$12

by - 3:38 PM



When I took my vows of ordination I made sure that included in them, was a vow of vulnerability. Pastoring, Preaching, Ministry, all require a certain amount of ego. That’s just how these things work. To tell other people your opinion, to share what you believe God is saying, requires a degree of hubris that I myself find ironic.
Walking Humbly with God is always ALWAYS more difficult for a preacher as our vice is usually pride. I think that’s the funniest thing about answering the call, its as if God called a bunch of CEO’s to spread the word about the evils of greed.
Church hierarchy is a bunch of blind peacocks in a pen squawking at each other; deathly certain they have the prettiest feathers and furiously desperate to convince everyone else.
So you can probably imagine why I have pushed writing about this farther away than I have any issue.
Want me to talk about my internal racism? Sure it’s a Tuesday.
Want me to talk about parental rejection? I’ve got a few hours.
Being a rape victim? Easily a subject for casual conversation.
Ongoing financial struggle? Well…. I mean… nobody needs to know… it’ll work out…. Is it really appropriate...

Pride.

Pride gets me every time.

But then again, I take my vows more seriously than I take my discomfort. That’s why my social media is filled with as much blatant honesty as I can muster, even if I don't want to explain dysphoria to cis people, or recount what it feels like to flee an abusive marriage, or deal with my own white privilege. But those are a different kind of vulnerability, they don't hurt my pride.


In our nation, we conflate worth with net worth. We conflate spending power with degrees of humanity. For the years I had to present as a man I was judged harshly and primarily on what kind of money I brought home. Now I'm judged on other things but that lingering shame is hard to shake. It’s hard to unlearn that sort of indoctrination. As a trans person, I have had the misfortune of experiencing two vastly different but equally dehumanizing sets of societal expectations. Both of them weigh on my soul. I wish it was different. It should be different. But capitalism has made self-love into one more commodity to be withheld until adequate resources can be spent.

Under Capitalism, my humanity, my personhood is summed up in this simple phrase.

We have $12 to live on till next Thursday.

The amount of shame I experience as I write that isn’t an accident. That shame is the sum total of a system of oppression that has been shaping my life since before I was conceived. It is the shame that keeps people from fighting the system. It is the shame that so many of you have felt so many times before and yet your ministers have let you down.
You see, ministers, myself included, need to be the first to offer vulnerability. It is our job, it is the intent of our vows. We are called to it. Our people are desperate for it.

We ministers who live and operate in communities of poverty should be the first to say: This is a moral evil. This world sins against me too. You are not alone. I AM POOR.

But instead, us blind peacocks are content to sit in our pen and fluff our feathers. We the shepherds are content to polish our staffs while our sheep get carried off by the wolves of wall street. It’s so much easier than putting a dent in our image.

My Church, Mercy Junction, serves the poor. We serve the marginalized. It’s what we do, it's who we are. And we struggle because of it. You don't get down in the mud without getting dirty, and when you are willing to fight poverty you have to be willing to do it on its home turf. To say our church isn’t wealthy is only half the truth, our church is intentionally generous with whatever we have, and we are surrounded by need. So when I was called, I was blessed with a stipend of $200 a month, most of which is to be used for church expenses. Gas for my car to get to functions, snacks for youth night, condoms for the same, food for potlucks, coffee with someone who needs pastoral care, etc. etc. This is the work. This is the work I love. I am honored to be the pastor here. My church has been generous with what little we have and I am incredibly thankful for it. (If they could pay me they would, this isn't about that.)
My church called a trans woman minister. I still don't think they understand what a huge risk, and an amazing showing of faith that is. There are less than 10 of us (trans female ministers leading a church) in the US and I am still baffled almost a year later to have been given this chance. I am honored to serve at MJ, and realize this will probably be my only chance to serve in this capacity, so I will never give this up without a fight.

The problem is, I am torn between the work I love, the work that is needed, and survival. I am ashamed because of it, beat down, because of the lies of this world.
So I’ve been trying to find a job that helps to keep my family of 5 above water. If anyone has a great suggestion I’m down, but the reality of it is, after scouring job sites and options I’m not quite sure there is a solution that fits with the work I need to do. I'm still looking, and still praying for a way to support this ministry.
That's my bitter reality, that the work of fighting poverty, of being Jesus to marginalized folk, just isn't of any value in a capitalist world. But I refuse to believe that means it isn’t of any value.

So here I am. $12.

That is my vulnerability.

And this doesn't have to be a post that fixes anything. This doesn't need to be.

But I needed to be honest with you. Because this is the world we live in and if your pastors and ministers cannot be honest with you when they struggle then how can you be honest with us when you do?

Just to be clear this post is also not saying things are changing, that we will stop having Queer Youth Nights, or Trans Game Night’s, or Interfaith Services, or Lord’s Supper, or any of the other integral pieces of community outreach that Mercy Junction does to serve the beautiful and sacred members of our community. I will be there and I will enjoy every second of it.

What this post is saying, if it is saying anything, is that you are not alone.

I know this struggle. I know this shame. I know what it is to feel all alone in a vast sea of uncaring unending desperation. I also want to validate those who do what they have to to survive. The sex workers, the factory workers, and anyone else who sells their body. These struggles are not divorced from spiritual existence. Your struggle is seen, and it is understood. We who sit in our churches surrounded by stained glass may seem distant, but we are flesh and blood. We ministers who preen and polish owe you an apology. I owe you an apology. I am sorry I have not been more forthcoming. I am sorry I ignored my vow of vulnerability.

We are in this together. We are the same. May you make it through your own struggles. May I make it through mine.

And may we change this world into something more humane, something that serves the sacred humanity of all of us. I pray that we do, because we must.

To support Mercy Junction’s ministry to the least of these: Donations can be sent by Paypal to donations@mercyjunctioncenter.org or mailed to Mercy Junction Justice & Peace Center, 1918 Union Ave., Chattanooga TN 37404.
To support Rev. Alaina donations can be sent by Paypal to AlainaKailyn@gmail.com or mailed to Rev. Alaina Cobb , 1918 Union Ave., Chattanooga TN 37404.

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