It is an odd experience to discover that by the worlds standards you are odd.
This weekend on an invite from the neighbours we headed off to a 40th birthday BBQ. As I am about to turn forty on October 30th (yes I have begun the therapy) it was interesting to see how this ritual unfolded and indeed put myself in the position of having to make conversation with strangers.
It is very easy to get comfortable with your friends and to forget that how people outside of your circle view you may be as a little odd. When people asked what I was doing I told them honestly about being a part of the Diocesan Ordination training towards priesthood. It was there that I for the first time came across the the look of people keeping an extra polite neutral face whilst various fantasy's, questions, judgments and expressions zip through their minds.
As the people we were with were predominantly catholic by schooling and unchurch in adulthood, there was some confusion over the term priesthood until some bright spark said "Ohhhhhhhhhh like the vicar of Dibley" - thank you Dawn French. The conversation flowed fairly well yet I was struck that to these people I might seem a little odd. Training for ordination, creates icons, into sacred art, talks to people who sleep on park benches, shaves her head... I guess it all sounds a little other worldly (that or really nerdy).
One women kept looking between my husband and I and finally asked..."So do you have to be celibate?". Whilst part of me was thinking where is this woman from? I was also aware that we must seem an odd breed. And that this was anything but a silly question as this woman struggled in her mind to redefine a whole set of predefined rolls and terms. Years ago in my ardent political feminist teenage years, to come across someone such as myself would no doubt lead to fantasy's of kidnapping and reprogramming said Christian away from a den of misogynistic patriarchal oppression. Not - I have to admit that I really knew what a misogynist was for sure, but everyone around me said that was what they were so it must be true.
I guess the sad thing for me was not being put in a box or being seen as potentially a bit strange (because they were really nice and generous people) but that to be a part of a church community was seen as an oddity. To want to know God, to serve others was strange. That these things were seen as a barrier to friendship least heaven forbid I try to convert them!
One couple who we talked to for some time has invited us to join them next week at a bar as they celebrate ...yes another 40th birthday. As I was leaving I overheard the woman say to the hosts.. "oh yes they are coming next week... and you know she actually likes a drink now and then same as me!
And you thought I was a nerd!