They will tell of hot bread communion for all in a coffee house in which they tripped over chairs just to get an extra piece. They will remember the spoken words of Jesus about love and justice. They will describe people of all sorts: young, old, poor, rich, faithful, agnostic, gay, straight, trans, undocumented, lawyers and laborers sharing a common conversation about the God of love. They will speak of a community shaped by laughter and prayer more than rigid formality and doctrine. And I am hopeful, they will regale (yes this could be my new delusion, but please do not wake me up to reality yet) their children and friends and partners with stories about a pastor who loved them.
I think I have achieved cool-hood. I just may not enter the fullness of its glory until I am 80. I think I can wait. In the meantime, I am still wearing Chuck Taylors in case I am discovered.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.