An Accidental Poster Child
Jay Voorhees, Tennessee pastor and blogger, had what he thought was a casual chat with a local religion news writer, Before he knew it, he found himself “the poster child for clergy unhealth,” quoted by name in a feature story in his local paper, then singled out for attack in a letter to the editor.
This is a familiar dilemma--having a clumsy or garbled quote appear in a news story with one’s name attached--but with a cruel personal twist in Jay's case. Jay is candid about his feelings in that situation:
There is a tendency among some to see [being overweight] as simply a choice. But no one chooses to be fat. I know that my success in ministry is limited by the image others have of me, and that weight tarnishes that image. I know that I feel I have to work harder to influence folks in their faith than my svelte, well trimmed and handsome colleagues. That, of course, leads to greater stress, which makes finding the discipline to eat well and exercise more even harder.
Body image is an aspect of clergy health that overlaps with clergy leadership. Most of us are only fitfully aware of the superficial criteria by which we, unconsciously, give people credibility and authority. Jay gives us a taste of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that snap judgment.
The post ends with a plea to the laity:
[...] Those of you who are in congregations, your fat pastor needs more than love and affection, they need to be encouraged to take time to be healthy... and it wouldn't hurt to throw in a gym membership as well. Know that they are probably beating themselves up mentally for their inability to get their weight under control, and more than anyone else see it as a failing in their lives.
Yes, I am a fat pastor, who needs to be transformed like all of us. God is working on me, just like God is working on you, and some day I will move on toward perfection enough that I can leave this weight behind me.
The comments at Jay’s blog are worth reading too, as well as this discussion at the blog of a Methodist pastor in Wales.
Thanks, Jay, for taking an unpleasant experience and transforming it into a moving testimony.
Clergy Health Initiative